BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Ash Mountain – by Helen Fitzgerald #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @Orendabooks @annecater

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Ash Mountain Random Things Tours blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I keep hearing fantastic things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s work and the blurb of Ash Mountain was simply irresistible… It turned out to be an excellent first experience with her writing. Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts!

Title: Ash Mountain
Author: Helen Fitzgerald
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: March 14th 2020
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: May 7th 2020
Pages: 210

“This town is no more shit than any other place. It’s just that when you live in a small town, you know everyone, you know their tragedies, and you feel their pain.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I keep hearing excellent things about Helen Fitzgerald‘s writing, and I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to join the blog tour for her most recent title as the blurb of Ash Mountain simply sounded irresistible. The Australian setting, the bushfire, the combination of domestic noir and disaster thriller… Oh yes, bring it on! I was mesmerized as soon as I started reading and this feeling didn’t go away at any point. Brazen, sharp and a dose of humor mixed with an emotional rollercoaster as well as a topping of danger… Without doubt a mind-boggling thriller sundae with a truly unique flavor, and something you shouldn’t miss out on!

The first thing that stood out for me was the writing. It’s my first experience with her style, and I must say that I’m a fan. The sharp and sometimes even snarky and self-deprecating humor added an interesting tone to this story that is part domestic noir and part disaster thriller. You get the best of both worlds as you learn more about the town and its inhabitants, while also knowing that danger is just around the corner… The bushfire really gave the story that sense of foreboding as you got to know the characters and wonder where they would be on the day of the fire and if they would survive… It also gave the story a sense of urgency and stressed the vulnerability of those characters.

I loved the structure of the plot. Not only do we have multiple POVs of different people in Ash Mountain, but we also have a lot of timehops and flashbacks to deal with. As the bushfire is basically the main event that affects everyone in town, each timeframe is compared to the day of the fire, going back days and sometimes years in the past. The story starts with a proper bang as Fran experiences the bushfire… I mean, the story is basically on fire from the very start! Afterwards, we get to see the events both days before the fire and 30 years in the past back when Fran was 16. Time and character hops keep you on your toes without being confusing, and it is truly fascinating to learn more about the people in town while only YOU know the threat that hangs above them. The sense of foreboding definitely added a healthy dose of suspense; the building up to the day of the bushfire was brilliantly done and it’s easy to say that the story both started and finished with a bang.

The setting in the Australian outback is brilliantly described. The descriptions really made the small Ash Mountain town come alive for me and I loved the use of Australian words to make the story feel more authentic. The same goes for the thorough descriptions of the bushfire and its aftermath. I’ve heard of bushfires before of course, but I would never have pictured it this well without the brilliant descriptions of Helen Fitzgerald. The wall of fire, the smoke, the seemingly random path of destruction… An image of fear, helplessness and danger and very current after the terrible fires in 2019. I particularly loved the story behind the cover too, as it was an actual photo taken during those fires.

Ash Mountain also had a very interesting cast of characters and I had a great time getting to know them. Fran is the main focus of the story, and we can see her features both in the flashbacks as well as the present. That said, the story also shares multiple POVS to help you to get to know the people in town as well as learn more about several events in the past and present. The story furthermore includes difficult themes as child abuse, teen pregnancy, sickness and death, although the bushfire is the actual star of the show and its danger is omnipresent. The story does show that even a small town has secrets you can’t run away from…

This book turned out to be a real firecracker! Unique, sharp and with that ominous feel, Ash Mountain is the perfect balance between domestic noir and disaster thriller set in a small Australian town. Highly recommended!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Her 2019 dark comedy thriller Worst Case Scenario was a Book of the Year in both The Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria, Australia, and now lives in Glasgow with her husband.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #159 – The Girl In The Tree (DNF) & The Light Between Oceans

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around an ARC I had to sadly take the decision to DNF quite early on despite being excited to finally read it (The Girl In The Tree) and a backlist title I’ve been meaning to read for ages now and I definitely wish I would have picked up sooner (The Light Between Oceans).


