Have Yourself A Very Moomin Christmas…

It’s been unseasonably busy at Uni these past few weeks and now it’s only two days ’til Christmas! This Christmas will be quiet but filled with the wonders and adventures of Moominland as we read and re-read all the books in our collection.  I finally got around to reading The Moomins and the Great Flood today, which I received last Christmas (I know, I know…).  It’s no secret that I am awful about reading but I plan to catch up on all the books I was meant to read this year (which if you must know, include four Icelandic crime novels). A lofty goal, I know, but I do have a fortnight off from work! Huzzah!

Moomin LOFTI’ve been trying not to procure any new Moomin merchandise (saving up for the big year — more on that later), so it was nice to receive a wee surprise of Moomin gifts from LOFT in Japan. Now I’m off to read Comet in Moominland and let myself get lost in the world of Moomins. In case I don’t get back here before the end of the year, have yourself a very Moomin Christmas and we’ll see you in the New Year!

The Moomins And The Great Flood

Some of you may have already heard, but the translation of Tove Jansson’s first ever Moomins book is set for release for the first time in the UK next month on 1 November, 2012. The Moomins and the Great Flood, originally written in 1945, is centered on a quest to find Moominpappa. Written during darker times, it will be interesting to see how the Moomin stories began and how they’ve evolved over time.

According to The Guardian’s interview with publisher Natania Jansz, they decided to delay the UK publication as they wanted to launch it leading up to Tove Jansson’s centenary year (2014). I’m not sure how that worked out to be a November 2012 release but fair enough! Pre-order your book on Amazon today! If you’ve somehow gotten your hands on an older copy (it seems the translation, by David McDuff, was published in Finland in 2008), no spoilers please!

Finding Solace In Moominvalley

When things get a bit hairy I often like to cuddle up with a good Moomin book and retreat far into Moominvalley. What can I say? The Moomins are to me as beer is to a beeroisseur. The stories are simply a great source of comfort.

For the past three weeks I’ve been under an insane amount of stress. As crazy as it might seem to some of you, if it weren’t for Moomins (and of course my darling hubs), I reckon I’d be mad by now!

It goes without saying (but I’m saying it…I never quite understood why we say that) that I was thrilled when I returned home last night and saw the new colour editions of Tove Jansson’s Moomin’s Winter Follies (one of my absolute favourites of all the comics) and Moominvalley Turns Jungle waiting patiently for me to open and admire them. Here’s a preview of what you’ll find inside. The colours are just beautiful and I can’t wait for the next books to be released!

Available for pre-order on Amazon: Moomin Builds a House and Moomin Falls in Love to be released 5 March 2013 (which also happen to be the hubs’ birthday)!

The Day Is Dark

The fourth book in the crime novel series by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir features Thóra Gudmundsdóttir and the return of Matthew Reich. It is set in a remote and completely dreadful part of Greenland.

Nothing about the way Greendland is described in the book would entice most ‘normal’ people to visit but it seems incredibly fascinating and spiritual to me. Not to mention, it makes for a perfectly atmospheric crime novel setting. Perhaps due to the bizarre events leading up to the discovery of the truth, I didn’t find the premise of The Day is Dark as believable as the previous books. That said, Yrsa, as always, does a fantastic job at building up the suspense and keeping readers in the chilling dark until the very end. I was also happy to finally see Matthew back in Thóra’s life!

Yrsa’s first three books moved at a quicker pace but I still enjoyed this one just the same. I look forward to reading her next book, I Remember You, which is available at Amazon for pre-order.

Rating: 4/5

Ashes To Dust

Ashes To Dust is the third book of the crime novel series by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir featuring the beloved heroine, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir. In this enthralling book we follow her to Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) where bodies are discovered, along with a severed head, in the basement of a house that is part of of an excavation project to uncover houses that were buried during the eruption of Eldfell volcano. While trying to prove her client’s innocence, she ends up bringing to light the truth about murders that had practically gone unnoticed for decades.

Having recently seen a documentary about the 1973 eruption on Heimaey at Volcano House in Reykjavik (which I highly recommend), vivid images of the eruption served as a gripping backdrop to the story as I quickly turned page after page to find out what really happened on that fateful day.  Yrsa, in a word, is a genius! She kept me guessing the entire time and it wasn’t until the very end of the book that we find out the shocking truth.

Like with Yrsa’s other books, I highly recommend this one, either as a stand alone or continuation of an incredibly well written series. They just get better and better! That said, if you’ve read My Soul To Take and Last Rituals you may be disappointed to find that Matthew Reich doesn’t feature alongside Thóra this time and we still don’t really know what will become of their relationship. Not that their romance is key to Thóra’s crime solving but it adds more colour to the story and to her likeability.

I’m now looking forward to finishing Yrsa’s fourth book, The Day Is Dark, which has oddly inspired me to visit Greenland someday!

Rating: 5/5

My Soul To Take

Do you believe in ghosts? You may start to after reading Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s second book, My Soul To Take, which follows Thóra Gudmundsdóttir (the heroine of Last Rituals) to West Iceland where a murder is committed at a health resort on a newly renovated farmhouse. Her investigations lead to the discovery of some disturbing truths from the past in addition to another murder nearby the resort.  I literally could not put this book down and stayed up to the wee hours of the morning to finish it.

