Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder


Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
First published as Sofies verden in Norwegian in Norway in 1991. English language translation by Paulette Miller published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1994.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller, SOPHIE'S WORLD sets out to draw teenagers into the world of Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel and all the great philosophers. A brilliantly original and fascinating story with many twists and turns, it raises profound questions about the meaning of life and the origin of the universe.

Dave picked up a copy of Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder in The Children's Society charity shop in Garstang (Great book selection there!). We both knew of its hype, but hadn't previously read it so were interested to see how good we thought the book really was. Sadly Dave gave up about a quarter of the way through so, discouraged, I had let it languish on the shelf until now.

Having finished reading, I now have mixed views on Sophie's World hence the three star rating. On one hand I was fascinated by the potted history of philosophy, most of which I didn't know anything about, and am hoping that at least some of what I read has lodged itself in my brain. There are a lot of names and dates to take in so I would probably need to re-read in short sections - like a textbook - in order to really start learning. However the history is written in such an accessible way that this is something I may well do over the next few months.

The fiction elements of Sophie's World were very disappointing though. I think I understand what Gaarder was trying to achieve with the inclusion of his fictional characters, but I just didn't find their conversations convincing. We are repeated told that Sophie is a fourteen year old girl, but she doesn't speak or act like one and I don't think Norwegian teenagers are so very different from British ones! Everyone appeared more like a plot device than a real person and I frequently found that irritating and distracting. For me, the fictional interludes were a respite from the increasingly intense philosophy, but I would have preferred Gaarder to have written a similarly accessible nonfiction history of philosophy instead. Then again, without the fictional hook Sophie's World probably wouldn't have hit the bestseller lists!


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Books by Jostein Gaarder / Philosophy books / Books from Norway

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley


Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley
Published in Australia by Text Publishing Company in April 2015.

Winner of the Acorn Foundation Literary Award (Ockham New Zealand Book Awards), New Zealand, 2016.

One of my WorldReads from New Zealand

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Western Australia, the wheatbelt. Lew McLeod has been travelling and working with Painter Hayes since he was a boy. Shearing, charcoal burning—whatever comes. Painter made him his first pair of shoes. It’s a hard and uncertain life but it’s the only one he knows. But Lew’s a grown man now. And with this latest job, shearing for John Drysdale and his daughter Clara, everything will change.
Stephen Daisley writes in lucid, rippling prose of how things work, and why; of the profound satisfaction in hard work done with care, of love and friendship and the damage that both contain.

Set in 1950s rural Australia, Coming Rain has a distinctive style which made it refreshing to read. Daisley frequently uses sentence fragments, but in a way that suits his prose and effectively pushes forward the pace of his story. It's not just poor grammar as in some other novels I have read! He also writes in Australian, presenting explanations of dialect words within the text but not dwelling on the translations. This effectively gives authenticity to the writing and made me feel as though I was discovering a new-to-me culture. Two storylines run in parallel throughout the book. One one hand we have two human drifters, sheep-shearers and general handymen Painter and Lewis, who travel in a clapped-out truck across the Australian desert to isolated farms to shear sheep. On the other hand we have two dingo drifters, a pregnant bitch and an adolescent male, desperately trying to find themselves food, water and safety.

It did take a good chunk of Coming Rain before I really settled in to Daisley's writing style. I understand this is his second novel so I might now look out the first, knowing that I could get more from it by repeating the first pages to get into the flow before continuing on. I frequently found myself distracted too by different subjects running into each other. We might start reading about the dingoes, then move to the men in the next sentence with no break or clue in the text as to the change. I am not sure if these overlaps were deliberate on Daisley's part or if my preview copy hasn't yet been fully edited. However I didn't notice any other typos or publishing weirdness. The device could be intended to highlight the similarities between the humans and animals - their paragraphs and lives being interchangeable - but I just got annoyed at having to keep stepping back from the narrative flow in order to work out what was going on.

