Monday, 21 August 2017

Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba


Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba
First published as The Stone Hills Of Maragoli by Kwani in Kenya in 2002. Republished in America as Forbidden Fruit by Mantle in June 2017.

Winner of the 2003 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature.

296 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1767 pages.

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

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a "harmless" crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima's family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba's FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups — sometimes sad, sometimes farcical — are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli.

I hoped to have enjoyed reading Forbidden Fruit more than I actually did and it took a while for me to actually put my finger on what I think lets the novel down. On a positive note, Gazemba provides us with a striking portrait of Kenyan village life. Following his supporting cast of landowners and villagers through their days allowed me to understand and empathise with them - as well as reinforcing my desire to only ever buy FairTrade tea. Witnessing, albeit fictiously, so many people living in absolute poverty despite their hard work on tea plantations really gave me a good insight into relative Western affluence. Despite their eye-opening aspect, these scenes of gossip and bickering aren't depressingly serious. Instead they are alive with energy and great fun to read.

Unfortunately I was less enamoured of the central storyline which follows plantation worker Ombima as he gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble as the result of one desperate act. I struggled to empathise with Ombima or to understand his actions because I felt his motivations weren't adequately explained. The narrative seemed disjointed to me, Ombima stumbling from one event to another without strong enough reasons for doing so. This was a shame as I happily got caught up in the surrounding circumstances and appreciated Gazemba's detailed evocation of the village and landscape around Maragoli. I would still recommend Forbidden Fruit for this portrayal of rural Kenya.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Stanley Gazemba / Contemporary fiction / Books from Kenya

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Book Of Abisan by C H Clepitt


The Book of Abisan by C.H. Clepitt

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

How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Do you believe in destiny?
When two worlds collide a new hope is born.

Yfrey is lost, alone in a world where her kind is persecuted. She has one hope, to find The Roghnaithe, one who is destined to help save her world from destruction by a tyrannical ruler. The Book of Abisan crosses multiple realities to follow the lives of two very different women, as they come together to battle armies, as well as their own personal demons.

Step into an exciting world of adventure, magic and alternate realities in this fast paced, action packed fantasy.

I discovered The Book Of Abisan back in 2015 after having been pointed towards it on Twitter. A feminist fantasy novel of witches, magic and multiple realities, it wasn't my preferred genre, but I enjoyed the read. C H Clepitt has a new novel, Everything Is Better With A Cape, launching at the beginning of September and I am looking forward to reading and reviewing it soon.

The Book Of Abisan is a volume of prophecy, carried and studied by a witch, Yfrey, who is trying to rid her world of an oppressive dictator, Calim. Calim is a charismatic man, but one without any magic of his own and he is determined to rid that same world of all its magical beings, leaving himself all powerful. Clepitt's book is a fast action-packed ride - a complete contrast to my previous read! There is some attempt at rounding out the two main characters, Yfrey and a human woman named Jacques, but otherwise everyone is pretty two-dimensional with the novel's emphasis put on doing rather than being. I thought several scenes were too rushed and would have liked a lot more in the way of description to help me understand what was going on and why, especially once the reality hopping starts. I wanted to know more about the different realities! If that was done I would say that there could be enough plot here for two exciting novels. However, overall this is an easy escapist read and I liked the drawings at the start of each Part.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by C H Clepitt / Fantasy fiction / Books from England

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller


The Story Of My Life by Helen Keller
First published in America by Doubleday in 1903.

59 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1470 pages.

My 1900s read for this year's Goodreads / BookCrossing Decade Challenge - now completed!
1903 - The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
1914 - Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse
1929 - The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
1938 - The Fashion in Shrouds by Margery Allingham
1940 - The Rights of Man by H G Wells
1959 - Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
1963 - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
1974 - Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
1987 - The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
1996 - Berta La Larga by Cuca Canals
2001 - There Were Many Horses by Luiz Ruffato
2015 - Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

