Book Review: The Favourite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

Harper Collins Canada sent me an ARC copy of The Favourite Daughter by Kaira Rouda to read and review. The bookmail was timely as I was in the mood for a thriller.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s eldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident, and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of antidepressants, she’s barely even left the house…until now.

As Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear she’s missed a lot in the last year. Her husband has been working long days – and nights – at the office. Her daughter Betsy seems distant, even secretive. And Jane receives a note warning her that Mary’s death wasn’t an accident. What really happened on the day that Mary died? And who is lying to whom in this family?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…

My thoughts:

The story is told from the point of view of Jane Harris, a grieving mother and wife. When I began reading the novel, I definitely felt empathy for her – she had lost a daughter and it was evident that her marriage was failing. The story began like so many contemporary novels and I thought, for a moment, that the book had incorrectly been labelled ‘mystery’.

As I read on, however, I realised that not all was as it seemed. The writer adroitly reveals the true nature of Jane’s personalty as we read her thoughts. It is interesting to feel the turnabout towards a character – the Jane you think you know at the beginning of the novel is not the same woman you get to know while turning the pages.

The chapters begin with the countdown of a timeline which adds to the tension in the book and to the reader’s knowledge that an important day is approaching. I found myself thinking of what may happen on that day – Rouda brought me to a point that predictions were made; a point when I believed I knew how the novel would end. And then the unexpected happened. I loved the twist as it turned around my expectations. And then the novel ended with yet another twist!

The Favourite Daughter was an enjoyable read and is more a psychological thriller than a mere mystery. I enjoyed the twists and the unexpected ending – and seeing into the mind of a woman who feels the need to control her family.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 42nd in my book pledge for 2019)

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First Line Fridays: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

I type, “Should I see a therapist?”

A popular Google search, it seems. There’s a lot of information on the topic. Pages and pages of tests you can take to help you decide if therapy is right for you. If so, what kind of therapy? Psychiatrist versus psychologist? What’s your major disorder? There’s so much. I could do this all night. Once Ian leaves, maybe I will.”

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward (2018, Harper Collins Publishers)

Beautiful Bad is a suspenseful novel which will give you a few surprises. If you are interested to learn more, you can read my review here.

Do the first lines capture your attention?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This post is linked to It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books and her One Line Friday challenge.)

Book Review: I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

I had read a novel by Gilly Macmillan before and enjoyed it. I decided to pick up I Know You Know when I was in the mood for a psychological thriller.

Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

From author Gilly Macmillan comes this original, chilling and twisty mystery about two shocking murder cases twenty years apart, and the threads that bind them.

Twenty years ago, eleven-year-olds Charlie Paige and Scott Ashby were murdered in the city of Bristol, their bodies dumped near a dog racing track. A man was convicted of the brutal crime, but decades later, questions still linger.

For his whole life, filmmaker Cody Swift has been haunted by the deaths of his childhood best friends. The loose ends of the police investigation consume him so much that he decides to return to Bristol in search of answers. Hoping to uncover new evidence, and to encourage those who may be keeping long-buried secrets to speak up, Cody starts a podcast to record his findings. But there are many people who don’t want the case—along with old wounds—reopened so many years after the tragedy, especially Charlie’s mother, Jess, who decides to take matters into her own hands.

When a long-dead body is found in the same location the boys were left decades before, the disturbing discovery launches another murder investigation. Now Detective John Fletcher, the investigator on the original case, must reopen his dusty files and decide if the two murders are linked. With his career at risk, the clock is ticking and lives are in jeopardy…

My thoughts: 

Gilly Macmillan did not disappoint. The story of the cold case led me down storylines I did not think of – right up until the end when there is an unexpected twist. As with her other novels, I Know You Know was a page turner which kept me invested in the story right until the end.

What I found interesting in this work was the way in which Macmillan told her story. She invites us to ‘listen’ to the podcast of one of the characters through which we are invited to learn about the past and what had happened twenty years ago. In addition, Macmillan uses italics to show us the character’s past action. I enjoyed seeing both present and past actions of the characters juxtaposed within the same chapter and sometimes even on the same page.

