The Wife Between US by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between US by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Genres: Thriller, Suspense
Published: 2nd January, 2018
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 4

A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife and her obsession with her replacement.
You will assume you are reading about a woman about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.
You will assume the first wife was a disaster and that the husband was well rid of her.
You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.
Assume nothing.

This one was damn twisty, guys, damn twisty! You know how you get those blurbs sometimes, promising an edge of the seat thriller with unexpected turns and after the first chapter you just kind of roll your eyes and go “Yeah, right…” Well, this one promised a gripping thriller, and it delivered. Since we are told from the beginning that we are being played, the only thing left for us to do is to sit back and enjoy the ride.

I was properly hooked in from the get go. The chapters alternated between Vanessa, the “crazy ex”, and Nellie, a young and sweet pre-school teacher, preparing to marry the amazing Richard. There was one eyeroll-worthy moment at the end of the first part, and I thought “Oh, please not this again!”, but soon after that shit hit the fan.

Assume nothing!

There are quite a few domestic thrillers out there with similar premise: a woman obsessed with some dude who is married, has a girlfriend, not interested, you name it, and they just have to get him. Majority of these women however are rather insufferable. Just think of The Last Mrs. Parrish or The Girlfriend: both of those lead characters were proper bitches.

Vanessa comes across pretty unhinged, and yet I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards her. I loved her relationship with her aunt, and Aunt Charlotte herself is a pretty sweet character. With her calmness, and the air of artsiness around her she’s quite the opposite of Vanessa who is all over the place, and quite frankly a mess.

Set in New York, this quick page turner has great characters, an intriguing sub-plot, and an unexpected ending I did not see coming.

I’ll be on the lookout for more from this duo.

Get The Wife Between Us: A Gripping Psychological Thriller with a Shocking Twist You Won’t See Coming on Amazon UK.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Published: 25th April, 2017
Goodreads
Series: Björnstad #1
Rating: 5

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


Beartown is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. It’s a book about small town communities, mothers, fathers, team spirit, the sort of friends you have when you are fifteen, the love of hockey, and loyalty: to your team, to your family, to your town.

There are few words that are harder to explain than ‘loyalty’. It’s always regarded as a positive characteristic, because a lot of people would say that many of the best things people do for each other occur precisely because of loyalty. The only problem is that many of the very worst things we do to each other occur because of the same thing.

It’s dark and uncomfortable at places, but there’s always a glimmer of hope.

This book was an emotional roller coaster for me. I come from a small town myself, and know all too well how it feels when all eyes are on you and there’s no way to blend in to the faceless crowd.

There are thousands of ways to die in Beartown. Especially on the inside.

It takes great skills to manage such a large cast of characters efficiently, and Fredrik Backman does just that. All their unique voices come through clearly, hitting you in the feels with great precision. Beartown sucks you in, makes you wonder about the same things that occupies many of its inhabitants minds. Can winning a hockey match be more important than people? Even if that hockey is the town’s only chance of survival? Or are they just closed minded to think it is, and there would actually be other ways?

It’s a Friday in early March in Beartown and nothing has happened yet. Everyone is waiting. Tomorrow, the Beartown Ice Hockey Club’s junior team is playing in the semi final of the biggest youth tournament in the country. How important can something like that be? In most places, not so important, of course. But Beartown isn’t most places.

The town’s economy is dwindling, but there are still people who do much better than others. We get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and the poor just the same, and they all have their own struggles. Not even the most privileged ones have an easy time here.

A great deal is expected of anyone who’s been given a lot.

A horrible act is committed, and in its wake personal tragedies unfold. Nobody seems to be untouched by the events one way or another. The small community is divided. We, as readers are right there when the crime is committed, the silent witnesses all the nastiness. Yet, I think, there will still be some among us whose outrage will be entirely misplaced. I often entertain the idea that we, bookish people are gentle souls with open minds and a great sense for right and wrong. The truth is, people are people and some of us will bend the story out of shape, just to support our own ideas and beliefs, no matter how warped they might be.

They are probably people who live secure lives, who are surrounded by people who share their own opinions and only talk to people who reinforce their own worldview.

What can a friendship survive?

Beartown is not about happy endings. This is what I love so much about Scandinavian authors, TV series, and films. They are not afraid of the dark. They embrace it, and make it okay somehow.

This book will make you ask some very uncomfortable questions to yourself.

There are damn few things in life that are harder than admitting to yourself that you’re a hypocrite.

P.S. For us, UK folks, this was published as The Scandal.


Get Beartown on Amazon UK (hardcover).

