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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Come and visit the new TRIPFICTION site (click on the links below to find out more)

Fabulous news. Our new TripFiction website is now live. That means that all our blogposts will be moving from here to there, as our blogs are now incorporated into the new site. New posts will appear regularly there too.

Come and make TripFiction your site and help build it into a really valuable resource for both armchair and actual travellers. Explore the world through fiction. Join the discussions, suggest books if we don't already feature them and write reviews - this way you can really help authors get their work out there, and help grow the breadth of the site. And with more reviews we can bring to you the top 10 best reads in any given location; or via our book butler we can help you choose books that suit your taste.

We currently feature 4000 books for you to choose from: 'experience your chosen location through the eye of an author', it can be such a fascinating way to explore a place.

Look forward to seeing you soon!

The TripFiction Team

And you can join us on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where we peruse books and travel and more...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Scents of Adventure in the MALDIVES

Kuoni UK are currently running a competition which you, too, can enter here. They are asking of you what your signature scent of the Maldives might be. In their Bluewater shop they have mapped out the aromas of other fabulous locations, which they are show casing there on a map: coffee for Brazil, and apple pie for the USA. And the prize? You guessed it -  7 nights in the 5* Maafushivaru Resort, including return flights. 

Get yourselves over to the Kuoni/Maldives website to find out more about their great holidays (that's a good plug for them, I think!)

Thinking back to a brief visit we made to one of the islands in the late 1990s - the aroma that remained with us until this day, is the heady scent of sun-ripened fruit: sweet, intoxicating and enticing. The beautiful variety of colours adds to the full, multi-sensory experience - the rich orange of the mangoes, the green/yellow hues of the pineapples and the wonderfully contrasting flesh of the papaya, with its black seeds in the middle. Lush deliciousness for all the senses.

And of course we can't write a post without sugesting a couple of novels to take, to complete the full sensory experience. Through prose, experience the SMELLS, the heat, the feel of the islands, the clunk of the coconut as it thuds on the beach and savour the sand between your toes, long before you board to your plane to Male... see The Maldives through an author's eyes.

First up is Beach Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones. How does it feel to live and work in the world's most beautiful and luxurious tropical island resort, surrounded by white sandy beaches and aquamarine seas? Well, you can find out by reading this novel!

And second is On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves. When 30 year old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a summer job tutoring T J Callahan at his family's holiday in home in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation. But on the way to their destination the plane crashes, leaving Anna and TJ to face their Robinson Crusoe challenge. 

And of course if you know of further books set in The Maldives, drop by TripFiction website and add them. Help us build this into a really great resource for both armchair and actual travellers.

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Novel set in the Australian Outback (Feel the love) ......calling ANDREA GEROLDI

Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover, set in the Australian Outback

Our review and author interview now appear on the new TripFiction website here

TF's Tina enjoying Flight to Coorah Creek
You can connect with Janet via her website, her publishers Choc Lit and via her Twitter profile. 

If you use social media, come and look us up at TripFiction for stories on novels, travel and fun: 

Twitter and Facebook

  

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Novel set in Gibraltar and Morocco (sleuthing in Europe)

Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford, set in Gibraltar and Morocco

Spike Sanguinetti can happily find his place alongside other European sleuths, and probably (we believe) is the first to be based on the Rock of Gibraltar. But he isn’t a detective, he is a tax lawyer who is a compelling character on a mission to defend his friend of many years, Solomon Hassan.

Solomon stands accused of murder of a young woman, across the water in Tangiers and Sanguinetti travels there to try and delay Solomon’s extradition to stand trial – he is Jewish and fears incarceration in North Africa.


Tangiers is very different to the Rock, that “magical island for the idle English’ as Mogford describes it at one point, (and amazingly is apparently only the size of Hyde Park – the things you learn!).

From Gibraltar dive right into the melee, then, that is Morocco. The pace is generally languorous so that the reader is given time to assimilate the landscape, as Sanguinetti ploughs back and forth between contacts and suspects and gradually begins to explore the links that feed back to a big multinational specializing in solar energy. He soon hooks up with Zahra, a young Bedouin woman, who is looking into the disappearance of her Father, who owned the land where the multinational concern is building.

The author has really captured the feel of these two contrasting land masses, separated by the stretch of water, known as the Gut (so-called because of the dangerous cross currents feeding in and out of the Mediterranean). The Rock feels sedate and British, with names like Tank Ramp, Bedlam Court, Devil’s Tower, yet preserves its own patois, yanito, comprising Spanish, Genoese, English and Hebrew (there, yet another interesting snippet of life on the Rock gleaned from the novel!); Tangiers feels very different, hot, bustling and so very chaotic.



Throughout there are the sonorous notes of Paganini as Sanguinetti turns to his music to soothe and enjoy. This is the first novel featuring the lawyer, and he is not particularly knowable. We learn a few facts – he has a dog and a Father who has concoction of pills to swallow, but as a character he is still lean, he is not yet of the caliber of Brunetti (busy in Venice) or Montalbano (busy in Sicily). But I anticipate that he will develop over time as more books are added to the series.


Following sleuths around their locale is a great way to enjoy a good story and get to know the area. So we have cherry-picked a couple of books set around Europe for you to enjoy.

For Bordeaux we suggest Allan Massie's Death in Bordeaux set during the time of the Vichy Government during WWII.

For Florence Michele Giuttari is perfect, and we suggest A Florentine Death

Venice is unquestionably the territory of author Donna Leon who has written the hugely popular series of sleuthing novels with Guido Brunetti as the hero About Face


Sicily is brought to life by author Andrea Camilleri through his hero Inspector Montalbano, many to choose from - perhaps August Heat







Tina for the TripFiction Team.


As always we love to meet you on Twitter and Facebook come and say hello!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Novel set in London (and a bit about book sales)

It is a sobering thought that a lot of authors actually sell only a limited number of books, and as I read The Marrying of Chani Kaufman - long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 - I reflected on the situation. At TripFiction we come across a phenomenal number of books that have massive merit in their own right, are beautifully written, tick so many boxes, yet just never make it to prime position in a bookshop. Talent and a bit of luck just don't seem to be enough these days.

India Knight in an article entitled Ambushed in the Old Sentimentality Shop in the Sunday Times of 11.11.12 was in part discussing the Booker Prize of October 2012. It emerged, she says, that sales figures for the shortlisted books, before the announcement of their inclusion on the list, were pitiful: Alison Moore's The Lighthouse, for example, had sold 283 copies, Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis 100 and Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists had had 174 buyers. Naturally sales went up after the shortlist was announced. 

Her sentiments were further echoed by Ian Rankin on Twitter 14.7.13, where he opined that a debut novelist, garnering good quotes from famed authors for the cover, plus good reviews, can still expect to sell only a few hundred copies. He was specifically referring to Robert Galbraith (who we now know to be J K Rowling). The Sunday Telegraph on 10.7.13 said that until the real author was revealed, that Galbraith had only sold 449 copies, according to Neilson Bookscan. 


What are we to make of this? Sales, whether in a bookshop or via the internet are how an author makes his/her living (just see author, Dan Smith's, recent piece entitled A Victimless Crime) so buy books. Another thing we can all do, as readers, is to write reviews, because reviews help garner new readers and new sales. There are plenty of places you can write your reviews - Goodreads, Amazon and of course here at TripFiction. And often processing thoughts and channelling them into a review is quite an interesting and rewarding exercise. Give it a go, you, too, can help authors get their works out there!

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris set in Golders Green/HendonLondon


A tender, and at times frank peak behind the Scheitel (wig) culture of the Ultra-Orthodox community in the Golders Green/Hendon area of London.

It is a brave thing that a non-Haredi chooses to write about a culture that keeps its doors firmly closed to the outside world of modern Western culture. But I think the author has really achieved a good balance of insight, empathy and reality (as far as one can tell, of course), and for this she was rewarded by being included on the Man Booker Longlist of 2013. 

Chani, in her late teens, is waiting to be approached by the shadchan (the matchmaker) with a proposition from a potential husband, just to meet and spend a little time together. Her suitor is Baruch who espied her at a wild wedding celebration.

The story line is interwoven with the stories of others, all of whom have a connection to the couple, and through their eyes we glimpse a little of what life can be like in the Orthodox community. Like any of us, the individuals are trying to find their way through life, deflecting the bad, and embracing the good. There are a huge amount of strictures to observe in everyday life for those who aspire to be frum (religious/observant) - from food preparation, to interaction between the sexes, attire, you name it. There seems to be an overriding sense of monochrome 'colouring' their lives, a touch lacklustre, and a depressing lack of information when it comes to sex (so it was interesting to see such a brightly coloured cover on this book). But who are any of us to judge a choice of lifestyle, one which clearly becomes deeply ingrained in each new baby that arrives, and is clearly based on a very strong sense of community.


If you are not familiar with the ways of the Ultra Orthodox community, it will certainly be a revelation. It is beautifully written, well observed and for the most part sensitively written. 

And if you enjoyed this move, then we suggest Reva Mann's book The Rabbi's Daughter which will offer further insight.

Tina for the Tripfiction Team


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Friday, 21 February 2014

Novel set in Northern Europe (and certainly up there with the Nordic Noirs)

The Strangler’s Honeymoon by Håkan Nesser set in Northern Europe

The Strangler’s Honeymoon starts and finishes on a sunny Greek Island – but the bulk of the book (and there are 600+ pages of it…) is pure Scandinavian Noir, set in the fictitious North European city of Maardam. The Strangler’s Honeymoon was first published in Swedish in 2001, but the English translation (and an absolutely excellent one at that…) did not appear until last year. Indeed I think I am correct in saying that Nesser has written eleven Van Veeteren mysteries, but that only six of them have to date been translated. 

