DNF Chronicles: Two for the price of one

It is RARE for me to not finish books. It’s something that I have always struggled with and only in the last year or two have I made not finishing books a priority of sorts.

Listen, if you are someone that struggles with this, let it go. It is FREEING to stop reading something you’re not enjoying. Do you know how many books exist in the world? There are so many other books you could be reading right now instead of forcing yourself to slog through the one you’re not connected to, the one that you dread returning to.

Life is too short to read books you don’t love.

So what are the books that I didn’t finish recently?

Well, I was really excited about both of them!


The first was Aida Edemariam’s The Wife’s Tale: A Personal History. It’s the story of Edemariam’s grandmother, who lived alongside some incredible history in her native Ethiopia. I was looking forward to reading about the life of this woman who witnessed history happening while also living her life, married to a man twenty years older than her, the birth and death of her children.

This one lost me because of it’s writing style. It felt almost biblical and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried reading the bible for the stories, but it’s a slog. I couldn’t get into the story because I was trying too hard to figure out what was even happening. The narrative also seemed to keep changing from who was telling the story which added a new layer of confusion for this reader.

It didn’t take me long to get frustrated with this one and give it up – maybe 50 pages. And I’m bummed about it because I’ve not read anything about Ethiopia or its history and I was really looking forward to doing that via a woman’s perspective.


The next one was Jo Nesbo’s Macbeth. Last year I posted about Hogarth Press’s project that had authors updating Shakespearean classics. I liked Tracy Chevalier’s take on Othello in The New Boy. I have been a fan of Nesbo’s for ages Macbeth felt like a good fit for him!

I tried really hard to like this one. Nearly 200 pages. In Nesbo’s Macbeth, it’s the 1970s in Fife and a couple of sex workers tell Macbeth, commander of the police’s SWAT team, that he will be the Commissioner but he needs to remove those who are in the way. So, influenced by his girlfriend, a casino and brothel owner called Lady, Macbeth seeks to fulfill the ‘prophecy.’

Part of what makes Shakespeare’s Macbeth so good is the mystical element which is weird and clumsy in the 1970s Scottish underworld. And Macbeth, a trained SWAT commander, reallllllly likes to use his knives as his murder weapons of choice which also just felt like a strange choice to me. I had a hard time with lack of women, which I guess is kind of down to the original but Lady was an old sex worker/brothel madam. I guess an effort was made to have her seem like Macbeth’s partner, but it fell flat for this reader.

Aside from Banquo and his son, everyone in this story is horrible. I don’t remember enough of the original to confidently say that that wasn’t the case there too but I feel like there was a desire to see Macbeth win and I didn’t feel that. It makes zero sense for the man hoping to become police commissioner to go on a junkie bender and murder the people who stand in his way. Does it make sense in a Scotland of old? Yes, absolutely. Less so in modern times.

I want to feel bad for not finishing either of these books but then I look around at the 700 books piled up around my house and realize I don’t have time to feel bad!

Thanks to Penguin Random House of Canada for providing me with copies of these books in exchange for honest reviews.


Jo Nesbo Surprises: Blood on Snow

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

When I started reading Blood on Snow, Jo Nesbo’s latest book, I didn’t have any expectations of being surprised by anything new. I started this book at a time when I was looking to read something that was familiar. I was expecting cold Norwegian streets, gruesome crime, and a deeply flawed hero trying to reclaim some of his humanity by going after those responsible.

Blood on Snow is not that book. Jo Nesbo can still surprise.


Olav is a contract killer. He’s good at his job – he’s efficient, knows his limits and doesn’t ask too many questions. But when his client asks him to kill his wife, Olav finds himself getting in too deep. When he goes off script and kills someone else, figuring that he’s solved the problem without killing the beautiful Corrina, he brings down a whole other world of hurt on himself.

This book is set in 1977. There are no cell phones, no tracking devices, no surveillance, no street cameras, no emails to leave a trail. Calls are made from pay phones in the street, tickets booked using false names without corresponding ID, and disappearing from Norway to Paris still seems far enough.

This book is short – just 207 pages. While I was reading it I thought of it a sort of novella but now I’m wondering if maybe it wasn’t more in the style of an Agatha Christie. Her novels are rarely more than 250 pages, yet they are complete stories, breathtaking in their complexity. Blood on Snow too has its own secrets to offer.

The best part of Blood on Snow is Olav. He’s unique. He’s what you might get if you crossed Holden Caulfield’s stream of consciousness with the underworld of any given city. Olav is well-read, books are his friends despite the fact that he suffers from dyslexia and it’s difficult for him to actually read them. He’s a deep thinker with a penchant for facts and a good heart – for instance, he has no money from his “jobs” because he sends it all to the widow of one of the men he was paid to kill. He doesn’t exactly mesh with the traditional version of a contract killer Hollywood has given us.

But eventually, Olav’s secrets are laid bare and then you might feel differently about him.

