Friday, 22 September 2017

Traveling In Place by Bernd Stiegler


Traveling in Place: A History of Armchair Travel by Bernd Stiegler
English language translation by Peter Filkins published by University of Chicago Press in October 2013.

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How I got this book:
Received free book download from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Armchair travel may seem like an oxymoron. Doesn’t travel require us to leave the house? And yet, anyone who has lost herself for hours in the descriptive pages of a novel or the absorbing images of a film knows the very real feeling of having explored and experienced a different place or time without ever leaving her seat. No passport, no currency, no security screening required—the luxury of armchair travel is accessible to us all. In Traveling in Place, Bernd Stiegler celebrates this convenient, magical means of transport in all its many forms.

Organized into twenty-one “legs”—or short chapters—Traveling in Place begins with a consideration of Xavier de Maistre’s 1794 Voyage autour de ma chambre, an account of the forty-two-day “journey around his room” Maistre undertook as a way to entertain himself while under house arrest. Stiegler is fascinated by the notion of exploring the familiar as though it were completely new and strange. He engages writers as diverse as Roussel, Beckett, Perec, Robbe-Grillet, Cortázar, Kierkegaard, and Borges, all of whom show how the everyday can be brilliantly transformed. Like the best guidebooks, Traveling in Place is more interested in the idea of travel as a state of mind than as a physical activity, and Stiegler reflects on the different ways that traveling at home have manifested themselves in the modern era, from literature and film to the virtual possibilities of the Internet, blogs, and contemporary art.

I enjoyed this odd book even though I had slightly misunderstood its synopsis. I expected a short story collection of micro-scale travel writings. Traveling In Place is actually a scholarly survey of many examples of the genre written over the past two hundred years.

I had not previously thought about my room - or my caravan as it was at the time of reading - in the same way as I appreciate it now. Stiegler has studied dozens of novels, essays and memoirs, mostly by French and German authors, who have chosen to look at the everyday and the mundane through the eyes of a visitor and a tourist. Apparently the original example, 1794's Voyage Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre, is quite famous and extensively quoted.

Traveling In Place is not an easy read, especially as the only one of the quoted writings that I knew of is Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. I admit to being at the limit of my comprehension when we got to early twentieth century experimental film making. However, I am quite taken with the basic premise. The examples of 'flanerie' - exploring one's own familiar environment with new eyes - struck a chord with our current travels around our own country and also reminded me of a character in Bleeding London who resolves to walk every street in the London A to Z. Stiegler's extra reading suggestions at the end of each chapter are a great touch and I am inspired to seek some out. I have already found the Xavier de Maistre in English on Kindle and will be joining his journey around his room very soon.


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Books by Bernd Stiegler / History books / Books from Germany

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen


Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen
First published in America by Jonathan Cape in October 2013.

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How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In Eminent Hipsters, musician and songwriter Donald Fagen, best known as the co-founder of the rock band Steely Dan, presents an autobiographical portrait that touches on everything from the cultural figures that mattered the most to him as a teenager, to his years in the late 1960s at Bard College, to a hilarious account of a recent tour he made with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald.

As a Steely Dan fan - we even got to see them play in Hammersmith several years ago - I was pleased when Dave got Eminent Hipsters for his Kindle. The then-new Amazon sharing system means we each get to read the other's purchases, a system which I admit benefits me far more than Dave!

Eminent Hipsters is a book of two uneven halves. The first section contains essays written by Fagen about his childhood and adolescent musical influences and I very much enjoyed reading these. I was too pleased with myself for recognising names such as Bill Evans, but was mostly ignorant and scribbling down suggestions for later YouTubing. I think that the book really needs to come with an accompanying music download! Still, it is interesting to understand where Fagen's music comes from and his self-deprecating humour is entertaining to read.

I presume that the selected essays were deemed insufficient in volume for publication though because the book's second half consists of a tour diary. Unfortunately this doesn't bear much relation to the first half so I found the mid-way swerve disconcerting. Here we meet cantankerous old git Fagen who basically complains a lot about a touring lifestyle which he must surely not actually be forced into. Personally, I would have preferred more of the thoughtful essays and none of the diary.


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Books by Donald Fagen / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman + Giveaway


When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman
Published in the UK by Austin Macauley in February 2017

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Add When Darkness Falls to your Goodreads

Follow the amazing journey of Tracy Bennett an average middle of the road girl working on a make-up counter in a York department store with her close female friends. Or is Tracy quite what she seems……

When Darkness Falls is a gripping account of a psychopathic killer. Written from the killer’s perspective, the intent and desire is perfectly compelling and holds the reader enthralled.

