Saturday, 25 February 2017

Weltanschauung by Vikki Patis


Weltanschauung by Vikki Patis
Self published in November 2016.

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

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The harbinger, the oddball, the remaining twin… Weltanschauung seeks to open your eyes to different stories, set in different worlds and at different times, but with the same theme in mind: to make you question your worldview. This collection of short stories traverses genres, introduces a variety of characters, and shines a light on some of our deepest fears. Challenge your perceptions.

Despite its German language title - meaning worldview - this collection of five short stories is firmly rooted in English culture. I liked that several of the offerings are set in the West Country, not so far from my Devon home! Patis explores dark themes, putting her mostly very ordinary characters into extraordinary situations where their mental health and resilience are severely tested. She is not constrained by any specific genre so the tales encompass horror, thriller and dystopian science fiction, all with a chilling psychological aspect that I particularly enjoyed.

I think my favourites are Only If and Grave Oversight. Only If introduces us to a teenage girl who is failing to cope with the death of her twin the previous year. I understood early where the story might be heading and the writing is as compelling as an inevitable accident. Despite willing a change of course to occur, the fates are resolutely set on their path to its heart rending conclusion. Grave Oversight, by contrast, does not reveal its truth until its very last moments and I really should not have read this story so close to bedtime! The final story, Bane, was the only one in which I was a little disappointed because I felt it warranted being a longer and more detailed piece. Otherwise I think Weltanschauung is a strong collection of unexpected and thoughtful stories.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vikki Patis / Short stories / Books from England

Friday, 24 February 2017

Into The Fire by Manda Scott


Into the Fire by Manda Scott
Published in the UK by Bantam Press in June 2015.

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 hardback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Won in a @followthehens Twitter giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2014: In the French city of Orléans, a man’s charred corpse is found in a burned-out hotel, stripped of all ID. Police captain Inès Picaut must hunt down his killer before others fall prey to the fire. She has only one clue: the name of a woman who has been dead for over five hundred years.
1429: Joan of Arc is taking the war to the English. They want her dead but the only way to reach her is through a fiercely loyal inner circle - until undercover spy Tomas Rustbeard finally earns her trust.
The myths of the past hold the key to the mystery of the present, but how many must die before the truth is laid bare?

Into The Fire is set in Orleans, a French town I haven't yet visited, and it has a good sense of the Gallic about the writing, particularly in the early stages of the modern day crime story. Scott develops two stories alongside each other - one being a police procedural set in political circles in 2014 Orleans, the other taking us back to fifteenth century France and the military campaigns of Jehanne d'Arc. For the first half of the book I really enjoyed both stories. The political intrigues of both are interesting and well described. The characters are realistic and Scott has a talent for concisely portraying her scenes to enable easy imagining without slowing the pace with too much description.

However, once the modern day story steps up a gear, I found it headed swiftly into unbelievable events with the characters losing all sense of themselves. It was as if they were merely following a bad Hollywood action screenplay where all realism is sacrificed for relentless action. There is even a random unprofessional romance flung in for no good reason and, of course, the whole plot is centres personally on the chief investigator because that's the way these thrillers always pan out. By contrast, the historical storyline stays strong and fascinating, but I found the modern day shenanigans so distracting that it was hard to keep focused. I would far rather Scott had made this purely a historical novel and not tried for the dual aspect. The two stories are only tenuously linked so Jehanne's tale would easily have stood alone and the book would be the better for it.


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Books by Manda Scott / Historical fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Moon In A Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier


Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier
First published by Zulma in French in France in 2009. English language translation by Emily Boyce published by Gallic Books in July 2013.

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:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Given the choice, Martial would not have moved to Les Conviviales. But Odette loved the idea of a brand-new retirement village in the south of France. So that was that. At first it feels like a terrible mistake: they're the only residents and it's raining non-stop. Then three neighbours arrive, the sun comes out, and life becomes far more interesting and agreeable. Until, that is, some gypsies set up camp just outside their gated community.

My first Pascal Garnier novel, The Panda Theory, was absolutely brilliant and I hoped for a similarly wonderful read again. Moon In A Dead Eye starts out well. Retired couple Martial and Odette have given up their suburban Parisian home for a newly-built house in a retirement complex in the sunny south of France. They are looking forward to making new friends through the promised social activities and lazing by the pool. Except the pool hasn't been filled yet, no one else has arrived and the rain is constant. Garnier sets up this scenario perfectly and his practically empty complex reminded me of the estate of unsold houses in The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.

Eventually more people do move in - another couple and a single woman. Garnier understands his characters well and I enjoyed reading their interactions. Social club organiser Nadine is fun and there is definitely something a bit weird about the caretaker! For me, Moon In A Dead Eye was great up until this point. Then, when gypsies parking up nearby causes increased worry and paranoia amongst the residents, I thought that too many events happened too swiftly with the result being unbelievable and farcical. Perhaps a slower reveal in a longer book would be more convincing, or a stage adaptation as a real farce, but within the confines of this novella I thought it all too over the top.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Pascal Garnier / Crime fiction / Books from France

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith


Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith
Published by Tyger Books in December 2014.

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

How I got this book:
Took advantage of free Amazon download offer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining short story set in a futuristic England, Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange is a bite-sized introduction to Helen Smith’s writing.
Sarah wanted a sensitive, poetic, romantic boyfriend who would bring her flowers. Ryan ticks all the boxes. So why isn’t Sarah happy?

