Monday, 26 June 2017



From iPad app:
The signatures of Collins, Griffith and Markievicz are all in this book (but Eamon de Valera's is not)
Exactly 100 years on from the historic East Clare by-election, an incredibly rare autograph book has made its way back to Ennis.

'Everyone predicted the end': How Ireland's Indie Bookshops are surviving in the Amazon age
Independent Book Shop week starts today, celebrating the great and the good of the indie bookseller.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

'footprints in the sand' Sarah Challis

footprints in the sand
Sarah Challis

This is the first book of Sarah Challis's that I have read... it won't be the last. I can't wait to see if I am as drawn into her other stories as I was with 'footprints..' It was a gift, chosen for me as the giver knows I like reading about various cultures. 

I can't say that the synopsis on the back cover really drew me in, but thought it could be more interesting than it looked.

'When Emily Kingsley arrives at the church for her eccentric Great-Aunt Mary's funeral, she is still grieving for her broken relationship with the vain, mean and unfaithful Ted, and has little sorrow to spare. At the wake afterwards, she is dismayed to learn the contents of Mary's will. Emily and her cousin Clemmie must go to Mali, where they are to travel by camel into the Sahara Desert to scatter her ashes.

Clemmie, fanciful and rootless, is thrilled at the adventure. Emily is not. With immense reluctance, she agrees to travel to Mahli, and find Timadjlalen, a place in the desert that no one has ever heard of. Why Mary chose it as her final resting place she cannot imagine, and the thought of a hot, pointless trip is almost too much to bear. But once Emily and Clemmie set foot on the Saharan sand, and begin to uncover Mary's sixty-year-old secret, they come to understand why they must complete her journey...'

I used to have a fascination with the Sahara Desert when I was a child.. I found it hard to believe that so many tribes could live there, so thought I might be able to find out why.

It took a little while to develop an interest in all the characters, but I did appreciate that the chapters were named with the current person's name when they were the main feature of that part of the story. It did make it easier to keep track in a very involved saga. 

It is built up around three main characters, Emily, Clemmie and Miss Beryl Timmis, Mary's close friend. She seems to know far more than she's letting on when the cousins question her, but still had many questions of her own that needed answering. Was she keeping a deep secret or was she angry with her friend for some reason. Of course, there is actually a fourth, who is having a very sheltered journey, or rather her ashes are, nestled in a pug bag around Clemmie's neck, Great Aunt Mary.

I suspect that I would have been thinking more along Emily's thoughts than Clemmie's. The planning seemed very involved, and even knowing that there were guided tours to most of the area they wanted to go to, didn't fill me with confidence. However, once the initial part of the trip was over and the cousins were meeting those who were native to the desert and learning a little more with each encounter, I began to feel that this journey really was going to be quite an adventure. It didn't disappoint. The number of relationships between the various desert tribes, their affinity with the land and their great knowledge of husbandry, draws the reader in. 

I was quite relieved when they moved on from the initial group of fellow travellers, who could have come from any badly scripted travel documentary. They didn't seem necessary to the plot, at least then.

After quite some time travelling and camping in the desert, the promised motel wasn't quite as expected... it was, however, beautifully described, so much so that you could feel the heat and the isolation as they watched their guides leave...

' In a few minutes they were disappearing in the shimmering distance. The men leaning against the wall did not move and we stepped over the sleeping man to sit at a table in the shade. Little brown birds flew busily in and out of the open windows and the hot wind blew gusts of sand and set balls of dry weeds bowling along the empty road. It was the most desolate place I had ever seen. '

You can't help but admire the girl's tenacity as they manage to ride the 'ships of the desert'..riding a camel isn't on my bucket list, especially the very large temperamental ones on offer. 

The meeting with children and their mothers softens the harshness of the desert. The delight of receiving small gifts thoughtfully brought along encompasses all.

There are so many twists and turns, they are best left for you to discover. It is a story of intrigue, loyalty, friendships and trust. 

