Book Review: The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis

The boy in the suitcase picture

The Boy in the Suitcase book cover

Title: The Boy in the Suitcase
Author: Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Series: Nina Borg

Genre: Thriller 
Date of Publication: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Soho Crime 


Synopsis

Nina Borg’s old friend Karin gives her a key and tells her to follow her vague instructions, to go to the train station to pick up what’s in a locker, no questions asked. When Nina does this, she finds a suitcase with a tiny three-year-old boy inside. He’s still alive.  Nina hurries back to Karin to demand answers, but she discovers that her friend has been brutally murdered. Nina knows that her life–and the little boy’s–are also in danger.

Plot

The book begins by providing the points of view of several seemingly unconnected characters in quick succession. It was confusing, and not at all representative of the rest of the book, which was much easier to follow.  One of the characters that we follow from the beginning is Sigita, the mother of the little boy who was abducted.

The book is very fast-paced, but there are quite a few (quick) flashbacks that bog down the storytelling. The story probably could have been told in a hundred fewer pages.  There is one twist in the novel, which is revealed towards the end; however, it’s quite predictable, with the clues clearly laid out so that I saw it coming less than halfway through the book.  That said, the storytelling is intriguing and it’s a very quick read.

Characters

I did find that the characters were hard to relate to.  Told in third-person perspective, we never truly get into the heads of the characters–not even Nina, the main character.  I didn’t quite find that the emotions that different characters were feeling were carrying through in the writing.  For example, Sigita wasn’t panicking enough for my liking. If my child was kidnapped I’d probably spend about twenty minutes rolling on the floor in pure terror. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding her child’s abduction. She didn’t really think her husband had taken him. She knew from the start that he was taken by strangers.

The boy in the suitcase picture

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to dip their toes into a Nordic Noir mystery, but doesn’t know where to start. It isn’t as dark as others I’ve read, and it’s much easier to follow–both because of the writing style and because there aren’t quite as many different characters to keep track of.

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Goodreads | Amazon

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Book Review: Androcide by Erec Stebbins

Androcide book photo

Androcide book cover

Title: Androcide
Author: Erec Stebbins
Genre: Mystery, Action, Spy
Date of Publication: September 26, 2017
Series: Intel 1 # 5
Publisher: Twice Pi Press


Synopsis

A serial killer targetting men is on the loose, leaving their mutilated bodies on display for women to find.  Meanwhile, Intel 1, a top-secret government agency, is tracking down the elusive Nemesis in Tehran… But how are these two stories connected?

Plot

This novel isn’t just a mystery. Just like the Goodreads blurb says: It’s an espionage thriller, a bio-thriller, political satire, and a police procedural.

I hadn’t read the previous four instalments in the this book, yet I jumped into this book with ease.  There are a lot of characters, but they very distinct from one another and Stebbins introduces them gradually enough that they’re easy to keep track of.

There are two main plotlines that are seemingly completely isolated from one another (at first).  There is a serial killer named the Eunuch Maker who is targetting men. Detective Tyrell Sacker is working with a PI named Grace Gone (LOVE her name AND her personality) to track down this elusive killer.

The second storyline follows the Intel 1 team, who I assume seasoned readers have already gotten to know in the previous four books in this series, as they complete a mission overseas.

These two stories are quite disparate, but Stebbins flows between them effortlessly.  That said, I preferred the storyline following the serial killer, but that might be because of my own twisted preferences.

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Book Review: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange is the new black

orange is the new black

Title: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: 
Tantor Media
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Date of Publication: 2010


Synopsis

Ten years ago, Piper Kerman made a mistake. She fell in love and became a criminal–transporting a suitcase of drug money across borders.  Now she has to pay the price:thirteen months imprisonment in a women’s minimum security prison. This book is her memoirs from this time.

My Thoughts

I came into this book expecting it to be like the TV show. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t.  It isn’t an over the top or blatantly exaggerated or stereotyped version of what prison is like.  

