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 Murmur Of Bees – by Sofia Segovia @amazonpub

Title: The Murmur Of Bees
Author: Sofia Segovia 
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: March 1st 2015
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: April 7th 2019
Pages: 471
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘El Murmullo De Las Abejas’)

“Simonopio was for the outdoors, for the wild. He was for reading life, not books.”

*** 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 was attracted to this story as a bee to honey right from the very first time I saw it mentioned. I love stories with an international setting and I’m always trying to read more international authors… In The Murmur Of Bees I got both. This story was originally written in Spanish in 2015, and its translation is scheduled to be published later this month. It’s a historical fiction tale set in early 20th century Mexico, where historical facts are mixed with the surreal in such a way that will keep you invested until the very end. With an air of the writing style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Murmur Of Bees tells us the story of a wealthy land owner family and how the appearance of the mysterious Simonopio both saved and changed their lives forever. The writing is lush and wonderful and will truly transport you to a different time and country… It’s a story of love, joy, sadness and desperation; a story of different generations, family and a country damaged by war and the 1918 influenza outbreak. Rather than magical realism, I would call The Murmur Of Bees an extraordinary work of historical fiction with a hint of the surreal. Both Simonopio and his bees and the folklore tales incorporated into stories are incorporated in such a way that they create a perfect balance with the rest of the plot and they give The Murmur Of Bees an unique touch. The historical setting is well developed and it really shows the author has well researched the era and has also included details of historical events partly or completely. The result is a complex and enchanting story and a journey any fan of the genre will enjoy undertaking.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Courier – by Kjell Ola Dahl @Orendabooks #NordicNoir

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Courier blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I always love discovering international authors and I just couldn’t resist this chance to read more Nordic Noir. So please join me while I share my thoughts on The Courier!

Title: The Courier
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 2015
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: March 9th 2019
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Kureren’)

“You can hide, you can move to an island, build a hut and wander on a beach for years, lonely. But when the past comes calling you are the same person.”

*** 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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Those who know me are probably already aware of the fact I have a special interest in WWII historical fiction and I always enjoy a good mystery. Add an international setting you don’t see every day and the fact that it’s Nordic Noir in the first place and you’ll find me jumping up and down out of sheer excitement. Oh yes, I couldn’t wait to dive into my copy of The Courier and it turned out to be just as good as the reviews I saw popping up kept promising me. Want to know why?

The first thing that stands out in The Courier is that this story is actually set in three different time periods which are connected by the main characters. The story mainly switches between 1942 and 1967, both having its own storyline and different angle to contribute to the plot. This mostly dual timeline was one of the strongest elements of this story for me and highly enhanced my reading experience. The fact that we are left in the dark about what happened in 1942 and what consequences it has on the characters in 1967 adds a healthy dose of suspense to the plot and the author is able to build this feeling of suspense and intrigue in both storylines. Both are equally strong for different reasons, a balance that is easy to achieve while using a dual timeline.

The writing and plot development also really stood out for me. This story managed to grab my attention right from the very first chapter and the engaging writing style made it easy to fully emerge myself in the story and travel back in time. The descriptions of time, place and characters are detailed and well developed, making it easy to imagine yourself as a spectator observing the story from a front row seat. The main characters felt real as they are realistically displayed with flaws and all; you will soon find yourself rooting for them and this makes connecting to the story all the easier.

Another thing I could really appreciate was the historical content and the many references to daily life in Norway and Sweden in 1942 and 1967. Especially since WWII historical fiction tends to focus on countries like Germany, Poland or France, I was excited to be offered a glimpse of the history of lesser known countries that were affected by that particular part of history. It was interesting to see the characters evolve over time as they react to the things that happen to and around them. The plot also has quite a few surprises in store and I can promise you that you will not see them coming. The Courier is a little Nordic Noir gem and a very satisfying read for fans of historical fiction and thrillers alike. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Olso.

 


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YVO’S SHORTIES #89 – Here We Are Now & The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a story that failed to convince me completely and another that completely won over my heart. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga wasn’t as good as I hoped, especially after loving her debut… The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa was a fantastic read though.


Title: Here We Are Now
Author: Jasmine Warga

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 7th 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 304

“It’s funny how some places just feel familiar in your bones, even if you’ve never been there before.”


