Melody

St. Martin's Press | October 2017 | 384 pgs
Source: Library



This story is set in the 1940s between Hickory, North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland where the people are affected by the WWII and many of their young men were sent to fight the war. With their life restraint with food and gas rations, they all try their very best to get by while hoping that the war would end quickly with victory. This is the backdrop of the story and at its heart of it is twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello and her journey as one mistake has altered her life forever. 

Tess is living with her mother in a little Italian neighbourhood in Baltimore. The DeMellos and the Russo family have known each other for years and Tess is engaged with Vincent Russo and they are planning for their wedding once Vincent has his own pediatric practice and Tess has graduated from nursing school. Both of them have been hanging on to these dreams until Vincent is sent to Chicago to help with the infantile paralysis epidemic there. A couple of weeks he has promised has turned to months, and while Tess has been understanding all this while she couldn't help feeling a little insecure given this difficult time with minimal communication. When her best friend suggested a short trip to Washington as a break, she decided to give it a go after much thought but an evening of drinks has turned her life upside down. 

Pregnant and filled with guilt, Tess decided to end her engagement with Vincent. She fled to Hickory, North Carolina without telling anyone except her best friend and her mother, hoping that the baby's father would offer her some financial assistance. To her surprise, Henry Kraft offered her marriage and she agreed, after all what does she has to lose? But living in the small, rural town in Hickory isn't easy. Many of the Hickory residents treat Tess like an outsider despite they all admire and respect Henry. The Krafts own a family furniture factory and while Tess doesn't have to worry about her life financially, she feels unhappy and trapped in the marriage with Henry treating her like a stranger. Most of all, he is secretive and often stays out all night. Tess also finds some stacks of money hidden in their bedroom by chance and begins to question herself about the man she married. Henry seems like an honorable man but is it simply an act? And most of all, what is he hiding away from her? 

The Stolen Marriage isn't a psychological suspense or a crime thriller although there is an element of mystery interwoven in the story. The author has done a great job in her research and setting up the story and issues like interracial marriage, out of wedlock pregnancy as well as the polio epidemic are some of the difficulties faced during that time period and I could imagine what it was like living in the 1940s. The characters are well developed and fleshed out and I couldn't help but feeling emotionally invested while reading about Tess's journey. The ending surprised me but it was a good closure, though. All in all it was an addictive read and I'll be sure to check out the other books by this author.  


© 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

A grim reaper and a woman who is able to foresee death; toss in with a few complicated murder cases and that is Black. Yes, these about sum up what this drama is about and I have to say I enjoyed this drama immensely.

Black (starring Song Seung-heon) is a grim reaper whose soul has taken over the dead body of a detective, Han Moo-gang. Also known as reaper 444, Black is known to be cold-hearted and ruthless in the underworld. Why his soul possessed Moo-gang's body remains a mystery but is also part of its core of the story as it slowly unfolds.

Go Ara played as the woman who could foresee death by the dark shadows surrounding the victims' bodies. Kang Ha-ram has had this ability since young and she sees this more as a curse than a blessing. After losing her father and with a mother who doesn't show her enough attention, Ha-ram lives alone and with a pair of sunglasses as her companion, her life is a simple one as long as she pretends she doesn't see all those dark shadows around her and that she minds her own business. Her peace of mind is shattered after knowing the death of her teenaged crush, Moo-gang.

What follows is Black having to get used to the mortal world and engaging Ha-ram as "his eyes" so he could locate other lost roaming souls. Ha-ram, on the other end, is happy enough to see Moo-gang is back on his feet again although he seems cold and distant towards her. As the duo work together, the crime squad has a few cases on their hands which Black later discovered are connected to Moo-gang's and Ha-ram's childhood.

What I loved about this drama is because it has all the elements I love - fantasy theme, intricate suspense plots and last but not least, romance. The story is well crafted and there are lots of twists and turns when the murder cases are concerned and what amazed me is while each of the case seems isolated (and mind-boggling at times), they are all linked nicely towards the end. And I especially enjoyed the tender moments between Black and Ha-ram; Black may be in denial over their so-called relationship but his concern and his actions speak volumes and I think it is romantic despite their exchanges stated otherwise. All in all it was a great fantasy and suspense drama alongside a great cast of characters. I was sorry to see it ended and would have given this a 5-star rating if the ending was better explained but nevertheless still a satisfying one. Recommended. 


© 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

Crooked Lane Books | September 2017 | 288 pgs
Source: Library


Liza Cole is a suspense thriller novelist and was once hailed as a promising author after one of her books became an international bestseller. Unfortunately, her subsequent books didn't sell as well as all have hoped and Liza could only think of these two things which are constantly on her mind - her wish to be pregnant and the disappearance of Nick Landau, her husband's best friend and law partner. David, her husband, seems distraught over Nick's disappearance and as much as he supports Liza undergoing a fertility treatment, his mind and attention aren't entirely focused on her and she knew that. Meanwhile, Liza is also pressurised from her editor to write a book that could land her back on the bestseller list and her deadline is approaching. With so many things on her mind, Liza begins to find escape and comfort in Beth, her latest heroine of her book. 

