Thursday, 27 July 2017

Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky + Giveaway


Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky
Self-published in America on the 4th July 2016.

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

Add Wheeler to your Goodreads

Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’

Loren Mackenzie has spent much of her life honing her body to meet the physical challenges of being a professional cyclist in the women’s European peloton. She has also refined the control of her mind, using the power of her emotions in competition to become one of the elite cyclists in the world. After an accident at the Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, Loren must rise to the challenge of leading her team as the Women’s World Tour races across Europe, culminating with the opportunity to compete at the World Championships in Richmond, Virgina.

When a chance meeting develops into a whirlwind romance, what appears to be the perfect relationship threatens to unravel Loren’s tightly wound life. The microscope of tabloid media attention dredges up fears that her past will be unearthed; tragic secrets she has kept buried, even from those closest to her.

Can Loren face the trauma of her past and vanquish the demons within, or will betrayal and obsession ultimately defeat her?



Meet the author:
Sara was born in the wee hours of a November night in New York City. When her family moved to a small borough in northwestern New Jersey, she had little choice but to move as well. Self-sufficiency is a tough thing for a toddler.

The dichotomy of being the middle child of three, but the only girl, was difficult, as typically no one really pays attention to a middle child. Mostly, Sara spent her time creating fanciful stories in her head when she should have been focused on other things, an issue that continues to this day.

Most of these stories have never been shared, let alone completed. This all changed in the spring of 2015, when Sara was encouraged by a friend to expand upon a short story she had accidentally emailed to him. The result is 'Wheeler’, a romantic, women's fiction/sport novel, which combines the author's romantic inclinations and her passion for cycling.

Sara currently resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with her loving husband and their son. She is a paralegal for a boutique law firm in Chester County, Pa, an avid road cyclist and indoor cycling instructor at a national chain.

Author links:


And now for the giveaway!
Open in the US only (sorry!) until the 3rd of August, you can win a signed copy of Wheeler and a $25 giftcard to http://macaroncafe.com/

a Rafflecopter giveaway




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Books by Sara Butler Zalesky / Romance fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder


Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
First published as Sofies verden in Norwegian in Norway in 1991. English language translation by Paulette Miller published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1994.

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: 3 of 5 stars

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.
A phenomenal worldwide bestseller, SOPHIE'S WORLD sets out to draw teenagers into the world of Socrates, Descartes, Spinoza, Hegel and all the great philosophers. A brilliantly original and fascinating story with many twists and turns, it raises profound questions about the meaning of life and the origin of the universe.

Dave picked up a copy of Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder in The Children's Society charity shop in Garstang (Great book selection there!). We both knew of its hype, but hadn't previously read it so were interested to see how good we thought the book really was. Sadly Dave gave up about a quarter of the way through so, discouraged, I had let it languish on the shelf until now.

Having finished reading, I now have mixed views on Sophie's World hence the three star rating. On one hand I was fascinated by the potted history of philosophy, most of which I didn't know anything about, and am hoping that at least some of what I read has lodged itself in my brain. There are a lot of names and dates to take in so I would probably need to re-read in short sections - like a textbook - in order to really start learning. However the history is written in such an accessible way that this is something I may well do over the next few months.

The fiction elements of Sophie's World were very disappointing though. I think I understand what Gaarder was trying to achieve with the inclusion of his fictional characters, but I just didn't find their conversations convincing. We are repeated told that Sophie is a fourteen year old girl, but she doesn't speak or act like one and I don't think Norwegian teenagers are so very different from British ones! Everyone appeared more like a plot device than a real person and I frequently found that irritating and distracting. For me, the fictional interludes were a respite from the increasingly intense philosophy, but I would have preferred Gaarder to have written a similarly accessible nonfiction history of philosophy instead. Then again, without the fictional hook Sophie's World probably wouldn't have hit the bestseller lists!


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Books by Jostein Gaarder / Philosophy books / Books from Norway

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley


Coming Rain by Stephen Daisley
Published in Australia by Text Publishing Company in April 2015.

Winner of the Acorn Foundation Literary Award (Ockham New Zealand Book Awards), New Zealand, 2016.

One of my WorldReads from New Zealand

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Western Australia, the wheatbelt. Lew McLeod has been travelling and working with Painter Hayes since he was a boy. Shearing, charcoal burning—whatever comes. Painter made him his first pair of shoes. It’s a hard and uncertain life but it’s the only one he knows. But Lew’s a grown man now. And with this latest job, shearing for John Drysdale and his daughter Clara, everything will change.
Stephen Daisley writes in lucid, rippling prose of how things work, and why; of the profound satisfaction in hard work done with care, of love and friendship and the damage that both contain.

Set in 1950s rural Australia, Coming Rain has a distinctive style which made it refreshing to read. Daisley frequently uses sentence fragments, but in a way that suits his prose and effectively pushes forward the pace of his story. It's not just poor grammar as in some other novels I have read! He also writes in Australian, presenting explanations of dialect words within the text but not dwelling on the translations. This effectively gives authenticity to the writing and made me feel as though I was discovering a new-to-me culture. Two storylines run in parallel throughout the book. One one hand we have two human drifters, sheep-shearers and general handymen Painter and Lewis, who travel in a clapped-out truck across the Australian desert to isolated farms to shear sheep. On the other hand we have two dingo drifters, a pregnant bitch and an adolescent male, desperately trying to find themselves food, water and safety.

It did take a good chunk of Coming Rain before I really settled in to Daisley's writing style. I understand this is his second novel so I might now look out the first, knowing that I could get more from it by repeating the first pages to get into the flow before continuing on. I frequently found myself distracted too by different subjects running into each other. We might start reading about the dingoes, then move to the men in the next sentence with no break or clue in the text as to the change. I am not sure if these overlaps were deliberate on Daisley's part or if my preview copy hasn't yet been fully edited. However I didn't notice any other typos or publishing weirdness. The device could be intended to highlight the similarities between the humans and animals - their paragraphs and lives being interchangeable - but I just got annoyed at having to keep stepping back from the narrative flow in order to work out what was going on.

