Saturday, 31 March 2018

A Month in Books - March 2018

Last minute entry to two fun Reading Challenges this month meant that I was motivated to power through a ridiculous number of books including a few that I have had unread for far too long.

IndieAthon encouraged the reading of as many independently published books as possible during March and there was a bingo card of different categories to add to the difficulty. You can see exactly how I did on my IndieAthon post. I didn't manage to get a bingo line, but did read the following 14 books for this challenge:

I also did the Take Control of Your TBR Pile Challenge. This one was to read books published prior to the 1st March 2018 and with an emphasis on those that had been languishing for a while. Several of my reads counted for both challenges and I finished with 15 here:

For my usual challenges, March's WorldReads featured five books from Brazil. I added a 1930s book to my Decade Challenge - Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz, but didn't read a Book In French. I added J, S and Y to my Alphabet Soup Challenge letters - Just Simple Little Cruelties by Osman Welela, Stray by Bernard Farai Matambo and Yellow Sun by Stiofan O Nuallain. I still haven't started my Mrs Radcliffe Challenge but did get to read one of my overdue State of the ARC books - The Spider And The Stone by Glen Craney.

The winner of my Twitter Spotlight Post Giveaway this month is Angela Langley who chose to promote her novel Jennifer Brown's Journey. It looks great fun!
If you're an author who wants to win a free Literary Flits Spotlight Post, add your book links to this Linkup before midnight on April 30th to enter the next giveaway!

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 - you can add your own links to the monthly Giveaway Linkup post!

My Reviews

Stray by Bernard Farai Matambo

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Zimbabwean writer Bernard Farai Matambo’s poems in Stray favor a prose-shaped line as they uncover the contradictory impulses in search of emotional and intellectual truth. This collection delicately examines the theme of migration—migration in a literal, geographic sense; migration of language from one lexicon to another; migration of a poem toward prose—and the instability of the creative experience in the broader sense.

Craving by Esther Gerritsen

The relationship between Coco and her mother Elisabeth is uneasy, to say the least. Running into each other by chance, Elisabeth casually tells Coco that she is terminally ill. When Coco moves in with her mother in order to take care of her, aspects of their troubled relationship come to the fore once again. Elisabeth tries her best to conform to the image of a caring mother, but struggles to deal with Coco's erratic behaviour and unpredictable moods.

Threadwalkers by Joanna Volavka + Giveaway
Almost my Book of the Month!

After her father's death in a plane crash, Miranda Woodward's life begins to unravel. On her sixteenth birthday, Miranda receives a mysterious gift: a small wooden box containing a needle and spool of gossamer golden thread, left behind by her father, which begins a chain of events that soon leave her life in chaos. Her pet cat is replaced with another, her teachers don’t have her on their roll call at school, even her closest friends forget who she is. When her mother vanishes into thin air, Miranda becomes desperate for answers. She follows clues to a meet a man known only as the Tailor. With his help, she must find a way to fix her life before it’s too late.

Pearls On A Branch: Oral Tales collected by Najla Jraissaty Khoury

While civil war raged in Lebanon, Najla Khoury traveled with a theater troupe, putting on shows in marginal areas where electricity was a luxury, in air raid shelters, Palestinian refugee camps, and isolated villages. Their plays were largely based on oral tales, and she combed the country in search of stories. Many years later, she chose one hundred stories from among the most popular and published them in Arabic in 2014, exactly as she received them, from the mouths of the storytellers who told them as they had heard them when they were children from their parents and grandparents. Out of the hundred stories published in Arabic, Inea Bushnaq and Najla Khoury chose thirty for this book.

Far Cry From The Turquoise Room by Kate Rigby

Leila is the eight-year-old daughter of Hassan Nassiri, a wealthy Iranian property owner, and younger sister to the adored Fayruz, her father's favourite daughter. But a holiday narrowboat tragedy has far-reaching consequences for the surviving family. Hassan withdraws into reclusive grief, when he’s not escaping into work, or high jinks with his men friends at his second home in Hampstead, leaving Leila to fend for herself in a lonely world of nannies, chess and star-gazing.

Waking Isabella by Melissa Muldoon + Giveaway

Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades.

Estoril by Dejan Tiago-Stankovic

Set in a luxurious grand hotel just outside Lisbon, at the height of the Second World War, Estoril is a delightful and poignant novel about exile, divided loyalties, fear and survival. The hotel's guests include spies, fallen kings, refugees from the Balkans, Nazis, American diplomats and stateless Jews. The Portuguese secret police broodingly observe the visitors, terrified that their country's neutrality will be compromised.

Yellow Sun by Stiofán Ó Nualláin

Ireland 4,000 years ago. Traditional life in a tiny farming community is irrevocably transformed by the arrival of a stranger with the magic of turning stone into metal. Not everyone is happy. Many are fearful. “We have no need of this magic,” they protest. “We have always welcomed change, but this knowledge holds a danger far beyond our understanding.” So, two men from the village, Callan and Lodartha, are instructed to set on a journey to neighbouring clans to seek advice. It’s a journey that brings horror and violence, a journey and an adventure that changes lives forever. Nothing will ever be the same.

