Thursday, 7 February 2019

The Lost Man - Jane Harper

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

The more I love a book and/or an author the harder I find it to write reviews that aren't completely nonsensical! I read Jane Harper's debut novel, The Dry, and fell in love with her writing, her characters, and proceeded to do the same with Force Of Nature. Aaron Falk is an easy character to love, in my book anyway, he has his faults, but there's something about Jane's writing that makes you love her characters. 

I'll admit now I was a bit apprehensive about The Lost Man. I was very much looking forward to another Falk novel but a handful of pages into The Lost Man and I was completely and utterly spellbound! It's the story of three brothers, Nathan, Cameron, and Bub who brought up in the harsh but beautiful surroundings of the Australian Outback. Now all adults, Nathan is divorced with a teenage son, Cameron is married with two young daughters and Bub, a lot younger than his siblings, is working on Cameron's property. 

It's not a spoiler to say that the story opens with Cameron's unexplained death by a well-known local grave that he'd won a prize years earlier for a painting of it. What happens from there is a wild ride of suspicion, violence, lies, and grief. Nathan, struggling with depression due to incidents in the past, is at a loss as to how someone like his brother, who knows the conditions of the Outback, could walk off leaving a car full of emergency supplies to die. All the signs point to suicide, everyone he talks to says that recently he hadn't been himself and there had been 'accidents' which might not have been accidental.

Cameron might be dead but it appears that there is a myriad of threads connecting lots of different things to him, on the surface he was charming and persuasive, had time for everybody, but underneath the cracks were starting to show. Nathan, with not much else to do and coming to the realization that maybe he's not alright, takes the bit between his teeth and starts looking into Cam's death. There are things niggling at the back of his mind that don't make sense but as the story progresses he starts to connect the dots, which lead to a horrifying conclusion.

Not only is it hard not to just gush about The Lost Man it's also hard to talk about the storyline without giving away too much. The Lost Man is a character-driven story, expertly done, with a fascinating collection of people, all totally different but all linked by one defining character, the Outback. As with The Dry, the Outback shines through as a real character and you can feel yourself under the hot sun, the dry dust kicking up around you, and the beads of sweat on your forehead. 

The Lost Man is not just a crime thriller either. It's about family, love, mental health problems, and consequences. Don't take my word for it though, read The Lost Man and I defy you not to fall in love with it. Oh, and for those of you who are fans of Falk, some good news! In The Lost Man, there's a little something to find (let me know if you do!) and there's a movie coming, with Eric Bana as Aaron Falk!!!

My reviews of The Dry and Force Of Nature can be found here and here!

The Lost Man - Jane Harper
ISBN - 9781408708217
Publisher - LittleBrown
Release date - February 7th, 2019

About The Author

Jane Harper is the author of the international bestsellers The Dry and Force of Nature.
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year.

Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and now lives in Melbourne.

Friday, 1 February 2019

I'll Find You - Liz Lawler

Emily Jacobs, a nurse, is in hospital for a minor operation. When she wakes in the night, woozy with anaesthetic, she sees the doctor frantically trying to resuscitate the woman in the bed next to her. In the morning, she is told that she must have had a nightmare. The bed has been empty all along . . .

When Emily returns to work she discovers a bracelet that she believes belonged to the missing woman. Soon, she becomes convinced that her colleagues at the hospital are hiding a terrible secret. 
What if she's wrong? What if her own troubled past has affected her more than she knows?

But what if she's right? 

What else could they be capable of?

I've spent a lot of time in various hospitals, both as a patient and as a nurse (albeit a student!), so the premise of I'll Find You both intrigued and scared the pants off me! I was also exposed to both the book and movie version of Coma by Robin Cook at a very young age so how I ever ended up training as a nurse I'll never know...

Emily Jacobs is a nurse, a nurse with a troubled past. A year previous to the story's opening, Emily's younger sister, Zoe, went missing and has never been found. The two have always been close, despite a ten year age gap, and at the time of her disappearance, Zoe was also training to be a nurse. Now Emily is in hospital for minor surgery at her new place of work, a private hospital with no memories of her sister. What follows is a rollercoaster and nightmare rolled into one and Emily, already seeing a psychologist, starts to wonder if she is losing her mind, especially when she starts to think she's seeing Zoe again. 