The richness of Coming Rain is in the information given in passing. At one point we learn that the man now charged with persuading the dingos to go elsewhere - by firing at them with rifles and shotguns - is the same man who had previously persuaded the indigenous aborigine tribes to leave. It is a given that similar methods applied. We also see repeated examples of derelict white settlements littering this huge empty land and even the sheep farm at which Painter and Lewis finally arrive appears to be a shadow of its former self. The two men sleep in dormitories that could house dozens and only the farm owner's daughter is left to help out. In seeing the violent poverty-stricken lives of Painter and Lewis I was reminded of American novels such as Cormac McCarthy's Suttree or John Steinbeck's Cannery Row and Coming Rain has the same melancholy feel of desperate pride and harsh life. Daisley understands these lives completely and shows them without apology or any softening of the edges.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stephen Daisley / Historical fiction / Books from New Zealand

Monday, 24 July 2017

Seven Threads by Jason Atkinson + Giveaway


Seven Threads: A Book of Short Stories by Jason Atkinson
​Category: Adult Fiction, 151 pages
Genre: Thriller and Suspense
Publisher: Mascot Books
Release date: July 4, 2017
Tour dates: July 10 to 28, 2017
Content Rating: PG

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 hardback from The Book Depository

Book Description:

In this collection of seven short stories from Jason Atkinson, follow a man accused of murder, a runaway girl on a train, a scientist at the heart of a government conspiracy, and more! Full of twists and turns, Seven Threads offers a selection of fast-paced stories full of heart and excitement.


Meet the Author:


​Jason Atkinson lives in the Midwest with his wife and son. With a love of writing, this is his third book, but first book in the fiction category. Short stories are easy to digest and yet this book still provides all the joys for the long haul reader. Jason wrote with everyone in mind when creating this piece and hopes you will enjoy it as much as he did when writing it.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Facebook


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Aug 5


a Rafflecopter giveaway





Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jason Atkinson / Short stories / Books from America

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hopeless Love by Kerdel Ellick


Hopeless Love by Kerdel Ellick
Self published on the 1st of July 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Download this book for free from Smashwords
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Downloaded from Smashwords

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's a series of heart breaking poems written by a man who desires to be loved by a woman he has known for many years. But he can't be loved in return because of what he has done.

Hopeless Love was the first of two poetry books I chose to download as part of the 2017 Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. This sitewide extravaganza is on throughout July and you can read more about in my Stephanie Jane blog post.

Kerdel Ellick's poetry appealed to me because he is a St Lucian author and I haven't read anything from that country before. Hopeless Love is a collection of seven poems themed around unrequited love and it is redolent with teenage angst and anger. At times Ellick's unnamed poet narrator (himself?) is frightening in his obsession, especially his indignation that the woman at the focus of his desire somehow owes him her attention.

The poetry itself uses a more prose-based than rhythmic and rhyming approach and there is some fairly grotesque imagery at times! I was frequently thrown by Ellick's strange use of plurals, initially wondering if this was a style decision and, if so, why. As a young adult poetry collection, I think Hopeless Love will have a wide thematic appeal.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kerdel Ellick / Poetry / Books from St Lucia

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler


The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L.C. Tyler
First published in the UK by Macmillan in 2007.

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 at the book exchange at Camping Casteillets, Ceret, France

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethelred Tressider is a writer with problems. His latest novel is going nowhere, a mid-life crisis is looming and he's burdened by the literary agent he probably deserves: Elsie Thirkettle, who claims to enjoy neither the company of writers nor literature of any kind. And as if things weren't bad enough for Ethelred, his ex-wife, Geraldine, is reported missing when her Fiat is found deserted near Ethelred's Sussex home. The disappearance soon becomes a murder investigation and there is no shortage of suspects, including Geraldine's sister, bank manager and former partner, Rupert. Geraldine was a woman with debts. Soon the nosy, chocoloate-chomping Elsie has bullied Ethelred into embarking upon his own investigation, but as their enquiries proceed, she begins to suspect that her client's own alibi is not as solid as he claims.

I chose The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler from a limited English language selection at a French campsite book exchange so was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed the read. Cosy mystery stories aren't my usual fare, but my eye was caught by the great title.

The herring seller in question is the wonderfully named Ethelred Hengist Tressider, general hack writer by trade whose most popular book series is crime fiction, hence the fish moniker - he sells red herrings! When Ethelred's ex-wife is found dead under mysterious circumstances, his literary agent Elsie desperately tries to persuade him to undertake an amateur sleuth hunt for her killer. Ethelred would far rather leave all that to the police who seem to already have their ducks neatly in a row.

The mystery itself is nicely plotted with some interesting twists and turns. It's not too difficult to figure out - even I managed - but the ending is satisfying. I know the Sussex area where The Herring Seller's Apprentice is set so got the local references. However, what really made this novel for me was the first person narration which has lots of black humour and is very funny. Ethelred explains elements of his crime writing craft as we go along and I loved the clever way theory melded with its practice. Knowing comments such a second Point Of View introduction being over-obviously flagged to the reader with A Very Different Font rang so true and the drippingly sarcastic descriptions are great fun. Poor Elsie!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by L C Tyler / Crime fiction / Books from England

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman


A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman
First published in Hebrew in Israel as Sus echad nichnas lebar by Ha'kibbutz Ha'meuchad in August 2014. English language translation by Jessica Cohen published by Alfred A Knopf in February 2017.

