Friday, 23 February 2018

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt


Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
Published in the UK by Granta in September 2015.

Where to buy this book:



How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, he is a compulsive liar and a melancholy weakling. When Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, forbidding castle of the Baron Von Aux he meets thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and a puppy. He also meets Klara, a delicate beauty who is, unfortunately, already involved with an exceptionally handsome partisan soldier. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behaviour is laid bare for our hero to observe. Lucy must stay safe, and protect his puppy, because someone or something is roaming the corridors of the castle late at night. 

Undermajordomo Minor is a triumphant ink-black comedy of manners by the Man Booker shortlisted author of The Sisters Brothers. It is an adventure story, and a mystery, and a searing portrayal of rural Alpine bad behaviour with a brandy tart, but above all it is a love story. And Lucy must be careful, for love is a violent thing.

Dave bought a copy of Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt as we both enjoyed his previous novels, The Sisters Brothers and Ablutions. I got to 'borrow' it through Amazon's Household Sharing setting for Kindle ebooks. All three of DeWitt's novels are very different and Undermajordomo Minor is almost a fairytale in its style. The story centres around teenager Lucien Minor, who is known as Lucy, as he starts in his new job as a man-of-all-work at a distant castle. I am not sure exactly when or where Undermajordomo Minor is meant to be set and it doesn't really matter. Lucy travels by train, but other elements of DeWitt's world could be medieval Grimm. The castle has the same kind of fairytale timelessness. Its weirdness and the proximity of a nearby village frequently reminded me of the wonderful Gormenghast novels although Mervyn Peake wasn't named amongst other authors in an afterword.

There are some intriguing characters in Undermajordomo Minor. Lucy's mother at the beginning of the book is only to pleased to be rid of him and it was refreshing to read a farewell scene without any gushing emotion. Lucy's attempts to impress his ex-flame Marina are fun, and I thought the thief Memel was one of the most interesting creations. The mad Baron is simply bizarre. None of the portrayals I thought were particularly deep, but this is in keeping with the novel's style, and there are some fascinating descriptive passages which really brought scenes to life. I found it easy to envisage scenes such as the train carriage, the castle interiors, the glorious banquet and the Very Deep Hole. I didn't think Undermajordomo was quite in the same league as DeWitt's previous books, but it is still a very enjoyable read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Patrick deWitt / Fairytales / Books from Canada

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam


The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam
Published in the UK by Fourth Estate today, the 22nd February 2018.

Where to buy this book:



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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.

The Wife’s Tale is an intimate memoir, both of a life and of a country. In prose steeped in Yetemegnu’s distinctive voice and point of view, Aida Edemariam retells her grandmother’s stories of a childhood surrounded by proud priests and soldiers, of her husband’s imprisonment, of her fight for justice – all of it played out against an ancient cycle of festivals and the rhythms of the seasons. She introduces us to a rich cast of characters – emperors and empresses, scholars and nuns, Marxist revolutionaries and wartime double agents. And through these encounters she takes us deep into the landscape and culture of this many-layered, often mis-characterised country – and the heart of one indomitable woman.

Despite it now being well over thirty years since the infamous Michael Buerk report that showed Ethiopia's terrible famine to the world, those are still the only images that flash into my mind whenever the country is mentioned. There is so much more to Ethiopian culture and history though and I now have a wider appreciation of daily life there through the twentieth century thanks to The Wife's Tale: Aida Edemariam's biography of her grandmother, Yetemegnu.

Yetemegnu lived through ninety-eight years of wonderful and terrible times in Ethiopia. She was married off at just eight years old, making lifelong vows with no real understanding of the words she spoke, to a priest twenty years older than herself. Yetemegnu came of age already isolated in her husband's house. Initially a frightened child, cowed by his jealousy and violence, her early married life seems to have been little more than domestic slavery with only perhaps her religious faith to call her own. Ridiculously long days spent in non-stop cooking, often with her baby strapped to her back, and of not being allowed to leave her house for even a moment. Edemariam tells us of these years through the stories her grandmother told her so there is little critical judgement. It's more an acceptance of tradition with no alternative choice for Yetemegnu, yet I found it interesting that as this young woman begins to become stronger within herself, one of the first actions she struggles for is education for her daughters as well as her sons.

Ethiopia changes almost beyond recognition within the space of Yetemegnu's life and, as readers, we get to see this overwhelming transition through her eyes including her confusion at new practices and her embracing of some new technologies. She becomes a woman to be widely respected and an inspirational example for women everywhere through her perseverance and dignity. I loved recognising many passages in this biography that must have been her own words repeated often to her children and grandchildren. These phrases and mottoes really bring out the truth that this story recounts the life of a real woman, not a fictional invention, and I love that I was able to learn about her through this book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Aida Edemariam / Biography and memoir / Books from Ethiopia

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger


A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger
Self published in July 2017.

A for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:



How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads group

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ahmed Ghrib ( Pen name: A.G. Stranger) is a Tunisian engineering student, writer and amateur guitarist. He is the author of " He wrote Lily ". This a collection of his poems that englobe different themes ranging from love, heartbreak to life and healing. Different colorful backgrounds on which the poems were written have been carefully chosen; The powerful sceneries will help you not just "dip" in the writer's "ocean" but rather immerse yourself in the depth his words and their meaning.

A short read at just forty-four pages, A Dip In My Ocean is nonetheless a lovely little book that poetically charts the course of a relationship from deep love to the pain of separation, despair to acceptance and the overcoming of grief. The poems are grouped thematically so the reader can either dip into the appropriate theme as wanted or do as I did and read the whole book effectively as an epic poem telling a story.

As well as Ghrib's words, I liked that this is also an illustrated volume with photographed scenes behind the poetry on every page. These show hand hearts or ocean vistas and feature colour palettes appropriate to the mood of the poetry. It's a lovely idea that I think works well and raises A Dip In My Ocean from poetry to an art-poetry book that might well make a good gift for a friend in need of emotional support at the end of a relationship.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A G Stranger / Poetry / Books from Tunisia

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Order by John Mayer


The Order (The Parliament House Books #2) by John Mayer
Self published in November 2015.

Where to buy this book:


Add The Order to your Goodreads

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Brogan McLane QC uncovers the despicable deeds of The Earl of Marchion who owes £7.8m in Death Duties and who thought he could kidnap an 11 year old African girl and use her to smuggle and cheat his way out of paying those taxes. Hiding in his world of privilege, he didn't reckon on the strongest ties of all: the love of a new mother and the legal skills of her husband Brogan McLane in Parliament House.

The story begins in an African forest with a desperate father trying to save his children from being butchered. When faced with no other choice, he sells the children to a diamond smuggler.

Through dark days of prostitution and slavery in Edinburgh one of those children comes under the protective wings of Mr and Mrs McLane. The battle between justice and injustice rages for months until, finally faced with deportation of the child they've come to love, McLane has an idea of how to play a legal Ace card.


I read The Order almost back-to-back after its predecessor, the first Parliament House book The Trial. In their timeline however about two years have passed for Brogan McLane since he managed to overcome a nefarious plot to wrongfully imprison him for murder. Now McLane is called upon to save a little girl, Ababuo, who was trafficked to Scotland with a rare diamond in her stomach before being abandoned.

Dealing as it does with the issue of child trafficking makes The Order a far more emotional read than I thought The Trial was. I believe elements of the novel are based in the sad reality of a case with which Mayer himself was involved - both author and fictional Advocate are specialists in Child Abduction Law. Ababuo herself is sensitively portrayed and I really felt for this child lost thousands of miles from her home and with no one who even knew what her language was, let alone how to communicate in it. A terrifying prospect for anyone.

Much of The Order becomes very personal to McLane and, despite enjoying the story as a whole, I did sometimes wonder if the narrative contortions needed to bring everything so close to home detracted from its plausibility. That said, this is otherwise an engrossing and exciting tale. We again have the juxtaposition of affluent Edinburgh society against McLane's mostly-legal Glasgow cronies, this time with a high-technology flash too. Karla's scenes added a lightness and McLane's legal twisting is again fun to follow.

Meet The Author

John Mayer was born in Glasgow, Scotland, a war-zone where violence and poverty reigned. In 1963 when he heard The Beatles on Radio Caroline, he decided to change his life. Aged 14 he left school because, in his opinion, he wasn't being taught. For the next year, in all weathers, he cycled 9 miles to and 9 miles from the Mitchell Library in central Glasgow where he devoured books of all kinds and began to understand what more the world had to offer. He became an Apprentice engineer, and soon was teaching men twice his age. In the early 1970s his love of music led him to set up as a Record Producer. He built his own record company trading in 14 countries. After a disheartening court battle with global giants, he left the business world and went back into further education at the University of Edinburgh, becoming an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. There he acted for the downtrodden and desperate as well as Greenpeace International. His specialism was in fighting international child abduction.

John has written non-fiction, legal texts and articles; broadcast to tens of millions of people on US and UK radio, appeared on TV and in print media. Since retiring from the Law, John has enjoyed using his years of very colourful experience to create The Parliament House Books series.

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Mayer / Crime fiction / Books from Scotland

Monday, 19 February 2018

Necessities by Boyd Taylor + #Giveaway


Necessities by Boyd Taylor (Book #4 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series)

N for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Book Details:

Category: Adult Fiction, 225 pages
Genre: Suspense Crime Fiction
Publisher: Katherine Brown Press
Release date: December 5, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There is a murder and elusions to sex. Some mild cursing.)

Where to buy this book:



Add Necessities to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via iRead Book Tours

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Donnie Ray Cuinn returns to Austin to defend a war hero accused of murder. David Lewis lost both legs in Iraq, but he has overcome his nightmares and his disabilities by sheer willpower. He has learned to run and to box and is a successful newspaperman with a beautiful wife and son. Now the nightmares have returned and he must stand trial for murder. With twists that never seem to end, this gripping legal thriller is filled with suspense and indelibly drawn characters dealing with love and betrayal.

