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: 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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YVO’S SHORTIES #99 – Sweetheart & Alice In Zombieland

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two completely different genres and two completely different reading experiences… While I loved my second meeting with Archie and Gretchen in Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain, I couldn’t say the same for Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter. That one is without doubt a series I won’t be continuing any time soon (more likely never).


Title: Sweetheart
(Archie Sheridan & Gretchen Lowell #2)
Author: Chelsea Cain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: June 1st 2008
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Finished reading: May 2nd 2019
Pages: 328

“It broke his heart. Not because she was worried that he was in danger, but because she thought she had a chance of saving him.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first book yet. 

I can’t believe it took me three years and a TBR jar to finally continue this series. I remember loving the first book way back: the serial killler up close and personal, the broken characters, the suspense, the sheer twistedness of it all. This series is exactly my cup of tea, but somehow it got lost between the other books on my TBR mountain. I’m definitely going to remedy that though, because Sweetheart has definitely reconfirmed my love for this series. What a delightfully disturbing and twisted read! I always love it when we get to see a serial killer up close and Gretchen Lowell is without doubt one to reckon with. I advice reading this series in order, because you will be missing out on details behind Archie’s state of mind and his unique relationship with Gretchen otherwise… Personally, details came back soon after I started reading Sweetheart and I found myself forgetting about prior engagements, hiding in a corner and just turning those pages instead. Both Gretchen and Archie play a key role in this series and having both a detective and serial killer that present definitely takes Sweetheart to a different level. It was fascinating to see how past events have affected Archie up to a point even his family and friends don’t seem to recognize him… This story has twists, turns and a healthy dose of action and suspense as well as an insight in the psychological aspects. You’ll be having a hard time putting this one down before you find out what happens, and the cliffhanger will most definitely leave you wanting for more. Guess who isn’t going to wait that long this time around to pick up book number three?


Title: Alice In Zombieland
(White Rabbit Chronicles #1)
Author: Gena Showalter

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 25th 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Finished reading: May 5th 2019
Pages: 408

“Truly living required risk.”


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I admit I was a bit wary to pick up this title, but I decided to pick it up anyway since I already had a copy on my kindle and needed it for a prompt of the BTB Bingo challenge. Unlike what you might guess from the pun in Alice In Zombieland, this first book of a series actually has very little to do with the original story. Wait, this isn’t a retelling? Nope, I would never consider calling it that. Why? Well, apart from the main character being called Alice and a white rabbit cloud appearing repeatedly, there are no references to or similarities between the classic and this concoction. I was surprised and a little disappointed after such a clear reference to it with the title and cover art. Instead, we have a story about zombies where we encounter a different kind of unread this time around; they are basically spirits and a lot more difficult to fight than your regular brain eaters. This could have been a premise for a very bloody and disturbing read, but sadly the fighting scenes and horror have been taken over almost completely by an overdose of cheesy and sappy romance scenes, a very frustrating love triangle and a whole lot of high school drama. The romance alone was so unbelievably cringeworthy I almost stopped reading there and then… Especially since some of those scenes were definitely too steamy to be appropriate for YA. The love triangle itself is so cliche it could have been an example in a dictionary… And all the high school drama, catfights and popularity contests in general were another huge turn off. Like I said, the idea behind the zombies is interesting and I would have loved to learn more about them and have more background on the slayers. The fighting scenes were pretty dark and did get bloody and almost horror worthy, but it’s almost like those scenes were put in as an afterthought. Alice In Zombieland and me definitely didn’t get along and it will be no surprise I won’t be picking up the next book any time soon (more likely never). If you don’t mind a huge amount of cheesy romance, cliches and high school drama and on top of that don’t object to a few dark and disturbing zombie fighting scenes either, you might have a better time with this story.


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ARC REVIEW: The Dare – by Carol Wyer

Title: The Dare
(Detective Natalie Ward #3)

Author: Carol Wyer
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 25th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 5th 2019
Pages: 348

“Tiredness mingled with the damp made Natalie shiver and she shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets to warm them.”

*** 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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Carol Wyer has done it again! She has proven me once again you can’t go wrong with her books and she is one of my go-to authors whenever I’m in the mood for an entertaining and fast-paced detective thriller. The Dare is already book number three of the Detective Natalie Ward series… And her team has another complicated case on their hands. While Natalie has never managed to grow on me completely (I can’t put my finger on the why though), what I love is the dynamics between the different members of her team. They all have their own unique personalities and add a little something to the investigation; sometimes the story switches to one of their POVs as well. In The Dare the story alternates between the police and the killer. We slowly learn more about the killer’s past, the meaning behind the title, the significance of the snake and why he does what he does. It shows the danger of the internet and its influence on teenagers… Especially since the younger generation seems to be getting more tech savy than their parents every second. There are a lot of twists and turns involved in The Dare, adding to the overall suspense and keeping you invested until the final reveals. Things will also get quite personal and a lot will be at stake for Natalie this time around. If you are a fan of fast-paced, well written and entertaining detective thrillers, you should definitely try meeting Natalie Ward.

WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books yet. I’ll keep the summary short but it’s almost impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

When Jane arrives home a little later than usual, she realizes that her thirteen-year-old daugher Savannah never came home. She immediately starts searching and soon after raises the alarm. Detective Natalie Ward and her team don’t have a lot of clues, and the race against the clock is one they won’t be able to win… Not even 24 hours later Savannah’s body is found close to her home. There isn’t a lot of evidence available, making it hard for the team to find solid clues and a suspects. And things are getting even more acute as another teenager goes missing the same day. Will they be able to catch whoever is behind it all on time?

If you are looking for a well written, suspenseful and entertaining detective thriller that reads like a train, you know you can always turn to Carol Wyer. Both this series and her detective thrillers in general have been consistently solid so far and The Dare is no exception to that rule. I found myself flying through those pages to discover more about the killer and how things would unfold… It’s true I never grew to like Natalie as a character, but her team’s chemistry mostly makes up for that. And I’ll definitely be looking forward to discover whatever will be thrown at them next.


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ARC REVIEW: Little Darlings – by Melanie Golding

Title: Little Darlings
Author: Melanie Golding
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 30th 2019
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Finished reading: April 16th 2019
Pages: 304

“Look at someone every day for long enough and you stop seeing what everyone else sees. You start to see what no one else sees, what is kept hidden from most people.”

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

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There has been a lot of buzz around Little Darlings lately, and not without cause. This soon-to-be-published debut of Melanie Golding is without doubt something special! Little Darlings is not your ordinary psychological thriller and instead offers a fascinating mix with folklore and fairy tale elements. A hint of the surreal is mixed with suspense and a mental health angle in such a fluid way that really makes the folklore stories come alive… It’s without doubt an intriguing mix of genres and different elements that will keep you wondering until the very end. Little Darlings is basically three different storylines in one: one one side we have detective Harper, her history and the investigation, on another side we have Lauren Tranter, her newborn twins and her home situations and as a third element we have the supernatural mixed with a mental health angle. This might sound like a bit much, but the plot is constructed and developed in such a a way that makes everything connect seamlessly. My favorite part of Little Darlings are the folklore elements, which give the story an unique touch as well as adding a healthy amount of suspense to the story. Is it all real? Or is it part of the postpartum depression Lauren seems to be suffering from? These questions will keep going round and round in your head and will keep you wondering ever after you reached the final page. Oh yes, Little Darlings has an ambiguous ending you can interpret both ways… And this time around, this technique really worked for me and added an extra mysterious vibe to the overall story.  As for the characters… I’m not sure I actually liked most of them (although I did like Harper and her stubborn insistence to investigate the case), but they do fit the story in general. I confess I had a strong dislike of Patrick though, and the final reveals involving his character and actions were not really satisfying. But that was only a minor blip compared to my general feelings for this wonderful mix of folklore and reality.


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ARC REVIEW: Final Betrayal – by Patricia Gibney

Title: Final Betrayal
(Detective Lottie Parker #6)

Author: Patricia Gibney
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 18th 2019
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: April 11th 2019
Pages: 484

“Her subconscious was telling her she had made a mistake all those years ago. Her conscious self told her she hadn’t. Which was correct?”

*** 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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Most of you are probably already aware of the fact I have been a detective Lottie Parker fan ever since the first book came out and I’ve been closely following the series ever since… The thing is, I’m starting to wonder whether this is turning out to be one of those series that has been going on for too long. Don’t get me wrong, but while I absolutely loved the first four installments, I struggled to warm up to number five and sadly my reaction to book six wasn’t what I was expecting either. I’m not saying Final Betrayal is a bad read at all (I want to make that clear before I continue), but once again I felt that somehow the spark of the first four books was missing. Detective Lottie Parker is known for her complex and shocking detective adventures, and it’s true that this new installment mostly delivers that. But… I felt like Final Betrayal was almost trying to take too much on its plate at the same time. There are so many different POVs, characters and different angles that it’s hard to keep track of it all and instead of adding more tension and suspense, I mostly ended up being frustrated by having to deal with yet another POV jump within the same chapter. There is so much going on at the same time that it feels like you are juggling ten balls at the same time and only have time to look at your hands and not at what really is going on. I had my doubts about the credibility as well, and like in book five, the negative attitude and swearing of some characters started to get on my nerves. As for the plot twists and surprises… I guessed part of the final reveal early on, and I’m not sure I find the final explanations completely satisfying. Sure, there is a lot of action and tension involved in the plot and things will get very personal on multiple levels for Lottie Parker. But unfortunately Final Betrayal failed to hit the mark completely for me this time around. Did I mention it was unpopular opinion time again?

WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first five books yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

Amy Whyte and Penny Brogan both disappear after leaving a local nightclub early Sunday morning, but it isn’t until Monday that someone realizes they are gone. Amy’s father reports her missing, and it’s up to detective Lottie Parker to try and discover what happened that night. What originally was a search for one woman soon turns out to be two as Penny cannot be found either. When their bodies are found days later, they are desperate to close the case fast as Amy’s father has a lot of influence. Then things turn even more desperate as two more girls are found… And danger seems to be around every corner.

I was really hoping to fall in love with this series again, but once again the story failed to hit the mark completely for me… It’s not a bad read, the writing still reads lightning-fast and there are a lot of twists and turns involved, but for me sadly the spark of the first four books was missing. I felt there was almost too much going on in Final Betrayal, with multiple characters and POV switches even within the same character. Instead of adding the characteristic dept and complexity to the plot, I rather found it confusing and almost irritating this time around, especially since you never seem to get to settle down with one character for a little while. I had my doubts about the credibility and wasn’t convinced by the final reveals either… It has convinced me Lottie Parker and me are overdue for a little break and I have decided to step away from the series and leave it for those who still feel the same love for Lottie Parker.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #91 – 99 Percent Mine & The Dry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres; one new release and a backlist title I’ve been meaning to read for ages. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne sadly turned out to be a disappointment, but The Dry by Jane Harper turned out to be as excellent as everyone kept promising me. I’m definitely reading book two VERY soon!


Title: 99 Percent Mine
Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: March 16th 2019
Pages: 368

“That’s because pizza is a precious natural resource. It can heal tiredness, bad mood, falling morale, and a fading will to live. Pizza realigns the heart chakras.”

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I know I’m not exactly a contemporary romance fan in general, but I had such a great time with The Hating Game last year that I just couldn’t resist trying 99 Percent Mine as well. I should have know better and listened to the early reviews on this one… Because there is one thing for sure: this story was most definitely not for me. Why? Let’s just say that the sheer amount of adult content and sexy scenes made me want to throw my kindle against the wall and run away screaming. I know this has everything to do with me and nothing with the book, but it did mean 99 Percent Mine and me started off the wrong foot… While I can normally tolerate a certain amount of steam if the rest of the story makes up for it (her debut proves that for example), I didn’t feel the plot or characters made up for those scenes in this case. I found the plot to be rather weak and nothing much is happening during most of the book… The focus is mostly on Darcy, Tom and Jamie and the sexual tension is right there center stage. All. The. Time. Good if you enjoy sexy romance and steamy scenes; not so good if you are allergic to them. I can’t really say I cared for the main characters either. They felt mostly like cliches to me and while things did improve in the final part I’m still not sure how I even made it to the end. I think a lot of me finishing this story had to do with the writing, which is just as solid as in her debut and makes it easy to flip those pages. It’s easy to state that 99 Percent Mine was 100 percent not for me, but I’m having a feeling steamy romance fans will enjoy this story a lot better than I did.


Title: The Dry
(Aaron Falk #1)
Author: Jane Harper

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Finished reading: March 20th 2019
Pages: 401

“Death rarely changes how we feel about someone. Heightens it, more often than not.”


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I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about The Dry ever since it came out in 2016 and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick them up. With so many fellow bloggers loving Jane Harper‘s books though, I knew this was probably something I would love as well… I’m glad I finally picked up my copy of The Dry, because I’ve become an instant Jane Harper fan. What a fantastic read! The setting, the writing style, the plot and character development: I found each element to be extremely well executed and I can see why this debut has received so much love. This is one of those stories you will want to clear your schedule for… Once you have turned the first few pages, you will find yourself stuck in Kiewarra until you discover what really happened to Luke and his family and if it has to do with something that happened long ago. The plot twists and suspense are well handled and the tension is build up as we learn more about the characters and secrets. I admit I did guess part of the final twists, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed The Dry any less. The author did a fantastic job of setting the right atmosphere for this story and portray what the weather and lack of rain can do to a whole town. If you enjoy reading the genre, The Dry is without doubt a must-read! I myself can’t wait to pick up the sequel.


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