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2017.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
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: 5 of 5 stars

The setting is a comedy club in a small Israeli town. An audience that has come expecting an evening of amusement instead sees a comedian falling apart on stage; an act of disintegration, a man crumbling, as a matter of choice, before their eyes. They could get up and leave, or boo and whistle and drive him from the stage, if they were not so drawn to glimpse his personal hell. Dovaleh G, a veteran stand-up comic – charming, erratic, repellent – exposes a wound he has been living with for years: a fateful and gruesome choice he had to make between the two people who were dearest to him.

A Horse Walks into a Bar is a shocking and breathtaking read. Betrayals between lovers, the treachery of friends, guilt demanding redress. Flaying alive both himself and the people watching him, Dovaleh G provokes both revulsion and empathy from an audience that doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – and all this in the presence of a former childhood friend who is trying to understand why he’s been summoned to this performance.

I am not sure why I chose to respond to an emailed NetGalley invitation to read A Horse Walks Into A Bar. I previously read David Grossman's Be My Knife and didn't like it at all. I am also often underwhelmed by Booker prize winners. So the odds were set against this novel from the start which is why I was amazed to find myself completely taken over by it! I can't genuinely say that I enjoyed the read because I think its subject matter is too dark for that, but immersed, compelled, entranced. For me, A Horse Walks Into A Bar was one of those books where everything else around me ceased to exist while I was within its pages. It is not a particularly long novel and I read it in two intense burst, emerging each time not exactly sure of how much time had passed or how I suddenly returned from an Israeli comedy club to a Welsh field (we're camping)!

Grossman evokes the dark oppressive nightclub so vividly that I could clearly see the desperate stand-up comedian, Dovaleh, in the spotlight, his unwilling audience in the shadows and his invited guest skulking by the door. Like the guest, as readers we don't initially know what Dovaleh is trying to achieve on this night or why we are there. Like the audience I found his early routine embarrassing and later sections uncomfortable to witness. Dovaleh is too personal, too upfront with his revelations, but it is impossible to look away.

I am sure my lack of knowledge of Israeli life and culture meant that several references were lost on me, but even without such insight I loved this book. It won't be for everyone certainly and there were moments when I almost couldn't bear Grossman's sadism towards Dovaleh. Phrases and images are still rolling around my brain and I think will do so for hours and days to come. A Horse Walks Into A Bar could well be my book of the month.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by David Grossman / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie


Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie
First published in the UK by Ebury Press today, the 20th July 2017.

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

Three and half weeks. Three hundred miles. I saw roaring arterial highway and silent lanes, candlelit cathedrals and angry men in bad pubs. The Britain of 1936 was a land of beef paste sandwiches and drill halls. Now we are nation of vaping and nail salons, pulled pork and salted caramel.
In the autumn of 1936, some 200 men from the Tyneside town of Jarrow marched 300 miles to London in protest against the destruction of their towns and industries. Precisely 80 years on, Stuart Maconie, walks from north to south retracing the route of the emblematic Jarrow Crusade.
Travelling down the country’s spine, Maconie moves through a land that is, in some ways, very much the same as the England of the 30s with its political turbulence, austerity, north/south divide, food banks and of course, football mania. Yet in other ways, it is completely unrecognisable. Maconie visits the great cities as well as the sleepy hamlets, quiet lanes and roaring motorways. He meets those with stories to tell and whose voices build a funny, complex and entertaining tale of Britain, then and now.

Readers of my Stephanie Jane blog will already know of my loves of history and of walking so Stuart Maconie's latest travel memoir, Long Road From Jarrow, was perfect for me! Like many of the people he meets during his solo reenactment of the famous Jarrow March, my knowledge of the original was a little hazy so I was glad to be far better informed on finishing. Maconie is fascinated with our country and the people who have made it their home and his enthusiasm shines through every page making this book an enjoyable and inspirational read.

200 unemployed men and their MP, Ellen Wilkinson, set out on the Jarrow March in October 1936. They walked hundreds of miles to present a petition at Westminster asking for jobs. I was amazed by the varying reactions they provoked at the time. From being officially ignored by the Labour Party to receiving donated boots and clothes in towns through which they passed to becoming the media darlings of the moment, the Marchers have passed into British folklore. Eighty years later, retracing their steps day by day, Maconie wanted to mark the March's generally overlooked anniversary and to discover how different the England of 2016 was. Disconcertingly, to me at least, there are still far too many similarities. The north of England is still far poorer than the south, especially the south-east corner, and the experience and demands of people there are just as easily dismissed by London-centric leaders. Right-wing propaganda and fascism is again on the rise with immigration bearing the brunt of blame and anger as it did in the 1930s.

Against this doom and gloom however, Maconie maintains an upbeat outlook. I like that he generally finds a positive in whatever town he happens to visit. I learned a lot from Long Road From Jarrow and now have several more previously unconsidered towns on my must-visit list! Bedford's Italian community was formerly unknown to me as were the numerous Sikh forge workers that I don't remember getting a mention at the Black Country Living Museum! I feel inspired to go long distance walking too although perhaps using Maconie's hotel overnighting method rather than the Jarrow mens' dossing in church halls.

Long Road From Jarrow is less of a walking book than I had hoped and I would have liked maps showing each day's route, however as a zeitgeist survey of England and as travel inspiration, I highly recommend it.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stuart Maconie / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Guest Review: The Wrong Kind Of Clouds by Amanda Fleet


The Wrong Kind Of Clouds by Amanda Fleet
First published in the UK by Matador in April 2016.

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

Guest review by Catherine Green
Author of British paranormal romance series The Redcliffe Novels, Catherine Green was raised on books from a young age, and has happy memories of Saturday mornings spent in her small local library, devouring the contents of the shelves. Catherine has always been fascinated by the supernatural world, and it feels natural for her to write about vampires, werewolves, witches and other mystical creatures in her contemporary stories.

