BOOK REVIEW | The Outsider by Stephen King

4/5 stars

The first half of this book was such a blast, and one of the best thriller / mystery / police procedurals I’ve read in a long time. I was powering through at a pretty quick pace, until about the half way mark when the story takes a severe left turn. I like to go into books pretty blind, so I wasn’t aware that there would be a connection to the Bill Hodges trilogy. King loves connecting his stories together, but unfortunately I found this took away from an otherwise stellar narrative.

The premise: a young boy is violently killed but the prime suspect, coach Terry Maitland, has an indisputable alibi. Multiple eye witnesses claim to have seen Terry near the scene of the crime and with the victim, but there is no way he can be responsible – a man can’t be in two places at once. Due to the horrific nature of the crime police are looking to make an arrest ASAP to ensure the public feels safe, and when the DNA comes back as a match they arrest Terry publicly, leaving tragedy behind for his family. As the story progressive it becomes more and more apparent that Terry can’t be responsible, but DNA doesn’t lie…

If you haven’t read the Bill Hodges trilogy and would like to, do not read The Outsider first. It’s a stand-alone book, but will spoil the series for those who haven’t read it. When the mystery seems impossible to solve, King brings back Holly Gibney from his trilogy (which I loved) – the anxious, quiet, yet shockingly astute partner who played a pivotal role in those books. This is also the point in the book that dives into the supernatural, which can go either way for me. I generally don’t like supernatural stories, but King often does it extremely well. It was good here, just not as good as the first half of the story.

I love Stephen King, and this was so close to being a home run! My review sounds a bit negative but I really enjoyed the book, even though it felt a bit disjointed. Fans of King will appreciate his dedication to continuing to surprise, even with so many stories under his belt.

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BOOK REVIEW | Snap by Belinda Bauer | Man Booker Prize 2018

5/5 stars

What a journey! This was a a fantastic crime read that packed an emotional punch in its last few lines. If you enjoy police procedurals and are looking for a unique story, this is a must-read. For readers that want to try the genre and are uncomfortable with the vast amounts of graphic violence in most crime novels (not me), this will satisfy as well.

Jack, Joy, and Merry are waiting by the side of the road in their broken down car: their mother had gone to call for help and would be back soon. An hour passes, and the kids decide go searching for her, unaware that they would never see her again – she was found stabbed to death days later. Three years pass, and the kids are living alone in their family’s house having slipped through all the cracks in the system.

Jack, the eldest at 14, turns to burglary to take care of his sisters. When he thinks he discovers a key to his mother’s death, he takes an unconventional approach to get the police to re-open the investigation. Meanwhile, a pregnant lady named Catherine, experiences a home invasion while her husband is away for work. These two narratives play out simultaneously, seemingly unrelated. Their stories, however, will soon collide.

There were a few elements that didn’t work for me; a secondary character named Smooth Louis, for example. He’s a mentor to Jack / petty criminal who is obsessed with removing all hair from his body. He’s always shaving it away, but we have no idea why. It’s never explained and his character doesn’t go anywhere. I’m all for weird for the sake of weird, but it just didn’t make sense in this book. Secondly, Bauer likes to call everyone fat. I can’t tell you how many times in this book her characters are described as fat and disgusting – it was a bit much. I’m sure there are more creative ways to describe someone’s size.

I sort of wanted to give this book 4 stars, but it was so damn addictive that I have to give it 5. This was an incredibly interesting choice for the Man Booker longlist – it’a an excellent crime read and I’m curious as to why the judges decided to include this genre into the prize for 2018. Looking forward to reading more of the longlist next!

BOOK REVIEW| Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri

4/5 stars

I absolutely loving diving into a new, meaty, crime book and Kill the Father did not disappoint. The first installment in Italian author Sandrone Dazieri’s ‘Colomba Caselli’ series was a great start to what will hopefully be an ongoing project. I love a good crime book, and this one hit all the right spots – a complex, deeply woven, murder-mystery with an unlikely pairing set on solving the case.

A boy and his mother go missing, and detective Colomba Caselli, on leave from work after suffering a trauma of her own, is called upon to look at the details of the case. With reluctance, she becomes involved in the case, and is introduced to someone who is believed to have insight into the mystery.  When Dante Torre was a boy, he was held captive for years by a man known only as The Father. He eventually escapes and manages to rebuild his life. With a new boy missing, Dante must re-open this dark chapter of his life and prove to the police force that The Father is very much alive and still at work.

This story is heavily character-driver, and soon the initial mystery that drew me in – a boy and his mother go missing – eventually becomes a part of the backstory. We discover more about Colomba and Dante, and the focus shifts to uncovering who The Father is and how he is committing his crimes. I missed a bit of the intensity that comes from similar stories where time is everything, and the hunt of the missing child is the focus, though I enjoyed the character progression and look forward to re-visiting these characters again. There was a focus on mental health and trauma that were a welcome addition to a formula that crime fiction fans know well. I could have used some more grit too, but I think that says more about me than it does the book!

This is a nice addition to any crime fiction collection, and the cliffhanger in the very last line of the book will definitely have me reaching for the second installment when it is released.

BOOK REVIEW | Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

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4/5 stars

From the publisher:
Olav lives the lonely life of a fixer. When you ‘fix’ people for a living – terminally – it’s hard to get close to anyone. Now he’s finally met the woman of his dreams. But there are two problems. She’s his boss’ wife. And Olav’s just been hired to kill her. From the bestselling author of BAFTA-nominated Headhunters, comes Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow: a short, sharp shock of a thriller.

My thoughts:
This was my second Jo Nesbø read, and I am so enamored with his writing. I loved, and raved about, The Son, and Blood on Snow packs a similar emotional punch. Nesbø writes characters you fall in love with, regardless of their criminal acts.