The richness of Coming Rain is in the information given in passing. At one point we learn that the man now charged with persuading the dingos to go elsewhere - by firing at them with rifles and shotguns - is the same man who had previously persuaded the indigenous aborigine tribes to leave. It is a given that similar methods applied. We also see repeated examples of derelict white settlements littering this huge empty land and even the sheep farm at which Painter and Lewis finally arrive appears to be a shadow of its former self. The two men sleep in dormitories that could house dozens and only the farm owner's daughter is left to help out. In seeing the violent poverty-stricken lives of Painter and Lewis I was reminded of American novels such as Cormac McCarthy's Suttree or John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Coming Rain has the same melancholy feel of desperate pride and harsh life. Daisley understands these lives completely and shows them without apology or any softening of the edges.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stephen Daisley / Historical fiction / Books from New Zealand

Monday, 24 July 2017

Seven Threads by Jason Atkinson + Giveaway


Seven Threads: A Book of Short Stories by Jason Atkinson
​Category: Adult Fiction, 151 pages
Genre: Thriller and Suspense
Publisher: Mascot Books
Release date: July 4, 2017
Tour dates: July 10 to 28, 2017
Content Rating: PG

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

Book Description:

In this collection of seven short stories from Jason Atkinson, follow a man accused of murder, a runaway girl on a train, a scientist at the heart of a government conspiracy, and more! Full of twists and turns, Seven Threads offers a selection of fast-paced stories full of heart and excitement.


Meet the Author:


​Jason Atkinson lives in the Midwest with his wife and son. With a love of writing, this is his third book, but first book in the fiction category. Short stories are easy to digest and yet this book still provides all the joys for the long haul reader. Jason wrote with everyone in mind when creating this piece and hopes you will enjoy it as much as he did when writing it.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Aug 5


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jason Atkinson / Short stories / Books from America

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hopeless Love by Kerdel Ellick


Hopeless Love by Kerdel Ellick
Self published on the 1st of July 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Download this book for free from Smashwords
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Downloaded from Smashwords

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a series of heart breaking poems written by a man who desires to be loved by a woman he has known for many years. But he can't be loved in return because of what he has done.

Hopeless Love was the first of two poetry books I chose to download as part of the 2017 Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. This sitewide extravaganza is on throughout July and you can read more about in my Stephanie Jane blog post.

Kerdel Ellick's poetry appealed to me because he is a St Lucian author and I haven't read anything from that country before. Hopeless Love is a collection of seven poems themed around unrequited love and it is redolent with teenage angst and anger. At times Ellick's unnamed poet narrator (himself?) is frightening in his obsession, especially his indignation that the woman at the focus of his desire somehow owes him her attention.

The poetry itself uses a more prose-based than rhythmic and rhyming approach and there is some fairly grotesque imagery at times! I was frequently thrown by Ellick's strange use of plurals, initially wondering if this was a style decision and, if so, why. As a young adult poetry collection, I think Hopeless Love will have a wide thematic appeal.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kerdel Ellick / Poetry / Books from St Lucia

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler


The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L.C. Tyler
First published in the UK by Macmillan in 2007.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Swapped for at the book exchange at Camping Casteillets, Ceret, France

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethelred Tressider is a writer with problems. His latest novel is going nowhere, a mid-life crisis is looming and he's burdened by the literary agent he probably deserves: Elsie Thirkettle, who claims to enjoy neither the company of writers nor literature of any kind. And as if things weren't bad enough for Ethelred, his ex-wife, Geraldine, is reported missing when her Fiat is found deserted near Ethelred's Sussex home. The disappearance soon becomes a murder investigation and there is no shortage of suspects, including Geraldine's sister, bank manager and former partner, Rupert. Geraldine was a woman with debts. Soon the nosy, chocoloate-chomping Elsie has bullied Ethelred into embarking upon his own investigation, but as their enquiries proceed, she begins to suspect that her client's own alibi is not as solid as he claims.

I chose The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler from a limited English language selection at a French campsite book exchange so was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed the read. Cosy mystery stories aren't my usual fare, but my eye was caught by the great title.

The herring seller in question is the wonderfully named Ethelred Hengist Tressider, general hack writer by trade whose most popular book series is crime fiction, hence the fish moniker - he sells red herrings! When Ethelred's ex-wife is found dead under mysterious circumstances, his literary agent Elsie desperately tries to persuade him to undertake an amateur sleuth hunt for her killer. Ethelred would far rather leave all that to the police who seem to already have their ducks neatly in a row.