Beth is a new mother and she suspects her husband, Jake, is cheating on her while she is home caring for their newborn, Victoria. Jake, on the other hand, feels Beth is experiencing postpartum depression and booked her an appointment to see a psychiatrist. While Beth continues to spy and stalk on her husband's lover once she has found out he has an affair, she couldn't resist being attracted by her psychiatrist. Although she still loves Jake, she couldn't help feeling a bit triumph that she could play at this game, too. Still, she couldn't get her husband's lover off her mind and she decided that murdering her is the only way that could solve the problem. 

While Liza and Beth are two different women with different characteristics, Liza soon finds herself get caught up by Beth's story until the lines between reality and fiction blur. Meanwhile, Nick's body is finally found in a river with David labelled as a suspect. Liza knows she has lots of questions concerning the few people surrounding her, including herself, which may lead up to the truth of Nick's death and she has to find the answers quickly; just like Beth has to find a resolution to her committing a murder. 

Without revealing too much, all I can say is my emotions were going everywhere reading this mind-bending novel within a novel. It was gripping and intense, and both stories were also well executed with each story being told alternatively. Readers who worry that they might get confused would be glad to know that the fonts differ with the two stories and that Liza's story always have her name printed in the beginning of each chapter. 

As much as this is a psychological thriller, I can also say that this story is a case of characters study as well, as Liza and Beth have their flaws and they keep me wondering throughout the book. It is not hard to figure out the truth once you have your mind set on the story, though to be fair I think the author has left enough clues for her readers. This is a well constructed suspense with two parallel stories which left me thinking about it long after the book is closed. 


© 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

Holiday House Publishing | September 2017 | 400 pgs
Source: Library



Set in a near-future society (in this case in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) where mixing human DNAs with animals genes is used to be a norm, fashionable statement but is now considered as an unrecognised act and a violation against humanhood. This genetic transformation through injections of the animal's genes to the human's body is called Spliced and those who are spliced are called Chimeras. They often bear some characteristics of the animal of its genes they are affected, if not by its appearance, e.g. having a faint coat of fur on parts of their body or having a different skin tone and texture, etc. Still, they are humans overall, just that they are something different. 

Sixteen-year-old Jimi and her best friend, Del, have known each other since they were children. Jimi lives with her mother and her elder brother, Kelvin. Her father had passed due to a flu pandemic and Del lives with his father, who is a cop and he could get abusive at times. They are all aware of the chimeras; and most of them steer clear of them to avoid any trouble. At that time a law for the Genetic Heritage Act (GHA) hasn't been passed and as long as they keep their distance from each other they are safe. 

Del, on the other hand, thinks the idea of being a chimera is cool. He still misses his dead pet salamander and as the days go the thought of getting himself spliced grows. Although Jimi sympathises the chimeras and the contempt they are receiving, she still doesn't understand why Del is obsessed with the idea until one day Del goes missing and it struck her that Del's relationship with his father has worsen and she fears he may get himself spliced to spite his father, considering the latter harbours strong negative feelings towards the chimeras. Jimi's search for Del intensifies as the story progresses and she befriends a few chimeras along the way through a few mishaps which has made her think differently of them and humanhood as a whole. By then, the law for the GHA has passed and the chimeras are no longer viewed as humans. In short, they have lost all the rights of a person and are viewed as mixies, or even animals. Given this circumstances, humans have the right to discriminate or mistreat them and it fuels Jimi's determination in searching Del, with the help of her new friends. 
"...what's so great about being one hundred percent human anyway? You look at what humans do to each other, what they do to chimeras and to animals and to the planet. Chimeras are people, regardless of any law, but for some of us, 'human' just isn't a club we want to be a part of." ~ Pg 104
"I never meant to leave humanity, and I don't think I did. To me, being a chimera is about more fully joining the rest of the world, not about being any less of a human. And it's about being able to choose who and what you want to be." ~ Pg 239

Intense and emotionally driven, Spliced allows readers to imagine the future world of the genetics engineering and most importantly, the meaning of humanity. The characters are fleshed out and developed and I found myself cared for some characters the more I got to know them. The first part of the story focused much on the friendship between Jimi and Del, as well as the uncertainties and the tension between the residents and the chimeras. The second part sped up and focus more on the interactions between Jimi and her new friends, their search for Del and lastly, the risk and the challenge they have to face with the chimeras haters, who would do anything to wipe them out. 

While reading this book, it occurred to me how timely this story is with the underlying tone of bias and the subject of discrimination. I rooted for Jimi all the way; for her courage, her fierce determination in searching for Del and lastly, her compassion and her protectiveness in her new friends, the chimeras as a whole. There is a small twist I certainly didn't see at the end, but it didn't alter my overall view of the story. Although it seems to have a closure, I'm hoping there is a sequel to it. 
"Humanity isn't about DNA. It's about kindness and decency and treating others with compassion. ... It's time to stop bickering about who is a person, who qualifies as human and remember what it means to be human at all." ~ Pg 352

Note: Jon McGoran has written several thrillers for adults and this is his first book for young adults. He has also written a few books under pen name, D. H. Dublin.


© 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

Simon & Schuster | April 2017 | 336 pgs
Source: Library



I've always love reading a locked-room mystery and what's more the setting of this story is in a luxurious cruise, Queen Charlotte, which is on its maiden voyage to Southampton. 

