Book Review: The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

I often enter giveaways on Instagram and, for the first time, I won a copy of The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley. I was excited to read the novel as I had heard good things about Stapley’s writing.

Genre: Suspense, Thriller

Blurb:

The Harmony Resort promises hope for struggling marriages. Run by celebrity power couple Drs. Miles and Grace Markell, the “last resort” offers a chance for partners to repair their relationships in a luxurious setting on the gorgeous Mayan Riviera.

Johanna and Ben have a marriage that looks perfect on the surface, but in reality, they don’t know each other at all. Shell and Colin fight constantly: after all, Colin is a workaholic, and Shell always comes second to his job as an executive at a powerful mining company. But what has really torn them apart is too devastating to talk about. When both couples begin Harmony’s intensive therapy program, it becomes clear that Harmony is not all it seems—and neither are Miles and Grace themselves. What are they hiding, and what price will these couples pay for finding out?

As a deadly tropical storm descends on the coast, trapping the hosts and the guests on the resort, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and not one single person—or their marriage—will remain unchanged by what follows.

My thoughts:

The novel starts with a man filled with anger, and a suspicion that he is dying. The story continues with the events that lead up to the climax: Stapley slowly releases the knowledge we need to know in order to come to an understanding of the story and the characters who play an important role in the events. The murder that has occurred has a reason; and it is a reason that will surprise you.

The Last Resort is not the typical murder story. Instead it is a story that highlights some issues for the reader to think about: the grieving process and the loss of a child; the need to embrace ourselves for what we are; the relationship between spouses; abuse in a marriage. These issues are intertwined in a story that is fast-paced and keeps one reading. Stapley keep me feeling a range of emotions while reading her writing; and she kept me engrossed in a story that was more than what I had expected.

The Last Resort is an expertly crafted story that readers of murder mysteries will enjoy. The subtle twists will keep you guessing and the ending will give you a sense of satisfaction.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 63rd in my book pledge for 2019)

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Book Review: One More Lie by Amy Lloyd

I was in the mood for a thriller so I picked up the ARC of One More Lie by Amy Lloyd that my contact at Harper Collins Canada had sent me.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Blurb:

Charlotte wants to start fresh. She wants to forget her past, forget prison and, most of all, forget Sean. But old habits die hard. Despite the ankle monitor she must wear as part of her parole agreement and frequent visits to her therapist, she soon finds herself sliding back toward the type of behavior that sent her to prison in the first place. The further down that path she goes, however, the closer she gets to the crime that put her in prison all those years ago. And that’s the one memory she can’t face. Until, one day, Sean tracks her down.

My thoughts:

Do you ever wonder what happens to those children who kill when they themselves are children? This book plays out a possible scenario as the writer takes us on a journey of one such person attempting to function in society.

The best thing about this story is that the reader is not told everything from the start. As I read Charlotte’s experience, I caught glimpses of her past experience and the lead up to the event that sent her to prison. I read, as well, of her relationship with Sean and how it may have affected her decision-making.

By mid-way of the novel, I began to feel empathy for Charlotte – even though I know that she killed a child when she was a child herself. Lloyd succeeds in this because of the information she gives the reader – she almost seems to suggest that it is Charlotte’s childhood experience that led her to take another person’s life. But once Charlotte had my empathy, I learned more about the events that took place and I began to doubt what I had presumed. Even my feelings towards her began to change.

One More Lie is a novel that encourages a reader to make a prediction – and then sneaks in a piece of information that changes that prediction. I enjoyed the subtle twists in the story – and appreciated, especially, the ending (which is totally what I did not expect). I enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys twisty psychological thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 45th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Family Trust by Kathy Wang

I popped into the library and was surprised – and very pleased – when I saw a new release on the shelves that I wanted to read. I had read good things about Family Trust by Kathy Wang and it being compared to Crazy Rich Asians enticed me even more.

Genre: Contemprorary Fiction

Blurb:

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

For his son Fred, the inheritance Stanley has long alluded to would soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. By now, the Harvard Business School graduate had expected to be a financial tech god – not a minor investor at a middling corporate firm, where he isn’t even allowed to fly business class.

Stanley’s daughter, Kate, is a middle manager with one of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious tech companies. She manages the capricious demands of her world-famous boss and the needs of her two young children all while supporting her would-be entrepreneur husband (just until his startup gets off the ground, which will surely be soon). But lately, Kate has been sensing something amiss; just because you say you have it all, it doesn’t mean that you actually do. 

Stanley’s second wife, Mary Zhu, twenty-eight years his junior, has devoted herself to making her husband comfortable in every way—rubbing his feet, cooking his favorite dishes, massaging his ego. But lately, her commitment has waned; caring for a dying old man is far more difficult than she expected.

Linda Liang, Stanley’s first wife, knows her ex better than anyone. She worked hard for decades to ensure their financial security, and is determined to see her children get their due. Single for nearly a decade, she might finally be ready for some romantic companionship. But where does a seventy-two year old Chinese woman in California go to find an appropriate boyfriend?

