Book Review: Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

When I read the blurb for Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich, I was intrigued by the mix of religion and mystery. This read looked like one that I would enjoy.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Blurb:

When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.
 
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
 
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
 
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.

My Thoughts:

This novel did not disappoint me: it was fast-paced and held my interest during the entire story. Salvation Station was a book I could not put down – I wanted to know if the police would find the culprit in time as there were many moments when I thought they would not. The web that the murderer creates is so intricate and believable; the pacing of the author perfectly pitched.

It is not often that a novel includes the subject of religion. I could connect with the characters’ religious feelings and motives because of my own experience with the Christian sect described in the novel. The author’s descriptions of religious fervour were skillfully done – as was the description of the characters’ naivete who believe in the goodness of people.

Salvation Station is told in multiple points of view which clearly show the two crimes which intersect later on in the novel. Schleich expertly and seamlessly merges the various storylines in the novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and recommend it to those who enjoy reading murder mysteries.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 78th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

I thought it was time to pick up a novel that has been lingering on my bookshelf for a year now. I was in the mood for a contemporary read so I picked up The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson.

Genre: Mystery, Contemporary

Blurb:

A woman inherits a beloved bookstore and sets forth on a journey of self-discovery in this poignant debut about family, forgiveness and a love of reading.

Miranda Brooks grew up in the stacks of her eccentric Uncle Billy’s bookstore, solving the inventive scavenger hunts he created just for her. But on Miranda’s twelfth birthday, Billy has a mysterious falling-out with her mother and suddenly disappears from Miranda’s life. She doesn’t hear from him again until sixteen years later when she receives unexpected news: Billy has died and left her Prospero Books, which is teetering on bankruptcy—and one final scavenger hunt.

My Thoughts:

I picked up this book because the title had the word ‘bookshop’ in it. I enjoy reading stories that involve books and present characters who enjoy reading. I was not disappointed by the novel and enjoyed my foray into a story that embraces a love of reading.

This contemporary read was the perfect novel to spend some time with during my period of isolation. The story centres on the journey of a young woman who not only finds out about her past, but also determines what her future should be. It is a story about a young woman who discovers who she is and what it is she wants from her life. It is a story about a young woman who finds the courage to take the steps required to change her life and to take up the opportunities that have been given to her.

The Bookshop of Yesterdays is an expertly crafted novel that touches on grief, friendship, and the relationship between family members. I enjoyed reading about the main character, Miranda, and seeing how she grows in the story. I felt a connection with her as she works on figuring out her past and who she is. Her life is not perfect, and neither is the relationship she has with her parents. But she tries, and it is this that connected me to her.

If you enjoy contemporary fiction about ordinary lives, this novel is for you. As a reader, you will understand the characters’ love of the bookshop they work to save. You will finish the novel with a feeling of hope and satisfaction.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novels was the 56th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan

Last year I was able to purchase tickets for a Harper Presents event organised by Harper Collins Canada to hear one of my favourite authors speak. Even though I do enjoy all of Gilly MacMillan’s novels, it was only now that I slipped The Nanny off of my TBR pile.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Format: Paperback

Blurb:

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

In this compulsively readable tale of secrets, lies, and deception, Gilly Macmillan explores the darkest impulses and desires of the human heart. Diabolically clever, The Nanny reminds us that sometimes the truth hurts so much you’d rather hear the lie.

My thoughts:

Gilly MacMillan has done it again by writing a story that keeps readers on their toes and takes them through some unexpected scenarios. As expected, MacMillan’s pacing is perfect in the novel and I could not help but turn the pages – I needed to know how the story would turn out. It is not a nail-biting novel but one, instead, that cleverly turns the expected behaviour into something unexpected.

In The Nanny, MacMillan suggests to us the power of the person who looks after our children. Nannies, for example, tend to be people who work in the background and yet, as is seen in this novel, they have untold power over a child’s relationship with the parents, as well as over the behaviour of a child.

