ARC REVIEW: Remember Me – by Mario Escobar

Title: Remember Me
Author: Mario Escobar
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: October 1st 2019
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Finished reading: September 14th 2020
Pages: 384
(Originally published in Spanish: ‘Recuérdame’)

“I learned a long time ago that to see what’s right in front of us requires enormous effort, because there’s no man so blind as the one who doesn’t want to see.”

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

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I knew I just HAD to get a copy of Remember Me as soon as I saw that it was a Spanish Civil War novel. I’ve always had a special interest in Spain and its history, and I’ve studied the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath during my Uni years… I actually did hear of the Children Of Morelia already, although I had forgotten about the exact details and I thought this story would be the perfect way to refresh my memory as well as see those historical details combined into a historical fiction read. While I did end up having mixed feelings about this story, both the fact that it’s based on historical events and its incorporation into the plot were probably the strongest element of this story.

Remember Me has multiple international settings as we follow Marco Alcalde and his sisters on their journey. It all starts in Madrid, a city that has a special place in my heart after having lived and studied there for eight months… The mentions of different places within that city brought back memories of my time there and really made the setting come alive for me. I also enjoyed reading about their journey and their time in Mexico, and I loved the fact that I was able to improve my knowledge about this part of Spanish history in general.

The descriptions of the historical situation and escalating violence and struggles during the Spanish Civil War set the right tone for what should have been an emotionally devastating and heartbreaking read. And here is where things went wrong for me… I can’t deny that the events described and the struggles Marco and his family have to face are horrifying, and they do give you an accurate description of the hardships people had to face during and after the civil war. BUT. Sadly, I just couldn’t find any real character development or personality in any of the main characters. I couldn’t for the life of me describe any of the characters by their personality; it is as if they were just tools to describe what happened to the children of Morelia in general and they just lack any characteristics to make them feel unique and real. This made it extremely hard to connect to them and feel for their situation in particular. And I think that if I weren’t so interested in anything related to the Spanish Civil War, I probably would have struggled to make it to the final page. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but it feels more like a summary of the historical events related to the Children of Morelia rather than a historical fiction novel with properly developed characters and emotions. While I feel sad that I wasn’t able to enjoy the story better, I’m still glad I read it for the things I learned about the Spanish Civil War alone though… So I guess Remember Me can go both ways for you depending on how much you care about properly developed and believable characters and/or if you prefer a focus on the historical details instead.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Seven Doors – by Agnes Ravatn #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @RandomTTours @Orendabooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Seven Doors Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve rediscovered my love for the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been wanting to try this author for a while now… And I’m definitely kicking myself for waiting this long now! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: The Seven Doors
Author: Agnes Ravatn
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Nordic Noir
First published: September 13th 2019
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: September 8th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally published in Norwegian: ‘Dei sju dørene’)

“We often stumble in the dark, unaware of the full scope of our actions.”

*** 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’m always immediately tempted when I see a new nordic noir title popping up on my radar, and this happened once again as soon as I first heard about The Seven Doors. I’ve been meaning to try Agnes Ravatn‘s work ever since I started hearing fantastic things about her previous title The Bird Tribunal, and while that one somehow slipped between the cracks of my TBR mountain (something I plan to remedy soon), joining the tour for the translation of her newest title sounded like the perfect guarantee to not make the same mistake with this title. I’m most definitely glad I did, because I now have another name to add to my list of favorite nordic noir authors!

So… The Seven Doors. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I mean, how can I say no to the promise of a nordic setting AND an university professor investigating the mysterious disappearance of her tenant?! I’m glad I didn’t, because this story turned out to be a true gem. The Norway setting really shines through as soon as you start reading, and I felt transported to this nordic country along with the main characters straight away. The descriptions really made the different settings within Norway come alive for me, and I liked how certain places were not only incorporated into the plot naturally but were also quite fundamental for certain developments in that same plot.

It’s hard to put The Seven Doors inside just one neat genre box… This story can be seen as an amateur PI thriller turned psychological thriller turned domestic drama, all doused with that delicious nordic noir sauce to spice things up. On top of this, the story shows a focus on psychology as well as literature and incorporates many theories and background information along the way. You will find psychology related terms and theories, but also folklore stories and fairytales as well as literature theory related elements… And even the title refers to a folklore story with a key role in the plot, which I personally thought was a brilliant touch. Both elements really gave this nordic noir an unique angle that made this story stand out for me.

