Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Recommended to me by a dear friend with whom I share a love of reading, Girl in Snow, a first-time book from Danya Kukafka, is a sublime, beautifully written murder-mystery that rather than focussing on the forensics of the investigation into the death of a young girl, Lucinda Hayes, instead chooses to explore the impact her death and her life have on the people around her. Told from three points of view: a cop with a deep secret named Russ, the strange, interior Cameron who though he has trouble socially, not only perceives the world around him in the most fascinating and imaginative way, can produce wonderful art. Much of his work is centred on Lucinda. Preferring to lurk in the shadows, when his work and manner draw attention to him and the secrets he keeps, he becomes a likely suspect. Then there is Jade: cynical and wise beyond her years, she too harbours desires and dark resentments, observing, alienating and loathing the townsfolk. The one thing she doesn’t keep to herself is her burning hatred for Lucinda and everything she represents. Not only are the stories of these three characters interconnected, but so too is the relationships they have with Lucinda, their families and the neighbours and school friends who think they know them. In order to solve Lucinda’s murder and bring her killer to justice, they must all face the past and, more importantly, the parts of themselves they’ve refused to acknowledge. The thing that strikes you most about this book, apart from the tight plotting and totally credible resolution, is the gorgeous language. The prose is exquisite, the descriptions offered for mundane objects, for feelings almost impossible to express are all there on the page like poetry. Not only did I marvel at some of the...

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

Where do I even begin with this book? My. God. Having followed the Trump phenomenon since it first became a terrible reality, I thought I had a fairly good grasp of the madness and mayhem that marked not just the campaign, but his first year in office. Boy, was I wrong. Not so much about Trump himself. I think much of what we read and hear and see every day, whether we live in the US or Australia and much of it thanks to Twitter, prepares us for what’s revealed in the book – even when it exceeds our (low?) expectations. What is shocking in the book is the role and attitude of other players – the Conways, Hicks, Ivanka and Jared (known derogatorily as “Jarvanka” – a nickname bestowed by Steve Bannon who utterly despises the pair and Wolff does not hold back in painting them in a dreadful, manipulative light), the Bannons and, never mind the “Mooches” (Anthony Scaramucci) of this crazy world. Their complicity in what is said and done, their desire to promote themselves over and above curbing Trump’s more unrealistic tendencies, gain in wealth and status and shore up a future beyond the President’s tenure, and above the well-being of the nation, to pretend that everything is alright is breath-taking in its awfulness and downright self-servingness.  – No. I am wrong. What they do is actually worse than that. In order, I guess, to reassure themselves things are not as bad as others think, they not only collude but pretend that everyone else outside the White House, whether supporters of Trump or not, and who are deeply concerned about where the country and the man leading it are heading, are somehow nuts or misguided or trying to bring Trump down. As if, somehow, it...

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The Girl Who Lived by Christopher Greyson

I don’t know how many of you do this but I generally pay scant attention to the ads that appear when I boot up my Kindle – I mean, I scan them quickly, take in the title of the book, author and the shoutline, but never take any of it seriously enough to purchase. They’re a consumer distraction – a necessary one for the pleasure and convenience of my Kindle. For some reason, I made an exception with the ad for The Girl Who Lived. I don’t think it was the “girl” in the title (I am wearying of those), but something about the whole title that resonated. I downloaded it before I could change my mind and began reading. Well, I couldn’t stop – not until I finished it at some ungodly hour of the morning. This book tells the story of Faith Winters who, in her early twenties is an alcoholic with a criminal record released from a care facility and into strict probation. She has one chance to make it in the community or she’s back in a facility for good. Picked up by her mother, Faith is taken to a small flat that’s been given to her by her parent and loathed step-father. Ungrateful, skitchy, Faith isn’t easy to like. Wanting to be left alone with her memories, it’s not long before the reader learns just how terrible and destructive those are. Dark and horrifying doesn’t begin to describe what Faith bore witness to on the eve of her thirteenth birthday some ten years earlier. The only witness to brutal murders, murders attributed to someone she loved dearly, she’s not believed when she contests police findings. As a consequence, she starts to think maybe she was wrong and so spirals into a life of psychiatric...

