Friday, 31 March 2017

History Of The Rain by Niall Williams


History of the Rain by Niall Williams
First published by Bloomsbury in the UK in April 2014.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016

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

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We are our stories. We tell them to stay alive or keep alive those who only live now in the telling. In Faha, County Clare, everyone is a long story...
Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to grandfather Abraham, to her father, Virgil – via pole-vaulting, leaping salmon, poetry and the three thousand, nine hundred and fifty eight books piled high beneath the two skylights in her room, beneath the rain.
The stories – of her golden twin brother Aeney, their closeness even as he slips away; of their dogged pursuit of the Swains' Impossible Standard and forever falling just short; of the wild, rain-sodden history of fourteen acres of the worst farming land in Ireland – pour forth in Ruthie's still, small, strong, hopeful voice. A celebration of books, love and the healing power of the imagination, this is an exquisite, funny, moving novel in which every sentence sings.

I have Dave to thank for introducing me to the work of Irish writer Niall Williams. He, Dave, downloaded this novel, History Of The Rain, months ago and has since gone on to read and thoroughly enjoy three or four others. I am just starting to catch up and, as you can probably guess from my five star rating, wish I hadn't left this book so long unread.

History Of The Rain is narrated by teenage Ruth, a bedridden Irish girl afflicted by an unknown ailment that is best described early on as Something Puzzling. Ruth uses random capitalisation throughout the book as a means of emphasis and I loved the device. It is never overdone, but is often very humorous and gently sarcastic. From her attic room under a permanently rainy sky (I read the book over a Bank Holiday weekend and so could strongly empathise with the constant rain!), Ruth casts her mind across the history of her family and the lives of her friends and neighbours. In a change from coming-of-age novels, I think of this as more of a coming-to-be storyline. We read about Ruth' parents' courtship and how their ancestry led them to meet, and about Ruth and her brother's childhood in a family where her mother and grandmother worked constantly to keep a roof over their heads while her poet father strived but failed to make a success of their farm.

Williams has a fantastic ear for natural dialogue. This, together with Ruth's familiar narrative style, made it easy for me to believe in the Irish town he has created and its very real people. His descriptions of the homes, surrounding countryside and lifestyles are sharply observed and, although not everything is pleasant, I think the overall effect gives a fascinating portrait of contemporary Ireland. Historical elements gave the novel a sense of timelessness, but inclusion of present-day disasters such as the banking crisis fallout and badly-thought-out political decisions add a modern edge and I liked the contrasts. History Of The Rain isn't a light, fluffy tale of Ireland where everything comes right over a cup of tea at the end. I found some events quite upsetting, although I was then frequently giggling at one of Ruth's turns of phrase within pages. On finishing the story I felt quite bereft and will definitely be picking up another Niall Williams book soon.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Niall Williams / Contemporary fiction / Books from Ireland

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Butterfly On The Storm by Walter Lucius


Butterfly On The Storm by Walter Lucius

First published in Dutch as De Vlinder En De Storm in the Netherlands by Bruna Uitgevers in 2013. English language translation by Laura Vroomen and Lorraine T Miller published by Michael Joseph today, the 30th March 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'When a simple hit and run turns into a murder investigation, Journalist Farah Hafez finds herself pulled into a sinister world where nothing is as it seems. Butterfly On The Storm is the first book in the bestselling Dutch thriller series The Heartland Trilogy.
A young boy is found in woods outside Amsterdam. Broken and bloody, he appears to be the victim of a brutal hit-and-run. When the police at the hospital ask what happened, the one word the boy repeats they don't understand. But journalist Farah Hafez does. She left Afghanistan as a child and she recognizes her native tongue. As the boy is taken into surgery she finds herself visiting the scene of the crime, seeking to discover how a little Afghan boy came to be so far from home. Instead, she comes across a burnt-out car with two bodies inside - a sinister clue to something far darker than a simple road accident. It is just the start of a journey that will lead her from one twisted strand to another in an intricate web of crime and corruption that stretches across Europe and deep into a past that Farah had sought to escape - a past that nearly killed her.'

Butterfly On The Storm is an expansive, exciting thriller which explodes out from one seemingly insignificant accident in Amsterdam to take in global corruption stretching as far afield as Russia, South Africa and Afghanistan. While I am not sure that its trumpeted comparisons with the Stieg Larson trilogy will actually do its Dutch cousin any favours, I can see why the connection is being made. Once this novel gets up to speed it is a breathtaking ride and I loved Lucius' almost cinematic devices such as repeatedly seeing events through multiple viewpoints. This is particularly effective on the flyover (you'll have to read the book to find out how!)

I also loved the diversity of characters Lucius portrays. The intricacies of contemporary cosmopolitan Dutch society form an important part of this story so we see the successful melding of numerous peoples and cultures in Amsterdam, while Lucius also gives a nod to politicians blaming immigration for all the Netherlands' problems, whether or not that is the genuine cause, and using this divisive rhetoric as a smokescreen to hide nefarious corporate dealings. Moroccan-born Diba is an excellent variation on the older-detective-falling-apart staple and I loved how journalist Farah Hafez is not typical in any way. An excellent female character!

