Friday, 31 March 2017

A Month In Books - March 2017

Can you believe it is the end of March already? That's a quarter of 2017 gone!

I am delighted that Literary Flits hosted another four Guest Reviews this month. If you have an indie author, small press or global literature book review that you would like to share please do get in touch. It doesn't need to be exclusive content and you can check here to see if a book has already been reviewed. I look forward to hearing from you!

For myself, I read twenty books in March including biographies, thrillers and crime mysteries, short stories and poetry from as far afield as Brazil and Japan. Three have associated Giveaways which are still open for entries and another three of this month's books are free to download. Read on to find out which ones!


Guest reviews


Every Day Is A Holiday by George Mahood

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the signed paperback directly from the author

Read the original book review on Literary Flits

Author Barbara Venkataraman reviewed this humorous memoir of George's attempts to appropriately celebrate every Special Day over a six month period starting with National Bubble Wrap Day. If you've been following my reviews of Barbara's cosy mystery series, don't forget the final Jamie Quinn Boxset Giveaway.


Bonespin Slipspace by Leo X Robertson

Buy the book directly from its publisher

Read the original book review on Literary Flits

Rebecca Gransden chose Bonespin Slipspace for her third guest review. She says, "I love this novella unreservedly ... For its visionary energy, its call to the vanguard, its joyful mastication of boundary." Praise indeed!


The Trout by Peter Cunningham

Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read the original book review on Literary Flits

Anne Goodwin takes us to Ireland for her review of The Trout in which an Irish emigrant to Canada returns to his home country to unravel a buried childhood secret.


The Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Download the ebook free from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Download the ebook free from Smashwords
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read the original book review on Literary Flits

Katherine Bogle shared her Emperor's Edge review because it is one of her favourite modern books. "Not only do we get strong women and plots that keep you on the edge of your seat, but we also get this amazing cast of characters thrown together by Ammy’s unusual circumstances."


My reviews

The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This newly republished 1950s story of a woman forced from her rural Kentucky home to wartime Detroit is absolutely brilliant and I loved every page every though it is by no means a happy book and at times made me very angry. My Book Of The Month!


Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Download the free ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

The second of my Jane Austen Challenge 2017 reads and I didn't like Mansfield Park as much as Persuasion because it is incredibly slow. However I did appreciate the wonderful characters that Austen created.


Reejecttion by Daniel Clausen


Read the ebook free online via Issuu
Download the ebook free from Smashwords
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

A surreal short story collection reminiscent for me of Daniil Kharms, and with its darkly themed stories interspersed with funny form rejection letters from increasingly bizarre publications.


Burnt Land by Tua Harno

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I loved the atmospheric evocation of the heat and machismo of an Australian mining town in this Finnish novel. It's lead character s a thirty-year-old woman coming to terms with her life under extreme circumstances.


Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I expected this 1930s biography, now newly republished, to be quite dry, but it is actually a very readable account of the infamous French queen's life. Zweig was foremost a novelist so uses this style of writing to vividly portray Marie Antoinette's life.


In The Twinkling Of An Eye by Seyed Mehdi Shojaee

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

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I chose this Iranian short story collection primarily for its beautifully serence cover art. The eighteen tale are a pretty quick read, by Shojaee uses them to delve deeply into universal themes of love, spirituality and family.


My Nuclear Nightmare: Leading Japan through the Fukushima Disaster to a Nuclear-Free Future by Naoto Kan

Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I blogged my review of this memoir to coincide with the sixth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. Naoto Kan, the then Prime Minister of Japan describes the terrifying experience, its aftermath and why he is now staunchly against nuclear power.


Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

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

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

To Saudi Arabia for this American-authored young adult crime mystery. It's an exciting read, but does present Saudi Arabia from a very western viewpoint and factual inaccuracies detract from its feeling of authenticity.


Hurricane In Paradise by Deborah Brown

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My first book tour of March is this light Florida cosy mystery. Very fast-paced and without any great depth, it is the tenth in a series and I felt I had missed out on too much of the previous back story.


Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

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

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

A complete contrast, Cal is set in 1980s Northern Ireland and portrays a young Catholic an caught between grinding unemployment and fervent sectarian violence. It's a book you know isn't going to end well, but MacLaverty gets convincingly under the skin of his characters so it is all too easy to understand why they choose their respective paths.


The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri

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

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I enjoyed this refreshingly dignified and elegant crime story. It is set almost entirely within Kolkata and I loved the rich descriptions of the city and its people.


What The Queen Wills by A J Tipton

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Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My worst book of the month! I had liked a Tipton book before, but this one is basically just lots of sex without any character development or emotional depth so instead of being sexy, I just found it dull.


Shadow Reaper by Amos Cassidy

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Gritty urban fantasy doesn't get much more exciting than  Amos Cassidy and I loved this dystopian story. Strong characters and the authors trademark vivid imaginations made this a fun and breathtaking adventure.


Into The Air by A K Downing

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Another book tour read and if you like Amos Cassidy, I think you would enjoy A K Downing too. YA dystopia with an impetuous female lead character, this novel is also a fast-paced adventure and a coming-of-age tale. Don't miss the chance to win yourself a signed copy - there's a giveaway open until the 9th April.


Flesh And Bone And Water by Luiza Sauma

Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Like in The Trout, memories of home are triggered by an unexpected letter in this Brazilian novel. I loved Sauma's gorgeous depictions of 1980s Brazil. A thoughtful exploration of social issues - and encouragement to book a flight to Brazil!


Peril In The Park by Barbara Venkataraman

Buy the ebook or audiobook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This is Venkararaman's third mystery in her Jamie Quinn series and I think this is definitely the best yet. Jamie's new boyfriend is under attack so she must pull out all the stops to save him - between meals of course! I've got an ebook boxset of the trilogy to give away. Entries close on the 6th April.


Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

If I hadn't already read The Dollmaker in March then Half Of A Yellow Sun would certainly have been my Book Of The Month. Adichie's exploration of events leading up to and during the late 1960s civil war in Nigeria is a powerful indictment of irresponsible colonialism and also an emotionally moving historical novel.


Apathy Will Kill Us All by Andy Carrington

Buy the ebook directly from the author
Buy the paperback directly from the author

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

I loved the energy and vivid scenes portrayed in this collection of angry political poetry. Andy is currently running a giveaway for a signed copy and links to enter are in the review post. Entries close on the 1st May.


One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

Another on-a-whim purchase because I liked the cover image, I am glad I didn't allow myself to be put off reading by a string of bad Goodreads reviews. This light romantic novel does let itself down with clunky dialogue, but it's a fun read with an Indian flair.


Butterfly On The Storm by Walter Lucius

Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the hardback from Speedyhen
Buy the hardback from The Book Depository
Buy the hardback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

My final book for March is also my third five-star read. Butterfly On The Storm is being favourably compared to Stieg Larsson's Girl trilogy which I am not sure will do this Dutch thriller any great favours, but I loved its atmosphere, pace and diverse cast.


That's it for this month and I know I have already got some great books lined up for review in April including a Romanian dance memoir, a Korean novella and my first iRead Book Tours. Keep up daily on Literary Flits or I will see you here at the end of April for another round up. Don't forget the Giveaways!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this day in Marchs past

My twelfth #ThrowbackThursday post already and these trips down memory lane are some of my favourite posts to put together. I love remembering everything we have seen, heard and done since I began blogging in 2012!

March 2013 was a life-changing month for both myself and for Dave although we didn't realise its full implications at the time. I blogged a particularly apt Soren Kirkegaard walking quote on the 27th of the month as we were walking daily around Austin, Texas, at the time and had previously had a week in wonderful New Orleans. I thought of this trip as 'holiday' and wasn't blogging my travels as I do now so there aren't any Austin photos. (The image instead is Dave's competition winning shot of the Brecon Beacons.) Our house was so bitterly cold on our return from America that we decided we never wanted to winter in the UK again. As it turned out, this was the seed of our caravan adventure and we haven't!

