Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare


Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Believed written and first performed in England around 1598. BBC Radio Shakespeare audiobook production published in 2001.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download of this production from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the CD audiobook via Alibris
Buy the CD audiobook from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen

How I got this book:
Bought from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

BBC Radio has a unique heritage when it comes to Shakespeare. Since 1923, when the newly formed company broadcast its first full-length play, generations of actors and producers have honed and perfected the craft of making Shakespeare to be heard. In Much Ado, the clarity of radio allows the wonderful verbal sparring between Beatrice and Benedick to sparkle as high comedy and melodrama mix magically in a combination of prose and verse. Revitalised, original, and comprehensive, this is Shakespeare for the new millennium.

As a result of my Othello and New Boy reviews, I was contacted by author Hollie Moat with an offer of a review copy of her novel, Other People's Business, based upon Much Ado About Nothing. Of course, I was glad to use this as an opportunity to revisit my BBC audiobook of the original play as a memory refresher!

A talented cast that includes David Tennant, Samantha Spiro, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Emilia Fox, Julian Rhind-Tutt, David Haig and Maxine Peake bring Much Ado About Nothing vibrantly to life in this BBC Radio audiobook. The cast are obviously having great fun and their enjoyment comes across particularly in the wickedly sharp verbal sparring scenes between Beatrice and Benedick, when each is hiding to eavesdrop, and when the Constable is mangling his word choices. The play itself is entertaining although the plot gets quite silly in the latter stages! Not knowing the play thoroughly, I couldn't always immediately tell exactly who was speaking, but this didn't affect my understanding of the narrative as character identifies became clear as each scene progressed. Perhaps pure audio isn't quite as satisfying as seeing Shakespeare performed on stage, but I felt the format allowed me to concentrate more on the words spoken and to appreciate the Bard's wonderful turns of phrase.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by William Shakespeare / Plays / Books from England

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Nest In The Bones by Antonio Di Benedetto


Nest In The Bones by Antonio Di Benedetto
Individual stories written in Spanish from the 1950s to the 1970s. Published in this collection in America by Archipelago Books today, the 23rd May 2017. English language translation by Martina Broner.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Philosophically engaged and darkly moving, the twenty stories in Nest in the Bones span three decades from Antonio di Benedetto's wildly various career. From his youth in Argentina to his exile in Spain after enduring imprisonment and torture under the military dictatorship during the so-called "dirty war" to his return in the 1980s, Benedetto's kinetic stories move effortlessly between genres, examining civilization's subtle but violent imprint on human consciousness. A late-twentieth century master of the short form and revered by his contemporaries, Nest in the Bones is the first comprehensive volume of Benedetto's stories available in English.

Generally I find I have quite an affinity to South American fiction because I love its mystical elements. In Nest In The Bones however I was frequently completely baffled as to what was going on. I love Di Benedetto's prose. He employs beautiful metaphors and turns of phrase which bring particularly the Argentine scenes vividly to life. My problem though was that a significant proportion of the twenty short stories in this collection felt like middles of stories rather than the full tale. I appreciated the scene as I was reading, but on finishing had no real idea of the point of what I had read! The selected stories are representative of Di Benedetto's work over three decades and I did find those later in the book much easier than the earliest examples. I don't know if that is due to differences in his writing or that I was getting more accustomed to the style. All in all, this was an interesting collection and I enjoyed the insights into Argentine and Spanish life, but I didn't think I got as much from reading the book as I had hoped to.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Antonio Di Benedetto / Plays / Books from Argentina

Monday, 22 May 2017

Waves Of Murder by C S McDonald + Giveaway



Book Details:

Book Title: Waves of Murder: A Fiona Quinn Mystery
Author: C.S. McDonald
​Category: YA Fiction, 190 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: McWriter Books
Release date: April 11, 2017
Tour dates: May 15 to 26, 2017
Content Rating: G (The Fiona Quinn Mysteries are for everyone--adults love the books and they are appropriate for teens and tweens too!)

Book Description:

School’s out for the summer!

Kindergarten teacher, Fiona Quinn is looking forward to spending some quality time in her yard and with her boyfriend, Detective Nathan Landry. However, Fiona’s plans get squelched when her mother volunteers her to edit a manuscript for famous romance author, Wyla Parkes.

What’s so bad about that? The author insists Fiona must work on the manuscript at her beach cottage on Presque Isle--three hours away from her yard and Nathan. Spending six weeks in an adorable cottage on a private beach doesn’t really seem all that bad until people start turning up dead—beginning with the author! Fiona’s summer of sun and sand is instantly transformed into a murder investigation. Can Fiona and Nathan crack the case or will the murderer get away on a wave of deceit?

Join Fiona and the gang for a hot whodunit on the sandy beaches of Presque Isle, Pennsylvania!

Buy the Book: 


Meet the Author: 



For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. She was a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. Now she adds the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series for her young granddaughters, and has found that so many adults love them too.

Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


BOOK SPOTLIGHT TOUR:

May 15 - Library of Clean Reads - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 15 - Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama - book spotlight / giveaway
May 15 - Working Mommy Journal - book spotlight / giveaway
May 15 - Corinne Rodrigues - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 16 - Reviews in the City - book spotlight / giveaway
May 16 - Celticlady's Reviews - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 16 - Books, Dreams, Life - book spotlight / giveaway
May 16 - Blooming with Books - book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 - Rainy Day Reviews - book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 - Sleuth Cafe - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 17 - Zerina Blossom's Books - book spotlight / giveaway
May 17 - Mystery Suspense Reviews - book spotlight / guest post
May 18 - FUONLYKNEW - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 18 - The Book Drealms - book spotlight / giveaway
May 18 - Laura's Interests - book spotlight / giveaway
May 18 - #redhead.with.book - book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 - Babs Book Bistro - book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 - Brooke Blogs - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 19 -100 Pages a day - book spotlight / giveaway
May 19 - Puddletown Reviews - book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 - Hall Ways Blog - book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 - Literary Flits - book spotlight / giveaway
May 22 - Books for Books - book spotlight
May 22 - Bound 2 Escape - book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 - Kristin's Novel Cafe - book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 - Katie's Clean Book Collection - book spotlight / giveaway
May 23 - Cassidy's Bookshelves - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 23 - Travelling Through Words - book spotlight / giveaway
May 24 - Rockin' Book Reviews - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 24 - Seasons of Opportunities - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 24 - Bookworm Cafe - book spotlight / giveaway
May 25 - JBronder Book Reviews - book spotlight
May 25 - Carole's Book Corner - book spotlight /
May 25 - Deal Sharing Aunt - book spotlight / giveaway
May 26 - 3 Partners in Shopping Nana, Mommy + Sissy, Too! - spotlight / giveaway
May 26 - StoreyBook Reviews - book spotlight / giveaway
May 26 - Jessica Cassidy - book spotlight


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends June 3


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by C S McDonald / Mysteries / Books from America

Sunday, 21 May 2017

ReejecttIIon: a Number Two by Daniel Clausen and Harry Whitewolf


ReejecttIIon: a Number Two by Daniel Clausen and Harry Whitewolf

Self published in February 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: 3 of 5 stars

'By reading ReejecttIIon, it’s likely you’ll discover: colorful short stories, funny flash fiction, hilarious cartoons, riveting reviews, wondrous anagrams and other assorted skits and titbits of under-achieving literary genius.
If you’re lucky, you might come across sci-fi tales about the privatization of words, horror stories about hair and ruminations on indie writing. It’s also possible that you’ll find commentary on the hazards of greedy literary agents and stories about washed up movie directors who receive financial backing from space aliens.'

Daniel Clausen's second ReejecttIIon compilation was written in a transatlantic collaboration with Harry Whitewolf resulting in an even more eclectic mix of work than its predecessor. The two books are connected in title, but otherwise are essentially separate. You could happily read the second without having read the first and, indeed, that might even help! ReejecttIIon - a Number Two includes short stories, book reviews and cartoons that are inventive, funny and thought-provoking although I admit I did find their appeal rather hit and miss.

The hits for me ranged from the social media satire I've Never Heard The Like to science fiction Show And Tell. I loved the creepy atmosphere of Your Relationship With Edward Grey and the B-movie inspired Science Fiction Theater Presents. Fred's Dreads is a fun idea and I wondered how much of this story might have been autobiographical. For me, the most timely stories considering the current General Election campaigning are The New World and especially Word Tax, both of which I think everyone should be forced to read before they are allowed into a voting booth!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Daniel Clausen and Harry Whitewolf / Short stories / Books from America and England

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Accommodation Offered by Anna Livia


Accommodation Offered by Anna Livia
First published in the UK by The Women's Press in March 1985.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Bought at a Torquay charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When her lover leaves her, Polly, with some trepidation, advertises two vacant rooms in her house. The two women who move in seem sympathetic: bus conductor Kim, and awkward, gangling Sadie, a wanderer haunted by memories of her African childhood. But in spite of their shared experience as lesbians, differences begin to emerge. Fortunately the household is watched over by the Liberty Boddesses of Hortus, prepared to risk divine censure if they can help straighten things out.

I loved the humour in this Irish story of friendship set in 1980s London. The Liberty Boddesses are great fun and their scenes are reminiscent of the way ancient Greek gods and goddesses would influence the lives of mortals on earth. The central story is that of Polly, Kim and Sadie who find themselves sharing a house. That the trio are lesbians is an important aspect of the book, but I liked that Livia doesn't only define their lives by their sexuality. Instead Accommodation Offered explores themes of race, gender and mental health. It is a multi-layered novel which can just be read lightly as a humorous story of friendship, albeit one with dark edges. Or it can be more deeply thought-provoking asking questions about the assumption of a white-male-dominated society. Livia writes vibrantly of ordinary 1980s London describing squats and condemned houses, buses that still had conductors and streets that were still communities. Most of all though, this is a novel of women coming to terms with their present situations and their pasts, and discovering how not to lose all hope.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anna Livia / Women's fiction / Books from Ireland

Friday, 19 May 2017

Sovereignty by Anjenique Hughes + Giveaway


Sovereignty by Anjenique Hughes
First published in America by Morgan James Publishing in July 2016.

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
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I used to think I knew all the answers; now I no longer even know the questions – Goro

Under the totalitarian reign of the 23rd century’s world government, the Sovereign Regime, control is made possible by the identity chip implanted in every human being, recording everything that is seen, done, and experienced. No more bank accounts. No more smart phones. No more secrets.

When Goro inadvertently overhears an exchange of sensitive information, causing him to confront the truth about his world and prompting him to choose his true loyalties, his dream of revolution kicks into high gear. Goro doesn’t know he has covert intel in his possession both the SR and the resistance movement are desperate to acquire. Determined to bring down the world government, he and his closest friends gain access to the key to ultimately deciding who has sovereignty. But who will get to Goro first: the resistance or the Sovereign Regime?


Sovereignty is set in a 23rd Century city that used to be Los Angeles and is now the place from where a dictatorial leader named Davio controls all the people left on the planet. Hughes mentions a global war that more than halved the present-day population levels and Goro's society consists of the second and third generations since that genocide. Much has changed socially and perhaps the most different aspect of life is a small computer chip in everyone's wrist, similar to the way dogs are microchipped now, but with these futuristic chips having a far larger capacity to track and record their wearer's actions and behaviour. We learn that some people are resistant to the idea of the chips and others are inured and I would have been interested to learn more about the psychological effects of living under such a degree of observation.

