ISBN-13: 978-1420100280
Publisher: Zebra
Published: December 2009
379 pgs
Source: Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting

Adrianna Barrington thinks it was someone's cruel joke when she receives flowers and cards signed in her late husband's name. She has a few reasons for assuming so because she has recently sold the Thornton estate (belonging to her late husband's family) and she knew most of the residents in the neighbourhood are not pleased with her deeds considering the estate has a long line of history. But what most shocked her was when two bodies are found buried on the estate's cemetery and they were believed to have connections to her late husband, and it was then she realized there is certainly a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Homicide detective Gage Hudson has had a relationship with Adrianna many years back. She broke off with him mainly due to his work commitments and that he could not make enough time for her. After her marriage to Craig Thornton, she thought she would be happy since she was pregnant with his child, but unfortunately they met in an automobile accident and it put Craig in a coma. Adrianna lost her baby and her husband died following after. She is a strong woman and has slowly moved on with her life until the pranks started and now the dead bodies. Where could she go? And could she ever escape from the killer's grasp?

When I first picked up the book, I thought there would be a fair balance of suspense and romance (after all the spine read romantic suspense) but unfortunately, it does not seem to turn out that way, at least to me, that is. I have to admit the first few chapters are intense, and I was very eager to learn more about Adrianna's past and hoping to find some clues to the killer's motives. However, I find the story seems to drag a little as the following chapters are focused more on Detective Hudson going to places to track down witnesses and/or interviewing them. Though I can totally understand Detective Hudson's motives of doing so, I find it a little too much and think it would probably work better in a thriller than a romantic suspense. The chemistry between Adrianna and Detective Gage Hudson is not as intense or explosive as I first anticipated, considering they are lovers before. To be fair, I think Dying Scream makes a great suspense novel, but it does not meet my expectations in a romantic suspense genre. Still, I would recommend this book to readers who love a good suspense read.

Other reviews:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)
Berlin, Germany

This is a weekly event hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page every Wednesday.

Marcia says:

I love beautiful, and interesting, cover art so every Wednesday I post my 'Cover Attraction' for the week along with a synopsis of the book. Everyone is welcome to stop by and, if they'd like, post a link to their favorite weekly book cover.

* * * * *

Every time I look at this cover, I always have this urge to turn the book the other way around. Do you feel the same way? Or is it just me?

The Opposite House by Helen Oyeyemi
ISBN-13: 9781400078769
Publisher: Random House Inc
Published: June 2008

Synopsis (From B&N):

Lyrical and intensely moving, The Opposite House explores the thin wall between myth and reality through the alternating tales of two young women.

Growing up in London, Maja, a singer, always struggled to negotiate her Afro-Cuban background with her physical home. Yemaya is a Santeria emissary who lives in a mysterious somewherehouse with two doors: one opening to London, the other to Lagos. She is troubled by the ease with which her fellow emissaries have disguised themselves behind the personas of saints and by her inability to recognize them. Interweaving these two tales. Helen Oyeyemi, acclaimed author of The Icarus Girl, spins a dazzling tale about faith, identity, and self-discovery.

ISBN-13: 9780312384487
Publisher: Square Fish
Published: December 2008
240 pgs
Source: A gift from Joanna (Book Blogger Holiday Swap)

First of all, I want to thank Joanna again for sending American Born Chinese to me. I have been coveting this graphic novel for a while after reading so many glowing reviews on the blogosphere and after reading it for myself, I can now understand why this book deserves a shout out.

The first tale is about a Monkey King (also known as Sun Wukong in the original, classical Chinese novel, Journey to the West, but please do not confuse that with this graphic novel) who vows to be recognized as a deity after his embarrassment from admitting to the Heavenly Dinner Party because he is a monkey and does not wear shoes. He begins to master the various arts of kung-fu and in no time, he is all set to prove to the other deities that he could share the same ranks as them. Alas, he is being tested after his encounter with Tze-Yo-Tzuh, his creator, and the latter buries him in a mountain of rubbles for five hundred years.

The second tale is about an American Chinese boy named Jin Wang, whose purpose is to fit in after his family moved to a new neighbourhood. He met a fellow student, Wei Chen, who came from Taiwan and they became good friends after their exchange over a Transformers toy. Jin Wang also begins to fall in love with an American girl, Amelia but he is intimidated and feels he is not good enough for her and it does not help much when another classmate feels it is best of him to leave her alone.

Finally, the last tale is about the relationship between an American boy, Danny, and his Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee. You may wonder at this point why they are related in the first place, and that I would have to leave it to you to find out yourself because it is part of a plot setup and it involves major spoilers.

What I loved most about American Born Chinese is aside from the colourful illustrations and the great characterization, these three little (interlinked) stories convey the same message about finding one's identity and to love and to accept who you are. I think the good part of these stories is they are told in a light, humourous way without losing the topic. There are indications of racial stereotypes of the Chinese people but I think in a way it helps to create awareness of racism/stereotypes no matter what races we are. I absolutely loved the twist ending and thought how brilliant that is. I would recommend this to anyone who love a good story (and a good laugh).

Other reviews:
An Adventure in Reading
Bermudaonion's Weblog
Book Addiction
Book Nut
Books of Mee
Everyday Reads
Frenetic Reader
nothing of importance
Regular Rumminations
Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
Stuff as Dreams are Made On
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Written World
The Book Zombie
Things Mean A Lot
Tripping Towards Lucidity
(Let me know if I missed yours.)


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.
  • 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!

Alex's gaze settled on her. "The bodies, these bones - they're just evidence. To think of them as people is not productive."

(Pg 86, Dying Scream by Mary Burton)

I know I am not supposed to participate in any more reading challenges, but seriously I just could NOT turn this down - POC Reading Challenge!

There are several levels of participation to choose from:

Level 1: Read 1-3 POC books
Level 2. Read 4-6 POC books
Level 3. Read 7-9 POC books
Level 4. Read 10-15 POC books
Level 5. Read 16-25 POC books

I am going for Level 2 where I am committed to read 4-6 POC books.

Click here to find out more about the reading challenge and to sign up.

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page.

I received the following books last week:

1) When It Happens by Susane Colasanti (via BookMooch)

2) Random by Craig Robertson (review copy)

What books came into your house last week?

I want to thank Stacy of Stacy's Books for passing on the Humane Award to me. Here's what it says:

This award is to honor certain bloggers that are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendship through the blog world.

I want to pass on this award to the following friends who never fail to visit and comment on my blog, but most of all I want to thank them for their friendship and their never-ending support:

~ Stacy of Stacy's Books (back to you, my friend!)
~ Julia of Julia's Books Corner
~ Alice of Hello, My Name Is Alice
~ Naida of The Bookworm
~ Sandy of You've Gotta Read This
~ Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty
~ Ana of Things Mean A Lot
~ Iliana of Bookgirl's Nightstand
~ Dar of Peeking Between the Pages
~ Ceri of Not in the Pink

ISBN-13: 9780099288473
Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: October 1998
160 pgs
Source: Personal Library

I should tell my tale, not aloud, by the fireside, not as a diversion for idle listeners - it was too solemn, and too real, for that. But I should set it down on paper, with every care in in every detail. I would write my own ghost story. Then perhaps I should finally be free of it for whatever life remained for me to enjoy. (Pg 22)

The story begins when our narrator, Arthur Kipps was asked to share a ghost story by his stepchildren after the family has enjoyed their joyful festive meals on a Christmas Eve. Arthur indeed has a story, a true story, to tell but deep down in his heart he knew it is not a story to be told for casual entertainment. The horror he encountered so many years ago had already woven into his very fibres; the experience he had is an inextricable part of his past, and he decided he would write the story, a story for his eyes only. And so in the following chapters Arthur shares with his readers his true encounter with a woman dressed in black and with a pale, wasted face.

Arthur was a junior solicitor then, and he was summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, an elderly widow who lived all alone in the desolate and secluded Eel Marsh House. It was at the funeral that he first saw a mysterious woman dressed in black and her presence both intrigued and fascinated him.

The late Mrs Drablow's house is a mystery by itself, for it situated on Nine Lives Causeway and during high tide, it completely cuts off from the mainland, surrounding only by marshes and fog. During the trip to Crythin Gifford, Arthur noticed no one is willing to share information with him after they knew he was there to attend businesses for the late Mrs Drablow. And it further intrigued him when everyone is giving him a fearful look whenever he asked about a woman dressed in black.

However, Arthur is not a person who will give up whatsoever and in addition it would seem irresponsible of him to leave the work undone. For convenience and to speed up the work, he stayed in Eel Marsh House with only the companion of a terrier, loaned to him by a local named Mr Samuel Daily. Arthur knew him when they shared the same train to Crythin Gifford, and like the others Samuel is reluctant to discuss about the late Mrs Drablow or the woman dressed in black.

