Thursday, 30 November 2017

Passing by Nella Larsen


Passing by Nella Larsen
First published in America in 1929.

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First published to critical acclaim in 1929, Passing firmly established Nella Larsen's prominence among women writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The Modern Library is proud to present Passing--an electrifying story of two women who cross the color line in 1920s New York--together with a new Introduction by the Obie Award- winning playwright and novelist Ntozake Shange.

Irene Redfield, the novel's protagonist, is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem's elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch. Clare--light-skinned, beautiful, and charming--tells Irene how, after her father's death, she left behind the black neighborhood of her adolescence and began passing for white, hiding her true identity from everyone, including her racist husband.

As Clare begins inserting herself into Irene's life, Irene is thrown into a panic, terrified of the consequences of Clare's dangerous behavior. And when Clare witnesses the vibrancy and energy of the community she left behind, her burning desire to come back threatens to shatter her careful deception.

I was attracted to Passing by its having been written by a black woman in 1920s America. I've read historical fiction set in this location and era, but don't think I've previously read a female-authored book actually written at that time. Passing is an interesting glimpse into the lives of one woman, Irene, who believes herself happy with her black life and family, and Irene's childhood friend Clare who is 'passing' as white and has a white husband.

Disappointingly, this book is only a novella. I like Larsen's writing style, especially the clever way she portrays tense and awkward situations between her characters. I could easily empathise with Irene. Her inability to stand up to Clare is completely understandable. And Larsen does a good job of setting scenes, making them easy to picture in my mind. However, I wanted her to delve more deeply into the complicated relationships between her characters and there just isn't the space to do this in such a short book.

Passing begins as a black person pretending to be white. Irene in particular muses on the phenomenon - what exactly race means to her and whether it has the same meaning for Clare. This meaning morphs as the story progresses and I could see characters deceiving each other further by passing as friends where no friendship really exists. This is a thought-provoking novella which could make for lengthy (and possibly heated!) book group discussions.


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Books by Nella Larsen / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak


The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak
First published in Turkey in 2013.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sixteenth century Istanbul: a stowaway arrives in the city bearing an extraordinary gift for the Sultan. The boy is utterly alone in a foreign land, with no worldly possessions to his name except Chota, a rare white elephant destined for the palace menagerie.

So begins an epic adventure that will see young Jahan rise from lowly origins to the highest ranks of the Sultan's court. Along the way he will meet deceitful courtiers and false friends, gypsies, animal tamers, and the beautiful, mischievous Princess Mihrimah. He will journey on Chota's back to the furthest corners of the Sultan's kingdom and back again. And one day he will catch the eye of the royal architect, Sinan, a chance encounter destined to change Jahan's fortunes forever.

Filled with all the colour of the Ottoman Empire, when Istanbul was the teeming centre of civilisation, The Architect's Apprentice is a magical, sweeping tale of one boy and his elephant caught up in a world of wonder and danger.

The Architect's Apprentice is a beautifully rich novel of sixteenth century Istanbul. It is loosely based around genuine people living in Istanbul at the time - the Sultans existed as did the chief architect, Sinan - however our young hero Jahan is an invention. Shafak says in her afterword that she was inspired to write this novel on seeing a painting of the Sultan. He dominates the picture's foreground, but a boy and his elephant can be seen standing uncertain of themselves in the background. I was amazed at such a detailed story being created from so small a prompt!

Chota, the elephant, often scene-steals the story from Jahan and the rest of the human characters. Istanbul itself is also a strong presence and I appreciated being able to view so many different aspects of the city as it was hundreds of years ago. Jahan finds himself in the midst of the royal palace, but without any status himself which is an interesting contrast. My criticism of The Architect's Apprentice would be that I didn't feel Jahan matured and aged as the others around him did. To me he still seemed to act as a boy even when I was being told that his hair was greying. Except for this though, I loved this book. It doesn't have the political argument of my previous Shafak novel, Three Daughters Of Eve, but it's a good story set in a fascinating city.


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Books by Elif Shafak / Historical fiction / Books from Turkey

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Concerto Al-Quds by Adonis


Concerto Al-Quds by Adonis
First published in Arabic as Kunshirtu alQuds in Lebanon by Dar al Saqi in 2012. English language translation by Khaled Mattawa published in America by Yale University Press today, the 28th November 2017 (UK publication, 3rd January 2018).

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: 4 of 5 stars

A cri de coeur or fully imagined poem on the myth and history of Jerusalem/Al-Quds from the author revered as the greatest living Arabic poet. At the age of eighty-six, Adonis, a Syrian poet, critic, essayist, and devoted secularist, has come out of retirement to pen an extended, innovative poem on Jerusalem/Al-Quds. It is a hymn to a troubled city embattled by the conflicting demands of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Adonis's city, as a coveted land, ought to suggest the universal love of humanity; as a land of tragedy, a place of contending history and beliefs, and a locus of bitterness, conflict, hatred, rivalry, and blood. Wrapping multiple voices, historical references, and political viewpoints within his ecstatic lyricism, Adonis has created a provocative work of unique beauty and profound wisdom, beautifully rendered in English by award-winning poet Khaled Mattawa.

I admit that I struggled with this long poem. It's translation into English by Khaled Mattawa is beautifully done so I could appreciate some of the rhythms and emotions of the Arabic original. At times Adonis feels to be justifiably furious at the continued violence and destruction across Jerusalem. This focal city for three of the world's mist followed religions ought to be a tranquil, serene haven yet perpetual squabbling over religious supremacy has meant it more frequently resembles a war zone. I love the shocking and powerful imagery used to great effect in short 'machine gun' bursts. It contrasts well with softer world-weary verses.

Where I came unstuck though was in my lack of knowledge of Jewish, Muslim and Christian history and of their respective books. I made good use of the comprehensive notes section, included in the English edition at the end of the poem. This is an excellent resource which allowed me to add an extra layer of understanding to my reading. However I feel as though to fully appreciate this great work I need to sit with an expert and discuss Concerto al-Quds line by line.


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Books by Adonis / Poetry / Books from Syria

Monday, 27 November 2017

The One Apart by Justine Avery + Giveaway


The One Apart by Justine Avery
Category: Adult fiction, 568 pages
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy / Paranormal
Publisher: Justine Avery
Release date: Dec 4, 2017
Tour dates: Nov 20 to Dec 8, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13


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Add The One Apart to your Goodreads


Book Description:

Only one obstacle stands in his way of enjoying a normal life.
He remembers—every life he's lived before.

Tres is about to be born... with the biggest burden any has ever had to bear. He is beginning again—as an ageless adult trapped in an infant body.

He and his teenage mother face life filled with extraordinary challenges as they strive to protect, nurture, and hide how truly different he is. But Tres alone must solve the greatest mystery of all: who is he? The answer is linked to the one question he's too afraid to ask: why am I?

In his quest, Tres discovers that all is considerably more interconnected and dynamic than he could ever imagine—and fraught with far more danger. He cannot hide from the unseen threat stalking him since his birth.

Life as he knows it—as all know it—is in peril. And Tres is the only one aware.


Meet the Author:




Justine Avery is an award-winning author of stories large and small for all. Born in the American Midwest and raised all over the world, she is inherently an explorer, duly fascinated by everything around her and excitedly noting the stories that abound all around. As an avid reader of all genres, she weaves her own stories among them all. She has a predilection for writing speculative fiction and story twists and surprises she can’t even predict herself.

Avery has either lived in or explored all 50 states of the union, over 36 countries, and all but one continent; she lost count after moving 30-sometimes before the age of 20. She’s intentionally jumped out of airplanes and off the highest bungee jump in New Zealand, scuba dived unintentionally with sharks, designed websites, intranets, and technical manuals, bartered with indigenous Panamanians, welded automobile frames, observed at the Bujinkan Hombu Dojo in Noba, Japan, and masterminded prosperous internet businesses—to name a few adventures. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree that life has never required, and at age 28, she sold everything she owned and quit corporate life—and her final “job”—to freelance and travel the world as she always dreamed of. And she’s never looked back.

Aside from her native English, Avery speaks a bit of Japanese and a bit more Spanish, her accent is an ever-evolving mixture of Midwestern American with notes of the Deep South and indiscriminate British vocabulary and rhythm, and she says “eh”—like the Kiwis, not the Canadians. She currently lives near Los Angeles with her husband, British film director Devon Avery, and their three adopted children: Becks, Sam, and Lia. She writes from wherever her curiosity takes her.

Avery loves to connect with fellow readers and creatives, explorers and imaginers, and cordially invites you to say “hello”—or konnichiwa.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Dec 16


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Books by Justine Avery / Science fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 26 November 2017

African Me And Satellite TV by Jo Robinson


African Me And Satellite TV by Jo Robinson
Published by Weaverback Press in September 2013.

