Melody
Park Row Books | June 2019 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 


With so many psychological thrillers flooding the books market, it takes good writing, good execution and an intriguing plot to stand out from the rest and I'm glad to report that Dear Wife is such a case. 

Beth Murphy is on the run. She's been planning for a day to escape from home and that day has come. She has everything planned - a new identity and a place far away from Pine Bluff Arkansas, and she'd do anything just to escape from her abusive husband. 

On the other end, Jeffrey returns home from his business trip to find his wife, Sabine, missing. There's nothing amiss in the house and her car has been left behind. Sabine is a successful realtor with good working ethics so it's perplexing to everyone. Her sister, Ingrid, insists that Sabine wouldn't leave without a word although she is aware that Sabine has some marital issues with Jeffrey. Detective Marcus Durand is assigned to look into Sabine's disappearance and as he investigates, he finds that the case isn't what it appears to be. 

As the story progresses, the mystery surrounding Beth's story and Sabine's disappearance become convoluted and suspense mounts. I'll be vague by not disclosing more about this story but I've to say this is one of the best psychological suspense I read in a while as it ticked all my expectations of a good suspense thriller. But don't just take my word for it, go read it yourself and then we can discuss about it. 


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Melody
William Morrow | February 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss


I'd read Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes and was impressed by her storytelling and her writing skills. The conclusion of that book still stumped me today, and despite some mixed reactions from readers, personally I thought it was quite a good psychological thriller based on the suspense element. Dead to Her, her latest release, may not have a shocking ending which is equivalent to BHE but nevertheless still a suspenseful, riveting read with a dash of voodoo (though not as a main theme, in case you're wondering).  

Set in the glittering Savannah society where the rich and the powerful mingle, the reader is introduced to our main protagonist, Marcie Maddox, who has worked hard to be the new wife of a successful attorney after starting an illicit affair with him a few years ago. But keeping up with her new, glamorous life isn't what she's expected and it seems she has met her new match when her husband's boss, William Radford IV, brings home a sexy new wife from his trip to London. Like Marcie, Keisha comes from a lower class family and like her, they're both second wife to their husbands. Feeling jealous and threatened by Keisha's beauty and her existence, Marcie tries to befriend her with an agenda but unexpected circumstances soon lead to deceptions, conspiracies and murder as they dip further into their classy world of no return. 

This is only the tip of what's going to unravel as the journey is filled with untrustworthy characters and twisty paths which would send your mind whirling (and gasping in the end). One of the highlights is her fleshed out characters; you may not care about them but you do want to know what happened to them ultimately. The dynamic and the interactions between Marcie and Keisha are an interesting read but not all are necessarily appealing but they are crucial to how the story unfolds. Sarah Pinborough has an imaginative mind and BHE and this book are good examples of her talents. 


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Melody
HarperCollins | January 2019 | 368 pgs
Source: Purchased 

Anyone would think that Darcy Barrett is one tough woman based on her demeanour and outlook towards men and life as well as a person who values freedom. But in reality she's simply cynical about men since she has been bitten and moreover she thinks no one would measure up to her childhood crush, Tom Valeska. She has known Tom since she was eight and her family treats him like their own. As much as Darcy likes him, she also knows that he's her twin brother's best friend. And Tom, being loyal and righteous as he is, wouldn't want to cross the line and thus, Darcy's feelings for him is kept buried. Darcy goes on with her life and tries her hands on taking photography as a career but it didn't go on smoothly. By then, she has decided that bartending and learning to take life as it is is good enough until Tom appears in her life once again. 

After Darcy's grandmother passed, she left the twins her tumble-down cottage, with instructions that before selling the property they'll have to bring it back to its former glory. Darcy intends to get away from the place once the restoration begins, but once she sees who has arrived at her porch bearing power tools, she changes her mind for that person is none other than Tom. Throughout the years, Darcy thought he's off limits considering he has a girlfriend (which she didn't know they'd broken off until much later) but that doesn't change how she still feels for him. On top of it, her twin brother, Jamie, doesn't make things easy for her as their personality and opinions clash. He doesn't approve of her and Tom being more than friends either, partly due to the bromance. 

As the story progresses, we get to see more banter between Darcy and Tom but the signals they are sending to each other are mostly mixed and unclear. Darcy was a strong character and she could be blunt at times, but it was Tom's reactions which perplexed me because he couldn't seem to make up his mind if he should be with Darcy despite they have great chemistry together. But that is not all, I felt there isn't enough background covered for the characters but a brief mention here and there. Then there's the ending which I felt was pretty anti-climactic and a bit rushed but overall it still has some funny and sweet moments for the romantics. 

