Wednesday, 28 February 2018

A Month in Books - February 2018

I've linked up this post to the February Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole over at Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

So that's two months done and a sixth of 2018 gone already. Where does the time go? It goes in books of course! I read sixteen books from numerous countries this month - Iraq, Iceland, Tunisia, Algeria, Ethiopia, the Ivory Coast - as well as discovering the ills of air travel and the beginnings of factory farming.

I'm happy to be slowly creeping up the Goodreads book reviewer leaderboard having been sat in the 180s for months. At the time of writing I had just jumped to 176th place for reviewers in the UK. Woo hoo!! If you're on Goodreads, here's my profile. Why not click that friend button!

For my Reading Challenges, February's WorldReads featured books from Finland. I didn't add any books to my Decade Challenge, but did read another Book In French and ticked off five more letters for my Alphabet Soup Challenge. I should have started my Mrs Radcliffe Challenge by now so am a bit late on that. Hopefully in March I will read the first of six books she authored and will get to at least one of my overdue State of the ARC books too.

The winner of my Twitter Spotlight Post Giveaway this month is Ichabod Temperance who chose to promote his new steampunk adventure novel, The Two Faces Of Temperance. Do click through and check out the post. There's an extract to whet your appetite and you could win a copy too!
And if you're an author who wants to win a Spotlight Post, add your book links to this Linkup before midnight on March 31st.

Click on the book covers or titles below to visit their Literary Flits reviews or click the Amazon and Smashwords links to get your own copies. (Amazon and Smashwords are affiliate links). Don't forget to enter all the Giveaways while you're here - I've a new monthly Giveaway Linkup showing more than just mine!

My Reviews

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
F for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

From the rubble-strewn streets of US-occupied Baghdad, Hadi – a scavenger and an oddball fixture at the local café – collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them a proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed.

The Woman At 1,000 Degrees by Hallgrimur Helgason
My Book of the Month!

‘I live here alone in a garage, together with a laptop and an old hand grenade. It’s pretty cosy.’
And...she’s off. Eighty-year-old Herra Björnsson lies alone in her garage waiting to die. One of the most original narrators in literary history, she takes readers with her on a dazzling ride of a novel as she reflects – in a voice by turns darkly funny, bawdy, poignant, and always, always smart – on the mishaps, tragedies and turns of luck that shaped her life.

Maybe Esther by Katja Petrowskaja

Katja Petrowskaja’s family story is impossible to untangle from the history of twentieth-century Europe. Taking the reader from Moscow to Kiev to Warsaw to Berlin, and deep into archives and pieced-together conversations, photos and memories, Maybe Esther is a journey into language, memory, philosophy, history and trauma, and a singular, beautiful, unforgettable work of literature.

Children Of Our Age by A M Bakalar

Karol and his wife are the rising stars of the Polish community in London but Karol is a ruthless entrepreneur whose fortune is built on the backs of his fellow countrymen. The Kulesza brothers, mentally unstable Igor and his violent brother Damian, dream about returning to Poland one day. A loving couple, Mateusz and Angelika, believe against all odds that good things will happen to people like them. Gradually, all of these lives become dramatically entwined, and each of them will have to decide how far they are willing to go in pursuit of their dreams.

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

Moscow 1876.
A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens. But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune.
Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case. Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.

Cow by Beat Sterchi

Cow is the story of a Spanish agricultural labourer, Ambrosio, who goes to Switzerland as a Gastarbeiter. He is bound for Innenwald, a village in the Swiss highlands, and the novel begins as he is about to spend a summer working for Farmer Knuchel. It ends in the abattoir of the neighbouring city, at the end of the seven hard years of labour that have destroyed him. There he sees Blosch, the once magnificent lead cow on Knuchel's farm, now a sad, condemned creature in the abattoir.