This is the second of Boyd Taylor's Donnie Cuinn crime thrillers that I have read and I think that this fourth book in the series, Necessities, was even stronger than the first book, Hero. I now need to go back and read the intervening two stories as well!

Necessities is split into a book of two halves and I loved Taylor's audacity in scarcely even mentioning Cuinn until the second half of the tale. Instead, we start out by following and really getting to know disabled war veteran David Lewis. A strong and determined man, we still get to see his weaker side and I enjoyed reading about how he finds himself in a seemingly perfect marriage that is perfect to his wife for surprisingly different reasons. Taylor frequently turns established genre conventions on their heads. His characters are completely real and believable, but unexpected within the crime genre and I think this gives an extra lift to the storylines too. If you're trying for a greater number of diverse reads this year, Boyd Taylor books are certainly worth looking in to.

I don't want to say too much about the storyline in this review because I just know I would inadvertently spoil a twist or denouement for someone. Enough to say, I think, that I rarely give crime series novels the full five stars, but Necessities absolutely deserves every single one!


To read further reviews, please visit Boyd Taylor's page on iRead Book Tours.




Watch the book trailer for Necessities (Book #4 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn Series):




Meet the Author:


BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends March 7, 2018


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Boyd Taylor / Thrillers / Books from America

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi


Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
Published in America by Unnerving in October 2017.

B for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Where to buy this book:



How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the author via the Authors Needing Reviews Goodreads Group

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It's a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

In Act One, readers are presented with a serial killer in Victorian London, a lighthouse keeper with an eerie legacy, a murderous spouse that seems to have walked right out of a mystery novel, and a treacherous Japanese lady who wants to stay immortal. The heightened fears in the twilight of your minds will seep into the blackest of your nights, where you have to breathe in rhythm to stay alive.

In Act Two, the poetry turns more internal and pierces through the wall of denial and pain, bringing visceral emotions to the surface unleashing traumas such as domestic abuse, violence, and illness.

In the short stories, you'll meet residents of Valhalla Lane whose lives are on a violent parallel track to collision, a man who is driven mad by the sound of a woodpecker, a teenage girl who wakes up on the beach and can't find another soul in sight, a woman caught in a time shift pitting her against the Egyptian goddess Anuket, and a little girl whose whole world changes when her favorite dandelion yellow crayon is discontinued.

Amid these pages the haunting themes of oppression, isolation, revenge, and madness unfold through folklore, nightmares, and often times, raw, impulsive passion crafted to sear from the inside out.

Breathe Breathe isn't a particularly long book - it's only about 175 pages - and I sat down expecting to read it within a few hours. However it actually took me over a week of dipping into the poems and stories in order to be able to finish it. Don't be mistaken in thinking I didn't enjoy the read. I did! (Although perhaps 'enjoy' isn't the best word to choose.) I found the intense emotion difficult to sustain so, instead of my usual cover-to-cover devouring, Breathe Breathe has been a process of reading one or two poems or stories and then taking time to think them over before returning. It's rare that a collection of short works gets through to me so deeply. All praise to Al-Mehairi for revealing so much of her literary vulnerability in this way.

As with any collection of course, there were pieces that I connected with more strongly than others so I am going to pick out a few of my favourites to mention here. If (when!) you buy this book, be sure to linger over the Fear poems The Heirloom and Earl Grey Tea, and the Pain poem Nature's Salve. I loved the imagery and sense of menace in these. As a woman, I found the short stories to be essentially horror tales. Occasional clunky dialogue aside, I loved their chilling atmospheres and Dandelion Yellow especially is excellent - and heart-breaking.

Breathe Breathe should probably come with a series of trigger warnings. Many of the poems and stories speak of gender violence and abusive relationships and Al-Mehairi isn't coy with her phrases. Sensitive and still-damaged souls should perhaps get a friend to read this through first. Personally I found the read disturbing and powerful and memorable.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi / Poetry / Books from America

Saturday, 17 February 2018

The Betrayal by Anne Allen + Giveaway


The Betrayal by Anne Allen
First published in the UK by Sarnia Press in October 2017.

For this week only, until 18th February, the price of books 2-6 of The Guernsey Novels is only £1.99/$2.99, with book 1, 'Dangerous Waters, remaining at 99p/99c

This is in celebration of Anne Allen's birthday, the 6th anniversary of the publication of 'Dangerous Waters' and the recent publication of book 6, 'The Betrayal'.

Where to buy this book:

Add The Betrayal to your Goodreads

Treachery and theft lead to death – and love

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return. 

1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.

2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…

Searching for the true owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother's ghost to rest?

Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?





Meet the author:
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published and the seventh, The Inheritance, is due out in 2018. ​

Author links: 
Website ~ GoodreadsFacebook ~ Twitter


And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Open Internationally until the 21st February, the prize is a signed paperback copy of The Betrayal by Anne Allen.




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anne Allen / Mystery fiction / Books from England