ISBN-13: 9780553569902
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published: February 1996
451 pgs

I was sure I could not finish reading this book before the year ends, but I was glad I did. To be honest, I did not give this book any thoughts until I stumbled upon this author's new release, The Treasure, which was released in hardcover this month. Since The Treasure is a sequel to this book, I figure I should read this first although both books could be read as stand-alone.

Anyway, this is a classic historical romance sets in the 12th century in Constantinople where gender differences and slavery are not uncommon. And of course there are the battles that endanger everyone's life in the village.

Thea of Dimas, the heroine in this story, run away from the House of Nicholas where she is kept imprisoned and hoping to set foot in Damascus to start her own embroidery business. Meanwhile, she is also planning to free her younger sister, Selene and she is waiting for the right time to strike. After her caravan where she seeks refuge is destroyed, she encounters a dark warrior Lord Ware during her journey to Damascus. Feeling dead exhausted and almost dying from thirst, Thea is sure she would embrace death in no time but the brooding and powerful Lord Ware rescued her, with some coaxing from his right-hand man cum friend, Kadar. He took her to his desert fortress in Dundragon despite her refusal.

Lord Ware wastes no time in her defensive behaviour, for he is pressed with other critical issues like battles and being hunted by the Knights Templar after his discovery of their secret Lion Throne. However, it seems that his enemies have found his weakness by killing those who are close to him. Thea is a strong woman with a mind of her own; she refuses to take orders from an arrogant man like Lord Ware but once she realized and understand what Lord Ware had gone through, she stays by his side after he has promised to free her sister on her behalf. And although there is always danger lurking around the corner, still they cannot fight the attraction they have for each other as the days goes by. I think there is no need for me to elaborate further as I figure the readers could very well imagine what would happen towards the end.

I think I would have enjoyed Lion's Bride more if I were to read this book a few years back. Probably because I have not been reading a lot of historical romances lately, hence they have somehow lost its touch to me. Still, I think the premise and the characters are great, although I have to admit that reading about the women who were being treated badly and unfairly at those times are disturbing. Lord Ware strikes me as a man who may appear cold on the exterior, but actually he has a soft heart. I also enjoyed reading about Thea's younger sister, Selene and Kadar, whom the latter was asked to rescue Selene by Lord Ware. And this is where their story will be told in Iris Johansen's latest release, The Treasure. I am looking forward to reading the sequel; and I am also hoping that I would be reading more historical romance in the coming year. I cannot promise I will, but at least reading this book is a good start.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year!



As I mentioned in a post earlier, I would post my 'Book of the Year' and here it is. I need to specify that the lists are merely books I read this year and hence, are my favourites. Each book is unique and is a great story on its own. Actually when I started doing this for 2005, I asked myself this question - how could it possibly to list only one book when there are several genres out there? Because I did it for fun (and for myself) at that time, I ignored this question and went ahead to list one anyway. Trust me, it is a tough decision. It is like asking me to choose a piece of cake when there are a dozen of others with different designs and flavours! (I have a sweet tooth! Ha!)

So this time around, I told myself I have to be more specific and fair. Still, it is a tough decision to make. But I suppose it is for the best. Anyway, I have shortlisted the books and listed them into three categories (Fiction & Literature, Mystery & Crime/Thrillers and Fantasy). As I did not read a lot of romances or horror fictions this year, this explains why I left them out from the shortlisted list.

Well, I think I have rambled enough. Here are some of my favourite books:

Fiction & Literature
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi
Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald
Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg
Loved Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

Mystery & Crime/Thrillers
The Treatment by Mo Hayder
Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson
No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
In the Woods by Tana French
The Likeness by Tana French
Out by Natsuo Kirino
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman
Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen (I classified this book under this category since it deftly blends the legend of Sleeping Beauty)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

So... are you ready to read further?

My 'Book of the Year' under the Fiction & Literary category goes to... Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg!
Reason: This book had me utterly speechless right after I finished the book. First, I was totally blown away by the plot, it is original and not to mention there is humor, intrigue and suspense in this story. What's more, I love reading books about books, and this is just one of them!

Another 'Book of the Year' under the Mystery & Crime/Thrillers category goes to... The Likeness by Tana French!
Reason: Her novels are always so intense and full of suspense. I remember I was "wowed" by her debut novel, In the Woods where it features a young boy and his other two friends have gone into the woods and disappeared. Twenty years later, the boy who came out alive became a detective, and the murder case he was asked to resolve reminds him of the childhood trauma so many years ago. In The Likeness, the protagonist (not to confuse with the protagonist from In the Woods) became the victim and although it is still a psychological suspense, it focus more on one's weakness and what it takes to be an undercover to find the killer. Seriously, this book really had me hooked from the beginning till the end!

Finally, the 'Book of the Year' under the Fantasy category goes to... Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman!
Reason: I swear I had a hard time deciding on this one! Why? Because there are also books by big authors like Shannon Hale and Neil Gaiman, and both of them are my favourite authors! However, this book stood out among all because of the complex plot, the interesting cast of characters and what's more, this is a story about sorcery and magic. It is believed that the darkness does not lies from the magical power but within the hearts of men instead (I love stories that deals with humanity). As usual, it is the good versus the evil and I am already looking forward to the next instalment already!

So this is it! Goodbye 2008! Here's to another great reading year!


Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser sentences for today [Lion's Bride by Iris Johansen (Pg 60)]:.

"Life is always a battle. You can't stop it; you can only choose the battleground," he said as if reading her thoughts. "If a pigeon reaches its target, men die. If a falcon stops the pigeon, different men die."