Our main protagonist, Goro, is an immature and incredibly self-centered young man who comes of age during the course of the novel. I admit I did struggle with the book primarily because of his abrasive attitudes to everyone around him. He spends most of his time either shouting or sulking and is always convinced of his own righteousness despite all evidence to the contrary! It's a wonder Goro keeps any friends at all, but fortunately for him the ones he does have turn out to be fiercely loyal. Sovereignty is militaristic science fiction with an emphasis on the training undergone by the recruits in the expectation of their world-changing battle to come. Hughes describes their underground accomodation and life in detail so we get a good idea of what it will take to overcome the despised Regime.

The novel is told mostly from Goro's first-person perspective with brief chapters glimpsing other aspects Hughes' imagined world. I could imagine the story translating easily to a movie version and there were nods to similarly genred films which are fun to spot. The story had too much machismo and posturing for my tastes, but if you enjoy reading military action stories then give Sovereignty a try.


With master's degrees in education, special education, and counseling, Anjenique "Jen" Hughes is a high school English and math teacher who loves teaching and mentoring young people. She enjoys traveling and has worked with youth on five continents. Saying she is "young at heart" is an understatement; she is fluent in sarcasm, breaks eardrums with her teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and cracks sarcastic jokes with the best of her students. Her work with ethnically and socioeconomically diverse youth has inspired her to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook


BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE:

May 15 - Elsie's Audiobook Digest - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 15 - Working Mommy Journal - review / giveaway
May 15 - Corinne Rodrigues - book spotlight / giveaway
May 16 - Books, Dreams, Life - book spotlight / author interview
May 16 - The All Night Library - review / guest post
May 17 - 100 Pages A Day - review / giveaway
May 18 - T's Stuff - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
May 19 - Literary Flits - review / giveaway
May 22 - Zerina Blossom's Books - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 23 - Hall Ways Blog - book spotlight / author interview
May 24 - Library of Clean Reads - review / giveaway
May 25 - Reviews in the City - review / author interview
May 26 - Cheryl's Book Nook - review / author interview / giveaway
May 29 - The World As I See It - review / giveaway
May 30 - 3 Partners in Shopping Nana, Mommy, + Sissy, Too! - review / giveaway
May 31 - Books for Books - book spotlight
June 1   - Reading Authors - review / giveaway
June 2   - Haddie's Haven - review / giveaway
June 2   - Sharing Stories - review / giveaway
June 2   - Teresa Edmond-Sargeant - review / guest post



And now it's giveaway time!

To celebrate the Sovereignty Tour, iRead Book Tours are hosting a giveaway where six winners will win either a copy of the book or a $20 gift card. Sorry - this giveaway is US only.



Here's the giveaway widget:






Good luck! 




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anjenique Hughes / Science fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Guest Review: Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy


Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy
First self-published in the UK on the 26th January 2014. Republished by Bloodhound Books in May 2017.

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

Guest review by Tin Larrick
Tin Larrick is one of my favourite indie crime writers and you can read my reviews of his books here. Take James Ellroy, Colin Bateman, Graham Hurley, Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and Ed McBain, chuck them in a blender, add vodka, tomato juice and some neon twists and you will find yourself through the looking-glass with former cop and Sussex maniac Tin Larrick. Authentic police procedurals, dark and snaky plots, seaside noir, troubled-but-colourful cast members and a medium-rare underbelly, Larrick's stories stay rooted in the mind long after closing time.
I am eagerly looking forward to Tin's new novel, Blues With Ice, which is due out mid-July.

Tin's rating: 5 of 5 stars

“David Booker returns to Romney Marsh on the south coast of England for a holiday. He is expecting to spend time helping his aunt and uncle pack up the stock of their second-hand bookshop in preparation for a happy retirement. He arrives in Dymchurch on a miserable April night to find his relatives missing without word or clue regarding their whereabouts. As events unravel, the outlook of the local police pushes Booker to search for his own answers to the questions surrounding his family’s disappearance. To unravel the mystery he will have to put himself in danger. Will Booker find the answers he needs and make it out alive?

Tin says: BAD SONS represents the first in a third distinct series by the getting-to-be-prolific Oliver Tidy, and is another corker of a story. The first in the Booker & Cash series sees Mr Tidy taking yet another new direction in the crime genre, this time down the oft-trodden path of private investigation.

This is not a world of dingy offices, reluctant trilby-clad gumshoes and chocolate-flavoured birds of prey, however. Chief protagonist David Booker arrives home in Dymchurch to help his aunt and uncle close up their bookstore business - only to find said relatives have vanished. Booker, motivated by the need for answers he can't get from a slipshod police investigation, goes out on his own. The story snowballs from there, with buried secrets, curmudgeonly-and-possibly-crooked police inspectors and high-tide homicides aplenty.

The story itself is tight, pacy and packed with suspense. It follows a fairly linear structure - no red herrings or deus ex machina here - but the perhaps-expected last minute moustache-twirling twist of lemon is jettisoned in favour of the titular theme, and the end result is far more effective.

There are several elements that make this book stand out. First of all, the character of David Booker. Leaving a life of chaotic loose ends behind in Istanbul, he arrives in Kent in something of a fug of displacement. This is compounded when he finds the temporary rug he was hoping his aunt and uncle might provide has been pulled out from under him before he has even arrived. Thus, when we meet him, his equilibrium is already at zero, and rushes quickly into breathless negative numbers. This creates a strange, almost surreal instability about him, like returning home with extreme jetlag, or what it might feel like to come home after a long stretch inside. We never quite find out what normality looks like for him, and we are with him as he seeks answers in the name of justice.

