Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Fyre by Katherine Bogle


Fyre by Katherine Bogle
Published by Patchwork Press on the 9th February 2017.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Join Haven and her siblings on four unique adventures in a time when war ravaged the six kingdoms.
HAVEN has always hated royal gatherings, and jumps at the chance to sneak away for a race through town on horseback. But when the young princess is injured, her ancestry is brought into question.
Much is expected of the heir to the Rythern throne, but when LUCIAN is forced to leave the warfront by his father, his reluctant agreement comes at a price.
The battle for Helms Keep has disastrous consequences for MARCEL. Soon he finds himself fighting both enemy forces and his own memories.
ASTRID is sent to the family summer home in the Cinder Mountains for her own safety. Only she doesn’t expect the knee-high snow and frigid temperatures. With only her guards to protect her, Astrid must dig deeper than she ever thought herself capable of in order to survive.'

Having already read Katherine Bogle's first Chronicles Of Warshard novel, Haven, and looking forward to the second, Savages (due in April!), I enjoyed this brief revisit to Rythern. Fyre predates Haven by varying lengths of time for each of four short stories, each of which focuses on one of the Royal siblings. We had practically no information about the children previously so, while Fyre is a relatively short read, it provides greater depth to the original novel and is a valuable companion.

Each story takes place over a brief time period, all during the period of evil Queen Kadia's attempt to conquer Warshard. We seen Rythern Castle in all its glory, fierce battles, childish pranks going horribly wrong, and exile to a harsh world. Bogle's rich descriptions bring her world vividly to life and I am now even more eager for Savages' publication!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Katherine Bogle / Fantasy / Books from Canada

Monday, 27 February 2017

Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue


Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

First published in America by Random House in August 2016.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'New York, 2007: a city of dreamers and strivers, where the newly-arrived and the long-established jostle alike for a place on the ladder of success. And Jende Jonga, who has come from Cameroon, has just set his foot on the first rung. Clark Edwards is a senior partner at Lehman Brothers bank. In need of a discrete and reliable chauffeur, he is too preoccupied to closely check the paperwork of his latest employee. Jende’s new job draws him, his wife Neni and their young son into the privileged orbit of the city’s financial elite. And when Clark’s wife Cindy offers Neni work and takes her into her confidence, the couple begin to believe that the land of opportunity might finally be opening up for them. But there are troubling cracks in their employers’ facades, and when the deep fault lines running beneath the financial world are exposed, the Edwards’ secrets threaten to spill out into the Jonga’s lives. Faced with the loss of all they have worked for, each couple must decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams – and what they are prepared to sacrifice along the way.'

I was excited by the beginning of this very readable novel which explores the American immigration experience from the point of view of Jenda and Neni Jonga, economic migrants from Cameroon who strive to build themselves a good life in New York. Mbue has a good ear for dialogue and I found her central four characters convincing. After a cousin recommends Jende for a chauffeur job, we get an interesting juxtaposition of two families leading almost completely opposite lives. Jende and Neni have little in the way of material possessions, but enjoy strong family bonds and a good relationship. Jende's employer, Clark Edwards, has his Lehman Brothers banking career to thank for his personal wealth. His family lack for nothing in a material sense, but are sadly dysfunctional from an emotional perspective. Money cannot always buy happiness?

Unfortunately, from this strong start, I became increasingly more disappointed as Behold The Dreamers progressed. The narrative struck me as frequently too light and superficial for its themes and I felt uncomfortable with Jende's asylum application being fraudulent and this blithely portrayed as the normal route. In the present near-hysterical political climate regarding migration, refugees and asylum, I think a more responsible approach to the topic is needed. Propagation of the 'all immigrants are liars' myth doesn't help anyone.

The psychological effects of Jende's immigration battle are what particularly drives Mbue's story. As readers we see very little of the bureaucratic process itself, but can understand how the stress affects his temper and divides his family. I didn't find many of their actions actually believable towards the end of the novel though and Neni's passivity is infuriating. Overall, Behold The Dreamers is nicely written and did hold my attention throughout. I liked the range of characters and the evocation of New York, but I would have liked a deeper exploration of this emotionally charged and politically sensitive subject.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Imbolo Mbue / Contemporary fiction / Books from Cameroon

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Guest Review: One-Two by Igor Eliseev


One-Two by Igor Eliseev
Published in the UK by Glagoslav Publications in December 2016.

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

Guest review by Mark Benjamin
Mark Benjamin is the author of two books (and counting) including the vampire novel A Change Of Heart (my review here). When not writing his third book or planning literary world domination, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, Lucy; entertaining his under one-year old daughter, Leia; playing on his PlayStation, AnnA; and reading (obviously).

Mark's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two conjoined babies are born at the crossroads of two social worldviews. Girls are named Faith and Hope. After spending their childhood in a foster home and obtaining primary education, they understand that they are different from other people in many respects. The problems of their growing up are exacerbated with permanent humiliations from society.
Finally, fortune favors them, slightly opening a door to happiness – separation surgery that theoretically can be performed in the capital. And sisters start their way, full of difficulties and obstacles. Will they be able to overcome a wall of public cynicism together with internal conflicts among themselves? Will they find a justification for their existence and accept it? Searching for the answers to these and many other questions constitutes the essence of this novel.
One-Two is a psychological drama, the main events of which unfold in 1980s and 1990s. The novel is a speculation about how difficult it is to be a human and how important it is to stay human until the end. It is a message full of empathy and kindness addressed to all people. I believe the right time has come. I hope this book is for you.


Mark says: Indeed for me, the right time did come when I read this book. Now, seeing as to how this is my second review (I'm no longer a virgin in this regard), I had trouble when it came to writing this. There were too many quotes which I absolutely loved (so I'll string some along in the review) and it was pretty hard to decide where to start. But here goes...

