Saturday, 30 September 2017

Darkness And Day by Ivy Compton-Burnett


Darkness and Day by Ivy Compton-Burnett
First published in the UK by Victor Gollancz in 1951. Republished by Endeavour Press in February 2015.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Sir Ransom Chace is reunited with his god-daughter Bridget, and her husband Edmund Gaunt, long dead secrets start to creep out of the wood-work. Chace and Gaunt both have two daughters borne out of happy marriages, but both have also fathered another daughter out of wedlock. As aging Chace debates age, life, and morality with his best friend and two daughters, he realises he wants to clear his conscience before he dies. Meanwhile the two young Gaunt daughters overhear a shocking secret about their parents' relationship… What happens when a dignified man comes to believe that his wife is also his daughter…?

Conveyed almost entirely in dialogue, Compton-Burnett’s novel was ground-breaking for its time, experimenting with style and content.

I love the elegant new cover for the reissue of Darkness And Day which, together with its Virginia Woolf quote of 'intense originality' convinced me that I had to read the novel. First published in 1951, Darkness And Day does have a certain period charm to it and might well appeal to fans of Downton Abbey. It is written as a series of conversations and discussions between the inhabitants of two distinguished houses and, as readers, we get to eavesdrop both upstairs as the families converse and downstairs as the servants do likewise. Ivy Compton-Burnett created some memorable characters. I particularly liked the selfless Mildred, the irascible Bartle and the haunted Bridget. I did think that the words of the children often seemed way beyond their professed ages, but their treatment of Mildred is funny to read.

The themes of class and family are eternal, but Compton-Burnett's addition and treatment of incest is surprisingly modern so this novel must have been incredibly shocking in the 1950s. Her unfolding of the story through gossip and speech is a perfect device for the tale. It is tricky to keep up with who says what at the beginning of the book as the speaker of each line of dialogue is not always identified. However, as the characters develop, their personalities shine through in their words, frequently making identification superfluous. I often felt as though I was reading a play rather than a novel and I think it would be interesting to experience Darkness And Day as a full cast audio recording.


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Books by Ivy Compton-Burnett / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Friday, 29 September 2017

Havana Black by Leonardo Padura


Havana Black by Leonardo Padura
First published in Spanish as Paisaje de Otono by Tusquets Editores in Spain in 1998. English language translation by Peter Bush published by Bitter Lemon Press in 2006.

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

My 1990s read for my 2017-18 Decade Challenge

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How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brutally mutilated body is discovered washed up in the bay of Havana. The body of Miguel Forcade Mier, head smashed in by a baseball bat, genitals cut off by a dull knife. Forcade, once an official in the Cuban government responsible for the confiscation of the belongings of the bourgeoisie fleeing the revolution, was an exile in Miami. Had he really returned to Havana just to visit his ailing father? Conde immerses himself in the dark history of expropriations of works of art, paintings that have vanished without trace, corrupt civil servants and old families that lost much, but not everything. Here is the disillusion of Padura's generation, many of them veterans of the war in Angola, dealing with the catastrophe that followed the collapse of Russian aide in the 1990's and now discovering the corruption of those that preceded them. Yet a eulogy of Cuba, its life of music, sex and the great friendships of those who elected to stay and fight for survival.

I love when charity shop take-a-chance books turn out to be brilliant and that was certainly the case for me with Havana Black. This Cuban crime novel concentrates more on character relationships and portraying a changing Havana than on the mystery itself and I thought it was much the stronger for this. That's not to say the murder narrative is irrelevant - it drives the whole novel and is satisfying in itself, but I was fascinated by the actions and attitudes of the characters who found themselves caught up in Conde's investigation. Well, the male characters anyway. Women only exist here to provide food or sex interest and Padura's 'ripe fruit' metaphor is wearyingly overrused by the end of the book!

Havana Black is the second of a quartet of Mario Conde crime novels. Needless to say (if you follow my book reviews) I've started the series in the middle with no idea what happened before, but that didn't affect my enjoyment of this book. I think I spotted a couple of nods to a previous storyline. Ignorance of that didn't impinge on this novel though so I can happily recommend it as a standalone book. It's probably better suited to literary fiction fans than thriller aficionados and if you like fast-paced action, give it a miss. If thoughtful novels with a strong sense of place and history appeal to you though, Havana Black and others in the series could be worth a read.


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Books by Leonardo Padura / Crime fiction / Books from Cuba

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen + Free book


Sense And Sensibility by Jane Austen
First published in England by Egerton in January 1811.