Secondly, the `Booker & Cash story' subtitle on the cover brought to mind half-formed notions of partnerships akin to Holmes/Watson, Tubbs/Crockett, Kenzie/Gennaro or (possibly) the Lone Ranger and Tonto. So when one discovers that Cash is a cop while Booker is a victim/witness/suspect/reluctant private investigator, it injects a romantic/sexual tension that positively simmers throughout. On the back of this is Cash herself, who is well-drawn and intriguing but whose motives and ambitions remain nicely ambiguous.

Finally, the physical setting. If you've ever been to Dymchurch, Hythe, Dungeness and the wider expanses of Romney Marsh, then you'll recognise the atmospheric bleakness as painted by the author. If you haven't, then this is as good a place to start as any before deciding if you want to visit. Couple that with the real sense of history and local knowledge in the book and you have a real depth to the setting that complements the story nicely.

BAD SONS is a gem. It has believable characters whose strengths and weaknesses are - sometimes reluctantly - brought to the surface when Fate lays events and obstacles before them; it has an intelligent and well-crafted story that excites without being sensational or gimmicky; it has an atmosphere you can almost taste and the title itself is weaved cleverly throughout as an undercurrent that gives the work a real depth. The future of the Booker & Cash partnership is wide open, and I am really looking forward to their next outing in whatever form it takes.



Thank you Tin!

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!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Oliver Tidy / Crime fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach


Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach
First published in the UK by Chatto and Windus in February 2013.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Swapped for at the book exchange at Camping Serro da Bica, Ourique, Portugal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When retired actor Buffy decides to up sticks from London and move to rural Wales, he has no idea what he is letting himself in for. In possession of a run-down B&B that leans more towards the shabby than the chic and is miles from nowhere, he realises he needs to fill the beds – and fast. Enter a motley collection of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman; Amy, who’s been unexpectedly dumped by her (not-so) weedy boyfriend and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend is much too much for him to handle. But under Buffy’s watchful eye, this disparate group of strangers find they have more in common than perhaps they first thought.

I enjoyed the start of Heartbreak Hotel. The vignettes of the various characters are well-observed and full of life. However, once the novel actually got into the eponymous hotel, I thought the storyline lost its sharpness becoming too fluffy and cute. Some people find their true selves, some rebound into immediately fulfilling relationships, Londoners slot comfortably into Welsh village life as if they were born to it and family turns out to be the most important thing after all. An entertaining but very light holiday read!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Deborah Moggach / Women's fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

From Fatwa To Jihad by Kenan Malik


From Fatwa To Jihad by Kenan Malik
First published in the UK by Atlantic Books in 2009. Audiobook edition narrated by Lyndam Gregory published by Audible Studios in 2010.

One of my Essential General Election Reads 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty years ago, the image of burning copies of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses held aloft by thousand-strong mobs of protestors became an internationally familiar symbol of anger and offence. Kenan Malik examines how the Rushdie affair transformed the debate worldwide on multiculturalism, tolerance, and free speech, helped fuel the rise of radical Islam and pointed the way to the horrors of 9/11 and 7/7.

This is a well-researched, intelligent history of the changing attitudes to race and religion in the UK and the wider world over the sixty years from 1950 until 2010. Malik clearly describes the series of events, explains their links and significance, and quotes a variety of sources and interviews enabling the listener to understand the many relevant viewpoints. I liked that he maintains a balanced approach to the information given, avoiding the obvious traps of such an emotive subject.

Although the book is complicated, Malik presents his case clearly and this is not some dry history of names and dates, but an engaging tale to which I enjoyed listening. So enjoyed, in fact, that I now have a shortlist of other quoted books and authors to search out in order to learn more about this aspect of British history.

My only criticism would be that the narrator, while he did a good job of the many voices and accents, did occasionally stumble over phrases and perhaps could have been allowed to re-record these passages?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kenan Malik / Sociology / Books from England

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Sorrow Of War by Bao Ninh


The Sorrow Of War by Bao Ninh
First unofficially published in Vietnamese as Thân phận của tình yêu by Hội nhà văn in 1990. English language translation by Phan Thanh Hao and Frank Palmos published in the UK by Secker and Warburg in 1994.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Swapped for in the book exchange at Camping Alvor, Portugal

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kien’s job is to search the Jungle of Screaming Souls for corpses. He knows the area well – this was where, in the dry season of 1969, his battalion was obliterated by American napalm and helicopter gunfire. Kien was one of only ten survivors. This book is his attempt to understand the eleven years of his life he gave to a senseless war. Based on true experiences of Bao Ninh and banned by the communist party, this novel is revered as the ‘All Quiet on the Western Front for our era’.

This novel of the Vietnam War is interesting for its graphic depictions of the war as it really was for the North Vietnamese soldiers, a civil war between North and South with the Americans an anonymous mass threatening from a distance but rarely the focus. Ninh's writing leaps around in time without any attempt to coherently link events for the reader which gives a fantastic insight into the mind of a soldier destroyed by war, but also makes this a difficult book to understand. Perhaps that is its point. The love story between Kien and Phuong, both little more than children at the war's outbreak, is movingly tender when set against so much violence and their loss of innocence could just as well apply to the whole country that was ripped apart by over a decade of conflict.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bao Ninh / War fiction / Books from Vietnam

Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams


The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
First published in the UK by Serious Productions in 1979. Audiobook edition narrated by Stephen Fry published by Random House in 2005.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of the 2017 AudioSYNC season

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A much loved science-fiction classic, this entertaining intergalactic adventure has a lot going for it - including narration by British comedian Stephen Fry. Adams displays his talents for a creating a whole new world in this first of five audiobooks in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. Packed with brilliant humour, extraordinary characters and a highly original storyline, it's no wonder that this novel is a favourite of so many.
One Thursday lunchtime the Earth gets unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass. For Arthur Dent, who has only just had his house demolished that morning, this seems already to be more than he can cope with. Sadly, however, the weekend has only just begun, and the Galaxy is a very strange and startling place.

