#BlogTour #Review: The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford @nic_ford @allisonandbusby

Today I am over the moon to be taking part in the blog tour for Nicola Ford’s debut novel The Hidden Bones. With equal part archaeology, investigative mystery, romance and humour this baby really ticked all of the boxes. I may have picked it up as my ideal way start off the summer reading season, but I genuinely think that The Hidden Bones is going to have some serious staying power.

Hidden Bones banner 2


Synopsis

9780749023621 hidden bones hb wbFollowing the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Review 

When I first picked up this book, admittedly I was suffering from a serious reading slump. The size of it had me a little nervous about finishing on time for this review, but the minute I opened the pages and was introduced to the complicated and endearing Clare Hills I was absolutely entranced! Before I knew it my clock was reading 2:00 AM and I was turning the final page and stark raving mad that I had to wait for the next instalment in what looks to be a cracking series.

I loved the depth and variety found in the characters and not once did I feel that they were cut from a type-cast cloth. There was a constant flow of adventure and revelations that made sure things never got stagnant, and it was done in such a subtle way that I didn’t realize that the plot was moving along at a break-neck speed. I especially enjoyed Clare’s tenacity and perseverance, even if I did judge her a little for letting Stephen take care of absolutely everything in her life. But with that aside, I found her passion relatable and enthusiasm contagious. And let’s not forget the elephant sized tension that gets carried around behind her and David!  I mean, who doesn’t love a good grad school forbidden/ unrequited love story? (Okay, maybe that’s just a thing amongst academics…)

It was interesting to see how central a role Dr. Hart played in the story, even though he was never present to advocate for himself. His absence and actions call into consideration some of the deeper conversations around academic integrity, access to research and information, and the duty that mentors have to the students they take under their wings. While these discussions might not resonate with every reader the tension they create between Gerald and David, as well as Gerald and Margaret, still create ample excitement.

And lets not forget spunky ol’ Jo! It’s always enjoyable to read a character that plot out defies the stereotypes associated with their job. I could picture that scene so vividly when Jo walks in to meet Clare with a backpack and a Coke, and Clare is absolutely thrown for a loop when this little blonde American turns our to be the exact opposite of the world class expert that Clare had originally envisioned. I know that look, I’ve seen that look, and I laughed uncontrollably because I have totally lived that moment! But what made it all the more awesome, was the fact that Clare’s character was able to eat crow and strike up an awesome friendship with her colleague.

The strong cast of female characters is something that can’t be ignored. Together they are balanced, determined, and straight up boss without ever being bitchy. This is so, so, so important! If you’re looking for a touch of girl power with a dash of gripping crime, this one is for you. And even if you aren’t actively seeking strong female reads, the authenticity of the archaeology and the twists in the plot are sure to please crime junkies and thrill seekers alike.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hells to the yes! It’s well written, engaging, and the perfect start to a killer series. I can’t wait to see what Nicola Ford puts out next, as her expertise in archaeology creates an incredibly authentic reading experience and expertly blends together investigating the past with the recently dead. Buy it my book nerds, this is one summer read you won’t regret!


Author Information

Nicola_Ford_smlNicola Ford is the pen-name for archaeologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she’s spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

  • Nicola is National Trust Archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, and has drawn upon her experience ‘in the field’ to write a murder mystery combining well-realised characters, a strong sense of archaeological hotspot. Wiltshire and distant past clashing with murky present.
  • As an archaeologist, working in two of the world’s most iconic ancient landscapes, she spends her days bringing the dead to life. She writes with the down in the dirt eye of an archaeologist and the heart of a story teller.
  • Under her working name of Dr Nick Snashall, she regularly gives public talks and lectures in Britain and abroad and has featured in films and podcasts for the National Trust alongside Clare Balding and Bettany Hughes. She’s given numerous local, national and international TV and radio interviews and appeared in national TV and radio series, including BBC’s Countryfile, Channel 4’s Britain’s Secret Treasures, and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
  • Nicola received the 2017 Archaeological Research Project of the Year Award (jointly with other project co-directors) voted for by members of the public.

