Book Review: Star of the North by D.B. John

Star of the North
D.B. John
Crown Publishing, May 2018
ISBN 978-0-525-57329-6
Hardcover

Three plot lines run through this contemporary thriller, sometimes in parallel and sometimes converging. The overarching framework of the story is Jenna’s search for her Korean American twin sister, kidnapped from the Korean peninsula. Her sister was believed dead for a long time until Jenna receives evidence that she is alive in North Korea. She manages to join the CIA, the only mechanism she knows of that will allow her to execute her plan to rescue her sister and exact revenge. The tangled path to her sister ends in her dining alone with Kim Jong Il.

Accompanying subplots involve Mrs. Moon, an enterprising peasant who begins a profitable black market business with contraband, and Colonel Cho Sang-ho, a highly regarded North Korean official who learns he is descended from traitors to the regime. Their subsequent captures, arrests, and brutal imprisonment in the coal mines of North Hamgyong Province make for painful reading.

This chilling and timely novel about North Korea has received accolades from every major reviewing outlet, including starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers’ Weekly, and Library Journal.

D.B. John was born in Wales and now lives in London. He has lived in South Korea and Berlin and is one of the few Westerners to have visited North Korea. He co-authored The Girl With Seven Names, Hyeonseo Lee’s New York Times bestselling 2015 memoir about her escape from North Korea. His first thriller was Flight from Berlin (2012).

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, September 2018.

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Book Review: Sneaking Out by Chuck Vance

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Title: Sneaking Out
Series: The Chased Series, Book One
Author: Chuck Vance
Publisher: Dunemere Books
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon // Indiebound

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Sneaking Out
The Chased Series, Book One
Chuck Vance
Dunemere Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-0-998499772
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Could you sleep next to a murderer?

Luke Chase—yes, that Luke Chase, a modern hero ripped from the headlines—didn’t mean to get caught up in Mrs. Heckler’s murder. He just wanted to hook up with the hot new British girl at St. Benedict’s, and if that meant sneaking out to the woods after hours, then so be it. But little did he know someone would end up dead right next to their rendezvous spot, and his best friend and roommate Oscar Weymouth would go down for it. With suspects aplenty and a past that’s anything but innocent, Luke Chase reluctantly calls on his famous survival skills to find the true killer.

There’s something very appealing to me about boarding school stories and it’s even better when the premise is a mystery. I think a large part of my liking comes from the notion that the kids involved, while supervised (as much as teens can be), have the opportunity to put their own wits to good use. That can lead to adventures and comical episodes and some pretty nifty sleuthing, all very attractive things for a story to have.

It also helps when the main character is a teen I wouldn’t mind spending time with in real life and that’s certainly the case with Luke. This is a kid with some major baggage but he really wants to help his friend, Oscar, when the chips are down. Luke isn’t alone, though, as some of the other kids are just as motivated as he is to solve the murder even if their motivations aren’t necessarily the same as his.

Mr. Vance has done a nice job crafting a good whodunnit that sent me down a variety of paths before the truth came to light and left me wanting more. I do hope the second book will be coming soon.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

About the Author

Chuck Vance is a pseudonym for a bestselling writer of both adult mysteries and novels for young adults. Vance attended boarding school in Connecticut and graduated from Columbia University. Vance has lived in New York, Moscow, London, Paris and Los Angeles and is frequently on the move.

Author links: 

Website // Goodreads

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