Sunday, 25 June 2017

Sunday Confessional: Why my TBR Pile Never Gets Smaller


Hello my name is Heidi and I’m a bookoholic ...


After ruthlessly culling my TBR pile the other day, there are still 356 books remaining on it. A friend once asked me: "But you read all the time! Why does your TBR get bigger rather than smaller?"


I need books for survival:


Apparently you need water, food and oxygen for survival. Hang on a minute! What about books? Has anyone said anything about books?

Big mistake! I should have kept quiet, because now I’ve done it – I woke the demon! The pesky little devil sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear in his evil wheedling voice: “Go on, what’s the harm? Just one more new book. You won’t even notice it on your TBR pile.” After bravely ignoring it for about 5 minutes (ok, ok, maybe it was only about 30 seconds) the doubts started creeping in. 

What if there was a tidal wave, and our part of the world was cut off from any civilisation or – horror – internet? What if there was a war, a famine, an epidemic of flesh eating bacteria that saw us confined to our houses for years on end (even though being a nurse they would probably call me in to work for that). What if the pile of books I managed to stockpile up until now would be it – finite, zappo. No way would my TBR pile last me until the end of my life, no matter how Alpine it looks to me right now. I could imagine happily eating a stockpile of baked beans and spaghetti-oh’s for the rest of my life, if need be, but live off a restricted number of books? Never! Instantly regretting lending my copy of Tana French's The Likeness to an ex-friend, who never returned it, and therefore reduced my meagre fare of books for survival by one more (thus the "ex").

I instantly panicked, fired up my ipad at 2 a.m. and requested 3 more new books from Netgalley, not only because they looked particularly enticing (they did), but if this was IT, I needed a few more companions for the apocalypse. Anxiously watching my (sketchy) internet connection before the end-of-the-world scenario could interrupt the download, I watched in fascination as my Netgalley ratio dropped even further away from my goal. And my TBR pile grew even bigger. And my list of reads for the next month will demand undivided attention to get the reviews out in time. If I don’t eat, and only sleep three hours per night, I might even make it!

And this, folks, is the reason my TBR pile never gets any smaller.


Bookoholism – it’s a real thing.


Is there a cure?


Do you suffer from it?




Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review: WHEN I WAKE UP by Jessica Jarlvi


Author: Jessica Jarlvi
Publisher:
Aria
Read:
June 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟


Book Description (Goodreads):

When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife's secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she's lying silent in a hospital bed... 

My musings:

Who would assault and almost kill a young mother and popular teacher, so much respected in the community that she has recently won the “teacher of the year” award? According to Anna’s friends and family, she had no enemies, no one who would wish her harm. Fighting for her life in ICU, Anna herself is unable to shed any light on the situation. Anna’s little twin boys are devastated that their mummy is not coming home, and her overwhelmed husband Erik is becoming convinced that the police have hit a dead end investigating the assault.

The more we delve into the storyline, brimming with dysfunctional and sometimes outright obnoxious characters, the more we become aware that not all is as it appears on the surface. Each and every character in this book has a nasty secret or two, and, ultimately, a reason to kill. Jarvli does a good job setting a dark and disturbing scene with an underlying sense of menace throughout, and reveals snippets of each character’s life through alternating POVs.

I love a good Scandinavian thriller and their honest exploration of the darkest corners of the human psyche, and although I did not get the same sense of locale and atmosphere as a lot of others in the genre, Jarlvi is certainly not afraid to shy away from controversial topics in this novel. Unlike many other murder/mysteries, the police investigation features only very peripherally in this book, and the main focus always rests on the various characters involved in Anna’s life, who each could turn out to be her attacker. Perhaps the main “investigator”, if you could call him that, is Anna’s husband Erik, who has a lot of questions regarding his wife’s attack, and starts looking into her personal affairs a bit more closely – and there is nothing better in a mystery than a spouse who discovers that their loved one may have had secrets they know nothing about.

I was not so fond of some of the explicit sexual scenes in the book, but that is just my personal opinion and other people may enjoy the way they spice up the story and add further complications to the already rather complex relationships featured. Since I am not a fan of romance novels, I could easily have done away with quite a lot of the sexual tension, which would have moved the story along a bit better. As it was, the middle of the book dragged a bit for me, only to gain momentum again towards the end, as we begin to narrow down the suspects.   And whilst I did not find the resolution of the mystery totally satisfying (for reasons I will not divulge here), it certainly had a surprise element.


Summary:

When I Wake Up is a well-written mystery from a new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction. Focusing on a young woman’s brutal assault, it explores the relationships surrounding the victim from several POVs and takes the reader on a dark and sinister journey into the deepest, darkest corners of the human psyche. Lovers of Scandinavian noir and domestic noir, who are not put off by some sexual tension and explicit sexual scenes, may find this novel exactly what they have been looking for. 