This book is a buddy read with Lark so do check out her review as well. (Thanks, Lark, for being such a wonderful book buddy! Here's to another great year of buddy reads!) 

Below is my answers to her book questions:

1. If you had to sum up Darcy in just three words, what three words would you choose?
Independent, opinionated and witty. 

2. And if you had to describe the romance between Tom and Darcy in just three words, what three words would you choose? 
Roller coaster romance (Both of them experienced the ups and downs before reaching the destination.)





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Melody
Penguin Publishing Group | July 2019 | 304 pgs
Source: Library 

I've read two of Shari Lapena's books so far and thought they were fast-paced and twisty and this one was no exception, although I didn't like or connect with any of the characters and most of all, I didn't know how I should feel towards the ending -- which borders between sympathy and disbelief.  

The book opens with a woman being bludgeoned to death by a hammer. Amanda Pierce was a pretty woman and the residents at the suburb Aylesford are susceptible to her charms, especially the men. When she was reported missing by her husband one day, the police didn't raise too much of an alarm considering there were occasions that Amanda went out of town with her friend until her body was found in the trunk of a submerged car. 

Detectives Webb and Moen are called to investigate Amanda's death. Initial speculation points to her husband, Robert, who appears to be a quiet and reserved man but would he kill his wife out of jealousy? Then there are the wives who aren't pleased with Amanda's flirtatious behaviour towards their husbands. To complicate matters, there's been a few cases of a teenager sneaking into people's houses and hacking their computers. Feeling guilty and out of moral consciousness, the teenager's mother sent out two anonymous letters to the homeowners with her apologies. But her act may have opened up a can of worms, for the news of the house breaking have spread within the neighbourhood and many of them fear their secrets might be at stake. How far would these people go to protect their secrets? And is Amanda's murderer hidden among them?  

First off, let me just say that Shari Lapena really knows how to write an unputdownable suspense. The chapters are relatively short and this allows a faster and easier read alongside the suspense. However, I've some issues with the characters and how ridiculous the story seems to be as it progresses and then becomes repetitive whenever there's a new suspect and so on. That said, it was still a compelling read although this won't be my favourite Lapena book. There are readers who loved it based from the reviews on Goodreads so I suppose I'm in the minority. 


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Melody
First Second | April 2013 | 176 pgs
Source: Library

I've enjoyed Lucy Knisley's Kid Gloves a while back and thought I'd try another of her older release; this time around with a food theme. 

Since young, Lucy isn't a stranger when it comes to food and their sources. After all, she's the daughter of a chef and a gourmet. She followed her mother to markets and farms and every time she visited them, she came home with more information about the various ingredients she's come across. But that's not all, this vibrant, food-themed memoir not only shows us the magic of ingredients (of course there's some recipes included - either Lucy's family dishes or her own inventions) but it also chronicles Lucy's different stage of life through the food she ate at that time and the lessons she'd learned along the way. To top it off, Lucy even dug through her family photos for reference, in which she added a few of them and captions at the end of this book.  

This graphic memoir is a relish itself and all the more you should read it if you're a foodie. Below are some illustrations which I thought would make a good introduction of this book. 


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Melody
Montlake Romance | December 2019 | 411 pgs
Source: Library 


Locked-room mysteries are quite popular among the suspense/thriller genre and no matter how many times I read them I still find them captivating. 

In this book the story was set in the secluded high-end wilderness in mountain lodge at Kluhane Bay. Eight guests, including the private floatplane pilot, are invited to the all-expenses-paid trip at Thunderbird Ridge for the "lodge experience" and to decide if they want to put in tenders for long-term contracts; among these guests' field include services like housekeeping, catering, security and a few other expertise according to their profession. One could say it's a perfect getaway with business opportunities and all but the trip didn't start out smoothly even before they fly. 

First, one of the guests is sick and couldn't take the trip and when the pilot cross checked his name on the list, she realises that his name isn't even listed. Although this seems a little off, they all proceed without giving it much thoughts, thinking it's a mess up. Then there's the bad weather which leads them for an emergency landing and with no coordinates and connections, they're cut off from civilisation but they do manage to find an abandoned lodge which offers them some refuge. 

As they try to settle down and hope that help will be on the way, the pilot has more bad news for the group. It seems someone has tempered with the plane radio and without it, they are all stranded without any way of connecting with the outside world. Fear could induce a person to do something to get out of the unexpected circumstances, but it could also make him brutal and murderous, especially when it appears each of the guest has secrets and something to hide. And when they finally realise that the trip is more of a trap than a getaway, it's a little too late as someone is trying to kill for the things they'd done in the past -- for they're all connected in one way or another. 

When homicide cop Mason Deniaud and search and rescue expert Callie Sutton are alerted to the eight missing persons case, they initially think it is simply a plane tragedy caused by bad weather until they stumbled on a few bodies which make them think otherwise. Based on their initial findings, the bodies they found have injuries that indicate they were being stabbed or mutilated. Something had happened at the isolated lodge and they intend to find out what happened as well as to search for the other missing persons. Most of all, are the remainings still alive and if the killer is among them? 

In the Dark is kind of a reminiscence to Agatha Christie's And Then There Is None; a book which remains one of my favourite locked-room mysteries. That said, this book stands on its own through its plot and the complexity relationship among the characters as they shared their ugly dark past and in return how each individual's act would play a part in their own tragedy thereafter. The suspense and the execution was quite well done in my opinion, but as it was told in multiple narrations and between the past and the present, some readers may find this a distraction but personally I found this style to be effective. I also liked the interactions between Mason and Callie; their background and the things they'd gone through in their personal life have added some depth to the story and have me hoping if there would be a series featuring them in the near future. 

Some information about the author: Loreth Anne White also writes romantic suspense alongside thrillers and mysteries. She's also the recipient of the Overall 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award, the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award, the National Readers' Choice Award, and the Romantic Crown for Best Romantic Suspense and Best Book Overall. 


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Melody
Gallery Books | May 2019 | 432 pgs
Source: Library 


Olive and Ami are identical twin sisters but aside from their looks, everything about them is very different from each other. Olive is more reserved and her luck in life equals to zero, whatwith her losing of her job recently and anything else. Ami is the opposite though; she's positive and is always lucky when it comes to winning things. Why, she didn't even have much to worry about her wedding since she'd most of them covered by winning a series of Internet contests, and that includes her honeymoon to Maui. Olive is envious but is happy for Ami and Dane, but she's definitely not pleased to pair up with Dane's older brother, Ethan, who is the best man. Olive knows him briefly on a few occasions but both didn't really leave a good impression on each other. She figured she'd get through the wedding day and get on with her pitiful life once everything is over but it seems like fate has other plans for her. 

What happens to be a wonderful wedding event turns out a nightmare as the buffet has made everyone ill, excluding Olive and Ethan since they've their own food preferences. With Ami and Dane down from food poisoning, it seems their all-expenses-paid honeymoon will go to waste unless they find someone to go in their place. With the new couple's coaxing and encouragement, Olive and Ethan set for their trip to Maui though how they're going to fake as newlyweds, they've no idea except avoiding each other at all costs if possible. But when both of them meet the people they know in the hotel where they're staying, they've no choice but to act lovey-dovey. As the days go by, Olive finds another side of Ethan which leads her into thinking that perhaps being with him isn't that bad after all. 

You know, I could imagine The Unhoneymooners being played on the big screen because it's funny, dramatic and not to mention the chemistry between Olive and Ethan are palpable and I enjoyed their banters. While some scenes may seemed cheesy and unbelievable, I found them entertaining and most of all, they made me laugh and root for them. A great romcom to indulge in if you're looking for something light and an escapism. 


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Melody
Orion | July 2019 | 368 pgs
Source: Library 


Have you ever received a chain letter before? I did during my primary school days. Someone snail mailed it to me, with the message telling me to follow the same and send it to (10?) other people or otherwise something bad would happen (something like that as I couldn't remember the specifics). I didn't do anything, afterall I didn't want to waste my school allowance on postage stamps on something which seems absurd (truth be told, I was doubtful but I didn't succumb to following it). Reading this book had brought me back to that time as I remember this saga had many of us in school feeling intrigued and fearful at the same time. Is it a curse? Should we carry on the task so we can be free of any bad vibes? So many questions yet no reassuring and affirmative answers. But now we all know that they are basically emotionally manipulative messages, some pyramid schemes or superstitions as a threat to the recipient. Well, this book is nothing like those chain letters. What this chain will ask of you is much more frightening and deadly. 

Rachel is a divorced single mother with a 13-year-old daughter, Kylie. Rachel has breast cancer a while back and she thought she has it controlled with the treatments until the doctor told her that the cancer cells might be coming back. As if the news isn't bad enough, she received a call from a stranger that Kylie has been kidnapped. However, this is no ordinary ransom case. The caller told her that their child has also been kidnapped by someone else and that the only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child within 24 hours. The chain, they explained, is simple and only when Rachel kidnaps another child should their child be released; and Rachel will have to kidnap another child to have Kylie back. But breaking the chain by calling the police, failing the task or having the next victim's parents not completing the task would have your child murdered. There seems to be no resolution but to follow the instructions because whoever is behind this chain has everything monitored and scrutinised. Could Rachel find a way to break away from the chain? 

This book was intense but it wasn't an easy read as it involves child kidnapping. However, I've to say the idea was refreshing since I don't think I've read anything like this. Rachel was an intriguing character on many levels - she's a strong and determined woman. She's definitely a survivor based from her outlook on her cancer and her treatment journey. And she works hard to make ends meet so she is definitely not a quitter. Pete, who is Rachel's brother-in-law, also played an important role in this story as he was the one who helped and supported Rachel throughout the horrendous event. Unlike Rachel, Pete is a flawed character who is an opiate addict and suffered from PTSD after his military assignments in Afghanistan. 

The story was split into two parts in which the first was mostly on the kidnapping and Rachel's task and all the challenges she's facing. The second part is more on the mastermind behind the chain and their background; and of course not to mention Rachel's plan in overturning the chain. All in all it was an intense read and it explores how a person would react or break under pressured circumstances with your loved ones at stake. 


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Melody
Raven Books | August 2019 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 


Amy Whey's life is a good one. She has a devoted husband, a spirited fifteen-year-old stepdaughter and her adorable infant son. She has a job teaching scuba diving lessons and when she's free, she'll mingle with her neighbours and help her best friend, Charlotte, run their local book club at Charlotte's house. Everything is going on well until Angelica Roux arrives uninvited into their book club one night. Roux has moved into their neighbourhood recently and of course Charlotte didn't have any reason to send her away. 

The introduction is harmless initially when everyone introduces themselves before starting their book discussion. But Roux is a charming woman and in no time she has steered away the other women's attention from their book talk, much to Charlotte's and Amy's dismay. And that is only the beginning as Roux starts to keep the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets. Charlotte by then has left the spot for something else, leaving Amy with Roux and their drunk neighbours. Amy doesn't want to play Roux's game, after all she has a secret past which she intends to keep it solely for herself. But Roux seems to know about her past, and she is relentless and warns Amy that if she doesn't give her what she asks for, she's going to make her pay for her sins, one way or another. Amy isn't proud of her teenage past. She has admitted to herself that she'd done something terrible, but it was a foolish mistake she'd made unintentionally. Now it seems she has to find ways to outwit Roux's games in order to protect herself and her family. After all, everyone has secrets, no matter how big or small it is. 

Never Have I Ever was an intriguing tale of secrets and deceptions and it explores one's acts and consequences when his peace and security is comprised. I've to say the premise is an interesting one, but I'm definitely not a fan of any characters, although ultimately I did root for Amy given her past predicament. While the plot and execution was a good one, the pace was slow and there are many interactions and "cat-and-mouse games" between Amy and Roux (which is understandable) before the intensity and excitement really begin. Overall the book was an average read to me and I think it definitely makes a great choice for a book club read and discussion (pun intended).


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Melody
Penguin Publishing Group | July 2019 | 288 pgs
Source: Library 


FBI Agent Nell Flynn returns to her childhood home in Suffolk County after receiving news that her estranged father had died in a motorbike accident. Nell has never been close to Martin Flynn since young. Her mother was brutally murdered when she was seven and despite Martin being a homicide detective, the case remains unsolved. The death of Marisol Flynn has further drove their relationship apart, and Nell doesn't want to have anything to do with her father until his death hit her. 

Now back at her childhood's home, Nell is once again awash with memories of the past. Thinking that she'd return her life back to normalcy after spreading her father's ashes and closing his estate, she is then approached by Detective Lee Davis as a consult for the investigation of two young women who were found murdered in separate occasions. Before Martin's death, Lee was working with him together on the investigations and he thought perhaps Nell might shed some light given her profession. Nell is actually on administration leave and she knew her superior might hit the roof once he finds out she's involved in any case unofficially, but Nell is intrigued so she accepted his offer. 

As Nell digs deeper, she learns that her late father had been keeping some secrets from her and the things that she has found out made her wonder if her father should be the prime suspect. Nell doesn't want to jump to conclusions without solid evidence, but she also couldn't help thinking about her mother's murder and her role in exonerating her father in that case. Is her father a murderer? What really happened to her mother and the two young women? And most of all, what are the motives? 

Girls Like Us was a compelling thriller and police procedural that consisted of a well executed plot and well developed characters. Nell was an intriguing character from the start and I found it was easy to connect with her quickly despite her outwardly tough demeanour but in fact she was an introvert and a loner. I actually enjoyed her interactions with Lee, whom I felt was the only person she could trust among all although it took a while for Nell to really open up and shared her thoughts with him, which was no surprise knowing her characteristics. The suspense was a slow-burn, but it was effective with the overall style and atmosphere as the reader follow Nell's investigations through her perspective. I'd had an idea where the route to the ending goes, but the identity of the perpetrator still threw me off. I'm hoping the author will write a series featuring Nell in the near future as she'd left an impression on me. 


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