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

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When she was 19 months old, Helen Keller (1880–1968) suffered a severe illness that left her blind and deaf. Not long after, she also became mute. Her tenacious struggle to overcome these handicaps - with the help of her inspired teacher, Anne Sullivan - is one of the great stories of human courage and dedication.
In this classic autobiography, first published in 1903, Miss Keller recounts the first 22 years of her life, including the magical moment at the water pump when, recognizing the connection between the word "water" and the cold liquid flowing over her hand, she realized that objects had names. Subsequent experiences were equally noteworthy: her joy at eventually learning to speak, her friendships with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Everett Hale and other notables, her education at Radcliffe (from which she graduated cum laude), and-underlying all-her extraordinary relationship with Miss Sullivan, who showed a remarkable genius for communicating with her eager and quick-to-learn pupil.
These and many other aspects of Helen Keller's life are presented here in clear, straightforward prose full of wonderful descriptions and imagery that would do credit to a sighted writer. Completely devoid of self-pity, yet full of love and compassion for others, this deeply moving memoir offers an unforgettable portrait of one of the outstanding women of the twentieth century.

For a woman to go to college at all in the early 1900s was achievement enough that a memoir of her struggle to get there would be of interest to me. When I think that Helen Keller was also deaf and blind, her determination becomes all the more incredible. I cannot remember a time when I didn't know of Keller's existence and I am sure my mother gave me a child's edition of her story (a Ladybird book?) as soon as I was old enough to read it! However I hadn't given this example of perseverance much thought since until I needed a 1900s-published book to complete the above Decade Challenge and decided to revisit Keller's story.

I like that this memoir is written in a straightforward style without the reliance on overly emotional scenes or appeals to readers for pity. Even in her early twenties, as she was on wroting this memoir, Keller is already well-read and erudite beyond her years. At one point she notes blind poet Homer's immortality through his writing and I thought that the same is now true of her. Helen Keller is a name I think many people would recognise. She frequently makes sure to give credit where it is due so I understood that her success was equally as a much a result of her family's support and Anne Sullivan's tireless dedication as it was to Helen own efforts. It was also interesting to see the facilities available to deaf and/or blind American children at this period - at least to those whose parents could afford it - and to see how those resources dwindled as Helen strode past the needs of a child's education, pioneering the right of disabled people to expect college educations and independent lives. An inspirational woman.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Helen Keller / Biography and memoir / Books from America

Friday, 18 August 2017

Amnesty by Cambria Hebert + Giveaway


Amnesty (Amnesia #2) by Cambria Hebert
Self published on August 15th 2017

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

Add Amnesty to your Goodreads

*Please note Amnesty contains subjects and situations that some readers may find disturbing.

There’s freedom in remembering.

My past is a double-edged sword. Damned if I remember; damned if I don’t. Recollection beyond the horrors I already have will change me. Change us. But what if I’m living a lie? What if everything I believe is wrong? What if who I thought I was isn’t real? If not her, then…

Who am I? Eddie says it doesn’t matter, but deep down, I’m terrified it does. I’m trapped. Held prisoner by a past I can’t remember and a future that may not belong to me. There’s a light, though not at the end of the tunnel…

It’s wavering in the distance, calling to me from Rumor Island. That light, it scares me far more than darkness. Am I brave enough to confront it? So many questions, so few answers. I don’t have a choice; the truth always finds a way to the surface. Finally learning who I truly am will be a permanent life sentence. Total punishment or absolute amnesty.



Meet the author:
Cambria Hebert is an award winning, bestselling novelist of more than twenty books. She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major, and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair.

Besides writing, Cambria loves a caramel latte, staying up late, sleeping in, and watching movies. She considers math human torture and has an irrational fear of chickens (yes, chickens). You can often find her running on the treadmill (she’d rather be eating a donut), painting her toenails (because she bites her fingernails), or walking her chorkie (the real boss of the house).
Cambria has written within the young adult and new adult genres, penning many paranormal and contemporary titles. Her favorite genre to read and write is romantic suspense. A few of her most recognized titles are: The Hashtag Series, Text, Torch, and Tattoo. Cambria Hebert owns and operates Cambria Hebert Books, LLC.

