Tuesday, January 31, 2023


Title: Ancient Ghosts

Author: Edel Marit Gaino

Translator: Olivia Lasky and Lea Simma

Illustrator: Toma Feizo Gas

Publisher: Inhabit Education Books

Pages: 200

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This book is a collection of ten paranormal stories from Norway. The stories are accompanied by illustrations, black and white impressions, daubs of black ink that grew to resemble the picture that the artist had in mind. There are 25 illustrations in all, including 15 full-page ones.

I found the cover, with its image of a ghastly, skeletal body with sharp claws and fangs, disturbing, yet intriguing.

Unfortunately, most of the stories barely measure up to the fear evoked by the cover image.

The Old Graves On Our Moor: The narrator, a child, learns from his uncle of the finding of a 1000-year-old undecomposed corpse. Later, the child has an encounter with it.

The story isn’t really scary but the sense of brooding atmosphere that the author incorporates into the telling might frighten a child on a dark night.

The Copper Kettle: Three friends set up camp at a wild reindeer bog, where one of them has a frightening experience with a supernatural being.

The third story, The Grouse, is preceded by a note with a trigger warning for sexual assault and the numbers of two helplines. This story was really scary but there is nothing paranormal about it. This one is about the depravity of men.

The Mudhole is another story about the real danger posed by quicksand.

In The Mirror, two teenage girls, playing around with an old superstition on New Year’s Day, learn a lesson.

In The Raven, the shooting of a raven ensures the end of a hunter’s shooting adventures.

The Dream-Seers: This one was more of an anecdote than a real story.

None of these stories are likely to give you sleepless nights, but even the momentary sense of unease can be effective in a well-written story.

But the heavyweights, it seems, had been saved to bring up the rear in this book. The Four-Eyed Dog was one story that really gave me the shivers.

The Invisible Dog started out really scary. It even built on the promise, but the conclusion undid the effect.

The scariest of the lot was the last story, The Fishing Trip, which was beautifully written. This was the only story in which the terror was actually palpable and not something to be nurtured by one’s imagination. 

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


Title: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Author: Audrey Niffenegger

Publisher: Zola Books

Pages: 537

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐

I must confess that I couldn’t finish this book. I struggled to get to the 100-page mark. Until last year, I used to make it a point of plodding on through books I didn’t like, because I thought it wasn’t fair to the author. But starting this year, I’ve decided that life’s too short and there are too many books out there for me to do time with a book that just isn’t working for me.

The book is written in the first person present tense PoV of Clare and Henry. Because it is Henry doing the time travelling, there are more accounts of his first person than hers.

They first meet in October 1991 when he is 28 and she is 20. Over the years, they meet often at various periods. While Clare’s life proceeds in a linear fashion, Henry’s is all over the place. I found it hard to keep things straight in my head. The past and the future was all mixed up. Beyond a point, I couldn’t see any significance to the accounts of their time together.

Also, why did the author make him time travel naked? It forces him to spend time looking for clothes, and having to steal and break into places in order to get clothing or food. He materialises and de-materialises suddenly, without any agency or control, this we are told. Then how does he manage to show up so often in Clare’s time.

Sometimes in the course of his travels, he meets older or younger versions of himself, adding to our confusion.

Also, if it was Henry having all the adventures, why was the book called The Time Traveller’s Wife?

Maybe these were questions that would have been answered if I had read on, but I ran out of patience.

Both Henry and Clare sounded so alike, I had to keep checking to see whose PoV was on. 

The closeness between Henry and Clare, especially when she is in her teens and he is his 43-year-old self, made me cringe.

I laughed out loud at the metaphor for Henry’s erection: tall enough to ride some of the scarier rides at Great America without a parent.

The impossible love story would have been more meaningful if I had been able to care for the characters. I didn’t like either of them.

I might have liked the book more if there had been more emotion in it, and if it had been thinner.


Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Publisher: MacLehose Press

Pages: 554

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This was a book I’d been meaning to read for a long time. It concerns the theme of domestic violence and sexual assault. The book is divided into several parts; each part is preceded by damning statistics relating to violence against women.

The book starts with a single pressed flower, framed and delivered year after year, to an old man on the 1st of November, his birthday.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist has been indicted and fined for a story he wrote on the unscrupulous dealings of businessman Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. The court holds him guilty of defamation, sentencing him to three months in prison and directing him to pay a heavy fine.

Meanwhile aged business magnate Henrik Vagner offers him an interesting assignment: to discover the fate of his oldest brother’s granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared from Heddeby, the island they called home, in 1966, when she was just 16. Vagner is afraid that one of his relatives has done harm to Harriet. But, if so, Harriet's body had never been found, and the case had turned cold. Out of a job, Mikael decides to take on the assignment.

Vagner has also retained the services of Lisbeth Salander, an enigmatic and dangerous security investigator and hacker. Will the team of Mikael and Lisbeth successfully solve the decades-old mystery of Harriet’s disappearance?

The book is written in the 3rd person past tense PoV of Mikael and Lisbeth. For the greater part of the book, both these characters are unknown to each other. They don’t meet under Chapter 18, at page 305. Things heat up for the investigation from this point onwards.

The events relate to a period from the 20th of December of one year to the end of the next.

There were so many characters in the book that I had to keep referring to the Family Tree. The fact that there are 23 potential suspects on an island meant that it was hard to keep all the relationships straight in my head. It doesn’t help that there are more than one Gunnar, Birgir etc.

The scenes describing the rape were extremely disturbing and would be triggering for the vulnerable. Also, at the risk of treading on spoiler territory, there was one character, Eva, a dentist who was Martin’s girlfriend, on whom we never got any closure.

I would have liked this book better if it had shed some weight. There’s precious little happening in the first 200-odd pages.

The Prologue uses up a lot of pages to build up an element that gets explained in a few small paragraphs later on.

Also, the part relating to the doings of Wennerstrom comes after the mystery relating to Harriet has been resolved. By then, I felt a sense of fatigue after wading through this door stopper of a book, and I had almost lost interest in Wennerstrom. If only the two subplots had been dealt with concurrently.

Apparently, the original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women. That title made far more sense than this one that jumps on the back of the Girl trend. 


Title: Disorder: A Fable

Author: Leslie Kaplan

Translator: Jennifer Pap

Publisher: AK Press

Pages: 64

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

The book begins with exploited people in France going berserk and killing their bosses. The wave of madness spreads with multiple crimes committed every day. Repeated attempts to make sense of this madness fail. The motivation, as expressed by the killers, is bizarre.

Much of the story is a recounting of the crimes. There isn’t a plot, nor any causality in terms of a storyline. Just a random series of unrelated killings that seem like an epidemic of sorts.

As always, when there are no answers, there are a lot of theories and expostulations. The wave of madness evolves until the distance between the killer and the victim is lengthened. The bizarre nature of the crimes and their unexpectedness is so unbelievable as to be laughable.

The tone of the narrative indicates that it has been written after the events described. Hopefully, some resolution was achieved.

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 


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