It’s Friday and time for a new book. Today I had to bring you a new book by a great writer and blogger, Christoph Fischer. He not only writes in many genres (yes, there are a few of us) but is a generous blogger, reviews tonnes of books and features interviews and news about other writers, advice and charitable causes. He’s an all round great guy, and now he’s trying his hand writing a cozy mystery. And I, for one, I’m very intrigued.
THE BODY IN THE SNOW – A BEBE BOLLINGER MURDER MYSTERY:
Fading celebrity Bebe Bollinger is on the wrong side of fifty and dreaming of a return to the limelight. When a TV show offers the chance of a comeback, Bebe grabs it with both hands – not even a lazy agent, her embarrassing daughter, irritating neighbours or a catastrophic snowfall will derail her moment of glory. But when a body is found in her sleepy Welsh hamlet, scandal threatens.
Detective Sergeant Beth Cooper has a string of unsolved cases to her name. Her girlfriend left her and she’s a fish out of water in rural West Wales. Things couldn’t get much worse – until the case of the Body in The Snow lands in her lap.
Can Beth solve the case and save her career and can Bebe make her comeback? All will be revealed in this light-hearted, cosy murder mystery by best-selling and award-winning historical and crime fiction novelist Christoph Fischer.
I know the book is due on the 24th, so if you’re reading this on the date of publication, that’s tomorrow, so you won’t have to wait long. You might be still in time to get one of the ARC copies if you’re desperate to read it, but I also recommend you that you check the series of posts the author has been sharing on his blog about how the novel came to be. They are packed with information and will make you want to read it even more.
Thanks to Christoph for bringing us his new book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK! And of course, don’t forget to check the other posts on the author’s website. He has tonnes of reviews, features about books and authors.
Usually on Fridays I bring you new books and authors, and today is no different. But, before I talk about that book, I’ve realised that with all my changes in schedule I haven’t mentioned a very big book event that’s coming up (in just over a week!) that if you love books and are anywhere near Manchester, UK, on the 13th of August should join in. I’ll be there (OK, don’t let that put you off. There will be plenty of other writers too :)).
Here there’s a video with some information about it:
50 or so fellow authors, hosted by Scarlett Enterprises, will be there on Saturday 13th August at the Red Rose Steam Society Ltd. Mining Museum in Astley Green, Manchester, M29 7JB
There will be models (from many of your favourite romance novels) in attendance (ladies, ladies, please…), music, great food, cakes, an ice-cream van, a BBQ and an evening event that will start around 7pm.
If you want to see the event’s page and find out even more information, here it is.
Fellow author Christoph Fischer (who’s been my guest in a few occasions) will be there too, and he’s written a few posts about it (he’s been much more on the ball with it than me).
And now, as promised, the review. Today I bring you a new book that was published just this month. I mentioned a few weeks back that I was reading a book by an Southern US author and this is it.
The Last Road Home by Danny Johnson
“This novel is sure to join the rich canon of Southern literature.” –Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August
From Pushcart Prize nominee Danny Johnson comes a powerful, lyrical debut novel that explores race relations, first love, and coming-of-age in North Carolina in the 1950s and ’60s.
At eight years old, Raeford “Junebug” Hurley has known more than his share of hard lessons. After the sudden death of his parents, he goes to live with his grandparents on a farm surrounded by tobacco fields and lonesome woods. There he meets Fancy Stroud and her twin brother, Lightning, the children of black sharecroppers on a neighboring farm. As years pass, the friendship between Junebug and bright, compassionate Fancy takes on a deeper intensity. Junebug, aware of all the ways in which he and Fancy are more alike than different, habitually bucks against the casual bigotry that surrounds them–dangerous in a community ruled by the Klan.
On the brink of adulthood, Junebug is drawn into a moneymaking scheme that goes awry–and leaves him with a dark secret he must keep from those he loves. And as Fancy, tired of saying yes’um and living scared, tries to find her place in the world, Junebug embarks on a journey that will take him through loss and war toward a hard-won understanding.
At once tender and unflinching, The Last Road Home delves deep into the gritty, violent realities of the South’s turbulent past, yet evokes the universal hunger for belonging.
