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. 
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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.  
© 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
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. 
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Melody

 

Lake Union Publishing | 1 August 2018 | 268 pgs
Source: Library 

Jane is working as a data entry clerk in an insurance company. At first glance, she's simple and meek and at times, insecure about herself. Her pretty face and her personality catches the attention of the company's manager, Steven Hepsworth; and likewise Steven caught Jane's attention but for different reasons. The real Jane is hardly a meek and insecure woman. In fact, she's a self-proclaimed sociopath and before moving back to Minneapolis, she had a great career as an import-export attorney and lived in a nice apartment in Kuala Lumpur. There's only one reason she's back and leading a double life - getting revenge for her late best friend, Meg. 

Meg and Steven were a couple until his hot and cold behavior and his emotionally abusive streak led Meg to end her life. Meg's death shattered Jane's equilibrium considering how close they used to be; and this has led Jane to lose all interest in life and decided to avenge for Meg. Jane is familiar with Steven’s gaslighting antics; after all she'd heard enough of his behaviours through Meg and she felt angry that her best friend had chosen to ignore or gave reasons for Steven’s behaviours. Jane has nothing to lose as she's prepared to bring Steven down along with his family members, but her encounter with an old friend/ex-lover complicates her plans. 

Whether if it was a case of character study of Jane (yes, she does has some issues) or a story about revenge, Jane Doe made a compelling read with the developments for both the characterisations and the storyline. Jane was an intriguing character; and I liked her fearlessness and her loyalty towards her friend. Her self-proclaimed as a sociopath may not portray her in a positive light, yet it didn't deem her as an anti-heroine either the more I learnt about her. There are some topics which are difficult to read but they delve into the issues of what some women are facing in the real world. Jane will appear in another book titled Problem Child and it looks like she's met her match with her teenage niece. 
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Melody

St. Martin's Press | 5 January 2021 | 304 pgs
Source: Library 


When I first heard that The Wife Upstairs is a Southern Gothic twist on Jane Eyre, I knew I've to read it. 

Jane Bell (not her real name) moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to escape from her past. Having lived by a foster care system, she knew how harsh life could be and with a secret to hide, she changed her identity and become a dog-walker in Thornfield Estates where the rich resides and no one will notice even if she's stolen a few pieces of their jewelry. Jane knew she could never fit into the community of those bored and gossipy housewives, until a chance encounter with Eddie Rochester changes that fate.

Eddie is charming, handsome and a widower. Having lost his wife, Bea, six months ago, Eddie remains a mysterious resident considering he rarely mingle with the others. Surprisingly, Jane and Eddie hit it off rather quickly and in no time, Jane soon catches the attention of the other housewives and gradually becomes part of the group. She then learns a bit more about Bea; that she was a successful retail entrepreneur and she and her other friend, Blanche, were both drowned in a boating accident. Their bodies were never found, and the sad tragedy becomes a memory within the community but Jane is intrigued by Bea and most of all, is curious about her relationship with Eddie and the boating accident as well. As things began to escalate between Jane and Eddie, Jane's curiosity towards Bea also intensifies as it seems Eddie is keeping some secrets of his own. Is Eddie who she thinks he is? Perhaps Bea's death is not accidental as everyone thinks it is? 

This book was a page-turner. The author has a way of writing that pulls you in and never let go and all the characters are intriguing, too. While there're a few elements which are reminiscent of Jane Eyre, this book stands firmly on its own with the writing and tone. The characterisations are well depicted and though most of them aren't likeable, it clearly defines the social class differences and the behaviorism which ensue as a result. I'd mixed feelings towards Jane as on one hand, her situation was pitiable yet on the other hand, she could be despicable in some ways. The suspense was another draw of the story, though the ending could be fairly predictable if you're a regular reader of the suspense genre but still, that didn't diminish my reading pleasure as I mentioned before, the author's writing was engaging. I'll be curious to see what she has in store next. 
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Melody

 

Berkley | 21 July 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

Road trips are supposed to be fun, right? Well, not the case in this book.