Wow, is 2008 coming to an end already? Looking back, I think I did quite well with my reading for this year, considering I read only 56 books last year! It definitely seems there is a vast improvement to me, and of course I need to mention that having some time off from work definitely helps with my reading too.

Below is a list of the books I read this year. I am currently reading Lion's Bride by Iris Johansen, and although I started reading it last Friday, I am not sure if I am able to finish it before the year ends... so we shall see.

The asterisk noted are books that are shortlisted for my 'Book of the Year', which I will be posting in a few days' time. I am not even sure if I could name just one favourite book for this year, since all of them are my favourites anyway. Who knows? I might list a favourite book for each genre instead...

January Reads
1. Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
2. The Treatment by Mo Hayder *
3. The Italian Billionaire's Christmas Miracle by Catherine Spencer
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
5. Little Face by Sophie Hannah
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini *
7. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
8. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
9. The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

February Reads
10. Next to Die by Marliss Melton
11. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
12. First Drop by Zoe Sharp
13. My Lover's Lover by Maggie O'Farrell
14. The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi *
15. Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald *

March Reads
16. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
17. Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson *
18. Thigh High by Christina Dodd
19. Just For You! by Christine Leeson
20. The Strawberry Picker by Monika Feth
21. The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett
22. Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg *

April Reads
23. The Mercenary by Cherry Adair
24. The Millionaire's Convenient Bride by Catherine George
25. Talking In Your Sleep by Samantha Hunter
26. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly *
27. Away by Amy Bloom
28. Loved Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos *
29. The Ghost Library by David Melling
30. Dingo by Charles de Lint
31. The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale *
32. Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
33. Hell Island by Matthew Reilly
34. Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman *
35. Death's Door by Quintin Jardin

May Reads
36. Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
37. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale *
38. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks
39. One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
40. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult
41. Fire and Ice by Anne Stuart
42. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield *

June Reads
43. Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese
44. The Summer Jenny Fell In Love by Barbara Conklin
45. Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughan
46. No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay *
47. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
48. Massie by Lissi Harrison
49. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen *
50. The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani *

July Reads
51. The Greek Tycoon's Defiant Bride by Lynne Graham
52. P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
53. InterWorld by Neil Gaiman & Michael Reaves
54. The Ring by Jorge Molist
55. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
56. Body Language by Suzanne Brockmann
57. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

August Reads
58. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
59. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
60. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
61. Meet Delaney by Jackie Mahaney
62. In the Woods by Tana French *
63. Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

September Reads
64. The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason
65. Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
66. The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
67. Sky Burial by Xinran
68. When Twilight Burns by Colleen Gleason
69. Flashpoint by Jill Shalvis

October Reads
70. The Likeness by Tana French *
71. Out by Natsuo Kirino *
72. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman *
73. Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
74. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
75. What the Lady Wants by Jennifer Crusie
76. Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

November Reads
77. The Becoming by Jeanne C. Stein
78. Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka
79. The Society of S by Susan Hubbard
80. Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright
81. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
82. Fangland by John Marks

December Reads
83. Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
84. Wild for Him by Janelle Denison
85. Dewey:The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
86. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
87. Christmas Getaway by Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard & Marion Lennox
88. Lion's Bride by Iris Johansen

Musing Mondays

How often do you recommend books to others, and who do you recommend them to? Do you only recommend books to your “reading friends” or to anyone you think might find the book interesting? What does it take for a book to make it to your ‘recommendation’ list?

I love recommend books to anyone. One would thought most of my friends must be booklovers too since I am one, but they are not. At least they do not read as much as I do. Ever since I started blogging, I get recommendations from other bookbloggers by reading their blogs and vice versa. Slowly I get acquainted with some of them and knew their reading preferences, thus I will recommend books to them according to their preferences. However, there are times that I do recommend books that are not their usual reads but I know they might be interested because of the intrigue plots, a certain subject matter or any other things that would spark their interest. Books that make it to my recommendation list are those that I liked and would linger in my mind after I have finished reading.

How about you?

My husband bought a blackforest Christmas logcake for Christmas last evening. Our eldest daughter was so thrilled and told us beforehand that she wanted to keep those lovely cake accessories after we have consumed the cake. Of course we have to agree; and don't you think they are adorable?

Here are some of the pictures we took:

The overall view

Santa busy at work!

Jingle Bell... Jingle Bell... Jingle All the Way...

The snowman has some fun with the white snow (cream, I mean... hehe)

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! Happy holidays!

ISBN-13: 9780373837298
Publisher: Harlequin
Published: November 2008
282 pgs

From the backcover:

Take Eloise. First she's kidnapped by Santa, and now she's camping out in an abandoned lighthouse with the most infuriatingly intoxicating cop she's ever met. Is she sleeping with the enemy…or the man destined to make her Mrs. Claus?

Meanwhile Jean is abducted to a remote ranch, stuck teaching a handsome Texas Ranger how to enjoy a little sensual Christmas cheer.

And Molly? Her nuptials are shot up and her fiancé's a no-show, but when she arrives at a supposedly private Australian hideaway to recoup, she's not alone… and the heat is enough to melt the mere memory of a white Christmas.

Three women, connected by friendship and fate, are taking cover…with men sexy enough to unwrap!