As far as believability goes, I did find myself a couple of times thinking 'really?', but generally the set up and build up are plausible. Lucius cleverly drew me in to the world as he created it and I didn't want to put this book down for any reason! As thrillers go, this is one of the best I have read in years. I'm eagerly looking forward to the other two in the trilogy!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Walter Lucius / Thrillers / Books from the Netherlands

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat


One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

First published in America by Amazon Publishing in October 2016. Print edition to be published by Rupa And Co in India on the 5th May 2017.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Hi. I’m Radhika Mehta and I’m getting married this week. I work at Goldman Sachs, an investment bank. Thank you for reading my story. However, let me warn you: you may not like me too much. One, I make a lot of money. Two, I have an opinion about everything. Three, I have had a boyfriend before. Okay, maybe two. Now, if I was a man, one might be cool with it. But since I am a girl, these three things I mentioned don’t really make me too likeable, do they?'

I popped on to Goodreads to mark I'd finished One Indian Girl and was surprised at its run of one star reviews and the vehemence of their comments. This seems to be a real Marmite book! Personally I thought it was OK, especially for a romance read (which isn't my preferred genre) blended with scenes of pure farce. The eponymous Indian girl, Radhika, is a fun character to spend a few hours with and I liked her first person narration style. An overachiever intellectually, she is remarkably naive socially with a lack of confidence that struck a chord for me. Admittedly some of the dialogue is awkwardly clunky and, despite its feminist protestations, there's no great depth to this story, but I think One Indian Girl would be a entertaining light holiday read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chetan Bhagat / Romance fiction / Books from India

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Seriously Mum, What's An Alpaca by Alan Parks


Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca? by Alan Parks
Self published in February 2015.

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

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Could you give up everything you have worked for and do something completely different? Would you give up and go home if it all went wrong?
'Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca?' is the frank and charming story of a brave couple who move to Spain to breed alpacas. Their intention is to make a living, but first they must negotiate their way through the Spanish property market, local characters, rogue builders and the worst weather Andalucía has seen for 100 years. Alan and Lorna experience the joy, but also the heartbreak of alpaca breeding, picking up an assortment of stray animals on the way. Will they succeed, or will the challenges prove too much to bear?

I discovered author Alan Parks on Twitter as he is from the Eastbourne area where I used to live. Spotting his tweet offering a copy of his first book Seriously Mum, What's An Alpaca? in return for a review, I volunteered. Dave and I are currently touring Spain for the winter so reading about an English couple who have taken the plunge to actually live out here seemed appropriate. Seriously Mum recounts various incidents during the first months of Alan and Lorna Parks' new life as they set themselves up as alpaca breeders in a disused olive mill in Andalucia. Their proposed lifestyle is meant to be idyllic, but unfortunately a lack of preparation and animal husbandry experience leads to a series of disasters that threaten their dream almost before it has become established.

We don't really get to know Lorna through this book as it is written solely by Alan as a series of sketches rather than an in-depth view of their life. The decision to uproot and change career comes across as being a whim that gained a momentum of its own. Neither has experience of livestock care and at several points this ignorance has sad consequences, not enough to prevent more animals being added to their menagerie though. The couple admit to still being completely inept in Spanish over a year after arriving and I found it odd that, despite their insistence on living in a Spanish community rather than with ex-pats, they shun social opportunities such as the Feria week. Many of Alan's written asides criticise Spanish culture from a strongly English perspective and I wonder whether they will ever assimilate or always remain the English outsiders.

With regards to the book itself, Alan does successfully avoid the indie author curse of poor spelling/grammar etc, but Seriously Mum feels very superficial throughout. I would have preferred deeper writing allowing me to get to know Alan and Lorna and understand their choices and decisions. Instead, brief sentences describe serious events such as the day a particular animal dies and is buried which is solely covered as 'a sad day'. I learned next to nothing about alpaca care and even the rich Andalucian culture is mostly bypassed. There are several odd little vignettes apparently written by selected animals expressing gratitude at having been taken in. I didn't get those at all. Perhaps originally intended for young readers? Overall, I found this book disappointing and thought it a missed opportunity.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Alan Parks / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Monday, 27 March 2017

Guest Review: The Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker + Giveaway


The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker
Self published in March 2012.

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

Guest review by Katherine Bogle
Katherine Bogle currently resides in Saint John, New Brunswick with her partner in crime, and plethora of cats. Though she has spent the majority of her life weaving stories and writing short fiction, it wasn’t until 2012, half-way through her two year college program, that Katherine finished Sanctum, the novel to kick off her true love for novel length works. Since then Katherine has written six novels ranging from Fantasy to Science Fiction and Young Adult to Steampunk. Her debut young adult novel, Haven, came second in the World's Best Story contest 2015. I enjoyed reading both Haven and its short story companion, Fyre, and you can read my reviews here.

Katherine's rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.
Worse, Sicarius, the empire's most notorious assassin, is in town. He's tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills... or someone wants her dead.

Katherine says: The first book in the Emperor’s Edge series starts off with imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon, a woman who’s good at her job and wants nothing more than to advance in her career. But being a woman of the Empire, that isn’t likely to happen.

When Amaranthe is sent on a mission to kill an assassin, her entire world is thrown on its head, launching her in a very unexpected direction.

EE is one of my favourite modern books. I love this series, and have read it twice already (but I’ll definitely be going back for more). Not only do we get strong women and plots that keep you on the edge of your seat, but we also get this amazing cast of characters thrown together by Ammy’s unusual circumstances.

The group consists of Ammy, the enforcer, an old drunkard professor, a juvenile magic-wielding gang member, a pretty rich boy who flirts like a mofo, and of course the assassin. Not exactly your dream team, right? Wrong. I fell in love with these characters from the first page. Buroker forces you to invest in these characters, to love them, cherish them, and above all, look forward to their next crazy scheme!

