Boy, do I love stats – 2017

The end is nigh, my fellow readers, and it’s time to take tally of this year’s accomplishments. No, the apocalypse is not coming, but 2018 is just around the corner.

Without further ado, let’s see my year in books.

Until this day I don’t know how, but I managed to finish 65 books this year. Before anyone suggest I should get a life, I must say, I do most of my reading during holidays, and at work, in my lunchbreak. Having developed some kind of weird insomnia could also be blamed – I rarely sleep past 5.30 a.m., so I have plenty of time in the mornings too before I have to make the ten minute trip to the office.

The best book I’ve read this year was definitely The Collapsing Empire (John Scalzi), and you have to appreciate how hard it is for me to say this, because I did read a book from Stephen King as well, and he’s my one true love.

Worst book of the year goes to Say You’re Sorry (Melinda Leigh). What a fucking mess that was…

The longest read was The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss) with a whopping 994 pages, and it was also the highest rated on Goodreads.

 

The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg
Genres: Fantasy
Published: 25th July, 2017
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 4

The bestselling author of The Paper Magician Series transports readers to a darkly whimsical world where strange magic threatens a quiet village that only a courageous woman can save.
Matrona lives in an isolated village, where her life is centered on pleasing her parents. She’s diligent in her chores and has agreed to marry a man of their choosing. But a visit to Slava, the local tradesman, threatens to upend her entire life.?
Entering his empty house, Matrona discovers a strange collection of painted nesting dolls—one for every villager. Fascinated, she can’t resist the urge to open the doll with her father’s face. But when her father begins acting strangely, she realizes Slava’s dolls are much more than they seem.
When he learns what she’s done, Slava seizes the opportunity to give Matrona stewardship over the dolls—whether she wants it or not. Forced to open one of her own dolls every three days, she falls deeper into the grim power of Slava’s creations. But nothing can prepare her for the profound secret hiding inside the fifth doll.


There is just something about Russian folk tales, that gives you the creeps. In a good way! This book is not one of those folk tales, per se, but does have all the magical elements that make one.

The Fifth Doll is a pretty neat, spooky tale set in a cutesy little village that is just a little bit too cheerful for its own good. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, you guessed right. Everything.

I wouldn’t call this book suspenseful, but there’s just something that keeps you turning the pages to try and get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the villagers. I must admit, I had all sorts of ideas what’s wrong with them, but none of them turned out to be the case.

 

View spoiler

A little bit after halfway I even thought they are all dead or something… Damn…


 

I could not agree with those reviews that said the characters are flat an uninteresting. Maybe a little bit dopey, but hey, it all made perfect sense at the end!

Matrona, the main character is a bit immature for a 26 year old most of the time, but every now and then her potential shines through and she proves that she’s wise beyond her years. Or at least wiser than I was at that age.

I’ve always wanted to be loved. I don’t know if Esfir’s passing closed my parents’ hearts, or if it’s just their way, but affection has always been lacking in my home. I fear it’s lacking in yours as well. I can’t be part of that.

Damn, girl, you tell him! Love it.

I loved Jaska, her sidekick. Shit doesn’t make sense? Let’s consider all our options, even the wildest ones! He’s openminded, loyal and quick witted. If I had a side kick, I would sure want them to be someone like him.

I will most definitely read some more from this author.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Published: 18th July, 2017
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 3.5

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…


This was quite an addictive page turner from B. A. Paris. There was no dawdling around in this fast paced story, and I appreciate that.

The mental breakdown of Cassie started out with what seemed to be just some everyday forgetfulness due to stress. But her mental state quickly started going downhill after the woman she saw stranded on a stormy night turned up dead and other weird shit started happening to her soon after. Cassie’s mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia, and she obviously started to fear the worst. With mental illness looming in the background the tension quickly builds to seriously suffocating levels.

The answer to the question “Who’s fucking with Cassie?” was somewhat predictable, but to me it just added an interesting layer to the story. Seeing the why and the how unfold was quite entertaining on its own, even if some stuff was somewhat far fetched.