All is not what it seems and there are layers upon layers as the reason for the request unfolds. Sarah Challis knows how to tell a good yarn.

 Headline Book Publishing
A division of Hodder Headline.

Sunday, 5 February 2017



Just one more page, please..
I promise, just one more page..
I've nearly finished the chapter
Just one more page ..
but I had to read a little more
it was at the exciting part
just one more page, I promise.
Oh, you won't believe what's happened now..
you should read this too.
Just one more page and I'll know.
I read quickly, nearly finished.
I know it's late, but just one more page.
You see, she wasn't even there, it was .....
just one more page.

Done, finished and I've a new book for tomorrow!

©Crissouli 5th February, 2017


Sunday, 24 July 2016


With a title such as this, and a cover to draw me in, I had to delve into this book. I had no idea where Kashgar was, but I was soon to discover that it was an 'oasis city', the westernmost city in China, once a stop on the Silk Road.

Fuelled by a long time curiousity re other cultures, I settled in for what promised to become an interesting adventure back in time. 1923 saw two sisters setting off for a mission in China. Lizzie was the zealous one, Eva went along for the ride, literally, and to escape what she deemed to be a dull existence.

Their arrival wasn't quite what they expected. They came across a young girl giving birth beneath a tree. Not surprisingly, there were complications.. the mother was about 10 years old, and despite the best efforts of the sisters, she died, though her baby girl survived, The authorities weren't interested in the baby, but blamed the foreigners for the girl's death and put them under house arrest, thankfully with the baby.. or who knows what her fate would have been.

From there, there were as many tangents as there are spokes in an average bicycle wheel. However, there are two main stories interwoven which overpower all, and despite many red herrings along the way, the reader doesn't discover the connection till almost the end of the book.

The understories are beautifully written, the descriptions delightful but not overpowering, and most of the characters are so well portrayed that you come to feel that you know them well, whether you want to or not.

It's a clash of cultures, of beliefs and personalities and while we aren't taken along on too many bike rides, we sure are taken deep into a world unfamiliar to many.

Suzanne Joinson has made her debut into the world of literature with engaging and encompassing style.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


little hut of leaping fishes

This is a book whose title I wanted to change immediately to CAPITALS... it intrigued me from the start.

I've always been interested in other cultures, wanting to know how the people live, if they were happy with their lives, what impression the 'state' had on their lives, the good and the bad.. and how they worked around their cultural history to live the best life they could.

This beautifully written, complicated story, certainly gave me a lot to think about. Chiew-Siah Tei holds little back as she draws the reader into the lives of two babies, born just two months apart, in the dying days of Imperial China, in 1875... The grandfather of the two boys, half brothers, rules the province with an iron fist, as becomes a feudal landlord and an opium farmer. Yet, he has a special place for his first born grandson who is destined to become a Mandarin, whether he likes it or not... while the second grandson has a very ambitious and indulgent mother, who thinks her son should be the chosen one. 

One chooses education to better not only himself, but his people, the other succumbs to the overwhelming power of opium.

 However, this is not without lightheartedness, despite the various tragedies that seem to bounce around both boys and follows them into manhood. It's more about relationships, of mystery and determination, of overcoming the set paths that both were destined to lead and a very intriguing insight into the changing Chinese culture and the reluctance of the warlords and Mandarins to let the 'foreign devils' upset their long fought for rule.

At times, I had to take a breath at the apparent lack of respect for life in general and females in particular, then I was caught up again in the bravery of those who fought against it. I railed at the ignorance of the burning of books, as if that would stop the wave of new knowledge that was sweeping the country... and rejoiced in the meditation and peace found via the little hut. 

It's a story of love and friendship, of brutality and savagery, of greed and generosity and so much more... all beautifully woven together in the tapestry of life.

Chiew-Siah Tei is Malaysian born. She went to study in the UK in the 1990's,  then moved to Glasgow.  'little hut of leaping fishes' was her first novel and was listed for the Man Asian Literature Prize in 2007, Best Scottish Fiction Prize 2008 Readers' Choice Award in Malaysia.