Book Review | As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood, the first book in Simukka’s ‘Snow White’ trilogy, is described as a Nordic noir thriller and has sold over a million copies internationally. In the vein of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the book features a young female protagonist who finds herself sleuthing in the Finnish world of organized crime. This undercover operation takes place after a few school mates of hers stumble on a bloody bag of money and plan to keep it, leading to her attempted kidnapping.

While this is a young adult book, it could certainly be enjoyed by adults. That said, expect it to be written for slightly younger readers in the sense that a few things seem overly explained or redundant. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the translation or how the original text reads. The story is interesting enough, though it does seem unrealistic at times and certain coincidences are a bit much. The flow of the writing and active plot keep the book flowing, though the protagonist is the only developed character. It’s a quick read with entertainment value and would work well for teens who appreciate edgy but aren’t really excited about reading, reluctant readers. There are already plans in place for the film series. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Moving Day : a thriller by Jonathan Stone

Featuring guest author Punit Prakash
cover moving day by jonathan stoneMoving Day connects protagonist Peke’s past to a current problem. Born Jewish in Poland, he escaped World War II and emigrated to the US. Recently retired, he and his wife packed up their New England home prior to a cross country move to Santa Barbara. When a gang posing as movers shows up at his residence a day ahead of schedule, they load all the packed boxes into their trucks and disappear with their bounty, all of Peke’s possessions. As Peke uses his wit to track down the thieves, Stone interweaves scenes from Peke’s childhood. Survival skills learned while escaping the Holocaust come in handy during this cat and mouse chase.

This was a quick paced read that kept interest levels high. The story was mostly linear and easy to follow. Some readers may feel that World War II references are overdone, but others will appreciate the historic approach. Moving Day could work well for readers with short attention spans because it is very plot driven. Critics have given an overall warm reception to the book. Check it out at a library near you.

Film Review | Kærlighed på film (Just Another Love Story)

Just another love story dvd coverThis Danish film directed by Ole Bornedal shares the story of a crime scene photographer who steps into another man’s shoes after causing a traffic accident that cripples a lovely lady mentally and physically. Though short on money, things are going well enough for Jonas and his family. He lives in an apartment with his wife and two school age children. At worst, their life may be a bit boring for him and the sex life a bit lacking. When car troubles cause the family’s car to stall in the road on the way to school, a distressed young woman, Julia, swerves to avoid rearending them and collides with the oncoming vehicle resulting in fatalities and major injuries for her. Jonas feels at fault and rushes to comfort Julia, but in her hysteria she mistakes him for her lover from Thailand, Sebastien. To gain admittance to her hospital room Jonas claims to be her boyfriend and Julia’s family at once believe him to be Sebastien, a roll he falls into without objecting. The relationship between Jonas and Julia (mostly blind and without memories) develops as he continues to visit her and get to know her family better. Trouble is on the horizon as Sebastien returns to Denmark and Jonas has to choose between Julia and his family.

This film was pretty intense. The acting was solid and the performances believable. Though some parts of the film seemed a bit far-fetched, the overall plot contained enough tension to keep the viewer interested and the story going. The title, Just Another Love Story, is aiming at irony since this love story is anything but run of the mill. Check it out from a library near you.

Film Review | Night Train to Lisbon by Bille August

night train to lisbon dvd coverBased on the novel with the same title, Night Train to Lisbon shares the story of a professor from Bern, Switzerland who abruptly abandons his duties and rides a train to Lisbon to track down a story of times past. With a posthumously published book in hand as his guide, he tracks down old acquaintances and pieces together the story of their involvement in the resistance against the Portuguese dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The movie opens displaying the calm life of solitude lead by the professor (Irons). On his morning walk to campus, he chances upon a girl on the verge of jumping off a bridge. After ‘rescuing’ her, she disappears leaving her coat behind with a book in the pocket. This book is the catalyst for professor’s trip to Lisbon. As past clues are connected in flashbacks, the story is as much about what happened to the characters during the resistance as about the professor’s current day life.

The film is informative and sheds light on the Portuguese resistance, a topic not generally covered in popular media. The cast and acting are solid, though the deliberately slower pace of the film sometimes makes it a bit challenging. The overall story and connections are well thought out and provide for an interesting piece, though the ending is not very concrete. Fans of Irons will enjoy his performance, but those looking for a more cultural piece will be left disappointed as the entire film is in English and reveals only limited shots of both Portugal and Switzerland. Released in the US at the end of 2013, this film should be available at a library near you. You can also view the theatrical trailer on the film’s website.

Film Review | Prisoners directed by Denis Villeneuve

prisoners dvd coverJumping right in to a birthday or holiday meal, two friendly neighbor families get together for a celebration which spirals into a nightmare when both of their younger daughters go missing. Prisoners takes us along on the hunt for their kidnapper with Detective Gyllenhaal and shows the whirlwind of grief their parents and siblings suffer through as Jackman takes the law into his own hands. With leads in several different directions, this thriller will keep you rapt until all the clues are finally pieced together.

This is certainly not the movie for you to check out if you are looking for laughs, smiles or a happy ending, but if you are looking for a solid thriller with a hint of torture, this is it. Jackman and Gyllenhaal share the lead and do an excellent job with their characters. The tension in this film is taught – I’d call it a nail-biter, or cuticle-picker. The story twists and turns a few times and the connections are hinted at, but not given away – a psychological thriller that gets you trying to figure out who the real criminal is. Check out Prisoners from your local library if you can handle the wait list, otherwise check the local Red Box.

Film Review | The East by Zal Batmanglij

dvd cover the eastThe East is an intense film that grabs and keeps your interest. Marling is good at her job with a private intelligence firm and is selected to go undercover to infiltrate an ‘anarchist’ group called The East. This group is interested in corporate accountability and believes they need to go beyond what the law and government are doing to keep corporations accountable for their actions. Various group members have been affected personally in different ways by these corporations and plan a gig or attack to bring media and public attention to the wrong being committed.

The film does a good job presenting the activist group in a way that allows the viewer to understand how much it means to its members. It sparks thinking about right versus wrong and shades of gray when it comes to sacrificing a few to save many more. It’s interesting to think about whether this film was made more as entertainment or to actually spark people thinking or getting involved in fixing things they may know about or perceive to be failures in the system. The premise is pretty simple, but I’d recommend this film to open minded viewers, fans of the cast members, and those on the fence about the system. You’re likely to find a decent hold queue at your local library though.

Book Review | Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de Giovanni

book cover Il metodo del coccodrillo (The Crocodile) by Maurizio de GiovanniTranslated from Italian, The Crocodile is a noir crime novel that follows the trail of a patient but brutal killer in Naples, Italy. Inspector Lojacono has just been reassigned to a desk job in a new city after implications of involvement with the Camorra (think Mafia) when the first victim is found – a teenage boy shot in the back of the head point-blank. Not long after, a popular girl is killed identically in a well-to-do neighborhood, just outside her door. Links between the murders are obvious and the press dubs the serial killer ‘the crocodile’ because of similarities in how the two kill. The police are at a loss and the assistant district attorney gets Lojacono involved as the investigation becomes a race against the clock to identify the final victims before the killer strikes again.

De Giovanni has penned an interesting piece here. Short chapters alternate focus between various characters – victims, police, and the killer. The scent of Naples is everywhere and small details give the reader a genuine insight into the city. While mostly focussed on the killings and pursuit, there is still a bit of romance and character development in the intertwined stories. Overall, I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. Check it out from a library near you.