As Stanley’s death approaches, the Huangs are faced with unexpected challenges that upend them and eventually lead them to discover what they most value. A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust skewers the ambition and desires that drive Silicon Valley and draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life. 

My thoughts:

I began Family Trust with high hopes but was quickly bored with it. I found myself skimming the text and rushing over repetitive descriptions of people concerned only with money. The son wants his inheritance, the current wife wants to make sure she receive money on her husband’s death, the ex-wife stirs the pot, and the daughter seems to have no interest – though she is in need of the money. The entire storyline seemed cliché to me and the only reason I continued reading was because I was interested in the daughter’s story and was curious to see whether she would stand up to her husband.

The aspect I enjoyed the least about Wang’s story is the obvious portrait of a Chinese stereotype. I see my children raging against stereotypes in their lives and yet here, in this modern story, the pages are rife with it. Because of the stereotypes, the characters in the story are one dimensional and do not seem to grow in any significant way. In addition, the experiences described of all the characters in the story were, to me, predictable and hackneyed.

Comparing Family Trust to Crazy Rich Asians is deceiving. Whereas Crazy Rich Asians is full of humour and makes fun of the Asian stereotype, Family Trust falls flat and does not live up to expectations. Wang’s story was disappointing – doubly so because she is Asian herself. Her novel may have been written as a satire but I did not sense this while reading it.

I give this novel a disappointed ⭐️ 1 star.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 40th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: FreeFall by Jessica Barry

I popped into the library and was surprised – and very pleased – when I saw a new release on the shelves that I wanted to read.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

A propulsive debut novel with the intensity of Luckiest Girl Alive and Before the Fall, about a young woman determined to survive and a mother determined to find her.

When your life is a lie, the truth can kill you

When her fiancé’s private plane crashes in the Colorado Rockies, Allison Carpenter miraculously survives. But the fight for her life is just beginning. For years, Allison has been living with a terrible secret, a shocking truth that powerful men will kill to keep buried. If they know she’s alive, they will come for her. She must make it home.

In the small community of Owl Creek, Maine, Maggie Carpenter learns that her only child is presumed dead. But authorities have not recovered her body—giving Maggie a shred of hope. She, too, harbors a shameful secret: she hasn’t communicated with her daughter in two years, since a family tragedy drove Allison away. Maggie doesn’t know anything about her daughter’s life now—not even that she was engaged to wealthy pharmaceutical CEO Ben Gardner, or why she was on a private plane.

As Allison struggles across the treacherous mountain wilderness, Maggie embarks on a desperate search for answers. Immersing herself in Allison’s life, she discovers a sleek socialite hiding dark secrets. What was Allison running from—and can Maggie uncover the truth in time to save her?

Told from the perspectives of a mother and daughter separated by distance but united by an unbreakable bond, Freefall is a riveting debut novel about two tenacious women overcoming unimaginable obstacles to protect themselves and those they love.

My thoughts:

Freefall was an enjoyable thriller written from the point of view of the woman running for her life, and from the POV of her mother. Slowly I pieced together the events that had led up to Allison running for her life – even though she had just survived a plane crash. The author cleverly withholds information and gives it to the reader, bit by bit, thus creating tension and the desire to read the pages quickly. I did eventually guess from whom Allison was running – but only when I was near the end of the novel.

There were moments in my reading of the story that I got annoyed with Allison – her pride and refusal to forgive her mother leads her to some pretty hairy experiences. I would hope that my own children would never let their pride get in the way of asking for help. I felt more empathy for the mom’s story as she slowly discovers what her daughter’s life had become. The reason for this is probably because I am a mom who is always willing to help her children succeed.

The experience of both Allison and Maggie are brought together neatly by Barry at the end of the novel. I liked the ending – even though it is a little predictable once you solve the mystery of who is after Allison. Freefall is a well-written novel written by a debut author that encourages the reader to keep turning the pages to find out how it ends. It is a perfect weekend read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 39th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Still Mine by Amy Stuart

A while back I read Still Water by Amy Stuart (book review here) and realised that it was the second book in a series. I enjoyed the book and decided that I wanted to read the first novel titled Still Mine.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

Clare is on the run.

From her past, from her ex, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in the remote mining town of Blackmore asking about Shayna Fowles, the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she’s hiding. As it turns out, she’s hiding a lot, including what ties her to Shayna in the first place. But everyone in this place is hiding something from Jared, Shayna’s golden-haired ex-husband, to Charlie, the charming small-town drug pusher, to Derek, Shayna’s overly involved family doctor, to Louise and Wilfred, her distraught parents.

Did Shayna flee? Was she killed? Is it possible she’s still alive?