That would seem a bit of an error to me. Nesser is every bit as accomplished a writer as either a Stieg Larsen or a Jo Nesbø. I am sure he deserves, and will get, their fame in due course. I truly hope so – if all his books are as accomplished as The Strangler’s Honeymoon (and I am told they are).

Van Veeteren is a somewhat grumpy 60+ retired detective who has bought an antiquarian bookshop to fill his twilight years with a hobby he loves. But he is never far from the force he used to work for – and the current crop of detectives still call him Chief Inspector and seek his wise intuition in solving crimes. And ‘intuition’ is the key word… Van Veeteren works with a combination of the evidence placed in front of him plus his instincts. He is drawn into The Strangler’s Honeymoon by the visit, just as he about to go on holiday, by a priest to the bookshop – a priest who senses foreboding and who wants to talk to him ‘as a policeman, but not as a policeman’. Van Veeteren is too rushed to talk then, but promises the priest a meeting on his return. When he returns Van Veeteren finds the priest killed in an ‘accident’ and a teenage girl brutally murdered. His suspicions and his involvement begin to grow as he works with the police (and in particular Eva Moreno) to track down the murderer – a man they also suspect of other crimes.

The fictitious Maardam is core to the story from the smart middle class areas to the seedier parts of the city. As you read you can sense the deprivation that some people have to survive – and the weather fits in perfectly. It is grey and dispiriting… and ties in neatly with the sick violence of the crimes. A truly ‘noir’ setting for the story…

The Strangler’s Honeymoon is very certainly a ‘page turner’, but it is a great deal more. The characters are well drawn, sympathetic, and believable. The relationship between Van Veeteren and the current members of the police force is not straightforward but it comes through in a way with which one can identify and empathise.

All in all The Strangler’s Honeymoon is an excellent book, and one that I would very certainly recommend.

Tony for the TripFiction Team

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Monday, 17 February 2014

Novel set on The Isle of Harris (A magical story)

Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford set on the Isle of Harris, Scotland

Our review is now on our new website and you can find it here

Friday, 14 February 2014

Novel set in California, Maui, Bali, Western Australia (Sisterly Love)


The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke, set in California, Maui, Bali, Western Australia

"..she talked about travelling and the ocean, and of books by Hemingway that had given her a thirst for both..."

Families and How to Survive Them might have been an alternative title to this very readable novel (the original book with this title was written by John Cleese together with his psychotherapist Robin Skynner and delves into the complex ties at the heart of familial relationships).

Mia and Katie are two sisters who have had a fraught, and at times volatile quite relationship, and their interactions form the backbone of the novel. Early on in the book Mia dies in Bali, the verdict is suicide. She leaves behind a diary-cum-travelogue which passes to Katie. Having that personal connection to her dead sister is a source of great comfort to Katie.

Yet, naturally, she has real difficulty processing her sister’s death and the only resolution to engage with the grieving process is to follow in her sister’s travelling footsteps, using the diary as her guide, until she eventually arrives in Bali. Will she or won’t she learn more about what really lies behind Mia’s death?

As the novel gets into its stride, it becomes ever more clear that Katie and Mia come from a hugely dysfunctional family, with a lot of loss around. It almost beggars belief that one family, not to mention one individual, can harbour so many hidden secrets, which of course have a way of impacting on present behavior and choice of life partner. 

There is Finn, Mia’s docile travelling companion, who accompanies her on her trip. Lovelorn Finn, what to do with him? Mia certainly wasn’t picking up the signs he was sending thick and fast to her, too involved in her own corkscrew affairs (I leave the definition of 'affair' open). And Katie, engaged to steady Ed, who supports her through thick and thin, but has a bit of a revelation... 

The backstory in all its depressing detail and the lack of boundaries in this family emerge like a blight on the young peoples' lives, which, coupled with family secrets (never a good thing) become truly heart sinking, yet nevertheless very compelling.

The structure of the book is unusual, one chapter is devoted to Mia, via her diary entries, the next is Katie following up her footsteps. This feels like quite a linear way of conceiving a storyline, it does work, but there are occasions – particularly with the shorter chapters - when a particular scenario stops, just as it is getting  going, story interruptus. Then the next one resumes. In some ways it almost feels like a domino game, where the same numbers abut each other, the next number is random and leaves the way open for a new mini adventure to begin.

It is certainly a story with descriptions of lush locale, where the smells, the sounds and the sights all pulse into the reader's consciousness. It is a racing page-turner. I was left with a haunting sense of the people and the locations, but an overriding sense of how timely therapy might actually have enabled a different outcome. But these are characters in a book and not real people, and you will take them into your heart as they plough the minefield that is their story.

Want to read more novels that evoke exotic South East Asia? Try a novel set in Thailand or Vietnam or  choose from our collection of backpacker novels... Or set in Australia... Or California - we can help you choose from over 1000 locations.

And we would love to connect with you on Twitter and Facebook - come and say hello. 

Tina for the TripFiction Team