In this novel, the author also explores the relationship between mother and daughter. We are shown two relationships in this story: the one between Jocelyn and her mother; as well as the one between Jocelyn and her own daughter. It is interesting to compare these two relationships – and how the nanny influences both.

MacMillan does throw in an unexpected twist at the end of the novel – which I certainly appreciated. I also appreciated the prose of the author’s writing as well as her insight into human nature. I am a fan of Gilly MacMillan and this novel did not disappoint.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 39th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

While at the OLA Super Conference earlier this year, I stood in line to get a signed ARC of Jennifer Hillier’s novel Little Secrets. I smiled with glee when I was able to get a copy of her latest

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him. Four hundred and eighty seconds. That’s how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado’s four-year-old son.

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

My thoughts:

The novel deals with a scary topic – the abduction of your child. The abduction of my children was something I was always scared of when they were little and, as a result, would make sure I held their hand when in crowded places. But mistakes do happen and children do wander off with no sense of danger.

Little Secrets describes the mental state of the mom as she experiences depression after the abduction of her child. The book does have another trigger in that Marin (the main character) has continuous thoughts of suicide. When she learns that her husband is having an affair, she is pulled out of her lethargy and behaves in unexpected ways.

The pacing of the novel was a little slow in the beginning and it did not feel at all like I was reading a thriller. Halfway through the story, however, the pace did pick up which led to me turning the pages at a faster pace. The second half of the story also led to unexpected twists that I enjoyed.

The story does end with a sense of hope and an underlying truth that you need to forgive yourself for the actions you take to protect your family and loved ones. I would recommend this title for those who enjoy reading thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 22nd novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo

Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC of The Only Child by Mi-Ae Seo to read and review. The blurb certainly intrigued me and I opened the novel with interest.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb:

An eerie and absorbing novel following a criminal psychologist who has discovered shocking and possibly dangerous connections between a serial killer and her stepdaughter.

Criminal psychologist Seonkyeong receives an unexpected call one day. Yi Byeongdo, a serial killer whose gruesome murders shook the world, wants to be interviewed. Yi Byeongdo, who has refused to speak to anyone until now, asks specifically for her. Seonkyeong agrees out of curiosity.

That same day Hayeong, her husband’s eleven-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, shows up at their door after her grandparents, with whom she lived after her mother passed away, die in a sudden fire. Seonkyeong wants her to feel at home, but is gradually unnerved as the young girl says very little and acts strangely.

At work and at home, Seonkyeong starts to unravel the pasts of the two new arrivals in her life and begins to see startling similarities. Hayeong looks at her the same way Yi Byeongdo does when he recounts the abuse he experienced as a child; Hayeong’s serene expression masks a temper that she can’t control. Plus, the story she tells about her grandparents’ death, and her mother’s before that, deeply troubles Seonkyeong. So much so that Yi Byeongdo picks up on it and starts giving her advice.

My thoughts:

The Only Child has been translated from the original Korean and it may be for this reason that the writing at times seemed to be a bit pedantic. The author’s style did not grab me and it was my curiosity to see how the story ended that carried me through to the last page.

The novel shows an interesting comparison between the beginning processes of a serial killer and the end of a serial killer’s killing spree when he is caught and imprisoned. This comparison is shown through the two characters: a young girl named Hayeong and Yi Byeongdo, a killer who has been captured and imprisoned. The reader is slowly introduced to the comparison and asked to make a judgement on the possibilities of what creates a serial killer. In addition to the comparison, the reader is shown the life of Yi Byeongdo and the progression which led him to the prison. His experience is different to that of Hayeong and yet similar results are predicted.

The story is told in multiple points of view. Because of the Korean names, it took me some time to figure out who was whom especially as the time frame changes as well with every chapter. However once I figured out who the characters were, I was able to switch between the characters and time frames easily.

