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review 2019-01-08 19:25
As good, if not better, than Harper’s previous books. Read it now!
The Lost Man - Jane Harper

Thanks to NetGalley and to Little, Brown Book Group UK, for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. I’m also grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for the launch of the book. After having read both of Jane Harper’s previous books, The Dry and Force of Nature, I rushed to grab this one as soon as I saw it was available. And yes, although it is quite different from the other two, it is another winner.

The two previous books, two thrillers/mysteries, had as protagonist Aaron Falk, a federal investigator of fraud and related crimes, who somehow gets involved in cases outside his comfort zone, for different reasons. Here, there is no professional investigator (however loosely Falk’s credentials might relate to the mystery at hand). I had mentioned in my reviews of the two previous books the fact that the stories put me in mind of domestic noir, and this is even more the case here. It might sound strange to talk about noir when the setting is the Australian outback (the nearest town is Balamara, Winton, Queensland), but plot and character-wise, it fits neatly into the category. And it is atmospheric, for sure. Harper is masterful at making us feel as if we were there, in this unusual and totally unique place, where going out for a walk might end up getting you killed.

The story is set around Christmas time, (summer in Australia), and is told in the third person from the point of view of Nathan Bright, the oldest son of the Bright family, who lives alone in his farm after his divorce, four hours away from the rest of his family, and very far from his ex-wife and his son, Xander, who live in Brisbane. Xander is visiting his father for Christmas (he is sixteen and due to his studies it is likely this might be the last Christmas they spend together for the foreseeable future), and as they prepare to celebrate the holidays, Nathan gets a call. His middle brother, Cameron, has been found dead in pretty strange circumstances. His dead body was by the stockman’s grave, a grave in the middle of the desert subject of many stories and local legends, and a place Cameron had made popular thanks to one of his paintings. Bub, the younger brother, is waiting for Nathan and explains to him that their brother’s car was found nine miles away, in perfect working order, fully stocked with food and water. So, what was their brother doing there, and why did he die of dehydration? When the questions start coming, it seems that Cam, a favourite in town and well-liked by everybody, had not been himself recently and seemed worried. Was it suicide then, or something else?

Nathan is not the typical amateur detective of cozy mysteries, another aspect that reminds me of domestic noir. He is not somebody who enjoys mysteries, or a secret genius, and he only gets involved because he keeps observing things that don’t seem to fit in with the official explanation. As this is his family, he cannot help but keep digging and has to remain involved because, for one, he has to attend his brother’s funeral. The main characters in domestic noir tend to have troubled lives and be hindered by their problems, no matter how convinced they are that they have it all under control. As the book progresses, they learn how wrong they are. In this case, Nathan is a flawed character and lacks insight into his state of mind and that of his life. He has committed some terrible mistakes (perhaps even unforgivable ones), and he is the black sheep of the family, in appearance at least. As you might expect, things are not as they seem, and during the book he grows and learns, and not only about his brother’s death. Nathan might not be the most familiar of characters or the most immediately sympathetic to many readers due to his closed-off nature, but through the novel we also learn about his past and the circumstances that made him the man he is now.

The clues and to the case appear at a slow pace and naturally, rather than feeling forced, and they do not require a lot of procedural or specialized knowledge. There are also red herrings, but most of them go beyond an attempt at wrong-footing readers, and provide important background information that helps build up a full picture of the people and the place. In style the book reminds us of old-fashioned mysteries, without extreme violence or excessive attention being paid to the procedures of the police or to complex tests. No AND tests and no CSI on sight here. This is a book about characters, motivations, and the secrets families keep.

In contrast to the first two novels written by Harper, this book is deceptively simple in its structure. The book takes place over a few days, around Christmas, and, as I said, it is all told from the point of view of Nathan. The story is told chronologically, although there are moments when we get some important background into the story, be it thanks to Nathan’s memories, or to episodes and events narrated to him by other characters. The book manages to keep a good balance between showing and telling and it is very atmospheric, although it moves at its own pace, meandering and perfectly suited to the setting. I’ve never visited the Australian outback and have never experienced anything like the extreme weather conditions described in the book, but I felt the oppressive sensation, the heat, the agoraphobia induced by the open spaces, and the horror of imagining yourself in Cam’s circumstances. The initial setting, with the lonely gravestone, made me think of a Western, and the life in the ranch, isolated and extreme, where surviving requires a daily fight against the elements, made the story feel primordial and timeless. Although the story is set in modern times (there is no specific date, but despite the distance from civilisation, there is talk of mobiles, internet, GPS, etc.), due to the location, people are forced to live as if time had not truly moved on, and they have to depend on themselves and those around them, because if your car or your air conditioning break down, it could mean your death.