There seem to be so many more possible murder suspects in this story, and with all its twists and turns, it may be helpful to write out a list of characters as they appear.  You don’t necessarily have to read the books in order as they can easily hold their own as stand alone books, but if you haven’t read any of Yrsa’s books before I would recommend starting with her first. As silly as it may sound, I am kind of glad that I read this book after we visited West Iceland as I may have been a bit spooked to explore the towns near Borgarnes and the Hvalfjörður Tunnel.

Matthew Reich also reappears in the second book and I was hoping something more would become of his relationship with Thóra, but it seems we will have to just wait and see what happens!  If you thought Last Rituals was good, you’ll definitely want to read My Soul To Take as it’s even more dark and chilling, well-written, pacey and incredibly convincing. I could have sworn I heard a child crying when I went to bed last night.

Rating: 5/5

Last Rituals

While browsing for gifts in IÐA, a display of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s novels caught my eye . I flipped through a few of the books and was intrigued. Due to space limitations in our luggage I decided to purchase them upon our return home. I was looking forward to reading my first Icelandic crime novel, or anything Icelandic for that matter, and was keen to find out what all the hype was about as Yrsa is arguably the most famous contemporary crime novelist from Iceland (not to mention a successful civil engineer and acclaimed children’s novelist as well).

I thought it fitting to start with Yrsa’s first novel, Last Rituals (Þriðja táknið), which turned out to be a surprisingly funny book given the dark subject matter.  It was exciting to follow Thóra Gudmundsdóttir and Matthew Reich on their investigation of Harald Guntlieb’s murder as it took us throughout the southern coast and passed through places like Hella, Hekla and Skálholt, all familiar spots from our recent South Iceland adventure. The Blue Lagoon even made an appearance toward the end!

You don’t necessarily have to have been to Iceland to appreciate the setting but it certainly does make it more engaging when you’re able to conjure up images of all the places in your head. And if you haven’t been to Iceland yet I hope that this novel will inspire you  to go! This is a great mystery with so many unexpected twists and turns and as I was reading I kept thinking this would make a great film!  Intensely disturbing, yet sprinkled with the right amount of humour to lighten the story. Not to mention, Thóra and Matthew are incredibly likeable and make a funny duo.

Not that it’s a problem for me, but my only criticism might be that the translation is very British and it might not be easy for non-Brits to follow, on top of all the Icelandic names.  But hey, it is an Icelandic novel so I guess it’s a non-issue after all.  I look forward to reading more of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s works.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Final Book: Mockingjay

“Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”

                                                                       -Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this. I was so excited to read the final book of the amazing Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I tried so hard to like it, but unfortunately I was left disappointed by Mockingjay.

Perhaps I felt emotionally drained by all the fighting that was going on in the story–death after gruesome death and I was sick of picturing the muttations. I was also thoroughly fed up with Katniss’ inability to grasp her own feelings for Peeta or Gale.  Not to mention, she’s a bit thick. She seemed forever clueless about how to help the rebels’ cause and many unnecessary deaths occurred as a result of her lack of good judgement.

Perhaps such strong emotions should be the sign of a good book, but the writing got progressively worse and I simply wasn’t impressed. That said, I still think everyone should give the entire trilogy a read, perhaps best in one fell swoop. Be sure you have all three books handy when you begin. I can at least guarantee after completing The Hunger Games you’ll be left craving for more.

Rating: 3/5

Catching Fire

 “Oh,” I say under my breath. “Tick, tock.” My eyes sweep around the full circle of the arena and I know she’s right. “Tick, tock. This is a clock.”

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire 

No sooner had I finished blogging about The Hunger Games than I started reading Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collin’s riveting trilogy.  I’ve always found that the first book of any series tends to be better than the ones that follow, but I think in this case Catching Fire can easily hold its own.

Just as I thought life could somehow go on happily ever after in PanemCollins sends us on another emotionally charged journey that takes many unexpected twists and turns.  I found myself holding my breath through most of the second half of the book and before I knew it, I was at the end with my eyes wide open in disbelief, nearly dropping my Kindle on the floor.

I was absolutely knackered from all the reading I’d done the past two days but even as I closed my eyes, my mind kept racing and I awoke the next morning feeling like I had actually been dragged through the Quarter Quell.  To think I’d gotten so in to this teen fiction malarkey made me laugh out loud.  But that’s surely the sign of a good story!

Review: 4.5/5

Guilty Pleasures: The Hunger Games

“May the odds be ever in your favour.”

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

All week long while my mate Nick had his attention focused on the trilogy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I  shook my head and wondered why anyone our age would be interested in a book deemed for ages 12 and older.  Essentially, he was reading teen fiction and without trying to be pretentious, even I didn’t read teen fiction when I was a young adult.  Especially nothing in the adventure science fiction department.

But unbeknownst to me, I would soon be converted in a span of 24 hours and find myself deeply engrossed in the lives of Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and the tributes of District 12.  I was practically at the edge of my seat from start to finish and was disappointed when I found I had finished the entire book.  I wanted to read more.  After riding a thrilling roller coaster of emotions, The Hunger Games had whet my appetite for more.

I had forgotten what it was like to use  my own imagination and found myself dreaming of Panem last night–all the vibrant colours, luxurious food, the ‘reality show’ arena.  I don’t think it would be proper to describe the book as ‘fun’ as the premise of the story is rather dark, but it definitely is an engaging book.  Without revealing too much, at one point I was literally on the brink of tears and yelling, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU CAN’T JUST CHANGE THE RULES LIKE THAT!”

I wouldn’t say the writing is spectacular, but the story is eerily fascinating and is well-written enough to keep the pages turning.  I definitely recommend giving this book a try.

Rating: 4.5/5