Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Guest review: Sinkhole by Leo X Robertson + Giveaway

Sinkhole by Leo X Robertson
Published by Cardboard Wall Empire on the 24th September 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Download the ebook for free from its author via Dropbox

Guest review by Harry Whitewolf
Harry Whitewolf is a poet of contemporary cutting-edge pop prose and a storyteller of true crazy travelling tales that read like fiction. I have enjoyed both his travel memoirs (my reviews here) so was delighted when Harry agreed to share this one of his reviews on Literary Flits. You can find out more about Harry and his writing on his own website, www.harrywhitewolf.com

Harry's rating: 4 of 5 stars

The characters in these stories live in disconnected worlds, inside their own heads, trying to create meaning for themselves. In Dead Cats on Motorways, a father tries to work out if the family cat has been run over before his son comes home. In The London Bus, an ordinary woman gives in to her compulsion to vie for the attention of apathetic bus passengers, going to deeper and darker lengths each time. The Badass London Ex-Bitches and the Case of the Creepy Revenge Porn Guy is the story of three women who band together to find out who put their naked photos online. These stories and more are about what goes wrong when we fail to communicate.

Harry says: "“D’you know what I liked most about Sinkhole?” I asked a fictional version of Leo X Robertson who was lingering around in my mind. He was looking around for a bar, and poised to know what I had to say about his book of short stories.
“No,” said Leo.
“You’re a writer who thinks outside the box! That’s what I like!” Leo then smacked me hard in the face for using such a trite term as ‘outside the box’.
“I’m sorry,” I said, wiping my bloody nose. “Would the term ‘blue sky thinking’ have been more appropriate?” - at which point Leo brutally beat me to within an inch of my life.
 “I’m sorry,” said Leo. “I’m not a violent person at all, but you went over the line.”
“Nnn-duh-stood,” I tried to reply through my broken throat.

Two weeks in an intensive care unit gave me the time to reconsider how to approach the review, so I was very thankful for having been placed there. I had learnt my lesson. There would be no more references to boxes.
When I finally got out of hospital, I returned to my flat only to find that fictional Leo was waiting for me. He simply asked,
“So how did writing the review go?” I proceeded to tell him:
“I had trouble writing about that one titled that black and white box… sorry, I mean square, and circle symbol thing. I mean how do people insert such symbols into text? It’s beyond me. Anyway, that one I can’t name- I really liked that. That was great fun.”
“Which others did you like?” he asked.
“Dead Cats on Motorways, as you would expect from such a title, was hilarious and expertly executed. Histopia felt like it should have been one of those books that was already a classic, but written in this day and age, it just worked best as it was; in its short story format. ‘Twas spot on.”
“Oh good. I’m glad you liked it,” said Leo.
“The London Bus was probably my favourite story, and #Awkward infuriated me: well done.”
“Great!” said Leo. “Any negative criticism?”
“Well, it didn’t feel quite as accomplished as your later books. I felt like some stories were too long whilst others were too short. Sometimes it felt like I was rummaging through a big folder of your thoughts for stories, rather than a finished product, but then I kinda liked that too.” “And you promise me you didn’t use any terms like ‘outside the box’?”
“No. I promise. Look here…” and I showed Leo the end of the review I’d written.

It said: ‘If you like the likes of Chris Morris and Stewart Lee, you’ll most certainly like this book. It’s crass, clever, cutting, biting, poignant, original, dark and deliciously funny. Fall into a Sinkhole. You won’t regret it.’
“Hmm…” said Leo. “It sounds a bit advertising bullshitty to me.”
“Well it doesn’t matter. You’re not even the real Leo,” I said. “You’re just a figment of my imagination.”
“Oh yeah!” said Leo, and abruptly disappeared."

Thank you Harry!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Books by Leo X Robertson / Short stories / Books from England

Monday, 23 January 2017

The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi

The Bamboo Stalk by Saud Alsanousi
First published in Arabic by Arab Scientific Publishers Inc in 2012. English translation by Jonathan Wright published by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing in 2015.
Won the International Priza for Arabic Fiction in 2013.