The hospital no longer feels like the haven Emily thought it might be and contacts the detective inspector from her sister's case. Geraldine has become close to Emily since meeting her, and at first, is convinced that it's Emily's mental health causing all the problems. However, when the signs point to something truly sinister, it's time for her to start looking into Emily's claims.

No longer sure who she can trust or who she can even talk to about what's going on, Emily digs deeper into behind the scenes of the hospital and staff in the hopes that whatever is happening might just be linked to Zoe and she can finally find out what has happened to her beloved sister.

I'll Find You is full of twists and turns, as Emily lurches from one theory to another, but it keeps you on your toes from start to finish with some truly horrifying moments. If you have any inpatient stays planned soon I'd maybe not take I'll Find You as a hospital read, or if you have even a slight phobia about being locked in a hospital morgue... I very much enjoyed I'll Find You from start to finish, and the discovery of the truth of both Zoe's disappearance and what's going on elsewhere was heartbreaking and tragic. It's scary to realize that a throwaway comment by one person can turn into a terrifying and deadly obsession.

Huge thanks to Ellen, Bonnier Zaffre, and Liz for the chance to read I'll Find You!

I'll Find You - Liz Lawler
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release date - eBook | January 24th, 2019 Paperback | May 2nd, 2019
Find - Goodreads | Kindle UK | Book Depository

Thursday, 10 January 2019

My Name Is Anna - Lizzy Barber

Two women – desperate to unlock the truth.
How far will they go to lay the past to rest?

ANNA has been taught that virtue is the path to God. But on her eighteenth birthday, she defies her Mamma’s rules and visits Florida’s biggest theme park.

She has never been allowed to go – so why, when she arrives, does everything seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives on the same day?

ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes in full flow, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth.

But will she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

I first saw this book mentioned sometime during mid-2018 and thought it sounded like something I would love so, of course, I put my hand up when it came to a call for reviewers. Needless to say, I'm very glad I did...

My Name Is Anna is an interesting take on the child abduction story. Seen from 2 different viewpoints, the missing child herself, Emily who is now known as Anna, and Anna's sister, Rosie. Rosie was a baby at the time Emily was taken so has never really known anything else except that she should have an older sister. Her parents have stayed together, unusual in most cases, and had another child, Rob. 

Anna's life could not be more different from Rosie's. Instead of London, she's being brought up in the heat and humidity of Florida by a woman who is deeply religious, clean to a point of obsession, and extreme in her response to Anna's questions that involve her childhood.

The whole story starts when Anna is taken to Astroland, a theme park, by her boyfriend William, the local pastor's son. Forbidden from going there by her mother, Anna wants to go to the place where all her classmates have spent their free time but doesn't realize this is about to change her life forever.

It's not a spoiler to point out that Anna is Emily as this is revealed very early on in the book and the main theme is that of the two sisters both searching for 'Emily' but from different approaches. Rosie is very aware that time is running out to find her sister so takes a leap into the online forums about Emily to investigate herself. Anna is being pushed in the direction of 'Emily' thanks to gifts left in the mail by strangers, and by discovering that her mother may not have been exactly honest with her.

My Name Is Anna is full of twists, some of which are heartbreaking, and the ending itself? Is it an ending? Or something slightly more ambiguous. I loved My Name Is Anna and Lizzy Barber is definitely a talent to be watched. The devastating story of a parent looking away for seconds is written wonderfully and the effects on a family throughout the years following were absolutely gripping. If you're looking for a thriller seen from the family point of view rather than the investigative side, then do check out My Name Is Anna!

Huge thanks to Century/Penguin Random House and Rachel for a copy of the book and the chance to take part in the blog tour. Do check out the stops as there are plenty of reviews, guest posts, and interviews with Lizzy.

My Name Is Anna - Lizzy Barber

ISBN - 9781780899251
Publisher - Century
Release date - January 10th, 2019

Monday, 7 January 2019

Guest Post: Top Books & TV For Young People With Neurodiverse Heroes

Before the wonderful Emily at Scholastic contacted me about taking part in the blog tour for Lightning Chase Me Home, I had already added the book to my wishlist. Having nearly all my nephews and a niece with dyslexia and various ADD diagnoses it had attracted my attention as there aren't that many books out there featuring children like them, or indeed television programmes. It's becoming more common now to see neurodiverse characters but in case you need some amazing recommendations I hope you enjoy this post by the author of Lightning Chase Me Home, the lovely Amber Lee Dodd!