The story is told through the eyes of main character and university professor Nina. Both the investigation, her background and the final truth around the disappearance might seem a bit colored that way, but this sole POV is used perfectly to add suspense and keep the air of mystery around it all. It was interesting to see Nina develop over time and react to the things happening in the plot; especially once she started investigating Mari’s disappearance and kept going stubbornly despite the police not taking her seriously. The focus isn’t just on the investigation though, as we also learn about the changes in her personal life, her struggles with her family home that is about to be demolished as well as other secrets and events happening to those close to her. Both the investigation and the more personal angle are well balanced and I liked how they complemented each other.

The writing itself is fluid and descriptive and really made both the nordic setting and the main characters of this story come alive. I have to point out the flawless translation by Rosie Hedger too, as without her time and effort I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this story in the first place… The Seven Doors has a more leisurely pace than my usual reads, but this slower pace is used to properly dive into the different characters and elements in play and makes you fully savour both. The story works steadily towards more than one highly explosive final reveal that will most likely end up hitting you with a sledgehammer. Why? Two words: THAT ENDING! What a way to leave us with our jaws hanging on the floor… BOOM.

This was my first experience with Agnes Ravatn‘s work, but I have a copy of The Bird Tribunal hanging out on my kindle which I will pick up very soon (read: Orentober month)The Seven Doors is most definitely another nordic noir gem!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary début with the novel Week 53 (Veke 53) in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing still (Stillstand), 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad), 2011, and Operation self-discipline (Operasjon sjøldisiplin), 2014. In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal (Fugletribuanlet), was an international bestseller translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN Award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #166 – You Are Not Alone & The Child

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Today a thriller round: new release You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, which sadly failed to blow me away, and a German crime thriller The Child by Sebastian Fitzek, which definitely turned out to be a dark, disturbing but very much entertaining read.


Title: You Are Not Alone
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: May 27th 2020
Pages: 344

“Some people contend there are two primal fears. The first and most basic is the end of our existence. The second is isolation; we all have a deep need to belong to something greater than ourselves.”


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I know, I know, I should have known to stay away from yet another hyped book… Especially since my first experience with this author duo, The Wife Between Us, failed to hit the mark back when I read it in 2018. But I just couldn’t resist taking a peek anyway, and I think I have just confirmed to myself the writing of Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen might just not be for me. I’m not saying that You Are Not Alone is a bad read; I think the writing itself is solid and I’m impressed by the fact how well the story flows with two different authors wielding the pen. That said, I can’t say I was blown away by this story either. On it’s own it’s quite an interesting plot with lots of plot twists and secrets waiting to be unraveled. There is suspense, there is tension, and I can’t deny there were even a few minor surprises. BUT. Overall I was a bit disappointed by how predictable the story felt as a whole, and I saw the whole situation coming from a mile away… Which is always a shame. I did like the structure of the plot in different parts and with multiple POVs and flashbacks (although the two main POVs would be Shay and Cassandra & Jane). The characters each have their development, although some fell a bit flat for me and most were not that easy to like. Shay is probably the most approachable, although you will find yourself feeling frustrated more and more by her actions as you keep reading… Overall, I felt like You Are Not Alone was trying to hard, and turned out to be a tad to slow and predictable for me. That said, it looks like the unpopular opinion curse has struck once again, so don’t give up on this book on my account.


Title: The Child
Author: Sebastian Fitzek

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2007
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: May 29th 2020
Pages: 384
(Originally written in German: ‘Das Kind’)

“But he wasn’t afraid of burglars, only of observers: of people who might see through his carefully constructed façade of expensive suits, shiny cars and smart offices with a view of the Brandenburg Gate. If they did, they would discern the empty husk that was Robert Stern’s soul.”


