ISBN-13: 9780062070142
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: October 2012
Format: Paperback, 288 pgs
Source: Publisher

Calling out all book lovers (occasional readers and non-readers apply as well)! Have you ever came across a literary guide which not only offer you some insight of the wonder and beauty of reading but also an account of the peculiar world of book culture and how we speak condescendingly about the most revered authors and their literary works even if we haven't read them! 

Author Lauren Leto started off this guide on her introduction to books when she was a child and how she was initially overwhelmed by the words and sentences in books to becoming a well-read reader as she is today. In this guide, she shares with us her opinions and observations of the book culture and some of the titles she read in both snarky and sometimes condescending voice. Either way, she has got me hooked to this guide as she covered some topics such as:

1) The Bookshelf of the Vanities
2) That Certain Bookstore Smell (From Self: Oh yes!)
3) Ten Rules for Bookstore Hookups 
4) Rules for Public Reading and Rules of Book Club
5) Petition to Change the Term from "Bookworm" to "Bookcat" (I like this one!)
6) Fan Letters (Don't we all have the desire to write to our favourite authors at some stage?)
7) How to Write Like Any Author (Names like Stieg Larsson, Malcolm Gladwell, Henry Miller,  Cormac McCarthy... just to name a few)
8) What Your Child Will Grow Up to Be if You Read Them... (like The Giving Tree, Green Eggs and Ham, The Velveteen Rabbit, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Wind in the Willows, etc)
9) Stereotyping People by Favourite Author
10) Strategies to Avoid Discussing the Major Plot Points of Any Novel
11) A Gift Guide by a Bad Gift-Giver
12) How to Succeed in Classifying Fiction Without Really Trying

Though written in a fun and humorous way, Lauren Leto has a deep admiration for every one of the authors whose work she discussed in this guide and she stated that "there is nothing more beautiful than a well-written book, and there is nothing more admirable than the attempt to create something beautiful", which I agree.  

Here are some of my favourite quotes in this guide (pg 267 - 9) which I think will strike a chord for bibliophiles and the like: 

- Reading is a solitary activity. You can be surrounded by a thousand people, but processing the written words in your brain is something only you are going through. ... A good novel presents you with an engaging world that is a reality only for you. 

- A story is unbiased with respect to the reader. It presupposes nothing about the audience. Books don't require that you read them in a certain place, at a certain time, or with certain equipment. Just eyes. Literature connects by transporting people to the same consciousness; a stranger who's read the same book you've read, whose eyes passed over the same words, may be a part of a completely different environment, and even time, but for a while, at least, they shared a world with you. A community is built out of that isolated experience; an author has the power to build worlds and to populate them not only with characters but also with their readers. 

- Good books command study, presenting you with the puzzle of how and why their plot is laid the way it is  laid - without examination the meaning is lost.

- The greatest argument for the oneness of humanity is the recognition that we are all emotional beings, subject to the fantasies of a story. We talk about this event we went through alone because it connects us together. You're nevermore human than when you realize a sentence has the power to push and pull the emotions of millions. 

To end it all, I enjoyed reading Judging a Book by Its Lover as it has inspired me to read some of the titles which I wanted to read but haven't (e.g. Crime and Punishment, The Catcher in the Rye, etc) but most of all, this guide made me smile as I agree with some of the stuff Lauren Leto mentioned and not to mention it also made me laugh over some of her remarks. Humour, anecdotal, reference... this guide has it all and I think this book would make a great gift to anyone who enjoys reading. 
Let me start off by saying that I have simply no idea what this film is all about. All I see is a tough looking, alpha female holding a barbwire stick and looking mean enough to hack anyone who's crossed her path. I watched this film through an app on my iPhone and the blurb simply stated that this is a French film about two young women whose intention is to visit a countryside for vacation but an unexpected visitor has ruined their wonderful vacation. Sounds thrilling to me, I had initially thought, but once I was into the film there was no turning back for me, no matter how horrific and/or bloody it seems. 

The film begins with a scene of a woman in a hospital gown; her back is filled with stitches and she is whispering to herself. She has vague memories of a woman running from something (or someone) in a forest and her stomach is wounded. 

Back to a new scene, we see two happy young women in a car heading to somewhere else. Their names are Marie and Alex, and their destination is to Alex's parents' house at a countryside. They have decided to stay there for their college break and a quiet countryside sounds appealing; plus it is Alex's family. 

