Melody
William Morrow | September 2020 | 368 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

Sydney Green was born and raised in Gifford Place, Brooklyn. Gifford Place is a cosy neighbourhood where everyone seems to know everyone else and though Sydney's life isn't as rosy, but at least she is happy. That is, until the gentrification begins.

VerenTech, a pharmaceutical giant, has plans to shift their headquarters to Gifford Place and with their vast backups and connections, it wouldn't be a difficult task given a little time and some money to get the residents out of the site. But, Gifford Place has history and most residents, who are Black, are not pleased with their tough approach and this has caused some paranoia and fear among the residents that they'd be chased out eventually. 

Sydney is frustrated as she turns her attention towards her walking tour project featuring her beloved neighbourhood. Her new neighbour, Theo, is a mediocre white guy who happens to be her assistant in researching the history for the tour and though Sydney finds him annoying initially, she couldn't help but be attracted by his helpfulness and his sense of righteousness as the days go by. Theo and his rich ex-girlfriend had bought a house together at Gifford Place but they broke off due to personality clashes (but basically because he's a bum); Sydney, on the other hand, worries over her financial status and her ailing mother so it seems they understand each other's plight more than the others. 

But as Sydney and Theo dive into Brooklyn history, they soon realise that their neighbours are vanishing one by one discreetly. Did they move out given the gentrification pressure? Or is there an unknown conspiracy theory going on? 

This novel was a slow burn but I enjoyed reading about the history of Brooklyn and the interactions between Sydney and Theo. Although classified as a thriller, I think this story comprises a few issues which provide food for thought, such as racism, gentrification and not to mention the division of social status. Alyssa Cole is a romance author so it's no surprise to see some romance elements here. It always delight me to find authors decide to try their hand on writing something different aside from their usual genre and I'm curious what Cole has in store next under the thrillers genre.


© 2020 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
Hera Books | August 2020
Source: NetGalley 


Lucy is a probation officer and her profession enables her to interact with various kinds of prisoners. Lucy has some  problems with one of them, though - a young sex offender called Simon Gould, and he is on a trial for an early release although Lucy doesn't support his release. Simon has a way of playing mind games with her and as much as Lucy doesn't want to admit, in truth he terrifies her. 

Lucy's best friend, Emma, knew all about the dynamics working as a probation officer. After all, she and Lucy met six months before at a Personal Development for Probation Staff conference and they've clicked from there. On one occasion when Lucy and Emma are drinking at a bar, they meet a psychologist named Paul Webb. Sparks fly between Lucy and Paul and soon they are in a relationship. Things are going on well until their whirlwind romance culminates in marriage, which surprised Lucy herself. Suddenly, Paul is like a changed man. No longer the sweet and understanding man, he becomes secretive and worst of all, wants to control Lucy's life. 

It is also at this time that Lucy finds herself being harassed by Simon's phone calls, or someone leaving a stalk of rose at the front of their house. But when Lucy reported these to her superior, it becomes clear to them that Lucy is too stressed for the job, and that Simon has never left the facility. Back at home, Lucy continues to live in fear under Paul's control until she finds stacks of old photographs of a young woman in Paul's drawer and began to question about his past. 

Intense-wise, this book checks the box and I was intrigued by the dynamic between Lucy and Paul. The author has done a good job in portraying their characteristics as well as their credibility, for my choice kept switching back and forth between these two characters (is Lucy sane, or does Paul has something to hide?) 

While the startup of this convoluted psychological thriller turns out strong and well, I felt the ending was a bit rushed and there are some loose ends which aren't fully explained. For example, what happened to Simon Gould since he was a terror to Lucy? And perhaps it's me, but I didn't fully grasp the meaning of the last few pages although I think it might be the author's intention of putting it that way. Overall, it was a decent read and the intrigue had kept most of my interest. 


© 2020 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
William Morrow | March 2020 | 384 pgs
Source: Purchased 

First off, let me say My Dark Vanessa was NOT an easy read. Its dark and disturbing themes would unsettle any reader, yet it also features a few important and thought-provoking subjects which I think anyone shouldn't ignore. 

In a nutshell, this story is about the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a 15-year-old precocious, innocent girl and a 42-year-old magnetic yet manipulative teacher. Jacob Strane makes use of Vanessa's innocence and vulnerabilities and disguise his predatory and manipulative advances towards her as a twisted form of "forbidden love". Vanessa, being a pure in heart and a precocious girl, falls into his trap and eventually come out as a changed and an emotionally damaged woman who still sees their relationship as something innocuous even she's now thirty-two and working as a concierge clerk at a hotel. Vanessa's present life is in no way better than the past despite she hasn't been in contact with Strane for a while and she's seeing a therapist for grief after the loss of her father. It's until the news of Taylor Birch going public with the allegations of abuse over Strane that Vanessa finds herself back into Strane's life; for the latter wants her reassurance that she'll remain on his side, in which Vanessa has assured him that she has no intention of putting him in an unfavourable situation. Thereafter begins the flashbacks of Vanessa's school life and her interactions with Jacob Strane, who was her English teacher then; alongside alternating with the present 2017 in which the reader learn about Vanessa's struggles in life and that no relationship seems like "normal" after Strane. What most heartbreaking is, young Vanessa allows herself to see that their relationship is more of a forbidden romantic affair than an abusive one and these thoughts follow her till her adulthood though occasionally she still think about him and question what he'd done to her. 