Although Cassie reached a seriously paranoid state towards the end, once everything was revealed, she was surprisingly chill. How? I mean, seriously?

Quick read, and certainly right up my alley.

Book Picks for Next Year

Last time I checked (around 5 minutes ago), I had 658 books on my Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf. With my current reading speed I will need approximately 10 years to go through them, if I don’t add any more. As if…!

So unless somehow (sorcery) I rise to the level of some people I follow (& admire) and manage to read over a hundred books a year, I’m in some shit.

Grim as it sounds, it has obviously not stopped me to pick some books for 2018 that have not been released yet. I’m always a sucker with my massive backlog and usually by the time I get to a certain book it’s pretty old news. Not this time!

Some of these six books coincide with some of the prompts from the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge, so I don’t have an excuse anymore.

Apart from Holly Black, whom I adore, I have not read anything from the other authors before.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
The Immortalists by Chole Benjamin
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Blue Monday by Nicci French
Genres: Thriller, Crime, Mystery
Published: 23rd June, 2011
Goodreads
Series: Frieda Klein #1
Rating: 2

The stunning first book in a new series of psychological thrillers introducing an unforgettable London psychotherapist Frieda Klein is a solitary, incisive psychotherapist who spends her sleepless nights walking along the ancient rivers that have been forced underground in modern London. She believes that the world is a messy, uncontrollable place, but what we can control is what is inside our heads. This attitude is reflected in her own life, which is an austere one of refuge, personal integrity, and order.

The abduction of five-year-old Matthew Farraday provokes a national outcry and a desperate police hunt. And when his face is splashed over the newspapers, Frieda cannot ignore the coincidence: one of her patients has been having dreams in which he has a hunger for a child. A red-haired child he can describe in perfect detail, a child the spitting image of Matthew. She finds herself in the center of the investigation, serving as the reluctant sidekick of the chief inspector.

Drawing readers into a haunting world in which the terrors of the mind have spilled over into real life, “Blue Monday” introduces a compelling protagonist and a chilling mystery that will appeal to readers of dark crime fiction and fans of “In Treatment” and “The Killing.”


I just don’t get this book… There was a lot going on, but hardly anything actually happening in the first half. It was meant to be a story about a child kidnapping and the surrounding investigation, involving a psychotherapist. Sounds great, no? Well, that poor child was barely mentioned, he was more like an afterthought people every now and then remembered to mention in the background.

A strange mood enveloped the room where they sat, dreamy and sad.

And that strange and sad mood spilled our all over the whole story. The atmosphere was great. London at its most depressing. But there were just too many moments of staring out windows, sitting around tables and walks at 3 a.m.

Frieda Klein is a psychotherapist, or, according to her sister in law some kind of a doctor with a bunch of stuff after her name. But she’s also turned out to be a technophobe, Christmas-hater, miserable moron who is scared to be happy.

In fact, it had only been in the last year that she had finally bought an answering machine and she steadfastly refused to have a mobile, to the incredulity of all those around her, who didn’t believe that people could actually function without one. But Frieda wanted to be able to escape from incessant communications and demands.

Because having a mobile means having to be glued to it, doesn’t it? You can’t, like… heaven forbid, put it away or turn it off, can you?

Great start for someone who is supposed to be there for people to help putting their lives back together, right? But her constant negativity would put a damper on any happy person.

‘What am I doing this summer, you mean? I should warn you that I hate flying. And sunbathing on beaches.’

Yes, Frieda, we get it, everything’s shit. But we have no clue why, so it’s just annoying, sorry. I sometimes wondered if she even likes anything, apart from munching on toast in front of the fireplace.

There were quite a few pointless characters. Starting with Sandy, the boyfriend. What for? Poor dude appeared a few times, just so we get it that Frieda is afraid of commitment. I almost started feeling sorry for her that she’s taking so long to trust someone and not staying overnight or letting them come to her place, when the dude dropped a bombshell (new job, moving overseas) and turned out they know each other for some weeks only. WTF?