Babs 2 Brisbane by Barbara Haddrill

Once in a while fate sets you off in a direction you never expected. When Barbara Haddrill was asked to be a bridesmaid at her friend's wedding in Australia she decided to take the most eco-friendly route possible. Giving up on the easy option - a long haul flight that would have got her to Brisbane in 24 hours - she set off on what was to become an incredible nine-month overland journey. This journey changed her life and let to a worldwide debate about air travel. 

Crime by Irvine Welsh

Detective Inspector Ray Lennox has fled to Miami to escape the aftermath of a mental breakdown induced by occupational stress and cocaine abuse, and a harrowing child-sex murder case back in Edinburgh. But his fiancée Trudi is only interested in planning their wedding, and soon Lennox casts himself adrift, alone in Florida. A coke-fuelled binge brings him into contact with another victim of sexual predation, ten-year-old Tianna, and Lennox flees across the state with his terrified charge, determined to protect her at any cost. 

Pigeon Street by Mark Fieldsend
P for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Suffering at the hands of a violent intruder, Joseph is forced to confront the unimaginable. His will to survive is tested in the starkest of circumstances, and he learns that every action has consequences, some of which he may not be able to stomach.

Lettre à Zohra D by Danielle Michel-Chich
I read this book in French

Lettre à Zohra D. is an autobiographical narrative exploring the author's experience as a child survivor of the 1956 bombing of the Milk Bar café in Algiers, Algeria. The bomb caused Michel-Chich to lose her left leg and killed her grandmother.

Breathe Breathe by Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi
B for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Breathe. Breathe. is a collection of dark poetry and short fiction exploring the surreal depths of humanity. It's a representation of how life breaks us apart and words put us back together. Purged onto the pages, dark emotions flow, urging readers into murky seas and grim forests, to the fine line between breathing and death.

Necessities by Boyd Taylor + Giveaway
N for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge

Donnie Ray Cuinn returns to Austin to defend a war hero accused of murder. David Lewis lost both legs in Iraq, but he has overcome his nightmares and his disabilities by sheer willpower. He has learned to run and to box and is a successful newspaperman with a beautiful wife and son. Now the nightmares have returned and he must stand trial for murder.

The Order by John Mayer

Brogan McLane QC uncovers the despicable deeds of The Earl of Marchion who owes £7.8m in Death Duties and who thought he could kidnap an 11 year old African girl and use her to smuggle and cheat his way out of paying those taxes. Hiding in his world of privilege, he didn't reckon on the strongest ties of all: the love of a new mother and the legal skills of her husband Brogan McLane in Parliament House.

A Dip In My Ocean by A G Stranger
A for my 2018 Alphabet Soup Challenge.

This a collection of poems that englobe different themes ranging from love, heartbreak to life and healing. Different colorful backgrounds on which the poems were written have been carefully chosen; The powerful sceneries will help you not just "dip" in the writer's "ocean" but rather immerse yourself in the depth his words and their meaning.

The Wife's Tale by Aida Edemariam

A hundred years ago, a girl was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Before she was ten years old, Yetemegnu was married to a man two decades her senior, an ambitious poet-priest. Over the next century her world changed beyond recognition. She witnessed Fascist invasion and occupation, Allied bombardment and exile from her city, the ascent and fall of Emperor Haile Selassie, revolution and civil war. She endured all these things alongside parenthood, widowhood and the death of children.

Saving Africa by N Timoleon Amessa

Saving Africa investigates the root causes of underdevelopment in developing countries, particularly in post-colonial Africa. It also identifies the factors that inhibit progress: the cultural barriers to development; the political instability and the inappropriate choice of political system that has hampered the development of so many African countries; the economic problems plaguing Africa, especially in the three main sectors of the economy: agriculture, industry, and the service economy. 

Spotlight Posts

66 Metres by J F Kirwan + Extract

The only thing worth killing for is family.
Everyone said she had her father’s eyes. A killer’s eyes. Nadia knew that on the bitterly cold streets of Moscow, she could never escape her past – but in just a few days, she would finally be free.