Top Books & Television For Young People With Neurodiverse Heroes

Neurodiversity is quite simply anyone whose brain functions differently to the norm. It’s a term unlike disability, or learning difficulties, that can be used to celebrate people’s differences. The idea of celebrating and spotlighting characters, whose unique way of seeing the world, thankfully has been growing in literature and media. Lightning Chase Me Home can join other great books to have main characters with dyslexia such as Maggot Moon by Sally Gardener, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan and Pages and Co by Anna James.
As for books portraying autism, we have amateur detectives and puzzle hunters like Christopher Boone from The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon,  Kieran Woods from Smart by Kim Slater and Oskar Schell from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. We also have usual thinkers in the protagonists Rose from How to Look for a Lost Dog by Anne M. Martin and Willow Chance the misunderstood genius in Counting by Sevens by Holly Goldberg Sloan.
In television we have detectives like Sherlock, who although are not explicitly identified as being in the autistic spectrum, have many identifiably autistic-like traits, like hyperfocus and unique puzzle solving abilities. Its Sherlock’s unique mind that makes this show such a compelling watch. There’s also another teen series of Atypical, which follows the life of autistic teen Sam Gardener due out on Netflix. And not only do we have the first female Dr. Who, but we have her lovable dyspraxic side kick Ryan. The first time we meet Ryan he’s struggling to ride a bike,  he’s clumsy, uncoordinated and hugely flustered at himself. It’s something entirely relatable to so many children and adults with dyspraxia. And for me, the kid who was banned from skipping, it’s a triumph.

These are just some of the highlights of recent children and teens books and programming. And I hope it’s just the start of us seeing a different kind of hero.

About The Author

I was born and grew up in Portsmouth. The only Island city in the UK!

I hated reading when I was younger as I really struggled with it. I even ended up being the very last of my class to come off the reading books. But now I couldn't imagine going to bed without a book.
My favorite book changes all the time! There are just so many new and wonderful books being written. But I will forever have a soft spot for The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson. It's the one book I got signed when I was younger and I still have it by my bedside.  

My favorite explorer changes all the time too. I just keep learning about more and more amazing ones. At the moment I'm reading about the adventures of the journalist Nellie Bly, who traveled the world in 72 days.

If I had a daemon or a patronus, it would probably be a platypus which is one of nature's most unlikely animals. It's part duck, beaver and otter. But whilst they look very silly on land, they are fierce underwater hunters.

Find Amber on Twitter, and Instagram!

Please do check out the rest of the blog tour for interviews, guest posts, and reviews!

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Extract: The Night I Met Father Christmas - Ben Miller

I've always been rather a fan of Ben Miller, don't ask me why... I was super intrigued when I heard he was a releasing a children's book, and a Christmas one at that, and super excited when an early reading copy arrived through my letterbox! It's a heart-warming tale of how Father Christmas came to be, with a nod to some Christmas classics, and at the centre of the story is essentially a retelling of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, but with elves.

Simon Kids UK have asked me to share an extract from the opening of The Night I Met Father Christmas so you can see how magical it is for yourself, and I do hope you'll pick up a copy of the finished hardback which is rather lovely!

The Night I Met Father Christmas - Ben Miller

Chapter One

When I was small, one of my friends said something really silly. He said that Father Christmas didn’t exist. ‘So where do all the Christmas presents come from?’ I asked him. He didn’t have an answer.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘It’s just something my older sister told me.’
‘Who comes down the chimney and eats the mince pies and drinks the brandy?’ I asked. ‘Who rides the sleigh?’
My friend was silent for a while.

‘You know what?’ he said. ‘You’re right. I don’t know why I brought it up. Do you want to play marbles?’
That night, I had trouble getting to sleep. I had won the argument, but my friend had planted a tiny seed of doubt in my mind. What if Father Christmas wasn’t real?
As Christmas approached, I began to ask myself all sorts of worrying questions: who was Father Christmas? Why did he bring presents? How did he deliver them all in one night? How did it all start?
I made up my mind that there was only one way to find out the truth. I had to meet Father Christmas, face to face.
Of course, I didn’t tell anyone about my plan. My parents would have tried to stop me, and my twin sisters would have wanted to tag along, even though they were much too young.

