Melody
Pushkin Vertigo | 4 August 2022 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 
Translated from the Chinese by Michelle Deeter


To begin with, this book was surprisingly a good read despite the darkness surrounding it. Set in Ningbo, China, this story revolves around three children and how a chance incident set a chain of events that would alter their lives thereafter. 

The book opens with Zhang Dongsheng bringing his in-laws to a sightseeing site where he pushes them off the mountain. His relationship with them has always been somewhat strained considering of the difference of their background. His marriage has also turned rocky due to accumulated negative emotions (and his wife as well) and his purpose of staying civil to his in-laws is because they're wealthy, until the idea of murder struck his mind. He thought he's got off scot-free, but little did he know that his actions have been caught on camera by a trio of friends who just happened to take pictures nearby. 

14-year-old Zhu Chaoyang is a quiet boy and a whiz at math. Being the only son in a single parent family, he's grown up to be independent and sensible. An outcast in school, he's recently find some joy in his life after Ding Hao, a former schoolmate, reacquainted with him alongside with an orphaned girl, Pupu, whom Ding Hao knew from the same children's home. Both of them are runaways and Chaoyang allow them to stay with him since his mother's working place is far and she's rarely at home. Their simple life becomes complicated and harrowing after they witnessed a murder which they'd captured on camera. What follows is a no return path which no one, including the reader, would ever imagine until the finale that will lead you questioning the outcome. 

This is a multilayered suspense that is best read without knowing too much from the beginning. My above summary only covers half of the story as so many things have changed and transpired after these characters meet and their exchanges develop to something dark and sinister. The prose was simple and read easily; and there's a good balance between the characters developments and the plot so it was a fast-paced read to me (This would definitely make a good fit for bookclubs and buddy read discussions.) Also, I always find pleasure in reading translated works not only for the diversity but also the exploration of new-to-me authors, which is the case for me with this book. I hope there'll be more translated works of this author in future. 

Note: There's a TV series of this book and it has received rave reviews from audience in China and abroad as well. 
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Melody
Minotaur Books | 2 March 2021 | 368 pgs
Source: Library 

Having read Alex Finlay's The Night Shift and enjoyed it, I was eager to pick up Every Last Fear in which Goodreads listed this as one of the most anticipated books of 2021. 

The story begins with the discovery of four bodies of the Pine family at a rented house in Tulum, Mexico. The local police didn't find any evidence of foul play and later proclaimed it as a freak accident after checking the gas line, which they believed was a gas leak that caused the deaths. The only survivors of the Pine family are the two older sons, Danny and Matt, who weren't at the scene when it happened. 

Before tragedy struck, the Pine family had been in the spotlight after a true-crime Netflix documentary had made them infamous. Danny, the oldest son, is currently serving a life sentence for murdering his teenage girlfriend, Charlotte. The true-crime documentary, however, suggesting that he may be wrongfully convicted (which aligns with the Pine family's belief) and the producers behind are trying ways to unravel the truth. The FBI, on the other hand, has their own theory and speculations so they assign the case to Special Agent Sarah Keller to look into it and to liase with Matt for some questioning as well as to inform the news to Danny. Prior to leaving home and arriving in Tulum to recover his family members' bodies, Matt encountered some harrowing incidents that made him wonder if the death of his family members are linked to Danny's case. Despite the danger and limited information, Matt is determined to uncover the truth even if means confronting his every last fear. 

Told in multiple narratives between the present and the past, this was a riveting read about secrets, deceptions, conspiracies and family drama. I was hooked throughout not only by the plot but with the characters, too. They're all fleshed out and well developed and I even liked a few characters, in particularly Matt's younger sister, Maggie. Her intelligence and her determination in piecing some of the clues left me both in awe and with admiration. FBI Agent Sarah Keller first caught my attention in Finlay's second book, The Night Shift, so I was glad to see her feature in this debut (hopefully there's a series in future?). Overall, I enjoyed this suspense thriller and all the more reading it with my book buddy, Lark (check out her review and the Q&A here.)

Last but not least, here's my answers to Lark's questions: 

1. What were your favorite and least favorite things about this novel (characters, writing style, twists, etc.)? 
My favourites will be the characters and the twists (it's hard to choose just one). Although likeable characters aren't a must to me, in this case they made this story much more easier to read if you've some characters to root for. My least favourite would be the last few chapters towards the ending. It felt a bit rushed to me but nonetheless still a satisfying wrap-up. 

2. If you had to describe this novel in just three adjectives, what would they be?
Riveting, compelling and addictive. 
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Melody
Grand Central Publishing | 26 October 2021 (Reprint Edition) | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

I'm sure many readers of the YA and romance genre would be familiar with Colleen Hoover's books. Her books are usually emotionally charged and although I haven't read all of her books, I've enjoyed those that I'd read. Verity, however, is a suspense thriller and while it was intriguing, it has a disturbing and unsettling vibe so readers would either love or hate this book depending on one's reading preference. 