While reading this book I had to keep in mind that it’s memoirs.  The odds are that Kerman is fudging the truth a little. This became apparent a few times. She talks a lot about overcoming adversity in the prison, and her relationships with the other women.  She doesn’t dwell on the negatives, which tells us a lot about her as a person, but weakens her message. Towards the middle of the book she mentions that it’s a ghetto, and that society has left people in this prison to rot.  I think this is ultimately the message that Kerman is trying to get across, and it becomes more obvious as the book progresses. The government and corrections workers were doing nothing to help these women reintegrate into society after they’ve finished their time. It’s the reason why so many ex-cons re-offend–because they aren’t able to succeed in the outside world. There’s one scene where the inmates are going through training on how to survive on the outside. Someone is giving them  a lecture on the type of roofing to have in their new homes. A woman raises her hand and asks how to find a place to rent. The lecturer coughs and says something about using the internet before continuing to talk about roofing. I hope to God this is an exaggeration, but I’m willing to bet it’s the truth. Prison (especially minimum-security prison) is supposed to be about rehabilitation, not retribution, but it’s clear that a lot of the people working in the prison don’t feel this same way.

Throughout the memoirs, Kerman talks about how privileged she is because she’s blond-haired, blue-eyed, has a huge support network on the outside, money to help her through, etc.  Life on the inside wouldn’t be considered “easy” for her, but it was a lot easier than it was for anyone else, and Kerman does a good job of acknowledging this. Hardly a chapter goes by where Kerman doesn’t acknowledge this privilege.  

The fact that this book got published itself is quite telling. Would a book about a hispanic or black woman going to prison have been published in 2010? Would it have become a bestseller? Probably not.  Especially since this story, while well-written, doesn’t have any of the drama or the pizzazz of the TV show. It’s quite bland. She didn’t get into any fights or nary a scuffle.

Orange is the new black

I recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in finding out what goes on in those minimum-security prisons.  It’s a heartfelt story of making up for her mistakes, and a woman discovering that society has failed so many of its people.  

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Hometown Boys by Mary Maddox

Hometown Boys

Hometown Boys book cover

Title: Hometown Boys
Editors: Mary Maddox
Genre: Horror, fantasy
Date of Publication: January 21, 2019
Series: Kelly Durrell # 2

Publisher: Cantraip Press


Synopsis

Kelly Durrell returns home twenty years after escaping the monotony of small-town Morrison.  Her aunt and uncle were brutally murdered by her high school boyfriend, Troy Ingram, and he claims that he did it because she broke his heart twenty years ago.  Convinced that he’s lying, Kelly takes it upon herself to investigate the murders. Some things have changed in the last twenty years, but others have stayed the same.  The townies are still vindictive and look down on outsiders, which she herself has become.  Will Kelly she be able to find whoever she believes coerced Troy to kill her aunt and uncle before it’s too late?

Plot

This is the second instalment in the Kelly  Durrell series, but it isn’t necessary to read these in order. There was a brief mention of the climactic events in the last book, but I didn’t feel like I was missing any critical information.

Hometown Boys has a solid start, with a lot of action and intriguing plot elements, but it does lag a little towards the middle.  However, every time the story pace slows significantly, a surprising and seemingly random event occurs that propels the plot forward, sending jolts of excitement down my spine.  These twists and turns kept the pages turning, transforming the story into a compelling read.

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Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie book cover

Carrie book cover

Title: Carrie
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: April 5, 1974

 


 

Carrie has had a difficult life.  She’s chubby.  Her mother is extremely religious. The girls at school bully her.  But Carrie isn’t like these other girls. She’s different, and on prom night, when her bullies take things too far, that’s when she’ll have her revenge…

This book review includes spoilers! Read on at your own risk!

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Book Review: Two Little Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark

Two little girls in blue

two little girls in blue

Title: Two Little Girls in Blue
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: 
Simon & Schuster Audio
Narrator: Jan Maxwell
Date of Publication: 2006


When Margaret and Steve Frawley return home from a fancy dinner, they discover that their twin daughters, Kelly and Kathy, have been kidnapped.  The kidnappers are demanding a ransom far too high for them to afford. This novel follows the kidnappers, the investigators, and the Frawley family in the events that follow.

*Please note, I am reviewing the abridged audiobook version. I wasn’t aware it was abridged until partway through!*

This is my first ever Mary Higgins Clark book, and I have to say that I was surprised. It wasn’t what I expected.

We know from the very beginning of the novel who the kidnappers are. The novel follows them and the investigators searching for them.  While we know who the kidnappers are, we aren’t told who they’re working for. There’s still some mystery to it all. I really like this approach. We get to follow both sides of the investigation, while there’s still an unknown for the reader to try to guess.

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Book Review: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic

Practical magic book cover

Title: Practical Magic (Practical Magic # 2)
Author: Alice Hoffman
Genre: Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: August 5, 2003
Publisher: Penguin

 


Practical Magic follows Owens sisters Gillian and Sally as they live their lives.  They grow up in a town in Massachusetts where their family is shunned by the entire town.  It is believed that the women in their household are responsible for every terrible (or even mildly inconvenient) thing that happens.  As adults, the sisters part ways, escaping the town to find better lives, but they’re inexplicably drawn back together. 

Practical Magic

I fell in love with the writing style within the first few lines.  Hoffman is both eloquent and tantalizing with each word that she has so carefully selected.  It begins with a narrative setting the scene, but around fifty pages in, I realized that the whole book was like this. It’s too much narrative. Pages after pages of long paragraphs, with very little action to move the plot forward. Every now and then there is dialogue, but the nature of the narrative pulls the reader away from what is happening. I couldn’t truly connect with what was happening.

Not only is the book beautifully written, but it is beautifully twisted. This is revealed early on in the story, and was one of Practical Magic’s saving graces for me. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if it hadn’t had that darkness seeping into an otherwise seemingly innocuous story.  

I love how Hoffman incorporated little tidbits of witchcraft into her descriptions of things:

“Never presume August is a  safe or reliable time of the year. It is the season of reversals, when the birds no longer sing in the morning and the evenings are made up of equal parts golden light and black clouds. The rock-solid and the tenuous can easily exchange places until everything you know can be questioned and put into doubt.”

If only the entire book had been passages like this, without any pesky plot to get in the way of my enjoyment.

I had a hard time relating to the characters. They’re all quite selfish (which, weirdly, is normally relatable for me ;)), but they had very unlikable characteristics attributed to each of them.  I didn’t appreciate how each one of them (aside from Sally) was preoccupied with their looks. Even Hoffman, in her describing of characters, never spent much time talking about their other traits. The way Gillian has literally every man falling head over heels in love with her was a tad tedious.  There was also too much of this “falling in love at first sight” nonsense. It was amusing with Gillian, because she did it a million times, but every character did it, which made it less amusing and more aggravating.

Mild spoilers between the glasses!

Spoilers between the Glasses!

There isn’t much to the plot, other than the characters falling in love many times. I did appreciate the character development between the younger sisters, Antonia and Kylie, but it didn’t quite make up for the irritating first nine tenths of the book.

When Gillian kills her boyfriend and buries him in the backyard, I thought, Finally! This is getting interesting! But not much of interest happened after that. Not even when someone came knocking on their door to investigate…

Spoilers between the Glasses!

I recommend this book to those who love an engrossing writing style, but aren’t expecting a lot in the form of plot.  The characters are a major appeal for this book, and it’s hard to determine who will like them and who will not. I suggest you give the book a shot if you’re wanting to read a book about witchcraft that isn’t a horror or a romance.

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Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Tomorrow’s World: Darkly Humorous Tales from the Future by Guy Portman

Tomorrow's World

Tomorrow's World Book Cover

Title: Tomorrow’s World: Darkly Humorous Tales from the Future
Author: Guy Portman
Genre: Science Fiction, Satire
Date of Publication: November 22, 2018
Publisher: Self-published


Set in the not-too-distant future, Tomorrow’s World is filled with little snippets of what reality could look like.  This novel is a clever satire that projects current socio-political trends into a future where technology plays an even more critical role in societal function.

Tomorrow’s World features many time jumps throughout the narrative. Sometimes there’s just a paragraph for one year, and then there’s a leap to the subsequent year. This makes for an entertaining read. We get to follow one potential future and see how culture, politics, and everything else could evolve (or maybe devolve) over time. This novel is quite clearly a satire, making sardonic statements about the world we live in.

While one of the book’s strengths is that it spans over the course of a long period of time, it still follows two main characters.  However, the characters are not the focus.  This book is heavily setting-driven.  That said, its strength is also its weakness. We spend so little time in one year before jumping to the next that we don’t really get to follow Terrence or Walter as closely as I would have liked. The reader is disconnected from these main characters. While I understand who they are on a superficial level, we don’t get to delve deeper.  However, with a satire, maybe this is the author’s point. With an increase in superficiality and religions like “rampant consumerism” emerging (LOL), maybe having protagonists that don’t have much going on beneath the surface is the author’s intent. Nevertheless, I didn’t mind the two-dimensional characters as much as I do with other books, because, as I clearly stated before, the strength of this book lies in the writing and the elaborate tomorrow’s world that Portman has painstakingly crafted.

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Book Review: Green Zone Jack by I. James Bertolina

Green Zone Jack Book

Green Zone Jack Book Cover

Title: Green Zone Jack
Author: I. James Bertolina
Genre: Action/Adventure
Date of Publication: July 13, 2018
Publisher: East Third Street Press, LLC


DSS Special Agent Payton Ladd is just about to go on a well-deserved vacation when he’s called back to the field. The nephew of an American senator has gone missing in Baghdad. Payton must go straight to the Green Zone to find him, but it won’t be easy.  Nobody tells the truth, everyone seems to be pushing their own agenda, and, most troubling of all, Payton is compelled to work with his ex-girlfriend, RSO Catherine McCabe, to solve the case.

Even though this book is filled with technical military jargon, it somehow manages to be very fast paced. There is a handy list of acronyms at the end of the novel.  However, for those of us who don’t have a military background, the language can be hard to follow.  I found myself having to put down the book every few minutes to do a Google search.  

That said, Bertolina doesn’t actually spend that much time discussing technical aspects. The plot is very fast paced–plunging forward without lingering on the complex terminology.  At times, I did want the story to move a little slower–particularly during action scenes. They often ended in less than a full page.  I would have appreciated longer and more detailed fight scenes.

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Book Review: Ghost Town by Rachel Caine

Ghost Town book

Ghost Town Rachel Caine Book Cover

Title: Ghost Town
Author: Rachel Caine
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: The Morganville Vampires # 9

Date of Publication: November 2010
Publisher: New American Library


We’re back to Morganville for the ninth instalment of the Morganville Vampires book series!

Vampires and humans coexist (somewhat) peacefully in the sleepy town of Morganville, Texas.  During the day, Claire Danvers attends the local university, but at night she works for the mad, genius vampire Myrnin in his lab, where he mixes alchemy with science.  In this installment of the series, Claire and Myrnin “fix” the town’s security system, which insures that anyone who leaves Morganville immediately forgets about its uniqueness–namely, the fact that vampires roam the streets at night.  But something goes terribly wrong, and everyone starts to forget who they are. The fact that Claire’s boyfriend doesn’t recognize her is bad enough, but when vampires forget what they are and start to lose their inhibitions? Not yet plagued by memory loss, Claire must seek unlikely assistance in saving Morganville from itself.

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