Dancing Bears by Witold Szablowski

In the tradition of Ryszard Kapuściński, award-winning Polish journalist Witold Szablowski tells remarkable stories of people throughout Eastern Europe and in Cuba who, like Bulgaria’s dancing bears, are now free but long for when they were not. He describes hitchhiking through Kosovo as it declares independence, arguing with the guides at the Stalin Museum, and sleeping in London’s Victoria Station alongside a homeless Polish woman. Dancing Bears is a fascinating portrait of social and economic upheaval, and a lesson in the challenges of freedom and the seductions of authoritarian rule.

The Clock Flower by Barbara Casey + Giveaway

The three FIGs—Females of Intellectual Genius—as they are called, have graduated from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women after returning from New York City where Dara learned why her mother abandoned her all those years ago, and they are now attending universities where they can further their special talents. This means they will be separated from each other and from Carolina, their much-loved mentor and teacher who is “one of them,” for the first time in their young lives. They vow to try living apart for one semester, in the so-called real world that doesn’t include the orphanage; but if things don’t work out, they will come up with another plan—a plan where they can be together once again.

Walk With Me by Debra Schoenberger + Giveaway

Whenever I'm asked "which is the best camera?" I pretty much respond: "the one you have on you." In fact, most of the images in this book were taken with my cell phone simply because I always have it with me. This is not only a book about street photography but a visual diary, or collection of quirky, unusual and sometimes just plain weird photos I've taken over the course of the last decade.

Just Simple Little Cruelties by Osman Welela + Free Book

You'll find in this book a fictional story about one of the most famous classic philosophers in Ethiopian history (Zera Yacob), others that deal with climate change as well as a few lines of poetry. 

Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz
My Book of the Month!

Schulz’s prose is renowned for its originality. Set largely in a fictional counterpart of his hometown of Drohobych, his stories merge the real and the surreal. The most ordinary objects—the wind, an article of clothing, a plate of fish—can suddenly appear unfathomably mysterious and capable of illuminating profound truths. As Father, one of his most intriguing characters, declaims: “Matter has been granted infinite fecundity, an inexhaustible vital force, and at the same time, a seductive power of temptation that entices us to create forms.”

Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

The year is 2024.
A mysterious virus rages around the UK.
Within days, 'bat fever' is out of control.
Patient Zero is a collection of nine short stories featuring minor characters from the post apocalyptic Project Renova series. All stories are completely 'stand alone'.

Full Circle by Regina Timothy

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Samia-Al-Sayyid an Iraqi immigrant is living a quiet life in New York City after she fled her home to avoid imminent death. She works hard for her cold, heartless, high-strung boss, loves her seventeen-year-old-son, and cherishes the close friendship she has formed with her best friend Susan. Nothing can go wrong, or so she thinks – until the estranged brother she left back in Iraq shows up on her door step.

The Prince Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn.

The Spider And The Stone by Glen Craney

As the 14th century dawns, Scotland's survival hangs by a spider's thread. While the Scot clans scrap over their empty throne, the brutal Edward Longshanks of England invades the weakened northern kingdom, scheming to annex it to his realm. But one frail, dark-skinned lad stands in the Plantagenet monarch's path. The beleaguered Scots cherish and lionize James Douglas as their "Good Sir James." Yet in England, his slashing and elusive raids deep into Yorkshire and Northumbria wreak such havoc and terror that he is branded the Black Douglas with a reward placed on his head for his capture.

The Summer Will Come by Soulla Christodoulou

Set in the 1950s, the story begins in Cyprus. EOKA, British rule, and the fight for Enosis (unity) disrupt the world of two Greek Cypriot families, living in different villages on the island. They are desperately trying to cope with the unpredictability of this fractious time. Circumstances over a five-year period push both families to escape to London where, as immigrants, they struggle to settle, face new challenges, trauma and cope with missing their homeland's traditions and culture. Both families' lives cross paths in London and it seems that happier beginnings could be theirs. But at what cost?

Fred's Funeral by Sandy Day

Fred Sadler has just died of old age. It’s 1986, seventy years after he marched off to war, and his ghost hovers near the ceiling of the dismal nursing home. To Fred’s dismay, the arrangement of his funeral falls to his prudish and disparaging sister-in-law. As Viola dominates the remembrance of Fred, his ghost agonizes over his inability to set the record straight.

Being Kurdish In A Hostile World by Ayub Nuri

In Being Kurdish in a Hostile World, Ayub Nuri writes of growing up during the Iran-Iraq War, of Saddam Hussein's chemical attack that killed thousands in Nuri's home town of Halabja, of civil war, of living in refugee camps, and of years of starvation that followed the UN's sanctions. The story begins with the historic betrayal by the French and British that deprived the Kurds of a country of their own. Nuri recounts living through the 2003 American invasion and the collapse of Hussein's totalitarian rule, and how, for a brief period, he felt optimism for the future. Then came bloody sectarian violence, and recently, the harrowing ascent of ISIS, which Nuri reported from Mosul.

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream by Janice S. Ellis + Giveaway

From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream vividly recounts the journey of an African-American woman from rural, segregated Mississippi through academia, corporate America, and politics. It is the story of how she triumphed even when, more often than not, the ugly realities of racism and sexism tried to deter her.

Free Country: A Penniless Adventure The Length of Britain by George Mahood

The plan is simple. George and Ben have three weeks to cycle 1000 miles from the bottom of England to the top of Scotland. There is just one small problem… they have no bikes, no clothes, no food and no money. Setting off in just a pair of Union Jack boxer shorts, they attempt to rely on the generosity of the British public for everything from food to accommodation, clothes to shoes, and bikes to beer. 

Spotlight Posts

Nothing Bad Happens Here by Nikki Crutchley

The body of missing tourist Bethany Haliwell is found in the small Coromandel town of Castle Bay, where nothing bad ever happens. News crews and journalists from all over the country descend on the small seaside town as old secrets are dragged up and gossip is taken as gospel. Among them is Miller Hatcher, a journalist battling her own demons, who arrives intent on gaining a promotion by covering the grisly murder. Following an anonymous tip, Miller begins to unravel the mystery of the small town. And when another woman goes missing, Miller finds herself getting closer to the truth. But at what cost?

37 Hours by J F Kirwan

After two long years spent in a secret British prison, Nadia Laksheva is suddenly granted her freedom. Yet there is a dangerous price to pay for her release: she must retrieve the Russian nuclear warhead stolen by her deadliest enemy, a powerful and ruthless terrorist known only as The Client. But her mysterious nemesis is always one step ahead and the clock is ticking. In 37 hours, the warhead will explode, reducing the city of London to a pile of ash. Only this time, Nadia is prepared to pull the trigger at any cost…

Nocturne by Heather McKenzie + Giveaway

Finally free of her father, Kaya has the one thing that keeps her heart beating—Luke. Blissfully content in his arms, everything seems perfect…until their world is shattered by a deadly invasion. When an old ally comes to the rescue, Kaya wants none of it. She is devastated to learn the identity of her attacker, and that she must do something truly heartbreaking if she wants to save the ones she loves. Sacrificing everything and sinking into bottomless sorrow, Kaya finds solace in an unlikely friend—one who shows her a different kind of love, and helps her discover an inner strength she never thought possible.

Sweet Home Summer by Michelle Vernal

Isla Brookes was terrified of leading a little life in the small New Zealand town where she was born and where her gran and mum were also born and bred. To escape their fate, she breaks it off with her teenage sweetheart and runs away to London. She’s spent the last ten years climbing the interior design career ladder and meeting the wrong kind of man until one day she wakes up and wonders what it’s all been for. Leaving her latest unsuitable man and job for dust Isla winds up sitting on a beanbag in therapy at a Californian retreat, where she realises it’s time to go home.

The Progeny: A Novel by Tosca Lee + Giveaway

From New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee comes a story of love, ancient secrets, and survival. Book 1 in the House of Bathory duology. When you wake up, you remember nothing. Not your name, or where you were born, or the faces of the people you knew. Just a single warning written to yourself before you forgot it all:

Jennifer Brown's Journey by Angie Langley

Five feet one and full of fizz, Jennifer Brown lights up the room. She has a gorgeous partner, a wicked best friend, and a boss who doesn’t mind that she’s the worst typist on the planet. She’s loyal, generous and irredeemably ditzy. Everyone loves Jennifer Brown. But can she learn to love herself? When her world caves in, she needs every ounce of her steely core to step back from the abyss and take charge of her life, reinventing herself first as cook and housekeeper to a saucy sexagenarian, then as manager of a tumbledown country estate with sensitive secrets. 

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 April: the British Virgin Islands poetry that got delayed from March, a Hungarian memoir, Chinese fiction and I'm hoping to keep cracking through my TBRs while I'm on a roll. There may be fantasy!

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!

Thursday, 29 March 2018

State of the ARC - March 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 March I blogged my reviews of all these ARCs:
(Click the cover images to visit their reviews)

I'm amazed in seeing them all lined up here just how many books I read this month! Several of them are quite short though and Walk With Me is a photography book.
My Book of the Month (officially revealed on the 31st!) will be Collected Stories by Bruno Schulz and there are several other very good books here too: Dancing Bears, Stray, Estoril, Fred's Funeral, Threadwalkers ...

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

Awaiting Reading

Read / Reviewed / Blogged






From Authors




Blog Tours


1 RR


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.

I read the overdue Author book so that's one out of the red. I've got several NetGalleys due through April though so fingers crossed I will be able to keep up!

Of course no month would be complete without adding to my stash of ARCs so here are March's new arrivals:

I'm glad I read so many more than I received!

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 28th April.