Amazon Publishing | April 2018 | 380 pgs
Source: Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(click this link for the first video.)

(second video)

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Simon & Schuster UK | April 2018 | 448 pgs
Source: Library

This book is possibly the most unforgettable book I read thus far - a well structured storyline, great characters development and a complicated, multi-layered plot to boot. Thrown in some secrets, deceits, frauds and two murders and you have the story of Our House

Fiona and Bram Lawson is an ordinary couple living in a suburban neighbourhood at Trinity Avenue with their two young sons. Fi and Bram have owned their home there for years and have no intention of selling. Until one day Fi comes home to find a family moving into their house and Bram couldn't be reached. Thinking it is all a mistake, Fi tries to reason with the family who has claimed ownership of their house but with transactions evidence and solicitors statements, there is no way such a drastic mistake could be made, right? And where is Bram when she needs him most?

Bram has broken Fi's trust by committing an affair. Although they are still legally married, they are actually separated and have set up a co-parenting plan they called "the bird's nest" custody arrangement. Each of them rotates to see and care for their sons, and they maintain their shares to keep the family up and running. Unlike other separated couples, they still talk amicably and no one would have noticed their "unusual" marital status from afar. Why Bram left Fi in a ditch is a mystery, and this is what the core story is all about and all the truths will be laid bare through Fi's story told in a podcast interview and Bram's through a written document (as a confession in the end). And this is all I can say about it because you have to read their account and let me say it is quite a journey; both for the Lawsons couple and for you as a reader. If you think you have read enough domestic suspense to guess everything, this might be a book to challenge what you have read of this genre because the plot is multi-layered and oh that ending just left me feeling dumbstruck. Go read this book and let me know what you think about it. 

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Avon | March 2018 | 416 pgs
Source: Purchased

Eighteen years ago, Louise Wandsworth left home and ran away to France with Mike Hughes, who was her karate teacher then. She thought Mike was her everything, and that no one else understands her more than he did but she was wrong. He left her life in pieces and Louise is never the same person again.

Now at 32, Louise thought she has moved on from that terrible past. She did find someone but deep in her heart what feelings she has for a person has died away the day Mike did those horrible things to her. And when she is back in Malvern she discovers that not only Mike is alive and kicking but he is now involved with Chloe Meadows, a teenage girl just like what she was those eighteen years ago. Determined not to let history repeating itself, she prepares herself for the confrontation and assure herself that this time round she would not allow Mike to get away scot-free.

Wendy Harrison is Mike's ex-wife and has a record of hurting Mike in the past. Living alone with a dog and a restraining order from the court, she now has her eyes fixated on Louise after going through her social media platform and "befriended" her friends. She has harboured a deep hatred towards Louise and thinks she is responsible for her wrecked marriage with Mike. She decides to seek Louise out under the guise of a potential client where she is working and take things from there.

Told from three viewpoints between Louise, Wendy and Chloe, this book portrays issues of pedophilia, obsessive love, psychological manipulation and how far one would go to protect themselves and those around them. The dark subject centering around pedophilia is mind-blowing and disturbing at times but I thought the author tackled it delicately and through her fleshed out characters it all made this story so real and scary. While one may think Louise is the star of the story, personally I felt Wendy took the centre stage right from the start. She is unpredictable and one could never guess her intentions. She question readers with her characteristics and makes one wonder if she is truly a victim or a manipulator? (No spoilers here.)

Reading this book was like riding a roller coaster, I never anticipated the turns and it kept me wondering about the twists until I found myself at the end of the ride, and by that time all I felt wasn't totally a relief but more questions on the improbable coincidences and the credibility surrounding the ending but overall I thought it was an intense read. 

Based on the quotes inside the book, many have claimed this is the best C.L. Taylor has written. I couldn't comment or compare since this is my first Taylor book but it definitely had me intrigued to check out her other books.

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Why does the time always passes so fast when one is having a good time? Hello, June! Wow, it's almost half the year already and it seems like the New Year just passed by us yesterday. Back to the topic... Yes, I'd had an enjoyable time during my blogging break and for the inquiring minds, we went to Kuala Lumpur last week. To be exact, we spent most of the days shopping, eating and of course not to leave out a day to a trip to Sunway Lagoon in Subang Jaya (one of their well-known attractions). It is a water park/theme park suitable for all ages and it was our fourth trip there already. Since we'd forgotten to bring a waterproof phone pouch for the water activities, I'm afraid we didn't take any pictures but I did find a few pics which were taken during our previous trip for your viewing pleasure. 

We also had a few great vegetarian cuisines and we couldn't help watching Rampage and Solo Star Wars at the local cinemas, too. Rampage was a little touching towards the end and both movies are OK, though, if you ask me. 

Relaxing by the pool. (No, I didn't read much. How could I when the pool was right there in front of you?)

The Children's fun place

Zip Line (or Flying Fox). No, I didn't try it. 

Malay festive decorations at a mall.

Mock chicken teriyaki bento set. 

Can you believe these sashimi are vegetarian? They taste not bad, too. We had some other vegetarian dishes alongside the trip but didn't post all. This Japanese vegetarian cuisine was a highlight to me, though. 

The Sunrise view from the Airbnb where we were staying (19th floor).

Night view.

Well that's it and I suppose it's now back to normalcy. With my girls at home for the school holidays, I'm afraid my reading progress will be slower than usual (that applies to blog hopping and commenting so I'd appreciate it if you could bear with me.) So what did I miss and what books are you reading while I was away? I'm curious to know. ;-)

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William Morrow | June 2018 | 288 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

To begin with, I wasn't sure how I felt about this book. This is my second attempt in reading Paul Tremblay's book and I've to say I enjoyed his first book (A Head Full of Ghosts) a lot. This book has a combination of a home invasion horror and an apocalyptic feel yet I couldn't classified it as the latter as no such calamity actually happened (unless you're talking about the [delusional?] human minds and their actions). 

To say anything more in details will spoil the story, but I've to mention this book has great characterisations. I loved the interactions between the father and daughter and their banters; to be exact seven-year-old Wen is Chinese and is adopted by a gay couple, Eric and Andrew. These three people are fleshed out characters and I came to care for them as the story progresses. There is something heartwarming reading about them and I could easily visualize them as real people than fictional.  

Then the craziness sets in as four characters, each armed with menacing weapons, started invading into their once peaceful life. Leonard, Redmond, Adriane and Sabrina believe they have a mission in saving humankind and they need the family of three to help them to save the world. However it involves a sacrifice and this begins our story here. 

Paranoia (or simply madness?) is one word that immediately comes to my mind after finishing the book and even after a day of gathering my thoughts my choice of word remains the same, for I've no other words to describe how I felt about this story. I think this would be a hit-or-miss to the readers due to the blurry theme (Horror? Apocalypse? Psychological thriller?) because nothing is clear cut and there are no answers. Despite these, this story was actually quite addictive as it'll arouse your curiosity and make you anxious to find out what happened to our three characters because as mentioned before, I became invested and came to care for them in spite of the batshit insanity surrounding the story (or is it those four characters? I don't know. This is probably the beauty of this story because it makes you wonder.) All in all, I can't say I liked it but I did enjoy the author's writing. 

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