Monday, 31 August 2015

Book Review: Oblivion by Arnaldur Indridason


A woman swims in a remote, milky-blue lagoon. Steam rises from the water and as it clears, a body is revealed in the ghostly light.


Miles away, a vast aircraft hangar rises behind the perimeter fence of the US military base. A sickening thud is heard as a man’s body falls from a high platform.


Many years before, a schoolgirl went missing. The world has forgotten her. But Erlendur has not.


Erlendur Sveinsson is a newly promoted detective with a battered body, a rogue CIA operative and America’s troublesome presence in Iceland to contend with. In his spare time he investigates a cold case. He is only starting out but he is already up to his neck.

Although I didn't know it when I picked up this book, Oblivion is actually the latest in a long line of books featuring Inspector Erlendur. After doing a bit of digging, I discovered that this is the third prequel to the main Erlendur series, the latest in a kind of secondary series called the 'Reykjavik Murder Mysteries'. Confusing, right? I thought so too, and felt a bit put off reading it because I've never read any of the other books in either the main or the mini series. (Plus I really hate unknowingly reading books in a series out of order).

But once I did start, surprisingly my lack of knowledge of the series didn't prove to be a problem at all. I really appreciated that there wasn't any of the summary or recap stuff at the start either, as that's another thing that irritates me. It shouldn't be necessary because any decent writer should be able to set up their story, world and characters afresh for each book, regardless of whether it's part of a series. So for me, that immediately set Oblivion off to a good start.

Nordic Noir

In many ways, this book is the epitome of the Nordic Noir genre of crime fiction. You have the classic interwoven storylines with dark and gritty realities, all set against the backdrop of Iceland's bleak beauty. Fans of the genre know just what to expect, and here Indridason delivers exactly that.

Indridason's writing style is a perfect match for the genre. Considered and unrushed, slowly but surely the story unfolded, keeping pace with the events in a way similar to Martina Cole's novels. You have to be patient with this book - if you're looking for a fast-paced, action-packed thriller then this is not the book for you. Indridason takes time to reflect on every aspect of the story, taking a slow and measured approach to writing that somehow blends perfectly with the bleak landscapes and no-nonsense cast who populate the story.

Predictable ending

I loved the fact that the two unrelated cases, past and present, were interwoven. This meant that towards the end of the book we are kept constantly on our toes, searching for the resolution of both cases. However, this brings us to my only real complaint. I thought that the endings of both cases were far too predictable. In fact, I'd already thought of them way back in the book and dismissed them as being far too predictable to actually be the resolutions. So in a way that kind of spoiled it a bit for me, as the ending didn't manage to live up to the promise of the rest of the book.

Still, this is a prime example of the Nordic Noir genre, and a very strong translation by Victoria Cribb. My interest has been piqued... you may yet find me sitting down to read all the Erlendur books I've missed!

Rating: 3 stars.

Oblivion is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading Oblivion? Are you a fan of Arnaldur Indridason? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Event Review: Prom 41 - Sherlock Holmes: A Musical Mind

AD* | Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes. After all, he is the most famous detective of all time. But do you know the music behind the mastermind? That’s what this year’s Prom 41 set out to uncover.

The Prom advertised a solid mix of scores from the various TV and film adaptations over the years, alongside a wider variety of Holmesian music. And that mix was certainly delivered on the day. The scores, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, were interspersed with other relevant musical performances. These included everything from 16th century Dutch church music to French operas, so it turned out to be a very varied programme!

In between the music, we were treated to brief narration on the performances and their relation to the great detective by BBC Radio 3’s Matthew Sweet and Mark Gatiss, the current incarnation of Sherlock’s brother Mycroft. While I’m sure this was all well-meaning (there was always going to be some exposition because it was billed as a ‘family’ Prom) I did think it started to detract from the music which, after all, was the whole point. Plus it was obvious Gatiss was only there as a celebrity to help draw crowds, which judging by the array of fans in deerstalkers and ‘I am Sherlocked’ T-shirts, clearly worked.

The crowd wasn’t all teenage fangirls though. Actually it was very varied, with people of all different nationalities and ages. This just proves how much of a global appeal the Sherlock brand has. Sure, a lot of younger people were there due to the current BBC incarnation. But there were also plenty of people who had come to celebrate past Sherlocks too. When Mark Gatiss was introduced I overheard one middle-aged woman whisper to her husband, “Who’s he supposed to be?”

The staging for this Prom was pretty simple, with the orchestra took centre stage and pride of place, as rightly they should. The backdrop was nothing more than old film posters and visual stills, nothing ostentatious to distract the audience.

Unsurprisingly, the music was of a very high standard. Mezzo-soprano Christine Rice came on to perform two songs, playing the part of Sherlock’s nemesis, Irene Adler. She sang ‘Una voce poco fa’ from The Barber of Seville followed by ‘Ah, Tanya, Tanya’ from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, both to rapturous applause.

The other guest appearance was from violinist Jack Liebeck, who came on to perform several songs with the orchestra. One of the songs he performed was Paganini’s Violin Concerto 2 – ‘La campanella’ – which was easily one of the highlights of the night.

Another highlight was the penultimate performance of one of the most famous pieces of classical music, Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’. It was great to hear a classical piece that everyone knows performed by a full orchestra in something.

The Prom finished, predictably and much to the delight of the fangirl contingent, with a suite of music from the current BBC TV series Sherlock. Mostly upbeat, often off-kilter and instantly recognisable, it was the perfect end to the afternoon’s performance.

* I received tickets to this event in exchange for an honest review

Did you go to see Prom 41? Are you a fan of Sherlock? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Book Review: Love Defined by Leila Tualla

AD* | In their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends expect an uncomplicated transition to adulthood…but learn they all still have some growing up to do.

Alex Makapulo is facing a crisis of faith.

Raised a Catholic, Alex is considering becoming a member of her best friend Jack Page’s church—against her family’s wishes—but she can’t quite take the final step of baptism. Jack loves Alex and doesn’t understand her hesitation, and Alex wonders if Jack’s love is a blessing or a distraction to test her religious conviction.

Lori Hanson embarks on the trip of a lifetime.

For her twenty-second birthday, Lori’s grandfather presents her with a summer vacation in England. While preparing for her adventure, she meets British musician Colin Watson online and quickly falls for him. They plan to hook up when she lands in London, but her grandfather forbids it. Due to complicated family dynamics, Lori must regretfully comply with his wishes, though she vows never to forgive him.

Andy Taylor is looking for love in all the wrong places.

When Andy runs into an old crush, she decides she wants a more meaningful relationship with sexy Miles Webber. But when she confides in Alex, her friend warns her Miles only wants her for sex. Andy becomes angry and devises a reckless plan to distract Alex’s attention from her relationship. Things don’t go quite as she expected, though, and Andy is left facing a crushing moral dilemma.

As the summer unfolds, three young women learn love and faith go hand in hand, not everything is black and white, and sometimes in a fast-paced world you have to slow down, breathe a little, and find your own definition of love.

For a short book, there was a lot of content being crammed in.

As you can probably tell from the blurb above, Love Defined contains three distinct stories all rolled up into one. It would have been interesting to have three books covering the same events from each girl's point of view, but I did enjoy the existing format even if it was a bit rushed and confusing at times.

I really liked the concept of the book. Because when you think about it, how would you define love?

The OED defines love as 'a strong feeling of affection'. But love isn't that easy to define. Love means different things to different people, as proved by the short quotes from the girls at the beginning of each new chapter. And for that reason, the inclusion of the quotes was a really nice idea.

Content wise, I was going into this book virtually blind. I thought it was just another pretty standard YA - I didn't realise it had such a strong Christian focus. Now that's not a problem for me, being a Christian myself, but it would have been nice to have had a bit of forewarning.