Author links:







And now for the giveaway!
Open to the US only (sorry) until August 24th, the winner will receive signed paperback copies of Amnesia and Amnesty + swag.

a Rafflecopter giveaway






Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Cambria / Romance fiction / Books from America

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Benediction by Kent Haruf


Benediction by Kent Haruf
First published by Alfred A Knopf in America in February 2013.

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

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One long last summer for Dad Lewis in his beloved town, Holt, Colorado. As old friends pass in and out to voice their farewells and good wishes, Dad's wife and daughter work to make his final days as comfortable as possible, knowing all is tainted by the heart-break of an absent son. Next door, a little girl with a troubled past moves in with her grandmother, and down town another new arrival, the Reverend Rob Lyle, attempts to mend strained relationships of his own.
Utterly beautiful, and devastating yet affirming, Kent Haruf's Benediction explores the pain, the compassion and the humanity of ordinary people.

Benediction is the third volume in Kent Haruf's trilogy set in the rural American community of Holt. I loved reading the first two books, Plainsong and Eventide, so had high hopes for Benediction - hopes which were not disappointed.

Benediction is set some years later so characters that had previously taken centre stage have moved on or passed on. Instead we spend our time with an older man, hardware store owner Dad Lewis, who is dying from cancer, his family, neighbours and staff. I think that this was definitely the most melancholy of the trilogy and not just because of its cancer storyline, but also due to a very real sense of Holt changing as a town. References to America being at war again and the Reverend's disastrous 'turn the other cheek' sermon were particularly poignant and timely given the ISIS Paris attacks last week and many hate-filled reactions I have seen to it.

Haruf was one of the best observational writers I have read. His creation of ordinary people is superb and I love the way he makes the minutiae of their daily lives interesting and important. At one point, Reverend Lyle says that he just wanted to see 'the precious ordinary' and that quote completely sums up Benediction for me.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Axelle Chandler / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Guest review: Jade by Rose Montague


Jade by Rose Montague
First published in America by Caliburn Press in November 2013.

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

Guest review by C H Clepitt
C H Clepitt has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of the West of England. As her Bachelor’s Degree was in Drama, and her Master’s Dissertation focused on little known 18th Century playwright Susannah Centlivre, Clepitt’s novels are extremely dialogue driven, and it has often been observed that they would translate well to the screen.
Since graduating in 2007, she gained experience in community and music journalism, before establishing satirical news website, Newsnibbles in 2010. In 2011 she published her book, A Reason to Stay, which follows the adventures of disillusioned retail manager, Stephen, as he is thrust into village life and the world of AmDram. Clepitt’s feminist fantasy, The Book of Abisan not only crosses worlds, but confuses genres, and has been described as a crime drama with magic. She has often said that she doesn’t like the way that choosing a genre forces you to put your book into a specific little box, and instead she prefers to distort the readers’ expectations and keep them guessing. Her 2016 work, I Wore Heels to the Apocalypse does just that, as just like the characters, the readers won’t know what’s going on in this laugh out loud satirical scifi.

C H's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Meet Jade Smith, a magical mutt with a mission. A detective partnered with a shifter named Rolfe, she’s on the case to solve a slew of murders: Vamps are killing humans, and nobody knows why. When London Jane, the most powerful vamp in town, is implicated in the murders, Jade knows something isn’t right. Together with Jill, the Winter Queen of Faerie, Jade and Jane take their investigation underground.
On the run, with nowhere to hide, they uncover a secret that could destroy Faerie, as well as the human realm. Will Jade stop the killer in time? Or will she be the next victim?
Magic, mayhem, and mystery abound, and the odds are stacked against them; it’s three against three hundred.

C H says: I bought this book because I saw it advertised on Twitter and thought it looked quite good, and it did not disappoint. If you like Lost Girl then you’ll like this. Jade mixes run of the mill US cop fiction with urban fantasy.

It is set in a world where “supes” are integrated with humans, but obviously face discrimination, as humans discriminate against anything that’s different, don’t they? Jade is living proof that you don’t need to conform to anyone’s expectations of what you should be, and with a kickass team by her side she battles to thwart a conspiracy and save her friends.