Apart from her evident skill in describing Australia and everyday life in the outback (she refers to her research and sources in her acknowledgments), the author is masterful at creating characters that are multi-dimensional and psychologically and emotionally believable, as I explained when talking about the main protagonist. These are people used to living alone and not allowing their vulnerabilities to show. Even within the family, its members keep secrets from each other and don’t share their feelings, although they might all know about what has happened, because that’s what they’ve always seen and known, and perhaps they believe that if you don’t talk about it you can keep it contained. The secrets are slowly revealed, and although many readers will suspect the nature of some of them, that does not diminish their power and impact. The themes discussed are, unfortunately, very current, and although I won’t talk about them in detail, to avoid spoilers, I am sure they will resonate with most readers. Although the ending will probably not be a huge surprise to most readers, it is built up expertly, and I found it very satisfying.

I had to share a couple of samples of writing, although it was a hard choice:

In the centre was a headstone, blasted smooth by a hundred-year assault from sand, wind and sun. The headstone stood a metre tall and was still perfectly straight. It faced west, towards the desert, which was unusual out there. West was rarely anyone’s first choice.

The name of the man buried beneath had long since vanished and the landmark was known to locals —all sixty-five of them, plus 100,000 head of cattle— simply as the stockman’s grave. That piece of land had never been a cemetery; the stockman had been put into the ground where he had died, and in more than a century no-one had joined him.

There was something about the brutal heat when the sun was high in the sky and he was watching the slow meandering movement of the herds. Looking out over the wide-open plains and seeing the changing colours in the dust. It was the only time when he felt something close to happiness… It was harsh and unforgiving, but it felt like home.

In sum, this is a book for people who enjoy an unusual mystery and books focused on characters rather than fast-paced plots. If you love well-written books, and don’t mind investing some time into the story and its characters, especially if you are keen on an Australian setting, you should not miss this one. I will be on the lookout for the author’s next book.

 

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review 2019-01-01 13:34
I believe CoHo was channeling her inner Tarryn Fisher on this one...
Verity - Colleen Hoover

๏ ๏ ๏  Book Blurb ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

 

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

 

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

๏ ๏ ๏  My Review ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

What kind of mind-fuckery is this?  Seriously, that beginning...that middle, and of course, that freaking crazy AF ending.  If you like Colleen Hoover and you also like romantic suspense...then you'll be totally eating this story up...with a fork and a spoon.  But only, if you like your stories and your characters completely twisted.  Disclaimer:  If you like your stories to leave you feeling like they all live happily-ever-after...then this might not be for you.  A book to make you go hmmm...

 

 

๏ ๏ ๏  MY RATING ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

☆5☆STARS - GRADE=A+

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

๏ Breakdown of Ratings ๏ 

Plot⇝ 5/5
Main Characters⇝ 5/5
Secondary Characters⇝ 5/5
The Feels⇝ 5/5
Pacing⇝ 5/5
Addictiveness⇝ 5/5
Theme or Tone⇝ 4.5/5
Flow (Writing Style)⇝ 5/5
Backdrop (World Building)⇝ 5/5
Originality⇝ 5/5
Ending⇝ 5/5 Cliffhanger⇝ Not really...
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Book Cover⇝ It's sketchy...
Setting⇝ Mostly Vermont
Source⇝ I own Kindle eBook 
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Goodreads
Amazon
Booklikes

 

 

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review 2018-12-29 19:16
A twisted family affair...
Emma in the Night - Wendy Walker

 

 

๏ ๏ ๏  Book Blurb ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

One night five years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn't add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister's return might just be the beginning of the crime.

 

 

 

 

 

๏ ๏ ๏  My Review ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

I've read reviews where they call the MC of a book an unreliable narrator, but I've never quite grasped what that means...until now, that is.  I think it's when they (the MC) is not giving you; the reader, all the information despite it being from their pov.  For instance, in this book, Cass doesn't give anything away, other than conveying that you "don't know the whole story".  Do I like this approach?  Maybe...my feelings are mixed on this.

 

This was an okay read, despite anti-climatic ending...nothing spectacular...but I mostly liked it.  The narrators were decent too.  The topic of narcissism was not only interesting but also something quite different and it felt well researched.  It was a worthwhile listen just for that alone.  Which is good because the characters were somewhat unlikable at best...and the rest were quite obnoxious, although, some of them were that way on purpose, for sure.