At its core of this story is the murder of eighty-six-year-old Lady Emily Haywood and a priceless Cleopatra emerald necklace, which, according to legend, places a deadly curse on whoever brings it to sea. Before Lady Em set her foot on board the cruise, she'd already made known to whoever's concerned that she'd be wearing the necklace. Although it was bought by her late husband, it is also a known fact that the necklace was a tomb loot. Lady Em had then decided to donate it to the Smithsonian Institution after giving some thoughts about it and it seems there wouldn't be such a case considering the circumstances.

On board the luxurious cruise are several passengers who are connected to Lady Em in some ways; they're her personal assistant who's been working with her for twenty years, as well as her financial adviser whom she has known so well due to a long working relationship with his family, beginning with his grandfather. There're also some passengers who are on board either thanks to a stroke of luck (like winning a lottery or winning a church raffle) or some simply conducting some lectures engaged by the entertainment director for the cruise trip. These are people from all walks of life and although each projects a respectable demeanour, some of these passengers harbour a secret and most importantly, they've a hidden agenda and their personal evil goal to fulfill until the death of Lady Em ruined their plans. To complicate matters, there's also the ship owner who intends to keep things quiet since he has invested lots of money and efforts in publicising Queen Charlotte, which is believed to have outdone the splendour of Titanic minus the ill-fated tragedy, that is. 

Unfolding over the course of six days on board the cruise, this is an addictive mystery filled with intrigue and a cast of unlikeable characters who would make you doubt their credibility as the story unfolds. While the mystery itself is intriguing, it is actually the characters who stand out the most in its entirety and I'd had a fun time analyzing them alongside with my guesses. 


© 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

Penguin Publishing Group | March 2013 | 368 pgs
Source: Library


This is my third Simone St. James book and my love for her books continues to grow the more I read them.

London, 1924. Jillian Leigh, an Oxford student, is required to take a short leave after receiving news from a lawyer that her uncle Toby had passed and that she is to travel to a seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings since her parents are tied up with their work. The coroner had ruled Toby's death as an accident as there wasn't any evidence that there was foul play; plus Toby was a renowned ghost hunter and he travelled to places for his ghost hunting assignments. It is likely that he'd fallen to his death from a cliff while he was pursuing something in the dark and lost his footing. 

When Jillian settles in the boarding house where Toby used to stay, she begins to encounter a few unsettling incidents which convince her that an angry spirit might be the cause of those terrifying experiences. Known as Walking John to the Rothewell residents, the two-hundred-year-old ghost is believed to haunt Blood Moon Bay and no one dares to roam the woods or anywhere near the sea once darkness falls. Walking John may seem frightening but in fact his story was a sad one. John Barrow was a smuggler and had lost his beloved son to a drowning accident. Filled with grief, he shot himself after shooting one of his crew when the latter tried to move his son's body from him. This probably explains why his spirit roams and haunts Rothewell. Jillian knew Uncle Toby came to this place because of it. 

As Jillian ponders over her uncle's mysterious death, Scotland Yard inspector and former RAF pilot Drew Merriken has a few queries over the case and during the course of investigations the two of them found themselves attracted to each other. As they begin to search for answers surrounding Toby's purpose and his visit to Rothewell as well as the legendary resident ghost, they soon learn that Rothewell harbours some spine-chilling secrets which have nothing to do with the supernatural and most of all the reason Jillian is connected to the case. 

Once again I found myself engrossed in Simone St. James's wonderful storytelling and her skillful writing in this atmospheric read with a combination between the dark of the World War and the superstition of a creepy seaside village. While there isn't any war scenarios, the horror of it still lies in the minds who'd gone through the battles; like inspector Drew Merriken who rarely mention it but still evoked many emotions in him whenever the topic is brought up. The setting was well written and gave off that creepiness vibe with the tales of Walking John. What I enjoyed about this story is aside from the writing and the characterisations, the author leave her readers in suspense as one couldn't tell if Toby's death is the act of a vengeful ghost or a flesh and blood murderer until the truth hit you towards the end. I also loved it that there is romance element amid this dark, suspenseful tale but I found the attraction between Jillian and Drew happened a bit too quickly. That said, I still found myself rooting for them as they raced through their investigations. A perfect book to read especially on a stormy night. 


© 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

Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul played two young police cadets in this action comedy and I've to say aside from their cuteness overload, it's also a story of their friendship, their dreams and passion as well as to right the wrong despite their inexperience and various bureaucracy obstacles.

The story opens with the two of them admitting into Korean National Police University where they learn to be a cop and master various martial arts. However, most of the things they've learned are mostly textbook theories and in spite of their two years training, they still find themselves at a loss and just when they're having doubts about being a cop as their career, they witness a kidnapping when they're out partying one night. They manage to track down the location and the kidnappers eventually but they're faced with several obstacles - lack of evidence, inexperienced and such cases have to be dealt with the appropriate departments and bureaucracy. They decided it'd be too late by then and the only option they could come up with is to take matters into their own hands.

