Melody

 

Sceptre | 5 March 2020 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

In a rural Nigerian village, there lives a 14-year-old girl named Adunni. Despite poor and being the oldest in school, Adunni remembers her late mother's words on the importance of having an education so that she can find her "louding voice" and be a teacher - a job she has always dreamed of. But life is tough and cruel and being the only girl in the family, her father decides that it's best for her to stop schooling and to marry off to an old man as his third wife. 

As if being a third wife isn't bad enough, Adunni has to endure the abusive behaviours of the first wife as well as her demanding husband, Morufu. It is only through Khadija, the second wife, that Adunni manages to find some solace but Khadija's understanding and her limited assistance is not enough to ease Adunni's misery from the household until something bad had fallen onto Khadija, leading Adunni on the run. 

Adunni thought she's found someone along the way who could help her in her dire situation, but it turns out that she's being secretly sold into a wealthy family as a domestic servant in Lagos. Once again, Adunni finds herself being bullied and abused by Big Madam and Big Daddy, the couple who's so preoccupied by their own issues (narcissism, greed, lust... you name it). As Adunni struggles to get by, she is also intrigued by the disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca; and wonder why no one wants to mention about her. As Adunni tries to find out about Rebecca's disappearance, it is also at this time that she comes to know Tia Dada, a woman who would help her through the obstacles in her path as Adunni continues to find ways in pursuing her dreams. And this time around, she won't be silenced as she'll make sure her voice is loud and crystal clear. 

This book wasn't an easy read. Through Adunni's narrative, the author depicts the harsh reality of life and how poverty, gender and class differences as well as superstitions in certain countries (in this case, Nigeria) often lead to discriminations and mistreatments. However, this story triumph over the despair of humanity and show the reader that that rugged course of path could be overcome through determination, courage and of course, having your (louding) voice heard! 

As always, I want to thank Lark for all our fun buddy reading journeys and please check out Lark's blog for her review/Q&A of this book. Below are my answers to her questions: 

1) Why do you think Big Madam, who started from nothing and had to work so hard for her own success, was so unsupportive of and mean to Adunni?  
In short, Big Madam was simply a calculative woman and lacks of empathy towards her subordinates. Her narrow-mindedness as well as her relationship with her husband also play a part in her behaviorism, although this isn't an excuse for her unfair treatments towards Adunni. 

2) And what does having a 'louding voice' mean to you? 
To me, having a 'louding voice' means not afraid of being yourself and voicing your opinions despite knowing that judgemental minds are everywhere.
© 2021 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 | 5 May 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

Not all marriages are perfect; but a good marriage requires communication, understanding and acceptance from both parties to make their relationship work and be happy. This novel by Kimberly McCreight, unlike the title suggested, leans a bit towards the dark side and unveils the complicated relationship between couples and how secrets and a brutal murder will tear a group of friends apart. 

The story opens with our lead protagonist, Lizzie Kitsakis, receiving a peculiar phone call while working late at an elite law firm, Young & Crane. Lizzie used to work as a federal prosecutor with the US Attorney, but was forced to abandon her passion for a more competitive pay to settle her financial woes especially since her (alcoholic) husband is a freelance writer. It's not like she is unhappy with her life, but Lizzie does know how to avert her eyes when necessary and she's doing good so far until she receives that call from her old friend, Zach Grayson. They used to go to the same college and at some stage, they'd have been together if Lizzie agreed to go out with him. They've lost touch since then until now; and it seems Zach needs Lizzie's help in getting him out from Rikers

Zach's initial prosecution is assault with a police officer, but he's now becomes a primary suspect after his wife, Amanda, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone. Investigations show it was murder and they've even found Zach's bloodied golf club nearby. Lizzie is reluctant to take on his case initially, partly she's more into corporate crimes but she's drawn by the intrigue of the idyllic Park Slope neighbourhood and its few residents, and most especially the dynamic between Zach and Amanda. What happened at Park Slope and what secrets are they keeping before one decided to commit a murder? 

To say this was a riveting domestic thriller is an understatement. Beneath this package it's also part legal thriller which explores the complications between couples, the threat of cyberbullying and finally, how much do you really know your other half? I've to say it took me some time to get settled with the story; both plot- and character-wise. It was a slow-burn and there's a few characters you've to familiarise with before the story take off, but let me assure you that all the wait and patience are worth it. 

The story was narrated by Lizzie and Amanda (six days before her death) and personally this type of execution works well with me as I like how one storyline/perspective parallel with the other as the story progresses until they merge to form an end. The characterisations are great; there're some whom I sympathised with, then there're also a few whose actions would make you shake your head and question why they'd do it. Overall, it was a great thriller and I love the author's writing a lot. I'm definitely picking this as one of my favourite reads this year.

© 2021 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

 

Del Rey | 30 June 2020 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

To begin with, Mexican Gothic was a refreshing read to me in so many ways. A Gothic horror/mystery set in the 1950s in a desolate Mexican countryside and a feisty, opinionated heroine to boot. How could I say no? 

So the book opens with our heroine, Noemí Taboada, heading her way towards High Place (a distant house in the Mexican countryside) after receiving a letter from her newly-wed cousin asking for help. The content of the letter was vague and seemed to be written with a sense of urgency; and most of all, it was so unlike of Catalina's characteristic to be voiced out in that way. Intrigued and also upon insistent nudging by her father, Noemí knew she has no other option but to make the trip to find out herself. 

Now Noemí is a chic young woman who has been living in the city all her life, so she immediately finds herself at a loss once she's set her foot into the countryside; and most especially the Doyle's family (with the exception of Catalina, of course), who sees her more like an annoying outsider who refuses to abide by their house rules. Noemí is not a stubborn and unreasonable woman to begin with, but she does find some of their house rules strange and even ridiculous to some extent. Seeing Catalina in person didn't answer her questions as Catalina appears to be weaker and frailer than she's thought and she couldn't pinpoint the mysterious health condition which implicates her overall well-being. That said, Noemí has reservation regarding Catalina's mental health. After all, the Doyle's family members behave strangely and in addition, the house gives out a creepy vibes that Noemí begins to have bad dreams. Could these be the reasons which affect Catalina's condition and why she reaches out for help? 

I've to say this was very much an atmospheric and a character-driven kind of story and a slow-burn in terms of actions. The author took her time in developing the plot, but the characterisations and the intrigue were quite well executed as the story progresses that it took your mind off of the slow buildup until the big reveal eventually came and hit you in the guts. There are family history and dark secrets surrounding this story, but there are also the creepy house and some weird, bizarre elements which render this as a horror, too. The descriptive writing was another strength of this book and it was easy to get lost in the enigmatic High Place as it exudes both beauty and terror under different circumstances. My only complaint was I wished it was much richer in culture and more history surrounding the countryside village.

© 2021 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

 

Minotaur Books | 21 April 2020 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

Jennifer Hillier's Little Secrets was an addictive, fast paced and compelling psychological suspense that centred around a family of three and how an unfortunate incident has lead to many effects and consequences. 

Marin seems to have a perfect, blessed life. She's happily married to her college sweetheart, Derek, who now runs his own company. Marin herself owns a chain of high-end hair salons which are mostly frequent by celebrities and rich clients. Life is good until their 4-year-old son, Sebastian, is taken. Marin has herself to blame since she'd let go of Sebastian's hand for a while to return a text to her best friend, Sal. Despite the search and a year later, Sebastian still couldn't be found and this becomes a cold case. 

Marin refuses to accept the fact that Sebastian is gone like that, so she engages a P.I. to continue with the search. The investigator didn't find any leads to Sebastian's missing, but she did find out that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman during the findings. Marin's despair over the loss of her son quickly changes to rage after learning about her husband's infidelity, and this turn of events and the unexpected effects thereafter is the highlight of this story. 

I loved the suspense and the intensity so this was a fast read to me. Sebastian's missing and Marin's breakdown are the hardest to read but I've to say the author has done a great job depicting these scenarios although it's a nightmarish thought for every parents. However, this is more than a missing child story as the plot thickens and I wouldn't want to indulge more. I could only say it was a twisty thriller which left me flabbergasted in the end. 

© 2021 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 | 20 October 2020 | 640 pgs
Source: Library 
At first glance, Plain Bad Heroines may look a little intimidating with its size (600+ pages) but it eventually won me over with the atmospheric and the Gothic theme. However, the story wasn't what I expected and I'll get to that later. 

The story begins in Year 1902 at the Brookhants School for Girls. Two students, Flo and Clara, are in love with each other and they share an obsession over Mary MacLane's works, in particularly her bestselling memoir comprising her thoughts and issues such as feminism. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls even establish their own club and called it The Plain Bad Heroines Society. Sadly, their sapphic love is cut short not by others' judgemental view but by a swarm of yellow jackets which led them to a macabre death. Even on their death they're seen holding Mary's book. The school eventually closes after more scandal and death involved, sparking some talks and curiosity if the place (or the book?) is cursed. 

At present, the now abandoned Brookhants is back in the spotlight when filmmaker Bo Dhillon decides to use the setting for their new film, which is based on the bestselling book of wunderkind author Merritt Emmons. The Happenings at Brookhants details the history of the real deaths and supposed curse attached to the school though mainly it is more of a horror film adaptation surrounding feminism and the friendship among the characters. This present time introduces the reader to our three main characters - Merritt Emmons (the author herself), Harper Harper (an influencer and aspiring star) and Audrey Wells (former child star and now a B-list actress). As the movie set and the crew move into Brookhants to begin filming, weird things begin to happen as the past seems to entangle with the present, questioning the characters and the reader if it's the Brookhants curse or if it's simply a coincidence. 

I'd mixed feelings about this book. For starters, the story was long and dragging although the writing was unique and entrancing in a way (the narrative style was told in parts by an omnipresent narrator and truth be told, I wasn't sure if I should be annoyed or amused by the voice). All the characters are intriguing and I think that's the strength of this story, but sadly there wasn't much coverage of the two girls from the past; which I felt was a pity considering they were the ones who first started off the story. Our characters of the present time are still interesting to read, but their personalities, narcissism and their emotions took over much of the story, leaving this reader baffled and underwhelmed at the same time. But of course there are still some Gothic moments, such as the yellow jackets (shivers) and the Black Oxford apples which may have you wondering if they're mystical themselves. Another of my disappointment was finding the ending kind of fizzled after all the past and present buildup; and that there wasn't much link between the two timelines except the presence of the yellow jackets (I personally feel they're the real threat here). This review may deem like I didn't enjoy the book, but I did at some parts and overall it was quite a fascinating tale; and not to mention it's a story within a story within a story (this isn't a typo) and featuring black-and-white period illustrations by Sara Lautman. I'd still recommend this to readers who enjoy a bit of queerness in their reading. 
© 2021 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.