Angry Robot | 8 November 2022 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

This book has "movie adaptation" written all over it. A folk horror set in a remote snowbound Peak District, well could you sense the thrills and the intensity already? 

The story begins with our heroine, Constable Ellie Cheetham, finds a body and initial speculation is that he drank too much and froze to death, considering his reputation as a good-for-nothing and an alcoholic. However, there's something strange about the victim, Tony Harper's gesture. He was found clutching a knife and appeared to be hiding from someone. And what most stranger is the odd mark that was drawn on a stone beside him. Ellie couldn't explain this strange occurrences, but there's another bigger problem for her ahead as she has to deliver the bad news to the Harpers family and they're bent on or engaged in lawless violence. 

What follows next are more disappearances and unexplainable causes after more bodies are found, and Ellie and the few of the residents have to face the horror that they might be dealing with something more sinister and more terrifying than the menace of the Harpers family.

Isolation and fear are the core elements in this atmospheric folk horror tale. Added to the draw is our fearless heroine, Constable Ellie Cheetham, who carried an emotional baggage from her broken family yet one who stands strong for the villagers when destruction struck. And speaking of characterisation, the Harpers family played an important role in this story regardless of their notorious deeds and the author described each of these family members' characteristics incisively and vividly. However, there're something more that I wished the author had worked on it to make this book a better read, such as the history and more information about the ancient evil and cutting down a few chapters in between which seemed to drag a bit. Nevertheless, it was a compelling read and fans of classic horror will probably enjoy this. 
© 2023 Melody's Reading Corner (, 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.
Simon & Schuster UK | 29 September 2022 | 400 pgs
Source: Library 

This book features one of the most unusual families I've ever read and if you've watched this movie, Ready or Not, they've similar vibes though this is more of a whodunit kind of story. 

Harriet Reed is basking in her success after selling her first thriller book and while she is writing and worrying over her second book's deadline, her mind nowadays is occupied by her engagement to Edward Holbeck. Edward is a perfect man in many women's eyes - he's young, good-looking and he's the heir to a successful and powerful family who has their name and reputation well-built over decades. 

When Harriet first receives an invitation from Edward's sister for a drink, she's nervous yet she's excited too. She could tell the Holbeck family exudes power and authority after Mathilda's assistant changed her meeting appointment with her publisher so that she could attend the meet up with Mathilda. Granted, the publisher is a part of the Holbeck's business conglomerate and Harriet only finds out much later. It's not long that Harriet is invited for dinner with the family and she finds herself attracted by Edward’s father's charisma yet there's an edge behind his cool demeanour which she couldn't put her finger on. 

But Harriet is quick to impress Robert Holbeck so when he hands her a cassette tape of a book he's been working on, she couldn't say no. And the more Harriet listen to it, the more Robert's narrative read like a murder confession than a fiction. And as if this isn't enough, the Holbecks has several (weird) traditional family games which they'd play during occasions which scare her. Harriet isn't sure if all these are simply part of their plan to test her loyalty; if not would she be able to escape from the Holbecks' mind games? 

As much as the story goes, I think it was a bit far-fetched yet it was very entertaining and unputdownable. The characters drove you crazy yet you couldn't shift your attention away. I'd mixed feelings towards Harriet though; one moment I felt sorry for her and then frustrated and annoyed at her actions next. Robert's narrative was intriguing and I always love reading a frame story. I'd have given this book a 4-star but alas that ending (more of the motive) felt a bit ridiculous in my opinion but suffice it to say there wasn't any boring moments so overall it was an engrossing read. 
© 2023 Melody's Reading Corner (, 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.
Feiwel & Friends | 29 March 2022 | 384 pgs
Source: Purchased 

A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin's debut and the first in a duology featuring a fantastical world of shennong-shi (Master of Shennong magic) and the art of tea brewing and magic set in the imperial city of Dàxī. 

Ning has been living in guilt since the death of her mother and her younger sister seriously sick with poison. It isn't her fault actually; who'd have known that the tea bricks are laced with poison? Nonetheless Ning blames herself for her negligence for not detecting it earlier. To save her sister, Shu, from following their mother's fate, Ning leaves her hometown in Su to the imperial city of Dàxī for a competition that would allow her to receive a favor from the princess should she be the winner. 

On her way to the palace, she meets a boy who intrigue and capture her attention at the same time. Little does she know that she'd soon cross path with him again and learn his true identity once she's in the palace. Though winning the competition is Ning's goal, she soon finds herself embroiled in the politics and conspiracies within the palace and all the more with the rise of a revolt led by the General of Kăiláng, who's being exiled and better known as the Banished Prince. Is there a hope for saving her sister now that the kingdom is threatened by the rebellion? 

Ah. I loved this fantasy a lot. I'm a big tea drinker so when I read the blurb and learned that teas play a major part in this story, I knew I've to read it. And I enjoyed the story, too. Ning was a likeable character who's courageous and determined and I loved her fighting spirit and her devotion towards her sister. The tea brewing and the tea concoctions (sounds a little like Traditional Chinese Medicine), together with the various magic cast by the shennong-shi are fun to read, though some of the tasks required for the competition made it so hard to read. But, there's also some heartwarming moments as well, e.g. the friendship between Ning and Lian (fellow participant), and the palace kitchen staff's loyalty and helpfulness when Ning was in danger. 

All in all, I enjoyed this book immensely and I'm glad my book buddy, Lark, shared this reading journey with me (visit Lark's blog for her review). 

Finally, here's my answers to Lark's questions:

1. What are your favorite tea ingredients, and if they had magical properties, what would they be?
One of my favorite tea ingredients would be chrysanthemum flowers and goji berries (with a few rock sugar). They make a refreshing drink and I read that this concoction is a powerful boost to improve our eyes' health and cool our body heat. If they had magical properties, I wish they could eliminate all the cancerous cells in our bodies. 

2. What characters do you hope to see more of in the next book? And which character surprised you most in this book? 
I've a few characters in mind, but the one who stands out amongst the rest is the General of Kăiláng. Considering his exile and the uproar of the rebellion towards the end, there's so little information about him and his appearance was minimal (perhaps in the next book, A Venom Dark and Sweet?) 

As for the character who surprised me most, she's none other than the princess, Ying-Zhen. She gave me the impression that she's a person who guard her feelings well so it's hard to decipher what kind of a person she is. I suppose it's necessary considering her role as a princess and she couldn't wear her heart on her sleeve. 
© 2023 Melody's Reading Corner (, 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.