Olav is a “fixer”, or hitman, for a notorious drug distributor. He doesn’t like what he does but circumstances have led him to this path, and he knows he’s good at his job. When a job goes wrong after Olav strays from his directions, he becomes the target and ends up taking his boss’ wife into hiding with him to protect her. Olav reaches out to his boss’ main competitor, “The Fisherman”, for help and they set out to fix him first.

The storyline is compelling and keeps you flipping the pages, but it’s Olav that makes the book so impactful. He’s a reader and a romantic, spending his time thinking about the love story in Les Miserables and relating it to his own life. As we learn about his childhood he becomes more sympathetic, regardless of the brutal crimes he has committed.

This book is violent with some pretty shocking moments, but it’s impressive how much depth Nesbø delivers in this short story. I’ve been itching to start the Harry Hole series for ages, and with the latest installment coming out soon, it may be time. I’ll also be reading the companion to this book, Midnight Sun, when it arrives in the mail. If you’re looking for an unconventional crime read, be sure to pick this up!

BOOK REVIEW | The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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4.5/5 stars

From the publisher:
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

My thoughts:
Well, that was a hell of a ride! I am so glad I finally picked up Stieg Larsson’s landmark book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I knew I would enjoy this book, so I don’t know why it took me so long to get to it. It was an absolute pleasure to read the book that changed the face of Swedish crime fiction, and I’m going to be jumping into the next installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire, pretty quickly! Larsson’s story has it all: a compelling mystery, complex psychology, dark family secrets, action, tension, passion, twists and turns, and an unconventional, kick-ass heroine.

After journalist Mikael Blomkvist is convicted of libel, he is mysteriously asked to meet with Henrik Vanger, an aging businessman, who would like to hire him for a personal assignment. With his career on hold and his life turned upside down, Blomkvist decides to go to the meeting, but is suspicious about what Vanger promises. Vanger wants to hire Blomkvist for 1 year to unearth the truth behind a puzzling family mystery; in turn he will offer Blomkvist generous pay and the ability to clear his name as a journalist. After much hesitation, Blomkvist takes the job, and so the adventure begins.

Enter Lisbeth Salander – a tattoo covered, pierced, and bleak young woman who just happens to be an incredibly talented hacker and private investigator. She works when she wants, lives by her own rules, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. We learn about her past, and the troubling path that has led her to where she is now. She has endured a hard life, and refuses to relinquish control now that she has it back. Naturally, Blomkvist and Salander end up teaming up, becoming one of the best duo’s I’ve read about in any crime book. Their respect for each other is palpable, and I love that their skills and partnership and completely equal. They each bring something to the table that serves the other well.

There are a couple elements that I found a bit funny, but not necessarily distracting: the technology, and the love of sandwiches. When this book was written in the early 2000’s, all of the technology described by Stieg would have been cutting edge and impressive – today, it dates the book a bit. That said, I actually enjoyed reading these scenes, there are just a lot of them! Secondly, sandwiches. Yes, sandwiches. Please tell me someone else has noticed this – the characters in this book are always eating or making multiple sandwiches! I really should have kept tabs on the sandwich scenes in this book. There are SO many!

So, with that, I loved this book! Salander gets under your skin, and you can’t help but love her and want more of her story. The final 2 pages leave us with a bit of a crummy cliffhanger, so I cant wait to see where things go in the next book.

BOOK REVIEW | And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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5/5 stars

From the publisher:
First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My thoughts:
This won’t be so much of a review, rather a reflection on how incredibly fun this book was to read! This was my first Agatha Christie, and I can’t wait to dig further into her collection.

And Then There Were None is a classic whodunit murder mystery with some interesting psychological twists thrown in. This is the story of 10 individuals who have been invited out to Soldier Island as private guests for the weekend. We quickly discover that whoever has summoned them to the island has a sinister plan in mind; following along with the eerie poem “Ten Little Soldiers”, the guests begin to die, one by one. The guests naturally begin to suspect each other, and tension builds as their numbers dwindle. Before long there are only two left, and the reader is left to make assumptions about who the killer is. The final revelations at the denouement had me flipping back to see what I had missed! This is a book I will definitely re-read over and over again in the future.

Christie’s narration is fast-paced and provides only the necessary amount of backstory to move the the plot along. She’s witty and straight to the point, and I can see how greatly she influenced the mystery genre. I’m currently reading Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin, so I’ve got Shirley on the brain these days! While Reading ATTWN, I immediately drew comparisons to Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House: in each work, a group of individuals are sent letters and invited somewhere a bit mysterious, and – mild spoiler alert – they are both essentially works concerned with psychology. I’d love to go deeper into these topics, but that might be something for a future blog post.

In short – I absolutely loved this book. If you’re a fan mystery or crime fiction do yourself a favor and pick this up right away!

READING RESOLUTIONS | January 2017 Releases

I’m a mood reader – I pick my next read purely based on what I feel like in the moment. I don’t plan on changing my method any time soon, as reading is as much about enlightenment and diversity as it is about enjoyment for me.

That said, I tend to read a lot of backlist books while amazing new releases fall to the wayside. The Mothers and LaRose are examples of books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on, but are still in my TBR pile. This year, my goal is to allow myself room for a few new releases each month. I want to say on top of exciting new fiction, and not feel like I missed out when December rolls around!

An aside – all bets are off in March when the CBC holds its annual Canada Reads competition. The long list is out now and the short list will be revealed on January 31st!

Without further ado, here are my most anticipated books of January 2017. Looks like a great month for thriller and crime releases!

IMG_4490.JPGAllegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

img_4486Everything You Want me to Be by Mindy Mejia

img_4487The River at Night by Erica Ferencik

img_4488The Girl Before by JP Delaney

img_4489This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel