Melody

HarperCollins Publishers | January 2017 | 400 pgs
Source: Edelweiss via Publisher



Janie Chang's latest book is a coming-of-age story with an element of spiritual fantasy set in Shanghai, China during the 1900s.

When Jialing was seven, her mother abandoned her and left her alone at the Western Residence along Dragon Springs Road. Rumoured to be a haunted courtyard, Jialing didn't encounter any ghosts but she did befriend an animal spirit, Fox, who could change into its animal form or a human form simply by her whims. Now Jialing has a very unhappy life; having born with a mixed blood (as an Eurasian) she is often cast as a 'zazhong' and faces contempt from both the Chinese and the foreigners. Through Fox's advice, she befriends Anjuin, the eldest Yang daughter, whose family who have just moved in next to her courtyard. Jialing later becomes the bond servant to Anjuin's grandmother, one who holds the highest authority within the Yangs household.

As the story progresses, we see young Jialing and Anjuin grown into young women. Their ties and their outlook of life continue to be strong despite the difficulties each of them faces. Throughout these years, Jialing never gives up of searching for her mother. With the country shaken up by political wars and treachery, many people are affected by the unstable economy but ironically it is a fire which broke the Yangs household. With their cotton mill factory burnt to the grounds, the Yangs moved to Ningpo, where they were originally from except their eldest grandson who stays to look for some business opportunity as well as Anjuin and Jialing.

Jialing's search for her mother gives her the opportunity to meet a journalist, Liu Sanmu. And when an unexpected circumstances implicate them in the death of one man who is suspected of being a supporter of an opposition party, Jialing fears the secrets which they have been hiding might catch up on them one day and she wonders what she could do without Fox's enchantments. And most importantly, is she able to stand on her own despite her mixed blood and finds true love one day?

I enjoyed Janie Chang's previous novel, Three Souls, and when I saw she has a new release I knew I have to read it. I enjoyed Dragon Springs Road as much as I did with the first book. Filled with intrigue and bits of spiritual elements, this book is no exceptional and I was glad to note both books are different as this book features the fox spirit (originated from Chinese folklore) while the first was more of one's soul and afterlife. What I liked about both books is aside from the characterisations, readers could also learn about some Chinese history and the difficult times the people face during that time period - a time of great social and political upheaval and the uncertainty surrounding the lower class' livelihood, and how women are of little status due to their gender (much worse if they are poor). Part coming-of-age, part fantasy and part mystery, I was once again captivated by Ms Zhang's imagination and her skills of bringing her characters to life. I am very curious what she would come up with next and I look forward to it.


© 2017 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

Scout Press | January 2017 | 304 pgs
Source: Library



I have never tried white water rafting but after having read The River at Night I have more or less understand much about this recreational outdoor activity and not to mention how challenging (and yes, dangerous) they can be especially for a novice, such as for our four protagonists in this book.

Winifred Allen's life has always been simple and quiet but she still feel crushed by the death of her younger brother and the end of a fifteen-year marriage. Her work as a graphic designer doesn't seem to be any better and when she began to feel stifled by this thing called life, her three best friends coax her into going for an outdoor adventure as a getaway for their annual girls' trip.

Pia is optimistic and a daredevil among the girls, while Rachel and Sandra are more realistic and level headed. Wini feels most connected with Sandra, partly because Sandra understands her and knows all the right words to say, unlike Pia or Rachel. While they are enthusiastic about the trip, Wini feels otherwise. She isn't sure about hiking and rafting in the remote Allagash wilderness. Pia assured her that an experienced guide would be with them and that they have nothing to worry about.

What seems like an exciting excursion suddenly becomes a nightmare after a freak accident leaves the women stranded in the wilderness without their raft and their surviving kits. As they stumble and wander deeper into the woods, they will soon find out that they are not alone. Saviours or not, the women know that they must get out of the wilderness before death gets to them.

The River at Night has all the elements I want in a thriller - actions, intensity, fear factors and not to mention a setting in the remote Maine wilderness. The author skilfully captures the voices of the four protagonists, although Wini remains the narrator throughout the story. But what really drew me in was the setting and that harrowing rafting journey; and then of course, that terrifying turn towards the conclusion (it was something out of my expectations, but didn't lessen the thrill nonetheless). I don't remember reading such a book with that kind of adrenaline rush and had me on edge from the beginning till the end. It is definitely a book not to be missed if you are a thriller reader who wants some adventures to go along with the thrill. 


© 2017 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

Sphere | December 2016 | 407 pgs
Source: Library




How Will I Know You? may seem like any other suspense thrillers but the topics in this book are often thought-provoking and mostly revolve around families, causes and consequences and a murder case with implications pertaining to race.

In a close-knit community of a small town where everyone seems to know everyone's life, they are shaken by the news of teenage Joy Enright's death. Believed to be drown in a frozen pond, the autopsy later revealed that she was strangled first before her body was found at the edge of the pond. Her death is a mystery to all; her parents couldn't understand who would want to harm their daughter and her best friend, Harper, is puzzled over Joy's cool demeanour towards her before her death. Joy's mother, Susanne, has a little secret involving her younger teaching assistant, an African American named Martin Willett and things began to escalate quickly after he is accused for causing Joy's death.

The story's background also tells another tale of Tom, who is a rescue diver and son-in-law of the town police chief, Doug, who is in charge of Joy's case. Doug is adamant about Martin being guilty but Tom doubts his own perceptions as well as his father-in-law's belief. As the story moves along, the truth unravels towards the end will make us question everything we thought we know about the ones we love.

While this is very much a suspense thriller, I thought it was also a story about family dynamics and of perceptions which would either make or break a person. The characters here are well defined and the mystery surrounding Joy's death was a huge draw to this story as readers are well aware from the beginning that Martin is wrongly convicted but what really happened and why? I also liked how the story was told in both 'Before' and 'After' the incident, as well as Martin's narrative throughout some parts of the book, allowing readers to get into his mind and to understand what he has gone through being a person of colour. Overall it was a great read and I would be curious to find out what the author would come up with next.


© 2017 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

HarperCollins Publishers | March 2016 | 368 pgs
Source: Library



This is a story about a dysfunctional Plumb family surrounding four adult siblings and how one accident would disrupt the normalcy of their lives and endanger their joint trust fund they called "The Nest". This lump sum was set aside by their now-deceased father; it was supposedly a conservative amount but has expectedly soared along with the stock market and each sibling would be entitled to his/her share but it wouldn't be available until Melody, the youngest sibling, turned forty. Of course their father had his own plans and principles when the time for distribution of funds is concerned; he had given a great deal of thought and believed that the trust he established would allow his children to value hard work and be financially independent before they'd received the funds too early which would in turn lead to lassitude and indolence, which he didn't want and intend to.

Each sibling has been looking forward to the day they would get the fund; after all each has his/her dreams and goals to meet and some extra money might help with their existing problems, whatever they are. Unfortunately their hopes are dashed when their eldest sibling, Leo, got into an accident and to make matters worse it involved a nineteen-year-old girl whom Leo decided to have a little fling but ended up losing her foot after the horrific accident. "The Nest" ended up in that girl's hands to keep her quiet and this causes an uproar within the siblings and creates more complexity to their already tensed relationship.

The Nest has received a variety of mixed reviews ranging from some readers' raves to a few others' rants but personally I found this to be an addictive read. The story of the Plumb family reminds us about the harsh reality of life, the foundation of a family and how trivial issues such as money could tear relationships apart. Though the story is nothing new, what made this stand out is the characterisations and the decisions they made seemed to "snowball" into something uncontrollable, which in turn made this such a compelling read (never mind some annoying characters) as each rears their ugly head. However, the direction of the story is not negative (or depressing) as one may have thought though I wished the (bittersweet) ending is... well, a bit more complete. Still, it was beautifully written and thought-provoking in many ways.


© 2017 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

HQ | December 2016 | 384 pgs
Source: Library


The cover quoted this as The Girl on the Train meets Rear Window. As I haven't read the latter I have no idea what it is about but I did read the former and it was an intense read. With this in mind I began my reading journey with some expectations and hoping that it would surprise me and turn out nothing like TGOTT (not that it is not good, just hoping for something different) and I wasn't disappointed, at least the writing style is concerned.

Set in East London with a new-build apartment and an estate marked for demolition, we see the social divide amid the neighbourhood and the opposite feelings of some of the residents living there. However, this is not about the apartments but one particular woman named Lily Gullick. A keen birdwatcher, she loves looking for them through her binoculars at her apartment until her observation begins to shift to her neighbours. And when she sees something suspicious in a neighbouring block, she decides it's best to keep the information to herself, at least temporarily. But the following day, an elderly woman is found dead in her flat. Lily has spoken to the elderly woman once the previous night and she couldn't help but to link what she saw at the next block might have something to do with the elderly woman's death. And this prompts her to do some investigation of her own until she thinks of nothing but this unsolved case; not even her husband Aiden could deter her from doing so.

As intriguing as this may sound, I found myself disappointed with the story but first I will focus on the things I liked about this book. Lily is an unreliable narrator to start with, and as old as this may sound I haven't gotten tired of unreliable narrators, yet. They are the main thing that keep the story moving and not to mention keep readers on edge. Plus, the writing style is a bit different here. Told from Lily's perspective, the chapters read like a journal yet they connect smoothly and didn't really feel like journal entries.

Onto the disappointing note, I found the story going towards another direction and lacks credibility after reading more about it. At times I found some parts confusing but I persevere, hoping there would be a turn but sadly it still didn't spark my interest. Lily was an interesting character, but I didn't really feel connected to her (maybe in the beginning but then she got on my nerves; plus the story direction may have killed it). That said, I still find there is potential with the author's writing. This book simply wasn't a good fit to me.


© 2017 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.