Title: The Girl In The Tree
Author: Şebnem İşigüzel

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: December 2016
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Finished reading: April 16th 2020
Pages: 360
DNF at 11% (40 pages)
(Originally written in Turkish: ‘Ağaçtaki Kız’)

“Laughter is the wind of the mind and soul – it picks you up and whisks you far away.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Amazon Crossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


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I was actually really looking forward to The Girl In The Tree, as the blurb sounded intriguing and I always love discovering new international authors. I certainly wasn’t expecting to have the reaction I had when I finally started reading it… But it is what it is I guess. I hate DNFing this early in a story and I feel more than guilty, but I just couldn’t take it anymore… I will keep this DNF review short as I only managed to read 11% (about 40 pages) before I threw in the towel, but I’ll try to explain shortly why I made the difficult decision to DNF this early on.

First of all, I struggled to connect with the writing. And with struggle, I mean REALLY struggling, and I wasn’t able to enjoy it at all. But more importantly, there was no plot whatsoever to speak of and the story seemed more like a collection of brain farts, random thoughts and random facts about characters you don’t know being thrown at you… Mixed in with random pop culture elements including Twilight and (the death of) Amy Whinehouse. I sadly found the whole ordeal to be tasteless, chaotic, confusing and I really couldn’t be bothered wasting more of my time to see if things would improve later on. Oh yes, this story definitely hit a nerve, and not in a good way. Such a shame, because I was actually looking forward to reading this… Don’t give up on The Girl In The Tree on my account though, as it seems like you will either love or hate this story depending on how you react to the writing style. It’s a book of extremes and most certainly not for everyone… And that includes myself sadly.


Title: The Light Between Oceans
Author: M.L. Stedman

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: July 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: April 17th 2020
Pages: 356

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon.”


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I’ve been meaning to pick up The Light Between Oceans for years now. I’m not sure why it took me this long to actually read it, as I’m a big fan of historical fiction and settings that enable me to travel to places I’ve never been… But what I do know is that I regret not reading this story sooner now. The post WWI setting on a small island near the Australian coast, the lighthouse keeper element, the strong presence of the ocean… These elements really gave The Light Between Oceans a more than solid base to build the rest of the story around, and especially the Janus Rock setting and lighthouse references made the story stand out for me. The main focus of the story is on family life, both grief and struggles related to multiple miscarriages and the arrival of the ‘mystery’ baby on the small island and its consequences for the future. It was interesting to follow both Tom and Isabel as they try to overcome the struggles life keeps throwing at them… And although I don’t agree with some decisions and certain behavior, I still had a great time reading about both their lives. The Light Between Oceans is a mostly character driven book with a fascinating setting that gives the story the perfect backdrop to develop both plot and characters. And while there were certain elements/details especially in the second half that started to irk me, I still ended up really enjoying my time with this historical fiction read.


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ARC REVIEW: The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright – by Beth Miller

Title: The Missing Letters Of Mrs Bright
Author: Beth Miller
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 9th 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Finished reading: December 4th 2019
Pages: 327

“I wanted to try whatever life I had left without that net. Close my eyes and take a leap of faith.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I know I don’t read contemporary romance all that often, but I like mixing up my genres every once in a while and there was just something about The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright that made me want to read it instantly. I think it was a combination of the blurb itself and the comparison to Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove; two of my favorite books with characters I absolutely adored. And the blurb definitely sounded like main character Kay was going to have the same vibe, so I was superexcited to finally meet her. I might have set my expectations a tad too high, because somehow I didn’t end up enjoying this story as much as I thought I would… I’ll try to explain why.

First of all I have to stress that The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright is by no means a bad read, and the rating reflects my personal reaction to this story and its characters rather than the quality of the story. There is a lot to love in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright, and depending on how you react to the main characters your reading experience might just be completely different from my own… First of all, we have the bookish elements. Not only does main character Kay’s husband own multiple bookshops, but we see other references as well throughout the story. I always love those little references in my books, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Another element I loved was travel related; not only that Kay wants to spread her wings and start seeing the world, but also those descriptions and chapters set in Australia and especially those in Venice. This Italian city really came alive for me in the descriptions and was one of the highlights of this book for me.

I also loved the idea behind the letters, and some actually being incorporated into the plot between chapters. This most definitely added an original touch! The plot itself is intriguing enough and uses multipe POVs to help us understand how different people react to Kay’s decision to leave her husband of twentynine years and start doing things she has always wanted to but never has. There is the underlying worry and mystery around Bear of course as well, and it was interesting to see things develop and secrets slowly coming to light. The writing was easy on the eye and superfast to read, and in many ways this is the perfect contemporary romance read.

What went wrong for me then? I still can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but part of the reason is pretty clear: the main characters. Sadly, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters as I thought I would. I had issues with various decisions and personality traits of more than one character, and this really put a damper on things… I won’t go too much into details to avoid spoilers, but I wasn’t a fan of Kay and her selfishness after her decision. I fully get she has the right to a life of her own, but she truly only thinks of herself and doesn’t seem to care too much of what her children and friends are going through… And that was not the only thing that annoyed me about her. I wasn’t able to warm up to Stella, Edward or Richard either, although I did like Newland, Rose and even Piet. What I absolutely detested was the whole cheating angle, but that is just a personal reaction as I never respond well to this element in a story…

I did love the food element in The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though. The descriptions of the food really made me crave those dishes and I actually prepared my curry recipe as a result afterwards. There were a lot of other things I enjoyed as well, like mentioned above, but as a whole something just didn’t click for me and I ended up having mixed thoughts about this story. Fans of the contemporary romance genre might just have a fantastic time with The Missing Letters Of Mrs. Bright though! Definitely give this story a chance if you think it might be your cup of tea, because it seems like I’m in the minority with this one.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #91 – 99 Percent Mine & The Dry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two different genres; one new release and a backlist title I’ve been meaning to read for ages. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne sadly turned out to be a disappointment, but The Dry by Jane Harper turned out to be as excellent as everyone kept promising me. I’m definitely reading book two VERY soon!


Title: 99 Percent Mine
Author: Sally Thorne

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: January 29th 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Finished reading: March 16th 2019
Pages: 368

“That’s because pizza is a precious natural resource. It can heal tiredness, bad mood, falling morale, and a fading will to live. Pizza realigns the heart chakras.”

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I know I’m not exactly a contemporary romance fan in general, but I had such a great time with The Hating Game last year that I just couldn’t resist trying 99 Percent Mine as well. I should have know better and listened to the early reviews on this one… Because there is one thing for sure: this story was most definitely not for me. Why? Let’s just say that the sheer amount of adult content and sexy scenes made me want to throw my kindle against the wall and run away screaming. I know this has everything to do with me and nothing with the book, but it did mean 99 Percent Mine and me started off the wrong foot… While I can normally tolerate a certain amount of steam if the rest of the story makes up for it (her debut proves that for example), I didn’t feel the plot or characters made up for those scenes in this case. I found the plot to be rather weak and nothing much is happening during most of the book… The focus is mostly on Darcy, Tom and Jamie and the sexual tension is right there center stage. All. The. Time. Good if you enjoy sexy romance and steamy scenes; not so good if you are allergic to them. I can’t really say I cared for the main characters either. They felt mostly like cliches to me and while things did improve in the final part I’m still not sure how I even made it to the end. I think a lot of me finishing this story had to do with the writing, which is just as solid as in her debut and makes it easy to flip those pages. It’s easy to state that 99 Percent Mine was 100 percent not for me, but I’m having a feeling steamy romance fans will enjoy this story a lot better than I did.


Title: The Dry
(Aaron Falk #1)
Author: Jane Harper

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: May 31st 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Finished reading: March 20th 2019
Pages: 401

“Death rarely changes how we feel about someone. Heightens it, more often than not.”