Catherine's rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Amanda Fleet’s debut thriller, The Wrong Kind of Clouds, Patrick Forrester is in trouble. Deep trouble. Someone wants him dead. In fact, lots of people want him dead, but one of them has taken him hostage. As he’s being bundled away, he manages to call his ex-lover, Summer Morris, and begs her for help...
Summer Morris, an award-winning photographer with synaesthesia, hasn’t spoken to Patrick for months. With good reason. In fact, she would have been happy never to hear from him again. But, he begged her for help, so she’s trying to help. Along with an off-duty police officer, Detective Sergeant LB Stewart, she gets swept into Patrick’s world of lies and deceit, in a desperate race against time to find him alive.
Trying to unpick the knot of Patrick’s life takes them from an affair that could help bring down a government, to the dust and heat of Malawi, and a whole heap of trouble in between. If only they knew who wanted him dead, they might find him alive. The trouble is, almost everyone wants Patrick dead.
The Wrong Kind of Clouds will appeal to fans of adult thriller fiction. Amanda has been inspired by Dorothy L Sayers, Val McDermid and Karin Alvtegen.


Catherine says: I was very fortunate to win a copy of The Wrong Kind of Clouds by Amanda Fleet in an online competition recently. The book is a contemporary crime thriller, and I liked the fact that it was set in Scotland. So many books that I have read recently are American or European, so it is nice to find something a bit closer to home, and in a place that I am more familiar with. Scotland is a spiritual home for me, anyway!

Crime novels are not my preferred genre. I like to read paranormal and horror, but since I had entered the competition and subsequently won, I decided that there was a reason I had to read this book. I was very impressed! The central character turns out to be not so central, since he disappears for the majority of the story. We still don’t know if he survives at the end, which I thought was quite clever of the author. I like to think that he survives, but maybe we find out in another book… I especially liked the unexpected romance between a work-hardened police detective and the female lead, who is a professional photographer and free spirit. I liked her, far more my kind of person!

All in all, I rate this book as very good, and I recommend it to all crime thriller fans, especially those that like Scotland. There is some great atmospheric description, just enough action to keep you hooked, and the chapters are easy to read in short bursts. A great companion for a long journey or a holiday (or in my case, bedtime reading!).


Thank you Catherine!

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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Amanda Fleet / Crime fiction / Books from Scotland

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Blues With Ice by Tin Larrick


Blues With Ice by Tin Larrick
First published by Obscure Cranny Press today, the 18th July 2017.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Meet 20-year-old roofer and aspiring blues guitarist Alex Gray, who, on the cusp of the millennium, is heading west to California to seek his fortune. Armed with big fear, bigger dreams, a handful of dollars and his beloved guitar Camille, he arrives in Los Angeles to a self-imposed ultimatum: Make it here and now, or grow up and Get Serious.
It's a well-worn track, however, and Alex follows the vapour trails of former dole-buddy and expat-done-good Marvin Price. Already gregarious and exuberant, Marvin has been well and truly Californified by his year in the sun, and persuades Alex that fame and fortune are practically guaranteed the moment you clear customs.
As if to prove the point, a fortuitous encounter with homeless Santa Monica busker Rosco Dunhill III leads to a showcase at Rosco's downtown residence, and the American Dream seems to be playing out in front of Alex. But the sudden appearance - and transformation of - Alex's onetime love, Marie Clement, is a broadside he doesn't see coming, and the flames of Possibility evaporate almost as soon as they have appeared. Not one to admit defeat, Marie injects her new zest for life into Alex’s dejected dumbfoundedness, and pretty soon the three of them are in search of the elusive busker, chasing the spirit of Gonzo and the soul of the Beats around California.

I've been eagerly awaiting this new Tin Larrick novel since reading an early draft version several months ago. Blues With Ice is very different to his previous crime and thriller books. Inspired by 1950s American Beat classics such as Jack Kerouac's On The Road ( to which numerous nods are given) it recounts the highs and lows of a six week trip to California in the late 1990s. I also journeyed alone to California, albeit for just two weeks, at around the same time so this was a wonderfully nostalgic read for me. I didn't have a guitar, nor was I in search of stardom, but I did meet some amazing people in Los Angeles and rode the Amtrak from LA to Santa Clara and Santa Clara to beautiful San Francisco.

Larrick's naive hero, Alex Gray, is very English in his manners and outlook and this clash of cultures provides much of the thoughtfulness in Blues With Ice. His last ditch attempt to kickstart his music career is frequently derailed by alcohol and drug-fuelled days and nights, leading himself astray as often as he is led. I enjoyed following his journey and seeing how quickly he matured emotionally during what was a brief period of time. Larrick evokes the American cities in an interesting way although we do mostly see them through the bottom of whisky glasses and beer bottles.

The Beat writers seem to be undergoing a resurgence of influence at the moment and the style of Blues With Ice reminded me of Harry Whitewolf's travel writing especially Route Number 11. If you liked that book, I would certainly recommend Blues With Ice to you and vice versa.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tin Larrick / Coming Of Age fiction / Books from England

Monday, 17 July 2017

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult


My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
First published in America by Atria in April 2004.

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 sister

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anna Fitzgerald doesn't want her sister to die. But she's sick of helping her to live. Anna was born to be a perfect genetic match for Kate, who at just two years old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. For thirteen years, she has acted as donor to her sister. Now, Kate needs a kidney, and nobody is asking Anna how she feels about it, they're just assuming she will donate. Until the Sheriff serves the papers that will rock their family's world: Anna is suing her parents for the rights to her own body.