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I have been looking forward to read more of Jasmine Warga‘s work ever since I loved her debut back in 2015… It took me longer than expected to get to Here We Are Now, but I guess better late than never right? It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, but unfortunately I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story as a whole. It’s not a bad read and fans of character driven YA contemporaries will probably have a great time with this one. It’s not the writing either, which felt natural and I just loved the many musical references. But there was just something about the plot and characters that didn’t manage to convince me. The plot is rather simple and nothing much is going on; it shows that this story is mostly focused on the main characters. This means we see a lot of the sixteen-year-old Taliah as well as her parents Julian and Lena and their past. On its own nothing negative, but there was just something about the characters that started to irritate me. Taliah came over as rather childish and whines a lot… Julian can be a bit intense and Lena is rather annoying even though she also has an interesting aspect with her being an immigrant in the US and her having to adapt to a new country (something I can relate to). I didn’t agree with some of the actions and reactions of the characters and I’m not sure parts felt all that natural. Like I said before, the musical elements were a nice touch though and I liked how the story was partly set in the past as Julian tells Taliah how he first met her mother and what happened. Sadly I failed to connect with this story, but I’m sure the right person will absolutely adore Here We Are Now.


Title: The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: November 1st 2012
Publisher: Viking
Finished reading: March 11th 2019
Pages: 288
(Originally written in Japanese: ‘旅猫リポート’)

“We cats get all limp and squishy when we have catnip; for humans, wine seems to do the trick.”


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As some of you might already know, I am what you call a true catlover or crazy catlady. I have loved these feline creatures ever since I was tiny, and even a bout of childhood allergy couldn’t cure me of that love… Thankfully I grew over my allergy, and I have been lucky enough to share my life with a bunch of different feline friends during the last eighteen years or so. The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys being around cats. It’s so easy to relate to this wonderful story! The first thing that stands out and makes this book special for me is the fact that the story is narrated by a cat. Yes, you read that right, the main character of this story is a very special cat named Nana who tells all about his adventures together with his companion and owner Satoru. Very original and it definitely made the story that much more powerful. We get to know both Nana and Saturo better through their adventures as they visit various childhood friends of Saturo. It’s not only a journey within Japan, but also a journey to the past as we learn more about the different characters both then and now. I loved how not only Nana, but other animals get to play a role in the story as well. The descriptions are wonderful as is the writing style in general… The characters will win over your heart in record time and will stay with you for a long time. Warning: make sure you have your tissues ready! Because the end will most definitely make you cry (I know I did, and I almost never cry). The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a fantastic read I could see myself reading over and over again.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #88 – And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer & The Enchanted

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories I highly enjoyed for different reasons… The novella And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer by one of my favorite authors Fredrik Backman and a story I had to put on hold the first time around but highly enjoyed: The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.


Title: And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer
Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Novella
First published: August 24th 2015
Publisher: Atria books
Finished reading: March 4th 2019
Pages: 97
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Och varje morgon blir vägen hem längre och längre’)

“I’m constantly reading a book with a missing page, and it’s always the most important one.”


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I think most of you are already aware of the fact I’m a huge fan of Fredrik Backman‘s work… I decided to pick up this novella first before hopefully diving into the Beartown sequel next month. Novellas can go either way for me, as I normally prefer a more developed story, but there are exceptions where I’m able to connect to a short story in the same way. And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer is one of those exceptions. Not only is it good to see Alzheimer in the spotlight, we also see its effects on both the person itself and those close in a refreshing way. This novella has an almost surreal touch where memories and the real world overlap and exist at the same time. I love the way Fredrik Backman uses the prose and memories to help understand what it would be like having a fading memory. Past and present are liquid as we see the grandfather, his son and grandson in different stages of their life in such a way that erases all boundaries. The representation of the grandfather’s memories as a square where persons and objects alike are incorporated is fascinating… Especially how the square changes over time as Alzheimer starts taking over his brain. It’s a wonderful and heartbreaking family focused story that is well worth your time.


Title: The Enchanted
Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
First published: March 4th 2014
Publisher: Phoenix
Finished reading: March 7th 2019
Pages: 233

“After a time, it seemed that the world inside the books became my world. So when I thought of my childhood, it was dandelion wine and ice cream on a summer porch, like Ray Bradbury, and catching catfish with Huck Finn. My own memories receded and the book memories became the real memories, far more than the outside, far more even than in here.”


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I remember first trying to read this story a few years ago and being unable to connect to the magical realism elements of the story… It really shows that there is something as the right or wrong time to pick up a book, because this time I was fully mesmerized by this magical story. The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. The story behind The Enchanted is actually quite dark, as the main setting is inside Death Row of a maximum security prison. We get to know some of the darkest and most dangerous criminals in a very special way, and it’s an interesting as well as very disturbing glimpse inside their heads. I love how we hop between different characters in such a flowing way that really helps keep everything connected. One of the voices only has his identity revealed at the very end, but this doesn’t mean the story doesn’t make sense or is harder to follow. No, you will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page. The writing, the magical realism, the characters, the contrast of the fantastical and brutal reality… It’s true that The Enchanted is not for everyone, but the right person will be just as enchanted as I found myself to be.