Reading Prompt: A book that involves a bookstore or library #39

According to the diploma I obtained at uni, I’m a librarian. I mean, information scientist, to be precise. Although I have always dreamed about working in a library, spending time among books, I’ve never actually had a job in one. Based on all the stories I’ve read involving librarians, I probably romanticized the idea way too much.

Part of one my uni assignments was to spend sixty hours in our town’s library, and damn, was it awful! I admit, I probably wouldn’t have hated it so much if I got a placement in a nicely equipped library, packed full with all the latest tech, but the lack of working equipment and the constant darkness (the building was an old synagogue) put me off pretty well. We still used those old school index catalogues that were basically little printed index cards in a massive chest of drawers. Good luck finding shit! Before anyone quips in that it was perfectly acceptable in the ’80s, let me make one thing clear: we are talking about 2007.

So, for now I’m just going to stick to books about librarians and quirky little bookstores, where my sentimental ideas live on uninterrupted.

The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard
A mystery set in Coppenhagen. After the violent death of Luca Campelli his son, Jon, inherits Luca’s bookshop Libri di Luca, and all sorts of suspicious stuff starts happening.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
Danger, clues, secret societies are only a few things Irene, a spy for the mysterious Library, will face in this story while collecting books from other realities.

Adrian Mole: The Capuccino Years by Sue Townsend
Adrian Mole, whom we first met when he was 13 and 3/4 years old, is now all grown up and is working in a book shop. He still writes his diary, and he’s still an annoyingly funny intellectual. I have read this book many times, but I’m tempted to pick it up again.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
Lydia, a bookstore clerk, investigates the death of a customer after she inherits his books filled with mysterious and disturbing messages.

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Jess Brightwell, son of a black market book smuggler, is sent to apply for a scholar position at the Library, where they value knowledge more than human life.

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with an ugly cover #38

This is probably one of the most subjective prompts. What do you find aesthetically pleasing? What fills you with absolute horror?

I went through my ever growing list of books I want to read and picked the ones I’ve been putting off for ages, purely because of their dreadful covers. Yes, I’m shallow.

So, I’m going to close my eyes, and give these uglies some love.

Eleven Kind of Loneliness by Richard Yates
A collection of short stories exploring loneliness, failure, heartbreak, and the potentials of purple font in one’s cover design choices…

Roadside Picnic by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
A shortish sci-fi gem about Red Schuhart, a stalker, who ventures into the Zone to collect mysterious artifacts left behind by aliens. Stalker, the famous movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky was loosely based on this book.

Accelerando by Charles Stross
A sci-fi story set somewhere between 2010 and 2015, involving cutting edge of intelligence amplification technology and a robot cat. Meow!

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover
A testosterone filled fantasy story set in a futuristic, dystopian world and an alternate reality called Overworld. If this is not epic, then I don’t know what is… The buff dude on the cover is all right, I can live with that, but damn, those fonts look proper heavy!

Parable of the Sower by Olivia E. Butler
A coming of age story set in a near future (2025) where people live in small, walled communities to protect themselves from the drug crazed scavengers.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
A science fiction story set in our present days, revolving around an event called the Big Blackout that made all the stars go out at once. No more romantic, stare gazing dates… There was a time at some point in my kindergarten years when I also loved combining green with a lot of purple.

Dark Water by Koji Suzuki
A short story collection by the author of the Ring. Need I say more? Bonus: once you start reading, you won’t see the cover.

If you need more inspiration to find ugly covers, you can join us in the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group.

Happy hunting!

Where the Memories Lie by Sibel Hodge

Where the Memories Lie by Sibel Hodge
Genres: Mystery
Published: 22nd September, 2015
Goodreads
Series: N/A
Rating: 3

Chilling family secrets, obsession and decades-old lies. How well do we really know the ones we love? A gripping psychological thriller from the #1 bestselling author of Look Behind You.
Twenty-five years ago Katie ran away from home and never came back. But now she’s suddenly reappeared in her best friend Olivia’s life—in the form of a chilling confession. Olivia’s father-in-law, wracked with guilt, says he murdered her all those years ago. Tom suffers from Alzheimer’s and his story is riddled with error and confusion. Except for one terrifying certainty: he knows where the body is buried.
As Olivia and the police piece together the evidence, they are left with one critical question. They have a crime, they have a confession, and now they have a body—but can any of it be trusted?


So, a family secret, you say? Blurted out by a frail Alzheimer’s patient? Would you really take everything at face value from someone who only last week was under the impression that he’s Gregory Peck? The story had potential, but imagine you stumble upon this secret in the man’s diary. The one he’d written when he was still at full mental capacity… Now that, I could get into.

