Thursday, 29 September 2016

Omnia by Laura Gallego


Omnia by Laura Gallego

First published under the same title in Spain in Spanish by Random House Espanol in 2016. English translation by Jordi Castells published by AmazonCrossing in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from 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:
Received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Where else but Omnia would a boy go looking to replace a one-of-a-kind stuffed bunny that happens to be his baby sister’s favorite toy? Scrolling through the online retailer’s extensive inventory, Nico finds what looks like a perfect match, but the item is lost somewhere in the vast Omnia warehouse. He doesn’t believe it, so he stows away in a shipment being returned to the warehouse to search for the bunny himself.
Nico quickly gets stranded on the island of Omnia, a fantastical place that does much more than sell everyday items. It is a hub for a business with intergalactic reach, and while stray visitors to Omnia are welcomed warmly, they are not permitted to leave, ever.
The adventure of a lifetime awaits Nico as he searches for the beloved toy and tries to find a way to return home.
'

Omnia has an intriguing synopsis and I chose it also for its retro cover art by Chelsea Wirtz and because its translator is Jordi Castells who I thought did a superb job with Pierced By The Sun by Laura Esquivel which I read last month. I am glad to say this concise novel didn't disappoint. It is a quick read which I devoured in a single sitting over a few hours, thoroughly enjoying every minute. Nico knows he shouldn't really have thrown out his baby sister's beloved toy rabbit and his guilt is endearing, but the sacrifice he ends up making to redeem himself is way more than he could ever have imagined.

Gallego's Omnia is, on later reflection, a disconcertingly real vision of our future and the irony of this translation being published by Amazon either shows that they do have a sense of humour or that the powers-that-be didn't actually read the book before signing it up! I loved the idea of boys hiding out for months within a warehouse where everything is available for the taking, albeit several hours walk away and you have to know exactly where to look, and the Hotel California vibe makes for a wonderfully menacing atmosphere. Extensive automation causing job reduction certainly reflects the trends I see around me as well as the first-world notion that anything is just a click away if you have the credit to buy it. Omnia is an excellent novel that is superficially an easy read, but with thought-provoking layers that I think will make it a popular choice for book clubs.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laura Gallego / Science fiction / Books from Spain

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Hutchins Creek Cache by Deborah Garner + Giveaway



Hutchins Creek Cache by Deborah Garner
Published in America by Cranberry Cove Press on the 16th September 2016


Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a copy from Beck Valley Book Tours in exchange for my honest review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Paige MacKenzie heads to the town of Hutchins Creek, Colorado, to research Old West railroad history for The Manhattan Post, with plans to meet up with her favorite cowboy, Jake Norris.

When a mysterious coin from the 1920’s is discovered behind the Hutchins Creek Railroad Museum, Paige starts digging into four generations of Hutchins family history.

As legends of steam engines and coin mintage mingle, will Paige discover the true origin of the coin or will she find herself dangerously close to more than one long-hidden town secret?'

I was drawn to read Hutchins Creek Cache by the beautiful cover art of this Paige Mackenzie romantic mystery series, especially the evocative train adorning its most recent installment. The covers are all created by Keri Knutsen at Alchemy Book Covers. Although I have started mid-series, I didn't find any problem in reading the novel out of order as the mystery aspect is a self-contained tale and there are enough brief nods to the overarching romantic storyline for me to easily establish Paige and Jake's relationship journey.

The community aspect of small town America is very much to the fore here and there is a cosy, familial vibe throughout the book. Little Sam is probably the strongest of the characters - a wonderfully precocious five year old - and I particularly enjoyed Garner's creation and descriptions of Hutchins Creek itself. Is this actually a real town? Not knowing that part of America at all, it is certainly somewhere I would like to visit! This style of clean romance novel isn't my usual reading fare so I was surprised by several almost coy moments, but 'stronger' scenes would skew the book's dynamic and I liked the real affection between Paige and Jake. I won't talk about the mystery itself except to say that it is nicely plotted with a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps a couple of Paige's conclusions along the way are overly lucky leaps of logic, but it's fun to follow her investigation.