The story was first told as a theatrical play and I can see how it would work just as well on stage. Smith doesn't give extensive background to her characters so this snapshot view of Sarah and Ryan allows for imaginative interpretation of their situation. Definitely set in a future society, but not necessarily so far from today, we see the results of genetic matchmaking. If we could really tick a dozen boxes and be allocated your perfect partner, would we actually appreciate the person we got? At just fifty pages Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange is a quick read, but one which I found provoked disproportionate levels of thought about romance, relationships and expectations. It's themes are deceptively deep considering the apparent simplicity and brevity of the tale. Perhaps this would be a good book club suggestion?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Helen Smith / Science fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Question Of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak


The Question Of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak
First published as Amba by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in Indonesian in Indonesia in 2013. English language translation by the author published by AmazonCrossing in July 2016.

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:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this sweeping saga of love, loss, revolution, and the resilience of the human spirit, Amba must find the courage to forge her own path.
Amba was named after a tragic figure in Indonesian mythology, and she spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honor and protect Amba, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated, European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas. But military coups and religious disputes make 1960s Indonesia a place of uncertainty, and the chaos strengthens Amba’s pursuit of freedom. The more Amba does to claim her own story, the better she understands her inextricable bonds to history, myth, and love.

Pamuntjak begins her novel with a brief recounting of the Hindu myth of Amba, Salwa and Bhishmo, a love triangle that doesn't end well for anyone. We learn that Indonesian culture believes a child's name will have a strong influence over their life, fate if you will, so Amba's father's decision to give her this name is seen as tempting fate even though he intends that she should rise above her destiny. Amba herself however, apart from one brave stand in her youth, gets very little say in her future and this is what I found most exasperating about the book. She is perpetually defined and defines herself by her relationship to the man in her life at the time, and each of the men fulfilling this role is apparently obliged to fall in love with her solely because of her beauty.

I thought it a shame that the historical aspect of the novel is obscured by so much of this waffle as this era of civil war seemed to me to be far more interesting. I was reminded of George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia by the profusion and confusion of political groups and acronyms. Bhisma's letters, while being a weird literary device, grouped together as they are, provide fascinating insights into the lives of alleged communist political prisoners exiled from Indonesian society and I would have loved to have learned more about this. How did they live and what would it have felt like to be in a family also exiled as a reward to a 'well-behaved' prisoner? I would have preferred The Question Of Red to have been more of a deep historical novel with much less emphasis given to Amba's romantic vacillations and petty jealousies.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laksmi Pamuntjak / Historical fiction / Books from Indonesia

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dan's Narrowboat Life by Daniel Mark Brown


Dan's Narrowboat Life by Daniel Mark Brown
Self published in January 2015.

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

In Dan's Narrowboat Life, boat dwelling author, Dan Brown, takes us on a journey down the scenic, rural canals of Shropshire, and through one calendar year of his life afloat.
A quick read, Dan keeps his writing focused on life on his narrowboat Tilly, filling the book with insights as to why a life on the canal has Dan hooked. From calm days spent in the perfect countryside environment, ever changing with his location, to unexpectedly having to walk his boat a few feet down the canal at three in the morning. This book highlights some of Dan's best (...and worst) moments afloat.
Written with the friendly, conversational style that has led over 100,000 people to take a peek into Dan's world online each month. Dan's Narrowboat Life captures the essence of a young man trying to live a simple, active life in the greenery and scenery surrounding his floating home.


This second volume of Dan's narrowboating memoirs again does a good job of portraying just how beautiful and serene the British countryside is around the Llangollen canal along the Welsh borders. I would be interested to know how many people have been influenced to visit the region through reading his books or viewing his YouTube videos! I again was drawn to the solitude and tranquillity of his chosen lifestyle, especially the opportunities for walking and cycling in such a natural environment. I wasn't so gripped this time around as I was when reading The Narrowboat Lad though. I think Dan's Narrowboat Life, framed as it is by a calendar year, misses the strong sense of purpose that was a compelling part of the former book. Dan's anecdotes are entertaining in themselves, but I would have appreciated more narrative in place of so much gentle rambling.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Daniel Mark Brown / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Sunday, 19 February 2017

George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle


George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
First published as L’avant-dernière chance in French in France in 2009. English language translation by Anna Aitken published by Gallic Books in March 2015.
Winner of the Prix Nouveau Talent in 2009 and Prix Chronos in 2011.
One of my WorldReads from France

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 copy from its publisher via NetGalley.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the age of 83, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbour Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George's over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it's time to seize the moment. But just when he feels free of family ties, George's granddaughter Adèle starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn't even know how to use a mobile. George is plagued by doubts, health worries and an indifference to modern technology. And yet - might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?

George's Grand Tour caught my eye by its marketing towards fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a book I enjoyed a couple of years ago. The two do share the similarity of elderly men going on seemingly impossible travels, but where Harold walked off unexpectedly, George and his longtime neighbour, Charles, have spent months planning their epic excursion. They are going to follow in the tyre tracks of the 2008 Tour de France cycle race - in a Renault Scenic.

I found this novel to be surprisingly moving, even welling up a couple of times during the latter pages. Vermalle's characters are well-drawn with even peripheral figures such as Charles' wife Therese being thoroughly believable. As Dave and I are on our own French tour at the moment I easily identified with the wanderlust aspect and was able to draw on my own memories of Carnac and the Emerald Coast to add to the evocative written descriptions. What, on the face of it, appears to be a simple story of George and his London-based grand-daughter, Adele, re-establishing their lost friendship, develops into a emotionally layered tale of memories and loss, with a strong message of the importance of seizing every moment before it is too late.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Caroline Vermalle / Humorous fiction / Books from France