Make assumptions, draw your own conclusions and then find your theories debunked as the story unfolds.

This book is a testament to the human fascination with the criminal mind and the debate over whether serial killers are either evil or mad.




Meet the author:
Kathleen lives in York with her husband, two children, cat and dog.

Kathleen has always had a love of the written word from a very young age, from being read to as a child. Reading fabulous authors such as Enid Blyton, and Roald Dahl, has been inspirational.

Kathleen attended a creative writing course, which led to her write her first book The Other Side of the Looking Glass.


Her second book When Darkness Falls is a psychological thriller, which looks into the mind of a psychopathic killer. There is always something quite remarkable and captivatingly interesting about the human mind. And it is this that Kathleen tries to merge into her writing.

Author links: 
Website ~ Goodreads ~ YouTube ~ Twitter


And now for the giveaway!
Open worldwide until October 4th, the prize is a signed copy of When Darkness Falls sent to the winner by Kathleen Harryman.

When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman signed book giveaway

Good luck!


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Books by Kathleen Harryman / Thrillers / Books from England

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Aquarium by David Vann


Aquarium by David Vann
First published in America by Atlantic Monthly Press in April 2015.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aged nine, Caitlin spends almost every afternoon at the local aquarium while her mother works overtime at her construction job. Caitlin's whole world is her school, her mother, occasionally her mother's boyfriends, and the fish at the aquarium. She has no friends at school, apart from Shalini, who is making a paper mache Hindu reindeer with her, and no other family. But Caitlin has made a friend at the aquarium; an old man who seems to know something about Caitlin, something she doesn't even know about herself.

Aquarium is set in Seattle and tells of a short period of the life of a young girl, Caitlin, who lives with her mother, Sheri, a woman struggling to make ends meet by working long hours in a dead-end job. They have a poor standard of accommodation and Sheri's work means Caitlin is often left alone for several hours, time she chooses to spend at the local aquarium gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of rare fish. I liked the inclusion of line-drawn fish illustrations throughout the novel. Caitlin's meeting there with an older man is the catalyst for the events that drive the novel, but Vann does not take us to obvious territory.

This is not an easy novel to read. By that, I mean that the themes it examines are heavy and dark. The writing is superb - spare and frequently brutal and impossible to look away from. Vann has created perfectly believable characters that really got through to me. The destruction of a family by fear then poverty is graphically portrayed and the carry-though to the next generation is frightening to comprehend. My favourite character, I think, is Sheri although I didn't actually like her or many of her actions. This woman has fought incredibly hard to escape her past and her sheer rage at finding herself flung backwards absolutely crackles off the pages.

I will definitely be looking out for more David Vann novels in the future and will be adding his existing titles to my Goodreads TBR list.


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Books by David Vann / Young adult books / Books from America

Monday, 18 September 2017

Blackout by Lawrence Johnson Sr + Giveaway



Blackout by Lawrence Johnson Sr.
​Category: Adult Fiction; 126 pages
​Genre: Mystery, Crime, Detective
Publisher: Self-published
Release date: March 2011
Tour dates: Sept 11 to 22, 2017
Content Rating: PG

Audiobook Details:

Release Date: 07-13-17
Publisher: Lawrence Johnson Sr.
Written by: Lawrence Johnson Sr.
Narrated by: Alistair Dryburgh
Length: 4 hrs and 9 mins
Series: Alexander Steele Mysteries, Book 1
Unabridged Audiobook

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Book Description:

Alexander Steele is a private detective turned night club owner in the city of Philadelphia. Steele and his longtime girlfriend Shakia's plans for him to retire are derailed when his cousin brings him an encrypted travel drive. The drive is opened by Steele's hacker friend Stan. A few days earlier every transformer in Canada had been shut down by the terrorist. The drive in Steele's possession gave details as to how the event would happen. What made it even more frightening was that the documents on the drive were created 3 months before the actual event; Steele finds himself drawn into the well-crafted mind games of a madman known as Chameleon - an American terrorist.

His goal is to shut down the country by collapsing the economy of the United States. From the snow covered streets of Montreal to the tropical beaches of Nassau Steele follows a trail of clues and dead bodies. As he gathers more puzzle pieces Steele inches closer, hoping to reveal and thwart the plot to bring down the US government. He finds himself narrowly surviving constant attempts on his life. The dramatic face-off between Steele and Chameleon takes place in downtown Philadelphia. How will it end? Find out in Blackout, now on Audible.



