Melody
Mulholland Books | February 2018 | 304 pgs
Source: Library


Dr Janet Palmer is the new psychologist at HMP Halvergate prison. Leaving her London home and boyfriend behind, Janet wonders if her decision to move to Norfolk is right but she loves her job and is willing to give it a try. However, both the staff and the inmates pose a challenge to her. The former seems reserved and don't share much of the information with her while the latter, as most sex offenders inmates are, are either smirking behind her back or don't take her seriously. The worst of the lot is Michael Donovan; as Janet thinks he is both charming and dangerous at the same time. Most of the time, she doesn't really know what's on his mind and this put him on her unreliable list, what with his words and the way he put it. 

As much as these bother her, Janet is also intrigue by her predecessor, Dr John Helkin and the number of the inmates who had committed suicide within a short timeframe during his tenure. There isn't much information about Dr Helkin and the deceased inmates either so this left Janet very perplexed and curious. There are speculations that they must've taken drugs or legal highs which pushed them off the limits but the tests came out clear. And most disturbing of all is, there are talks about an eyeless woman who stalks the prison, driving the inmates to suicide. Janet is adamant in finding answers, no matter if they are supernatural or not and the more she digs into it, she soon finds out that there is more than meets the eye (pun intended). 

The Binding Song combines the elements of horror and suspense with a creepy, atmospheric setting, thus making this a very addictive read. The characterisations and the directions of the plot were great; and most of the time the story left me in doubts because I didn't know what to expect - a ghost story or unreliable characters? Janet was an interesting character and was troubled by the death of her twin sister years ago, as the reader will find out through snippets of their interactions in between chapters. Janet's friendship with the prison chaplain was the only happier moments among the dark and dreadful events happened at Halvergate. There was also mention of hypnotherapy and shared psychosis related to Janet's findings which I found both fascinating and scary at the same time, especially the latter meant as a form of malice and manipulation. Overall it was a good read and I'd recommend it if you don't mind bits of horror and some Greek mythology of demons and the likes. 



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Melody
Penguin Publishing Group | July 2018 | 384 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss




I enjoyed Riley Sager's first novel, Final Girls, a lot and when I learnt that he has a new book out I knew I'd to read it. 

Fifteen years ago, Emma Davis attended a summer camp located at a secluded woodland. Camp Nightingale is privately owned by a family and it seems its land has a history and is passed down by generations. The all-girls camp is known to cater to the wealthier families and it is no wonder some girls called it the 'Rich Bitches Camp' behind their backs. While not all the girls are mean, Vivian Hawthorne stands out from the rest for her beauty, her bluntness and her confidence. It is easy to understand why Emma look up to her and wants to be accepted, after all Vivian is older and she seems to know what she wants and gets them eventually. Thanks to the overcrowdedness of the camp under her age category, Emma is assigned to share the same cabin as Vivian and her two friends, Natalie and Allison. Emma becomes part of Vivian's entourage as the story progresses, and she learned of a game they always love to play - two truths and a lie. Until one day Vivian, Natalie and Allison disappear and Emma's world is turned upside down.

Now at twenty-eight, Emma is an artist but the things she's painted are mostly about her three friends back then. The day she holds her first gallery show, she meets Franny Harris-White. Franny is the owner of Camp Nightingale and the family property, and after closing the camp for so many years she is going to reopen it and she wants Emma to join her and teaches the girls to paint. Against her better judgement, Emma agrees to her invite despite the girls' disappearance still haunts her. And this is the setup of the suspense here. 

Riley Sager has delivered another intense and breathtaking thriller in The Last Time I Lied. Like his first novel Final Girls, the story alternates between the present and the past and this was told in Emma's POV throughout the book. What made this book so intriguing is aside from the mystery surrounding the missing girls and Emma's credibility (after all the girls loved the game they played and the purpose was to seek the lies, not the truths), there is the history surrounding Lake Midnight (where Camp Nightingale is) and the gothic legend surrounding it. And once again, Mr. Sager excels in the characters developments and the way he tempts his reader into reading page after page until everything is clicked into place at its finale. An engrossing read and will appease to fans of the suspense/thrillers genre. 



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Melody
Picador | April 2018 | 320 pgs
Source: Library



This story is set in London during the 1940s where the country is at war with the Germans. However, this is only the backdrop while the book is basically centering on the life of the Londoners during this difficult times and of course, our lead protagonist, Emmeline Lake and the interactions with a few of her friends and colleagues.  

All the while, Emmy has this dream of being a Lady War Correspondent. When she saw an ad placed in a newspaper looking for a Junior at The London Evening Chronicle, she put off everything and jumped at the chance. Well, Emmy is offered the position but in the haste and excitement during the interview she had failed to find out about her duties. So while Woman's Friend magazine is part of TLEC, what her duties are are far from being a journalist, let alone a War Correspondent. One of the magazine features is the 'Henrietta Bird Helps' column and basically her job is to go through the mails sent out by the readers and sort them out for Mrs Bird, Woman's Friend Advice Writer and Acting Editress, to reply. However, Mrs Bird has a list of 'Unpleasantness' topics she wouldn't entertain and this put Emmy in a difficult position because most mails she receive are about love, relationships and the likes. Mrs Bird is very clear about receiving such mails and off they go into the bin. 

Emmy, on the other hand, feels heartbroken for these women who must have gone through such difficult situations to send in their desperate pleas and she hates to disappoint and let their hopes down. Thus, she replies to these letters secretly under Mrs Bird's name and from then onwards there is no turning back for Emmy. 

Dear Mrs Bird was a delightful read; it was funny, uplifting and sad at the same time. It is also a story about love, friendship, courage and pursuing one's dream. Although this isn't entirely a war story, Ms Pearce has managed to capture the tense atmosphere and makes the reader feels for the characters and how it was like living in a wartime period and yet not giving up hope like Emmy and her friends. A lovely debut and I'll be sure to look out for this author's future releases.  


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Melody

Amazon Publishing | April 2018 | 380 pgs
Source: Library




With the aftermath of an explosion that ripped apart a Chicago building as a backdrop, this story follows the life of three women who are somehow connected to one another and the secrets each hold amid the nation's mourning and the scrutinisation of the media. With the one-year anniversary coming up, documentary filmmaker Teo Jackson approaches one of the women, Cecily Grayson, to be interviewed for his documentary as part of a memorial. Cecily was late for an appointment on that fateful day on October 10th and due to her lateness she had survived from the tragedy. Her husband, Tom, wasn't as fortunate. Cecily was captured by Teo's camera during the chaotic moments later and therefore made her the "Poster Girl" the nation recognise, but Cecily would rather prefer no one remembers her.

On the other end, Kate and Franny, the other two women who are thrust into the limelight have their stories to tell as well. Unlike Cecily, Kate has something to hide revolving a decision she had made before the tragedy while Franny is looking for her biological mother whom she'd had the chance to meet for only a few times before tragedy struck. However, the stories these three women tell are only half true and the secrets which they struggle to hide will slowly come to light as the story progresses, questioning the reader about the reasons and the motives behind their lies as well as how they will all impact their lives in one way or another.

I've enjoyed a few of McKenzie's books in the past and therefore I was very excited to dive into this latest book by her. While it was a good character-driven story, I felt something was missing yet I couldn't put a finger on it. Catherine's writing skill continues to shine and she has a knack for writing intriguing (sometimes annoying) characters but in this book I didn't feel a connection with them. I did sympathise for the three characters' loss and the things they had gone through but all along the ride I felt more like a bystander instead. Perhaps it was the slow pace at the beginning which I felt it was a bit dragging (perhaps this is the author's intention for the characters development) and despite the pace took a different turn towards the end I felt it came a bit too late. Still, it was overall an intriguing story and the author's writing had me glued to the book.



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Melody

This is based on a real site in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea and is featured as the 7th freakiest places on the planet according to CNN Travel (see article here). Whether if it is truly haunted, I suppose only the daredevils who have the guts to explore will know but for now I'd settled with a fictional story. Ironically, despite the authenticity, most of the scenes were filmed in an abandoned school in Busan instead of the real site with the production team adhering closely to the floor plan of the actual hospital (according to Wikipedia). I understand the real site is closed off to the public and CCTVs are even installed at the front gate of the entrance but this doesn't discourage the adventurous ones from going in (see videos below).   

The story opens with the formation of a group of seven people (4 males and 3 females) who dare themselves to explore the haunted site. Among the group is the leader, Ha-joon, who is the host of "Horror Times" (think YouTube channel) and his aim is to hit a million views through their live broadcast of their exploration and earning some money through advertisements. Before their exploration, there are rumours about a cursed room and the director of the asylum killed the patients before she disappeared. Whatever the motives are (to find answers or to gain viewers; or maybe both), this group of explorers enter the site with their spirits high and little do the females know the guys are planning to play a few pranks on them. But of course we can all foresee what would happen next and this is when the real horror truly begins. 

I've noticed that this found footage technique for horror films has become quite a trend after The Blair Witch Project and a few others. While I found the idea refreshing in the beginning, personally I felt the technique lacks the novelty as it goes so while it still hold a certain charm to some viewers, for me I'd still prefer the "third party viewer" more than the "first person account" method (hope my statement makes sense). That being said, I'd a good scare towards the end and that's what counts for a horror movie, right? 

Below are two videos I watched taken from the true explorers and both claimed they heard footsteps or doors slamming. Whether if there are ghosts or not, I shall leave it to you to judge them yourself. ;-)   



(click this link for the first video.)

(second video)

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