Here's the list of books I read in 2020 (excluding manga). Surprisingly I didn't read as many books as I'd thought given what happened this year. Nevertheless, it was still considered a good reading year judging by the writing quality and my overall reading experience. I'll also be posting my top ten reads in a few days' time and truth be told, I'm still in the midst of compiling the list (not always an easy decision to decide which books to make it on the list but at least I'm having fun!)
(Credit: Clipart Library)

Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger 

Exit by Belinda Bauer
Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle
Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle
The Best of Friends by Lucinda Berry

来自何方 (上) by 晨羽
来自何方 (下) by 晨羽
The Open House by Sam Carrington 
Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien
Egg Drop Dead by Vivien Chien
The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben 
Flowers for the Dead by Barbara Copperthwaite

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea

House of Correction by Nicci French 
The Guest List by Lucy Foley

The Sea of Lost Girls by Carol Goodman
The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths
This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin 
Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

IQ by Joe Ide
Righteous by Joe Ide

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson 
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell 

Heart's Blood by Alice Von Kannon
The Deep by Alma Katsu
Relish by Lucy Knisley

Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Housewarming by S. E. Lynes
瘦长人 by 笭菁 (Urban legend series)
八尺大人 by 笭菁 (Urban legend series)
禁后 by 笭菁 (Urban legend series) 
与你相爱的抉择 by 琉影

The Choice by Gillian McAllister
The Chain by Adrian McKinty
Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik
Chaos Reigning by Jessie Mihalik

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Little Bones by N V Peacock
Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

My Darling by Amanda Robson
I Can't Sleep by J.E. Rowney
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager 
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Never Turn Back by Christopher Swann
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

最坏的幸福 by 屠火火
The Betrayal by Terry Lynn Thomas 
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay

Final Cut by S.J. Watson
In the Dark by Loreth Anne White
The Dark Bones by Loreth Anne White
The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White 
The Man I Married by Elena Wilkes

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Dutton | 30 June 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

"Every house has a story to tell and a secret to share.

I'm a huge fan of Riley Sager's books and I've to say each of his book has a different feel and vibes and you would never know what you'll be anticipating until you crack open that book and immerse yourself in the story. This book is no exception. I've thought that Final Girls is my favourite Sager book but it looks like this book has taken over that slot. 

The book opens with our protagonist, Maggie Holt, returning to Baneberry Hall after she's inherited the rambling Victorian estate after her father passed. As an interior designer, Maggie is set to restore the house but what really drives her to it is the history and finding out what happened that had had she and her parents fleeing in the dead of night twenty-five years ago. Maggie knew she could always refer to her late father's phenomenal book, House of Horrors, in which he'd recounted his tale of ghostly experiences living in Baneberry Hall but she also knew half of them was either lies or she'd no recollections of the events that had happened considering she was only five.

As Maggie returns to Baneberry Hall to begin the restoration, she is intrigued to find the old estate is filled with relics and old antiques of the past but what chills her to the bone is learning of the murder committed by the estate's predecessor, Curtis Carver. But that is not all, Maggie also begins to experience the strange occurrences as mentioned in House of Horrors and like her, the reader will start questioning if she's reliving her childhood fears or if there's indeed some dark secrets lingering behind. 

Reading this book was a delightful treat not only it's Riley Sager's but it's a combination of a ghost story and mystery. But what most appealing is the reader get to read House of Horrors alongside the story so you get two POVs and a double dose of intensity and suspense. And then there's the atmospheric Baneberry Hall and its history, the predecessors who stayed there (especially the first owner, William Garson, who built the estate in 1875, and the mystery surrounding his daughter, Indigo) and why no one seemed to stay long. This story plays with your mind and lead you into wondering if paranormal activities are at work in Baneberry Hall, or are they simply unreliable narratives? Or perhaps, both? I don't wish to indulge more so now it's your turn to find out. 

