Review | The Disappeared | Kristina Ohlsson


The Disappeared

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1

A young woman is found carved up and buried in a forest glade in a Stockholm suburb. She is identified as Rebecca Trolle, a student who went missing two years earlier. While Fredrika Bergman and her team try to find out why Rebecca met such a violent demise, more bodies are found in the same area. Fredrika Bergman is inevitably drawn into the case, but it becomes much more complicated when her lover’s name is mentioned in the investigation. The investigative unit are nearing a resolution, but the killer is still at large. One question remains: whose body will turn up next when the killer returns to the grave in the forest?

This book really kept my guessing until the very end. I’m a big fan of crime fiction—not police procedurals, but solid crime fiction where it’s more about what makes each character tick than it is about the process of discovering the criminal. And of the crime fiction I’ve enjoyed, I find European crime fiction to be the best, with this being no exception. I’m so glad I stumbled across this title in the bargain bin!

I didn’t know until I had finished it that this is the third book in a series, but that’s a good thing because it means you can read it as a stand-alone and not be lost at all. All of the characters were really beautifully detailed in terms of background and development throughout the novel. Like I said, I was guessing as to who might have committed the murders right up until the very end. What’s better is that even when the killer is uncovered, you’re still left with a cliffhanger and questions. Some people don’t like that with their crime fiction, but I love it. It means I can go back and re-analyze if I want to, see if I can fill in the gaps myself.

The only thing that could have been more detailed was the setting; there’s a lot of character description, but not a lot regarding the setting. You’re told what city you’re in and what the weather’s like, but other than that you’re virtually left with a blank canvas. Again, some people like that. I’m someone who doesn’t like TOO much setting detail—but more would have been preferred so I could feel more grounded in the story.

I would definitely recommend if you’re looking for a mystery to solve!


Review | Since You’ve Been Gone | Morgan Matson

since you've been gone

Since You’ve Been Gone

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1

It was Sloane who yanked Emily out of her shell and made life 100% interesting. But right before what should have been the most epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. All she leaves behind is a to-do list.

On it, thirteen Sloane-inspired tasks that Emily would normally never try. But what if they could bring her best friend back?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Um…

Emily now has this unexpected summer, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected), to check things off Sloane’s list. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go skinny-dipping? Wait…what?

This book has been on my to-read list since it came out and I’m so mad at myself for not having read it sooner! But at the same time, I think I read it at the perfect time for me. This book is so amazing, I can’t even begin to describe the feels. It’s so cute! Everything about this book is great. Honestly.

Admittedly, it took me a while to get into it. Ambur, the blogger behind BurningxImpossiblyxBright and my co-worker, said the same thing. But believe me when I tell you to stick with it!! Here’s why: in the beginning, Emily’s best friend Sloane has left without a trace, and Emily is a little lost. For pages and pages, she just goes on about Sloane and how she has no one to come to her rescue. It gets tedious. But it was only because I stuck with it that I realized this wasn’t poor writing, but is in fact very intentional. You’re supposed to be able to look back and see that Emily’s weakness—maybe her biggest one—was always deferring to Sloane and putting herself in what I would call a “lesser” role. So I can’t tell you what page you’ll start to get into it on, but just trust me and keep on reading. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you’re like, “Oh yeah, I see it now!” When that happens, let me know!

It’s a really good read for summertime too. I loved taking my lunch break outside with this in my hands, or relaxing after work on the back patio while I read this. It’s a really thick book but it’s not too dense, so it was perfect to read when I just wanted to escape. I can’t wait to read more of Matson’s writing. I’m, frankly, hooked! 😉

Link to Ambur’s blog here.

Review | How It Went Down | Kekla Magoon

how it went down

How It Went Down

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1


A black boy is shot by a white man and killed. The white man is released on claims of self-defence without an investigation. What follows is what we see everyday on the news—media interrogation, racist assumptions, ghetto-blaming, and injustice. Told from the perspective of several people who live in the Underhill neighbourhood where the boy was killed so that voices are given to both sides and everyone who had a part in the murder. An undercurrent of mystery and accountability runs through Magoon’s writing—who was Tariq Johnson, really? Was he a member of a gang, or was he just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Are people seeing what they want to see? When you truly believe you are acting out of goodness, does that make your actions right?

