Melody
Century | August 2019 | 464 pgs
Source: Library 

The Family Upstairs was one dark and bizarre story about two dysfunctional families and how events and consequences will impact and alter the lives of those affected thereafter. 

The novel opens with our lead protagonist, Libby Jones, receiving a letter from a solicitor stating that she has inherited a property in Chelsea. Libby is an adopted child and she assumes it is the house her birth parents were living in when they died. Libby's life has been simple and mundane; she lives in a small flat and works in the sales department at a kitchen design company. It is no wonder the news detonated like a bomb to her. 

On the other end, Lucy is struggling to make ends meet. Being a single parent with two young children is tough, but she's a survivor and most importantly, there's someone she has waited for twenty five years and she's hoping that their path will cross one day despite all the circumstances. 

In another timeline narrated by another character called Henry during the 1980s, he shares his story with the reader about his family living at 16 Cheyne Walk and how the Thomsens family waltzed into their lives and turned their world upside down, eventually leading into a family tragedy. 

So what does these three different characters have in common and what do they've to do with one another? This is the mystery of this novel and one which I've to applaud the author for the wonderful execution and the suspense she has thrown in to her readers from the beginning till the end. The characters are wonderfully fleshed-out and you'll feel either disgusted or empathy towards some of them. 

The house and its atmosphere plays an important part to the story, too. And although it's definitely not haunted, it's the centre in which all things have arisen and ended there. There're some very dark issues here, but they're essential and are tied up to the story so while it wasn't easy to read them, without them there wouldn't be this story -- a story which had blown me away in all aspects! Highly recommended.


© 2019 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
Swoon Reads | August 2018 | 320 pgs
Source: Library  

In the city of Morriston, there are a few superheroes who have special powers since they were young. No one knew how they've gotten their powers; but one thing they are positive about it is, they know they can always rely on these few superheroes to save them should circumstances happen. 

Abby Hamilton's view of the superheroes aren't that complicated as compared to others. To her, they're ordinary people like her. After all, her older brother, Connor, is Red Comet and she's seen all the good and the not-so-good sides of him so you can say she's kind of immuned to them. Red Comet is quite a popular superhero in Morriston and it is no wonder many teenagers idolised him, including Abby's bestie, Sarah. 

So far things are going on well until Iron Phantom appears in their city. Abby first met him through an unforgettable and a horrifying state after he'd saved her from a mugging attempt. But Iron Phantom, in the residents' eyes, is nothing but a supervillain who caused an uproar by burning city hall and then vanished (or perhaps in hiding). Abby has her doubts though, after all Iron Phantom couldn't be that bad given how he'd saved her on that fateful day. 

Back in school, Abby is excited about having a major part in a musical. It is also at this moment when Iron Phantom starts to show up randomly in her life and makes her wonder if they're in the same school. As she gets to understand more of Iron Phantom, she begins to see him more of a vigilante after he's convinced her that Morriston is under a new threat and what he'd done before is simply a diversion and he needs her help if they want to uncover the secrets surrounding the city. 

This was a fun and entertaining story but I thought the story doesn't really match the title. Iron Phantom isn't a supervillain (even the blurb stated he's a vigilante) so perhaps it's more of a metaphor and I've to admit the title is indeed eye-catching. Aside from this, the action scenes are minimal (well, except towards the end) but there are lots of interactions among the characters, thus making this more of a character-driven kind of book. There's some teenage angst and romance element added as part of the feature; and it's not hard to guess who Iron Phantom is. The concept was interesting though I wished there was more explanations given to the superheroes' powers than a hasty mention. All in all it was enjoyable but I think it'd make a more engrossing read if there was more punch to the superheroes'/villains' world and their dynamics.


© 2019 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 Publishing Group | August 2019 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 


The title may sound like a non-fiction but this is actually an uplifting and inspiring story that explores about family, forgiveness and love. 

