Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Book Review: THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain

Author: Jo Spain
Publisher:
Hachette Australia
Read:
December 2017
Expected publication: 11 January 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟1/2


Book Description:

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who - of Harry, Julie and JP - is really the guilty one? And is Carney's surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

My musings:

A man walks into the house of a wealthy businessman and brutally beats him to death in front of his wife. He then hands himself over to police and confesses to the crime, claiming it was a random act of violence. Seems straight forward enough. We now have a crime and a killer. So why are DC Alice Moody’s alarm bells ringing that there is more to the story than it first seems?

The Confession is a thriller written in reverse – we know from the start who the killer is, but the question is: why? Spain explores this mystery through the eyes of her three narrators: JP Delaney, the killer; Julie, the victim’s wife; and DC Alice Moody, who is trying to solve the case. Not everyone is a reliable narrator, so readers have their work cut out for them trying to decipher the clues that lead to the final answer.

Warning – if you want characters you can like, admire and bond with, this may not be the right book for you, as each and every one of the people featuring in The Confession are thoroughly unlikeable. Even DC Moody, who was the only one that seemed sane, was depicted in the most unflattering light and played quite a peripheral role. So whilst Spain tells her story well, and offers a solid background story to the murder, I floundered a little bit reading this book. I admit being a reader who needs to be able to bond with at least one character, and in this case the only person who sounded remotely likeable was already dead. What followed was a glimpse into the lives of the other highly dysfunctional characters, which left me feeling slightly depressed and miserable. Some passages seemed to add little to the story except more misery, and I admit I struggled to finish the story despite the author’s skill in evoking an atmospheric setting and an overall intriguing plot. Whilst I liked the theme of innocence corrupted by power, and its ultimate consequences, I concede that I am probably not the right audience for this book, needing a glimpse of hope or at least a character I can root for in my stories.

The Confession will appeal to readers who will not let a cast of unlikeable characters get in the way of a good story, without the need to bond with a protagonist in order to enjoy the read. Written in reverse, The Confession offers a thriller with a difference that stands out from a lot of “been there, done that” books in the genre. Spain tells a good story, so even though this might not have been exactly my cup of tea, I look forward to reading more from this author in future. 



Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Book Review: 29 SECONDS by T.M. Logan

Title: 29 Seconds
Author: T.M. Logan
Publisher:
Bonnier Zaffre
Read:
December 2017
Expected publication: 25 January 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2


My musings:

I went into this story totally blindly, only lured by the intriguing title, and am glad that I did. 29 seconds of what? The clock is ticking .... I will try to write this review without giving anything away, since this story very much relies on its original premise and the surprises it holds in store  - and this is also the reason I am not giving a book description here (if you absolutely want one, you will have to google this book, but be mindful that the blurb contains huge spoilers).

Our main protagonist is Sarah, an accomplished academic in her early thirties, whose career is being thwarted by members of the “old boys club” at the university she is working at. Her boss is a sexual predator of the worst kind, lording his power over all female employees and exploiting his position to garner sexual favours. All the women know it, but unless they want to jeopardise their careers they feel powerless to do anything about it. The last woman who lodged a complaint with HR lost her job, her reputation and her sanity. Sarah, who has been hoping for a well-earned promotion, has so far successfully avoided being in that position, but lately the man has made it clear that he expects some favours from her as well. How can she say no and still keep her job? Who can she turn to when everyone is in his pocket? Something needs to be done. And sometimes help comes from the most unexpected direction ....

Logan does well to get the reader emotionally involved in the story, and I felt an intense burning anger a few pages into the book, as it becomes clear that Sarah has her back against the wall. Slowly stoking the fire with mounting injustices, the story may have been off to a bit of a slow start with its direction a bit unclear – until BAM! – there it was, the big twist that made the story both original as well as very intriguing. With my boiler already on full red alert I experienced the same gut reaction Sarah must have felt when confronted with her unusual situation. And just to make it all more interesting, there are a few ethical dilemmas along the way. Have I wetted your appetite yet? No, I will not say any more about the plot, except that the 29 seconds of the title may change Sarah’s life. 29 second of what? You will have to read it to find out. It does rely a tiny bit of the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief, but then again, we live in a strange world where strange thing happen, so who says it’s not possible? 

Summary:

29 Seconds may be a bit of a slow burner at the start, but don’t be fooled – this is a very clever and original thriller that will have you questioning a few ethical and moral dilemmas along the way. It took a few unexpected turns that had me on edge, wondering how it would turn out in the end – and then I was still wrong with my guesses. This is the perfect book to pick up if you want a thriller with an original premise and some surprising twists! 



Thank you to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Book Review & Giveaway: FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper

Author: Jane Harper
Publisher:
Macmillan Australia
Read:
November 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Later, the four remaining women could fully agree on only two things. One: No-one saw the bush land swallow up Alice Russell. And two: Alice had a mean streak so sharp it could cut you.