What I enjoyed most out of this book was Kekla Magoon’s crazy good ability to write a variety of different characters with their own narrative style. The language changes in each new chapter and keeps the story interesting. It was also really striking to me how, when you get to see everyone’s different perspectives, you can see how mistakes were made, namely with Tom Arlen’s character who, if he hadn’t assumed the worst of Tariq and stopped him on the street, wouldn’t have gotten Tariq killed. At the heart of it, though, you know that Jack Franklin’s motivations can’t be mistaken for anything other than racism and murder. Out of all the characters, he’s the only one who can’t be forgiven for his actions. For everyone else, you can chalk it up to the neighbourhood, or their parents, or what have you—but with Jack Franklin, there is no excuse. His actions were not a mistake. They were intentional.

I wish we had gotten more of Jack’s perspective, and I wish we had seen a happy conclusion for the people of Underhill, but if anything, this is an accurate portrait of race issues today. I believe this should be necessary reading on all high school curriculums in America and Canada, for sure. I’m going to keep this book and give it to my children to read, when I have them. I do believe that, even at its worst, this book is a rosy picture of ghetto life and violence, but I feel like we rarely get to see a portrayal of that lifestyle at all, so I’m happy to take what I can and learn from it. I will definitely be looking out for more work from this author. Highly recommend.

*Side note: The day I started reading this book, my papa passed away. The funeral is today, which is why my review may not seem as up-beat or detailed as normal. For a post on my experience with grief, go here.

| A Word on Grief |

I lost my grandfather this week. We called him Papa. Grief is exhausting and all-consuming. From lack of sleep, to lack of appetite, to acid reflux, and a literal ache in my heart, I have felt grief in a myriad of ways, including sadness, pain, guilt, regret, and even happiness. Grief is a series of moments, taking things minute by minute, engulfed in your memories until eventually you can continue on as normal again, but with a small piece gone. We are all made of these moments and pieces, I think. And eventually we learn to bear them, or bear the loss of them. But we never forget.

Review | Star Wars: Rogue One | Alexander Freed


Rogue One: a Star Wars Story

Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1Asset 1

The Empire has finally succeeded in building a weapon that no one can fathom: they call it the Death Star, a planet-killer in the truest sense. Cassian Andor brings the rumors of its existence back to the rebel base on Yavin 4. The engineer? Galen Erso. The only person with any hope of extracting critical information for the rebel alliance? His daughter Jyn.

“Rescued” from prison, Jyn is tasked with helping the rebel alliance learn of the Empire’s plans. But Jyn is battling her own inner demons whose presence is continually heightened with the re-emergence of individuals from her past; Saw Gerrera, the man in white, and finally her father. At the same time, she is a resistor to both the Empire and the rebel alliance. How can someone who prefers to simply survive by whatever means necessary—including betrayal—cast her instincts aside and serve in a bloody war?

Meanwhile, Cassian Andor is used to obeying orders from the rebel leaders. But what about when those orders cross a line between right and wrong? What about when he has an actual chance to make a difference, but it means turning his back on his superiors?

Bodhi Rook believed in the Empire until Galen Erso told him of the crimes he was unknowingly helping to commit. All he wants is redemption, and he is promised that under the symbol of the rebellion. When the rebellion refuses to act, Bodhi wonders if his betrayal was worth it after all. Does he have the courage to do what’s right and necessary at all cost?

Chirrut and Baze have no home to go to, no temple left to defend. Will the Force guide them to the right path? Is the Force even real, or is it a part of the mythological past?

And, more important than anything, will a small band of rebels be able to take down the Death Star when the entire Empire is against them?

I am on a real Star Wars kick right now, and it is all fuelled by my love for the movie based on this novel. Rogue One is my favourite SW movie, and right now it’s my favourite novel of this year.

Right away, if you’re a fan of the movie, you’ll love this book. They adapted the movie essentially word-for-word. All of the best lines are here in print, and you get to relive the action from each viewpoint just like you did with the film—but this time in more detail.

I have to say that I liked the movie version of Jyn more; in the book she is portrayed as much more mentally unstable than you ever see in the movie. In fact, I don’t think that her mental instability came across in the movie at all, only her anger and grief. But in the book, she is very much mentally scarred by her abandonment as a child and this carries on throughout the novel. It became a bit too repetitive in my opinion, and took away from the strength of her character. At the same time, she does overcome all of her anxiety and mental blockades to ultimately succeed, which shows her strength of character… She’s definitely a highly complex MC, which has me feeling confused over how I feel about the book’s portrayal of her, but both book-version and movie-version Jyn are awesome at the end of the day.

