So I went book shopping yesterday and it was great to see the staff at the bookstore which I used to frequent before our office relocation. Knowing my reading taste of the books I read, one of them recommended You Against Me by Jenny Downham to me. At first glance, the title caught my attention but it was the one sentence at the back of the book that really piqued my curiosity: "You want this to be a love story?"

There is no elaboration of what this story is behind the back of the book so of course I have to find out more.

Synopsis (from B&N)

If someone hurts your sister and you're any kind of man, you seek revenge.
If your brother's accused of a terrible crime but says he didn't do it, you defend him.

When Mikey's sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie's brother is charged with the offense, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.

This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It's a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all, it's a book about love.

What do you think? It sounds good, right? Since I couldn't wait, I decided to read this book right now instead of waiting and I hope it would be as good as what it stated from the synopsis.

Another book I bought is Delirium by Lauren Oliver and I don't think I would need to say more about this book since I have read so many rave reviews around the blogosphere. Because of your wonderful reviews, I have to pick this up even though I have yet to read her previous novel, Before I Fall, another book that has received lots of rave reviews. I don't think I need to post the synopsis since I am sure many of you would've know what this story is all about by now.

I also bought three Chinese manga in which I finished reading two of them yesterday in one sitting. One of them is a stand alone while the others are part of a series. I felt like cheating marking the two manga I read for my February read list as they are not novels but hey, they are books right?

Hope you have a great Friday and happy reading!

ISBN-13: 9780307473691
Publisher: Vintage Books
Published: December 2009
240 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Japanese by: Wayne P. Lammers

Spinning Tropics was a random pick for the TBR Dare Challenge. I haven't been reading Japanese literature for a while and I figured this book would be a good choice considering it is a thin book and that it was the 2007 winner of the Knopf Kodansha Prize, plus the blurb behind said this is a lush and evocative story of an intoxicating love affair and this further heightens the eagerness to read it.

Hiromi Azuma is a 28-year-old female who decamped to Vietnam from Tokyo to work as a Japanese language teacher. She has problems with her mother and feels she is irresponsible and selfish who thinks of no one but herself. Living in a foreign country could be lonely and terrifying, but Hiro soon get used to the lifestyle and culture after knowing Yun who happens to be one of her students in class.

Falling in love with your own student is complicated, and it makes the issue more problematic if the party is of the same gender. Despite this, Hiro and Yun couldn't deny the attraction they have for each other and because of the circumstances, they will behave discreetly to the people around them. Still, Hiro has never felt so happy in her life. Yun makes her alive, and at one point she realises she wouldn't know what to do without Yun.

Their relationship goes on for a while until Konno, a Japanese businessman walks into Hiro's life. Her relationship with Yun began to falter, and jealousy sparks and insecurity arises between the two women.

At first glance, Spinning Tropics seems to me to be an intense story of a jealous woman who is fighting hard to win back her lover, though at some point it seems to be the case but the plot takes on a slower pace and Hiro's emotions are often portrayed throughout the story more than other things. Though I felt the pace is a bit slow, I have to give credit to the author for the detailed descriptions of the characters as well as a good look into the Vietnamese setting and its culture. I felt I was reading a travelogue at times through these descriptions and this made my reading experience all the more entertaining besides the intensity between the two characters. Just when I thought I knew what the outcome would be, the story took a turn and surprised me but I was disappointed to say the punch wasn't powerful enough to shake me to the core. On the contrary, I felt there was no answer to the ending and it left me a hollow feeling. That said, I was impressed with Aska Mochizuki's sharp and concise writing style and though this book may not make it on my best thriller read it definitely leaves a mark on my list through the literary sense.
My husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary last Sunday. This is an old picture taken two years ago since we went out for dinner instead of buying a cake as a celebration (the same as of last 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.
  • 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!

Spinning Tropics is a story about a young Japanese woman, Hiro, who has decamped to Vietnam from Tokyo to work as a language teacher. She met beautiful Yun, a local young woman studying Japanese who wants to find a better life for herself as well as for her family. The blurb behind the book stated that "this is a lush and evocative story of an intoxicating love affair" and "a love triangle with very complicated, ultimately devastating, results". I can't wait to find out what happened.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

When I first arrived in Vietnam, I had expected the young women to be shy and wary of strangers, so Yun immediately stood out as someone special. Not ony does she love to talk, but she has a way with words that can charm anyone.