The beginning of the novel was a bit slow for me, though the pace did pick up halfway through. I did not enjoy the writing style the author used for this novel and I was a little disappointed with the way the story was presented. I did, though, like the unexpected twist at the end of the story.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 17th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: Never Forget by Martin Michaud

I put down my name for a giveaway of Never Forget by Martin Michaud by the publisher and I was lucky to win a copy of the ARC. The novel has been translated from the original French and is a police procedural.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Police Procedural

Blurb:

From the acclaimed “master of the Quebec thriller” comes an action-packed, breakneck mystery featuring Montreal police detectives Victor Lessard and Jacinthe Taillon, who race to track down a ruthless killer.

When an eccentric homeless man jumps to his death in Old Montreal, the police discover two wallets in his possession: those of a retired psychiatrist who was recently murdered in a bizarre ritual and a powerful corporate lawyer who has vanished. As police detective Victor Lessard and his partner, Jacinthe Taillon, work to solve the separate mysteries, a dark history begins to emerge.

While the pressure builds and the bodies accumulate, dark and disturbing secrets come to light about a pivotal moment in Quebec’s history. But will Lessard and Taillon crack the case in time to prevent the killer from striking again?

My thoughts:

I loved this novel – it was gritty and the writing suited the main character of the novel. Often I would stop to savour a sentence and just enjoy the author’s imagery – and this happened more than once during the story. The imagery is not what one would expect of this genre and it is this that made the novel even more enjoyable.

The main character, Victor Lessard, is a flawed man and he is shown to the reader in all his flaws. The descriptions of his life and actions are realistic and to the point. In this way, Lessard became a real person in my mind, a person that left an impression. He is the way I imagine a hardened cop to be – I could see him in my mind’s eye – and he has certainly become one of my favourite cop characters. Readers not only see him in a one dimensional environment: he is also seen to exist in a personal life – a life which the reader is welcomed into.

The novel is perfectly paced for a police procedural. It is not a psychological thriller which will have you biting your nails. Instead the search for the killer is methodical, frustrating at times, and with unexpected curve balls. The perfect pacing meant that I was engaged at all times. I was captivated by both the storyline and the characters.

The story and the writing made reading this book a treat. The other books in the series are currently being translated and I know I will want to read them as well. I may even try one in the original French!

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 5th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

Book Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor

While vacationing in the Dominican Republic, I picked up one of the novels in the resort’s library – The Taking of Annie Thorne by C. J. Tudor.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Blurb:

One night, Annie went missing. Disappeared from her own bed. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. And then, miraculously, after forty-eight hours, she came back. But she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say what had happened to her. Something happened to my sister. I can’t explain what. I just know that when she came back, she wasn’t the same. She wasn’t my Annie. I didn’t want to admit, even to myself, that sometimes I was scared to death of my own little sister.

My thoughts:

When I picked up C. J. Tudor’s novel, I expected to read a thriller. A couple of chapters in, I came across a scene that reminded me a lot of Stephen King’s work. It had been a long time since I had read horror and I settled in to enjoy the story. It was not the perfect time of year to read this type of story but I had not brought any other book with me on my vacation.

Right from the start, Tudor’s writing drew me in and impressed me. I enjoyed reading the way she put words together as well as her observations of human nature and society. The story is also perfectly paced and kept me wanting to read despite the many distractions I encountered while on vacation. Despite being inspired by Stephen King, C. J. Tudor has her own voice. Her characterisation is strong, her description of human nature spot-on, her storyline believable.

If you are a fan of horror fiction and of Stephen King, you need to read The Taking of Anne Thorne. The story is chilling and compelling. It grabs your imagination and pushes you through to the basis of human nature. I am now a fan and look forward to reading both her debut novel as well as her next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 116th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

I attended a Harper Presents event to listen to Gilly MacMillan speak as she is one of my preferred authors. Tarryn Fisher was another writer set to speak at the event and, even though I had not read any of her novels, I was curious to listen to her. After the talk, I had the opportunity to receive a signed ARC of her upcoming novel, The Wives.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

My thoughts:

The Wives has an unusual premise as polygamy is not a usual theme that runs in thrillers. Fisher makes it work, though, and I believed the setup that she had created. The story is told in the voice of Thursday, Seth’s second wife, and all the events described are seen through her eyes.

