Blog Tour & Review: Force of Nature

February 10, 2018 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour & Review: Force of NatureForce of Nature by Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #2
Published by Little Brown UK on 1st February 2018
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case - in just a matter of days she was to provide the documents that will bring down the company she works for.

Falk discovers that far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. But does it include murder?

I’m delighted to be one of a collection of bloggers on today’s stop on the #ForceofNature blog tour!

I’ve been very excited to read Jane Harper’s new novel, the second in her Aaron Falk series. After loving her debut, The Dry, last year and seeing it do so well, I couldn’t wait to read Force of Nature.

I was not disappointed. Harper has an incredible ability to put you right there in the story – it’s something that stood out to me in The Dry and is definitely the case in her latest Aaron Falk instalment.

We rejoin Falk a few months after the happenings of The Dry, back in Melbourne working on a case with a new partner, Carmen. Together they are collecting evidence of money laundering against the firm Bailey Tennants.

Their contact in the company, Alice Russell, has been working secretly to provide them with evidence. However, with the handover of the final key documents looming, Alice has gone missing on a Bailey Tennants corporate retreat.

The setting for most of this novel is the Giralang Ranges. This is where the team building retreat takes place – where two groups all male and all female set out to trek the bush, spending three nights in the great outdoors. However, when the female team arrive at the meeting point late and are missing their teammate Alice, a massive search and investigation begins.

Falk and Carmen find themselves in the ranges, aiding the local police and trying to find Alice. The area has a chilling history of its own, which adds to the fears of the team.

Harper transported me to the wet, winter, Bushlands of the Giralang Ranges. Her writing is so atmospheric, I’ve rarely felt so engaged with the setting of a novel. I swear, I was lying in my bed with the electric blanket on, but I felt the dampness of the bush, the soggy waterproofs and wet sleeping bag.

As for the story itself, I couldn’t stop reading! Harper switched between chapters with Falk as he tries to find Alice, and chapters with the female team and the story of their retreat. I found this to work really well, as we slowly uncover the truth.

Once again, I like Falk. He’s easy to relate to, flawed and all the more likeable for it. I did enjoy his partnership with Carmen, I thought it worked well and I hope we’ll see them work together again.  To my knowledge, there’s no mention of a third book yet but surely we’ll be treated to more of Aaron Falk in the near future.

This novel is so immersive, well written and hard to put down. I’ve no doubt that Force of Nature is going to prove every bit as successful as The Dry.

 

FYI – I’ve just noticed that Waterstones have signed copies available! Find them here (not an affiliate link).

five-stars

Blog Tour & Review: The Dry

January 13, 2017 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour & Review: The DryThe Dry by Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Published by Little Brown UK on 12th January 2017
Genres: Crime, Mystery
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets.

I am very excited to be one of the stops on The Dry blog tour today!

friday

In rural Australia, the town of Kiewarra is in drought – it hasn’t rained for two years. The farming community, and subsequently the entire town are struggling. So when three members of the Hadler family are found dead, with Luke, the father, having seemingly taken his own life, the community are appalled but not entirely surprised – perhaps he was seeking a way out of the struggles for his family.

Aaron Falk, Luke’s childhood best friend, returns to the town he left twenty years ago for his friend’s funeral. Being back is hard. He can’t wait to return to his job as a Federal Agent in Melbourne and leave the memories behind. However, there’s a twenty-year secret that Luke and Aaron shared and it’s possible Luke’s death will bring the secret to light. This, coupled with Luke’s parents’ request that Aaron helps them investigate their son’s death, leads Falk to spend a lot more time in his hometown than he’d planned.

This book grabbed my attention from the first page and I honestly couldn’t put it down. This is Jane Harper’s debut novel and what a debut it is! Her scene-setting, the description of a rural Australian town desperate for rainfall is fantastic. I could almost feel the heat (impressive in a Scottish winter), taste the dust and crave the water myself.

The story itself flits between the real time post-Hadler murders and Aaron & Luke’s teenage years. This allows us to feel as though we know the dead man and, of course, helps us to understand Aaron himself more.

The mystery aspect of this book had me guessing throughout, with Harper’s writing and storytelling keeping me glued until the final word.

Yes, I know who really killed the Hadler family – and I highly recommend you find out for yourself!

four-stars

Review: A Promise Of Fire

January 8, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Promise Of FireA Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Published by Piatkus on 12th January 2017 (UK)
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

Before I start, I’ve seen people online asking if A Promise of Fire is YA – it’s not. There is considerable adult content. Now that’s been addressed, let’s talk about the book.