(Pg 9, Spinning Tropics by Aska Mochizuki)

The Time Traveler's Wife
Starring: Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams
Rating: 3.5 stars

Based on Audrey Niffenegger's novel of the same name, The Time Traveler's Wife follows the love story of Henry DeTamble and Clare Abshire. I have to admit my curiosity was piqued after reading so many rave reviews of it so I decided to buy and watch the DVD, despite that I have the book in my pile and I figured I couldn't wait to know what the story is all about.

Eric Bana plays the role of Henry DeTamble who has a genetic disorder in which this enables him to time travel randomly. He meets Clare (Rachel McAdams) and they begin a relationship. Actually, Clare had already met him when she was young and what makes this story touching and romantic is the connection they feel and have for each other throughout the years. Though they are once again reunited, Henry's condition has now became a strain for them now that they are a couple, and the idea of having a child further makes it difficult for them. Is their relationship deems as a doom right from the beginning?

Honestly speaking, though I was fascinated by the premise I am afraid to say I wasn't really wowed by this film. The characters and the cast performance are great, but there are times I was confused by some parts of the film and the flashbacks didn't make it any better although I understand they are crucial and they explain about Henry's past. I suppose I'd enjoyed this film more after reading the book so I might want to watch this again in the near future.

Bride Wars
Starring: Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson
Rating: 3.75 stars

Emma Allen (Anne Hathaway) and Olivia 'Liv' Lerner (Kate Hudson) are best friends and they have dreams about their weddings ever since they were young. And after witnessing a couple's grand wedding at the Plaza Hotel, they had vowed to be married at the same location when they grown up.

When the two women finally got engaged, they went to consult New York's most famous wedding planner, Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen) but due to a clerical error, their marriage date is unfortunately scheduled on the same day. Because this is an important day, neither of them wants to make a compromise and on the contrary, each try to outwit the other by using dirty tricks and sabotaging each other's plans. Does this mean their friendship will be over for good?

I always have a thing for romantic comedy and Anne Hathaway is another reason why I picked up Bride Wars. This film is highly entertaining from the beginning till the end; and though I felt some of their antics to be a little exaggerating I think there are some realistic truth in them when it comes to the friendship issue and/or how one wants to be better than the other under some circumstances. Brides-to-be may want to watch this film for some ideas on the wedding gowns and thanks to the special feature on the DVD, I get to know some history of well-known designer Vera Wang and why her wedding gowns is a dream and a must-have to every brides-to-be.

No Strings Attached
Starring: Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher
Rating: 3.75 stars

No Strings Attached is another romantic comedy which I watched lately and enjoyed it. This film is rated M18 here due to the sexual issue and language as well as the portrayal of drug use.

Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) are friends for a while but they aren't close until they met each other again through a mutual friend. Emma works in a hospital while Adam works as an assistant in a show and his dream is to be a script writer one day. Their friendship might have stopped there if Adam didn't get drunk and text messaged Emma after he got upset with his father for having a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

Emma decided they keep their relationship brief after that night, after all she doesn’t believe in love. She also set some ground rules to each other in order to prevent their relationship from getting serious. This goes on well in the beginning, but as the time passes Adam starts to develop feelings for Emma. Sensing Adam’s closeness, Emma decided to take a step back away from their relationship and so they went on separate ways. However, Emma isn’t happy after she has sealed off her relationship with Adam, and this makes her think carefully about their relationship.

No Strings Attached may seems clichéd at some point, but it makes you wonder if a man and a woman could maintain a platonic relationship. Another thing is, though casual sex may portrayed to be respectable in the film, I think the ending has changed that conception and show us what love is when Emma starts to realise that Adam is important to her and trying hard to win back his love.
ISBN-13: 9780425238714
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Published: February 2011
296 pgs
Source: Publicist

Bengali-American Jasmine Mistry isn't happy with her life. Having divorced her husband for infidelity, she has swore off love and marriage and devoted her attention into her work. When she received a letter from her beloved aunt asking her to look after her bookstore in Shelter Island, WA, she agrees. After all, she thinks it is temporary and it may serve as an escapism from her marriage woes.