Lowen Ashleigh is a writer but her fame is mediocre considering she has anxiety of dealing with social media and people. Her current life is stagnant with her mother's passing and dealing with financial issues until an opportunity arises. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, wants her to write the remaining of Verity’s bestselling series as his wife is unable to write due to an unfortunate accident. It is actually not a bad deal in Lowen’s opinion; afterall she gets to write and "hide" behind Verity’s fame, and the offer is attractive, too. 

Under Jeremy's request, Lowen moves in to their house temporarily as she sort through Verity’s notes and familiarise with her works. In the midst of sorting through her notes, Lowen stumbles upon Verity’s autobiography, in which she chronicled her relationship with Jeremy from the moment they met right to their marriage, as well as her feelings and struggles with their young children. And judging from Jeremy's behaviours, it seems like he doesn't know anything about Verity’s autobiography and Lowen intends to keep it that way as her feelings towards Jeremy intensifies the more they live under the same roof. 

This book is marketed as a romantic thriller (my library copy labelled this a romance with a heart logo), but personally I didn't see anything romantic about this complicated relationship. The author's writing was engaging and the intensity was great, but I didn't feel anything for the characters except a heavy sense of foreboding and . . . disturbing. The premise was dark yet refreshing from a different perspective, but I didn't love this story despite it was a page-turner. And that ending just blew my mind and left me quite flabbergasted. This book will stay in my mind for a long time, but I hope Colleen Hoover will write something different for her next attempt. 
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Melody
William Morrow | 10 May 2022 | 304 pgs
Source: Library 

The story starts off with a bang with our protagonist, Hannah Rokeby, gaining an interview with Professor Rob Parekh through her manipulative/blackmailing email. Prof Parekh is heading The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia and his team (consisted of some law students volunteers) are trying on a case to free Michael Dandridge, who is convicted of rape and murder of Sarah Fitzhugh. Hannah has an agenda alright, but it has nothing to do with righting the justice or freeing Dandridge. In fact, she's doing the opposite - she's going to make sure that Dandridge will never walk out from the prison, ever. 

This is simply one side of the story. On the other end, the reader get to know the backstory of Hannah’s mother, Laura, through her diary entries as she chronicled about her past, her romance and the death of her lover. The police had closed the case of his death as accidental, but Laura suspected murder although she has no proof. All these have hit her hard and eventually Laura become depressed and drink to drown her sorrows. The relationship between Hannah and Laura is complicated; there are times that Hannah finds Laura too much of an emotional burden, yet she couldn't turn her back to her. As the story progresses and the two stories intertwine, you'll soon realise that things are not what you've expected initially. 

What made this a compelling read in my opinion is the balance/combination between suspense and the character-driven aspect of the story. All the characters are intriguing in their own ways; and the slowburn of the suspense worked well in this case for that big reveal in the end. Hannah may be bold and determined in many cases, but she's also manipulative and a cheater to get her ways so that made her an unpopular protagonist. I don't want to say too much so suffice it to say it was a twisty suspense thriller that had me hooked throughout. 
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Melody
The Borough Press | 9 June 2022 | 288 pgs
Source: Purchased 


I'd so much fun reading this book; despite it was more of a women's fiction (which revolves around the friendship and "entrepreneurship" between two women) set in a world of luxurious bags and their fake counterparts. 

Ava Wong is married to a successful surgeon and is taking an indefinite career break from her profession as a lawyer to take care of her young son, Henri. What seems like a picture-perfect life is actually a facade as Ava is in fact having difficulties in taking care of Henri (who has some developmental issues) and her husband is working far too much to take notice of her struggles and the family as a whole. 

Enter Winnie Fang, who is Ava’s old college roommate but left Stanford in a shroud of scandal. Ava has lost contact with Winnie, but they met one day and Ava is instantly fascinated by Winnie’s new self and her wealth. Winnie used to be quiet and awkward but now she's exudes confidence and charm and most of all, she's dripping in designer accessories so life must be more than great for her. Either out of boredom or desperation, Ava soon finds herself confiding in Winnie and what's more, the latter seems to know how to make little Henri happy. As they get closer and Winnie needs a favour surrounding her handbags business, Ava couldn't say no and before she knew it, she's wading deeper into Winnie’s shady business (of making and selling counterfeit luxurious handbags) and she has to make the ultimate decision to cut and run or risk it all. 

Luxurious handbags are many women's favourite fashion accessories, so while it was fun reading from that angle, counterfeiting is not and all the more so when these factories are making them and hiring illegal, (and sometimes) underage employees in which these features take up a minor part of the story. And I've to say I learned a lot about the world of counterfeit handbags and their manufacturing after reading this. Also, Ava and Winnie are both intriguing and interesting characters. Their friendship and entrepreneurship are the highlights alongside Ava's coping with cranky little Henri and her life. Overall the prose was light, darkly comic and entertaining; my only complaint was there's not a single quotation marks for dialogues and while they're not hard to distinguish, it isn't my favourite writing style. I'll be curious to find out what's in store for the author's next book. 
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Melody
Random House| 1 March 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

I'm sure everyone has their regrets at some point and in this book, Daniel H. Pink stated that they're universal and are fundamental part of our lives. He also mentioned that if we reckon with our regrets in some fresh and imaginative ways, we can enlist them to make smarter decisions and deepen our sense of meaning and purpose.  