Cassie Hanwell is one tough woman. Being the only female firefighter with the Austin Fire Department, she works extra hard not only she loves her job but also as her life focus ever since her mother left her and her father on her sixteenth birthday. That day changed her mindset about trusting people and while she's good in dealing with emergencies, she's never good in connecting with others although she has a great comradeship with her colleagues. She's on her path towards promotion until two things turned her world upside down. First, upon seeing the city councilman who's going to present her with a valor award and he was the guy who's hurt her badly in high school. Then, her estranged mother called and said she needs her to move to Massachusetts given her eye problems.

"Choosing to love -- despite all the ways that people let you down, and disappear, and break your heart. Knowing everything we know about how hard life is and choosing to love anyway . . . That's not weakness. That's courage." ~ Pg 59

Cassie is reluctant to forgive her mother given she'd left them years ago. On top of it, she didn't want to leave her current place but her career with the Austin Fire Department is gone (she refused to apologise to the councilman after what he'd done to her on stage). Through her superior's recommendation, she ends up at Lillian Fire Department in Massachusetts; a smaller station which pale in comparison in all aspects and worst of all, the chief doesn't really think highly of women firefighters but is willing to take her in because they're short-staffed. So Cassie ends up moving into her mother's house and start her new life. 

Cassie soon finds out that she's not the only newbie but there's a rookie who's joining Lillian FD, too. Being the only female and her capabilities in doubt, Cassie works extra hard to prove herself and along the drills and other works, she discovers that Owen Callaghan (who is often called the "rookie" more than his name) is nothing like his other subordinates. For starters, he treats her as an equal and even better, acknowledge her skills. Back at home, her relationship with her mother is lukewarm but as the days go, she soon finds out the real reason behind her mother's request. 

This book evoked so much emotions in me during my reading journey. I admired Cassie's spirit and I think she'd made all women proud for undertaking a male dominated job and excelled in it. Her relationship with Owen, as well as the moments with her mother are both bittersweet to read. There may be some scenes which are cheesy or cliché, but to me how the book made me feel and reflect usually have me overlook them. I enjoyed this book a lot and would definitely check out the other books by this author.


© 2019 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
HarperCollins Publishers | July 2019 | 448 pgs
Source: Library 


(This review contains little spoilers of the first book, Kill the Queen.)


This is the second installment of Jennifer Estep's Crown of Shards series and the story picks up right where it left off in the first book. 

Three months have passed after the royal massacre at Seven Spire palace in the kingdom of Bellona. Lady Everleigh "Evie" Blair managed to overcome a conspiracy at the last minute but she couldn't save Queen Cordelia from her death. Now that Evie is the new gladiator queen of Bellona, not only she has to gain confidence from the Bellonan people that she'd be competent in her new role but also to think of Bellona's future and what she should do to prevent the Mortans from attacking them again. Why, she'd nearly died from poison from a recent secret assassination if not of her enhanced sense of smell and her immunity to magic. 

For diplomatic reason as well as to secure an alliance, she travels to the neighbouring kingdom of Andvari despite dangers are lurking everywhere. But King Heinrich of Andvari wouldn't let things off so easily for her; after all one of his sons, Prince Frederick, and a respected lord were killed in her land during the royal massacre. 

To complicate matters, it seems there are more dark magic works and conspiracies even in Andvari court and she is keen to flush out the traitor even if it means she has to sacrifice her love for Lucas Sullivan, the bastard prince of Andvari, even though she isn't sure if they even have a future together given their status. 

I've to say I enjoyed this installment more than the first one. While the first book was very much on the world-building and the characters (well, it still is in this one), this latest installment was more onto emotional struggles and of course, lots more conspiracies and not to mention some romance element, too. I'm also glad to see a stronger Evie here as she portrayed her new role as a Winter Queen while still trying to maintain her good old self. And, are you fascinated by gargoyles like I do? Well, they're both deadly and adorable creatures here, depending on the circumstances. All in all, this was a very satisfying read to me. Crush the King is the title for the next installment and I'm so looking forward to it, which will only be available in March 2020.