Let's start at the beginning. One-Two is set in the 1980s and 1990s of Russia, in the Soviet Union era and particularly during the Perestroika period. From the onset, this reminded me of my History lessons as a teenager, wistfully remembering how Mikhail Gorbachev in the Cold War wished to restructure (the meaning of Perestroika) the Soviet political and economic system within the Communist Party. Perestroika was one of the causes for the dissolution of the USSR. A memorable quote from One-Two author, Igor Eliseev, which showcases this time period within the story, is:

“People are strange and incomprehensible. Once they are forbidden from doing something, they revolt, grow loud and unrestricted in their hate.”

Faith and Hope are conjoined twins with Faith being the narrator as she speaks to her twin, Hope. I found this particularly refreshing as to how intriguing the story played out. Faith and Hope are the main protagonists and they come to meet a host of friendly and at times not-so-friendly characters along the way. The main antagonists in my humble opinion as a reader, are the emotions of despair, alcoholism, and the dire physical and emotional abuse treated towards them by all and sundry, in their heartbreaking journey where they wish to some day become surgically separated. Don't get me wrong however; this is a genius novel, a psychological literary drama that shall pull at all your heartstrings. But don't let that detract you from enjoying it as there are beautiful moments within, all the way to such a realistic ending, I actually felt like clapping my hands at the end of it and raising a glass of kosher whiskey.

From the beginning, Faith seems to me the weaker of the twins, finding strength in Hope until the closing parts of the story, where Faith has grown to be the stronger. At the start of the novel, the young girls face a trying time at the foster home. One of my memorable quotes there was:

“The principal gave us a sharp look that immediately accused us of all our past wrong-doings and of our future ones, too, including, first and foremost, the fact that we had the audacity to be born...”

This to me set the tone of the book and the hardships that Faith and Hope shall endure in their life, and that they only have each other to rely on.
The girls are all but children, but the way Faith approaches life, at times sardonically dark with a poetic sense of humour mixed in, gives one the feeling that she is wise beyond her years, and not in a way that children should be. Hardened to life and accepting her fate in it, another memorable quote that Igor Eliseev, the fantastic author of One-Two, displays is:

“It sometimes feels like you and I are at the movie theater, sitting next to each other and watching the same movie. People say something, argue incessantly, even fight, but it is all somewhere else, somewhere far away, on the other side of the screen, and we are just passive onlookers unable to affect the course of events.”

I shall be honest in this review, as I always am. There are some truly depressing parts in the story where you feel so terrible for what Faith and Hope have to endure as they take you on their pursuit of surgically-separated-happiness, that you actually feel a pain, wondering how monstrous humans are capable of being. But through it all, their strength to survive, their strength to keep on moving, is both beautiful and poignant. As an example of their depths of despair, when the conjoined twins suffered one of their first major setbacks, Faith asked of Hope:

“Hope, tell me how it is possible that grief and happiness are scattered all over the world so unevenly? Why do some people get all the troubles and misfortunes while others are intoxicated with an abundance of material belongings, fat bellies and money? Why is there such injustice? Or, maybe, we are mistaken that it's unfair?”

And another philosophical quote which displays Faith's view of the world, through her young eyes,

“People have no limits either in love or in hatred. But is it their fault? They despise us because they are afraid, for we remind them that getting crippled or sick might happen to anyone; or, perhaps, the true reason for their hatred lies much deeper inside, stemming from a hidden ugliness in their souls?”

In overall, I enjoyed this literary masterpiece by a Russian author (Igor Eliseev) writing in English. One-Two is a tragic drama which though slow-moving, is entrancing with its prose and deep insights. More than once, uncountable really, it made me think of life and how I treat others less fortunate than myself (not that I was a bad person to begin with before you go there!) I do believe that reading this book once is definitely not enough, and I see myself reading it a few more times in my lifetime. Thank you, Igor Eliseev, in giving the world this amazing and extraordinary tale!



Thank you Mark!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Igor Eliseev / Historical fiction / Books from Russia

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Weltanschauung by Vikki Patis


Weltanschauung by Vikki Patis
Self published in November 2016.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The harbinger, the oddball, the remaining twin… Weltanschauung seeks to open your eyes to different stories, set in different worlds and at different times, but with the same theme in mind: to make you question your worldview. This collection of short stories traverses genres, introduces a variety of characters, and shines a light on some of our deepest fears. Challenge your perceptions.

Despite its German language title - meaning worldview - this collection of five short stories is firmly rooted in English culture. I liked that several of the offerings are set in the West Country, not so far from my Devon home! Patis explores dark themes, putting her mostly very ordinary characters into extraordinary situations where their mental health and resilience are severely tested. She is not constrained by any specific genre so the tales encompass horror, thriller and dystopian science fiction, all with a chilling psychological aspect that I particularly enjoyed.

I think my favourites are Only If and Grave Oversight. Only If introduces us to a teenage girl who is failing to cope with the death of her twin the previous year. I understood early where the story might be heading and the writing is as compelling as an inevitable accident. Despite willing a change of course to occur, the fates are resolutely set on their path to its heart rending conclusion. Grave Oversight, by contrast, does not reveal its truth until its very last moments and I really should not have read this story so close to bedtime! The final story, Bane, was the only one in which I was a little disappointed because I felt it warranted being a longer and more detailed piece. Otherwise I think Weltanschauung is a strong collection of unexpected and thoughtful stories.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vikki Patis / Short stories / Books from England

Friday, 24 February 2017

Into The Fire by Manda Scott


Into the Fire by Manda Scott
Published in the UK by Bantam Press in June 2015.

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

How I got this book:
Won in a @followthehens Twitter giveaway

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2014: In the French city of Orléans, a man’s charred corpse is found in a burned-out hotel, stripped of all ID. Police captain Inès Picaut must hunt down his killer before others fall prey to the fire. She has only one clue: the name of a woman who has been dead for over five hundred years.
1429: Joan of Arc is taking the war to the English. They want her dead but the only way to reach her is through a fiercely loyal inner circle - until undercover spy Tomas Rustbeard finally earns her trust.
The myths of the past hold the key to the mystery of the present, but how many must die before the truth is laid bare?