"Can't say enough about this book! Wonderful! Deborah Garner is a wonderful writer! She makes you feel like you are right there with Paige and Jake. I loved the setting of Hutchins Creek and the characters were all great. I was on pins and needles and even shed a tear or two. I can't wait for more of this series!"  review from Goodreads


More Paige MacKenzie Mysteries

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"This book held my interest from start to finish. It was beautifully written with such great descriptions that I could picture the town and landscapes." - review of Above the Bridge

"Delightful . Loved the explorations into the old mines and the side love stories. Mist was a special person with exceptional insight." - review of The Moonglow Cafe

 "The author does a great job in vividly describing the resort, town and surrounding landscape, she makes you feel like you are actually there. She also has a gift for making her characters come to life." - review of Three Silver Doves
Above reviews from Amazon.com

About the author

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

Find the author on the following sites...



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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Deborah Garner / Mysteries / Books from America

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
First published in America in The New England Magazine in 1892.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook 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 from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Foregoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment she is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency", a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. The room's windows are barred to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate. The story depicts the effect of under-stimulation on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper.'

Hot on the heels of another classic of 'women's mental health' fiction - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath which I read and reviewed two weeks ago - I was excited to spot a disintegrating Virago edition of The Yellow Wallpaper on the Rowcroft Hospice charity book table in Torquay Indoor Market. I had read discussions of this story on the Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge forums last year, but had not previously read the work itself.

At only twenty-eight pages, The Yellow Wallpaper is a quick read and a strangely powerful one. I was horrified at the thought of this woman who seemed obviously to be suffering post-natal depression being effectively shut away in solitary confinement. And this was considered a cure! Her patronising husband angered me intensely although I know that such ignorant attitudes were the norm until relatively recently. Being aware of the truthful basis to the story only increases its atmosphere and I loved how Gilman paces her reveal for maximum impact. I think The Yellow Wallpaper is a deserved classic on several fronts: as a short horror story, as feminist literature, and as a compelling evocation of mental breakdown.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman / Short stories / Books from America

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Ark Before Noah by Irving Finkel


The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood by Irving Finkel
Published by Hodder And Stoughton in January 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download 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 download from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I downloaded The Ark Before Noah in a version which is read by the author, Dr Irving Finkel. For the first few minutes, I found his unpolished narrating style awkward to listen to and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, once his wonderful enthusiasm began to shine through, I was hooked. Finkel discusses his academic life, British Museum career and fabulous fairly-recent discovery of an ancient clay tablet containing details concerning the story of the ark and the flood. He also introduces us to the earliest origins of the story - waaay before the Hebrew Bible - and collects together other tablets with parts of the famous tale and shows how it evolved over some 4000 years into what we know today.

I was particularly fascinated by the comprehensive comparisons of the different tablets and their meshing story versions. As I have only heard the heroes' names, I am not going to attempt to spell them, but it had not previously occurred to me that Noah wasn't always called Noah! The earliest flood version wasn't occasioned by sin either - humans had simply become too noisy for the Gods to endure! Finkel goes into immense detail in his tablet comparions. He examines ark building techniques, mountain landing sites, and intricacies of language in a way that could be too in depth for less nerdy souls. I appreciated his dry humour throughout but am unsure whether this would come across via the printed page. This purely aural version obviously didn't contain images though so I think now a trip to the British Museum is called for so I can see the Ark tablet and Babylonian Map tablet 'in the flesh'. I am so intrigued by their existence that I might visit even if it's not raining!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Irving Finkel / History / Books from England

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Paper Towns by John Green


Paper Towns by John Green
Published in October 2008 by Dutton Books. Film version released in July 2015.

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

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I felt ominously lurgified when choosing the YA novel Paper Towns as the easiest read of the selection on our Kindle. Set in Orlando, Florida, the novel tells of a group of High School students during the few weeks prior to their graduation. One girl, Margo, mysteriously disappears leaving her besotted childhood friend Q going to ever more bizarre lengths to find her.

