Blog Tour ~ Force of Nature by Jane Harper

26363669_820356591500735_835523176619311104_nAlice Russell is missing. She went on a team building exercise in the Australian bush, with the company on who she is currently whistleblowing, and while her four colleagues made it back safely, she didn’t, and nobody seems to know what happened.

Aaron Falk, the federal police agent who readers first met in Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry, has been secretly working with Alice to uncover some of the financial wrongdoing of the company she works with. When he discovers that she is missing, despite being an officer with the financial division, he’s drawn into the investigation,

Following on from The Dry, which I read and reviewed last year, I had no idea that Jane Harper’s next novel would feature Aaron Falk, figuring that this would be a stand-alone novel. The story itself is completely distinct from the family murder from Harper’s first book, but the consistency in the lead investigator of Falk is great; he’s a great character who I really enjoy spending time with. Although the focus of the story is with the missing Alice, Force of Nature continues to explore Falk’s relationship with his father, which made up a large part of the first book.

The case itself is a fun one to follow; the timeline splits into two, so we start almost at the end, with four women emerging from the outback, and one of them missing. We then go back to the start, discovering each woman’s character, and finding out exactly what happened, and why Alice goes missing. Interspersed with this action, we are part of the investigation with Falk, so as the police start to piece together what has happened, the narrative from the lost women approaches its climax, and the two timelines culminate together.

It’s a really fantastic crime novel, and it builds to such a pace that, as with all good crime stories, you reach a point where the whodunnit/what happened is so close to being revealed that you won’t want to put it down before you find out!

 

 

Book Blog Tour ~ The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May

510ss61J8hLIn the gorgeous seaside town of Whitstable, brokenhearted Deb begins to swim each day and gathers a new group of friends around her. But can the magic of sea heal the hurt of the past? Or will family ties drag her underwater again?

I follow Katherine May on Instagram, and there’s no question about it, she lives in a beautiful part of the world. The north coast of Kent is not somewhere I’ve ever visited, but in Diving In, the first part of her new novel, May paints such a vivid picture that it’s easy for me to believe that I have!

The people that come together to make up the Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club all have their own reasons for being there, and in this early instalment, we meet Deb and Maisie. Both have left their respective husbands; Deb has lived her whole life in Whitstable, whereas Maisie has left her high-powered legal job in London to seek refuge by the sea. They become firm friends, though both are vulnerable, and we get an insight into they way they are both adjusting to their new lives.

There are other members of the group; Anne is middle aged but lives at home caring for her elderly mother, Chloe is sixteen and studying for her GCSEs, and Julie has three young children. We don’t get to know so much about these characters in the opening chapters, but as the team band together to fight the threat of a new entertainment complex planned for the beach where they swim, it’s clear that we are going to find out more, and discover what each member brings to the group and the fight.

I’m really looking forward to finding out where this story goes; part 1 is now available for download for just 99p, with part 2 due in November, and the full novel due for release in February.

28775 Whitstable blog tour landscape

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May
Publication Date: 31st August 2017
Orion
Provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

9780751566208Serendipity is a property seeker. So much more than an estate agent, she, along with her assistant Kiki, travel the world hunting for perfect homes for their clients. One summer finds her on the west coast of Ireland, searching for a property in Ballykiltara, an idyllic town with a close-knit community and their fair share of folklore.

Ren (as she prefers to be known) finds the perfect house almost immediately, but there’s a problem; nobody seems to own the house. It’s known locally as the Welcome House; its doors are always open for anyone who might need it. Whether that’s hikers looking for shelter, or women seeking refuge, there’s always room at the Welcome House.

Ren tries to find out who owns it so they can negotiate a sale, all the while falling in love with the little Irish town, while trying to avoid the distractions of the hotel manager, Finn.

This is the first of Ali McNamara’s books that I have read; I know that she is very popular in the chick-lit circles, but I haven’t ever picked up one of her previous novels. I was pleasantly surprised by the story here, mostly because I wasn’t expecting anything quite so historical or mystical. It’s no fantasy book, of course, but there’s a fair sprinkling of mythology in the story, and the eventual mystery surrounding the house is not something that I was expecting.