The mystery itself is nicely plotted with some interesting twists and turns. It's not too difficult to figure out - even I managed - but the ending is satisfying. I know the Sussex area where The Herring Seller's Apprentice is set so got the local references. However, what really made this novel for me was the first person narration which has lots of black humour and is very funny. Ethelred explains elements of his crime writing craft as we go along and I loved the clever way theory melded with its practice. Knowing comments such a second Point Of View introduction being over-obviously flagged to the reader with A Very Different Font rang so true and the drippingly sarcastic descriptions are great fun. Poor Elsie!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by L C Tyler / Crime fiction / Books from England

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman


A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman
First published in Hebrew in Israel as Sus echad nichnas lebar by Ha'kibbutz Ha'meuchad in August 2014. English language translation by Jessica Cohen published by Alfred A Knopf in February 2017.

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G provokes both revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he’s been summoned to this performance.

I am not sure why I chose to respond to an emailed NetGalley invitation to read A Horse Walks Into A Bar. I previously read David Grossman's Be My Knife and didn't like it at all. I am also often underwhelmed by Booker prize winners. So the odds were set against this novel from the start which is why I was amazed to find myself completely taken over by it! I can't genuinely say that I enjoyed the read because I think its subject matter is too dark for that, but immersed, compelled, entranced. For me, A Horse Walks Into A Bar was one of those books where everything else around me ceased to exist while I was within its pages. It is not a particularly long novel and I read it in two intense burst, emerging each time not exactly sure of how much time had passed or how I suddenly returned from an Israeli comedy club to a Welsh field (we're camping)!

Grossman evokes the dark oppressive nightclub so vividly that I could clearly see the desperate stand-up comedian, Dovaleh, in the spotlight, his unwilling audience in the shadows and his invited guest skulking by the door. Like the guest, as readers we don't initially know what Dovaleh is trying to achieve on this night or why we are there. Like the audience I found his early routine embarrassing and later sections uncomfortable to witness. Dovaleh is too personal, too upfront with his revelations, but it is impossible to look away.

I am sure my lack of knowledge of Israeli life and culture meant that several references were lost on me, but even without such insight I loved this book. It won't be for everyone certainly and there were moments when I almost couldn't bear Grossman's sadism towards Dovaleh. Phrases and images are still rolling around my brain and I think will do so for hours and days to come. A Horse Walks Into A Bar could well be my book of the month.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Grossman / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie


Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie
First published in the UK by Ebury Press today, the 20th July 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three and half weeks. Three hundred miles. I saw roaring arterial highway and silent lanes, candlelit cathedrals and angry men in bad pubs. The Britain of 1936 was a land of beef paste sandwiches and drill halls. Now we are nation of vaping and nail salons, pulled pork and salted caramel.
In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade.
Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the 30s with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable. Maconie visits the great cities as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now.

Readers of my Stephanie Jane blog will already know of my loves of history and of walking so Stuart Maconie's latest travel memoir, Long Road From Jarrow, was perfect for me! Like many of the people he meets during his solo reenactment of the famous Jarrow March, my knowledge of the original was a little hazy so I was glad to be far better informed on finishing. Maconie is fascinated with our country and the people who have made it their home and his enthusiasm shines through every page making this book an enjoyable and inspirational read.

200 unemployed men and their MP, Ellen Wilkinson, set out on the Jarrow March in October 1936. They walked hundreds of miles to present a petition at Westminster asking for jobs. I was amazed by the varying reactions they provoked at the time. From being officially ignored by the Labour Party to receiving donated boots and clothes in towns through which they passed to becoming the media darlings of the moment, the Marchers have passed into British folklore. Eighty years later, retracing their steps day by day, Maconie wanted to mark the March's generally overlooked anniversary and to discover how different the England of 2016 was. Disconcertingly, to me at least, there are still far too many similarities. The north of England is still far poorer than the south, especially the south-east corner, and the experience and demands of people there are just as easily dismissed by London-centric leaders. Right-wing propaganda and fascism is again on the rise with immigration bearing the brunt of blame and anger as it did in the 1930s.

Against this doom and gloom however, Maconie maintains an upbeat outlook. I like that he generally finds a positive in whatever town he happens to visit. I learned a lot from Long Road From Jarrow and now have several more previously unconsidered towns on my must-visit list! Bedford's Italian community was formerly unknown to me as were the numerous Sikh forge workers that I don't remember getting a mention at the Black Country Living Museum! I feel inspired to go long distance walking too although perhaps using Maconie's hotel overnighting method rather than the Jarrow mens' dossing in church halls.

Long Road From Jarrow is less of a walking book than I had hoped and I would have liked maps showing each day's route, however as a zeitgeist survey of England and as travel inspiration, I highly recommend it.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stuart Maconie / Biography and memoir / Books from England