That night, before Marie settles into bed, she thought she hears something in the house. The film moves on to show Alex's father answering to a doorbell and someone bulky wearing a cap slashed at his face. Filled with blood and in pain, Alex's father crawls back into the house but is stopped by the killer when he presses Alex's father's head between two rails of the staircase and then shoves the bookcase towards him. Needless to say, Alex's father is gone with his head decapitated. At this point, I knew where this film is going and that it would be filled with more gore and violence but yet I couldn't stop myself from watching it. I wanted to find out what happened to the family and whether or not if Marie and/or Alex would be hurt or worse, killed by this sadistic killer. 

True enough, there was more gore and violence as Alex's mother is the next victim as her throat was brutally slashed. Seeing both Alex's parents dead, Marie goes off to find Alex but she is too late - for Alex is chained  in her bedroom but she promises her that she would call for help. Unfortunately, the line was cut and Alex's younger brother is the next to go, as the killer shot him after he realized he has gone into the cornfield. 

Feeling satisfied that he didn't find anyone except Alex in the house, the killer proceeds to haul her into his old van and make his escape but Marie manages to creep into the van before he drove off. They travelled down a deserted road and just when Marie thought they would be dead, the killer stops at a gas station and Marie decides that this would be the best time to call for help and stop the killer, but she is dead wrong. 

Filled with intensity as the title of this film suggest, this story is about a sadistic psychopath who would not stop at anything just to get his 'prize'. Aside from the gore and violence (be warned - there are lots of them), I felt that this is a classic slasher movie and that it has delved into the character as well as the complexities of the killer. Sometimes, what you see is not what you expect and High Tension had stumped me in many ways, not only the gore, violence, the ending but also the psychology as well. Though this is an old film (released in 2003, AKA Switchblade Romance), this is one of those films that would stay in your mind for a long while; which I find is a good thing to me for I don't have the intention to watch it, again. It was too horrific to me.
ISBN-13:  9781439183731
Publisher:  Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 2012
Format: Paperback, 483 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Oil and water. Fire and water. Those are the stuff that don't mix; and the same goes to cops and robbers. 

Micayla "Mick" Lange is a cop in Karen Robards' Sleepwalker. When a family friend, "Uncle" Nicco Marino hires her to house-sit his house while they spend their week in Palm Beach for the New Year, Mick agrees since she has broken up with her boyfriend after finding him cheating on her. Her elder sister, Jenny, has her own family and she doesn't want to impose on them. She isn't in good terms with her father and her mother was murdered when she was a girl. Till present, the death of her mother shook her and she hopes to catch the murderer one day. 

Unlike Mick, Jason Davis steals things for a living. On New Year's Eve, he decided that he would break into a gangster's house. He has planned for this robbery and knew that the house would be deserted with New Year just around the corner, but he never expects that he would run into a sexy young woman, let alone a police officer. 

Mick is equally shocked to find a robber in the house, but what most shocking is finding incriminating photos in "Uncle" Nicco's safe that indicate he might be connected with the murder of the city councilman. Unfortunately, their presence in Nicco's office was captured by a security camera and Mick knew she has no choice but to "escape" with Jason, for she doesn't want to take any chances when her life is at stake and who knows what "Uncle" Nicco may do to them once he finds out what they have seen. On the other hand, Mick doesn't like the thought of "helping" Jason to escape, especially he has a bag full of Nicco's money and her cop instincts keep nudging her. 

As Mick and Jason race for their lives across Michigan wilderness on speedboat and snow-mobile, Mick begins to see a new light in Jason the more they spend their time together but would they be able to escape from the pursue of Nicco's men? What's more, being a law enforcer Mick has to turn Jason in if they managed to escape from Nicco and his men. Torn between her profession and love, what is Mick to do?

I have to confess I love reading stories when the protagonist is caught in a dilemma/situation and I want to see where the author is taking them. In a plot like Sleepwalker, one would think it is impossible (and unthinkable) to have a cop and a thief to fall in love with each other but Karen Robards did a great job in creating the two characterisations and allowed me to believe in the relationship they have come to develop during the run. 