I won’t go into the details of the plot, as I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the twists and turns are REAL. The end of book one will leave you begging for more!



Thank you Katherine!

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 Lindsay Buroker / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Apathy Will Kill Us All by Andy Carrington + Giveaway


Apathy Will Kill Us All by Andy Carrington
Self published on the 20th June 2016

Where to buy this book:
Enter Andy's Goodreads Giveaway for a signed paperback edition (ends 1st May 2017)
Buy the ebook directly from the author
Buy the paperback directly from the author

How I got this book: 4 of 5 stars
Received a review copy from the author

My rating:

… when all that’s left is mediocrity

and each day just bleeds into the next …

Apathy Will Kill Us All is a sweeping tirade of poetry that illuminates the depressing and ugly side of life experienced by great swathes of British people today. I loved the vivid imagery and immediacy of Carrington's poems. His energy leaps right off the page to slap readers across the face, forcing us to look and really see the neglected and damaged communities across our country. I imagine that hearing this work read out live would be amazing and I found myself speaking several of the poems to myself in order to fully appreciate them. My favourites are £1.50 to draw out my own money because I have been in that exact exasperating situation, Saw A Dead Cat On The Road This Morning for its sharply observed analogy, and the Robots In poems because I have worked those soulless-smile jobs. While I didn't agree with all the assertions, I could certainly understand the overwhelming frustration that drives this work.

Andy Carrington's newest collection, Self Service Check-outs Have No Soul is due for release at the beginning of April. Pre-order your copy here.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Andy Carrington / Poetry / Books from England

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First published in the UK by Fourth Estate in 2006.
Winner of the 2007 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Bought at Totnes Community Bookshop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race – and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.'

If I hadn't already read The Dollmaker in March then Half Of A Yellow Sun would certainly have been my Book Of The Month. Adichie's exploration of events leading up to and during the late 1960s civil war in Nigeria is a powerful indictment of irresponsible colonialism and also an emotionally moving historical novel. We see Nigeria and, for its brief existence, Biafra, through several eyes which enables Adichie to give a rounded portrayal of the disastrous attempt at independence. Already knowing how this battle will turn out means the whole of Half Of A Yellow Sun is tinged with poignancy, but I still found myself caught up in the excitement and self-belief of the Igbo people as they started to fight back against persecution.

I loved that our leading characters are such complicated people and their interconnected relationships allows us to see their actions from different perspectives. Twins are an important motif to Adichie and here the two sisters Olanna and Kainene have very different views on the best way to navigate their lives and I liked the brittle connection between them. Innocent Ugwu perhaps has the most difficult journey from village ignorance to political awareness. As readers, we learn alongside him, seeing as he does the many facets of Nigerian society that, repressed under British rule, now independence has come to the country are all asserting themselves. As an English woman I found myself again angry at my country for its behaviour.

Graphic descriptions of poverty, starvation and violence are frequently difficult to read and Half Of A Yellow Sun is not a novel for the faint-hearted. It shows the worst of humanity, but also the best. We understand how a people can be led to absolute disaster by carefully manipulated nationalist propaganda, how weak some individuals will be at such a time, how greedy and power-hungry, and also how strong and selfless. I believe this story of fifty years ago carries a powerful lesson for right now. Splintering along cultural or religious lines and allowing ourselves to be ruled by fear and hate will only result in Biafra being repeated again and again and again all over the world.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / Historical fiction / Books from Nigeria

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes Vol. II by Arthur Conan Doyle


The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Vol. II by Arthur Conan Doyle
Stories first published in the UK in 1891 and 1892. Naxos audiobook edition narrated by David Timson published in March 1999.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook on CD from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the audiobook on CD from The Book Depository
Buy the CD or download direct from the publisher

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of the 2014 AudioSYNC season

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this collection are four of the finest cases of Mr Sherlock Holmes, narrated by his faithful friend and admirer Dr Watson. What was the mystery of the engineer’s thumb? What was behind the disappearance of the race horse? Why did masked royalty walk up to see Holmes in Baker Street? These and other puzzles are solved by this bloodhound of a genius.

The second of the four Naxos volumes of Sherlock Holmes stories was one of the downloads in 2014's summer AudioSYNC programme and Volume II has the stories The Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb, The Five Orange Pips, and Silver Blaze.

As the stories are short and we are already meant to be acquainted with Holmes and Watson, there is very little in the way of description about them. Unfortunately, as I am not a particular fan, this made our heroes rather flat. Their clients and foes were also not fleshed out in any great detail.

However the plot lines which were main focus of each tale were generally cleverly thought through and it was fun to try to guess the conclusion ahead of Holmes. David Timson does a great job of the narration and his style complements the writing perfectly. I don't think I will search out the other three volumes though because I can see too many of such tales together quickly becoming overly formulaic and, dare I say, a tad dull.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Arthur Conan Doyle / Crime fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Peril In The Park by Barbara Venkataraman + Giveaway


Peril In The Park by Barbara Venkataraman
Self published in June 2014.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.
A preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Engaged in Danger," can be found at the end of the book.

