Blog Tour: Snare by Lilja Sigurdardóttir (Orenda Books)

Hello and welcome to another blog tour! Today I’m taking part in the tour for Snare by Icelandic author Lilja Sigurdardóttir (translated by Quentin Bates). Thank you to Orenda Books for sending me an advanced copy and to Anne Cater for setting up the tour.

About the book:

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After a messy divorce, attractive young mother Sonia is struggling to provide for herself and keep custody of her son. With her back to the wall, she resorts to smuggling cocaine into Iceland, and finds herself caught up in a ruthless criminal world. As she desperately looks for a way out of trouble, she must pit her wits against her nemesis, Bragi, a customs officer, whose years of experience frustrate her new and evermore daring strategies. Things become even more complicated when Sonia embarks on a relationship with a woman, Agla. Once a high-level bank executive, Agla is currently being prosecuted in the aftermath of the Icelandic financial crash. Set in a Reykjavík still covered in the dust of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption, and with a dark, fast-paced and chilling plot and intriguing characters, Snare is an outstandingly original and sexy Nordic crime thriller, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books

My thoughts:

I love Iceland as a location for crime novels, so I was already excited about this one before I picked it up. The novel focuses on the drug trade in the country, as Sonia is caught up in smuggling drugs to make end meets as a single Mother. Told in short chapters the story has multiple narrators, changing perspective frequently, which is something I absolutely love – it keeps me hooked, interested and invested in a story.

I really enjoyed the different characters in Snare, from Sonia’s strength and straightforward thinking, to Bragi, the Customs Officer’s, warmth. For such a short book it certainly packs a punch – it’s fast-paced, concise and engaging from the first page. Full of tension and threat – particularly when Sonia travels through customs with a stash of drugs on her – Sigurdardóttir’s writing makes us look at what sacrifices we would make for family as well as questioning if we ever truly know the people we love. It shows us how ordinary people act differently when thrown into extraordinary circumstances in life.

The film rights have been bought for it and I can’t wait to see the creative treatment it receives. If you’re looking for a quick but compelling crime read, full of complex characters then check this one out (and read it before the movie comes out). I can’t wait to see what’s next in the series.

Verdict: 4/5

About Lilja:

Lilja Sigurðard.

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, with Snare, the first in a new series, hitting bestseller lists worldwide. The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. Lilja has a background in education and has worked in evaluation and quality control for preschools in recent years. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

You can catch the other posts on the blog tour here:

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I was very kindly sent an advanced copy of Snare in exchange for an honest, fair and unbiased review. Thank you Orenda Books. 

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Paper vs. Film: movie adaptations part two

If you missed my first book to movie adaptations post, head over here to have a read. In this post I’ve done a round-up of all the best book to movie adaptations that were recommended to me by the Book Connectors Group.

I mainly asked just to get some fresh inspiration – there’s plenty of movies and books that I’ve missed along the way and I wanted to rectify this! I was overwhelmed with responses so I’ve whittled it down to six adaptations that seemed to crop up more than a few times!

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje 

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When I was younger my Mum and Dad had the VHS of this and still to this day I can remember the front cover / box vividly. I remember watching it as a child and not really understanding the complexities of what was going on as the final curtain comes down on WWII. Now I’m a little older I’d love to revisit the film, but I’ll be sure to read the book first as it sounds amazing (and I’m sad I didn’t have this on my list sooner!).

The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins

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I’m going to be controversial here and say that I didn’t absolutely love The Girl on The Train. It was enjoyable, sure, but I found it a little samey and a bit predictable – it didn’t scream fresh, exciting crime fiction at me. I know other people have absolutely raved about the book though. I went into the film with low hopes; mainly because I was disappointed that it was set in NYC instead of London (as written in the book). BUT, I ended up really enjoying the film – it was fast paced, engrossing and darkly chilling. 

Drive by James Sallis

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Now, I’ve seen the film of this one but never knew it was a book until author Harriet Cummings mentioned it on Twitter. Apparently the book is great but doesn’t have quite as much of the love story in it. Looking at other reviews for the book, it says Sallis’ style is minimalist, noir and evocative – much like the film then!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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I saw this advertised at the cinema earlier this year (I think?) and although it’s a YA book and a children’s film, it looked absolutely heart-breaking. I’d love to watch the film, however I’m holding off on it for the time being as I know I’ll need to be emotionally ready with a stash of tissues by my side!

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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This novel won the Booker Prize in 1989 and is now a contemporary classic. In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the English countryside and into his past. I’ve neither read the book or watched the film of this one and it sounds right up my street; the film has an all-star cast with Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

The Book Thief

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I’ve seen the film of this one, which I thoroughly enjoyed but never got around to reading the book. The lovely people in the Book Connectors group assured me the adaptation is a fantastic one and captures the story perfectly.

Right, I’m off to get Netflix on, the snacks in and have a night snuggled on the sofa. Let me know if there are any must-read/watch adaptations and I’ll add them to my (ever-growing) list.

Paper vs. Film: Movie adaptations part one

Two of my absolute favourite things to do are reading and going to the cinema. When I’m immersed in a book or engrossed with a film, I’m completely switched off to the outside world. It’s a couple of hours of rest for my brain.

It goes without saying when a book I’ve loved gets made into a film I’m the first in line to order cinema tickets and get the popcorn at the ready (I’m already getting myself mentally prepared to watch the Murder on the Orient Express, which is coming out in a couple of weeks).

As the weather gets colder and the nights get longer I wanted to put together a round of my favourite book to movie adaptations. There are many, many, many more book to film adaptations I could include here, but perhaps I’ll save them for another day…

Room by Emma Donoghue

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Room is an extraordinarily powerful story of a mother and child kept in isolation, and the desire for, and price of, freedom. The novel is so well crafted; it grips and horrifies you throughout. I was sceptical about the film but I think they did it absolute justice, I think in part this was because Emma Donoghue also wrote the screenplay for Room – whilst I think it’s important for the author to have input into the script writing, I think they should also welcome wider creative input. The film portrays the sensitive subject matter perfectly, and I think Brie Larson was an amazing choice as Ma (Joy).

 Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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A story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is a must read if you haven’t already picked it up; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was a top-ten bestseller. Once I’d read the book, I was curious as to how the storyline and characters would come across on film – I couldn’t imagine how it would play out. Although there are quite a few differences between the film and the book, I think Mark Romanek tackled it well (I’m not saying too much in case you don’t know the storyline) and it ends up as a pretty solid adaptation of the book, mainly in part due to the excellent casting. The only downside to watching the film is you already know the story and you can’t quite recreate the reading experience Ishiguro provides.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Although very little needs to be said here, there’s also so much I could say – particularly as I grew up as part of the Harry Potter generation. I was a mere 8 years old when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first came out and although I wasn’t enthralled with the books at that age, the series soon captured my heart. The books and the films are fantastic; they’re a warm hug from a long lost friend, a comfort blanket on a dark night and a sip of warm tea when things just aren’t going right. The creative treatment the films got, thanks to J.K. Rowling’s input, is stunning. They pull you in and completely capture your imagination. I’ve been to the Harry Potter studio tour a couple of times now, and I’m going back in December for a third time…

Bridget Jones’s Diary

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I know you probably think this one is silly, but I couldn’t not include this. It’s an absolute triumph of an adaptation. Helen Fielding’s original novel came out in 1996 – over twenty years later and it reads as if it has just been written. A timeless, modern love story full of hilarity and awkward moments. The movie is true to the book and it has everything; laugh out loud moments, a cringe-worthy love story, a great script and just fantastic casting. What more could you want? I’m definitely a big fan of drama and action, but I think this could be one of my favourites of all time (not sure if I should be classing this one as a guilty pleasure or not?).

I also asked the Book Connectors group, which is an online group of book bloggers, authors and good folk in publishing, for recommendations of their favourite adaptations – I was expecting just a couple of people to reply, but I overwhelmed with responses (obviously a topic people have a lot of opinions on!). Part two of my paper vs. film series will be a round-up of their recommendations and will go live on the blog in a couple of days.

 

 

Blog Tour: The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston)

Welcome to my stop on the Orenda Books’ blog tour for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen. 

About the book:  

The Man Who Died new front (1)

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir. 

Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (10/10/2017)
Order: Orenda Books / Book Depository 

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the unique and quirky premise of The Man Who Died (TMWD); Jaakko’s doctor tells him he’s been poisoned and in one short, sharp breath he finds out that he’s dying. What ensues is an engaging and compelling Nordic Noir crime novel, full of ingenuity.

Right from the start we see Jaakko face death head-on. Suddenly, he has to make choices – how to live and how to move forward, and with that comes a rawness and sensitivity to his character. As the plot unfolds, he believes his wife is guilty of murdering him, going on a hunt to find out the truth. He uncovers secrets he wish he never knew and we see how every decision he makes affects the short future he has ahead of him. This unique tale of love and betrayal is set to the backdrop of the mushroom farming industry; a completely fresh setting and perspective – definitely one that I’ve never read in crime fiction before.

