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#TuesdayBookBlog SNOW ANGELS by Jenny Loudon (@jenloudonauthor) Grief, family, the healing power of nature, and gorgeous writing #RBRT #grief

Hi, all:

I bring you another fabulous find from Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to her for her hard work and to the rest of the team for their ongoing support and inspiration.

Snow Angels by Jenny Loudon

Amelie Tierney is working hard, furthering her nursing career in Oxford. She has a loving husband and a small son, who is not yet two. She jogs through the streets of her beloved city most days, does not see enough of her lonely mother, and misses her grandmother who lives in a remote wooden house, beside a lake in Sweden. And then, one sunny October morning, it happens—the accident that changes everything and leaves Amelie fighting to survive. Set amid the gleaming spires of Oxford and the wild beauty of a Swedish forest, this is a story about one woman’s hope and her courage in the face of the unthinkable. Praise for Jenny Loudon: ‘The writing is superb—literary in many ways—with vivid settings, filled with quite exceptional descriptions of the natural world… There are moments of lightness and humour—those slices of life that make the whole feel so real—and others when you feel at your core the frustration, the despair, the sheer impossibility… quite stunning.’ Anne Williams, Romantic Novelists Association Media Star of the Year, 2019

Author Jenny Loudon

About the author:

Jenny Loudon is a British novelist whose work includes SNOW ANGELS, a moving and uplifting tale of recovery after loss, and the bestselling love story FINDING VERITY. She read English and American Literature at the University of Kent in Canterbury and holds a Masters in The Modern Movement. She lives with her family in the English countryside.

Learn more about Jenny Loudon at

https://www.jennyloudon.com/

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I had never come across Jenny Loudon before, but I don’t think this will be the last of her books I read. This is a beautiful, poignant, and moving novel, and I do not hesitate to recommend it, despite it being also terribly sad at times, and people who have experienced a recent loss might find it a bit hard to read (although, it is also inspiring and full of light).

Amelie, who lives in Oxford and was born there but whose mother is Swedish, has visited Sweden often and speaks perfect Swedish, suffers a terrible loss. She loses her family, almost in full, and although she tries, going back to work seems impossible to her, and she decides to give up her profession as well. She finds refuge with her Swedish grandmother, Cleome, who lives in a lovely cottage by a lake, close to a forest, and this is the story of her (and their) grief, their healing process, her acceptance of the situation, and the eventual rebuilding of her life, a new beginning, and a recovery of sorts.

This is not only the tale of these people. The story is told in the third-person, mostly from the point of view of Amelie and Cleome, but also of some of the other characters, and the author does a great job at describing their emotions, their thoughts, their psychological makeup, and making us feel as if we were inhabiting their skins. There are quite a few secondary characters, all interesting in their own right, and some we get to know better than others, but nature and the seasons play a fundamental part in the story. Cleome is very attuned to the rhythms of nature, the land, the lake, the trees, the creatures, and she picks up herbs, goes foraging, and engages in little ceremonies to give thanks for the many gifts the land bestows on her. The descriptions of the landscape are as good, if not better than those of the characters, and the healing powers of time and nature play an important part in the novel. I’ve never visited Sweden, but after reading this book, I am eager to do so.

I have mentioned grief before, and it is accompanied by survivor’s guilt, a desperate search for a guilty party, for meaning, and for an explanation, creating a totally realistic picture of two women confronting a tragedy beyond their imaginations. Apart from this, the novel also explores other themes, like motherhood, conventional and chosen families, secrets, political changes in Europe, immigration policies, in Sweden in particular, how to adapt to a new culture, prejudice (both, from a different culture and within one’s own culture), intolerance, romance, and love… Helen, a close friend and neighbour of Cleome, is a doctor and volunteers working with immigrants, and although this is only a small part of the story, there is one of the main characters, Tarek, who gets to explain his experience as an asylum seeker (from war-torn Syria) in a compelling way, and he shows an understanding of loss and love which inspires Amelie in many ways. I did learn about something called ‘resignation syndrome’, which seems to be a unique phenomenon suffered by some young immigrants in Sweden, and a very challenging one. (Helen compares it to Snow White, and it makes sense if you remember when Snow White is given the poisoned apple and falls into a kind of deep sleep, still alive but with no external signs of it).