The author conducted the World Regret Survey in which he collected the answers from more than 16,000 people in 105 countries and identifies the four core regrets that most people have - foundation regrets (e.g. "If only I'd done the work") , boldness regrets (e.g. "If only I'd taken that risk"), moral regrets (e.g. "If only I'd done the right thing") and connection regrets (e.g. "If only I'd reached out"). He went on to explore these deep structure regrets and also show the reader a few of each examples through his interviewees' answers alongside his research in other areas such as psychology, neuroscience, economics and biology to challenge widely held assumptions about emotions and behaviour. 

He also explained about counterfactual thinking (our ability to mentally travel through time and to conjure incidents and outcomes that never happened) and also compare the two counterfactuals - "At Leasts" and "If Onlys". Opportunity and obligation also sit at the center of regret though the former has the more prominent seat and why we're more likely to regret what we didn't do than what we did. 

Well, there are more findings and guides from what I've learned as stated above, but I'll end this post with a few quotes from the book which I find useful and something to think about. 

"The four core regrets operate as a photographic negative of the good life. If we know what people regret the most, we can reverse that image to reveal what they value the most."

"Don't dodge emotions. Don't wallow in them either. Confront them. Use them as a catalyst for future behaviour. If thinking is for doing, feeling can help us think."

"Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!" Viktor Frankl, 1946

"When we've completed a difficult and important task - we sometimes slack off and assume our work is done. But it's usually not. Don't just relish the goal you've achieved. Review the steps that got you there. Spend less time celebrating the destination and more time contemplating the journey."
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Melody
Doubleday  | 10 May 2022 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

This story was set in Tanzania in 1964 surrounding an A-list actress, Katie Barstow, and her entourage visiting the Serengeti for her honeymoon. The cast of characters was huge and consisted of thirteen members, including Katie's brother and his pregnant wife, a few of Katie's working colleagues and the local Tanzanian guides. 

The lush setting of the wilderness and the plains of Serengeti National Park was a great armchair experience as the reader followed the group of their safari adventure; from watching the giraffes eating leaves from the acacia trees to seeing great swarms of wildebeests crossing the Mara River. It was a joy ride until the group encountered a team of Russian mercenaries midway through their adventure and held them hostage. In the mid of chaos, a few of the guides died under their gunshots and the rest of the entourage was separated and kidnapped by their respective captors. Katie may have the world at her feet, but at that moment she wished for nothing but she and her entourage would come out of the Serengeti alive. 

Chris Bohjalian is a good storyteller. He managed to capture the scenes vividly and his characters are flesh-out and well-developed. However, with a huge cast and the introduction and the flashbacks of some of these characters, I found it was a slowburn and the flow of the story didn't go quite as smoothly as I expected. The thrill and the excitement of the present time was often paused at the end of a chapter and begins with the introductions of a character and/or his or her backstory before it switched back to the present time, again. I understand this was a style intentionally written by the author, but it disrupted the flow especially when the reader expected something to happen at the present time. 

Also, there are too many topics addressed here - fame, race, cultural differences, some politics in general as well as the main story. While I enjoyed reading them at some point, I felt the story got convoluted and it didn't help with the multiple narratives and the switching of the present and the past as well. Don't get me wrong, the author writing was great but I felt the execution could've been better for a smoother read (or perhaps it's only me). Nevertheless, The Lioness was very much a good character-driven story and I'd recommend it if you like reading a safari adventure. 
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Melody
Head of Zeus | 3 March 2022 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

New Year's Eve, 1999. Four teenagers working late are attacked at a Blockbuster video store in New Jersey. Ella Monroe is the lone survivor among the other four victims (including the store manager) and while the police is quick to identity the perpetrator, he is later released due to a lack of evidence. No one knows his whereabouts thereafter and the case remains unsolved. 

Fifteen years later, a murder case occurred in the same town as four teenagers are attacked at an ice cream store. Like the tragedy at the video store, only one survived from the brutal attack. Jessica Duvall, the survivor, wouldn't speak to anyone except Ella, who has now become a therapist though she's not fully walked out from that horrific past. FBI agent Sarah Keller and Officer Atticus Singh are assigned to investigate the case and I've to say they made a terrific team despite their differences. Sarah is heavily pregnant with twins but that doesn't deter her from her investigations. While Atticus may not be as experienced as Sarah, he's keen and supportive and I liked him right from the start. Added to the intrigue is Chris Ford, the brother of the perpetrator fifteen years ago and is now a public defender. Those passing years have not stopped him from searching for his brother, and he still harbours the faith that his brother is innocent despite everything. 

What made this an engaging read is not only about the mysteries of the two cases but also the various cast of characters. Ella and Jessica shared a connection through their traumatic experiences; Sarah's and Atticus' great teamwork and the childhood relationship between Chris and his brother are all well defined alongside the webs of mysteries. Another aspect that interest me is the Y2K time period and we all remember the excitement and the worry about what the future may bring, don't we? 