(L: Kang Ha-neul, R: Park Seo-joon)

I've been a fan of Park Seo-joon (Fight for My Way and Hwarang are some of his works this year) so naturally this movie captured my attention. While Kang Ha-neul is no stranger to me, I've to admit I'm not really familiar with his works since I can be selective when dramas/movies are concerned and this explains why I may have missed him while choosing a new drama to watch. That said, I was quite impressed with his acting here as a quiet, nerdy cop as I understand he is actually an easy-going guy and one who smile a lot. I totally loved the rapport and the guy bonding moments they've for each other. But of course what moved me most is their passion and their enthusiasm in pursuing justice (human trafficking and selling of young women's eggs to illegal fertility and surrogacy agency are the cases they're investigating here and I think these topics will further raise the awareness considering the seriousness and a problem the world still face today.) Overall I enjoyed the movie and I'll definitely keep an eye on Kang Ha-neul's future works. 


© 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

While You Were Sleeping is a story about dreams, connections, justice and not to mention, love.

At its core of this drama is our protagonists, Nam Hong-Joo (starring Bae Suzy) and Jung Jae-Chan (starring Lee Jong-Suk) who both have the ability of dreaming what might happen in future, usually circumstances involving them. Both share the same fate of losing their fathers when young over a same unfortunate incident, but each doesn't know the existence of each other until the funerals, which both deceased families held their respective wake within the same building. Jae-Chan mistaken Hong-Joo's gender due to her boyish look and her dressing style, for she always wore a baseball jacket and a cap and had her hair cropped really short. They shared their misery, and most importantly Jae-Chan had comforted her in some ways which no one else could.


As an adult, Hong-Joo is haunted by seeing the future deaths of others in her dreams; one including her mother. Jae-Chan, on the other hand, is a rookie prosecutor and together with his younger brother they move house and become Hong-Joo's new neighbour. At this stage, they're unaware of each other and their minds didn't connect with each other's identity given the years passed and that they're both grown up. Their acquaintance only begins when Jae-Chan has dreamt of an accident which allowed him to prevent Hong-Joo's dream from becoming true. What they didn't know is that this course of direction might change or have an impact of other course of events and along the way they'll befriend a police officer, Han Woo-Tak (starring Jung Hae-In) who has the same ability as them.

(Han Woo-Tak, starring Jung Hae-In)

I enjoyed this drama immensely due to a few factors - actor Lee Jong-Suk (so far I've loved most of his works), the fantastical concept of dreams and the inter-connections among the three characters, intense lawsuit cases and last but not least, the romance between Jae-Chan and Hong-Joo (I loved it that fate and their shared abilities have brought them together). I also have to highlight actor Jung Hae-In for his fresh look and the ability to turn heads in his smart police attire. In the story he has a crush on Hong-Joo and while some viewers would expect a love triangle relationship, I've to say there wasn't any because the relationship between Jae-Chan and Hong-Joo are already set in stone (think of how they met and what pulled them together) and plus, Woo-Tak is too sweet and a gentleman to do something outrageous and unthinkable (I've to admit his adoration towards Hong-Joo melted my heart). There are a few other heartwarming and emotional scenes as well but I'm not going to delve into them. Better still, watch it and you and I can talk about 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

Random House Publishing Group | July 2017 | 368 pgs
Source: Library



At first glance, Watch Me Disappear may seem like a psychological suspense but at its core it is actually a story revolving family dynamic and how well you really know your loved ones.

Billie Flanagan had gone missing from a hiking expedition in the Desolation Wilderness a year ago and till present her body couldn't be found. Her husband, Jonathan and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Olive are still coping with the grief of losing her while awaiting for the court issuance of her death certificate, which has proved to be a long struggling wait considering that there is no solid proof and that her death remains a mystery. While Jonathan tries to cope with the loss and hoping for a closure that would allow them to move on with their life through the insurance settlement, Olive, on the other hand, starts having visions of her mother. Each of these visions seems to tell Olive that Billie might be alive and that Olive should try to find her. 

Meanwhile, Jonathan isn't so sure about Olive's visions and thinks his daughter is hallucinating with her grief and denial. Worrying over her emotional stability, he sent Olive to visit a therapist while he himself drinks as he works on a memoir about his marriage, which is part work as a writer to a publishing house and part in loving memory of Billie. And as he finds her laptop and stumbles upon an encrypted folder, his mind wanders in different directions the more he starts unearthing secrets from her past through his little diggings and investigations. Who was the woman he knew as Billie Flanagan? What happened to her on that fateful day when she went hiking alone in Desolation Wilderness? 

I've to admit it took me a little while to get engrossed in this story. It had a slow beginning and focus much on the mundane life and relationship within the Flanagan household. The reader also get to know a bit more of Olive, her relationship with her mother as well as bits of her school life. Olive is an angsty teenage girl who will go anywhere to find the truth about her mother's disappearance. Jonathan believes in his family but he hadn't been paying much attention towards Billie and Olive; he was too involved in his work and he didn't want to intrude upon their "girl bonding" moments until there was a time Olive slowly drifted away from that bond. 

As mentioned before, if you're expecting this to be a psychological suspense then you'll be disappointed because this is leaning more towards the issues of family dynamic, marriage and relationship and what you tell yourself about the people you love. That said, the story has a few twists and turns and like Jonathan and Olive, I was totally clueless and dying of curiosity over Billie's disappearance until the final page, which left me speechless as my mind finally settled on the last three paragraphs. This is a well written story which will prompt a discussion (because I sure want to discuss that ending with whoever had read the book!)



