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Book review Book reviews Rosie's Book Review Team Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog FREAKY FRANKY: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell (@wblackwell333) #horror #RBRT

Hi all:

Today I bring you a book I have reviewed as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was intrigued by the title (not sure it fitted into the genre, and wondered about the long subtitle that seems more a description than a title, but I checked the beginning of the story and I had to keep going) and it seemed very relevant to the book I just reviewed yesterday. And here it is:

Freaky Franky by William Blackwell
Freaky Franky by William Blackwell

Freaky Franky: Santa Muerte followers discover the horrifying consequences of worshipping with evil intentions by William Blackwell

When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic.

Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.

Anisa suspects Helen is perverting the good tenets of Saint Death. Before she can act, a terrible nightmare propels her to the Dominican Republic in search of Franklin, her long-lost and unstable brother, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace twenty years ago.

To her horror, Anisa learns Franklin is worshiping Saint Death with evil intentions. As a fanatical and hell-bent lynch mob tightens the noose, mysterious murders begin occurring all around Anisa. Unsure who’s an enemy and who’s an ally, she’s thrust into a violent battle to save her life, as well as the lives of her friends and brother.

https://www.amazon.com/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Freaky-Franky-consequences-worshipping-intentions-ebook/dp/B077X41V9J/

I’m sure this is not William Blackwell, or at least I hope it isn’t but…

About the author:

William Blackwell studied journalism at Calgary’s Mount Royal University and English literature at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia. He worked as a print journalist for many years before becoming an author. Currently living on an acreage in Prince Edward Island, Blackwell loves to travel and write fiction.

He’s written many titles including: Brainstorm, Nightmare’s Edge, The Rage Trilogy, Assaulted Souls trilogy, Orgon Conclusion, Rule 14, Resurrection Point, The Strap, A Head for an Eye, Blood Curse, Black Dawn, The End Is Nigh and Freaky Franky.

To learn more about Blackwell’s work and read the musings of a meandering mind, please visit his website: http://www.wblackwell.com Twitter: @wblackwell333

Thanks for stopping by.

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell (check my review here) and when I saw this book, it reminded me so much of many of the covers and topics I had been reading about that I could not resist, although I was not sure about the title (was it horror, humour, or something else entirely?).

The novel begins with quite a bang. A strong scene where we are introduced to la Santa Muerte (Saint Death) a religion/cult (depending on whose point of view you take) that has flourished in Mexico and is spreading to many other places. Although we all have heard about the Mexican Día de los Muertos, this might cover new ground for many of us, but the author is well informed and provides good background into the history and the various opinions on Saint Death, that is an interesting topic in its own right.

But don’t get me wrong. This book is not all tell and not show. We have a number of characters who are linked (unknowingly at first) by their devotion to Saint Death. What in the beginning seem to be separate episodes, which show us the best and the worst consequences of praying to Saint Death, later come together in an accomplished narrative arc. Whilst praying for health and good things can result in miracles, praying for revenge and death carries serious and deadly consequences.

The story, written in the third person, alternates the points of views most of the characters, from the main characters to some of the bit actors, good and bad (although that is pretty relative in this novel) and it moves at good pace. It is dynamic and full of action, and this is a novel where the plot dominates. The characters are not drawn in a lot of detail and I did not find them as cohesive and compelling as the story, in part, perhaps, because they are, at times, under the control of Saint Death (but this is not a standard story of satanic possession). Although none of the characters are morally irreproachable,  Anisa and Dr. Ricardo are more sympathetic and easier to root for. Yes, Anisa might resent her missed opportunities and the fact that she is stuck in Prince Edward Island looking after her son, but she goes out of her way to help her friend Helen and her brother Franklin and warns them not to pray for revenge. Dr. Ricardo threads a fine line between helping others and protecting himself, but he does the best he can. Franklin, the Freaky Franky of the title, is a much more negative character and pretty creepy, especially early in the novel. Although we learn about his past and the tragedies in his life, he is Anisa’s brother, and she’s also gone through the same losses, without behaving like he does. He uses Saint Death’s power mostly for evil, although he seems to change his mind and attitude after Anisa’s intervention (I was not totally convinced by this turn of events). I found Natalie, the American tourist visiting the Dominican Republic with her fiancé, Terry, difficult to fathom as well. Perhaps some of it could be explained by the love/lust spell she is under, but she clearly suspects what Franklin has done to her, and her changed feelings towards a man she has known for five minutes makes no sense, at least to me (sorry, I am trying to avoid spoilers). Much of the action and events require a great deal of suspension of disbelief, but not more than is usual in the genre.