Beth, Portia and Eddie Morgan are siblings and they haven't contact one another in years. When their grandfather passed, the three siblings come together not to grief but to go on a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish before securing their inheritance. There are some "rules" to follow stated on the will; and one of them is not losing their grandfather's ashes as they go on the trip. Beth and Eddie brought their spouses along while Portia is single. 

Now family ties and relationships can be complicated; and the reader soon learned about this three siblings' childhood and their memories and secrets surrounding their missing elder sister. Most of all, it also tells about their road trip with their grandfather when they were young; along with the family dynamics and how it'd implicate the current situation they're all in now. 

As they begin their road trip, they soon learn that trust could be easily diminished by a simple act and it'd be hard to earn back that trust especially if that person happens to be your spouse. Secrets aside, the group of five also faces the threat of a black car following them and finding ways to disrupt their journey, although they couldn't find any proof and the driver is good at playing cat-and-mouse game with them. It's no surprise that this trip get them all on edge and agitated, but they'll strive on since money is a powerful motivator and nothing could get in their way, not even murder. 

This book wowed me on so many levels. First, there's the plot which I find it so refreshing. The dynamics between this group of dysfunctional siblings and their spouses add some drama and intrigue to the story, but most of all, Beth's voice and her inner thoughts really got to me. She's sharp, snarky and she knows how to hide her feelings well. She has a dark side, but then so do her other siblings so no one is likeable or trustful here. Aside from Beth's narrative, I was also drawn by the anonymous journal entries written during the past and they definitely add some mystery and depth to the story. Overall, this was a highly addicting read albeit some craziness to it (the ending left me stumped, though); and I bet once you've closed this book you'll be thinking of this story whenever you go on a road trip. 

Note: The author stated that all of the attractions, tourist sites, and museums in this book are real (e.g. Helen Keller's House in Alabama to Codger Pole in Washington, just to name a few). 
© 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

Berkley | 18 February 2020 | 315 pgs
Source: Library 


Former NYPD detective Shana Merchant had a brush with death thirteen months ago after she was abducted by a notorious serial killer. Flawed and not fully emotionally healed from the abduction, Shana's condition has improved a little after seeking treatment from a therapist, who's stopped seeing her as a patient ever since they'd started seeing each other. He's now her fiancé. 

Since Shana's condition has gotten better, she's now back to work in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York, and find herself working with local investigator, Tim Wellington. He's received a call from a Sinclair family that one of their family members is missing. Shana and Tim are assigned to travel to the island to gather more information with the assurance from their department that more manpower would be dispatched thereafter. However, Shana and Tim gather little information except to learn that Jasper, the missing man, has left no traces except a blood-soaked bed which he'd shared with his girlfriend. His girlfriend claimed she didn't hear anything, but that's maybe her mind is fuzzy from the drinks they'd had the previous night. 

Tim's initial guess is that they're dealing with a runaway case, but Shana doesn't think so after interviewing the Sinclairs (including their caretaker and the girlfriend) and find their dynamics complicated and on edge. To complicate matters, Shana and Tim find themselves cut off from the mainland and police's manpower as the storm strikes the island, leaving all of them stranded and with a possibly restless murderer around. As Shana continues to find the truth and secrets surrounding the Sinclairs, she is soon faced with more uncertainties as Tim's reliability is thrown into question and her biggest challenge is finding faith in herself again as her trauma-fueled flashbacks are returning and she has no one to rely on but herself. 

The setup of this story was great - chilling, atmospheric and with a touch of Agatha Christie vibe. The dynamics and the complexity relationship of the Sinclairs, combines with the claustrophobic setting, made a riveting read and all the more seeing Shana battling her own demons. The Sinclairs make up of a cast of unusual characters and while not all are unlikeable, their morality is most often questioned and what motivates Jasper's disappearance remains the crux of this thriller. There's also an exploration of Shana's relationship with her fiancé; considering she was his patient before. All in all, this was an intense thriller which captivated my attention from the beginning till the end and I'm glad to note that Shana will make her appearance again in the next book, The Dead Season

© 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


Headline | 21 January 2021 | 432 pgs
Source: Library 

The weather has been getting warmer over here and while I couldn't do anything about it, I could indulge in a book set in a cold place and let my imagination run wild. While a murder plot isn't what I'd had in mind, I thought it still makes a good temporary fix considering how much I like reading a locked-room mystery. 

