ARC REVIEW: The Darkness – by Ragnar Jonasson

Title: The Darkness
(Hidden Iceland #1)

Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 15th 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: October 14th 2018
Pages: 336
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Dimma’)

“Over the years she had spoken to so many suspects she had developed a knack of spotting when people were trying to pull the wool over her eyes.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve been meaning to try one of Ragnar Jonasson‘s books for some time now, so when I saw that the translation of Dimma was coming out I just couldn’t resist. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story set in Iceland before, so the setting alone was a huge bonus for me. But what stands out for me even more is the main character of The Darkness. Yes, she is a detective with a complicated past, which may sound as a cliche… But this is all forgotten as we finally have an older main character to follow; DI Hulda Hermannsdottir is 64 and almost retiring, and getting to see her at this point in her life is truly refreshing. The Darkness is both about Hulda and the secrets of her past and the death of an asylum seeker from Russia. While a bit slow at point, the development of the plot and plot twists is well done and this story definitely has some surprises in store for you. And that ending! I wish I could understand Icelandic so I could find out what happens next… I’m fully intrigued. There are three different POVs to deal with, one of them set in the past, and all add something to the plot even though it takes a while to figure out how everything connects. The writing is solid and reads easily, and despite a slower pace at times The Darkness is still a very good detective thriller.

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Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is about to reach the age of retirement, but she is allowed to dive into one last cold case before she has to clear her desk. She decides to look into the death of a young asylum seeker from Russia. While the other detective had ruled it a suicide, Hulda is convinced they didn’t investigate all angles in the past. She starts her investigation, but soon finds out nobody actually wants her to keep investigating. The renewed attention to the case may have dangerous consequences…

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The Darkness both has an interesting setting and a strong main character to build a story around. I really appreciated to finally have an older main character, and Hulda is without doubt a very interesting one to follow. The mystery around her past and the cold case she is investigating will keep you on your toes, making the slower parts less noticeable. And what a shocking ending! I definitely didn’t see some of the reveals coming. Talk about ending things with a blast… I will be looking forward to book two.


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ARC REVIEW: The Passion According To Carmela – by Marcos Aguinis

Title: The Passion According To Carmela
Author: Marcos Aguinis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2008
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: October 7th 2018
Pages: 284
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘La pasión según Carmela’)

“At the root of any insanity you’re bound to find great truths.”

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

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I know I should probably have read this one in Spanish, but since it takes me twice as long to read it and I had the opportunity to read this newly published English translation, I decided to be lazy. I was fascinated by the premise of The Passion According To Carmela as soon as I first started reading it. While I learned a few things about the Cuban Revolution during Uni, most of the history was skimmed over and I was looking forward to learn more about that particular part of Cuban history. The promise of a love story mixed in with a proper look inside the Cuban Revolution just sounded too good to be true, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. The translation was excellently done and the writing style really flowed. The descriptions both of the Cuban setting and the background information around the Revolution and its consequences for the locals are exhaustive and very thorough. The Passion According To Carmela not only introduces us to the main character and their tragic and complicated love history, but also teaches you about how Fidel Castro came to power and how this effected the country. The prose is easy to on the eye, draws you in and makes it really easy to invest your time in this story. The pace was a bit slow at points, but overall The Passion According To Carmela was a really satisfying read.

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Cuba is on the border of a Revolution, and the country isn’t alone in facing some drastic changes. Carmela Vasconcelos has been living a privileged life so far, but her idealistic ideas and her brother Lucas end up convincing her to join Fidel Castro’s rebels. There she meets the Argentinian socialist Ignacio Deheza, and they are both aware of the instant connection between them. Their passion for both each other and the cause blind them, and they soon discover passion alone might just not be enough… Is the Revolution really everything they thought it would promised to be?

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The Passion According To Carmela is perfect for both historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a good complicated love story. You will come out both exhausted by everything that happens to the main character and having learned more about the Cuban Revolutions and its effects on the locals. Well written, well translation, well executed… It reads a bit slow at points, but the story is without doubt still 100% worth reading.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #50 – The King’s Guard & Radiance Of Tomorrow

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today two completely different reads, but both worthwhile. The King’s Guard is the third and final Fire And Thorns novella and without doubt my favorite of the bunch. And I have been wanting to read Radiance Of Tomorrow forever, especially since Ishmael Beah‘s memoir made such an impact. This fictional story also set in his country Sierra Leone is another powerful and heartbreaking read.