Where to buy this book:

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For many years Suzette has managed very well to live her life without actually taking part in it, avoiding any possibility of pain by very carefully ignoring reality. Until something happens. Something so terrible that she has no choice but to abandon her cocoon of safety.

After the brutal beating of an elderly domestic worker, Suzette takes her in, and sets off a chain of events that leads to devastating heartbreak. And an unexpected hero changes everything. Finally finding her voice, she speaks out, and her world explodes, culminating in the death of a very special man.

On her path to make amends, she discovers the story of his life, connects with the people of his past, and finds the chance to fully live her life once again if that’s what she chooses to.


I noticed African Me And Satellite TV reviewed on a few other book blogs a year or so ago and thought the novel looked interesting. With Zimbabwe in the news again at the moment I was reminded of the book and bought myself a copy. This is a good story with a strong moral message and I enjoyed reading it. At one point our protagonist, Suzette, comments on her enjoyment of the Alexander McCall Smith Number One Ladies Detective Agency series which I had been thinking African Me reminded me of in style. Although African Me is not crime fiction as such, I think readers who like the McCall Smith books would also appreciate this one.

Robinson's cast of black and white Zimbabweans span a wide spectrum of the country's people allowing her to show varied attitudes. Suzette herself becomes a more rewarding character as the story progresses. At first she struck me as just another irritatingly spoilt white woman, but there is more depth to her. Suzette discovers this along with her readers! Robinson weaves powerful themes into this novel. The hardships in Zimbabwe's recent past, racism and violence, and who has rights to the land, all play a strong part in directing the characters' actions. The harsh racism of newcomers Alison and Peter Sherman is especially shocking. It depressed me to remember that many white people are still so ignorant.

However, this is not a depressing novel, but ultimately an uplifting story of the power of love and friendship. For me Princess, Suzette's accomplished cook, is as much the centre of the tale as Suzette. Expressing her love through the incredible meals she creates, Princess embodies reconciliation and the way forward.


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Books by Jo Robinson / Contemporary fiction / Books from South Africa

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary + Giveaway


Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary
Self published on the 6th November 2017.

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Add Heart Note to your Goodreads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Rachel's Random Resources

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love is like a fine perfume. The top note draws you in, an instant attraction, but the Heart Note is the true essence. Like true love – a great perfume should be a woman’s perfect match.

At least, that’s what perfume counter manager, Lily Lucas, tells her customers in one of Australia’s largest department stores. 

It’s almost Christmas, the store is bedecked with baubles and Lily has about eleventy billion gifts to wrap and sell. She and her team of spritzer chicks are glamorous, professional and hoping they don’t have to wear the hideous red onesies and reindeer antlers the store manager has in mind.

The high point of Lily’s work life is Christos Cyriakos, ex-cop, security guard, possible Greek god. He's a mystery box she’d love to unwrap. But can she trust him?

All Lily wants for Christmas is to kiss Christos (and more), catch a band of thieves running amok in the store, and live happily ever after. Is that too much to wish for?



The first of a new 'Spritzer Chicks' romantic comedy series, Heart Note is set in a cosmetics and perfumery department in busy run up to Christmas. Romance fiction isn't my usual fare, but I enjoyed reading this fun novella. Lily is an engaging character with whom I could easily empathise - especially when she turns into the clumsiest of oafs whenever the gorgeous Christos is near! I enjoyed the interactions and gossip between the shop floor girls too. O'Leary cleverly evokes the madness of the season for retail workers - as I remember only too well! The days get hotter as Christmas draws closer, both in reality because Australian Christmasses are mid-summer and metaphorically for Lily as she starts to realise that Christos might actually be just as attracted to her as she is to him!

Because this is a novella-length story, I did feel that some aspects of the tale were too rushed to do them justice. I thought the crime mystery aspect could have been more fully explained and Uncle Ben is too interesting a character for such a brief cameo. However, as a feel good Christmas read, Heart Note is funny and charming with a great seasonal atmosphere. Perfect for reading with a mulled wine or three!



Meet the author:
Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction writer, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. 

In 2015, Cassandra won the We Heart New Talent contest run by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was released in July 2016. Cassandra was also a 2015 finalist in the Lone Star writing contest, Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America, and a 2014 finalist in the First Kiss contest, Romance Writers of Australia.

Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous. 


Proud member of Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America, Melbourne Romance Writers Guild and Writers Victoria. 

