BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wolves At The Door – by Gunnar Staalesen #blogtour #RandomThingsTours #WolvesAtTheDoor #VargVeum #NordicNoir @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wolves At The Door Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to plan a meeting with Varg Veum for a long time now, and when I was invited to the blog tour I saw it as a sign I should no longer pospone it. I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long to meet him now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on Wolves At The Door.

Title: Wolves At The Door
(Varg Veum #21)
Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: June 10th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian:’Utenfor er hundene’)

“Someone was lying to me, and one thing was sure: in such cases as this I seldom gave up until I found out who it was. And why.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I think one problem all of us book bloggers have to face is the fact that there are so many fantastic sounding series and books out there and hardly enough time to even make a dent into the pile of unread priority titles. Meeting Varg Veum has been on my to-do list for a long long time now, but somehow other books always got in the way… I think the first time this Nordic Noir series appeared on my radar was with the publication of book number eighteen, Where Roses Never Die, back in 2017. While I prefer reading a series in order, with each publication fellow book bloggers kept promising the books can be read quite satisfactory as a standalone as well. So when I was invited for the blog tour for Wolves At The Door, I decided to jump in the deep end and finally meet Varg Veum without further excuses. (And let’s face it, there was no way I would be able to find time to read the first twenty books and catch up in the first place.)

Wolves At The Door is already the twenty first installment of the Varg Veum series, but as I was promised with the previous books, the story works really well as a standalone as well. The only thing that is bound to happen is that you, like myself, will be left wanting to spend more time with a new favorite character and end up reading the previous books anyway as soon as you can find time for them… Because such is the power of Varg Veum. I can understand why this series has been going on for as long as it has, because Varg Veum is a force to reckon with. He is one of those characters that I connected to immediately and profoundly. As soon as you read the first chapter, he feels familiar and it’s as if you have known him for ages already. His description, his way of seeing the world, his attitude, the way he speaks, reacts and deducts information from what he learns along the way, his humor… Meeting Varg Veum was like seeing an old friend again after a long time apart, knowing you won’t let him slip this easily from your life again now he’s back in the picture. I don’t often feel a connection this strong to a character after such a short time, but consider me officially on #TeamVargVeum from now on.

Varg Veum is not the only thing that makes Wolves At The Door into such a success for me. A lot of it had to do with both the writing style itself and the many detailed descriptions making the cold Nordic setting truly come alive. I haven’t had the chance to visit Norway yet, but I feel like I really got to know Bergen and its surroundings while reading Wolves At The Door. The detailed descriptions of not only the setting, but also the characters added a lot of dept to what was already an intriguing plot and gave the story a ominous and sinister atmosphere. The writing itself is excellent; we have the wonderful translation by Don Bartlett to thank for that, because we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this Nordic Noir gem otherwise. While the pace is slower in especially the first half of the story, it never really slowed me down as I saw it as an opportunity to get to know Varg Veum and other key characters better. The writing style and humor was spot on for me and I’ve become an instant fan of Gunnar Staalesen‘s work. As things are getting more heated for Varg Veum, the pace as well as the suspense pick up… Making you move towards the edge of your seat while you keep your fingers crossed everything will work out in the end.

Wolves At The Door deals with a very difficult topic, one that is trigger warning worthy: child abuse. An emotionally harrowing topic and very hard to write or read about, but I feel that Gunnar Staalesen has tackled the subject in an honorable and realistic way. It doesn’t make it easier to read about both the past case (I imagine has been discussed in the previous book I can’t wait to read now) and the new discoveries our main character Varg Veum makes as he follows his intuition… But it justifies going down that road and explore such a sensitive theme. The story will probably provoke strong emotions though, and you will definitely feel anger towards certain characters and events before you reach the final page. Of course, it’s always a good sign a story is able to make you feel such strong emotions in the first place… And there is no doubt whatsoever that Wolves At The Door is a brilliant piece of Nordic Noir and a harrowing story that will touch even those with the coldest heart.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Gunnar Staalesen was born in
Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of twenty-two with
Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg
Veum series. He is the author of over twenty-three titles, which have been
published in twenty-six countries and sold over five million copies. Twelve film
adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring
the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim, and a further series is
currently being filmed. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including
the Prize of Honour) and the Petrona Award, and been shortlisted for the CWA
Dagger, lives in Bergen with his wife.


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ARC REVIEW: The Marriage Betrayal – by Shalini Boland @bookouture

Title: The Marriage Betrayal
Author: Shalini Boland
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 8th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: June 8th 2019
Pages: 273

“Anyone looking would see two young families having a relaxed evening out. They wouldn’t see the discomfort, the anxiety, the resentment. They might even be envious.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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It’s true I’m a bit biased when it comes to Shalini Boland‘s work, as I’ve been a fan ever since I had the chance to read The Girl From The Sea back in 2016. Every time I hear a new psychological thriller is about to come out, I immediately add it to my wishlist even before reading the blurb… Shalini Boland‘s psychological thrillers have yet to fail me, and The Marriage Betrayal once again confirmed my love for her writing. Why was this another winner for me?

Well, first of all it’s the writing that draws you right in, sets the tone and won’t let you go until the very end. Every time I pick up a Shalini Boland story, I know I have to clear out my schedule beforehand and make sure nothing will disturb me while I read… Because it’s a garantuee I won’t be wanting to stop reading before I reach the final page if it can be helped. The Marriage Betrayal turned out to be another one of those reads. While it’s true the pace is a tad slow in the beginning, with the first quarter of the story being what seems like a mosty ordinary family vacation in Swanage. There is always a hint of unrest and suspense lying just beneath the surface though; the run down gothic house they rented for the week setting the tone for the atmosphere. Tension is slowly building up as we start getting glimpses of Jake and his sister Lainy’s past, with things escalating as Faye realizes that her husband Jake and their son Dylan are missing. Did something happen to them? Is there something more menacing at play? Secrets and lies are hinted at, but not revealed for a long long time; leaving you guessing what happened with Jake and Lainy in the past and what it has to do with the present. And what other secrets are they all hiding?

Like I said before, the building up is a bit slow and fans of faster psychological thrillers might struggle a bit with the first part of The Marriage Betrayal as there is more focus on the characters and mundane daily activities. I can promise you things WILL escalate and this story has quite a few shocking surprises for you lined up. The Marriage Betrayal will try to mislead you multiple times and try to make you look in the wrong direction… And even though I did start to guess some details of what was coming, there is no way to brace yourself for the end that Shalini Boland has for us in store. WHAT A TWIST!! It’s not often a psychological thriller manages to surprise me, but this twist left me with my mouth hanging wide open and consequently saying ‘NO WAY!’ over and over again. And while I thought that The Marriage Betrayal was a solid 4 star read during most of the story, it deserves an extra half start for the explosive ending alone. Fans of the genre will without doubt have a great time reading this story.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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ARC REVIEW: The Woman In Our House – by Andrew Hart

Title: The Woman In Our House
Author: Andrew Hart
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Finished reading: June 7th 2019
Pages: 352

“That was the real thrill: not the commission, not having clients hitting bestseller lists or coming home from awards shows with little statuettes. It was the electricity of finding magical, compelling words, stories, and ideas, all entrusted to me to put them where they could be seen.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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There was just something about the premise of this story that immediately left me intrigued and with no other option but to add it to my reading pile. It’s true that a potentially dodgy nanny or babysitter doesn’t exactly make for an all that original plot base on its own, but the literary agent angle, the promise of dark secrets involved and the menacing cover were enough to convince me to read The Woman In The House. I’m definitely happy with what I found. While I can’t deny that this story is what you call a slowburner and it took me some time to warm up to both the characters and the plot itself, things speed up as we get closer to the final reveals and the ending is without doubt intense. The Woman In The House has multiple characters and point of views incorporated into the story, which can be a bit confusing in the beginning as it’s kind of difficult to get a proper idea where everybody stands. In fact, the involvement of some of the characters only get explained near the ending, which can get a tad frustrating as you are kept juggling with lose ends and information that doesn’t seem to fit the puzzle. As for the characters themselves… I’m not sure up to what point they are likeable, but I loved the parts with the focus on Anna’s job as a literary agent, her interaction with upcoming author Ben and the novel fragments of his upcoming work. Those elements are very cleverly incorporated!

I did feel the story tried to incorporate too many different elements into the plot, with Oaklynn’s secrets and past, Josh’s secrets, Anna’s job and novel fragments and the home life of the Klein family among other elements fighting for the spotlight. Having to juggle all those different elements slowed down the pace and made it harder to keep track of everything, although all secrets and connections will be revealed before you reach the final page. The last part of The Woman In The House was without doubt intense, although I do wonder if it was over a bit too soon and quickly after such a slow building up of intensity… Most people will be both shocked albeit still quite satisfied by the final reveals though. If you love surprises, this story will definitely have a few in store for you! In short, The Woman In The House is a psychological thriller with a slow start and an explosive twist that will leave you rattled.


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ARC REVIEW: The Paper Wasp – by Lauren Acampora

Title: The Paper Wasp
Author: Lauren Acampora
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 11th 2019
Publisher: Grove Press
Finished reading: May 24th 2019
Pages: 240

“No one wants the truth. We don’t want to live with it; we don’t want to bathe in it. We want to supplant it. We want the dream, not the real. We long for fabrication, hallucination, false catastrophe.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Grove Press in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I admit I have been curious about this story as soon as I first saw the cover of The Paper Wasp, and I’ve been looking forward to pick it up ever since. I know it sounds like a cliche, but the phrase ‘it’s not you, it’s me‘ is actually quite a good representation of my feelings about this story. Even though the blurb itself sounded intriguing enough to have my interest piqued immediately, I’m afraid the actual story ended up being not exactly my cup of tea. Of course these feelings are subjective and The Paper Wasp is by no means a bad read, but I’ll try to explain why it wasn’t a right fit for me. It’s hard to put my finger exactly on the why, but I think a lot of my lack of connection to the story had to do with the writing style. The writing and tone of The Paper Wasp was too aloof and cumbersome to my taste and it almost felt as if it was trying to hard to be overly complicated and ‘literary fiction worthy’. I can appreciate lush writing and wonderful phrasing, but in this case I don’t think this particular writing style matched the premise of the story.

The Paper Wasp basically focuses on toxic relationships and the interaction between Abby and Elise. Other characters are in play, but these two women are in the spotlight and the focus is on their relationship and character development. The thing is, I really didn’t like either of them and for a character-driven story this makes it a lot harder to stay invested. The whole Perren angle is used to give the story a surreal air and it can be said that makes the story more unique, but I personally found it to be mostly confusing instead. Abby is a strange strange character, and while I love my quirky and unique characters, she is particularly hard to like. The superficial Hollywood cliche character in Elise is equally difficult to connect with… And these feelings didn’t change as I got to know them better. The ending definitely came as a surprise, but I’m not sure if it was a good surprise this time around. In fact, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the facts and how the plot was developed… Between the overly cumbersome writing style, unlikeable characters and an unconvincing plot development, sadly The Paper Wasp wasn’t my cup of tea. But I also know that the right person will love spending time with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: Your Life Is Mine – by Nathan Ripley

Title: Your Life Is Mine
Author: Nathan Ripley
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: June 4th 2019
Publisher: Atria Books
Finished reading: May 20th 2019
Pages: 336