Book Description:

Five women go on a hike. Only four return. Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry, asks: How well do you really know the people you work with?

When five colleagues are forced to go on a corporate retreat in the wilderness, they reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking down the muddy path.

But one of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tells a slightly different story about what happened.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated forest, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains, and a tangled web of personal and professional friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

My musings:

Seeing how much I loved Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, Force of Nature was one of my most anticipated new releases this year, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. With due reason, I found, as it is just as great as The Dry, and as chilling!

Picture this: five colleagues take part in a corporate bushwalking retreat in the remote Giralang Ranges, but only four return. What has happened to Alice Russell? And why don’t her colleagues know, if she was part of their team? Federal Agent Aaron Falk, who features here with his new partner Carmen, has been drawn into the search for the missing hiker, who is an important informant in a case he is currently working on. On the night of her disappearance, she managed to leave a garbled message on his phone and he is worried that she might be in danger.

I listened to Force of Nature on Audible, and never has my house looked so clean and my petrol bill so high, as I found excuses to drive around the block to listen just a little bit longer, or go to such lengths  as cleaning windows in order to have an excuse to plug in my earphones. This book was so good! The whole time I was listening I could not stop thinking how utterly clever Harper is to have created such tension with character interactions and “force of nature” alone.

Unlike The Dry, there is no gruesome murder to start off the story, and it begins as a slow character driven drama focusing on the group of five women as they embark on their fateful bushwalking adventure. It is pretty clear from the start that none of them really want to be there, and that most of them don’t particularly like one another either. Isn’t that already a perfect recipe for a delicious story of conflict and personality clashes, especially in the wild and remote setting of the Australian bush? In my opinion, there are not enough good survival stories out there that pack such punch, but Harper has done her bit to remedy that. The ensuing drama reads like Survivor meets Lord of the Flies, as the women battle out their personality clashes that ultimately lead to a fight for their survival.  From here, the story unfolds in a dual timeframe – one dealing with the search for the missing woman, and one telling about the hike and reflecting on what went wrong from each of the individual women’s perspectives. Whilst there is not much action, the tension is often unbearable, and the atmospheric setting providing a terrifying backdrop. There was one scene involving a dilapidated cabin in the bush that literally had me holding my breath! It brought back memories of camping in a lonely bush cabin whilst hiking with a friend, and hearing a creepy figure stalking us in the middle of the dark night, which saw us running into the bush to hide until daylight. Brrr, I am getting goosebumps even whilst writing this.

Harper’s writing is descriptive and claustrophobic, drawing you deeply into her story and keeping you captured there – whether you like it or not. Her imagery will haunt you in your nightmares, as the impenetrable bushland closes in around you in a terrifying embrace. As each of the women reflect on their three days together, I was never sure whose story I could trust – and there were a few surprises in store. Undoubtedly basing her tale on some true historic Australian crime stories, Harper again proves that she can weave a chilling tale the embodies the Australian spirit at its most chilling – the setting forming its own character that is as much part of the story as its human counterparts.

I also loved that we got to know Aaron Falk a bit better as he shares some of his past with the reader that has shaped his adult self. I am an absolute sucker for stories that combine adventure and survival with a good mystery, and in my opinion Harper has absolutely nailed it! I loved every minute of the book and can’t wait for the next book in the series. 

Giveaway:

BOOK TRAIN

To celebrate the beginning of summer here in Australia TOMORROW I would love to share this prime example of Australian crime fiction at its best with other readers and wonder if any book bloggers would be interested in starting a “book train”. The idea is to read the book, post a bookstagram photo +/- a short review on Instagram or your book blog and then pass it on to the next reader.

I have one brand new copy of Force of Nature to send to one lucky recipient who would like to participate. All you have to do is to head to my giveaway post on Instagram and tag the person you would like to pass the book on to next. Or leave me a smiley face in the comments on this blog post and tell me which book you would most like to find under your Christmas tree this year.

A winner will be drawn at random in one week’s time – entries close Thursday 7th December at 12 noon AWST. This is an international giveaway – I will post anywhere in the world. The winner will be announced on this blog plus my Instagram post. Hope to see you there!


Image result for 5 stars

You may also like:

The Dry (Aaron Falk, #1)

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Book Review: HOW TO SPEAK CHICKEN by Melissa Caughey

Author: Melissa Caughey
Publisher:
Storey Publishing
Read:
November 2017
Expected publication: Today
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2



Book Description:

Best-selling author Melissa Caughey knows that backyard chickens are like any favorite pet — fun to spend time with and fascinating to observe. Her hours among the flock have resulted in this quirky, irresistible guide packed with firsthand insights into how chickens communicate and interact, use their senses to understand the world around them, and establish pecking order and roles within the flock. Combining her up-close observations with scientific findings and interviews with other chicken enthusiasts, Caughey answers unexpected questions such as Do chickens have names for each other? How do their eyes work? and How do chickens learn?