If you love thrillers and page turners, this novel would be a good choice for you. You would enjoy both the twists in the story as well as the unusual way in which Gilly Macmillan takes us back to the past.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 91st in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

When I had the opportunity to attend a Harper Presents event at the Harper Collins Canada publishing houses, I received an Advanced Reading Edition of debut author Karen Hamilton’s The Perfect Girlfriend. As I enjoy reading psychological thrillers, I looked forward to reading this recommendation.

Release Date: 31 December 2018

Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

My thoughts: 

After reading the last sentence of the novel, I could only say ‘Wow!’ This page turner is scarily good and keeps the reader invested in the story right until the last page. Juliette encapsulates everything one would expect of a stalker and of a person determined to get what she wants. I could not believe the lengths she would go to to get what she wants. One of the things I loved about this book was the unexpected turns the novel takes. If this were a movie, I would be biting my nails!

I raced through this addictive read in a day – I just could not put it down! The main character is terrifying, and I would not want to meet her at my workplace or even in a social environment. Hamilton has impressed me with her debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her work.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 86th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

I decided to dip into the third B. A. Paris novel that my colleague had given to me to read – Bring Me Back, he most recent novel.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. They’re driving along the highway when Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom. He hops out of the car, locks the doors behind him, and goes inside. When he returns Layla is gone—never to be seen again. That is the story Finn told to the police. But it is not the whole story.

Ten years later Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief over what happened to Layla drew them close and now they intend to remain together. Still, there’s something about Ellen that Finn has never fully understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him…even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her.

Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla—hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: Long-lost items from Layla’s past that keep turning up around Finn and Ellen’s house. Emails from strangers who seem to know too much. Secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive—and on Finn’s trail—what does she want? And how much does she know?

A tour de force of psychological suspense, Bring Me Back will have you questioning everything and everyone until its stunning climax.

My thoughts: 

My colleague loved this title so I settled myself in for a thrilling read. B. A. Paris did not disappoint. The story was gripping, with small tidbits handed out to the reader that kept me guessing. No sooner did I think I had guessed the solution to the mystery of Layla, then the author blindsided me with another tidbit. I loved it! If this book were a film, I would have been biting on my fingernails as the tension created by her words is gripping. And the best part? The ending was not at all what a reader would expect.

Like my colleague, I am now a fan of B. A. Paris. Her fast-paced and twisty novel has convinced me that her debut novel was not a once-off thing. Instead, this is the third time that she has succeeded in causing me to leave all other things unattended and read. I am looking forward to seeing what she will bring out next.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 83rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

I decided to pick up the second of the B. A. Paris novels that my colleague had lent me. The Breakdown was the second novel that had been published by this author. As I had enjoyed her debut novel, I was looking forward to reading this one.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb: 

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

My thoughts:

The Breakdown was an interesting read, though not as good as the debut novel written by B. A. Paris. The story begins slowly and, in the first part of the novel, the description of the main character’s thoughts (Cass) is a bit repetitive. The novel becomes interesting, however, when it is suggested that not all is as it seems, that her illness may not be what is suggested. The clues that are dropped to suggest this, encourage the reader to try and work out what is actually happening. I love reading mysteries and thrillers when the changing scenarios keep the readers on their toes, so to speak. The start of this novel does not encourage this but, once the tidbits are dropped, the reading experience of the novel improves.

As all good thrillers do, the novel ends with a twist – half of which was unexpected for me. I enjoyed reading the way in which the protagonist experiences the revelation of what had happened to her and it ends with a satisfying conclusion. I would not label The Breakdown as B. A. Paris’ best novel; but it is an enjoyable thriller nonetheless.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 75th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

I was talking books with a colleague of mine and she mentioned her favourite author, B. A. Paris. The next day she handed me the copies of her books to read and I decided to begin with the first one, Behind Closed Doors.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Blurb: 

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

My thoughts:

While reading this novel, I agreed with my colleague. This novel is full of suspense and twists. I loved it! The story is given to the reader slowly and each crumb of information takes the reader down a different thought process. I enjoyed that the novel kept me guessing right up until the end.

While reading this story, I thought about how we present a different scenario to the world than the one we experience. As outsiders, we can never really know the intimate details of what happens in a person’s life and in their relationships. As this novel indicates, we can only really know what people decide to tell us. The novel also suggests the theme of domestic abuse – and how this may present itself in different ways. Behind Closed Doors is an interesting way to encourage us to think about these issues.