Over the few days during the stay in Eel Marsh House, Arthur begins to hear some unexplainable noises in a locked room. But the most terrifying of all is the sound of a pony and trap followed by the screams of a young child which he heard a few times on several occasions. Arthur soon learned about the mystery surrounding the late Mrs Drablow and Eel Marsh House after a near fatal incident, as well as the woman in black known as Jennet Humfrye.

I am afraid there is all I could say about the woman in black, but I can tell you how much I loved the overall atmosphere and setting of this story. It is so atmospheric, not to mention the plot is thick with suspense as you watch the story slowly unfold in front of you through Arthur's eyes. The Woman in Black might appear a little cliché to some, but I think it is a great old-fashioned ghost story. Vengeance, besides the horror, is the other element which surrounds the story and this is where it leads the ending to a higher climax.

I think Arthur's narration works well in this story; and personally I enjoy reading books from a first person POV because usually the emotions you feel from the characters is the strongest, which is a totally different reading experience from a third person perspective. Because I enjoyed this book so much, I bought The Man in the Picture (by the same author) which I hope would be another good read. Have you read any of these books?

Other reviews:
A Life in Books
A Striped Armchair
Books I Done Read
Savidge Reads
So Many Books
(I am sure there are a lot others. Do let me know if I missed yours.)


Some architectures in Berlin, Germany

This is a weekly event hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page every Wednesday.

Marcia says:

I love beautiful, and interesting, cover art so every Wednesday I post my 'Cover Attraction' for the week along with a synopsis of the book. Everyone is welcome to stop by and, if they'd like, post a link to their favorite weekly book cover.

* * * * *

Not only I find this cover attractive but I think the premise is very appealing too!

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale
ISBN-13: 9780670021062
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Published: January 2010

Synopsis (From B&N):

Reminiscent of Year of Wonders, a captivating debut novel of fireworks, fortune, and a young woman's redemption

It is 1752 and seventeen-year-old Agnes Trussel arrives in London pregnant with an unwanted child. Lost and frightened, she finds herself at the home of Mr. J. Blacklock, a brooding fireworks maker who hires Agnes as an apprentice. As she learns to make rockets, portfires, and fiery rain, she slowly gains his trust and joins his quest to make the most spectacular fireworks the world has ever seen.

Jane Borodale offers a masterful portrayal of a relationship as mysterious and tempestuous as any the Brontës conceived. Her portrait of 1750s London is unforgettable, from the grimy streets to the inner workings of a household where little is as it seems. Through it all, the clock is ticking, for Agnes's secret will not stay secret forever.

Deeply atmospheric and intimately told from Agnes's perspective, The Book of Fires will appeal to readers of Geraldine Brooks, Sarah Waters, Sheri Holman, and Michel Faber.


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!

I would write my own ghost story. Then perhaps I should finally be free of it for whatever life remained for me to enjoy.

(Pg 22, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill)

ISBN-13: 978-0099521358
Publisher: Vintage
Published: April 2009
176 pgs
Source: Personal Library
(Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder)

Yoko Ogawa is the author of The Housekeeper and The Professor. Though I have yet to read that book, I thought it would be better if I start off with her short stories collections and this is where I came to read The Diving Pool.

The first story, The Diving Pool is a story about a teenage girl named Aya whose parents managed an orphanage, Light House. Despite of having those foster children in her so-called house, she feels lonely and secretly yearns to be a foster child herself where she would imagine someone to adopt her and leave the place. It is not like her parents do not love her, they do but just that they could be so engrossed in their activities that they would neglect her at times. But none of these compare to her infatuation with Jun, her foster brother, as she would always secretly watch him dive and would marvel at the beauty of his body and how well he would dive into the water. Besides her obsession with Jun, she also finds distraction in tormenting an orphan toddler which at this point made me wonder if there is something mentally wrong with Aya (which unfortunately it does not turn out that way).

Jun, on the other hand, is a totally different character. He is a good yet a quiet young man. In other words, he is too good to be true. Despite I felt repulsed by Aya's behaviour and all, surprisingly I find the ending to be satisfying and that is all I have to say about it.

If I find it difficult to read the first story, the second story Pregnancy Diary is even more far-fetched and harder to fathom. A young unmarried woman is fascinated over her sister's pregnancy but instead of feeling excitement for her sister, she feels disgusted by the pregnancy progress. This story is narrated through her in a form of a diary (with records of the number of days of her sister's pregnancy), as she watches her sister's belly grown day by day and how her emotions affect hers as well. It is only when she learnt about her sister's obsession with grapefruit jam that she began to concoct a scheme to cause some harm to the foetus. I was at a loss of words after reading this story because what the narrator done has totally boggles my mind because I just could not imagine anyone would do that to a pregnant woman, let alone a family member. It just made me so sad (and not to mention horrified) to read such stories but I have to say the author has a knack of creating the suspense despite everything.

Finally, the last story Dormitory read more like a horror story but again it seems bizarre to me. A young wife revisits her old college dormitory after she has received a phone call from her cousin who wanted her help to find a dormitory for him. Despite the years, she still feels nostalgic of the days she stayed at that old dormitory, and she could still remember very well the armless, one-legged manager who runs the dormitory. As she rekindle the old times with the ailing manager, she seems to be transfixed by his story of a student who disappeared so many years ago. And as she listens to his story, she feels there is a strange force within the dormitory and thus leading her to explore more. Though this story sounds like a good creepy read, I have to say with great disappointment that the ending is not what I had expected. In other words, I was stumped and I am afraid I do not understand the ending at all.

I might not fully loved the three stories in The Diving Pool, but I have to say Yoko Ogawa's writing style is sharp and precise. She has penned a crafty and suspenseful stories which I am sure would send chills down your spine. Each story in The Diving Pool might be dark and yes, unbelievable but I think that is her intention and she has succeeded in making one ponder (at least with this reader).

Have you read The Diving Pool? What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment and I will link your review to this post.

Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about tidy reading around people.

When is it inappropriate to read in front of others? Is it ever appropriate?

I think half of my reading time are spent outdoors. That is because I read during the commute (it takes me about an hour to travel to work and vice versa), and also to pass the time I read while queueing or waiting. Seriously, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else but read during those moments.

I remember when I was younger, my mother used to tell us to have proper etiquette while having our meals at the dining table (and that includes no reading at the table). Overall, I think it all has to depend on situations. It is definitely inappropriate and rude to read while having conversations (which also refers to any other things that require your attention) with others. Another thing that I feel inappropriate and annoys me is when someone read their newspapers in a packed commute; besides the brushing of papers I also feel they are taking up the space which could allocate for more commuters.

What about you?

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia from The Printed Page.

These are the books I received last week:

1) Midori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga (bought from Amazon)

After reading and enjoyed Love in Translation by the same author, I knew I have to get this one!

2) Burn by Ted Dekker & Erin Healy (review copy)

What books came into your house last week?


Booking Through ThursdayCheck Spelling

Suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

Yes, I am a flapper. I am the kind of reader that read a book from cover to cover. It is even better if there is an introduction page and/or afterwords but I try to avoid reading the introduction page before reading the book because there was a time it spoiled the story for me.

I also love it when there are interviews of the authors at the end of the book. It is great to learn more about the authors and what they have done or feel when writing those stories.

What about you? Are you a flapper?

ISBN-13: 9781890862671
Publisher: Bancroft Press
Published: January 2010
161 pgs
Source: Bancroft Press

I have not read anything by Eileen Boggess, so when Bancroft Press offered me an opportunity to review this book, I said yes because the premise sounds like a fun read to me, and don't you think that cover is colourful and eye-catching?

Mia The Magnificent is actually the third instalment of Eileen Boggess' Mia Fullerton series. In this book, sixteen-year-old Mia has already battled over her shyness and acquired new confidence from the previous two instalments - Mia the Meek and Mia the Melodramatic but there are more adventures and new challenges awaiting her in this instalment and this time around, she has to prove to herself that she could be an independent girl regardless if it is a lead role she has to play in a school musical, learning to drive, dealing with an ex-boyfriend who seems to be giving her all the mixed signals, and not to mention her over-protective parents and a few issues that are tossed into her path.

Despite I have not read the first two instalments, I still enjoyed reading this book. Mia is a great character; she has a zest for life and I liked the way she always stay true to herself despite the peer pressures she has to face at times.

Another thing I liked about this book is the witty dialogues. There isn't a dull moment as Mia and her friends kept me entertained throughout the story. Eileen Boggess managed to capture the emotions of the characters (and the scenarios) well which I am sure most tweens would be able to relate to.

All in all, I had a great reading experience and it makes me wonder what would be in store for Mia in the next instalment.


Berlin, Germany
This is a weekly event hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page every Wednesday.

Marcia says:

I love beautiful, and interesting, cover art so every Wednesday I post my 'Cover Attraction' for the week along with a synopsis of the book. Everyone is welcome to stop by and, if they'd like, post a link to their favorite weekly book cover.

* * * * *

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
ISBN-13: 9780553807219
Publisher: Random House Publishing
Published: March 2010

Synopsis (From B&N):

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world—no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

ISBN-10: 0802138209
Publisher: Grove Press Books
Published: July 2001
177 pgs
Source: Personal Library (via BookMooch)
(Translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich)

I just could not get enough of Banana Yoshimoto's books. I think it all started after I read Kitchen, which is the first book I read by this author and I fell in love with her lyrical prose. Following Kitchen, I read Goodbye Tsugumi, which is another great read but not as good as Kitchen in my humble opinion. Of course I wouldn't stop reading there, thus Asleep comes in and once again, I was swept away by her enchanting storytelling and her beautiful, poetic writing style.

Asleep contains three stories of young women who are somehow bewitched into a spiritual sleep. Night and Night's Travelers is the first story where it features the connection between Shibami (the narrator) and her cousin Mari after the death of Shibami's brother, Yoshihiro. Mari has developed feelings for Yoshihiro before and ever since his death, she goes into a withdrawal stage where she sleepwalk. It is also at this time that Shibami began to discover a secret of Yoshihiro's previous relationship with an American girl.

The second story, Love Songs, is about a young woman named Fumi who often hears a soothing voice singing every time before she goes to sleep. Initially she dismiss it as the result of a broken heart and drinking, but yet again the more she thinks of it the more she thinks of Haru, a dead woman who also had a relationship with her ex-lover at the same time when she was with him. Haru and Fumi were never in good terms with each other; it is natural since they were both having a relationship with the same man but Fumi later find peace and friendship with Haru after a consultation with a midget psychic.

Asleep, which share the same title as the book is the last story where another young woman, Terako who is sleeping her days away after the death of her best friend, Shiori. She felt a deep sense of loss and not even her boyfriend, Mr. Iwanaga could release that pent-up tension in her. Mr. Iwanaga has a wife and Terako only knew about her coma later, as he is reluctant to mention anything about his wife. Terako then slowly began to find her new self only after she see through Shiori's life and a dreamlike encounter with Mr. Iwanaga's wife.

This book has similiar elements in each story, such as connection, friendship, love and death which associated with sleep (as indicated by the book title) and a sense of loneliness. Once again, Banana Yoshimoto has delivered another spellbinding stories, this time around with a mystical touch. She has captured each character's emotions so well that you would be able to feel for them. Another thing I love about Banana Yoshimoto's stories are they are told from a refreshing point of view even if they often revolve around the simple things in our life. Most of the times, I felt myself get carried away with her books because they are simply alluring, and not to mention thought-provoking at times.

Have you read any books by Banana Yoshimoto? Which one is your favourite?

Other reviews:
The Written World
The Zen Leaf
Things Mean A Lot
(Let me know if I missed yours.)


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!

The following Monday morning, as Lisa wheeled me down the St. Hilary's hallway, I felt like the princess in some sort of warped homecoming parade. Everyone stopped and stared at my still-swollen face and bandaged body, and I didn't know if I should wave, say hi, or throw candy at them.

(Pg 108, Mia the Magnificent by Eileen Boggess)


Musing Mondays

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about tidy bookshelves.

Are your bookshelves strictly books only? Or have knick-knacks invaded? Do your shelves also shelve DVDs? Photos? Why not snap a photo – I’m sure we all like to spy on other’s shelves!

Most of my bookshelves are strictly limited to books only, however there is one bookshelf which I share with my husband and besides my books that occupies a shelf, the rest are filled with miscellaneous stuff like files, three Barbie dolls (two of them belong to my eldest daughter, and I bought one of Barbie being the Santa's assistant). Other stuff also include a few photo albums, dictionaries etc, and the bottom drawer of the shelf is where we keep all our stationery. Unfortunately, I am not able to provide a photo as I am currently in the office but I could share with you two of the older pictures which I had posted on my blog some time ago.

This is the shelf where I mentioned about my books and other misc. stuff.

This is the other bookshelf where I keep some of my TBR pile with more photo albums (the drawers on the right).

Today, most of my TBR pile are stored in our storeroom because they are just too many! What about you? Do you keep other things besides books in your bookshelves?

