Force of Nature

June 12, 2018

Lost in the Australian Bush….what would you do?

Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

force of nature 2

Genre/Categories: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Suspense, Australia

Summary:

Five women go on a hike in the Australian forested wilderness and only four return. As the women grab their backpacks and reluctantly set out, not one of the five women attending this three-day, mandated, corporate, team-building retreat is thrilled about the prospect. When four of the five women emerge from the woods battered and bruised, an investigation is launched to find the fifth woman. Federal agent Falk returns to help the investigation, and the story alternates between the present day investigation and the women’s experiences as the hike unfolded a few days earlier. Was the fifth woman murdered? Amazon Rating (June): 4.2 stars

My Thoughts:

If you’ve read The Dry, you’ll recognize Jane Harper’s ability to develop intriguing characters and a tangible and distinct sense of place, which in the case of Force of Nature is mountainous, wet, cold, dark, desolate, and windy. Described as an atmospheric thriller, Force of Nature was a just right read for me as a highly sensitive person. There is tension, but not too scary or unbearable. A person is missing, but it’s not overly terrifying for the reader. For me, the most dynamic parts of the story are the complex and strained relationships, the plot driven story, and the setting.

My only (slight) disappoint is that the romantic in me wished there had been more personal closure for Agent Falk since I am under the impression that his appearances are limited to her first two books. That being said, I did appreciate the “adult” way Falk’s attraction to his colleague was written by Harper; i.e. no YA “insta love” or overly passionate or unrealistic romantic escapades.

Jane Harper is a new author (this is her second work), and I’m confidant I’ll enjoy following her for years to come! Although the two books can be read as stand alones, I think it’s a richer reading experience to read The Dry first as it introduces the character and background of Agent Falk. Also, I think The Dry is slightly more suspenseful with more plot twists. However, I rate each book as a solid 4 star read.

Recommended for readers who are fans of Jane Harper and The Dry, readers who enjoy atmospheric mysteries and crime fiction, those who are looking for an undemanding, easy reading yet engaging, well written, and unputdownable vacation read, readers who are looking for clean reads (limited vulgarity, violence, etc), and readers who might have visited the Giralang Range of Australia. Her second work is on par with her first, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 4 Atmospheric Stars

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Force of Nature

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Meet the Author, Jane Harper

Jane HarperJane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love:

More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids

In case you missed it: my post highlighting some diverse reading recommendations for MG children here.



Looking Ahead:

Us Against YouFriday, I’ll review Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

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Glass Houses & Inspector Gamache Series

September 8, 2017

Do you love a gentle mystery filled with memorable characters placed in an idyllic Canadian setting? Do you love immersing yourself in a good series? Do you admire a kind, honest, thoughtful, moral main character committed to integrity and filled with compassion for others? Do you appreciate irresistible descriptions of food and cozy settings? If you answered yes to some of these questions, you might already be acquainted with Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Series, admire the beloved Armand Gamache, and dream of living in the imaginary setting of Three Pines. If not, please allow me to introduce you!

First, the Series

Glass Houses is the thirteenth installment in the series. The books in chronological order are as follows:

Still Life
A Fatal Grace
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
The Brutal Telling
Bury Your Dead
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
A Great Reckoning
Glass Houses

Buy the Complete 13 Book Series Here

Ratings:

I have not rated any of the books in the series below a solid 3 stars. Some I have rated 4 stars. As typical with any series, I think some are stronger than others. In general, readers consider that she hits her stride with book #4. Her most recent release is one of her strongest yet, which is amazing for a 13 book series! You can check my goodreads account (my “read” shelf) for my specific ratings. Amazon ratings vary between 3 & 4+ stars.

Strengths:

The stories are so much more than good mysteries, they explore unique and complex characters who are a mixture of good and less desirable traits. The stories examine motivation, ethics, honor, courage, and compassion for others. Through reading the series, the characters become like friends. Some readers have loosely compared the setting of Three Pines to Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls). The setting of Three Pines is symbolic in that its a place of comfort, safety, and solace for those who are hurting or who’ve lost their way (except when there’s a murder of course!). As with any good series, when a reader receives the next installment, it’s like coming home. It’s interesting to me that during a recent interview, Louise Penny reveals that she created the main character Armand (Inspector) Gamache to be like someone she’d like to marry (CBS Interview). Inspector Gamache is honorable, kind, courageous, nonviolent (except when others’ lives are at stake), thoughtful, well read, and an astute judge of character and motives.

