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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ARC REVIEW: The Cottingley Fairies – by Ana Sender

Title: The Cottingley Fairies
Author: Ana Sender
Genre: Picture Books, Fairy Tale
First published: March 5th 2019
Publisher: North South Books
Finished reading: November 15th 2018
Pages: 48
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘Las Hadas De Cottingley’)

“Adults lived in a very different world… It was hard and sharp, and they weren’t able to see ours.”

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


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I first fell in love with the cover of The Cottingley Fairies, and after I read in the blurb it was based on true events I was fully intrigued. Proof that fairies really exist, and a reference to the famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? It cannot get more intriguing than that. I was looking forward to find out more about Elsie and Frances’ story, since this was the first time I had heard about it. In the end I was unfortunately quite underwhelmed by The Cottingley Fairies. The first thing that stood out for me had to do with the illustrations. While I loved the cover illustration, I wasn’t so sure about the rest of the picture book in general. They felt a bit simple and almost unfinished to me, and lacked that ‘magical’ feel that would have worked better with this story. I don’t think children are as attracted to the illustrations as it is. That said, I wasn’t really convinced by the text either. The story paints the fairies as something that really exists and the ‘proof’ are photos the girls actually confess to have fabricated themselves. Fairies made out of paper are shown instead of ‘real’ fairies, and even though in the back the story is explained and it’s said that Frances until the day she died stood by her words that fairies are real, it’s really hard to believe. Also, I think the story kind of shone a negative light on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’m sure little children will still find this story entertaining enough, but it’s best to treat The Cottingley Fairies as a little fairy tale and not really look for a deeper meaning behind it.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #67 – Blue Blood & Girl With A Pearl Earring

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two older releases and two completely different genres. The first a detective thriller sequel of a Danish author: Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel. The second a historical fiction modern classic set in 1660s Delft: Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier. Both were solid reads though.


Title: Blue Blood
(Louise Rick #2)
Author: Sara Blaedel

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: 2005
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: November 29th 2018
Pages: 448
(Originally written in Danish: ‘Kald Mig Prinsesse’)


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I always have a weak spot for detective thrillers, and I just couldn’t resist buying a copy of Blue Blood when I first saw it. I didn’t realize it was actually the second book of a series at the time, but thankfully the story can be read as a stand-alone as well. This translation from a Danish crime writer (also called Call Me Princess in some translations) was without doubt an entertaining ride. The writing style was easy to like, and I just loved the setting in Denmark. I was drawn to the story and plot straight away, and found myself literally flying through the pages… Trigger warnings are in place for rape and violence, but the subject is really well handled and reading more about the dangers of online dating is definitely intriguing. The main characters Louise Rick was quite easy to connect to, and I didn’t feel I was missing too much background information by not reading the first book (I’m not saying I don’t want to now though). I could have done without the cheating/romance subplot, but thankfully the main focus was on the case itself. I liked how things developed and even though I had some ideas about how things would end, Blue Blood also had some surprises in store. Fast, entertaining and just the right amount of suspense… I will definitely be reading more of Sara Blaedel‘s books.


Title: Girl With A Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2000
Publisher: Penguin Books
Finished reading: December 5th 2018
Pages: 233

“He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face.”


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I’ve been meaning to read this modern classic for ages, and the When Are You Reading? challenge turned out to be a perfect excuse to do so. I’ve seen the painting of the story with my own eyes quite some years ago, so I thought it would be interesting to read about the story behind it. Girl With A Pearl Earring turned out to be a very interesting story set in the 1660s in a Dutch city called Delft. The description of both the setting and era is very well done, and I like how the author stayed true to the Dutch names. The writing was solid and made it easy to follow Griet’s story as things develop. The fact that Griet’s father is a tile painter is interesting, as Delft is famous for its blue and white decorations… And Vermeer is a very famous painter of course as well. I liked reading about her experience as a maid in the house of a famous author. The dynamics of a girl without experience being thrown into a new job and a family not sure how to react to Griet were interesting. There were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way though. The first is the love triangle, which partly ruined the story for me. Is this seriously necessary?! I think I would have enjoyed the story a lot more without the appearance of that trope. I also wasn’t sure about the interactions between Griet and some of the Vermeer family members… I still think it was a solid read and I enjoyed reading it for the most part though.


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DNF ARC REVIEW: Not A Clue – by Chloe Delaume

Title: Not A Clue 
Author: Chloe Delaume
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
First published: December 1st 2018
Publisher: University Of Nebraska Press
Finished reading: November 16th 2018
Pages: 276
DNF at 9% (25 pages)
Originally written in French: ‘Certainement Pas’

“I’m Dr. Black, I’m dead. There are six of you, and you killed me.”

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


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The truth is that I have been looking forward to read this one. I like reading international authors and I was completely fascinated by the blurb. A mystery, a crime and a mental health angle? Sounds like a pretty good recipe for a successful read to me. Sadly, it wasn’t ment to be. As soon as I started reading Not A Clue I knew we won’t be able to get along. Why? The writing style. Right from the very first sentence, I found myself scratching my head and wondering what the heck I just started reading. The writing style is just one big humble bumble of random words and nonsense being woven together, short ‘sentences’ mixed with randomness and endless weird descriptions and repetitions over and over again. I get that the patients have mental health problems, but that doesn’t mean I should feel so confused they could lock me up myself along with those patients, right? And I also get it, they killed him. But who on earth are they in the first place? And how am I supposed to make sense of this mess? I’ve decided to include a sample to give you a hint of what the writing looks like.