Claus and Effect by Anne Stuart

Boston Police officer James "Fitz" Fitzpatrick is on the run after he has shot another cop out of defense. His ex-partner, Barber was involved in covering up a multimillion-dollar jewel robbery and he and the others have every intention of getting rid of Fitz. Fitz thought Dr. Eloise Pollar will provide all the answers to the mess he had stumbled into, after all he has seen her attending to Erica's funeral, whom he believed Erica and her husband were both dead due to the connection of the robbery case.

Meanwhile, Eloise is busily preparing for her wedding to Richard and having her wedding dress altered at a mall when there is an emergency evacuation. During the chaos, someone dressed as Santa abducts her. Eloise did not think it is funny to be abducted by Santa, but after she found out he was shot and apparently on the run, she stayed with him despite the danger. After all, she is a doctor and making sure her patients are well and alive is her job. Although she did manage to help Fitz about his gunshot wounds, but could she help herself from falling in love with him?

Caught at Christmas by Tina Leonard

Librarian Jean Norville is the maid of honor of Molly, her best friend's marriage at the Southfork Texas Wedding Chapel. However, chaos broke when shots are fired and everyone scrambled for safety. It seems that the Boston's IA Department is investigating the possibility that Connor O'Bannion, Molly's husband-to-be, and the other cop and a few other bad cops got wind of a diamond theft and in the takedown killed the real thief and kept the stones for themselves. Molly's handsome brother, Sam Broadbent who is a Texas Ranger offers to protect Jean and leads her away from the chaotic scene. Jean does not need any help from anyone but Sam thinks otherwise, not after she has accidentally walked into O'Bannion heated telephone coversation with someone.

They then meets Len Hughes, a helpful trucker after their car's tyre had been hit and he gives them a ride and offer an accommodation at his cabin. Jean could run away from whoever someone who is after her but could she run away from a sexy ranger like Sam, after all the attraction they have for each other?

Candy Canes and Crossfire by Marion Lennox

Sam Broadbent's sister, Molly is getting all ready for her marriage to Connor O'Bannion at the Southfork Texas Wedding Chapel but unfortunately, her wedding ceremony is disrupted by gunfire. In truth, Molly could see little point to this wedding. Although she and O'Bannion had been together for three years, she felt she knew very little of him except that he is a cop with the Boston P.D., and that they have to get married if he is to move up in the force. As for Molly, being a corporate lawyer she is aware that having a partner in her life would make her seem reliable and respectable in her profession.

Meanwhile, Joe Cartland did not want to do anything with Christmas or weddings but when her nephew and nieces bribed him into attending O'Bannion's wedding, who happens to be their late father's cousin, he has no choice but to agree, after all he is their only uncle. And it proved that his attendance is a bad choice when there is a gunfire and he has to knock someone down in the middle of the rosebushes to keep her from being shot.

As much as he wanted to keep Molly out of harm's way, Joe needed to get his nephew and nieces out of the place so they agree to find refuge at their parents' holiday house in Queensland, Australia. However, someone also told Molly that there is a house vacant in Australia and perhaps she could go there as a recoup from this unfortunate event.

Could Joe and Molly stay peacefully under one roof, together with his three preadolescent nephew and nieces?

* * *

Christmas Getaway consists of three inter-related novellas about three different women finding their true love during their 'escapade'. Although I enjoyed reading all three novellas, there is not enough intense and chemistry between the characters but I understand this is only an anthology and it would be unfair to compare this with other novels with more well-developed characters and plots. I have to say Anne Stuart's Clause and Effect stood out from the others because her story is fast-paced and humourous. Christmas Getaway is a fun and entertaining read and it is a good book to curl up with during this festive season.

Note: I want to thank Alice for agreeing to read this anthology with me. As usual, it was fun and I am looking forward to reading more books with her (and Julia) in the near future!

Merry Christmas to all!


It is Christmas Eve here today! I am sure most of you are getting ready for Christmas, aren't you? I can already feel the festive moods in the air...

Merry Christmas, everyone!

* * *
The Christmas Gift of Knowing You

The Christmas season fills our hearts with joy;
Bright, happy days bring special kinds of pleasure.
We're wrapped in the excitement of it all,
The sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes we treasure.

Yet when we have some quiet time to think
About our finest blessings all year through,
We focus on our family and our friends,
And appreciate the gift of knowing you!

~ Joanna Fuchs

First, I want to thank Alice for nominating me for the Kreativ Blogger Award.

As highlighted by Alice's post, this award deals with the values we deem important in others. Here are the six values that are important to me, six things I don’t support, and my nomination of six bloggers:

Six values that are important to me:
  1. Honesty
  2. Faithfulness
  3. Sense of humour
  4. Friendliness
  5. Discipline
  6. Love
Six things I don’t support:

  1. Rudeness
  2. Hypocrisy
  3. Hatred
  4. Over-critical
  5. Self-righteousness
  6. Unfaithfulness
My nomination for six bloggers are:

  1. Wendy from Musings of a Bookish Kitty
  2. Nymeth from Things Mean A Lot
  3. Iliana from Bookgirl's Nightstand
  4. Trish form Trish's Reading Nook
  5. Julia from Julia's Books Corner
  6. Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

Also, thanks to Julia for presented me the Christmas Spirit award.

Here are the rules:

    • You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award. The person to whom you give the award must also be in love with Christmas.
    • Link back to the person who gave you the award.
    • List 5 things that you love about Christmas. If you can't limit it to 5 things, then keep going til you run out of space!
    • Pass the award along to as many people as you like. That can be 2-50. It's up to you! But keep the Christmas cheer going!
    • Let your recipients know that you have tagged them by leaving them a comment. Also, link back to the person who gave you the award.
    Here are the five six things I love about Christmas:
    • It is about love, sharing and giving
    • Christmas trees and ornaments
    • Christmas shopping
    • The colourful lights and the Christmas decorations in malls
    • The festive moods
    • Christmas parties

      I would like to pass this award to the following friends:


      Teaser Tuesdays

      TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
      • Grab your current read.
      • Let the book fall open to a random page.
      • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
      • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
      • Please avoid spoilers!