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Dark Skies, DCI Ryan #& LJ Ross

This is the last instalment in the DCI Ryan series currently available (at the end we’re told to expect the next one early 2018). In this novel, DCI Ryan investigates the case of a body at the bottom of a reservoir. Found by a tourist doing a diving course, its discovery is timed with arrival of Ryan’s wife, Anna, and a mini-bus-load of her masters’ students engaged in a history study of the region. Since the body has been there at least 30 years and this appears to be a cold case, Ryan reassures Anna it’s OK to continue with her history trip. Only, when more bodies start turning up, both Ryan and Anna come to deeply regret their initial decision she remain. To make matters worse, Ryan’s new boss who is also an old, unstable and manipulative flame, is making her presence felt, driving wedges in both friendships and professional practice. Not only does Ryan have an unhinged killer to deal with, but a woman scorned and Shakespeare warned us what they are like. The book is tightly plotted and paced and hard to put down and I did really enjoy it. However, I am a little concerned that once again, there’s a rotten cop in the shop determined to bring Ryan and what he’s built down, and though The Hacker has gone, it’s like a carbon copy of him has been resurrected. More caricature than believable, I am very interested to see if he will be fleshed out and become the threat Ross clearly intends. Likewise, with Ryan’s boss, whose motives and actions seem so transparent, it’s ridiculous he and his friends appear to be the only ones to see it! Still, it’s testimony to Ross’ prose and how much you come to care for the main...

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Cragside DCI Ryan #6 by LJ Ross

The sixth book in the DCI Ryan series, Cragside, opens with Ryan and Anna recovering from the events in the previous book and the destruction – physical, psychological and emotional – The Hacker left behind. Likewise for McKenzie and Phillips. Temporarily relocated to the grounds of a manor house, Cragside, due to the fire that gutted Anna’s cottage, when Ryan and Anna are invited to a murder-mystery party, the last thing they expect is for a real body to turn up. When more bodies start appearing, Ryan understands something sinister is afoot. Worse, a new appointment is about to be made at Northumberland Constabulary, an appointment that bodes nothing but ill for Ryan. Once again, Ross creates a wonderful balance between intrigue, romance, personal relationships, office politics and the various suspects of the crime. Location also becomes a character in the novel, the house and the lands upon which it sits, adding atmosphere and tension (as well as beauty) to the narrative. Managing to capture a great deal in a few words, Ross’s books are just getting better and better. It’s no wonder that as soon as I finish one, I quickly purchase and start the next. A good read...

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High Force DCI Ryan #5

Thus far,this is my favourite in the DCI Ryan series. Starting where Angel finished, it’s to news that the notorious psychopath, The Hacker, has escaped prison. There can be only one reason for this, apart from unleashing his brutality upon more brunette women, and that’s to bring Ryan, the man who put him behind bars, to his knees. When detective Denise McKenzie is kidnapped from her own home in the opening scenes of the novel, it’s evident The Hacker is not wasting time. Nor does Ross. The pace does not stop. Knowing this will alert Ryan to his intentions, The Hacker seeks out more victims, all the while tormenting Denise, watching Ryan and his lovely brunette fiancée, Anna – the one person whose demise would destroy the man he both hates and is obsessed with. Deploying every skill he has, utilising every last scrap of manpower he’s given, when the trail for The Hacker turns cold, Ryan soon understands that what is needed is for The Hacker to make his next move. Be careful what you wish for – after all, he has Denise in his clutches and more vulnerable woman to prey upon, never mind Anna in his twisted sights. Will Ryan able to prevent another brutal death? Fast-paced, invested with emotional angst and fear, this is a gripping read. Finished it late one night and immediately bought and started the next in the series. Can be read as a stand-alone but, as usual with any series, there are even more reading pleasures and rewards for those who have followed the development of the characters with each book and adventure and the inter-relationships portrayed. Overall, a terrific...

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Angel by LJ Ross DCI Ryan #4

The fourth book in the DCI Ryan series, Angel is a page-turner. Life is slowly returning to a semblance of normality for Ryan and his fiancé, Anna, and wedding plans are being made, that is until the body of a young woman is found. Not only is she partially-buried in a grave intended for someone else, but she’s been positioned to look like an angel. When more bodies start turning up, some in the angelic pose and others not, Ryan and Phillips realize they have a different sort of religious killer on the loose – a religious killer who doesn’t care who their victim is as long as she has red hair, pale skin and is of a certain age, very much like the love of Phillip’s life, Detective Inspector Denise McKenzie…. While I had my doubts about this series to start with, I confess, the characters have really grown on me. Ross has developed Ryan, Anna, Philips, Denise and Jack to the point you feel invested in them and care deeply when they’re threatened, which is what makes this book so very appealing. Not only that, but the plot moves at a fast pace, the killer remaining a step ahead all the time. There are still some clichés that can grind a tad, but some are simply part of the generic conventions of crime narratives and can be forgiven, especially when other aspects of the writing are so very good. The ending is a doozy as well and had me buying and starting the next in the series immediately. Good start to the new year reading!...