The novel keeps wrong-footing the readers. At first, we might think that everything that is going on can be explained by self-suggestion and that all the evil (and the good) is in the mind of the believer. These are desperate characters holding on to anything that offers them a glint of hope. And later, when bad things start to happen, it seems logical to believe that the characters we are following have acted upon their negative thoughts and impulses (and even they have doubts as to what they might have done). But nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems.

Although there is plenty of explicit violence and some sexual references (those not as explicit), I did not find it frightening or horrific as such. However, it is a disquieting, dark, and eerie book, because of the way it invites readers to look into the limits of morality and right and wrong. Is revenge ever justified? Is it a matter of degrees? Who decides? It seems la Santa Muerte has very specific thoughts about this, so be very careful what you wish (or pray) for.

An eye-opener with regards to the Saint Death cult and a book that will be enjoyed by readers who don’t mind supernatural novels with plenty of violence, and prefer their plots dynamic and action-driven.

Thanks to Rosie and to her team for the great suggestions, thanks to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’B007JQTHE8,B0094XQSLE,B008F6GV86,B01KNK4JNK,B01NAP1WEO,B00NDCO4D6,B00INC8L1C,B00D8AQJPO’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’7ea9e396-0dd8-11e8-8813-7bb083d34186′]

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper (@janeharperautho) (@LittleBrownUK) (@kimberleynyam) Steady-paced, beautifully written, and morally ambiguous #ForceOfNature

Hi all:

I am very pleased to take part on the blog tour for the book Force of Nature by Jane Harper. This is the follow-up of a book that got a lot of attention, especially as it was the debut novel of the author (The Dry). And although I had not read it, I remembered the reviews and could not resist…

Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Force of Nature: by the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, The Dry by Jane Harper

The gripping new novel from the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, Waterstones Thriller of the Month, Sunday Times Crime Book of the Month, and Simon Mayo Radio 2 Book Club Choice, The Dry.

FIVE WENT OUT. FOUR CAME BACK…

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Force-Nature-Jane-Harper/dp/B071P6W7D9/

https://www.amazon.com/Force-Nature-Jane-Harper/dp/B071P6W7D9/

Editorial Reviews

I loved The DryForce of Nature is even better. Brilliantly paced, it wrong-foots the reader like a rocky trail through the bush. I adored it (Susie Steiner, bestselling author of Missing, Presumed and Persons Unknown)

I loved The Dry by Jane Harper, I thought it was magnificent, like everybody else did…Fabulous! And her new book Force of Nature…such brilliance. From the first paragraph I was hooked – you just know you’re in the hands of a master. She’s such an excellent writer and the sense of place is so powerful (Marian Keyes)

Lord of the Flies in the Australian outback, with grown women in place of school boys. I loved every chilling moment of it. A blistering follow-up to The Dry from one of the best new voices in crime fiction (Sarah Hilary, author of the bestselling DI Marnie Rome series)

A major voice in contemporary fiction. Like Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series and Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels, Jane Harper’s deftly plotted mysteries double as sensitive inquiries into human nature, behavior, and psychology. And like The DryForce of Nature bristles with wit; it crackles with suspense; it radiates atmosphere. An astonishing book from an astonishing writer (A.J. Finn, bestselling author of The Woman in the Window)