I borrowed My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult from my own sister who said it was a very emotional book. Picoult delves into the ethical and moral minefields caused by creating genetically designed babies. The youngest daughter of her imagined Fitzgerald family, Anna, was conceived solely in order to provide 'spare parts' for elder sister Kate who is dying from leukaemia. However, by the time she turns thirteen, Anna is fed up with repeated hospital visits and invasive operations so takes out a lawsuit to prevent any more of her body being harvested for Kate's benefit. The ensuing arguments threaten to tear the whole family apart.

Family members take turns narrating chapters throughout the novel so the story unravels from multiple perspectives. Unfortunately everyone speaks remarkably similarly so I often lost track of whose chapter I was reading. Picoult's prose is very manipulative too. This is an incredibly emotionally charged subject, but as readers we are subjected to extra tugs through plot devices such as the father's career as a heroic firefighter - at one point he really does rush into an inferno to rescue a toddler. Anna's completely unprofessional legal team seem to spend more time resurrecting their abruptly halted college romance than fighting for her rights - the pair hadn't seen each other for fifteen years until they just happened to be thrown together for this one case. And of course, Anna's mother used to be a hotshot lawyer herself until she sacrificed her career for her children.

Her Sister's Keeper could and should have been an excellent novel confronting a hugely important contemporary issue. However I found it mawkish and frequently so sentimental as to be nauseating! There is a good story underneath, but it needs far stronger characters and greater subtlety with those emotional hammers to be convincing. Oh, and don't read the last chapter. Stop when the court case finishes because the real ending is just dire!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jodi Picoult / Women's fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito


Nine Kinds of Naked by Tony Vigorito
First published in America by Mariner Books in October 2008. Audiobook edition narrated by Kristen Kalbli published by ListenUp in December 2014.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the audio download from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you believe in the butterfly effect? Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Tibet? What if the butterfly happens to be flapping centuries before the tornado stirs? Does the Great White Spot - a twenty-first-century weather anomaly rotating clockwise off the coast of Louisiana - stem from a ninth-century serf untying a knot in a strap of enchanted leather? In the tradition of Tom Robbins and Christopher Moore, and with all the playfulness and prose-poetics that made his "Just a Couple of Days" such an underground phenomenon, Tony Vigorito now turns his visionary gaze to the wonder of synchronicity and the mystery of cause and effect. He takes us on a wild ride through time and space, introducing us to a cast of fascinating characters whose lives are all affected by one breath of wind.

Nine Kinds Of Naked is bizarre! Essentially it's a fantastically surreal tale of chaos theory in the aftermath of a tornado, but with such an incredible array of characters and interconnected events that I was equally as gripped as bewildered for much of the time. My copy was an Audible download brilliantly narrated by Kristin Kalbli. How on earth did she keep a straight face throughout? I was frequently giggling away at the sharp imagery. Tony Vigorito does a great job of imparting the essence of his scenes and makes even the most ridiculous plot twist seem as though this was the obvious and natural course of events. The revisitation of scenes and actions from different viewpoints is cleverly layered and I loved discovering and recognising minor characters as well as cultural references.

There is a strong political message arcing across the story which encourages all the characters to reject our society's debt-ridden commercial culture in favour of a simple life in the present. This really resonated with how I am living right now, especially having recently enjoyed reading No Baggage by Clara Bensen. I did think that the several long philosophical debates espousing this theory in the second half of the book could use heavy editing though. The pace here grinds to a standstill and had I had a paper edition, I would have been flipping past. However, once we get back to the perfectly suited laid-back vibe of New Orleans, Nine Kinds Of Naked takes off again. I loved the character of J J Speed and the wondrous antics of the wind, Bridget Snapdragon is great and I had to pity Dave Wildhack - the toothpicks! I would love for all the factoids, especially the etymology, to be true. Perhaps they are, but I didn't pause to take notes and can't remember enough detail to now go a-Googling, but I frequently found myself in complete agreement. And now I just want to find a dayglo orange frisbee and Walk Away.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tony Vigorito / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Revenants - The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman


Revenants - The Odyssey Home by Scott Kauffman
First published by Moonshine Cove Publishing in America in December 2015.

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

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A grief-stricken candy-striper serving in a VA hospital following her brother’s death in Viet Nam struggles to return home an anonymous veteran of the Great War against the skullduggery of a congressman who not only controls the hospital as part of his small-town fiefdom but knows the name of her veteran. A name if revealed would end his political ambitions and his fifty-year marriage. In its retelling of Odysseus’ journey, Revenants casts a flickering candle upon the charon toll exacted not only from the families of those who fail to return home but of those who do.

Every so often one of my indie author reads turns out to be an absolute gem and I am delighted that this was the case with Revenants. The novel is a modern day retelling of Homer's Odyssey, but I admit it has been so long since I read that classic that I didn't identify Kauffman's story with Homer's, nor did I think it needed that distinction as Revenants stands strongly on its own merits. I did have to look up some of the American slang - a candy-striper for example is a young female volunteer at VA hospitals so named for their red and white striped uniforms. And VA is the acronym for Veterans' Affairs, an American government department charged with the care of former military personnel.

In Revenants, Kauffman explores the aftermath of war both on the fighting soldiers and on their friends and families back home. Unusually for American novels I think, his veterans are physically and mentally damaged by their experiences, many horrifically so, and he sensitively presents their plight. The book is set partly in a 1970s hospital and partly in First World War trenches. Perhaps attitudes have changed now, but it was saddening to read of men being feted heroes as they go off to fight and shunned for the injuries incurred in that fighting on their return. Kauffman has his characters comment on the political use of medal pinning at election times while those same men are kept out of sight for the rest of the year.

