Book Review: Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

08.08.2017

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - girl in snow

***

Category: General Adult Fiction
Author: Danya Kukafka
Format: Advanced Reading Copy (ARC), 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
ISBN: 978-1-5011-4437-0
Pub Date: August 1, 2017

***

Summary from Publisher:

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.

  • From Goodreads

Book Review:

The novel, Girl in Snow, by Danya Kukafka, is an exquisite, lyrical telling of three different narratives: one by Cameron Whitley, a deeply sensitive and troubled young man, whose focus, desire, and love spirals into obsession; Jade Dixon-Burns, an angry and spiteful, young woman whose jealousy and self-pity compels her to darkness and brooding; and Russ Fletcher, an officer burdened with the task of solving the mystery of Lucinda Haye’s murder and the ramifications of his own past.

The book is both beautiful and terrifying, a haunting soliloquy to loneliness, heartbreak, and revenge. The characters are flawed and vivid, their weaknesses also their haunting strangeness, but are also able to invoke in readers, a quiet empathy and tenderness. This is especially impressive since the plot also involves the mysterious treachery of murder—a murder which could easily implicate several characters in the novel.

Yet, the skill in this novel, too, is its ability to build itself in waves of narrative that is not only introspective, but thoughtful; poetic, yet wrought with believable realism. The death of Lucinda Hayes, is an opportunity for the other characters to grow, if not slowly become reborn as one usually does in trauma and crisis.

And while the writing is lyrical, it is also easily readable, a page-turner if there was an epitome of one, a book I had only read and was engrossed in for a mere two days.

The irony here, is, while Lucinda Hayes’ death means her absolute absence as a character in the novel, the three narratives by the other characters are so overwhelmed with their focus on her death, that though she is absent, she is also ever-present in their thoughts, in their wonder, and in their grief.

But, it is not all poetry and flowers—the book does put in question how easily mob thinking can arise through the epidemic of gossip and crisis, how the act of appearing sad is as inevitable as grief itself, how judgement is as coarse as it is easily thrown about to any suspecting person, and how incrimination is just as harmful as guilt.

And there are a few surprises with the help of secondary characters: Éduoard “Zap” Arnaud; Ivan Santos; Inés Santos; Mr. Thornton; Howard Morrie; and Lee Whitley—all whom play an essential part in raising the plot to its climactic revelation.

What I love about this book, aside from its lyrical cadence, is its testimony to the internal life, how history has a way of unfurling itself from the honest, and sometimes dark desires we feel compelled to surrender to. How these desires can sometimes take us to not only dark places, but thrust us into acts we might not otherwise think to commit.

Danya Kukafka is a young writer with an obvious gift for her craft; her prose, mature, and her introspective characters: haunting, scarred, and beautiful. It’s a wonder that this is only her first novel and yet thrilling to anticipate what work, stories, and narrative she might later share with the literary world.

In that sense, Lucinda Hayes, then, did not die in reckless abandon or vain.

***

Characters: 5 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 4.5 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 5 stars
Cover Design: 5 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

small Z ringsmall Z ringsmall Z ringsmall Z ringsmall Z ring

***

A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with an advanced reading copy (ARC) of the book, Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka in exchange for an honest and timely review.

***

About the Author:

author - danya kukafka

Danya Kukafka is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She currently works as an Assistant Editor at Riverhead Books. Girl in the Snow is her first novel.

  • From the novel

Links:

You many contact Danya Kukafka on her official website, Twitter, and Goodreads.

***

Zara

zara - kai lan frame

 

 

Book Review: Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

06.14.2017

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk - here and gone

***

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thrillers

Author: Haylen Beck

Format: E-book via NetGalley, 304 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-4514-9957-8

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

***

Summary from Publisher:

Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother’s desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them… Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

  • From NetGalley

Book Review:

When I delved into the novel, Here and Gone, I had done so, blindly—without any preconceptions of the book. I hadn’t even bothered to read the description provided by its publisher that’s usually found on its back cover or book jacket. In this case, I simply flipped to the first page and began reading.

It was at first an uncomfortable read for me on a personal level because its main character, like me, have two children: a young son and an even younger daughter. My own son and my own daughter are ironically the same ages as the two children characters in the book—and they were abducted.

Not only were these children, Sean and Louise, abducted, it’s the nature of who had committed the crime that makes the storyline particularly infuriating. As you read on (or if you read the book description before deciding to read the book itself), you’ll angrily discover that the heinous crime of abducting innocent children is committed by corrupt police deputies: a resentful, masochistic Chief Deputy Whiteside and his subordinate, Deputy Collins.

At the center of this chaos, is Audra Kinney, a woman with a past tainted with drugs and alcohol, who, after a serious episode that leaves her hospitalized, finally decides to flee her abusive husband to emancipate herself and raise her children on her own—and safely.

But, before they can get to their destination, Audra is stopped by police and arrested for drug charges, while she is assured her children will be kept safe in the care of another officer. The last she sees of her children is in the back of a police cruiser as it drives away—before she realizes later that they are in danger.

The turn of events moves quickly, almost as pre-meditated as the crime itself in the book. It is a show-and-tell of stereotypical characters: the masochistic gruff of a hard man whose villainy is steeled by cruelty and greed; the uncertain, yet obedient conspirator; the victim whose difficult past makes it even more difficult for authorities to believe her claims; and the children, who by no fault of their own, are the unlucky inheritors of ill-timing and ill fate.