The book opens with Milla getting an invitation for a reunion in the French Alps resort from one of her friends whom she didn't contact for ten years. She and Curtis go way back and they were all at the height of their snowboarding career then until Curtis's younger sister disappeared. While Milla doesn't want to be reminded of the past, she does miss Curtis and has been wondering how he's been doing. She is glad to find their other three friends are also coming along, until they reach the destination and find it totally deserted. Thinking it is off-season, they dismiss the unsettling feeling until their icebreaker game turns menacing. 

As they question themselves and the purpose of the trip, it turns out that no one really knows who has sent the invite and that someone wants them to be there for solely one purpose - to find out the truth surrounding Saskia's disappearance since her body has yet to be found. As the group of five struggles to find ways of leaving the place with limited manpower and resources, their biggest fear is that they didn't know who to trust and that their secrets ten years ago are about to come to light. 

Atmospheric and filled with intensity, this debut novel by Allie Reynolds easily captured my attention not only of the chilling premise but also the theme surrounding the story - snowboarding. Ms Reynolds was once a freestyle snowboarder in the UK top ten at halfpipe so it was a treat and an eye-opener to read about the experiences and challenges of snowboarding alongside the suspense (my deepest respect and admiration to all the athletes who train hard for their love of sports no matter how risky some of them can be). 

The balance between intrigue and intensity was effectively narrated by two alternative timeline and while this is a common trope used in many thrillers, this will remain as one of my favourites as far as (writing) style is concerned. The cast of characters are also well depicted through their personality and exchanges; as well as who they are and how they behave under a hyper-competitive and a dangerous environment. A captivating debut novel and I'll be sure to look out for the author's future releases. 
© 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

This week, allow me to take a break off of book reviews and let me introduce you to three K-dramas which I watched lately. (Currently watching Mouse and Navillera which are still ongoing.)


The Penthouse: War in Life (Season 1 & 2)

If you're into melodrama with a cast of secretive, unreliable characters, then look no further as this story will blow your mind with the twisty plots and developments as each episode goes. 

In a nutshell, this story is about power, wealth, ambitions and revenge surrounding a few residents living in a luxurious apartment named "Hera Palace". These various families are ambitious and like comparing and playing mind games while their children attend the same prestigious music school and like their parents, they'd do anything to outdo the others until someone died. The cause and effect of that murder quickly escalates into something more sinister as it brings out the darkness in these residents' mind; leading them to playing cruel games and more murders. 

Season 1 was exciting, but Season 2 got a bit old with what looked like more revenge and unbelievable plot twists (spoiler alert: resurrections of some characters so they could surprise and plot their plans of revenge and the games go on. Seriously?) And that's not the end of it as there'll be a Season 3 and it'd most likely air in June (?) 2021 if according to plans. I don't know about this upcoming season as it feels like a big stretch to me (hopefully, there's a sense of redemption and closure in some of these characters' awful actions.) That said, the cast performance was great and despite the over-exaggerated plots (and lots of yelling and throwing tantrums) at times, it still makes a (fun?) and an addicting watch if you're into twisty plots and twisted characters. (3.5 out of 5 stars round-off for both season)


Beyond Evil

This crime suspense drama won my approval with its intriguing premise, perfect story execution and not to mention the excellent performance of the cast. 

This story surrounds two detectives and depicts their differences from their background, personalities and their ways of solving cases. Lee Dong Sik (played by Shin Ha Kyun) works as an officer at Manyang Police Substation in a small city and beneath his quiet demeanour, he is actually a sentimental person who hasn't got over his traumatic past as a suspect of his sister's murder. In a village where the residents never tell and remember, it is hard to gauge their minds although they're quick to support one another should an outsider tries to invade into their lives. 

Detective Han Joo Won (played by Yeo Jin Goo) feels the unity of the Manyang residents after he is transferred to the same police substation and is assigned as Dong Sik's superior (also his partner). Joo Won comes from a distinguished background given his role at Seoul Police Station and that his father is nominated to be the next Commissioner General of the National Police Agency. 

