Melody

William Morrow | 6 July 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 


Journalist Joan Lurie's life takes a turn after her article exposing a newspaper tycoon as a sexual predator leads her being assaulted and had her hiding at a highly secure apartment called the Refuge, which was once a Magdalen Laundry (googled and found some info from Wikipedia here). She's had informants who pointed at the tycoon's dirty deeds, but so far none came forward or they'd "vanished into thin air", thus leaving her with information that could end her in a book deal if she's willing to write it. However, her stay at the Refuge doesn't really offer her the peace and security that she wants. She still feels being watched; or perhaps it's the aftermath of the assault which left her with a vision and memory problems. 

Enter two women who will either save or wreck havoc in Joan’s life. Lillian Day is Joan’s new 96-year-old neighbor and she has her own story to tell. During the 1940s, troubled and wayward girls are sent to the Magdalen Laundry but the poor atmosphere and treatments had had them attempt escape but unfortunately had led to some death. Lillian also shares a mystery involving her past life which remains unsolved until the end. Melissa Osgood, on the other hand, is the tycoon's wife and she harbours an obsession of stalking Joan as she believes Joan has wrecked their family's life instead of finding the truth about her husband's other life. It is only through his "suicide" that had her find out about his finances problems, but that doesn't stop her from stalking Joan and doing some investigations on her own. 

Carol Goodman is a wonderful storyteller and she's always great at setting the scene, be it atmospheric or Gothic. While this story was engaging, I felt it has too many subplots so the focus was a bit lost. The combination between the #MeToo movement and part of Lillian's story serves an awareness of the current social issues we're facing today, but they're bogged down by a few threads and not to mention Joan's anxiety and Melissa's obsession. Then there's Lillian's story which stands on its own and has not much relation to the core of the story though it was intriguing. Overall, I felt the story was all over the place and some parts implausible regarding Melissa's investigations. That said, Carol Goodman's writing is engaging as always and I hope her next book will be better. 



It seems like my posts have been sporadic nowadays and I apologise for that. Life plus procrastination is the main culprit and my father-in-law's passing and the wake last week had had me in no mood/time to read, let alone drafting and writing posts. My father-in-law had kidney problem and other underlying medical condition for a while, but he was hit by stroke lately and this led to his condition deteriorated. While it was sad, at least he's not suffering now. I am gradually back to my reading mojo now but I'll be slow in blog hopping and commenting so thanks for your understanding. Anyhoo, what're you reading and what's happening on your side of the world now? 
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Melody

Minotaur Books | 4 May 2021 | 288 pgs
Source: Library 


Set in a rural village in Northern China (near Harbin which is well-known for its bitterly cold winters and ice-sculptures festival), a young woman named Yang Fenfang was brutally murdered. Her mouth stuffed with "hell notes" and a few of her organs (heart, lungs and liver) removed, the police had initially speculated it might be a case of organ trafficking and that the stuffed hell notes was more of a religious angle as to make offerings to the dead. Yang was first discovered by her neighbour after her dog couldn't seem to stop barking, leading them to explore her house and thus found her body in the bathroom. 

Lu Fei was graduated from a top police college but was later exiled to work in the rural village as Deputy Chief of the local Public Security Bureau station after a fallout with his superior from the Harbin headquarters due to a clash of personalities and most of all, their different views on principles and morality. Despite the exile and demotion, Lu Fei has gradually gotten accustomed to the laid-back rural living and the small station under the leadership of Chief Liang. Since there's hardly any major case in the village, Yang's murder is considered a rare and a high profile case so Superintendent Song, Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Beijing is assigned to look into the case together with Chief Liang's team. Their initial investigation leads to a local man who works as a butcher and had had an infatuation with Yang, but Lu Fei dismisses him as a suspect due to his simple mindedness and a lack of valid evidence. With political games and an authoritarian system within the governmental bureau hierarchy, Lu Fei realises that he has to dig further into the case on his own even if he has to face old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses and corrupt business interests. 

Brian Klingborg's Thief of Souls was a refreshing read apart from my usual reads of the psychological suspense genre. With a likeable character like Lu Fei and an intriguing setting with authoritarianism and politics as part of the elements, this book was a compelling read right from the beginning till the end. The characters development was great (there were a few interesting secondary characters too and I hope to see them in the next book, Wild Prey) and most of all, I enjoyed reading about the complicated relationship between Lu Fei and Song from their clashing personalities to their gradual trust and respect of each other as the story progresses. Aside from these, I also liked it that the author input various quotes from the Chinese history, poetry, philosophy, customs and beliefs into narratives (in particularly Lu Fei) which add some depth to the story. The description of the Chinese government bureaucracy was well defined too so overall a very engaging read. Recommended. 

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Melody

Hodder & Stoughton | 29 July 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Purchased 

The year is 1991. College student Charlie Jordan is grieving over the death of her best friend, Maddy. Also plagued with guilt, Charlie felt she was indirectly responsible for Maddy's death since she'd left her alone at a bar late one night over a squabble. Charlie didn't get a chance to reconcile with her ever again, because Maddy fell victim to the murderer who's dubbed the Campus Killer since all his victims were killed near the campus. Charlie decides to leave the campus but with her boyfriend, Robbie, being busy (unless she could wait a bit but no) and she doesn't drive (for a reason after her parents' accident), she put up a flyer at the campus ride board so that someone would share the ride to her hometown in Ohio. 