The Monkey House by Boyd Taylor + Giveaway

In this, the third Donnie Ray Cuinn book, Donnie returns to Austin from his law practice in the Texas Panhandle to confront All-American football player Wesley Bird, his former best friend. In the company of beautiful, athletic Anna Kaye Nordstrom, Donnie experiences the “new” Austin of glitzy condos, trendy restaurants and social media. He also revisits the “old” Austin of barbecue, power politics and greens versus developers. Donnie finds that not much has changed.

The Two Faces Of Temperance by Ichabod Temperance + Giveaway

"Oh, my Goodness, Miss Plumtartt, there is a fiendish monster at loose in London!”
“Quite so, Mr. Temperance. I say, the villain has the Great City in an uproar, sir.”
“Yes, Ma’am, Miss Plumtartt, Ma’am, there is murder at our elbow, wherever we turn.”
“The machinations of intrigue threaten to crush us in their merciless gears, eh hem? Yes, One suspects that this adventure may come to be known as ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Icky and Mr. Temperance.”

Tribal Affairs by Matt Dallmann + Giveaway

Dahlia, a centuries-old genie, lies hopelessly trapped in a damaged golden locket charm attached to an ankle bracelet. Its owner, sixteen-year-old Liana, wears it for the first time during her father Jamison’s opening night illusion spectacular. Not only does its presence cause Jamison to folly his performance, but it also starts a chain of bizarre events that lead to a showdown with Dahlia’s mortal enemy, Stefan, and an unsuspecting romance between Liana and his son.

Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak + Extract + Giveaway

Alice thought she’d turned over a new leaf. No more working for Jabberwocky. No more making deals with the ruthless Queen of Hearts. No more hanging around The Mushroom with tinkers, tarts, scoundrels, and thieves in London’s criminal underbelly. But she’d been bonkers to dream.

The Poison Of Woedenwoud by K Ferrin + Giveaway

Magic is draining from the world threatening everything, the tatters of her own family, the warlocks, and the Mari alike. Ling and her companions search desperately for the key to ending it all, but warlocks dog their every step. Meanwhile, Ling, isolated and afraid, struggles against a rising tide of darkness far more threatening than anything in the Darkling Sea.

The Betrayal by Anne Allen + Giveaway

1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth.

Living In The Past by Jane Lovering

Do you ever wish you could turn back time?
Grace Nicholls has a few reasons for wanting to turn back the clock … although an archaeological dig at a Bronze Age settlement on the Yorkshire moors is not what she had in mind. But encouraged by her best friend Tabitha, that’s exactly where she finds herself. 

A Spider Sat Beside Her by K E Lanning + Extract + Giveaway

Lowry Walker escapes to the stars, taking a graduate position on the new International Space Station. Her dissertation includes gathering Landsat data over Antarctica, now exposed after global warming has melted the ice caps, but her mission is to heal herself after divorcing an abusive husband. However, the danger is just beginning - a terrorist attack on the space station embroils her into a political nightmare.

The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb + Extract + Giveaway

Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being cool, Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary’s obsession with climbing the social ladder.

Phew - are you still here?

So that's all this month's books. I hope you found a few to tempt you.
I've already got some great books ready to talk about in March: Zimbabwean and British Virgin Islands poetry, an unusual mother-daughter relationship novel from the Netherlands and a chilly-looking Icelandic historical fiction novel. Plus March's WorldReads will highlight Brazilian fiction on the 5th.

Pop links to your Reading Roundups in the Comments so I can come see what books you've enjoyed this month.
And don't forget to keep up with the Giveaways!

Monday, 26 February 2018

State of the ARC - February 2018

I saw this State of the ARC meme over at Avalinah's Books blog in January and thought it would be fun to join in.