 

๏ ๏ ๏  MY RATING ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 

☆3.8☆STARS - GRADE=B

 

 

 

 

 

 

๏ Breakdown of Ratings ๏ 

 

Plot⇝ 4/5
Main Characters⇝ 4/5 
Secondary Characters⇝ 3.7/5
The Feels⇝ 4/5
Pacing⇝ 4.2/5
Addictiveness⇝ 4/5
Theme or Tone⇝ 4/5
Flow (Writing Style)⇝ 3.7/5
Backdrop (World Building)⇝ 4/5
Originality⇝ 4.3/5
Ending⇝ 3.7/5 Cliffhanger⇝ Nope.
๏ ๏ ๏
Book Cover⇝ It freaked me out at first, it kinda looks like an exorcism, because you have to look closely to see that her face is actually facing forward.
Narration⇝ ☆4.5☆ for Therese Plummer (as Abby) & Julia Whelan (as Cass)...they were both quite good and also had distinct voices.  I've listened to them both many times in many different books.
Setting⇝ Connecticut
Source⇝ Audiobook (Library)
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Goodreads
Amazon
Booklikes

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review 2018-11-04 15:05
Uncanny by Sarah Fine
Uncanny - Sarah Fine

๏ ๏ ๏ Book Blurb ๏ ๏ ๏


Two sisters. One death. No memories.

Cora should remember every detail about the night her stepsister, Hannah, fell down a flight of stairs to her death, especially since her Cerepin—a sophisticated brain-computer interface—may have recorded each horrifying moment. But when she awakens after that night, her memories gone, Cora is left with only questions—and dread of what the answers might mean.

When a downward spiral of self-destruction forces Cora to work with an AI counselor, she finds an unexpected ally, even as others around her grow increasingly convinced that Hannah’s death was no accident. As Cora’s dark past swirls chaotically with the versions of Hannah’s life and death that her family and friends want to believe, Cora discovers the disturbing depths of what some people may do—including herself.

With her very sanity in question, Cora is forced to face her greatest fear. She will live or die by what she discovers.

 

๏ ๏ ๏  My Review ๏ ๏ ๏ 

 
Uncanny's setting is a frightening future that doesn't seem too far off...with integrated AI controlling almost every aspect of our lives.  Always watching...always learning.  Despite having some eww moments with some AI/human love, I ended up really liking this.  This story is infinitely thought-provoking and deals with a lot of existential type principals.   The narration was mostly well done, despite the annoying level of screechyness that Bailey Carr's voice could reach.
 

๏ ๏ ๏  MY RATING ๏ ๏ ๏ 

☆4☆STARS - GRADE=B+

 
 
 
 

๏ Breakdown of Ratings ๏ 

Plot⇝ 4.2/5 
Main Characters⇝ 4/5
Secondary Characters⇝ 4/5
The Feels⇝ 4/5
Pacing⇝ 4/5
Addictiveness⇝ 3.7/5
Theme or Tone⇝ 4.3/5
Flow (Writing Style)⇝ 4/5
Backdrop (World Building)⇝ 4/5
Originality⇝ 4.2/5
Ending⇝ 4.3/5 Cliffhanger⇝ Nope.
๏ ๏ ๏
Book Cover⇝ It sort of creeps me out.
Narration⇝ Bailey Carr (3.5☆) & Scott Merriman (5☆) his voice was perfect for the AI
Setting⇝ Year 2069
Source⇝ Audiobook (Scribd)
 

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review 2018-07-26 21:28
4.7 Out Of 5 "Pirates vs Sirens" STARS
Daughter of the Siren Queen - Tricia Levenseller

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~BOOK BLURB~

Daughter of the Siren Queen

Tricia Levenseller

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The capable, confident, and occasionally ruthless heroine of Daughter of the Pirate King is back in this action-packed sequel that promises rousing high seas adventures and the perfect dash of magic.

 

Alosa's mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he's under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father's justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~MY QUICKIE REVIEW~

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

What an awesome ending to this duology.  I love these characters Alosa is a fiery girl pirate, whose not afraid to do what needs to be done.  I love how she interacts with her crew. Rilen is freaking adorable…love him.  I also loved the sweet, but not sickly sweet, romance between these two.  If I have any complaints about this second book at all, it's Alosa's indecisiveness or waffling regarding her feelings for Rilen.   How could anyone doubt his loyalty?

 

It feels like the author really loves the Pirates of the Caribbean and this story was born from that love.  I recommend it for your pirate fix, as long as your not looking for the bodice-ripping pirates, because this keeps it pretty PG…maybe, slightly PG-13.

 

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~MY RATING~

4.7STARS - GRADE=A

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~BREAKDOWN OF RATINGS~

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Plot~ 4.5/5

Main Characters~ 5/5

Secondary Characters~ 5/5

The Feels~ 4.5/5

Pacing~ 5/5

Addictiveness~ 5/5

Theme or Tone~ 5/5

Flow (Writing Style)~ 5/5

Backdrop (World Building)~ 4.5/5

Originality~ 5/5

Ending~ 5/5 Cliffhanger~ Nope. I believe this is a duology.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book Cover~ Love it…reminds me of my fav scene in Finding Nemo…"I wanna touch the butt…"

Narration~5 for Marisa Calin, she was quite amazing, actually.  Perfect for this series.

Series~ Daughter of the Pirate King #2

Setting~ The Ocean

Source~ Audiobook (Scribd)

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