I read my first Jane Austen book, Persuasion, in January, having previously only watched TV or film adaptations. Realising that 2017 is the 200th anniversary year of Austen's death, I challenged myself to read all six of her novels within the year. If you would like to join my Jane Austen Challenge 2017, feel welcome to download the above badge and link up!

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How I got this book:
Downloaded the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the death of their father, sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood face financial ruin. At the mercy of their half brother, John, and his greedy wife, their only hope is to make a good match. But reduced circumstances make courtship difficult—especially after being turned out of their home. While responsible Elinor takes a practical approach to matters of the heart, Marianne throws herself in unreservedly.
In Jane Austen’s first novel, two of literature’s most iconic characters discover that love demands a balance of passion and pragmatism.

I noted when I read Mansfield Park in March that, had I begun my Jane Austen Challenge with that novel, I almost certainly would not have gone on to read any of her others. Well, had I chosen to read them in order and started with Sense And Sensibility I definitely would not have continued! I really struggled to finish this novel because it is verrrrry sloooow.

There are redeeming moments of course and I accept that I am probably in a minority of people who were underwhelmed with this much-loved classic. I did feel that Sense And Sensibility started out well. I enjoyed the interactions between John and Fanny Dashwood and both Mrs Dashwood and Mrs Jennings are fun. Unfortunately they are only supporting characters though so not on the page enough to liven up endless rounds of pseudo-polite chitchat with little plot to drive the narrative in between. As a hundred page novella, I think Sense And Sensibility would have kept my attention and been a satisfying read. Drawn out over more than twice that length however, it failed. Fingers crossed that Emma and Northanger Abbey are more to my taste!


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Books by Jane Austen / Women's fiction / Books from England

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Weeping Susannah by Alona Kimhi


Weeping Susannah by Alona Kimhi
First published in Hebrew as Susannah Ha-Bochiya in Israel in 1998. English language translation published by The Harvill Press in August 2001.

One of my WorldReads from Israel

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How I got this book:
Bought at a charity shop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A highly original, hilariously funny and moving tale of obsession and human frailty. People don't ask Susannah Rabin whether she's related to the great Israeli leader anymore, in fact mostly people don't ask Susannah anything. She and her mother have cloistered themselves, so that Susannah won't have to be exposed to strangers, be disgusted by them, so that she can function. Just. Their tiny world is invaded when Susannah's glamorous, enigmatic cousin, Naor, arrives from New York. Naor refuses to accept that Susannah is mentally ill, and slowly wins her affection. But their friendship makes Susannah's mother anxious. What is he really doing in Israel? In the end it is this fallible, mixed up young man who will help Susannah discover the way to escape herself and be free. Weeping Susannah is a stunning debut novel about a woman's quest for freedom, set against the vivid melting pot of modern Israel, a nation in search of its own identity.

I bought my copy of Weeping Susannah at the OXFAM bookshop when we were in Petergate, York, attracted by the premise of a contemporary Israeli novel. I love discovering different cultures through my reading. Set in Tel Aviv, Weeping Susannah is written in the first person and takes us through several months in the life of a thirty-three year old woman. Susannah lives basically as a child, cared for by her aging mother, as her chronic depression leaves her unable to cope with every day life. She has a horror of bodily functions including simply eating so cannot eat in front of anyone, and has never had a job or adult friends other than those of her mother. When an American second cousin unexpectedly arrives and expects to stay in Susannah's home, she initially shuts herself away in her room, but gradually begins to discover that she can be stronger and more social than she believes.

Weeping Susannah is a thought-provoking novel that transcends its storyline to become a fascinating view into depression and mental illness. Susannah is not a sympathetic character. In many ways, she behaves like a child even expecting her mother to pick up her underwear from the bathroom floor after her shower. The unnaturally close relationship between mother and daughter, while allowing Susannah to function, also smothers her rare chances at independence and ultimately leads to disaster when Susannah decides that she could leave. The small central cast of five are brilliantly portrayed and none are exactly sane! Friend Nehema is wonderful and I liked reading her scenes very much.

In criticism, perhaps Weeping Susannah is a little longer than it needs to be and the image of cousin Neo on the front cover was obviously chosen by someone who hadn't read the book - he is supposed to look like the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley - but otherwise this is a good read and a great insight into the culture and blend of nationalities that make up modern day-to-day life in Israel.