I could not put this book down, and read it in a day and a half. It is non-stop action, with just the right amount of comedy and romance to balance it out. The characters are deftly drawn and you feel by the end that you kinda want to be their friend, only the whole constantly running from danger would put me off, I’d probably need a nap or something.

So, to the scores. Out of 10, I’d give it 9. This is because there were a few typos, and whilst this did not affect my enjoyment, and we all have typos (I am certainly not immune), in my way of thinking, 10 means perfection, so I doubt any book will ever get a full 10 from me. That said, the Amazon score is 5/5, because it’s really good. Really!

This review was first published on Newsnibbles


Thank you C H!

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 Rose Montague / Fantasy fiction / Books from America

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya


City Folk and Country Folk by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya
First published in Russian in Russia in the 1860s. English language translation by Nora Seligman Favorov published today, the 15th August 2017, by Columbia University Press (5th September in the UK).

272 pages towards Olivia's fun August Reading Challenge to read an average of 50 pages each day throughout the month. Total = 1411 pages.

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 hardback from Waterstones

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unsung gem of nineteenth-century Russian literature, City Folk and Country Folk is a seemingly gentle yet devastating satire of Russia's aristocratic and pseudo-intellectual elites in the 1860s. Translated into English for the first time, the novel weaves an engaging tale of manipulation, infatuation, and female assertiveness that takes place one year after the liberation of the empire's serfs.
Upending Russian literary cliches of female passivity and rural gentry benightedness, Sofia Khvoshchinskaya centers her story on a commonsense, hardworking noblewoman and her self-assured daughter living on their small rural estate. The antithesis of the thoughtful, intellectual, and self-denying young heroines created by Khvoshchinskaya's male peers, especially Ivan Turgenev, seventeen-year-old Olenka ultimately helps her mother overcome a sense of duty to her "betters" and leads the two to triumph over the urbanites' financial, amorous, and matrimonial machinations.
Sofia Khvoshchinskaya and her writer sisters closely mirror Britain's Brontes, yet Khvoshchinskaya's work contains more of Jane Austen's wit and social repartee, as well an intellectual engagement reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell's condition-of- England novels. Written by a woman under a male pseudonym, this brilliant and entertaining exploration of gender dynamics on a post-emancipation Russian estate offers a fresh and necessary point of comparison with the better-known classics of nineteenth-century world literature

A lovely comedy of class, manners and snobbery, I think City Folk And Country Folk should appeal to Jane Austen fans the world over. Khvoshchinskaya's writing, especially her dialogue, is wonderfully modern in style, sharp and vivacious, and her wickedly well observed characters are tremendous fun to spend time with. I liked that while the novel doesn't shy away from depicting social problems and the upheaval in Russia at the time, Khvoshchinskaya avoids getting bogged down in depressing detail. As Russian literature of the era goes, I think City Folk and Country Folk is refreshing breeze!

The characters particularly appealed to me because they are vivid and wonderfully alive, sometimes overstated but never grotesquely so, and women lead the narrative rather than simply being decorative adornments to men. The somewhat overwhelmed mother, Nastasya, and her irritatingly giggly but deceptively smart daughter, Olenka, stand up for themselves against repressive etiquette and a fabulously pompous reclusive aunt who frequently had me giggling almost as much as Olenka. The pair are precariously placed in the middle of several competing situations, each of which would see them at least lose face and I loved how Khvoshchinskaya had them navigate these tricky waters. Working-class serf peasants have just gained the right to land of their own which Nastasya must provide while at the same time an educated gentleman wishes to take up residence in her bath house and a neighbour wishes to marry Olenka off to her dolt of a protegee. The expectations of behaviour and mindless obedience based solely on perceived class and ancestry provide much of the humour, especially when these expectations are bluntly confounded.

I was surprised to discover that the new Columbia University Press edition of City Folk and Country Folk is its first publication in English. I am sure it should already have been a literary hit outside its native country! Strong heroines and the historical setting (albeit contemporary at its time of writing) are well suited to modern tastes and I believe Khvoshchinskaya's modern style should appeal to a wide readership.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya / Humorous fiction / Books from Russia