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Christmas Island By Natalie Normann

Christmas Island‘Christmas Island’ is the latest book by Natalie Normann.

After all the years of hard work it took Londoner Holly Greene to become a doctor, now it could all be taken away and she only has herself to blame. She’s retreating to her brother’s rustic home on an island off the coast of Norway to lick her wounds. Only, it’s the middle of winter and icy slush plus endless darkness isn’t exactly the cheery, festive getaway she had imagined. Nearly stumbling off the edge of a cliff in the dark, Holly is saved by Frøy, a yellow-eyed cat of fearsome but fluffy proportions, and his owner – grouchy, bearded recluse, Tor. Tor has his own problems to face but the inexplicable desire to leave a bag of freshly baked gingerbread men on Holly’s doorstep is seriously getting in the way of his hermit routine. Call it kindness, call it Christmas, but Holly’s arrival means midwinter has never looked less bleak.

If you’re a fan of Christmas and need a distraction, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this warm hearted Norwegian story.

The story is seen through the narrative of Holly and Tor who meet when Tor rescues Holly from almost falling off a cliff, when she first arrives on an island in Norway to visit her brother at Christmas. At first, the pair are tentative towards each other, they’re both at a crossroads in their lives and uncertain as to what will happen next so they decide to enjoy their time together, as they celebrate Christmas with the residents of the island.

I adored this book, life is grim right now with lockdowns and restrictions so it was wonderful to escape into this romantic and festive story that is brimming with delicious flavours, recipes and smells. Throughout the book, my mouth was literally salivating at the delicious food that was created and it was lovely to read the various traditions that are done each year.

The main characters are lovely, Holly is instantly likeable and relatable with her fun personality. Tor is quite a guarded character, who’s locally known as ‘the hermit of the island’ but Holly helps bring him out of the shell and embrace the locals. There’s an sense of underlying sadness with both characters, as they are both are going through hardships and they are drawn to each other for comfort. One of my favourite characters in the book was actually a cat called Frøy, I loved his personality and his mood swings, one minute he loved her owner Tor and the next he wouldn’t look at him. Even though, Tor is the hermit of the island, Frøy is notorious, going from various houses for food and comfort.

Beautifully written and wonderfully descriptive with heartwarming characters and flavours that will instantly brighten your day. ‘Christmas Island’ is a charming and engaging story about new friendships and new beginnings that read like a hug in a mug.

You can buy ‘Christmas Island’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Seven Doors By Agnes Ravtn

The Seven Doors‘The Seven Doors’ is the latest book by Agnes Ravtn.

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her difficult daughter are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition. When her daughter decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman living there disappears, leaving her son behind, the day after Nina and her daughter pay her a visit. With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Nordic Noir so I was looking forward to reading ‘The Seven Doors’.

The story is seen through the narrative of Literary professor Nina who believes that English professors should be capable of investigating crimes due to their knowledge of myths and folklores and this sets up the premise of the story. Nina finds herself obsessing over the disappearance of Mari Neilson who was the former tenant in an apartment that she and her husband Mads had. She was unaware of the woman being a tenant in the house until she and her daughter visited it as her daughter Ingeberg was wanting to move in ahead of her second pregnancy.

The story then flows with Nina doing her own investigative work into the disappearance, retracing Mari’s last steps and her relationships with her parents as well as her ex husband Nicolas Bull, who’s returned to the Bergen area after being gone for years. Although we only meet Mari once in a story for a brief introduction, Agnes creates a full image of the woman with stories from her parents and ex husband all giving an insight into the woman.

The story is cleverly crafted with references to Nordic folk lore which is where the title of the book comes from. A captain called Bluebeard’s Castle who had 7 doors in his house and forbid his wife from looking behind them. It’s a tale of revenge, loss and jealousy and it’s essentially what this book is also about.

The story is extremely atmospheric and the author includes vivid descriptions of the town, the food and the festive traditions. The descriptions of the snow covered streets to the unsettling folklores made for fascinating reading. The story is primarily about the complexities of relationships, Nina has a strained relationship with her often outspoken and robust daughter Ingeberg and struggles to connect with her granddaughter who is always pushing her away and Mads is often working and leaving Nina to her own thoughts.

This book was a fascinating to read, but the author does not include speech marks so it takes a while to get used too but after a few pages, you don’t notice it.

Atmospheric and suspenseful with tension simmering throughout, ‘The Seven Doors’ was originally a Nordic book that has been translated by Rosie Hedger and for the English market.

‘The Seven Doors’ is a twisted story with drama and unreliable characters that made for gripping reading.

You can buy ‘The Seven Doors’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.