Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | October 2016 | 416 pgs
Source: Library




This second book of Blackthorn and Grim's series continues with more adventures and turmoil the two protagonists have to meet before fulfilling their wishes of attaining freedom. 

Blackthorn and Grim, after helping Prince Oran unravelling the mystery surrounding Lady Flidais in the first book (Dreamer's Pool), once again find themselves entwined in another mystery which requires more of their courage and intellect. When Lady Geiléis, a noblewoman from the northern border, travelled to Winterfalls to seek assistance from Prince Oran, Blackthorn and Grim knew they would be involved in helping to solve Lady Geiléis' problems; after all it revolves around a howling monster from an old tower and who knows lore better other than Blackthorn? And being Blackthorn's travelling companion and comrade since they'd long gotten out from a dark place, Grim wouldn't want to go anywhere without Blackthorn. No, they aren't lovers but what they'd gone through is far too precious to be complicated by romantic love. 

And after hearing Lady Geiléis' tale about a howling creature residing in the Tower of Thorns on her land, Blackthorn knew expelling it wouldn't be an easy feat, especially if Lady Geiléis' land is being cursed by an ancient fey and that they've only one chance to do it right - by performing a cleansing ritual on the Midsummer Eve. But that is not all, Blackthorn soon meets up with her childhood friend, who claims they could travel south together to defeat Mathuin, who is Blackthorn's long sworn enemy but is she ready to turn her back against her fey benefactor, Conmael, who has once given her a chance to live, even if she is duty bound to him and promised that she would seek no vengeance and do the good? 

Tower of Thorns is so much better than Dreamer's Pool, with twice the peril and implications between the characters to cause doubts and betrayal towards one another. I liked the two protagonists; and I found myself liking Grim more in this installment. This book has enough myth and magic to fill readers' imaginations, in particularly the tower of thorns, which reminded me a few fairy tales of towers and trapped princesses, though this is anything but. 

The story is told from Blackthorn's and Grim's first person narrative and Lady Geiléis' third person. Perhaps for this reason, I didn't feel much connection towards Lady Geiléis but due to the plot and some secrets I could easily understand why. Tower of Thorns was an engaging read; and I'm glad I've the next few book, Den of Wolves, in hand.   




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Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | November 2015 | 464 pp
Source: Library


Dreamer's Pool is the first book of Blackthorn and Grim's series, featuring a pair of ex-prisoners of Mathuin, who is chieftain of Laois in northern Laigin. Mathuin is known to be cold and ruthless and an abuser to women. Blackthorn used to be a healer way before her family had perished under Mathuin's hands and she was held prisoner thereafter. She knew Grim when they were kept behind bars in Mathuin's dark place; although they hardly talk they have kinda formed a bond through each other's company. 

When Conmael, a fey nobleman visited Blackthorn and told her he could help her to get out of that dark place, in exchange for her vow to to set aside her bid for vengeance against Mathuin and live in Winterfalls in Dalriada, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help. Blackthorn is skeptical at first but what more could she lose? Together with Grim, they travel to Dreamer's Wood and found their "home" there. 

Oran is the crown prince of Dalriada and he is waiting for the arrival of Lady Flidais, who is to be his future bride. However, Oran has never met Lady Flidais in person and only knows her from a portrait, though they have corresponded through letters and somewhat knew each other sentiments through words. Lady Flidais finally arrives in Winterfalls, but she is not the woman whom Oran thinks she is. Although Lady Flidais' appearance resembles her portrait, her behaviour and speech prove otherwise. And with their marriage date drawing near, Oran is anxious and puzzled about Lady Flidais' mysterious temperament. He has heard from the community that Blackthorn is a wise woman and his people at Winterfalls seek her help be it medicinal or other matters. Oran decides Blackthorn might be the person he's looking for to unravel this mystery and Blackthorn knows she couldn't say no to his request, duty bound or not as the need to right the wrongs is too great. Together with Grim, Blackthorn will seek all the resources they can get and with or without magic, they will find the answer to Oran's quest even if it means facing their own personal demons. 

Dreamer's Pool is one enchanting read. Filled with some folklore and mythology, Juliet Marillier has spun an unforgettable tale about family bonds and friendship, as well as courage and ingenuity to set things right. Blackthorn and Grim are both engaging characters, in particularly Grim, as he often plays the protector role and his characteristic shone throughout the story. A man of few words, Grim surprised me with his insightful views at times. Blackthorn is an intriguing character, but given her past history she is a little bitter and has this furious need to seek vengeance against Mathuin but given she is duty bound by Conmael, she gets on with her life day by day while waiting for the day for freedom to come. Told from three perspectives - Blackthorn, Grim and Oran, this allows readers to understand more of their inner thoughts. Despite a fantasy, there is a little mystery to this book and I liked how things are neatly wrapped up towards the end (the mystery that is, not Blackthorn's justice towards Mathuin though I'd be interested to see how it would solve in the end), thus it could read as a standalone.