ISBN-13: 9780824947934
Publisher: Ideals Publications
Published: January 2010
260 pgs
Source: Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists
(This is an advance reader's edition from uncorrected pages.)

I loved Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy is no doubt one of the most intriguing heroes I read among others so naturally any spin off of Jane Austen's novels or mention of Mr. Darcy will catch my attention (however I am not so keen when they are linked with paranormal), thus I jumped at the chance when Phenix & Phenix Literary Publicists offered me the opportunity to review Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart.

Claire Prescott is unsure where her life is taking her especially after she has lost a job as a pediatrician office manager and that her relationship with her boyfriend, Neil, is just a blah. It is not like she is not working hard enough to make the relationship work, but the thing with Neil is he is a sports fanatic.

Claire has a younger sister named Missy and being the elder sibling, she takes charge in most of their things since their parents died when she was eighteen. Now Missy has received a grant to attend a weeklong seminar in Oxford as part of her continuing education for her teacher certification but due to pregnancy complications, she wants Claire to stand in her position and present her papers on Pride and Prejudice. Claire does not understand Mr. Darcy's appeal but she agrees to Missy's request anyway.

Claire met a lot of interesting people at the seminar; one of them certainly reminds her too much of the fictional Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice because of his aloof attitude when they first met. His name is James Beaufort and he works in a publishing firm which is a family business. During the introduction, Claire did not tell them the truth of her designation, after all it is only a weeklong seminar and she is sure no one will remember her once they left the seminar for home. Nonetheless, Claire and James left an impression on each other's mind and it is not long that they are attracted to each other.

A chance encounter allows Claire to meet the elderly Harriet, who kindly show her the first draft of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, originally titled as First Impressions but Claire has doubts in Harriet because she seems to suffer from early stage of dementia. Nevertheless, Claire read the manuscript and is very taken in the story which is so different from the printed Pride and Prejudice.

However, when someone raided her room did Claire realize that this manuscript might not be authentic after all. The story gets more complex when Neil unexpectedly arrives in Oxford and Claire has to question her true feelings between Neil and James.

I had a fun time reading Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart. There is a little suspense surrounding the manuscript but then the suspense is not to an extent that it would lead to murder or anything. I have to say this is more of a character study where the readers will read the change about Claire and how she deals with issues such as the kinship with her sister and then of course, love. I won't tell you what happened to the manuscript, as I think that is not the main point of this story (though I did enjoy reading a few sections of that manuscript and find it to be quite refreshing on top of the story itself) but I can tell you I loved how it is wrapped up in the end.

On an unrelated note, what do you think makes Mr. Darcy an iconic romantic hero? And which actor would you like to see to play the role of Mr. Darcy?

Gosh, I have had a hard time narrowing down my top reads in 2009! I counted the number of books that are marked as my favourites and found out there are 34 books in total. Initially, I have planned to do a Top 10 list but I caved in in the end so let me present you my Top 20 list (in no particular order):

- Fallen Skies by Philippa Gregory
- Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
- The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- The Lost Hours by Karen White
- Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
- The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax
- Skin by Mo Hayder
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Stolen by Lucy Christopher
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The Heights by Brian James
- The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
- Ash by Malinda Lo
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
- Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
- The Girl on Legare Street by Karen White
- Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
- Love in Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

And here are the other titles that did not make it to the Top 20 but are still my favourites:

- Ritual by Mo Hayder
- The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
- Evermore by Alyson Noel
- Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto
- Godmother : The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyn Turgeon
- Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson
- The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
- The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
- No One You Know by Michelle Richmond
- Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
- Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
- The House on Tradd Street by Karen White
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
- Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

If I find it difficult to compile my Top 20 list, let me tell you it is even harder to come up with a Book(s) of the Year list, so that is why I will have a title for each genre instead of naming only one title in all. It definitely made things easier for me and it sounds fairer, isn't it? After all, how could you possibly compare a literary fiction with a thriller, or any of the others?

Without further ado, here are the results for my Book(s) of the Year - 2009 (Please note all titles are nominated from my favourite reads and that not all genres are listed.)

Best Fiction - Love in Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga
Reason: For starters, it is the wonderful reading experience I had while reading this book. A real heartwarming story that put a smile to my face, and it has all the elements I love in a book (family, friendship and love). I could not ask for more. The protagonist is a great character; one whom I admire for her courage and determination.

Best Horror - The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Reason: The story had me hooked from the beginning till the end. Great suspense, great characters and very atmospheric! And most of all, I loved the ambiguous ending.