© 2019 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
Faber & Faber | July 2019 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 


Set in Baltimore during the 1960s, this novel centers around two mystery cases and a woman's ambition amid the various difficulties and challenges faced during that time. 

Thirty-ish Madeline "Maddie" Schwartz is supposed to be a happy housewife. Although her marriage to Milton is far from being perfect, at least their marriage is leaning towards the twentieth year. Despite this, she feels a little restless and bored with her life. She decided to leave her marriage (not divorced) and pursue her dreams working in a newspapers firm. Maddie may have no skills and experience for that matter, but she knows how to make use of opportunities and she got a job (even if it's an assistant position) after helping the police find the body of a murdered girl. 

However, Maddie does have some little insider's tip from Ferdie Platt, a black policeman and she pursues the source until the perpetrator is finally put on trial. Maddie has a secret affair with Ferdie and although she is comfortable with him, she knew they couldn't declare their relationship openly considering their race and all the consequences they've to face should words get out. 

Maddie continues to work her way up and she decided that she needs a bigger story to leave her mark on the male dominated industry. She already has her eyes set on Cleo Sherwood, a young black woman who died in a lake years ago and she intends to find out the cause and the perpetrator even though news of her disappearance and death received minimal coverage. But Maddie's drive come off too strong and often she fails to look beyond her own needs and what she unravels will do more harm and hurt to the people surrounding her, including the victim's family. 

The story begins with a bang with Cleo's thoughts after she was dead. Further reading reveals a few issues such as racial tension, gender inequality, religion and class differences which make an interesting aspects to the story but alas, my attention started to wane halfway through the book. There are too many narratives, including a few random people Maddie met during the course of her investigations and although it was interesting to hear what they thought, I felt they didn't really contribute much impact to the story and seemed more like fillers to me. Maddie was an interesting character; and her ambition and drive were admirable but for some reason I couldn't find myself connecting with her. Although this is not my favourite Laura Lippman book, I did enjoy reading the twisty ending, the historical aspect and the portrayal of Baltimore set in the '60s. 


© 2019 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
G.P. Putnam's Sons | June 2019 | 320 pgs
Source: Library


Lana Stone and her partner, Tyler, have been trying for a baby for a while but no such luck. The IVF treatments aren't successful either so the last option is to go through an agency for an egg donor. Getting an egg donor isn't easy, and Lana's wish is to find a Bulgarian so that they could share the same roots. And as much as Tyler is supporting in every sense, the stress of getting pregnant has finally taken its toll on their relationship as Lana's mind and conversations are all about the baby. Tyler decides to leave Lana at this stage despite she's in the middle of the donor egg cycle, claiming that both of them need some break. Needless to say, Lana is mortified but that feeling is quickly replaced by exhilaration as she soon learned that she is pregnant. 

Lana should've informed Tyler at that time but she didn't, thinking he must've found someone. It is also at this moment that she's interested to know more about the egg donor, though she understand the implications it'd cause if she's not careful and reveal her identity. Lana didn't expect she'd find her easily, but Katya Dimitrova seemed to have found her way to Lana as the latter recognised her face from the agency's record. Not willing to lose her, Lana decides to watch her from a distance but a circumstances bring them together and an unexpected friendship is born. 

As Lana gets to know Katya without revealing her identity, she finds that Katya is a free spirited girl who lives life at the edge. She loves attention from men and she's not shy at voicing her thoughts. Lana may not agree to her lifestyle, but she's still fascinated by this college girl who has brought out her fun self she's left a decade ago. Just when Lana gets to know her a little better, Katya disappears and it seems she might be the last person to see her before she went missing. With no clues from the police, Lana decides to do some investigations on her own but she isn't prepared for the secrets she's unearthed. 