Harper’s debut, The Dry, was The Sunday Times crime novel of 2017 and won the CWA Gold Dagger award. That makes this second outing from the Australian a very hot ticket indeed(Sunday Times, Books of 2018)

The Dry was one of the standout crime debuts of 2017; Australian author Harper follows it with a story of women hiking in the bush – five go out, but only four come back (Guardian, Books of 2018)

Once again, Harper manages to touch on something mythic in the Australian experience of the land…From Frederic McCubbin’s mournful painting…Lost, to Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock…getting lost in the bush was for a while every non-Indigenous Australian’s worst nightmare. Force of Nature plays on this fear and then some. Ratcheting up the sense of threat is the shade of a notorious serial killer lurking in the undergrowth (Sydney Morning Herald)

Force of Nature proves Jane Harper, author of The Dry, is no one-hit wonder. Its premise is instantly gripping (Herald Sun (Melbourne))

As thick with menace as the bush that seems to swallow the difficult Alice…Force of Nature cuts between past and present, corporate and domestic, and cements its author as one of Australia’s boldest thriller writers (Australian Women’s Weekly)

The narrative is finely constructed, with perfectly measured pace and suspense. So much so that it reminded me of another master of form, Liane Moriarty…Harper has also harnessed what captivates the Australian psyche – the landscape. The Dry is set in a small country town in drought, and this time she takes us into the bush. There are echoes of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Lord of the Flies as any appearance of civility slips away and the women lose direction in a hostile landscape. So does Harper’s new book live up to the first? I was thrilled to find that it does. The novel delivers and Harper writes like a dream (The Saturday Paper, Australia)

The best in compulsive literary crime, from the author of the Sunday Times top ten bestseller, The Dry.

Author Jane Harper
Author Jane Harper

About the author:

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Harper/e/B001KI8MCE/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I had not read Harper’s first acclaimed novel The Dry when I read her second novel (although I had acquired it after reading many good reviews of it) and although it seems that most people who have reviewed it so far have read the first, I can confirm that it can be read independently and you will not feel that you are missing a fundamental part of the story. Yes, there are brief allusions to events that you suspect might refer to the first novel, but the case itself is self-contained. I must confess I felt curious about the first novel after reading this one, in part because of the main character, but also in part because of the comments by the reviewers.

If you have read the first novel, you will know that the setting is Australia. This time, rather than a draught and dry landscape, the case Aaron Falk gets involved in takes place in a wet and cold area at that time of the year, the Giralong Ranges. Two teams from the same legal firm (one male and one female) have gone for a weekend hiking, as part of a teambuilding exercise. The two teams take different routes and on Sunday, when they are all supposed to meet, one of the women does not turn up. Aaron Falk, who is a federal investigator dealing with financial crimes, and his partner, Carmen Cooper, knew the woman who had gone missing, Alice Russell, because she was helping them (not without a certain degree of pressure/coercion) investigate the firm. At first, they wonder if her disappearance might have something to do with her undercover activities, but there are many mysteries, lies, and intrigues at play, the red herrings abound, and emotions run high.

The story is told in the third person, but each chapter is divided into two time frames, one following the actual investigation of Alice’s disappearance, from Falk’s point of view, and the other following, in chronological order, the events during the hiking trip, from the alternate points of view of the women who accompanied Alice (and, very briefly, of Alice herself).  It is an interesting technique, as it makes us compare the conjectures of the investigating team, with the reality, and it provides us an opportunity to learn more about the characters from their own perspective. The author excels at her descriptions of the landscape, the weather, and the psychological state of the women (and of the male investigator). Although the story develops slowly and I would not call it fast-paced, it has twists and turns, and enough clues to keep us hooked and intrigued. Also, although understated and not emotionally open, we are also intrigued by how personally challenging this case is for Falk, who carries his father’s rucksack and his legacy with him and learns a lot more than the expected about family relationships throughout the book.