I absolutely loved the Hitchhiker's series as a young teenager so was curious to discover how I would feel listening to it again now nearly thirty years (eeek!) later. One of the AudioSYNC downloads last week was the Stephen Fry narrated version. He does an excellent job, obviously enjoyed the novel as he reads it and managing to include a few aural nods to the original radio series. I wasn't prepared for how much of the book I still had memorised so apologies to anyone alarmed by the 'crazy' headphoned woman apparently muttering to herself, 'It must be a Thursday, said Arthur, I never could get the hang of Thursdays.' 'Life? Don't talk to me about Life!'.

Marvin is still, for me, the complete star of the show, but the other characters are excellently portrayed too and Adams' dry wit carries the story with a humour that is perfectly suited to my own. I hadn't remembered the story having so much politics in it. Admittedly it's disguised well, but prescient ideas such as the new President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, having got the job for his ability to deflect attention from the real power-holders rang pretty true. The electronic book form of The Guide predated ebooks and ereaders by decades too.

Despite my glorious wave of nostalgia, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy didn't quite get the full five star rating. There are pacing issues and a couple of plot holes large enough to fly a Vogon constructor fleet through. Some story elements haven't dated well either. The 'small green pieces of paper' will probably still make sense to American readers, but became obsolete in the UK shortly after my first reading of the novel back in the 1980s. That said, where Hitchhiker's 'scores over more pedestrian' science fiction is that it is simply tremendous fun. I could feel Adams' ideas almost clambering over each other to be written down and he had me giggling most of the time.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Douglas Adams / Science fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Self Service Check-outs Have No Soul by Andy Carrington


Self Service Check-outs Have No Soul by Andy Carrington
Self-published in May 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook directly from the author

How I got this book:
Bought a copy from the author

My rating:

Human anxiety / disillusionment in the machine age

There's a real sense of melancholy about Andy Carrington's newest poetry collection, Self Service Check-outs Have No Soul. The visceral anger of his earlier work is muted by nostalgia and resignation as he perhaps comes to terms with his predictions and warnings being ignored. Society instead craves ever smarter gadgets and machines seemingly oblivious that with such inventions we are slowly making ourselves redundant. I particularly liked the poems Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area for its humour, The Digital Age Killed Everything for its incisive snapshot vision, and Real Postmen because the getting of real post still, for me, is more satisfying than receiving its email equivalent.


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Books by Andy Carrington / Poetry / Books from England

Friday, 12 May 2017

My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst + Giveaway


My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst
First published in the UK by Eveleigh Nash in 1914.

One of my Essential General Election Reads 2017.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Scroll past the review to enter the Giveaway!

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

How I got this book:
Won a copy from Penguin Think Smarter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With insight and great wit, Emmeline's autobiography chronicles the beginnings of her interest in feminism through to her militant and controversial fight for women's right to vote. While Emmeline received a good education, attending an all-girls school and being, she rebelled against conventional women's roles. At the age of fourteen a meeting of women's rights activists sparked a lifelong passion in her to fight for women's freedom and she would later claim that it was on that day she became a suffragist.
As one after another of the proposed feminist bills were defeated in parliament, Pankhurst was inspired to turn to extreme actions. While she was the figurehead of the suffragette movement, it advocated some controversial tactics such as arson, violent protest and hunger strikes. Even today there is still debate about the effectiveness of her extreme strategies, but her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain. Her mantle was taken up by her daughters and granddaughter with her legacy still very much alive today.

I saw the Carey Mulligan film, Suffragette, which includes story elements based on this memoir so I already had an idea of the treachery of the Edwardian era Liberal Government in addressing women's suffrage and of the state-sanctioned torture meted out to the women who fought for their - and consequently our - political rights. What the film struggles to put across though is the decades of peaceful and legal struggle that pre-dated the famous militancy of the immediate pre-war years. Explanations of that and why it was always doomed to fail forms the greatest part of Pankhurst's memoir.

Pankhurst describes her involvement in the suffrage cause from 1889 until 1914 when the outbreak of the Great War caused a truce to be called. She speaks directly to the reader in a calm matter-of-fact style which effectively contrasts with many of the horrors described. I was appalled at the condescension and open misogyny of the time. Everyday Sexism is still prevalent today, over a century later, but being faced with the ingrained attitudes experienced by Edwardian women showed me just how much has been achieved. I was surprised that this memoir was written with an American audience in mind, but found this helpful as Pankhurst does not assume her readers will be completely au fait with British political systems. Instead she clearly explains arguments and quotes speeches so I could easily appreciate her anger and frustration at being deceived and lied to year after year after year. Indeed, according to Pankhurst it was Establishment men who first explained to the WSPU that they would need to become violent in order to be taken seriously. Historically in Britain men achieve great social and political advances through violent means, so women who stuck rigidly to peaceful and legal methods could not possibly be as serious!

Reading Emmeline Pankhurst's memoir was saddening, but also incredibly inspirational. Her rhetoric and speeches stirred up some of the excitement in me that the original suffragettes must have felt as well as anger at realising this nation's Conservative political elite has much the same disconnection from the vast majority of Britain today as Asquith's Liberals did back then - but at least a few of them are female! My Own Story is a rallying cry to stand up for our heartfelt beliefs and remains just as relevant. Irresistible historic movements grow from tiny roots - theirs was suffrage, ours is environmental destruction - and we must use our votes wisely and at every opportunity.