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Melody
Here is a list of books I read in 2017. They are sorted in alphabetical order by the authors' last name.


C
First Apple by Ching Yeung Russell

M
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier



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Melody
Boyds Mills Press, Inc | 1994 | 127 pgs
Source: Library
Illustrated by Christopher Zhong Yuan Zhang



My "First Book of the Year" is a Children's Literature written by Ching Yeung Russell. It was a meaningful story about a poor young girl's various attempts of fulfilling her grandmother's childhood dreams and what she did would inspire both young and older readers alike. 

Nine-year-old Yeung Ying lives with her cousins' family ever since her parents left her with them when she was five. Being the only Yeung in Chan's Village of a small town of Tai Kong, China, Yeung Ying is merely a simple-minded girl who is satisfied enough to have food in her stomach and a roof above her head. She is closest to her grandmother, whom she fondly called her "Ah Pau" (as in Cantonese pronunciation) and after knowing Ah Pau's childhood dreams is eating her first apple, she decided to buy one for her upcoming seventy-first birthday. Now apples are considered as a rich man's fruit back then in the 1940s and Yeung Ying has to find ways of earning money to buy that shiny red fruit as a present to Ah Pau. 

As the story progresses, we see Yeung Ying going through all the troubles to earn sixteen cents for an apple. Through the course, we see her struggles, the mistakes she has made and what she has learned while making Ah Pau's (as well as hers) dreams come true. Truth be told, it was a simple story but yet it was touching and contains full of valuable traits that inspire readers to be filial, grateful, honest and most of all, not to be afraid of admitting your mistakes. I also loved it that this story details the everyday life of our young Yeung Yin and some of these descriptions are brought to life through Mr Christopher Zhang's lovely illustrations. Personally I felt this is a great book to be read together with your children and after closing this post I'm going to share it with my daughters. 

  


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Melody

As the year comes to a close, I took a look back at the books I read and remember those reading moments which evoked various emotions in me. There are some excellent books which left me in thoughts till present, and there are some not-so-good books that I wished I'd liked them better but glad that I read them nonetheless. Without further ado, here is a list of my top reads this year (sequence not in any order and not necessarily published in 2016):




The Trespasser by Tana French
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
I See You by Clare MacKintosh
Yesternight by Cat Winters
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen
Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton
Redemption Road by John Hart
The Longest Night by Andria Williams
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Favourite Cover:
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon


New-to-Me Authors I discovered and liked this year:
Dani Atkins, Tammy Cohen, Jeannette de Beauvoir, John Hart, Jeannie Lin, Clare Mackintosh, Gilly MacMillan, Emily St. John Mandel, Nicole Mones, Naomi Novik, Andria Williams, Ashley Weaver and Cat Winters

Summary Stats:

Total Number of Books Read: 64
Total Number of Female Authors: 48
Total Number of Male Authors: 9
Total Mystery/Thriller: 35
Total YA: 9
Total Historical/Fiction: 13
Total Graphic Novel: 3
Total Romance: 4


Happy New Year & Happy Reading! 


© 2016 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

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | July 2016 | 288 pgs
Source: Library



Eight years ago, Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her own bedroom when she was thirteen years old. Her mother, Anna, was unaware of the kidnapping as she was sleeping downstairs. Jane, who was ten then was the only witness but given her age and her confused state of mind due to shock, it is natural to dismiss what she witnessed as unreliable. Julie is never found and the Whitakers started to move on with their life slowly until one day a young woman knocks on their door. Julie seems to be miraculously alive and is now back home, finally. As Anna tries to reconnect with Julie she begins to find loopholes and her lies. When a former detective turned private eye starts contacting Anna and shares with her some information he has gathered, Anna begins to wonder about Julie's identity and what does she wants from them if she is not their daughter. 

Good as Gone has a great intrigue opening with the fateful night of Julie's kidnapping. The story then progresses with the Whitakers picking up their life and focuses on Anna's sorrow and guilt despite eight years have passed. While Anna's husband, Tom, is ecstatic and his faith in Julie never wavers after they have found her, Anna begins to show signs of doubts and unease. It is this moment when the author begins to play with Anna's mind as well as the readers. Anna's perspective begins to intertwine with a various of flashbacks which would lead readers into wondering if Julie is who she claims she is. Personally I felt it was a good concept but the writing style was a bit tricky but if you break away from the story for a while and think about it, it is not difficult to figure out the whole picture. 

I couldn't say this is a fully suspenseful story though and is more to unlocking-a-mystery kind of story with a family dynamics theme as background. This book will also question readers how well they know their family members and that some things may not seem as what they are. There are some scenarios which I found to be a bit unbelievable, but I presume this was the author's intention to create more intensity and mystery to the storyline. I enjoyed reading the book, but it wasn't enough to captivate me from the suspenseful angle. 



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