Thank you to Netgalley and Aria for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.





Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Review: DO NOT BECOME ALARMED by Maile Meloy


Author: Maile Meloy
Publisher:
Penguin Books UK, Viking
Read:
June 2017
Expected publication: 6 July 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟


"Do you think worrying helps?" "Yes," she said. "Because the disaster will be the thing you don't expect. So you just have to expect everything."


Book Description (Goodreads):

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship's safety.

One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their shattered lives.

My musings:

Cruise ship mysteries have become quite popular recently, and after reading a few intriguing stories that were based around the various legal loopholes of crime at sea, my interest was immediately piqued by the premise of Do Not Become Alarmed (although I found the title a bit odd). However, in this novel the cruise becomes a secondary setting, as the disappearance of the children happens on land, during a moment when their mothers’ attentions are focused on other things – one has fallen asleep on the beach, whilst the other is having a sexual encounter in the bushes with their tour guide. Perhaps neither of them can be credited with the mother of the year award for that one!

From this moment on, most of the story is being told from the eyes of the children, and I quite enjoyed their individual POVs as their lives are being turned upside down. Their innocent observations and analysis of the situation was a like a breath of fresh air compared to that of the adults, who all seem rather stereotypical, somewhat wooden portrayals of your average middle-class privileged American married couple, although there are some moments were Meloy offers an insight into their psyche that makes them more likeable:

People regressed, around their families, to the age at which they had been angriest. With her mother, Liv was always fifteen.

But in the aftermath of their children’s’ disappearance, I didn’t get much sense of emotional turmoil in the parents’ actions and behaviour, which let the story down for me. As a mother, I was terrified to imagine the gut-wrenching terror these people would / should be feeling as they encounter one dead end after another in locating their offspring, in a foreign country with an unfamiliar police system. Some peripheral characters, which had initially intrigued me, ended up adding very little to the storyline, which felt like a lost opportunity.

Whilst the story kept me turning the pages (in part because I was intrigued by the unfamiliar armchair travel setting, and still held some hope for the general premise to come into its own), I felt like I was missing the point somehow.  Although the author had laid some solid groundwork with the lead-up, I got the impression the story got a bit lost with too many different threads diluting the tension. Personally, I would have liked some more mystery and suspense to really make the most of the promising premise the author had alluded to.


Summary:

All in all, Do Not Become Alarmed was a quick and easy read with an intriguing premise, which included some interesting armchair travel to Latin America. Whilst for me it did not quite live up to its potential, and did not contain enough mystery or suspense to make it memorable, the themes of child abduction and a cruise gone terribly wrong may appeal to readers who enjoy a slow-burning family drama for an undemanding and  pleasant holiday read. 



Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Book Review: THE GOOD WIDOW by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke


Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Publisher:
Lake Union Publishing
Read:
June 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟1/2


Book Description:

The book starts with two police officers knocking on Jacks’ Morales door – and honestly, what is more chilling than the thought that her world as she knows it is about to end! Her husband James, who she thought was on a business trip in Kansas, has been killed in a car accident. Except that the accident didn’t happen in Kansas, but in Maui, and there was a second casualty – Dylan, a pretty young blonde woman who had been James’ companion on the trip. As Jacks is trying to wrap her head around the fact that she is now a widow, she must also come to terms with the unpleasant truth that her husband lied to her, and cheated on her. Grieving and feeling betrayed, she is at her most vulnerable when another unexpected visitor arrives: enter Nick, the equally baffled and grief-stricken fiancΓ© of the woman James had been having an affair with. Somewhat against her better judgment, Jacks agrees to Nick’s plan to travel to Maui, to the scene of the accident, to get closure.

My musings:

I love domestic noir novels, and am always intrigued by writing duos – how do they do it? Who gets to write what? Anyway, spotting The Good Widow on Goodreads and seeing that it contains both, I just had to read it! Blame my trigger finger on Netgalley (again).

Personally, the book was a bit of a slow burn for me and I was struggling at times to understand the characters’ motivation for their (often questionable) decisions. I fully get the need to find closure, but still found parts of Jacks’ decision to travel to Maui with her husband’s lover’s jilted fiancΓ© a bit baffling. But then again – people do strange things, especially when they are grieving. That aside, it was about at that point in the story that I felt I needed a bit more motivation to keep me interested. James, the cheating spouse, sounded like a bit of an arse all around, and to be honest I did not care much about why he had died. Move on Jacks, sounds like you’ll be better off without him. 

