Thursday, 30 November 2017

A Month in Books - November 2017


Click on the book cover images or on the book titles to visit the original Literary Flits blog posts.
Bookshop links will take you to the relevant pages of their websites and, if you make a purchase whilst there, I would receive a small commission!

This month we've got one Guest Review, eleven Spotlight posts and fifteen of my own reviews including that rarest of books - a Did Not Finish! I've read Finnish crime fiction, Australian Christmas romance, Syrian poetry, Moroccan fantasy fairy tale and American science fiction. There's a couple of historical fiction novels too so I'm pretty confident that there should be something to appeal to almost everyone!


Guest Review



Anatomy Of A Soldier by Harry Parker

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Imagine if your whole life changed in the blink of an eye . . .
Captain Tom Barnes is leading British troops into a war zone when he is gravely injured by an exploding IED. This devastating moment and the transformative months that follow are narrated here by forty-five objects, telling one unforgettable story.

Guest review by Charlie Laidlaw

I met Charlie Laidlaw on Twitter and have his novel, The Things We Learn When We're Dead, to read and review for next month. I'm planning to post about it on Literary Flits on the 5th December to coincide with WorldReads from Scotland on this blog.


Spotlights

Don't forget you could win a Spotlight post by following me and retweeting my pinned tweet on Twitter! October's winner never replied to their notification tweets so they've sadly missed out however November's winner will be notified tomorrow...



London Noir by Ann Girdharry

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Memory loss, nightmares, the urge to kill – Sophie has it all. Is it really Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Or something more sinister? Kal is about to find out…




Mick And Michelle by Nina Rossing + Giveaway + Extract

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Fifteen-year-old Mick Mullins has a great life: his parents are sweet, his sister is tolerable, and his friendships are solid. But as summer descends on Queens, he prepares to turn his carefree existence upside down by disclosing a secret he has kept long enough. It’s time to work up the courage to reveal that he is not a boy, but a girl—and that her name is Michelle. 



Winter's Siren: A Dark Reimagining of Swan Lake by Krystal Jane Ruin + Giveaway

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For the last five years, Fawn has been the star soprano of a secluded opera house, forced to sing for her kidnapper.
His daughter, Devi, waits patiently in the shadows, hiding a face so horrible that no one who’s seen it will look at it again.




The Painter's Apprentice: A Novel of 16th-Century Venice by Laura Morelli + Giveaway

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Would you rather sacrifice your livelihood, your lover, or your life? When the Black Death comes knocking on your door, you’d better decide quickly.




AnguiSH by Lila Felix + Giveaway + Extract

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The help-wanted ad on the bulletin board at Ashland’s college was simple enough: mother seeks live-in maid for son. But it turns out Breaker James is a mess in more ways than one. He’s confined to a prison of his own making, crippled by his fear of people and any social interaction whatsoever.




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Twofer murder? What’s a twofer murder?
Twofer Murder is a treat for fans of best-selling author Lauren Carr’s fast-paced mysteries! Lauren’s latest novel contains the main characters from her three successful series: Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose mysteries.





Ours Is The Winter by Laurie Ellingham

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Erica, Molly and Noah are embarking on the challenge of a lifetime, driving Siberian huskies across the frozen wilderness of the Arctic. Cut off from the world and their loved ones and thrown together under gruelling conditions, it isn’t long before the cracks start to show. 



Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer + Giveaway

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Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world. 




Ghost Owl by Nancy Schoellkopf + Giveaway

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Ghost Owl is a magical story of discovery, as a young woman seeks to understand her potential and confront her own shadow. Mariah Easter wakes up in the middle of the night to discover the world is as bright as noon—but for her eyes only.



The Haunting of Hattie Hastings by Audrey Davis

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Hattie Hastings is happily married, even if husband Gary drives her up the wall at times. When tragedy strikes, she is left alone and heartbroken, with only an assortment of family and friends to prop her up. Struggling to cope, she is left reeling when her deceased other half returns, popping up at the most inappropriate times.



The One Apart by Justine Avery

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Only one obstacle stands in his way of enjoying a normal life. He remembers every life he's lived before.
Tres is about to be born... with the biggest burden any has ever had to bear. He is beginning again - as an ageless adult trapped in an infant body.