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I bought a copy of this book on a whim last year, as I was fully hooked after reading the first line of the blurb. I mean, having a ten-year-old main character who claims to be a serial killer… How could I say no to that?! I’m definitely glad I got a copy of The Child now, because it turned out to be a shocking, very much disturbing but also intriguing ride. This story is definitely not for those with a weak stomach, and not even for the murder elements, but mostly because of the focus on child abuse. The Child focuses mainly on two characters: lawyer Robert Stern and the ten-year-old Simon with a severe illness. The reason the two characters meet is simply fascinating and I admit that I was hooked as soon as I started reading. The serial killer element, the regression and strange memories of Simon, the blackmailing, the danger, the mystery around the death of Robert’s son, the trafficking angle… There is a lot going on in The Child, and you definitely have to prepare yourself for a very intense, dangerous and action-packed ride. While I’m not sure some scenes are exactly credible, I somehow didn’t really mind as I was too busy racing through those pages. The Child is definitely a great read for those who enjoy dark and disturbing crime thrillers with a twist.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #165 – The Queen And The Cure & The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two sequels of two completely different genres. One, The Queen And The Cure, turned out to be a more than solid read, while the other, The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man, failed to blow me away…


Title: The Queen And The Cure
(The Bird And The Sword Chronicles #2)
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: May 9th 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace
Finished reading: May 22nd 2020
Pages: 342

“Most of the time the obvious blinds us to the hidden.”

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After enjoying the first book The Bird And The Sword and falling in love with main characters Tiras and Lark, I decided to read the sequel while memories of this high fantasy world were still fresh. I had been looking forward to spend more time with both characters, so I was a bit disappointed when I discovered The Queen And The Cure is mostly focusing on Tiras’ brother Kjell instead. It’s not that I didn’t like his character in the first book, but I liked both Tiras and Lark more… That said, both Kjell and new character Sasha grew on me quickly and I enjoyed seeing their dynamics as well as the characters themselves develop. The writing is just beautiful, but then again I didn’t expect any less of Amy Harmon of course. I loved the new details about the magical elements and it definitely enriched the plot. The whole love triangle vibe was a bit of a let down for me though, and some of the reveals around Kjell and Sasha were just a tad too farfetched as well as too convenient. BUT. I still very much enjoyed this story despite a few misses, and while I do prefer the first book, The Queen And The Cure is still a solid YA high fantasy read.


Title: The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man
(The Hundred-Year-Old Man #2)
Author: Jonas Jonasson
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: August 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Finished reading: May 26th 2020
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Swedish: ‘Hundraettåringen som tänkte att han tänkte för mycket’)

“The hundred-and-one-year-old certainly had his issues, but if there was anything he was good at, it was surviving.”

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared is one of my all time favorites, and as soon as I learned that Allan Karlsson would have a second adventure I knew I just HAD to read it. I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick up the sequel, but in a way I’m glad as I would surely have felt even more disappointed if I had read it straight after the release in 2018. Oh yes, I feel that The Accidental Further Adventures Of The Hundred-Year-Old Man by no means lives up to the first book,,. In fact, if it weren’t for the Allan-Julius duo and their dry humor, I don’t think I would have made it to the last page. Why? Well, this sequel is just way too political for me. The story is basically a constant critique on and satire of the recent political situation in the world, including characters such as Trump, Merkel, Kim Jong-Un and Putin… And it was all just too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the dry and sarcastic humor and Allan and Julius are once again brilliant, but they were kind of buried under a huge pile of political comments that distracted instead of entertain. I wasn’t too impressed by new character Sabine either… And sadly what was one of my most anticipated releases in 2018 simply fell flat for me.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Creak On The Stairs – by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the The Creak On The Stairs Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I have a weak spot for nordic noir and as soon as I read the blurb of The Creak On The Stairs I knew I just had to read it. Especially since two fellow trusted bloggers had already raved about it too… And now I’ve had the chance to read this first book of a new series, I can say that they were absolutely right to do so. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

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!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #161 – The Guest Cat & The One-In-A-Million Boy

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a double dose of contemporary and two titles I’ve been looking forward to: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide and The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood. Sadly both ended up disappointing me…


Title: The Guest Cat
Author: Takashi Hiraide

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: 2001
Publisher: Picador
Finished reading: April 26th 2020
Pages: 146
(Originally written in Japanese: ‘猫の客 [Neko no kyaku]’)

“There’s a photographer who says cat lovers always believe their own cat is better looking than anyone else’s. According to her, they’ve all got blinders on.”