Best Mystery & Crime - Heartsick by Chelsea Cain
Reason: I have to confess I had a hard time choosing a book under this category. I had read a few good crime thrillers last year, including two books by Mo Hayder who is one of my most favourite crime thrillers authors of all time. However, I was most intrigued by the characters in Heartsick (in particularly the strange relationship between the detective and the murderer) besides the crimes she has committed. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series, and I wonder if there is anything more between the characters.

Best Thrillers - The Ghost Writer by John Harwood
Reason: I simply could not turn down a good gothic mystery! I loved John Harwood's prose and I can say this book is both a character-driven and a plot-driven story.

Best Romance - Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Reason: I have to admit I did not read a lot of romance novels last year. Dreaming of You has all the right elements of a classic historical romance. It has a great plot but most of all, I enjoyed watching the sparks fly between the hero and the heroine.

Best YA - Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Reason: I have always wonder about Stockholm syndrome, and this book has made me think hard about the relationship between the captor and the captive. And I really liked the plot, and how this book has captured the protagonist's emotions well - from her feelings towards her captor to the wild remote place she is being forced to stay. It is one of the most memorable reads I had last year.
For today's Wordless Wednesday (I guess it's not wordless anymore), I will not post the Germany series but will instead take you to our busiest shopping district (Orchard Road) and have a look at their Christmas decorations.

And this is our Christmas Logcake. Yum!

This is a weekly event hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page every Wednesday.

Marcia says:

I love beautiful, and interesting, cover art so every Wednesday I post my 'Cover Attraction' for the week along with a synopsis of the book. Everyone is welcome to stop by and, if they'd like, post a link to their favorite weekly book cover.

* * * * *

Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom
ISBN-13: 9781400063574
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Published: January 2010

Synopsis (From B&N):

Love, in its many forms and complexities, weaves through this collection by Amy Bloom, the New York Times bestselling author of Away. Bloom's astonishing and astute new work of interconnected stories illuminates the mysteries of passion, family, and friendship.

Propelled by Bloom's dazzling prose, unmistakable voice, and generous wit, Where the God of Love Hangs Out takes us to the margins and the centers of real people's lives, exploring the changes that love and loss create. A young woman is haunted by her roommate's murder; a man and his daughter-in-law confess their sins in the unlikeliest of places. In one quartet of interlocking stories, two middle-aged friends, married to others, find themselves surprisingly drawn to each other, risking all while never underestimating the cost. In another linked set of stories, we follow mother and son for thirty years as their small and uncertain family becomes an irresistible tribe.

Insightful, sensuous, and heartbreaking, these stories of passion and disappointment, life and death, capture deep human truths. As The New Yorker has said, "Amy Bloom gets more meaning into individual sentences than most authors manage in whole books."

ISBN-13: 9780312372668
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Published: November 2009
272 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Honestly speaking, I could not remember when was the last time I had read a women's fiction and felt so madly in love with it. Yes, that was how I felt when reading Love in Translation by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, a new-to-me author but has now joined the rank of my favourite authors.

33-year-old Celeste Duncan feels her life is a blah. Her mother passed away when she was younger, and she did not know who her father was. She does not feel motivated about her editor career, and she feels her relationship with her boyfriend is bland and lacks all the sparks.

So one day when she receives a phone call and a box that fills with mysterious family heirlooms, she is excited and intrigued at the same time. She thinks she might be able to find an answer to the identity of her father after all, but then she has to leave everything as she has and leave San Jose for Japan, for she has to search for a long-lost relative who could explain what contains inside that box. However, there is a problem as Celeste doesn't understand Japanese, and then of course there is the long distance and the difference of the cultures but she has decided to take the plunge since she so badly wanted to know more about her father.

During her stay in Japan, she met Takuya, her homestay "brother" who is able to converse in English, and a "teacher" whom has later became her good friend. With their help, Celeste is able to trace her family roots and learn about the Japanese culture but not without some mistakes and embarrassment along the way.

First of all, I loved the plot and setting of this story as I like reading about characters finding oneself through certain circumstances and how the journey has made them grown and made them a different person. I find Celeste's persistance in searching for her biological father and her enthusiasm in learning Japanese to be inspiring, and most of all I admire her courage.

However that is not all in Love in Translation, I also get to learn more about the Japanese culture (which I find it wonderful without having to search for other non-fictions on that), and that it also revolves around family, friendship and romance.