My reviews



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Lumikki Andersson may be innocent, but she's no Snow White . . . Three and a half months have passed since Lumikki was left for dead in a snowdrift, a bullet wound in her thigh and frostbite creeping into her skin. But the scorchingly hot streets of Prague in summer provide a welcome contrast to that terrifying time, and now Lumikki just wants to move on.






Below The Surface by Leena Lehtolainen

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When a woman’s body turns up in a lake—a bullet to the back of her head—Violent Crime Unit commander Maria Kallio, freshly back from maternity leave, is fast to get on the case. The victim is ID’d as Annukka Hackman, wife of a prominent publisher and author of an upcoming unauthorized tell-all book on Sasha Smeds, Finland’s celebrated racing rally driver.



Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen + Free Book

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Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland is one of ten children of a country clergyman. Although a tomboy in her childhood, by the age of 17 she is "in training for a heroine" and is excessively fond of reading Gothic novels.




The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart

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The rules are down to you. The rules that stop you seducing your neighbour downstairs, that stop you hitting your boss, that stop you leaving your family and leaving the country. The rules that stop you living.



Dreams Of Maryam Tair by Mhani Alaoui


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My Book of the Month!

Outside of time, the legendary queen Sheherazade tells a little girl a story that has happened, and is yet to happen. Dreams of Maryam Tair brings readers to a Casablanca of myth and metaphor, of curses, witches, djinns and demons. But it is also a very present-day Casablanca: a raw, pitiless landscape of crumbling urbanism and rusty ports, of bureaucrats and student revolts, and of a deep human solitude.



Venetian Blood: Murder In A Sensuous City by Christine Evelyn Volker


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Struggling to forget a crumbling marriage, forty-year-old Anna Lucia Lottol comes to Venice to visit an old friend—but instead of finding solace, she is dragged into the police station and accused of murdering a money-laundering count with whom she had a brief affair. 





The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North. 



A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell


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Hanna Lundmark escapes the brutal poverty of rural Sweden for a job as a cook onboard a steamship headed for Australia. Jumping ship at the African port of Lourenço Marques, Hanna decides to begin her life afresh.






A Nocturnal Expedition Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre

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The sequel to de Maistre's A Journey Round My Room is another parody set in the tradition of the grand travel narrative, but this time is set over a period of only four hours.





IA Union by John Darryl Winston + Giveaway


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Naz has lost everyone that he loves. And while he may have found refuge and pause at International Academy, he has found no peace and certainly no answers. All that he knows calls to him from the streets of the Exclave and Union High School where he reunites with friends and mentors. 





Heart Note by Cassandra O'Leary + Giveaway

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Love is like a fine perfume. The top note draws you in, an instant attraction, but the Heart Note is the true essence. Like true love – a great perfume should be a woman’s perfect match. At least, that’s what perfume counter manager, Lily Lucas, tells her customers in one of Australia’s largest department stores.






African Me And Satellite TV by Jo Robinson

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For many years Suzette has managed very well to live her life without actually taking part in it, avoiding any possibility of pain by very carefully ignoring reality. Until something happens. Something so terrible that she has no choice but to abandon her cocoon of safety.



Concerto Al-Quds by Adonis

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A cri de coeur or fully imagined poem on the myth and history of Jerusalem/Al-Quds from the author revered as the greatest living Arabic poet. At the age of eighty-six, Adonis, a Syrian poet, critic, essayist, and devoted secularist, has come out of retirement to pen an extended, innovative poem on Jerusalem/Al-Quds.


The Architect's Apprentice by Elif Shafak

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Sixteenth century Istanbul: a stowaway arrives in the city bearing an extraordinary gift for the Sultan. The boy is utterly alone in a foreign land, with no worldly possessions to his name except Chota, a rare white elephant destined for the palace menagerie.



Passing by Nella Larsen

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Irene Redfield is a woman with an enviable life. She and her husband, Brian, a prominent physician, share a comfortable Harlem town house with their sons. Her work arranging charity balls that gather Harlem's elite creates a sense of purpose and respectability for Irene. But her hold on this world begins to slip the day she encounters Clare Kendry, a childhood friend with whom she had lost touch.


That's it for this month and I know I have already got some great books lined up to read and review in December including the new Festival Of The Spoken Nerd book The Element In The Room, the last novel of my Jane Austen Challenge, and my first French-book-actually-read-in-French since college (yes, over 20 years ago!) Keep up daily on Literary Flits or I will see you here at the end of the month for another round up.