Revenants is emotional historical fiction and also an ingenious mystery story. As readers we uncover the story of the hidden patient alongside Betsey and her brother. Betsey's story is intriguing too as she tries to assuage her guilt by helping the hidden patient, but cannot forgive herself enough to avoid her own life slipping into delinquency and drug addiction. This unglamorous reality of war is often suppressed when hysterical and jingoistic rhetoric fires up yet another generation to take up arms against each other, but hopefully honest novels such as Revenants will prove memorable and encourage greater debate before new bombs fly.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Scott Kauffman / Historical fiction / Books from America

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr


The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr
First published in Australia by Fremantle Press in 2013.

One of my WorldReads from Australia

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

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from its publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I hold one regret from that day: that I put my first love, my cello, aside. But it was to take up a bigger love, a greater thing; it was to step into the future. Music's Most Modern Instrument. And I was to become Music's Most Modern Musician.
Tracy Farr's debut novel is the fictional memoir of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie. Documentary filmmaker Mo Patterson approaches veteran musician Lena Gaunt after watching her play at a festival in Perth: her first performance in 20 years.
While initially suspicious of Mo's intentions and reluctant to have her privacy invaded, Lena finds herself sharing stories from her past.
From a solitary childhood in Malacca and a Perth boarding school, to a glittering career in Jazz-age Sydney, to quiet domesticity in a New-Zealand backwater, Lena's is a life characterized by the pull of the sea, the ebb and flow of passion and loss, and her enduring relationship with that extraordinary instrument, the theremin.


The Life And Loves Of Lena Gaunt is an introverted and thoughtful novel telling the life story of the world's first theremin player, Lena Gaunt. Gaunt never actually existed of course, but Farr's writing so beautifully creates her world that I often found it difficult to remember I wasn't reading about a real person! Daughter of an affluent but aloof family, Lena is shunted off to boarding school at an early age where she discovers her first love, the cello. As a young woman, chance leads her to the new invention of the theremin and her dedication to perfect playing results in her growing fame. We see Singapore and Australia, New Zealand, France and England through her eyes as she bounces, or is bounced, across the world, usually alone and usually returning to a district of Perth, Australia, the closest concept she has of home.

I loved Farr's writing in terms of its musical content and references. Lena's world is very much created around and guided by sound and this is conveyed in amazing detail to the reader. 1930s Sydney came across as a fabulous place and I would like to read more books set around this era. What particularly moved me about The Life And Loves were the flashback portrayals of Lena's search for both contrasted with her octogenarian self looking back over her life. Elderly Lena is not a generic geriatric and is very much the product of her bohemian youth. Still unable to resist a little flattery, but sadly aware of the her own mortality and loss, the experience gap between herself and the young festival musicians, herself and the film maker, gives a delicate melancholy to the whole book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tracy Farr / Contemporary fiction / Books from Australia

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo


Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
First published in Norwegian in Norway as Sorgenfri by Aschehoug And Co in 2002. English language translation by Don Bartlett published by Harvill Secker in 2008.

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.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Kobo
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How do you catch a killer when you're the number one suspect? A man is caught on CCTV, shooting dead a cashier at a bank. Detective Harry Hole begins his investigation, but after dinner with an old flame wakes up with no memory of the past 12 hours. Then the girl is found dead in mysterious circumstances and he begins to receive threatening emails: is someone trying to frame him for her death? As Harry fights to clear his name, the bank robberies continue with unparalleled savagery..

I am sure I have never read any Jo Nesbo books before, but this Scandinavian crime novel felt very familiar throughout. It has an alcoholic lead detective emotionally tortured by actions in his past, an inexperienced but brilliant sidekick, a bizarre serial crime for them to solve, a trip to the other side of the world for no great reason and, of course, our detective has a close personal attachment to the crime. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Nesbo is certainly a competent crime writer and I liked his evocation of Oslo life, especially in respect to the city's frequently miserable climate, but for me this novel felt too formulaic. I thought most of the characters didn't have the believability of, say, the Martin Beck creations, and the plot line seemed to become more outlandish by the minute! As an escapist read, Nemesis did keep me occupied for a couple of afternoons, but my high expectations were ultimately disappointed.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jo Nesbo / Crime fiction / Books from Norway

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin + Giveaway


Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin
Published in America by Blaze Publishing yesterday, the 11th July 2017.

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

Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close – at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.

But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.



Meet the author:
Hannah has spent her life falling in love with beautiful places, both real and fictional. She grew up in charming Bethlehem, PA, went to college in sunny Chapel Hill, NC, spent a summer studying wildlife in Tanzania, volunteered on organic farms across New Zealand, and hiked all over Acadia National Park in Maine. When not writing, reading, or adventuring, she likes to daydream about the dog she'll adopt someday, listen to music from the sixties, and exchange ridiculous texts with her parents and siblings. Paintbrush is her first novel.

Connect with Hannah through her
Website ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads


And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 20th of July, you can win a $5 gift card and a copy of The Beginning Of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Hannah Bucchin / Young adult books / Books from America

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Killers Of The King by Charles Spencer


Killers Of The King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I by Charles Spencer

First published in the UK by Bloomsbury in September 2014. Audiobook edition narrated by Tim Bruce published by Audible Studios in November 2014.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the audio download from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

January, 1649. After seven years of fighting in the bloodiest war in Britain's history, Parliament had overpowered King Charles I and now faced a problem: what to do with a defeated king, a king who refused to surrender?Parliamentarians resolved to do the unthinkable, to disregard the Divine Right of Kings and hold Charles I to account for the appalling suffering and slaughter endured by his people. A tribunal of 135 men was hastily gathered in London, and although Charles refused to acknowledge the power of his subjects to try him, the death sentence was unanimously passed. On an icy winter's day on a scaffold outside Whitehall, in an event unique in English history, the King of England was executed.When the dead king's son, Charles II, was restored to the throne, he set about enacting a deadly wave of retribution against all those - the lawyers, the judges, the officers on the scaffold - responsible for his father's death. Some of the 'regicides' - the killers of the king - pleaded for mercy, while others stoically awaited their sentence. Many went into hiding in England, or fled to Europe or America. Those who were caught and condemned suffered agonising and degrading ends, while others saw out their days in hellish captivity.

Best-selling historian Charles Spencer explores this violent clash of ideals through the individuals whose fates were determined by that one, momentous decision. A powerful tale of revenge from the dark heart of royal history and a fascinating insight into the dangers of political and religious allegiance in Stuart England, these are the shocking stories of the men who dared to kill a king.

I had this audiobook awaiting listening for several years before I actually steeled myself to get all the way through it. The problem for me is that Spencer initially rushes through a great long list of names and battles, most of which were unknown to me, in order to give an overview of the lead-up to the execution of Charles I, the act itself and the following Commonwealth Republic years until the demise of Oliver Cromwell. I struggled to kind my mind from wandering during the first third of Killers Of The King, eventually having to restart the narration three times over in my determination to hear the whole book! Other reviewers had said it got more engaging later on and I wanted to find out for myself that this is indeed the case.

Once Spencer begins to talk about the individual names as real people, Killers Of The King became a much interesting listen, albeit a frequently gruesome one! He investigates the lives and deaths of as many of the sixty-odd men who had signed Charles I's death warrant as he could find, describing them in fascinating detail. Over a period of two to three decades England swung from one political extreme to another and back again with, it seemed, practically every man of note absolutely determined that whatever cause he had chosen to support was also that chosen by God. The degree of religious fanaticism shown by most of these men is terrifying, especially as their violent actions in the name of God are rooted in Old Testament vengeance. Only those with the foresight to keep switching sides seem to have maintained or accumulated any degree of wealth (and kept their heads) including one George Downing, called a 'perfidious rogue' by Samuel Pepys, whose rewards from Charles II enabled him to buy up swathes of London - including the street that now bears his name!

Tim Bruce is an excellent narrator, admirably portraying a range of accents from across Europe and as far afield as the New England colonies. I would listen to more of his audiobooks although I am not sure I would attempt another Charles Spencer history volume.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Charles Spencer / History / Books from England

Monday, 10 July 2017

Behind The Counter by Constantina Rebi


Behind The Counter by Constantina Rebi

First published in Greek in Greece by Quest Publications in 2015. English language translation published by Quest Publications in June 2016.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The novel “Behind the Counter” is an effort to describe our times. The uncertainty and the fear of the present and the future. People who live in a surrounding of moral and financial crisis, trying to survive. Two women, who are friends and colleagues, describe their lives in dialogues. Between the dialogues there are descriptions of their colleagues, their behaviour and the effort to adjust in the cruel environment of a strict hierarchy. There are ironic metaphors in the text, as an effort to explain the cruelty, injustice and death.

Behind The Counter is a novella of about a hundred pages which illustrates the rapidly declining living standards of ordinary people in austerity-struck Greece. We see Athens through the eyes of a bank clerk, her friends and colleagues, and are gradually more aware of their fragile circumstances as the book progresses. I liked Rebi's device of only naming each character with an initial. This allowed me to have some remembrance of each person, but also meant I wasn't limited to imagining them as definite characters. Each of these worried people could be any one of us reading the book and the financial similarities between the Greek and UK economies at the moment meant I felt Behind The Counter resounds with what I see here as accurately as with Rebi's Athens.

I think stark contrasts made Behind The Counter particularly striking for me. Short chapters are each relatively mundane co-worker conversations, but as the bank staff discuss meeting targets, the machinations of the Rising Star, or what they saw on TV, outside their windows children are jumping onto moving rubbish lorries in the hope of salvaging a discarded pair of flip-flops while equally desperate adults rip cables from railway lines. The combination creates a graphic portrayal of a teetering society and the sense of it just being a matter of time before everyone is dragged down makes for compelling reading.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Constantina Rebi / Contemporary fiction / Books from Greece

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Guest Review: Indie Poet by Harry Whitewolf


Indie Poet - Thirty Poems From My Thirties: 2006 - 2016 by Harry Whitewolf
Self published on the 1st of May 2017.

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

Guest review by Andy Carrington
A DIY punk-poet from Bradford, Andy Carrington composes poetry with tremendous anger and energy. Evocative insights into 21st century British life.

Andy's rating: 4 of 5 stars

“In this short book of previously unpublished verse, indie poet Harry Whitewolf spits out his words with the ferocity of a rampant llama on speed. Poems knocking the establishment and rants mocking modern society are wedged between personal tales of boozing, smoking, loneliness and sex. Delivered with passion, anger, humour, beat and bite, this new collection is a quick sizzle trip through Harry’s dirty thirties.
Go on, give an indie poet a go.

Andy says: If more Poets were like Harry Whitewolf, I probably wouldn’t be so bitter about the whole “arty” scene.

But they’re not, so fuck it.

If you haven’t gathered from the reviews before, I’m a fan of this guy.

Is this a biased review? Probably. But I feel like we’re in the same boat:

Conflicted / honest:

“I like being anti-Capitalist / I like the things I own” (‘Dual Duel’)

Apathetic:

“I got up / Lit up last night’s joint / and made tea” (‘Reading and Rolling’)

DIY / self- defeatist:

“I'm just a poet who is Indie”

Mostly, just mad:

“Everywhere a fucking golden arse” (‘Old McDonald had a Restaurant’).

Whether Whitewolf is spitting about life (as we know it), smoking, ex-girls, the Internet or Christmas, he nails it down.

This compilation is just as playful with language as Whitewolf’s latter works; and his heart is all in it. Technically speaking, this is no RHYME & REBELLION / TWO BEAT NEWBIE, but I admire its attitude / rawness.