At the heart of it, TMWD is about how we make sense of life, as well as how and why we come to terms with death, particularly our own.  Because of this, Tuomainen captures a certain rawness as Jaakko faces his mortality, adding light to the darkness with swathes of dark humour and comedy. At times the comedy gets a little farfetched and extreme, but it contrasts the fragility so well that overall it creates a great equilibrium in the book.

I first picked up TMWD on a train journey from London to Leeds, and on arrival I was sad to put it down having had my head buried in it the whole way there. However, later that day on my return journey I got stuck back in and managed to finish it before pulling in to my station. For me, this is a sure-fire sign of a great book – every second spare I wanted to lap it up. I was engaged, gripped and entertained throughout. I’m sure it goes without saying that Tuomainen included plenty of twists and turns in TMWD; I genuinely thought I had it sussed until ¾ of the way through when I realised I was all wrong.

Finally, I would never have guessed that this is a translated work of fiction. It has been translated wonderfully – it’s effortless to read, with so many nuances and subtleties included, which I always think is the sign of a good translation.

If you’re looking for a crime novel that stands out, doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst making you question the meaning of life then I highly recommend The Man Who Died. Once again, this is another triumph for Orenda Books – I always love seeing what they publish, as Karen has such a keen eye for unique crime stories. I can tell you this, she hasn’t let us down here!

Verdict: 4/5

About Antti Tuomainen:

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable.’ Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.

You can catch the other blog posts on the tour here:

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I received a free copy of the book from the publishers in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

 

Cook with Harry: Top 5 Recipe Books

For any of my followers and readers that don’t know, I love food. I run an online bakery selling gift-box brownies and in my spare time I’m always caught with my head in BBC Good Food magazine or a recipe book planning my next feast. I’ve not even finished my breakfast before I’m thinking about what’s for dinner. I have an eclectic taste in food and am the least fussy eater (just don’t put offal on my plate and I’m all good!). Because of that I wanted to introduce you to my new series – cook with Harry*. Kind of…Really, I’ll just be sharing my favourite cookbooks, recipes from them, new cookbook launches and any major food successes!

To start off my food series, I thought I’d share my TOP FIVE recipe books. I have a dedicated bookshelf for these alone, so this is a mega hard one to whittle it down to just five. When I say top books, I really mean most-loved, most-tried and tested, the failsafe ones etc. etc.

Without further ado…

Eat. Live. Go – Fresh Food Fast by Donal Skehan (Hodder & Stoughton)

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This is one of my newest cook books, but it’s fast become one of my absolute favourites. I’ve cooked over 10 recipes from this one and every single one has been amazing. I cooked the Katsu Curry recipe for my boyfriend’s family and his Mum said it was, hands down, the best curry sauce she’d ever eaten. If you get your hands on this one, I highly recommend the spelt spaghetti with avocado pesto.

Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (Ebury Press)

Jerusalem

I tend to save this one for when friends or family are visiting over a weekend. I find the recipes take a little more investment and can sometimes be a touch more ambitious. However, it is definitely worth the time. The flavours are exquisite and the recipes are something a little bit different. Next on my list is Ottolenghi’s Sweet, which focuses all on (as you might have guessed….) sweet recipes.

Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph)

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I love Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks by default; he never seems to release a dud one. Super Food Family Classics is packed full of healthy recipes. The batch cook seven veg tomato sauce has become a staple in our house – we regularly freeze portions ready to make a Bolognese or a chili with. Everything is well laid out, easy to follow and as a bonus you know you’re making healthier choices. Win, win. Next on my list is 5 ingredients.

Easy by Bill Granger (Collins)

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As the title suggests, everything in this book is easy to cook and definitely a great one for beginners. The book is split out by food / category – pasta, cheese, eggs, beef etc., which makes is nice and simple to find recipes based on what you’ve got in your fridge.

Fast, Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins)

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The chocolate mousse with raspberries has become one of my go-to quick pudding recipes – it’s easy to make, but utterly indulgent and full of flavour. There are so many mouth-watering recipes in this book; from minty pine nut couscous, to fish burgers.

Okay, so having put my list together I can see there’s a definite theme – fast, fresh, easy food than can be prepared and cooked quickly but still taste amazing! I’m more than happy doing more complicated recipes and spending time in the kitchen, but I normally save that for the weekend.

*disclaimer, this won’t be the name of the series as I need to think of something a bit snappier, but If the next post has this name too then you’ll know I failed.

Cosy Book TBR

With a chill in the air and a spring in my step, I’m embracing the start of the darker nights and the shorter days, using it as an excuse to curl up, put the fire on, brew a tea and get down to business reading lots of books!