 

 

View spoiler

Yet, he also thought it was a great idea to suggest she moves with him, and then when didn’t work, to suggest they get married. But sure, he’s the great, reliable dude, isn’t he.

 

 

Jack, Frieda’s student-protege-trainee whatever was another one of these people who just hung around to basically explain the obvious. Josef, the Ukranian dude who drove Frieda around, cooked meals for her and was perpetually confused because he didn’t bloody understand half the time what anyone was talking about and basic words had to be explained to him. Duh. Have they become friends? Fuck knows…

I did like Chief Inspector Karlsson though. A cool dude, who is trying his best. He at least resembled something we’d call a reasonable person.

Since this series is mainly about Frieda, I doubt I will read the next book.

In the Woods by Tana French

In the Woods by Tana French
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Published: 17th May, 2007
Goodreads
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #1
Rating: 4

A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.


This one took me almost a bloody week to finish! Not because it’s bad, quite the opposite. It’s a beautifully written, melancholic story, disguised as a murder mystery. There’s a murder, there are detectives and investigation, but there’s also an unsolved mystery from the past, involving Rob, one of the main characters.

After having quite a few bad experiences with books where I couldn’t care less about any of the characters, this was so refreshing! Both detectives, Cassie and Rob were like real people I would actually want to get to know. Mostly Cassie, but still…

Cassie Madoxx is the only woman in the current murder squad, and if that’s not enough, she’s younger than most of the guys. So obviously she’s the target of all sorts of speculations, how she got there, and who did she sleep with. I loved how straight to point she was, and her determination is admirable. Throughout the story she was the voice of reason in the deepening confusion Rob was going through.

Contrary to appearances, Cassie is not a particularly social person, any more than I am; she is vivacious and quick with banter and can talk to anyone, but given the choice she preferred my company to that of a big group.

Rob Ryan is the somewhat unrealistic narrator. His your typical good looking guy (and he knows it), with a proper accent and great style.

I have a perfect BBC accent, picked up at boarding-school as protective camouflage, and all that colonisation takes a while to wear off: even though the Irish will cheer for absolutely any team playing against England, and I know a number of pubs where I couldn’t order a drink without risking a glass to the back of the head, they still assume that anyone with a stiff upper lip is more intelligent, better educated and generally more likely to be right.

As the story goes on, he becomes more and more insufferable and kind of an asshole. You know the guys who are super cool, but then when you get real close they just up and disappear and it’s your fault? Yeah, those guys… Every now and then I just wanted to reach into the book and shake him, while being utterly conflicted for feeling sorry him as well.

There is a side of me that is most intensely attracted to women who annoy me.

Investigating a child murder is obviously not a walk in the park, but the detective duo come out worse than I could have imagined. Besides the investigation, this book tells the story of the sort of friendship between Rob and Cassie that most people would envy.

Even though the wrap up left me hanging (the original mystery never got solved, WTF??, *gasp*), it made me crave more of Tana French’s books. Took a sneak peak at the second one and can’t wait to see what Cassie is up to next.

Also, where the fuck was I in the last 10 years? I mean… I’ve clearly been living under some rock…

Reading Challenge 2018

I’ve never followed a particular reading challenge before, and always felt it would be too restrictive. I just wanted to read for fun, and not feel pressured into something I might not like, or end up stressing out about something I do for pleasure. Where the hell is the fun in that, right?

For the past couple of years I’d been participating in the Good Reads Reading challenge though, but without any specific theme, just by pledging a number of books to read. In 2017 I’ve read almost double of what I thought I will (and still going!), and it gave me the courage to try something different.

I felt like I always end up picking my “usual” books, and not really venturing outside of my comfort zone.

So, for 2018 I decided to go with the Popsugar reading challenge, as it seems inspiring enough, but not completely bloody oppressive or daunting.

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon
Genres: Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Published: 12th January, 2017 (Penguin)
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 3

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?


I was pleasantly surprised by this book. At first i almost didn’t even give it a try when i saw that Amazon put it under the romance category, but I must say it was far from it.