Overall this book was a fast-paced read with the short chapters and the multiple narratives that switch between the present and the past. While the relevation wasn't entirely shocking if you read the story carefully, I still enjoyed the ride and Finlay's writing. His previous novel, Every Last Fear, is on my to-read list and I'll be watching for his future releases as well. 
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Melody
HarperCollins | 3 March 2022 | 416 pgs
Source: Purchased 

Lucy Foley is a master when it comes to creating suspense in her stories. This is what I've learned after reading The Guest List and The Hunting Party; and this book is no exception. 

Right from the beginning, you feel there's something off about the old building at No. 12 Rue des Amants, set in Paris. At the heart of this story is Benjamin and Jess, in which the former has disappeared from his apartment from the above-mentioned building after inviting his half-sister to stay with him for the time being. Jess isn't happy with her job at a bar and her life in London, so she thought it'd be good to leave the city and look for Benjamin instead. After all, it's been a while since they've met each other. 

But upon Jess's arrival, Benjamin didn't answer to her calls. With no one to turn to and with limited financials, she's no choice but to break into the apartment building. But, she's left with an unsettling feeling after letting herself into Benjamin's unit for there is still no sight of Benjamin. Jess, however, did get to know a few residents (even the old concierge who seems to be watching everything) after a few nights there. As much as they're polite to Jess, they're not forthcoming with any info when it comes to Benjamin. Their sometimes aloof and secretive demeanour further leave Jess in jittery on top of Benjamin's disappearance and the reader would soon find out the secrets at No. 12 Rue des Amants through Jess's eyes. 

I've to say this was a compelling read despite there wasn't many actions surrounding the story. That said, the suspense and the foreboding atmosphere was great. The cast of characters are intriguing and for once, I was glad to note that there's at least someone I could root for in a suspense genre like this - Jess. She's determined and courageous, yet her recklessness at times had left me quite worried for her safety (yes, she's a survivor and I liked her for that). Her interactions with the residents are the highlights of this story; and despite Benjamin's minimal existence in this story, he did project an unforgettable impression of his wits and charms through the residents' account. The ending was a surprise, but not to an extent that wowed me. Still, it made an enjoyable, engaging read and all the more I read this together with my bookblogger friend, Lark. Go check out her review here and read what she thought about this book. 
© 2022 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
St. Martin's Press | 4 January 2022 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 

In a nutshell, Reckless Girls is a locked-room mystery set in an isolated island. I've always been a fan of locked-room mysteries and having read the author's previous novel, The Wife Upstairs, I've high expectations of this book but regrettably, it left me feeling a bit disappointed. 

Meroe Island is located in the middle of Pacific Ocean with a sad history of a mysterious shipwreck that had happened so long ago. Rumours have it that the island is haunted; and that cannibalism is part of the mystery, too. Not many people dare to explore that island, until time has kind of diminished the rumours but the history of the shipwrecks remain. 

The journey begins when Lux and Nico decided to have a little sea adventure on Nico's boat, alongside with two other women who hired Nico to bring them to Meroe Island. Nico has been a free spirited guy who loves sailing and exploring the world. Lux, on the other hand, is tired of her job as a hotel maid and since she's devoted to her relationship with Nico, she decides that sailing with some strangers shouldn't be a bad thing considering the two female travellers, Brittany and Amma, paid a hefty sum for the ferrying. 

When the four of them reached Meroe Island, they found they're not alone as they saw a luxurious boat docked before them. Eliza and Jack are a couple and the others could tell they're rich by their demeanour and of course, their boat and its facilities they seem to offer. The six of them become friends quickly; and they've a fun time having the island to themselves until an interloper disrupt their (make-believe happy) equilibrium and turn their dynamics into something dark and sinister. But then, it's not entirely the interloper's fault as each of them harbour a secret and they're about to unleash under their own fear and threats in an isolated island. 

For a thriller, there isn't many actions in the first three-quarter of the book as it mostly focus on the interactions between the six characters who remind me a lot about the participants in reality TV show reminiscent of SurvivorLost and the likes. The setting has a claustrophobic feeling and the cast of characters are intriguing so I think this is the strength of the story. However, the ending came off as abrupt and over-the-top, thus it seemed a little unhinged from the first half of the book. Apart from this, the characters aren't likeable and while this isn't an issue, it didn't help with my outlook on the story though I've to say it kept me entertained. All in all I'd still recommend this if you want a fun read and a brief break from reality. 
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Melody
Scout Press | 26 April 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 


"Monsters are real. They're all around us, whether we can see them or not." ~ Pg 31


Jennifer McMahon is a master when it comes to creating atmospheric settings combining with a cast of intriguing characters. This book explores the complexity and perceptions of the human minds. It's also a book about monsters, fear and the darkness that lurks within us all.