When Jasmine arrives at her aunt's bookstore, she knew something is different about it. Apart that it is an old store and that it has a Victorian feel, there are spirits of the dead authors roaming about the store and Jasmine could feel them, as each trying to impart some of their wisdom to her. Through their 'voices', Jasmine is also able to read the minds of the customers and knows what they are looking for in books and has in fact, recommended a few books to them despite she hasn't been reading books for a while.

But that is not all, Jasmine also meets a handsome and enigmatic Dr. Connor Hunt who both intrigue and interest her at the same time. Through his spirited demeanour, Jasmine slowly began to walk out of her sadness and put the past behind her.

When I first read about Jasmine, to tell the truth her character doesn't sound appealing to me. She has this unhappiness and scornful vibes around her, in which I could understand given her situation but at times it took away some of my empathy towards her. That said, I had hoped that she could come around and that she could find happiness in the end.

Despite there is a paranormal element to the story, there is nothing horrific about it but is portrayed in a funny and spirited manner. Another thing which I enjoyed about this book is reading bits of Bengali culture when the author wrote about Jasmine's relationship with her family and relatives.

Haunting Jasmine is a fun, entertaining read and if you love reading books about books, the more you should pick up this book and read it!


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!

I couldn't help but to cheat this week. I had to share the whole paragraph instead of the requested two sentences because it was just too good! I hope you are teased after reading this.

I get up, insomniac that I am, and peruse Auntie's shelves in her tiny living room. A draft whooshes in through an open window, ruffling the pages of a book perched on the sill. The House at Pooh Corner. Scrawled inside the front cover are the words in black ink,

Jasmine, don't be afraid to start again. . . . A. A. Milne

The handwriting leans backward, and a couple of small ink blotches mar the page. Auntie must have written this. A. A. Milne could not have penned the words. He died years ago and left only his books, his characters, his imagination.

(Pg 120, Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee)

I love Japanese food; and given that I’m a vegetarian, the choices can be so limited but that doesn’t mean all of them are off limits to me. Anyway, when Natalie of In Spring it is the Dawn came up with a fun mini challenge about Japanese cooking, I just couldn’t pass this up.

Here is one of my favourite dishes which I love to prepare whenever I’m in the mood for Japanese food. It may look and sound simple, but I love the taste and I don’t think I’d ever get tired of eating it, hehe.

Inaniwa Udon

I love udon! There are so many varieties of udon out there in the market, and it can be pretty confusing (at least to me) since there are types of udon for different cooking methods: dried cold udon, stir fried udon or udon with miso soup. Among these dishes, my favourite has to be cold Inaniwa udon. I will usually order this from a favourite Japanese restaurant located near to my office, but after the relocation I rarely go there anymore (due to the distance but I will visit for special occasions).

Anyway I learnt from Google that Inaniwa udon (稲庭うどん) is made in Akita Prefecture in Northern Japan and is considered as one of the highest quality udon made in the country. I couldn’t find any in the Japanese supermarkets that matched the one which I eat at the restaurant, but I do find one brand that match closely in terms of the udon texture. Another thing I liked is their udon are already sorted in 4 bunches so that means you that means you don’t have to estimate the proportion.

(Above pic shows my favourite noodle brand and konbu dashi)

Once you have decided on the quantity, cook them in boiling water for about 6 minutes (or until their texture have turned soft). Scoop them up and put them into cold ice water. Aside from making it a cold dish, this also helps for a smooth texture so they won’t stick together and thus, affect the taste. Scoop them onto a dish (you may wish to spread some shredded seaweeds on top and/or add in a few ice cubes) and served with a small bowl of cold konbu dashi (kelp stock). I don’t know about you, but it makes me drool whenever I think of this dish. I hope you will try it if you are interested!

Finally, thanks to Natalie for hosting this fun challenge!