​Watch the Trailer:




Meet the Author:


Born and raised in the city of Brotherly Love I have been writing for nearly 10 years. I am the author of the 2012 scifi novel Escape 2 Earth. In early 2009 I completed the second installment in the the Escape 2 Earth trilogy called Return 2 Earth also several short stories including a fantasy story titled Dimensions in Time and a sci fi story titled Planet of Doom.

In 2011 I completed my first detective novel called Blackout. Before writing Escape 2 Earth I began putting together a collection of inspirational and motivational quotes titled Observations from the Edge of Society. I am currently working on the final book in the Escape 2 Earth series called Earth 2, Redemption which will be completed in 2017.

Connect with the author:
Website ~ Twitter ~  Facebook  ~ Instagram 


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Sept 30

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Books by Lawrence Johnson Sr / Thrillers / Books from America

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah


Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah
First published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton in April 2007.

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How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three years ago, something terrible happened to Naomi Jenkins - so terrible that she never told anybody. Now Naomi has another secret - the man she has fallen passionately in love with, unhappily married Robert Haworth. 

When Robert vanishes without trace, Naomi knows he must have come to harm. But the police are less convinced, particularly when Robert's wife insists he is not missing. In desperation, Naomi has a crazy idea. If she can't persuade the police that Robert is in danger, perhaps she can convince them that he is a danger to others. Then they will have to look for him - urgently. Naomi knows how to describe in detail the actions of a psychopath. All she needs to do is dig up her own troubled past . . .

I picked this up in paperback on a campsite book exchange. Mainstream crime thrillers aren't my usual fare, but I was swayed by the three pages of positive review quotes in the front. I really must learn not to take any notice of these as I think, in fact, I read a different book!

Hurting Distance is OK. At four hundred pages, it is a bit too long for its story, but the convoluted plot is certainly unguessable too far before the end. The main protagonist, Naomi, gets to be both spoken about and to speak directly to the reader which is odd at first but does work as a device. Every so often, a chapter will be written in the first person, as Naomi talking to her talking to her beloved Robert. Otherwise the novel is written in third person and present time.

In common with most crime thrillers, there is a serial criminal on the loose, this time a rapist, although Hannah doesn't overdo the clock ticking scenario. Instead there is a huge tangle of personal relationships and characters involved in convenient coincidences - while discussing how they don't believe in coincidences. I did appreciate a comment about linking arrows on the police evidence wall having become just a blob - perhaps an observation of Hannah's plot plan?! The police behaviour is what actually ruined this book for me. The villain and victims are cleverly set up but then the police behave like their TV counterparts, not real police at all. Then so much of the novel's forward drive depends on their irrational actions and jumped-to conclusions that I got quite irritated by the end.


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Books by Sophie Hannah / Crime fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke


Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke
First published in America by Simon and Schuster in 2014.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

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How I got this book:
Borrowed a paperback edition from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When 16-year-old Weldon Avery Holland encounters the notorious Bonnie and Clyde in his Texas hometown, the course of his young life is altered forever. He dedicates himself to fighting evil wherever he finds it. But it's the 1930s and evil is sweeping the globe as the Nazis rise. When war breaks out, Holland finds himself in Germany, irrevocably scarred by scenes of death and destruction.

Peacetime brings apparent bliss, and Holland is offered a path to wealth and luxury by the enigmatic 'Wayfaring Stranger'. But soon, he discovers that the greed, violence and ruthlessness of war are nothing compared to the depths of human cruelty at play here.

Wayfaring Stranger is apparently the fourth in Burke's Holland Family series, but I didn't actually realise that until I came to searching out Buy links for this review. The novel is entirely self-contained. Set briefly in the 1930s and in Second World War Germany, the bulk of the story takes place in post-war America where our young hero attempts to make his fortune in the burgeoning Texas oil industry. The late 1940s were a fascinating time across much of the world. Communities rebuilt themselves after wartime destruction, mass migration saw new ideas and cultures crossing borders while other peoples found themselves being enclosed, and millions of people were left to cope with the trauma of events they had witnessed during the war years.