The dynamics between Joo Won and Dong Sik is explosive, but a serial murder case forces them to work together; which in turn also raises some suspicion among the police staff if Dong Sik is involved and whether or not if Joo Won can be trusted considering he's an outsider. 

Despite the slow beginning, this story would capture your attention once the momentum picks up and questions will be raised as each character becomes unreliable and their actions blurry as the story progresses. There are lots of twists and turns as expected in this kind of story, but the draw lies in the two lead characters and the atmospheric Manyang with its close-knit community; which is full of secrets as it turns out eventually and how it'd impact everyone even after there's closure. Highly recommended! (5 out of 5 stars)
© 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

 

Harper Voyager | 17 March 2020 | 432 pgs
Source: Library 
Crush the King is the last installment of Crown of Shards series and not surprisingly it was packed with more actions, more magic, and of course more murderous machinations and courtly intrigue surrounding rival kingdoms, Bellona and Morta. 

In the previous two installments (Kill the Queen and Protect the Prince), the reader read about how gladiator Everleigh Blair had took the throne of Bellona after the mass murder of the royal family, leaving her the last Blair to continue with the legacy and to lead the kingdom despite her role and her lack of experience. While Everleigh may be lacking in some courtly matters, she is after all a warrior trained gladiator but she has immunity to magic, which is her strength considering she also could "smell" magic and destroy them if necessary. Everleigh has never forgotten about the Seven Spire massacre and has vowed to take revenge and that time has finally come with the arrival of the Regalia Games, whereby the warriors, nobles and royals from all the kingdoms will come together to compete in various sporting events. 

Everleigh may have a grudge against Maeven who had murdered the last queen, but she is more wary of her half brother, Maximus, the conniving king of Morta who doesn't take humanity kindly and will dispose anyone who gets in his way. Although Maeven is his half sister, she's also considered a bastard sister to Maximus so he often give her a cold treatment, which in turn leads to another interesting segment to the already complicated courtly machinations. 

This installment may be the last of the series, but I felt the ending leaves some possibility of a future book featuring the world of Crown of Shards and true enough, the author will have an all-new trilogy coming out in July 2021 featuring a new heroine (well, not new if you read this series). Truth be told, I was actually sad to see this trilogy has come to an end. It was like reading an adventurous coming-of-age story although this isn't categorised as YA genre. It was great to see how Everleigh has matured over the time and see her ambition changes for the sake of Bellona and the people. Her relationship with her friends was one of the fun things to read alongside the battles and they definitely deserve some attention considering they're Everleigh's entourage when plotting and fighting are concerned. I also find the worldbuilding fascinating; and not to mention the magic elements and the Strix creatures which give magical power to anyone who drinks their blood. I'd recommend this series if you like an extraordinary fantasy. 
© 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

HQ | 7 January 2021 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

77-year-old Judith Potts is single and lives alone in a mansion inherited from her late aunt, Betty. Judith is happy with her life; after all she doesn't have to report to anyone and she can drink whisky anyhow or anytime she likes. She passes her time setting crosswords for the national newspapers and life doesn't get much better until one evening changes her life thereafter. 

On that fateful evening, she is out swimming in the Thames and she hears shouting from her neighbour's garden, followed by the sound of a gunshot. She then reports what she's heard to the police, hoping they'd send someone to investigate but they don't believe her and thought she might have heard wrongly. Afterall, Marlow has a low crime rate and it is not often they'd come across a serious crime, let alone a murder case. But Judith trusts her instincts and decides to investigate for herself. Her determination has paid off as she eventually finds her neighbour's body but the police thinks there's a possibility between the case of an accident and a suicide attempt. 

Judith didn't want to argue with the police and their disbelief has further fueled her determination in solving the case more. She is soon joined by the neighbourhood's dog walker, Suzie, and the prim and proper Vicar's wife, Becks. Together they formed "The Marlow Murder Club". What begins as a simple sleuthing soon becomes their "full-time job" as they realise they may be dealing with a serial killer when another body is found. Together with DS Tanika Malik (who's come to acknowledge their individual abilities eventually), they'll soon learn that some residents aren't who they seem to be and that one day the past would return to haunt no matter how one keeps it quietly. 

