Review: Blood on Snow

Blood on Snow

Blood on Snow
By Jo Nesbø
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385354196, April 7, 2015, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

Short, quick read but lacking in the depth and complexity that I’ve come to expect from Nesbø.

The Rest of It:

Olav Johansen has been many things and not good at any of them. He tried his hand as a pimp and failed miserably. Also failed at robbing banks, so it’s rather surprising that he’s good at his current job, which happens to be a fixer for a man named Hoffman. The only problem is that Olav’s next job happens to be “fixing” Hoffman’s wife. A bit of a problem since Olav has fallen in love with her.

If I had picked this book up without knowing who wrote it, I’d say it was a “too safe” crime novel but knowing the author and his work quite well, I have to ask the question. Why? Why write a crime novel that has absolutely no suspense whatsoever?

Nesbø is quite successful now. I think anything with his name on it is going to sell regardless of what’s on the page. So maybe he wanted to experiment a little? His decision to focus on the bad guy is a bit different, but what surprised me is that there didn’t really seem to be anyone looking for Olav except other bad guys. Zzzzz.

The book is only 224 pages long and it lacks the element of surprise. There’s no mystery. No dramatic conclusion. I suppose some might consider the ending to be dramatic but I didn’t. I just felt it lacked a pulse. As a standalone novel, it was a quick read and I can see someone grabbing this before boarding a plane but it won’t hold your attention like some of his other books.

In summary, not terribly impressed with this one. His Harry Hole books are much more complex and engaging.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Blue Sun, Yellow Sky

Blue Sun, Yellow Sky

Blue Sun, Yellow Sky
By Jamie Jo Hoang
(Jamie Hoang, Paperback, 9781634433716, April 25, 2015, 316pp.)

The Short of It:

How much does what you see, impact who you are?

The Rest of It:

This is a question I’ve asked myself over the past few months. The eye issues, the eye injury and then my fear of going blind have all played a role in my anxiety over sight. My father lost his vision at the same age I am now and it’s been a fear of mine for a very long time.

So what do I do? I accept a book for review about a young artist who is going blind. Sometimes, books find you at exactly the right point in time.

Aubrey Johnson, a talented artist, is told by her doctor that she has retinitis pigmentosa and will be blind in a mere six to eight weeks. Stunned by the diagnosis, she decides to join her old friend Jeff on a last-minute trip around the world.

Aubrey’s situation is made more complex by the fact that she’s a painter and to a painter, being able to see and being able to render colors properly on the canvas is an absolute necessity. This is why the trip is so important to her. At each destination, she attempts to recreate the scenery before her and at times, she’s terrified of the end result because as each day passes she has slightly less vision than the day before.

What’s great about this book is that it’s hopeful and not at all sad or depressing. Aubrey’s panic over losing her sight is tangible but at the same time, she tries hard to reinvent herself as an artist. It helps that she has supportive people around her and there is an increased level of appreciation for visiting a locale, knowing that you will never see that place the same way again.

I loved the trip around the word (China, India, Israel, Jordan, Brazil, Peru). Aubrey and Jeff stop to visit with old friends and slowly, Aubrey comes to the realization that all is not lost.

If I had one criticism to offer, I’d say that the ending came up a little too fast for me. I wanted to spend a little more time with Aubrey but other than that, I enjoyed the book very much. It gave me a lot to think about and reminded me to appreciate what I have. Ultimately, it’s a feel good story and we can all use a story like it once in a while.

You can buy the book for your Kindle now but the paperback comes out later this week. To learn more about Jamie Jo Hoang, visit her website! This is her first novel!

Source: Sent to me by the author.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Bullet

The Bullet
The Bullet
By Mary Louise Kelly
(Gallery Books, Hardcover, 9781476769813, March 17, 2015, 368pp.)

The Short of It:

Interesting premise but the execution was a little heavy-handed and the outcome, predictable.

The Rest of It:

Caroline Cashion is a 37-year-old professor at a university. She’s got a slew of brothers and is very close to her parents so she’s rather surprised to find out that the pain in her wrist is due to a bullet that is lodged in her neck. An MRI and CT scan reveal what is absolutely impossible for her to believe. Shot? How could she have been shot? There’s no scar to indicate an entry point and yet, there it is, the bullet, clear as day.

The bulk of the story centers around how this bullet managed to find its way to her neck. This alone, makes for an interesting read. It started off slow for me but mid-way through, I was pretty curious to know the scoop and the writing, which started off a little forced, seemed to even out and become more fluid. I enjoyed this middle section quite a bit.