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ARC REVIEW: Mala Vida – by Marc Fernandez

Title: Mala Vida
Author: Marc Fernandez
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery
First published: October 1st 2015
Publisher: Arcade
Finished reading: January 5th 2019
Pages: 240
(Originally written in French: ‘Mala Vida’)

“Franco is dead, but not the evil he brought into the world.”

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

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I’ve had an interest in Spanish history and especially the Franco period even before I picked it as my thesis subject. It’s easy to say that when I came across Mala Vida and read the blurb I was sold immediately. A story partially set in one of my favorite European cities and one I know closely: check. An intriguing historical background and mystery: check. A healthy dose of crime fiction, suspense and plot twists: check. Oh yes, while Mala Vida is mostly a contemporary crime thriller, it also included a historical element and a very intriguing and devastating one at that. This story was originally written in French back in 2015, and will be available in English next week. The translation works splendidly and I had a great time reading this story. The writing style made it easy to keep myself invested in the story; there are flashbacks, different point of views and plot twists that will keep you on edge until you have everything figured out. The setting was a huge bonus for me and I liked the inclusion of cultural elements to make the setting feel more authentic. The historical case discussed in Mala Vida is fascinating and I liked how we get multiple views on the topic through the different characters. Diego’s character is very interesting and I liked that he is a journalist. The same goes for the other main characters: each has their own personality, background and adds a little something unique to the story. All in all a very successful read for me!

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The radical right has just won the election after twelve years of Socialist rule in Spain, and things are about to change drastically. As the country is preparing itself to retrace its steps to the past, there are other things happening as well. A series of murders is committed in various cities in Spain, and there are no clues found as to who is behind them or why they were killed. There seems to be no obvious connection between them, but isn’t there? And that is not all either, because a national scandal is about to be revealed as well…

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If you like stories with an international setting that can offer a little something different and outside the box, you should definitely consider Mala Vida. Part legal thriller, part historical, part mystery and part crime fiction, this story is a mix of a lot of different elements and very well executed at that. I personally loved the Spanish setting, the diversity of the main characters and the story as a whole. The historical element is both well executed and shocking and will definitely leave a mark… A very interesting read and one I’m very glad I came across.


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ARC REVIEW: The Girl Without Skin – by Mads Peder Nordbo

Title: The Girl Without Skin
(Greenland #1)

Author: Mads Peder Nordbo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 27th 2017
Publisher: Text Publishing
Finished reading: December 29th 2018
Pages: 352
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Pigen uden hud’)

“If you want to understand why a ball is rolling, you need to find out what set it in motion. The rest is nothing but effect, and the effect is visible to everyone.”

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

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I’ve been meaning to read more Nordic crime, so when I saw this title popping up I just couldn’t resist. That cover does look kind of daunting, doesn’t it? I went in The Girl Without Skin full of expectations and they were more than met. The first thing that stood out for me was the setting. It shows that the author knows Nuuk and Greenland from his own experience living there, because he is able to describe it in a way that makes it truly come alive. I also like that the main character Matthew is a Danish ‘outsider’ like the author himself. Being able to see both Nuuk and Greenland through his eyes was truly insightful, and I feel like I’ve learned a bit about the life there as well as having read a solid crime thriller. Because solid it was. Bloodcurdling, twisted, disturbing and bodies piling up as you turn the pages… Oh yes, The Girl Without Skin isn’t for those who don’t like to see their crime thrillers bloody. But if you, like me, don’t mind things getting messy, you will have a great time with this little shocking story. I really liked the writing style, which was engaging and made me keep reading until I suddenly reached the last page. The pace is good and I liked how the plot was constructed, which 1973 flashbacks as well as the current (2014) storyline. It was interesting to see how the author slowly tried to link both point of views and there is one thing for sure: The Girl Without Skin will have some shocking surprises for you in store!

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Journalist Matthew Cave is called in to investigate the body of what is suspected to be a mummified Viking discovered out on the edge of an ice sheet. He is eager to cover the story, knowing that this discovery might just be his big break… But the next day the body is gone, and all evidence with it, leaving only the mutilated body of the policeman who was keeping watch. Gutted and flayed, his death resembles the victims of a chain of murders back in the 1970s, crimes that were never solved. Are the two crimes linked? Matthew might be in more danger than he realizes as he tries to investigate.

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I was without doubt more than pleasantly surprised by The Girl Without Skin. I like my crime thrillers dark and disturbing, and an interesting international setting is always a bonus for me. This story isn’t for those with a weak stomach, as there are a lot of graphic scenes involved including violence, bloodcurdling murder scenes and abuse. The Greenland setting is excellently executed and it felt like I were there myself along with the main characters… The story itself chilled me to the bone. If you like dark crime thrillers, you should definitely give this one a go!


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