      My teaser sentences for today is extracted from a novella of an anthology, Christmas Getaway by Anne Stuart, Tina Leonard and Marion Lennox. I am currently reading Caught At Christmas by Tina Leonard.

      (From Pg 98)

      She reviewed her situation: Alone with a very good-looking man out in the middle of nowhere.

      Women dreamed of Santa dropping a dreamboat like Sam under their Christmas tree - but she wasn't daring enough to consider unwrapping him.

      I remember there was a time during my childhood days that my good friend and I used to send letters to each other once in a week, even though we were classmates and we have so much to talk about in classes. I know some of you may think we were weird or even funny, but it meant something to both of us at that time because we enjoyed the writing moments, and moreover it was fun anticipating the letters to arrive in our mailbox every week. However, we discontinued this 'habit' after we went on separate ways when we were posted to a different high school and the additional school work and activities had kept us all busy.

      Even though electronic mails are popular and so much quicker and easier to use, I still prefer the traditional way of writing and sending mails although not many of us do so often nowadays due to our hectic schedules and so forth.

      So, I had received some wonderful mails over the past few days and without saying, I was both thrilled and touched to find they are all from my best blogging friends. Let me share them with you:

      First, Nymeth sent me this lovely Christmas card and two beautiful handmade bookmarks she made for my daughters! Isn't she sweet and talented? I especially love the prints of her bookmarks; I love the brown elegant designs and the other is just adorable with little chicky prints and white polka dots!

      I then received a very cute Christmas card by Wendy. I have to grin whenever I see the card because not only the penguin is adorable with its skiing gears but penguins happen to be one of my favourite animals too!

      Follow up next is a book titled Gossamer by Lois Lowry and a beautiful Christmas card by Alice. What made this gift so special is, Alice gave it to me after she found out this is on my BookMooch wishlist! I was simply speechless after opening her mail and at the same time, I was also touched by her thoughtfulness.

      Thank you so much, ladies! You have no idea how much they mean to me!
      Merry Christmas and Long Live to our friendship!

      Edited to Add (6.13PM):

      I have another surprise when I received this beautiful glass of tulips from my best friend, Jennifer, for my birthday earlier! She had specially ordered it from a local florist although she is living all the way from Pennsylvania! I am so, so touched by her kind gesture! Thank you so much, Jen!! I miss you too!


      Musing Mondays

      Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about Christmas book buying…

      In these last few days before Christmas, I'm sure there are plenty of us scrambling to get our last minute shopping done. Are you buying any books for friends or family (or even yourself)? Do you expect to receive any bookish gifts from others - books, or book-related?

      Although I would love to buy books for my family and friends, I won't be buying books for them since most of them are non-readers (except my bookblogging friends, of course). However, not all of them dislike reading at all; for instance my husband does not share my passion for reading fiction novels but he does read books which are related to his job. Since I do not have knowledge in that area, I don't buy books as gifts for him and moreover, what I buy may not be of his liking.

      For me, I love buying books for myself anytime. And although my family and friends know I am a booklover, they usually don't buy books as gifts for me (except gift cards) because they know I would prefer to buy them myself, and moreover what they buy may end up duplicates for me.

      How about you? Do you buy books for your family and friends?

      Note: As much as I love chatting with friends or readers via Cbox, I regret to say I have to take it off my blog after some consideration after seeing someone misused it. Although I find the act amusing, I hate to mislead my friends and readers who mean more important to me. Nevertheless, I would love to hear from you so please feel free to email me.


      (This is a scheduled post.)

      I am taking a break from blogging/blog hopping today; and it applies to my reading as well. After all it is my birthday today and I want to do nothing but to spend the time with my family and enjoy the day off. It would be a quiet celebration, nothing as big as my 21st birthday so many years ago, ha! But it would be a meaningful one for me as in every year [Read: A year older (Yikes!) but a year wiser too].

      Here is a piece of virtual cake I am sharing with you. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

      Booking Through ThursdayCheck Spelling

      What is the best book you ever bought for yourself?
      And, why? What made it the best? What made it so special?

      I was in for a surprise when I checked today's BTT and saw there are two sets of questions being asked. What a nice treat!

      I could not answer the first question because I think most of the books I bought are pretty good, or else I would not have spent money on them! If I have to answer this, I would say that buying hardcovers are the best because I rarely buy them and I view them as treats or rewards for myself. Usually I would only buy hardcovers when they are on sales or if they are written by my favourite authors.

      Do you give books as gifts?
      To everyone? Or only to select people?
      How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

      I love the idea of giving books as gifts. Books provide knowledge and entertainment, and I am sure any booklover will appreciate these. As much as I love reading and buying books, I understand that not everyone shares the same passion as me, so I make sure to get books only for those who loves reading.

      Besides being a giver, I love being the receiver too! I always get excited whenever I get books in the mail or as a gift from someone. Nothing cheers me up more than getting books; and the more the merrier!

      Reading challenges are fun, and they are so addictive. However, this year I did not do as well as compared to last year, simply because I have lost interest of the books that I had listed long ago, or my reading mood got in the way. I think the latter is the main issue for the incompletion of these challenges. Anyway, this will not stop me from participating in more challenges next year. After all, reading is about pleasure, isn't it?