None of the characters (except, perhaps Falk and Cooper, and maybe the girls) are particularly lovable or even likable but we get to understand their motivations and why they do what they do. I know there are readers who prefer books where there are characters we should clearly like or dislike, but life is a bit more complex than that, and this novel abounds in morally ambiguous characters that not intentionally all good or bad. (Personally, I have a soft spot for Beth, one of the twin sisters). Alice is perhaps one of the least likable of all the characters, although she, like the rest, has redeeming qualities. It is also true that she is a character we don’t get much of an insight into, as she does not get a voice, and we mostly reconstruct her personality and character based on other people’s judgements and takes on her. I noticed that the characters seem to be paired-up (there are two twin sisters, that at first seem to be complete opposites but we learn there are more similarities in their life-experiences than they realise; there are two childhood friends whose lives and even daughters seem to follow parallel paths; the CEO of the company has difficulties with his son, and there are other father-son relationships highlighted throughout the novel, including that of Falk with his father, and also that of a serial killer who was infamous for his murders in the area and his son) and family relations are at the heart of the story.

For some reason this novel made me think of the label “domestic noir”, because although most of the story develops outdoors, it is also about families, strange relationships, and twists and turns. It also reminded me of Liane Moriarty’s Truly, Madly, Guilty that I reviewed a long while back (you can check my review here), not only because the author is also Australian, but because the mystery at the heart of the book (that in that case, we don’t discover until quite late) shakes and transforms deeply the lives of people who seemed to be getting on perfectly well, undisturbed in their domestic lives until they realise it was all a very thin veneer of normality. (After writing the review I noticed that one of the editorial reviews pointed at that too. Great minds…) Although it is true that the women get into survival mode when things get difficult, the comparison to Lord of the Flies is too extreme, in my opinion, as the characters’ motivations go beyond pure survival and are more complex and nuanced even when things get extremely ugly.

I enjoyed the book. Harper writes very well and can truly flesh out situations and landscapes, making us feel as if we were there with the protagonists. I agree with the reviewers who query some of the details of the story (yes, the organisation of the adventure does not seem to be very well-planned, for example), and I felt that some of the red-herrings and clues suggested more interesting directions than those finally explored (the previous murders committed there keep being hinted at but are not fully explained), and some I feel are possibly left open. The ending… Well, let’s say the resolution of the case itself is not a huge surprise, but I enjoyed the overall ending.

And after reading some of the reviews and the comments about Harper’s first novel, I have started reading it, so I’ll let you know what I think.

An author who’s made a deserved great impression and a mystery for those who prefer a slower pace and great writing, rather than a thrill a minute. Definitely recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley, to Little, Brown Books Group and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’1250105625,1786572370,0425274861,0451490045,B015MR0UJG,0425247449,B01N5P2FOT’ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’753d84e8-042f-11e8-bbe6-c96065688b29′]

Categories
Book launch book promo

#Booklaunch MURDER AT THE BIJOU. THREE INGREDIENTS 1 by Teagan Geneviene (@teagangeneviene) A delicious new adventure for those who love recipes and historical fiction with a difference. #Iamreading

Hi all:

I have great news! One of my favourite authors and bloggers has just published her new book! Teagan Geneviene has the most amazing blog, where she writes serials including elements contributed by her readers. After much insistence, she has started to collect all this posts and is publishing these fantastic serials to the public at large, so they can read them all in one go. But I’ll let her explain it all. Oh, and if you want to read my review of her previous serial, you can find it here.

Announcing the Launch of
Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I

Introducing the second “three things” serial, in novel form Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I.

Bijou front only 2

Yes, that’s the cover. (I love making covers!) I kept it similar to the one for the first serial, The Three Things Serial Story, but with different 1920s photos.

For those of you who are not familiar with my blog serials…

Ages ago I developed a writing exercise. I asked friends to give me three completely random things. Then I would write until I had mentioned all the things. I brought that exercise to my blog (Teagan’s Books), but I had the readers send me their things. I let the random things drive every detail of a serial story, setting, plot, and characters. That resulted in The Three Things Serial Story, which gave birth to this culinary mystery. However, this time the “things” are food related — or ingredients.