Brief Overview of the 13 Book Series

Chief Inspector Gamache is head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec. He lives by a code of the highest ethics and seeks to provide justice for victims of crime. His team consists of people that he has hand selected that have experienced failure in some aspect of their law enforcement career but in whom he sees great potential. Gamache adores and deeply loves his wife and soul mate, Reine-Marie, and they have two grown children. When we meet Chief Inspector Gamache in the first novel he’s a seasoned professional who sometimes clashes with his superiors at the Sûreté. Nevertheless, he has a reputation of solving even the most difficult cases. In Still Life (the first book of the series) at the scene of his current investigation, Gamache is surprised to discover Three Pines, a tiny, unmapped village in the forest. Throughout the series, Gamache returns again and again to Three Pines for various reasons, establishes friendships with the colorful locals, and eventually he and Reine-Marie move there and become an integral part of the community. Gamache is skilled at observation, determining motive, and at examining the emotions that lead to a crime. Author Louise Penny is a master at establishing a setting, describing delicious food, examining ethics and character, bringing us colorful and unique characters, and creating atmosphere and tension.

Can I read the books as a “stand alone” or out of order?

Reading the series in order isn’t absolutely necessary because each novel presents a unique crime that is solved within its pages; however, there is an overarching issue with the leadership of the Sûreté which is explored bit by bit throughout many books in the series. Also, a reader would miss out on the character development that occurs from story to story. For a richer reading experience, I highly recommend reading them in order.

Do I have a concern or criticism of the series?

Readers including myself are generally very happy with the entire well loved and recommended series  (as evidenced by ratings) and Louise Penny has a huge following. However, some have mentioned and I sometimes feel that Louise Penny is somewhat antagonistic toward the church. In her recent release, for example, a character states, “No one goes to church any more.” It seems to me that Penny’s own feelings about organized religion leak out from time to time in her characters words and views. Penny doesn’t write from a Christian worldview but, even though I notice it from time to time, it isn’t enough for me to not read and enjoy her books. This is a personal concern and observation and it may not bother other Christians at all. It’s something I tend to notice.

Glass Houses
by Louise Penny

Glass Houses

Genre/categories: fiction, mystery, detective, thriller, suspense

Summary:

A mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day. Even though Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are curious at first, they soon become wary. The figure stands unmoving through fog, sleet, rain, and the cold, staring straight ahead. Chief Inspector Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the mysterious figure has a unique history and a dark purpose. However, Gamache’s hands are tied because the figure hasn’t committed a crime, so he watches and waits. The villagers are tense hoping that Gamache will do something. The figure’s costume is historically tied to someone who acts as a “conscience” and comes to put pressure on an individual to pay a debt. Naturally, people in the village, including Gamache, start to examine their own conscience and wonder if the figure has come for them. Suddenly, the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, and the investigation commences. This story is told in two timelines: the November timeline when the murder took place and later in July as the trial for the accused begins. In typical Penny style, more is going on a larger scale than just the trial. Gamache wrestles with his own conscience, the decisions he has made, and the personalconsequences he will pay. Amazon Rating (September): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is a riveting story and is one of my favorite in the series. Whereas in other stories, Gamache analyses the motivations and actions of others, this story finds him also analyzing himself and we observe him taking actions that are not in accordance with his highest ethical standards. Something larger is at stake here, and Gamache and his team have to take great risks and be willing to endure severe personal consequences to bring about justice for the greater good. Interesting ethical dilemmas!

Symbolism of Three Pines

In Glass Houses, the following excerpts provide a bit of evidence for the symbolism of Three Pines as a safe place for the lost or hurting:

  • “People mostly come upon Three pines because they’re lost.”
  • “And then he went home. To Three Pines. To sanctuary.”
  • “I think everyone in this village believes that all shall be well,” Armand was saying. “That’s why we’re here. We all fell down. And then we all came here.”
  • And in the author’s own words: “The village does not exist, physically. But I think of it as existing in ways that are far more important and powerful. Three Pines is a state of mind. When we choose tolerance over hate. Kindness over cruelty. Goodness over bullying. When we choose to be hopeful, not cynical. Then we live in Three Pines.”