Advance praise for The Last Road Home
“In this intense and well?written debut novel, Danny Johnson probes deep into the cauldron of racial relations in the 1960’s South. The Last Road Home introduces an exciting new voice in Southern Literature.” –Ron Rash, author of Above the Waterfall
“In The Last Road Home, Danny Johnson evokes a South that in many ways may be gone, thank the Lord. Yet Johnson’s compelling and heartfelt rendering of Junebug and Fancy couldn’t be more charged and alive. The long dramatic arc of their deep and ever evolving relationship traces a time and a place giving way to change in violent fits and starts. Yet this is no sociological treatise. It’s a flesh and blood story about two people, who risk just about everything time and time again, for nothing more and nothing less than to love each other.” –Tommy Hays, author of In The Family Way
“The Last Road Home took me straight into the heart of a wounded boy who becomes a complicated man. By the end of this stunning novel, I felt I’d come to understand humans better than I had before, how we come to be the way we are: tender and full of fury. I don’t recall having such a reaction to a novel. Author Danny Johnson shrinks from nothing. I say: read it!” –Peggy Payne, author of Cobalt Blue
“Johnson’s moving novel beautifully portrays the ways in which his young characters struggle to overcome the history that has so fully shaped their lives.” –John Gregory Brown, author of Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery
Thanks to Net Galley and to Kensington for offering me a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
When I read the description of the novel I was interested in discovering a new Southern writer and seeing how Danny Johnson fitted in with a literary tradition filled with pathos and a heavy historical burden. Unfortunately, the news filled up with incidents of racial violence in the USA as I was reading it and it made the content of the book topical and urgent, even if the story goes back to the times of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.
The story is told in the first person by Junebug, a young white boy that at the opening of the novel is only eight years old and has just lost his parents in a car accident (his father made moonshine liquor and they were driving with the car full of alcohol at the time of the incident). The boy goes to live at his grandparents’ tobacco farm and becomes friendly with twin African-American siblings, Fancy and Lightning. This is South Carolina and although the friendship flourishes whilst they are kids, it is clear that whites and African-Americans know their places and there might be heartache to come. From very early on fate seems to be against Junebug that after losing his parents, and in short succession loses his grandfather and later his grandmother, being left looking after the tobacco farm alone aged only fifteen. By that point Lightning has left seeking adventure, his relationship with Fancy has moved on and things get more and more complicated.
The novel deals with many of the typical themes to be expected from a Southern novel: race relations (and interracial relationships), the weight of family and small town morals, historical memory (there’s only a passing mention of the Civil War, but the Ku-Klux-Klan plays an important part in the plot and later we hear also about the Civil Rights Movement). The novel is also a coming of age story, as we follow the main characters from a very early age, and see them change, in body and character, and discover new urges and feelings as they grow. (A word of warning: there is some sexual content, although not the most explicit I’ve read or even close.) As they live in a farm, there is a fair amount of detail of traditional farming tasks, from growing up tobacco, to churning butter or killing a chicken or a pig, which I enjoyed and I didn’t find overly long or distracting from the main plot.
Junebug’s life is marked by violence, and it reflects the violence that is part of the history and the atmosphere of the land. He gets fixated on his dog’s death (his father shots the injured dog at the beginning of the story) and his fate, apart from losing loved ones, seems to put him on the way of circumstances that lead to his use of violence (but I don’t want to give too much of the story away). After a serious warning from the KKK, he ends up in Vietnam, as a way of finding refuge (for strange that it might seem) from his loneliness. There he discovers he has a natural talent as a sniper but finally things come to a head when he realises he’s not as hard and as strong as he had always thought and one can’t hide from the consequences of one’s own actions and violence forever.
I did enjoy the style of the novel, its many memorable lines, the many themes that give one pause (that also include PTSD after Junebug’s war experience, although possibly even before that) and the details of everyday life offered by the narration. I spent over half the novel trying to accurately place it in time (we are given clues, like the price of things and the fact that Junebug’s mother’s grandfather fought in the Civil War) but Junebug mentions it is 1963 quite late in the story (although admittedly it would have seemed irrelevant to a child in his position). His style of language changes suddenly when he gets to Vietnam, as once more he has to adapt to new extreme conditions, and he seems to get into the role of the marine easily and with gusto.
I found the plot and the experiences of the main characters interesting, although perhaps too much is fitted into a single book and it does not allow for a deep exploration of the many different strands. Junebug is not very articulate when it comes to his feelings, although some of his reflections can be quite sharp. He not only tries to hide his feelings from others but also from himself (it’s not easy to trust somebody when all your loved ones die and you wonder if there’ something wrong with you), and even an experienced therapist has difficulties getting to the root of things, but that fits in with his experiences and his personality. Junebug has flashes of insight, like when he wonders how Fancy must feel, knowing that she’s considered a second-hand citizen only because of the colour of her skin. He does not notice a big social difference between him and Fancy and her folks, but he is young, naïve, inexperienced, and it takes him a while to realise that due to the fact that he is white and has a farm he belongs in a completely different universe in the eyes of his neighbours and a big part of the society. Personally, I would have liked to follow Fancy’s story in more detail, but that is not the focus of the book. Thankfully, the ending is not typical, although it might leave some wondering (considering the character’s age one can’t help but wonder if that’s the end).