About the Book

As with the first serial, Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I is a spontaneously written, pantser story. I wrote by the seat of my pants and let the “ingredients” readers sent each week drive a new serial story. This is the “bookized” version of that serial.

This time the Jazz Age setting is Savannah, Georgia where our flapper, Pip, is “sentenced” to live with her grandmother and learn to cook. Pip gets caught up in a layered mystery that includes bootleggers, G-men, and the varied challenges of being a young woman in changing times. She meets new friends, including some animal characters.

If you have not read The Three Things Serial Story, be warned. This adventure contains a bit of a spoiler, but does not go into detail about it.

Murder at the Bijou — Three Ingredients I is available through and Amazon and Create Space. If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon also offers a free app that will let you read Kindle books on your computer or other device. The purchase links are below. But first, here’s a snippet.

Blue Lucille Ball Stage Door Trailer
In my imagination, a young Lucille Ball would play Pip.

Excerpt

Rutabaga Limbo

Either I woke up feeling horribly nauseated, or the queasiness woke me. I’m not sure which. I opened my eyes to complete darkness. There was no light, no sound. The way my stomach tossed reminded me of a small boat on the ocean. It was as if I sailed in a lightless limbo.

Oh… that was a bad train of thought to have with an unsettled belly.

Think of something else! Anything else, I told myself.

I stood unsteadily. The sound of a cricket came to me. Good. The utter silence had been very disturbing. I became aware of the cool moist earth beneath my palms.

Where the Sam Hill was I?

I sat back on my heels, focusing all my senses. My eyes might as well have been closed — it was that dark. Bare ground was beneath me. The air had a musty odor. A sickly sweet scent clung to my bobbed hair.

The cricket’s chirping was the only sound. Still sitting, I turned. My eyes widened and strained, trying to see in that heavy darkness. When I looked up I was rewarded with the sight of a thin line of pink light.

The faint glow allowed me to see vague outlines a few feet away. I stumbled over something and stooped down to let my hands figure out what it was. I felt a burlap bag and round lumps. Rutabagas? I felt around and found another bag. That one felt like potatoes. I moved closer to the wall and a tall shape. Yes, a ladder, my questing hands confirmed for my still foggy brain.

Gazing up at the line of pinkish light I realized I was in a root cellar.

But how did I get there?

***

Purchase Links

Amazon USA

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/dp/1974544273/ref=la_B00HHDXHVM_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502806322&sr=1-4

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene-ebook/dp/B074S5ZK7L/ref=la_B00HHDXHVM_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502806322&sr=1-3

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene-ebook/dp/B074S5ZK7L/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502806519&sr=1-1&keywords=murder+at+the+bijou

And https://www.amazon.co.uk/Murder-Bijou-Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/dp/1974544273/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502806519&sr=1-2&keywords=murder+at+the+bijou

Amazon Japan: https://www.amazon.co.jp/Murder-Bijou-Three-Ingredients-English-ebook/dp/B074S5ZK7L/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502806623&sr=8-1&keywords=teagan+geneviene

Author Bio

Visual for Teagan_2017 Chris

Image by Chris Graham

Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene, a southerner by birth, was “enchanted” by the desert southwest of the USA when she moved there. Now a resident of a major east coast city, she longs to return to those enchanting lands.

Teagan had always devoured fantasy novels of every type. Then one day there was no new book readily at hand for reading — so she decided to write one. And she hasn’t stopped writing since.

Her work is colored by her experiences in both the southern states and the southwest. Teagan most often writes in the fantasy genre, but she also writes 1920s stories and Steampunk. Her blog “Teagan’s Books” contains serial stories written according to “things” from viewers.

You can also visit me at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM
Twitter: https://twitter.com/teagangeneviene
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeagansBooks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/teagangeneviene/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoM-z7_iH5t2_7aNpy3vG-Q
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/teagangeneviene

Categories
Giveaway

#Bookgiveaway SUMMER GIVEAWAY Visit Effrosyni Moschoudi’s (@FrostieMoss) newsletter and enjoy a summer full of adventure

Hi all:

Some of you might remember that I share a Christmas giveaway with you and it included a short novel I had read and thoroughly enjoyed, The Amulet by Effrosyni Moschoudi. You can read the original post here.