This book was a delight to read. Perhaps that's a wrong word to use considering this is a book about murders, but I loved the author's prose (serious yet humorous at times) and most of all, the various cast of characters that make this mystery so much intriguing through their dialogues and their characteristics. Judith was a remarkable character; she was a true hero (yes, she does wear a cape sometimes) and I liked it that she's feisty and opinionated and doesn't allow anything (or anyone) to bring her down. Her friendship with Suzie and Becks made me smile; and then there's DS Malik who brings in some conflicts to the story through her own issues and how she and the trio work together to crack the case. I also liked it that the mystery was multi-layered and like Judith's crossword puzzles, you need to think from various angles and other possibilities, too. As you can tell, I enjoyed this book and I'm glad to note that a sequel will be published in December 2021 (source).

© 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
HarperCollins | 12 November 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 
Catherine Cooper brings the readers to a ski resort set in the chilly La Madiere in which nature, motives and revenge all play a part in this psychological thriller.  

The year is 1998 and we're first introduced to two brothers, Will and Adam Cassiobury, as they bring their girlfriends for a ski holiday in La Madiere. The relationship between the two brothers are somewhat strained since they often seem to disagree and argue constantly. On the other end, Louisa (Will's girlfriend) struggles to fit into the group given the differences of social and class status. When Will and Adam decided to take a challenging ski route together along the French Alps on one occasion, they lost their way and out of ambitious pride, Adam figured they'd find their way out themselves while Will argued they should find and seek help from their guides. Cameron, the guide as well as the chalet owner, worries more about the sales and reputation so he didn't react quickly to the disappearance of the Cassiobury brothers until at a later stage; by then it's impossible to ignore given the severity of circumstances and sadly, only one brother is found. 

Twenty years later, two families visit the same place for a luxurious holiday. The husbands knew each other for their business connections and Cameron is still running the chalets like before. This group of acquaintance has reasons behind their holiday and most of all, they're linked to the missing brother. When a snowstorm strikes and they're stranded in the resorts, their worry and fear is further escalated when a body is found due to the avalanche, leading them the question if it's the body of the missing brother in 1998. As the story progresses and more plots reveal, the reader will soon learn that there's more to the missing brother case and that there's more than one in the group who knew about the incident twenty years ago. 

There's something about claustrophobic setting and unreliable narrators, isn't it? This may be a common trope in the suspense genre but yet it continues to hold its appeal and most of all, they never get old (at least in my opinion). The Chalet ticked most of the boxes under my suspense criterion although I've to say I liked none of the characters here. (well, maybe except for one but . . .) The story is split into two timelines with multiple narrators and both have well-balanced contents and fleshed out characters. I liked the chilling, atmospheric setting of La Madiere and this remains as my favourite throughout the book as it was quite well depicted (and I've learned a few things about skiing, too!) Overall it was a good read for a debut novel. 

(I Googled the author and stumbled upon this interview.)

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Melody

HQ | 28 May 2020 | 384 pgs
Source: Library 

His and Hers gives readers three sides of a story - a divorced couple's POVs and the mysterious killer surrounding a murder(s) investigation. 

Anna Andrews has finally gotten the job of her dreams as a newsreader at BBC after her predecessor, Cat Jones, has gone away for her maternity leave. Anna thought she'd get the job permanently through her good performance, but her hope is dashed once Cat decides to return and take back her place. Feeling bitter and dejected, Anna goes back to being a correspondent and her big break finally came when she's assigned to cover a murder in the woods at sleepy Blackdown.  

DCI Jack Harper is Anna's ex-husband and their relationship is torn apart from a tragedy involving their little girl years ago. Jack's life has been mundane until he finds himself entangled in a murder case. It turns out that the murdered victim is someone he knew intimately and it seemed he might be the last person who'd seen her alive. Although the investigation team finds a shoe print around the crime scene, they've yet to pinpoint the perpetrator. Jack and his rookie partner, Priya, are assigned to this case and he's surprised (though not so pleased) to see Anna again under this circumstances. To complicate matters, Anna knew the murdered victim, too. They were high school friends and their friendship was great at some point until Anna saw through her motives. Jack knew about their past friendship but Anna didn't know that Jack was seeing her.  