Title: The King’s Guard
(Fire And Thorns #0.7)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: July 30th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: September 19th 2018
Pages: 111

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.”


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I have been reading the Fire And Thorns novellas before tackling the sequel, and I have to say this third and final one is probably my favorite of the bunch. The King’s Guard is partly set in the royal palace and is partly an adventure and rescue mission. Hector makes a great main character of this novella and his character is very easy to like. The writing is solid as always and I managed to read it in no time at all… The plot and setting are well fleshed out for a novella and I had a great time reading this one. These novellas are a great addition to the original series and especially the last two novellas are without doubt worth the read if you enjoy the series.


Title: Radiance Of Tomorrow
Author: Ishmael Beah

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction
First published: January 7th 2014
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Finished reading: September 20th 2018
Pages: 256

“We must live in the radiance of tomorrow, as our ancestors have suggested in their tales. For what is yet to come tomorrow has possibilities, and we must think of it, the simplest glimpse of that possibility of goodness. That will be our strength. That has always been our strength.”


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A Long Way Gone is one of the most devastating and heartbreaking memoirs I’ve read to this date, and well written at that. I’ve been meaning to read Radiance Of Tomorrow for years now, and I’m glad I’ve finally had the opportunity to do so. While Radiance Of Tomorrow is a fictional story this time around, it has the same setting in Sierra Leone and the same emotional rollercoaster ride. Make sure to brace yourself before you start this one, because it won’t be a happy journey. Radiance Of Tomorrow tells the story of what happens in the ruined village Imperi after the war in Sierra Leone ended. The beginning sets the tone of what will become a heartbreaking, devastating and very emotional read, with little lights shining upon the hope the characters have things will become better in the future. Descriptions of both characters and setting are excellently done and I loved the ‘fusion’ of different languages as the author translated expressions from other languages literally to describe things. This book shows us what it was like for the locals after the war, the struggles still there as they try to survive with all odds against them. You will take the characters under your wing and suffer with them as setbacks occur… Radiance Of Tomorrow has a wonderful bigger message and is without doubt a very powerful and emotional read. I’m glad I decided to finally pick up!


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ARC REVIEW: The Tango War – by Mary Jo Conahay

Title: The Tango War
Author: Mary Jo McConahay
Genre: Non Fiction, History, War
First published: September 18th 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: August 10th 2018
Pages: 336

“Each side closely shadowed the steps of the other, like dancers in a tango.”

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

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My interest in this non fiction read was piqued for three reasons: I’m hugely interested in anything related to WWII, nobody ever talks about the role of Latin America during WWII and last but not least I have a special interest in history related to Latin America especially since I have settled down in Argentina. The Tango War is an eye-catching title and the cover stands out as well, but it is important to not forget this is a non fiction read first, entertaining thriller second. I don’t agree with the blurb that The Tango War can be read as a thriller, because the chapters lack cohesion for that. The chapters jump between countries and point of views of the war, which sometimes is necessary, but turns this book into a collection of essays rather than a single story. I also would have prefered to see more focus on the actual Latin American countries, instead of the clearly US influenced point of view of the different topics discussed. I don’t think I could call this non fiction read 100% neutral as a consequence, but that doesn’t take away that The Tango War was a thoroughly interesting read. There has never been much talk about the role of Latin America during WWII, most people instead focusing on Europe, the United States and Japan as the main contenders. It was fascinating to read about how various countries in Latin America had a big influence in the things that happened during the war. The focus isn’t solely on the years during WWII though, as many events both before and after are put in the spotlight as well. If you are interested in the topic and enjoy non fiction reads, The Tango War is just the book for you.

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There has never been enough focus on the fact that Latin America played a big role during WWII. Both sides have been fighting for the allegiance of the countries of Latin America even long before the war, knowing that their support will play a vital role. Each side is willing to play dirty, doing what is needed to win over the countries and get the support needed…

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If you enjoy reading non fiction historical texts and have an interest in the Second World War, The Tango War will without doubt interest you. It’s not the fastest read of the world and the essay-like chapters might slow you down, but this book shines the light upon a wide variety of topics related to the role of Latin America during the war. Would I have liked to see a more neutral point of view instead of a clearly US influenced perspective? Maybe. Would I have liked to see more of Latin America itself? Probably. But there is no doubt The Tango War is still a little goldmine of information.