Into The Fire is set in Orleans, a French town I haven't yet visited, and it has a good sense of the Gallic about the writing, particularly in the early stages of the modern day crime story. Scott develops two stories alongside each other - one being a police procedural set in political circles in 2014 Orleans, the other taking us back to fifteenth century France and the military campaigns of Jehanne d'Arc. For the first half of the book I really enjoyed both stories. The political intrigues of both are interesting and well described. The characters are realistic and Scott has a talent for concisely portraying her scenes to enable easy imagining without slowing the pace with too much description.

However, once the modern day story steps up a gear, I found it headed swiftly into unbelievable events with the characters losing all sense of themselves. It was as if they were merely following a bad Hollywood action screenplay where all realism is sacrificed for relentless action. There is even a random unprofessional romance flung in for no good reason and, of course, the whole plot is centres personally on the chief investigator because that's the way these thrillers always pan out. By contrast, the historical storyline stays strong and fascinating, but I found the modern day shenanigans so distracting that it was hard to keep focused. I would far rather Scott had made this purely a historical novel and not tried for the dual aspect. The two stories are only tenuously linked so Jehanne's tale would easily have stood alone and the book would be the better for it.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Manda Scott / Historical fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Moon In A Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier


Moon in a Dead Eye by Pascal Garnier
First published by Zulma in French in France in 2009. English language translation by Emily Boyce published by Gallic Books in July 2013.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Given the choice, Martial would not have moved to Les Conviviales. But Odette loved the idea of a brand-new retirement village in the south of France. So that was that. At first it feels like a terrible mistake: they're the only residents and it's raining non-stop. Then three neighbours arrive, the sun comes out, and life becomes far more interesting and agreeable. Until, that is, some gypsies set up camp just outside their gated community.

My first Pascal Garnier novel, The Panda Theory, was absolutely brilliant and I hoped for a similarly wonderful read again. Moon In A Dead Eye starts out well. Retired couple Martial and Odette have given up their suburban Parisian home for a newly-built house in a retirement complex in the sunny south of France. They are looking forward to making new friends through the promised social activities and lazing by the pool. Except the pool hasn't been filled yet, no one else has arrived and the rain is constant. Garnier sets up this scenario perfectly and his practically empty complex reminded me of the estate of unsold houses in The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.

Eventually more people do move in - another couple and a single woman. Garnier understands his characters well and I enjoyed reading their interactions. Social club organiser Nadine is fun and there is definitely something a bit weird about the caretaker! For me, Moon In A Dead Eye was great up until this point. Then, when gypsies parking up nearby causes increased worry and paranoia amongst the residents, I thought that too many events happened too swiftly with the result being unbelievable and farcical. Perhaps a slower reveal in a longer book would be more convincing, or a stage adaptation as a real farce, but within the confines of this novella I thought it all too over the top.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Pascal Garnier / Crime fiction / Books from France

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith


Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange by Helen Smith
Published by Tyger Books in December 2014.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An entertaining short story set in a futuristic England, Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange is a bite-sized introduction to Helen Smith’s writing.
Sarah wanted a sensitive, poetic, romantic boyfriend who would bring her flowers. Ryan ticks all the boxes. So why isn’t Sarah happy?

The story was first told as a theatrical play and I can see how it would work just as well on stage. Smith doesn't give extensive background to her characters so this snapshot view of Sarah and Ryan allows for imaginative interpretation of their situation. Definitely set in a future society, but not necessarily so far from today, we see the results of genetic matchmaking. If we could really tick a dozen boxes and be allocated your perfect partner, would we actually appreciate the person we got? At just fifty pages Purple, Silver, Olive, Orange is a quick read, but one which I found provoked disproportionate levels of thought about romance, relationships and expectations. It's themes are deceptively deep considering the apparent simplicity and brevity of the tale. Perhaps this would be a good book club suggestion?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Helen Smith / Science fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

The Question Of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak


The Question Of Red by Laksmi Pamuntjak
First published as Amba by Gramedia Pustaka Utama in Indonesian in Indonesia in 2013. English language translation by the author published by AmazonCrossing in July 2016.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this sweeping saga of love, loss, revolution, and the resilience of the human spirit, Amba must find the courage to forge her own path.
Amba was named after a tragic figure in Indonesian mythology, and she spends her lifetime trying to invent a story she can call her own. When she meets two suitors who fit perfectly into her namesake’s myth, Amba cannot help but feel that fate is teasing her. Salwa, respectful to a fault, pledges to honor and protect Amba, no matter what. Bhisma, a sophisticated, European-trained doctor, offers her sensual pleasures and a world of ideas. But military coups and religious disputes make 1960s Indonesia a place of uncertainty, and the chaos strengthens Amba’s pursuit of freedom. The more Amba does to claim her own story, the better she understands her inextricable bonds to history, myth, and love.

Pamuntjak begins her novel with a brief recounting of the Hindu myth of Amba, Salwa and Bhishmo, a love triangle that doesn't end well for anyone. We learn that Indonesian culture believes a child's name will have a strong influence over their life, fate if you will, so Amba's father's decision to give her this name is seen as tempting fate even though he intends that she should rise above her destiny. Amba herself however, apart from one brave stand in her youth, gets very little say in her future and this is what I found most exasperating about the book. She is perpetually defined and defines herself by her relationship to the man in her life at the time, and each of the men fulfilling this role is apparently obliged to fall in love with her solely because of her beauty.

I thought it a shame that the historical aspect of the novel is obscured by so much of this waffle as this era of civil war seemed to me to be far more interesting. I was reminded of George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia by the profusion and confusion of political groups and acronyms. Bhisma's letters, while being a weird literary device, grouped together as they are, provide fascinating insights into the lives of alleged communist political prisoners exiled from Indonesian society and I would have loved to have learned more about this. How did they live and what would it have felt like to be in a family also exiled as a reward to a 'well-behaved' prisoner? I would have preferred The Question Of Red to have been more of a deep historical novel with much less emphasis given to Amba's romantic vacillations and petty jealousies.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laksmi Pamuntjak / Historical fiction / Books from Indonesia

Monday, 20 February 2017

Dan's Narrowboat Life by Daniel Mark Brown


Dan's Narrowboat Life by Daniel Mark Brown
Self published in January 2015.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Dan's Narrowboat Life, boat dwelling author, Dan Brown, takes us on a journey down the scenic, rural canals of Shropshire, and through one calendar year of his life afloat.
A quick read, Dan keeps his writing focused on life on his narrowboat Tilly, filling the book with insights as to why a life on the canal has Dan hooked. From calm days spent in the perfect countryside environment, ever changing with his location, to unexpectedly having to walk his boat a few feet down the canal at three in the morning. This book highlights some of Dan's best (...and worst) moments afloat.
Written with the friendly, conversational style that has led over 100,000 people to take a peek into Dan's world online each month. Dan's Narrowboat Life captures the essence of a young man trying to live a simple, active life in the greenery and scenery surrounding his floating home.