I have already mentioned the effectiveness of the descriptions, and the style of writing is gorgeous, lyrical, poetic, and packs a big emotional punch. It conveys images of breathtaking beauty together with truly heartbreaking moments, although, thankfully, there are also bright and hopeful moments, and those increase as the novel progresses. Readers experience the landscapes, the sensations, and the emotions vividly, and there were moments when I was transfixed by my immersion into that magical world. The author’s deep knowledge of Sweden and her connection to it are explained in the author’s acknowledgements, which, as usual, I recommend reading.

The ending is perfect for the novel, and it will please particularly those who like to have everything tied-up, as we get to catch up on all the characters more than a year after the end of the story, and that answers many questions most readers might have.

So, as I have said at the beginning, I recommend this novel to anybody who enjoys beautiful writing, contemplative stories, and those where emotions and psychological insights take precedence over adventures and action. I have mentioned recent grief, and I know that each individual going through it has a very different way of coping with their emotions, but those for whom reading about the subject is useful, will find much to inspire them and bring them hope in this novel.

 For those of you who enjoy a little sample of the writing, here are a few paragraphs:

Tiny, fairy-like, nameless insects danced in a pale sunbeam that pierced the tree canopy. The air was full of music—cheerful tunes from a multitude of hidden birds. The sounds were beautiful and heartfel, and her grandmother was right to question it: why did they sing like this? Why bother?

 ‘You know, all these people in power? They think one more bomb will bring peace. All we ever hear is that they are killing people to get peace, using chemical weapons to secure peace. One more war will bring peace. Are they crazy? Do they not listen to themselves? How did a bomb ever bring peace, I ask you?’

 ‘Grief is like a rucksack. You might have to carry it for a long time. Sometimes, when you have had enough though, you can take it off and put it down. And sometimes, you can take things out of the rucksack and leave them by the roadside. You won’t have to carry everything forever but you will probably always be carrying something.’

 If you want to know a bit more about Resignation Syndrome, I found these two articles, and some of the things described in the first article appear in the novel.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/03/the-trauma-of-facing-deportation

https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41748485

Thanks to the author for this wonderful book, thanks to Rosie and her team for keeping us going, and thanks to all of you, most of all, for reading, sharing, commenting, liking, blogging, and being there. Keep smiling!

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Blog Tour #Willem-of-the-Tafel by @hans_hirschi. A future and a past eerily recognisable

Hi all:

Today I’m really pleased to be taking part in the Blog Tour for the new novel by Hans Hirschi. If you remember I already brought you another one of his books ‘The Fallen Angels of Karnataka‘ and I jumped at the chance of bringing you his newest novel. We have a character profile (a truly enlightened character. If only our politicians were like him) and I’ve had the pleasure of reading it too, so I leave you the review as well. And don’t miss the fabulous giveaway.

And now:
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Willem of the Tafel by Hans M. Hirschi

Willem of the Tafel by

Hans M. Hirschi

Published by

Beaten Track Publishing

Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, LGBT, Post-Dystopian, Young Adult

194 pages

Release Date:  May 28, 2015

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The world we know is gone, destroyed by greed and ignorance. On a post-apocalyptic Earth, centuries into the future, few have survived the Great War. Some have taken refuge deep inside a mountain. One of them, Willem, is exiled to the surface… Alone and struggling to survive, Willem embarks on an epic journey, making a discovery that could once again alter the future of humanity. Willem of the Tafel is an epic tale of survival, second chances, hope and undying love.

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Check out the trailer for Willem of the Tafel

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AUTHOR SHOP/BEATEN TRACK SHOP/AMAZON/B&N/KOBO/INDIGO/ALIBRIS/iBOOKS/GOODREADS

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Follow the Willem of the Tafel Virtual book tour here

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Hans M 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 had previously published non-fictional titles.

The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with the opportunity to unleash his creative writing once again. With little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he indulges it, going with the flow.

A deeply rooted passion for, faith in a better world, in love, tolerance and diversity are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work. His novels might best be described as “literary romance, engaging characters and relevant stories that won’t leave you untouched, but hopeful.”

Hans is a proud member of the Swedish Writers’ Union and the Writers’ Center in Sweden.

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The giveaway for Willem of the Tafel has 11 randomly chosen winners; 10 will receive $15 Gift codes to the author’s shop, but the grand prize winner will receive a free ticket to GayRomLit retreat 2015, in San Diego, CA, happening October 15-18th, 2015. Ticket value is $175, but if you win the grand prize, you’re responsible for travel and accommodations. Please notify the author in advance should you win and be unable to attend, so we can choose another recipient to enjoy the prize! 

Character Profile from Willem of the Tafel 

Adrianjaka, Chief of Madagascar

Gender: Male

Age: late forties when we first meet him

Occupation: Chief of Madagascar and one of the four leaders of the world

Adrianjaka is an interesting man. Born into a powerful family with royal roots, he is used to being in charge, making decisions. He is the elected leader of the Malagasy people in the 26th century when the story begins. He was mated to a white woman of Kiwi descent, whom he lost to cancer, one of the many diseases plaguing a world that has no modern technology. His daughter, mother to one of the main characters, Hery, dies giving birth to Hery, which leaves Adrianjaka devastated, as he was very close to her, and it strains the relationship to his grandson for years. Hery eventually attends a school in the north of the island, a school dedicated to kids with disabilities (Hery is deaf) and meets the fisherman Stephane on who’s boat he begins to work as a sailor, further alienating him from his grandfather who had different plans for him.

However, the stubbornness and dedication of Hery slowly wear down the old man and when they meet at a crucial point in the story, Adrianjaka realizes that the path Hery has taken has prepared him for the future.

Adrianjaka is a crucial secondary character in the book. He is wise, he is powerful, but he’s not blinded by it, unlike his counterpart in South Africa, Mavuto.

I, personally, love Adrianjaka, because he’s not perfect but has a good heart and is able to recognise his mistakes, move on and accept. And he has the well-being of his people as his main interest. As I said at the beginning, if only…

Here, my review:

Willem of the Tafel is not an easy book to classify. The main protagonist, Willem, is quite young at the beginning of the action, and the novel follows his journey towards independence and adulthood, so it has elements of a Young Adult story. It portrays a future post-nuclear catastrophe, where environment takes its toll and pays humanity back, with most of the population being wiped-out and the few survivors taking some radical decisions. It’s a dystopia/utopia (depending on each person’s viewpoint) whereby whilst some groups of humans have decided to abandon technology to avoid further catastrophes, others depend on it for their basic survival. So it could be a science-fiction novel. It’s a novel with a strong pro-environmental message, and it reflects upon the human condition (fear, power struggles, and race relations). It is also a beautiful love story between two extraordinary young men, as different from each other as they could be, but as compatible and similar in their outlook as would be possible.

The author uses third person alternating point of view to make the reader share in the feelings of those characters that, although initially might appear completely alien to us once we move past their circumstances, they are not that different from all of us. Both of the post-apocalyptic societies that are shown have their problems. The people living on the surface who have renounced technology see their lives shortened but their lack of science and experiment hardship without any relief in sight, although they live a much simpler life and enjoy human contact. The society of the Tafel has developed a model of life where the main goal is survival and nothing that does not increase its likelihood is considered worthy of pursuit. Reproduction has become mechanised, society divided and dying due to lack of new blood and light, and each individual is only a cog in a machine. And there are huge division and differences according to race. Neither model is shown as perfect although the Tafel seems, by far, the sadder of the two (and perhaps the closer to where we are going).

Willem is and extraordinary character. An individual part of a system who is wonderfully unlike anybody else and whose punishment for an accidental death becomes his (and humanity’s) salvation. Willem brought to my mind Herman Melville’s character ‘Billy Budd’, the beautiful and innocent sailor who kills another sailor (unintentionally) and pays dearly for it, not only for his crime, but because he represents what the captain can’t be or have. Thankfully, in the case of Willem, this young man goes on to become the link between the two societies and a symbol of hope.

A joyful and optimistic read that affirms the human spirit. Suitable for all ages. A character and a novel I won’t forget.

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Willem of the Tafel Tour brought to you by…

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Happy Geek Media

Thanks to Amberr for organising the tour, thanks to Hans Hirschi for another fabulous book, and thanks to you all for reading. And don’t forget to like, share, comment, participate in the giveaway, and of course, CLICK!

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Movies Recommendations Reviews

And now for something gentle. #Bookreview ‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ and ‘Flipped’.

Hi all:

As you know, I love to read and review books and other things (movies, plays…). Although I read and watch things in very different genres (and I have a penchant for the unclassifiable, I must admit, both in my work and in that of others), and I love horror, and don’t flinch at gore or hard scenes or topics, sometimes one just fancies something gentle, that will leave us with a smile on our face and our heart, and a sigh of contentment, rather than making our blood pressure go up and leave us thinking about how awful the world can be.

I’m lucky enough, through Net Galley, to catch glimpses of books before they go on sale to the general public, and that was the case with this book, that will be officially published on the 18th of June but is available for pre-order.

The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarian Bivald
The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

First, the blurb:

The readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

Here, my review:

A dream of a book for all book lovers

Thanks to the publisher and to Net Galley for providing me with an advance copy of this book that was a bestseller in its original Swedish.

What a wonderful book! If like me, you love books, you find time spent reading always rewarding, and would love to live in a library or a bookshop, this is your book.

Sara, the protagonist, who has always found company, consolation, friendship and support in books, takes a leap of faith and when the bookshop where she works closes down, she accepts the invitation of her pen-pal and fellow book lover, Amy. She goes to spend two month with Amy in Broken Wheel, Iowa. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan, but when she is adopted by the whole village, she comes up with a scheme to repay them in kind, by sharing the magic and power of books.

The transformation of Sara and the town are what drives the narrative, and the assorted characters (some more recognisable than others) become humanised by their contact with Sara and her books. So much so that they can’t let her go and will do anything to keep her with them.

I enjoyed Amy’s epistles that help us imagine the missing character, the sad characters (like George and John), the riotous ones (Andy, Grace), wonderful Caroline, the love interest… Well, everybody.

This isn’t a book of mysteries and intrigues. There are no major surprises and the plot meanders along gently inviting us to share in the characters’ adventures, where nothing drastic or earth shattering happens, just life as usual.

I loved the bookshop, and Sara’s classification system, and I’d like to work there and move to Broken Wheel. Because a book about books can’t be wrong.

A delightful read.

Ah, let’s not forget the links:

Kindle: $8.97

http://www.amazon.com/Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend-ebook/dp/B00TQDWHJO/

Paperback: $ 13.05  http://www.amazon.com/Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend/dp/070118907X/

Hardback: $12. 92 http://www.amazon.com/The-Readers-Broken-Wheel-Recommend/dp/0701189061/

Through Amazon Prime I have access to movies, TV series, etc, directly streamed to the TV (if you have it connected to the internet, that is) or to the Kindle or wherever. And I found a movie from 2010 I hadn’t seen, by Rob Reiner, called Flipped that had a similar effect. A gentle movie, good for family viewers, set in the late 1950s. I haven’t read the original book, but now I’m quite curious about it. The critics didn’t seem to like it very much, although viewers were kinder. OK, it’s no Stand By Me, not many movies are, but it is a kind movie, for all the family, mostly about children, their families, and I particularly enjoyed watching John Mahoney (from Frasier fame) portrayal as the grandad, and thought Anthony Edwards played with considerable restraint a truly unsympathetic character.

Just in case you feel curious, here is the link to IMDB:

Flipped
Flipped

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0817177/

Two eighth-graders start to have feelings for each other despite being total opposites. Based on the novel “Flipped” by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Director:

Rob Reiner

Writers:

Rob Reiner (screenplay), Andrew Scheinman(screenplay),

Stars:

Madeline CarrollCallan McAuliffeRebecca De Mornay, Aidan Queen, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller

Thank you all for reading, thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for the advance copy of The readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, and if you’ve enjoyed it, like, share, comment and CLICK!