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I’ve been curious about this title ever since I finished The Travelling Cat Chronicles last year and saw it recommended under similar Japanese fiction titles… I think it’s no secret that I’m a huge catlover, so I was looking forward to dive into some cat infused fiction again. It’s easy to say that I ended up to be quite quite disappointed by The Guest Cat instead. In fact, I’m really not sure why this book even has this title, as the focus is mostly on the guest house and the couple which POV the story is narrated from… Sure, we have Chibi and later some other cats, but they didn’t really play as big of a role as I thought they would. Instead, The Guest Cat is a story where nothing much happens, and it’s mostly one elaborate description after the other. And while I can appreciate beautifully written descriptions, it was just too much to have to read a story build up out of 90% of those descriptions and only 10% what you can call a very meager plot. The writing didn’t fully convince me either (I think the phrase ‘lost in translation’ might apply here), and overall I had a really hard time keeping focused. In fact, I struggled reaching that final page, and the only reason I finished it is because it’s so short in the first place. The open ending was yet another disappointment, and I was honestly seriously underwhelmed by the whole experience.


Title: The One-In-A-Million Boy
Author: Monica Wood

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 5th 2016
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Finished reading: April 29th 2020
Pages: 336

“How tranquilizing it was to arm yourself with information, how consoling to unpack the facts and then plan them like fence pickets, building a sturdy pen in which you stood alone, cosseted against human fallibility.”


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I’ve been curious about The One-In-A-Million Boy ever since I first heard about it a few years back, and both the cover and blurb had me convinced I was going to enjoy my time with this story. Sadly, I somehow ended up having mixed thoughts instead… I’m not sure if it’s just the wrong time for me to read this story, as my reading taste has been all over the place in these strange times, but the fact is that I somehow expected more of this story. There were things I loved in The One-In-A-Million Boy, while other elements of the story ended up letting me down a bit… The main star of the story is 104-year-old Ona of course, who I adored and she is basically one of the sole reasons I kept reading. The glimpses you get of the boy makes it really easy to like him too and it makes you wish you could have met him properly… I loved learning more about Ona’s past and she is such a fascinating character and oh so easy to connect to; the boy is quirky and very loveable too. As for the other characters: Quinn isn’t too bad and I liked the music elements he helped including in the plot. I wasn’t a fan of Belle at all though and her actions and the way she keeps treating Quinn were starting to get very very annoying. I felt like I would have loved a story solely based on Ona and the boy more, as they made up the best part of this story and I felt the other characters and subplot started to let the story down. I do get that one of the big elements, grief and moving on, wouldn’t be possible without things going the way they are, but still… Somehow I just expected more of The One-In-A-Million Boy, and the actual story, while by no means a bad read, just fell a little flat for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #159 – The Girl In The Tree (DNF) & The Light Between Oceans

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around an ARC I had to sadly take the decision to DNF quite early on despite being excited to finally read it (The Girl In The Tree) and a backlist title I’ve been meaning to read for ages now and I definitely wish I would have picked up sooner (The Light Between Oceans).


Title: The Girl In The Tree
Author: Şebnem İşigüzel

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 2016
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: April 16th 2020
Pages: 360
DNF at 11% (40 pages)
(Originally written in Turkish: ‘Ağaçtaki Kız’)

“Laughter is the wind of the mind and soul – it picks you up and whisks you far away.”

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


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I was actually really looking forward to The Girl In The Tree, as the blurb sounded intriguing and I always love discovering new international authors. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the reaction I had when I finally started reading it… But it is what it is I guess. I hate DNFing this early in a story and I feel more than guilty, but I just couldn’t take it anymore… I will keep this DNF review short as I only managed to read 11% (about 40 pages) before I threw in the towel, but I’ll try to explain shortly why I made the difficult decision to DNF this early on.

First of all, I struggled to connect with the writing. And with struggle, I mean REALLY struggling, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it at all. But more importantly, there was no plot whatsoever to speak of and the story seemed more like a collection of brain farts, random thoughts and random facts about characters you don’t know being thrown at you… Mixed in with random pop culture elements including Twilight and (the death of) Amy Whinehouse. I sadly found the whole ordeal to be tasteless, chaotic, confusing and I really couldn’t be bothered wasting more of my time to see if things would improve later on. Oh yes, this story definitely hit a nerve, and not in a good way. Such a shame, because I was actually looking forward to reading this… Don’t give up on The Girl In The Tree on my account though, as it seems like you will either love or hate this story depending on how you react to the writing style. It’s a book of extremes and most certainly not for everyone… And that includes myself sadly.


Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: April 17th 2020
Pages: 356

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Light Between Oceans for years now. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually read it, as I’m a big fan of historical fiction and settings that enable me to travel to places I’ve never been… But what I do know is that I regret not reading this story sooner now. The post WWI setting on a small island near the Australian coast, the lighthouse keeper element, the strong presence of the ocean… These elements really gave The Light Between Oceans a more than solid base to build the rest of the story around, and especially the Janus Rock setting and lighthouse references made the story stand out for me. The main focus of the story is on family life, both grief and struggles related to multiple miscarriages and the arrival of the ‘mystery’ baby on the small island and its consequences for the future. It was interesting to follow both Tom and Isabel as they try to overcome the struggles life keeps throwing at them… And although I don’t agree with some decisions and certain behavior, I still had a great time reading about both their lives. The Light Between Oceans is a mostly character driven book with a fascinating setting that gives the story the perfect backdrop to develop both plot and characters. And while there were certain elements/details especially in the second half that started to irk me, I still ended up really enjoying my time with this historical fiction read.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Sister – by Kjell Ola Dahl #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Sister Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve become a big fan of the nordic noir genre over the years and after a positive first experience with Kjell Ola Dahl‘s work (The Courier) last year I was ready for more. And Sister most definitely didn’t disappoint! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

Title: Sister
(Oslo Detectives #9)
Author: Kjell Ola Dahl
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2018
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: April 5th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in Norwegian: ‘Søsteren’)

“He knew the only way to find an answer was to walk into the hornet’s nest and see what made it buzz.”

*** 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’ve had the opportunity to rediscover the nordic noir genre in recent years and I’ve been trying to explore more authors and books ever since. After a positive first experience with Kjell Ola Dahl‘s work (The Courier) last year I was ready for more… And Sister sounded like the perfect read for me. I do have to confess that I didn’t realize Sister was actually book number 9 of the Oslo Detectives series when I signed up for the blog tour, but luckily this turned out to be one of those series where the sequels can be read quite easily as a stand-alone as well. Lucky for me, but also for those who don’t have time to catch up with the series first (I mean, eight books is a LOT) and are still curious about the Oslo Detectives books… Although you will probably end up like me wanting to read the previous books anyway after you finish Sister. You’ve been warned!

Before I start my review properly, first a big round of applause for translator Don Bartlett for providing us with another fluid and simply fantastic translation. Us poor English language readers wouldn’t be able to enjoy our dose of nordic noir otherwise! As soon as I started reading Sister, I knew that I was in for a treat. While I didn’t have the proper background information of main character Frølich, it was still really easy to connect to both the story and his character almost straight away. In the case of Sister, it didn’t seem too necessary to possess that background information… It was enough for me to know that Frølich is a former cop and currently working as a private detective. I do have to confess this story made me curious about the previous books and his character development over time, as I’m sure he has been through a lot in eight books. Frølich is your typical and almost cliche private detective character with a complicated past and former job as a police detective, but he has that je ne sais quoi that made me like him almost instantly and I enjoyed following him during his investigations.

The case Frølich is asked to investigate is both fascinating, deeply uncomfortable and potentially very dangerous. What starts out as a seemingly transparent case, the asylum seeker needing to find her sister living in Norway to avoid being deported, soon turns out to be a lot more than meets the eye. The story tackles a number of difficult and sensitive topics including abuse, immigrants, an old disaster case, conspiracy and murder… This may seem like a lot, but I personally enjoyed how everything was incorporated into the story. The main focus may seem to be on the asylum seeker case at first, but as the first body shows up Frølich’s attention shifts as he starts to wonder how everything fits in. Slowly more aspects, secrets and twists of the plot are revealed; those secrets and plot twists adding an extra level of suspense as welll as guiding Frølich to different characters and locations in play. We travel through Norway as the story evolves and the descriptions of the different settings really made that nordic noir feel shine through for me.

Sister doesn’t just follow one case and this diversity and overlap turns the story into a multidimentional thriller that is both suspenseful and addictive. We have Norway travels, we have multiple murders, we have an old disaster case and possible conspiracy, we have a human interest and immigrant angle, and we even have a little romance on the side to lighten up things a little… All combined together into one delicious nordic noir meal. If you are a fan of the genre, Sister is without doubt an excellent choice.