The Amulet by Effrosyni Moschoudi

The author has joined forces with several others and they are offering another giveaway that sounds to me like the perfect collection of books to take on your holidays. Just in case you weren’t lucky with the previous giveaway or you want to try your luck…

Summer Giveaway

Amazon bestselling author Effrosyni Moschoudi is running a wonderful giveaway this month!

Two winners will get a bundle of 12 ebooks each! Dozens more will receive individual ebooks, as well as paperbacks. One lucky reader will get a copy of Effrosyni’s romantic comedy The Amulet (ebook) and a novelty bookmark to go with it.
The giveaway is open exclusively to Effrosyni’s email subscribers, who enjoy even more exclusive benefits while receiving very sparse emails from the author. To find out more, go to
Upon signing up, you will receive the exclusive link to the giveaway by email within a few minutes.
Good luck!
Thanks to the author for allowing me to share this giveaway with all of you and remember to like, share, comment, and of course, CLICK and participate!
Categories
Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview and launch LAST WINTER’S SNOW by Hans M. Hirschi (@Hans_Hirschi) A love stronger than anything in the background of recent LGBT Swedish history

Hi all:

As you know, I’m on a mission to try and share the book review I had pending and get up to date, so rather than inundate you with them I’ll share as I read (although of course, I’m still trying to catch up on my reading list but we can keep hoping, can’t we?)

Today I bring you a special review. Not so much because the review itself is special (I always try my best although sometimes I’m more inspired than others) but because today is the launch day of the book. So it’s a great opportunity to get there and be the first to hear about the book.

Here it is:

Last Winter's Snow by Hans M. Hirschi
Last Winter’s Snow by Hans M. Hirschi

Last Winter’s Snow by Hans M Hirschi  

The story of native Sami, Nilas, and how he navigates life, trying to reconcile being gay as well as being Sami. Set over several decades, we follow Nilas and his Swedish partner Casper, as they build a life amid the shallows of bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis.

Last Winter’s Snow portrays recent LGBT history from a Swedish perspective, from the days when being gay was considered a ‘mental disorder’ to today’s modern anti-discrimination legislation and full equality. It’s also the story of one couple and the ups and downs of everyday life, as they navigate society’s changing rules and attitudes toward them and their relationship.

Last, not least, it’s a book that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Sami and their country Sápmi, as well as their ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and win back the right to self-determination over lands they’ve lived on for thousands of years.

Last Winter’s Snow is Hans M Hirschi’s first novel set almost entirely in Sweden, but it is the second time (after Fallen Angels of Karnataka) he takes his readers on a journey into the mountainous regions of Scandinavia in one of his acclaimed novels.

Here a video about the book:

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Winters-Snow-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B06XMQJMD3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Winters-Snow-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B06XMQJMD3/

A bit about the author:

Author Hans M. Hirschi

Hans Martin Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and published a couple of non-fictional titles. The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with a much needed breathing hole and the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.

Contact Hans through Twitter () or Facebook or through his website at www.hirschi.se

Personally, I can say that I often read the author’s posts and he does not mince his words nor is he afraid to talk about controversial issues.
You can also check his YouTube channel, as he regularly does video posts, the author cave that illustrate the life of an author.

Here is his Amazon author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hans-M-Hirschi/e/B00E0DP0EE/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this book prior to its publication and I voluntarily decided to review it.

This is not the first novel written by Hans Hirschi I’ve read. I’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, The Opera House, Willem of the Tafel, Spanish Bay… and, different as they are, have enjoyed them all. Mr Hirschi has the ability to create believable and engaging characters the readers care for, and he places them in backgrounds and situations that put them to the test. Sometimes the situation and the background might be familiar to a lot of readers, whilst on other occasions, we might know little about the place or the world they live in. And, Mr Hirschi’s books always draw attention to discrimination and oppression, making us question our beliefs and attitudes. This book is dedicated ‘to the oppressed minorities of the world’ and all the books I’ve read by this author could bear the same dedication.