My musings:

I am not called “the crazy chook lady” for nothing, so of course I absolutely had to read this book! After decades of keeping our own backyard chooks, who are a much loved part of our family, I have done a fair bit of reading on the subject and have quite a few “how to” chicken related books on my shelves. However, How to Speak Chicken is delightfully different. Instead of giving advice on keeping chickens, it delves into the subject of how chickens communicate, and how we can get more out of our flock if we are able to understand their language.

The author’s love for her flock shines through on every page, as she shares both her own insights as well as latest research findings about how intelligent chickens really are. I found it utterly fascinating, even though I had suspected that there is a lot more to these lovable creatures than we give them credit for. Did you know that chickens can remember up to 20 members of their flock, and have a unique call (or “name”) for each one of them, including you (once you have been accepted into their flock)? Can you tell when they are warning you of a perceived danger from the ground as opposed to danger from the air? Have you ever suspected that chickens can sleep with half of their brain still wide-awake and alert for danger? I didn’t, but ever since reading about chicken communication I have been a lot more attuned to the call of my own hens and how they “chat” with their sisters and members of our family. I watched in fascination as the new puppy was initially greeted with a “danger from ground” alert, but is now accepted with soft clucks as she sniffs around the chook pen.

If you are a chicken lover, or have a chicken lover in your midst, this delightful book would make a perfect Christmas present. The charming and uplifting pictures of various chickens provide a colourful backdrop to the interesting information contained in its pages. Despite being informative, the text is easy to read and devoid of the scientific lingo that tends to exclude some readers – this is a book that can be read and enjoyed by the whole family. Full of love for our feathered friends, How to Speak Chicken was both one of the most informative as well as uplifting books of the year for me – I loved it. So much that I have dominated a few lunchtime conversations with “did you know that chickens .....” Hopefully friends and family will either share my enthusiasm or learn to forgive me!
  
Summary:

I highly recommend How to Speak Chicken to any chicken lover or anyone who is still sitting on the fence about them – apart from learning to appreciate the intelligence of these loveable backyard creatures, the fun and fascinating facts contained in the book will make you a star of any dinner conversation (just ask my family ;).



Thank you to Netgalley and Storey Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Book Review: SEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak (#SevenDaysOfUs #NetGalley)

Author: Francesca Hornak
Publisher:
Hachette Australia
Read:
November 2017
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2


Book Description (Goodreads):

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

My musings:

I love a good family drama, and seeing that it is nearing the end of November, I thought I should take myself out of my murder & mayhem comfort zone and join the ever-growing festive spirit that has been emerging on Goodreads with readers joyfully delving into Christmas stories. Mind you, there is more panic than festivity in the Birch household as they are facing a “Haag arrest” over Christmas, a voluntary seven-day quarantine in their grand old mansion in Norfolk after the older daughter Olivia’s return from Liberia where she has been treating victims of the deadly Haag virus. I can just imagine the tension of being cooped up with your nearest and dearest over a whole week, without the possibility of escaping into the company of others or outside for even just a little while. And it doesn’t help that each member of the Birch family harbours a secret that has the potential to seriously interrupt their fake bonhomie if it ever came to light. Of course, lies have a way of raising their ugly heads like vipers in the grass at the most inopportune moments, throwing the family into one crisis after another.

Whilst I found none of the Birches particularly endearing, as was no doubt intended, the drama soon engulfed me and sucked me into its fold, and I was irrevocably hooked. There are some very dysfunctional dynamics hiding behind these musty walls, most of which could have been resolved with a good heart-to-heart over a few glasses of egg-nogg; but let’s face it, we often don’t state the obvious, do we? I think that most of the story’s irresistible draw lay in my dusty memories of Christmases past, when countless dramas unfolded as the whole extended family met – and argued out all their grievances they had been saving up for a year.

Whilst there were a few quite predictable and sometimes slightly stereotypical elements and the brief threat of a corny romance (oh horror!), Seven Days of Us was a light and entertaining book about a family in crisis that would make a perfect Christmas holiday read whilst trying to survive your own family dramas. Written from several different POVs and featuring all the Birch family members in short and precise chapters, I got a feel for all the characters involved and the story moved along at a good pace. I could see this turned into a TV series, because everyone likes a good drama at the expense of other families, even just for the chance to thank fate that these are not our kin (or perhaps not). I did think that there were a few issues with character development (most characters never quite managed to move out of their stereotype) and would have loved to see a bit more “cutting edge” conflict and wit, but it was nonetheless entertaining and kept me turning the pages. 

Summary:

Seven Days of Us is a light, entertaining and reasonably feel-good drama about an unusual family Christmas – perfect reading whilst being holed up in your room whilst trying to avoid your own relos at the annual Christmas do. 


Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.