Cat is with the circus, hiding from her old life when Griffin, Beta Sinta, finds her and well, basically kidnaps her. Her magic is powerful and Griffin realises this and recognises her for what she is – Kingmaker.

There are three nations in this tale – Sinta, Fisa and Tarva. Each has its own royal families – Betas, Gammas and Deltas who all fight one another to become Alpha. Griffin has done things a bit differently and put his sister as Alpha. He hopes that Cat will help them seal their positions in Sinta. But as you can imagine, Cat isn’t overly happy about being kidnapped!

There is much to like in this book, not least the incorporation of Greek Mythology, the depth of the world and its politics, as well as the action. However, I did have some issues with this book – namely the romance.

Okay, so it’s a fantasy romance so I should have been expecting it, but where the first half of the book was packed with action, snarkiness and sexual tension – the second part lacked these qualities. It was more about romance and quite frankly there was too much of it for me.

View Spoiler »

However, let’s put a pin in the romance element and any issues I may have with it. The rest of the book? I loved it! I enjoyed Cat’s snarkiness and her developing relationship with Griffin’s Beta Team. There’s magic, fighting, secrets and friendships.

Quite honestly, I didn’t feel the need for so much romance when the rest of the plot was so intriguing and well built. I’m not saying NO romance, I would’ve just liked it scaled back somewhat, with fewer, erm, graphic scenes.

As a result, I’ve found it difficult to rate this book. Scale back / tone down the ‘romance’ and associated elements and I’d give it 5 stars. However, the second half of the book lost pace for me and as such this is more a 3.5 or 4 star read.

I will, however, be reading book two, Breath of Fire. The fantasy and creative element to this story has me hooked – and I’m hoping book two will be more action, politics and warfare than intimate relations!

NOTE – if you’re a UK e-reader user, you can now download Breath of Fire. I believe fans of paperbacks will have to wait until later in the year.

four-stars

Review: Girl at War

May 23, 2015 in Book Reviews, Fiction

Review: Girl at WarGirl at War by Sara Novic
Published by Little Brown UK on May 2015
Source: Competition Prize
Goodreads
five-stars

Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. With generosity, intelligence, and sheer storytelling talent, Sara Nović’s first novel confronts the enduring impact of war, and the enduring bonds of country and friendship.

 

I was lucky enough to win a limited edition, numbered hardback proof of Girl at War from @LittleBrownUK on Twitter. To win you had to tell them why you wanted to read this book. For me, the answer was quite straight forward.

Girl at War is the story of a ten year old girl, Ana. She’s a tomboy who lives in Zagreb at the time of the Yugoslavian Civil War. Personally, I wanted to read this novel because at that same time as Ana was growing up in a warzone, I was a carefree tomboy living in Scotland. I remember seeing reports on this war on the television, but didn’t ever really have any concept of what was going on. Hence, the reason I wanted to read this novel.

The story is split into four sections. We begin by meeting Ana, her parents and her baby sister, living in a flat in Zagreb. It’s the summer holidays, but for the first time the family aren’t going to the sea; it’s too dangerous to travel. So Ana is passing her holidays with her best friend Luka, cycling and playing football, doing the kind of things that a ten year old should be allowed to do.

As refugees flock to the city and the airstrikes begin, we see the war from the eyes of a child. Ana soon realises that it now seems to matter if you are a Croat or a Serb, that having a beard is associated with the war, and that child or not, this war is going to affect everyone.

Nović uses the four sections of the book to traverse time. In doing so we follow Ana’s life as a child and the devastating things that happen to her during the war. We also see the college student Ana who lives in the US and has kept her past a secret from her peers, but who struggles every day with the events she has seen and the things she has had to do.

The novel has been described as “part war saga, part coming of age tale, part story of love and friendship” and I can think of no better way to describe it. Nović cleverly entwines the story of Ana the child and Ana the young adult. We see Ana the child soldier, and then Ana the college student who cannot sleep for nightmares of her past. Rather than continuing to hide her past, Ana decides to tackle it straight on and returns to Croatia. What follows is a beautiful story of friendship, as well as Ana’s rediscovery of her native culture.

This is a powerful, beautiful read. Nović’s storytelling is vivid, clever and inspiring. Though this may be a fictional piece of writing, there are so many truths in it. Truths that as a 10 year old watching the television I had no idea about. Truths that as a 31 year old I had very little knowledge of. Truths that deserve to be told, and Nović does this beautifully.

This is a stunning debut novel. I highly recommend it!

five-stars