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 Oslo.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Mexico Street – by Simone Buchholz #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Mexico Street Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I’ve been meaning to try this series for a while now and the blog tour was a perfect excuse to catch up… I’ve grown to love Simone Buchholz‘ writing style after reading the previous two books, and Mexico Street might just be a new favorite! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts.

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Simone Buchholz was born in Hanau in 1972. At university, she studied
Philosophy and Literature, worked as a waitress and a columnist, and
trained to be a journalist at the prestigious Henri-Nannen-School in
Hamburg. In 2016, Simone Buchholz was awarded the Crime Cologne Award
as well as runner-up in the German Crime Fiction Prize for Blue Night,
which was number one on the KrimiZEIT Best of Crime List for months. She
lives in Sankt Pauli, in the heart of Hamburg, with her husband and son.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #152 – Blue Night & Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around the first two books of the Chas Riley series (at least the first that have been translated from German); a series I’ve been meaning to read for a while now and the current blog tour for the third book Mexico Street was a perfect excuse to finally catch up. I admit I was a bit confused in the beginning, but once I warmed up to the writing and got to know who was who, I was fully hooked!


Title: Blue Night
(Chas Riley #6)
Author: Simone Buchholz

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: March 7th 2016
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 27th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in German: ‘Blaue Nacht’)

“We just let ourselves fall into the mist and all the sad things run under their own steam. Loneliness, for example. Or fear. Or being cut off from everything.”


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Blue Night has been on my radar for a while now… Both because I’m a huge sucker for any drugs and/or organized crime angle and because more than one trusted fellow blogger has recommended the series in the past. I’m definitely not disappointed by what I found! While Blue Night is the first Chas Riley title that has been translated into English and is technically called the first book of a new crime series, it is in fact already book number six published in German and it showed in my less than smooth first experience when I started Blue Night. Why? Let’s just say that it felt like I was thrown into the deep end without any helping hand or any helpful background information to make the introduction to Chastity Riley and the others a little smoother. It took me a while to get used to the short and snappy writing style, and I also had a hard time figuring out who was who in the beginning. The flashback chapters were especially confusing at first, as you have no background as to who is who and how they all fit together. I honestly wasn’t sure if this story would be for me… BUT. Somehow, after I decided to take a little break and continue with fresh eyes, I started to warm up to Blue Night. Once I got the hang of both the writing style and the different characters in play, I was hooked. Or more than hooked; I literally devoured the pages, hungry for more. The writing style sure is something else, and combined with the unique and diverse cast of characters and the fascinating plot this was definitely a slowburner turned explosive pageturner for me. Definitely recommended if you enjoy an original, sharp and action-packed crime thriller and don’t mind being kept in the dark for a bit until you get used to the unique writing style and cast of characters.


Title: Beton Rouge
(Chas Riley #7)
Author: Simone Buchholz

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 7th 2017
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: February 28th 2020
Pages: 276
(Originally written in German: ‘Beton Rouge’)

“Breathing this haze, which seems to soak up the big-city smog like a sponge, is a bit like smoking. I also light a cigarette – double poisoning is more reliable.”


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While it took me some time to get used to the writing style and characters in Blue Night, I had no such problem with Beton Rouge. I was fully hooked as soon as I read the first chapter, and the same short and snappy chapters kept me turning those pages like there was no tomorrow. I definitely managed to race through my second Chas Riley book in no time at all! Beton Rouge is a lot more ‘readable’ and easier to follow for those who, like me, don’t know a lot about the background of the main characters. This makes it quite easy to read Beton Rouge as a stand-alone as well, although the characters are worth sticking around and reading the other books for. Chas is an absolutely brilliant character and I just love her sass and sarcasm… The cast of characters in general is diverse, well developed and they truly feel unique and quirky; they all add that little je ne sais quoi to the story and really take this series to the next level. The case Chase finds herself involved in this time around is without doubt intriguing as well, and I had a great time following her as she was trying to solve the puzzle involving the tortured men showing up unconscious in cages. The plot and plot twists work perfectly together with the short and snappy chapters, making it impossible to stop reading as you simply keep devouring those pages. There are no diet restrictions possible here! Chas and the rest of her crew will have you under their spell, and you won’t be let go until after you read the final shocking new developments. Trust me, you will be dying to read the next book as soon as you finish Beton Rouge! This series is quickly turning into a new favorite of mine.


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