Josh Baxter answers to Charlie's flyer, claiming that he's to return home to take care of his father who's sick. Despite Charlie's doubts about Josh from his behaviour of hiding his view from her when he packs her suitcase into his car trunk, she hops into his car nonetheless and even chides herself to have some trust and faith in people. As they begin their journey and their conversations start to flow, Charlie soon realises that there's something suspicious about Josh and that there're holes in his story about his father. However, Charlie isn't sure about her judgement because at times when she's under stress or fear, her mind would conjure up some "movie moments" in which she herself wouldn't differentiate if she's in reality or in her own movie-fueled imaginations (she's a big fan of movies, especially Hitchcock's). And this begins the cat-and-mouse game of a story with an unreliable character who has to survive the night. 

I've to confess I'm a huge fan of Riley Sager's books and I've read all of his books todate, but this latest release was a huge disappointment. To begin with, I was horrified to see that Charlie hopped into a stranger's car despite her doubts and the fact that a killer is still on the loose. This may be a fiction, but in reality it's a BIG no-no no matter whatever the circumstances are. Then, there's Charlie's movie-fueled moments (which I wasn't sure if there's such a mental issue or perhaps similar to hallucinations?) and a few chances that she could escape but decided not to because she wants to be the one to stop Josh from committing more murders. However, this isn't as straightforward as far as the plot goes because there're twists and it becomes more mind-boggling (and absurd) as the story reaches its final destination. I hate to say this, but this story totally didn't work for me but onto a positive note, it was entertaining and a page-turner! That said, I'd had a great time reading and discussing this book with Lark (go check out her review here) and both of us decided to skip the Q&As for this round of our buddy read since we couldn't come up with any interesting questions. All being said, I'll still anticipate for Sager's future releases and I hope his next book will be better.  
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Melody

Doubleday | 31 August 2021 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 


I suppose it's natural for us readers to harbour some high expectations after the success of "The Girl on the Train". While this book was engaging, it was indeed 'a slow fire burning' with several unreliable, unlikeable characters and a complicated structure to boot. 

The story opens with a young man called Daniel being murdered in a rented houseboat. He was found by Miriam, a woman who's also staying in a houseboat not far from the murder scene. Miriam told the police that she'd seen a girl leaving from his houseboat earlier, which in turn leads them to Laura who admitted that they'd had a fight but she left before then and she hasn't been in contact with him since. Coincidentally or not, Daniel's mother died from an accident a few weeks ago. She and her sister, Carla, had some complicated relationship from the past which involves the death of Carla's young son. Carla and her husband believed that it was Angela's negligence that had led to their son of falling to his death. As the story progresses, the reader will soon learn that these women are more or less connected to Daniel in some ways, but who would be the murderer and why? 

In a nutshell, unreliable and unlikeable characters, the connections and the complicated relationships among them is mainly the core of this story. I thought the overall plot was pretty straightforward, but the way it executed and structured was a bit confusing to me, in which more or less had concluded my views of the already slow paced story. To be fair, there are enough red herrings and some twists and while the revelations was nicely wrapped up and explained towards the end, I find them fairly passable and left me question the acts of a particular character instead. This is definitely not my favourite Paula Hawkins book but there are readers who loved this though. You'll have to read it and find out yourself. That said, I'm curious what Ms. Hawkins will be writing next. 

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Melody

HQ | 19 August 2021 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

This is another domestic suspense which is on my library list lately and I'm glad I didn't have to wait for too long to get ahold of it. Alice Feeney's books have been hit-or-miss to me and while this latest release was intriguing, I got mixed feelings about it. 

Amelia has won a weekend stay at Blackwater Inn, a converted chapel located in the Scottish Highlands and she intends to use this getaway to spend more time with her husband, Adam. After all, they've some marriage issues and their counsellor thinks this trip might help them to reconnect and improve their relationship. Adam, on the other hand, isn't very keen on the trip. He's a screenwriter and nowadays his mind is onto putting his own story on screen instead of other authors, though with the exception of Henry Winter's works. He idolise him and will try to get every means to get Winter's attention despite his flaw. Adam is diagnosed with prosopagnosia, which means he cannot see distinguishing features on faces, including his own. 

Anyway, the couple eventually goes on with their trip but what they've known about the place is far from their expectations. Amid the creepy atmosphere of the old chapel and a raging snowstorm, they find that their other half is harbouring some secrets and that they aren't alone in that isolated place. Amelia claims she sees someone outside a window; and Adam discovers a crypt in the chapel among other things. What's more frightening? Things that go bump in the night or your other half who's keeping secrets? 

Added to the intrigue is a mysterious character called Robin who resides near the old chapel and some letters addressed to Adam from the wife in which they expressed her thoughts about their marriage on each of their anniversaries. Adam never knew about these letters and this is where the story gets more interesting. This book has an interesting concept especially with the execution, but I wasn't so sure about the ending. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book but I think the ultimatum of this story is more of the twist and while it isn't a bad thing, having read more psychological suspense/thrillers have somewhat change a bit of my expectations from this genre. That said, this book is a good fit for discussions and I'll be curious to hear your thoughts if you've read it. 
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Melody

Michael Joseph | 14 September 2021 | 496 pgs
Source: Library 


To begin with, I think this is more of a domestic drama than a psychological thriller. That said, it does have a mystery aura though, but there's not much action or intensity but lots of family drama, guessing games and miscommunication. 