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Books by Alona Kimhi / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien + Giveaway


Carry Me Home by Jessica Therrien
Published in America by Acorn Publishing on the 15th August 2017

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Add Carry Me Home to your Goodreads

“A riveting page-turner… Jessica Therrien broke my heart into a million pieces — and then put it back together again. This book will haunt and uplift readers long after they turn the last page.” -KAT ROSS, best-selling author of The Midnight Sea

CARRY ME HOME is a fictional novel inspired by the true story of a teenage girl’s involvement in several Mexican gangs in San Jose and Los Angeles. The members of her crew call her, Guera, Spanish for “white girl” and it doesn’t take long for her to get lost in their world of guns and drugs.

* * *

Lucy and Ruth are country girls from a broken home. When they move to the city with their mother, leaving behind their family ranch and dead-beat father, Lucy unravels.

They run to their grandparents’ place, a trailer park mobile home in the barrio of San Jose. Lucy’s barrio friends have changed since her last visit. They’ve joined a gang called VC. They teach her to fight, to shank, to beat a person unconscious and play with guns. When things get too heavy, and lives are at stake, the three girls head for LA seeking a better life.

But trouble always follows Lucy. She befriends the wrong people, members of another gang, and every bad choice she makes drags the family into her dangerous world.

Told from three points of view, the story follows Lucy down the rabbit hole, along with her mother and sister as they sacrifice dreams and happiness, friendships and futures. Love is waiting for all of them in LA, but pursuing a life without Lucy could mean losing her forever. Ultimately it’s their bond with each other that holds them together, in a true test of love, loss and survival.



Meet the author:
Jessica Therrien is the author of the young adult series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release. Her trilogy has been translated and sold through major publishers around the world, such as Editions AdA (Canada), EditionsMilan (France), and SharpPoint Press (China). Aside from her Children of the Gods series, Jessica is the author of a kid’s picture book called, The Loneliest Whale. Her award-winning stories can also be found in a published anthology of flash fiction. Jessica currently lives in Irvine with her husband and two young sons. She is working on an a YA suspense thriller series and a middle grade fantasy series. 


Author links: 
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

And now for the giveaway!
Open internationally, the prizes are 5 prize bundles of 10 books each (ebooks and at least 1 paperback per bundle), a Signed Hardcover of CARRY ME HOME by Jessica Therrien and a Signed Hardcover of OPPRESSION (Children of the Gods #1) by Jessica Therrien.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




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Books by Jessica Therrien / Thrillers / Books from America

Monday, 25 September 2017

Guest Review: Grace In Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon


Grace In Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon
Self-published next week on the 1st October 2017.

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Guest review by Trix Wilkins
Trix Wilkins is the author of The Courtship of Jo March (my review here) which she wrote partly out of love for her best-friend-turned-husband, partly out of love for Jane Austen, and partly because she read Eve LaPlante’s Marmee & Louisa. She holds degrees in journalism and international relations and worked for Australian Associated Press before the kids made her a better offer.

Trix's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Physiotherapist Esther Macdonald is living the Australian dream, and it doesn’t surprise her. After all, her father has always said, “Follow Jesus and be blessed.” But at twenty-eight, her world shatters. Everyone assures her God will come through for her, but what happens when he doesn’t?
Has she offended God? Is her faith too small?
So many conflicting explanations.
Will finding the truth cost her the people closest to her heart?

Trix says: From the opening chapters you might get the impression that this novel is either a) a really depressing book about dying or b) a really cheesy book about being miraculously healed BUT this book is neither of those things. It isn’t even really about death. What it’s really about is The Question. The Question about what life is about and what is most important – and what really is not.

Esther is a twenty-something who seems to have everything –when in actuality she is not only afflicted by her health but also troubled relationships and theological questions…I tend to prefer a faster pace with something dramatic happening in the first chapter, but I’m glad I pushed through the wedding planning and visits to doctors because the conversations later in the novel were gold!

That’s the strength of this novel – the theological analysis, and not the kind that reads like a sermon in quotes. In-depth wrestling with hard questions that have even harder answers. I like characters having lengthy discussions of huge ideas so this was a plus for me as a reader – I enjoyed the exploration of complex ideas in plain conversations that one can actually imagine taking place.

This novel is for people who claim to be Christians, people who are Christians, people who really don’t like Christians, people who really like Christians, people who are appalled by the church, people who love the church, people who are just using the church for self-promotion…If you have really strong feelings either way about Jesus and Christianity, this book will stir your pot a good deal more.

