Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Goodreads: Force of Nature (Aaron Falk #2)
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 06 February 2018
Genre: Mystery Thriller

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

FIVE WOMEN GO ON A HIKE.
ONLY FOUR RETURN.


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 nuddy path. After all, this retreat is supposed to take the office workers out of their air-conditioned comfort zone. It’s supposed to be abonding experience. It’s supposed to be a bonding experience. It’s supposed to build trust.
But it doesn’t work out that way.
One of the women doesn’t come out of the woods. And each of her companions tellsa slightly different story about what happened.
Federal Agent Aaron Falk has a keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing hiker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case–and in just a matter of weeks, she was supposed to help him bring down both the company she works for and the people she works with.
In an investigation that takes him deep into isolated bushland, Falk discovers secrets lurking in the mountains and a tangled web of personal friendship, suspicion, and betrayal among the hikers. But did that lead to murder?

Continue reading “Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper”

#TopTenTuesday: Autobuy Authors

It’s that time of the week again, friends! We’re back with another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s prompt is: autobuy authors. I tried to diversify my list a little bit instead of repeating authors and books that I’ve already mentioned on here countless times, but you can’t avoid the inevitable because these authors are my all time faves, so they’re bound to make an appearance! It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to just recall all the authors I’d auto buy, so I had to do a little bit of rummaging around my memory (it’s really that bad) and came up with this list. Yay!

Neil Gaiman. Gaiman is a master of crafting words into incredibly bizarre and delightfully magical worlds within our actual world. I’m always left in awe of his stories. They’re dark, funny, did I mention bizarre, and oddly touching. When I read Neverwhere for the first time a few years ago there was no looking back. He’s been an autobuy since! I’ve really enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and The Ocean At the End of the Lane, to name a few!

Taylor Jenkins Reid. So I’ve only read two of TJR’s books: Maybe In Another Life and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Both took my feelings and ripped them to shreds and I loved every minute of it! These reads are so emotionally packed and I’ve found elements of relatability in both of them, which obviously made it more impactful.

Jodi Picoult. I’ve loved Jodi Picoult since I first discovered her in high school. I think my first book by her was The Pact and it just wowed me with the writing style and the storylines. Since I read most of her books in high school, I don’t think I fully appreciated the complexity of her characters and their situations. I’d definitely love to re-read my favorites at some point!

Robin Sloan. Sloan’s books are so odd, intriguing, and full of quirky loveable characters that worm their way into your heart! Sourdough is probably one of my all time favorite books — no joke. It just makes me feel warm and so happy. Mr. Penumbra’s was also such a fun-tastic adventure with BOOKS and who wouldn’t love that?! I wish it were easier to get my hands on more of his books!

Helen Hoang. Hoang has only put out two books (The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient) so far but I’ve loved both of them dearly! I love the diversity of her romances. They’re awkward, funny, sweet, (so) steamy, and have left me feeling light-hearted after each read. I am also eagerly looking forward to reading about QUAN in her next book, The Heart Principle. She describes it as: “kind of a cross between a gender-swappedΒ SabrinaΒ andΒ Say Anything” … I MEAN C’MON. All the 😍 emojis.

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I’m a little embarrassed to mention this but I’ve only ever read anything by both authors that they’ve written together. So that’s The Illuminae Files and Aurora Rising. It’s not that I don’t want to read what they’ve written separately, there are just SO MANY books and so few waking+non-working hours! But I will buy anything these two write together. They are the ultimate dynamic writing duo and slay me with their stories and characters!

V.E. Schwab. After finishing ADSOM I immediately knew it’d be one of my all-time favorite series and Schwab immediately jumped onto my auto buy authors list. I loved the writing, storyline and characters. The magic really came to life! I’ve since read and loved her Monsters of Verity and Villains series.

Christina Lauren. It’s as simple as I love CLo and pretty much everything that I’ve read from them! Josh and Hazel‘s Guide to Not Dating is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorite romances. This duo never fail to make me laugh, swoon, squeal, and generally have the most fun reading experience with their books. I’m so looking forward to reading Twice In A Blue Moon when it comes out!

Jane Harper. I discovered Harper this year after reading The Dry and there was just no looking back. Her writing is just stunning. It’s so deeply atmospheric, reading her stories takes you straight into the punishing dry heat of the Australian outback. Although her books are classified as thrillers, I’d say they’re more mystery, but they kept me guessing right up to the end.

Brian K. Vaughan. He’s the writer of my all time favorite graphic novel series, Saga. I’ve mentioned this one countless times already on my blog but it’s seriously so freaking good. Anytime someone asks me for graphic novel recs, Saga is the first one I mention. He’s also written Paper Girls, which I enjoyed!

Who are your auto buy authors? If you’ve done a TTT this week, leave your link in the comments and let’s chat auto buy authors!

April 2019 Monthly Wrap Up!

IT’S MAY! I can’t believe we’re five months into the year already. I mean, where are the months flying to?! April has been a pretty decent month in terms of work, life and reading; actually it has been more than a decent reading month for me! I think I even shocked myself when I counted how many books I got through. In no particular order, here’s what I read:

So in total I read 17 books in April. I thought I was having a bit of a slow reading month but that definitely wasn’t the case! I read the majority of these as e-books and I realize that I often read much faster on my Kindle compared to when I’m reading a physical book. I’m also glad that I was able to get through 6 ARCs this month because my NetGalley TBR was getting a little ridiculous! My Goodreads Reading Challenge is currently at 60/75 books, so I think it’s about time I change my goal and bump it up to…90 books. If my year continues this way, I think 2019 will be a record making book year. Exciting times!

Out of all these books, my favorite(s) have to be The Dry and The Lost Man by Jane Harper. These were both such fantastic reads and I couldn’t possibly choose between them. I’m so glad that I finally picked up Jane Harper this month because she has made a place for herself on my favorite authors list and also my auto-buy authors list. I’d highly recommend picking her up up if you haven’t yet!

There are so many books I’m looking forward to reading in May and I’ve already posted about the books I’m most excited for. I just got an email today telling me that my Special Edition Owlcrate Finale box has just shipped today. AAAH πŸ˜ƒ

How was your reading month? What was your favorite read?

#MiniReviews Monday with A Lost Man, A Summer Friendship & Naughty Princesses!

In several attempts to get over my two-book hangover, I actually finished and started a few books over the last few days. These “palate cleansers” took a few days for me to get through but as we’re starting a brand new week, I think my being is finally ready to move on from the outback!

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜….5β˜†

Honestly, this deserves more than a mini-review and I’ll probably post my full review later on in the week, but to cut to the chase: Jane Harper also stole my heart with this story (hence the two-book hangover). This was another slow burn mystery set in the outback and that was just as atmospheric as her debut–the rich imagery put me right back in the unforgiving heat where I lost myself completely to this story. CW: physical and sexual abuse. The Bright family was full of complex characters that were endearing, frustrating and terrifying. My theories about whodunit were (of course) dead wrong but it only served to make the reveals a surprising whirlwind that delighted me when it all finally clicked. I also found myself delighted to stumble across a connection between the characters in The Dry and for a short flashback, we got to revisit Kiewarra and learn more about a family there. Harper did a fantastic job bringing all the elements together and the final scene, although maybe a little too easily resolved, left me feeling hopeful about second chances and a fresh start for the Bright family.

The Goodbye Summer (ARC) by Sarah Van Name – β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†β˜†

I will be posting my full review later this week closer to the publication date (01 May 2019). I think this is the first YA novel I’ve read in a while where I can say that I get people who say they no longer read YA because it’s just not targeted to them. While I didn’t dislike it, I know I would’ve enjoyed the story much more had I read this in middle/high school. This was very character driven but I unfortunately found myself feeling frustrated with Caroline, the MC, more than anything else. I did enjoy the blossoming summer turned lifetime friendship between Caroline and Georgia. It was a solid, supporting and positive relationship that changed the MC for the better, and her obvious growth as a result was satisfying to witness. That said, the pace was slow and I thought how it was written made this better suited to be a TV show rather than a book. Despite the pace, this was a fairly short read that I’m sure many young adults will be able to enjoy and perhaps relate to!