Joy and Stan Delaney used to coach and run a tennis academy but have sold their business for their retirement. They've four grown-up children (Amy, Logan, Troy and Brooke) and although they're all trained by their parents since young, they aren't good enough to be successful and as the years go by, their interest for tennis waned and each pursue their own success either by getting married or venture into something else. 

The Delaney children understand their parents' passion for tennis and Joy's enthusiasm in running the business, but they all knew that they would never forget about their star student, Harry Haddad who once walked away from them years ago at the peak of his performance, leaving the parents feeling despair and betrayed at the same time, especially Stan. But they've somewhat walk out from that gloom and are looking at spending a relaxing life while occasionally fretting about their adult children when a stranger knocks at their door one night. A young woman named Savannah claims she's running away from her abusive boyfriend and of course, Joy and Stan couldn't turn her away. Savannah's overnight stay at the Delaneys soon extends to staying with them like a tenant since Joy and Stan enjoy her company and most of all, she's a good cook. The children, on the other hand, feel their family space being invaded yet they could do nothing about it. Then Joy goes missing one day and Savannah is nowhere to be found. The scratch marks on Stan's face is suspicious to the police so naturally he becomes a suspect. Not all of the Delaneys children believe that their father is guilty; and this is where all the doubts come in as the reader watch the story unfolds between the present and what happened leading to Joy's disappearance. 

This story was great for the characters developments and the family dynamics but you'd be disappointed if you're looking for suspense and thrill as they're minimal. Basically it revolves around the relationship among the Delaneys and how Savannah's intrusion is the fuse to their calm (or make-believe) life. It's a great exploration of the connection and the complexity between people; how communications can be easily misinterpreted and that looks may be deceiving. The book was funny at times despite the content and while it was an interesting read, I find it to be a bit long and dragging. I'm not too sure how I felt about the ending though; there was closure but I felt it was somewhat anticlimactic. Perhaps I dived into this book with a different expectation and viewpoint so overall it was an average read to me. 

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Melody
Riverrun | 13 May 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

In the previous third installment, DS Alexandra Cupidi solved a case involving a developing site but the outcome (plus some past awful experiences) had left her suffering from post-traumatic stress; thus in this book she is taking her leave and is assigned to a desk job doing data analysing. But of course this doesn't stop Alex from snooping around and observing things especially after her hefty interception between a knife-wielding woman and a newlywed (gay) couple. Alex has no idea about her heightened sense of danger and insecurity ever since her last investigation, but she sure is intrigued by the dynamics between the newlywed couple and the older woman who doesn't seem to be mentally well but is adamant that one of them had killed her son. 

On the other end, Alex's colleague, Officer Jill Ferriter is charged with investigating the murders of a couple after a delivery woman discovered their naked corpses in their home. The only clue is a bloody message and most perplexing of all, why would they order some mundane groceries which are less than forty dollars? Based on initial interviews, Jill learned that Aylmer and Mary Younis were both nice and reserved people who have no enemies and only have a handicapped son who stays at a special care facility. Upon further investigation, they learned that the Younises had made investments in a green reforestry scheme in Guatemala but have lost their savings. But that is not all, they've also found a list of other investors, including Alex's ex-colleague and long-time friend, Bill South (There's a history surrounding the dynamics between Alex and Bill over a past case and this resulted a somewhat awkward strain in their friendship but new readers would be able to understand through some scattered snippets and their conversations.) 

I've mentioned before that I love William Shaw's writing and his storytelling, but I've to say the settings he created for each of the story is another big draw and most of them revolve around the nature and the wildlife theme. In this book, he takes us to the sea and gives us more than a glimpse about the fishing community of Folkestone, trawling and the dangers alongside the job. I find I've learned something after reading his books. 

And despite Alex isn't active in terms of running the investigation in this book, she still prove herself to be proactive and capable of analysing the situation while battling with her own demons and the PTSD. Her relationship and her banter with her teenage daughter, Zoe, felt relatable and again I've to applaud the author for his fleshed out characters, the complexity of human connections and the humanity being portrayed in his books. This is one series I'd recommend to follow and I hope that we'll get to see Alex back on her feet in the next installment.
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Melody
Grove Press | 12 June 2018 | 176 Pgs
Source: Library 
Translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

36-year-old Keiko Furukura has been a society misfit since young. She doesn't really know how to interact with others; and what she expresses or does at times may seem inappropriate or unsound to others although her intentions are simply innocent and to get things done in her own ways. Her portrayal may lead to some wondering if she's autistic but the direction wasn't clear. At the age of eighteen, Keiko dropped out from school and began working at a convenience store, "Smile Mart". For once, she finds peace and purpose in her life and she realises that in order to fit in with the society, she has to act "normal" like others. Like following the rules from the store manual, she does her best in copying her colleagues' mannerisms, speech and even their fashion sense. 