In summary, a well-written novel that fits in within the Southern writing tradition, although not ground-breaking. I’ll follow the author’s career with interest.
Thanks to Net Galley, to the author and to Kensington for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and feel free to share, like, comment and CLICK! Oh, and if you’re near Manchester on the 13th, come and join us!
I know I’ve been talking about my first book fair in LLandeilo for a while. As usual, on checking my pictures of the day I’ve discovered they’re rubbish, but hey, I’ll share a few so you can see (or guess) how it was.
The good news is that the fair will carry on. There is one booked for Christmas time and there will be another one next April. Check Christoph Fischer’s post about it for more information, here. Oh!, and check his other posts about it as you’re there. We’ve even made the papers!
My own reflections about the fair (not sure this is advice or tips, but…)
You might want to take reinforcements with you. It’s always handy to have somebody man (or woman, of course) the fort for you (there are so many people to talk to and books to check! And at LLandeilo there were interesting workshops and talks but I couldn’t go to any of them). Fellow writers kept an eye on the stall, but it’s not the same…
Take supplies of drinks and whatever else you might need. There was catering on site, but I’m not a tea, herbal tea or coffee drinker, and there was no cola to be had there… No caffeine for me! (Of course, if you’ve followed the advice on number one, you can either go and leave the troops covering the stall or send them out for victuals).
I took sweets that seemed to attract people, especially children. Yes, I’d recommend it. I wouldn’t say it helped with the sales, but it got some smiles. Ah, and at the end I shared them with the writers (and the staff working at the hall) when we were putting things away, and after a long day they were very welcome.
Take comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing up most of the time. (The author next to me who was pregnant worried me no end, although she was very enthusiastic).
Pace yourself. I worried that I might have lost my voice before the end of the day (yes, I talk too much). It was a close call (sorry, no luck!)
Put your glasses on when you’re taking pictures!
It’s difficult to find time to network with everything else going on, but it was great to meet the rest of the writers there, Hugh Roberts whom I knew from blogging and hopefully will meet again at the Blogger’s Bash. I did collect information from everybody (I hope!) as I’m planning on featuring writers and books in my radio show.
Of course have change and chat to people. In my case, as I publish in different genres, I never knew well what to open with (pitching 5 different books is not easy). But I tried.
I took some extra stuff to give away (cupcakes book, notebooks…) I didn’t have much chance to give anything away, but of course, the Cupcake recipe book that I had bought for £1 got much more attention than my own books. (When I tried the local market once, the Christmas decorations I got for the table had more success than me. Perhaps I should sell something else).
A few more photos:
Oh, and I’ve mentioned my Radio programme! Yes, I’ll tell you more about it, but now I have a regular (sort of) programme at Penistone FM, on Thursdays from 1 to 3 pm (UK time). I hope to talk about books and with a bit of luck bring in quotes and information about indie writers (although I don’t have much time to talk). Here is the link to listening online.
Thanks to all for reading, visit Christoph and Hugh’s blogs and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!
Como os llevo diciendo hace unas semanas, me he estado preparando para mi primera asistencia a una feria de libros. Y, por fin ha llegado! Este sábado, 30 de Abril, en Llandeilo, allí estaré. Mi preparación deja bastante que desear, pero por lo menos tengo los libros… Lo demás, ya se verá. Es una feria en principio pensada para autores conectados con Gales, pero yo me he colado, así que estaré calladita.
Estoy emocionada no solo por la oportunidad de poder hablar con lectores y participar en las actividades (hay de todo, autores hablarán sobre varios tópicos, habrá lecturas de obras, un concurso de escritura para niños, dulces celestiales…) sino porque podré conocer a muchos compañeros escritores a los que hasta ahora solo he conocido a través de blogs o de sus libros. ¡Qué emoción!
Iba escribir un post con más detalles, pero el cerebro detrás de toda la organización, un gran autor, que apoya mucho a los demás escritores, y que tiene grandes ideas, Christoph Fischer, publicó un post sobre la feria en su blog, así que os recomiendo que lo visitéis y si leéis en inglés (y/o publicáis en inglés), os recomiendo que visitéis el blog porque hay entrevistas, y reseñas fabulosas, aparte de información sobre sus obras.
