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. 


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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.
Melody

Live Up to Your Name, Dr Heo is a story between two doctors from two different time period set in the present and the Joseon period.

Heo Im (starring Kim Nam Gil) is an oriental physician well known for his acupuncture and moxibustion skills. Although his medical skills are well recognised by civilians as well as the royals, his lowly status (he is born to a concubine) often earns him much lower respect as compared to his peers despite his skills is the best among all. However, his fate is about to change when he accidentally finds himself travels through time to present Seoul.

Choi Yeon Kyung (starring Kim Ah Joong) is a cardiac surgery third year resident who only believes in modern medicine despite her grandfather is an acupuncturist. Emotionally scarred by her father's accident when she was a child, she vows to become a doctor so she could save people's lives. Her initial encounter with Heo Im was full of misunderstandings and mistrust as their personalities and ideologies in medicine clash. However as the time goes by, she begins to see him in a new light and their love blossoms. But Heo Im doesn't stay in Seoul forever; he has a help mission he hasn't accomplished in Joseon and he accidentally found out that by impaling pain to his body or a narrow escape from death he could be able to time travel to and from Joseon. And this time around he wants to remedy his past mistakes and to prove his worth even though there's a war with Japan and that he might never return to the modern day for good.


I was totally immersed in this time travel medical drama. I loved the premise and thought it was rather refreshing to see the cross between oriental and modern medicine and how each works differently yet effectively according to each patient's health condition and considering the circumstances. I may not be a huge fan of time travel genre but I thought this was quite well done, with a balance between medicine, time travel and romance. I liked the overall concept of the old versus new (referring to the time period here) and likewise the traditional medicine versus modern medicine in this package, and finally not forgetting the age-old definition of love and the compassion for humankind.


© 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 2016 | 336 pgs
Source: Library



I really enjoyed reading Ashley Weaver's debut mystery, Murder at the Brightwell, which was set in the heart of 1930s high society London. In that novel, Amory Ames has successfully solved a mystery with some assistance from her charismatic husband, Milo, who is also known to be a ladies' man. After what happened at Brightwell Hotel and the things they'd gone through together, Amory is looking forward to reconnecting with Milo but soon find herself drawn into another investigation, hence this book is it.

When Serena Barrington, an old friend of Amory's mother, invited Amory for a dinner at her house one evening, Amory knew she couldn't turn Mrs Barrington down considering her insistence and the fact that they have not crossed paths in years. It soon became clear that Mrs Barrington needs Amory's help to look into the disappearance of her valuable jewelry which have gone missing at a dinner party. With a few regular guests always being invited at Mrs Barrington's parties, she has absolutely no idea who would be the culprit unless they lay a trap to lure him or her out.

With the notorious Viscount Dunmore hosting a lavish masked ball at his house, Mrs Barrington and Amory decided that this would be a perfect opportunity to set their plan in motion. However, before they could lure the thief they are all aghast to discover that one of the party guests is murdered. Is the murder connected to the thievery? Amory intends to find that out herself, together with her old ally, Detective Inspector Jones, whom she knew since the Brightwell case. Meanwhile, she has also caught the attention of Viscount Dunmore as he tries to court her persistently while at the same time rumors about Milo and a French film star begin to swirl around the society.

With the Golden Age mystery elements and a spunky heroine as the draw to this series, I was also enchanted by the author's writing style and her storytelling as she creates intriguing characters and compelling scenarios in each of her book. While I was curious by the mystery, I was also concerned about the relationship between Amory and Milo as the latter often leave Amory with doubts of his faith and love, although to be fair he does show his care and affection towards her at the most unexpected circumstances. Like Amory, I was quite perplexed by Milo's unpredictable state of mind at times but I suspected that this mysterious side of him would come to light eventually as the series progresses. This is a delightful and an addictive series I have come to love the more I read them.

Series in order (though each works as a stand-alone):
Murder at the Brightwell #1
Death Wears a Mask #2
A Most Novel Revenge #3 (Review forthcoming)
The Essence of Malice #4 


© 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

Grove Press | October 2017 | 366 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss


This part coming-of-age, part memoir chronicles Chinese-born writer, Xiaolu Guo's journey from her homeland in Shitang (a fishing village where her grandparents reside) to the West. For those who aren't familiar with Xiaolu Guo, she is the author of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (her first novel written in English and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction) and her latest release, I Am China, which I adored (one of my top reads in 2015.) There are a few other titles which I didn't list here.

Xiaolu Guo has learned the hard life since young when she witnessed her grandparents' depression and poverty back then. She left for Beijing to study in 1993 and vowed never to return to that stifling backwater again. It is also through this determination and her curious mind to seek a life beyond the borders limits to where she is today.

Filled with many snippets of memories, nostalgia and what influenced Xiaolu Guo, this book is her personal record of the journey she has travelled and the things she has experienced which allow her readers to learn and to understand more about her.

Reading this book also gave me a glimpse of China between the 80s and 90s. (I'd only visited Guangzhou and Shenzhen and that was about ten years ago.) It was interesting to see how the Cultural Revolution shaped the Chinese, and how their economy has changed throughout the years. Although I rarely read nonfiction or memoir, I found myself enjoying this book and that I've learned so much more about Xiaolu Guo.


© 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

William Morrow | October 2017 | 432 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss


Gilly Macmillan's latest release, Odd Child Out, continues DI Jim Clemo's story from the previous novel (What She Knew) where he took a mandatory leave after a case which still leaves him shattered. Though he is back into the workforce in this book, he still see his psychologist, Dr Francesca Manelli, from time to time and is slowly getting his act together when another assignment is handed out to him. 

Noah Sadler, a white teenage boy is found floating unconscious in the Feeder Canal. The person who was last seen together with him is his best friend, Abdi Mahad and he is an immigrant son of a Somali refugee. The Mahads had left for England from their immigrant camp many years ago and they have called Bristol their home until the tragedy happened. Aside from the sensitivity of the race issue, what makes this case complicated as well is Abdi is not talking about what happened on that fateful night no matter how the police and his family prod him. Whether if he is traumatised or guilty no one knows. Abdi later disappears, and get caught up by his fascination over a photo he has seen in Noah's father's exhibition before Noah's passing. His search for some answers relating to that photo is another highlight and mystery of this story. 

Odd Child Out may be a psychological suspense but yet it is also a story about friendship, family, race and identity and amid these elements media takes the center role where Emma Chang, former family liaison officer turns journalist (and DI Clemo's ex-girlfriend), is meticulous in digging her way through for a story and lead to a further clash with her former lover. Without saying or giving away too much about this story, all I can say is this is both a suspenseful and a heartbreaking story and a look of the Somali community through the eyes of the Mahads. A truly riveting suspense driven by a cast of interesting characters and I hope to see more of DI Jim Clemo in Gilly MacMillan's future releases. 


© 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.