      1) Blue Justice by Illona Hans
      2) Cat O'Nine Tales: And Other Stories by Jeffrey Archer
      3) Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie
      4) Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
      5) Into The Storm by Suzanne Brockmann
      6) The Ghost Orchid by Carol Goodman

      tl;dr Challenge

      1) Books of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
      2) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
      3) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

      2008 TBR Challenge

      1) One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
      2) Stars by Nora Roberts
      3) P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
      4) Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson
      5) Forbidden by Suzanne Brockmann
      6) Cage of Stars by Jacquelyn Mitchard
      7) Next To Die by Marliss Melton
      8) My Lover's Lover by Maggie O'Farrell
      9) The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi
      10) Halfway To The Grave by Jeaniene Frost
      11) Almost Noon by Alice Sebold
      12) First Drop by Zoe Sharp
      1) The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
      2) Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
      3) A Student of Living Things by Susan Richards Shreve
      4) In The Woods by Tana French

      The Short Story Reading Challenge

      1) Holidays Are Hell by Kim Harrison, Lynsay Sands, Marjorie M. Liu & Vicki Pettersson
      2) Hell On Heels by Julie Kenner, Kathleen O'Reilly & Dee Davis
      3) Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

      I had enjoyed reading these books, but my favourites will be The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, Sacred Cows by Karen E. Olson, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly and In the Woods by Tana French.

      This is the first time I am participating in Wordless Wednesday. This photo was taken a few months back during a visit to the Singapore Zoo.

      ISBN-13: 9780545128285
      Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
      Published: December 2008
      111 pgs

      From the backcover:

      The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a Wizarding classic, first came to Muggle readers’ attention in the book known as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now, thanks to Hermione Granger’s new translation from the ancient runes, we present this stunning edition with an introduction, notes, and illustrations by J. K. Rowling, and extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Never before have Muggles been privy to these richly imaginative tales: “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump,” and of course, “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” But not only are they the equal of fairy tales we now know and love, reading them gives new insight into the world of Harry Potter.

      This is a must-have book for Harry Potter fans. On the other hand, anyone may read this book as it is a stand-alone from other Harry Potter series. This book consists of a collection of five imaginative wizarding tales, accompanied by some illustrations done by J.K. Rowling herself. The readers also get to read the wise Professor Albus Dumbledore's insightful thoughts through the commentary at the end of each story, including a few explanations of his own. Some of them give us a glimpse of his humorous side, which I think is fitting to his personality.

      Each tale is a delightful read. What I find most meaningful about this book is, there is a moral/lesson to be learned behind every story.

      The Wizard and The Hopping Pot is a tale about compassion, and how a young wizard overcome his arrogance and selfishness by a magical pot his dead father has left behind. The Fountain of Fair Fortune is about three witches and a knight who find themselves battling their way towards the magical fountain which is believed will bring fortune to one fortunate person between the hours of sunrise and sunset on the longest day once in a year. It is a wonderful tale of sharing and determination.

      The Warlock's Hairy Heart is a dark tale focuses on love when a young warlock decided to lock his heart after seeing his friends became foolish after they have fallen in love but things are not the same again after he has changed his mind and unlock his heart. Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump and The Tale of the Three Brothers focus issues such as wits and that death is inevitable.

      J.K. Rowling has weaved another winner in this short stories collection. I enjoyed the five wonderful tales in this book; each one is unique and so meaningful. I have to say The Fountain of Fair Fortune and The Tale of the Three Brothers are my favourites among all. The only thing I find disappointing is, the five tales are too short and I hope there are more tales collected in this book. Nevertheless, reading this book has made me want to continue reading Harry Potter series again. I am looking forward to reading Book 3 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in the near future (although I had watched all the movies to-date).

      Note: Buy this book as a support to the Children's High Level Group (CHLG). From every sale of this book, Scholastic will give is net proceeds to the CHLG, a charity cofounded in 2005 by J.K. Rowling and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, MEP.

      Other blogs reviews:
      Dolce Bellezza
      In Spring it is the Dawn
      Hello, My Name is Alice
      Out of the Blue
      Stella Matutina
      Things Mean A Lot
      (Let me know if I have missed your review.)


      Teaser Tuesdays

      TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
      • Grab your current read.
      • Let the book fall open to a random page.
      • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
      • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
      • Please avoid spoilers!

      My teaser sentences for today [The Gathering by Anne Enright (Pg 13)]:

      The seeds of my brother's death were sown many years ago. The person who planted them is long dead - at least that's what I think.


      Mailbox Monday

      Here’s what come into my house last week:
      So, what books came into your house last week?

      Musing Mondays

      Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading on the go…

      I always like to have a book with me at all times – call it a nerdy grown-up security blanket – and rarely do I leave the house without slipping one into my bag (even if I KNOW I’m not going to have a chance to read it). Do you take a book with you? Do you take whatever book you’re currently reading, or do you have a special on-the-go book? And do you have a preference for a these types of book (paperback, hardback; short stories; poetry etc)?

      I always bring a book with me wherever I go, unless it is a very short trip (i.e. buying takeaways from nearby food outlet etc). I always take the public transport, so not only I could pass the time but I could catch up on my reading too. And I always take the book I am currently reading. I rarely buy hardcovers so most of the books in my pile are paperbacks. Not only they are cheaper, but they are easier to carry around wherever I go. I only read my hardcovers at home, and I have the habit of removing the jackets as I read since I do not want to wrinkle them.