End note: I googled Desolation Wilderness out of curiosity and was surprised to learn that it isn't fictional (OK, perhaps it's only me who didn't know this fact) and is located in El Dorado County, California. (More info here from Wikipedia)



© 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

Penguin Publishing Group | April 2014 | 384 pgs
Source: Library



After reading Simone St. James's The Broken Girls (my review will be posted nearer to its publication date, which is March 2018), I was totally wowed by her writing style and her storytelling and thus begins my search for her older books. This book is one of them.  

Set in England 1919, our protagonist Katharine "Kitty" Weekes flees her home to escape from her abusive father. With no money and no education, she lied her way into getting a job as a nurse at Portis House. A remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War, Kitty decided that this would be an ideal place for her hiding as well as getting paid. Her eldest brother had gone to war and there isn't any news of him so she is well on her own. 

Portis House was once a magnificent private estate owned by a Swiss family. There wasn't any news of the Gersbachs when the estate was took over by a Mr. Deighton who later refurbished it into a hospital. Portis House seems to be understaffed with nurses and orderlies and Kitty is accepted partly due to that reason and that the Matron who is in charge was away when her application came in. Kitty is initially glad to have found a place to settle in, but soon that relief has turned to nightmares as not only she has to face the challenging work of attending to the patients but also the Matron who seems to dislike her and give her the worst duties such as cleaning the men's lavatories and doing night shifts with little rest in between. But the worst is, Kitty feels something in Portis House. Aside from the eerie noises from the old plumbing and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms, she also hears footsteps at times but whenever she turns her head to look there isn't anyone. 

As the days go on, Kitty notices that the patients all seem to share the same nightmare yet no one dares to speak of it. What most intriguing is Patient Sixteen who is kept in a room by himself and only nurses who have clearance by the Matron could attend to him. Kitty will soon learned that he is once a war hero and that they will later form an alliance to uncover the truth about Portis House and what really happened to the Gersbachs. 

Silence for the Dead was a good read but not as good as The Broken Girls (TBG). Don't get me wrong, this book has good writing and an engaging storyline which has the Great War as the backdrop (not precise but still part of the scenario) but I think if I'd read this book before TBG, my opinion would've differ (I suppose that shows how much I enjoyed TBG). That said, this book has great characterisations and I enjoyed reading the interactions between Kitty and a vivid cast of supporting characters (I really felt for the soldiers. One would think they must be mentally ill to be admitted to Portis House but as you read more about them, you'll come to know that there is more than meets the eye.) It even has a slight romance element which lighten a bit of the dark atmospheric mood. A must-read for readers who love some supernatural theme in a mystery and do look out for The Broken Girls in March 2018. 



© 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

Little, Brown and Company | March 2017 | 368 pgs
Source: Library


It all started on one particularly wine-soaked dinner party. Lucy and Owen invited a couple over to their house for some chitchat and mingling and their conversation has somehow steered towards relationship and open marriage. Lucy, the ever practical and sensible woman she is, balked over the idea for she couldn't imagine a normal couple would agree with that kind of suggestion. Lucy and Owen have been living in Beekman for a while where it is a town filled with stay-at-home moms who would team up to cook the school lunches and the dads would make things like pickles and cheese and ground their own spices for dinner parties. They're simple just like that. 

Lucy and Owen have traded their cramped Manhattan apartment to Beekman partly for the laid-back atmosphere but also for the sake of their autistic son, Wyatt. Lucy and Owen may not be a perfect couple but they do try their best to make their life happy and stress-free, which is challenging due to Wyatt who requires attention most of the times. As much as Lucy is dumbstruck over the open marriage issue, there is a small part of her which is intrigued by it. After their friends left their dinner party, Lucy and Owen casually discuss about the matter once again and ultimately they've come to an agreement of trying it out for six months. They named this short marital experience as 'The Arrangement' with some ground rules; which is no snooping, no leaving and no falling in love. They think a break from monogamy now could give them a moment to refresh their marriage life and come back as a happier and a more loving partner. But what follows is a series of events which they've never anticipated, and towards the end they'll have to ask themselves if 'The Arrangement' benefits their relationship or is it simply "the grass is always greener on the other side"? 

At times entertaining and at times thought-provoking, The Arrangement was an addictive read about a couple's bizarre experience to revitalise their marriage and ended up learning a few lessons along the way. As much as I found the open marriage issue appalling, I think there are some parts like middle-aged and dealing with challenging children is both relatable and spot-on. While I don't agree with 'The Arrangement' plan, I held on to the story because it was entertaining (I've never read anything like this before), hilarious (the dialogues and some events could be funny at times) and most of all, I wanted to know what happened to Lucy and Owen and hoped that they'd walk out from that experience to be wiser and more understanding towards their other half. Aside from Lucy and Owen, there are also a few characters that made this story interesting with their own stories and yes, they're somewhat connected to Lucy and Owen in some ways. Overall it was an entertaining read though I can't fathom why Lucy and Owen would think 'The Arrangement' is a good idea initially. 