Through alternative POVs, the reader gets to learn about the thoughts and mindset of Jack and Anna. The killer's narrative was understandably vague for suspense reason, but it does add some doubts about the credibility between Jack and Anna. There're also flashbacks of the past featuring Anna's high school days and her friendship with a few girls; as well as all the bullying which would come back to haunt them all as Anna soon finds her ex-school friends turn up dead one by one. Will she be next? Or are there something more behind Anna's and Jack's mind? Then there's Priya, who is working so hard to please Jack yet she's not totally upfront with him at times. 

Overall, this twisty psychological thriller kept me on edge and the plot and suspense was quite well-paced and nicely executed. The "whodunit" took me by surprise but I didn't really buy the "howdunit" as it seemed a bit far-fetched to me. That said, this minor complaint didn't deter me from enjoying the book. 

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Melody

 

Crooked Lane Books | 13 April 2021 | 304 pgs
Source: NetGalley 


40-year-old June Bennett returns to her childhood home at Avril Island after receiving news of her older sister's death. May Bennett had visited the family's lawyer regarding the property left by their late mother but unfortunately she died in a fatal car accident on her way back. The two sisters had always believed that their mother had sold off Avril Island ever since their father's disappearance decades ago but now that May has gone, June has no choice but to return to the Island to search for some answers. 

June couldn't remember much of her childhood times in Avril lsland, but the residents do remember the Bennetts clearly. She later learns from the residents that they believe her father may be murdered instead of disappeared as what her mother had claimed. June didn't know what to think of this new revelation, but she did reacquaint with their caretaker's son, Ezra, and soon find herself attracted to him. As June continues to dig into the past, strange things start happening around Avril lsland. First, the unexplained noises in the night and shadowy figures disappearing into the woods. Then, missing family possessions showing up and doors locking on their own. What secrets do Avril Island hold that the residents are reluctant to talk about it? 

This story has a few elements that held my attention. The atmospheric Avril lsland, the secrets and deceptions, and then there's the bond/dynamics between the two sisters and most of all, the alternating POVs between June and May, who's dead and seemed to be hovering around June. May's narrative was vague but it isn't without reason as her voice adds part of the intrigue to this story. Despite a thriller, I felt the strength lies instead in the relationship between the two sisters (their childhood in particularly) and the family dynamics of the Bennett family. Avril Island was another draw as it was well described. My only complaint was I wished there was more developments between the sisters in their adulthood. While June was an interesting character, she's not really likeable in some ways and some of her actions really puzzled me, to say the least. Nevertheless, it was an engaging read and I'll be curious to see what the author has in store for her next book. 
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Melody

 

Doubleday | 30 June 2020 | 336 pgs
Source: Library
Kevin Kwan's phenomenal novel, Crazy Rich Asians, takes the readers to tropical Singapore and tells a love story through an array of local culture, the mindset and the behaviorism of the rich with a fun and dramatic prose. Sex and Vanity has a similar vibe as CRA in terms of the prose (minus the Singlish, of course) and is a homage to E.M. Forster's A Room with a View (I haven't read this so I couldn't compare). 

Lucie Tang Churchill, our heroine, is invited to a wedding reception in Capri, Italy, together with her family. Accompanied by her cousin, Charlotte, they're supposed to check into a hotel room that has a scenic sea view but are dismayed to find it's already been occupied by another two guests. Rosemary Zao gallantly offers to trade hotel rooms with them, but Charlotte isn't impressed with her exaggerated and over-the-top enthusiasm and thinks they're of two different class. Lucie, on the other hand, is intrigued by George Zao's (Rosemary's son) quiet temperament although she finds him a bit eccentric. And as fate would have it, it turns out that the Zaos are attending the same wedding reception, too. 