Much of this is alluded to during Wayfaring Stranger, but I felt that the novel never quite decided what it wanted to be so misses out on being a strong historical work. It didn't quite convince me as a political crime thriller either. I like the central characters' portrayals. Linda Gail especially is interesting, but the potentially most complex and fascinating character, Rosita, is kept aloof which was disappointing. I did enjoy this novel. It started out very strongly with powerful scenes, but this level of vivid writing wasn't kept up. Instead the digression into upper class political chicanery began to feel a little formulaic as the story progressed and this took the edge off for me. It's a good read, but I thought it could have been great.


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Friday, 15 September 2017

The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield + Giveaway


The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield
Published in America by Steel Rose Press on July 18th 2017

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Add The Smallest Thing to your Goodreads

The very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back. But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?

Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.


I visited the village of Eyam a couple of years ago spending time in the informative little museum there learning the story of how, when the great Plague of 1665 was inadvertently brought to their doors, this heroic community of 260 people chose to quarantine themselves in an attempt to save their neighbours in the surrounding villages and towns. Lisa Manterfield took that original tale and used it as inspiration for The Smallest Thing. This modern-day version bears some relation to the historic truth, but is also very much its own story and I loved reading it!

Manterfield understands the teenage small-town claustrophobic experienced by Emmott Syddall and I felt a lot of both sympathy and empathy for this character throughout the novel. The situation in which she ultimately finds herself is extreme, but always highly plausible - especially as I already knew Eyam had suffered like this before. The tense depiction of a village under siege is brilliant and I could easily imagine the fear and suspicion blooming as more people became sick. (If you're squeamish like me, rest assured that there aren't any gruesome symptom descriptions to contend with!) In fact Manterfield creates this atmosphere so well that I forgot I was reading a Young Adult novel. This book transcends that genre and I would happily recommend it to adult readers as well as teenagers. 



Meet the author:
Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat. A Strange Companion is her first novel.


Author links: 
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

And now for the giveaway!
Open until September 21st, the prize is a copy of The Smallest Thing and a $50 Amazon gift card.

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Books by Lisa Manterfield / Thrillers / Books from England

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu


The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu
First published in Zimbabwe by Weaver Press in 2010. Freight Books edition published in 2013.

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hairdresser of Harare is a stylish, funny and sophisticated first-hand account of life today in Zimbabwe's capital city, confounding stereotypes and challenging injustice with equal fearlessness. This is an upbeat, charming, but at times heart-breaking, story of friendship, prejudice and forgiveness from the heart of contemporary Africa.

Vimbai is the star hairdresser of her salon, the smartest in Harare, Zimbabwe, until the enigmatic Dumisani appears. Losing many of her best customers to this good-looking, smooth-talking young man, Vimbai fears for her job, vital if she's to provide for her young child. But in a remarkable reversal the two becomes allies, Dumi renting a room from Vimbai, then inviting her to a family wedding, where to her surprise, he introduces her to his rich parents as his 'girlfriend'. Soon they are running their own Harare salon, attracting the wealthiest and most powerful clients in the city. But disaster is near, as Vimbai soon uncovers Dumi's secret, a discovery that will result in brutality and tragedy, testing their relationship to the very limit.

I had seen The Hairdresser Of Harare positively reviewed on other book blogs so jumped at the chance to purchase my own copy when the ebook was discounted recently on Amazon. It's a fairly light-hearted story - although with violent episodes towards the end - and I thought Huchu portrayed modern day Zimbabwe in a lively and entertaining way. I liked his characters, all of whom felt real although perhaps slightly larger than life, and the potentially bitchy atmosphere of the hair salon was great fun. Vimbai is a deceptively complex woman. Initially I thought her rather vain and shallow, but as I discovered more about her life and her choices I found myself really rooting for her to succeed.

Huchu describes Harare in a way that made the city appeal to me, but he doesn't shy away from its negative aspects. I was shocked by the aggressive male behaviour that women endure daily - unwanted and uninvited chat-ups repeatedly being followed with abusive language when refused or ignored. Ingrained cultural attitudes towards homosexuality were also difficult for me to accept. Dumi's 'secret' is telegraphed from fairly early on in the novel so I wasn't surprised by the revelation - certainly not as much as Vimbai is! - and her immediate response was disappointing although I suppose understandable given her lack of relevant knowledge.

Having very much enjoyed reading most of The Hairdresser Of Harare, I felt the last quarter was too rushed which did spoil the book a bit for me, but I look forward to reading more Tendai Huchu novels in the future.