There's still time to Register To Vote in the General Election on June 8th. Visit http://gov.uk/register-to-vote before May 22nd.


And now for the giveaway!
The prize is my paperback copy of My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst, carefully read once and with a BookCrossing label in the front. All entries must be made through the Gleam widget below. The Giveaway is open worldwide until midnight (UK time) on the 26th May and I will draw a winner on the 27th. The winner must respond to my email within 7 days or the prize will be forfeit.

Emmeline Pankhurst biography giveaway

Good luck!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Emmeline Pankhurst / Biographies / Books from England

Thursday, 11 May 2017

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier


New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
Published in the UK by Hogarth Shakespeare today, the 11th May 2017.

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

Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day – so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.
The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practise a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Watching over the shoulders of four 11-year-olds – Osei, Dee, Ian and his reluctant girlfriend Mimi – Tracy Chevalier's powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

I was glad I knew in advance that New Boy was based on Shakespeare's tragedy play, Othello, because I am not sure I would have made the connection otherwise. Having listened to my audio version of the original work last month I was able to spot notions like the characters' names beginning with the same letters - Osei is Othello, Dee is Desdemona, Ian is Iago - and the overall direction of the tale, but I thought Chevalier's novella had a very different feel to it. Set in a school in 1970s Washington, her protagonists are 11 year old children and the story occurs over a single day, mostly in the playground. The environment is brilliantly evoked and it was easy for me to picture and remember the intense experiences of children at that age. Perhaps Osei and Ian particularly did seem significantly older than their stated age, but others like Rod and Blanca are perfect.

Most disturbing for me in New Boy is the attitude of the school staff towards Osei, the first black child to attend an otherwise almost entirely white school. The only other black people there are the kitchen staff and even they react unexpectedly to Osei. The expectations are the most shocking. Mr Brabant (Brabantio) 'knows' Osei will show himself to be troublesome so views what happens so it will fit his worldview. Dee's open reaction to Osei cannot be tolerated and this makes her character perhaps the most interesting of all. Unlike Desdemona who has already rebelled at the start of Othello, Dee learns to assert her independence during the course of this day.

Events in New Boy are minor when viewed from an adult perspective, but obviously earth-shattering to the children in Chevalier's playground. I thought fitting the story into such a short time frame did make its finale somewhat over-dramatic and difficult to justify, however otherwise I enjoyed reading this novella and am now encouraged to try others in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tracy Chevalier / Historical fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Guest Review: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia


Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
First published in America by GreenWillow Books in May 2015.

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

Guest review by Joy of Joyous Reads
Joy of the excellent Joyous Reads, one of my favourite book blogs, is a book-hoarder, a plant killer, and a recent lover of all things old. Her weekend is dedicated to thrifting, reading, and being a mother to a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old. A wife to the best (and worst) enabler. She wishes she can have a kitty or a puppy, but she could barely keep her children alive so....

Joy's rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. For fans of Silver Linings Playbook and Liar, this thought-provoking debut tells the story of Alex, a high school senior—and the ultimate unreliable narrator—unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion.
Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She's pretty optimistic about her chances until she runs into Miles. Didn't she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She's not prepared for normal. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her?

Joy says: Reality is a scary master. That’s why some people resort to drugs because it’s easier to ignore its demands sometimes. But for some, reality is a different beast altogether. It becomes unreliable, frightening and deceiving. Such is the life of those suffering from schizophrenia.

Made You Up was a light-hearted, kind-hearted story about a teen suffering from this disorder. Her story is a bit of a ride. Because of Zappia’s compelling/very convincing writing, the reader will feel as if they are losing their minds along with her. Some would have a difficult time discerning what was real and what was a product of her “chemically-imbalanced” mind. Things, places, people become somewhat capricious. One particular person in her life left me with goosebumps once it was revealed they were not real at all. For a second, I thought I was reading a ghost story. And even after all that, she still keeps seeing this person.

You would never find a more unreliable narrator than Alex. Not because it’s a character flaw, but because it’s the nature of her disease. I don’t think I’ve read a book in YA tackling paranoid schizophrenia, but Zappia’s account is a great introduction, I thought. Alex describes every thing she sees and feels that the readers would know exactly what it’s like to go through life thinking she’s in constant peril. But she’s learning; she wants to live independently.

So she’s careful. She does everything to make sure that no one would ever know why she is the way she is (she sniffs her food for poison; she looks everywhere for bad guys lurking in the dark corners and alleys). She’s forever suspicious of people. And by taking pictures of things she thought to be a temporary product of her overactive imagination, she was able to detect what was real and what was not – on most good days, that is. I love the way Francesca created Alex. She’s so real; her disease is real. And yet somehow, there’s this whimsical persona that I just can’t help but love.

This book is an instant favourite of mine. ALL TIME favourite. You will cry. You will laugh. You will go, “holy shiiiite”. Basically, this book will put you through an entire list of feelings. But you will love this book. It was different, candid, heartbreaking, but hopeful. Very hopeful in a non-sappy way. You will adore the characters; you will smile at the sweetness of the romance between two characters who are so awkwardly perfect for each other. They are everything. This book is everything.



Thank you Joy!

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!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Francesca Zappia / Young adult books / Books from America

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin


A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin
First published in the UK by Hodder And Stoughton in September 1982. Audiobook edition narrated by Christian Rodska published by Audible Studios in May 2012.

One of my Essential General Election Reads 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Against the odds, former steel worker Harry Perkins has led the Labour Party to a stunning victory. His manifesto includes the removal of American bases, public control of finance, and the dismantling of media empires. The Establishment is appalled. Something must be done. As MI5 conspires with the City and the press barons to bring Perkins down, he finds himself caught up in a no-holds-barred battle for survival.