And I had to wonder, are there really that many young people out there like Alex and Jack, who are so devoted to their faith? Even taking into account that they live in America's Bible Belt, some of Alex's actions seemed a bit forced and melodramatic to me.

So having said that, Alex is definitely the character I liked the least. I admired her conviction and her belief, but she was just too stubborn at times. I genuinely felt for the others, realising how much of a task it would be to get her to admit her feelings for Jack.

Lori's story also annoyed me a bit. Would her grandfather really have behaved like that? I was really rooting for Lori and Colin all along but the way their story ended was really unsatisfactory for me. Though I did like Lori's unexpected friendship with Emma - I think she could definitely have been incorporated into more of the story.

Listening to a tourist's description of London was also quite entertaining, though to be fair the author did a good job of avoiding all those horrible cliché British stereotypes (with the exception of Colin's name, I mean how many young guys do you know called Colin?)

So by far Andy's was the story that interested me the most. I feel like there's a lot more to it than the author was letting on, like the reasons for her behaving the way that she did. They are partly touched on but aren't fully dealt with, and the same can be said for the decision she eventually makes at the end of the book.

I enjoyed reading this book and finding out the girl's stories - it's a good, clean YA book that also manages to deal with some much deeper issues. So whether or not you're religious, I recommend this book to fans of YA literature.

Rating: 3 stars.

Love Defined is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading Love Defined? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Book Review: Violet Chain by J. Kahele

AD* | After catching her fiancé with another woman at their engagement party, Violet Townsend's world is turned upside down. Desperate to numb the pain, she falls into the arms of charming, young entrepreneur Chain Alexander.

Chain, a notorious womaniser of Philadelphia, not looking for anything more than a night of pleasure with a woman, is drawn to Violet instantly. There is something about her that he needs and wants so desperately and it’s not just sex.

But Violet is resistant. Can she open her heart again after having it broken so brutally? And more importantly, should she?

Before I get stuck into my review, I just have to address one thing - the title. I don't know why, but it really bugs me. Perhaps because it's so obvious, or because it just doesn't make logical sense as a title in my head somehow, but there's something about it that just grates on me. I'd be interested to know your thoughts about it.

But anyway, on with the review!

Great characters 

The characters were the best part about the book, hands down. Both main characters were realistic, and I liked that they fluctuated between being likeable and just plain irritating. That gave them a real human edge, especially when added to their flaws and vulnerabilities. I also liked that Violet kept changing her mind. It's most common in romance for the heroine to fall hopelessly in love with the hero right from page one, then she spends the rest of the book trying to get him. However, the roles are reversed in Violet Chain because it's the guy who falls hopelessly in love with the girl. I found that an intriguing and different twist on the genre.

The plot wasn't the best I've read. Sure, it was moderately engaging and it kept on at a good pace throughout, but it didn't have that spark that really hooks you into the story. It kept on at a steadily humdrum pace until we started to get towards the end. Then, oddly, everything seemed to happen at once. All of a sudden Violet was in jail, David was in hospital, and everyone knew the two were a couple. But we didn't really get a chance to address these plot points or really react to them, because almost as soon as they cropped up they were instantly dealt with and filed away again, which was a bit odd.

Pass the sequel!

However, the biggest catch for me was the end. I'm not going to spoil it for you, but seriously - that is one heck of a cliffhanger ending! Unfortunately though, it didn't feel like an ending, and I was left feeling dissatisfied and wondering where the remainder of the book had run off to. So if you do choose to read Violet Chain, beware of the ending. I feel like I need to read the sequel just to find out the conclusion of this book, but the bad news is that there's no news on the sequel as of yet.

Still, don't let that dissuade you from reading this book. Although it covers some tricky topics and deals with a lot of raw emotion, Violet Chain is an easy, light read. I'll definitely be keeping up with the author to make sure I don't miss any updates on the sequel!