I didn't realise when I began reading this series that Death By Didgeridoo was Venkataraman's first ever mystery story. While good, it did have some rough edges and I have appreciated watching this author hone her style as her series progresses. In this third volume Jamie Quinn has convincingly found her voice. Peril In The Park is certainly the most accomplished to date. I enjoyed unravelling the two park-related mystery strands, especially our all-too-brief visit to the fabulous Renaissance Fair which reminded me of reading Jordan Elizabeth's Victorian. Imagining Duke in his special outfit made me chuckle! Jamie's relationship with Kip is nicely portrayed throughout the book, grown up without being gratuitous, and I liked the sensitive way her father's immigration situation is handled. These scenes could have been overly sentimental and mawkish, but Venkataraman deftly allows her characters room for emotion while keeping their reactions believable.

Would you like to read your own copy of Peril In The Park? Well you're in luck! Barbara Venkataraman has kindly offered an ebook boxset of the first three Jamie Quinn cosy mysteries for one lucky Literary Flits reader! The prize will be gifted by Barbara via Amazon.

The Giveaway is open worldwide for two weeks from today and previous Literary Flits giveaway winners are welcome to enter. Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget below by midnight (UK time) on the 6th April and I will randomly pick a winner on the 7th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and, yes, I will be checking that entrants did complete whatever task they said they did.

If you'd like the chance to win the Jamie Quinn Mystery Box Set, here's the giveaway widget:

Jamie Quinn mystery trilogy Giveaway

Good luck!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Barbara Venkataraman / Crime fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Flesh And Bone And Water by Luiza Sauma


Flesh And Bone And Water by Luiza Sauma

First published in the UK by Viking in February 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback 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 publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Brazilian-born doctor André Cabral is living in London when one day he receives a letter from his home country, which he left nearly thirty years ago. A letter he keeps in his pocket for weeks, but tells no one about. The letter prompts André to remember the days of his youth - torrid afternoons on Ipanema beach with his listless teenage friends, parties in elegant Rio apartments, his after-school job at his father's plastic surgery practice - and, above all, his secret infatuation with the daughter of his family's maid, the intoxicating Luana. Unable to resist the pull of the letter, André embarks on a journey back to Brazil to rediscover his past.'

Elements of Flesh And Bone And Water reminded me of Wasp Days by Erhard  von Buren in that both books explore the memories of older men looking back to their youths and neither of the men is presented as a particularly likeable character. Here Sauma has her GP Andre Cabral remembering his privileged childhood and adolescence  Brazil and the events which saw him exile himself from his country. I loved the portrayals of 1980s Brazil! Richly detailed prose allowed me to visualise the vibrant landscapes, city and small town locations, as well as giving me an understanding of Andre's way of life. The son of an affluent family, he didn't realise how spoilt he was at the time so we see his surprise at small events such as the first time he ever made himself breakfast - aged eighteen! His family employed two maids (empregadas) who saw to pretty much their every need, expected to work long hours and with just two days off a month.

I found the careless attitude of Andre and his friends towards empregadas particularly distasteful and Sauma presents this idea of superiority in an interesting way. We see Andre offended by the slurs his friends utter without understanding that he thinks of his maids exactly the same. A childish assumption persists that Rita and her daughter, Luana, live with the family because they want to and he doesn't really question Luana's having left school young, even though her correcting of his maths homework shows she is equally as intellectually capable. It is surely obvious that an empregada's daughter would have no greater ambition than to be an empregada herself.

I liked the device of Luana's letters to Andre. They provide an almost sinister undertone to the novel. I guessed fairly early on what her ultimate revelation would be, but this foreknowledge didn't detract from the story. Instead I thought it provided an inevitability that added to the tension. I would have liked to have also seen more of Luana's viewpoint as I think the tale could have been just as interesting, if not more so, through her eyes. Andre's shallowness is infuriating!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Luiza Sauma / Contemporary fiction / Books from Brazil

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Into The Air by A K Downing + Giveaway


Into The Air by A K Downing
Self published in America in September 2016.

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 through Beck Valley Books Book Tours. I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like everyone else in the world, Mia Bryn lives in the dark. Buried in an underground compound, her life is spent in brief allotments of florescent light and dwindling food supplies. But when a letter arrives, Mia and her father are invited to embark on a journey that no one else has been allowed to take for over a hundred years. They are asked to leave the ground and travel into the air. But the outside world is more surprising and dangerous than Mia could have ever imagined. To survive, she must trust her instincts, learn about a world she knows nothing about, and accept her destiny.


If you read my Shadow Reaper review yesterday, you will have seen me recommend this novel to Amos Cassidy fans and, if you love their writing, I'd urge you to give A K Downing a try! Into The Air is energetic young adult adventure set in a vividly portrayed post-apocalyptic world. I loved the idea of the underground Compounds and appreciated Downing's contrasting of their drab greyness with the overwhelming colours Mia encounters outside. 

I thought the first few chapters jumped too swiftly through Mia's receipt of an all-important letter to her emergence into fresh air. Her journey to the City is well-portrayed, but everything had moved so fast that I didn't understand events when we got there and felt that it wasn't until just past this point that Downing really settled into her pace. Mia is a fascinating character and I was interested to watch her grow as a person from the self-centred brat of the Compound to an assured young woman. I certainly didn't like Mia initially, but grew to respect her as her story progressed. Her will-they-won't-they relationship with her guide-guard Archer kept me on tenterhooks and I think all the main characters felt real.

I liked that we gain some understanding of this world's political shenanigans, but are never bogged down with too much dry detail. Into The Air is primarily a journey novel, both in a physical and an emotional coming-of-age sense. Mia's observations reminded me of how I experience new environments while hiking so these aspects felt authentic to me, even though Downing's world is far removed from most of our own. Frequent proofreading errors, mostly homophones, did distract me from the story's atmosphere which was irritating, however I still very much enjoyed Into The Air and would happily get myself a copy of its sequel should there be one.