How would The Establishment react if an ultra-socialist Labour leader actually got voted into Number 10? Not a Tony Blair or even (in my opinion) a Jeremy Corbyn, but a 'proper' old-fashioned Socialist. That's the question posed by this novel and the drama unfolds satisfyingly throughout. There is (yes, unsurprisingly!) a lot of politics woven into the story, but I liked how this aspect and its philosophising was incorporated allowing the pace to continue to flow. I found myself nodding sagely at the characters' behaviour at several points. Their earnestness or back-stabbing selfishness and desperation to maintain the status quo at all costs is certainly wickedly humorous, but also seriously depressing when I considered how close to the wire this book frequently comes. Other than technological advances such as social media manipulation, the political machinations Mullin imagined thirty-five years ago are exactly as we see now, especially in the way a few media barons control the information available to the majority of the public. A Very British Coup is a Very British Book and I'd be interested to know if overseas readers/listeners would recognise their own politicians in the characters too.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chris Mullin / Humorous fiction / Books from England

Monday, 8 May 2017

The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli


The President's Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli
First published in Arabic as Had a'iq ar-ra'ays in 2013. English language translation by Luke Leafgren published in the UK by MacLehose Press in April 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.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 publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the third day of Ramadan, the village wakes to find the severed heads of nine of its sons stacked in banana crates by the bus stop. One of them belonged to one of the most wanted men in Iraq, known to his friends as Ibrahim the Fated. How did this good and humble man earn the enmity of so many? What did he do to deserve such a death? The answer lies in his lifelong friendship with Abdullah Kafka and Tariq the Befuddled, who each have their own remarkable stories to tell. It lies on the scarred, irradiated battlefields of the Gulf War and in the ashes of a revolution strangled in its cradle. It lies in the steadfast love of his wife and the festering scorn of his daughter. And, above all, it lies behind the locked gates of The President's Gardens, buried alongside the countless victims of a pitiless reign of terror.

I found The President's Gardens to be a traumatic book to read both in its emotional impact and, especially, in its graphic depictions of wartime violence and the aftermath of torture. This is definitely not a novel for the squeamish or faint-hearted. That said, I feel rewarded by the read and appreciated the opportunity to discover an Iraqi perspective on the years of warfare instead of American and British views. Al-Ramli has a beautiful prose style, meandering at times, with emphasis on character and motivation over action and pace. I was often swept up into deep philosophical discussions or portrayals of everyday village life or descriptions of the stunning eponymous gardens. These gentle scenes are then shattered on the turn of a page to reveal the true horrors of life under Saddam's regime or as a prisoner of war in Iran.

It was this duality of life that I found most difficult initially to grasp and I think this is why it took me a good quarter of the book to really get into the story. The first scene, of nine heads delivered in banana crates, is incredibly powerful. Al-Ramli then drops down several gears to begin a story of childhood friendship and I struggled to reconcile these and other threads, attempting to do so too soon instead of allowing the writing to lead me. The President's Gardens is harrowing and shocking, but also surprisingly humble and understated. I liked that we get to know the characters well and I could always understand their reasons for particular actions and choices. Ordinary people living through extreme times makes for fascinating literature, particularly so in this novel as so much of the background is essentially true and so recent.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Muhsin Al-Ramli / Contemporary fiction / Books from Iraq

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Plainsong by Kent Haruf


Plainsong by Kent Haruf
First published in America by Alfred Knopf in September 1999.

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

How I got this book:
Received a copy from friends

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I suppose it is crazy. I don't know. I don't even care. But that girl needs somebody . . . And you old solitary bastards need somebody too. Somebody or something besides an old red cow to care about and worry over.
Set in Kent Haruf's fictional landscape of Holt County, Colorado, Plainsong is a story of simple lives told with extraordinary empathy. Tom Guthrie is struggling to bring up his two young sons alone and, in the same town, school girl Victoria Roubideaux is pregnant and homeless. Whilst Tom's boys find their way forward without their mother, brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron - gentle, solitary, gruff and unpolished - agree to take Victoria in, unaware that their lives will change forever.
A novel of haunting beauty from one of America's greatest writers of our time, Plainsong is an undeniable classic that explores the grace and hope of every human life and mankind's infinity capacity for love.

Plainsong was recommended and a copy given to us by friends who were both impressed by the novel. Set in 1980s Colorado, it centres around two pairs of brothers: ageing cattle farmers Harold and Raymond McPheron, and children Ike and Bobby Guthrie; as well as Victoria Roubideaux, a teenage girl thrown out by her mother for getting pregnant. Haruf intertwines their stories to give a wonderful imagining of their small town life in Holt, Colorado. The prose is simple and compulsively easy to read which gives the whole book a real sense of poignancy. Realistic dialogue and descriptions of body language are used to great effect illustrating the often repressed emotion that the characters are unable to express for themselves. With more flowery writing, Plainsong could have become cloying and saccharine, however the stark simplicity of its language makes it very real and memorable.

My favourite characters are the McPherons. This pair of sibling brothers have lived fifty-odd years with only each other since their parents died, yet they don't hesitate to take in Victoria when she has nowhere else to go and are determined to do things properly for her. Much of the gentle humour in Plainsong comes from their sheer awkwardness, but I never felt as though Haruf was mocking them. Their kindness contrasts sharply with Victoria's mother's anger and with the actions of other mothers in the story - Ike and Bobby's mother deserts her family as the result, I think, of her drug addiction. Another character, Beckham, a failing high-school student is shown as an angry bully with his mother exhibiting exactly the same behaviours so it is depressingly obvious to see her life repeated in his. All of Haruf's characters are flawed in themselves while also trying to make the best of their lives in whatever way they know how, and he doesn't make moral distinctions between them. The writing simply states 'what is' and leaves the reader to understand which I appreciated. The novel is ultimately uplifting but without a false-feeling happy ending.