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Heavenfield by LJ Ross DCI Ryan #3

I guess I should start this review with a Happy New Year! It might be belated, but is no less sincere for that. I really hope 2018 is a cracker of a year for you. I am excited about it – not only do I have two novels coming out this year (the US version of The Locksmith’s Daughter in May with William Morrow, replete with a gorgeous new cover which I will preview soon and The Chocolate Maker’s Wife in Australia/NZ through MIRA Harlequin/Harper Collins in October – 2019 release slated for the USA,), but I also commence a new writing job as an advice columnist for a magazine. Watch this space. So I really feel writing is my living now – from fiction and history to contemporary politics, social issues and pop culture to advice. Feel ever so fortunate to be making my living with words and the ideas they inspire, imaginations they fuel, knowledge they impart and also the ability they have to console, excite, arouse, enrage, and satisfy. I have made a promise to myself to read a lot this year – non-fiction (which I will do researching my new novel) as well as glorious fiction from all genres. Currently, I am reading the book that, before its release, caused so much controversy – Fire and Fury by Michael Woolfe. OMG.  Stay tuned for a review of that in the next few days. In the meantime, here is the first of  my reviews for 2018. So many great books, so many lovely words. Never enough time! Happy New Reading Year! Number Three in the Detective Chief Inspector Max Ryan series ups the ante by commencing the novel with Ryan being placed into custody under suspicion of murdering a man in a church. While it’s evident...

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Why oh why did it take me so long to read the beautifully titled, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr? I bought it not long after it came out, started it about a year later but, for some reason (I think the genres I’d been reading or what was going on in my life meant it didn’t resonate at that moment) I put it aside, promising myself I would get to it later as it was well written and I could tell the story would drag me in. Well, later came and went, it seems. That was, until a friend tweeted me a few days ago asking me if I’d read it and reviewed it and saying how powerful he found the book… Powerful hey? That was enough of a prompt to send me back to the novel – starting from the beginning again – and basically surrender myself to Doerr’s magnificent prose and war-torn Europe. The central characters Doerr so carefully and delicately constructs (like the miniature houses the locksmith lovingly creates) insinuate themselves from the pages and, little by little, into your heart. There’s blind, clever and sweet Marie-Laure, the ambitious, soul-crushed, orphan Werner and his strong sister, Jutta; gentle dreamer with unshakeable ethics, Frederick; Etienne, and the dangerous giant with a passion for classical music, Volkheimer – all of whom are swept up in the dark forces that tore Europe apart and forever transformed its people. Beautifully and heart-wrenchingly told, using various communication devices – from radios and sound to art, books and music, as well as science (particularly studies of various fauna) and the works of Jules Verne – as metaphors to tell the painful story of what happens to the central characters as their families, communities, cities and countries fight for...

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Firstly, I want to thank BookShout and William Morrow for providing me with a galley copy of this fabulous debut novel, The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. Secondly, what a ripper of a read. Arising out of the same oeuvre as the spate of “girl” books (Girl on the Train, Gone Girl etc), replete with their unreliable narrators, who are arch manipulators, alcoholics and liars etc., The Woman in the Window relies on many of the tropes these books used. However, not only is there a “woman” at the heart of the story, with a complex psychology and history, who happens to be a highly qualified child psychologist with a PhD but, importantly to the plot, structure and ambience of the novel, she’s also a black and white movie buff, her preferred genre being Hitchcockian thrillers. More on that shortly. Dr Anna Fox is, for reasons that eventually emerge, housebound. Suffering from agoraphobia, she is also far too reliant and irresponsible with prescription drugs and wine and has poor personal hygiene. Separated from her husband and daughter, she is also without a support network, unless you can call her psychologist, occupational therapist, tenant in the basement and those she manages in an online group a support. When she’s not in her various chatrooms or playing chess online, Anna spends her days calling her husband and daughter or viewing her neighbourhood through her windows, camera in hand so she can use its powerful lens to really observe the goings on in the world she’s currently rejecting. When she witnesses something terrible, the tight, closed domain she’s created starts to unravel and she begins to doubt – not only the life she’s created and the few people she’s allowed to enter it – but herself. But, as a fabulous...

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Karen Brooks's books on Goodreads
TallowTallow (Curse of The Bond Riders, #1)
reviews: 29
ratings: 489 (avg rating 3.79)

VotiveVotive (Curse of the Bond Rider #2)
reviews: 10
ratings: 154 (avg rating 4.25)

The Gaze of the GorgonThe Gaze of the Gorgon (Cassandra Klein, #2)
reviews: 1
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.78)

The Kurs of AtlantisThe Kurs of Atlantis (Cassandra Klein, #4)
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.12)

Rifts Through QuentarisRifts Through Quentaris
ratings: 12 (avg rating 3.56)