A House Called Askival by Merryn Glover

A House Called Askival by Merryn GloverI know what you’re thinking … where have i been? Well, that’s another story (hint: Canary Islands), but I’m back with a bundle full of reviews to write. First up – A House Called Askival by Merryn Glover. It’s published by a small Scottish press, so you may not have heard of it, but it is well worth searching for it. Continue reading

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Clue #4 for The Last Treasure Hunt by Jane Alexander

The Last Treasure Hunt by Jane Alexander

I am so excited to be taking part in a cyber treasure hunt for the release of Jane Alexander‘s The Last Treasure HuntThe book is a fun take on modern media, and who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? And I’ll be reviewing it later this week.

Clue #4

To unmask the man with glasses

She throws herself from up high

Roaring currents would have killed her

Had he been willing to let her die.

So, here’s how it works:

  • Each clue refers to a landmark or iconic location in a film. The landmark/location is the answer – when you figure it out, make a note of it!
  • (If you need a hand, check out the #treasurehunt hashtag on Twitter or Instagram for a hint to the landmark’s location…)
  • When all the clues are revealed, the first letter of every answer will make an anagram. Solve the anagram and you have your final answer!
  • Email this answer and all the landmarks you figured out to hermes@saraband.net by April 30th to be entered into the prize draw. Two entrants will win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt – and if you’ve guessed the most landmarks and locations, you’ll win a goodie bag and something special from Jane personally! On top of that you’ll get bragging rights on Twitter and we’ll publicly dub you queen/king sleuth.
  • Good luck!

Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy

meeting-the-englishI received a signed copy of Meeting the English by Kate Clanchy from Willoughby Book Club‘s wonderful book subscription service. As with many of the books I get from them, I had never heard of Meeting the English but it was another example of the types of books I want to be reading to expand my knowledge of contemporary British fiction now that I’m living in these fair Isles. It was nominated for the Costa First Novel Award, an award that truly identifies books I love. Continue reading

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

death-of-beesOne of the huge benefits of moving to Scotland is that I’ve become more familiar with Scottish literature in general and writers like Lisa O’Donnell in particular. She was at the Edinburgh Book Festival my first year here and The Death of Bees was getting huge buzz (yeah, I know what i did there), but for some reason, it has taken me until now to read it. And it was brilliant. Continue reading

The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal

I read The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal as part of the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge put on by Roof Beam Reader. I first came across this book in 2013 at the Edinburgh Book Festival. As a new resident of Edinburgh I was immediately drawn to it since it is set in Edinburgh. Also, Erdal’s other book, Ghosting, has been on my radar for years.

I love reading books sets in places I know, and with that in mind I’m glad that I waited to read The Missing Shade of Blue. It is definitely a very Edinburgh book and gives a good feel of the city. Now that I know the city better I was able to picture exactly where the characters lived and conducted their lives.

The story is told by Eddie, a French translator who has come to Edinburgh to work on a book of David Hume‘s essays. He is quickly befriended by Harry Sanderson, a philosopher at the university, and becomes embroiled in the life of Sanderson and his wife. To large extent the novel is really about Sanderson and the scandal that envelopes his life.

As a lover of literature, I was keenly aware of the role that novels played in The Missing Shade of Blue. Eddie grew up in a bookshop in Paris and sees the world through the frame of books. He and Sanderson often refer to how life is sometime similar (or utterly dissimilar) to a novel.

Who would like this book? Erdal is a fine writer and I thoroughly enjoyed The Missing Shade of Blue. Language and words play a key role in the novel, as you would imagine when the main characters are a translator and a philosopher. Erdal does a commendable job at bringing Scottish life, fly fishing and Edinburgh to life. So far one of the aspects I’ve overlooked is fly fishing. The only other book I’ve read where this sport takes a starring role is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday (don’t bother with the film, the books is so much better). Erdal’s book is not as humorous as Torday’s but brought the sport to life much more for me.

Robbie Burns Night Special: Scottish Literature

Aye, tis once again Robbie Burns night. Last year to celebrate I did a brief round up of the Scottish literature I had read since moving to Edinburgh. This year I’ll continue the tradition in grand style because I have actually read – and enjoyed – a fair bit of Scottish literature in the past year.

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole. Ok, I’ve let a few great books like this one slip in because they are set in Scotland, though not necessarily by a Scot. Brockmole wrote this book while visiting Scotland from her native America. And besides, there is nothing more Scottish than the Isle of Skye.

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan. Fagan’s use of language in this novel is exquisite. She fills the dialogues with a beautiful mixture of Scots and English that highlights the (many) differences in the two languages. I cannae recommend this book highly enough.

Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell. Like The Panopticon, O’Donnell gives us a slice of Scottish life that you will not find in the books of Alexander McCall Smith. Set on a small island off the coast of Scotland, O’Donnell looks at small town life and family through the lens of a young boy. This book might not be as well known as her The Death of Bees, which i still haven’t read, but it does showcase he writing abilities.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. Again another book written by an American, but a more Scottish subject you’d be hard pressed to find. Horan recounts the life of that venerable man of letters, Robert Louis Stevenson. Although he traveled the world quite extensively his language and sensibilities remain thoroughly Scottish throughout his life.

The Missing Shade of Blue by Jennie Erdal. I read this book quite recently and have not yet had time to post a review. It is about a French translator who has come to Edinburgh to work on a translation of David Hume, one of Scotland’s famous philosophers.

Have you read any Scottish literature lately? What are your favorites?

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

under-wide-and-starryUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is the latest novel brought to us by Nancy Horan of  Loving Frank fame. As with Loving Frank (about Frank Lloyd Wright), Horan has chosen another real-life topic to explore in her latest novel. This time it is the Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, or I suppose more properly the life of his wife Fanny.

There was so much I learned in this novel about Robert Louis Stevenson. As a new immigrant to Edinburgh, I knew that he grew up here and was sickly as a child. Beyond that, aside from his major works, I knew nothing about him. He truly had an astonishing life in which battles with illness played an important role. With Fanny, he moved all over the planet seeking health – France, Switzerland, upstate New York, California, Australia and finally Samoa. I know! Samoa? And remember this was all at the end of the 19th century when travel was not as easy as it is now.

In spite of all this travel and action, I did not terribly enjoy Under the Wide and Starry Sky. The writing was superb. That is one thing we can say about Nancy Horan. But for me the main thing that separated this book from Loving Frank was the topic and the time period. Whereas I was really interested in learning more about the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the turn of the century time period, I have never had an interest in RLS. I know that should have been a tip off that perhaps the book wasn’t for me, but as I say Horan is an astounding writer. And I am trying to learn more about Scottish culture and history.

Who would like this book? Really, this book is more about Fanny than Robert Louis Stevenson. As such it follows in a long line of books recounting the life of a steadfast wife supporting her artistic husband, specifically, The Paris Wife and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. I like both of those books more than this one simply because of the characters portrayed and the time period. If you are interested in RLS, Scottish literature or the time period, then Under the Wide and Starry Sky is a great book for you. It is full of great writing, fantastic tales and adventuresome journeys.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Send me a link to your review and I will include it here.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.