Rating: 3 stars.

Violet Chain is available to buy now.

If you enjoyed this review and want to learn more about the author, you can simply hop over and read my interview with her here.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading Violet Chain? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Interview: J. Kahele

I recently got the chance to interview J. Kahele, author of Violet Chain, as part of the book's blog tour. If you missed my review, you can find it here!

Introduce yourself to us!

I’m a married mother of three. I was born in Hawaii - my mother is Hawaiian and my father is Italian.

How did you first become interesting in writing?

I always wrote short stories, but it wasn’t until my children became older and more independent that I began to write novels.

How do you get inspiration?

Everyday life gives me inspiration.

What draws you to writing romance?

I love writing about two people finding each other in most difficult situations.

Tell me about Violet Chain.

Violet Chain is about a woman whose life is turned upside after she catches her fiancé cheating on her. She falls into the arms of another man for comfort and soon begins to develop feelings for him, but she is hesitant to let herself fall in love again.

What inspired you to write Violet Chain?

The name actually. I created the name before even knowing what tale I was going to tell.

What’s your writing process?

I have no real process, I just kind of type and let the words tell the story. I don’t ever know what the plot is until I’m deep into the story.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Character development.

What do you love most about writing?

Watching my story develop into something wonderful.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write with your heart and be proud of yourself. Try not to care what others think.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

At work. Shush, don’t tell anyone!

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Taking a lot more vacations!

What are you reading at the moment?

Alex’s Angel by Natasha Blackthorne.

Are you a fan of J. Kahele? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): Finding Flynn by Alexandria Bishop

AD* | Ashtyn Moretti is ready for the best summer of her life. But her parents have other plans when they drop the bomb that her perfect summer will be spent…

Away from home.

Away from friends.

Away from half her family.

Armed with her Summer from Hell playlist and a Kindle full of book boyfriends, Ashtyn prepares to face what she is sure will be the worst summer of her life. Or will it be?

Flynn James has one thing on his mind—the success of his band Marlowe. He’s focused and doesn’t have time for any distractions, and that includes facing his past. But then a petite brunette comes walking into the pub where he works.

Neither Ashtyn or Flynn were looking for love but they can’t deny their obvious attraction. Ashtyn’s summer has been full of lies. The last thing she expects is for Flynn to be one of the liars too. Can she forgive his lies and turn her summer around? Can Flynn keep his secrets without losing everything? Or will this really be the Summer from Hell?

Finding Flynn reminded me a lot of Zaryk by C.A. Jonelle, which I also read and reviewed recently. Both books feature a romance between a girl and a 'broken' band member, and both books have a very similar shock twist partway through. Once I thought of the similarity I couldn't help but keep comparing the two books, especially as they did turn out to be so similar.

However, both books have good points in their own right too.

I enjoyed the relationship between Ashtyn and Flynn. It was sweet and natural, especially after their first encounter. Unfortunately, I did get a bit confused about time in the book - I thought things were happening a lot quicker than they actually were because it wasn't explained. But once that got straightened out about halfway through and I managed to wrap my head around it, it was okay.

I found myself a bit at odds about the characters too. As a character, I loved Flynn. He has hidden depths and is intriguing, I really enjoyed learning about him and seeing how he dealt with the conflicts (both internal and external) that cropped up. Chloe, too, was an interesting character. I liked the contrast between how she was perceived to be by the others and how she actually felt. The love triangle part of her story was also interesting.

Ashtyn, however, was a completely different story. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't engage with her character. I found her annoying and irritating at times - I don't know what it was but something about her just rubbed me up the wrong way, which was a shame.

The story as a whole was quite light and easy to read, despite the occasional heavier moments of drama and conflict. I liked how realistic the character's reactions to the events were, which was definitely one of the strong points of the book.

Finding Flynn is a quick, light read, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The book is available to buy now.

Rating: 3 stars

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review 

Will you be reading Finding Flynn? Let me know in the comments below!