Monday, 23 November 2015

Aussie Book Review: An Empty Coast by Tony Park

“A body. A cover-up. A buried secret.

Sonja Kurtz - former soldier, supposedly retired mercenary - is in Vietnam carrying out a personal revenge mission when her daughter sends a call for help.

Emma, a student archaeologist on a dig at the edge of Namibia's Etosha National Park, has discovered a body dating back to the country's liberation war of the 1980s.

The remains of the airman, identified as Hudson Brand, are a key piece of a puzzle that will reveal the location of a modern-day buried treasure - a find people will kill for.

Sonja returns to the country of her birth to find Emma, who since her call has gone missing.
Former CIA agent Hudson Brand is very much alive and is also drawn back to Namibia to finally solve a decades-old mystery whose clues are entombed in an empty corner of the desert.”

Greed, corruption and illicit trafficking combine to give you a read that is full of action, terror and the wild beauty of the African wilderness, in this case, the dry and isolated plains of Namibia and its Skeleton Coast.

Born in South-West Africa (now Namibia), Sonja Kurtz, a former soldier and now supposedly retired mercenary, finds herself having to make the uncomfortable decision of returning to her homeland after she receives a cryptic message from her daughter Emma who is currently there on an archaeological dig. Much to her dismay, shortly after her arrival, she discovers that Emma, the only thing worth living for in her life, is missing.

Unbeknownst to Sonja, her search for Emma is going to tie up with her time in Vietnam and drag her into a decades old unsolved disappearance and murder at the heart of a depraved scheme, resulting in an explosive situation in which she will find both her and Emma’s lives on the line.

Whenever I read a book set on the Continent in which my homeland resides, it elicits all sorts of emotions within me which are difficult to express to someone who hasn’t lived there. However troubled the Continent of Africa may be, there is still a strong connection between Africa and her children and this comes through fantastically in Tony Park’s writing - so much so that it’s hard to believe he wasn’t born and bred there, considering the vast knowledge he imparts to the reader through his vivid evocations of not only the countryside, its wildlife and its people, but the politics, local language, slang and customs, which are all so familiar to me.

The foundation for this novel revolves around the illegal trafficking of Rhino Horn, specifically in South Africa and its bordering countries, of which Namibia is one. An ongoing issue for many years, and one which continues to grow on a daily basis despite the efforts of both local and multi-national organisations to enforce the reduction of these illegal activities, Tony tackles the subject head on using his characters to convey the immorality and ecological drawbacks sustained by this unnecessary massacring of Africa’s wildlife, never neglecting his characters as they fight against time and circumstance.

The beauty of Africa’s wilderness, whilst at times harsh and unforgiving, is still inspiring and Tony entices his reader to connect with his realistic characters as his sub-plots all merge cohesively, giving the reader a gritty sense of realism in this complex tale of greed, corruption, deceit, power and murder told in a succinctly South African voice.

As an aside, after doing a bit of my own research I discovered that this is not the first of Tony Park’s books to feature the indomitable character of Sonja Kurtz so, if you’re one of those readers who likes to know their characters inside out, please do yourself a favour and read The Delta. Although Tony does give the reader a good feel for Sonja in the amount of back-story that he shares in this one, I felt like I wanted to know that little bit more about her.

That being said, this is thrilling action adventure from the word go as Sonja and Emma try to distinguish the good from the bad in a fight for their lives.

I wish to thank Pan MacMillan Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Tony Park has worked as a reporter, a press secretary, a PR consultant and a freelance writer. He is also a Major in the Australian Army Reserve and served in Afghanistan in 2002.

Tony and his wife divide their time between Sydney and Southern Africa where they own a home on the border of the Kruger National Park.

He is the author of eleven novels set in Africa: Far Horizon, Zambezi, African Sky, Safari, Silent Predator, Ivory, The Delta, African Dawn, Dark Heart, The Prey and The Hunter, and co-author of Part of the Pride (with Kevin Richardson), War Dogs (with Shane Bryant), The Grey Man (with John Curtis) and The Lost Battlefield of Kokoda and Walking Wounded (with Brian Freeman). 

Tony is a  a keen supporter of several charities concerned with wildlife and people in Africa. He is a Patron of Painted Dog Conservation Inc, a charity supporting the endangered African Painted Dog and also escorts regular safaris to Africa for his readers.