“Downing’s Into The Air is that fresh take on the YA post-apocalyptic vision we’ve all been waiting for. Mia Bryn is a wonderful character—one who starts out charmingly mortal but soon becomes the heroine we, and her people, need her to be. Can’t wait for the next Mia chapter!” Bruce McAllister, Author of the Cybils-nominated The Village Sang to the Sea: A Memoir of Magic

“There’s a new star in the Young Adult firmament—A. K. Downing’s series, beginning with Into The Air, is sure to be a reader favorite right up there with The Hunger Games and The 100 trilogy.” Richard Snodgrass , Author of There’s Something in the Back Yard

WHAT IF YOU ENTERED A WORLD YOU DIDN'T KNOW
“Did you ever feel so lost that you didn’t know if the ground was above your head or below your feet?”

About the author
A. K. Downing is the author of the young adult, adventure novel Into the Air. She grew up in the hills of southwestern Pennsylvania and spent her summers exploring the fields, woods and orchards of her grandparents' farm. She studied graphic design at Kent State University and currently works as a Creative Director. She enjoys history, camping, and walking through fields of tall grass, and feels there is no better way to see the world than from the top of a horse. She currently lives in the woods with her husband, daughter, two cats and five chickens. Into the Air is her first novel.

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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A K Downing / Science fiction / Books from America

Monday, 20 March 2017

Shadow Reaper by Amos Cassidy


Shadow Reaper by Amos Cassidy

First published in America by Kindle Press in September 2016.

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

How I got this book:
Received a reward copy for my successful KindleScout nomination

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only the bravest go over the Horizon...
Twenty years ago the barriers between worlds came down and our reality was swallowed up by the Shadowlands. Now we scavenge to survive, until one day there’s nothing left to reap. Starvation is around the corner, but I’m not the roll over and wait-to-die kinda girl. Nope, I’m going further than anyone has ever been and returned to tell the tale. I’m going into the Beyond, and I’m not coming back without a solution.

I said I wouldn't read another Amos Cassidy series starter after Crimson Midnight, but when I saw this novel, Shadow Reaper, on Kindle Scout I decided to support it because I had enjoyed the previous writing. It was just the ending that left me exasperated. So I will start this review by saying that Shadow Reaper has a satisfying conclusion! There is plenty of potential left untapped for the further two books in the series, but I thought this one stopped at a good point.

The beginning of Shadow Reaper reminded me of Into The Air by A K Downing (reviewed here tomorrow) as both young adult novels commence with human communities forced underground after some global dystopian event and and follow a young woman as she strives to live within such a disaster-struck world. The stories are very different to each other, but I would heartily recommend each book to fans of the other author! In Shadow Reaper Ashling is a woman of some standing. An impetuous, but brave and loyal Reaper, her job is to risk life and limb away from Shelter in order to bring back food and supplies to her subterranean community. However, safe pickings are now scarce and the risks become greater.

Amos Cassidy has done a great job of bringing their fantasy environment to life for the reader. Although I couldn't quite get my head around the physics of how the worlds cleave together, I could easily envisage the detritus-strewn lands beyond the Horizon and I loved the wide variety of creatures we encounter. Ashling is immensely likeable and I could always understand her often rash decisions even though I didn't always think her choice was a good idea! I raced through Shadow Reaper in a day, pretty much unable to put the book down as I was eager to learn what happened next. The pace throughout is exciting and I was enthralled by Amos Cassidy's inventive ideas. I want to devour all of this trilogy!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Amos Cassidy / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes


Extreme Measures by Martin Brookes
First published in the UK by Bloomsbury in July 2004.

I registered a book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Count wherever you can' was the motto of Sir Francis Galton's extraordinary life. His measuring mind left its mark all over the scientific landscape. Explorer, inventor, meteorologist, psychologist, anthropologist and statistician, Galton was one of the great Victorian polymaths. But it was in the fledgling field of genetics where he made his most indelible impression. Galton kick-started the enduring nature/nurture debate, and took hereditary determinism to its darkest extreme. Consumed by his eugenic vision, he dreamed of a future society built on a race of pure-breeding supermen. Plagued by illness and poor mental health, Galton often let his obsessions run away with him. He turned tea-making into a theoretical science, counted the brush strokes on his portrait, and created a beauty map of the British Isles, ranking its cities on the basis of their feminine allure. Through the story of Galton's colourful life Martin Brookes examines his scientific legacy and takes us on a fascinating journey to the origins of modern human genetics.

I enjoyed reading this biography of the Victorian polymath Francis Galton. A lesser known cousin of Charles Darwin, he flitted between scientific obsessions after a period of African exploration, discovering and pioneering many things we still use today, such as some forms of statistical analysis and the symbols on weather maps, while at the same time being generally unpleasant to anyone he considered beneath him - that's anyone who wasn't rich, white and male - and getting into tiffs with several other scientists.

Martin Brookes writing style perfectly suits his subject as he is able to smooth over with humour the areas of Galton's life which are particularly anachronistic to 21st century readers while at the same time creating admiration for his genuine achievements. Perhaps Galton's primary obsession with eugenics is why he is not better remembered. The future horrors that were carried out in its name are always apparent in the parts of the book discussing it. However as someone who was very much a man of his time, Galton's life story makes for a fascinating read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Martin Brookes / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Guest Review: The Trout by Peter Cunningham


The Trout by Peter Cunningham
Published in the UK by Sandstone Press on the 18th of August 2016.