Another thing is I absolutely loved the characterization and reading Celeste's exchange with Takuya, Mrs Kubota (Takuya's mother) and her good friend, Mariko is a great delight because they are so much fun to read. I giggled a few times when reading the book and my husband could never understand how a book would do that to me.

I have a lot more good things to say about this book but I am kind of at a loss and don't know what to say anymore. Have you ever experienced this kind of feeling when after you have read a good book you just don't know where to start (or how you should say it so you could do justice to the book)? I am experiencing that right now. I guess I should end this post and just immerse myself into that wonderful memory of reading this book again.

Note: I just ordered a copy of Midori By Moonight, an earlier novel by the same author and I cannot wait to read it!

Other reviews:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)

I'm so glad that Michelle from 1More Chapter is once again hosting the PUB Challenge. I have participated in this challenge for the past two years so that goes without saying that I'm joining again this year.
Here are the guidelines:
  1. Read a minimum of 10 books first published in 2010. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2010, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2009, and then published in the USA in 2010, it counts (if you live in the USA). Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2010.
  2. No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
  3. At least 5 titles must be fiction.
  4. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
  5. You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.

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!

I am currently reading Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto. I love her lyrical writing style after reading Kitchen and Goodbye Tsugumi, and I look forward to read more of her books in the near future. Asleep contains three stories of young women bewitched into a spiritual sleep. The following teaser is extracted from the first novella, Night and Night's Travelers.

To tell the truth, right then I wasn't the slightest bit concerned about Sarah and whether it had been her calling. More than anything, it frightened me that Mari was talking about these things - things related to my brother, who'd been dead for so long - as if it were all perfectly ordinary, part of everyday life.

(Pg 36, Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto)


ISBN-13: 9780843960976
Publisher: Leisure Books
Published: January 2008
370 pgs
Movie Tie-In Edition
Source: Personal Library

This is a horror book. No, it does not have anything to do with ghosts, zombies or anything that goes bump in the night. It is a horror story about a very sick family and what they do to a pair of helpless young girls.

The Girl Next Door is told in a first person POV, under the narrative of the main protagonist, David. The story begins with an intriguing opening when an older David speak of his past.

You think you know about pain?

From there, David share with us about his life in the suburban during the 50s, as well as his childhood friends and the Chandler family. David first met fourteen-year-old Meg when he went fishing for crayfish by the brook. She was the prettiest girl he has ever seen, despite she is two years his senior. They became friends quickly, and he learnt she is staying with Ruth Chandler together with her younger sibling, Susan, after their parents' death in a horrific automobile accident. Ruth and their parents are distant cousins and it seem natural that both Meg and Susan are under her care considering they have no other relatives.

David knew the Chandler family well, after all he is close friends with Ruth's children, Donny, Willie and Woofer. Being a single parent and now having to look after five children, Ruth's unhappiness and rage increases as the time passes (and not to mention she gets a little sick in the mind), and she began to take her anger out on her new charges as she physically and mentally abuse them.

David is not aware of the abuse in the beginning, after all Ruth did it discreetly and Meg does not share their problems with anyone. However, the abuse began to worsen when Ruth seem to allow her children to abuse the two girls and to the stage where she does not care if David is there to witness everything.

Though David loathes what Ruth is doing to the girls, yet at the same time he is also fascinated by the notion of power one could have over someone. He became the witness, for he neither abuse nor help the girls and this behaviour finally drew him to an end. Is it too late for him to lend a helping hand to the girls finally? And what happened to Ruth and her three children in the end? All these would prompt the readers to continue reading despite the gruesome read about the abuses and torture endured by the two girls.

Frankly speaking, I did not know what to think of David in the beginning. He gave me the impression of being weak and intimidated, but as I read further, I also find him righteous, though he does not always express himself well and I wished someone had stand with him from the beginning so he would not seem so helpless (or clueless).

I liked the narrative setting between the older David and the younger David. Though the older David narrates only once in a while in some chapters, this actually reflects about his past life and how he had really felt then.

The Girl Next Door is a powerful book; one that simple leave me speechless when I turned the last page of the book. I cannot remember when was the last time a book has ever left this kind of feelings in me, where I felt horrified, angry, and sad at the same time. I quite liked the ending, though it leave you wondering about certain aspects (for this I will not reveal), but I think it also works well if you look from a different perspective.

This book also contains two short stories and an interview with the author. Based on the book cover and the interview, I knew there is a film adaptation but I have not watched it, have you?

Other review:
(Let me know if I missed yours.)