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

How I got this book:
Gift from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Josephine escapes poverty by coming to Kuwait from the Philippines to work as a maid, where she meets Rashid, an idealistic only son with literary aspirations. Josephine, with all the wide-eyed naivety of youth, believes she has found true love. But when she becomes pregnant, and with the rumble of war growing ever louder, Rashid bows to family and social pressure, and sends her back home with her baby son, José. Brought up struggling with his dual identity, José clings to the hope of returning to his father's country when he is eighteen. He is ill-prepared to plunge headfirst into a world where the fear of tyrants and dictators is nothing compared to the fear of ‘what will people say’. And with a Filipino face, a Kuwaiti passport, an Arab surname and a Christian first name, will his father’s country welcome him? The Bamboo Stalk takes an unflinching look at the lives of foreign workers in Arab countries and confronts the universal problems of identity, race and religion.

I found Jose-Isa an interesting narrator because of his dual existence even though he is not a particularly likeable person. Groomed by his Filipino mother, Josephine, practically since his birth in expectation of his becoming a Kuwaiti like his father, Rashid, Jose feels something of an outsider in the Philippines even though he has grown up there. His physical appearance marks him out as different and he longs to be in Kuwait where he will fit in. However, on eventually arriving in Kuwait, he finds himself subject to much the same sense of not belonging, this time exacerbated by the treatment meted out by his father's family.

Alsanousi does an incredible job of evoking Jose's life in both countries, explaining social etiquette and depicting how the people live. Many Filipinos travel to Gulf countries to undertake menial jobs and this novel illustrates some of the poverty-induced pressures that force them to do so. Kuwait is seen as some kind of paradise, until the workers arrive in any case. I was surprised to find myself being reminded though of the social snobbery of Jane Austen's Persuasion which I recently read. Polite Kuwaiti society here is a similar small circle governed by the same dread of losing face. I couldn't always sympathise with Jose's predicament in Kuwait until he begins to pull himself together and create his own fortune. Much of The Bamboo Stalk revolves around finding where the grass is metaphorically greener, the importance and significance of family ties, and our enduring search for home and identity whether those concepts be people, place, culture or ideology.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Saud Alsanousi / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kuwait

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
First published in America by Morrow in September 2005. Audiobook narrated by Lenny Henry also published in 2005.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook from Audible via 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:
Bought the audiobook from Audible and borrowed the ebook from my OH

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fat Charlie Nancy is not actually fat. He was fat once but he is definitely not fat now. No, right now Fat Charlie Nancy is angry, confused and more than a little scared - right now his life is spinning out of control, and it is all his dad's fault.
If his rotter of an estranged father hadn't dropped dead at a karaoke night, Charlie would still be blissfully unaware that his dad was Anansi the spider god. He would have no idea that he has a brother called Spider, who is also a god. And there would be no chance that said brother would be trying to take over his life, flat and fiancée, or, to make matters worse, be doing a much better job of it than him. Desperate to reclaim his life, Charlie enlists the help of four more-than-slightly eccentric old ladies and their unique brand of voodoo - and between them they unleash a bitter and twisted force to get rid of Spider. But as darkness descends and badness begins is Fat Charlie Nancy going to get his life back in one piece or is he about to enter a whole netherworld of pain?

Anansi Boys was chosen as the second of three group reads for January by the Proud Readers Of Great Stories group on Goodreads to which I belong. I had already loved hearing the audiobook edition, superbly narrated by Lenny Henry, a few years ago so decided to borrow my OH's ebook edition this time around. I couldn't actually remember much of the story at all which I was glad about because I couldn't spoil any surprises for myself!

Gaiman's tale, at heart, is a coming of age story of sibling rivalry where our inept hero must overcome not only his brother's suave sophistication, but also his own crises of confidence. I could empathise with Fat Charlie on so many occasions! However, this being Gaiman, he also encounters no end of fantastical and supernatural beings which are vividly described so I could easily imagine them all. These beings are inspired by ancient folk tales, 'told before people were even sung into existence'. I recognised several as Brer Rabbit tales and others from Caribbean and African literature I have read and thought this gave Gaiman's imagined world extra power. He has obviously thoroughly researched the mythology and I love how ancient stories and beliefs are woven into Fat Charlie's search. I devoured the whole book in only a couple of sittings because I was so keen to remain within its magic and to know what happens next. A fabulous story!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Neil Gaiman / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Mark Of The Loon by Molly Greene + Giveaway

Mark Of The Loon by Molly Greene
Self published in 2012.

Where to buy this book:
Download the ebook free from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received as a reward for signing up to the Death Lies and Duct Tape newsletter.