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Books by Kent Haruf / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov


The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Originally written in the Soviet Union between 1927 and 1940. First published in English translation by Michael Glenny by Harper And Row in 1967.

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

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The devil makes a personal appearance in Moscow accompanied by various demons, including a naked girl and a huge black cat. When he leaves, the asylums are full and the forces of law and order in disarray. Only the Master, a man devoted to truth, and Margarita, the woman he loves, can resist the devil's onslaught.

I think this might be the most fantastical novel I ever read. Dave spotted it and downloaded it for our Kindle and I am so glad he did! A deserved classic, I am told this is the book that inspired Mick Jagger to write Sympathy For The Devil (wooo wooo). The Master and Margarita tells two stories, in one Satan visits Moscow to create mayhem and lands several theatrical notables in a mental asylum including the eponymous Master who has failed to publish a novel about Pontius Pilate at the time of the crucifixion. The second storyline is that of the Master's novel. The cast of bizarre characters are truly fantastic and I loved the descriptive sweeps of writing, especially the Ball and Margarita's transformation. The undercurrent of Stalin's dark Russia is always just out of sight but undoubtedly present and the Russian people themselves do not come out of this story well. Bulgakov didn't seem to think they needed much pushing from Satan to be bad!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Mikhail Bulgakov / Humorous fiction / Books from Russia

Friday, 5 May 2017

Trail Of Miracles by Smadar Herzfeld


Trail Of Miracles by Smadar Herzfeld
First published in Hebrew in Israel as I, Gittel by 62 Publishing House in 2014. English language translation by Aloma Halter published in America by AmazonCrossing on the 2nd of May 2017.

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 paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Inspired by the evocative and intimate true story of Gittel, a remarkable woman whose faith led her to make an unthinkable sacrifice.
The daughter of a Torah scholar in eighteenth-century Ukraine, Gittel has always accepted her place in a family steeped in religion. Married at age twelve to a cold and reclusive rabbi, the young bride gives birth to two sons destined to follow their father’s path. Finding very little comfort in family life, Gittel shares her dreams, visions, and a close spiritual understanding with her only confidant: her father-in-law, the Maggid of Mezeritch.
When Gittel loses those close to her one by one, she decides to leave her old life behind, including her sons, to set out on a lonesome and perilous journey to Jerusalem. Will she sacrifice everything in pursuit of the dream of her youth?

For such a short novella (just over a hundred pages), Trail Of Miracles is a surprisingly long read. This is a book to consider and to linger over rather than a fast-paced page-turner. The tale was inspired by a true story and it does feel rooted in truth, but with frequent diversions into dreams and matters of faith so I was often unsure how much of what I reading was Gittel's actual story and how much was stories that she told. Perhaps this is meant to signify faith in religious belief which is the overriding theme of Trail Of Miracles. Gittel's life - and her story - is steeped in the Jewish faith and I am sure I would have got even more out of this book had I known more of the biblical tales and people that are referenced. While my lack of cultural insight didn't negatively impact on my overall understanding, I am sure many nuances passed me by.

As a portrayal of aspects of Jewish life historically, this is a beautiful and eye-opening read. The gender chauvinism is shocking to my modern Western sensibilities as are the greedy actions of Gittel's family in effectively selling her to a man they have never met. I was often saddened and angry on her behalf. From a historical fiction perspective I didn't get a particularly strong sense of the eighteenth century or of the Ukraine as a setting. Instead I would say that Trail Of Miracles felt timeless in the sense that its events could have happened within similar communities throughout many eras. I am not sure whether I would consider this a complaint though. Certainly, having partly chosen to read the book in order to discover Ukranian history, I was disappointed in that, but I only really noticed the lack of information in hindsight when thinking back over what I had read in order to compose this review. Herzfeld's scenes are evocatively detailed and the characters strong in an almost fairytale sense. A thoughtful, magical and rewarding novella.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Smadar Herzfeld / Historical fiction / Books from Israel

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Road To Wigan Pier by George Orwell


First published in the UK by Victor Gollancz in March 1937. Canongate audiobook narrated by Jeremy Northam published in 2012.

One of my Essential General Election Reads for 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the audiobook on CD from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Bought from Audible

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A graphic and biting polemic that still holds a fierce political relevance and impact despite being written over half a century ago. First published in 1937 it charts George Orwell's observations of working-class life during the 1930s in the industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire. His depictions of social injustice and rising unemployment, the dangerous working conditions in the mines amid general squalor and hunger also bring together many of the ideas explored in his later works and novels.

When I first finished listening to my audiobook of The Road To Wigan Pier I felt completely steamrollered. It is a truly astounding book. I think, had I encountered it 80 years ago, it would have been life-changing, but even now there is still so much that is completely relevant and it is interesting to see how much of Orwell's future prognosis has come to pass. In fact, thinking back over Orwell's words again, four years after my initial listen, I realised that great swathes of the British people have moved closer in social situation to their 1930s counterparts. We might have the sixth richest economy in the world, but the majority of us only catch glimpses of that wealth from afar, not actually getting a genuine share.

 I am sure that much of my enjoyment of The Road To Wigan Pier was due to Jeremy Northam's excellent and impassioned narration. The second part moves from social observation to political ideology and, had I been just reading, I possibly would have got lost and given up. However, having this audio edition made it feel as though the different ideas and perspectives were being explained just to me(!) and I now have a far better understanding of the politics of the time.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by George Orwell / Sociology / Books from England