This was a serious operation and I couldn’t risk it going wrong. Finally, Christmas Eve arrived, and my parents came up to kiss me goodnight. ‘Do you know what day it is tomorrow?’ asked my mother, her eyes twinkling. ‘Is it Wednesday?’ I asked, pretending not to care. She looked at my father, who shrugged. ‘Yes, darling,’ she said, trying to maintain an air of suspense. ‘It is Wednesday. But it’s also Christmas Day.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I’m not really that interested in Christmas.’ ‘Really?’ said my father. They both looked very disappointed, and for a very brief moment, I felt bad for tricking them. ‘It’s okay, I suppose,’ I said, ‘if you like presents and chocolate and sweets and things like that, but I prefer to work through a few maths problems while listening to classical music.’ And then I faked a big yawn and closed my eyes. ‘Whatever makes you happy, darling,’ said my mother, sounding worried. They kissed me goodnight, switched out the light, and went downstairs.

I lay there in the dark, with my eyes closed, listening. I could hear my sisters in their bedroom down the hall, talking in their own special made-up language, which only they could understand. Usually, when I heard them talking like that it made me feel a bit left out, but not tonight, because I knew that I was doing something very special.
Eventually, my sisters fell quiet and the house suddenly seemed very deep and dark. I could hear the low murmur of my parents talking downstairs, but soon that stopped too, and then the stairs creaked as they made their way up to bed. I knew they might look in on me, so I acted as if I was fast asleep.

‘Goodnight, little man,’ my father whispered, as he gently moved my head back on to the pillow and pulled the covers up to keep me warm. Then I smelled my mother’s perfume as she gave me a kiss. The door closed, and I heard their footsteps crossing the landing to their bedroom. I lay still, listening in the darkness.
After what felt like the longest time, I decided it was safe enough to half-open one eye. My bedside clock showed a quarter to twelve. I had never, ever been awake that late before, and I wondered for a moment if, when it struck midnight, I would be turned to stone, like a child in a fairy tale.

Don't forget to check out all the other fabulous blogs taking part in the tour for The Night I Met Father Christmas!

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Guest Post: How Important Is Research In The Modern Crime Novel? - MJ Lee

I'm thrilled to welcome MJ Lee to the blog today, talking about researching a modern crime novel!

How Important Is Research In The Modern Crime Novel?

In the old days, life was quite different for crime writers. Agatha Christie didn’t have to research modern forensic science, nor did she bother herself with the minutiae of police hierarchy or the competence of a Coroner.’

Instead, she researched the effects of poisons, a knowledge boosted by her time spent as a nurse during World War One. Hercules Poirot relied on his ‘little grey cells’ to solve a dastardly murder. While Inspector Japp was content to bungle on until his incompetence could be demonstrated.

While the ‘cosy’ mystery still exists, it has been replaced by a much stronger emphasis on authenticity in crime fiction. People have watched CSI and so they are well aware of the methods of DNA analysis or of blood detection in a crime scene. They had watched countless episodes of COPS so they aware of the communication procedures of police on the beat. And ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries of actual cases, the most recent being the brilliant ‘Making of a Murderer’ ensure that the reader has a pretty good idea of what should happen in a crime story.

So it’s important for the writer to get it right if he or she wants to maintain credibility. So before I even touched fingers to keyboard for Where the Truth Lies, I made sure to get the details were as accurate as I could. In short, I had to become a detective of the process of modern detection

For this novel,  there were four main areas where I needed to make sure the facts were correct; the Coronial System, the police force, modern forensic science, and the treatment of cancer.

First, I read general books on the legal system, with particular emphasis on the Coroner’s courts. They were founded just after the Norman Conquest in 1066, created then as servants of the crown (hence coroners) to separate the investigation of death from the legal process of judgment. Not a lot has changed since then. I spent quite a lot of time attending inquests to get a feel for the language and the procedure.

I then researched the modern police forces of the UK, who I’m sure you’re aware have come under immense pressure in the last few years, talking with ex-members of the GMP, Scene of Crime Officers and police support workers. Some of their stories were fascinating and I’m sure will form the background for future novels.

To understand modern forensic science methods, I attended courses on forensics, the science behind DNA, facial reconstruction, the procedures of a Scene of Crime Officer and read extensively in the subject.

