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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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BOOK REVIEW: Call Me Star Girl – by Louise Beech @Orendabooks

Title: Call Me Star Girl
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: April 18th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 23rd 2019
Pages: 300

“I shiver, look to my left and then my right. No one there.

It’s just me.

Me and all my terrible gut feelings.”


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After hearing so many fantastic things about the writing of Louise Beech, I thought it was about time I finally tried one of her books myself. I was so excited when my pre-order finally arrived earlier this month! I know I have been warned about the effect of her stories, but I still wasn’t fully prepared for what I encountered. Call Me Star Girl left me absolutely speechless staring at that final page, wondering how long it would be before my heart would be whole again. How do I even begin reviewing this title? Please bear with me as I try to write a somewhat coherent review and explain why I Call Me Star Girl is my officially my fifth 5 star read of the year.

It doesn’t happen often that a book is able to provoke reactions this strong, but Stella’s story is one of them. The writing style is absolutely wonderful of course, but it is the characters who steal the show in Call Me Star GirlLouise Beech should receive an award for being able to create such fascinating characters that are both flawed, strong and essentially unlikeable, but are able to win over your heart anyway. This story was so so so cleverly written! I slowed down my reading pace deliberately, wanting to fully savour ever single minute with this story, as I didn’t want it to end either… And this is always a good sign. We start Call Me Star Girl with slowly getting to know more about Stella and her past, her mother sometimes taking her turn to tell her part of their history together. Sometimes we see more about the present life of Stella with Tom as well, but the main focus seems to be on Stella and her mother. All these little bites of information will make you even hungrier to find out how everything fits together and what connection everything could have with the death of the poor girl found in the alley.

Subtle twists and turns are incorporated in such a way that builds the tension and suspense without even realizing it; throwing new shocking information at you before you are getting comfortable with what you already know. Louise Beech creates her characters to have a dark side and she isn’t afraid to make them show it; it makes the characters all the more realistic and beautiful as a result. It was fascinating to see how Stella dealt with her mother abandoning her when she was twelve and how she grew up to be the woman she now is. Elizabeth’s story was intriguing as well, although I did connect with Stella more than with her mother’s POV. Call Me Star Girl will go dark and emotional and will stamp on your heart and rip it out in a million pieces. There are so many little details cleverly incorporated into the plot and the ending will both shock you and make you feel satisfied albeit heartbroken. It is a true emotional rollercoaster, an absolutely fantastic read and a worthy new all time favorite to add to my shelf. Oh yes, I will definitely be reading more Louise Beech stories in the future!


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ARC REVIEW: Your Life Is Mine – by Nathan Ripley

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

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

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

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


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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: Dead Inside – by Noelle Holten @nholten40 @HarperImpulse

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

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

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

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

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


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