This second volume of Dan's narrowboating memoirs again does a good job of portraying just how beautiful and serene the British countryside is around the Llangollen canal along the Welsh borders. I would be interested to know how many people have been influenced to visit the region through reading his books or viewing his YouTube videos! I again was drawn to the solitude and tranquillity of his chosen lifestyle, especially the opportunities for walking and cycling in such a natural environment. I wasn't so gripped this time around as I was when reading The Narrowboat Lad though. I think Dan's Narrowboat Life, framed as it is by a calendar year, misses the strong sense of purpose that was a compelling part of the former book. Dan's anecdotes are entertaining in themselves, but I would have appreciated more narrative in place of so much gentle rambling.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Daniel Mark Brown / Biography and memoir / Books from England

Sunday, 19 February 2017

George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle


George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle
First published as L’avant-dernière chance in French in France in 2009. English language translation by Anna Aitken published by Gallic Books in March 2015.
Winner of the Prix Nouveau Talent in 2009 and Prix Chronos in 2011.
One of my WorldReads from France

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the age of 83, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbour Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George's over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it's time to seize the moment. But just when he feels free of family ties, George's granddaughter Adèle starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn't even know how to use a mobile. George is plagued by doubts, health worries and an indifference to modern technology. And yet - might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?

George's Grand Tour caught my eye by its marketing towards fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, a book I enjoyed a couple of years ago. The two do share the similarity of elderly men going on seemingly impossible travels, but where Harold walked off unexpectedly, George and his longtime neighbour, Charles, have spent months planning their epic excursion. They are going to follow in the tyre tracks of the 2008 Tour de France cycle race - in a Renault Scenic.

I found this novel to be surprisingly moving, even welling up a couple of times during the latter pages. Vermalle's characters are well-drawn with even peripheral figures such as Charles' wife Therese being thoroughly believable. As Dave and I are on our own French tour at the moment I easily identified with the wanderlust aspect and was able to draw on my own memories of Carnac and the Emerald Coast to add to the evocative written descriptions. What, on the face of it, appears to be a simple story of George and his London-based grand-daughter, Adele, re-establishing their lost friendship, develops into a emotionally layered tale of memories and loss, with a strong message of the importance of seizing every moment before it is too late.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Caroline Vermalle / Humorous fiction / Books from France

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Case Of The Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman + Giveaway


The Case Of The Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman
Self published in January 2014.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

We get to learn more about Jamie in this second Jamie Quinn series cosy mystery and I love that her character is so different from the normal run of amateur sleuth dysfunctionals. Perpetually hungry Jamie is a chatty, kindly soul who comes across as a happy and confident woman despite issues in her personal life that she has to deal with. In this story, the eponymous Killer Divorce affects one of her clients and Jamie roots around to uncover the truth while also juggling a search for her long-lost father and stumbling into a new relationship. I like that she isn't remotely suave or elegant and I think I would get on well with Jamie if she were real! The Case Of The Killer Divorce is a light and enjoyable read which flashed past as Venkataraman keeps up a pretty rapid pace throughout. The multiple story focus points meld well together and the character relationships are sympathetically portrayed.


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

I know it's been a little while since I ran a Giveaway. I hope you can all remember what to do!

The Giveaway is open worldwide for one week from today and previous Literary Flits giveaway winners are welcome to enter. Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget below by midnight (UK time) on the 4th March and I will randomly pick a winner on the 5th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and, yes, I will be checking that entrants did complete whatever task they said they did.

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

Jamie Quinn Mystery Box Set Giveaway

Good luck!


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

Friday, 17 February 2017

Guest Review: The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola


The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola
Published in the UK by Tinder Press on the 14th July 2016. Published in America on the 7th February 2017.

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

Guest review by Vikki Patis
Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. I first spotted my current FeministFebruary reading challenge mentioned on The Bandwagon and you can discover Vikki's FF book choices here. She is also a published author and I look forward to reviewing her short story collection Weltenschauung for you soon.

Vikki's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set in London in 1837, Anna Mazzola's THE UNSEEING is the story of Sarah Gale, a seamstress and mother, sentenced to hang for her role in the murder of Hannah Brown on the eve of her wedding. Perfect for any reader of Sarah Waters or Antonia Hodgson.
After Sarah petitions for mercy, Edmund Fleetwood is appointed to investigate and consider whether justice has been done. Idealistic, but struggling with his own demons, Edmund is determined to seek out the truth. Yet Sarah refuses to help him, neither lying nor adding anything to the evidence gathered in court. Edmund knows she's hiding something, but needs to discover just why she's maintaining her silence. For how can it be that someone would willingly go to their own death?


Vikki says: Here I go again, finding fabulous historical fiction set in Victorian England. First it was The Essex Serpent, now it’s The Unseeing. What a year for readers.

Although this is her debut, Mazzola writes with a practiced hand. She knows her way around the Victorian underworld of poverty, desperation, and depravity like a seasoned historian. She brings Sarah Gale, suspected murderess, to life, her words reaching back and breathing into the past. As a reader, you feel connected to Sarah – her suffering at the hands of James Greenacre, and her twisted involvement in the crime of killing Hannah Brown, only serve to draw you in, to get to know Sarah, as Edmund Fleetwood does.

Not all of Mazzola’s characters are inspired by real people. Edmund is fictional, although someone undoubtedly served in his place to investigate Sarah’s role in Hannah Brown’s murder. But all of her characters are real and incredibly well-written.