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

Guest review by Anne Goodwin
Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails (my review here), was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize and I am looking forward to Underneath, Anne's new novel which is due to be published towards the end of May.

Anne's rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Alex and Kay began their relationship many years ago in Ireland. His father, a well-respected doctor, is immensely proud of him until the day Alex meets Kay, a meeting which changes Alex’s life and his relationship with his father forever. Rejected by his father and his friends, Alex and Kay eventually settle in Canada to lead a normal family life. Normal life, however, is only a thin veneer covering a world of childhood secrets and lies and a letter arriving out of the blue triggers a long-buried guilt in Alex, leading him to risk all to track down its secrets. In a spellbinding story of one man’s search for the crucial secret locked in his memory since childhood, The Trout bursts up through the conventions and falsehoods of the past and hangs, beautiful and shimmering, in the clear and vital light of truth.

Anne says: Alex and Kay have traded in thirty-year careers in Toronto – he as a teacher and she as a psychotherapist – to pursue more creative pursuits in rural Ontario, but things aren’t working out as they’d hoped. The financial crash has put their travel plans on hold and, alongside her painting, Kay is working part-time at the hospital in the next town, perhaps as much to escape their limping marriage as to boost the household’s economy. Both their Irish childhoods were overshadowed by early parental loss and she wonders if, at nineteen, they married too young. Alex sees that “her glance … contains sadness, as if she is harbouring personal regrets, or fears that our happiness is never more than provisional” (p9); she is frustrated with his failure to seek help for panic attacks and depression.

Their mutual dissatisfaction comes to a head when he is decidedly unenthusiastic about the proposed publicity tour for his recently published novel, Sulphur, loosely based on his own childhood, featuring a boy out fishing with his father. Alex, as narrator, tells us that Kay hoped that (p18): writing the novel would be a catharsis for me, that it would amount to a form of self-analysis that might help me come to terms with my problems. It seems the opposite has happened; I have become even more eccentric.

Although Alex’s father disowned him thirty years earlier, he is still desperate for parental approval, and has fictionalised their relationship “not to tell the truth but to please him” (p60). This prompts Alex to travel back to Ireland in search of the reasons for his recurring sense of guilt and shame, and the side of his father that didn’t make it into his novel. It also, in the shape of a childhood acquaintance seeking acknowledgement or revenge, catalyses the thriller element of the novel in which an eccentric neighbour proves overly interested in the comings and goings of Kay and her grandson.

Not being a fisherwoman, I was relieved that the pursuit of the trout serves as a metaphor, both for Kay’s stalker and for the events from the past that Alex has tried to forget. So it’s testament to the quality of the writing that even I enjoyed the short paragraphs on the intricacies of fly-fishing, such as (p72): Fly fishing allows man to revert to his state of being a natural hunter and to stalk his quarry as he has done since memory began. Fly fishing allows man to act out an elemental part of the forest glade that lies within us all.
(This review is abridged from a longer version on Annethology.)



Thank you Anne!

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 Peter Cunningham / Contemporary fiction / Books from Ireland

Friday, 17 March 2017

What The Queen Wills by A J Tipton


What The Queen Wills by A J Tipton

Self published in December 2015.

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

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

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

'Happily ever after has never been so HOT.
In a magical kingdom far away, there lived cursed princes, warrior women, and mighty magic. What the Queen Wills is a sexy gender swapped Cinderella retelling where the heroes have become heroines, the heroines have become heroes, and nothing is as it seems.
Eliot is sexy, sensitive, and tired of scrubbing floors for his bullying older brothers. While they scheme for more power, Eliot dreams of attending Queen Cassandra's Gathering--an elite soiree for the most sexually skilled--and meeting the woman of his dreams. Perhaps he's already met her. The kind and lovely Amelia works for Eliot's brothers, and is Eliot’s best friend in the world. But when her employers turn violent, she’s forced to flee, leaving Eliot behind. Striking out on her own, she finds a job and a home at the palace under the eye of the gorgeous and powerful Queen Cassandra. As lust...and perhaps something more...begins to kindle between Amelia and the Queen, can Eliot still win her heart? In this tale of seduction, liberation, and intoxicating strangers, even the humblest of peasants has a shot with the Queen if she so wills.

The main thing to say about this story is that it is very adult! I liked the idea of a gender-reversed Cinderella, but other than the characters literally being their gender opposites this aspect is not explored. Instead there's a lot of description of sex and sexual acts which, without the context of believable characters and their emotional responses, I didn't find sexy at all. What The Queen Wills is all about the physical so if that floats your boat you might get more from this story. I just found it disappointingly flat.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by A J Tipton / Fairytales / Books from America

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso


The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
Published by Chatto And Windus on the 5th May 2016.
Longlisted for the 2017 Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction

One of my WorldReads from South Africa.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback 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 publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hortensia and Marion are next door neighbours in a charming, bougainvillea-laden Cape Town suburb. One is black, one white. Both are successful women with impressive careers behind them. Both have recently been widowed. Both are in their eighties. And both are sworn enemies, sharing hedge and hostility pruned with zeal.
But one day an unforeseen event forces the women together. Could long-held mutual loathing transform into friendship?
Love thy neighbour? Easier said than done.