Also, I find the plot intriguing but I have to admit that the beginning of the story is a tad slow and then it speeds up towards the end, which I didn't find it very convincing for some scenes. All in all, I enjoyed reading Sleepwalker and it made me feel good to read Karen Robard's book again as I haven't read her books for a while. I really liked her older titles such as Forbidden Love, Dark Torment, To Love a Man, just to name a few. 
Hello, my dear friends and readers! It seems like a long time since I have updated this blog! Well, I just want to tell you all that I am still up and running... around the house, that is. I may have quitted my job, but who says being a full-time housewife is easy either? Not me. Apart from all the household chores and stuff, I also "play" tutor to my eldest daughter, who is in Primary Two this year and for goodness sake, I couldn't imagine how stressful it could be as compared to my good, old primary school days! I really pity all the schoolchildren these days; they don't seem to have a childhood anymore. Anyway, I am sure you do not want to hear about my rambling, so let's move on to my thoughts on The Descent, a film which I watched lately. 

The Descent is a British horror film released in 2005. The story opens with three women whitewater rafting in Scotland. After the adventure and on their way back, Sarah and her husband, together with their daughter met in an horrific accident and while Sarah survives, her husband and daughter are killed on the spot, unfortunately. 

A year later, Sarah is reunited with her five good friends at a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in USA. They decided to go caving and as the group move into the cave, Juno, one of the women admitted that she has led them into an unknown cave system instead of a explored cave system they planned for, after a passage collapses behind them and leaving them stuck. Now that they couldn't turn back, they have no choice but to move on, hoping that they would find another way out. 

As they move on, another woman, Holly falls down a hole and breaks her leg. While the rest helps with Holly's leg, Sarah wanders about and see someone, or rather something drinking at a pool. Whatever it is then scampers off into the darkness after hearing Sarah's gasp; and when Sarah told the group what she thought she has seen, they all dismissed her comment as an imagination. After all, they thought she has not walked out of her woe all this time. 

At this point, it is not surprising to know that something creepy is (are) lurking down there and they are just waiting for the chance to pounce on them. Holly is the first victim to be taken by these pale humanoid creatures, and despite they are as blind as a bat, they could leap and run very quickly by their sharp hearing senses. The group all run in different directions after chaos broke, and during a scene Juno accidentally stabs Beth through the neck with her pickaxe, thinking she is one of the creatures. Before Beth drops to the ground, she grabs Juno's pendant and the latter runs away in shock, not checking to see if Beth is still alive or not. 

Juno then found another two friends after rescuing them from the creature, and told them that she may have found a way out but first she will have to find Sarah. The two women reluctantly agree to the search. On the other end, Sarah finds the injured Beth and from Juno's pendant, she then realises that Juno had had an affair with her husband. Beth, at this point, begs Sarah to euthanise her, and Sarah sadly complies. 

Juno's group encounter more of the creatures, and in no time they killed the other two women, leaving Juno alone. The climax begins when Juno and Sarah finally find each other during their run and without a doubt, Sarah will have to confront Juno about her leaving Beth and then of course, her affair with her husband. Added to the intensity would be of course the creatures which by then have found their way towards them. Who will survive? Or will they all be perished together in the cave? 

I always have a thing for adventures movies so to have it in horror style is a bonus for me since I quite like watching horrors too. I find the plot OK, and if you are hoping for gore this film has it as there are full of it. This film is not for the squeamish, and of course definitely not for children! 

I also watched The Descent Part 2 and it was a total disappointment to me so I don't think I would want to write my thoughts on that. For starters, the plot isn't that intriguing and what most stumped me is the ending, which I find ridiculous and what, hilarious? 

So what horror movies have you been watching and most looking forward to (I'm thinking Paranormal Activity 4!)?
ISBN-13: 9780307588364
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: Hardcover, 432 pgs
Source: Personal Library

The first time I read Gillian Flynn's first release, Sharp Objects, I knew I have found a new favourite author as I find her writing simply mesmerizing and   her plot totally blown me away. So it was no surprise I bought her next release, Dark Places, when it released in October 2010 but I put this book aside as I tried to catch up with some of my TBR books as well as a few other books which were raved by my blogging buddies. Dark Places remains in my TBR pile until Gilian Flynn's next book, Gone Girl was released three months ago and I decided to read Gone Girl first after reading so many starred reviews on it. 

And it is no surprise why this book has received such tremendous great reviews as I find the premise to be so clever and well crafted! One plus one equals to two but this logic doesn't always seems to be the case in Gone Girl. An overview of this story is about the disappearance of a wife on her fifth wedding anniversary but what made this story such an unputdownable read is the characterisations and how these two narrators draw you in from their perspectives and you just don't know who and what to believe. 

