Monday, 29 February 2016

Ghosts Of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani / The King Of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes / I.A. Boss by John Darryl Winston

Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my WorldReads from South Africa.

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I received a copy of Ghosts Of Tsavo from its author, Vered Ehsani, as a reward for signing up to her email newsletter. It's currently free on Amazon too so give it a try!

The steampunk novel is set in late-Victorian era Nairobi in the days when this city was still just a rough settlement in a swamp. We travel there with English expatriate family the Sewards as they try to make themselves a new life away from the social disaster of their bankruptcy back home. Ehsani has created great characters for this family: the mother who is desperate to maintain her English lifestyle despite its total impracticality, the daughter who seems to see no point in living anywhere without fashionable shops, and the father who may nominally be the head of the family, but who doesn't really stand a chance!

Leading our novel is the formidable Mrs Beatrice Knight, tea drinker, widow and paranormal investigator. I loved her forthright way of thinking and dry sense of humour, especially where Ehsani includes nods to the rigid social rules of the day even as our heroine resolutely ignores them. I frequently found myself smiling and giggling as I read. Historical Nairobi is nicely evoked to give an atmospheric backdrop to the ghostly mystery that occupies Beatrice, however perhaps a little more focus could have been given to the lions themselves as they did seem almost incidental at times. There is so much else going on! I particularly thought the wrapping up of the lion storyline was hasty and would have liked to have learned more about how exactly this would pan out in the future.

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


The King of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my WorldReads from Turkey

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I received a copy of The King Of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes from its publishers, AmazonCrossing, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

While reading The King Of Taksim Square, Serbes' protagonist, seventeen-year-old Caglar, reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield because of the style of his direct narration and its stream of consciousness energy. Interestingly I struggled to finish Catcher In The Rye but enjoyed this book far more. Caglar is a bigshot in his small town, mainly because his Uncle is the corrupt Mayor. Caglar expects his name alone to open doors and gain favours, but this world view begins to be challenged when his beloved younger sister, Cigdem, enters a talent competition dancing as Michael Jackson. Cigdem is everything to Caglar and he cannot believe that the TV company fails to see how amazing she is. Attempting to promote Cigdem by social media channels instead, Caglar posts her dance on YouTube where it has modest success until an Istanbul protest steals her thunder.

It did take me a while to get into this book and I have since read of other reviewers abandoning it early on. The initial meandering style does tighten up and, as we learn who everyone is, there are fewer diversions into back stories. However Caglar's short attention span remains and I enjoyed his focus changes, especially once he gets to Istanbul and the epicentre of its protest and riots. The King Of Taksim Square has a strong nostalgic thread running throughout which is nicely contrasted with modern technological and social elements. Caglar is constantly hankering for the past sometimes specifically to his experience - such as the now-vanished site of his first kiss - or as a more general longing for the way Turkey used to be. He wants the latest iPhone, but insists on referring to shops and cafes with the names of businesses that preceded them.

The scenes of the protest themselves are exciting but baffling, much as they must have really been to many people there at the time, and Caglar sees most of the action in relation to himself, not as part of the wider picture. This is in keeping with his character although I did have to read up about the politics of it all after finishing the novel. I thought The King Of Taksim Square was an engaging read that gave an unusual insight into Turkish life.

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Books by Emrah Serbes / Humour and satire / Books from Turkey


IA: B.O.S.S. by John Darryl Winston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Having enjoyed the first book in John Darryl Winston's dystopian trilogy, IA: Initiate, in December last year (my review here), I have been looking forward to the second installment, IA: Boss. Fortunately I was lucky enough to win copies of both in a Goodreads giveaway! Thanks John!

IA: Boss starts pretty much exactly where IA: Initiate left off which ensures strong continuity. Winston does indulge in recaps of important information, but these are concise and placed at relevant moments so they don't slow the story's pace unnecessarily. Naz is coming to terms with his new-found chess playing skill and wonders at what else he may unknowingly excel. This, and a glance from an attractive girl, leads him to try out for the basketball team. Much of IA: Boss' plot is driven by action on the basketball court or centred around interactions between the team members and Coach Fears. Knowledge of the game would definitely help understand these scenes in depth, but, as a complete ignoramus(!), I don't think I actually missed any vital story elements and I did enjoy watching Naz's personal growth as he learns to trust his team mates. Winston does a great job of promoting qualities such as loyalty and reliability without ever seeming to preach to his readers.

IA: Boss did feel much like part of a larger tale rather than a story in its own right so I wouldn't recommend reading it as a stand-alone book. It concentrates more on Naz's school life so we see less of the wider city this time around. I felt this created a more claustrophobic feel to the prose, as though the outside world is closing in. We get more mysterious glimpses of Cory, Naz's father, and I am intrigued by foster mother, Miss Tracey. (Not just wondering who on earth thought she was a suitable carer for troubled children either!) Emotionally charged events (no, I won't say what happens) are well-handled considering the YA target readership and it was interesting to see Naz's responses and increasing maturity. I will admit to being shocked by the ending and according to Goodreads, the third novel, IA: Union, isn't out until 2017. I am hoping Winston writes faster than that!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Darryl Winston / Young adult fiction / Books from America

3 comments:

  1. Don't miss John Darryl Winston's Kickstarter campaign to take the IA series into schools:
    see my blog about it here

    ReplyDelete
  2. Vote for Ghosts Of Tsavo in the 2016 RONE Awards - nominated in the Mystery category!

    Vote here!

    ReplyDelete
  3. There's now a Ghosts Of Tsavo audiobook available, deliciously narrated by Alison Larkin. And a fab price drop: download the free ebook from Amazon first (links in the post above) to get a 78% discount on the audiobook!

    ReplyDelete