© 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
Picador | July 2017 | 368 pgs
Source: Library


High school student Lucinda Haynes is found murdered in the suburb Colorado on a wintry morning. Her death shakes the community in Jefferson High and while some guessed she was sexually assaulted, no one really knew the truth of her death; not even the police. 

Surrounding Lucinda's mysterious death is our three protagonists with their narratives written alternatively. Cameron Whitley, a boy who is both fascinated and obsessed with her to the point that he would watch her secretly. Jade Dixon-Burns, a girl who hated her openly and practised witchcraft (more like basic voodoo) hoping that she would be gone from her life and never expecting that what she'd wished had turned up something sinister. And then, there is Russ Fletcher, a cop assigned to look into Lucinda's death. He knew Cameron's father back when the latter was a cop but an incident had sent him leaving home. Russ also finds himself having problems with his wife and his brother-in-law. 

Although this is classified as a suspense, it is more like a case of characters study with murder as the backdrop. While the mystery element is still there, this story is navigating towards more of the inner thoughts and struggles of the three narratives who are more or less related to Lucinda. Each of these characters is flawed and appear as somewhat unreliable. Truth be told, it took me a while to get into the story. The slow setting, the characterisations and not to mention there wasn't much intensity and police insights relating to Lucinda's death. However, the author's writing is beautiful and lyrical and I think it is fitting to the story, which I came to realise later that this is more on the reflections of the three characters before and especially after the tragedy surrounding Lucinda's death. A different read from your typical psychological thriller and if you don't mind the slower pace and more on characters study then this is the book for you.


© 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

Bitter Lemon Press | August 2016 | 224 pgs
Source: Library
Translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai



Tsuneo Asai is a section chief at the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. Middle aged and a workaholic, Asai's second marriage to Eiko is considered bland and harmonious when their relationship is concerned. As much as Asai adores Eiko, he doesn't really give much thought when Eiko's life is concerned. Given that Eiko is a homemaker, he allows her much freedom in pursuing her interests whenever he's away at work, and it doesn't bother him as long as Eiko is at home when he's back from work. Eiko's interests always waver and it took a few different attempts before she finally decided on taking Haiku class. Because Eiko had suffered a mild heart attack a few years ago, she is especially careful not to exert herself physically and always keep her emotional state in check. As a result, her marriage with Asai is nothing more than a companionship. Asai has gradually adapted to their sexless marriage and didn't think much about it until the day Eiko passed. It appears that she has suffered a heart attack while climbing up a steep road. The place she visited is quite a distance from their home and Asai has no idea what she was doing at a strange place, let alone risking her health climbing up that steep road. And this deep sense of curiosity has prompt Asai to dig into his late wife's mysterious death, and by doing so he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into an obsession until there is no return.

Part mystery and part satire, A Quiet Place was an addictive read about a man's curiosity and obsession that drove him to committing something which is irrevocable. While I found the plot to be simple and common, what captivated me was the prose, that subtle sense of foreboding and last but not least a deeper understanding of the culture of Japanese bureaucracy and how they usually work through interpersonal relationships as well as their work hierarchy. A great exploration of a person's mentality under duress and not to mention an intrigue mystery which had me hooked from the beginning till the end. Recommended. 


© 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

Random House | August 2017 | 384 pgs
Source: Purchased



Before Wonder Woman, there's Princess Diana of Themyscira and with this first book of DC Icon Series, author Leigh Bardugo tells a coming-of-age story of teenage Princess Diana and the challenges she has to undertake before she becomes a true Amazon; a warrior who not only has the same immortal bloodline like her sisters but also one who is "battle-tested". 

Diana has always felt protected surrounded by her mother and the other Amazons. With the talks that she is the Daughter of Earth who was created from clay, Diana often feels small and unimportant as compared to her other sisters who have fought in battles and have earned their glory as the true Amazons. Her self-pitying takes a turn when she stumbles upon Alia Keralis, a mortal girl who is barely surviving after an explosion on the ship she's travelling. Now Themyscira has its rules when it comes to outsiders and whoever violates the rule of helping or hiding an outsider would be exiled as punishment. Diana wants to prove herself and on top of it, she knew she couldn't just leave the mortal girl behind. 

Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl. A descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, she is a born Warbringer and is fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Her escape from death has not only given her a new friend in Diana but also a mission to save mankind if she and Diana could make it to Greece to search for a spring at Therapne, which is at the site where Helen's tomb is. Once Alia bathes in the spring before the sun sets on the first of Hekatombaion, then the world might not suffer an age of bloodshed and the cycle of Warbringers will be broken.  

And this is where the story becomes interesting as the reader follows the girls' journey en route from modern-day New York City (where Alia's home is) to Therapne. Supporting cast is Alia's two friends, Nim and Theo, as well as Alia's overprotective older brother, Jason and as the group follows the girls' journey they will face with a threat and danger more than the quest itself. Now Diana and Alia must stand side by side for the battles which are to unleash upon them no matter whatever the cost is. 