nicolaford.com

@nic_ford


Many thanks to Allison & Busby for organizing this tour, and to Nicola Ford for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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#Review: The Photographer of Mauthausen by Salvia Rubio #GraphicNovel #WWIILit

My posting schedule has been a little sporadic to say the least lately, so what better way to get back at it than with a WWII graphic novel? Salvia Rubio and Pedro Columo work in perfect harmony to tell the long silent story of Francisco Boix. Gritty, raw, and absolutely enthralling, this baby turned out to be one of my favourite reads in the first half of the year.


photoTitle: The Photographer of Mauthausen

Author: Salvia Rubio

Illustrator: Pedro Columbo

Publisher: Europe Comics

Publication Date: April 18, 2018

Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel, Non Fiction

Themes: WWII, Survival, Concentration Camps, War Crimes


My Rating: 4 / 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

This is a dramatic retelling of true events in the life of Francisco—or François—Boix, a Spanish press photographer and communist who fled to France at the beginning of World War II. But there, he found himself handed over by the French to the Nazis, who sent him to the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp, where he spent the war among thousands of other Spaniards and other prisoners. More than half of them would lose their lives there. Through an odd turn of events, Boix finds himself the confidant of an SS officer who is documenting prisoner deaths at the camp. Boix realizes that he has a chance to prove Nazi war crimes by stealing the negatives of these perverse photos—but only at the risk of his own life, that of a young Spanish boy he has sworn to protect, and, indeed, that of every prisoner in the camp.

 


My Review

 

I was first turned on to graphic novels as a medium for delivering rich, emotive, nonfiction in the final year of my undergrad when I was introduced to Joe Sacco and comics journalism. And I have to say, I think that the comics medium is perfect for relating WWII and Holocaust stories as the visual nature delivers such an immersive experience. Of course I’ve read MausMoving Pictures and We Are On Our Own, but the Photographer of Mauthausen was an entirely different (and amazing) kind of experience!

At just 118 pages, this book packs a big punch. Everything from the artwork to the scripting works together in perfect harmony to balance emotion with story and iconography with imagination. We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so when you start putting 7-10 images a page, the impact is compounded. But what killed me the most, was how the pictures that Francisco and his crew worked so hard to protect were never used by the War Tribunal to give the victims a voice. Of all the injustices depicted throughout, that was one of the hardest to swallow.

I love how the book opens and closes at the French-Spanish border. Both nations flags are presented in opposite panels, and the colours of each flag filter down into the images below and periodically punctuate the pages to create a sense of time and place. With the majority of the illustrations are in washes of blue, grey, and brown when other colours are present they cary a whole lot of impact. So to do the facial expression and postures assigned to the characters. We see once jovial and supportive friends become gaunt and brow furrowed with worry. Not only are we told what they are going through, but we can also see the emotional and physical toll that enduring Mauthausen has on each man.

And the panel arrangements! I typically gravitate towards comics with consistent and predictable page layouts, but the creative use of shapes was absolutely divine. The geometry of the irregular shape leads the eye, creates a fractured and frantic reading, and tactfully manipulates time. Panels bleed of the page, images exist free of constraint, and the gutter isn’t the clean meaning-making space that novice readers might be used to. Yet, despite the constant flurry of information the pages are never cluttered or difficult the read.

The story itself was heartfelt and told with tenderness despite the atrocities displayed on the page. You get a real sense for Francisco’s convictions, his national pride, and his determination to not let deaths that he witnessed to be in vain. The balance that had to be made between morality and survival, selfishness and selflessness, protecting others and protecting yourself is unimaginable and yet entirely authentic. To watch their plan come together perfectly, and simultaneously fail catastrophically after the war was the most draining emotional rollercoaster!

Would I recommend this book? I can’t sing it’s praises highly enough! It’s visual, it’s visceral, and it’s one of my favourite WWII reads this year. And more than that, given the struggles that Francisco had telling this story during his life, I think that his story is one that needs to be heard by world now that it’s on the page. If you like graphic novels, WWII Fiction, or nonfiction this one is for you!


Many thanks to Net Galley and Europe Comics for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.