He welcomes the opportunity to talk about Africa, his travels, and his writing, and loves to hear from people who have read his books. If you'd like to connect with him, you can do so via the following links:

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cover Reveal: Hot Stuff Surfing Love Anthology - Tess Woods, Alli Sinclair, Carla Caruso and Maria Lewis

I'm really excited to be able to reveal the cover (and some pre-order links) for an Anthology by some great Aussie authors which is due to be published on the 14th December.

So without further ado (cue *drum roll*), here it is:

Published by HarperCollins, Hot Stuff Surfing Love promises to give you not only some amazing exotic destinations such as Cornwall and Rio de Janeiro, but lots of sea, sand and sun with all the stories centering around yep, you guessed it ... surfers falling in love.

"Hot sun, warm bodies, tight skin, electricity on the air ... four top romance authors give you their take on summer. 

From Carla Caruso - A chance meeting with a pro-surfer on an island getaway ...
From Maria Lewis - The world of women's surfing throws two recent bedmates together ... 
From Alli Sinclair - A world-famous performer finds her heart and a way to fight her demons in Rio de Janeiro ...
From Tess Woods - A Cornish beach retreat proves a full reawakening ..."

If you're in the mood for some light summer reading on the beach, do yourself a favour and make the purchase.

Here are those pre-order links:

AmazonAU    AmazonUS    AmazonUK    AmazonCanada    Google    Kobo    iBooks

My thanks to Tess Woods for making this cover reveal possible.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Aussie Book Review: The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

“Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

As Nat's school comes under threat of closure, and Billy's estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her society life in Perth and the rural community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she's really made of – and where she truly belongs.”

In this city girl meets outback rural community story, Fiona Palmer once again breathes life into both her characters and the small country town of Lake Biddy in regional Western Australia, highlighting societal issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, child abandonment and the pressure placed on our smaller communities with the closure of regional schools.

Twenty-two year old city girl Natalie (Nat) arrives in Lake Biddy to take up a teaching posting at the local town school. She is so excited at the prospect of finally being able to do what she has dreamed of since finishing her degree – teaching her very own class and making the classroom her own.

What Natalie doesn’t count on is the fact that the townsfolk, the school and the Saddler boys, Billy and his dad Drew, are going to draw her into their lives and make her question exactly where it is she belongs.

After reading most of Fiona Palmer’s books, it’s not hard to establish why I keep coming back for more. In terms of character, her supporting cast are always amazing, increasing not only the depth of the story but also adding a third dimension to her heroes and heroines.

In this instance, she has given us Nat and we see her grow immeasurably as she is faced not only with having to deal with an issue that may not have reared its ugly head had she not taken the time to move away from all that is familiar to her but also the way in which she gets involved in assisting the school to overcome the threat of closure.

Child characters can also be a challenge to write effectively and I think I’ve said before in one of my reviews that not all authors get this right – Fiona, however, does this with ease which makes it quite obvious that she has been influenced by children she knows. She develops Billy realistically by giving him some great page time that showcases his innocence, impulsivity and intelligence and I became so attached to him that, like Nat, I wanted to shelter him from any further hurt – Billy truly stole my heart!

Another aspect that Fiona does well is that of setting. She is one of those authors whose writing makes me want to visit the towns she populates because she does such a great job of transporting this reviewer directly into her story right from the first page. As she explores the issues that plague not only our regional farming communities, but the broader ones that plague society in general, she deftly balances her stories to include her vast knowledge of farming practices as well as the sights, sounds and smells of small town country life.

A talented author, whose books always leave a smile on my face, Fiona has once again penned a heart-warming story with endearing characters, giving us a story about how sometimes we need to risk it all to find out exactly where we belong.

Whilst a rural romance at heart, this one will emphasise just how subtle domestic abuse can in fact be and Fiona’s fans will no doubt enjoy sinking their proverbial teeth into it. For those of you who are new to her writing, The Saddler Boys would be a great place to start.

I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth.

She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance.

Fiona has attended romance writers' groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm.

She has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years.

Fiona spends her days writing, working as a farm hand, helping out in the community and looking after her two children.