Author links: 
Goodreads ~ Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

And now for the Giveaway!
There are five ebook copies of Heart Note up for grabs. The giveaway is open internationally until the 2nd of December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




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Books by Cassandra O'Leary / Romance fiction / Books from Australia

Friday, 24 November 2017

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings by Audrey Davis


The Haunting of Hattie Hastings by Audrey Davis
Self published today, the 24th November 2017.

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Add The Haunting Of Hattie Hastings to your Goodreads

Some people just won't take death lying down … ! (NB: cliffhanger ending).

Part one of a fun-filled trilogy about life, death and letting go.

Hattie Hastings is happily married, even if husband Gary drives her up the wall at times. When tragedy strikes, she is left alone and heartbroken, with only an assortment of family and friends to prop her up.

Struggling to cope, she is left reeling when her deceased other half returns, popping up at the most inappropriate times.

Hattie can't convince anyone that Gary has returned. Not even best friend Cat – now free from the cruel and controlling Stewart – will believe her.

Why has Gary returned? And what will Cat do when her slimy ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her affections?

The Haunting of Hattie Hastings will make you laugh, cry and count down until Part Two





Meet the author:
Scottish-born Audrey studied journalism in Edinburgh more decades ago than she cares to admit. She cut her writing teeth on provincial newspapers (using a typewriter) and a London-based video magazine (another sign of her advanced years).

Engagement to her now-husband Bill took them to Singapore, Australia and Buckinghamshire, England, before they settled in Switzerland in 2002. Along the way they had two boys, both all grown-up and living in the UK.

Her journey to becoming a published author began with an online Writing Fiction course. It took well over a year but, in June 2017, Audrey published her debut romantic comedy novel, A Clean Sweep. It was quickly followed by a shorter and darker prequel, A Clean Break. The idea for The Haunting of Hattie Hastings came from nowhere, just a random title that popped into her head and from there grew into Part One of a trilogy. It comes under the same genre, but has some poignant scenes and – hopefully – lots of laughs! Audrey admits to being a worrier, and has always used humour as a defence mechanism, as her friends will attest.

When Audrey isn’t writing, she loves shows like The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Strictly Come Dancing (a strange mix, she knows). Her interests include cooking (and eating pretty much anything apart from oysters), travelling and going to the gym. OK, the last one is mainly to compensate for her passion for food!

Audrey would describe herself as a ‘pantser’ rather than a ‘planner’, preferring to run where a story takes her and scribble copious notes along the way. She’d love to write a page-turning thriller, but fears her natural tendency to see the comic side of life might be an obstacle.


Author links: 
Website ~ GoodreadsFacebook ~ Twitter




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Audrey Davis / Romance / Books from Scotland

Thursday, 23 November 2017

IA: Union by John Darryl Winston + Giveaway


IA Union by John Darryl Winston
Published in America by BHC Press tomorrow, the 24th November 2017.

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win signed copies of the IA trilogy (Open internationally for one week from the 24th Nov)

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Naz has lost everyone that he loves. And while he may have found refuge and pause at International Academy, he has found no peace and certainly no answers. All that he knows calls to him from the streets of the Exclave and Union High School where he reunites with friends and mentors. 

Naz struggles, unsuccessfully, to put the pieces of his shattered life back together again—until D comes into his world and changes everything. She helps him put things into perspective, see things he couldn’t see before and remember things he had all but forgotten. 

But when D goes missing, it will take more than Naz’s newly found abilities to discover her whereabouts, rescue her, and bring her unlikely captor to justice. Will he reach her in time?




It feels like I have been waiting ages for the concluding novel in John Darryl Winston's IA trilogy. I enjoyed reading the first two books, IA: Initiate and IA: B.O.S.S. so was delighted to learn IA: Union's publication is imminent. I was even happier to snaffle a preview copy! For once, I have actually read this series in order. The books aren't standalones so, if you haven't already bought IA: Initiate and IA: B.O.S.S. what are you waiting for? I'd advise staying up all night to read before IA: Union joins them tomorrow!

IA: Union again picks up Naz's story from pretty much where the previous novel left off. He is coping with grief, displacement and still coming to terms with the extent of his supernatural abilities. I like Winston's realistic portrayal of Naz's increasing maturity throughout this series. In IA: Union we see almost a world weariness, the result of Naz experiencing so much in the preceeding years, yet there are still moments where his childish nature leap to the fore. The IA series is written for a pre-adult audience, but Winston doesn't shy away from confronting intense emotional themes such as sibling and friend bereavement. Naz's turmoil is very real and, at times, upsetting to read but is softened for the reader by his burgeoning romance with D. The harsh realities of a childhood in The Exclave make for exciting scenes and envisaging Naz using his telekinetic power is breathtaking.