As Clare uncovers the mysteries around Shayna’s disappearance, she must confront her own demons, moving us deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of lies and making us question what it is she’s really running from. Twisting and electrifying, this is a get-under-your-skin thriller that will make you question what it means to lose yourself and find yourself in the most unlikely places.

My thoughts:

Still Mine was Amy Stuart’s debut novel and I regret not having read it before her second as some of the suspense she created In this story was ruined as I knew some of what would happen. Having said that, I still enjoyed the story between the pages.

The story is more than about a missing woman; it is also about an abused woman (Clare) who is running away from a violent husband. Throughout the novel, these two threads are interwoven as we learn about the two women. For me, Clare’s story was interesting as she attempts to make a new life for herself. I enjoyed reading her story (as I did in the second) and I look forward to reading the third book in the series (which I know the writer is currently working on). Shayna’s story seems almost to be a backdrop to Clare’s – but it is interesting as well and ends in an unexpected way.

Still Mine is not the type of psychological thriller that will have you biting your fingernails. Instead it follows more the pattern of a mystery with Clare as the character who is searching to solve the puzzle. Stuart’s novel is a well-written tale that is easy to read.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 31st in my book pledge for 2019)

Book review: A Justified Murder by Jude Deveraux

Every novel that I have read by Jude Deveraux I have enjoyed so when I saw a copy of her latest, A Justified Murder, at the Harper Collins booth when attending the OLA Super Conference I picked up a copy with no hesitation.

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Adult Fiction

Blurb:

The small town of Lachlan, Florida, was rocked last year when two bodies were uncovered in the roots of a fallen tree. Despite their lack of investigative experience, Sara Medlar; her niece, Kate; and Jack Wyatt found themselves at the center of the mystery, working together to reveal the truth behind a decades-old secret in the sleepy town. After a narrow escape, they vowed to never again involve themselves in something so dangerous–until Janet Beeson is murdered.

When Janet’s body is discovered, everyone is shocked by the violence of the attack. The sweet little old woman has been shot, stabbed and poisoned, but no one can imagine who would want to harm one of the town’s kindest, most helpful residents. Sara, Kate and Jack are determined to leave this case to the professionals. But they are soon bombarded by townspeople eager to tell their stories and clear their names with the trio who solved the Morris murders. Even the sheriff is hoping they’ll lend their skills to a crime that seems to have no explanation and no motive. And once the town gets talking, they begin to see that there are more secrets buried in quiet Lachlan than anyone could have imagined…

My thoughts:

This book was exactly what I was looking for – a light murder mystery tinged with a bit of romance. When I began reading this story I did not realise there had been a book before this one. However, not having read the first novel did not prevent me from enjoying this one – though there were moments when the first encounters of Sara, Kate, and Jack were referred to and I did not know the back story.

A Justified Murder was a quick and easy read that had me smiling in parts because of the relationship between the three main characters of the series. I loved how the personal story of these three people was interlaced in the murder mystery. The novel is not hard and gritty as some murder mysteries can be; but it is not all fluff either as the reader does experience some surprises.

Unlike many of Jude Deveraux’s novels, this one did not have me reaching for the tissue box. Instead I enjoyed the country-like feel of the story as I read through the unravelling of the mystery with the life-like characters that the author has created. I enjoyed A Justified Murder so much that I intend to play catch-up with the story; and look forward to reading the next Medlar Mystery.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 22nd in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Over the weekend I decided to pick up one of the ARCs I had received when I attended the OLA Super Conference. I chose I Invited Her In by Adele Parks because I had seen mention of this novel on social media and I was curious about it. In addition, I always enjoy reading a good thriller.

Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Blurb: 

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy, and revenge.

My thoughts: 

The story is told from four different points of view: Mel, Abi (Mel’s friend), Ben (Mel’s husband), and Liam (Mel’s son).As expected with so many different points of view, the background story takes a while for the reader to learn. After reading a third of the story, I do admit that my interest was lagging a little and I could not wait for something to happen. I knew there had to be a catalyst as the novel had been described as a suspense story. It just seemed to take a long time to happen.

About halfway through the novel, the change of pace occurred. From that moment on, I turned the pages quickly and became engrossed in the story. Whereas before the catalyst I was feeling some annoyance at Mel’s behaviour and a little frustration at the slow pace of the novel; after reaching the mid-point I felt an entire range of emotions: disbelief and anger being the foremost. I do not want to say what caused my anger as it will give the story away but it is enough to say that I know of two women who have experienced some of the unpleasantness of what Mel experiences in the story – and I relived the anger and disbelief that I felt on their behalf.

Even though I found the novel slow-going at first, I was later gripped by the story and could not put it down (luckily I did not have to go in to work on the day I completed it). It is a novel that reflects what happens to some women and I cannot help but wonder where the author found her inspiration I Invited Her In is a novel that may sound far-fetched to some; but it is a novel that reflects a partial truth of what may be happening in many families. If you enjoy reading suspense within a family setting, this is a perfect novel for you.

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 11th in my book pledge for 2019)