Death Lies and Duct Tape is a collaboration between fourteen thriller authors across both sides of the Atlantic and another of the athors involved, Ian Sutherland, told me more about it: "We came together because we are all students of Mark Dawson’s courses on Advertising for Authors. We decided that a collaborating on this box set would allow us to pool our resources and slowly build up to launching the boxset with a loud crescendo in May 2017. At 99c/99p, the box set gives readers a great opportunity to sample our books and hopefully discover at least one (hopefully fourteen!) new authors to follow going forward. We’re all incredibly excited about the project and are loving how each of us brings different skills to the project. It really has been a team effort."

You can find out more about Death Lies and Duct Tape on their website and everyone who signs up for the newsletter will be sent one of the fourteen books, chosen at random, as a thank you.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Madison Boone is keen to buy a fabulous stone cottage in the country, and she nixes her budding relationship with Coleman Welles to do it. But once the renovation begins, the property's long-buried secret threatens to derail everything. Can her friends help solve the mystery?
Mark of the Loon, the first of the Gen Delacourt mystery series, is the skillful combination of history, mystery, and romance in a novel that explores choices, taking risks, dealing with loss, deep, satisfying, unconditional friendships - and introduces Genevieve Delacourt as an impressive amateur sleuth!

Mark Of The Loon is a novel of female friendship and sisterhood and I thoroughly enjoyed joining its four friends, Madison, Genny, Gabi and Anna for a time. Madison buys a new house so there is lots of interior decor chat as well as a very real sense of strong relationships between the friends. Romantic relationships also have a part to play and I liked the depiction of a burgeoning romance between Madison and a college professor she meets, Cole. It's all sweet and chaste which fits with the novel's cosy vibe.

Our mystery revolves around the house itself and Greene sets up the suspense slowly so Mark Of The Loon could initially just be women's fiction, however subtle disturbances and odd occurrences are dripped in to unsettle the reader. The house is a fascinating setting and I wouldn't mind living there myself! I did find the ultimate unveiling to be far-fetched and overly rushed so, to me, it came across as disappointingly silly, but the episode is so brief that, although I suppose it should be the highlight, I found myself thinking of it merely as an aberration before we returned to the 'real' storyline!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Molly Greene / Women's fiction / Books from America

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Terrorists by Sjowall and Wahloo

The Terrorists by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo
First published in Swedish as Terroristerna in Sweden by Norstedts Forlag in 1975. English language translation by Joan Tate published in 1975.

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:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An American senator is visiting Stockholm and Martin Beck must lead a team to protect him from an international gang of terrorists. However, in the midst of the fervor created by the diplomatic visit, a young, peace-loving woman is accused of robbing a bank. Beck is determined to prove her innocence, but gets trapped in the maze of police bureaucracy. To complicate matters a millionaire pornographer has been bludgeoned to death in his own bathtub. Filled with the twists and turns and the pulse pounding excitement that are the hallmarks of the Martin Beck novels, The Terrorists is the stunning conclusion to the incredible series that changed crime fiction forever.

The Terrorists is the tenth and final novel in the Martin Beck series and is suitably ambitious in its scope. A global gang of highly trained terrorists are believed poised to strike in Sweden and Beck is charged with heading up the team that must outwit them. Despite being written just over forty years ago, other than the lack of technological advances much of The Terrorists could be a present day thriller. It is interesting to think that as many (or even more) terrorist groups were murderously active throughout the 1960s and 1970s and I think the only major difference is that then they encompassed a wide variety of political stances and ideologies, whereas now popular Western belief singularly demonises hardline Islamic groups.

I found the story slow to start because its disparate narrative lines meandered around each other and I couldn't see which was going to take off. I did like that Gunvald Larsson has a central role again. His abrasive attitude and language makes him a fun character to read. I loved the 'commando section' idea too. Once up to speed, The Terrorists is as exciting and tense as previous books in the series and it is easy to see how together the ten became the template for much of the Scandinavian crime fiction that has followed. Strong believable characters, interesting detail and social commentary, and tightly plotted storylines make for pretty perfect crime fiction and The Terrorists certainly stands the test of time.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sjowall and Wahloo / Crime fiction / Books from Sweden

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Guest Review: Dying For A Living by Kory M Shrum

Dying For A Living by Kory M Shrum
Published by Timberlane Press in March 2014.

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

Guest review by Olivia-Savannah
Olivia's Catastrophe is one of my absolute favourite blogs - a mix of book reviews and inspiring lifestyle posts - so I was especially delighted when Olivia herself agreed to share a book review on Literary Flits. She's chosen an unusual fantasy tale and I defy anyone to not get caught up in her enthusiasm!