For me the most memorable scene though was the calm way in which a class of schoolchildren respond to 'a lockdown' - meaning a gunman is roaming about inside their school. IA: Union is science fiction, but I was shocked to realise that lockdowns aren't. This is actually 'normal' for American schools!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Darryl Winston / Science fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Ghost Owl by Nancy Schoellkopf + Giveaway



Ghost Owl by Nancy Schoellkopf
Category: Adult Fiction, 181 pages
Genre: Literary / Women's Fiction with magical realism
Publisher: Butterfly Tree Publishing
Release date: October 2017
Tour dates: Nov 20 to Dec 8, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (There are a few non-explicit sex scenes)

Where to buy this book:

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Add Ghost Owl to your Goodreads

Book Description:

Ghost Owl is a magical story of discovery, as a young woman seeks to understand her potential and confront her own shadow. Mariah Easter wakes up in the middle of the night to discover the world is as bright as noon—but for her eyes only. Urged by her godfather, she embarks on a mission to peer into the dark spaces normally hidden from view, leading her to confront the sinister nature of power, the vulnerability of the ill, and the hidden life of a homeless man: a journey that will bring healing to herself and the man she loves.

This compelling and inspirational tale, the third installment of the Avian Series, invites the reader to ponder the extraordinary treasures hidden in the ordinary events of daily life.

To read reviews, please visit Nancy Schoellkopf's page on iRead Book Tours.


Meet the Author: 




Nancy Schoellkopf is the author of the Avian Series of novels including Yellow-Billed Magpie and Red-Tailed Hawk, as well as the short story collection Rover and Other Magical Tales. She has been telling stories and writing poems for many lifetimes. It goes without saying that she’s needed a second income, so this time around she happily taught amazing children in special education classes in two urban school districts in Sacramento, California. A full time writer now, she enjoys lavishing attention on her cats, her garden and her intriguing circle of family and friends.

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

Enter the Giveaway
Ends Dec 16 


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Books by Nancy Schoellkopf / Womens fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A Nocturnal Expedition Round My Room by Xavier De Maistre


A Nocturnal Expedition Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre
First published in French as Expédition Nocturne Autour de ma Chambre in 1825. English language translation by Edmund Goldsmid published in Scotland in 1886.

Where to buy this book:

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The sequel to de Maistre's A Journey Round My Room is another parody set in the tradition of the grand travel narrative, but this time is set over a period of only four hours. De Maistre is again in Turin, this time in an attic room with a view of the sky. Having read the first book, I was better prepared for his style of musing and meditation. You might wonder why I bothered, having only given the first book two stars? Well, I bought the two in one volume and hate discarding books unread!

A Nocturnal Expedition is, for me, a more entertaining read. De Maistre is frequently humorous at his own expense and I thought this book far less self conscious and pompous than A Journey. He discusses gazing up into starry nights, the best methods to gain poetic inspiration, and how to ride a windowsill as though it were a horse. All quite mad, but fun to read and I appreciated the brevity of this book which prevented de Maistre going on at too great a length on any particular topic. Sadly though, several chapters require the reader to have ploughed through A Journey in order to understand A Nocturnal Expedition.


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Books by Xavier de Maistre / Biography and memoir / Books from France

Monday, 20 November 2017

Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer + Giveaway


Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer
Self published in America on the 30th October 2017.

Where to buy this book:

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Add Enchant to your Goodreads

Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world.

Mara is an enchanter, part of an ancient line of Wiccan power, and a war is raging—one of good and evil—between the Enchanted and the Iniquitous.

The Iniquitous want her dead and it’s Theodore’s job as her protector to keep her safe.

When Mara and Theodore arrive at a safe house, where Mara will remain hidden while learning about her powers, they find that the real threat might be a little closer to home than they want to believe.



Meet the author:
Hi. I’m Micalea. Ma-call-e-uh. Weird name, I know. My mom must’ve known I was going to be odd even in the womb. I’ve written a lot of books. Like a lot. Don’t ask me how many, I don’t remember at this point. I have an unhealthy addiction to Diet Coke but I can’t seem to break the habit. I listen to way too much music and hedgehogs have taken over my life. Crazy is the word that best sums up my life, but it’s the good kind of crazy and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Author links:
Twitter ~ Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally until the 30th of November, the prize is a generous $50 Amazon gift card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Micalea Smeltzer / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 19 November 2017

A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell


A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell
First published in Sweden in Swedish in 2011. English language translation by Laurie Thompson published in 2013.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

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Amazon US

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How I got this book:
Swapped for in the book exchange at Camping Les Medes, L'Estartit, Spain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hanna Lundmark escapes the brutal poverty of rural Sweden for a job as a cook onboard a steamship headed for Australia. Jumping ship at the African port of Lourenço Marques, Hanna decides to begin her life afresh.