The Unseeing is a gritty, glorious debut. Victorian London is dragged to life, with no hint of romanticising the era. One part in particular about fallen women reminded me of The Crimson Petal and The White, and I was delighted to learn via Twitter that Mazzola is a huge fan, of both the book and the BBC adaptation.



Thank you Vikki!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Books by Anna Mazzola / Historical fiction / Books from England

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Fashion In Shrouds by Margery Allingham


The Fashion In Shrouds by Margery Allingham
First published in the UK by William Heinemann Ltd in 1938.
This is my 1930s read for the BookCrossing-Goodreads Decade Challenge 2016-17.
I registered my copy of this book on BookCrossing

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

How I got this book:
Swapped at South Lytchett Campsite book exchange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, there is a skeleton in a dinner jacket. Then a corpse in a golden aeroplane. After another body, private detective Albert Campion nearly makes a fourth... Both the skeleton and the corpse have died with suspicious convenience for Georgia Wells, a monstrous but charming actress with a raffish entourage. Georgia's best friend just happens to be Valentine, a top couturière and Campion's sister. In order to protect Valentine, Campion must unravel a story of blackmail and ruthless murder.

Several hours after completing The Fashion In Shrouds I am still baffled by what I really think of the book. On the one hand it is a perfectly competent murder mystery set in in upper class 1930s London. Amateur sleuth Campion is suitably snobbish, the characters are all either High Society or Commoners and we can easily tell the difference by the cringe-worthy accents of the latter. With his discovery of a suspicious suicide on his mind, Campion undertakes his own investigation into what happened and his winding path to the denouement is nicely done and satisfying. It is interesting that the priority is frequently not actually the unveiling of a murderer, but the prevention of scandal. Under no account must anything be revealed to Journalists!

What I struggled with though is Allingham's ambiguous attitude to her female characters. Four are wonderfully successful in their chosen careers - Georgia, an actress; Val, a couturier; Lady Papendeik, Val's employer; and Amanda, an aircraft engineer. For so many such independent and influential women to appear in a single 1930s novel could have led me to trumpet this as another of my Feminist February book reviews. However the non-stop barrage of viciously misogynistic statements, from male and female characters alike, put paid to that within the first few pages and I kept reading mostly in disbelief. Women are silly and hysterical; Campion repeatedly dismisses Amanda's logical deductions as just female luck in jumping to conclusions and, my own favourite, consoles his sister Val over her stolen boyfriend by saying 'This is damned silly introspective rot. What you need, my girl, is a good cry or a nice rape.' This is a brother talking to his sister! All through this book I couldn't decide whether Allingham actually meant to be derogatory or satirical? The chauvinism is so heavy handed, even by 1930s standards, that it frequently jarred, especially in contrast to the obvious talents and business acumen of the women being undermined.

The icing on the cake though, and I feel it is appropriate to recount so near to Valentine's Day, is this romantic marriage proposal:
Will you marry me and give up to me your independence, the enthusiasm which you give your career, your time and your thought? I realise that I've made a fine old exhibition of myself with Georgia Wells, which has hardly enhanced my immediate value in the market, but I can't honestly say I regret the experience. However that is the offer...In return, mind you (I consider it an obligation), I should assume full responsibility for you. I would pay your bills to any amount which my income might afford. I would make all the decisions which were not directly your province, although on the other hand I would like to feel I might discuss everything with you if I wanted to; but only because I wanted to, mind you; not as your right. And until I died you would be the only woman. You would be my care, my mate as in plumber, my possession if you like. If you wanted your own way in everything you'd have to cheat it out of me...It means the other half of my life to me, but the whole of yours.

The Fashion In Shrouds was written almost eighty years ago and I for one am so very grateful for every minute of feminist advance in those years!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Margery Allingham / Crime fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Russian Absurd by Daniil Kharms


Russian Absurd: Selected Writings by Daniil Kharms
English translation by Alex Cigale published in America by Northwestern University Press today, the 15th February 2017.

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A writer who defies categorization, Daniil Kharms has come to be regarded as an essential artist of the modernist avant-garde. His writing, which partakes of performance, narrative, poetry, and visual elements, was largely suppressed during his lifetime, which ended in a psychiatric ward where he starved to death during the siege of Leningrad. His work, which survived mostly in notebooks, can now be seen as one of the pillars of absurdist literature, most explicitly manifested in the 1920s and ’30s Soviet Union by the OBERIU group, which inherited the mantle of Russian futurism from such poets as Vladimir Mayakovsky and Velimir Khlebnikov. This selection of prose and poetry provides the most comprehensive portrait of the writer in English translation to date, revealing the arc of his career and including a particularly generous selection of his later work.

I don't think I have ever read absurdist writing before so expected to struggle somewhat with Daniil Kharms' ideas. The book is more or less in chronological order of writing date and I did find the earliest work simply baffling. However I stuck with it and am glad I did as by the time I got to his discussion of infinity I realised I not only understood the essay, but was enjoying it too. Another story that I particularly liked was Connections. I am not sure if my brain began to attune to Kharms or if his ideas became more accessible as time passed. He describes fascinating snapshots of everyday Soviet life - communal apartments, food queues, unexpected police visits. One story revolves around the inconvenience of a man sleeping on an apartment corridor floor. Other residents have to repeatedly step over him, yet the building supervisor cannot evict him because the authorities have allocated the man to this apartment although he is not allocated a room.

I think it is important to remember that Russian Absurd is compiled from notebooks that Kharms did not expect to see published. There is a raw quality to his words and several of the selected pieces are snippets and short ideas. I didn't like his chauvinism which treats young women as objects to be leered at and reduces older women to figures of fun. A banned author relegated to a mental institution at the time of his early death though, I could see an increasing sense of disassociation in his later stories. Kharms writes more on philosophical and religious subjects than on observations of life around him. The inclusion of his actual NKVD 'confession' is chilling especially after having read Nir Baram's Good People which, albeit fictionally, illustrated the horrific results of such confessions. Overall I found Russian Absurd a sobering book to read. Its contrasting silliness and shocking darkness were often difficult for me to reconcile and, while I am glad to have read this book, I don't think this is a genre I would want to revisit too frequently.


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Books by Daniil Kharms / Short stories / Books from Russia

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Awakening by Kate Chopin


The Awakening by Kate Chopin
First published in America by Herbert S Stone in April 1899.

This is my fifth book for the See Orange Feminist February Challenge.

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

How I got this book:
Downloaded from ForgottenBooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘THE AWAKENING, originally titled A Solitary Soul, is a novel by Kate Chopin, first published in 1899. Set in New Orleans and on the Louisiana Gulf coast at the end of the 19th century, the plot centers on Edna Pontellier and her struggle to reconcile her increasingly unorthodox views on femininity and motherhood with the prevailing social attitudes of the turn-of-the-century American South. It is one of the earliest American novels that focuses on women's issues without condescension. It is also widely seen as a landmark work of early feminism, generating a mixed reaction from contemporary readers and critics.

Set in an upper class American society in the last years on the 19th century, The Awakening attempts to understand, although not to condone, the actions of a woman who finds herself trapped in a domestic life for which she is patently unsuited but, due to the morals of the day, which she has no choice but to endure.

Edna has two children whom she loves and a frequently absent husband who loves 'owning' her. However, Edna is not overtly maternal so when she knows her children to be cared for by nursemaid of their grandmother, she often does not give them a thought from one hour to the next. I got the impression that if she had been allowed the same choice I enjoy over a century later, she would have given motherhood a miss. Unfortunately, she has blindly followed societal expectations. When a summer meeting with a younger man awakens Edna's sense of self, she first tries to bury her emotions as she 'should', but unable to continue the charade, she sets out for a future which is impossible to achieve. Her potential new man will not take the risk to be with her and a bereft Edna cannot return to her previous life.

The illustration of desperation and Edna's inner turmoil is always believable when set against the strictness of the time and I was amazed by the vitriol and spite churned up against the character in other reviews. In her mind, Edna does the right thing. Leaving her husband would permanently stigmatise her children and she would experience serious mental breakdown by staying, so instead fakes accidental drowning while the boys are safely out of the way at their grandmother's.

I liked that Chopin obviously understands her characters completely and manages to set out their lives without actually proffering any as best. Mademoiselle Reisz is fascinating and an interesting choice of confidant for Edna. Leonce is ghastly! Self-important and only out for possessions and social climbing. The writing style is a little dated now, perhaps too coy for modern tastes, but this softness did not detract from my growing sense of unease as Edna's behaviour becomes both stronger and more erratic.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kate Chopin / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Good Dictator by Goncalo J Nunes Dias


The Good Dictator by Goncalo J Nunes Dias
Self published in Portuguese as O Bom Ditador in November 2016. English language translation by Ethan Mortimore.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An unidentified object parked on the moon - and no one seems to know where it came from. Gustavo, a middle-aged computer programmer with a comfortable and grey life, decides to make a list of what he would need to survive a hypothetical attack. He becomes obsessed with the list, spends a fortune, robs a drugstore: his own family thinks he is going insane. However, after the attack, it’s the insane who are well prepared for a new era in society.

Dystopian fiction is experiencing a rush of popularity in the wake of Brexit and Trump so I think The Good Dictator is a particularly well-timed read and scarily prescient in many of its scenes. Set in Portugal, the novel offers a European view of pre- and post-apocalyptic society which is interestingly different from similarly themed American offerings. It is very much an indie novel so there are problems with pacing and excessive irrelevant backstory information, but if you can see past these issues and aren't put off by the slow build of the first quarter, this is definitely a thought-provoking read.

Global civilisation's collapse is prompted by an alien attack from the moon, however this aspect of Dias' tale is almost incidental as he concentrates on the actions of his human protagonists on Earth. A few rural Portuguese communities are among the surviving 15% of human life and they must decide what aspects of their previous existence are important enough to maintain or recreate and what should be consigned to history. It's a fascinating premise. What ideology would you live by? What social structures are truly essential? Who would lead and how would you choose them?

I liked the ambiguity of Dias' title which becomes more compelling a question as the story progresses. Perhaps our prepared 'hero' Gustavo is the right choice of leader initially (perhaps not), but absolute power corrupts absolutely and I found myself wondering whether the Good Dictator is intended as a description of his benevolence to the people relying on him or an indication of his success in remaining in charge!

Dias doesn't go into much detail of how this society's new infrastructure is built up so this isn't the type of novel that will teach readers how to wire a solar panel or hoe a vegetable patch. I did get a good sense of this part of Portugal though and, having visited thereabouts three years ago, could recognise aspects of the landscape and strong community ties. Characters other than Gustavo aren't really developed fully enough for me although this book is intended as the first of a trilogy so perhaps they will become so later. Women especially are portrayed mostly as just providers of meals or sex and there is no real ethnic diversity other than a gypsy community. (At one point you could replace the word gypsy with Muslim though and this book becomes shockingly real!). The new society is still disappointingly patriarchal, but there are strong theories and arguments about financial, political and ecological philosophies which struck a chord with me. The Good Dictator is definitely a book for right now.


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Books by Goncalo J Nunes Dias / Science fiction / Books from Portugal

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Guest Review: Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love by Jay Spencer Green


Ivy Feckett Is Looking For Love by Jay Spencer Green
Self published on July 28th 2016.

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

Guest review by Harry Whitewolf
Harry Whitewolf is a poet of contemporary cutting-edge pop prose and a storyteller of true crazy travelling tales that read like fiction. I have enjoyed both his travel memoirs (my reviews here) so was delighted when Harry agreed to share this one of his reviews on Literary Flits. You can find out more about Harry and his writing on his own website, www.harrywhitewolf.com

Harry's rating: 5 of 5 stars

When brainiac nerds and smooth-talking power players meet up, there's no telling what can happen. In the case of Ivy Feckett, what happens is a nonstop romp of wry, quirky fun.
Bookish Ivy's cluelessness is as endearing as it is comical, from the first peek into her random sexual fantasies to the moment she realizes that her boss, the rich, handsome Ned Hartfield, is a serial manipulator with "wealth-induced Asperger's." Her search for love may not go as smoothly as her search for geocaches, but its route through awkward hookups, clumsy intrigue, and fake evangelicals is both hilarious and touching.
Told with a tone that's pitch-perfect, Ivy Feckett is Looking for Love is a nerds-against-the-patriarchy romantic comedy that will tickle the inner geek of even the most sophisticated reader.