I'd say this novel is a light domestic thriller as it focused much on the character developments more than the suspense itself. The sense of foreboding is still present, but this is more of Katya's story as the story progresses. The narrations of Lana's present and Katya's past are both intriguing to read (and Tyler's too, although his leaving Lana both annoyed and perplexed me) and ironically, the reader gets to learn more about Katya right after she disappears while Lana's presence seems more like a supporting role. There are some red herrings as well as a few men surrounding Katya become suspects, but Katya's characteristics seems to portray she may be the cause of her own fate. So who's the perpetrator here? I think not all readers will take the ending as it is, but personally I think it is well executed which explain everything. 


© 2019 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
G.P. Putnam's Sons | July 2019 | 438 pgs
Source: Purchased 

If you're into K-dramas, you should've heard of the drama "My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox", starring Lee Seung-gi and Shin Min-ah. I loved that rom-com fantasy; and it introduced me to this Korean mythology (click here if you wish to learn more about gumiho) although I'm more familiar with the Chinese version of the same creature. 

In this book, eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung arrives in Seoul with her mother for a new life. Being a gumiho forbids them to stay in the same place permanently and for years the two women have no qualm about their hunting life (preying on men on full moon so they could devour their energy in order to survive). Miyoung may have to feed to survive but she has her own rules when it comes to choosing her prey. Through the help of Nara, a young shaman, she captures criminals and the like through Nara's vision and although this doesn't make her less of a murderer, she feels she is doing a justice in some ways. 

On a particular full moon night, Ahn Jihoon brings his dog out for a walk and they end up deep in the forest. Jihoon's fear of the dark came true when he encounters a goblin. Just when he thought he'd not come out of the forest alive, a girl came to his rescue. She's none other than Miyoung. However, she'd violated the gumiho rules and lost her fox bead during the rescue. Without the fox bead in her body, her fox essence will deteriorate even though she's holding on to it. 

And as fate would have it, Miyoung is a newcomer in Jihoon's school and they're in the same class, too. Miyoung doesn't want to acknowledge him initially, but Jihoon is patient and persistent. He has no fear of this mysterious girl, despite he's heard stories about the mystical gumiho from his grandmother since young. It is no surprise their brief acquaintance became friendship, then a longing for companionship considering they're similar in a way - lack of parental love. However, as much as they're attracted to each other, it is clear that their love is doomed from the start. How could a gumiho and a human fall in love, given all their differences and not to mention a feud which already started decades ago?

There are so many things I loved about this book. The mythology, the characters (hands down, Jihoon is my favourite character among all), the plot and of course not to mention the banter between Miyoung and Jihoon. I also enjoyed the sections in between about the history of the gumiho and her journeys. There's a reason behind her coldness and ruthlessness and these information definitely add a few perspectives to this intriguing story (and I need to mention there's also a glossary list of some Korean words and their meanings at the end of the book for easy reference as the author input them into the story for a more authentic voice). Yes, I was sorry to see it end, but Lark and I had a fun time devouring and exchanging views about this book (and oh, there's a sequel coming in summer 2020! We'll definitely read this together then for our buddy read. Right, Lark? 😃). 

Finally, here's my answers to Lark's questions: 

1. What aspects of Jihoon's character did you like the best?
His persistence and his easy-going demeanour. Although sometimes his persistence may come off as a little strong, but his intentions are good (e.g. trying to befriend Miyoung despite her continuous indifferent attitude).

2. What did you think of Miyoung's mother and their complicated relationship?
Miyoung's mother was a complicated character. She's cold and she could be ruthless, but after reading some of her past stories I actually felt sorry for her. Her complicated relationship with Miyoung (or Jihoon, for that matter) arises from her past and her fear of history repeating itself. On top of these, her somewhat lack of communication with Miyoung further widen the gap between the mother-and-daughter relationship, although deep down she still cares for her a lot. 

There you have it. Now go visit Lark's blog to read her review and the Q&As.  😃

© 2019 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.