      How about you?


      ISBN-13: 9780446407410
      Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
      Published: September 2008
      277 pgs

      From the blurb:

      How much of an impact can an animal have? How many lives can one cat touch? How is it possible for an abandoned kitten to transform a small library, save a classic American town, and eventually become famous around the world? You can't even begin to answer those questions until you hear the charming story of Dewey Readmore Books, the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa.

      Dewey's story starts in the worst possible way. Only a few weeks old, on the coldest night of the year, he was stuffed into the returned book slot at the Spencer Public Library. He was found the next morning by library director, Vicki Myron, a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm, a breast cancer scare, and an alcoholic husband. Dewey won her heart, and the hearts of the staff, by pulling himself up and hobbling on frostbitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. For the next nineteen years, he never stopped charming the people of Spencer with his enthusiasm, warmth, humility, (for a cat) and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most.

      As his fame grew from town to town, then state to state, and finally, amazingly, worldwide, Dewey became more than just a friend; he became a source of pride for an extraordinary Heartland farming town pulling its way slowly back from the greatest crisis in its long history.

      Dewey (Dewey Readmore Books, as in full) was not your ordinary cat. Named in honour of the Dewey Decimal System, he was discovered by Vicki Myron, a library director of the Spencer Public Library on a frigid January morning in 1988. Someone had dropped him into the library's returned book slot and let him freezes there, but this cruel act did not stop Dewey from trusting people in future, in fact he let people petted him, squeezed him, fondled him and never showed any signs of biting or getting away. Vicki decided to keep him, and he became the first library cat of Spencer Public Library.

      But this is not all about Dewey, there is also story of Spencer, the small town and how the farm crisis of the 1980s affected the residents, and the farmers in particular and how they had rebuild and made things seem right and normal again. Dewey was an inspiration to them all, because he made them believe that a terrible event may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened, just like the way he survived through the bitterly cold night and ended up as the library cat. His confidence, his trust and his sociality charmed most library patrons, both children and adults.

      Not only did Dewey bring hope to Spencer, but he also reached out to the people as well when they were feeling a loss of confidence or simply having a bad day. Dewey seemed to be able to know their moods and he would jump into their laps and allow them to pet him. Occasionally, he was being pushed away but rejection never deterred him. Then things started to change; the older patrons who came to the library to flip through magazines or browse for books started to show up more frequently and stayed in the library longer. And their conversations would lead towards Dewey. There was one scenario of a man who looked through the job listings in the library and he was always quiet and unflappable, and whenever Dewey approached him, he would push him away until one day, Dewey was sitting on his lap and the man was smiling for the first time, even though there was sadness in his eyes. This was a fine example how much impact Dewey had made on people. He was always so warming and trusting.

      There was a stage where Vicki experienced an emotional distance with her teenaged daughter, Jodi and it was Dewey which brought their relations closer again. There was also a time when Vicki found out there were lumps in her breasts and she needed to have a surgery. Dewey's company made the difference as he would sit on her and snuggled in her arms. Soon news of him began to spread worldwide and the media started to take notice of him.

      Alas, old age is slowly creeping on Dewey and he began to show signs of loss of hearing and sickness. The library board directors were concerned about these but Vicki had argued and explained that old cats, or even older people have something to teach everyone, or at least to ourselves if not about the world. In the end, Dewey stayed. It was only towards the end when I read about Dewey's death that set tears to my eyes. His story, his life journey and what he had done to the people had touched me, but that is not all, I was equally moved by Vicki's story as well. A purr-fect and inspiring read which I highly recommend to anyone, cat lover or not.


      Friday Fill-Ins

      1. Friends are like family; they are a part of our life.

      2. When it comes to health; it's best that we eat healthily, exercise frequently and not to take it for granted.

      3. I'm ready for Christmas.

      4. Elizabeth Arden's 5th Avenue is one of my favorite perfumes or aftershaves or smells.

      5. The oldest ornament I have is probably nothing; I tend to have a short memory and who knows, I might have thrown it away.

      6. Take some black tea and condensed milk, mix it all together and you have teh tarik. (I'm craving for a cup now.)

      7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to catching up on my reading and watching my favourite drama serial on TV, tomorrow my plans include household chores and doing groceries and Sunday, I want to spend time with my family and, rest and relax!


      Booking Through ThursdayCheck Spelling

      1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?

      2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

      Reading time is very precious to me. With a full-time job and two young daughters to look after after office hours, finding some time to read can be real challenging. Therefore, I appreciate every seconds of my reading time. I make full use of the time travelling to and from work to catch up on my reading, and occasionally turn down lunch offers from coworkers. They are very understanding as they know all of us need some personal time to ourselves sometimes.

      Well, if I have more time to read, I will read just about anything! But my priority will be my TBR pile. There are so many books in that pile that would probably last me for years!

      I put up our mini Christmas tree on Monday. I know, I know, it is nothing fancy but I thought it still adds some Christmasy feeling to the house. (I think we bought the fake tree at a mall four years ago. Looking back, I wish we had bought a bigger one!) And I just love the snowman Jennifer T. (my best friend/'sister') bought for my elder daughter some time ago. Don't you think the snowman looks happy sitting beside the tree?