In 1978, Dr. Helen Hildreth was the brilliant psychiatrist at her renowned treatment center in Vermont. Helen was devoted to her work and it is no wonder that many mentally challenged patients seemed to deem fit to perform their daily lives through her supervision and special care. For this, she was well-known in the community and many respected her for her works. But back at home, she was simply a grandmother who took care of her grandchildren, Violet and Eric, after the passing of their parents due to an accident. As much as Helen was kind and loving towards them, she'd her rules when it comes to discipline and behaviours. So while Vi and Eric were nice and obedient children, their lives were basically quite reserved and all the more they were homeschooled. Then, their once-mundane lives changed after Helen brought a girl into their home. Iris was quiet and was different from all the children they'd met. But Vi was excited to meet a new friend so in no time she and Iris formed a bond and the three of them would go explore for monsters and the likes (Vi and Eric formed their own club in which they'd go investigate all kinds of supernatural things and urban legends. More like to satisfy their curiosity and to justify their findings rather than hearsay.)

In another timeline in 2019, Lizzy Shelley is the host of the popular podcast, Monsters Among Us. When news of a young girl is abducted and a monster sighting have the neighbourhood worried and scared, Lizzy decided to visit her old hometown in Vermont, hoping to find some answers not only of the missing girl case and also what happened to the once renowned mental facility and the rumours surrounding it. 

I was glad to report that I've finally found a book that surpassed (or at least on par with) another McMahon book which remains my favourite - The Winter People. The author's writing is smooth and engaging and this is one reason why I enjoy reading her books so much, alongside with the atmospheric setting (which is her signature) and of course, the characters. What's haunting about this story is; perception can be a tricky thing and there's sometimes a fine line between good and evil, ethical and immorality. Without saying too much, all I could tell you is to read this book and enjoy McMahon's marvellous storytelling. It was an unforgettable journey to me and I hope you feel the same after reading it. 
© 2022 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 | 15 April 2021 | 320 pgs
Source: Library 


To begin with, this was a story about four friends and how their wild pasts have caught up with them set in a luxury retreat in Botswana. 

Grace, Alice, Hannah and Felicity used to be besties since their college days. But their relationship fell apart due to a gathering one night, leading to misunderstanding, miscommunication and finally estrangement. In the introduction, it was clear that the four friends, with the exception of Felicity, was not fully happy and satisfied with their lives. Felicity was a mysterious character, partly because she's vanished without a trace and like the other three friends, the reader couldn't stop wondering about her until the invitation arrives. 

Imagine the curiosity and the anticipation when all heard about Felicity finally making her appearance. And that's not all, she's inviting them all to her birthday bash in Botswana with all expenses paid. Despite their skepticism, they proceed to meet up their long-time friend while hoping to reconnect their friendship on an African safari vacation. 

But then things didn't go expectantly once they've arrived at the luxury safari lodge. For starters, there's no sign of the promised party and the guests. Felicity is nowhere in sight, although they receive a text from her and ask them to make themselves at home; and that she'd be joining them very soon. As the three friends settle down quickly, they couldn't help feeling a sense of unease and foreboding as the time passes and Felicity is still nowhere in sight. To complicate matters, the place is isolated and there's no phone signal. What happened to Felicity and is anyone within the group has planned the trip with an ulterior motive? 

I dived into this book with high hope and expectations because of the locked-room mystery set in an exotic location. I'm not really familiar with Botswana so I was looking forward to reading more of this place. Unfortunately, there wasn't much information or description of it except the fictional lodge the characters are staying. There wasn't much description of any wildlife too so in my opinion, the setting was simply in the wild but minus the safari experience. Talk about disappointment. This matter aside, the characters are well fleshed out and developed, though; and it has a claustrophobic vibe throughout so these are the strength of the story. The execution was fine, just that it lacks a bit of punch towards the ending in my opinion. Overall it was a good escapism read and I'll be curious of the author's next book. 
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Melody
Atria/Emily Bestler Books | 5 July 2022 | 368 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 


Molly and Katie Raven may be twins, but their personalities are totally different from each other. Molly is more like an introvert; keeping things to herself and finding comfort in security and routines. Katie, on the other hand, is outgoing and adventurous. At present, Molly lives in London while Katie in New York. They don't really contact much with each other partly due to the distance; and when Molly receives news about Katie that she's dead, she knew she has to get out from her comfort zones and travel across the ocean to find out about her death. 

Through the police's initial findings, it seems like there's nothing suspicious about Katie's death but Molly suspects there's more than meets the eye. As she tracks Katie's final movements, she's come to realise that her twin sister may not be the person whom she thinks she was. And the more Molly explores about Katie's past, the more she thinks that Katie's death may not be random or accidental. So what happened to Katie and is she murdered? 