3 pines

Recommended for readers who would love to find a good series, for those who like mysteries and detective stories without a lot of violence or disturbing descriptions, for thoughtful readers who might want to consider character, motivation, and ethics. My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Read a free excerpt here.

Glass Houses

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Meet the Author, Louise Penny

Louise Penny

LOUISE PENNY is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (five times) and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in a small village south of Montréal.

Click Here: CBS This Morning Interview With Louise Penny

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Looking Forward:

Next week I’ll review America’s First Daughter By Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie if you’d like to “buddy read.” In two weeks, I’m thrilled to review Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge, a likely contender for one of my favorite reads of the year!

America's First Daughter

Buy Here

Castle of Water

Buy Here

Sharing is Caring:

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Discussion:

I’m curious if you’re a Louise Penny fan or would consider checking out this series! Have you read any of her books? Please share your reflections on the Inspector Gamache series in the comments.

Extras:

This post is linked up with Modern Mrs. Darcey’s Quick Lit for September.

Check out Top Shelf Text and her blog post: Best Books of Summer 2017 here.

My husband recommends!

As reviewed in this post, my husband just read News of the World and really enjoyed it! In fact, as we were at breakfast this morning, we discussed and debated who should play the lead in the film version (should there be one)! I need to also mention that he especially enjoyed the excellent reader for the audio version.

 

The Alice Network

August 4, 2017

The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn

Alice Network

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary:

In this page-turner, a courageous female spy (Eve), recruited to work in the real life Alice Network in France during World War l, and a young American college girl and socialite (Charlie), searching for her cousin after she disappeared in World War ll, join forces in 1947 to find revenge, redemption, truth, friendship, and a bit of romance. As present day Eve and Charlie search for truth, the story alternates between two time periods (1915 and present day 1947). In this complex and multi layered narrative, the reader learns about Eve’s backstory as a spy right under the enemies’ noses and Lili, the “Queen of Spies,” who manages the spy network. In the present day, Charlie deals with a grieving and angry Eve and an unplanned pregnancy as they search for the truth in Eve’s past and the whereabouts of Charlie’s cousin, Rose. Amazon rating (August): 4.7 stars

My Thoughts:

This week’s selection is a continued focus on female authors writing about strong female protagonists. The Alice Network is receiving a lot of buzz (as evidenced by Amazon ratings of 4.7) and it’s currently on the must read list of many readers who love a fast paced story filled with drama, intrigue, and suspense. I would categorize this story as moderate intensity as compared with other historical fiction selections (placed between intense reads such as Lilac Girls, The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, Underground Railroad, and Between Shades of Gray and lighter reads such as The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society).  My reason for rating it moderate intensity is because there’s one section that’s difficult (emotionally) to read and I chose to skim over; whereas, in more intense reads there are multiple sections that are difficult (emotionally) to read. In my opinion, the weaknesses in this story include the too gimmicky or coincidental similarities between Eve and Charlie, some less than smooth transitions between the two story lines, and the focus on plot driven narrative writing rather than the beautiful writing of literary fiction (such as The Light Between Oceans). I loved the active role of Eve in both story lines and that it was a gripping and engaging page-turner featuring two courageous women. All the drinking and smoking while pregnant was disturbing….but perhaps this was accepted in 1947? As with all historical fiction, I enjoyed the knowledge gained…in this case about female spies in WW 1. Recommended to readers of historical fiction who are looking for a page-turning, gripping, engaging story about strong independent women. Rating: 4 Stars.

Alice Network

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Meet the Author: Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before moving to the 20th century with the “The Alice Network.” All her books have been translated into multiple languages. Find out more here.

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah…how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Looking Forward:

Next week, I’ll be reviewing a favorite The Glass Castle (a memoir) by Jeannette Walls in anticipation of the movie release August 11th if you’d like to “buddy read.”

Glass Castle

Buy Here

Please Share:

I’d be honored if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog.

Talking Books:

Please share your reflections on The Alice Network in the comments section. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you currently reading?