Autumn Reading Challenges

Autumn is coming! Autumn is coming! I’m so excited 😀 Ok, so autumn isn’t my favorite season (allergies suck, ugh), winter is, buuuut… I still love autumn.

Maybe it’s because it’s the promise of winter arriving soon, or because of Halloween (!!!), or because my birthday is 2 weeks before Halloween, or any number of other things, but I love autumn. Not as much as winter, but a lot.

This year, I’ve been in a reading funk and I haven’t been in the mood for the genres I reach for the most. For the past few days, I’ve really been feeling darker books (horror, thrillers, mysteries, gothic lit, etc.), and I’ve been searching for reading events/challenges, read-a-thons, etc. that center around those genres. And I found some!


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R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge

This challenge that runs from September 1st through October 31st is one I think I’ve heard of, and possibly participated in a long time ago. It’s now being hosted by My Capricious Life and Estella’s Revenge, and it sounds like a really relaxed, fun thing, with several “Perils” (levels) to choose from. I’m going with Peril the First, which is to read four books for the challenge.

Some of my possible reading choices for this challenge:

I’m also thinking about reading some Agatha Christie and/or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for this one.

If anyone wants to buddy-read any of these, please let me know because I’d love to partner up to talk about them!


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#FrightFall Readathon

This one is hosted by Seasons of Reading and runs from October 1st-31st, and (as far as I can tell), the only requirement is to read at least one scary book. I’ve been itching for good horror books for ages, so I’m really excited for this one, and I hope I find something that actually scares me.

If you guys have any suggestions for truly terrifying reads, let me know in the comments!


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Gothic September– Edgar Allan Poe read along

For this month, I’m joining this read along hosted by Castle Macabre and it’s So! Exciting! ❤ I love Edgar Allan Poe, and I’m definitely going to try to keep up with the schedule.

 


Bookish Bingo: Fall 2017

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I came across this one, hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews, by accident, and it looks like fun! This seasonal bingo runs from through the autumn season. I’m not sure how well I’ll do, but I love bookish bingo, so I’m going to play. (I wonder if you can count a graphic novel for “Illustrations…” If so, I’ve got one square already.)

I’ve already thought of some picks for about 6 of these, so yay!

 

 

 

 


And, there’s also a Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon coming around on October 21st! I’ve missed the last, like, 4 of these, so I’m hoping to remember this time and actually participate.


 

Whew! That’s a ton of things to (hopefully) inspire me to read a bit more, and more broadly, for the next 2-3 months. I’m super excited about all of these, and I can’t wait to post wrap-ups and see how many things I managed to complete.

 


Are you participating in any reading events this fall? Let me know about them in the comments!

 

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Must Read Mondays: July 3rd

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.


The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (book 1 in the Millennium trilogy) by Stieg Larsson

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cover; links to goodreads

When I read it: January 2012

Genres: contemporary; Scandinavian lit; mystery; thriller; crime

Recommended for: This is a tough one to recommend because I know so many people with different tastes in books who all loved it. So, I’d say just give it a shot and see if it’s for you, but it might take a while to get into it.

Trigger warning for: rape, sexual assault, violence (I think…it’s been a while since I read this so I’m not 100% sure when things happen in the series. Please let me know if I missed something.)

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into a complex and atmospheric novel.

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption.


I read this over 5 years ago, so it’s really fuzzy in my memory, but I do remember that it took me for-ev-er to become invested, and I loved it by the end. My mom (who isn’t much of a reader) was the one who kept pushing me to keep going, insisting it would get better, and she was right. I think it took something like 40-60% and about a week of reading for me, but after that I flew through the rest of the book in like a day.

This isn’t a light book. It isn’t fluffy. It isn’t easy to read at many points. But, it was a very good book (and series as a whole), and I do recommend it quite often when someone asks me about it or for mystery/thriller recommendations.


Did you read it? What did you think of it?

Book Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

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Genres: mystery; contemporary; thriller

Why I read it: Why wouldn’t I want to read it might be simpler. But, I entered and won a giveaway on goodreads for the audiobook, so that’s why I’ve read (listened to, whatever) this so soon.

Who I’d recommend it to: Shakespeare fans, fans of mysteries, people into theater, literally everyone who will hold still long enough for me to gush about this book.

 

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.