This book explores the relationship and the dynamics between the twin sisters alongside the mystery. The first half was a slowburn as the reader get to know more about Molly, her characteristics and her overly cautious attitude that will lead you thinking if she was being paranoid, thus making her an unreliable character. Just when I thought things are going where I assumed them to be, there are further unexpected twists and turns as the story progresses, though you've to suspend some disbelief but I thought the execution and the plot have effectively diverted that little shortcoming so it wasn't too much of an issue to me. This book was a wild ride; and I'll be on the lookout for the author's next release. 
© 2022 Melody's Reading Corner (https://mel-reading-corner.blogspot.sg/), All Rights Reserved. If you are reading this post from other site(s), please take note that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
Melody
Faber & Faber | 3 March 2022 | 336 pgs
Source: Library 

Nine random people from various locations receive an envelope with their names on it. There's no return address; and inside the envelope contains a single, folded sheet of white paper. Nine names are printed on the list and each of these nine recipients will find his or her own name on it. Perhaps it is junk mail, or perhaps it is a joke. But as each day passes by, these recipients will soon find out that they're targeted and one by one they're going to meet their end. But no one knows why and the motive. And as these nine people wandering clueless with a foreboding mood, so do the reader as the suspense intensifies. 

Without saying too much, all I can say is this isn't my favourite Swanson book. But of course there're still some things that I liked; such as this work is a homage to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None but Swanson's story stands on its own. The eliminating style (of the victims) always make it an easier read (though it's wrong to think of that from another perspective) and the chapters are short, which made it even better.

Now onto the things I didn't really like. Nine characters mean nine perspectives, and they could be confusing from the start but this issue will go away as the story progresses (and yes, the eliminating part plays a part, too). Since there're nine characters, it could be hard making a connection with them and well, some of them were unlikable, too. The story wasn't fast-paced and the reader mostly learned about their personality and their mundane lives until the last quarter of the book in which the pace started to pick up. But alas, it all fell short to me with that anticlimactic reveal and not to mention the motive. Despite these, I didn't dislike the book (because it's Peter Swanson and I love his writing style and the suspenseful atmosphere he's always so good in creating) but this book just isn’t for me. Still, I always look forward to his new release and I hope his next book will be better. 

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Melody
Atria Books | 23 August 2022 | 320 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

I've read and enjoyed a few of Catherine McKenzie's books and I've to say each of her book was mesmerizing in some ways. Her writing style is engaging as always; and I'm often intrigued by her characterisations and the different topics/elements she put in her books and leave readers pondering about the issues and the ending aftermath. This book is about women empowerment, conspiracies and revenge and you know you're in for a wild ride when a group of five women meet up for a networking event which they believe will help in their career and change their outlook in life in general.  

Nicole Mueller is the lead character of this story and her once brilliant law career is falling apart. She and her husband, Dan, live in an apartment which is once owned by his late aunt but it's never made clear that the property would belong to them. After all, Dan's estranged mother and sister are still around and who knows when they'll come after him one day with this property issue? Just when Nicole feels so helpless with her situation, she receives an invitation from an exclusive women’s networking group called Panthera Leo. It stated that membership is anonymous and that every member is a successful professional. Thinking that it wouldn't hurt to try, she signs up for their retreat in Colorado despite Dan’s concern that it might be a cult group. 

The retreat takes place in an isolated location and Nicole is blindfolded throughout the journey before reaching the destination. There, she meets the two founders of Panthera Leo, Michelle and Karma; as well as four other women who'll make up her Pride. Nicole soon learns that these four successful women are members before; and she's quickly bonded with them through some challenging activities during the retreat and most of all, the group’s core philosophy that they're an elite girl's club in a boy’s club world and that they'd take their corporate world by storm. But the more Nicole stays with the group, the more she realises that Panthera Leo might not be what she thinks it is and that there's always a price to pay for everything.

Please Join Us has a refreshing premise and combined with McKenzie's writing style it made an addicting read. Most of the characters aren't likeable, but they're intriguing in their own ways. The first half introduced us to these group of women, their bonding and what has gone through their lives so it was a slow buildup but was quickly replaced by suspense once an important event took place and affected Nicole's thoughts and plans with Panthera Leo. Overall I enjoyed it but there are some parts that I felt disbelief and perplexed, too. Still, it was a engaging read and it tackles the reality and the challenges the women often face especially working in a male-dominated corporate world. 

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Melody
HarperCollins | 20 January 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

Where shall I even begin? This book has received lots of hype and glowing reviews and while I enjoyed the book, it wasn't my favourite and I'd some issues with it. 

So the book opens featuring 25-year-old Molly Gray working as a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel. She was morally upright given all the advice passed down by her late grandmother; however she'd some difficulties understanding social cues and behaviours at times so she might be autistic, though it was not clearly stated and may be intentionally omitted by the author for the plot directions. Molly was a great worker and she took pride in her job. She cleaned the rooms diligently and given her obsession with cleanliness, it is no wonder the rooms are often left in a state of perfection before the new batch of guests arrived. 

Molly had seen all types of people through the nature of her work; and among all is the rich and mighty Blacks couple who's long-term residents of the hotel. Mr Black was a property tycoon so he was always away, leaving his second young wife in the hotel room. Mrs Black became friends with Molly quickly partly due to boredom and Molly's easygoing demeanour, but most of all she finds herself needing someone to talk to. Then one day, Molly found Mr Black dead in his room and ultimately became the prime suspect as she was dragged into all kinds of life complexities - be it her financial woes or her conflicts with her superiors. Added to the plot was her infatuation with a bartender and her acquaintance with a Mexican immigrant who may or may not connected to Mr Black's mysterious death. 