The main strength of Paper Towns is in its depiction of the relationship between Q and his two best friends Ben and Radar. I thought this trio were very realistic and fun to read about. Their dialogue actually got me laughing out loud several times. By contrast, the female characters seemed more stereotypical and the continual emphasis on their appearances was irritating. All the students are also remarkably affluent - $100s of dollars are spent without any of them appearing to have jobs! I did like the descriptions of the 'paper towns' that were planned but never came into existence. There are a lot of these houseless plots in Spain so reading about the American version was topical for me.

Paper Towns is an ok light read but I found it difficult to buy into the main premise that Q would go to so much trouble for a girl who has basically ignored him for the best part of a decade. We are told he idolises her but, for me, his potentially jeopardising a college future that is fantastically important to him purely for the sake of a one-night madcap adventure was stretching credibility too far. I also missed out on much of the poetical theorising having not read the Whitman poem that was analysed. I've not read any of his poems and am starting to think I must get a collection to browse through - he is namedropped so often in American literature! Anyway, having got through the whole novel in an afternoon, the writing is indeed easy on the brain and there are some great humorous moments that took my mind off feeling poorly. Love the beer sword! However, the time-sensitive ending is too contrived - perhaps written with one eye on a film script - and I didn't like the last scene at all.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Green / Young adult / Books from America

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley


Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley
Published in June 2016

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley, she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.
Obviously she’s lying.
Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.
He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.
Unless she’s lying about that too …
'

I enjoyed reading Nemesis by Louise Marley last year so was eager to buy her new crime thriller when I saw it released. There are similarities between Nemesis and Trust Me I Lie with both novels being driven by the solution of a past crime and the revelation of family secrets. We also have an amazing heroine here in Milla Graham, a devious and mouthy young woman who is sorely lacking in social niceties. She is great fun to read although I did struggle to remember that she was supposed to be in her mid-twenties. I often felt she seemed much younger. On the downside, I couldn't quite get a handle on Ben who, at times, did seem just a tad too naive, but I liked his colleague Harriet a lot and also icy Lydia.

The twists and turns of Trust Me I Lie do require concentration on the part of the reader which I appreciated. I like a book which makes me think! The vintage fairytale references provide added depth to the story and I now find myself wanting to go find a copy of Alice In Wonderland as this classic is beautifully entwined in our mystery. Marley again makes great use of her location research and I loved the idea of the impersonal new Graham house having been built practically alongside the fire-damaged ruins of the old family home. This juxtaposition worked really well for me, especially with chocolate box Buckley close by.

If you're looking for a satisfying mystery to cosy up with as the evenings draw in, I would happily recommend Trust Me I Lie to you. And that's not a lie. Promise!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Louise Marley / Crime fiction / Books from England

Friday, 23 September 2016

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
First published in America by the Penguin Group in 2011.

I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

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 from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?'

The first journey Dave and I made together was to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and while there we visited the former NKVD headquarters so I already had some idea of the horrific suffering inflicted on the Lithuanian people during Stalin's years of power. Reading Between Shades Of Gray reminded of that visit and also provided a vivid recounting of those people's experiences during the 1940s and 1950s. On one hand this book is an easy read. It was originally intended for a young adult audience so the prose is relatively simple and moves along at a swift pace. On the other hand, the stark writing and unadorned, matter-of-fact tone serve to intensify what Lina and her family are forced to endure. I was frequently emotionally moved by the deportees' strength of mind, their courage in such overwhelming conditions and their incredible resilience.

Sepetys has based this fictional tale on many first-hand accounts by survivors so, while it is not actually a true story, the events described are essentially what really happened. To realise that this experience of vicious exile was common to thousands and thousands of people, many of whom never returned, is sobering and I still don't understand how, as humans, we can continually be so cruel to each other. I see the same hateful paranoia today directed towards 'other' peoples. It would be great to read Between Shades Of Gray solely as historical fiction and be relieved that this kind of violent discrimination no longer occurs in our world. Perhaps one day that might be possible?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ruta Sepetys / Young adult books / Books from America