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I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about The Dry ever since it came out in 2016 and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to finally pick them up. With so many fellow bloggers loving Jane Harper‘s books though, I knew this was probably something I would love as well… I’m glad I finally picked up my copy of The Dry, because I’ve become an instant Jane Harper fan. What a fantastic read! The setting, the writing style, the plot and character development: I found each element to be extremely well executed and I can see why this debut has received so much love. This is one of those stories you will want to clear your schedule for… Once you have turned the first few pages, you will find yourself stuck in Kiewarra until you discover what really happened to Luke and his family and if it has to do with something that happened long ago. The plot twists and suspense are well handled and the tension is build up as we learn more about the characters and secrets. I admit I did guess part of the final twists, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed The Dry any less. The author did a fantastic job of setting the right atmosphere for this story and portray what the weather and lack of rain can do to a whole town. If you enjoy reading the genre, The Dry is without doubt a must-read! I myself can’t wait to pick up the sequel.


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ARC REVIEW: The Silent Kookaburra – by Liza Perrat

Title: The Silent Kookaburra
Author: Liza Perrat
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
First published: November 29th 2016
Finished reading: March 19th 2018
Pages: 309

“It wasn’t true what Dad said: that time heals wounds and grief. Time was not healing mine. The grief pain wasn’t fading; it was getting worse, and in a colder, uglier way.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I was excited to be given the chance to read The Silent Kookaburra, especially since fellow bloggers enjoyed it. And while it took me considerably longer than expected to finally get to it, that excitement was just as strong when I finally did pick it up. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up having the reading experience I was expecting to have. A big part of the problem here is me though, and not the book itself… I’ll try to explain why. The writing is wonderful and I just loved the incorporation of many Australian elements that made the story feel authentic. From the slang to the beautiful descriptions of the plants and animals… It really helped setting the right atmosphere. This is more of a family drama rather than the psychological thriller I was expecting, but that was not the problem here. The Silent Kookaburra has an element I just couldn’t stomach and it made it really hard for me to keep reading. What element? One of the characters is a pedophile, and there are quite a few scenes where a trigger warning should have been in place and reading about what he was doing seriously made me feel sick. I’m not saying it is badly described and if you are not bothered by reading about a pedophile at work, you will probably find this story fascinating. But I was mostly disgusted by it all and I don’t think I would have read it if I would have realized beforehand a pedophile character had such a big role in this story. (I realize there were hints in the blurb, but the importance of this element in the story really made me too uncomfortable.) But like I said, this feeling is highly personal and has nothing to do with the quality of the story or the writing itself. And it doesn’t take away the fact I loved the Australian vibe of the story with its many descriptions and use of ‘slang’. The final reveal was an interesting twist as well, although I do have to say I kind of saw it coming. But overall, if you think the pedophile scenes won’t bother you that much, The Silent Kookaburra will make for a very interesting and atmospheric domestic drama.

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Tanya Randall would love to have a normal and happy family, but things haven’t been the same for a long time. But then their luck seems to change as her mom is finally pregnant again, this time managing to give birth to a healthy little girl. Shelley is a true miracle baby and seems to be able to fuse the family back together… Until she gets sick and the peace is disturbed once again. Right in the middle of all of this, Tanya meets an uncle she didn’t even know she had, because her family refuses to talk about him. And then disaster strikes one summer day…

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Both the writing, descriptions and general setting of this story are very well done and I loved the use of so many local expressions and descriptions of the Australian plants and animals. I am glad I read it on my kindle though to help me with the meaning of some of the words! The Silent Kookaburra is more of a domestic/family drama with a dash of mystery around what happened that summer… With an interesting final twist. The whole pedophile element did make me very uncomfortable and make me feel sick. Call me weird, but while I can manage horror, gruesome murder and violence, don’t touch my animals and don’t mention child abuse in detail. This reaction is highly personal though and if you don’t mind this element in a story, don’t let my review stop you from reading The Silent Kookaburra.