I love theming my reading with the seasons, so I thought I’d put together a short cosy TBR made up of books I already own for the coming months. These have been categorised as ‘cosy’ for a variety of reasons – the subject matter, the location the book is set in, the season etc. I didn’t want to include too many books, as otherwise it feels like a chore and I feel guilty if I don’t get around to ticking them all off – after all, reading should be fun!

Peril at End House by Agatha Christie
For me, Agatha Christie is the epitome of cosiness. As soon as a chill sets in, I love putting a Poirot DVD on (we have the whole box set…what can I say? We’re big fans here!) on a Sunday evening and snuggling up with a glass of wine. I’ve not read anywhere near as much Christie as I’d have liked, so this Autumn I’m going to rectify this! I picked up three vintage copies in a charity shop recently for £1 each so I really have no excuse.

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Nick Buckley was an unusual name for a pretty young woman. But then she had led an unusual life. First, on a treacherous Cornish hillside, the brakes on her car failed. Then, on a coastal path, a falling boulder missed her by inches. Later, an oil painting fell and almost crushed her in bed. Upon discovering a bullet-hole in Nick’s sun hat, Hercule Poirot decides the girl needs his protection. At the same time, he begins to unravel the mystery of a murder that hasn’t been committed. Yet.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrop
I won this book last year and it’s been sat on my shelf ever since – I think it’s about time I get to it. Set on the island of Orkney, I think the cold harshness of the story will be a great contrast to the warmth and cosiness of being indoors.
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At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney’s wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.

Autumn by Ali Smith
The next instalment in this quartet of novels is out on 2nd November; the aptly named Winter. I saw Autumn in my library last week so snapped it up as I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time – however I didn’t want to buy it as I’ve read a couple of other Ali Smith novels before and have found her a bit marmite (sorry, sorry!). Also, the Man Booker prize is announced in a couple of weeks’ time and with this on the shortlist, I thought I’d better read it before then.

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Autumn is the first installment in Ali Smith’s novel quartet Seasonal: four standalone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are), exploring what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative.

Have you read any of my cosy books? What’s your ultimate cosy read?

5* Book Predictions

Today I’m here with five books from my TBR pile that I think will be 5* reads. The 5* predictions tag originally started on BookTube, with Mercy’s Bookish Musings – her original video can be seen here. After much sorting through the almost endless pile of books on my shelves/floors/windowsills, I’ve managed to pick some out that I think will be the cream of the crop. Hopefully I’ll be able to report back at the end of the year with my actual reviews for these books and see if they lived up to the hype!

The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers

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Can we take a moment for this amazing cover please?

An England divided. From his remote moorland home, David Hartley assembles a gang of weavers and land-workers to embark upon a criminal enterprise that will capsize the economy and become the biggest fraud in British history.They are the Cragg Vale Coiners and their business is ‘clipping’ – the forging of coins, a treasonous offence punishable by death.A charismatic leader, Hartley cares for the poor and uses violence and intimidation against his opponents. He is also prone to self-delusion and strange visions of mythical creatures.When excise officer William Deighton vows to bring down the Coiners and one of their own becomes turncoat, Hartley’s empire begins to crumble. With the industrial age set to change the face of England forever, the fate of his empire is under threat.Forensically assembled from historical accounts and legal documents, The Gallows Pole is a true story of resistance that combines poetry, landscape, crime and historical fiction, whose themes continue to resonate. Here is a rarely-told alternative history of the North.

Boys Don’t Cry by Tim Grayburn

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Suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK. Depression and undiagnosed mental illness are huge contributors to these deaths as they’re often more difficult to diagnose in men. And those men don’t tend to talk about the typical symptoms or visit their doctor. Meet Tim. For nearly a decade he kept his depression secret. It made him feel so weak and shameful he thought it would destroy his whole life if anyone found out.

And Tim is not alone. After finally opening up he realised that mental illness was affecting many men around the globe – and he knew that wasn’t ok. A brutally honest, wickedly warming and heart-breaking tale about what it really takes to be a ‘real man’, written by one who decided that he wanted to change the world by no longer being silent. This is Tim’s story, but it could be yours too.

The Child by Fiona Barton

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When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore. For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her. For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered. And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth. The Child’s story will be told.

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

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Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. Behind him loom the figures of his dead wife, his beloved young daugher and his outrageous friend Rudi who – dreaming of the wealthy West – lives largely for his battered Chevrolet. Ahead of Lev lies the deep strangeness of the British: their hostile streets, their clannish pubs, their obsession with celebrity. London holds out the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career and, if Lev is lucky, a new sense of belonging…

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

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Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks…When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town. Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect. In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants. 

I’d love to see your 5* predictions from your TBR piles – if you’ve already done a post, please leave a link below so I can take a look.