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Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. This month's Mailbox Monday is hosted by Library of Clean Reads.

Here's what I bought and received from The Book Depository last week:

1) Raziel by Kristina Douglas

2) Against the Fire by Kat Martin

(I haven't been reading romance for a while so I need to get to those soon!)

What books came into your house last week?

And because today is February 14th, I'd like to wish ALL my friends a very "Happy Valentine's Day"!

ISBN-13: 9780738719269
Publisher: Flux
Published: May 2010
277 pgs
Source: Library

I don't think I have ever read a story that features a schizophrenic character. With so many rave reviews I read on A Blue So Dark over the blogosphere, I decided to add this book onto my to-read list and there you go.

Aura Ambrose thinks her life sucks. Her father left the family for another woman. Her mother, Grace, is a gifted artist and an art teacher but she is slowly losing her mind to schizophrenia. Due to her condition, there are times she couldn't differentiate between real life and imagination, and this reflected in her art. While Aura is trying hard to hold the family together, she has her own insecurities too, both in herself and her worries that one day she would be like her mother given the genes as well as her own gift in creativity. Because of these, she shun away from her interest as she thinks it would keep her sane. However, as Grace gets more out of control, Aura reaches a point where she began to feel suffocated by all the pressure.

Despite the subject, reading A Blue So Dark is like reading poetry as I find Holly Schindler's prose is simply beautiful and lyrical. She also captured Aura's emotions perfectly for I felt I could hear Aura's voice through her writing style, and I think this what makes the book stands out because of the believable, interesting characters. I wished I could describe my reading experience with A Blue So Dark as eloquently as Holly Schindler, but all I could think of are adjectives like 'powerful', 'compelling' and 'moving'.

This is a great debut by Holly Schindler about mother-daughter relationship and mental illness and I would definitely look forward to reading her books in the near future.

Holly Schindler's next release, Playing Hurt, will be out in March and I will be participating in her blog tour so look out for it!
So my next 'Not So Wordless Wednesday (iPhone Edition)' is supposed to be up on the first week of next month, but since some of my random pictures have a Chinese New Year theme to it (and I don't want to wait that long for the post), I decided to ditch that plan for the time being so here you go.

I'm always fascinated by those close-up shots so I tried experiencing it with this pineapple which I bought for the New Year.

I don't think I've ever tried Curry Flavoured chips so I bought this out of curiosity. I think curry lovers will comment that the flavour isn't spicy enough, but overall I think this suits everyone because of the mild curry flavour so for those who doesn't like spicy food would be able to appreciate this as well.

Bouquet of roses in our living room. I can't explain it, but I quite like this one.

Another attempt of a close-up shot.

My two-year-old girl playing with our iPod. She really knew how to click and drag those icons and yes, she too is addicted with Angry Birds (she doesn't really know how to play but she is fascinated by the colourful animations and those funny sound it makes).

Not sure what plant this is. Cactus? (doesn't look like it.) This was taken at my dad's place when I visited him over the CNY holidays.

This shot is taken from the corridor of my dad's house. See that dark clouds from the distance? I was glad it didn't rain that day!

Yes, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit.Well I hope you enjoyed viewing these pictures! Until next month, and Happy Wednesday!
Based on Jodi Picoult's novel of the same name, My Sister's Keeper is a story about a young girl, Anna Fitzgerald (played by Abigail Breslin), who is conceived through in vitro fertilization as a means of saving her older sister's life.

Kate Fitzgerald (played by Sofia Vassilieva), suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia and the family was deeply devastated when they first learnt of the news. Kate's mom, Sara (played by Cameron Diaz) took the news badly but when she found out from the doctor that there might be hope for Kate after all (and that is to conceive a child through in vitro fertilization since siblings have a better genetic match), she decided to take the chance.

So Anna was born and her blood is used in treatments in order to help save Kate's life. However Kate's condition worsened as she grows older, and this time she needs one of Anna's kidneys as she goes into renal failure.