I’m still waiting for the card that says, I’m sorry your husband careened off a cliff with his mistress in a Jeep he couldn’t be bothered to rent for you. I know, because he’s dead, that it’s bad form to write this, but fuck him!

Having arrived at that part of the story, I was wishing for bit more mystery and suspense, a sense of danger, a sinister undertone or some unexpected action to move the story along. That said, the book kept me interested enough to keep reading and see if my suspicions and predication were correct (Miss Marple investigates) – and they were. 

Summary:

In summary, The Good Widow is a slow-burning mystery following a young widow’s journey in coming to terms with her husband’s death and betrayal. Even though it contained few surprises for me, it was an easy read and kept me turning the pages to see whether my theories were right. The book may appeal to lovers of domestic noir who enjoy an emotional exploration of marriage, betrayal and grief – but readers who prefer lots of suspense may find it lacking.

Quotes:


Because I’ve figured out a funny little secret about life: Even if you stay on the sidewalks and pay your bills on time and use hand sanitizer, bad things still happen. Yes, maybe you can cut your odds by playing it safe. By attempting to predict each and every possible pitfall. But your fate will still find you, no matter how much you hide from it.



Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.




Sunday, 18 June 2017

SUNDAY CONFESSIONAL: The Dreaded DNF (Between a Rock and a Hard Place)

I DNF’d a book today.

I know – shoot me! Right?

You may as well put me out of my misery, because the guilt is already slowly killing me!

I remember my grandmother reprimanding me as a child, every time there was as much as a single pea left on my dinner plate: “There are children starving in Africa!” Perhaps it was the concept of my fussiness being responsible for a country’s famine that has instilled in me an overinflated sense of importance (don’t we love to blame our character flaws on others?). But in the vast sea of this year’s book reviews, my one single DNF is as niggly as the pea under the princess’ mattress (to stay with the pea analogy). It is a thorn in my side, a raw bellyache, a cloud hovering over my day. It will make me toss and turn in my sleep tonight, with the jilted book haunting me in my nightmares, crying accusingly: “You gave up on me, you ingratiate!” And whilst no one gives a toss about my good-little-catholic-girl like guilt, I am convinced that the publisher will blacklist me from their ARC lists and never grant me an ARC ever again. Someone give the girl a valium!

You may appreciate the general premise of this post, that DNFing does not come easily to me. As a perfectionist, I will do battle with most books, no matter how bad, just from the sense of duty of having pressed the “request” button on Netgalley – and therefore making this whole dilemma my own fault in the first place. Any measure of “I shouldn’t have” and “Why did I?”s is not going to fix that. You are looking at a reader whose TBR pile is as a high as an Alpine mountain range, and about as insurmountable in a single lifetime. I stock up on books like others squirrel away cans of food for the day of reckoning. If it wasn’t for my husband, my house would be on day-time TV, with reporters trying to squeeze through the narrow gap of paperbacks lining every available surface to get an exclusive interview for their report “Book hoarding – a new Australian epidemic?”

So yes, there is all that ... On the other hand, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. With full time work and my family’s ridiculous demands that I cook and clean occasionally, or show my face without a book in front of my nose, life is too short to spend on a book I hate, or which bores me to death. If my dusty skeleton is ever found clutching a paperback, I at least want it to be a good one, not the hundredths clone of the new Gone Girl with that killer twist you won’t see coming (because you have long died of boredom waiting for it).

So why DNF?


And that brings me to the main reason I will DNF a book – boredom. At work, we have DNR – do not resuscitate. For me, the books I DNF are the DNR’s of the bookworld – they have flatlined, and no amount of jumping up and down on their chests will revive them for me. Dead as a dodo. If I catch myself nodding off during a book – repeatedly – it’s a Gone Book to me!

The only other reason I will DNF is if a book affronts my sensibilities to such a degree that I cannot bear to be in the same room with it any more (and I am not easily shocked or surprised). I remember one instance, where a book disgusted me so deeply, that I first took it out of the room; then got up to throw it in the outside bin; and not being satisfied even with that, took the bin out to the kerb (which upset the whole neighbourhood, as bin day was still a few days away). And then I had a shower. Ugh, I still shudder thinking about it.


Do you DNF?


For anyone stumbling across this post by sheer accident, you may judge me harshly on my Sunday confessional. However, there is a slight chance that someone, somewhere out there can relate to something I said. I would love to hear from anyone on how they handle their DNFs. Do you feel guilt, shame, unbearable sadness on DNFing? Will you read on doggedly, no matter how indescribably boring the book is? Do you consume huge quantities of caffeine to give you the adrenaline hit otherwise missing in the pages? Leave me a comment, it would be great to hear your thoughts ....