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Books by Tendai Huchu / LGBT fiction / Books from Zimbabwe

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Journey's End by Victoria Brewster and Julie Saeger Nierenberg + Giveaway


Journey's End: Death, Dying and the End of Life by Victoria Brewster and Julie Saeger Nierenberg

​Category: Adult Non-Fiction; 558 pages
​Genre: Resource/Educational
Publisher: Xlibris
Release date: July 20, 2017
Tour dates: Sept 4 to 22, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 + M

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In Journey's End, we write about death, dying, and end of life issues. We attempt to define and describe these real-life circumstances, and we discuss ways to proactively deal with them. Multiple personal and professional perspectives provide valuable insights.

What is dying like for dying persons, for loved ones, and for those who lend support in the process? Each experience will have unique qualities. Everyone dies in his own way, on his own schedule. While we explore the dying process, we make no assumptions about how any particular death will unfold.

Grief and bereavement support, training tools, and educational resources are included.

Meet the Authors:




Victoria has a master of social work degree. She has worked as a case manager with older adults for the past seventeen years and as a group facilitator. Her past work experience was as a therapist with children and families, and as a case manager for adults with mental health issues. She just launched a consulting business, NorthernMSW to focus on end of life issues, planning, training, and advocacy, along with memoir writing and life legacy writing.

Julie was inspired equally by her professional backgrounds as a biomedical researcher and long time educator. Julie values open and lively discussions based on interview and research findings, trends in health and wellness, and exciting new modalities of treatment and professional education. She believes it will be through such discussions that we will create new and more satisfying cultural paradigms within which we may live all the days of our lives with dignity and quality of care.

Connect with the authors: Website ~ Facebook

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Sept 30


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Books by Victoria Brewster and Julie Saeger Nierenberg / Relationships / Books from America

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry


A Night On The Orient Express by Veronica Henry
First published in the UK by Orion in July 2013.

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How I got this book:
Received as a giveaway prize

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Orient Express. Luxury. Mystery. Romance. 

For one group of passengers settling in to their seats and taking their first sips of champagne, the journey from London to Venice is more than the trip of a lifetime. A mysterious errand; a promise made to a dying friend; an unexpected proposal; a secret reaching back a lifetime ... As the train sweeps on, revelations, confessions and assignations unfold against the most romantic and infamous setting in the world.

Veronica Henry introduces us to several couples who will be travelling on a single Orient Express journey to Venice. Each pairing is quirky in some way and we learn a little of their history as the novel progresses. Flitting from one story to another made the pace swift, but I would have preferred to have spent more time with fewer people and got to know them better. Particular stories such as Riley and Sylvie are potentially fascinating.

Although the book is inspired and based around the physical train journey, there isn't much detail outside its carriage windows. I did enjoy getting insider information about the Orient Express as it's a trip I have aspired to, but I think most of our protagonists' journeys are within their own emotions as they discover what they really want from their relationships. Having said that, this isn't a deep philosophical read and I was a little irritated by sweeping gender stereotyping. A Night On The Orient Express is an entertaining light holiday novel and I'm happy to have had the opportunity to read it in a sunny campsite field among daffodils!


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Books by Veronica Henry / Women's fiction / Books from England

Monday, 11 September 2017

Service Disrupted by Tyler E. Lloyd


Service Disrupted: My Peace Corps Story by Tyler E. Lloyd
Published by Lloyd Media on the 4th August 2017.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Giving over two years of your life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is admirable, but giving up his life is more than Tyler Lloyd signed up for. Service Disrupted is an engaging memoir in which Tyler tells of his adventures and his eagerness to share his knowledge of gardening and agriculture with the kind and quirky villagers in Burkina Faso, Africa. But when he learns that his end of service medical exam showed a positive HIV test, Tyler’s mind becomes consumed with emotion, worry, and despair. The ups and downs will keep you reading to the end with a new respect for Peace Corps Volunteers and the African people. You’ll be both fascinated and saddened by the Sub-Saharan people who have become much more than a village to Tyler, as he awaits the answer to what his future holds.


I remember as a teenager looking into volunteering with the Peace Corps and being most disappointed to discover that only Americans were eligible to apply! Tyler Lloyd was one such American who spent his two years of service in Burkina Faso. He gives us a few glimpses into the country's life and culture, but this memoir is primarily a recounting of his mental turmoil following a health scare. I thought there was going to be more about the Burkinabe people and the Peace Corps projects Lloyd undertook whilst overseas. (If you are looking for such a memoir then this probably isn't the book for you.) However it is an interesting insight into the reactions of a young man potentially afflicted with a terminal illness, especially the Schrodinger's Cat situation he endures whilst awaiting further tests and a definite prognosis.