Stumbling across what she believes to be a down-at-heel hotel, Hanna becomes embroiled in a sequence of events that lead to her inheriting the most successful brothel in town. Uncomfortable with the attitudes of the white settlers, Hanna is determined to befriend the prostitutes working for her, and change life in the town for the better, but the distrust between blacks and whites, and the shadow of colonialism, lead to tragedy and murder.


Having been a tad underwhelmed by my first (and the first) Wallander novel, Faceless Killers, I have since steered clear of Henning Mankell books. However, a lack of choice at my last campsite book exchange meant that I decided to give him another try - especially when I realised that this particular story is historical fiction, not a crime novel. Inspired by a real woman about whom very little is known, Mankell has imagined the life of a young Swedish woman who becomes stranded in early 1900s Mozambique, then snappily known as Portuguese East Africa.

Apparently Mankell partly lives in Mozambique and this familiarity with the country certainly came through in his writing. He describes his locations well from the desperate poverty of rural Sweden to the long boat voyage to the dust and heat of East Africa. I liked how he attempted to portray all sides of the African racial divide. As a Swede, our heroine Hanna initially sees herself as apart from all aspects of Lourenço Marques society, but of course her white skin immediately identifies her as belonging to the European colonists rather than with the black townfolk, even though she feels a greater affinity with their predicament having come from a serf underclass herself. It's an interesting angle through which to view the culture clash, although I did think some of Hanna's thoughts and ideas were more 21st century than early 20th. In common with my previous read, The Underground Railroad, I also felt that Hanna wasn't strongly portrayed enough to maintain focus at the centre of this novel. She often behaved more in keeping with a male character than as I felt a woman would do and this jarred for me. Other than that, I enjoyed reading A Treacherous Paradise and am interested to discover more of Mankell's historical novels.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Henning Mankell / Historical fiction / Books from Sweden

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
First published in America by Doubleday in August 2016.

Where to buy this book:

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Wordery


How I got this book:
Borrowed the book from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Praised by Barack Obama and an Oprah Book Club Pick, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award 2016 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2017.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.

I know I am late to the party in reading The Underground Railroad! I wanted to let some of the hype fade in the hope of not being overly influenced and then disappointed. I think my scheme worked - I certainly did enjoy the novel.

I hadn't previously realised the nuances of various American states attitudes and laws concerning slavery and black people's place in society. Whitehead's device of Cora journeying to a number of different states allowed me to see far more than the South=slavery, North=freedom divide that I had imagined from previous Civil War novels I have read. I was impressed by his research and the authenticity of the locations and scenes described. As historifical fiction, The Underground Railroad does a fantastic job of bringing this era of American history to life.

I wasn't convinced at first by the imagining of the Railroad itself as a real railway network. However as the novel progressed I could appreciate the idea more and felt that it did fit well within the story. My only lasting gripe is that I didn't think Cora was a real a person as she needed to be. Surrounding characters were more strongly defined and, for me, Cora often felt like a shadow or a space than a genuine woman living through these experiences. We are told a lot about her thoughts and aspirations, but I thought the woman herself was kept too distant and aloof.

Overall though, The Underground Railroad was an interesting and very readable novel. It depicts a place and time I thought I knew, but in such a new way that I realised there is still a lot more to learn. Well derserving of its hype!


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Books by Colson Whitehead / Historical fiction / Books from America

Friday, 17 November 2017

Ours Is The Winter by Laurie Ellingham


Ours Is The Winter by Laurie Ellingham
Published by HQ Digital today, the 17th November 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

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Add Ours Is The Winter to your Goodreads

Journeying across the Arctic, their pasts are about to catch up with them.

Erica, Molly and Noah are embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, driving Siberian huskies across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Cut off from the world and their loved ones and thrown together under gruelling conditions, it isn’t long before the cracks start to show.

Erica has it all. A loving husband, a successful career and the most adorable baby daughter. But Erica has been living a double life, and as she nears her fortieth birthday her lies threaten to come crashing down.