When Anna knew about this (she is a 13-year-old girl then), she decided to defy parents' wishes and proceeds to sue them for medical emancipation. She told them that she does not want to be Kate's donor and that she has the rights to her own body after all. Attorney Campbell Alexander (played by Alec Baldwin) took Anna's case and act as her guardian ad litem. There is a reason why Alexander decided to take up the case, but I am not going to spoil this for anyone who hasn't read the book or watched the film.

In between the film, there are flashbacks that shows the close relationship between Anna and Kate, how it affected the family after seeing Kate's relapse and how Kate meets and falls in love with Taylor Ambrose, who is also a cancer patient. While I find the film to be emotional intense overall, I have to admit the ending still surprised me despite I had read the book a few years ago. But what most took me by surprise is not how it ends though, but how the film differs from the book towards the ending. As much as I wanted to compare the two versions, again I wouldn't want to spoil it should anyone wants to read/watch it. Still, it puzzles me why the change of the ending and this led me into wondering what's the point of a film adaptation if there is a significant difference from the book. And, I felt it wouldn't make the ending any much better because the subject itself is so sad. That said, My Sister's Keeper is a moving and thought-provoking story that will certainly linger in my mind for a long while.

Note: If you haven't read or watch this, I'd suggest you to read the book first before watching the movie (don't this apply to all books in general?) as I felt the emotional impact is more powerful.

Hi everyone! I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Mine was great! We had a fun time going house visiting since it is Chinese New Year! Needless to say, I took several pictures both indoors and outdoors, ha. Above is a collage of the flowers arrangements (except the bottom right since that was taken at my in-laws' place) and our CNY goodies (e.g. egg rolls, pineapple tarts, cashew nuts, pistachio nuts etc) at home.

Well I'll be back to work tomorrow. Life is finally back to normal after the 2-days holidays (and not counting the weekend as well); how time flies, huh! I didn't do any reading or read all your posts on my Google Reader since I was too busy house visiting and/or watching TV, but I definitely look forward to reading all your posts once I'm back to the office tomorrow.
Trish had a great Wordless Wednesday post on 26th Jan where she shared with us a few of the random pictures she took via her iPhone. I just love this idea and I'm glad Trish gave me the green light when I left a comment at her blog and asked if I could copy her idea. I'm going to make this a monthly feature (probably the first week of every month) at my blog and I hope you will enjoy viewing them.

Pad Thai - a popular Thai dish of stir-fried rice noodles with bean sprouts, beancurd cubes with crushed peanuts and red chilli pepper. Squeeze in a little lime juice and the taste is simply wonderful!

These are just a few Chinese manga series which I'm following. I took this picture while I was organising my books when the new bookshelves arrived as I wanted to know how many series I'm following.

OK, my main focus here is actually the pair of tangerines I received from my coworker. I figured it'd be too plain to take a pic of those alone so I placed them next to my stuff piggy (a Christmas gift I received from a coworker a few years ago).

Potted tangerines at our office reception area. Yes, tomorrow is Chinese New Year's day!

The complete first season of The Vampire Diaries DVDs set! I almost squealed with delight when I found this at the store last Saturday!

One of my TBR piles (except Blankets which I had read) on my bookshelf. One Day in the Life of Daniel Radcliffe is a lovely hardcover which features some images of the Harry Potter star on his work experience in New York as well as on Broadway. Photographed by Tim Hailand, this book gives the reader an insight into Radcliffe's life both as a person and as an actor. Daniel also wrote in his own words for the footnotes on each image for a more personal feel.

Since tomorrow and Friday is Chinese New Year's day, I will be taking a short break from blogging but I will be checking out all the blogs on my Google Reader via my iPhone. So Happy Chinese New Year to all who are celebrating!



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!

I started reading a few pages of A Blue So Dark on Sunday; this is a story about the relationship between a 15-year-old girl and her schizophrenic mother, as well as the girl's search for hope and healing through creativity. The premise sounds compelling and emotional intense isn't it? I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

But the thing is, there are times that the line between what Mom sees and what she imagines is completely gone. Because Mom's a stark raving lunatic. And that's not some figure of speech, either. No, my mom, Grace Ambrose, is a schizo. A real-life crazy woman.

(Pg 11, A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler)