Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hopeless Love by Kerdel Ellick


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

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

How I got this book:
Downloaded from Smashwords

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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Books by Kerdel Ellick / Poetry / Books from St Lucia

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L C Tyler


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

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

How I got this book:
Swapped for at the book exchange at Camping Casteillets, Ceret, France

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman


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

Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2017.

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

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Long Road From Jarrow by Stuart Maconie


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

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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Guest Review: The Wrong Kind Of Clouds by Amanda Fleet


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

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

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

Catherine's rating: 4 of 5 stars

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


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

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

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


Thank you Catherine!

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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Blues With Ice by Tin Larrick


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

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, 17 July 2017

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult


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

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

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my sister

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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