Molly was on her way to stardom. But when her brother died, so did her dreams of becoming an Olympic champion.  Consumed by rage and grief, she has shut out everyone around her, but now she’s about to learn that comfort can come from the most unexpected places.

Noah has a darkness inside him and is hounded by nightmares from his past. Tortured, trapped and struggling to save his fractured relationship, he knows this journey is not going to help, but try telling his girlfriend that.

As their lives and lies become ever more entwined, it becomes clear that in the frozen wilds there is nowhere to hide.





Meet the author:
Laurie Ellingham lives on the Suffolk/Essex border with her two children, husband, and cockerpoo Rodney. She has a First Class honours degree in Psychology and a background in Public relations, but her main love is writing and disappearing into the fictional world of her characters, preferably with a large coffee and a Twix (or two) to hand.


Author links: 
Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter




Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laurie Ellingham / Adventure stories / Books from England

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson


Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
First published in America by Farrar Straus and Giroux in 1980.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Acclaimed on publication as a contemporary classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and Lucille, orphansgrowing up in the small desolate town of Fingerbone in the vast northwest of America.

Abandoned by a succession of relatives, the sisters find themselves in the care of Sylvie, the remote and enigmatic sister of their dead mother. Steeped in imagery of the bleak wintry landscape around them, the sisters' struggle towards adulthood is powerfully portrayed in a novel about loss, loneliness and transience.

I picked up my vintage copy of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson at a campsite book exchange in France knowing nothing about the author and being primarily attracted to the book by virtue of its being a King Penguin publication - the writing would at least be of a good standard even if the story wasn't completely to my taste. As it turned out, both writing and story were superb.

Set in small town America, in the wonderfully named Fingerbone, Housekeeping is told from the point of view of Ruthie, the younger of two sisters left orphaned after their mother's suicide. Abandoned to their grandmother's care then briefly picked up by a pair of nervous great-aunts, before finding themselves coping with (or in spite of) the best intentions of their traveller aunt Sylvie, the girls are left increasingly to their own devices with fascinating results. Robinson describes what could be seen as an idyllic childhood, roaming free instead of attending school, but all around are reminders of what the girls have lost and, perhaps more importantly, what they still do not have. When elder sister Lucille begins to rebel against Sylvie, we as readers suddenly understand how the family are viewed by the rest of the town and how rigidly narrow their expected life path should be.

I love how Robinson writes women. The great-aunts have so obviously always been together that they cannot even speak independently. Even Helen's brief thoughtfulness in providing her children food, although she will leave them moments later, is a very real detail beautifully portrayed. I was gripped by Ruthie's narration throughout the novel and her ultimate decision of whose expectations should direct her life is emotional to read.


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Books by Marilynne Robinson / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr + Giveaway


Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr
Category: Adult fiction, 400 pages
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Release date: November 17, 2017
Tour dates: Nov 1 to 30, 2017
Content Rating: PG + M (Please be aware that TWOFER MURDER is a murder mystery. There are depictions of murder and some violence--though easy on the gore contents. No f-words but there may be some mild profanity, and mild religious expletives such as "damn", "hell" and "Oh God!". Some depictions of brief sexual content (kissing). No drug use or underage drinking among the protagonists.)

Where to buy this book:

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Alibris

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Twofer murder? What’s a twofer murder?

Twofer Murder is a treat for fans of best-selling author Lauren Carr’s fast-paced mysteries! Lauren’s latest novel contains the main characters from her three successful series: Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose mysteries. The guys go away for a fishing weekend only to get caught up in the murder of a journalist investigating fraud at a timber company. Meanwhile, the ladies are spending the weekend in the presidential suite at a posh resort where Jessica Faraday is to accept a lifetime achievement award for her late grandmother at a murder mystery writers conference. But before they have time to get their facials, they get wrapped up in their own real mystery when an up and coming author ends up dead!

Lauren Carr’s Twofer Murder is a 2-for-1 — making it a must-read for any mystery fan!


Watch the trailer:




Meet the Author:



Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.


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



What are readers saying about Lauren Carr's mysteries?



Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Dec 4


a Rafflecopter giveaway




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Books by Lauren Carr / Crime fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao


The Oddfits by Tiffany Tsao
Published in America by Amazon Crossing in February 2016.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords

Speedyhen

The Book Depository

Waterstones

Wordery


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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eight-year-old Murgatroyd Floyd doesn’t fit in—not as a blue-eyed blonde living in Singapore, not in school, and certainly not with his aloof expatriate parents, who seem determined to make his life even harder. Unbeknownst to him, there’s a reason why he’s always the odd boy out: he is an Oddfit, a rare type of human with access to the More Known World, a land invisible to most people. Yet unfortunate circumstances keep Murgatroyd stranded in the Known World, bumbling through life with the feeling that an extraordinary something is waiting for him just beyond reach.