In spite of Lucie's denial towards her attraction towards George and Charlotte's disapproval, Lucie couldn't keep her eyes away from him and Charlotte would tease her about her mixed blood heritage (Lucie's mother is a Chinese) that it's no surprise that George (Chinese-Australian) would attract her. But Lucie, on the other hand, finds her mixed blood heritage more of a hassle and confusion since she doesn't feel a strong sense of belonging from both sides of the family. 

Lucie and George eventually let their feelings and emotions speak for themselves, but then an embarrassing situation breaks them apart. After this begins the second part of the story which is five years later after that incident, and the reader will soon learn that Lucie has a new fiancé and she's going to cross path with George once again; but this time around there're more deceits and implications as they involve not only her family and fiancé, but also the co-op board of her prestigious apartment building (they're hilarious at some point). 

While Crazy Rich Asians and this book have the element of the rich and the privileged, what set them apart is the setting, the colourful culture of two different continents (Asian and Europe) and of course, not to mention the characterisations which I feel, remains the highlight of Kwan's books. I enjoyed reading about the local culture of CRA, but this book enables me more than a glimpse of the beautiful Capri and the extravagant food and fashion so it was both an entertaining and an "eye-opening" experience to me. While the love story was so-so and I wished there're more developments between Lucie and George (they've chemistry but lacks interactions), overall this still makes a decent read if you're in the mood for something light and fluffy. 
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Melody

 

Sceptre | 5 March 2020 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

In a rural Nigerian village, there lives a 14-year-old girl named Adunni. Despite poor and being the oldest in school, Adunni remembers her late mother's words on the importance of having an education so that she can find her "louding voice" and be a teacher - a job she has always dreamed of. But life is tough and cruel and being the only girl in the family, her father decides that it's best for her to stop schooling and to marry off to an old man as his third wife. 

As if being a third wife isn't bad enough, Adunni has to endure the abusive behaviours of the first wife as well as her demanding husband, Morufu. It is only through Khadija, the second wife, that Adunni manages to find some solace but Khadija's understanding and her limited assistance is not enough to ease Adunni's misery from the household until something bad had fallen onto Khadija, leading Adunni on the run. 

Adunni thought she's found someone along the way who could help her in her dire situation, but it turns out that she's being secretly sold into a wealthy family as a domestic servant in Lagos. Once again, Adunni finds herself being bullied and abused by Big Madam and Big Daddy, the couple who's so preoccupied by their own issues (narcissism, greed, lust... you name it). As Adunni struggles to get by, she is also intrigued by the disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca; and wonder why no one wants to mention about her. As Adunni tries to find out about Rebecca's disappearance, it is also at this time that she comes to know Tia Dada, a woman who would help her through the obstacles in her path as Adunni continues to find ways in pursuing her dreams. And this time around, she won't be silenced as she'll make sure her voice is loud and crystal clear. 

This book wasn't an easy read. Through Adunni's narrative, the author depicts the harsh reality of life and how poverty, gender and class differences as well as superstitions in certain countries (in this case, Nigeria) often lead to discriminations and mistreatments. However, this story triumph over the despair of humanity and show the reader that that rugged course of path could be overcome through determination, courage and of course, having your (louding) voice heard! 

As always, I want to thank Lark for all our fun buddy reading journeys and please check out Lark's blog for her review/Q&A of this book. Below are my answers to her questions: 

1) Why do you think Big Madam, who started from nothing and had to work so hard for her own success, was so unsupportive of and mean to Adunni?  
In short, Big Madam was simply a calculative woman and lacks of empathy towards her subordinates. Her narrow-mindedness as well as her relationship with her husband also play a part in her behaviorism, although this isn't an excuse for her unfair treatments towards Adunni. 

2) And what does having a 'louding voice' mean to you? 
To me, having a 'louding voice' means not afraid of being yourself and voicing your opinions despite knowing that judgemental minds are everywhere.
© 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

 

Harper | 5 May 2020 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

Not all marriages are perfect; but a good marriage requires communication, understanding and acceptance from both parties to make their relationship work and be happy. This novel by Kimberly McCreight, unlike the title suggested, leans a bit towards the dark side and unveils the complicated relationship between couples and how secrets and a brutal murder will tear a group of friends apart. 