Lloyd expresses his emotions well and isn't afraid to portray himself in a negative light which makes for a particularly engaging memoir. I would be interested in an epilogue now, a few years down the line, to discover both whether the life statements he made during the traumatic three weeks ever came to fruition and the long term results of his Burkina Faso projects.


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Books by Tyler E. Lloyd / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky


Where the Bird Sings Best by Alejandro Jodorowsky
First published in Spanish as Donde mejor canta un pájaro in 1992. English language translation by Alfred MacAdam published by Restless Books in March 2015.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There has never been an artist like the polymathic Chilean director, author, and mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky. For eight decades, he has blazed new trails across a dazzling variety of creative fields. While his psychedelic, visionary films have been celebrated by the likes of John Lennon, Marina Abramovic, and Kanye West, his novels—praised throughout Latin America in the same breath as those of Gabriel García Márquez—have remained largely unknown in the English-speaking world. Until now.

Where the Bird Sings Best tells the fantastic story of the Jodorowskys’ emigration from Ukraine to Chile amidst the political and cultural upheavals of the 19th and 20th centuries. Like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Jodorowsky’s book transforms family history into heroic legend: incestuous beekeepers hide their crime with a living cloak of bees, a czar fakes his own death to live as a hermit amongst the animals, a devout grandfather confides only in the ghost of a wise rabbi, a transgender ballerina with a voracious sexual appetite holds a would-be saint in thrall. Kaleidoscopic, exhilarating, and erotic, Where the Bird Sings Best expands the classic immigration story to mythic proportions.

I had not previously heard of Chilean born film director and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky so this translated edition of one of his most popular Spanish language novels is my introduction to his work. The book is a truly fantastical journey back through several generations of the Jodorowsky family, each more bizarre than each other, as they make their way from Russia, via Argentina, to settle in Chile. We meet circus performers, political activists, shoemakers and ballet dancers, a rabbi who doesn't actually exist and a child who is desperately trying to engineer his birth. I did find it quite difficult to keep track of the vast cast of characters, especially because they all are portrayed in a fairytale style. Men and women act on sudden instinct and make life-changing decisions, but without much explanation to the reader so I never felt as if I had got to know anyone as a real person. Also much of each storyline progresses through magical occurrences and extreme coincidence so it is impossible to guess where the narrative will go next!

I was totally swept up in Where The Bird Sings Best for about the first half of the book. Jodorowsky's rich language and incredibly inventive imagination make for a very different reading experience. However, I do think the book is too long to sustain its pace. I thought some of the later threads failed to maintain the promise of their earlier counterparts and felt rushed. I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to read Jodorowsky. His prose does require effort from its reader, but is certainly rewarding and I plan to try the Restless Books translations of two more of his novels at some point in the future. I just need some lighter reads to refresh my brain first!


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Books by Alejandro Jodorowsky / Historical fiction / Books from Chile

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Pretty Perfect by Lana Sky + Giveaway


Pretty Perfect by Lana Sky
Self published on May 31st 2017

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Add Pretty Perfect to your Goodreads

Perfection. It is an illusion that twenty-year-old Anya DeSotto strives to maintain.

The perfect ballerina.

The perfect daughter.

The perfect liar.

Everyone else seems fooled by the charade — but Anya isn’t prepared for the moment her perfect mask is cracked in half by someone much more adept at the art of pretending.

Nearly two decades her senior, Revend Marcus, the owner of a prestigious international ballet company, has no problem with breaking Anya down to suit his own twisted idea of perfection. But when a shadow from Revend’s past looms over their futures, and Anya’s insecurities push their relationship to a violent crescendo, the resulting chaos threatens to destroy them both.

Though, sometimes, even destruction can be pretty perfect.




Meet the author:
Lana Sky is a reclusive writer in the United States who spends most of her time daydreaming about complex male characters and legless cats. She writes mostly paranormal romance, in between watching reruns of Ab Fab and drinking iced tea. Only iced tea. Drain Me is her debut novel and the first novel in the upcoming "Ellie Gray Chronicles."


Author links:



And now for the giveaway!
Open to the US and Canada only (sorry) until September 21st, the prize is a print copy of Pretty Perfect.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






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Books by Lana Sky / Romance fiction / Books from America

Friday, 8 September 2017

Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley


Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley
First published in the UK by Chatto and Windus in 1921.

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How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Denis Stone, a naive young poet, is invited to stay at Crome, a country house renowned for its gatherings of 'bright young things'. His hosts, Henry Wimbush and his exotic wife Priscilla, are joined by a party of colourful guests whose intrigues and opinions ensure Denis's stay is a memorable one. First published in 1921, Crome Yellow was Aldous Huxley's much-acclaimed debut novel.

Brave New World is the famous Aldous Huxley novel and I was very impressed with my audio version of it a few years ago. I saw Crome Yellow in Hailsham's OXFAM shop, an almost new copy at at just £1.50, so bought it expecting something vaguely similar. There are a few glimmers of the direction Huxley's writing would later take, but Crome Yellow, his first published novel, is actually a very humorous country house-based tale. Published in 1921 and set in the same era, it describes the visit of a self-conscious young man, Denis Stone, to a society gathering.

Huxley based his fictional characters on real people and, according to the excellent introduction by Malcolm Bradbury, not everyone was flattered by their portrayals! Huxley pokes fun at the pretensions of the time and of the upper classes, and also includes his writing in the mix. One character, Scogan, is particularly critical of exactly the type of novel that Crome Yellow is. I loved the Wimbushes, Henry and Priscilla, and can picture people I know who are remarkably similar to them. Not a lot happens during the gathering, but Huxley's sharp observations and the incidents he sets up are great fun and frequently had me giggling. There are a few moments where lengthy speechmaking slow the pace and date the novel, but overall I enjoyed Crome Yellow very much.


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Books by Aldous Huxley / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie


Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
First published in the UK by Bloomsbury Circus on the 15th of August 2017.

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can't stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London - or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew.

Then Eamonn enters the sisters' lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to - or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz's salvation? Two families' fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?

A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide - confirming Kamila Shamsie as a master storyteller of our times.

Coincidentally I blogged my WorldReads from Greece a couple of days ago. The five include a Sophocles play, but it is Oedipus not Antigone which I haven't yet read so I can't comment on how closely Home Fire follows the storyline of the original. Home Fire certainly didn't feel like just a retelling of an ancient story because it is very up-to-date in its presentation. Tweets and hashtags cleverly contribute to pace and atmosphere in the later stages. The themes of love, persecution and intolerance are at least as old as human society though so in that respect the narrative is universal and historic.

I liked how Shamsie switches viewpoints between her protagonists and I found myself completely swept into their lives almost from the novel's first page. For a short novel there is a satisfying depth to all the characters. Home Fire is not a particularly comfortable read for a white Brit such as myself. Many instances of my country's casual racism and prejudice against those we perceive as 'other', regardless of their birthplace, are depicted. I was frequently angered and disappointed by hypocritical events and attitudes as well as being made ultra-aware of how language is habitually twisted by politicians and media to inflame emotions and misrepresent people and stories.

I think Home Fire is an important novel of our times so I am delighted to see longlisted for the Booker Prize and hope it also makes the shortlist. Books realistically featuring Muslim characters need to become mainstream in order to help us move away from the aggressive and unhelpful demonisation of so many people.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kamila Shamsie / Retellings / Books from Pakistan

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Dark Mermaid by Christina L Barr + Giveaway


The Dark Mermaid by Christina L Barr
Self published by Ninja Dust Publishing on September 5th 2017

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Add The Dark Mermaid to your Goodreads

“True love is not a myth. It’s mystic. It’s a force in the universe that draws two people together, resulting in incredible power, for either good or complete chaos.”

On the day Luna proves that she is powerful enough to be her father’s heir, she is banished for saving the life of an enchanting human boy. Her father, the king, gives her two options: kill Ian and regain her honor by the time she comes of age, or be destroyed.

Luna finds shelter in forbidden waters and comes under the protection of her father’s greatest enemy, the Sea Witch. As her ward, Luna becomes a fearsome warrior, but struggles with the fear of turning her powerful magic dark.

With only days remaining before her seventeenth birthday, Luna finds Ian sailing the seas in search of answers. Luna is determined to escape her father’s wrath, and the Sea Witch’s plot of revenge, but dark forces won’t allow her to live a human life without making an impossible sacrifice.


Meet the author:
As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts and a pastor, Christina L. Barr has been taught to believe that anything is possible. She's been a serious composer as far back as twelve-years-old, and has had the opportunity to sing her songs around the world.