The bright, bold cover art of The Woman Next Door leapt out at me from all my potential NetGalley reads, enticing me to discover more about the story inside. Set in Cape Town, South Africa, the novel charts the bitter relationship between two neighbours who are both now in their eighties and have happily hated each other for years. Hortensia James was an accomplished textile designer, now retired, whose husband is terminally ill. She is also the only black homeowner in an affluent and otherwise white estate community. Marion Agostino was an accomplished architect, now retired and widowed, who is chair of the estate committee. She also designed the house in which Hortensia lives.

We first see Hortensia and Marion together bickering as they always do at one of their regular and tedious committee meetings. I liked that both women are rude, completely set in their ways and convinced of their own opinions regardless of what goes on around them. It was refreshing to read about elderly ladies who aren't typical cosy grandmother types or lost to dementia. Both Hortensia and Marion are essentially strong career women and experienced battleaxes! As we learn more of their histories, shared and otherwise, we begin to understand their animosity and bitterness as well as how they are viewed with a certain amusement by others in the community. By revealing their secrets, Omotoso is able to discuss elements of South Africa's history and I now understand a lot more about how the country tried to heal itself in the years following the collapse of apartheid. The Woman Next Door is a novel about race, but it is also about generational differences and the difficulties of trying to remain independent when your body has other ideas. Given the breadth of issues, I did think that this was perhaps too brief a story and could have been deeper and more expansive. The lighter touch throughout makes for an entertaining read, but I would have liked more background and to have learned more about characters other than our two leading ladies.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Yewande Omotoso / Contemporary fiction / Books from South Africa

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri


The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri

First published in Hong Kong by Crime Wave Press in September 2015.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'The mysterious and alluring Pramila, resident of Avantika Heights, is brutally murdered. Sudhir Das, the security guard from the Golden Red Security Agency, is caught red-handed. In steps Sudhir's boss, young Orko Deb, the hesitant avenger. His cautious sleuthing, all over Kolkata, throws up more questions than answers. Who is Pramila? Was the National Bank involved in money laundering? Or was it simply a crime passionnel? And who robbed the jeweler's store? Then the media frenzy begins and Golden Red is like a deer in the headlights. The police take charge and Orko lies low. Until he is arrested.

The Kolkata Conundrum differs from many books in its genre by its dignified and elegant tone. The novel has a strong sense of authenticity, perhaps unsurprisingly as Kolkata is Lahiri's home city, and I loved his presentation of the differing locales, especially as viewed through the eyes of first-time visitor, Orko. This young man becomes our amateur sleuth attempting to find out what really happened to one of his employees, the unfortunate Sudhir Das. Orko isn't flashy or a wannabe commando and it is certainly refreshing that he doesn't run around gun-waving all the time. Instead, quiet conversations and a sharp eye for detail lead him slowly to the truth.

In lieu of fast action, Lahiri provides a grounded and far more satisfying - for me anyhow! - exploration of Kolkata and her inhabitants. Scenes such as the ever-increasing hysteria of the news scroller are very funny and I liked the tennis analogy of competitive conversation. We see the colours of everyday life in all its fascinating detail from tea wallahs and cycle rickshaws on the streets to police procedure and eternally televised cricket. Lahiri's characters have genuine lives away from the central mystery. Scenes of a few men chatting over a whisky or three serve to both progress the plot and add greater depth to our cast. The Kolkata Conundrum won't be to everyone's taste and I wouldn't recommend it to action thriller fans, but if you prefer your crime fiction to be thoughtful and rooted in real life, then I think you will be rewarded by this novel.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kalyan Lahiri / Crime fiction / Books from India

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cal by Bernard MacLaverty


Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

First published in the UK by Jonathan Cape in 1983.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Swapped for in the book exchange at Camping Didota, Oropesa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Set in the Northern Ireland of the 1980s, Cal tells the story of a young Catholic man living in a Protestant area. For Cal, some choices are devastatingly simple: he can work in an abattoir that nauseates him or join the dole queue; he can brood on his past or plan a future with Marcella. Springing out of the fear and violence of Ulster, Cal is a haunting love story that unfolds in a land where tenderness and innocence can only flicker briefly in the dark.

Cal is the first book I think that I have read which so directly addresses the sectarian violence in 1980s Northern Ireland. I remember as an older child watching television news reports of IRA bombs and attacks, not understanding much of the reasons behind such atrocities and also not realising that, on English TV anyway, we were only generally shown half the story. At one point in Cal MacLaverty has his character wonder why Protestant activists are are called 'staunch' while their Catholic counterparts are 'fervent'. Two sides participating in equally violent and sadistic acts against each other, but described in evocative tones implying a sense of right and wrong with these words apportioned purely on the basis of authoritarian approval. Such is the power of language.

Cal, the man, isn't really much of anything and if he had lived somewhere peaceful no one would have bought MacLaverty's book, much less made it a classic school text. (I am glad I read it by choice rather than under obligation!) MacLaverty manages to show people on each side of the divide as both good and bad so I didn't feel him trying to sway me to either point of view. Instead he graphically portrays how easy it for people to slide into such a vicious stalemate, especially when they have little hope of any alternatives to lift them above their grievances. What makes Cal a fascinating protagonist is his world forcing his actions. Not a violent man and certainly, left to his own devices, not a murderer, in this society Cal cannot be his own man. Bravery is calculated by contributions to The Cause, not by standing apart. I was reminded of Good People by Nir Baram in that this novel also shows an everyman in an extreme situation and, as readers, we must ask ourselves how we would behave under such pressures.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bernard MacLaverty / Contemporary fiction / Books from Northern Ireland

Monday, 13 March 2017

Hurricane In Paradise by Deborah Brown + Giveaway


Hurricane In Paradise by Deborah Brown
Published in America by Paradise Books in December 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:
I received this book through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, I have volunteered to share my review and all the opinions are 100% my own.