Harry says: "Ivy Feckett is Looking For Love is a romance book for people who don’t like reading romances, but it’s a helluva lot more as well.

This second novel from Jay Spencer Green confirms how much of a superbly talented author he is. In fact, he’s fast becoming one of my favourite fiction writers. His work is so engrossing that one doesn’t even stop to ponder at how expertly executed it is. It’s a world of completeness with relatable characters, a strong story and a lot of fun and funniness.

This book is more mellow and sentimental than his debut, and there’s a constant running humour throughout but it’s not as in-your-face and laugh-out-loudish as ‘Breakfast at Cannibal Joe’s’, and that’s not a bad thing, as it shows how adept the author is at maintaining the right feel for a particular story.

There were maybe a couple of bits that I didn’t feel worked, or were needed (the dog’s point of view, for instance) but I know I’m only nitpicking because the rest of the book is so flawless.

The author also has a brilliant knack for making the subplot become a main plot where by the end, you realise that what felt like a cosy romcom is actually also a brilliant send up of religion and a deeply philosophical treatise (which occasionally reminded me of Mick Farren’s ‘The Texts of Festival’ and Luke Rhinehart’s ‘Adventures of Whim’).

Funny, endearing and completely engrossing, this Brummie romance is one I definitely recommend to yow."


Thank you Harry!

Do you have a book review that you would like to share on Literary Flits? Details of how to do so are Here. I look forward to hearing from you!


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Books by Jay Spencer Green / Romance / Books from England

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Revenge Of The Mantis by Vered Ehsani


Revenge Of The Mantis by Vered Ehsani
Self-published in June 2015.

This is my fourth book for the See Orange Feminist February Challenge.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Smashwords

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Revenge is best served with tea.
All is proceeding as it should for Beatrice Knight. That is, until the African Lightning God lands in her barn and announces that Mrs. Knight’s arch nemesis is about to pay an unsolicited visit. This time, the giant Praying Mantis Koki won’t be so easily dissuaded from exacting revenge against the intrepid paranormal investigator. Mrs. Knight must now answer one critical question: what, or whom, is she prepared to sacrifice in order to defeat the Mantis? As if that isn’t heart-wrenching enough, Mr. Timmons boldly presents a possibility too terrible to consider, yet too tempting to refuse. Now, if only she could survive long enough to make a decision…
Revenge of the Mantis is the third case in “Society for Paranormals”, in which a paranormal detective refuses to let danger, death and unwanted suitors inconvenience her in colonial Kenya. Welcome to a cozy mystery series concerning Victorian etiquette, African mythology and the search for a perfect spot of tea. If you enjoy historical mysteries, adore Victorian steampunk, appreciate British humor, or would love to experience adventure in colonial Africa, download Revenge of the Mantis to start your supernatural safari now.
'

Vered Ehsani's Society For Paranormals series goes from strength to strength! This third adventure is my favourite yet for several reasons, not least of which is the wonderfully no-nonsense Victorian character of Mrs Beatrice Knight. She is a clever portrayal of a very English woman, juxtaposed against fantastical scenes of early 1900s Nairobi and African legend which accentuates the often ridiculous social niceties she is expected to both observe and endure. This particular story is fantasy without any steampunk inventions but has a strong sense of colonial Africa in its style and attitudes.

Ehsani orchestrates an interesting cast of paranormal creatures in this novel as well as allowing us to learn more about Beatrice's past and her family. There is excellent description of creatures and landscapes, and I thought the pacing in Revenge Of The Mantis was spot on throughout the book. I love that we get to meet Anansi The Spider, having so recently encountered him completely differently styled in Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. Plus, the giant Praying Mantis, Koki, that we heard about in previous books finally catches up with our heroine and is a terrifying prospect. (This story probably isn't ideal for anyone with insect and arachnid phobias!) The build up to their showdown is neck-bitingly tense and the battle itself is thrilling! A gripping adventure with strong characters and great dry humour.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vered Ehsani / Steampunk fiction / Books from South Africa

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Model by Lars Saabye Christensen


The Model by Lars Saabye Christensen
First published as Modellen by Cappelen in Norwegian in Norway in 2005. English language translation by Don Bartlett published by Arcadia Books in 2007.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.

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

How I got this book:
Swapped for on a charity shop book exchange table

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Painter Peter Wihl - a celebrated success early in his career - is about to turn fifty. The prospect is stifling his creativity and jeopardising his preparations for a major new exhibition intended to revive his reputation. In a cruel twist of fate, his concerns about his forthcoming birthday are rendered meaningless when he discovers that he has an incurable eye condition and will be completely blind within six months. What is a painter without his eyes? A chance encounter with an old classmate leads a vulnerable Peter into a sinister world which will haunt him for as long as he lives. The novel poses the question: How far is the artist willing to go in pursuit of his art?

Early in The Model, Peter's wife, Helene, bluntly states that 'self-centred middle-aged men must be the most loathsome beings in existence.' She is referring to the playwright Ibsen in the context of his play The Wild Duck, but I was frequently reminded of her comment as I continued reading this book. It is a perfectly apt description of Peter! I think The Model should have been a chilling psychological thriller, but it just didn't have the atmosphere to grip me and I cannot quite put my finger on why. The book is nicely written and I liked Christensen descriptions of locations and his evocation of an artist's world view. The storyline is an interesting portrayal of a man driven to panic measures by the thought of losing himself to disease. Peter wholly identifies himself as an artist so he believes potential blindness will mean not just a loss of his sight, but his complete raison d'etre. Perhaps it was this single-mindedness that prevented me from fully accepting Peter. He is very much the centre of the novel and other characters, the female ones in particular, didn't seem as fleshed out in comparison so I found it difficult to believe in their actions. Instead their functions seem to revolve around Peter's desires which in turn revolve entirely around himself! I really did not like this man at all - perhaps you've already guessed that?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Lars Saabye Christensen / Contemporary fiction / Books from Norway

Thursday, 9 February 2017

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
First published in America by Fourth Estate in October 2014.

This is my third book for the See Orange Feminist February Challenge.

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘I would like to ask that we begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently…’
What does “feminism” mean today?
In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired Tedx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.


I had previously heard of Adichie's now-famous TEDx speech, but hadn't watched or read it before now. Ellen at See Orange included the essay in her Feminist February list, a reading challenge instigated in response to Donald Trump's divisive chauvinism. I thought Adichie's words should also be a part of my Feminist February reading.

We Should All Be Feminists is a refreshingly common sense essay about feminism. This isn't the bra-burning, man-hating feminism of popular media fiction. Instead it looks at how the social expectations we drill into our children about their gender roles negatively affects both females and males throughout the rest of their lives. As Adichie remarks, our social structures have drastically evolved since physical strength was the determining factor of human success. 21st century success calls for non-gender specific attributes such as innovation, creativity and intelligence. Why, as a species, do we still hold ourselves back by routinely both assuming all males should aspire to such roles and excluding females from them? I see that Western society particularly insists on supposed individuality in practically every other aspect of life, but the thought of women or men choosing to breach gender boundaries, even if these individuals would ultimately be far happier by doing so, is still greeted with horror!

Adichie frequently refers to Nigerian life for her examples, but the scenarios she presents are easily as relevant to London or Los Angeles as they are to Lagos. I like her style and humour. Points are made without preaching or anger and I think most of us, female or male, will recognise ourselves at a least one point during the essay. I certainly did. Now our challenge is to change enough of the 'rules' that readers in a century's time will be baffled that such gender divisions ever existed!


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

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Queen Of Diamonds by Patricia Loufbourrow


The Queen Of Diamonds by Patricia Loufbourrow
Published in America by Red Dog Press in September 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the ebook from Smashwords
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy signed books direct from the author

How I got this book:
Received a copy for signing up to the author's

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kidnapping. Murder. Betrayal. While the villain Frank Pagliacci is defeated, all is not well in Bridges. Tensions rise between the Families, who accuse each other of spying, while Red Dog attacks escalate. Aristocratic jewel merchant Anastasia Dame Louis, styling herself "The Queen of Diamonds," hires private eye Jacqueline Spadros to collect from her debtors so she can leave the city. But Jacqui can't leave David Bryce's kidnapping and the murders of her teenage informants unpunished. Convinced the madman "Black Jack" Diamond was behind the crimes, she pursues ways to prove it. The scoundrel and his crew, however, seem to be one step ahead: the terrifying man in white is seen lurking outside David's home, forged letters appear across the city, and merchants in the Spadros quadrant report threats from a man who fits his description.
Jack's sister Gardena Diamond then asks Jacqui for help: someone is attempting to blackmail her. It is then that Jacqui learns Rachel Diamond's curious secret - and the truth behind her terrible condition. When witnesses who can identify the kidnappers begin dying and evidence emerges that Jacqui's mother is next on the list, Jacqui is forced to make a dreadful choice. Someone will surely die. Will it be Jacqui, or her mother?


Having enjoyed Loufbourrow's worldbuilding in the first of her Red Dog Conspiracy series, The Jacq Of Spades, I was keen to move on into this second volume, The Queen Of Diamonds. A busy book with lots of tangled intrigues, The Queen Of Diamonds is intended to be read after The Jacq of Spades, but Loufbourrow includes frequent recaps so readers probably could manage the books out of order. I was disappointed that the main plot isn't really advanced and most of my time seemed to be spent watching Jacqui being served tea, endlessly changing her dresses and politely enquiring after other people's health. There are exciting moments, but these are frequently mired in excessive backstory information so tension is muted by a lack of pace. I struggled to remember who was who in the large cast as few have distinctive voices. Even the eponymous Queen is more of a cameo role than a fully fleshed out woman. We are told about her interesting life, but aren't shown it in her character. If the Red Dog Conspiracy was a trilogy, I would probably get the third book just to see how it all pans out, but the thought of ploughing through another eleven volumes to get to that point is too overwhelming!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Patricia Loufbourrow / Steampunk / Books from America

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee


Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Published in America by Grand Central Publishing, today, the 7th February 2017. UK publication on the 23rd February 2017 (available for pre-order).

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yeongdo, Korea 1911. In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife. Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story. Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.

Pachinko is a longer book than I usually choose to read, but it swept past as I was fascinated by details of Sunja's life as a Korean woman in Japan. Thousands of Koreans emigrated to Japan in the early part of the twentieth century and made lives there even though they were very much looked down upon and discriminated against by the Japanese. Korean women's attitudes and expectations were (still are?) completely different to my own so I loved being able to learn more about their culture by immersing myself in this novel. Min Jin Lee is an observant writer and I felt that her historical details were both accurately researched and believably portrayed.

We follow Sunja's life and that of her family over several generations which makes this book quite the epic. I was moved by the family's eternal striving for better lives for themselves and especially for their children. This pattern repeats across the generations as is particularly poignant as we see the obstacles thrown in their way. Natural events and wartime disasters play a part, but the majority of their misfortune seems to result from remaining second class citizens in Japan. Even children born and raised in Japan are forced to register as Korean, the result of which leaves them excluded from much of Japanese society, employment, housing and personal relationships.

Lee uses the gambling game of pachinko (a type of pinball) as employment for one of Sunja's sons, Mosaszu, but also as an accurate metaphor for the lives of our central family. Mosaszu manipulates his pachinko machines every day by subtly tapping pins in and out of alignments so the gamblers can never learn a particular machine well enough to guarantee winning, regardless of how much effort (and money) they put in. Life repeatedly plays the same trick on Sunja and her family.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Min Jin Lee / Historical fiction / Books from Korea