St. Martin's Press | October 2017 | 240 pgs
Source: Library

There are quite a number of books on retelling or reimagination with a different twist and Pride and Prejudice is among those top of the list and I can see why considering it is a well loved classic by many readers. While there are some which fall under the fresh, creative category, there are also some which are simply disappointing. 

In this gender-swapping set in contemporary America, 29-year-old Darcy Fitzwilliam is a beautiful and a successful hedge fund partner in a well known firm in New York. She hasn't set foot in her homeland in Ohio for almost eight years, not even for Christmas until news of her sick mother made her go home to spend the season with her family. 

As in Fitzwilliam tradition, they always hold their annual Christmas party and this year is no exceptional. Darcy is "forced" to reunite with her friends considering she has left quite an impression leaving home for New York. On the top of her "not-to-see" list is Luke Bennet, the smart and sardonic slacker son of their neighbour. They don't hate each other, but they don't like each other too. After a night of too many eggnogs, they found themselves in a compromise situation and although Darcy brushed it aside as just another one-night stand, she couldn't help thinking of him thereafter. But could they fall in love given her pride and his prejudice against big-city girls like her? 

To begin with, I thought this book has lots of potential. I always love a retelling and I'd read one or two of those of P&P in the past and enjoyed them but unfortunately I couldn't find myself liking this one although I wished I did. I think the main reason is the characterisation and also the emotional depth wasn't enough to entice me. I liked Elizabeth from P&P, but Darcy (never mind the gender swap and everything else) didn't really leave too much of an impression on me other than that she was super wealthy and she behaved like a teenager at times; which I hate to say it but alas that was how I viewed it. Overall I think this book didn't work for me but if you don't mind something light and entertaining then this book may probably fit your reading preference. 

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Faber & Faber | September 2014
Source: Library

I've been meaning to read this book for a while, since I'd read Peter Swanson's other later releases and enjoyed them. This book has the style of a contemporary noir and is plot driven with a pair of intriguing characters. After finishing this book I wasn't sure what to think of the overall plot and the direction which this story finally led to, but I did know I've tons of things to say but ultimately it just left me flabbergasted. 

To begin with, our main protagonist George Foss is a man in his forties and he is living a simple, bland life. He has a job in a magazine industry and his on-off relationship with Irene Dimas is anything but exciting. During a night out drinking at a bar, he thought he saw his first love, Liana Dexter. He and Liana knew each other in college and they hit it off quickly. George is smitten by Liana because she seemed different from the other girls. And George is a good guy in Liana's eyes so it is no surprise they become a couple in no time. After their exams Liana left for home and the next thing they know Liana committed suicide. George then began a trip back to her hometown to look for answers and found out a few, but they are rather vague. 

Twenty years later Liana is back and she needs George's help. George has begun to see her reason for her fake suicide, but what he doesn't understand is her request and why him. Nonetheless he decided to help her; after all he still reminiscent of their past and truth be told he has never forgotten about her all this time. But Liana's request is no ordinary task, and soon George finds himself in a seriously troubling situation. 

Fast-paced and intriguing, this book had me on the edge of my seat and while it was compelling, I was also frustrated by George's bad choices at times. Liana is an interesting character but she is hard to like, the same goes to George due to his stupidity naivety. The plot may be predictable but Liana was the draw in this story. She was unreliable yet she could be charming; I could see why George was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. This story is told between flashbacks and present so there is a better understanding for readers to connect whatever happened then together. I suppose the story, especially the ending, would lead to some discussions because I just couldn't fathom everything and most of all, I'd some questions for George. Hmph. That said, it was quite a thrilling ride for me and I understand that this book has been acquired for film by James Marsh.  

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St. Martin's Press | September 2017 | 304 pgs
Source: Library

This is the fourth installment of Amory Ames Mystery series set in the 1930s. Amory and her husband, Milo, always have their adventures set in various places in each of the book and this time around they bring readers to The City of Light - Paris. 

The Ameses couple is holidaying is Lake Como in Italy when Milo receives a troubling letter from his childhood nanny, Madame Nanette. She is vague in her letter although she stated that she'd like them to go visit her in Paris. Knowing his nanny, Milo sensed there is something going on and thus, they packed up and took a night train from Milan to Paris. As what Milo predicted, Madame Nanette is troubled with the events happened in her employer's household. Engaged as a nanny in the Belanger's household, Madame Nanette's circumstances is considered to be an awkward one considering she knew Helios Belanger since they were young. In fact, they'd liked each other at one point but things happened and time and psychical distance thrown them apart. By then, Helios' first wife had passed and he is currently married to a much younger wife, Beryl Norris. 

Now Madame Nanette believes Helios is murdered instead of a heart attack as what everyone has speculated. He was supposed to arrived back in Paris after his visit to his factory if Grasse but the plane had some difficulty with the landing. It landed roughly and ended up smashing its nose into the ground. According to the witnesses, he got out of the plane under his own power though he appeared to be dazed and was unsteady on his feet. He insisted on driving home himself and he seemed much better the following day and the matter was all but forgotten. However, two days later the maid found him dead and the official report had claimed it was a heart failure. 

