#ThrowbackThursday – I Am Dust – by Louise Beech #TBT #Orentober @Orendabooks

 

Today is already the last Thursday of the month, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month I will be joining #ThrowbackThursday one last time to share a previously published review of an Orenda favorite. Deciding which book to choose out of all the fantastic books I’ve had the chance to read so far has been tricky, but the honor this week goes to another of my 2020 top favorites: I Am Dust by Louise Beech. This is actually the second Louise Beech title featured in my Throwback Thursday posts, which shouldn’t be that big of a surprise honestly as she is hands down one of my favorite authors… I Am Dust is another absolutely stunning read I cannot recommend enough. More fangirling in the blog tour review I will be resharing below. You’ve been warned!

Title: I Am Dust
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: February 16th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 20th 2020
Pages: 300

“We never forget. We choose not to remember.”

*** 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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Speechless. Absolutely flabbergasted. Mindblown. Oh yes, Louise Beech has done it once again, and left me a complete blubbering mess. Even though I’m a bit late to the whole party, I’ve considered Louise Beech to be one of my absolute favorite authors ever since my first experience with her work last year (Call Me Star Girl). Each backlist title I’ve had the chance to read since has blown me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for I Am Dust were skyhigh. But guess what? Louise Beech not only met those expectations, but stamped all over them and went to the next level! It’s nearly impossible to choose a favorite among her books, as I simply treasure them all, but there is no doubt that I Am Dust is another absolutely stunning read and of an extraordinary quality. And yes, expect me to sound like a squeeling fangirl during the rest of this review, because my brain simply cannot deal with just how good this story was even a week after I finished it. That’s the Beech effect!

So, I Am Dust. I confess I knew I was going to love this story as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, the idea of a murder mystery turned ghost story turned dark psychological thriller with a theatre angle? How can that not be the perfect base for another absolutely fantastic story?! I fell in love with the story and characters even before I started reading, and that is something that doesn’t happen often. From that gorgeous cover, the blurb and the actual story afterwards… There isn’t a thing I didn’t love of my time spent with I Am Dust! I read this story as a birthday gift to myself last month to help distract myself from these dark and strange times, and I just couldn’t have picked a better read to do just that as well as making myself feel better in the process.

There are so many things I loved about I Am Dust and I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start to be honest… Let’s talk about the setting and Dust first. I personally loved the setting in a small town and the focus on the musical world as well as the Dead Wilson Theatre setting. The descriptions really made the setting come alive for me, and gave us readers a little insight in what the musical world looks like from an insider view. Directly related to this is the musical Dust of course, which plays an all important role in the plot. I love how both the musical itself and some of the songs are incorporated into the plot and its words are given a hidden meaning as well as give clues to what might happen. Dust gave this dark psychological thriller an unique twist and was also the perfect backdrop for the paranormal elements in I Am Dust.

I confess that I’m normally not a big fan of the paranormal, but I loved how this element was developed in I Am Dust. The murdered Dust actress haunting the theatre and set, the chapters set in the past with the ouija board, the things happening to the main characters… The different paranormal elements are perfectly developed and really added that ominous and daunting atmosphere to the story. I also liked the structure of the plot as a whole, and how past and present are interlaced to slowly reveal more about the past as well as give you a glimpse of what might happen in the future. Plot twists and timeline switches work together flawlessly and really enhanced the reading experience for me.

As for the characters… The main focus is on Chloe, who is an absolutely fascinating character. Flawed, troubled and somehow more open to the spiritual world, she is the perfect character to shoulder this story and take it to the next level. Jess (or Ginger) is likewise important to the plot, and especially the dynamics between Chloe and Jess and her connection to the musical world. It was interesting to see the two interact and slowly learn more about their shared past as well… The realistic and thorough character development really made them come alive for me and my heart ached for them as things were starting to become complicated. The secondary characters are likewise well rounded and each added their own little touch to the story too.

Both the plot development and writing were absolutely fantastic, and I definitely loved the direction this story took. The ending left me brokenhearted and simply speechless, unable to render a word or properly describe my love for I Am Dust. I still felt like a mess days later, and I still feel these rambles I tried putting on paper don’t do this story justice at all. In a way, I should have just kept it short and said: “do yourself a favor and just read the damn book. I Am Dust will sweep you off your feet and will haunt you even days after you reach that final page. You will be missing out if you don’t add I Am Dust to your wishlist!” I already know this story will be on my list of favorite 2020 reads even this early in the year.


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BOOK REVIEW: The Waiting Rooms – by Eve Smith #Orentober @Orendabooks

In the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month, I will be sharing my thoughts on The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith: a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact.

Title: The Waiting Rooms
Author: Eve Smith
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 9th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 16th 2020
Pages: 379

“That’s the trouble with hope. Just when you think you’ve weaned yourself off it, its devilish little head rears up and sucks you back in.”

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I actually won an e-copy of The Waiting Rooms in a Twitter giveaway back in March, but with the whole COVID-19 situation I haven’t been in the mood to read it until now… I’m glad I waited, because this story might just have been too much for me back then. Why? The Waiting Rooms is a compelling and terrifying thriller set in a dystopian world that feels a little too realistic to be comfortable… The current state of the world gives this story an even bigger impact and makes the dystopian world seem like a logical possible next step. Most terrifying indeed! If your nerves can stomach it, this story is absolutely brilliant though.

It’s hard to put The Waiting Rooms into a neat little genre box… Part dystopia, part medical thriller, part mystery and part domestic/family focused, we get a wonderful mix of different elements that together form a recipe for a terrifyingly perfect cocktail. This story has multiple POVs, multiple settings as well as different timeframes. We switch back between past and present (or pre-Crisis in this dystopian world), but we also switch between South Africa and the UK as well as the different characters in play… This gives the story a rich and multi-layered feel, and the different parts are combined splendidly.

The chapters in South Africa really stood out to me, but this has a lot to do with the fantastic descriptions of the setting and fauna. The descriptions made the setting really come alive for me, and I loved how the research looked into using plants and knowledge of the locals to try and create new medicins. The whole cheating angle was a bit of a letdown for me, but then again it’s one of my mayor pet peeves to that was just a personal reaction. That said, this feeling was just a blip on the radar as the rest of the story is simply fantastic.

The medical element as well as the dystopian world are truly terrifying. The current COVID-19 situation gives this story an even bigger impact, as you wonder just how much worse things can get. Imagine a world where antibiotics no longer work and people can die of a scratch… The dystopian world as described in The Waiting Rooms sounds bloodcurdlingly realistic and all too possible considering the recent situation: a true nightmare situation that will have you biting your nails and will chill you to the bone.

Thankfully the pre-Crisis chapters as well as the time Kate spends looking for her birth mother distract a little from the dystopian present, and the different elements were brilliantly balanced. The Waiting Rooms turned out to be an absolutely fascinating, captivating as well as alarming read. It’s one of those stories you have to be in the mood for, but if you think you can stomach it, The Waiting Rooms will blow you away.


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#ThrowbackThursday – Beast – by Matt Wesolowski #TBT #Orentober @Orendabooks

Today is Thursday, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month I will be joining #ThrowbackThursday and share a previously published review of an Orenda favorite. Deciding which book to choose out of all the fantastic books I’ve had the chance to read so far has been tricky, but the honor this week goes to another of my 2020 top favorites: Beast by Matt Wesolowski. This series has blown me away since book one, and the books just don’t stop delivering. Beast is another absolutely brilliant read I cannot recommend enough! Below I will be resharing my review that was part of the blog tour back in February.

Title: Beast
(Six Stories #4)
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: December 20th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 21st 2020
Pages: 320

“All anyone has to say is that they wonder why they did it, those three. That’s how it is these days. The killers become the story. The criminals are more exciting than the victims.”

*** 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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Holy bat in hell, what a read! I’ve been a Six Stories fan ever since I read the first book last year and all three books simply blew me away. In fact, both sequels ended up on my list of absolute top favorites of 2019! I’ve been waiting impatiently and eagerly for book four, and I literally dropped everything as soon as a copy of Beast arrived in my inbox. Such is the power of this series and Matt Wesolowski‘s writing! And of course once again I had a book hangover, and once again I found myself lost for words as I was trying to describe my experience with Beast afterwards. I don’t know how he keeps coming up with this stories and I honestly don’t care as long as they will keep appearing! Oh yes, this whole series has most definitely a worthy spot on my all time favorites list.

So, what makes Beast (and this series in general for that matter) so special? There are so many elements I loved in this story, but I think the first thing that stands out is the format. The whole series has an unique podcast format with a narrator, Scott King, who tries to be removed from the case he investigates. Scott King doesn’t judge, doesn’t solve the (cold) cases he talks about, but instead just puts six podcast episodes out there that might help those who follow his podcast uncover the truth. It is this unique and absolutely brilliant format that really takes the story to the next level, and it is also one of the few stories that actually makes me want to give audiobooks another chance, as I can imagine it would make for a fantastic listen.

Talking about Beast in particular, I thought the plot itself was spot on. It is a more recent case this time around, which means memories of those involved might be fresher and evidence might be easier to find. This is not just another murder case though and the small town of Ergarth has a lot to hide… Three men were convicted for the brutal murder of twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth, and while there was talk about cult related activities, a real motive for the crime has never been confirmed. Instead, there has been talk about a vampire legend which is part of Ergarth’s history. Is there really something supernatural going on? And what about the Dead In Six Days challenge? And the victim? Oh yes, there is definitely a lot more going on that you can see on the surface…

There are a lot of elements in play in Beast, all contributing to a plot that is both rich, complex and utterly fulfilling. We have the horror element with the vampire legend, which definitely adds the right dose of suspense and creepiness to the story. We have the social media angle, which is absolutely fascinating and definitely on point. In Elizabeth we see just how far the need for likes, comments and statistics can go and both her character and those surrounding her help show how social media really can take over and potentially destroy lives… We also have the bullying, abuse and manipulation, which is of course partially related to the whole social media element in the first place. And this story also talks about other elements including animal cruelty, mental illness and piromancy. This seems like a lot to juggle in just one story, but each element is incorporated flawlessly into what is an absolutely brilliant read.

What more to say about Beast? The writing is sublime of course. And both the plot development and building up of suspense and tension is simply spot on. Instead of a constant intensity, the suspense is build up slowly but surely, and this story will most definitely creep you out before you reach that final page. You will find yourself unable to stop reading as you start picking at those threads to find the truth… And as always, the sixth and final episode brings a plot twist bomb and it is without doubt a shocker. And that ending! Most definitely a perfect way to reenforce the point made with the whole social media angle.

I bow to the podcast thriller master and I will  be counting the days until we find out what case Scott King will decide to investigate next… In the mean time, I will just fill my time pestering everyone who hasn’t read this series yet. And yes, that includes YOU if you haven’t! Because the sheer brilliance of each experience with this series is something that nobody should miss out on.


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#TranslationTuesday – The Creak On The Stairs – by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #Orentober @Orendabooks

It is Tuesday today, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month as well as celebrating translated fiction in general I will be sharing a previously published review of an Orenda translated favorite. As someone who has studied the art of translation during Uni (and even dedicated her thesis to translation), I have learned first hand just how difficult it is to produce a good quality translation… So this is me putting the Orenda translators as well as the authors in the spotlight. I’ve been lucky to read quite a few wonderful pieces of translated fiction so far this year, and today the spotlight goes to The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir; translated by Victoria Cribb. I do love my nordic noir and this book is such a brilliant start of a new series! Want to know more? Below I will reshare my review as posted during the blog tour back in May.

Title: The Creak On The Stairs
(Forbidden Iceland #1)
Author: Eva Björg Ægisdóttir
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 25th 2020
Pages: 315
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Marrið í stiganum’)

“She had to remind herself that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

That the real evil wasn’t to be found lurking in dark corners but in the human soul.”

*** 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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It’s no secret that I love my nordic noir and I’m always looking for new authors to discover. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs, and the raving reviews of two fellow trusted bloggers (yes, Eva and Kelly, YOU!) only confirmed to me that I made the right decision to join the blog tour. I have been looking forward to read The Creak On The Stairs ever since I read those reviews and I now completely agree this is a fantastic start of a new nordic noir series.

There is a lot to love in The Creak On The Stairs… The first thing that stands out is the Icelandic setting. I love foreign settings as it makes me feel like I’m travelling from the comfort of my own reading chair… And the atmospheric and extensive descriptions did just that and really made Iceland come alive for me. Thanks to the thorough descriptions, it is very easy to visualize the different Icelandic settings and it makes it feel as if you were right next to the main characters seeing the world through their eyes. The Icelandic setting was the perfect backdrop for this story and gave the plot that cold and daunting feel any nordic noir fan will be delighted with.

I also loved both the plot and the writing. And that means the writing in general, and not just the previously mentioned descriptions… The writing is enticing, well paced and very successful at drawing you in from the very first chapter. The plot itself is intriguing and I really liked the structure of the story in general. You are thrown in without knowing much of the main characters and have different POVs and flashbacks to juggle, but it only added to the suspense and intrigue instead of slowing you down. The complex structure of the plot allows the story to hide things from you, with the result that you have more than one secret to unravel. The woman showing up dead, who is behind it, the secrets of her past, the secrets of our new lead character Elma… There are a lot of puzzles to solve and isn’t that the best thing while reading a detective thriller?

As for the characters… It looks like we have another lead character detective with a complicated past on our hands, although we are not exactly told what happened in her past and this definitely added to the intrigue around Elma. We actually don’t get to know her all that much in the first Forbidden Iceland book, but the bites we get offered were more than promising and leave you wanting for more. I liked the dynamics of the detective team in Akranes in general too. The other characters in play were all well developed and felt realistic, and even though most were not all that easy to like, I wasn’t too bothered by that as they all played their roles flawlessly. Especially Beta turned out to be an absolutely fascinating character study.

The Creak On The Stairs also isn’t afraid to go dark and this includes difficult topics such as (child) abuse and alcoholism. Especially the first plays quite a big role and might be a turn off for some… But the element was developed realistically and played an important role in both the plot and the character development. The plot twists and reveals of the different secrets are well balanced out in the plot, and the ending definitely left me wanting for the next book of the series. Because while the case in the first book was solved, I’m more than ready to see more of Elma and her team!

Dark, ominous and atmospheric, this first book of the Forbidden Iceland series shows us an image of Iceland any nordic noir fan would love to discover. It’s an excellent start of a new series that is more than worth being on your radar if you enjoy the genre!


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Fighting The Monday Blues: Orenda Throwback Time! – The Home – by Sarah Stovell #Orentober @Orendabooks

Feeling that Monday blues? Not ready to start the week just yet? Let’s take a break from the real world and look back at some Orenda favorites, all in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month. I’ve decided to go back to January and reshare my review of one of my blog tour reads and a story that broke my heart into a million pieces… The Home by Sarah Stovell. If you want to know why you should read this story if you haven’t already, you can find my thoughts below!

Title: The Home
Author: Sarah Stovell
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: November 28th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 14th 2020
Pages: 276

“We were fragile, too. But we weren’t fragile like flowers. We were fragile like bombs.”

*** 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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Exquisite was simply exquisite last year, so I’ve been looking forward to her newest story ever since. It’s easy to say that my expectations were extremely high, and I was honestly a bit afraid it wouldn’t actually live up to expectations… But I shouldn’t have worried. My mind was left reeling and my heart was smashed into a million pieces and left in a broken heap of mess on the floor… Heartrending, raw, emotional and dark: this is a story that will get under your skin and will make your soul ache for those two poor girls! Oh yes, make sure to prepare yourself for a few hours of very intense reading. So, why did the story work so well for me?

As you might have gathered from my first thoughts, this story did excellent job provoking some very strong emotions; key in this were both the characters, plot development and the writing of course. Let’s take a further look at the plot and its structure first… The story is divided into five parts and uses multiple POVs to tell us the tragic story of two troubled young girls: Hope and Annie. We learn about their terrible and shocking past, the residence where they first met and lived together as well as the events that happened after that dreadful night that ended the life of one of the girls… Not in chronological order, but rather a mix of past and present which slowly gives us more insight in the lives of girls. The full picture is being slowly build up brick by brick, until the full horrifying dimension and consequences of their difficult lives are ultimately revealed.

There are a lot of dark and shocking elements included in The Home, and this story is definitely not for the weak hearted. Oh no, this is not a happy story and reading about the details of the lives of both girls has been horrific to say the least. I don’t want to reveal too much to avoid spoilers, but heavy topics such as (child) abuse, child prostitution, teen pregnancy, addiction, rape, murder and mental illness play an all important role in the plot… Once again, it is simply dreadful to think just how tough of a start on life these girls had, and it truly shows their resilience that they even got this far. The darker elements also mean trigger warnings are in place, but each element is developed expertly and respectfully and helps shine light on just how hard and essentially hopeless it can be for kids to fight the terrible hand in life they have been given.

Let’s talk about the characters… The main focus in The Home is on Annie and Hope of course, and to say both girls who have had a very rough life so far is an understatement. It’s hard to discuss the characters in detail without giving away spoilers, but let’s just say that their past and secrets will have some very shocking surprises in store and even though they might not be exactly likeable, your heart will ache for them anyway as you see just how much they suffered and still suffer. Other characters, including Lara, Helen and Ace are less present, but each plays its own role and it has been interesting to discover where each character fits in the story. Especially Ace and both mothers made my blood boil, but a story like this needs its villians for it to be realistic… And that was most definitely achieved here.

The writing is once again simply exquisite. The different POVs, the layout of the plot, the thoughts of what is basically a ‘ghost’, a separate ‘story’ about Annie’s past… Different techniques are used to put together a complex and uniquely crafted story that will mostly definitely blow your socks off. Along with an emotional rollercoaster, and with lighter moments (including the relationship between the two girls) balancing all the dark and disturbing elements of this story, you will also find yourself on a journey looking for the truth behind the death of a young girl. Twists and turns will set you on the wrong track, and feelings of doubt, rage and deep deep sympathy for the girls will make it feel as if there were an emotional tornado inside your heart. Only in the best possible way of course!

There is so much to love in The Home and it is a story that will stay with me for a long time. It’s not an easy read, but it’s beautifully rendered and simply absolutely spot on when it comes to execution. If you are looking for an unique thriller that isn’t afraid to go dark and ugly, you have just found yourself a new read!


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#ThrowbackThursday – Good Samaritans – by Will Carver #TBT #Orentober @Orendabooks

Today is Thursday, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month I will be joining #ThrowbackThursday and share a previously published review of an Orenda favorite. Deciding which book to choose out of all the fantastic books I’ve had the chance to read so far has been tricky, but the honor this week goes to another of my 2020 top favorites: Good Samaritans by Will Carver. It took me longer than expected to finally pick up my copy, but boy do I regret this now! Basically words cannot describe just how utterly brilliant this story is, but I’ll be resharing my rambles I posted back in May in case you want to know more.

Title: Good Samaritans
(Detective Sergeant Pace #1)
Author: Will Carver
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 15th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 27th 2020
Pages: 318

“Because it won’t make your skin sparkle like it does your toilet basin. It will burn. It will blister. You will bleed. It will hurt like hell.

Unless you’re already dead.”

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So… Guess who has been struck by an Orenda book hangover once again and has been unable to put a word on paper for over a week now? Oh yes, Good Samaritans hit me hard and hit straight in the ‘flabbergasted’ bullseye. I’ve had a copy of this first book of what I already know will be a favorite series on my shelves for a little over a year now, and to be honest I’ve been saving it for rainy days as I already had that feeling I would love it. Why? Not only has it that Orenda guarantee, but fellow bloggers have loved this story (and its sequel) and their reviews convinced me I would too. After struggling with recent reads and feeling a little desperate to find a story that would completely blow my socks off again, I turned to my Orenda backlist and decided it was time to pick up Good Samaritans. And boy, I just couldn’t have picked better!

I’m still not sure where to begin my review even after letting more than a week pass, but let’s start with the basics. Good Samaritans is dark, sexy and utterly disturbing; it’s a complex and well written story that grabbed me from the start and was basically pitch black and twisted to the core. I guess that this alone is already enough to convince you that you need this book in your life (at least for me it is, but then again I like my stories black as night and seriously twisted)… But in case you need more convincing, let’s see which elements I loved more closely. It’s basically the whole book from start to finish, but let’s narrow it down… First off all I was blown away by the writing, which is simply splendid and bowled me over from page one. I knew I was now a fan of Will Carver‘s writing from the very first chapter, and that is something that doesn’t happen every day.

I also loved the plot and the sheer complexity of it all. We have multiple POVs to deal with, giving this story a multi-dimentional and rich feel. It really enhanced the reading experience for me and the structure was used to build the suspense, keep things from you while anticipating others in an absolutely brilliant way. You have not one, but multiple twisted characters to follow and Good Samaritans does an excellent job keeping you on your toes as you try to discover how everything fits together. The different characters are sublimely developed, they felt realistic and they made for a fascinating as well as seriously disturbed cast of characters… The best possible bunch if you like your thrillers pitch black and without sugar like myself.

Talking about the previously mentioned characters… I just loved that we didn’t just have one clear bad guy, but instead a selection of excellently and realistically developed disturbing personalities that each have their secrets and issues. Sure, we have the serial killer, but his identity is made less important as we have more than one suspect at first and later more than one character turned to the dark side to follow. Furthermore, Good Samaritans offers us both sides of the story,with POVs featuring victims, our new lead detective sergeant Pace and the more twisted individuals alike. This gives us a more complete picture of the whole situation as well as really enriching what is already a fantastic story.

Another thing that stands out is that while this book is the first Detective Sergeant Pace book, he doesn’t seem all that present during most of the story. Instead, the focus is mostly on the dark side and this definitely gave the story its unique feel. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I loved how each POV had its own tone and it was really easy to spot which character was currently featured by the writing style and tone alone. I liked how Pace was represented and I will definitely be looking forward to see more of him in the future.

There are a lot of different and dark elements in play in Good Samaritans, including mental health issues, suicide, OCD and a healthy dose of violence. On top of that, you will also find a surprising amount of steamy scenes included too… Turning this story into something so essentially dark and sensual that it almost makes you feel naughty for reading it. And guess who was more than ready to misbehave? Oh yes, Good Samaritans was an instant favorite and blew me away completely from start to finish. Dark and simply glorious; if you think you can handle it, this book in an absolute must-read.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Betrayal – by Lilja Sigurðardóttir #RandomThingsTours #Orentober @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Betrayal Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I loved my time with the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy, so of course there was no way I could resist a new stand-alone written by the same author. And it turned out to be another solid piece of nordic noir! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Betrayal
Author: Lilja Sigurðardóttir
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: October 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: October 4th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Svik’)

“If only it was as easy to delete people in real life as it was on Facebook.”

*** 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 loved my time with the Reykjavik Noir Trilogy last year, so of course I couldn’t wait to try more of Lilja Sigurðardóttir‘s writing. This time around we have a stand-alone to enjoy with Betrayal, and it is without doubt another solid piece of nordic noir. Get ready to transport yourself to Iceland and enjoy an intricate and multi-dimentional story! Fans of the genre will have a great time with this one.

The Icelandic setting really shines through, and I loved how the translation stayed true to the original Icelandic names. On that note, a round of applause to Quentin Bates for the flawless translation and for enabling us to read this piece of Icelandic fiction in the first place! Betrayal is essentially a multi-dimentional story with a multiple POV structure and various different storylines in play. We have our main character Ursula and the focus on her work as a minister, we have Gunnar as her driver and bodyguard, we have the cleaner Stella and the LGBT angle, we have Petur and the mysteries around the past as well as the present… Lots of different angles and different storylines to keep you busy along the way. And of course that all important question: who is ‘the devil’ and what did he do?

There are multiple heavy elements in play… We have Ursula’s background with her work for Doctors Without Borders; the ebola in Liberia and the bombings in Syria. We have the rape case where a police officer is accused of rape and the case doesn’t seem to be investigated properly. We have the politics element and possible corruption. We have the stalking case and all it entails. We have the mystery around the death of Ursula’s father and Petur’s character in general. We have the alcoholism and addiction element. We have the cheating… And more. This seems like a lot of different elements to try and squeeze into just one story, but somehow it worked in Betrayal and I liked how the different elements were incorporated into the plot. It’s true that I’m never a fan of the whole cheating angle in a story and Ursula’s character let me down a bit because of it, but that is just a personal pet peeve I guess.
It was interesting to see the different storylines and characters develop over time. As the threats on Ursula’s character seem to increase, so does the tension and suspense and it was interesting to see those secrets and lies slowly unravel. Betrayal definitely ends with a bang too, and I like how our main character isn’t afriad to hand out a punch. Betrayal raises important questions about politics, how rape cases are handled and about women in power positions in general… And how the media can destroy a person in the blink of an eye. It is fascinating to see those small betrayals and lies building up and escalate until the situation really gets out of control… Betrayal is an excellent piece of nordic noir and perfect for fans of the genre who like diverse and complex reads.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including Snare, Trap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.


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#TranslationTuesday – Mexico Street – by Simone Buchholz #Orentober @Orendabooks

It is Tuesday today, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month as well as celebrating translated fiction in general I will be sharing a previously published review of an Orenda translated favorite. As someone who has studied the art of translation during Uni (and even dedicated her thesis to translation), I have learned first hand just how difficult it is to produce a good quality translation… So this is me putting the Orenda translators as well as the authors in the spotlight. I’ve been lucky to read quite a few wonderful pieces of translated fiction so far this year, and today the spotlight goes to Mexico Street by Simone Buchholz; translated by Rachel Ward. This series has such an unique and unconventional writing style, and while it might take some time getting used to, once you do you will find yourself utterly addicted. Below I will reshare my review as posted during the blog tour back in March in case you want to know more.

Title: Mexico Street
(Chas Riley #8)

Author: Simone Buchholz
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: September 10th 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 8th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally published in German: ‘Mexikoring’)

“We’re like a window that life has kept jumping through in recent years, and with every jump we’ve gone flying through space like shards of glass, but, because the shards know where they belong, they piece themselves back together, bit by bit, every time.”

*** 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 know that I’ve only recently started reading this series, but the Chas Riley books have been on my radar for quite some time now. I’m not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up the books, but I’m definitely kicking myself now as I’ve found a new favorite series. While it is true that it took me some time to warm up to both the writing and the characters in Blue Night, as soon as I did I was completely hooked. Blue Night ended on a high note for me and I was hooked once again as soon as I started Beton Rouge, which turned out to be an excellent ride. It’s easy to say that I had high hopes for Mexico Street after that, and I might just have found a new favorite!

There are a lot of things that turn this series into something special. Before I start, I do have to state first that this is actually book number eight that has been published in the original German series, but (only) book number three that has been translated into English. Due to the missing first five books, we might miss some background at times… In the case of Mexico Street the most pressing one would probably be the history behind Inceman and what happened to him, but we do get a few hints and in the end the lack of information didn’t bother me too much. And while Blue Night might be more difficult to get into without that background information, both Beton Rouge and Mexico Street can technically be read as stand-alones without too many issues.

On to my Mexico Street rambles… The first thing I love of this book and the series in general is the writing style. Simone Buchholz has an unique, snappy and snarky writing style laced with short sentences, a dark and sarcastic kind of humor and a style that goes between blunt and lyrical. Her writing style is highly recognizable and as soon as I read the first page I knew I was dealing with another authentic piece of Simone Buchholz writing again.Trust me, I’ve become addicted to it! I like how there isn’t just one style nor singular POV, seemingly using chaos and unpredictability to weave together the chapters and story. Flashbacks, different POVs, short sentences, breathtaking and almost lyrical sentences with a deeper meaning, humor, sarcasm… It sounds like a terrible mess, but it’s a most wonderful mess and if you ‘get’ the writing style you will find yourself hopelessly in love.

Another forte of this series lies without doubt with the main characters. The books have a colorful and diverse cast of characters who will have no problems winning over your heart… Chastity is the star of the show of course, and I love her in all her cigarette, beer, antisocial and disheveled glory. Quite a few of the characters we were introduced to in the previous books make their appearance once again in Mexico Street, although the main focus is on Stepanovic (and Calabretta) this time around. We see less of some of the other characters and I did miss them, although in a way it’s no surprise after how things ended in Beton Rouge to be honest… But I did end up enjoying the new balance as well as the introduction of Inceman as a character.

I also loved both the plot and the setting in Hamburg and Bremen. Having had the chance to get to know both cities briefly from a tourist point of view, it really enhanced the reading experience for me as I could actually imagine the characters in a real setting. I loved the descriptions of both cities and they set the perfect atmosphere for this story. The plot itself is intriguing and gives us plenty of action as well as insight in a foreign culture and just how different the rules for those families are. We get (organized) crime, we get death, we get an investigation angle, we get banter and we even get a forbidden love story… All wrapped up nicely into one brilliant story. How’s that for an excellent deal?!

As you might have guessed already, I loved my time with Mexico Street and I’m now officially a huge fan of Simone Buchholz‘ writing style. Before I sign off, a huge round of applause to Rachel Ward for the impecable translation, which makes it possible for us to get to know Chas Riley and the rest of the characters! Especially since my German is pretty rusty haha. If you enjoy noir, a good crime thriller and love an unique and unconventional writing style as well as cast of characters, you should definitely try this series.


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Fighting The Monday Blues: Orenda Throwback Time! – A Dark Matter – by Doug Johnstone #Orentober @Orendabooks

Feeling that Monday blues? Not ready to start the week just yet? Let’s take a break from the real world and look back at some Orenda favorites, all in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month. I’ve decided to go back to January and reshare my review of one of my blog tour reads and the first book of a series that definitely hit the mark… A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone. If you want to know why you should read this story if you haven’t already, you can find my thoughts below!

Title: A Dark Matter
Author: Doug Johnstone
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: November 23rd 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: December 29th 2019
Pages: 300

“Everyone is the main character in their own story, has their own life to lead, full of sorrow and joy, boredom and excitement, life and death.”

*** 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 had the chance to read my first Doug Johnstone book, Breakers, last year and it blew me away, so it’s easy to say that my expectations for his newest title A Dark Matter were high. Now that I’ve had the chance to read it, I can confirm that those expectations were more than met! A Dark Matter can be seen as a mix of a family drama and crime thriller read set in Edinburgh. The description and development of the setting is simply sublime, and made me feel as if I were right there in Scotland along with the characters. Another thing stands out is the focus on the funeral home both as a setting and part of the plot. It definitely set the right atmosphere for the story as well! Both death itself, the private investigator subplot and the things that happen in the funeral home in general play a key role in the plot, which turns the funeral home into an integral part of the story. And of course the funeral side of things was both well described and absolutely fascinating to read more about.

The story evolves around three generations of women: Dorothy, her daughter Jenny and her granddaughter Hannah. A Dark Matter is told with the help of three different POVs, alternating between them as we slowly learn more about the different storylines in play. This gives the plot a multidimentional and complex feel and really took the story to the next level for me. It’s hard to get the introduction of multiple POVs right in a story, but in this case I think Doug Johnstone hit the nail on the head. Each POV complemented the other two, both adding to their own storyline as well as adding to the overall story, and together they helped build an extraordinary read.

A Dark Matter not only has three different POVs but, like I hinted at before, also has a lot of different elements and separate storylines in play. Among other things, we have the funeral home and everything it entails, the death of Dorothy’s husband Jim and his secrets, the PI angle and active investigations, the disappearance of Hannah’s friend, family secrets in general, grief… This sounds like a lot to juggle in just one story, but every element is incorporated so splendidly into the plot that it simply works like a charm. The writing as well as the suspense and plot twists are also sublime, and really added to the overall quality of A Dark Matter. There are a lot of secrets, twists and turns involved relating to the various storylines in play, and they will definitely keep you on your toes. You will find there are so many secrets for you to uncover! And that ending will most definitely be a shocker.

Oh yes, this story both started and ended with a bang, and I loved every single minute and page along the way. Both Breakers and now A Dark Matter have shown the excellence and versitility of Doug Johnstone‘s work and I’m 200% a fan. A Dark Matter is actually the first book of a series around the Skelfs family and I already can’t wait to find out what will happen next. Any fan of a well written and multidimentional crime thriller should add this one to their wishlist!


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#ThrowbackThursday – How To Be Brave – by Louise Beech #TBT #Orentober @Orendabooks

Today is Thursday, and in the spirit of celebrating all things Orenda during #Orentober month I will be joining #ThrowbackThursday and share a previously published review of an Orenda favorite. Deciding which book to choose out of all the fantastic books I’ve had the chance to read so far has been tricky, but the honor this week goes to one of my 2020 top favorites: How To Be Brave by Louise Beech. I’ve been a fan of her writing ever since my first experience with her work last year, and this is yet another absolutely fantastic read. Highly highly recommended! In case you are curious, I’m resharing my rambles first posted back in February…

Title: How To Be Brave
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 1st 2015
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“You have to know how to be sad to know how to be happy and if you know both of those things you’ll know how to be brave.”

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Oh boy, this book hit me hard! It’s been almost two weeks since I finished How To Be Brave, and I’m still struggling to get something somewhat coherent on paper… Such is the power of anything Louise Beech writes! My first two experiences with her work, Call Me Star Girl and The Lion Tamer Who Lost, already made me an ardent fan of her writing, and How To Be Brave has only reconfirmed my love. What an absolutely stunning read! Before I try to start my rambles about How To Be Brave, I just have to say that Louise Beech is one of the select few authors that can pull off a variety of different topics and genres and maintain that same high quality in each and every single story. For that same reason, Louise Beech now shares a spot right at the top of favorite auto-buy authors I would read no matter what without even checking the blurb or genre first!

Let’s try and discuss How To Be Brave now. There are so many elements I loved in this story, and I’m honestly having a hard time figuring out where to start. I was tempted to leave it at “just read the damn book” and call it a day, which would pretty much be a summary of my thoughts in the first place, but it doesn’t do this stunning and heartbreaking read justice at all… So let’s start at the beginning, and let’s talk about the plot. How To Be Brave is roughly split in two with a dual timeline. On one hand, we have the contemporary family drama storyline where Natalie and her nine-year-old daughter Rose struggle to come to terms with a diabetes 1 diagnosis that changed both their lives forever. To contrast this, we have a historical fiction survivor story set in 1943, where we read about the survivors of a shipwreck during WWII. Both fascinating stories on their own, and combined they truly turn this story into something else. With a technique that had that timeslip vibe, both storylines are combined through the diary of Natalie’s grandfather Colin who was one of the men that survived the shipwreck. Past and present are blurred as not only Colin seems to guide both Natalie and Rose through the changes diabetes 1 introduces into their lives, but Rose also seems to appear in the past… This technique is definitely one of the elements that makes How To Be Brave both unique and a worthy new all time favorite to add to my list.

Let’s talk about the contemporary storyline first. The focus is on Natalie and her nine-year-old daughter Rose, who has just been diagnosed with diabetes 1. I loved how this story was able to teach us more about what it is like to adapt your life after such a diagnosis, and show us how heartbreaking, difficult and seemingly hopeless the struggle can be when it involves a child. How To Be Brave helps shine a light on diabetes 1 and I applaude the author for incorporating a theme so close to home into one of her books. Especially as there is still so much misinformation and ignorance about diabetes 1… The struggle of both Natalie and Rose is portrayed realistically and beautifully, and will most likely break your heart before you reach that final page.

The historical part of this story is set in 1943, with Natalie’s grandfather Colin as the narrator. After a shipwreck, Colin and part of the crew manage to survive and find themselves on a lifeboat waiting to be rescued. We learn about what happens in the days after through Colin’s diary, the same diary Natalie uses to distract Rose during her injections as they start reading the pages. I loved that the lifeboat story of Colin is actually based on what happened to the author’s own grandfather in 1943 and it definitely makes this story feel so much more authentic because of it. Part memoir, part biography, part fiction and without doubt a very powerful combination that takes the story to the next level!

The writing is once again sublime, and the same can be said for the character development of the main characters. Both Natalie, Rose and Colin are thoroughly and realistically developed, making my heart feel for them as I was fully absorbed in their lives. Realistic stories and characters have their ups and downs, and this was masterfully achieved in How To Be Brave. Oh yes, this story is an emotional, raw and heartbreaking story with an ultimate message of hope and learning how to be brave. It’s yet another story that completely blew me away and left me lost for words after that final page… How To Be Brave is simply a fascinating mix of historical fiction and a contemporary family drama, combined through a diary and that timeslip vibe. I’m also already 100% positive it will appear on my list of 2020 favorite books!


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