Como esta es mi primera feria, la verdad es que agradecería cualquier consejo, sugerencia, y simplemente algo de ánimos. Ah, y tengo una pregunta tanto para escritores como para lectores. Como no he vendido directamente mis libros en papel, ¿tenéis alguna estrategia para escoger el precio? Y vosotros, lectores ¿cuánto estáis dispuestos a pagar por un libro en papel de un autor que no conozcáis? Tengo una idea rondándome por la sesera, pero ya os contaré…
Ah, gracias a mi amiga y gran diseñadora Lourdes Vidal, tengo tarjeta, así que aquí os la dejo…
Gracias a Christoph Fischer por organizarlo todo, gracias a Lourdes Vidal por el diseño, y gracias a todos vosotros por leer. Y ya sabéis, dadle al me gusta, comentad, compartid, y si estáis en Gales, no dudéis en venir!
As I’ve been telling you recently, I’m going to my first book fair. Now it’s here! Ready or not (mostly not, but I have the books), it’s this Saturday, the 30th of April 2016 at Llandeilo. I’m an interloper (most writers have a close connection with Wales, in my case I like Wales, I’ve spent some time there and I hope to spend more in the future and… I’ll try and keep quiet) but that’s never stopped me before. Apart from books, wonderful writers who will be happy to sign, chat, read, give a few talks…, we have a writing competition for children, heavenly sweets and much, much more.
I’m very excited, not only because of the opportunity to meet readers, but also because I’ll meet some of the writers I only know through their books and their blogs. Yes!
Christoph Fischer, a great writer, fabulous supported of other writers and a magician at organising things, is the brains behind this fair, and he’s written such a fabulous post (including pictures of newspaper articles and everything else) that I didn’t dare to try and compete. Here, go and visit his fabulous blog to read his post, and wander around there, as there is plenty of amazing content.
I hope to have feedback for you soon, but in the meantime, I’d be grateful for any tips, suggestions and encouragement from authors and readers. I have a more specific question for authors and/or readers about pricing. I have an idea running around in my head, but not having had any experience selling paperbacks directly, how do you decide the price?
I thought I’d share my new card with you… Thanks to Lourdes Vidal who’s risen up to the challenge.
Thanks to Christoph Fischer for organising the fair, to Lourdes for her design, and to all of you for reading, liking , sharing, commenting… And if you’re anywhere near Llandeilo, do come by!
As you know Fridays is time to share new books and/or authors. Today, both of the authors who are visiting with new books have graced my blog before, and I’m pleased to say I’ve read some of their books (next Tuesday I’ll be sharing a review for one of Sarah Mallery’s novels) and they more than deserve to be featured here. They are fairly different, but I wanted to give you a chance to catch up with both before the holiday season.
First:’The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery
Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 land rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and of course, romance. Two, in fact!
And a couple of reviews (both 5 stars):
S.R. Mallery has done it again and in her usual style, she has done it well. I love historical fiction (and the books of S.R. Mallery) because I learn from them and they echo truth. The Dolan Girls is a story about three strong, resilient and very different women and their difficult and ardulous journey through life in the old West. Set in Nebraska after the California Gold Rush, the Dolan Girls is brimming with realism, history, vivid description and amazing characters designed and developed so well I wanted to know more about them.. If you’re a fan of the old west, strong women and enjoy a great read, this book is for you. Recommend highly!
Though I am not normally a reader of historical fiction, I do enjoy movies about the Old West. Films like ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales,’ ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘True Grit’ (the Coen Brothers’ version, not the original). There’s something very appealing about these desperate, iconic characters struggling to survive in a desolate setting, with the promise of Progress—usually in the form of a new railroad—looming somewhere on the horizon. When I read THE DOLAN GIRLS, I found many of the things I love—strong women, villains cut from the cloth of a harsh adherence to tradition, and some other pretty colorful characters, both real and fictional.
THE DOLAN GIRLS is western fiction as you’ve never read it. S.R. Mallery’s words thunder off the page like a cattle stampede. And her sharply written characters demonstrate that truly it was WOMEN who tamed the American West.
Don’t forget to check the author page in Amazon and follow her for news about her books.
And now, Christoph Fischer, who has visited my blog a few times, has a new book out (just out on the 14th of December). The book goes back to history, one of his favourite subjects, and the story behind the writing of the book is fascinating too.
Ludwika: A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germanyby Christoph Fischer
It’s World War II and Ludwika Gierz, a young Polish woman, is forced to leave her family and go to Nazi Germany to work for an SS officer. There, she must walk a tightrope, learning to live as a second-class citizen in a world where one wrong word could spell disaster and every day could be her last. Based on real events, this is a story of hope amid despair, of love amid loss . . . ultimately, it’s one woman’s story of survival.
“This is the best kind of fiction—it’s based on the real life. Ludwika’s story highlights the magnitude of human suffering caused by WWII, transcending multiple generations and many nations.
