Teaser Tuesday: Home Before Dark

Many Bookstagrammers on Instagram raved about the book Home Before Dark by Riley Sager – especially those readers who enjoy a good thriller. I was curious about this author’s writing so decided to give the novel a read.

My extract comes from the beginning of the novel:

“I stare at the keys, hesitant to pick them up. I’m uncertain about accepting this part of my inheritance. I was raised to fear Baneberry Hall, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Even though I don’t believe my father’s official story, owning the house doesn’t sit well with me.

Then there’s the matter of what my father said to me on his deathbed, when he pointedly chose not to tell me he stile owned Baneberry Hall. What he did say now echoes through my memory, making me shiver.

It’s not safe there. Not for you.” (p17, Penguin Random House, 2020)

This was the perfect start to an excellent novel with an ending that surprised me. Will I be reading another of Riley Sager’s novels? I think I will.

Have you read any of Riley Sager’s stories? If so, which one?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

( This post is linked to Teaser Tuesday which is hosted by The Purple Booker.)

First Line Fridays: Nine Elms by Robert Bryndza

I have enjoyed Robert Bryndza’s thrillers in the past and was eager to read the first book in his new series, Nine Elms. The novel centres on the Nine Elms serial killer that Kate Marshall had captured when she was a young police officer. Capturing the killer led to a scandal and the dissolution of her career. Fifteen years later, Kate is working as a lecturer at a small coastal English university when a copycat killer takes up the mantle and continues the work of his idol. With her assistant Tristan Harper, Kate draws on her long-neglected investigative skills to catch a new monster.

The extract I am sharing are the first lines of one of the beginning chapters in the novel. It is at the start of the investigation and Kate is battling her past demons and her alcoholism:

“Kate didn’t remember leaving the morgue or saying goodbye to Alan. She found herself emerging from the long dank tunnel and out into the car park. Her legs moved, and the blood pumped so hard and fast in her veins that it felt painful. Everything was muffled; the sound of the busy road as she crossed. A thin mist, which was starting to manifest around the dull yellow of the streetlights. The fear she felt was irrational. It wasn’t one image, or one thought, but it consumed her. Is this fear going to finish me this one, once and for all? she thought. Her neck and back were running with sweat, but the cold air made her shiver.” (p 56, 2019, Thomas & Mercer).

I enjoyed the rest of this nail-biting story and look forward to reading more in this new series. If you enjoy mysteries and thrillers, join me in my enjoyment of this author’s work.

Would you read Kate Marshall’s story in Nine Elms?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

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

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 Silent patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is a thriller that I picked up because of the recommendation of other bookstagrammers. I opened the novel with anticipation as I had not seen anything negative about the story.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him…

My thoughts:

I did not see the end coming of this novel – and I love that the author took me by surprise! The unexpected twist had me shaking my head in glee. The perfect ending!

Throughout the novel there are many red herrings as the author leads the reader down a certain path. I made so many guesses on what had happened; guesses which I had to re-evaluate from time to time. Slowly, Michaelides gives hints and small clues which increase an understanding of the story.

Readers are told the story from 2 POVs – that of the therapist, and that of the patient’s diary. Through the two points of view, I was introduced to how the lives of both the patient and the therapist are intertwined and how they each impact one another’s lives. The pacing of the story is perfect for this genre and the author drew me in and kept me reading.

This is definitely a thriller to pick up and enjoy. For a debut novel, it packed a punch. I look forward to reading another of this author’s novels.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 45th 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: The Holdout by Graham Moore

While browsing the ARCs set out by publishers at the OLA Super Conference, a friend of mine suggested that I pick up The Holdout by Graham Moore as she thought I would enjoy it.

Genre: Legal Thriller, Suspense

Blurb:

In this twisty tale from Moore, young juror Maya Seale is convinced that African American high school teacher Bobby Nock is innocent of killing the wealthy white female student with whom he appears to have been involved and persuades her fellow jurors likewise. Ten years later, a true-crime docuseries reassembles the jurors, and Maya, now a defense attorney, must prove her own innocence when one of them is found dead in Maya’s room. 

My thoughts:

It has been a while since I read a legal thriller and this novel was the perfect one to enjoy this genre once again. In addition to reading about the jury experience, the author encourages us to think about whether the jury system is a good way to serve justice. Moore suggests an answer, but he leaves it to the reader to decide.

The Holdout is a fast-paced novel that leaves you wanting to know the outcome. There is not a lot of action in it (as is usual with legal thrillers) but you continuously want to know the outcome of the mystery. Moore adroitly takes us through the ‘evidence’, encouraging us to make judgements much like a juror would.

If you are looking for a legal thriller that will hold your interest from the first page, The Holdout will not disappoint. I enjoyed my first foray into Moore’s work and will certainly keep my eye out for his name when browsing book stacks.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 26th 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)

Buddy Read: Little Secrets

At the OLA Super Conference this year, I was fortunate to receive a signed copy of Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier.

On Instagram, I signed up for a buddy read with a group of people who also have the ARC. I had not read this author before and I was looking forward to exploring the novel with them. Last weekend I began my read of the thriller and have found I cannot stop at the required chapter for the discussion – I need to know what will happen!

I passed the halfway mark of the novel yesterday evening and I know I will finish reading the novel by the weekend. I will have to find a way to prevent myself from giving spoilers at this weekend’s online discussion. 🙂

Have you participated in an online buddy read?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 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)

Teaser Tuesday: My Dark Vanessa

Yesterday I picked up a new read – one of the ARCs I received from the last Harper Collins event that I had attended. There is a lot of excitement about the debut novel of Kate Elizabeth Russell titled My Dark Vanessa. The blurb intrigued me as the novel is the story of a woman who was targeted by a sexual predator (her teacher) when she was a teenager.

The inside flap of the book contains the following quote:

“It’s just my luck,” he said, “that when I finally find my soulmate, she’s fifteen years old.”

I am interested to see where the author takes this story. So far the writing is perfectly pitched.

Would you open the pages of the novel to read?

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020