Review:

Are you screaming with delighted anticipation yet? I was, and yes, I do mean literally screaming in delight, when I first read the synopsis for the book. I love Shakespeare. I love theater. I honestly should have been a theater kid, but, alas, I ended up in an awful school district that funneled every possible penny into sports and had almost no other clubs and such to join, so it never happened. I did, however, help with the attempt to start a theater club in jr. high, and we thought it would be successful, but not enough of the younger kids were into it, so it fell apart after we moved on.

Back to the book!

First of all, as I said, I listened to this. I had planned to buy a hardback copy (and still plan to do so ASAP, and I’ll probably get the UK edition, too, because damn, that cover), but I lucked out and won the goodreads giveaway for the audiobook. I’m not much of an audiobook listener because my mind tends to wander, and it’s so easy for the narrator to annoy me, but Robert Petkoff did an excellent job, in my opinion. I actually enjoyed his narration so much I checked out Overdrive for other books he’s read, but I wasn’t really into any of them. I’m not sure I would recommend this as an audiobook, though, because there are multiple characters to keep track of and it took me quite a while to keep them all straight in my head while listening. Petkoff did different voices for each, which would normally irritate me because it usually sounds so silly, but I think he pulled it off nicely.

The. Freaking. STORY. Holy crap, this book is my life right now and has left me haunted by The Bard. I tend to quote Shakespeare a lot anyway, but it got a little out of hand while I was reading this, and I woke myself up shouting (why I was shouting, I’m not sure) “Mischief, thou art afoot!” one morning after listening to this right before bed. I also once fell off my chair at a particularly intense part, because a storm came suddenly and startled me. I’ve been finding Shakespeare everywhere since I started this book, which isn’t too unusual because, like I said, I love the Bard, but it’s escalated and I’m convinced this book is the cause. (Yes, I am kind of kidding about that.) I don’t think I’ve stopped thinking about this book for more than a few minutes since I started it, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to end up re-reading it at least once this year, after I buy a hardcover copy. I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself re-reading it more than once this year, though. I just freaking love it.

I can’t say that I saw the end of this one coming, like I usually do with mysteries. Oliver is the main character and the story alternates between his memories and the present day, and I never once guessed this one particular big thing that’s revealed toward the end. I kind of guessed part of what happened, but not the whole thing. It floored me and I had to pause the book, screech into a pillow, walk around and pour myself a drink, then gulp down most of it, before I was ready to hear the rest of the story. I then repeated the screeching, walking, and drinking at the very end. I desperately want more, but I’m glad the book ended where it did. It’s an open ending, which I’m not always a fan of, but I think it was done so well in this case. (It isn’t a true cliffhanger, if you’re opposed to those as I am. There are just any number of possibilities for what happens next.)

The friendships, the intricacies of the relationships, the secrecy, the lies, the jealousy, the betrayals, the loyalty, the drama, the comedy, the tragedy, the—. Ugh. I really have no words for describing just how well done this entire novel is. I’m not sure I found a single fault in it, and I think my husband is ready to buy a copy to stuff in my mouth to shut me up about it 😛

Rio’s writing was absolutely stunning, and this book, her debut, has landed her on my “auto-buy” list of authors. That’s a very, very short list (there are like two other authors on it, maybe three). If I didn’t know this was a debut, I would have never guessed it. Her ability to weave so many threads of story together, conceal things so masterfully, and transport the reader to this little world she’s created is breathtaking. This book is quite possibly going to be my favorite from 2017. I feel oddly guilty saying that because I’ve also read the last two Shades of Magic books this year, and I freaking love V.E. Schwab, but If We Were Villains is at least tied for first place. It’s that good.

Every single character that had more than a passing mention was so fleshed out and real. These people didn’t feel like mere characters in a book. It was like Rio plucked living people out of the world and found a way to bind them in ink. I actually forgot a few times that this was fiction. It reached a point for me that I kept expecting to look up and find myself surrounded by them, and I feel like I know each of them now.

I would give this book all the stars, all the awards, and I can not wait to get a non-audio copy to re-read. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of those books that has about a million sticky flags marking every other line because it’s brilliant. I absolutely recommend it.