“Before a shooter is a shooter, he’s just a man in a room.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I really enjoyed my time with Find You In The Dark last year so when I saw a new title by Nathan Ripley I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to read it. I’ve been looking forward to pick it up ever since, especially with such an intriguing premise. I mean, the idea of having a cult in the spotlight and the main character being the daughter of the cult leader and mass shooter sounds both disturbing, twisted and absolutely fascinating! Now I’ve read it, I still think there is a lot to love in Your Life Is Mine, but in the end the story failed to convince me completely. A big part of this feeling had to do with the very slow pace during most of the story. The slow pace came as a surprise especially considering just how twisted things get at points… Especially in the second half you will find a lot of action as things are spinning out of control, but somehow the overall plot still feels slow? It sounds contradicting, but sadly it was how I felt about the story as a whole. The main characters of Your Life Is Mine are not easy to like, but I do admit they are all very intriguing. It was interesting to see Blanche react to such a messed up childhood and learn more about Chuck, Crissy and their cult ideas. The cult plays a role throughout the story even though we only see Chuck actively in the beginning, as followers keep his memory alive after the mass shooting in 1996. It’s scary to think that the ideas of a man long dead can still have such an influence… There are quite a few twists and turns involved in Your Life Is Mine, but most are very easy to guess for those who regularly read (psychological) thrillers. And this fact kind of took the thrill out of the story for me. The end was also a bit too abrupt for me and I remember thinking: ‘is this all?’. It wasn’t particularly a satisfying ending for me, although I do get why the author decided to go down that road. Your Life Is Mine is by no means a bad read and it has some very interesting and twisted elements, but sadly it failed to stand out above other recent thrillers I’ve read. If you like the genre and don’t mind a slow pace and easy to guess plot twists, you will probably enjoy your time with Your Life Is Mine.


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ARC REVIEW: Dead Inside – by Noelle Holten @nholten40 @HarperImpulse

Title: Dead Inside
(DC Maggie Jamieson #1)
Author: Noelle Holten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2019
Publisher: Killer Reads
Finished reading: May 17th 2019
Pages: 352

“He turned her from a confident, carefree, intelligent woman, into a shell. She felt like nothing. Like she was in someone else’s body, skin, mindset.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Killer Reads in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Holy bat in hell, what a read! Now excuse me while I go pick my jaw off the floor… I already had a feeling I was going to enjoy this crime thriller by fellow book blogger and now debut author Noelle Holten, and my expectations were more than met. I literally cancelled all plans, settled down in my favorite reading chair and flew through Dead Inside in one sitting. It was simply brilliant! I loved that we not only have the typical detective (Maggie) to follow, but that we also have a probation officer (Lucy) in the spotlight. It definitely shows in the little details that Noelle worked as a senior probation officer herself for eighteen years, and it was fascinating to see a lesser explored angle being used in a crime thriller. The same goes for criminal psychologist Kate, who brings another refreshing angle to the investigation and it’s these three women together that makes this story work so well. It’s true we don’t get to see all that much of Maggie yet, but I’m having a feeling we will be getting plenty of her in the sequel.

Dead Inside is all about domestic abuse and what effects it has on the victimis and those around them. Signs of abuse are often not easy to see and the victims often feel that the situation they are in is impossible to escape. Psychological abuse is still abuse and harder to discover for outsiders… As someone who has been in a toxic relationship in the past, I know how hard it can be to let go. Trigger warnings are in place for the mentioned abuse, rape, violence and alcoholism. Dead Inside shines a light on domestic abuse from the point of view of both victims and (in a less direct way) abusers. At the same time, we also have an active murder investigation going on with ‘victims’ who don’t exactly arise sympathy. This angle alone is a very intriguing as it makes you wonder about right and wrong and if certain people just had it coming and karma came looking for them, or if even those dirtbags have rights… This story is lightning fast and isn’t afraid to go dark and messy. There are various twists and turns involved in Dead Inside, and while I did see part of it coming, I definitely didn’t guess the final reveal. And what a way to end the story! The whole Bill Raven case sounds fascinatingly disturbing… I already can’t wait to read the sequel and Dead Inside hasn’t even officially been published yet. Crime thriller fans, you have found a new title for your wishlist! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this outstanding crime thriller debut.


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