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BOOK REVIEW: On The Jellicoe Road – by Melina Marchetta

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Title: On The Jellicoe Road
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 28th 2006
Finished reading: October 20th 2015
Pages: 432
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“It’s funny how you can forget everything except people loving you. Maybe that’s why humans find it so hard getting over love affairs. It’s not the pain they’re getting over, it’s the love.”

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On The Jellicoe Road has been on my radar for a while now and it actually has been recommended to me various times in the past. I ended up really enjoying this read, but I have to say the first part of the story is quite confusing. Luckily I was warned that the first part is exactly that and they told me to just keep reading and things would soon start to make sense. They were right. This novel by Melina Marchetta is without doubt very well written and the whole confusement in the beginning is actually part of the charm. Why haven’t I given it an even higher rating? It may seem that I’m contradicting myself, but I don’t think I would have continued reading without the warning that the beginning is hard to understand. The characters are very well developed though and once you get an idea of the whole situation the prose and plot just suck you right in. If you like realistic fiction and don’t mind a confusing beginning, On The Jellicoe Road might just be the perfect read for you!

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Taylor was abandoned by her mother on the Jellicoe Road when she was eleven and ended up at a boarding school. When she was fourteen, she decided to run away and try to find her mom, but she was tracked down and brought back by a mysterious stranger. Now she is seventeen and the leader of the school’s underground community, having to lead the annual territory war with the Townies and the visiting Cadets. This year the Cadets are led by Jonah Griggs, a guy she has some history with. When the only adult Taylor trusts, Hanna, disappears, things get even more complicated for Taylor… Now she not only has to make sure they don’t lose any more territory, but she also wants to try and piece together the clues Hannah left behind. What is the real history of Jellicoe Road?

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The beginning of On The Jellicoe Road didn’t completely convince me, but the rest of the story more than made up for it. The prose, the characters, the plot and plot twists… Melina Marchetta used those in a way that once you are past the confusing part, you just can’t stop reading. I will probably try to do a reread at some point, since I will most likely enjoy this read even better the second time around. If you like the genre, I would definitely recommend this one; just remember that it may take a while before you can fully understand what the story is about.

BOOK REVIEW: The Broken Shore – by Peter Temple

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Title: The Broken Shore
(Broken Shore #1)

Author: Peter Temple
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 2005
Finished reading: January 26th 2013
Pages: 345
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The mystery/thriller genre is one of my favorites, so I’m always on the lookout for new books belonging to the genre. When I saw a copy of The Broken Shore on the hostel shelves, I knew I had to pick it up. The promise of a proper crime story set in the middle of Australia convinced me straight away, and I think the setting is what I ended up liking most of this novel by Peter Temple. I like it when local knowledge shows in a story, although I do have to admit that the amount of Australian slang used in the story did slow down the pace considerably. There is a glossary in the back, but still it might complicate reading the story for those who are not familiar with the words. That said, I also admire the author for having used the Aussie words, since it makes the story more authentic. The plot itself is quite interesting and touches some interesting themes like corruption and racial prejudice. It’s an entertaining enough read, even though I can’t say it was one of my favorites.

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Homicide detective Joe Cashin has fled the ctiy after being broken by his last case. He returns to his hometown to recover from the past and let his wounds heal, but this recovery is interrupted by the murder of a wealthy older man and prominent member of the local community: Charles Bourgoyne. Three young men form the Aboriginal community are suspected of having commited the crime. Cashin is asked to help in the case, and he personally isn’t so sure the three youngsters did it. Corruption and prejudice seem to play a big role in the case and when one of the young Aboriginal men dies after a chase, all hell breaks loose. The local police is accused of discrimination by the Aboriginal community, clouding the actual murder investigation even further. What really happened to Charles Bourgoyne?

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The Broken Shore is an interesting enough crime novel for those who like the genre, although it’s not the best out there. The Australian setting and slang make the story feel authentic on one hand, but it does make it difficult to read for those who are not familiar with the dialect. The plot itself is not that special, although the involvement of the Aboriginal community did give it an extra touch. All in all a solid enough read if you don’t mind the frequent use of Aussie words.