Bilbao harbour through
the ferry window 
A year later we had just returned from our first touring winter and were pitched up in Bailey at a nice Horam campsite while we got our Polegate house sorted out and habitable again. I remember feeling overwhelmed by how much accumulated stuff I had and Bailey felt much more like home than our house did. Although we were only away about five months I now had a remarkably different perspective on how I wanted to live and what was important to my day-to-day happiness. I had taken a sabbatical from my job which then wasn't honoured by the company concerned so a bout of eBaying decluttering provided the dual benefits of a income until I found alternative employment and the therapeutic effects of a good decluttering. We also began thinking about whether Polegate was a actually where we wanted to continue living or if a complete change of scene would be beneficial.

Walking man in Limoges 
March 2015 saw us visiting Limoges in France and I still love this metal walking man we saw attached to a wall there. Limoges  has a very pretty medieval old town. The art deco railway station is definitely worth a look too. I had forgotten how grey the French weather was until I saw the foreboding clouds over the station in my photograph!
We were about seven months into what would become twenty months of wonderful caravan living having sold our house the previous September. We had wintered mostly in Spain and were now making our way northwards for an exciting spring and summer touring the UK.

Spring colour in the Perigord 
We were in the beautiful Perigord region of France in March 2016, again heading back northwards after a sunny winter split between French and Spanish campsites. Spring flowers were everywhere and our Bois du Coderc campsite was surprisingly quiet despite being in the ACSI book. We think it is just far enough off the main European migration routes to avoid the majority of caravanners and motorhomers. Great for us as we could enjoy a tranquil week there - perhaps not so good for the campsite's profits!
Lifewise we had decided we wanted to buy a lock-up-and-leave flat somewhere and Dave thought that the south west of England would suit us best. We planned pretty intensive flat-hunting on our return and were already spending hours on RightMove. We just needed to spot that perfect place ... !

And now we're heading up through France again with our heads full of plans for 2017!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Homeward bound

Tomorrow will be our last day in Spain, for this season at least, as we are then homeward bound. We have returned to Camping Les Medes at L'Estartit for a few days and will put our caravan into storage nearby before zooming up through France with just the car and a couple of cheap hotel overnight stops. Have you ever tried getting the contents of a caravan and a car into just the car? It's a marvel of tessellation!

I'm feeling maudlin as I always do when one of our travel seasons comes to a close. It's especially sad this time though because I don't know how difficult 'our' government (we didn't bloody vote for them and they certainly don't represent us) will make it for us to travel in Europe in the future. Article 50 was triggered today so 'our' Brexit (we didn't bloody vote for it and it certainly isn't what we want) will shape and no doubt significantly restrict what we can do in the future. Will we need individual country visas again? How much further will our currency be devalued against the Euro? We've already noticed the exchange rate dropping every time Theresa May opens her mouth. If she keeps up that ridiculous toys-out-of-the-pram bargaining stance, even Portugal and Greece will soon be too expensive.

It feels very strange happily sitting here amongst people from at least eight different European countries and seeing the disgusting anti-Europe vitriol on Facebook spouted by the predominantly right-wing media back in England. All so stupidly short-sighted - unless you're one of the very few elite people who are going to make an absolute killing out of all this. I don't think the rest of us will even get what the Leave campaign shouted about, let alone what the people who voted leave actually thought they would achieve. There's no extra NHS money, that's for sure.

I wonder if this will be the last time we will return Home from Europe? Not that I want or intend to stop travelling you understand. It's just that if the Tories get the Brexit they want, I don't think that England will feel like my home any more.

Harry Whitewolf has perfectly summed up today in his new poem:

I DON’T FULLY SUPPORT THE E.U.,
BUT BREXIT WAS A REALLY BAD IDEA


The U.K. should begin with an F
And have a C after the U,
And it should end in E D
Now that we’ve left the E.U.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Upcoming music gigs I'm eagerly anticipating!

Julian Littman and Charlie Dore 
I've just received my brand new Peter Mulvey album, Are You Listening, which I helped Kickstart back in February. It's fab and you should get yourself a download via Amazon US / Amazon UK!
We've only got another week on mainland Europe before we head back to Devon so are planning our entertainment once we return. Fortunately we've already spotted a half dozen or so appealing gigs during the next three months, some in Devon and some further afield, and I am going to tell you about the April/May trio here.