Jo Nesbo, you’ve done it again – you always come through.


Oslo’s Underworld: The Son

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

You know that I love Jo Nesbo. There are few things better than spending the day under a pile of blankets, with sustenance and a pot of tea within reach and a Jo Nesbo thriller.

That’s how I spent a good chunk of Friday and Saturday. And it was a delight.

This time, I read The Son, one of Nesbo’s standalone novels. Until I read this one, I had only read his Harry Hole books. I think The Son might be one of my favourites.

the son

Sonny is a perfect prisoner – he is quiet and acts as a kind of unofficial chaplain and healer to the other inmates. He is serving time for a series of murders, living down the legacy of his father who had killed himself after admitting that he was a mole for a notorious gangster. In exchange for his compliance, Sonny is kept well supplied with heroin. Addicted, without any family, ashamed of his history, it looks like Sonny will live the rest of his days in a kind of stupor, until one of the other inmates confesses his own sins to Sonny. Suddenly Sonny is motivated to stay clean and refuses to confess to another murder that occurred when he had been out on day parole.

Sonny escapes from prison and what follows is a revenge fueled trek through Oslo’s underworld via a possibly still corrupt police force. As Sonny metes out his vigilante justice, his father’s former partner Simon Kefas, finds himself trying to work out what happened all those years, hoping that if he can get to Sonny first, he can bring everything to a peaceful conclusion.

Reading a Harry Hole book, you are tethered to what’s come before and you know that there are books that come after, so Harry will be ok no matter what it looks like. Nesbo has provided no such safety net in The Son which means he’s free to go George R.R. Martin on his characters. No matter how many similar books I read, I still never come to the correct conclusion. The ending was bold and cheeky and perfect. My brother and I had a conversation via text about this one that includes far too many f-bombs to share with you here. Suffice it to say we were both blown away by and completely satisfied with The Son.

I think it might be Nesbo’s best and I’ve read The Snowman.

If you like Camilla Lackberg, enjoyed The Sandman or The Silkworm, The Son is for you.  Bonus: it’s available in paperback now.


I’m in Book Buying Rehab

You know how, in the past, I have imposed book bans on myself in an attempt to stop spending so much money in bookstores and read the books I already own?

Yesterday my other half put me on a book buying ban.

To be fair, in recent weeks my book habit has completely spiraled out of control. I can barely function on a day where I don’t go and throw down some money for my next hit. And it’s not like I have more time to read the ones that I already have. I just can’t stop. There are so many great books out there right now! These poor books were probably so excited to come home with me, looking forward to the moment when I jumped into their stories, eagerly anticipating the chance to share their magic with me.

And what did I do? I pushed them aside in favour of another book that caught my eye. A book that I felt was more important than the others, in that moment.

On my kitchen table there are at least 10 books that I’ve brought home with me in the last two weeks or so. Those are the books that I haven’t even shelved yet. That’s in addition to the stack of 5 on my bedside table and all the others that continue to sit on my bookshelves unloved and unread.

On my birthday, we went to the bookstore (obviously) and I came out with: The Count of Monte Cristo, which is my friend’s favourite book and I’ve always meant to read it; Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight because it mentioned Gone Girl on the cover and if something says it’s like Gone Girl, game over, you’re mine; Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin because this is the second Inspector Rebus book and it was the first time I’d seen it.

Then I got a gift certificate to the bookstore from a friend for my birthday (who knows and loves me so well) and I can’t hold onto that for any period of time so back I went. That time I was good. I only picked up Eva Stachniak’s Empress of the Night because I was going to see her at an event at the library that week; and Frog Music by Emma Donoghue because I took this quiz on Buzzfeed which told me that this was the book I was meant to read this spring.book pile

I don’t even remember when I picked up Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman but it’s been on my list for forever so I’m glad I could read it tomorrow if I wanted to. I’d been waiting for Paris: A Novel by Edward Rutherfurd to show up in paperback and when it did: mine. We’d talked about my frustration at discovering that Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman should have followed The Redeemer, not The Devil’s Star but I hadn’t managed to find it. Until a few days ago.

Then two nights ago we were in Costco and you know what happens there. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (look at me reading more YA fiction!) and The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell were in my hands before I even realized it. I almost brought home Jimmy Carter’s A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power but I knew I was already pushing my luck.

And all of those are in addition to the books I already had to read at home. Night Film, Claire Tomlin’s Charles Dickens biography, a biography of Princess Louise, War and Peace, Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley and A Winter’s Tale are all still sitting at home waiting for me.

Did I mention that I got my sister to lend me The Bone Season?

I’m out of control. I need some book rehab.


Damn it Jo Nesbo!

I just finished The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.

I thought I knew what I was getting into, I thought that I had it all figured out, I thought that Nesbo was maybe losing his touch and wouldn’t you know it? In the end I was completely turned around, breathless and completely in his thrall once more.