Near the midway of the novel, I was confused as the setup I believed to be true turned out not to be. As expected, the confusion led to a twist which then caused me to see the story with a different viewpoint and expectation. It was interesting for me to read through the thought patterns of Thursday – I questioned something when the character did, and grasped a thought when she did.

Before the midway twist, the story read like a drama in which a woman is describing her relationship with her partner and, at times, seemed a little mediocre. After the twist, the pace of the novel picked up and I became more invested in the story as the content became more interesting. My mind kept switching allegiances between Thursday herself and Seth. Which story is the truth? This is the question I kept asking myself. I enjoyed the final twist at the end of the story – part of which was unexpected.

Tarryn Fisher’s The Wives is an enjoyable psychological thriller that does not get too intense. The pace in the beginning is a bit slow and the story a little ordinary but it does pick up. The story is not too original but the way that Fisher sets it up is different to what I have read. The novel is a quick read and perfect if you are looking for a story that you can read quickly and not think too deeply about.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️ 2 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 109th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

I had seen many positive posts on Instagram on Ruth Ware’s novel so when I saw one of her novels on sale at the second hand book store, I decided to pick it up. While reading the acknowledgements at home, I saw that In a Dark, Dark Wood was her debut.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb:

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever. 

My thoughts:

The novel follows two timelines – the past and the present: while Nora experiences the present, she looks back on the past as it affects her current situation. Following two timelines can be a bit confusing, but Ware successfully intertwined the two that I always knew where I was reading on the timeline .

The novel is slow moving as Ware sets up the scene and shows the reader the dynamic between the different characters in the story. In a Dark, Dark Wood is not action-filled and fast-paced and for some readers could be a bit tedious. As I was interested in the dynamic between the various players in the story, I did not mind the slow pace. The author’s presentation of the characters shows an understanding of human relationships and the power plays that exist between them.

The novel is not too twisty as the reader is able to figure out a lot because of their own knowledge of human relationships. The end, though, did have a bit of the unexpected thrown in. What I enjoyed about the novel was that the story is an exploration of the relationships between friends – and how one person dominates and steers the relationship no matter how many years have passed.

In a Dark, Dark Place is not a fast-paced and extremely twisty novel. Instead it explores the darker side of a friendship that is one-sided. Ware’s debut is one to pick up if you enjoy reading stories on human relationships.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 100th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

I had never read anything written by Hannah Mary McKinnin. The concept for The Neighbors sounded interesting so I decided to pick it up.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Blurb:

In 1992, a car accident kills a young man and forever changes the lives of three people… Now, twenty years later, they’ll all come to regret the choices they made that day, as the secrets and lies they’ve told to protect each other become the very things that tear their lives apart.

After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying… 

My thoughts:

Goodreads describes the story as a thriller but it is more a human drama with a dash of mystery.

The story deals with two people who have unfinished business and, in part, goes along as one would expect. However as the story unfolds, a few little twists are added to the events that do turn everything upside down. The twists are caused by hidden truths and lies that, if revealed, would cause plenty of hurt and emotional destruction.

Deceit is definitely a thread that runs through McKinnon’s story. Hiding truths is so much a part of people’s lives – but some truths are more harmful than others. In The Neighbors, the truths are revealed slowly. As I realised certain facts, I could not help turning the pages quickly as I did want to know how these deceits would affect the lives of the characters. Having said that, The Neighbors is not an action-packed story that will have you racing to the end. It is, instead, a novel filled with human drama told in a way that keeps the reader interested.

I enjoyed reading McKinnon’s work and I will pick up another title by her. The Neighbors is a story for you if you enjoy reading novels featuring the drama of human relationships.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 99th in my book pledge for 2019)