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ARC REVIEW: Saigon Dark – by Elka Ray @crimewavepress

Title: Saigon Dark
Author: Elka Ray
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: September 5th 2016
Publisher: Crime Wave Press
Finished reading: June 28th 2018
Pages: 231

“Closure? When I hear people use this word, I dismiss them as idiots, or worse. Just the idea is a travesty, like you could close a door on your love, lock it up tight, and paint over it. Real love is a part of you, like your heart or your liver. You might survive massive trauma but you won’t ever be the same.”

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

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I always enjoy reading books with a foreign setting, especially when I haven’t been there myself as it feels like a mini-vacation just being able to read about it. Between the promise of a setting in Vietnam and an intriguing premise, I knew I had to give this story a go. Saigon Dark is a mix of a domestic drama and a psychological thriller set in a timespan of roughly ten years. The story jumps forward a lot between chapters, but if you keep track of the dates mentioned the story isn’t that difficult to follow. I liked the writing style, which flowed naturally and easy on the eye. The plot is an interesting one with just the right amount of secrets and twists. Did I understand the reasoning behind the things the main characters? Not always. Do I think she should have said something when it happened all those years ago instead of doing what she did? Yes. But I guess there wouldn’t have been a story otherwise. I did feel there were some holes in the plot, or at least bits I would have liked to see more developed. And I kind of struggled with the ending, which felt rather abrupt. I was left wanting to know more and learn how things continued since a lot was left unsaid. Saigon Dark has a few pretty decent twists, although I did guess part of the final reveals early on. But in general I can’t deny Saign Dark was a very interesting read with a foreign setting I was able to explore thanks to the story. Trigger warnings are in place for abuse and violence though.

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Lily is a successful plastic surgeon and the single mom of two small kids. Then one day her life changes forever as she finds her little daughter has drowned in the backyard. She is unconsolable and stricken by grief, and that might explain the split-second decision to take in her neighbor’s neglected and abused daughter and whisk her away from her home. Lily spends the next decade living a lie, telling everyone the girl she practically kidnapped is her own dead daughter. Just as she remarries and starts to feel safe, she receives a threatening note… Will she able to keep her past a secret?

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Saigon Dark is without doubt an interesting read. The main character Lily’s situation is a very complicated one and while I don’t agree with her actions, I can see how grief can make people do things they normally wouldn’t. There is no doubt she saved the girl from more abuse and neglect in the years that followed, but denying her the truth about her past isn’t exactly ethical either. It was interesting to see how things slowly started to unfold though, although I still would have wished a less abrupt ending. I’m having a feeling especially fans of domestic thrillers will enjoy this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #27: The Orphan’s Tale & Murder On The Orient Express

Another day and another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Bringing you more shortie reviews of books I read during my hiatus. The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff has been on my list for a long time, and turned out to be just as good as I thought it would be. And I have been meaning to read more of Agatha Christie‘s work for a long time, so accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express movie turned out to be the perfect excuse to do so.


Title: The Orphan’s Tale
Author: Pam Jenoff

Genre: Historical Fiction, War
First published: February 21st 2017
Publisher: Mira Books
Finished reading: May 18th 2018
Pages: 353

“Sometimes our forever life does not last as long as we think.”


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After a very difficult but extraordinary visit to the Auschwitz camps, I wanted to read another historical fiction story set during WWII to commemorate. I was browsing my kindle and my eyes fell on The Orphan’s Tale, a title I have been meaning to pick up for a long time, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. While not exactly the story set in one of the camps I was looking for, this story shows the struggle and fear of the Jews trying to hide their true identity. The Orphan’s Tale has a wide variety of different characters and this diversity was one of the reasons this story worked. The circus setting with all its descriptions and opportunities for plot twists and new angles definitely was another key element. The writing is solid and makes it really easy to fully emerge yourself and keep reading to find out what will happen to the main characters. There comes the only minor flaw I experienced myself though: I didn’t agree with every decision of the characters and somehow it wasn’t as easy to get a proper feeling of some of them. This feeling of slight uneasiness and frustration made me lower the rating slightly, but overall The Orphan’s Tale is without doubt among the better WWII historical fiction stories I’ve read to this date.


Title: Murder On The Orient Express
(Hercule Poirot #10)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Classics
First published: 1926
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: May 21st 2018
Pages: 256

“I know human nature, my friend, and I tell you that, suddenly confronted with the possibility of being tried for murder, the most innocent person will lose their head and do the most absurd things.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up another Agatha Christie book ever since I finished And Then There Were None back in 2015, but somehow I never did. So I guess accidently watching the Murder On The Orient Express was a blessing in disguise, because since I normally never watch the movie before reading the book, of course I had to immediately remedy that. I had high hopes for the book, and even though I haven’t read the previous Hercule Poirot books yet, I was able to enjoy book number ten anyway. Because Agatha Christie writes in a way that will draw your attention from the start, and she gives just enough background of the main characters to be able to form an idea of their past without the previous books. I still want to read the other nine titles before this one as well of course, and the copies are on my list. But the fact is that Murder On The Orient Express can easily be read as a stand-alone as well and what a good story at that. From the main character to the development of the other characters, the mystery, the way Hercule Poirot conducts his investigation… There is just something about it that will fascinate you completely and any mystery/thriller fan will find themselves flying through it. I personally liked both movie and book equally, although I still wish I would have read the book first, because I had the actors stuck in my head and the descriptions of the characters in the book don’t really match. Thankfully the script itself follows the original plot closely; one of the reasons the adaptation was so successful to me. Murder On The Orient Express has shown me I really need to get copies of more of Agatha Christie‘s books soon, because I have truly been missing out by not reading them.


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ARC REVIEW: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter – by Julia Drosten

Title: The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter
Author: Julia Drosten
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: August 8th 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: March 26th 2018
Pages: 295
(Originally written in German: ‘Die Elefantenhüterin’)

“Sometimes it’s very hard not to follow the path of revenge.”

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

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I have a weak spot for historical fiction, especially if they are set in an era or country I’m not all that familiar with. I was instantly intrigued when I first read about The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter, with its promises of a country/culture I don’t know much about as well as the era the story takes place. The 19th century history of Ceylon (now called Scri Lanka) is a fascinating background for this story and the descriptions of both the country itself and the customs and culture are lavishly and thoroughly described. It is really easy to imagine how Ceylon would have looked like from the descriptions alone! And it also shows the background for this story was very well researched and put together. Sadly, somehow I didn’t manage to get a proper feel for The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter though. While I love thorough descriptions, especially of places that are foreign to me, I started to wonder about the balance of those descriptions and the actual plot. It is true that the descriptions help set the right atmosphere and foreign setting/era, but they also slowed down the pace considerably. And not just the pace, because I also felt the transition from background descriptions to the more active parts was quite haltered and as a consequence the story didn’t really flow. I can’t put my finger on the why exactly, but I think my mixed feelings had a lot to do with the general tone and writing style as well. Both seemed distant and not natural, and the second especially stood out in the dialogues. And in general, even though they story describes some pretty barbaric events, it doesn’t seem to be able to provoke true emotions due to this feeling of distance. The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter has a lot of potential and the main characters have an interesting story, but sadly I wasn’t able to enjoy this story better. I’m still wondering if part of my problem with the tone and writing style could have been due to the fact this novel is a translation though, and some of its original charm might have been lost.

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In the royal city of Kandy, the king’s elephant keeper’s wife gives birth to a daughter the same day the king’s favorite elephant gives birth to her young. The couple was desperate for a boy to ensure the line of succession, and the mother hides her daughter’s gender by raising her as a boy. Phera and her elephant Siddhi become close friends and spends most of her time with the animal. Phera realizes she is not like other boys, but her parents force her to keep her true gender a secret… Until the British colonists invade Ceylon and they have to flee the capital.

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I really wanted to like this one and I still think the plot itself has a lot of potential. The worldbuilding and descriptions of the era and setting are thorough and it shows the background of The Elephant Keeper’s Daughter was very well researched. Sadly, I’m still on the fence about this one, as I didn’t manage to enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Part of the problem was the tone and writing style as well as the fact the story didn’t really flow… Which made it hard to properly connect to the story. The setting is fascinating though as well as the time period the story is set in with its consequences of the British invasion.


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