Wonder Woman has always been my favourite heroine since I was a teenager, hands down. I remember watching episode after episode of the Wonder Woman TV series starring Lynda Carter and I was so in awe by her acting; and most of all the superhero acts and the feminism theory behind the Wonder Woman image. We're all more or less familiar with the history of Wonder Woman but not so with her younger version, thus when author Leigh Bardugo comes up with her own story of Princess Diana as a teenager, I knew I've to read it and I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. The world building and characterisations are well written and focus much more on the relationship between Diana and Alia and their "sisters in battle" pact. The supporting characters were also a joy to read, and I enjoyed reading their banter which I'm sure many teenage readers are able to relate. As much as I wanted to say more about the story and the characterisations, this is one of those books which is best read yourself (and here I am, itching to discuss it with anyone who's finished reading the book.) Finally, I want to thank Lark, my buddy reading partner, for this wonderful bookish journey. As usual, it's been a lot of fun reading with her (click here for her review.) 

Finally, our usual Q&As section and here are some questions from Lark to me: 

1. What did you think of Bardugo's portrayal of Diana? And did it fit with your idea of Wonder Woman? 
I think the author has done a wonderful job portraying our young heroine. As I mentioned, we're all aware of the grown up Diana, who's become the legendary Wonder Woman and since there's so little mention or story of her childhood/teenage years, I think it's great that we get to take a new look of young Diana through Ms. Bardugo's storytelling. Our young Diana here definitely fits my idea of Wonder Woman; she's brave, selfless and not to mention she kick butt. Yes, she is. 

2. Was there any part of the story that bugged you or that you didn't like? And what about the story did you like best?
Hmm... just the part that took me my surprise, not that it was a bad thing but definitely didn't see it coming. I wished I could say more but it'd be a spoiler. (I'd mentioned this in our little discussion, Lark. 😀) As for the best part, I think it'd be the battle where Diana and her friends got together to beat the bad villains. I liked it that Diana still persevere that fighting spirit till the end despite what it would cost her. That part really moved me a lot. 


© 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

Doubleday | June 2017 | 288 pgs
Source: Library



A visit to the zoo one day has become a nightmare for Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, when two teenage boys go on a shooting spree. A regular visitor to the zoo, Joan is familiar with every nook and cranny of the place but it still pose a challenge hiding with her son, Lincoln. Like any child of his age, Lincoln is a curious and an imaginative boy who likes to question things and creates stories with his toys. Under the circumstances, Joan has to think of ways to distract her son as well as to plan ahead to escape from the zoo in one piece. 

Fierce Kingdom is one taut read that will keep the reader (especially a parent) on edge. The first half of the book is a slow burn though and focus much on the bond and conversations between Joan and Lincoln. Despite the action-less scenes in this part, it still made a captivating read as it shows a strong maternal side of Joan and I'm sure many parents would be able to relate to her love as well as her frustrations in raising a young child. Her husband, Paul, doesn't take much of an appearance in the book since he isn't with them at the zoo, though he does communicate with Joan via phone texts and question about their safety. Although there are some perspectives from the shooters and two civilians who are also on the run, it was a pity that there wasn't much characters development and the motives of the shooters remain vague. 

Fierce Kingdom may be classified as a thriller but in my opinion the focus was more onto the maternal bond between mother and child and what she would do to protect her child under dire circumstances. The book has a promising premise but the execution part was a little disappointing. I'd expected to have more intense moments and more actions between the shooters and the victims who are trapped in the zoo but this wasn't the case; and even if there are they were minimal. I think what bothered me most was some decisions made by Joan; I can understand that a person may not make the best decision under stressful circumstances but what she did was totally beyond me (I won't mention the issues [least the ending] since I think it isn't fair to readers who want to find them out themselves). Overall it was an average read to me but I wished there was something more aside from the bond between Joan and Lincoln, which I think was beautifully described.


© 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

Disney-Hyperion | June 2016 | 400 pgs
Source: Library


There are two sides of seventeen-year-old Arista. By day she is Lady A - a notorious blackmailer in the London city who sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events to collect and sell secrets whoever who pays the most for the information he wants. Behind her mask and lovely gowns, Arista is merely a slave to her abusive master, Bones, who had trained her to be a thief since she was five. Her partner-in-crime, Nic, is also another slave who works as her bodyguard whenever Lady A goes to her "businesses". 

Arista is then approached by Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who operates like Bones after the latter attempts to dispose her for good. Wild is well aware of Lady A's capabilities but Arista is not sure if she wants to escape from a hellhole to another hellhole despite Wild promises of split profits and freedom until he saved her from a fire in Bones' property. It seems Arista has no choice but to partner with Wild until her encounter with Grae Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant whom she has met once during her servitude to Bones. 

Grae and Arista are attracted to each other, but the former has no idea of her identity and while Arista feels sorry about her lies to Grae, it is nothing as compared to the scheme which Wild has wanted her to deal later - to infiltrate into the Sinclair's household under the disguise of a young widow in wait for Wild's instructions as the merchant has owed Wild a favour. Little does she know that the transaction she is going to deal would crush not only the Sinclairs but her future with Grae. 