In 2007, she graduated from Holly High School number nine in her class and attended College for Creative Studies. She started a pop culture website called The Gorgeous Geeks with her two older sisters, and was even featured on Times Magazine. Her addiction to writing emerged when she was eighteen and started her first novel. To date, she has nine novels published, fourteen completed, and her goal is to finish thirty books by her thirtieth birthday. She is currently a Creative Director and spends her days making graphics and videos.

Author links: 
Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads

And now for the giveaway!

Open to the US only (sorry) until September 14th, the winner will receive a signed copy of The Dark Mermaid, a starfish necklace and earring set, a signed poster, bookmark, and pin.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Christina L Barr / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Nomad's Premonition by Georges Benay + Giveaway


The Nomad's Premonition (Book #2) by Georges Benay
Category: Adult Fiction, 240 pages
Genre: Thriller, mystery/suspense
Publisher: Story Merchant Books
Release date: April 28, 2017
Tour dates: August 14 to Sept 15, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (some violence, a couple of swear words - minimal)

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​Eric Martin is desperate to forget his past, one that almost cost him his future.

Working in Paris as deputy head of a bank's internal security department, Eric notices a high-speed trader's uncanny ability to predict extremely profitable trades. Even though there's nothing illegal about the activity, he knows the trader's success is more than just luck.

But, no one believes him. Armed only with a handful of data and a powerful instinct, Eric searches for the mysterious trader on his own. He suspects that a predictive algorithm has fallen into the wrong hands.

​Eric sets off for Istanbul to find answers promised to him by an informant. He finds an unlikely ally in Interpol agent Stephanie Brule. With Interpol wanting him back in Paris and out of the way, Eric's quest is also hampered by the sudden appearance of his ex-lover, a boss he's not sure he can trust, and a terrorist who always seems one step ahead.

​Will Eric put an end, once and for all, to the nightmare that began when he accepted a job that was too good to be true? Or will his need for revenge and justice lead him deeper into a treacherous world he has no way of escaping?

Not having read the first Eric Martin novel, Nomad On The Run, I did feel at quite a disadvantage particularly early on in its sequel, The Nomad's Premonition. I do frequently read series out of order, but with these books I think I would advise people to read them in the order they were written!

Benay does a nice job of presenting Paris and Istanbul to his readers. I thought he evoked their differing atmospheres quite well and I could imagine the backdrops to his scenes. Unfortunately I didn't think we got to know his characters anywhere near as well as their locations. Even Eric remained opaque for much of the novel and his supporting cast never really leapt off the page. Benay gives us a lot of background information which often digresses from the main narrative so The Nomad's Premonition is mostly slow going with sporadic bursts of action.

I know other readers have enjoyed this story, but it wasn't really a good book for me.


Meet the Author:


Georges Benay is a former international banker who is now working as a Toronto-based writer and award-winning photographer. He is the author of two novels, including The Nomad's Premonition and a collection of short stories. His award winning pictures have been featured in several magazines and book covers.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Photography Website ~ Twitter


BOOK TOUR SCHEDULE:
Aug 14 - Library of Clean Reads - review of Nomad on the Run / giveaway
Aug 15 - Olio by Marilyn - review of Nomad on the Run / interview / giveaway
Aug 16 - Essentially Italian - review of Nomad on the Run / giveaway
Aug 17 - Gabriel's Wharf - review of Nomad on the Run
Aug 18 - Northernmsw - review of Nomad on the Run
Aug 21 - The All Night Library - review of Nomad on the Run / guest post
Aug 22 - Hall Ways - book spotlight / interview / giveaway
Aug 23 - T's Stuff - book spotlight / interview / giveaway
Aug 24 - Gabriel's Wharf - review of The Nomad's Premonition
Aug 25 - The Book Drealms - book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 28 - The All Night Library - review of The Nomad's Premonition
Aug 29 - Essentially Italian - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Aug 30 - #redhead.with.book - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Aug 31 - Olio by Marilyn - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Sept 1 - Northernmsw - review of The Nomad's Premonition
Sept 4 - Bound 4 Escape - review of Nomad on the Run / giveaway
Sept 5 - Literary Flits - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Sept 6 - Working Mommy Journal - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Sept 7 - Mystery Suspense Reviews - review of The Nomad's Premonition
Sept 8 - Bound 4 Escape - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Sept 11 - Mystery Suspense Reviews - guest post
Sept 12 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review of Nomad on the Run / giveaway
Sept 14 - Library of Clean Reads - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway
Sept 15 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review of The Nomad's Premonition / giveaway


Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Sept 23
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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Georges Benay / Thrillers / Books from Canada