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

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)

Book Review: The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

I won a giveaway hosted by Penguin Random House Canada for an ARC of The Perfect Wife by D. P. Delaney. When I received it, I admired the cover and, when choosing a book to take with me on vacation, I could not help but pick this one up.

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Blurb:

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

My thoughts:

When reading the novel, I realised that there is an interesting aspect in this novel that is not suggested in the blurb making this read even more interesting. I do not want to say too much in case I spoil it for you, but know that it has a futuristic appeal to it that I enjoyed. The viewpoint definitely adds an interesting twist in this psychological thriller – a twist that I have not yet read in this genre.

The Perfect Wife is a fast-paced read that was perfect for a vacation read. I had the time to enjoy the story that Delaney created and I was never bored nor wished for another book sitting on my shelves at home. The writer references the marriage between a man and a woman as well as the power dynamics in their relationship. The woman (who is slowly encouraged to take the part of the submissive) is shown to slowly change her sense of self to fit in with her husband’s belief of what their relationship should be. The little nuggets of Abbie and Tim’s relationship are fed to the reader slowly as you begin to grasp what is actually happening in the story.

During the story we see Abbie growing as a person as her memories of the past filter in. It is interesting to see how she begins to understand her relationship with Tim and with the other people in her life. Abbie is a character that grows during the story. The description of her growth is integrated seamlessly into the story and with such skill that I found I was cheering her on.

As I have said, Delaney’s story is a little different to the usual and has a few unexpected twists thrown in – some of which I was unable to predict. I certainly did not predict the big one at the end of the story! An ending which, by the way, I loved. If you are looking for a psychological thriller that has an unusual bent, then The Perfect Wife is the perfect read for you to pick up.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 97th in my book pledge for 2019)