Favorite quotes from the novel:
“Good news is like a diamond. It shows up best against a black background.”
“I’m a follower of Jesus,” Esther said. “I don’t believe in avoidance.”
“I came because of the easy access to books. I’m careful to only choose the best ones.”
“Bother, why did she keep saying ‘blessed’? Stupid word to use in ordinary conversation.”
“You’ve introduced me to your best friend and He’s worth knowing.”


Thank you Trix!

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 Christine Dillon / Religious books / Books from Australia

Sunday, 24 September 2017

What's Wrong With The Street by Andy Carrington


What's Wrong With The Street by Andy Carrington
Self published in August 2017.

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Roads closed / leading no- where we carry on through the thick haze and fog shrugging off the false promises and hope it’s pissing it down with rain (again) and every direction seems wrong. In it for the long haul fighting with others and ourselves [caught up in traffic] while the piti- ful screams “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!” can be heard from up top as the cameras monitor / GPS tracks our every move - I’m just trying to make it through.

Andy Carrington returns to the fervent anger of his previous poetry collection, Apathy Will Kill Us All, for this newest publication. For me, the poems felt like segments of an epic work rather than individual pieces because of their overlapping subject matter and recurring themes. The sheer energy Carrington maintains throughout the book is exhausting! He vividly illustrates his experience of life in modern Britain, specifically Bradford, through stream-of-consciousness rants and tirades against pretty much everything from the realities of scraping by on a pittance to the gentrification of local pubs. If you want to understand the deep divisions across contemporary British society, read Andy Carrington.


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Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre


A Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre
First published in French as Voyage autour de ma chambre in Russia by Joseph de Maistre in 1794. English language translation by Henry Attwell published in the UK by Hurd And Houghton in 1871.

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Journey Round My Room is a parody set in the tradition of the grand travel narrative. It is an autobiographical account of how a young official, imprisoned in his room for six weeks, looks at the furniture, engravings, etc., as if they were scenes from a voyage in a strange land. de Maistre praises this voyage because it does not cost anything, for this reason it is strongly recommended to the poor, the infirm, and the lazy. His room is a long square, and the perimeter is thirty-six paces. "When I travel through my room," he writes, "I rarely follow a straight line: I go from the table towards a picture hanging in a corner; from there, I set out obliquely towards the door; but even though, when I begin, it really is my intention to go there, if I happen to meet my armchair en route, I don’t think twice about it, and settle down in it without further ado." Later, proceeding North, he encounters his bed, and in this way he lightheartedly continues his "Voyage". This work is remarkable for its play with the reader's imagination, along the lines of Laurence Sterne, whom Xavier admired.

I learned about A Journey Round My Room by reading Traveling In Place by Bernd Stiegler (my review here). I read that book a couple of years ago, not getting around to downloading its predecessor until recently. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed!

De Maistre's book is a series of short self-indulgent essays tediously strung together by the Journey concept. Some are humorous and I can imagine that, for people who actually knew de Maistre, his chattering might have been amusing, but overall I found this book dull and I couldn't see why it has endured so long. I am not sure I will go on to read the sequel.


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

Friday, 22 September 2017

Traveling In Place by Bernd Stiegler


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

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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


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Books by Bernd Stiegler / History books / Books from Germany

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen


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

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How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman + Giveaway


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

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Add When Darkness Falls to your Goodreads

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

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

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

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




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

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

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


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

Author links: 
Website ~ Goodreads ~ YouTube ~ Twitter


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

When Darkness Falls by Kathleen Harryman signed book giveaway

Good luck!


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Books by Kathleen Harryman / Thrillers / Books from England

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Aquarium by David Vann


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

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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Monday, 18 September 2017

Blackout by Lawrence Johnson Sr + Giveaway



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

Audiobook Details:

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

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Book Description:

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

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



​Watch the Trailer:




Meet the Author:


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

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

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


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Sunday, 17 September 2017

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah


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

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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


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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke


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

I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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


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Friday, 15 September 2017

The Smallest Thing by Lisa Manterfield + Giveaway


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

Where to buy this book:

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Add The Smallest Thing to your Goodreads

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

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


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

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



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


Author links: 
Website ~ Goodreads ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

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

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Hairdresser Of Harare by Tendai Huchu


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

Where to buy this book:

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How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Authors:




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

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

Connect with the authors: Website ~ Facebook

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