In particular, the final poem in IP, ‘Look at What We Built’, sums up the daily struggle against hierarchy / mindless zombies superbly:

“We gave our history away / to impossible tomorrows / And we gave away our strength / to be just those that follow.”

Boom.


Thank you Andy!

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 Harry Whitewolf / Poetry / Books from England

Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Way To Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa


The Way to Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in November 2003. English language translation by Natascha Wimmer.

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 Casteillets near Ceret, France

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1844, Flora Tristan embarked on a tour of France to campaign for workers' and women's rights. In 1891, her grandson set sail for Tahiti, determined to escape civilisation and seek out inspiration to paint his primitive masterpieces. Flora died before her grandson was born, but their travels and obsessions unravel side by side in this absorbing novel.
Flora, the illegitimate child of a wealthy Peruvian father and French mother, grows up in poverty, and after fleeing a brutal husband, journeys to Peru to demand her inheritance. On her return, she makes her name as a popular writer and a champion of the dispossessed, setting herself the arduous task of touring the French countryside to recruit members for her Workers' Union. Paul, struggling, profligate painter and stubborn visionary, abandons his wife and five children for life in the South Seas, where his dreams of paradise are poisoned by poverty, syphilis and the stifling forces of French colonialism, though he has his pick of teenage Tahitian lovers and paints some of his greatest works.

I was delighted to spot a copy of The Way To Paradise by Mario Vargas Llosa in a campsite book exchange. I loved the wonderful visions of The Feast of the Goat and The War of the End of the World so was hoping for more of the same this time around. As it turned out, I think The Way To Paradise is a far more accessible and straightforward novel, but it's none the worse for that. Set in two periods of the nineteenth century, Llosa imagines detail around the lives of the artist Paul Gauguin and his ought-to-be-even-more-famous grandmother, Flora Tristan. Historical facts of their lives are woven into two fabulously written tales that mirror each other in their protagonists' desires to create perfection, albeit in vastly different circumstances.

Paul Gauguin is already moderately famous when we join him. He has already lived with the 'mad Dutchman' (Van Gogh) in Arles and I loved being able to accurately visualise these scenes based on our recent visit. Llosa follows Gauguin to Brittany and then to Tahiti where his dissolute lifestyle and failing health both drive him to paint masterpieces and to descend into alcoholism and decrepitude. Llosa writes in a blend of third and second person narration which I found especially effective in allowing us to understand the minds of both Paul and Flora. Paul's desperation to become a part of Tahitian society while also remaining aloof enough to observe as an artist, and lacking the cultural history to fully comprehend Maori beliefs and attitudes is wonderfully poignant. Llosa takes time to immerse his readers in several of Paul's paintings as they are created and I enjoyed viewing them online with such insights. Plus I don't think I have read a death so delicately and powerfully portrayed since I read Jack London's To Build a Fire.

Flora Tristan's story is set fifty years before Paul's and I cannot believe that I had never heard of this amazing woman before. We follow her on a tour of France as she endeavours to recruit downtrodden labourers to her Worker's Union, a socialist concept that she devised herself. Llosa uses her travels to highlight the vast social differences in 1840s France with some disturbing descriptions of then standard working conditions. I became almost as frustrated as Flora at the workers failure to understand how they could use her ideas to help themselves - much like The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists - and their frequent dismissal of her words simply because of her gender. With Flora, we also travel to her lavish Peruvian ancestral home and I learned of her real-life memoir, Peregrinations Of A Pariah which I would now love to read. (If anyone knows where I can download an English language version, please let me know!)

In The Way To Paradise I think Llosa has written an amazing book which kept me glued to its pages despite its long-for-me 424 small print pages. I felt completely part of both Paul's and Flora's worlds even though I found it almost impossible to feel any sympathy for Paul at all, and Flora is so dedicated to her cause that she really isn't always likeable! Brilliant book!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Mario Vargas Llosa / Historical fiction / Books from Peru

Friday, 7 July 2017

The Praise Of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus


The Praise Of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus

Written in Latin in 1509 and first printed in 1511 as Stultitiae Laus or Moriae Encomium. English language translation by John Wilson in 1668.

I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

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

How I got this book:
Bought at Black Cat Books, formerly in St Marychurch, Torquay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Considered one of the most important works of literature in Western Civilization, Desiderius Erasmus's essay, "Praise of Folly", is a classic satirical work in the style of Lucian, the ancient Greek, in which the Goddess of Folly extols the virtues of frivolousness and indulgence of ones passions and then turns to a satirical examination of Christian piousness. In a humorously satirical way, "Praise of Folly" examines the abuses of power of the Roman Catholic Church at the time and is seen as one of the major catalysts for the Protestant Reformation.

The introductory essay in my copy of Pride And Prejudice declared that that book was one of the few classics continually reprinted because people actually want to read it rather than being obliged to study it. I suspect that The Praise Of Folly is more likely to fall into the second camp. I can imagine that it was considered shockingly satirical to the learned classes in the early 1500s, but I I found it more long-winded than laugh-a-minute. Erasmus imagined a personification of the goddess Folly and she gives us a long speech identifying all the ways in which she is of unique benefit to mankind. For a goddess however, I didn't think her character displayed much femininity!

Where this book gets particularly interesting is in its last third when Folly turns her attention from ancient Greek and Roman examples to attacking the greed and behaviour of Christian clergy in western Europe. Bearing in mind that The Praise Of Folly was first published twenty-two years before Anne Boleyn began to turn Henry VIII's mind to Protestantism, this was brave writing indeed and I did enjoy Erasmus' insights into everyday life of the period. As a historic document, this book is worth a read.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Desiderius Erasmus / Humorous fiction / Books from the Netherlands