When i got halfway in the story, i thought “oh no, haven’t we seen this already?”, but thankfully none of the characters trying to outwit each other turned out to be a raging psychopath… *whew*

I quite liked Paula, the main point of view character. She’s a nice lady and a cool mum. All the weird stuff she came up with to “save”, i.e. break up her marriage just sort of made sense for her.

The “other woman” on the other hand… what a piece of work! I guess we were not meant to sympathyze with her, and i can honestly say, i couldn’t have, even if i tried.

This book is certainly not one of those with profound and thought provoking writing, but it’s quite entertaining nevertheless.

His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James

His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James
Genres: Psychological Thriller
Published: 1st January, 2013
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 2.5

Daniel is my son. He has always been mine. And he always will be.

On some level deep inside, Laura Bateman knows something is wrong. That her relationship with her son is not what it should be. That it is based on lies.

But bad things have happened to Laura. Things that change a person. Forever.

For twenty-six-year-old Daniel, the discovery that his mother is not who he thought comes close to destroying him. As his world turns upside down, he searches for sanity in the madness that has become his life. Daniel is left with nothing but questions. Why did Laura do something so terrible? Can he move past the demons of his childhood?

And the biggest question of all: can he ever forgive Laura?


Great story idea, but fell short on the execution. It seems, nowadays the term “psychological thriller” gets thrown around frequently, even when it’s not the case.

There was very little suspense in the story. The chapters alternate between Laura and Daniel, and we find out quite early on why the kidnapping happened, even though the blurb made it sound like this will the most burning question in the book. Laura clearly suffers from some sort of a mental illness, but it’s hardly thrilling, mostly just sad. Despite getting to know her back story, I just couldn’t empathize with her, and I had a feeling that I was supposed to.

Daniel was not much more likable either, but I could at least get behind his anger, frustration and confusion.

The way the plot unfolded was rather far fetched, and I can’t help but feel that it took away from the potential suspense. It’s just my opinion, but I think the revelation about Laura not being his mother could have been more powerful if he stumbled across it by accident, thus confirming his suspicion, as opposed to the way it actually happened.

 

 

View spoiler

That whole thing with him having green eyes, while Laura’s are blue and the alleged father’s brow starting a whole drama with DNA testing is just beyond annoying. I’m the living example of a green eyed person with a blue eyed mom and a brown eyed dad, an no, I was not found in a dumpster…

 

 

His “big reveal” at the end, his “real reason” for hating his so-called-mum, was not a reveal at all. It was clearly coming from miles away. Sometimes I wonder though… Am I reading too many of these types of books and I just got to know the formula, or is it really that obvious?

The dialogues were a pain to read. What is with this constant name calling? Why do you have to repeat the person’s name you are talking to in every other sentence? If anyone talked to me like that for real, I’d rip them a new butthole for sure.

For some reason all the people Daniel encounters in the story are some wise sages, full of understanding and patience, and great advice that could compete with a skillful psychologist, and yet, nobody in the book thinks that seeing an actual therapist could actually help. No way! What is more, they all seem to think that seeing one would actually be more harmful than anything.

Ian mentions seeing the doctor, pills, getting proper help, and I understand exactly what he means. Well, I won’t do it. I’m not going to allow some fresh-faced graduate whose experience of life is all from a textbook to probe around in my thoughts. Someone older wouldn’t be any better either. I doubt any of them would have dealt well with the crap I endured in my early life; what right would they have to throw clichés like ‘broken childhood home’ and ‘unresolved issues’ at me?

Laura going through all sorts of horrors from an early age, mentally unstable, but a psychologist would surely not understand any of it, nobody could. Well, aren’t you a special snowflake? Real mum, suffocating with guilt from the loss of her child, but no skilled professional would be able to help with this. A female friend of Daniel, who goes through some other sort of horrific, life changing experience, where a therapist would be absolutely zero help… Daniel? “I’d rather have a beer and a shag, thank you.” Obviously…

In conclusion, I’m not saying the book is terrible. I see why this kind of story appeals to people, but it’s not something I appreciate.