Once again, I thought that I was reading the next book in the series and once again, I realized I had missed something. The Snowman should have followed The Redeemer, not The Devil’s Star. It became pretty evident that I had missed something as Harry Hole gazes at a photo of another murdered colleague and I was like “wait, what?!”

Nevertheless I carried on knowing that when I do get to The Redeemer, one of the plot points at least will have been ruined for me. Is there a way that we can make it more clear with these Scandinavian translations, which book comes when? I run into this same problem with Camilla Lackberg’s books.


the snowman

A wife and mother disappears. On the front lawn is a snowman made with the first snow. He’s got the mom’s pink scarf wrapped around his neck. When days later another mom disappears and is later found, gruesomely making up the top of the Snowman, Oslo police realize they have a serial killer on their hands and since Harry Hole is the only police officer in Norway with serial killer experience, he’s dubiously put in charge.

Katrine Bratt is a new officer in Oslo, having transferred from Bergen. Hole finds that they think the same way about a lot of things and allows her to convince him to look into some older cases in Bergen that could be connected.

I was convinced that I had it all figured out. I thought that Nesbo was following a similar storyline as Lackberg in one of her books with a new police officer on scene. Then I thought that this other, random, character had to have something to do with it. Wrong on both counts. So wrong.

I’m pretty sure that it was because of the kind of case that was the centre of this book, but The Snowman was really heavy on misogyny. Katrine Bratt is an attractive woman and virtually all of her interactions with male police officers or really any male characters in the book, are crude and kind of gross. Some of the men that are with the missing women have really horrible, controlling attitudes towards their partners. In general, the thread of misogyny was not my favourite. But I’m willing to concede that it likely had to do with the subject matter and not the feelings of Jo Nesbo himself.

I will also say that this translation seemed clumsy to me. There were a number of times where clarifying language seemed to be missing or a direct translation didn’t really work at all and that had me stumbling a little.

But overall this was a thrill ride. The conclusion comes hard and fast and more than a little breathless. Despite how hard we worked to get there, I felt like the pay off was worth it. Hopelessly addicted to Jo Nesbo.


Coming Soon: Books I’m Waiting For

Spring is almost here. I can feel it. The days are so much longer, tiny flowers are starting to poke through the ground and the sun is finally up to making more regular appearances. I went for a walk at lunchtime yesterday and it was sunny and warm and so wonderful.

While we all start shedding our winter coats and dreaming about the not-so-distant days of patio lunching and t-shirt weather, can we also take a minute to think about all the great books that are coming out to celebrate the season with us?

I don’t know if you’ve let yourself loose in a bookstore recently (I keep finding myself in them despite trying so hard to stop buying more books!) but they are clearing out a lot of books to make room for the new titles and it’s really becoming a problem. So if you love a good book discount (and who doesn’t?), you need to get in on that.

Aside from the books that are already laid out on tables and set up in window displays, here are some of the ones that I’m most excited about coming out soon.

Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg. It’s no secret that I love Camilla Lackberg. If I could read Swedish I would have finished reading all her books by now. But I can’t so I must wait for English translations. Her seriously creepy, yet strangely domestic books about all the murders that happen in a small Swedish town are addictive and I can’t get enough. Looks like I won’t have to wait much longer – Buried Angels is set to come out April 15th.

Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui. I’ve already ordered this – as soon as it’s released it will be on it’s way to me. I’ve long hoped that Lainey Gossip would write a book; her blog is full of sharp observations and caustic remarks that always seemed to be begging for a book deal. Her memoir about life with her mother, a huge presence on her blog and in her life, is sure to be crammed full of excellent advice and hilarious anecdotes. I am so looking forward to it’s debut April 8th.

The One and Only by Emily Giffin. It’s been a while since I’ve read any of Giffin’s books. I remember devouring Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and enjoying Baby Proof. There’s something about spring weather that makes me want to read something chick lit-y and I suspect that this new book of Giffin’s will more than fit the bill. I can expect to carry The One and Only home with me on May 27th.

It would appear that Jo Nesbo has really taken off in North America. It seems that every time I turn around, a new Jo Nesbo book has made it to bookshelves. Cockroaches, then The Police and now The Son. Like Lackberg, Jo Nesbo is a master at dark and twisty crime fiction. The difference of course, is that Nesbo’s hero is just as dark and twisty as his cases. It looks like this one doesn’t feature the infamous Harry Hole though which definitely piques my interest. The Son is out on May 13th.

Did you read Room by Emma Donoghue? I did and it stayed with me for weeks. I put off reading it for ages and when I finally gave in, I was completely swept up in it. Emma Donoghue has another book out this spring – Frog Music. This one takes place in 1870s San Francisco and centers around a murder in a saloon. I’m into it. The cover design alone is worth stopping and taking a second look. Frog Music comes out on March 25th.

I can’t wait for these books to come into my life! It’s going to be a pretty alright spring. Any books that you’re waiting to be released?