I've read several reviews which compare Molly to Eleanor Oliphant but personally I didn't find any similarities there. Molly was an interesting character but there was an inconsistency of her behaviours depending on situations (or the plot?). The secondary characters are one-dimensional and stereotyped; and I didn't know if I should empathise or be annoyed with them. Finally, there's the twist towards the end which come out of nowhere and was featured more as a surprise element in my opinion. This was an interesting case of character study from some aspect, but I felt Molly was wrongfully portrayed to suit the plot directions. Perhaps I was just sensitive but there are some readers who loved this book though, so I'd suggest you give this book a read and find out yourself. 
© 2022 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
Knopf Books | 6 July 2021 | 464 pgs
Source: Purchased 


Kiata has long been forbidden of magic. Shiori, the only Princess of Kiata, however has the capability of making paper birds come alive or making things bloom and while her acts are considered harmless, she keeps her skills a secret until the day of her betrothal ceremony. When her forestalling the wedding goes wrong and her magic catches the attention of her stepmother, Raikama; the latter is quick to take actions of her own.

Now Raikama, who's also known as the Nameless Queen (because no one knows her real name), has some dark magic herself and to prevent Shiori from talking about her hidden capabilities after a chance event, she turns Shiori's six older brothers into cranes and that Shiori could never talk to anyone about them. For any word she utters, one of them would die and on top of that, no one would be able to recognise Shiori because her head is covered with a bowl, therefore concealing her eyes and it could never be removed under Raikama's curse. 

Leaving with no choice, Shiori is forced to work in a village's inn as a kitchen helper as she tries to find ways to search for her brothers. While the chances are slim, her hope arrives when she meets a kind soldier who would inadvertently change her fate. While Shiori continues to face the challenge of not speaking while searching for her brothers, she discovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne. 

This was an enthralling read with reminiscent of The Wild Swans, The Six Swans and a Chinese mythology of The Lady of the Moon (only vaguely referred to). The author has successfully entranced the reader through her captivating worldbuilding that consists of a shape-shifting dragon called Seryu and a talking paper bird called Kiki; who both play a significant role to the story. The characters are well-portrayed and Shiori was a feisty heroine who has a strong bond and loyalty to her family. Her banter with Seryu and her interactions with Kiki often brought a smile to my face; and even the romance moments were heartwarming as well. The only complaint I had was, there are some parts which made me feel I was missing something as they're not fully elaborated, hopefully there'll be a clearer explanation in the next book, The Dragon's Promise. Finally, I want to thank Lark for reading this book with me (please check out her review here). Buddy read always double the reading pleasure and makes the journey even more fun! Below are her questions to me regarding this book:

Were you familiar with the Brothers Grimm story The Six Swans before reading this book? And did you have a favorite fairy tale growing up? If so, which one and what did you love about it? 

I'm ashamed to say I haven't read all of Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales and The Six Swans is one of them. While I've lots of favourite fairy tales, the one which stands out amongst the rest is The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It was such a beautiful story even though it has a sad and a melancholy ending. I loved it that the little mermaid was courageous to sacrifice oneself for the sake of love; and that even though she was given a chance to become a mermaid again, she chose not to kill the prince out of love and selflessness. I've read the book and even watched the animated film countless times but have never gotten tired of it. I hope I'd get the chance to watch the musical one day. 


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Melody
Corgi | 22 July 2021 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

 
The Dare is basically a story revolves around two teenage girls and how a tragedy would lead to revenge and the unravelling of past secrets would both surprise the protagonist and the readers as well.

Thirteen-year-old Alice Dawson and Lizzie Molyneux are best friends. Lizzie has epilepsy and there are times she would be unconscious of her behaviours whenever it hit her and often the aftermath causes her confusion and doubt since she has no recollection of what really happened. This happened when both girls are playing by the train tracks and they'd a spat over some minor issues. Unfortunately Lizzie's epilepsy is triggered at that moment and the next moment she comes to, Alice is killed by the passing train. While there is no evidence and on top of Lizzie's epilepsy that shows anything suspicious, Alice's friends and especially her eldest sister, Catherine, is sure that Lizzie is responsible because she is jealous of Alice. 

Moving forward to Lizzie's adulthood twelve years later, she is still haunted by Alice's death and that unknown moments before tragedy struck but she is glad to have found someone whom she could lean on. Ross Murray is a GP and his schedules are often full but he's been very supportive and understanding for Lizzie. Their life is happy until someone from the past reappears and Lizzie's discovery of some hidden secrets shattered her hopes of finding peace and moving on. 

I enjoyed Lesley Kara's The Rumour so I picked up this book with some expectations. The story switches between the past when they are teenagers and the present time in which we see the grown-up Lizzie who's trying to adjust to her new life. The characters are realistically portrayed and I enjoyed reading the friendship and dynamics between Lizzie and Alice. There is an unknown narrative alternating in between the two timelines as a mystery effect and although I'd somewhat guessed a part correctly, the ending still left some surprises and a sad revelation as well. Though it wasn't fast-paced or action packed for a psychological thriller, the strength was its well-developed characters and the gradual build of suspense as the story progresses. Overall it was a satisfying read and I look forward to her next release, The Apartment Upstairs, set to release in June 2022. 