Keiko may have perfected her speech and mannerisms as the time go, but she has other problems to face, such as the pressure of finding a husband and getting a "real" job. When she crosses path with an ex-colleague, Shiraha, she begins to think that perhaps she could lend a helping hand considering he is a misfit, too. This leads to misconceptions from her family and colleagues as they think that she's finally found someone and the latter embrace her more warmly into their groups. Keiko values her friendship with her colleagues, but in her mind she's wondering if she should be content living a troubled normal life rather than a carefree abnormal one. 

At its core, this book is about meeting societal expectations. Keiko was an empathetic character who thinks nothing much about herself but more of how she should portray herself and being accepted by the society regardless of her unusual characteristics. This isn't to say Keiko is wrong, but since the autistic spectrum was never fully explored (perhaps intentional by the author?), it is easy for the society to interpret her as an "outsider" - someone who simply doesn't fit in or adjust. While this perception happens anywhere around the world, it was strongly felt through Keiko's narrative as the role of men and women are often viewed differently based on their culture, mindset and any other issues. Work culture and gender discrimination (Shiraha's views will anger many women so I won't go there) are also explored here; and you'll learn more about the job and responsibilities of a store clerk through Keiko's eyes (she's a devoted employee and definitely deserves an award in my opinion). Overall this was a quick read and an interesting portrayal of an extraordinary quirky heroine in today's society conformity. 

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Melody


Riverrun | 18 March 2021 | 480 pgs
Source: Library 

This book is the third installment featuring DS Alexandra Cupidi and the more I read of this series the more I'm liking it. 

Alexandra and her colleague, Constable Jill Ferriter, are called to look into a case after a couple discovers a body in a freezer in an empty mansion which is up for sale. Since the owner hardly lives there, no one knows how or why the body was buried there. The body was later identified as a Vincent Gibbons, who was a naturalist and was active in a protest campaign of a housing development and its developer, Whiteland Fields. The campaign is valid to some locals, even Cupidi's teenage daughter, Zoe, think that the developments will threaten the badgers setts which have been around for decades and not to mention would cause a disruption to the wildlife. To complicate matters, Jill has just began to date Harry French, who's the developer and later becomes their suspect after a human bone was found buried within the development site. The discovery of the bone is purely accidental, thanks to the digging of an old badger after his terrority has been compromised. 

Cupidi's investigation of the bone led them to a case of a boy who went missing twenty five years ago. These two investigations soon caught the interest of the Housing minister, and Cupidi later find herself being caught in the world of politics and the environmentalism issue specifically the protection given to badgers by the law. As Cupidi digs deeper (pun intended) into these two cases, it becomes clear that there is a connection but there's no evidence and worse still, someone will go to any lengths to stop Cupidi's further investigation, including murder. 

Once again, I find myself drawn to William Shaw's writing and the developments between Cupidi and Ferriter as the series go. The countryside setting in Dungeness, Kent, is vividly described and I liked it that the author even feature the perspective of an old male badger in this installment. This endearing creature plays part of an important role in this story and I find it refreshing reading about their habitats and livelihood through his eyes. There are multiple threads to this story, but they're nicely linked and there're also enough red herrings alongside a few issues like class divide, abuse and even civilisation (which is always a thought-provoking topic). This book works fine as a standalone, but it is best to start from the first book as far as characters developments go. 

The DS Alex Cupidi Series:
#1 Salt Lake (my review here)
#2 Deadlane (my review here
#3 Grave's End
#4 The Trawlerman
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Melody

Atria Books | 4 May 2021 | 384 pgs
Source: Library 

48-year-old Jennifer Barnes receives the most shocking news when she goes for her doctor’s appointment after a series of symptoms that's plagued her for months. She has glioblastoma - a brain cancer and that she has only six weeks left to live. The test result reported that there's a high dose of lead in her blood and that this may have already started a year ago as the tumor started to spread gradually. 

While Jennifer is reeling from the news, she's also curious about how the lead got into her body in the first place. She knew that plumbing that contains lead can contaminate water, or they could be leached into food or drinks as well. Jennifer could only suspect her husband because he's been pestering her for a divorce for a while and she didn't give in to his request. It isn't that she still has feelings for him, she's just angry that he has had an affair and he's leaving her for a much younger woman. 

Her adult triplets, on the other hand, took the news differently. Emily is the eldest and a fraternal triplet unlike Aline and Miranda. Emily has her own family and issues but she's willing to stand by her mother's side physically and emotionally. Aline and Miranda aren't close with their mother, but Aline agrees to look into the lead issue (she's in bio research field) and even the imprudent Miranda moves into Jennifer's house although one might wonder about her reason and think of her financial difficulties. But despite everything, the daughters feel that Jennifer is being paranoid in doubting their father, and this leads Jennifer wondering if her condition has worsened as she starts imagining things. Or is it not? 

I've read and enjoyed a few of Catherine McKenzie's previous novels so I was excited to read this latest book but regrettably I didn't feel the same thrill and excitement I'd had with her other books. To begin with, I didn't feel any connection with the characters. Perhaps they're all unlikeable characters, but still Jennifer's sensitive role didn't allow me to fully empathise with her either and I think it might be more or less to do with her voice in this story. While I understand this is more of a domestic drama than a psychological thriller, I was fazed as well as saddened by the dynamics of this (dysfunctional) family. Unfortunately, I couldn't discuss the issue without spoiling the story but nevertheless, this still made an interesting read based on the identities and characteristics of the characters. Although this book isn't a favourite, I'd still look out for McKenzie's future releases. 
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Melody

Michael Joseph | 21 January 2021 | 400 pgs
Source: Purchased 

If anyone ask me how would I describe C.J. Tudor's books, I'd say they're brooding and foreboding; and that she sure knows how to get her readers invested in the characters she's created. 

