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: Freefall by Jessica Barry

“Breathe. Breathe.

My eyes open. A canopy of trees above. A flock of birds stare down before taking flight.

I survived.

He may have, too.

I have to see. I pick my way through the wreckage on bare feet.”

Freefall by Jessica Barry (2019, Harper Collins Publishers)

The opening lines of this novel left me with so many questions:

  1. Where is she?
  2. Who is after her?
  3. Did he survive?
  4. What happened to cause the accident?

From the first line of this novel, I wanted to read the pages to find out the answer to these questions. ( If you are interested to learn more, you can read my review here.)

I continued reading. Would you?

© 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: 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: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland

I was in the mood for a thriller so I picked up an ARC that I had been sent to review by Penguin Random House Canada: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland

Publication Date: May 28, 2019

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb:

Stephanie Maddox makes tough decisions every day. She has her hands full heading the FBI’s Internal Investigations division, policing wrongdoers within the Bureau. But, as a single mother, the most important thing in her life is her teenage son Zachary, who’s anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters. So when she discovers a gun concealed in Zach’s room, her world reels. And then an FBI agent on the domestic terrorism squad shows up at her door and utters three devastating words: “It’s about Zachary. . . .”

Has she been wrong about her near-perfect son? Is Zach embroiled in something criminal–something deadly? And, if so, what is her greater duty: To protect him? Or to protect her country?

My thoughts:

This novel kept my mind racing and my fingers itching to turn the pages! The story switches between the past and the present but in a way that keeps the reader engaged. Each sliver of the past leads to a better understanding of the present. Stephanie Maddox is faced with the knowledge that mother’s are often faced with – that you would do anything to protect your child. In her case, though, she has also sworn to protect her country.

There are moments during the novel when I felt that everything would be okay, and that Stephanie would make a certain choice. And yet, life is not always so clear-cut. Often we are faced with decisions that we think we would never need to make. Cleveland adroitly leads her protagonist to the moment when she has to make the choice between her son and her country. To know the choice, you will have to read the novel. There were some unexpected moments in the story which led me to second guess the progression of events – but these moments made the tale more enjoyable because they surprised me.

The novel ended with a twist – which I loved. Keep You Close is a fast-paced story that will keep you hanging onto every page. I highly recommend it for those readers who enjoy a good mystery.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 35th 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)

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: All The Wrong Places by Joy Fielding

I have read Joy Fielding’s novels in the past and looked forward to reading this one. In addition, the synopsis sounded relevant as so many people try online dating.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb:

A husband’s death, a difficult divorce, a brutal break-up, dissatisfaction with a boring relationship: for various reasons, four women turn to online dating, hoping to right-swipe the way to love and happiness.

Paige and Heather are cousins, locked in a lifelong rivalry that recently culminated in Heather taking Paige’s boyfriend for herself, although now Heather isn’t quite sure she wants him. Paige’s mother, Joan, is trying to get back on her feet after the death of the love of her life two years ago. And Paige’s longtime friend, Chloe, is considering giving her unfaithful husband a taste of his own medicine.

Together, the women are navigating the choppy waters of online dating, until one of them unwittingly makes a date with a killer, starting the clock on a race to save her life.

New York Times bestselling author Joy Fielding has written a complex, electrifying thriller about friendship, jealousy, and passion–a deadly combination. 

My thoughts:

Online dating is now a normal part of modern dating and is often suggested to be a safe way to meet people – especially if certain rules are followed: text before meeting, let family and friends know where you will be, meet in a public place. And yet a serial killer is still able to kill the women he ‘dates’. He is still able to convince these women that he is someone to be trusted.

Even though the killer does feature in the novel, All The Wrong Places is much more than a murder story. What we read about is the rapport between four women: their support structure, their jealousies, their insecurities. I enjoyed the exploration of their relationships – relationships that I see mirrored in so many of what I have observed and experienced in my own life.

Fielding skillfully moves the reader between the experience of the four women, while inserting in the story the intentions of a killer. She scatters hints in the dialogue, suggesting who may be the next victim. I became engrossed in the tale, was surprised at some twists, and turned the pages quickly to see who would survive. I loved this novel for the fast-paced story within its pages and would recommend it to any reader who enjoys thrillers.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 27th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

I received an Advanced Reader copy of the psychological thriller, Beautiful Bad, at a Harper Presents event organised by the publishing house Harper Collins Canada. At the event, I was lucky enough to hear the debut author Annie Ward speak. What she told us made me curious and I picked up the novel at the beginning of March with eagerness.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Blurb:

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD, her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie, and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, 16 years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 9-1-1 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

My thoughts:

Is this novel full of suspense? Yes. Does it have an unexpected, twisty ending? Yes. Did I guess the ending? Yes, I did – though my guess was not long before the twist was revealed. Ward cleverly guides the reader to make certain assumptions of the married couple in the story; and of each partner’s behaviour. This she does with skill right up until the last page. The beginning of the book set a slow pace as we were given the back story of the two people involved in the marriage. There were moments, however, later on in the novel when I did not want to put the book down and had to keep turning the page.

Beautiful Bad is a fantastic debut novel which I enjoyed while curled up on the sofa during the cold days of March. If you enjoy suspense novels, this one is for you. I look forward to seeing what Ward will publish next.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 18th in my book pledge for 2019)

Book Review: The Suspect by Fiona Barton

I had heard from various sources that Fiona Barton write excellent stories so when I had the opportunity to read The Suspect, I grabbed it.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Blurb: 

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years since he left home to go traveling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

My thoughts: 

The story is a parent’s nightmare – your child goes missing and the search is out of your control. Even before I started the book, I knew I would be on edge and, while reading the novel I felt that I was. Fiona Barton is skilled at creating suspense and making you want to know more. I could not help but turn the pages – I needed to know what had happened.

The story is told from different points of view which seamlessly blend to create a tale that moves the reader between two countries, as well as between the past and the present. I enjoyed Barton’s storytelling which kept my interest throughout. And the best part is that she kept me guessing (no sooner did I think I knew where the story was going to go, then she surprised me).

I loved The Suspect so much that I know I need to read her previous two novels. I was told that her stories are good – and this one has convinced me!

I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2019

(This novel was the 12th in my book pledge for 2019)