This book is not really a suspenseful thriller, more a story about a tight knit family and the lengths they would go to protect those they love the most. How far would you go to keep a secret that could destroy your family? Would you ignore all your values and beliefs if they were not suitable anymore? Maybe you are one of those people who is a firm believer of giving out the highest possible sentence to criminals. But if it’s your child on trial? Would that make a difference?

We see the plot unfold from Olivia’s point of view. She’s Tom’s daughter in law, and potentially one of the most annoying characters I came across in recent months. As a nurse, I expected her to be the voice of reason, but as the outsider so to say, of course she had to be the one who triggers all the digging into the past. It just didn’t seem that plausible to me, purely because of the way she found out about the secret.

As we go along, the uneasiness grows, accusations fly around and everyone seems suspicious. Olivia is off the rocker, and the most painful of it all is that she doesn’t use her brain. You want to accuse someone? Fine, but at least don’t show all your “evidence”.

The end twist was nicely done, and I’m actually happy with the resolution. Is it a bit far fetched? Maybe. But I’ve learnt watching all those true crime documentaries is that people are capable of anything.

Get Where the Memories Lie on Amazon UK.

Reading Challenge Prompt: A book about or involving a sport #19

Whether you are going through the topics in order, or randomly, or ignore some, reading challenges are a good way to get inspiration for your book pics. It’s the first time I actually decided to join one. Other than joining the Goodreads Popsugar Challenge group for ideas, I’m not following any particular order they set. I feel I already imposed enough restrictions on myself. I’m such a free spirit, I know…

The first prompt that grabbed my attention was the sports related one. I’m not a fan of anything or anyone, don’t enjoy or follow any sports in particular, but this doesn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy a book that has something to do with it. On the contrary. As long as it’s fiction, there’s always hope.

I was very liberal when I picked these eight books, but hey… If you are a sports hater like me, or just don’t enjoy technical non-fiction, these are all safe bets.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The book is about a murder, set in a small Swedish town whose only hope for revival is their up and coming ice hockey team.

Trail of Murder (Lee Squires #1) by Christine Andreae
An English teacher & poet turned cook as a protagonist, murder, hiking and horse riding through the wilderness. I told you I was liberal with my pics, and yes, hiking is a sport.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
A story about a fifteen-year-old gymnastics prodigy, murder, jealousy and ambition.

Spud by John van de Ruit
The absolutely hilarious story of John ‘Spud’ Milton, his friends (The Crazy Eight), prepubescent anguish and the love of cricket, set in a posh South-African boarding school during the early ’90s.

Deal Breaker by Harlan Koben
Secrets and lies surround sports agent Myron Bolitar and his favourite rookie quarterback Christian Steele in this suspenseful novel.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
A little girl lost in the woods, kept alive by her love for baseball and her fantasies about her favourite player, Tom Gordon coming to her rescue.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King
The chilling story of William ‘Blockade Billy’ Blakely, the greatest baseball player with a dark secret.

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
A book about the struggles and dreams of running back Mick Johnson who is trying to navigate the cruel world of american football.

New Year, New Books

Happy New Year, fellow readers!

Pic from: Ian Schneider via Unsplash

Hope none of you are suffering from hangover from last night’s celebrations. I spent my New Year’s Eve watching Attack on Titan, stuffing my face with the most amazing festive burger ever (Camembert and cranberry sauce, just sayin’), and sipping on some whiskey because I like to think I’m sophisticated.

This morning the Goodreads Reading Challenge opened for 2018, and feeling empowered by last year’s success, I pledged another 65 books for this year.

So, what’s the plan for 2018 then?

Complete the Popsugar 2018 Reading Challenge. My first reading challenge ever, and while most of the topics are super inspiring and look like fun, I expect I will end up reading some weird shit along the way.

Finish Shift by Hugh Howie. This is the second book in The Wool Trilogy, and I’ve been struggling with it since last July. It’s only 500 pages, so I should have been done with it ages ago, but every time I read a chapter I just get depressed and look for something else. Why finish then? Apparently the third part, Dust, is awesome, and I can’t just skip the middle one, can I…

Get rid of some of my books that are just collecting dust and taking up space. I usually go through my shelves at least once year and donate a bunch of books to charity.

Organize my books on my Kindle. Even though they are not taking up actual shelf space, they can get messy pretty quickly, especially they way I bulk buy e-books. I knew I could create collections but until now I just couldn’t be bothered, because why do it today, if you can do it tomorrow, or in fact why bother, if you don’t have to. However, after I recently stumbled upon some books I had not a single clue I owned, I think it’s time…

Let 2018 bring us new adventures, great books, and fun times!

What are your reading plans for this year? Doing any challenges?

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.