© 2022 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
Atria Books | 22 February 2022 | 352 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss 

Twenty years ago, 14-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into Octagon House - an abandoned house which no one dare to trespass. There are stories that it is haunted and that the owner had killed his wife and his two young daughters there. Although Clare and Abby came out safe and sound, Abby was somehow affected by the house and she's never the same again. 

Now that they're adults, both of them have lost touch over the years. It is only the news of Abby’s attempted suicide that bring them together again. While it was good news that Abby didn't die, she now lies in a coma but what Clare didn't understand is, why at Octagon House of all places? As much as Clare remains fearful of that house, she knows she has to return to that place to find the truth surrounding Abby’s suicide. But what she's learned has left her in doubt and more questions unanswered. For starters, why would Abby had her car filled with gas if she meant to die? And of course, why Octagon House when the place gave her bad memories? 

I've to say this book was an engaging read for a debut novel. Atmospheric and filled with suspense, there was never a dull moment throughout my reading journey although there're some parts that seemed repetitive but the mystery drew me in. Aside from the girls' childhood story, there're also two other timelines that go way before that introduce the origin of the house and its owner and the occupants that moved in thereafter. Despite a psychological suspense with bits of paranormal element, I felt the coming-of-age and the emotional depth between the girls are much stronger and better defined. Despite the little shortcoming towards the end, overall I still find it a satisfying read due to the engaging writing style so I'll be curious of the author's next release. 

© 2022 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

Chatto & Windus | 30 January 2020 | 352 pgs
Source: Library 

Set in India at a basti (slum) consisted of the Hindus and the Muslims community, this story gives readers more than a glimpse about the various struggles of the residents living there as they go on with their lives. At its core of the story is 9-year-old Jai and his two friends, Pari and Faiz, whose lives are about to take a turn after learning the missing of their friend, Bahadur. 

Jai is a fan of many reality cop shows so it's no surprise that he's decided to find Bahadur through the few things he'd learnt from those shows. Together with Pari and Faiz, they search the neighbourhood, the night bazaar and even travel on a railway at the end of the Purple Line regardless of the dangers lurking around. They know they might get lost, or even meet up with the wrong people should they are not careful, but they're unstoppable especially Jai, who believes that their friend could be found through their persistency. But when more kids begin to disappear around their basti, they soon realise that they're both powerless and helpless with their poor situation and the indifference and corruption of their local police system. Division between the Hindus and the Muslims community widens as their distrust of each other arises since they could find no answers regarding the disappearance of the children. Intersperse with the mystery is the children's belief of the djinns and a vengeful woman ghost who look out for the girls from the perpetrators after her daughter died and the killer was never found. Whether if they're true or merely urban legends, Jai and the other children find some hope in these stories amid the sad reality and chaos in their little settlement. When tragedy hits home after Jai's sister is missing, Jai and his family's life would never be the same alongside with the other families who have lost their children. 

Deepa Anappara's writing was engaging from the beginning as she vividly described the (unnamed) slum and the residents' living lifestyle through Jai's eyes. Despite the saddened mood of a slum, Jai's narrative was often light-hearted and there were times their conversations were a little humorous, too. (Unfortunately my copy didn't come with a glossary list of the words they used so half the time I'd to guess or Google them myself.) The story could get a bit repetitive surrounding the missing children and how Jai was trying his ways to find them, but I came to understand the purpose as the story progresses as it highlights their helplessness as there's a social status difference between the rich and the poor, and how this division will colour the lens of justice and other things as well. This was a coming-of-age story, but it was also a heart-rending story based on hard facts about the missing children in India, gender discrimination and the social divisions that lead to some inequalities. 

Last but not least, I want to thank bookblogger and friend, Lark, for reading this book with me (check out her review here). Here's her questions to me: 

1. What did you think of the ghosts and their stories? And why do you think the author included them?

Ghost stories, urban legends, myths . . . we're all fascinated by them not only because they're mystical but in some ways there might be some truths in them. Take an example of the vengeful woman ghost, Junction-ki-Rani, in this story. Her story is true to the children in this book and they think her existence acts as a balance to the injustice they face in reality, as they believe her ghost was looking out for them as she searched for her daughter's murderer. I think the author was trying to portray the hope of the children amid their situation and the unfairness of all. 

2. From roti to gulab-jamun, the author describes a lot of street food in this book. What's your favorite kind of 'street food'?

I love street foods. You can learn a lot about a country's culture through their foods and I think street foods represent a significant part of urban food consumption and the lifestyle of the country citizens. I've too many favourite street foods to list; and I love exploring them when I visit other countries. My most memorable street foods experience was in Taiwan. One of their famous street foods is stinky tofu and you can smell them even from a distance. I tried one eventually but I'd to pinch my nose to eat it (the taste wasn't that bad actually.) And well that'd be my first and last time to eat the stinky tofu. 

© 2022 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.