Seventeen years later, that something finally arrives when a secret organization dedicated to exploring the More Known World invites Murgatroyd on a mission. But as the consummate loser begins to grow into the Oddfit he was meant to be, the Known World becomes bent on exterminating him. For once in his underachieving life, will Murgatroyd Floyd exceed expectations and outsmart those trying to thwart his stupendous destiny?

The Oddfits is set in Singapore which appealed to me as I know very little about the city and Tsao gives lots of interesting insights into everyday life there. I loved the cover art too!

Tsao has created a great character in her protagonist, the unfortunately named Murgatroyd Floyd. A blonde haired, blue eyed caucasian child of British parents, Murgatroyd hasn't found his place in Singapore, even though he has never lived anywhere else, and Tsao uses this extreme example of not belonging to highlight the sense of alienation that most of us feel at one time or another. Physically different and socially inept, and with a name that is unpronounceable to Singaporean tongues, Murgatroyd only finds 'home' in an ice-cream shop owned by a strange elderly man who had previously vanished for over sixty years. Billed as science fiction, The Oddfits does take its readers to other worlds, sort of, but it is essentially a novel about how we view ourselves and how other people see us. Murgatroyd seems to call out to be pitied, yet he doesn't see himself as especially hard done by. He is content in a job that suits him perfectly, with a best friend he has known since his school days, and with parents who always do their best for him. However, once he meets a one-eyed woman in a green dress, he begins to wonder whether his future is quite so clear as he had once believed.

I frequently found myself smiling at the rich and often bizarre imagery in The Oddfits and I now really, really want to visit Singapore. There's lots of delicious-sounding food there for a start - this is another novel to read with snacks on standby! The idea of L'Abbatoir restaurant is gorily appealing although I am far to squeamish to ever eat there, and the Duck Assassin is one scary creation. I did like Olivia and James too - not as they are, obviously, but the idea that people could really behave like that is great for the book. This is a fun read with a seriously thoughtful side. It won't appeal to sci-fi fans who like action-packed books, but those who like to take a sideways glance at our own world will probably enjoy the ideas a lot.


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Books by Tiffany Tsao / Science fiction / Books from America

Monday, 13 November 2017

Venetian Blood by Christine Evelyn Volker


Venetian Blood: Murder In A Sensuous City by Christine Evelyn Volker
First published in America by She Writes Press in August 2017.

Where to buy this book:

Abebooks

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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The Book Depository

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Struggling to forget a crumbling marriage, forty-year-old Anna Lucia Lottol comes to Venice to visit an old friend—but instead of finding solace, she is dragged into the police station and accused of murdering a money-laundering count with whom she had a brief affair. A US Treasury officer with brains and athleticism, Anna fights to clear her name in a seductive city full of watery illusions. As she works to pry information from a cast of recalcitrant characters sometimes denying what she sees and hears, she succeeds in unleashing a powerful foe bent on destroying her. Will she save herself and vanquish her enemies, including her darkest fears? 

A mysterious tapestry of murder, betrayal, and family, Venetian Blood is a story of one woman’s brave quest for the truth —before it’s too late.

I've done well for Venice-set novels recently and I enjoyed Christine Evelyn Volker's addition to their ranks, Venetian Blood. The story plays itself out in the present day and I recognised several of its locations from my own brief visit to the city. Volker also takes us behind the scenes so to speak. We see into affluent homes and their courtyards as well as atmospherically exploring its narrow streets and alleys by night. I felt this author has a real affinity for Venice and appreciated her attention to detail in its presentation. Scenes such as a night-time chase came vividly to life as I read.

It did take me a few chapters to get into this story, but once this happened I was keen to keep reading. Anna is an interesting person to follow although I thought she was lucky that so much of her private investigation just happened to fall into her area of particular expertise! I felt the supporting characters needed stronger portrayals because I sometimes struggled to remember who was who. Similarities in name added to this confusion - Anna, Angela and Agatha all having important parts to play. However the intricacies of the whodunnit are nicely engrossing with the denouement being suitably unexpected and satisfying.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Christine Evelyn Volker / Crime fiction / Books from America