Charlie Dore is playing at Kingskerswell on the 20th of May. We discovered and I blogged about Kingskerwell Parish Church as a South Devon music venue last summer and I love the space for its wonderful acoustics. It's a bring-your-own-cushion venue with a lovely atmosphere and don't forget your cake money for half time. Having previously heard Charlie play at Hailsham Pavilion, I believe her music will perfectly suit Kingskerswell so this gig should be a real treat.
Charlie will be joined by Julian Littman and supported by Peter James Millson and Totnes Pop Up Choir. Tickets are £13.75 including booking fee and you can Buy Online Here. Check out the rest of the Kingskerswell season too.


I first discovered Kirsty McGee several years ago when I blogged for Theatrical Eastbourne. I love her voice and style. I supported her Those Old Demons Kickstarter too and now we plan to finally actually see her play live! Together with Robert Garson as the duo Ocotillo, Kirsty will be at the Hawthorns Hotel in Glastonbury on the 26th of April. I've tweeted the Hotel to find out how to buy tickets and hope they answer soon!


Thirdly is a band we don't know much about, The Hothouse Four, but they have a regular engagement at a very local-to-us venue, Wellies Of Wellswood. Their next gig is on the 4th May - the night after my birthday. They play Western Swing and American roots music which we both enjoy so we're planning to book a table and enjoy a good meal whilst tapping our toes.


So I have got these three gigs to look forward to when we get home, plus another three in June which I will tell you about closer to the time. In the meantime, have a scroll through these South West listings from WeGotTickets and see what catches your eye!



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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Social Media Icons for my Blogger sidebar


I've had a Spring Clean tidy up across my two blogs, Stephanie Jane and Literary Flits this week. I thought the sidebars particularly were beginning to sprawl and their multiple social media widgets took ages to load on our campsite-strength wifi. Maybe it wasn't not so noticeable on home-strength broadband? I liked the streamlined look of social media icon sets I saw on other blogs so had a search around. It turns out that Bloglovin and Goodreads icons aren't standard in many matching icon sets (free ones anyway!) so that did limit my choice somewhat, but I eventually decided on these smart monochrome icons by Alfredo at IconFinder.
I chose to include Bloglovin , Etsy , Facebook , Goodreads , Google Plus , Instagram , Pinterest and Twitter .

Fitting the set together into a neat block with all their individual links was quite a faff, but I am really pleased with how they look now.


Recently I also did away with the Google Ads from the top of each blog's sidebar so these now only appear under posts. Instead you will now see (in desktop view anyway) my chosen Advertiser Spotlights. This feature is on a monthly rotation and I host four different promotions each month. They are mostly affiliate links to businesses I love, but you can advertise your business/event/book launch/etc too if you want! Anything with a bookish connection is welcome on Literary Flits and pretty much everything else will probably suit Stephanie Jane. There's more details here including image requirements and pricing. I am currently taking bookings for May onwards, but could just squeeze in an April Spotlight if you get in touch before Monday!


Friday, 24 March 2017

The Millennium Olive Trees of Calig

We took ourselves on a walk from the opposite side of Calig a couple of days ago and discovered a duo of ancient olive trees in an orchard just out of town. A bright green signboard drew our attention to the orchard and we were both glad that it had. Otherwise we would have passed by thinking 'just more olive trees'! They are one of the most predominant crops in this area and have been for centuries meaning that certain trees are now considered millennium olive trees or Oliveres Millenaries. There are over 4000 such specimens in the Territori del Senia which encompasses Alcanar, Benicarló, Càlig, Canet lo Roig, Cervera del Maestre, Freginals, La Galera, Godall, La Jana, Mas de Barberans, Peñarroya de Tastavins, Rossell, Sant Carles de la Rapita, Santa Bàrbara, La Sénia, Traiguera, Ulldecona and Vinaròs.

Of course no one actually knows exactly how old each particular tree is - scientists aren't cutting them down to count rings! - instead, membership of the 'club' is determined by a tree's circumference. For an olive tree to be included in the inventory, it must have a trunk perimeter of at least 3.50m at a height of 1.30m above ground. There's more information on this on the Millennium Olive Trees website.

These are the two stunning trees we saw: