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review 2018-02-09 20:41
A book strong on plot and fast action and full of information about la Santa Muerte.
Freaky Franky - William Blackwell


I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I have been reading a book called Paperbacks from Hell 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.

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review 2017-12-28 19:02
Very nice love story with some christmas cheer
Desperately Seeking Santa - Eli Easton

I liked the characters, the slow burn, the tension between both main characters. This was done really well. There was enough honest conversation to make the falling for each other believable and interesting.


It was entertaining and enjoyable.



The only reason I deduct half a star is for the unoriginal reporter/journalist story line.

And like nearly always I disliked this part of the character.


I do not understand where this "the public has a right to know" stuff comes from - especially if it is about exposing regular non-celebrity non-public people. I find it not only an invalid argument, as the public has no stakes in that concrete situation anyway, I also simply hate the trope as a whole. And also this whole "honour of a journalist" thing is quite strange for an intern in a small local newspaper.



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text 2017-12-28 14:21
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 - Christmas

Tasks for Christmas: Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR– a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him. –OR– Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)? If so, what did you wish for? A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?



I'm afraid I was disabused of the notion that there actually was a Santa Claus even before my mom "officially" did so when one year -- I think I may have been four at the time -- I found something she hadn't yet gotten around to hiding really well that later showed up wrapped up under the Christmas tree.  (Of course I didn't let on I had found it before, or at least I did my best not to.)  Also, I think it was even in kindergarten that I first learned about the historic St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, and where we were told that the "Christ child" (Christkind) who in Germany is said to bring all the presents in addition to / or in competition with Santa Claus is to be understood symbolically, with the gifts we receive "from him" as a tangible manifestation of the good brought into the world by the little boy in the manger some 2000 years ago.


So I didn't write letters to Santa, but my mom had me write out a wish list nevertheless, and yes, some of the things from the list would usually be part of what I received.


Germans exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, not the morning of Christmas Day, and I think our family tradition is the same, or at least very similar to that of many other German families (with the only significant differences being whether you go to church or not -- and if you do, whether it's in the afternoon / early evening or at midnight -- and whether you exchange gifts before or after dinner).  We go to church early in the evening, usually at 6:00 PM -- while I was growing up and in the years until I moved away after I'd graduated from university, the church where I was confirmed, which was the closest Protestant church to where my grandparents lived (and where we used to live when I was a kid)



-- whereas these days, we go to the Protestant church closest to where we now live, which is a 15-20 minute walk from our home.


In the years up until my graduation from university, our gathering on Christmas Eve consisted of either just my maternal grandparents, my mom and me, or in addition there would be the family of my mom's sister, with whom we were particularly close, and who lived near Bonn for a few years while I was in elementary school, and then again after my uncle had retired.  "The kids" (actually, all the family except for either my mom or my aunt, depending in whose home we were celebrating) would be banned from the living room until all the lights on the Christmas tree were lit, then a little bell would call us in, and we'd exchange presents, and after that, we'd have dinner.

ca. age 4, with my mom and my grandpa (I think I've shared this one before)

Christmas dinner table at my aunt and uncle's house, ca. 1996 or 1997


These days, it's just my mom and me on Christmas Eve (though we may get together with other parts of the family on Christmas Day or on Boxing Day), and we still follow essentially the same routine.




Santa Claus / Saint Nick actually comes twice in Germany, once in his incarnation as St. Nicholas, on the evening of that saint's official holiday (December 6), and then in his incarnation as Father Christmas / Santa on Christmas Eve.  While his Christmas visit is said to be a secret one, his visit on St. Nicholas"s Day is one equally dreaded and anticipated by children, because it's then that they get to account for their misdeeds throughout the year ... or get presents -- nothing major, mostly chocolates, cookies, tangerines, nuts and the like -- for being able to prove they've been good kids.  Of course they always end up being loaded with sweets, but if "St. Nick" is sufficiently convincing -- or is actually accompanied by his scary servant, Knecht Ruprecht, whose job it is to administer the punishment to bad children --, there's a moment of a certain frisson at the beginning, with St. Nick, typically a member of the family and thus excellently informed, going through their "record of behavior" for the year.  I have only vague memories of this (and no photos at all) from my own childhood, both at home and at my kindergarten, but here's my uncle dressed up as St. Nicholas for my cousin's kids:


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review 2017-12-23 20:01
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 - Christmas: All the Right Feels
The Santa Klaus Murder - Mavis Doriel Hay
The Santa Klaus Murder - Mavis Doriel Hay,Anne Dover,Gordon Griffin

Of all of my Christmas reads this year to date, I can't think of a more fitting candidate for the Christmas holiday book bonus joker.  This is a nicely plotted Golden Age country house holiday party mystery, with decidedly more likeable than non-likeable characters, a light enough touch to make the non-likeable characters gentle satires rather than gratingly annoying or rough-hewn bores, all the Christmas feels (which are maintained until the very end), decent enough writing ... and, I mean, seriously, can you beat that title?  Call me sentimental, but I did enjoy this enormously.


P.S.: As an aside, I also truly enjoyed the narration by Gordon Griffin, one of the audiobook narrators of the very first hour ... and in case you didn't know, also the guy whose voice tells you to "Mind The Gap" when you're travelling on the London Underground.


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review 2017-12-23 19:30
Santa's Birthday Gift, Sherrill S Cannon
Santa's Birthday Gift - Sherrill S. Cannon

What a lovely children's book. I received this as a gift and voluntarily chose to review it. I've given it a 5* rating. Plenty of graphics to draw children's eyes but the story is told in a rhyming fashion that I loved. This story draws Santa into the birth of Jesus story. Can hardly wait to share this with my grandchildren.

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