The Naughty Princess Club (Series) by Tara Sivec – β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜† (Overall)

At the Stroke of Midnight (Book 1) was the first book I picked up after finishing both Jane Harper’s novel and I honestly couldn’t have picked a more different book if I tried! πŸ˜‚ It really took awhile for me to get into the story and I almost stopped at one point, but I’m so glad that I pushed through because I ended up loving this series! The books were super sexy, romantic, funny and actually very empowering. It was great to read about Cindy, Ariel and Belle, as they worked hard to get themselves out of their “men-made funks” by starting a home stripping business called The Naughty Princess Club. I loved their friendship and how they supported each other throughout the series and their close bond reminded me of what I have with my besties. Sure, it was a bit cheesy at times but it had me breaking out in belly-aching laughs so often and made me feel lighter after each book ended! If I had to pick a favorite of the three it’d have to be Kiss the Girl (Book 3) about Ariel (obviously), even though she was actually my least favorite character at the start. I related the most with her issues, but I also really loved the sweet, easy-going and supportive relationship between her and Eric! Fair warning though: if you’re into steamy reads, this series isn’t for you!

Hope you enjoyed my mini-reviews! Have you read any of these? I hope you’re having a great/good Monday wherever you are in the world!

Book Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Goodreads: The Dry
Genre: Crime, Mystery/Thriller
Rating: β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain. Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.

Let me start of by saying WOW I absolutely loved this book. There’s something about reading a story based in a country I used to live in for six incredible years that has struck a very nostalgic chord in me. I’m surrounded by a lot of Australians here in Bali, so it’s not like I’ve missed the accent or the people or anything like that. Granted, I was also as city as you could get living and studying in Melbourne, but reading about the outback and the environment really brought out a familiar sense of longing for a home that I’ve missed. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years! …And with that little bout of nostalgia out of the way, let’s get to the review! 😬

With this book, Jane Harper has written such a spectacular story that drew me in completely from the start with her riveting and hypnotic prose. It’s definitely a slow burn murder mystery, so if you’re expecting a fast paced thriller, this isn’t for you; but the journey was so worth it! What impressed me the most were her descriptions of the punishing temperatures of the Australian outback. The pervasive drought that struck Kiewarra, the small Australian farming town where the story is set, and the surrounding area has sucked all the moisture out of the ground and most of the life out of its citizens. There’s a sluggishness and desperation in the people that’s been created as a result of their environment, and never has a spotless blue sky been so agonizing and terrifying. There’s no escape from the dry heat that seeks you out through every small crack and crevice. Harper has created an almost tangible atmosphere with her vivid descriptions, which serve to add to the sense of wrongness that surrounds the town, and it is woven so brilliantly through all parts of the story.

β€œTo look out and see not another soul between you and the horizon could be a strange and disturbing sight.”

The characters were complex with interesting backstories. There were those with the typical small town mentality, the usual assholes and douchebags, and the few good guys that made the town more bearable, which contributed to understanding what living in such a small ‘town’ would feel like; where everyone knows each other and incidents from twenty years ago are still deeply etched in memories. I found myself really invested in Aaron Falk’s character. His backstory and past connection to the town was so compelling, and it created such a well of sympathy in me for him. I just really wanted to reach out and give him a hug most of the time (lol). Also, unpopular opinion time but I also found myself liking Luke’s character. There were times I’d find reading about his attitude disturbing, but there was a magnetism and charm in the way that Harper wrote him that made his character so appealing. Both sides of Luke’s person was painted so vividly, that it was easy to understand how quickly people could demonize him, but also be so enthralled by his attention. I loved how Harper’s characters really came to life for me, and made me feel connected to them.