Finally, I researched the field of cancer. Luckily, Manchester has one of the world’s leading research and treatment hospitals, Christie's, and I was able to find out from patient’s themselves what it felt like to be diagnosed and treated for Myeloma.

Hopefully, this research is reflected in the book, allowing readers to understand the obstacles police have to endure to obtain a conviction based on evidence. Obviously, it is still a fiction book not a slice of real life, but in doing all this research I hope it helped create a world that feels authentic.

But in the end, all the research in world won’t make a bad book good. Because research only fills in the details making the story believable and authentic, not worth reading.

I hope you enjoy reading Where the Truth Lies. I’m presently editing the second story in the Ridpath series which should be coming out in 2019.

And, guess what, I’m now researching the decomposition rate of bodies. I hope the police never have cause to look at my search history….

About The Author

M J Lee has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a university researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, TV commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the north of England, in London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, and Shanghai, winning advertising awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and the United Nations.
While working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarters of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in the 1920s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practising downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake, and wishing he were George Clooney.

Twitter - @WriterMJLee

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specializing in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers...

I first came across Elly Griffiths when I picked up the first in her Ruth Galloway series quite some time ago! Since then, I have devoured nearly the entire series and read the first two installments in her Stephens & Mephisto series, about a magician and a detective. I was delighted when I read about The Stranger Diaries, partly because it was Elly's first standalone novel but mostly because I was intrigued by the synopsis and the description of the book as a contemporary Gothic novel. I say standalone novel because I think that's what it is but, one of the main characters, DS Harbinder Kaur, was fantastic and I would love to read more stories involving her.

The focus of The Stranger Diaries is Clare Cassidy, a divorced forty-something, living with her teenage daughter and dog near the Sussex coast. Clare is an English teacher, lucky enough to teach at a local state school that was also the home of a Victorian writer who just happens to be the subject of a book she is writing. As well as hearing from her point of view we also get to hear from her daughter, fifteen-year-old Georgia, and the inimitable DS, Harbinder. Having three points of view in The Stranger Diaries is not at all confusing, indeed I think it adds to the story and ensures that we see it from all angles. Having finished the book and looking back over my notes, it's also easy to see that Elly Griffiths does sprinkle hints about the identity of our literary-inspired killer here and there in the different p-o-v's, but I was so engrossed in the superb story I missed all of them...

The Stranger Diaries is a splendid mix of Victorian Gothic and contemporary thriller, and I adored it! As much as I love Ruth Galloway, this has definitely leapt into my top five Elly Griffiths books and surpassed all my expectations. There are plenty of literary references, a wonderful doggy character called Herbert (named after the dog in R. M Holland's story, The Stranger), a love interest who is a bit quirky, one of the most genuine teenage characters I've read in a long time, a mystery both in the present and the past (see if you can figure out who the elusive Mariana is!), murder, and as in her other books, really compelling settings. I loved reading her wonderfully descriptive writing and it's so easy to get lost in the story, always a sign of an excellent book in my eyes. 

I shall say no more about the story except to admit to checking all of my journals afterwards, to make sure there were no unexplained entries in someone else's handwriting. The Stranger Diaries was a joy to read, the ending probably was obvious to plenty of people (except me!) but it's almost certainly my favorite book of 2018, and an eminently suitable book to read at this time of year.

If you're in London on November 12th then you might be interested in coming along to the Rooftop Book Club this month, as Elly is one of three featured authors and will be there talking about The Stranger Diaries. Find more information here, and if you do go make sure to say hello! I shall be there as I've only been to one event with Elly in the past and can't wait to hear more about her inspiration for The Stranger Diaries.

The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths
ISBN -  9781786487391
Publisher - Quercus
Release date - November 1st, 2018

About The Author

WINNER OF THE 2016 CWA DAGGER IN THE LIBRARY. Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing before becoming a full-time writer. Her bestselling series of Dr. Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist, are set in Norfolk. The series has won the CWA Dagger in the Library and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her Stephens and Mephisto series is based in 1950s Brighton. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist, and their two children. Photo by Sara Reeve.

Twitter | Website

Huge thanks to Olivia and Quercus, both for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and for a copy of this hugely enjoyable story. Please do check out the rest of the blog tour for more reviews and other snippets!

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