Set against the steamy backdrop of Tarpon Cove's sun-kissed, tropical waters, sexy sleuths and best friends Madison and Fab are at it again dealing with the occasional dead body. Hidden just below the surface of the small town lies an underworld, one steeped in deceit, corruption, and deadly secrets. It's only a matter of time before Madison and Fab find themselves on a collision course with the police, who consider them likely suspects in a murder.

Ride along on their adventures when the duo realizes that a family member is missing and pull themselves away from all jobs to track him down. Theories: walked away, freak accident, kidnapped? If so, then why no ransom demand?

Hurricane in Paradise is book ten in the thrilling and humorous provocative Paradise series, which finds the two waist-deep in mystery and romance. It is a smart, adventurous read that delivers heart-thumping, non-stop action. Join Madison and Fab as they solve the most twisted of cases, through unconventional ¬– and highly entertaining – measures… sometimes in flip-flops.

The Paradise series, are Florida Keys mysteries, “great as stand-alone reads, but they're like chips...you won't be able to devour just one!”


I got to read Hurricane In Paradise at probably the best time - sitting in hot Spanish sunshine and trying to distract myself from feeling unwell from a cold. This slice of Florida fun was just what I needed! A fast-paced read, Brown has her heroines zipping from one investigation to another with scarcely time to finish their margaritas. There are a lot of names to keep track of which I guess having read the previous books in the series would have helped me with. I was sometimes confused. Each of these mysterie books are stand-alone stories (in fact even the multiple overlapping mysteries in this one book didn't impinge on each other) but I think many of the central protagonists reoccur and I didn't have any depth of character to flesh them out. My favourite scenes were set in the rental homes, The Cottages, where the seedier side of Florida life comes to the fore. I could frequently empathise with manager Mac when she tried to keep this band of misfits under control - or at least prevent murder. There is a lot of gun waving in Paradise!

All in all I think if you're looking for a light beach read to pass a couple of days, you could do worse than pick up one of Deborah Brown's Paradise series. However Hurricane In Paradise is the tenth and I think starting nearer the series' beginning would have been wise!


"Deborah Brown's Florida Keys mystery series is highly addictive! The characters are quirky & amusing. The dialogue is snappy. The plot highly entertaining & thrilling. All the oddball cast of characters are back as well as Mad's & Fab's deliciously hunky loves, Creole & Didier." 


"Madison and Fab are so much fun to read about along with their better halves. This time there's murder (of course), a missing family member and a crazy grandma! You'll love this book so much!"

"Once again Deborah Brown has written a wonderful humerous highly entertaining book."
Above reviews from Amazon

About the Author
I've been writing, in one way or another for as long as I can remember; writing poetry, short stories, a romance novel secretly stashed under the bed and sappy love letters. Fiction should be fun. I wanted to create the perfect beach book, to make the reader laugh, cry and cheer... and then run out and tell their friends about it.

My love of reading began when I was seven, the day I opened the cover of my first Mrs. Piggle Wiggle book. Mrs. P gave lessons to other children in how to behave and to me I learned to love the written word. I live with my family and demon children aka rescue cats in South Florida.

Find the author on the following sites...

Also available in the Paradise Series
              


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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Deborah Brown / Crime fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris


Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

First published in America by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in January 2007. Published in the UK as The Night Of The Mi'raj.

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

How I got this book:
Gift from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner's office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened. He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner's office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir and forces him to reconcile his desire for female companionship within the parameters imposed by his beliefs.'

Finding Nouf (or The Night Of The Mi'raj if you're in the UK - same book, different titles, no idea why!) is a crime mystery of amateur sleuths searching to find out why a teenaged girl died alone, miles from home, in a desert wadi. I think the novel is intended for a young adult audience so, refreshingly for crime fiction, there are practically no depictions of violence or graphic autopsies to contend with. Instead Ferraris pitches more towards literary fiction by detailing how the lives of desert guide Nayir and lab technician Katya are shaped and guided by both their religion and by the strict social etiquette enforced in Saudi Arabian society. The book is very readable and I zoomed through it in little more than a day. I enjoyed the mystery which is nicely plotted and progresses at a good pace, especially considering this is a debut novel. The characters aren't particularly deep, but there is a good sense of atmosphere and I enjoyed evocative descriptions of varied Saudi Arabian landscapes, rural and urban.

I was concerned however by the contrast between how Finding Nouf is marketed and the accuracy of information within its pages. Ferraris, an American woman, did spend time living in Saudi Arabia and obviously has experienced the country, but there are glaring errors in her research - even I know that Hajj only happens once per year for example - and her perpetual criticisms of Muslim culture give an unbalanced view pandering to the idea of all Muslim women being desperate to throw off their burquas and embrace Americanisation. While I am sure that some do, I am equally as sure that others don't and, to me, Finding Nouf felt as though it had been written for a Western audience who would already have decided how they felt about life in Saudi Arabia and wouldn't appreciate having their assumptions challenged. I thought this a shame as I would have preferred to read authentically Saudi viewpoints. However if you can look past this relentless chafing, then Finding Nouf is an entertaining and unusual addition to the lighter crime genre.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Zoe Ferraris / Crime fiction / Books from America