Don't forget the Giveaways!

Monday, 27 November 2017

A 20 mile cycle ride back to Malvarrosa and Xilxes


We spent October and November in Camping Malvarrosa back in 2014 and I didn't immediately realise how close Moncofa is to Malvarrosa. It's only about 10 miles distant and practically flat countryside all the way! We cycled there this week to take a look and remember our previous visit. Surprisingly that campsite is almost full. Admittedly it is much smaller than Camping Moncofa, but I think we only saw one spare pitch. We cycled along the offroad Via Verde I used to use for jogging and then returned along the beach boardwalks and promenades. It really is perfect for easy cycling aound here!

On the way back we swooped again along Xilxes seafront. We had walked there a couple of days previously. I took all these photos then. I love the little beachfront villas and summer houses. Xilxes promenade is very pretty although their Mediteraneo campsite looks somewhat the worse for wear!


Nous avons passé d'octobre et novembre en 2014 dans Camping Malvarrosa et je ne savais pas qu'immédiatement comment proche est Moncofa de Malvarrosa. C'est seulement environ 16km de là et pratiquement plat pendant tout le chemin. Nous avons roulé là cette semaine pour jeter un coup d'oeil et aussi pour rappeler notre visite précédente. Étonnamment cet camping est presque complet. Il est vrai que c'est beaucoup plus petite que Camping Moncofa mais je pense que nous avons vu seulement une emplacement libre. Nous avons roulé sur la Voie Verte, j'avais l'habitude d'utiliser pour faire du jogging. Puis nous sommes retournées le long les trottoirs du bois et les promenades. C'est vraiment parfait ici pour les rounlades faciles!

Sur le chemin du retour nous s’abattit à nouveau le long du front de mer de Xilxes. Nous avions parcouru il y quelques jours auparavant. J’ai pris toutes ces photos ensuite. J’adore les petites villas en bord de mer et les maisons d’été. Xilxes promenade est très jolie, bien que leur Camping Mediteraneo ressemble un peu le pire à porter! 




Wednesday, 22 November 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

With Black Friday deals clamouring for your attention everywhere this week, my monthly TreatYourself post might seem superfluous! However, here's my five suggestions anyway. And if you want your gift giving to be more thoughtful than just the latest plastic gadget craze, take a look through my Artisan Rainbow blog. There's now over 100 colourful hand- and artisan-made ideas there to choose from. Each of those small British businesses would love your custom even more than these big guys!


Alternatively, buy ethically and donate to those in need by shopping at the Ethical Superstore between now and midnight on Tuesday 28th Nov. You will get 20% off your order and for every order over £30 Ethical Superstore will make a donation to the Newcastle West End Foodbank. Last year their Black Friday promotion resulted in just under £4000 of donations!

Ceramics at Emma Bridgewater 

Casual clothing at Weird Fish 

Movies from Amazon 

and Chocolate at Thorntons 

Monday, 20 November 2017

Hiking the Ruta de los Puntales in the Serra d'Espada

I'm a tad embarrassed to reveal that we did this walk on Thursday and, four days later, I am still hobbling about with complaining calf muscles! In my defence we walked for more than four hours with a climb (and its corresponding descent of course) of 500 metres. This much exercise is not good for my health!

The walk starts from a car park in Vilavella - a town for which the word labyrinthine could have been invented! It's a frustrating maze of narrow one way streets, but we found the right place eventually. The walking route itself is clearly marked all the way. There are new-looking signposts at junctions and regular red and white stripe markers on rocks and trees.

The stunning view photograph at the top of this post was taken at a later point in the walk - from a ruined Civil War machine gun nest. Views early on are no less spectacular though. We began with a reasonably steep uphill climb on tarmac road which became rough track. Starting from cold so to speak it was an effort, but we were rewarded with this:


Aljub dels Caçadors 
After about an hour we discovered the Aljub dels Caçadors. Aljubs are a water storage and irrigation method brought to Spain by the Moors in the middle ages and still used for centuries afterwards. An underground cavern collects runoff and rain water in the wet months. Then buckets can be lowered through a small door to retrieve drinking water for animals. Some Aljub are connected to agricultural irrigation channels with sluice gates to control the water flow. This one now just contains rubble as had the Fonteta d'Oliver, a former spring we had passed about half an hour previously. Fortunately we had taken our own flasks of cold water.

The mapped route along the GR-36 now became a narrow footpath winding through shaded woodland. We saw strawberry trees and nut trees, but unsurprisingly didn't spot any of the promised foxes, badgers or genets! The route has an out-and-back diversion to the Font de Cabres, but we chose instead to turn off the GR-36 for another uphill stretch to the Coll del Bledar. We climbed up away from the trees onto an exposed ridge with more spectacular and almost panoramic views. Our lunch spot was by the slanted rock formation pictured below.


With hindsight, I am glad we didn't add the extra 140 metre climb up to the Pic de la Font de Cabres. Instead we headed east along the ridge past three Civil War structures like the one pictured above. It's tricky terrain up there. I had to concentrate to keep my footing on scree paths in bright daylight with no need to rush. I imagined how much more dangerous the paths would have been in wartime.

The Pic de la Creu de Ferro - yes someone actually carried a large iron cross up onto a mountain ridge  - marked the start of our long descent back to Vilavella. Tree cutting obscured the path for a short distance but we managed not to lose ourselves. This downhill lasted a good hour and I think its mix of scrambling and steep rock steps is probably what did for my legs! We were both proud of ourselves for having accomplished a difficult hike - and very happy to see our car waiting for us!


Je suis un peu gêné pour révéler que nous avons fait cette randonnée jeudi et, quatre jours plus tard, je suis clopinant sur avec les muscles de mollet se plaindre! Pour ma défense, nous avons marché pendant plus de quatre heures avec une montée (et sa descente correspondant bien sûr) de 500 mètres. Cette quantité d'exercice n'est pas bon pour ma santé!

La randonnée commence d'un parking à Vilavella - une ville pour laquelle le mot labyrinthique pourrait avoir été inventé. C'est un labyrinthe frustrant d'étroites rues à sens unique, mais nous avons trouvé que le bon endroit par la suite. Le sentier de randonnée se porte clairement tout le chemin. Il y a des panneaux nouvelles apparences aux embranchements et marquers réguliers rayures rouges et blanches sur les roches et les arbres.

La photographie vue imprenable au sommet de cet poste a été prise à un moment ultérieur à la marcher - d'un nid mitrailleuse ruine la guerre civile. Vues dès le début ne crient pas moins spectaculaire. Nous avons commencé avec un montée assez raide sur une route goudronnée qui est devenue la piste rugueuse. À partir de froid par ainsi dire, c'était un effort, mais nous avons été récompenses avec ceci: (deuxième photographie)

Après environ une heure, nous avons découvert l'Aljub dels Caçadors. Aljubs sont un stockage de l'eau et méthode d'irrigation a apporté à l'Espagne par les Maures au moyen-âge et encores utilisés pendant des siècles par la suite. Une caverne souterraine recueille l'eau ruissellement et de pluie pendant les mois humides. Puis seaux peut être abaissée par une petite porte pour récupérer de l'eau potable pour les animaux. Certains d'Aljub sont reliées aux canaux d'irrigation agricole avec vannes pour contrôler le debit d'eau. Celui-ci maintenant juste contient gravats qu’avait le Fonteta de Oliver, un ancien ressort nous avions passé environ une demi-heure auparavant. Heureusement nous avons pris nos propres facons de l'eau froide.

La route mappée du GR-36 est maintenant devenu un etroit sentier serpentant à travers les bois ombragés. Nous avons vu arbousiers et les arbres de noix, mais sans surprise n'a pas apercevoir les renards, blaireaux ou genets qui avait été promis! L'itinéraire comporte un détournement dehors et en arrière à la Font des Cabres, mais nous ont plutôt choisi a quitter le GR-36 pour un autre tronçon en montée à la Coll del Bledar. Nous avons grimpé loin des arbres sur une crête exposée avec plus des vues spectaculaires et presque panoramiques. Nous avons mangé notre déjeuner a côté de la formation des roches oblique sur la photo quatrième.

