New Year, new reads. I look forward to a great reading year, and I hope I can catch up on some books that I already own. Until then, let’s see which books I’ve decided to start the year with.
Girls Who Lie by Eva Bjorg Aegisdottir
This is the second book in the Forbidden Iceland series by Icelandic author Eva Björg Aegisdottir. I liked it just as much as the first one, and it can be read as a standalone. It is written in the same style format as her debut novel. There are two parallel storylines that come together towards the last quarter of the book. Then it all starts to make sense and you can see where the author was going with it.
An alcoholic, depressed single mother disappears, and everyone assumes she committed suicide. Especially because she left a note for her 15-year-old daughter. But when her body is discovered by fluke on Grabrok lava fields a few months later, there’s no doubt she was murdered. Detective Elma and her team start an investigation that points to some gruesome discoveries.
The author tells two stories that are being told at the same time. One from the current time, and one that happened years ago and points to the reasons for the murder. When the two parallel stories merge and reveal the murderer, everyone is shocked.
Just like her debut novel, this plot is also well structured and follows two narratives. The first one takes you along with the characters as things evolve in the novel. The other narrative is from the murderer’s perspective from the very beginning and takes you through their journey. Towards the last part of the book, she merges the two storylines, and everything starts to fall into place.
I like the author’s style very much, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in this series. She has a way of telling stories that just flow.
It is Nordic Noir at its best, for those interested in trying out the genre. I would start with her first book, but it can read well as a standalone as well.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
The second book of the year for me was not as enjoyable as the first one. The book attracted me because it was described as a psychological drama. The writing was good, but the storyline, on the other hand, I found disturbing.
Blythe Connor is determined to become the mother her own never was. She is hoping to be warm and have a close relationship with the child she’s carrying.
But when her daughter Violet is born, she struggles to bond with her. Needless to say, she’s not enjoying motherhood as much as she had hoped. As Violet gets older, Blythe is starting to notice that something is not right with her daughter. Her husband and mother-in-law think she’s just exhausted and they dismiss her fears.
A few years later their son Sam is born, and Blythe is so happy that she finally got the connection she always imagined. But then a tragic thing happens, and their lives are all shattered. They all have to cope with the devastating circumstances, and it tears them apart.
The novel is very well written and it makes you think how far you would go to protect your children. I enjoyed it, but at times I was infuriated at the way Blythe was being perceived, especially by those closest to her. Needless to say, she does make some questionable choices toward the end. But could we really blame her, after everything she’s been through? Would we act the same way if we put ourselves in her shoes?
I like books that make you think. Do you know how you would handle certain situations if you were faced with them? An okay book, but it will not make my favorites of the year list.
The Dark by Emma Haughton
Weather appropriate for this time of year, my third book is set in Antarctica.
The premise of this book is a closed-off environment where people start dying.
Kind of a modern Agatha Christie’s closed room mystery, but in a modern setting.
Twenty-four hours of darkness, one dead body, twelve suspects. Who is the murderer amongst them?
When doctor Kate North gets offered a chance to replace the emergency doctor at the UN research station in Antarctica, she jumps at the chance. She’s trying to get over a recent personal tragedy, and this seems like the best way to get over it.
Jean-Luc, the doctor she’s replacing, lost his life in an accident while being out on the ice.
But as winter is approaching and total darkness is upon them, there seem to be clues that Jean Luc’s death wasn’t an accident. As she’s trying to make sense of it all, it becomes clear that their lives are in danger. Who is the culprit? Will Kate figure it out before more bodies are found?
This gripping closed room mystery got me caught up from the first chapter. I couldn’t put it down, the suspense was too good.
The novel was well structured with an intriguing plot. I find she could’ve developed the characters a little more though.
But it was an overall great read that got you hooked, so I recommend it for anyone who likes a good mystery. Agatha Christie fans will surely enjoy this book.
Good Girls Lie by J. T. Ellison
Without doing it on purpose, it seems like I picked a theme for the month of January. Lying girls! This book is not the same style as the first one with this same theme. It can be considered a popcorn thriller I suppose.
Girls at The Goode school don’t lie… yeah, right! Perched atop a hill in Marchburg, Virginia, the all-girls prestigious prep school is nicknamed the Silent Ivy. That is because they abide by an honor code, the code of silence.
Only daughters of the rich and powerful attend this school, and they are hand-picked from thousands that apply. But somehow a British student has made her way in, and she seems to bring on tragedies.
First, her roommate dies, then a few days later, the most popular girl in school is found dead. This has got everyone starting to spread rumors and lies about what really happened. But will the truth ever come to the surface?
This is a typical teenage girl’s light psychological thriller that is centered around a private all-girls school. It has all the elements of a great popcorn thriller. Gossipy girls, an eerie atmosphere, and people dying. What more can you ask for?
If you’re looking for a light, eventful read, this book checks all those boxes. You will get engrossed in the story, and will not be able to put it down.
I enjoyed it very much, like many of the J.T. Ellison books I’ve read so far.
Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir
A first from this Icelandic author, it is a political thriller that touches on quite a few important current subjects.
After reading this book, I immediately purchased her Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which includes books: Snare, Trap, and Cage. Keep an eye on those reviews, they will follow as soon as I read them.
Aid worker Ursula comes back home to Iceland after a few assignments abroad. She’s always held jobs that aim to help those less fortunate. then she gets offered a high-profile ministerial job. She’s excited about it and she hopes to make a real difference, right here at home.
On her very first day she promises a woman whose daughter was raped by a policeman that she will look into her case. Unknowingly, her good intentions start a whole snowball effect. On top of that, she is being stalked by a homeless man, one who allegedly killed her father years ago.
Dirty politics, misogyny, and police corruption are some of the themes prevalent in this story, but the betrayal she faces is unlike anything she anticipated.
The story captured my attention from the beginning, and I loved the way the author constructed the story. The Icelandic puns were at times redundant, but I guess that’s a cultural thing. And I enjoyed learning a bit more about the different Icelandic customs and political issues. She has a critical view of the way women still have to struggle to make themselves heard.
The plot was complex but easy to follow. I highly recommend this book!
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
If I’m not mistaken, I believe this is my fourth Ruth Ware book and my favorite by far. I love the way the author introduces the main character before dipping into the heart of the matter. The book is full of dark family secrets, lies, coverups, and betrayal. It would make a great spooky Halloween story that can be read at any time.
Harriet, or as friends refer to her, Hal, starts this ordinary day just like any other. But this particular day is different because she receives a letter. The said letter claims she is possibly an heiress to a substantial inheritance.
Having lost her mother a couple of years back due to a hit and run, she’s all alone in the world. Therefore she thinks the letter must have been sent to the wrong person. But her life is a real mess at the moment. She owes a loan shark a substantial sum of money, she’s behind on rent, and so on. All those factors prompt her, against her better judgment, to go and see if by some chance she really is the rightful heiress.
Once she reaches her grandmother’s funeral and stays in the house that belongs to the deceased, she realizes that something is off about the whole situation. The secrets she discovers are more sinister than anything she could have imagined.
The way Ruth Ware writes makes you feel like you’re there, feeling the cold and dampness, literally gave me goosebumps while I was reading. I felt like I couldn’t put the book down until I found out what happened.
And I wasn’t disappointed. The end was just as creepy as I had anticipated. Without giving anything away, it’s a great book if you like novels that have gothic vibes.
Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson
This is the fourth book in the Dark Iceland series, and I enjoyed it the most. Although I like Jonasson’s style, I found the first two books a bit too slow for me. But by the third one, Blackout, I found the stories flow at a faster pace.
An old photograph comes to light in Siglufjôrdur. Ari Thor is asked if he can try to figure out what really happened to a mysterious death that happened fifty years before. There is a mystery teen in the picture as well, which is also strange.
The backstory is that two couples moved to the isolated fjord of Hedisfjôrdur in the 1950s. One of the two women dies under mysterious circumstances. Assisted by journalist Isrun, Ari Thor tries to put the pieces together.
But a present-day chilling case gets them delayed. Then a baby disappears in broad daylight.
Are the stories connected? Will the duo solve those mysteries?
There are a few stories happening at once. Although it may seem confusing, Johanson has a way of relating them that is easy to follow.
Another thing I really enjoy about his books is that they are pretty short, and the chapters as well. It is what I prefer rather than super long chapters. I find it easier to connect with the story and stay present. Long chapters that don’t have breaks in between are discouraging to read. Unless the story is really captivating, it can cause me to abandon books.
Talking of abandoning books, there are two I’ve started this month but I find I’m not in the mood for. The first is exactly what I just mentioned. Long chapters that don’t hold my interest, the second I’m not ready for just yet.
Ice by Ulla-Lena Lundberg
Oh, how I wanted to love this one! Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. At the very least, it was absolutely not what I was expecting.
Judging by the cover, I thought it would be a Nordic Noir thriller. And yes, I do judge books by their covers. This one is truly beautiful!
But about 100 pages in, all I got was a lot of narrative descriptions. It is beautifully written, but it is not for me, not at this point in time. I will keep it close by in case I want to give it another shot before the end of the year. I’ll keep you posted if I pick it back up.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This is my second abandoned, or should I say, set aside, for now, book of the month. I decided this year that I will prioritize books that capture my interest from the first 100 pages or so. If I’m struggling to get into the story, I will set it aside and get back to it at a later date.
Although the writing is interesting and the chapters short, just as I enjoy them, I find the dialogue a bit too much. I’m trying to figure out the point of this story, but not curious enough right now to see how it ends. Reading some reviews, the book does pick up, but I think at the moment I need a different genre.
My main two themes this month seemed to be lying girls and betrayals. Both subjects were covered in a couple of books, and I didn’t even plan for it! While analyzing my monthly readings, the themes just popped up to me.
Let’s see what I come up with next month, shall we? Until then, read-only what makes you happy friends!