Olivia's rating: 5 of 5 stars

On the morning before her 67th death, it is business as usual for Jesse Sullivan: meet with the mortician, counsel soon-to-be-dead clients, and have coffee while reading the latest regeneration theory. Jesse dies for a living, literally. As a Necronite, she is one of the population's rare 2% who can serve as a death replacement agent, dying so others don't have to. Although each death is different, the result is the same: a life is saved, and Jesse resurrects days later with sore muscles, new scars, and another hole in her memory.
But when Jesse is murdered and becomes the sole suspect in a federal investigation, more than her freedom and sanity are at stake. She must catch the killer herself--or die trying.



As I was going to say, I loved every single aspect of this book. Yes. It blew me away! It was something new for me because I have never read a book including zombies, so this was a new concept to me. But the way they were used here, and the whole idea of this book was just dripping originality. I have never read a book like this one before, which makes me love it all the more. On top of that, it was amazingly well written, funny and deserves a lot more publicity than it already has!

My favourite character had to be Jesse – she was strong, determined and sassy as well. You’ve all heard of those amazingly strong female characters so I am going to move on and mention my second favourite character. Lane. He was someone who puts up with Jesse’s mood swings, stands by her and can be equally cheeky too. I loved him!

There was a love triangle in this story, but it wasn’t the main focus of this book and did a good job of adding something to the story. What was also a twist to this love story was that one competitor was male, and the other female. Which was something I didn’t expect. #TeamLane

The plot was full of so many twists. Yes, some I was able to predict, but the general outcome of how those things worked in her favor or didn’t was something I was never able to guess ahead about. The plot had me so captivated I couldn’t put the book down!

Style and writing was perfect! Kory managed to build a new society with a few different laws and different clashes, and yet manages to explain them all without seeming info-dumpy or boring in any case. I just absolutely loved, loved, and LOVED this book.

I recommend this to all mature readers! There is some language in this book and brief sex scenes/mentions. It gets the big five stars from me!"

Thank you Olivia!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Books by Kory M Shrum / Fantasy / Books from America

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

On The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Lesley Downer

On the Narrow Road to the Deep North by Lesley Downer
First published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in 1989. Republished by Endeavour Press in July 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Downloaded when mentioned in an Endeavour Press newsletter.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1689 Matsuo Basho, Japan’s greatest poet, set out on his last and longest journey, to the remote northern provinces. His moving account, rich in strange and sometimes comic encounters along the road, is the most famous and much loved work in Japanese literature. Three hundred years later, inspired by Basho’s writing and her passion for Japan, Lesley Downer set off in his footsteps. Walking and hitchhiking towards the Sacred Mountains with their legendary hermit priests, meeting people who had never seen a Westerner and dining on flowers and sautéed grasshoppers, she discovered a world which many Japanese believe vanished centuries ago.

Like Richard Flanagan's similarly titled Burma railroad novel, The Narrow Road To The Deep North, Downer's book owes its naming to Matsuo Basho's ancient travel memoir. The famous Japanese poet inspired her to follow in his footsteps across the rural north of the country and this fascinating book is her record of the journey.

I love the idea of visiting Japan myself, especially the country outside of Tokyo which is completely different to the ultra-modern city. On The Narrow Road To The Deep North reveals some of the mysteries of the culture and also describes important historical events that took place in the places Downer visits. I appreciated the clever intertwining of the three main journeys: that of Downer herself, Basho and his companion Sora some three hundred years previously, and the almost mythical heroes Benkei and Yoshitsune in whose footsteps Basho himself was following. The inclusion of Basho's haiku is an inspired touch. I don't think I had read any of his work before and enjoyed the dual visions of places which often had hardly changed in the intervening centuries. This book is a great history lesson as well as a travel memoir.

A Western woman travelling alone is an incredibly unusual sight in rural Japan so we readers get to see the varying local reactions to their visitor. I was amazed at the poverty of these village communities as I had believed all of Japan to be an affluent nation. The landscapes, once away from the concrete towns, sound incredibly beautiful and I was frequently envious as another footpath sign pointed out into the mountains. Downer's writing really brings her journey to life and her love for Japan shines through. I would highly recommend On The Narrow Road To The Deep North to travellers, walkers, poets and history buffs.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Lesley Downer / Biography and memoir / Books from England