Melody
Faber & Faber | 3 March 2022 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

Nine random people from various locations receive an envelope with their names on it. There's no return address; and inside the envelope contains a single, folded sheet of white paper. Nine names are printed on the list and each of these nine recipients will find his or her own name on it. Perhaps it is junk mail, or perhaps it is a joke. But as each day passes by, these recipients will soon find out that they're targeted and one by one they're going to meet their end. But no one knows why and the motive. And as these nine people wandering clueless with a foreboding mood, so do the reader as the suspense intensifies. 

Without saying too much, all I can say is this isn't my favourite Swanson book. But of course there're still some things that I liked; such as this work is a homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None but Swanson's story stands on its own. The eliminating style (of the victims) always make it an easier read (though it's wrong to think of that from another perspective) and the chapters are short, which made it even better.

Now onto the things I didn't really like. Nine characters mean nine perspectives, and they could be confusing from the start but this issue will go away as the story progresses (and yes, the eliminating part plays a part, too). Since there're nine characters, it could be hard making a connection with them and well, some of them were unlikable, too. The story wasn't fast-paced and the reader mostly learned about their personality and their mundane lives until the last quarter of the book in which the pace started to pick up. But alas, it all fell short to me with that anticlimactic reveal and not to mention the motive. Despite these, I didn't dislike the book (because it's Peter Swanson and I love his writing style and the suspenseful atmosphere he's always so good in creating) but this book just isn’t for me. Still, I always look forward to his new release and I hope his next book will be better. 

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Melody
Atria Books | 23 August 2022 | 320 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

I've read and enjoyed a few of Catherine McKenzie's books and I've to say each of her book was mesmerizing in some ways. Her writing style is engaging as always; and I'm often intrigued by her characterisations and the different topics/elements she put in her books and leave readers pondering about the issues and the ending aftermath. This book is about women empowerment, conspiracies and revenge and you know you're in for a wild ride when a group of five women meet up for a networking event which they believe will help in their career and change their outlook in life in general.  

Nicole Mueller is the lead character of this story and her once brilliant law career is falling apart. She and her husband, Dan, live in an apartment which is once owned by his late aunt but it's never made clear that the property would belong to them. After all, Dan's estranged mother and sister are still around and who knows when they'll come after him one day with this property issue? Just when Nicole feels so helpless with her situation, she receives an invitation from an exclusive women’s networking group called Panthera Leo. It stated that membership is anonymous and that every member is a successful professional. Thinking that it wouldn't hurt to try, she signs up for their retreat in Colorado despite Dan’s concern that it might be a cult group. 

The retreat takes place in an isolated location and Nicole is blindfolded throughout the journey before reaching the destination. There, she meets the two founders of Panthera Leo, Michelle and Karma; as well as four other women who'll make up her Pride. Nicole soon learns that these four successful women are members before; and she's quickly bonded with them through some challenging activities during the retreat and most of all, the group’s core philosophy that they're an elite girl's club in a boy’s club world and that they'd take their corporate world by storm. But the more Nicole stays with the group, the more she realises that Panthera Leo might not be what she thinks it is and that there's always a price to pay for everything.

Please Join Us has a refreshing premise and combined with McKenzie's writing style it made an addicting read. Most of the characters aren't likeable, but they're intriguing in their own ways. The first half introduced us to these group of women, their bonding and what has gone through their lives so it was a slow buildup but was quickly replaced by suspense once an important event took place and affected Nicole's thoughts and plans with Panthera Leo. Overall I enjoyed it but there are some parts that I felt disbelief and perplexed, too. Still, it was a engaging read and it tackles the reality and the challenges the women often face especially working in a male-dominated corporate world. 

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Melody
HarperCollins | 20 January 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

Where shall I even begin? This book has received lots of hype and glowing reviews and while I enjoyed the book, it wasn't my favourite and I'd some issues with it. 

So the book opens featuring 25-year-old Molly Gray working as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. She was morally upright given all the advice passed down by her late grandmother; however she'd some difficulties understanding social cues and behaviours at times so she might be autistic, though it was not clearly stated and may be intentionally omitted by the author for the plot directions. Molly was a great worker and she took pride in her job. She cleaned the rooms diligently and given her obsession with cleanliness, it is no wonder the rooms are often left in a state of perfection before the new batch of guests arrived. 

Molly had seen all types of people through the nature of her work; and among all is the rich and mighty Blacks couple who's long-term residents of the hotel. Mr Black was a property tycoon so he was always away, leaving his second young wife in the hotel room. Mrs Black became friends with Molly quickly partly due to boredom and Molly's easygoing demeanour, but most of all she finds herself needing someone to talk to. Then one day, Molly found Mr Black dead in his room and ultimately became the prime suspect as she was dragged into all kinds of life complexities - be it her financial woes or her conflicts with her superiors. Added to the plot was her infatuation with a bartender and her acquaintance with a Mexican immigrant who may or may not connected to Mr Black's mysterious death. 

I've read several reviews which compare Molly to Eleanor Oliphant but personally I didn't find any similarities there. Molly was an interesting character but there was an inconsistency of her behaviours depending on situations (or the plot?). The secondary characters are one-dimensional and stereotyped; and I didn't know if I should empathise or be annoyed with them. Finally, there's the twist towards the end which come out of nowhere and was featured more as a surprise element in my opinion. This was an interesting case of character study from some aspect, but I felt Molly was wrongfully portrayed to suit the plot directions. Perhaps I was just sensitive but there are some readers who loved this book though, so I'd suggest you give this book a read and find out yourself. 
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Melody
Knopf Books | 6 July 2021 | 464 pgs
Source: Purchased 


Kiata has long been forbidden of magic. Shiori, the only Princess of Kiata, however has the capability of making paper birds come alive or making things bloom and while her acts are considered harmless, she keeps her skills a secret until the day of her betrothal ceremony. When her forestalling the wedding goes wrong and her magic catches the attention of her stepmother, Raikama; the latter is quick to take actions of her own.

Now Raikama, who's also known as the Nameless Queen (because no one knows her real name), has some dark magic herself and to prevent Shiori from talking about her hidden capabilities after a chance event, she turns Shiori's six older brothers into cranes and that Shiori could never talk to anyone about them. For any word she utters, one of them would die and on top of that, no one would be able to recognise Shiori because her head is covered with a bowl, therefore concealing her eyes and it could never be removed under Raikama's curse. 

Leaving with no choice, Shiori is forced to work in a village's inn as a kitchen helper as she tries to find ways to search for her brothers. While the chances are slim, her hope arrives when she meets a kind soldier who would inadvertently change her fate. While Shiori continues to face the challenge of not speaking while searching for her brothers, she discovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne. 

This was an enthralling read with reminiscent of The Wild Swans, The Six Swans and a Chinese mythology of The Lady of the Moon (only vaguely referred to). The author has successfully entranced the reader through her captivating worldbuilding that consists of a shape-shifting dragon called Seryu and a talking paper bird called Kiki; who both play a significant role to the story. The characters are well-portrayed and Shiori was a feisty heroine who has a strong bond and loyalty to her family. Her banter with Seryu and her interactions with Kiki often brought a smile to my face; and even the romance moments were heartwarming as well. The only complaint I had was, there are some parts which made me feel I was missing something as they're not fully elaborated, hopefully there'll be a clearer explanation in the next book, The Dragon's Promise. Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me (please check out her review here). Buddy read always double the reading pleasure and makes the journey even more fun! Below are her questions to me regarding this book:

Were you familiar with the Brothers Grimm story The Six Swans before reading this book? And did you have a favorite fairy tale growing up? If so, which one and what did you love about it? 

I'm ashamed to say I haven't read all of Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and The Six Swans is one of them. While I've lots of favourite fairy tales, the one which stands out amongst the rest is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It was such a beautiful story even though it has a sad and a melancholy ending. I loved it that the little mermaid was courageous to sacrifice oneself for the sake of love; and that even though she was given a chance to become a mermaid again, she chose not to kill the prince out of love and selflessness. I've read the book and even watched the animated film countless times but have never gotten tired of it. I hope I'd get the chance to watch the musical one day. 


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Melody
Corgi | 22 July 2021 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

 
The Dare is basically a story revolves around two teenage girls and how a tragedy would lead to revenge and the unravelling of past secrets would both surprise the protagonist and the readers as well.

Thirteen-year-old Alice Dawson and Lizzie Molyneux are best friends. Lizzie has epilepsy and there are times she would be unconscious of her behaviours whenever it hit her and often the aftermath causes her confusion and doubt since she has no recollection of what really happened. This happened when both girls are playing by the train tracks and they'd a spat over some minor issues. Unfortunately Lizzie's epilepsy is triggered at that moment and the next moment she comes to, Alice is killed by the passing train. While there is no evidence and on top of Lizzie's epilepsy that shows anything suspicious, Alice's friends and especially her eldest sister, Catherine, is sure that Lizzie is responsible because she is jealous of Alice. 

Moving forward to Lizzie's adulthood twelve years later, she is still haunted by Alice's death and that unknown moments before tragedy struck but she is glad to have found someone whom she could lean on. Ross Murray is a GP and his schedules are often full but he's been very supportive and understanding for Lizzie. Their life is happy until someone from the past reappears and Lizzie's discovery of some hidden secrets shattered her hopes of finding peace and moving on. 

I enjoyed Lesley Kara's The Rumour so I picked up this book with some expectations. The story switches between the past when they are teenagers and the present time in which we see the grown-up Lizzie who's trying to adjust to her new life. The characters are realistically portrayed and I enjoyed reading the friendship and dynamics between Lizzie and Alice. There is an unknown narrative alternating in between the two timelines as a mystery effect and although I'd somewhat guessed a part correctly, the ending still left some surprises and a sad revelation as well. Though it wasn't fast-paced or action packed for a psychological thriller, the strength was its well-developed characters and the gradual build of suspense as the story progresses. Overall it was a satisfying read and I look forward to her next release, The Apartment Upstairs, set to release in June 2022. 

© 2022 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.