Krennic is just as awful as ever, but I’m glad I read the book because while the movie portrays him as kind of a grovelling idiot, you see more of why he is like that in the book. I certainly don’t view him as simple as I did when I had only experienced the movie. That said, I maintain my opinion that he is a big old d**k.

The book does flip to Darth Vader’s perspective at the end, but it lacks in any real depth. It would have been really cool to have more exposure to his thoughts and motivations.

And finally, and coolest of all, is that we see, very briefly, a Jedi-like character appear in the rebel base. Unnamed and described as middle-aged, we know that it can’t be Obi-Wan. Some fellow fans have suggested it could be Lor San Tekka. Definitely possible, but I wonder if we’re being introduced to a Jedi that we didn’t know about, who might make an appearance in upcoming films…?

Star Talk

In my Star Wars fandom, I recently posted about my experience transitioning from The Force Awakens to Rogue One, and how my initial excitement for Rey as a strong female lead was quickly replaced by disappointment when I compared her to Jyn. I wanted to get a sense of the overall opinion of the fandom. I should have known that while some would take my question with interest and engage in intelligent discussion with me, there would be at least one mansplainer who thought they had me and “[my] problem with the TFA script” all figured out. Ironically, this person went on to argue that Jyn, next to Rey, had less agency and spent the entire Rogue One movie being lead by men.

Not only is this a problematic reading of the movie from a man’s perspective, but it fails to take into account the movie’s source material—namely the novel Rogue One by Alexander Freed. In actuality, when I brought the novel into my discussion with this individual, he dismissed it as inconsequential, claiming that no one should have to diverge to the book in order to develop a better understanding of a character. The purpose of this mini-essay is therefore to argue why Jyn is such an excellent female lead and why I find this other individual’s stance problematic.

Firstly, while Jyn is one of the only women present in Rogue One—movie and novel—the testosterone levels do not overwhelm her. Let us take a look at the cover as one example:


We see Jyn in the background, the largest presence on the cover, dwarfing her male allies beneath her. Everything about this cover design places Jyn in a position of power except for the fact that her image is positioned in behind the men. However, the rest imply that she is in a superior position. This alludes to the fact that she becomes the sergeant leading to Rebel force on Scarif at the end of the novel and movie—the novel does mention one other woman under Jyn’s charge, but nevertheless she is a woman who rose above adversity (the opposition at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4) to eventually lead a rogue rebellion populated almost entirely by men.

Another example of why Jyn is a strong and independent female lead is her constant platonic friction with Cassian. (I believe it is important to stress how platonic it is, as I find that friction between leading men and women in movies or novels can too often, in my experience, become a plot point solely to serve romance—a trope I find annoying.) Jyn is released from prison and brought to Yavin 4 by Cassian as a result of him wanting to use her to gain intelligence, yes, but she has her own reasons for agreeing to speak to Saw Gerrera for him—her freedom. From that point, the movie does less to show Jyn’s inner struggle, especially whilst they are on Jedha; however, reading the book reveals that the entire time on Jedha, Jyn is contemplating betraying Cassian’s trust and going her own way. In fact, once she has spoken with Saw Gerrera, she does turn to leave and only stops because Saw begins to play a hologram of her father. I would argue that this is not male control, but instead a distraught daughter’s curiosity surrounding seeing her father again for the first time in years.

Finally, while on Scarif obtaining the Death Star plans, Cassian is wounded and knocked unconscious; Jyn therefore proceeds through the mission herself.

Now, after all this, why do I find it problematic that a man read her as being subordinate to the other men in the story? For one thing, I believe that it completely ignores the many blatant instances of Jyn making independent decisions and showing resistance to those around her. It also completely ignores her leadership role at the end, and instead intentionally and incorrectly places her in an equal—or maybe even subservient—position to the men she is rebelling with. Therefore, I argue that this is an example of a man literally taking away a female character’s agency by choosing to ignore it entirely. This is just as bad as a man actively oppressing a woman so that she can’t have any agency. The fact that this man’s opinion was delivered by him telling me what I didn’t like about TFA is highlighting this problem; he took away my agency and simultaneously Jyn’s.