BOOK REVIEW: Block 46 – by Johana Gustawsson @Orendabooks

Title: Block 46
(Emily Roy & Alexis Castells #1)

Author: Johana Gustawsson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 21st 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: July 26th 2019
Pages: 300
(Originally written in French: ‘Block 46’)

“Whatever she did, the words were dislodged by her thoughts; like a swarm of bees hounded from their hive, they scattered erratically, unable to organise themselves.”


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It’s been three weeks since I finished reading Block 46 and I’m still struggling to get a word on paper. Oh yes, such is the power of this story! After multiple recommendations and reading fantastic reviews about both Block 46 and Keeper, I knew I could not go wrong with this series and I’ve been meaning to pick it up for quite some time now. I think the only reason I hesitated was that I knew I was going to be blown away and that it would be impossible to write a decent review afterwards… Guess what? That is EXACTLY what happened! Even three weeks later, I’m still recovering from the shock of this brilliant and harrowing read, but the time has come to stop procrastinating and try getting something constructive on paper. I do have a copy of Keeper waiting for me I want to read before the blog tour for Blood Song starts next month after all…

The first thing that stands out is that Block 46 is basically a combination of two of my favorite genres: historical fiction and crime fiction. Having both genres merged so beautifully and successfully was a huge bonus for me, as well as the fact that I have a weak spot for WWII stories and the chapters set in Buchenwald were both harrowing and fascinating at the same time. I’ve read my share of WWII fiction, and I truly believe Johana Gustawsson describes and developes the events in the Buchenwald concentration camp thoroughly and realistically. Shocking, gut-wrenching and definitely not for the weak-hearted, but then again the Holocaust was no picnic in the first place. The WWII flashbacks are expertly incorporated into the plot and give us background information as well as a possible explanation about what is happening in the present. They give this crime thriller an unique touch and really enhanced the reading experience for me.

Another thing I loved was the setting: I have a weak spot foreign settings and having part of the present story set in Sweden was a huge bonus for me. Descriptions of both London and Sweden setting were again thorough and really made both places come alive for me. I loved the references to Swedish culture and customs and it gave Block 46 another unique touch. Likewise, I found it to be really easy to connect to the main characters of this story. I’ve become an instant fan of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, their character development well crafted and realistic and making me root for them as they try to get to the bottom of what is going on. I love that instead of having the typical detective leads, we have a profiler (Emily Roy) and a true-crime writer (Alexis Castells) instead. Talk about an interesting combination! The other characters were likewise well developed and I always love it when we get to glimpse inside the head of a serial killer.

The writing is beautiful and combined with the pace and plot I found myself to be fully absorbed in the story from the very first chapter. The structure of the plot is complex, with multiple POVs and flashbacks, adding to the richness of Block 46 and really taking this story to the next level. This story has also quite a few surprises for you in store; certain developments you definitely won’t see coming and will leave you with your mouth hanging wide open. The suspense is well present and Block 46 definitely ends with a bang! This first book of what I already know will be a very successful series for me is a beautifully written and harrowing read, and 200% worth your time. If you enjoy unique crime thrillers and haven’t met Emily Roy and Alexis Castells yet, now is the time to change that… Go get a copy! Trust me, you won’t regret it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #115 – The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein (DNF) & The Silent Patient

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I’ve been looking forward to read… Sadly, the reaction I had to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was not what I was expecting at all and I really struggled with it, up to the point I saw no other option than to DNF it at 38%. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides on the other hand turned out to be a success and I found myself flying through the pages.


Title: The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein
Author: Kiersten White

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Horror
First published: September 15th 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Finished reading: July 28th 2019
Pages: 304
DNF at 38% (116 pages)

“Words and stories were tools to elicit the desired reactions in others, and I was an expert craftswoman.”


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I never in a million years would have guessed I would be having this reaction to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. It might just have been the wrong book at the wrong time for me, but the fact is, that I really REALLY struggled with this book. Which is strange, because I loved the original Frankenstein story and I have been looking forward to read this retelling ever since I first heard about it last year. I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but I think my feelings have a lot to do with the pace and writing style. I’m still surprised I reacted to the writing in the way I did, because I loved her The Conqueror’s Saga books and I was fully expecting to find another favorite in The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein. Alas, it wasn’t ment to be. Instead of adding a little something extra to the story, I found the parts written in cursive (Elizabeth’s thoughts and flashbacks mostly) to be highly annoying. These parts slowed down the pace considerably and, as I couldn’t enjoy them, made it a lot harder for me to connect to the story. I felt like I was on a little boat with a failing motor in the middle of Lake Geneva, unable to get anywhere quickly and only in haltered movements when moving at all. I found the story (or at least until I had to give up at 38%) to be rather flat and uneventful, which is strange because in fact quite a lot does happen during those pages. I think it is the way those events are described that did me in, combined with the fact I could never warm up to Elizabeth nor did I enjoy the writing style as a whole. I’m really sad I ended up reacting to The Dark Descent Of Elizabeth Frankenstein in this way, especially as I fully expected to love this Frankenstein retelling. Was it simply the wrong book at the wrong time? Or did the unpopular opinion curse strike again? Who knows, but the fact is that this story and me really didn’t get along.


Title: The Silent Patient
Author: Alex Michaelides

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: February 5th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: July 29th 2019
Pages: 352

“Her silence was like a mirror – reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.”


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Wait, you mean I hadn’t read The Silent Patient until now? Oh yes, you might say I’ve been living (or hiding) under a rock when it comes to this title… There has been so SO much hype around The Silent Patient ever since it came out earlier this year, and honestly I’ve been too afraid to pick it up myself. Hyped books and me don’t tend to get along, so I thought it was wise to stay away for the time being, but curiosity took over and I ended up giving in anyway. I’m happy to report that I definitely understand the love for this story now! True, I didn’t LOVE love The Silent Patient like most, but I still thought it was a more than solid psychological thriller that made me race through the pages like there was no tomorrow. This is definitely one of those stories that shows the definition of ‘pageturner’ and will make it really hard for you to stop reading before you reach that final page. I like how the story was told alternately through Alice’s diary entries and Theo’s POV. It’s a great way of building tension and giving you tidbits of information and clues without spoiling the fun while you are trying to figure out what really happened that night… Both Alice and her silence were simply fascinating and it was interesting to see how her character evolved. She might not be all that likeable as a whole, but she sure makes for some very interesting reading! Likewise, Theo isn’t exactly likeable either, but it can’t be denied he is well developed and I do love my flawed characters. The psychological and mental health aspect of The Silent Patient was also fascinating and one of the reasons this story worked so well for me. I was also really surprised I didn’t see part of the final twist coming at all! I always love it when that happens… I definitely enjoyed my time with The Silent Patient and I will be looking forward to see what Alex Michaelides has in store for us next.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #102 – The Sleep Tight Motel & The Last Of August

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a thriller novella and a YA contemporary read… The Sleep Tight Motel by Lisa Unger turned out to be short, but very entertaining, while The Last Of August by Brittany Cavallaro ended up being mostly a disappointment. Find out more about the why below.


Title: The Sleep Tight Motel
(Dark Corners Collection #2)
Author: Lisa Unger

Genre: Short Stories, Thriller, Horror
First published: September 27th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: May 18th 2019
Pages: 48

“Why do we celebrate the monsters, the destroyers, the killers among us? Me, I prefer to run away. As fast and as far as I can get.”


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I know I don’t read a lot of short stories, but I’ve enjoyed Lisa Unger‘s writing in the past and The Sleep Tight Motel fitted a couple of challenge prompts… Making it easy to make an exception and give it a go. Between the cover and blurb I knew I was in for a creepy read, and I can say this short story would have been a perfect fit for the Halloween month. What starts out as a simple crime thriller with the main character on the run and hiding from someone, turns out to be so much more by the time you reach the final page… I won’t say anything else to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say you won’t see the final twists coming at all. The Sleep Tight Motel is well written and has a lot of different elements included successfully for such a short story. If you enjoy creepy reads with an eery setting and a surprising twist, The Sleep Tight Motel reads like a nice little snack in between other books.


Title: The Last Of August
(Charlotte Holmes #2)
Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: February 14th 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Finished reading: May 21st 2019
Pages: 326

“I’ve always wanted to be invisible, and because I want to be, it’s impossible.”


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I admit it’s been a long time since I read the first book (almost three years; oops?), but I still remember I really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to spend time with this Sherlock Holmes retelling sequel. What I definitely didn’t expect is that I almost ended up DNFing The Last Of August. Oh yes, sadly this Charlotte Holmes sequel turned out to be a huge disappointment for me. Why? Well, the first mayor obstacle is that about 90% of the story is filled with a frustrating love triangle, a whole lot of ‘does he/she love me?’ and ‘I don’t know what to do with my feelings’ and basically an overdose of teen angst in general. This is a huge turn off for me any day, but even more so when you expect an entertaining Sherlock Holmes retelling filled with the well known bantering between Holmes and Watson. Instead of this, the whole investigation angle of the story has been mostly pushed in to the background, the story then focusing on the petty feelings of Holmes, Watson and August. Definitely not what I signed up for! The only thing that stopped me from just DNFing The Last Of August  was the promise of Berlin and Prague descriptions, cities I was lucky enough to visit myself last year and was hoping to revisit with the help of this story. Sadly, even those descriptions were not as present as I hoped… All in all I can’t exactly say I enjoyed my second meeting with Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson, and I think I’m going to just give up on this series for now.


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ARC REVIEW: We Are Of Dust – by Clare Coombes

Title: We Are Of Dust 
Author: Clare Coombes
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: December 3rd 2018
Publisher: The Liverpool Editing Company
Finished reading: March 25th 2019
Pages: 300

“And each one of us has a chance to defy all those who have harmed us, by living.”

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

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I guess you might know by now I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction… So it’s easy to understand why, as soon as I read the blurb of We Are Of Dust, I knew I HAD to accept this request and read the story. It turned out to be a solid and heartbreaking little gem. The first thing that stands out in We Are Of Dust is that the story is based on true events. It shows that the author has investigated the details painstakingly and I could really appreciate how we are able to see multiple sides of the war with the help of the different characters. We have the Hitler Youth, we have resistance members, we have (half)Jewish characters hiding and running for their lives… This gives the story a multifaceted aspect and gives the plot more dept. We Are Of Dust switches back and forth between different points of view and we slowly start to discover how everything fits together in the plot. The story focuses on the events around the so-called Kristallnacht in November 1938 and what happens to the different characters both during and after that horrible night. I personally could really appreciate the focus on that event as many see the Kristallnacht as the beginning of the Holocaust and stories don’t tend to stand still and help remember that fact. While things can come over as chaotic in the beginning with the different storylines and characters, things soon improve as you get a better idea about how everything fits together. What I didn’t know was that We Are Of Dust is actually the first book of a series, and the story ends with a cliffhanger that will leave you wanting for more… Especially if you expect to get all the answers by the final page. I suppose me wanting to know more is a good sign though. If you enjoy WWII historical fiction, you should definitely give this story a try.

Alice Sommer is the half-Jewish daughter of an important German physicist, forced to hide with her litlte sister as things get more dangerous. Kurt Hertz is a member of the Hitler Youth, but is forced to run after he attacks his superior to defend his friend… The two meet while they are on the run, hiding their true identities from each other and making each other believe they are not in fact the exact thing they can’t stand. Somehow Alice and Kurt end up on the same ship that is supposed to bring them to freedom… But is that really true? And how long can they hide their true identities?

If you enjoy a good WWII historical fiction story based on true events, We Are Of Dust is a worthy title to add to your wishlist. It’s a solid start of a new series with a focus on the events on the Kristallnacht and the story of the German ocean liner MS St. Louis. With the help of multiple POVs, the story shows us different sides of the war and how visions about what is right and wrong can change over time. It’s an excellent representation of that period of time and I will be looking forward to find out what will happen to Alice and Kurt.


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ARC REVIEW: A Thousand Devils – by Frank Goldammer

Title: A Thousand Devils
(Max Heller, Dresden Detective #2)
Author: Frank Goldammer
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 13th 2017
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: September 25th 2018
Pages: 312
(Originally written in German: ‘Tausend Teufel’)

“Nothing came for free. In a place where so many people hat lost their lives, it was a simple fact that you would pay somehow for still being alive.”

*** 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 really enjoyed reading the first book of this series, The Air Raid Killer, earlier this year, so of course I wanted to read the sequel as well now that it is translated into English (out tomorrow!). I have to say that A Thousand Devils has only increased my interest in this series. The stories are what I call a perfect mix of historical fiction and a detective thriller, with our detective Max Heller trying to solve cases just after WWII in the German city of  Dresden. Talk about a fascinating setting! Learning more about the German situation just after the war is fascinating, especially in the subtle way Frank Goldammer incorporates historical elements. It makes the historical setting feel authentic and it was very interesting to see how the detective tried to do his job in an almost impossibly difficult situation. I feel A Thousand Devils will appeal to both historical fiction fans and detective thriller readers because of the well crafted balance of both genres, although I do have to warn for some graphic scenes, violence and abuse. That said, I think A Thousand Devils was even stronger than the first, and although set just after WWII this time instead of during the last year, you will find plenty of historical facts to absorb. There are lots of twists involved as well, cleverly executed to keep you guessing how everything fits together until the end… I can without doubt recommend this series.

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

Two years after the bombing of Dresden left most of the East German city in ruins, survivors are still struggling to continue their lives and the suffering continues. The winter months have been brutal so far, and with supplies being low everyone has to fight to survive… The German citizens are not happy with the Russian occupation, and the Russians are always trying to keep everything under control. When the both of a brutally stabbed Russian officer is found, detective Max Heller is called to the scene. To make things worse, near to the body they find an abandoned backpack with another man’s head inside… Are the two cases connected? Is this an attack against the Russians or simply an act of rage? Detective Max Heller has a hard time figuring out the facts as he finds obstacles around every single corner.

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Whether you prefer reading historical fiction or detective thrillers, the content of A Thousand Devils will be able to satisfy your needs. It is not easy to combine the two genres in a natural way, but there is no doubt that Frank Goldammer has done an excellent job. From the writing to the plot development, historical details, suspense and characters… Everything just clicks together and makes it easy to imagine just being there right next to Max Heller trying to solve those cases. Recommended!


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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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