Helios was a successful and a famous parfumier and he was supposed to release his newest, highly anticipated perfume. All things considered, it is no wonder Madame Nanette is skeptical by his sudden death and wonders if anyone wants him dead. After all, the members in the Belanger's household have been unhappy and the relationship has been complicated between Helios' young wife and his three adult children from his first marriage. Then, there is Herr Jens Muller, the German sculptor, who is in charge of designing the perfect bottle. Even Beryl isn't spared as she appears to be secretive and was seen going to places on various times. Amory and Milo could imagine the scenarios and wonder how Helios' death could impact on the sales of the new perfume, especially since this would be the last perfume he'd concocted. And of course there is the formula of the new perfume, which might fetch a great price if fallen into the wrong hands. 

With so many speculations and suspects in mind, Amory and Milo began their own investigations and although they work together in solving the case, Amory is annoyed by Milo's discreetness as she found he is keeping something to himself at times. Amory has begun to find their relationship to be a lot better as compared to the past and Milo has certainly paid much more attention and affection towards her lately but she couldn't help but to wonder what is with his discreetness. As the time goes on, each is certain that there is more than meets the eye and when the mystery is finally revealed the truth threw everyone off, including yours truly. 

Once again, I found myself immersed in Ashley Weaver's latest installment of her Amory Ames Mystery series (Though a series, each book can be read as standalone but I'd recommend reading them in order for the lead characters development.) The Golden age mystery elements is a draw on top of the characterisations and as this series progresses, I found myself liking Amory more due to her plucky demeanour, and well Milo is simply being himself - charismatic yet unpredictable. The premise was intriguing and I thought the closure (resolution) was a good one which I certainly didn't see it coming. 

Books in order:
Murder at the Brightwell #1
Death Wears a Mask #2
A Most Novel Revenge #3

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William Morrow | April 2018 | 304 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Having read Peter Swanson's previous novels (The Kind Worth Killing and Her Every Fear) and enjoyed them, I was thrilled when I learned that he has a new book coming out. His latest work revolves around lies, obsessions and taboo relationships and although it was an easy, fast-paced read, it somewhat lacks the punch of his previous works, which I found brilliant and kept me on edge. 

This story is written in two time frames "Then" and "Now" alternatively and at times it reads like a coming of age as it centers around a woman named Alice, as we read about her teenage years and how she has grown up to be an attractive woman with dark motives. All the while, she has had a fondness with older men partly due to an unhappy adolescence. Her relationship with her mother is lukewarm and her attraction to older men only began with her mother's remarriage to Jake. This is simply one of the "Then" segments and I figured I should skip whatever transpired thereafter to avoid spoilers. 

Onto the "Now" segment, Alice has found her man in Bill Ackerson and thought she would live a happily-ever-after but that bliss is short-lived as Bill is believed to have committed suicide. Bill's son, Harry, is due to attend his college graduation ceremony and he rushes home upon receiving Alice's call. Harry has always thought his stepmother sexy and beautiful and it seems Bill's death has kind of bring them together as they lend support to each other and try to find out what had happened to the man in their life. Enter Grace McGowan, who is mysterious and alluring in her own way and she has aroused Harry's interest and curiosity. Who is this young woman and why does she seem to appear in their range right after Bill's death? 

As much as I enjoyed this story, I felt this was something different from his other works. The characters are intriguing but they failed to captivate me, no matter if it's secretive Alice or even young innocent Harry. Then of course there is the taboo relationships which is part of the plot, which I suppose may either raise a few eyebrows or be intrigued by the complexity and bizarreness of it. The suspense is fairly predictable at some point, and the ending seemed a bit too abrupt and convenient to me. Nevertheless, it was a readable story and Peter Swanson's writing sucks you in. I'm currently reading his first book, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart and I'm enjoying it so far. 

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Madame Antoine is a romance story between a fortune teller impostor and a psychologist with a psychological theme and if this isn't enough to attract your attention, the good-looking cast probably will.

Known as Madame Antoine, Go Hye Rim's (starring Han Ye Seul) profession is a fortune teller but that is a lie, including her story as being spiritually connected to Marie Antoinette but she is sharp and observant, thus most often she easily gain some information about her clients either through her insistent inquiries or their body language. She also runs a café so it is like killing two birds with one stone. A divorcee with a daughter who is studying abroad, she works hard to make ends meet. Despite her divorce, she still hopes for love and is a romantic at heart.

Choi Soo Hyun (starring Sung Joon) is a well known psychologist and is looking for a space to open his clinic. He found the perfect place, and it is located above Hye Rim's café. And the problem is, both the café and the clinic share the same name - Madame Antoine. Although Dr. Choi isn't bothered by it, Hye Rim sees red but she take in stride considering she needs the café to run both her businesses.

Despite their clash of personalities, they finally see eye to eye and Hye Rim even agree to participate in Dr. Choi's psychological test project although he didn't tell her the real reason behind the test. Truth be told, it is an experiment about love and Dr. Choi's goal is to prove that there is no true love and it doesn't exist. With other two men and himself acting as Hye Rim's pursuers, his motive is to make Hye Rim falls hard in love and ultimately declare her love to the man she's in love with in public. But of course there are complications and Dr. Choi soon finds himself falling in love with her as well.

Madame Antoine was a fun romcom and while I don't approve of Dr. Choi's project, I can see where his concern and doubts come from considering he is traumatised by a childhood experience whereby his mother left him to pursue a new life. There are also side plots involving a few Dr. Choi's patients with various mental issues as well as the romances of the secondary characters, but at its core it is very much a life story about Dr. Choi and Hye Rim and how they have struggled with their own fears and obstacles before they found each other. I may disagree with Dr. Choi's initial motive for his project (manipulation?) but I've to say I was totally touched by his actions in the end (sigh).

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