By the last third of the story, I was bothered by the romantic interest. It seemed a little out-of-place, given Caroline’s preoccupation with discovering the truth. As for the ending, it was predictable but given where the story was going, I feel that the author did the best she could with the ending. I think for it to have been any different, something should have happened much earlier on to change the outcome.

I wanted it to be more suspenseful than it was and maybe include more forensics than it did but overall, it wasn’t a bad way to spend an evening.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Pet Sematary

Pet SemetaryPet Sematary
By Stephen King
(Pocket Books, Mass Market Paperback, 9780743412278, 2001, 576pp.)

The Short of It:

Probably one of King’s best.

The Rest of It:

In my late teens, early twenties, I somehow managed to read Pet Sematary twice. I think I read it a second time, right before the movie came out. I remember it being appropriately scary but not overly so. To compare, IT, to this day, is still his scariest book ever but anytime death is involved and you try to change things, you are really grabbing the bull by the horns and things just can’t go well when you try to do that with death. Trust me.

After Louis Creed accepts a position as a university doctor, he and his wife Rachel buy a house in the country and look forward to raising their two small children, Ellie and Gage, in the beauty of God’s kingdom. Except, there is a pesky road that is the main through-way for trucks getting from point A to point B. Across the way, are their elderly neighbors, the Crandalls and oh, let’s not forget the Pet Sematary, which is really the smaller part of an Indian burial ground and which just so happens to be on their property.

Indian burial ground. Yep.

As you can probably guess, that busy road becomes a very important part of the story, as does the Pet Sematary, which is spelled that way because that is how a child chose to spell it years and years ago. The story reads quickly, because once you get to a certain point, you really can’t stop reading as you must know how it all turns out.

As you may recall above, I didn’t think the book was overly scary when I read it in my twenties but that was before kids. Reading it recently, I couldn’t  help but flashback to those times when my kids hurt themselves or how afraid I was of hurting them accidentally. Really, just recognizing how fragile they were. Well, the experience of parenthood adds some additional terror to the mix. For sure.

I read this for the #gangstercats read-along so I definitely had the support of others, which always makes reading a book like this a lot more fun. Plus, we got party favors too! There’s nothing like a good King discussion to bring people together. There was some interest in maybe watching the movie while live tweeting, so if that happens, you’ll hear about it soon.

Pet Sematary Read Along

King’s new book Finders Keepers comes out in June but what shall we read next?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun
South of the Border, West of the Sun

By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679767398, March 2000, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

Success and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.

The Rest of It:

Okay, guys. My love for Murakami is approaching full-on creep level. If I could shrink him down and put him in my pocket, I’d carry him around all day long. Weird, huh?

I saved this book for a long time because it was the last translated novel that I had not read but when my father passed away and I was unable to pull myself out of bed, I reached for it and Murakami’s writing did what I expected it to. It soothed, refreshed, made me ponder life in a big way, and all of a sudden all these feelings were rushing through me again.

This is probably one of my favorite novels, ever. It’s right up there with Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s a plain, simple story about a middle-aged man by the name of Hajime. He has a loving wife, and two beautiful daughters. He owns a couple of very successful Jazz clubs and enjoys the life he’s earned. But deep down, there’s something missing.

Not fully understanding this sense of longing, he’s reminded of a girl he knew in childhood by the name of Shimamoto. She was his everything but that was a long time ago. Is it possible that she even remembers him?

Memory plays a big role in this story and it’s beautifully handled. Murakami paints vivid, broad strokes when it comes to Shimamoto so it’s easy to see why Hajime is so taken with her. In childhood she’s this beautiful, delicate untouchable thing but when she walks into his club one rainy evening, Hajime begins to doubt his own existence and is no longer sure what happiness is.

This novel is full of romantic interludes but I hesitate to call it a romance because it’s much deeper than your typical romance novel. If you are familiar with Murakami’s writing at all, you know that his books can walk the surreal line. Some of his books are way out there, like Kafka and Wind-up but others are more subtle and this one is definitely one of the quiet ones but oh, how I loved it. That last page! That last line. Sigh.

If I want to try Murakami, which book should I read first?

Everyone always asks me which book to read first. It’s really hard to say. I read Kafka on the Shore first and it was like an acid trip. At page 50 I was about to give up on it and then something clicked. But that’s me. I like it when an author surprises me. But I think about 75% of you would run screaming from a room if you picked that one up first.