While it isn’t really related to the book, I want to take a moment to babble about my absolute ignorance. I have followed Rio on social media for a few years (ok, so I briefly kind of stalked her blog because she’s awesome), and I knew she was writing a book, but I didn’t actually know this was her book until about a chapter in and I found myself thinking that it sounded an awful lot like something she would write. After some googling failed me, I went to her tumblr and found out that it was in fact her book I was listening to. I’m still not sure how I missed that info, but I did, and I’m actually kind of glad I did because I went into reading this with no preconceived notions about it, other than my feelings about the synopsis.


Have you read it yet, or are you planning to? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Book Review: Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

 

Genres: mystery/thriller/suspense; a little horror; a touch of paranormal

 

Why I read it: I really liked The Winter People, so when I saw Jennifer McMahon’s newest book on NetGalley, I had to request it, and was lucky enough to be approved for an e-ARC.

Who I’d recommend it to: Fans of her other books. People who like mysteries, etc., and magical realism.

Publication date: April 25th, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304 ebook | 336 hardcover

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ (3.5 stars)

 

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention of all was the one that Miles claimed came from the mind of Thomas Edison himself–a machine that allowed one to speak with loved ones long passed. Smuggled out of Edison’s laboratory, the blueprints were passed down to Miles, and he’s been using them to protect Eva, her mother, Lily, and her brother, Errol, ever since.

Then, one night when a storm is raging and the river is threatening to flood, the machine whirrs to life on its own. Danger, it says. You’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows is waking up on the side of the river and seeing her mother’s grim face. Eva’s father and brother are dead, their house has been washed away and an evil man is searching for them both. They need to hide.

Eva changes her name to Necco–a candy she always loved–and tries to put everything in her past behind her as she adapts to her new life off the grid. But when her boyfriend is murdered and her mother disappears, she knows that the past is starting to catch up to her.

What really happened the night of the flood? As Necco searches for the truth, her journey unites her with two women who are on desperate quests of their own. And as the trio follows the clues to solving the mystery of Necco’s past, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.


Review:

I’m going to start with the bad/what I didn’t like about this book

 

There wasn’t much, honestly. I did have an e-ARC, so it’s possible that my complaints were addressed before publication (I haven’t had a chance to check a finished copy).

First, I think I’m going to stick with listening to Jennifer McMahon’s books, instead of reading them, from now on. I think her writing style is wonderfully suited for audiobooks, because it really paints a picture of exactly what’s going on. However, that’s not something I’m a huge fan of, generally, while reading. It’s a “telling, not showing” kind of thing, I think. I actually don’t mind some telling, but it was a little much in this book, and some of the descriptions of things went on a bit longer than I would have liked. This is a very small complaint and it’s probably just me being too nitpicky.

My biggest complaint was actually in the last few pages of the book. There was a slur (“It sounded like g***y music…”), which I find in books all the time. It annoys me, but I let it slide with older books. But these days, there’s not much of an excuse for that kind of thing to slip by because 99% of the time there are definitely other words that can be used to describe something. I won’t try to really explain in depth why it’s a slur, because I don’t want to speak for anyone, but here’s a very brief article on it to get you started, and a quick google search can show you more. Basically, no, it does not mean you’re “free-spirited,” or anything like that.

I am not a big fan of multiple points-of-view, and this book has them. It wasn’t bad, but it did slightly irritate me. That’s totally a personal preference thing, though, so if you don’t mind them in general, you’ll probably be fine with the way they’re handled in this book.

 

Now, on to what I did like, characters, etc.

 

The story of the machine was really interesting, and (I think) actually based a bit on fact. I haven’t dug into this to check out facts, but I’m pretty sure that Edison really did have plans and a possible patent to create a device that would–if successful–allow the living to contact their dearly departed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a big feature in the book, even though pretty much the entire plot centered around it. Still, it was very cool to read about when it was mentioned.

The way the past and present and various character connections were woven together was interesting enough to keep me reading almost non-stop after about the halfway point. (It did take me a little while to really get into the story, but I think that was just my mood.) I’ll admit that I actually had everything worked out before the big reveals of all the twists, but I was fine with that and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

I felt for Necco and Theo so much, and I liked both of them a lot. I think I might have enjoyed the multi-POV more if it had been just the two of them. Necco was such a strong young woman, and my heart kept breaking for her. And Theo, oh gosh. I related a little too much to her a few times, and my heart broke for her, too. I’m not exactly sure how realistic all of their actions and reactions were to the things going on, but it was at least mostly believable, I think. If a sequel to this ever came out, and Necco and Theo were in it, I would definitely read it to find out more about how their lives are after the end of this book.

Pru…well, I’m honestly not sure what to say about her. I feel like she was more and less fleshed out than Necco and Theo (I’m not sure if that makes sense, sorry), and I didn’t really end up caring much about her. I felt bad for her, and I was a little proud of some of her actions. She just wasn’t my favorite. But, the circus stuff was cool, and I‘m hoping she found a happy ending because I have nothing against her, I just never loved her.

The Fire Eaters were pretty great. I loved them and I would read a book just about them. I kind of wish we’d learned more than we did, but I’m also happy with most of their story remaining a mystery.

The personal mythology that’s going on in this book is fascinating, in my opinion. The way facts and lies and twisted truths are intertwined was really well done and kept me wanting more. The stories people told others and themselves, the lives they invented, etc. It was all really good, and made me think about my own and those of other people.

 

And now the things I didn’t love or hate, but still want to talk about

 

I won’t say much about the other characters so I don’t spoil anything, but I wish we’d learned more about the villain.

I still want to know the real, whole story about the elephant. I can make assumptions, but I want to know for sure.

There’s also something that wasn’t fully settled (for me, at least) that I’m really curious about concerning Necco, and Matthew’s family. Actually, there are a few things that weren’t talked about by the end that I wish had been, but I guess they’re not super important to the plot. There were just some loose ends I would have liked seeing tied up. I can’t say more without possibly mentioning spoilers, ugh. (I have a few of my questions in the spoiler tags on my goodreads review.)

Would I recommend it? Probably. I didn’t love this one, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading it, and I mostly enjoyed it. It just didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped it would.


If you’ve read it, what did you think of it? Are you planning to read it, if you haven’t yet?

Must Read Monday: May 01

must-read-mondays

Must Read Monday is a weekly thing I do here to recommend books I’ve read and enjoyed. I might sometimes throw in something I gave 3 stars to, but for the most part they’re books I gave a 4-5 star rating to. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily amazing literature, but it does mean I liked them enough to recommend them to other people.

 

twp The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

 

When I read it: January 2017

Genres: horror; mystery/thriller; paranormal

Recommended for: Fans of ghost stories and the kind of horror that slowly builds a creep factor. Think M.R. James’s ghost stories, or movies like Insidious, Dead Silence, Oculus, etc.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble


What it’s about:

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.


I listened to the audiobook of this because the waiting list from the library was shorter, but I think that added to the experience of this book. It had a nice mystery mixed in with the horror, and an interesting twist. I felt so creeped out, like I was being watched, the entire time I was listening to it. If you’re a fan of that sort of thing, I definitely recommend the audiobook with headphones (bonus points for listening to it in the dark while you’re trying to sleep haha :P…not that I did that…ok, yeah, I totally did and it was great).

I’m a huge fan of horror movies, having been raised on them, and I’m honestly a little jaded now. It takes a lot for a horror movie to scare me, and I can count on one hand the number of books that have done the job. This one made the list, and I might actually invest in the audiobook even though I never buy audiobooks. It was that good.

I gave it 4-4.5/5 stars, and you can check out my review here if you want to know more about what I thought of it.


Have you read The Winter People, or any of Jennifer McMahon’s other books? If you have, what did you think?

Book Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

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Genres:
Horror; Thriller; Suspense; Mystery
Why I read it: It’s been on my TBR for ages, and it won the most votes for book of the month in a group I’m in on goodreads.

Who I’d recommend it to: People who like creepy, slow-building horror with minimal gore, like old-school ghost stories.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble

 

What it’s about:

West Hall, Vermont is a strange place with a lot of ghost stories and legends, and a few too many mysterious disappearances. But possibly the strangest story of all is that of Sarah Harrison Shea and what her diary pages from 1908 reveal about her life and the town. Present day residents of Sarah’s home, Ruthie and her little sister Fawn, get sucked into the story of Sarah Shea as they search for their missing mother. As they search, they’re joined (for better or worse) by two strangers who also want to find someone. The secrets they uncover along the way will change their lives forever. The story is told from multiple perspectives, alternating between the past and present, to form a brilliant web of secrets, lies, murder, and magic.