My Dark Vanessa is a well-written piece of work despite the dark and disturbing theme. The author has done a great job in capturing the atmosphere of Browick School and its school system, as well as the characters' thoughts and emotions (especially Vanessa's fragile state of mind, both as a teenager and an adult). While this storyline comprises issues such as sexual abuse, power and manipulation, it also depicts the pressure the abused victims have to face as they brave in front of the public for justice and support though there are also some who are quick to judge and think otherwise. Although this is a work of fiction, sadly what happened in this story DO happen in reality and there are victims who are like Vanessa, who feel it's their fault instead of the men who manipulate and abuse them. This book isn't a fun read (I'd  to set the book aside to take some breaks before continuing my reading) but it's also a powerful and a thought-provoking book which portrays the issues of today's society. 

Last but not least, I want to thank Lark for "walking" through this dark reading journey with me. This book is our most difficult read among our buddy reads to date but we don't regret reading it. We decided to skip the questions this time around but we'll still continue with this feature for our next buddy reads. And finally, do visit Lark's blog for her thoughts about this book!  


© 2020 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
Harper | August 2020 | 368 pgs 
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 


Final Cut is a psychological thriller that explores themes such as identity and memory.   

Alex is a young documentary filmmaker on her way to a quiet fishing village in Blackwood Bay to shoot a new film. Her assignment is simple as all she needs is to have the residents to record and tell their own stories; more like an observation of the residents' life and the little things happening around them. Blackwood Bay may look like a quaint village at first glance, but actually there were a few unfortunate incidents that happened ten years ago -- a girl who committed suicide and another two girls went missing. Alex knew about them; after all she knew these girls after having lived there since she was young. She intends to find out more about the mystery behind these girls' fate, though her appearance and her work at Blackwood Bay have already put tension and raise suspicions in the town which is already on edge. 

But, there's also some backstory about Alex's past which the reader will find out as the story progresses, like her dissociative amnesia and how her partial returning memories will impact on her findings and have the reader question about her credibility as well as the people surrounding her. What really happened to those girls ten years ago and why is Alex still drawn to the village despite the things that happened there? 

Final Cut has a great premise and in exploring the character's traumatised mind and the consequences that follow especially since her findings involve assumptions and snippets of her returning memory, which may or may not reliable, thus enabling her an unreliable narrator in the process. While there's much potential and intrigue in the premise and the beginning of the story initially, the storyline fell flat towards the middle and from there it became repetitive as Alex seemed to be doing the same thing and kept asking questions which no one knew (or were willing) to tell her. With not much resolution in sight, it lost its intensity and momentum and while the pace picked up in the last few chapters, my interest had waned and the ending was meh to me. Overall, I loved the first half of the story, but the other half was simply disappointing. 


© 2020 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
Kensington | July 2020 | 368 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

Forensic reconstructionist Rory Moore and her psychologist partner, Lane Phillips, have made their first appearance in Charlie Donlea's previous novel, Some Choose Darkness. While this is the second book of the Rory Moore/Lane Phillips series, it could be read as a stand-alone.

On 21st June 2019 in Peppermill, Indiana, two students are found brutally murdered at an abandoned boarding house situated near the prestigious Westmont Preparatory High School. The boarding house is a popular late-night hangout among selected students who are invited to participate in some sort of a dare game so as to earn recognition and carry on the "tradition" to the next batch of unsuspecting juniors. Initial investigations led the police to suspect Charles Gorman, who is the students' chemistry teacher after they found his manifesto detailing what he'd do to some of his boisterous students. But before the police could take further actions, Charles commits suicide but ended up in a vegetative state. Without an affirmative statement, the police shut the case based on his manifesto although some questions remain unanswered. 

The case is later picked up by Mack Carter a year later for his podcast channel he called The Suicide House and it has since attracted many listeners to discuss the theories and conclusions about the discoveries made during the episode to the Internet and social media. Journalist Ryder Hillier intends to piggyback on the success of Mack's podcast and pull him in onto her plan to work together; after all she had sounded the alarms first and had done her research and posted all her findings in her true-crime blog. But just as they thought they've found a student who was present on that fateful night, he is later believed to have committed suicide before they could get anything out from him. Earlier, there were two students who had done the same near the boarding house and with so many puzzling threads floating around, this is when Rory and Lane come into the picture to look into the case which seems to be related to the two gruesome murders a year ago. What really happened on that fateful night a year ago and what dark secrets lie inside the walls of Westmont High?

Be prepared to take a wild reading ride in this psychological thriller because there's a lot of stuff going on here. There are multiple POVs and characters alongside Rory and Lane; then there are flashbacks and journal entries which dictate the perp's inner thoughts and not to mention Rory and Lane's findings. However, the reading experience got better once I was into the story as I find they're all nicely linked and it was good to know each respective background though it could be confusing initially. While it wasn't hard to guess the perpetrator in the end, the strength of this book lies in the dark and foreboding atmosphere as well as the author's engaging writing style. I look forward to reading more of this series. 


© 2020 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.