      Have you put up your Christmas tree?
      ISBN-13: 9780425221976
      Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
      Published: June 2008
      309 pgs

      From the back cover:

      Ex-Marine and security agent Ben Cabrera isn't going to complain about his latest assignment: protecting the daughter of a gubernatorial candidate. After all, spending 24/7 with Christy Delacroix isn't exactly a chore. But it turns out that Christy's seduction tatics are top-notch - and it soon becomes impossible to keep things strictly professional...

      Christy is an uptown girl who's spent her whole life being perfect. Now she just wants to have fun. And who better to have fun with than the gorgeous guy hired to protect her around the clock? They're utterly wild for each other - in and out of the bedroom - but will Christy be able to convince Ben to give her the kind of pleasure that lasts a lifetime?

      Without a doubt, this is a sensual romance novel just by glancing at its cover and the title. I was mulling what to read the other day when this book caught my attention while I simply browsing through my TBR pile. It was a pity that I was not able to get a glimpse of the cover model, but that is not the main point. The fact is, I have not been reading romance for some time so I thought this book would fit for my next reading after a sci-fi novel I had read.

      Frankly speaking, although I do not think the premise is original (the bodyguard falling in love with his client or vice versa), but I think the main characters in this story made it an interesting read. The couple have known each other when Christy's father hired Ben as his bodyguard. Both of them have their own ugly past they could not forget - Ben lost his ex-fiancée during the Iraq War while Christy is recovering from a horrific relationship with a man whom her mother thinks her marriage to him will benefit both families. Getting sick of everything and her life, Christy wants to do something for her own - starting with flirting and having some fun with her sexy bodyguard whom her father has assigned to protect her after the election is over.

      Ben takes his job seriously and never mix business with pleasure, but Christy is not making things easy for him. She asked him to pose as her boyfriend to ward off the attention from Craig, her persistent suitor and also to protect her from her ex-fiancé Jason who received a restraining order to keep away from her. It was at this time that both of them succumb to passion as they could not fight the attraction they have for each other. Then, the story moves on to another level when Jason became a threat and someone else sent a package filled with snakes to Christy.

      Though I find the story to be fast-paced, there is not much suspense as compared to the sensual and the romance element and one may easily guess who is behind those threats. All in all, it is an entertaining and a wonderful romantic story.

      I have not been to the cinema for a while. I think the last movie I watched with my husband is Iron Man. It was his idea, but overall I enjoyed it. I find the storyline and the effects were pretty good.

      Anyway, I watched The Black Swindler in DVD two days ago and thought it was very entertaining. I was attracted by the cover and it says this is the movie adaptation of the bestselling manga "Kurosagi". I love reading manga, but I do not recall seeing this one on shelves so I decided to read buy it.

      This story is basically about swindlers; or to be precise, a swindler who cheats other swindlers. During the introduction of this movie, it says there are three kinds of swindlers in the world. The White Swindler preys on anyone to steal their money, the Red Swindler make use of others' emotions to cheat their money, and then there is the Black Swindler who targets only the swindlers and he is believed to be the worst amongst all.

      Takashi Kurosaki (played by Yamashita Tomohisa) belongs to the latter. He is the only survivor left amongst his family as all were perished by a scam artist. He vows for revenge and grown up to be a professional swindler known as 'Kurosagi', who swindles other con artists. He works with Katsuragi Toshio, who is known as the master of all swindlers and buys information from him. Ironically, Katsuragi is linked to the death of Kurosagi's family and Kurosagi began to learn and improvises his methods on preying other swindlers. But his main target is Ishigaki, who uses corporate seals as gifts to companies and has led them losing money by sending out contracts bearing the seal.

      Sakura, a woman who had fallen into Katsuragi's trap years ago ever told Kurosagi not to be too emotionally involved with Katsuragi. Unlike Kurosagi, she has chosen to forget and move on. But Kurosagi is having mixed feelings. He did not know whether or not to trust Katsuragi entirely, but yet he is the one who is closest to him. The movie reaches its climax when Katsuragi has imposed a charge far higher than anything Kurosagi has ever paid, and also there are some exchanges between Kurosagi and Ishigaki that set my pulse racing. Will Kurosagi get his revenge in the end? Will he also get out from swindling forever? I am sure these are the questions that most viewers would like to know but I am not going to ruin the fun by saying it. All I can say is, I enjoyed it and I find Tomohisa Yamashita quite attractive, which is a bonus to the movie.


      Teaser Tuesdays

      TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
      • Grab your current read.
      • Let the book fall open to a random page.
      • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
      • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
      • Please avoid spoilers!

      My teaser sentences for today [Dewey:The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (Pg 13)]:

      By now it had been twenty minutes since I pulled the kitten out of the drop box, and I'd had plenty of time to think through a few things - the once common practice of keeping library cats, my ongoing plan to make the library more friendly and appealing, the logistics of bowls and food and cat litter, the trusting expression on the kitten's face when he burrowed into my chest and looked up into my eyes. So I was more than prepared when someone finally asked, "What should we do with him?"

      "Well," I said, as if the thought had just occured to me, "maybe we can keep him."

      Musing Mondays

      How long do you wait after finishing a book before you pick/start another one? How many books do you have planned ahead or do you pick up random books from your tbr pile (if you have one)? Do you review right away or keep reading and come back to it later?

      I always start reading another book immediately I have finished a book. It is choosing what book to read next is the question. Most of the times, I choose and read books accordingly to my mood, and I do not plan ahead for my reading because I know I may not stick to it anyway. Maybe this is one reason why I do not complete some of the reading challenges; I might have the interest of reading them upon the time I signed up for the challenges, but time and mood just got in the way. I suppose I need to restrain myself from buying more new books before I finish those from my TBR pile but oh, it is so hard to do so! As for reviewing, I always try to do it right after I have finished a book because that is the time my memory/opinion of the book remains the clearest.

