Review & Giveaway: The Defenceless (Anna Fekete #2) by Kati Hiekkapelto, David Hackston (Translation)

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About The Defenceless

When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complicated case, she’s led on a deady trail where illegal immigration, drugs and ultimately murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a similarly dangerous investigation. As the two cases come together, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough.

My Review

After completing this book I see how it was awarded the best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014. Wonderfully written, thought-provoking as the widely controversial issue of immigration is addressed. Hiekkapelto’s smart narrative with immigration weaved throughout will cause the reader to consider their thoughts on this highly contentious topic regardless of your geographical location.

Anne Fekete is somewhat of an enigma. We learn just enough of her to stir our curiosity. She’s a competent investigator, respects her position but she struggles with her private life. She’s a woman who has carved a career with numerous sacrifices, she’s lonely and fighting to find her place as an immigrant yet at times feels Finnish. Her battles take a toll as she contends with these ongoing issues and her quest for inner peace and balance.

Hiekkapelto delivers more than a crime thriller, she does an exceptional job sketching characters, their challenges and position perplexing her audience. She draws enough of both plot and character back story’s sans dramatics to pique readers interest and curiosity.

Fantastic crime thriller from an authoress not lacking boldness and freshness. Kati Hiekkapelto adds diversity and sophistication to already well crafted noir.

Fans of crime thrillers craving more from the narrative and cast in a foreign setting, this is a must add to your TBR. This is the second installment in a series and it read fine as a standalone. I will be reading previous and following books in this series, huge fan of both author and character.

About Kati HiekkapeltoKH3674-300x200

Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland with her children and sizable menagerie. Hiekkapelto has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird.

Giveaway

Enter to win a digital copy of The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto.  Open internationally.  Ends 1/19/16.
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Published December 1st 2015 by Orenda Book

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Review & Giveaway: Nagasaki by Éric Faye, Emily Boyce (Translator)

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About Nagasaki

Based on a true story. Winner of the 2010 Académie Française novel award.

In a house on a suburban street in Nagasaki, meteorologist Shimura Kobo lives quietly on his own. Or so he believes. Food begins to go missing. Perturbed by this threat to his orderly life, Shimura sets up a webcam to monitor his home. But though eager to identify his intruder, is Shimura really prepared for what the camera will reveal? This prize‐winning novel is a moving tale of alienation in the modern world.

My Review

A psychological mind bender based on an actual incident in Nagasaki 2008.

The story profiles two very different people however the one similarity shared is loneliness. One prefers isolation, the other require a strong sense of belonging. The very end explains why this particular house was selected.

Both suffer from the aftermath as is revealed which is poignant and affecting

Beautifully written, a moving story. Simple yet complex. Sad and insightful.

Admittedly, I searched my house after reading Nagasaki, just in case……

About Éric Fayeimage

Born in Limoges, Éric Faye is a journalist and the prize-winning author of more than twenty books, including novels and travel memoirs. He was awarded the Académie Française Grand Prix du Roman in 2010 for Nagasaki.

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Nagasaki. Open to US residents only. Ends 1/12/16
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Published April 14th 2014 by Gallic Books (first published 2010)

Review: George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

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About George’s Grand Tour

At the age of eighty-three, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbor Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3,500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George’s over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it’s time to seize the moment.

But just when he feels free of family ties, George’s granddaughter Adèle starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn’t even know how to use a mobile.

George is plagued by doubts, health worries, and an indifference to modern technology. And yet—might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?

My Review

What a moving story, quite a gem.

I loved the way George embraced life once again through his travels, discovering technology and through his relationships with family, old and new friends.

All the loose ends to the relationships in George’s life came together nicely. Sharing the road trip with Charles as well as the true importance of the trip bridged the gap from neighbors to friends. Technology as well as sharing his travel experiences with Adéle lovingly reunited granddaughter and grandfather from a very distance relationship. I also understood the bond George shared with Françoise and their delicate tether. Secondary character George was a delight to the story.

Despite the tenderness of the story much humor was scattered through the narrative. A few scenes will leave you belly laughing. I also enjoyed the travel portion, lovely to read of the stops, sights and local flavor as these two travel partners suffer woes and comforts a travel duo endures.

I loved the ending, bittersweet, poignant, brings the entire story together. Such a marvelous story from start to finish. George is memorable.

A wonderful story gently forcing you to reflect on the relationships you’ve ignored or easily dismissed from a myriad of poor excuses. Caroline Vermalle penned a touching and uplifting story you won’t forget, very well done.

About Caroline Vermalle4872649

Caroline Vermalle was born in France in 1973 to a family whose French roots go back at least as far as the 16th century. Yet, she is a vegetarian who can’t cook, doesn’t drink, finds berets itchy and unpractical and would rather eat yesterday’s snails than jump a queue.

After graduating from film school in Paris, she became a television documentary producer for the BBC in London and travelled the world, at speed and off the beaten tracks, in search of good stories. In 2008, then on maternity leave, she penned her first novel George’s Grand Tour, whose international success allowed her to quit her job and indulge in her three passions: books, interior design and travel – slowly this time.

After writing seven novels in different genres and different languages, going on a world tour with her family and building a wooden house in a forest, Caroline now lives between a small seaside town in Vendée (France) and a small seaside town in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) with her son, a black cat and her husband, South African architect-turned-author Ryan von Ruben.

Follow Caroline on Website | TwitterFacebook

Published May 26th 2015 by Gallic Books (first published March 18th 2009)

Review: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flašar, Sheila Dickie (Translation)

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Twenty-year-old Taguchi Hiro has spent the last two years of his life living as a hikikomori—a shut-in who never leaves his room and has no human interaction—in his parents’ home in Tokyo. As Hiro tentatively decides to reenter the world, he spends his days observing life around him from a park bench. Gradually he makes friends with Ohara Tetsu, a middle-aged salaryman who has lost his job but can’t bring himself to tell his wife, and shows up every day in a suit and tie to pass the time on a nearby bench. As Hiro and Tetsu cautiously open up to each other, they discover in their sadness a common bond. Regrets and disappointments, as well as hopes and dreams, come to the surface until both find the strength to somehow give a new start to their lives.

“I reached out my hand towards you, and, that’s the answer to your question, perhaps it really is this reaching out, this reaching towards someone else, that’s needed most of all.”

Flašar’s writing is exquisite, her words flow with such fluidity, absolutely stunning as the two protagonists pensively share their anguish.

A young hikikomori bonds with a mature unemployed businessman, both shouldering heavy burdens, self-imposed alienation as well as questions on existentialism. A slow mutual unveiling releases the pain these two have carried unknown to others. They open their hearts and openly share their many trials and tribulations, disappointments as each shares their perspective, shedding new light on what’s revealed.

The beautiful aspect of this book, you find solace in others when you least expect it and realize you needed someone all along to unload the burdens you carry, the other requiring the same balm. A sincere story of emotional shedding, of forgiving yourself, a truly memorable novel equally intense and beautiful.

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•Paperback, 133 pages
•Published September 9th 2014 by New Vessel Press (first published 2012)
•ISBN13: 9781939931146

Review: All Backs Were Turned by Marek Hłasko, Tomasz Mirkowicz (Translation)

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All Backs Were Turned, set in Israel, is a story of sexual passion, violence, and betrayal, in classic hardboiled prose.

The narrative is primarily dialogue, you feel as if you’re watching a screenplay. The tension builds as anger, pressure along with failing to escape ones past hits a violent apex. Tourist Ursula incites ‘accidental mayhem’ causing lives to be forever changed.

The characters all troubled in some form, although with dialogue maximized the characters lack three-dimensionality. Their back story’s unravel slowly creating uneasiness as acts, secrets, deep seeded wounds are disclosed. Momentum builds as the players and plot are set in motion.

Troublemakers cast off to the remote edge of the Sinai in the town of Eilat pre-Israel 1967, bear the 140 degree heat as a new life is futilely eked out only to cause strife within the community as competition stirs the pot. People are on edge as the unmistakable strain hangs in the air. Relationships teeter on the brink of combustion in turbulent times.

The ending is brutal as Hlasko viciously presents to the peruser. Hardcore glimpse into the division of two polar opposite friends snared in deceptions net. Brilliant storytelling through rebel misfit eyes.

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•Paperback, 140 pages
•Published December 9th 2014 by New Vessel Press (first published August 1991)
•ISBN13: 9781939931122

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski

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“Between two throw-ins in a soccer game, right behind my back, three thousand people had been put to death.”

 

A painful writing of the atrocities of Auschwitz. Achingly disturbing. The stories loosely autobiographical. Borowski allows the reader to relive his memories and experiences, leaving you deeply affected and distraught. We are introduced to a prisoner, Tadeusz serving as the voice. Borowski, a young man surviving yet never quite escaping his lingering nightmares. As you read each story you wonder if these served as a catharsis or a dispiriting exercise. Each story inflicts pain, you’re curious if the pain can ever be salved, perhaps Borowski answered my question with this personal account and his demise by his own hand lending this to be an even more incredibly powerful read.

Borowski left me in deep thought as I found myself asking the question of How did this happen? repeatedly and will continue to ask myself this question in the hopes history never repeats.

There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice, nor moral virtue that condones it.”

 


Paperback, 180 pages
Published August 1st 1992 by Penguin Classics (first published 1947)
ISBN13: 9780140186246

The Door by Magda Szabó, Len Rix (Translator)

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The Door is the story of friendship between two very different women in post-war Hungary.

Post war Hungary – two very different women forge a friendship. A writer and a housekeeper develop a complicated bond, a intricate psychological dependency of sorts – healthy and unhealthy.

The women are explored in tremendous detail. The narrator is mute but her thoughts vocally seep through the narrative as she reveals herself and her feelings and thoughts of Emerence. We are privy to the many relationships surrounding Emerence and we witness the narrator stumble upon her own success as she is somewhat removed from Emerence’s intimate circle.

The story is presented in the form of memory, reflection, therefore lacking an abundance of dialog. It is tragic, brilliant and sad. It’s a narrative requiring the reader to slowly enjoy the complex layers as they are revealed, it is slowly thoughtful and meant to be savored in this exact manner.


Hardcover, 262 pages
Published October 20th 2005 by Harvill Secker (first published 1987)
ISBN13: 9781843431930