Avec le recul, je suis heureux que nous n'ajoutons pas la montée jusqu'au Pic de la Font des Cabres. Au lieu de cela, nous avons marché l'est sur la crête au-delà de trois structures de guerre civile comme celle illustrée au sommet de cet poste. C'est un terrain difficile là-haut. J'ai dû me concentrer pour garder mon pied sur les chemins de l'eboulis en plein jour sans avoir besoin de se dépêcher. J'ai imaginé comment plus beaucoup dangereux que les chemins d'accès auraient été en temps du guerre.

The Pic de la Creu de Ferro - oui, quelqu'un fait une grande croix de fer vers la haut sur la crête de la montagne - a marqué le début de notre longue descente vers Vilavella. Coupe d'arbres obscurci le chemin d'accès sur un courte distance mais nous avons réussi à ne pas nous perdre. Cette descente a duré plus d'une heure et je pense que son mélange de brouillage et étapes rocheuses abruptes est probablement ce qui fait mal à mes jambes. Nous étions tous deux fiers de nous-mêmes pour avoir accompli une randonnée difficile - et très heureux de voir notre voiture nous attend!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Benicato Roman villa and a Civil War farmhouse - Nules

Benicato Roman villa 
I was very pleased with our cycle ride on Wednesday. We had already taken several leaflets from Nules tourist office and decided to start by following the orange one, Nules - los origines (Nules - its origins) In fact, except for two shrines in the centre of roundabouts, there aren't a lot of sites to visit. However there is a ruined Roman villa and a Civil War farmhouse and it was a perfect day for cycling.

The ruins are both within orange groves a short distance from Nules town. The villa is one of nine, but I think this is the only one that can be viewed. It is also easy to miss! We nearly zoomed straight past its dirt road because its discreet Benicato sign is intended to be seen by travellers from Nules direction. We had set out from Moncofa! The villa dates back to the Roman Republican period and its heyday is believed to be the second half of the 2nd century AD. The villa was still in use by Romans in the 4th century AD and possibly by French or Germanic people as late as the 6th century AD. It was then abandoned and not rediscovered until a ploughing mishap in 1955! The villa foundations are now visible through wire fencing. There are information plaques nearby.

Alqueria de Santa Ana 

The farmhouse is called the Alqueria de Santa Ana. We think that the last civilian victims of the war were held here before being driven to Algar where they were killed. The house is small so I don't imagine many people could have lived there for long. The roof has now fallen in and the windows and doors are missing. We could still see remains of ornate decoration though - and bullet holes in the render. It felt quite a sad place.


Benicato Roman villa 
J'ai été très content avec notre roulade en vélo a Mercredi. Nous avions déjà pris plusieurs brochures de l'office de tourisme de Nules. Nous avons décidé de commencer par la suite de l'orange: Nules - los origines (Nules les origines). En effet, à l'exception de deux sanctuaires dans le centre de ronds-points, il n'y a beaucoup de sites à visiter. Cependant il y a une villa romaine ruinée et une ferme de la guerre civile, et c'était un jour parfait pour faire du vélo.

Les ruines sont situées dans orangeraies près de ville de Nules. La villa est l'un des neuf, mais je pense que c'est la seule qui peut être considérée. Elle est également facile de rater! Nous avons zoomé presque directement passé son chemin de terre parce que son signe discret de la Benicato est destiné a être vu par les voyageurs venant de Nules. Nous avions voyagé de Montcofa! La villa a été construite à l'epoque romain républicain et son heure de gloire est censé être la seconde moitié du 2éme siècle après J-C. Romains vivaient encore dans la villa au 4éme siècle apres J-C et, peut-être, les peuples Français ou allemands aussi tard que le 6éme siècle. Elle a été ensuite abandonnée et pas redécouverte qu'une mésaventure labourage en 1955. Les fondations de la villa sont maintenant visibles à travers des grillages. Il y a les plaques d'informations est proche.

Alqueria de Santa Ana 

La ferme s'appelle l'Alqueria de Santa Ana. Nous pensons que les dernières victimes civiles de la guerre a été ont eu lieu ici avant être à Algar, où ils ont été tués. La maison est donc je ne pense pas que beaucoup de gens aurait pu vivre là pour longtemps. C'est tombé le toit et les fenêtres et les portes sont manquants. Nous pourrions encore voir les restes de décoration ornementales - et des trous de balle dans le rendu. C'est un endroit triste.

Alqueria de Santa Ana