WWII left no one unscarred, and Ludwika’s life illustrates this tragic fact. But she also reminds us how bright the human spirit can shine when darkness falls in that unrelenting way it does during wartime.
This book was a rollercoaster ride of action and emotion, skilfully told by Mr. Fischer, who brought something fresh and new to a topic about which thousands of stories have already been told.”
Ludwika: A Polish Woman’s Struggle To Survive In Nazi Germany by Christoph Fischer starts with an introduction to the story’s protagonist, Ludwika Gierz, a 4 foot-ten inches, 22 year-old, beautiful Polish woman with piercing blue eyes. Children like her because of her friendly disposition. She has a 5 year-old daughter Irena from a non-marital relationship she had years ago, after which the father of the child left town. The well-written prose starts with undertones interjected on the horizon and we know there will be danger: the German invasion and fleeing of the townspeople, including Ludwika’s father, who disappeared with the retreat of troops; and the fact that Ludwika’s looks, her beauty, was once an asset but now is a liability as it attracts brutish German soldiers. It is a time of war with Hitler’s regime moving in and taking over, which establishes the story’s tension and conflict. In her town in Poland, Ludwika works her farm with her younger sister and mother. Siblings are mentioned, including her brother Franz who drowned in a river 2 years earlier, the memory still raw and painful. The story is off to a good start as we care about the protagonist and sense the danger that’s been alluded to. The story progresses and Ludwika encounters a Nazi soldier on the road who becomes attracted to her and protective of her, granting her rights others do not have. As Jews are being hauled off and the elderly assassinated, Ludwika is learning German from the translator that her “Nazi friend” has enlisted to help him. There’s now enough conflict in the story to propel it forward in this horrific time in history where madness prevailed. Without retelling this page turner suffice it to say that it goes deep and does not hold back as the plot moves through Ludwika’s drive to survive, and all the emotional turmoil, good and bad, that goes along with it. I’ve read several other books by this author and have to say that next to The Luck of the Weissensteiner’s this is my favorite.
And a brief one but it says it all:
Great to see Christoph Fischer, author of The Three Nations trilogy, back with another classic world war 2 story. This is probably his tightest, best work yet. It’s intense and cinematic. Fans of world war two dramas will eat this one up. Well done!
Thanks so much to S. R. Mallery and Christoph Fischer for their books, thanks to you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!
I’ve been trying to catch up on some reading, and although some of the review I’m writing are going to be published directly in BTS-e Magazine (I’ll share links to future numbers) I realised there were some books I’d reviewed recently I hadn’t had a chance to share with you yet. Today I bring you Sebastian.
Sebastian is a long novel that chronicles a complex period of Austrian history by following the life of a Jewish family living and working in Vienna. The difficulties of the family (poor Sebastian loses a leg at the very beginning of the book and this will change his whole life, his mother, grandmother and grandfather have health problems, his father disappears in the Great War…) reflect the turbulent historical period that Europe lives in the early XX Century. Although the book is part of a trilogy I understand from the description that each book can be read independently and Sebastian is a stand-alone novel.
One of the beauties of the book is how it manages to paint a very vivid portrait of the Viennese society of the period, cosmopolitan, complex and with its great variety of nationalities, religions and unwritten rules. The novel shows us the wider historical events and how these affect a particular family. Thanks to the characters who come into contact with the family we can gain a wider perspective, as we get to see how people from Galicia felt, the difficult situation of Orthodox Jews from that area, how somebody who is known as a patriot today, might end up in the wrong side tomorrow through circumstances not always of their making. The shop at the centre of the book offers a great opportunity to understand the ins and outs of the public relations between the diverse groups, both from the point of view of the clients and also the staff.
Sebastian is the centre of that world, and he grows from a weak and cowardly young boy to a mature, well-adjusted and highly moral individual. We follow his education, his taking responsibility for the family business and the whole family, his romantic education, his fatherhood…The Viennese society of peace and war times are vividly depicted from a very personal point of view, filtered through the conscience of the characters, some of whom we might feel closer to than others, but who are all multi-dimensional and credible. We have proud mothers, psychoanalysis buffs, paranoid anti-Jewish women, mediums, spies…
I congratulate the author for his ability and talent in interweaving the many complex threads to create a wonderful patchwork of characters, lives and historical events that kept me engaged at both an intellectual and an emotional level. I’m sure this won’t be the last one of his books I read.
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment, and of course, CLICK and READ! Oh, and next week, I’ll bring you a sample of my WIP! Be scared! (No, not horror… unless you’re scared of romance and cakes)
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