      Diana Spechler is the author of Who By Fire and I am very happy to have her to feature a guest post on my blog today.

      Please welcome Diana Spechler to Melody's Reading Corner!

      When I was a child, my father wanted me to grow up to be a comedian. He used to tape Margaret Cho specials and make me study them. “Watch,” he would say, pausing the tape to show me one of her facial expressions, then rewinding to show me again. “She’s hysterical.” He would wag his finger at the television screen. “You could do that. You could do that!”

      Years later, when Sarah Silverman hit it big, my dad was disappointed. “That could have been you,” he said, since, like Sarah Silverman, I’m Jewish and female, and (in his opinion, although not in the opinions of some other people…like, you know, those imbeciles who don’t love me unconditionally), I’m the funniest person ever.

      But alas. I chose instead to be a writer, one who’s only kind of funny sometimes.

      The closest I’ve come to “doing comedy” is dating a comedian. My boyfriend Chris does stand-up all over New York City. Every night, he goes from comedy club to comedy club, doing the thing that, if I were to do it, would make me vomit from self-consciousness: He climbs up on stages and tells jokes.

      When we first started dating, I told him, “My dad always wanted me to be a comedian.”

      “Try it some time,” he said.

      “I should,” I said. “I’d be funny.”

      “Everyone thinks they’d be funny,” he said. “Please try it?”

      I was flattered. Did he, like my dad, think I could make it as a comic? “I couldn’t really,” I said coyly, glancing at him from beneath lowered eyelashes. But could I? I mean, could I? Oh god, maybe, just maybe, like my elementary school teachers said, I could do anything I set my mind to!

      “Please? I want to watch you bomb,” he said. “It would be so, so, so funny.” He held my face in his hands and kissed me. “Please?”

      When my first novel hit the shelves in September, my publisher sent me on a national book tour.

      “I’m so scared,” I told Chris before I left. “What if people are mean to me?”

      He tried to give me tips. “You’ll need to think of some stock comebacks. You’ll need to do crowd work.”

      “What if some guy raises his hand and says, like, ‘I think I got dumber from reading your book’ or something?”

      “Then tell him we all take risks. You took a risk by writing a book, and he took a risk by wearing that shirt in public.”

      “What shirt?”

      “If he’s wearing an ugly shirt.”

      “I can’t tell a stranger he’s wearing an ugly shirt!”

      “Baby,” Chris said solemnly, “yes you can.”

      And then something amazing happened: After my book launch in New York, an audience member approached Chris and me. “You’re so funny,” she said, touching my arm. She turned to Chris. “She should be a comedian!”

      When she walked away, I said, “You see? You see?”

      “See what? That the general public has no idea what it takes to be a comedian? Just because one person, one random person, tells you that you should be a comedian--”

      “She’s not one person. My dad says it, too.”

      “Right, right, your unbiased father.”

      But it wasn’t just a random woman and my dad. On book tour, every time I gave a reading or a talk, someone would approach me afterward and say, “You should be a comedian!”

      “That’s fabulous!” I would say. “I can’t wait to tell my boyfriend!”

      I would run outside as quickly as I could, and call to tell him the news. He was consistently delighted.

      Just kidding. He wanted to kill me. And I kind of understood. His annoyance was like the annoyance I feel when people belittle the difficulty of my career. “Have I got a story for you,” some people tell me. “If you knew my life story, you’d make a million dollars. You’d be on Oprah.”

      Right, I always want to say. Your life story is to my career what the Clapper is to a desk lamp. Thank god for you.

      I mean, people should know how I suffer. People should feel sorry for artists. We are, after all, artists. By which I mean sensitive and fragile.

      But because I’m a terrible person, I started to enjoy tormenting my boyfriend. “Three today,” I would call from the road to tell him. “Three new people who think I should become a comedian. And one asked if I was funnier than you.”

      “What did you say?” he asked.

      “I said yes,” I said.

      Thus began my identity crisis. Maybe I was a comedian in the body of a writer. Maybe my inner comedian was screaming to be let out. Maybe my mean comedian boyfriend was repressing my inner comedian, like a hand pushing down on a jack-in-the-box lid. Maybe I needed to reassess my career path.

      I was thinking like this by the end of my book tour because, in medical terms, I had lost my shit. The month and a half of travel had done me in. Being constantly “on” had contorted my face into a strange simulation of a smile, like the smile of an infant with gas or of a person who has undergone a frontal lobotomy. My insomnia, which had once been a condition, was now a lifestyle. My thoughts were coming to me in jumbled messes, like silly string.

      When I was signing books at one of my last events, a woman approached me. “You know,” she said, “you should really do something with your sense of humor.”

      “Do something?” I said stupidly.

      “In your career,” she said.

      I brightened. “Like be a comedian?”

      She squinted her eyes into slits and shook her head. “No,” she said. She patted my hand. And then she uttered the sentence that made my whole book tour, my whole year, my whole life, the sentence I have since repeated to Chris approximately seventy-six thousand times (as in, Have I told you about that woman who said…): “You’re too smart to be a comedian.”


      Diana Spechler’s fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, Moment, Lilith, and elsewhere. She received her MFA degree from the University of Montana and was a Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University. She lives in New York City, where she is at work on her second novel.

      Please visit Diana Spechler's website and say hello and be her fan on Facebook.

      Read what other readers say and/or buy her book at Amazon.