Review:

I was totally caught off guard by this book, but in a really good way. I went into it expecting one thing, but what I got was exactly what I had nearly given up hoping for in horror novels. Well, except the ending, but I’ll get to that.

First, that cover! I remember when I started seeing ads for this before it was released back in 2014 and thinking, “That is an interesting, creepy cover. I have to check it out.” And then, of course, I didn’t. Until now, finally!

This book seriously creeped me out, and I’m so glad. It’s rare for me to find a book that truly makes me feel unsettled, but this one did. Almost the entire time I was reading it, I felt watched. *cue spooky, ominous music* I also absolutely blew through this book. I read it in a day, despite being sick, and I still want more. The combination of great pacing, evocative storytelling, and my inability to even guess at what was going on or what was going to happen, propelled me onward until the very last page.

I liked Sarah, and Ruthie and Fawn, but everyone else failed to gain my sympathy or favor. I think it’s mostly because they were featured less, so I didn’t get a chance to know them as well as those three, but a few of them I absolutely despised.

The ending, though. Ugh. I was reasonably certain this would be a 4.5-5 star book, until the last few pages. They underwhelmed me so much I knocked it down to 4 stars. It’s still a perfectly nice book, but the ending was a little too short and rushed for my taste. I also have so many questions, but I feel like getting the answers to all of them would take away from my enjoyment, so I’ll happily live in ignorance and just wish for a sequel to answer a few.

Overall, though, I really liked it and have added some other books by Jennifer McMahon to my TBR.

Book Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel
Published February 3rd, 2015 (English translation)
Genres: Crime Mystery/Thriller

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (3.5)

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Nobel | Book Depository

(*I received a copy from NetGalley free in exchange for an honest review*)

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Louise Rick has just been put in charge of the Missing Persons Department and her first case involves a woman who was found dead by a forest ranger in the are she grew up. No one has reported her missing, and no on seems to know who the woman is or recognize her. Identification should be easy because the woman has a large burn scar covering a large part of her face, but everyone the police talk to seem to have never seen the woman before. Finally, once a photo is released to the media, someone recognizes the face of the deceased woman and contacts Louise. She says the woman was once a child at a mental institution where parents left their children and were urged to forget them. Her name had been Lismette and she has supposedly been dead for 30 years already. An even bigger twist: Lismette had a twin sister who was also declared dead the same day.

As Louise is drawn back to places she spent much of her childhood, she has to face painful memories she thought long buried. Through the investigation into Lismette’s death and whereabouts from the last three decades, more murders are revealed and linked to Louise’s current case. People are keeping secrets and hiding things from the police, and where this leads Louise turns out to be filled with shocks and revelations for her.

MY REVIEW:

This story took a while for me to really get into. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected when I started reading it.  The plot wasn’t entirely unique, but I still found myself speculating about how it would turn out, and there were a couple of twists I didn’t see coming. I did kind of predict a couple of things, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment very much at all. The story had  a few bits that I found kind of unbelievable toward the end, though.

I did not know, going into it, that this book is kind of part of a series. However, it can be read as a stand alone because—as far as I can tell—this is the first one featuring Louise Rick as the main character, while earlier books focused on her friend Camilla. I didn’t find myself confused very much, but I think I would have had a better idea of who some of the characters were if I’d read other books first. The author did a good job of giving enough background information to help readers catch up, though.

The premise of this book was great. The body of a woman who supposedly died 30 years ago is found, but where has she been all this time? What about her twin sister? Is she still alive? Have they been together all this time, and if so, where is the sister now? Add in the the other unsolved crimes that we find out about and this should have been a thrilling read. But, for me, it wasn’t. I have to wonder if some things might have been lost in translation.

I never connected with any of the characters, or felt for them very much. I thought Eik (Louise’s new partner at work) was intriguing, but we don’t get to learn very much about him, except that he smokes a lot, seems to be fighting some personal demons, and probably drinks too much. Louise’s back story was also interesting, but again we didn’t find out much about it. I want to know more details about her fiance and his old group of friends. Maybe in later books that will be addressed.

I can’t say much more without possibly giving spoilers, but I will say that I enjoyed this book overall. If you like crime mysteries/thrillers—particularly Scandinavian ones—you might want to check out this author.