As most crime thrillers aren’t character-driven narratives, but fuel their readers’ interest in the ever-urgent drive to know what is going to happen next, the constant question of Where are the children? What did Whiteside and Collins do with them? And are these corrupt fanatics really going to get away with this? —continually to run through the reader’s mind.

But, there are secondary characters, too, to add a little sub-plot in the story by the means of a character named Danny Lee, a man known by others as Knife-Man. Mrs. Gerber, an unsuspecting host of the small town’s inn, too, has her own burdens. They, like the recluse, John Tandy, are welcome secondary characters to a tense, but hopeful and almost predictable plot.

The story is simple as it is exaggerated, a narrative more similar and perhaps more suited to a screenplay of an action film than to a fiction novel—but readers will want to read to the end, if only to know its conclusion: Where are the children? Will they escape? And will those who abducted them get away with it?

While the ingredients of the crime story are present in this novel, the substance of the novel, and even its level of entertainment, enjoyment, or nail-biting suspense, is unfortunately more indicative of its title: Here—and Gone.

***

Characters: 2.5 stars

Plot: 3 stars

Language/Narrative: 2.5 stars

Dialogue: 3 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 3 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

small Z ringsmall Z ringsmall Z ring

***

A special thanks to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an e-copy of the book, Here and Gone by Haylen Beck through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and timely review.

***

About the Author:

 

author - haylen beck
(c) Ollie Grove, from Penguin Random House website.

 

Haylen Beck is the pseudonym of an acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe.

  • From Penguin Random House website

Links:

You may contact Haylen Beck through his official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

***

Zara

zara - kai lan frame

***

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

01.10.2017

By Zara D. Garcia-Alvarez / @ZaraAlexis / @zaralibrary

bk-cover-woman-cabin-10

Category: Mystery

Author: Ruth Ware

Format: Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC), 344 pages

Publisher: Scout Press, imprint of Simon & Schuster Canada

ISBN: 978-15011-5177-4

Pub Date: January 3, 2017

***

Summary from Publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another intense read.

  • From Goodreads

Book Review:

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware begins the novel by setting the rest of its foreboding tone with a breaking and entering of the main character’s apartment. This triggers Laura (Lo) Blackwood’s anxiety and almost prevents her from taking a luxury cruise for which she is assigned to cover a story for the travel magazine she works for.

Because the genre of the book is a mystery, it’s expected that the novel is not character-driven, but rather rests its ambition in its deviating plot.

The main character, Laura Blackwood, who prefers to be called Lo, seems to be a highly agitated and insecure individual whose coping mechanism for anxiety and claustrophobia is to drink liquor, distance herself from the commitment of a serious relationship, and to continually second-guess the events that surround her.

While her tenacity in attempting to solve the murder mystery herself is commendable, her constant, internal dialogue read particularly paranoid and narcissistic.

A number of secondary characters, a few of the guests on the luxury cruise, are used to compel the mystery of the book, emphasizing the whodunit narrative, which is typical in the mystery genre.

The premise of the story is the unexpected sighting of what the main character believes to be a murder of a woman who resides in Cabin 10, hence the title of the novel.

But, with a history of anxiety, a prescription of antidepressants, and an alcohol binge that lasts into the late night, Lo Blackwood, while certain of what she heard and saw, is personally scrutinized and her reputation put into question until she, herself, is almost driven to obsession in trying to discover the culprit of the crime she adamantly believes she witnessed.

While the narrative itself wasn’t overwhelmingly well-written, and the characters lightly superficial, the work does take a number of turns, leading its readers to consider possible scenarios in the main character’s goal to uncover the criminal behind the alleged murder, which, sends a few welcome surprises in the plot.

And while the pacing is quick enough to keep readers interested if not only to come to the book’s conclusion in the hopes of discovering the truth of the crime alleged in the novel, the conclusion of the novel seemed far-fetched.

Because the narrative wasn’t moving in a way to propel me to the “edge of my seat” as some successful mystery novels are meant to do to keep readers fully engaged in the mystery of the detective-style story, along with the lack of depth in characters who left me indifferent to their susceptibility to suspicion or blame, even danger, as well as the unlikely turn of events for the main character at the end of the novel, I am regrettably left to give The Woman in Cabin 10, a disappointingly 2.5 stars, overall.

But, if you’re an enthusiast of the mystery genre, you’re welcome to take a look at the book yourself. If you enjoy light reading, don’t require character depth, or a gripping plot, and don’t mind unrealistic and potentially exaggerated outcomes—or plan on attending a holiday cruise anytime soon—this could very well be an acceptable book choice.

For those that have already read the novel, the lesson it taught me in reading it: don’t forget to pack your own mascara when travelling.

***

Characters: 2 stars

Plot: 3 stars

Language/Narrative: 2.5 stars

Dialogue: 2.5 stars

Pacing: 3 stars

Cover Design: 3.5 stars

***

Zara’s Rating

small Z ringsmall Z ringone-half

A special thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with a copy of The Woman in Cabin 10, in exchange for an honest review.

***

About the Author:

author-ruth-ware

Ruth Ware grew up in Lewes, in Sussex and studied at Manchester University, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer.

Her début thriller In a Dark, Dark Wood and the follow-up The Woman in Cabin 10 were both Sunday Times top ten bestsellers in the UK, and New York Times top ten bestsellers in the US.  She is currently working hard on book three.

Links:

You can connect with Ruth Ware on Twitter and Facebook.

***

What do you love about the mystery genre?

What is your favourite mystery novel?

***

Zara

zara-red-lip-prisma