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St. Martin's Publishing Group | 25 February 2020 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

In this 5th installment of Vivien Chien's Noodle Shop Mystery series, Lana Lee's first-ever catering event becomes a nightmare after a domestic worker is found dead at the party hostess's apartment. Before this tragedy happened, someone witnessed Donna Feng, the hostess, yelled at the domestic worker for failing to supervise her children so naturally she becomes a prime suspect. But Lana Lee is sceptical especially after Donna entrusted something to her before the police arrives - a thumb drive shaped like a terra-cotta soldier. Is Donna keeping some deadly secrets? Surely there's something more than meets the eye and Lana is keen to find out the truth. 

It's always a pleasure to read the developments of the characters as the series go and I'm glad to see Lana's sleuthing skills is getting better although she tends to be impulsive at times. While her detective boyfriend, Adam Trudeau, is not mainly in-charge of this case this time around, it is good to see Adam is still supportive of Lana's little investigations every time when there's a case. It is also always interesting to read about Lana's interactions and the dynamic with her mother and elder sister. One might think that they aren't really going along well but I think it's their own way of expressing themselves or in other words, firm in speech but soft in heart. 

I rarely read cozy mysteries but this is one which I follow as I enjoyed the characterisations and of course the food related elements is another draw to me. I'd recommend this series if you're looking for a fun and light read. 

Book Series In Order:

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G.P. Putnam's Sons | 18 August 2020 | 416 pgs
Source: Purchased 

(This review contains some spoilers of the first book, Wicked Fox.)

In Kat Cho's previous novel, Wicked Fox, she introduced us the mythology of gumihos and their mystical world set in modern Seoul. This is the companion/sequel of WF and it continues the story of Miyoung and Jihoon but features a new set of characters and mythological creature (Dokkaebi) and a few supernatural entities. 

As this book begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are deeply affected by the death of their mother and grandmother respectively. The loss of their loved ones and what they'd experienced have seemed to take its toll on them, leaving them in despair and unmotivated. Miyoung suffers the most considering her fox bead is no longer with her and this leads her to becoming weaker as the day goes. 

Lee Somin and Junu are the protagonists of this book but they're also friends of Miyoung and Jihoon. Junu appeared in WF before but his scenes are minimal. He's a dokkaebi (goblin) and while he didn't really leave a deep impression on me in WF, he certainly has grown on me in this one the more I learned about him and his backstory. In fact, his backstory and his banters and romance with Somin took up half of this story while the other half was finding a solution to right the balance between the realms of the living and the dead after what took place at the end of WF and the outcome has caused a tear between these two realms, thus causing the supernatural entities to roam the living world and create havoc. Junu knew what he has to do with his unsettled past and to right all the wrongs, but the jeoseung saja (grim reaper) gives him little time and he's to make a huge decision eventually. 

Kat Cho has wowed me with this enthralling duology featuring the world of a few Korean mythological creatures and not to mention a cast of intriguing characters whom I'd grown to love during my reading journey. I liked reading about the friendship amongst these characters and learning more about their strengths and weaknesses through the experiences and challenges they'd faced and I've to say Junu stands out the most among all in my opinion. He's flawed and carried the most emotional baggage but despite the vulnerability in him, he also showed us the humane side despite of what he was as a dokkaebi. I was so sad to see the end of this duology and I really hope Kat Cho will continue writing some more of this mythological world in the near future. 

Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this duology with me for our buddy reads. Go check out Lark's blog for her review and here's my answers to her questions: 

1. From the gumiho to ghosts to reapers and goblins, Kat Cho includes a lot of Korean mythology in this book. What supernatural aspects did you like best?
All the mythological creatures fascinate me but I've to say gumiho is the most intriguing among all. Gumihos are known for their longevity and their shape shifting power and I think they're beautiful from some aspect. 

2. If you had to pick, which one of the four main characters would you most want to be like? And which one would you want as your best friend? Why?
I liked Somin's feistiness and loyalty so these traits are definitely what I most admired about her. And she makes a great friend, too. She's not afraid of what other people think of her and she's always there for her friends, be it for moral support or a listening ear. 
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Century | 6 August 2020 | 416 pgs
Source: Library 
Saffyre Maddox was ten when a traumatic experience led her into self-harming. Now at seventeen, she'd spent three years seeing child psychologist, Roan Fours, who has later cut short their sessions after he deemed her "perfectly fine" despite her uncertainties. Feeling abandoned and not ready to let go of their therapist-patient relationship, Saffyre decides to watch and follow him secretly and through her observations she's found something more about him and his family. Saffyre is a character whom you'd sympathise with due to her lonely life and her pent-up emotions but fortunately she has an uncle who cares a lot about her although she chose to act happy and carefree in front of him. 

On the other end, 33-year-old Owen Pick is a Computer Science teacher who lives in his aunt's spare bedroom. His aunt, Tessa, doesn't think highly of him and their relationship is lukewarm to say the least. Truth be told, Owen is simply a quiet man who does his job diligently and hoping to find a girlfriend and settle down like other people, but his sometimes odd and awkward vibes often give people the wrong impression and thus he is cast as an oddball and a social misfit. His world is then turned upside down when two girls in school accused him for sexual misconduct. Suspended from his job, he uses the free time to find related accusations online and this leads him to Bryn's blog and his dark world of "incel" (in other words, involuntary celibates). 

Saffyre and Owen may be two different persons but their world collide after an incident on Valentine's night. It is also that night that Saffyre disappears and Owen becomes the person of interest considering he's the last person to see her alive. What transpired that night and what happened to Saffyre is the core of this story but Lisa Jewell has executed this suspense story well through her writing style and the intricate plot which had held my attention throughout. But that's not all, Lisa has also added a few underlying themes such as abuse, sexual assault, mental health which reflect what our current society is facing today as well as misunderstood perceptions and how people are often quick to judge others at first glance. Despite some revolting issues, I think this book will work great for a group discussion.
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Michael Joseph | 6 August 2020 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

"We are all the same in the dark.
My mother said that to me when she kissed me good night.
She meant that in the dark, all that's left is our souls." ~ Pg 215

Julia Heaberlin really knows how to write a gripping atmospheric suspense. Not only that, her writing has a literary prose and there's an edge and depth in her characterisations that makes this thriller such an exceptional reading experience.

Told from three narratives, this is a slow burn mystery that demands the reader's attention and patience and let me just say it's all worth the wait. The reader is first introduced to Wyatt Branson, who lives alone in the desolation of his old family house. Once tried and sentenced for his sister's disappearance, he is later cleared of wrongdoing due to lack of evidence but he'll be forever associated with the case and remains a suspect in the eyes of the people in his town. His isolated life is then disturbed when he finds a girl dumped in a field of dandelions. Wyatt believes she's a sign from his missing sister, Trumanell; and the more he's some bittersweet sentiments about dandelions. He knew there's only one person whom he could tell about the girl.

And this leads the reader to the next narrative of young police officer, Odette Tucker. Odette and Wyatt have known each other for years and given different circumstances they might still be happily in love with each other but sometimes, things aren't what you expected and unfortunate incidents could tear a person and relationship apart. Odette still think of Trumanell and seeing the girl Wyatt brought to her has once again reminds her of Trumanell and the unsolved case. On top of it, she feels a bond with this girl considering of their handicap - she having lost a leg and the girl an eye. She makes it a mission to unravel the mystery surrounding the girl and why she seems to be fleeing from someone. 

Five years have passed then and Angel/Angie is thankful of Odette for her kindness and for getting a prosthetic eye through her help. In this last narrative of Angel, the reader finally get to know about her past and how the long-buried secrets of the legendary cold case would eventually unearth throughout the years. 

Julia Heaberlin is a new-to-me author and I fell in love with her writing style and her storytelling skills after reading this book. She knows how to get your attention from the beginning and her characterisations are simply outstanding, never mind if they're flawed. Despite the slow burn, there's still an edge of suspense and intensity which makes you curious and feel connected with the characters as the story progresses. Julia's writing is beautiful and poetic at times and she's defined beauty and strength at its best through the portrayal of Angel and Odette. A twisty and an extraordinary psychological thriller which would make you think long after you close the book. 
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Avon Books UK | 10 December 2020 | 384 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

Amber and her husband, Nick, are preparing for a divorce and they are trying to sell their house quickly so they can move on with their lives. Amber has already found a new relationship and she's looking forward to staying with her new man once the house is sold. Amber's mother-in-law, Barb, isn't pleased with all the arrangements and thinks Amber is a mistake in Nick's life. Needless to say, Amber and Barb couldn't get along although they try to act civilly to each other. 

As much as Amber's real estate agent's efforts in putting Amber's house up for viewing and so forth, there isn't any potential buyers so he's suggested an open house to try and attract more interest. Amber grudgingly agrees seeing there isn't any choice and although she's not comfortable overseeing some strangers walking about her house, she could at least know how many of these potential buyers are going into her house through her doorbell camera app. Amber has counted thirteen people entering her house, but then only twelve leave. Thinking she must have counted or seen wrongly, she dismiss the thought until her two young sons told her they've seen a man in their house. Could it be real or did her anxiety has rubbed off onto them, thus planting this seed of doubt into their young minds? 

The Open House immediately grabbed the reader's attention with the suspense of the missing thirteenth person and whether if we should doubt Amber's belief that there's indeed an intruder in her house. The reader is also introduced to a few unreliable characters surrounding Amber's life; each of them either has an agenda or a secret to hide. There are also subplots and red herrings which are linked to the main mystery but unfortunately the ending fell flat and it was a disappointment as I thought the storyline was grabbing until each twist seems more like a shock value than a plausible outcome. Overall I liked the idea and the suspense of this story but the ending was a bit too much in my opinion. 

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HQ Digital | 7 January 2021 | 234 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

Attorney Olivia Sinclair feels blessed with her life. With her retirement drawing near, she is looking forward to spending more time with her family until someone sent her a video showing her husband, Richard, sleeping with a younger subordinate. Ironically, Olivia handles many divorce cases herself and she thought she's seen them all and would recognise any marriage in trouble. Feeling betrayed, she is ready to leave Richard but what she didn't expect is that the subordinate turns up dead later and she's being suspected for the murder. 

As Olivia races against time to try to find evidence to prove her innocence, a cold case twenty years ago is being brought up due to the similarity method of murder. Olivia has already lost her faith and trust in her husband but would he had gone so far as to commit a crime and lead the accusation to her? 

This was a fast paced read and the author has captured the setting and the characters' emotions perfectly as the story progresses. From the beginning, the reader learned that Olivia is a strong character who would never let herself go down without a fight; partly due to her profession and that she believes in equality and justice. Richard's infidelity has further fueled her fighting spirit and most importantly, she has to find out the truth, including the cold case and why there are similarities between the two murders? While the plot isn't new and it's not hard to guess the perpetrator if you read carefully, the strength of this story lies in the characters, their narratives and the fast pacing which all makes this a captivating read. At the end, the author stated that this is the first book in the Olivia Sinclair series and although I couldn't think of the direction where Olivia may take us, I suppose we shall all have to wait and see. 

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St. Martin's Publishing Group | 27 August 2019 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

This is the 4th installment of Vivien Chien's Noodle Shop Mystery series. In this book, the reader learned that the protagonist, Lana Lee, has already settled nicely in her role as a manager at her parents' restaurant, the Ho-Lee Noodle House set in Cleveland, Ohio. Her relationship with Detective Adam Trudeau has blossomed and they're planning for a romantic getaway. The Asian community in their neighbourhood is organising its popular Night Market festivities in which a variety of food trucks and the likes would line up the streets for their businesses. Lana is excited to man the booth with their head chef, Peter Huang, and she's looking forward to the evening until there's an explosion. 

It turns out that a nearby food truck, Wonton on Wheels, was the one getting hit and the explosion has killed one of its proprietors and injures a few others in the nearby vicinity. There are a few speculations surrounding the accident. While some have pointed out that there's family dispute between the couple, there are others who speculated that it might be due to money matters or even an insinuation for insurance claim which has gone terribly wrong. Regardless of whichever it claims to be, the suspect falls onto the immediate family members and one of their relatives who just showed up in town. 

As Lana digs into the case, she also find herself being caught in her own family drama when her mother's sister, Aunt Grace, comes to visit. Now Lana's mother and Grace's personalities don't really click and Lana always find herself being caught in the middle. 

There seems to be a common theme in this installment (family relationship and drama) and Lana, together with a few of the regular cast, continue to be a delightful read and it was a pleasure seeing their developments as the series go. For this reason, I'd recommend reading from the first book though it isn't a must and the author managed to cover the background well so it could be read as a standalone too. All in all, it was an enjoyable read and I've to say the covers always make me crave for the food. 

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Bookouture | 21 October 2020 | 326 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

It's been a year since young Abi was missing from the neighbourhood in Teddington. Ava only left her young daughter in the pushchair for five minutes to check on her phone and by the time she returned, she found the door of their house opened and Abi was nowhere to be seen. No one had seen her on that fateful day and till present, her body is never found, leaving Ava and her husband, Matt, in unresolved grief and the difficulty of not knowing. 

When their neighbour, the Lovegoods family, decided to throw a housewarming party after their renovation project, Ava doesn't want to go as she doesn't know the Lovegoods well on top of her grieving. Matt eventually managed to get her to go; plus their good friends, Bella and Neil, are invited too. And little do they know that the party would be the beginning of a catastrophe as no one would imagine a little throwaway comment could lead to distrust and suspicion among the couples. Is it really Ava's negligence that is the cause of Abi's disappearance? Or did someone know more than that but is not telling? 

I've to say The Housewarming is a combination of mystery and domestic drama more than a psychological thriller as it focus more on the dynamics between Ava and Matt, as well as their good friends, Bella and Neil. We also read about Ava's emotional behaviours and how her life has been ever since Abi went missing. It's a nightmare for every parents, and Ava's fear and anxiety was palpable throughout the book though it could be seen as slow pace and repetitive to some. The tension was then raised towards the middle as suspicion started to pile up, and this is where things started to get a bit exciting and there are moments that will make you reflect and think about how one's decision made under a circumstances might change the course of events thereafter. While the story isn't what I expected, it was an emotional-gripping book that made me feel for the characters.

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Century | 19 March 2020 | 384 pgs
Source: Library 

Decades ago, a boy was found living alone in the woods. He had no recollection of his past, who his parents were, or how he ended up in the woods. His only friend was David, who's about his age and lived nearby the woods. After the police found him and with no one to come forward to claim him, this boy who is then named Wilde, was turned over to the foster system and later becomes a private investigator after spending some years with the military taking part in secret missions. Despite having a normal life now like the others, Wilde still prefers to live alone in his Ecocapsule house in the woods (which is fully high-tech and reminds me so much of a setting in a sci-fi movie) and has issues with intimacy and connecting with others. He still misses David, who died in a car accident years ago, though he's in touch with David's mother, Hester Crimstein. Hester may be a widow in her seventies, but she is a famed defense lawyer and a TV personality on cable news, Crimstein on Crime.

Naomi Pine, a high school girl, often gets bullied in school until she goes missing one day. Matthew, who's Hester's grandson, approaches Hester for help, who in turn seek for Wilde's expertise. But before they have any findings, Naomi is found hiding at her home basement a few days later. No one knew her reason for doing so, though they all point to peer pressure in school or being abused at home. Everything seems back to normal for a while until she disappears again. It may seem like "the boy who cried wolf" fables, but when another of her classmate, Crash Maynard, is missing, things become complicated as Crash's family belongs to the rich and the privileged and they have a vast connection behind them, including a politician campaigning to become president. Now Wilde has to find the two missing teenagers but what he unravels later would go far beyond the missing cases. 

To begin with, the blurb is a little misleading as it had me thinking that the plot would revolve around Wilde. After all, as the title suggests, he's the boy from the woods. Now that I'd this issue put behind me, I thought I could focus on the missing cases but well, it seemed there's a much bigger picture behind the missing persons mystery and this took a while for the reader to finally work out where the direction goes because there are threads and layers surrounding the core of the story, alongside the various issues of today's society (such as the influence of social media, school bullying, the difference among social class and even political play). Back to the characters, while Wilde is the lead character, the superstar of this book was Hester in my opinion. She's feisty and kickass but yet behind that strong personality, she's actually a sentimental person who still mourns for David and is drawn to police chief, Oren Carmichael. There are a few other interesting characters too, such as Naomi and Ava (the school's art teacher), which I felt their roles are underrated. And then, there's Wilde's past which was never fully explained (perhaps there's plans for Wilde in Coben's future books? I can only hope.) In a nutshell, this was a compelling page-turner with some twists that I didn't see coming. 

Last but not least, I'd like to thank Lark for this buddy read. Please do visit her blog for her review and our Q&As. Here's my answers to her questions: 

1. If you could change anything about this book, what would it be?
I'd like to have a more detailed feature on Wilde and Naomi. I'm curious about Wilde's past and would love to learn more about that missing part. As for Naomi, she entered the scene first but yet there's actually very little focus about her. I get it that she was a missing person, but then it'd be good to  know her more in-depth as a person rather than a missing high school girl. 

2. Coben focuses a lot on the powerful influence social media can have on society in this book. Do you agree with him, and do you think that influence is mostly positive or negative?
With social media platforms everywhere in our world today, it's hard not to take notice or to be swept away by the flow. I think there are both good and bad sides of social media influence, depending on the context and motive and how they're portrayed (positively or negatively). The social media could bring people together, but they could also be seen as a malicious tool to destroy given a purpose. There are certainly both sides of influences and it all depends on one's mindset and how strongly one believe or disbelieve.

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William Morrow | 27 October 2020 | 528 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

The book opens with our protagonist, Tabitha Hardy, being held up in a cell and is on remand for the murder of Stuart Rees. Tabitha has recently returned to her old hometown in Okeham to refurbish her house left by her late parents. Stuart's body was first found in her shed by her handyman friend and while Tabitha has a history of depression and traumatic stress which was caused by a sexual abuse when she was fifteen, she has no recollection of murdering Stuart despite he abused her years ago. With no one to turn to for support, Tabitha knows she can only depend on herself to fight the case when her legal counsel advises her to plead guilty for manslaughter with mitigating circumstances. Despite having no knowledge of the law, Tabitha strives on defending for herself for the need to prove her innocence and to find the truth. Together with Michaela, an ex-cellmate and now her McKenzie friend, they attempt to solve the case just when everyone thinks she is insane and that she has no chance of overthrowing the trial. 

Truth be told, I'd had a bumpy reading experience initially due to the slow pace and on top of that, Tabitha wasn't a person whom you could warm up to easily given her erratic temperament. However, as the story progresses, I find myself intrigued by Tabitha's story both present and past and not to mention her meticulous findings despite being confined in a small cell. So, while she may not be a likeable character, I still find myself rooting for her eventually.  

I'd end this review by saying that Nicci French (pseudonym of English husband-and-wife team) has written quite an engaging thriller with a perfect combination of suspense and courtroom drama. Would recommend if you're a fan of these two genres. 

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Rock Point | 27 October 2020 | 144 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

Boba, also known as bubble tea, is originated in Taiwan and has taken the world by storm with a variety combination of teas and different kinds of flavourful syrup. Of course, these drinks won't be the same without the tapioca balls and in this book, the two authors give readers more than a glimpse what lies behind the secrets of making boba tea. 

Tea brewing itself is an art; so to learn how to make boba tea, it is important to know the various kinds of tea leaves (i.e. green tea, black tea, Oolong) and the right temperature to brew them (the longer you brew, the more bitter taste it is). I'm a big tea drinker myself and my favourites are green tea and Oolong so it is no surprise that my boba tea choices are: honey green tea, Golden Oolong tea and Oolong milk tea. Of course, I do try out the others at times for fun or depending on moods but those will always remain as my go-to drinks. 

Back to the topic, this book also covers the essential equipment needed of making boba teas as well as how to make various flavoured syrups, sweeteners, toppings and not to mention homemade tapioca balls, etc. If you're a lover of fruit teas, this book has some recipes too, such as strawberry, mango, watermelon, kiwi, pineapple, pomelo, and cucumber teas). 

In a nutshell, this book is a must-have for boba tea lovers and with their easy-to-follow recipes, you can create your own drinks anytime and however you like. I need to get a copy of this since my ARC didn't show the photos (probably due to my e-reader app) but most of all, I want it so I can refer to it anytime.

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Montlake Romance | June 2017 | 523 pgs
Source: Purchased 

This is the first book of a series featuring Detective Angie Pallorino. I've read two of Loreth Anne White's standalones and really enjoyed them. There's something about her writing and she pay attention to the details which add depth to her stories. 

Detective Angie Pallorino would never forget about the perverted rapist, who is still at large, had violently mutilated his two victims years ago by etching crosses onto their foreheads after sexually assaulted them. Alongside the pain and regrets is the loss of her working partner who had died while they handled a domestic abuse case which had gone wrong. Despite anything, Angie is keen to prove to anyone that she still has the drive and determination in moving to the male-dominated homicide unit. Angie may be goal-oriented and fearless, but she do have some issues which make her vulnerable and want to be in control. With a schizophrenic mother and the loss of her partner, Angie numb herself through anonymous sex. And this situation leads her to meeting James Maddox, who later turns out to be her temporary partner for a joint investigation task after two more victims are found; both sharing some eerie similarities of her earlier unsolved rape cases. 

As Angie's private life collides with her professional ambitions, she is more determined to put that night behind her but Maddox, on the other end, is intrigued by this mysterious woman who had left an impression on him. Angie doesn't want him as partners, but he plays an important role in her job evaluation and most of all, she wants to solve the cases badly, especially if the perpetrator might be the same one she's missed earlier. As their search for clues and the killer intensifies, so does their desire for each other although Angie is in denial given her traumatic past. 

There's a lot going on in this story and there are layers amidst layers before the big reveal comes. As mentioned before, the author pay attention to details and this includes not only the characters development, their inner thoughts and the investigations but also the graphic descriptions of the violent and grotesque crimes mentioned. While this isn't one I'd recommend to the queasy or faint-hearted, from the other perspective it adds authenticity of a true crime. 

Angie and Maddox have their issues, too. Both are flawed characters and from a romantic angle, I enjoyed reading about their exchanges and how they managed to overcome their own demons through each other. I can't say I enjoyed the brutality of this story, but I do love the characters and how everything unravels towards the end, including Angie's secret past (which I chose to be vague for your own book-unveiling). Meanwhile, I'm eagerly awaiting for the other two installments to arrive.  

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Avon | October 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

Cherrie Forrester seems to be living a lovely life with her charming young son and a boyfriend who adores her. What others didn't know is that she's also the daughter of a notorious serial killer (famously known as Mr Bones) who had been sentenced to jail 25 years ago. Cherrie has reasons not to think about the past not only she's Mr Bones' daughter but also, she feels guilty in helping him in a way by luring the boys into his car. She was eight then. 

Cherrie thinks her past and secrets would be hidden safe forever, until the disappearance of a boy and a podcast link them to her father's crimes. Despite Mr Bones is convicted, many people are still intrigued by him and his young daughter, Leigh-Ann. Cherrie tries to remain low profile, but the podcast has doxed her as Little Bones, leaving her both enraged and helpless. To complicate matters, Cherrie's son goes missing during their trip to an amusement park. Cherrie fears someone may seek revenge over the past crimes as she searches frantically for her son while dodging from people's curiosity and allegations that she might be involved in her son's disappearance. 

Little Bones started out with a bang and I found the concept and the identity surrounding a serial killer's daughter's was quite enticing from the thrillers aspect but while it has an interesting premise, Cherrie came off as more annoying (in her behaviours) than intriguing for a character and it was a disappointment given that there's so much potential in this story. To be fair, there are a few gripping moments but there are also others that went on a bit too long and repetitive. The ending may not be a surprise to some readers and while this isn't a bad thing, I find it lacks some elements which constitute a great thriller. That said, it was considerably promising for a debut thriller and I'll be curious of the author's next book.

Today is Mid-Autumn Festival day whereby families will gather together, eat mooncakes and drink tea while the children will light up the lanterns as they enjoy their walk under the moonlight. In the past, we used to have paper lanterns but they burn easily if we aren't careful. These days, children are seen carrying battery-operated lanterns and they come in all forms of shapes and designs (of course cartoon characters remain a favourite among children). If you ask me, I'd still prefer paper lanterns. No reason, just because I'm kind of a tradition person, ha. Even for mooncakes, I still prefer to have a piece of traditionally baked mooncake with lotus seed paste among a variety of choices, which ranges from snow-skin mooncakes to different kinds of paste fillings (e.g. durian, which is quite popular among locals). The picture below shows my favourite mooncakes; and I wish I could eat them anytime instead of only once a year (pout). 

Reading-wise, my progress has been slow and I just finished reading The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White. It's the first book of a trilogy featuring Detective Angie Pallorino and gosh, this book is not for the faint-hearted given the subjects but the writing is great. Loreth really pay attention to all the details in her writing and her characters are well-developed and fleshed out. Review forthcoming. 

Recently this K-drama has received lots of raves and I can see why. Flower of Devil, starring Lee Joon-gi and Moon Chae-won, is a story between a man with a secret past and identity and his detective wife. I loved the storyline, and most of all, I was captivated by Lee Joon-gi's acting as he had really brought the character to life through his lively performance - action and emotionally wise. I won't say too much about the storyline, just that I'd highly recommend watching this! 

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Crooked Lane Books | October 2020 | 288 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

To many outsiders, Ethan Faulkner may seemed like any ordinary man who leads a simple life with a dog for companionship. He has a successful teaching career and he intends to lead a peaceful life as it is, until his younger sister, Susannah, barge into his life again after all the years she's gone missing on him. Ethan and Susannah have a traumatic past which still haunt them at present and their avoidance of talking about the past has only makes that memory more vivid and painful. 

Years ago when they were teenagers, a young woman had knocked onto their door and pleaded for help. Their parents let her into their house, not knowing that she was on the run from two men who were pursuing her. The men barged into the house, and Ethan's father even put in a good fight but alas, Ethan's parents eventually died from gunshots. Susannah was left injured and Ethan's life is never the same again. Their mother's brother, Uncle Gavin, took care of them but his shadowy life often led Ethan wondering about his morality but so far he hasn't seen or heard anything bad about his uncle although he suspected it was all kept under wraps. 

While Susannah's return sparks Ethan's curiosity, he is more bothered by Marisa's nosiness over his past. Marisa is simply a random woman whom he'd met in a conference and had a one-night stand but eventually become his new colleague. When he tries to break it off with Marisa due to her persistency in discussing about his past, things become nasty and Marisa retaliated by spreading fake news about him. Ethan is vexed over her actions until she turned up dead and suddenly he becomes the suspect. Ethan doesn't want to confront his past, but Marisa's interest and her death leave him no choice but to dig up the painful memories once again in order to find the truth. 

This book surprised me on many levels and it was such a treat to see how the story unravels through the author's engaging writing style and the fleshed out characters. While the pace may come off to be a bit slow and unclear in the beginning, it has a good buildup of suspense and intensity. Towards the middle, the story direction changes, and changes again just when I thought I'd some of the things figured out. This is an intriguing and a well-constructed story about family and friendship, as well as vengeance and consequences. Although this is my first book by Christopher Swann, it definitely won't be my last. 

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BooksGoSocial | October 2020 | 150 pgs
Source: NetGalley 

“I can’t sleep. Not since June 16th, 2018. Not since what happened…”

Becky Braithwaite is traumatised by the accident of her older brother, Jordan, two years ago and the unfortunate tragedy has led her to having insomnia since then. Now a university student at Wessex, she intends to put the past behind her but it isn't as easy as she's thought. 

For starters, she keeps receiving calls from an unknown number and when she answers them, the other party refuses to speak. Then, there are times that she thought someone is stalking her and when she turns around, no one is there. And the most troubling is, someone left her a note and a book titled "You Killed Him" and after a wild goose chase, these items have mysteriously gone without a trace after she returned. Is her mind playing tricks on her given her mental condition, or is there someone out to get her? 

First off, the storyline was gripping and the unreliable narrator theme always appeal to me. Becky's insomnia condition sounds terrible and this made me worried about her and yet this also led me wondering about her credibility at the same time. The first half focused on her life at the university and her relationship with her flatmates as well with a glimpse of her troubled past although it is vague and not much information is given (which is understandable perhaps due to the pace of the plot). The second half was better intense-wise but I was a bit disappointed with the ending given it was rather abrupt. That said, the author has done a good job in creating the claustrophobic atmosphere of uncertainty and the character's distrust in herself, her fear and anxiety so this made an interesting case of character study alongside the suspense. 

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