The story opens with our lead protagonist, Lizzie Kitsakis, receiving a peculiar phone call while working late at an elite law firm, Young & Crane. Lizzie used to work as a federal prosecutor with the US Attorney, but was forced to abandon her passion for a more competitive pay to settle her financial woes especially since her (alcoholic) husband is a freelance writer. It's not like she is unhappy with her life, but Lizzie does know how to avert her eyes when necessary and she's doing good so far until she receives that call from her old friend, Zach Grayson. They used to go to the same college and at some stage, they'd have been together if Lizzie agreed to go out with him. They've lost touch since then until now; and it seems Zach needs Lizzie's help in getting him out from Rikers

Zach's initial prosecution is assault with a police officer, but he's now becomes a primary suspect after his wife, Amanda, was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone. Investigations show it was murder and they've even found Zach's bloodied golf club nearby. Lizzie is reluctant to take on his case initially, partly she's more into corporate crimes but she's drawn by the intrigue of the idyllic Park Slope neighbourhood and its few residents, and most especially the dynamic between Zach and Amanda. What happened at Park Slope and what secrets are they keeping before one decided to commit a murder? 

To say this was a riveting domestic thriller is an understatement. Beneath this package it's also part legal thriller which explores the complications between couples, the threat of cyberbullying and finally, how much do you really know your other half? I've to say it took me some time to get settled with the story; both plot- and character-wise. It was a slow-burn and there's a few characters you've to familiarise with before the story take off, but let me assure you that all the wait and patience are worth it. 

The story was narrated by Lizzie and Amanda (six days before her death) and personally this type of execution works well with me as I like how one storyline/perspective parallel with the other as the story progresses until they merge to form an end. The characterisations are great; there're some whom I sympathised with, then there're also a few whose actions would make you shake your head and question why they'd do it. Overall, it was a great thriller and I love the author's writing a lot. I'm definitely picking this as one of my favourite reads this year.

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Melody

 

Del Rey | 30 June 2020 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

To begin with, Mexican Gothic was a refreshing read to me in so many ways. A Gothic horror/mystery set in the 1950s in a desolate Mexican countryside and a feisty, opinionated heroine to boot. How could I say no? 

So the book opens with our heroine, Noemí Taboada, heading her way towards High Place (a distant house in the Mexican countryside) after receiving a letter from her newly-wed cousin asking for help. The content of the letter was vague and seemed to be written with a sense of urgency; and most of all, it was so unlike of Catalina's characteristic to be voiced out in that way. Intrigued and also upon insistent nudging by her father, Noemí knew she has no other option but to make the trip to find out herself. 

Now Noemí is a chic young woman who has been living in the city all her life, so she immediately finds herself at a loss once she's set her foot into the countryside; and most especially the Doyle's family (with the exception of Catalina, of course), who sees her more like an annoying outsider who refuses to abide by their house rules. Noemí is not a stubborn and unreasonable woman to begin with, but she does find some of their house rules strange and even ridiculous to some extent. Seeing Catalina in person didn't answer her questions as Catalina appears to be weaker and frailer than she's thought and she couldn't pinpoint the mysterious health condition which implicates her overall well-being. That said, Noemí has reservation regarding Catalina's mental health. After all, the Doyle's family members behave strangely and in addition, the house gives out a creepy vibes that Noemí begins to have bad dreams. Could these be the reasons which affect Catalina's condition and why she reaches out for help? 

I've to say this was very much an atmospheric and a character-driven kind of story and a slow-burn in terms of actions. The author took her time in developing the plot, but the characterisations and the intrigue were quite well executed as the story progresses that it took your mind off of the slow buildup until the big reveal eventually came and hit you in the guts. There are family history and dark secrets surrounding this story, but there are also the creepy house and some weird, bizarre elements which render this as a horror, too. The descriptive writing was another strength of this book and it was easy to get lost in the enigmatic High Place as it exudes both beauty and terror under different circumstances. My only complaint was I wished it was much richer in culture and more history surrounding the countryside village.

© 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.