β€œHe stood on shaky legs, his vision blurred, as all around the cockatoos whirled and screamed into the scorching red sky. Alone, in that monstrous wound, Falk put his face in his hands and, just once, screamed himself.”

The big reveal was something that I honestly didn’t see coming. Maybe I’m just really bad at figuring out the whodunnits in thrillers? But I think with about 80% of the thrillers I read, it’s usually pretty predictable. Even though at one point I pretty much suspected everyone Falk came into contact with, the culprit took me so much by surprised that it was refreshing to be fully thrown by it! Even if you might’ve figured out the who, I’m not sure you would’ve figured out the why. It literally had me exclaiming in shock while reading on my lunch breakβ€”you can bet my colleagues found my reactions amusing. The pace in the last 30% of the book really sped up and rapidly fed detail after detail of the reveal that had me racing through to get to the finish. In the end, the conclusion to the story was pretty satisfying and gave me a sense of peace knowing the truth of what happened, and that it would be brought to light so that after 20 years, justice could finally be served.

If it isn’t clear by now, I was completely taken with this book. The characters, the setting, and the story all made this a consuming, thrilling and unputdownable read. Harper was able to create one of the most atmospheric works I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and it’s really hard to believe this was her debut novel. It makes me so excited to find out what else she has in store for us with Force of Nature and The Lost Man (which I’m currently reading and equally loving!). I have no doubt that this will be one of my top reads this year and if all her books get the same reaction from me, it’s safe to say Jane Harper has made it onto my auto buy authors list!

Have you read The Dry or is it on your TBR? I’d love to know your thoughts!

#WWWWednesday: 17 April 2019

Another week, another Wednesday. I’m a bit thrown off by today because it’s a national holiday (it’s election day in Indonesia) and so after voting (for the first time in my life!) I’ve been lazing in bed with my latest read. The intensely humid heat is oppressive and makes not want to leave the comfort of my air-conditioned room, and the overall vibe is pretty much “the weekend”. Is it really still the weekday? Do I really have to go back to work tomorrow?

Anyway, back to the books! It’s WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be talking about:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

I finished The Dry by Jane Harper yesterday and there are no words for how much I loved it! It’s probably the most intensely atmospheric novel I’ve ever read and it’s hard to believe that this is Harper’s debut novel. The characters, the story, the setting all made this a β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜… read for me. I’m writing my review for this right now so be on the lookout for that either later today or tomorrow! Also, I just found out that it’s becoming a movie and they’re casting Eric Bana to play the MC! I wonder if they’ll change Bana’s looks to fit how Aaron Falk was described in the book because I thought his unique looks were a distinguishing part of his character. I’m hoping that they do the story justice!

I read a graphic novel as a “palate cleanser” before moving onto what I’m currently reading. The Tea Dragon Society was a very short and cute story that has a simple message suitable for all audiences, including children. Making tea from the leaves that grow on a dragon’s back is a pretty unique concept and that’s definitely not the first thing I usually think of when thinking of dragons. But it’s a nice story, and the little tea dragons are SO adorable, like can has all please? I’m so lucky to have received a special edition in the February Owlcrate!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve moved on to another Jane Harper novel because I loved The Dry so much! I’m currently reading The Lost Man with a few ladies over @travelingfriendsreads hosted by Norma and Brenda of The Traveling Sisters. These ladies make group reads and discussions so much fun, I’m so excited to be doing another group read with them. I’m only a few chapters in but I’m already feeling the magnetic pull of the characters and story dragging me under and it’s such a thrilling feeling!

What will you read next?

There are actually a few ARCs that I’m hoping to read by the end of April/early May before they’re published! Yikes, I’ve been slacking a bit being so caught up in the Australian outback with Jane Harper’s irresistible characters and stories. So I think I will be picking up these ARCs after I finish my current read: Little Darlings, The Goodbye Summer, Between You and These Bones (Poetry).

What are you currently reading? If you’ve done a WWW Wednesday post, drop your link in the comments!