I must confess to knowing little about the Sami community and their land, Sápmi, other than the images most of us might have of snow, reindeer and colourful clothing. The book opens with Nilas waking up to find his husband, Casper, dead in bed next to him. (I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it’s how the novel starts, after a brief introduction into Sami’s culture and history, and anybody who checks the beginning of the book will see it). Most of the rest of the book is taking up by his memories of his relationship with Casper, in chronological order, from 1982, when Nilas, a native Sami, goes to study in Stockholm, until the present. At the beginning of the story, he knows he’s gay but within his community, he hasn’t had much chance to experience what that mean in full, although he’s told his parents about it. One of the beauties of the book is that, although initially shocked by the news, his parents, from a tiny and many would think old-fashioned and traditional community, accept it (in fact, he discovers one of his uncles is also gay). At the other end of the spectrum, Casper, a Swedish student he meets in a bar in Stockholm, although living in a bigger community and seemingly a more cosmopolitan society, has not dared to tell his parents he’s gay as they are very religious and intolerant of anything other than what they see as the natural order. Nilas and Casper are made from each other, and the novel chronicles their relationships through episodes that illustrate events they go through, on many occasions linking them to events for the LGBT community in Sweden at large. We live with Nilas and Casper through the alarm of the AIDS epidemic, the uncertainty and the fear that an illness that seemed to target a specific group of the population created at the time. We also follow them through changes in career and moves, through the recognition of registered partnership and eventually gay marriage, through family disappointments, trips, success, heartache, illness and ultimately, death.

The relationship between Niles and Casper serves as a microcosm of the gay experience and history in Sweden (and, although with some differences, in many Western world countries). Theirs is an ideal relationship, their love stronger than anything. Although they are tested by external events, society, family, and work, they are committed to each other, exclusive and faithful from the beginning. (Perhaps this is an idealised relationship where there are some differences of opinion but these are quickly resolved and they are together against the world, especially at the beginning of the relationship). They are discriminated against at work, they have to face the AIDS crisis, family hostility (Casper eventually tells his family and he was right when he thought they wouldn’t accept it), assaults, put downs, incomprehension, insults, frustrations… They also find people who accept them and love them for who they are, mostly, at least at the beginning, people who have gay friends or relatives. And it’s true that studies show that exposure and knowledge are the best ways to fight discrimination and oppression. The lack of knowledge, the fear of anything or anybody different and unknown, the us against them mentality and the labelling as ‘other’ of those who aren’t like us are a sure recipe for intolerant attitudes.

The book is written in the third person, from Nilas’s point of view, and it contains beautiful descriptions of places (Sápmi, Stockholm and Gothenburg, the Maldives, Swedish islands, the house they move into…), reflections on nature, landscape, the importance of tradition, and what makes a place home and a people, our family and our community. We sometimes have to go a long way to discover who we really are and where we belong to. Mr Hirschi manages to balance the showing and telling by combining very personal experiences with more subjective and spiritual reflections.

I enjoyed the setting, the discovery of a place and a people I knew very little about (and judging by the author’s note at the end, I’d love to get to know more) and the way the characters and the story merge seamlessly to provide a personal, political (indeed, the personal is the political) and social chronicle of the recent events in LGBT history in Sweden. I particularly enjoyed the way Casper is adopted by the Sami community and how there is a parallel made between different types of oppression. This is an excellent book that could help younger generations understand recent LGBT history and will also raise consciousness about oppression and intolerance in general. And, we sure need it more than ever.

If you haven’t read any of the author’s books, you have a chance to get The Fallen Angels of Karnataka (you can check my review of the novel, here) free if you sign-up for his newsletter, here.

Thanks so much to the author for offering me the opportunity to read his book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

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