Tangled Webs has an interesting premise set in 1725, London. Here we have a feisty heroine under disguise and her role as a notorious blackmailer sounds very intriguing isn't it? Alas, I've to say my excitement ends there as I felt the characters are one dimensional and underdeveloped. I liked the characters, in particularly Arista and Grae but they aren't fleshed out and I didn't feel any connection with any of them although I sympathised with Arista as well as a few others who are under Bones' grasp. The attraction between Arista and Grae seemed more like insta-love to me and while I've nothing against it, it just feels unreal to me (maybe in fiction but not in reality, I suppose). Truth be told, I think this story has potential but it fell short when characters development and story dynamic are concerned. I liked the story but it wasn't enough to wow 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.
Melody

Penguin Publishing Group | January 2017 | 400 pgs
Source: Library



Lisa Gardner's Find Her has left a deep impression on me. Fast-paced and charged with intensity, it was also one of the most complex psychological thrillers I read in 2016. Her latest release, Right Behind You (FBI Profiler Series, #7 [which works well as a stand-alone in my opinion]) was much more intense and complex as it was multi-layered with lots of twists and turns; and heartrending moments as it involved domestic abuse and childhood trauma.

Eight years ago, Telly May Nash who was only ten, bashed his drunken father to death with a baseball bat when he threatened to kill him and his younger sister with a knife after he had stabbed their mother. Although acted out of self defense, Telly already showed signs of RAD (Reactive attachment disorder) and disproportionate display of rage growing up with two alcoholic and drugs addicted parents. The counselor finally decided that the siblings are best to go to separate foster homes, thus the bond and contact between the siblings are lost until now - a double murder at a local gas station and the police has pointed it as Telly being the shooter after his identity was caught in the security camera. It also appeared that he had murdered his foster parents before gunning another two at the gas station upon further searching by the police.

Sharlah May Nash, now thirteen years old, is adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner. Rainie used to be a law enforcer too and Sharlah loves this about her new parents because they are all experts on monsters. When Sharlah knew that her older brother is on the run after his killing spree, she struggles to recollect the memories when they were children and what he had done with that baseball bat to their father. She knew Telly is her saviour, her protector, considering that he had taken up the adult role of taking care of her when their parents were too drunk in their own stupidity. But does she really know Telly after all these years? Has he become a serial killer?

Right Behind You will be one of the most unforgettable reads for me this year. For starters, it features a pair of profilers couple instead of the detectives we've so often read and although both are law enforcers, they're more into criminology as they've to study and analyse the criminals' behaviours and their mindsets. Fugitive trackers are another profession we so rarely read in books and I was glad they're an essential part of the investigation case here. And most of all, it is a story about Telly and Sharlah and how my heart ached for them so badly reading about their sad experiences and the childhood they've been through. This book has three segment consist of Telly's and Sharlah's narrations as well as chapters told in third person. I liked the writing format as I could get into the siblings' minds, so to speak, yet I also get to analyse from an outsider's view through the third person POV.

Another feature I liked is how the story is about family and trust despite it was dark and complex. And what's an investigation without some little help from our canine friends and I've to say Luka (formerly a police dog and now beloved pet to Sharlah) was the sunshine which brought some warmth to my heart reading about those dark moments. Highly recommended.


© 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

St. Martin's Press | September 2017 | 336 pgs
Source: Library



I couldn't resist reading this third installment of Amory Ames mystery series after reading Death Wears a Mask. This novel mostly set at a manor at a quiet English countryside, Lyonsgate. 

Amory's husband, Milo, has intended to winter quietly in Italy. However, a letter from Amory's cousin has dashed their hope of visiting Italy. Laurel didn't state the reason for her urgent invitation to Lyonsgate but something in her tone intrigued Amory. Aside from Laurel and the Ames couple, there are also a few other guests who are invited as well. The manor they are staying belongs to Laurel's friend, Reginald Lyons and seven years ago, one of his guests was found dead by the frozen lake at Lyonsgate. However, this time around it isn't Reggie's idea with the invitation but the notorious socialite, Isobel Van Allen. Isobel left for Africa years ago after she published a book which shocked the British society. It was a thinly fictionalised account of what happened at Lyonsgate and the discovery of Edwin Green's death. Unlike the speculations, Edwin was murdered instead of suicide in the book and Isobel has decided to return to England to write a sequel to her scandalous first book. Whether or not if the same guests from seven years ago (with the exception of the Ames couple) have a secret to hide or they are intrigued by Isobel's comment about revealing what had happened in her upcoming book, they return to Lyonsgate with their minds full of questions.  

Alas, before Isobel could account anything more of that fateful night, she is found dead in her own room one early morning. Her manuscripts couldn't be found and it is clear that most guests aren't really sympathetic with her death, after all she isn't a likeable person and many feel she has brought her death upon herself. Beforehand Amory has already sensed the tension among the group and she is sure Isobel's death is more than meets the eye. If what Isobel claimed is true, then whoever murdered Edwin has struck again to silence Isobel. 

Once again, I found myself immersed in Amory's investigation in this third installment. Ashley Weaver always write the most interesting characters, even if some of them come off as mysterious or unlikeable. The plot was a good one, though I wished there was more developments of a few characters. I'm glad to see that the relationship between Amory and Milo has improved a lot since the second book, not that this is a spoiler since regular readers of this series will know that Milo still adores his wife in spite of his reputation as a ladies man. He is simply a natural charmer and has no devious intention against Amory; at least this is the impression I have of him and I hope it remains that way. Recommended for readers who love mystery novels with reminiscent of Agatha Christie's or Nick and Nora Charles. 


© 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.