So then, to be on the safe side, I usually suggest After Dark, which dips into the surreal but not overly so but if you like excitement then that one might not work for you. Then, there are his short story collections. Some of you adore short stories and some of you don’t. But, I have to say that South of the Border, West of the Sun is the one I will recommend for first time readers from here on out. It’s beautifully written and well-balanced. Not too much of any one thing which makes it a good read for first-time readers of his work.

Just for Fun

Check out this cafe which became a hangout for Murakami fans. I’d like to live there.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Bookseller

The Bookseller
The Bookseller
By Cynthia Swanson
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062333001, March 2015, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Blurred lines between what’s real and what’s not keep you guessing in this story about a woman’s longing for a perfect life.

The Rest of It:

In 1962, Kitty Miller is a single woman who runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda. Although being a bookseller is very rewarding, the business is struggling with its current location, away from the excitement of the city. Additionally, her single status makes for a lonely life. With no romantic prospects in sight, Kitty seems to accept her future as an old maid and for the most part, is okay with it.

However, when she falls asleep at night, she visits an alternate world as Katharyn Andersson, who happens to be happily married with children of her own. Her husband Lars is the doting husband of her dreams and although she is fiercely proud of her children, she worries constantly about her one autistic son. In this world, she seems to be living the life that she’s always wanted. But as soon as she wakes, she is returned to the life she lives at Kitty.

Remember that movie Sliding Doors? In it, the character in essence, lives two different lives but at the same time. This is slightly different because the world that Kitty visits is just a bit into the future, 1963 to be exact. Although the device used to carry Kitty into her alternate world is pretty seamless, sleep, I grew tired of it halfway through, knowing that all she had to do to return was simply wake up. However, the author tosses in a nice little twist to keep things interesting so although the story was mostly predictable, not all of it was.

That said, what I felt was missing, was the tug of both worlds. In the movie Big, Tom Hanks finds it hard to return to his life as a boy because he’s found love in his adult life. I WEPT for him. I really did. Here, I was mildly sad for the character but that’s it. I think the author had all the right ideas, but I needed more emotion to tie it all together. I needed to see more conflict within the character herself and in that sense, she was a little thin.

Also, I bet a lot of readers will pick this one up based on the title and cover alone but very little of it has to do with book selling so keep that in mind if you decide to pick it up.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594633669, January 2015, 336pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

A nosy woman on the train witnesses something odd and decides to look into it further.

The Rest of It:

This book is a lot of fun. Lots of page turning, plenty of twists and a classic unreliable narrator. Good stuff.

Rachel is an alcoholic and has lost her job. She rides the train all day to keep her roommate from knowing that she’s now unemployed. Her train happens to pass by the house she once owned with her husband, Tom. Tom is now married to Anna and they live happily in what was once her home. Rachel’s train ride through London is often spent tipping a bottle back. Seeing her old home and sometimes even catching a glimpse of the other woman, is enough to make her drink and drink she does. So much so, that what she sees is often not remembered later.

That memory thing becomes a problem early on.

Yes. It. Does.

Rachel’s daily observances include a couple that she’s come to know as Jess and Jason, names she’s made up to give them substance. She watches them interacting on the balcony of their apartment, and she’s dreamed up a back story for them. But when Jess does something out of character for her, and then a crime is committed, Rachel takes it upon herself to investigate.

As you can imagine, things get out of hand. Rachel sticks her nose into their lives and in the process, ends up involving her ex-husband and his wife. Both, really want nothing to do with Rachel but out of obligation, aware of Rachel’s raging alcoholism, Tom tries to look out for her when he can, which infuriates Anna.

Tension mounts as the story unfolds and when you get to those last few chapters, you can’t help but turn the kids away, let your dinner burn, etc. The ending needs to be read uninterrupted. Don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you.

But, honestly, Rachel’s antics were a little tiring. Just when I started to grow bored with her, some critical piece of info would surface and then I’d be flipping pages again. I suppose that’s a sign of true suspense because there was no way I was going to put the book down. I knew that from the start. Does it deserve the hype? Yes, I think so. If you pick it up for pure fun, you will enjoy it quite a bit. If you pick it apart and compare it to other books, you might find fault with some of it but really, who has the time for that?

Read it, because it’s fun and it’s a great distraction from all the crap going on in the world today.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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