The Burning Girls started with a bang with an explosive prologue which the reader will soon know it's a flashback. What follows thereafter is our protagonist, Reverend Jack Brooks learning that she has to transfer to a small church in Chapel Croft until they've found a replacement. Jack doesn't want to go, partly of her 15-year-old daughter Flo, but they've given her no choice. 

Jack and Flo soon learn that Chapel Croft is far more than a quiet English countryside and it has a dark history surrounding the Sussex Martyrs during the religious persecutions of Queen Mary in 1556; whereby eight villagers were burnt at the stake, including two young girls. Each year on the anniversary of the purge, the residents will set alight of some small twig dolls they called Burning Girls to commemorate and honour the martyrs who died. As much as Jack is intrigued by this age-old tradition, she's more concerned about the suicide of her predecessor, Reverend Fletcher and the disappearance case of two young girls thirty years ago. No one knows what happened to Merry and Joy after all these time, but the residents assume that they'd simply run away from home and have gradually accepted their disappearance. 

As Jack and Flo try to adjust to their new life in this close-knit community, bad things start to happen. For starters, someone is sending her mysterious twig dolls, then Flo claims she's seen the apparitions of the burning girls in the chapel. And of course, the question that plagued Jack regarding Reverend Fletcher's suicide and why no one wants to talk about it. As much as Jack wants to find out the truth, she's also concerned about Flo's safety and well-being especially with her interactions with two teenage delinquents and a guy whom Flo just got acquainted with. And then, there's someone from Jack's past whom she tries to avoid has come to Chapel Croft for her.  

As you can see, there are multiple layers and subplots to this pacey story and despite the various threads Tudor has laid out, the conclusion was nicely tied up in a bow. The atmospheric setting was well done - from the creepy old chapel to an abandoned old building in the woods filled with graffiti of various evil symbols. The portrayal of the characters are vivid and believable; and I liked how Tudor created Reverend Jack Brooks to be a flawed, complex character with strength and weaknesses, as well as her role as both a (woman) vicar and a mother with different perspectives. Without saying more, this was an intense and a riveting suspense which I'm sure would thrill Tudor's fans and gain new readers as well. 

Last but not least, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me as part of our buddy read "assignments". Please visit her blog for her review and the Q&A. Here's her questions to me:

1. This is the second book by C.J. Tudor that we've read together--which one did you like better, The Chalk Man or The Burning Girls? Why?
I enjoyed both of the books, but I think I loved this one a bit more because of the atmospheric setting, the characters (in particularly Reverend Jack Brooks and Flo) and the various genres/issues implemented into this story. (Click here for Chalk Man review.)

2. How do you feel about the role that the legend of the burning girls played in this novel? (Too much, or not enough?)
I'd expected that there'd be more backstory of the legend of the burning girls, but regrettably there aren't much elaborations about them as I thought the martyrdom might add more intrigue and depth to this story. Then again, this is only a part of Chapel Croft history and not the main core of the story so I'd let this pass. 😉

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Melody

 

Crooked Lane Books | 7 September 2021 | 288 pgs
Source: Publisher via NetGalley 

I enjoyed Christopher Swann's previous novel (Never Turn Back) so much so that I requested this book after seeing that it's his latest release. 

Part suspense and part spy thriller, this story revolves around a retired history professor finding retreat in an isolated North Carolina mountains after the death of his wife and how his quiet life is turned upside down when a teenage girl barges into his life one day and claims that she is his niece. 

Nick Anthony has not been in contact with his younger brother for years and their relationship is gradually explained as the story progresses. Despite the distance, he is still shocked when he learns that his estranged brother and sister-in-law died in a house fire and that he has a niece who's managed to find him amid everything else. Annalise couldn't trust anyone, but she knew that she should seek her uncle's help especially learning that her parents' death wasn't an accident and the mysterious information she was told to pass on to her uncle before their death. And on top of it, she's being pursued by a bunch of hired private military contractors for the piece of information she's carrying. Nick doesn't know what kind of business and who his late brother had been dealing with, but he's adamant to find out about his hidden past as well as to protect Annalise from any harm. But what the reader didn't know is, Nick has his own hidden past, too. 

While the plot isn't new, I've to say I enjoyed reading about Nick as the main character and his relationship with Annalise. There are, of course, some intense moments and the cat-and-mouse chase but surprisingly, I was more focused on the interactions between uncle and niece; and Annalise for her courage and her fighting spirit. I liked this book but not as much as Never Turn Back but overall it was still a satisfying read.

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Melody

 

Michael Joseph | 7 January 2021 | 320 pgs
Source: Purchased 

For starters, it's hard to read this book, let alone writing my thoughts. The story is dark and unsettling; yet one couldn't avoid looking at some of the issues raised.

As a girl, Blythe Connor is raised lacking warmth and attention from her mother, Cecilia. Now that she'd grown up and married, she's aiming to be a woman unlike her mother and most importantly, she doesn't want sad history to repeat itself. After Violet is born, she makes sure she gives enough love and attention to Violet. She's sure nothing would go wrong if she's doing all the right things to her first child and hopefully, Violet would grow up to be a happy and healthy girl unlike her unhappy past. 

As the days go by, Blythe soon notices that there's something about Violet that she can't put her finger on it. Her husband, Fox, thinks otherwise and believes that Blythe is either imagining things or motherhood is tiring her out. As Blythe thinks about Violet's characteristics, she also couldn't help wondering about her childhood life as well as the mental wellness and upbringing of the women in her family heritage. Her grandmother, Etta, suffered from mental illness and as a result, Cecilia was raised without much mother's love and this in turn, affects Blythe’s life growing up. Blythe begins questioning herself if she's following the path of the women of her family generations - that they couldn't and didn't have the capacity of filling the role of a mother. Or perhaps as what she fears, there's really something wrong with Violet? 

Unreliable narrator. Motherhood. Nature versus nurture. These are the few elements that nudged at my mind as I read the book and the more I read, I felt a sense of dread, unease and sorrow as well. Blythe was a complex character; and of course this extends to Violet as well as I didn't know what's really in that little mind of hers. Is she capable of doing bad things, or if genes and characteristics could pass down from generations, affecting one's role of being a mother? And then, there's the issues of expectations and stereotypical role as a mother. How do one look at motherhood and is there even a right or wrong way of bringing up a child? 

There's so much to talk about this book and I could see why there's so much hype surrounding it when it was released. Perhaps it's just me, but I didn't quite like the storytelling style which was written in second person narrative. Although there's some interpretations of Cecilia's life in between chapters, there's no indication of what's past and present though to the author's credit, it wasn't hard to figure so it's simply a personal view/preference. Overall it was a thought-provoking read and I could see this as a good fit for discussions. 
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Melody

Hello my dear readers! To begin with, I'm so sorry that my posts have been sparse lately. This applies the same to my blog hopping and commenting and for these I want to say sorry, too. Life has been hectic and it seems like this has somewhat affected my reading momentum in some way. Of course, there're also some personal stuff that was taking away my attention and I just want to say, never underestimate the small mundane things that we're taking for granted. No, there's nothing wrong with my health although I'd be thankful if my usual old problems will just go away, ha. Now that I've got these off my plate, let me share with you what I've been reading lately.

I'd finished reading Ling Jing's (笭菁) first installment of her new series (林投劫) featuring a variety of supernatural characters. I loved her two urban legends series and although I was sad to see they'd come to an end, it was good to see Ling Jing has quickly started on a new series; this time around surrounding a family of supernatural characters (humans included) helping to solve some mysterious cases. Like the urban legends series, the author would base from the origins and have the story twisted accordingly to her imaginations. This first installment revolves around a woman who was murdered but was led to believe as a suicidal hanging case. The fiction then extend its plot by recreating her character as a ghost seeking for truth and revenge. And that's where the family will come in as they'll help to solve the case, but they'd not meddle with fate and any karmic forces which may link to the victim and the perpetrator. I like the idea of this new series and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more. 


I'm currently reading The Push by Ashley Audrain and it's an absorbing read about the exploration of motherhood. While there's psychological and family drama, I'd say this is more of a case of characters study as well as the values, expectations and challenges of women becoming mothers. I can't say more as I'm only into half of the book, but it's definitely a powerful and a thought-provoking book that fits for discussions. 


My library visits have become an irregular routine since the safety regulations often change as and when accordingly to current situation, thus I'm currently turning my attention more to my TBR pile and book acquisitions although I'll still borrow books whenever I can. Here are some of my recent book buys: Hostage by Clare Mackintosh, The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon, Beneath Devil's Bridge by Loreth Anne White and The Boys' Club by Erica Katz. 

Hope you've a great day and happy reading! 


© 2021 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

 

Joffe Books | 15 June 2021 | 278 pgs
Source: Publisher via NetGalley 

"Please forgive me. I couldn't live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic."

When Lena Nguyen received the above text message from her estranged twin sister, Cambry, she thought nothing about it until she found out about her suicide much later. Based on the police report, Cambry had driven to Hairpin Bridge; a remote bridge seventy miles outside of Missoula, Montana, and jumped to her death. Lena may not be close with Cambry, but she knew her personality and that she's not the kind who'd give up a fight easily. And the more she read Cambry's last text, the more she find something is amiss so she decided to have a talk with Corporal Raymond Raycevic. After all, he's the highway patrolman who'd allegedly discovered Cambry's body. 

Lena is all prepared before meeting Officer Raycevic for the interview at Hairpin Bridge. She's even carried a cassette recorder along so she could have Raycevic's statement as a record. Raycevic has been sympathetic and professional towards Lena as he told her that he'd stopped Cambry for speeding before discovering her mangled body an hour later on that fateful day. Based from Raycevic's report, Cambry had leapt to her death although the motive was unclear. Lena knew Cambry had been living a wild life but to choose a death path doesn't seemed her style. On top of it, Raycevic's statement seemed a bit off, too. How'd he discover Cambry's body and right after he'd stopped her car an hour ago? And most of all, her  unexplainable sixteen attempted 911 calls dialled from a dead zone. Did Cambry call before her so-called suicide? Or is it Raycevic who's responsible for her death? 

I've enjoyed Taylor Adams' previous psychological thriller, No Exit. It was an intense wild ride filled with twists and turns and this book is no exception. Adams' writing has that cinematic style that hook you easily and never let your attention go until the final page. I especially loved how he created his female characters to be courageous and feisty; showing their strengths as they're faced with challenges amid their vulnerable situations. I think I enjoyed this book a bit more than No Exit as it captured the complicated relationship between the twin sisters as well as Lena's side of Cambry's story. As the story slowly unravels, we see some parallels and the truth and personally this storytelling works for me. And I'm glad to say Taylor Adams has now become one of my favourite authors.  

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Melody

HQ | 18 February 2021 | 448 pgs
Source: Library 


The story begins with a gruesome murder case of mutilated body parts scattering in different locations in Deptford. DI Angelica Henley and TDC Salim Ramouter are tasked to investigate this case. Angelica is once again roused by the dark memories of her previous investigation of serial killer Peter Olivier, a.k.a. The Jigsaw Killer, who's currently serving a life sentence for all the murders he'd committed. Obviously, the recent case is the work of a copycat and the duo is adamant to bring this perpetrator to justice. And this leads to Angelica's visit to the prison, hoping she could find some answers from Peter whether or not if he's told anyone about his plans, modus operandi or even if there's an accomplice. 

While imitation may be a form of flattery, Peter doesn't see it that way. Instead, he's enraged that someone is using his name and his same methods for whatever reasons while he's being hole up in a cell, helpless and couldn't do anything. This is when he decides to take things into his own hands; and this time around nothing could stop him. Soon, Angelica and Ramouter find themselves chasing not one but two serial killers instead. 

The Jigsaw Man is not for the faint-hearted; and personally I find it to be a gritty police procedural combined with a case of characters study. Angelica is flawed and suffered from PTSD, but she's determined and in some ways fearless, too. Her comradeship with Ramouter is complicated, yet they work seamlessly the more they get to know each other. However, her relationship with her husband needs more work, though. 

The author's writing was engaging, but at times the intensity was cut short due to some in-depth backstory and character developments but this isn't a complaint and is more of a personal observation. I think the best moment was the exchanges between Angelica and Peter and it's always interesting to hear the side of a criminal's story even if they creep you out. Overall this was a satisfying read, and I'm hoping to see more of Angelica and Ramouter in the author's future releases. 
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Melody


Crooked Lane Books | 8 June 2021 | 304 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 


Heather Evans returns to her old home after her mother's baffling suicide. While clearing the stuff she's discovered something alarming about her late mother and the things she'd kept - stacks of letters from the notorious serial killer, Michael Reave (a.k.a. The "Red Wolf"). Reave has been in prison for over twenty years and it seems that her late mother had been secretly corresponding with him for decades. Reave is known of his gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women although he's always protested his innocence. 

When a young woman's body is found and the modus operandi is similar to Reave's, Heather decided that she needs to find out about her mother's past and her communications with Reave. Her info sharing of her mother's correspondence with Reave with the police lands her a visit to the prison as everyone hopes that Reave will talk and hopefully shed some light on the recent murder. While Reave remains vague about his past and doesn't seem to offer anything useful relevant to the recent case, he does speak in riddles about some Grimm's fairy tales, in particularly the Red Riding Hood. As Heather communicates more with Reave, she learns that her late mother and Reave do know each other way back when they were living in Fiddler's Mill, a hippy commune in the 70s. Now Heather's biggest question is: what is the relationship between her late mother and Reave and what's her role in all these mayhem?

This story was incredibly dark and broody in some ways which suits the serial killer theme. There was a part about animal cruelty which I quickly skimmed over; and the rest was quite an atmospheric read especially some references to the Red Riding Hood and Reave's past as a boy and his relationship with a mysterious man. Despite an intriguing opening, the story was a slow burn and Heather sometimes made poor, dubious decisions that frustrate the reader. I also feel some characters are not fleshed out enough but the portrayal of Reave as a boy and how he tells his story to Heather in a mythological way was rather fascinating. I may have dived into this book with a high expectation so I was a bit disappointed with the execution and some of the characterisations which I feel would make a better read should they are more well elaborated. That said, if you're into atmospheric books then this one may be of interest to you. 
© 2021 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 | 3 August 2021 | 352 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

Megan Abbott is good at writing complexity relationship in her female characters and in this book she brings her readers into the world of ballet whereby the dynamics of a family is about to change after a stranger break into their once well-constructed ties. 

Dara and Marie Durant are trained as ballet dancers since young. Their mother was once a famous ballet dancer and owned a ballet studio but an automobile accident claimed her and her husband's lives. The ballet studio is then passed on to the sisters; and together with Dara's husband, Charlie, they run the studio with the sisters as trainers and Charlie oversee the administration part. Charlie was once their mother's prized student but he'd stopped dancing after an injury. There are, of course, some challenges operating the studio and with the annual Nutcracker performance coming up, the trio feels the stress as not only do they have to make preparations but they're also a bit tight with the financials, too. When a fire broke out and destroyed part of the studio, they've no choice but to engage a contractor for the renovation. 

Enter Derek, a charming smooth talker who not only coax Charlie into signing some projects agreements but also seems to have Marie captivated. Derek's arrival has not only shaken Dara's equilibrium but also messes up the balance of their routines. Dara feels his hold on Marie has put a strain on their sisterly bond; and most of all she feels he has an agenda. As the story slowly unravel, Derek's pushover leads to the unveiling of some secrets surrounding the Durants' past, forcing them all to face a shocking truth which may crumble their worlds. 

The Turnout is one taut mystery and it consists of some issues which may unnerve the reader at times (like machoism and sexual innuendos). Megan's writing is engaging as always, and what I love most about her books is the sensitivity and the attention she put in when writing about her (female) characters and their emotions. Aside from the family dynamics and Derek's agenda, the ballet world is an interesting read too. There's a Chinese idiom: "Ten years of practice for one minute on stage", which says a lot about these ballet dancers' hard work and the pain they've to face (those pointe technique!) Although this is not my favourite Megan Abbott book, it still makes a riveting read.  
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Melody
Crooked Lane Books | 7 September 2021 | 336 pgs
Source: Publisher via NetGalley 


Fourteen years ago, Bryn Collins moved to a quiet place far away from the city in Tennessee to escape and to heal her broken heart after learning that her fiance, Sawyer, had left her for her younger sister, Del. Surrounded by nature and living like a farmer, Bryn thought she's finally found peace and has gradually let go of the past until one day, 14-year-old Josh comes knocking at her door, claiming that he is her nephew and that his mother is missing. Sawyer had passed during a plane crash accident and Josh has no one to turn to, but his mother had left him a note about his aunt in case anything happens and so here he is. 

Bryn would be lying if she admit that she isn't bothered by Sawyer's and Del's betrayal. To this day, she still didn't understand why Sawyer would do such a thing to her. She has no qualms about Del's reckless behaviours though; after all she's always been living a wild and a carefree life. As Bryn wonders about her whereabouts, she is confronted by Carl and learns that Bryn had owed him some money. Carl has always been a hoodlum since they were teenagers; and he threatens Bryn that he wouldn't let things off easily if she couldn't bring Del to him within a week. Bryn and Josh then travel across the states till they stop at Colorado, where they finally find the shocking truth amid the annual Mountain Games competition. 

Over the Falls was a slow burn despite the theme surrounding whitewater rapids and kayaking but it was still an engaging read given the much focus on the characters developments and the interactions between Bryn and Josh. Del's disappearance is the mystery and also a drive to these two characters amid their issues and insecurities in general. Although the mystery intrigued me (and yes, there are some twists as well), I was most drawn towards the growing bond between Bryn and Josh as they race against time in finding Del and the real truth behind her disappearance. 

© 2021 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

 

Bantam Press | 1 January 2021 | 387 pgs
Source: Purchased 

There's been some hype surrounding this book when it was first released. Chosen as a Reese's bookclub read and a story centers around an abandoned sanatorium turned five-star luxury hotel set in the Swiss Alps, I just knew I've to read it. 

Elin Warner is taking her leave from her job as a detective due to PTSD issue when she receives an invitation from her estranged brother, Isaac, to celebrate his engagement with his fiancée, Laure. Laure is their long-time friend and Elin knew she has no reason not to accept; and most importantly she has something to ask Isaac regarding their younger brother's death which has plagued her for years. She's suspected Isaac was responsible for Sam's death, but she isn't sure given the time and her young age when the incident happened. 

Together with Elin’s boyfriend, Will, they arrive at the isolated getaway and straightaway Elin feels unease with the atmospheric building and it gets worsen with the threatening snowstorm. Elin also learned that the hotel is owned by the Caron siblings, Lucas and Cécile and the former is friends with architect Daniel Lemaitre, who'd gone missing after the hotel project went on with much protests from the locals. When Laure goes missing the following day, Elin's investigative instincts kick in and the situation got worse after they find an employee is murdered. With the storm and the avalanche, they are left on their own and Elin has to overcome her anxiety and her demons of the past in order to continue with the investigation. 

The atmospheric and claustrophobic setting both make a wonderful plot for this locked-room mystery. Sarah Pearse scored a perfect score in this department as she brings her setting to life through her vivid descriptions right from the old sanatorium to the modern luxurious hotel. Her cast of characters is intriguing though not all are likeable. The intrigue and the intensity are another draw but alas, the setup is weakened by the execution, the lack of connection between the sanatorium and the hotel and regrettably, the motive and the ending also leave much to be desired. That said, this is a debut novel and there's potential in the author's writing so I'll still check out her next release. 

Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me as part of our buddy read 'assignments' and please do check out Lark's blog for her review, too! 😊 Here's her questions to me regarding the book:

1) That isolated snowy setting is always a favorite of mine (and yours, too), what are some of your other favorite settings to read about in books?
Aside from the isolated snowy setting, I also love reading about the wilderness and the oceanic world. In short, anything to do with the beauty and the unpredictables of nature and I'm in. 

2) The cover classifies The Sanatorium as a "Gothic thriller" but it felt less Gothic thriller and more regular mystery to me. What do you think? How would you classify this book? 
I totally agree with Lark on this. It was atmospheric but doesn't really classifies as a Gothic thriller (not much focus on the sanatorium in my opinion and some parts aren't fully explained, too). Personally, I'd think a suspense thriller is more suitable to this book. 
© 2021 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.