Of course, this is a chick-lit novel, so there’s also a fair sprinkling of romance. Ren is ready to fall in love again after a traumatic relationship in the past, and Finn, the hotel manager, is the perfect man – mysterious, handsome and kind.

If I have one complaint about The Summer of Serendipity, it’s that there’s far too many cultural references. It’s one of my biggest bugbears when it comes to modern fiction; if you pepper your story with references to Ed Sheeran and Stephen Tomlinson (?) your story has a shelf-life of about five minutes. I also took some issue with the way that Kiki was characterised; she was described as being quirky and kooky as soon as we met her,  but somehow we were meant to believe that underneath all that, she was whip sharp. She wasn’t, she was ditzy and frequently got things wrong, and I found her really annoying!

Overall, however, this is a fun story, and one that will be an easy read if you’re heading off on your summer holidays. It has made me want to visit the west coast of Ireland as well!

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
Publication Date: 13th July 2017
Sphere
Provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ English Animals by Laura Kaye

english-animals-jacketMirka is 19, Slovakian, and starting a new job at an English country house. Her employers, Sophie and Richard, are upper-middle class, with no children, and Mirka is unsure at first what her role is to be. She becomes a live-in assistant, helping Richard with his fledgling taxidermy business, and providing domestic support to Sophie. The lines are blurred; is she domestic help, business employee, friend?

Mirka’s ability as a taxidermist soon surpasses Richard’s; for him it is another business venture to try and keep afloat amidst the troubles of keeping a large house running. But Mirka, though reluctant at first, finds an art in it; the English animals that she preserves become a way of expressing herself, and taking inspiration from old fashioned anthropomorphic taxidermy, creates a name for herself, eventually being featured in a magazine.

 

The taxidermy is expertly described, down to the smallest detail; if Laura Kaye has no experience of the craft herself then she has certainly done her research. But it provides a mere backdrop to the more important English Animals that are at work here; Richard, Sophie, and the supporting players throughout the story.

Mirka finds Richard an easy man to like when he is being warm, generous and funny; she shares a close friendship with him that includes trips to the pub and hunting expeditions (even if Mirka does ultimately balk at the idea of shooting an animal).

Sophie, the lady of the house, is an enigmatic, privileged woman who is used to having what she wants; though what she wants more than anything is the one thing she can’t seem to have – a baby. Mirka struggles at times to understand Sophie’s motivations, accusing her of seeing everything as a toy to play with. Sophie admits as much herself; she just wants to feel wanted.

The entrance of Mirka, an Eastern European, into a middle England village in this day and age certainly reflects a Brexit state of mind; in groundskeeper David we get a man who almost certainly would have voted leave, threatening Mirka and making it clear that he thinks she should go back to where she comes from. Sophie’s father, though slightly more caricatured than David, has similar views on foreigners, failing to recognise the irony in having a house in France that he lives in year-round.

The quirkiness of the English middle classes; isolated in their rural communities, is emphasised by the fact that the entire story is told from the perspective of Mirka, whose first language is not English. She has no handle on idioms, unable to help Sophie with the cryptic crossword until something finally clicks towards the end of the novel. Mirka’s sense of disorientation at this previously unknown culture helps us to see these people through her eyes. Her discomfort at Richard’s birthday party – a bad taste fancy dress party where people dress as dictators, pregnant nuns and child molestors – is palpable, and in stark contrast to another party she attends with some hipster types in East London, where she feels at ease, with her ‘own tribe.’

This really is an exceptional piece of work, particularly given that is a debut novel. It’s easy to read without lacking in scope, and the plot drives the momentum of the story beautifully. Laura Kaye is most certainly a novelist with a bright future.

English Animals by Laura Kaye
First published: January 2016
ISBN: 9781408709450
Little Brown
Provided by publisher