The idea is to keep track of all the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) books I've got awaiting reading and reviewing, and to make headway through the overdue pile. For my State of the ARC, I am including all books sent to me for review whether they are pre-publication copies (as ARCs should be) or simply review copies of books already available publicly. I think two sets of statistics will get too confusing. I am not including books that I have purchased myself, book exchange swaps, or free downloads.

In February I blogged my reviews of all these ARCs:
(Click the cover images to visit their reviews)

That made quite a dent in my outstanding To Be Reviewed pile as I am sure you can imagine! However I was disappointed that I didn't get to any of the overdue reviews I discovered in January. I did however discover that I had already read and reviewed one of the publisher-received books I thought I hadn't got to. So that is one less to worry about!

More authors are getting in touch to offer me review copies of their books which, one one hand, is lovely but, on the other hand, is making me feel a bit guilty because I have to refuse lots of them. I generally average reading one book every two days. At the moment I am receiving offers of two books pretty much every day. I've got lots of NetGalley reviews due in March too so if anyone has ideas for squeezing more reading time out of a day, please let me know! What are your thoughts on sleep - essential or overrated?!

Here's my State of the ARC numbers as of today:

Awaiting Reading

Read / Reviewed / Blogged






From Authors




Blog Tours


2 R / 1 RR / 1 RRB


From Publishers




RRB (Read, Reviewed and Blogged) essentially means those book reviews are completed and I'm just waiting for their scheduled blog post date.

Not too shabby!

Of course no month would be complete without adding a new stash of ARCs so here are some of February's new arrivals:

Two Dutch books, two Belgian, one Polish, one Kenyan and one American. That should keep me quiet for a while as well as adding nicely to my WorldReads!

If you want to join this State of the ARC meme check out This Page at Avalinah's Books.

My next State of the ARC will be blogged on the 29th March.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

My Week in Review to the 25th February

I reached a Kiva milestone this week: making my 199th loan to Nongkhran for her organic farm in Thailand and my 200th loan to Helena who runs a solar energy business in Namibia. I've now lent a total of $5000 across 72 different countries which is pretty amazing when I think about it!

We changed campsites on Sunday and are now pitched up at Camping Eden in Peñiscola. We cycled briefly to this town about the same time last year when we stayed at Camping L'Orangeraie in Calig. Calig is a little inland, but now we are only a block from the sea! There's lots of good walking and cycling here which we have already taken advantage of and have plans to do more over the next week or so. We have already cycled out as far as Benicarlo and walked along the prom for a good hour in each direction, plus taking a lovely walk out into the hills at the edge of town.

Camping Eden is one of the priciest campsites of the many in this area - its location and superb facilities justifying the cost. With our ACSI card, it's €19 per night including electricity and the campsite is practically full, mostly with Dutch and Germans who stay put for the whole winter. There is a stay-8-days-pay-for-7 discount, so we expect to be here for at least sixteen days.

In blogging news, my new monthly Giveaway Linkup is going pretty well although there is still plenty of space for more links. If you're hosting Giveaways on your own blog, feel welcome to add their links and try your luck on everyone else's!

I found a trio posts elsewhere that might be of interest. Avalinah's Books hosted a guest post about migrating a blog from Blogger to WordPress. I've only ever used the Blogger platform, but go through phases of wondering if WordPress would be a better home. It doesn't look too difficult to switch!
Kristen at Metaphors And Moonlight wrote a thought-provoking post about how disability is (and isn't) shown on book covers. It was sheer coincidence that I could put forward Necessities by Boyd Taylor as a book cover showing disability, but I struggled to think of any others.
I loved a recipe post too. Baking Queen 74 has made Slow Cooker Creme Egg Shortbread and I so want to try this myself. Sadly I don't think Creme Eggs have reached Spain yet, so I might just be slow cooking shortbread! Right now my slow cooker is baking us a veganised version of this Courgette Cake which should be ready in about 50 minutes ...

While we wait, here's what you might have missed on my other blogs this week. Click the images to visit the pages ...


Artisan Rainbow

Literary Flits