“There are six of you, you are alone, a stuffed mynah bird stands in for your memory, your tartarclot tears scratch your corneas plow your cheekbones into furrows more sterile than horror could ever be.”

Someone please make sense of that sentence for me? Or the rest of the sentences for that matter? I’m not sure if this is a case of ‘lost in translation’ or a writing style that is 200% not for me, but I just couldn’t bring myself to keep struggling through the pages. I almost never make the decision to DNF, especially this early in a story, but sadly Not A Clue and me just weren’t ment to be.


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ARC REVIEW: The Darkness – by Ragnar Jonasson

Title: The Darkness
(Hidden Iceland #1)

Author: Ragnar Jonasson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: October 15th 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: October 14th 2018
Pages: 336
(Originally written in Icelandic: ‘Dimma’)

“Over the years she had spoken to so many suspects she had developed a knack of spotting when people were trying to pull the wool over her eyes.”

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

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!! Happy publication day !!

I’ve been meaning to try one of Ragnar Jonasson‘s books for some time now, so when I saw that the translation of Dimma was coming out I just couldn’t resist. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story set in Iceland before, so the setting alone was a huge bonus for me. But what stands out for me even more is the main character of The Darkness. Yes, she is a detective with a complicated past, which may sound as a cliche… But this is all forgotten as we finally have an older main character to follow; DI Hulda Hermannsdottir is 64 and almost retiring, and getting to see her at this point in her life is truly refreshing. The Darkness is both about Hulda and the secrets of her past and the death of an asylum seeker from Russia. While a bit slow at point, the development of the plot and plot twists is well done and this story definitely has some surprises in store for you. And that ending! I wish I could understand Icelandic so I could find out what happens next… I’m fully intrigued. There are three different POVs to deal with, one of them set in the past, and all add something to the plot even though it takes a while to figure out how everything connects. The writing is solid and reads easily, and despite a slower pace at times The Darkness is still a very good detective thriller.

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Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is about to reach the age of retirement, but she is allowed to dive into one last cold case before she has to clear her desk. She decides to look into the death of a young asylum seeker from Russia. While the other detective had ruled it a suicide, Hulda is convinced they didn’t investigate all angles in the past. She starts her investigation, but soon finds out nobody actually wants her to keep investigating. The renewed attention to the case may have dangerous consequences…

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The Darkness both has an interesting setting and a strong main character to build a story around. I really appreciated to finally have an older main character, and Hulda is without doubt a very interesting one to follow. The mystery around her past and the cold case she is investigating will keep you on your toes, making the slower parts less noticeable. And what a shocking ending! I definitely didn’t see some of the reveals coming. Talk about ending things with a blast… I will be looking forward to book two.


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ARC REVIEW: The Passion According To Carmela – by Marcos Aguinis

Title: The Passion According To Carmela
Author: Marcos Aguinis
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: 2008
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
Finished reading: October 7th 2018
Pages: 284
(Originally written in Spanish: ‘La pasión según Carmela’)

“At the root of any insanity you’re bound to find great truths.”

*** 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 know I should probably have read this one in Spanish, but since it takes me twice as long to read it and I had the opportunity to read this newly published English translation, I decided to be lazy. I was fascinated by the premise of The Passion According To Carmela as soon as I first started reading it. While I learned a few things about the Cuban Revolution during Uni, most of the history was skimmed over and I was looking forward to learn more about that particular part of Cuban history. The promise of a love story mixed in with a proper look inside the Cuban Revolution just sounded too good to be true, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to read this book. The translation was excellently done and the writing style really flowed. The descriptions both of the Cuban setting and the background information around the Revolution and its consequences for the locals are exhaustive and very thorough. The Passion According To Carmela not only introduces us to the main character and their tragic and complicated love history, but also teaches you about how Fidel Castro came to power and how this effected the country. The prose is easy to on the eye, draws you in and makes it really easy to invest your time in this story. The pace was a bit slow at points, but overall The Passion According To Carmela was a really satisfying read.

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Cuba is on the border of a Revolution, and the country isn’t alone in facing some drastic changes. Carmela Vasconcelos has been living a privileged life so far, but her idealistic ideas and her brother Lucas end up convincing her to join Fidel Castro’s rebels. There she meets the Argentinian socialist Ignacio Deheza, and they are both aware of the instant connection between them. Their passion for both each other and the cause blind them, and they soon discover passion alone might just not be enough… Is the Revolution really everything they thought it would promised to be?

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The Passion According To Carmela is perfect for both historical fiction fans and those who enjoy a good complicated love story. You will come out both exhausted by everything that happens to the main character and having learned more about the Cuban Revolutions and its effects on the locals. Well written, well translation, well executed… It reads a bit slow at points, but the story is without doubt still 100% worth reading.


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