I enjoyed this psychological thriller by B. A. Paris and look forward to reading the next one on the pile next to my bed. This novel is definitely a page turner and I managed to complete it in one day.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 73rd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

I had seen a lot of buzz about this book on my Twitter feed and had this novel in my mind to read. When he was one of the authors at the Killer Crime Club event hosted by Harper Collins, I knew I had to push this story up on my list. After listening to him speak about his novel, I knew I had to read it as soon as I could and chose it to be a weekend read.

Genre: Psychological thriller, thriller, mystery

Blurb: 

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

My thoughts: 

The novel begins with an introduction to Ana, the protagonist, who suffers from agoraphobia. When I read the descriptions of her experiencing the fear that is so much a part of her illness, I could only say “Wow!”. The descriptions put the reader in Anna’s mind and you are able to feel what she is feeling and experience what she is experiencing. My heartbeat raced in the same rhythm as hers; and I turned the pages quickly to see how she would survive.

Not only are Finn’s descriptions stellar, his handling of uncovering the pieces, bit by bit, of the mystery that is both Anna and her neighbours is expertly done. I was taken by surprise more than once – and right up to the end of the story. The Woman in the Window is a quick read not because it is short, but because the reader cannot put it down. This is a psychological thriller that I would recommend without reservation.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐  5 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 66th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

I entered a draw to win an Arc of The Winters by Lisa Gabriela as the story sounded interesting. I was happy when I received the book in the mail. I loved the cover from the beginning and looked forward to reading the contents.

GenreThriller, suspense

Release date: 16 October 2018

Blurb: 

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

My thoughts: 

The novel is written in the first person and is told from the perspective of the soon-to-be Mrs Winter. We experience her uncertainties and read about her changing her judgements on the new people in her life. Her vacillations are authentic as they remind me of the many times I have had to run through my judgements in my head. As I was reading this well written novel, I could relate to some of the experiences of the main protagonist: being a second wife, taking on a stepchild, moving into a home that has already been established. With her words, the author accurately reflects the tension that would arise with a new person coming into an established home.

As I was reading this novel, I thought that it had been labelled incorrectly as a thriller. Instead it read like contemporary women’s fiction. The issues hinted at are experienced by many women the world over – the drama of a stepmother arriving to create a second family. So I was taken by surprise when the element of suspense was introduced after I had read more than half the novel. I loved how the writer surprised me. I loved how I was taken completely unawares. I loved how the novel moved towards the unexpected.

The Winters is a story that may seem mundane but has the unexpected weaved into it. It is a novel that brilliantly describes how strong a woman can be if she needs to be. It is a novel that makes us question the validity of what a person allows the public to see. It is a novel with a few unexpected twists that will leave the reader eagerly reading until the last page.

I enjoyed reading this novel and recommend it if your enjoy reading both thrillers and contemporary fiction.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐  4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 62nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)

Book Review: Liar by K. L. Slater

I have a TBR list of books lent to me by my cousin. When he heard that I had enjoyed Blink by K.L. Slater, one of his favourite authors, he lent me all of the novels that he has bought by this author. I took the one on the top of this pile to read next.

Liar is a psychological thriller that explores the relationship between a mother and a daughter-in-law. We read about Ben, a single dad who is doing his best to raise his two sons alone with the help of his devoted mother, Judi. Life is not easy but they are managing. Then Ben meets Amber. Everyone thinks that Amber is a good match for Ben but Judi is not so sure – she feels that something about Amber does not add up. Ben cannot understand why his mother does not like his new girlfriend. And Amber doesn’t want Judi anywhere near her new family. Judi delves into Amber’s personal life and unearths some shocking secrets – secrets that could change everything.

Slater’s novel is a page turner with an unexpected twist at the end. What was interesting to me was that the author chose to explore the mother/daughter-in-law relationship – and included a twist. As I was reading the novel, I could feel the tension between the two women, a tension that is reflected in many existing relationships. Slater’s authentic description of a relationship that can be fraught with tension, made the events in the novel believable.

It was easy for me to complete this novel in one day  as I could not put it down. I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018

(This novel was the 42nd in my 50 book pledge for 2018)