At its core, this is a psychological thriller that seems bizarre but strangely I find it to be believable and yes, scary in a sense that it makes you think about humanity and what someone would do under certain circumstances. I wish I could elaborate more but this is a book that should be relished without any prior knowledge of its plot; it is best that you don't read the blurb printed on the flap of the book jacket either. Excellent prose, great suspense and even greater psychological insight, this is one of the very best thrillers I read thus far and I hope Gillian Flynn will have a new release out soon. Meanwhile, I have Dark Places to be devoured during the waiting. 

Today's Topic: Share a highlight of this year’s BBAW. Whether it’s a blog you discovered or a book you’re going to read or a way you felt refreshed, this is the day to celebrate the week!

Today is the fifth day and the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW). Time always seems to fly by quickly when you are having the best of your time and I can say that is how I felt for all the BBAWs I participated since the first event in 2008. 

As like the past four years, it is the opportunity of getting to know more book bloggers and the interview swap that are the highlights to me for every BBAW. The interview swap has definitely allowed me to get to know the other book blogger in depth and this year's interview swap has helped me to befriend Carina of Reading Through Life.

And of course, I also want to thank my blogging buddies and new-to-me book bloggers for visiting and commenting on my blog. Reading all your comments is the next best thing beside blogging and to me, that is the best encouragement!

Last but not least, I want to thank Amy and her team for their time and efforts in putting this event together and I look forward to next year's BBAW again. 

Today's Topic: One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day. Get creative! Maybe share snippets from other bloggers who have reviewed it or make some fun art to get your message across.

I am sure many of you must have heard of Louisa May Alcott. After all, she was the author of the well-known and beloved novel of Little Women; a story whereby it is loosely based on the author's childhood experiences with her three sisters. 

As much as I want to pimp about this book for today's topic, however I want to mention about her other title instead and that is A Long Fatal Love Chase, which Louisa wrote under a pen name as A. M. Barnard during the mid 1860s. 

Based on the information I found on Wikipedia, I understand that Louisa had in fact wrote A Long Fatal Love Chase (ALFLC) two years before the publication of Little Women. And the manuscript for ALFLC remained unpublished until 1995! 

I don't think I'd have heard of this book if I didn't come across a review I read in 2010, and I was very glad I read it as I have a thing for Gothic romance and best of all, this book is full of intensity which I believe will appeal to thrillers fans too.  

(My review on ALFLC can be found here.) 

Today's topic: What does book blogging mean to you?

When I first started my book blog in 2006, my main purpose is purely to keep a record on the books I read and how I felt after reading them. It is sort of a personal journal, the only thing is I am doing it online and anyone can read it. But as time goes by, I realised that book blogging means so much more than just sharing my thoughts with others on the books I read. It is also about spreading books love and sharing with other readers on the great books I have discovered; and if the books I read aren't that great, I also share with them what didn't work for me and why and leave it to their judgement to read it or not. 

There are so many varieties of books out there and I can't possibly read every one of them. I need recommendations; I need opinions from other readers and this is where book blogs comes in. But that is not all, I also get to become friends with other book bloggers over the time and I think that is the best part of book blogging. Frankly speaking, most of my friends have no interest in reading and I think book blogging has allowed me to know more book lovers around the world. 

So, book blogging certainly means a lot to me; and I have to say reading is no longer a solitary experience for me as book blogging is a great outlet for me to connect with other readers. 

Today's topic is one of the most popular events of every BBAW - Interview Swap. This year, I was paired with Carina of Reading Through Life and below is her answers to my questions: 

1) I understand that you are a Canadian teacher teaching in Abu Dhabi, could you please share with us what inspired you to teach there? And, what are the challenges do you face while teaching in Abu Dhabi

It's kind of a long story, actually! I've always wanted to teach overseas (and specifically ESL), but was trying to get myself established in my home school district first. I had been moving to different schools over the first few years back in Toronto, because there aren't really many permanent jobs to be had in my subject area; and last year, it became obvious that there won't be a place for me anywhere for a while still. That coincided with my partner having moved to Dubai a few months before in order to take a job, and it just seemed like the time had come for me to go for the overseas experience that I'd wanted for so long. The public school system in Abu Dhabi is currently undergoing a radical educational reform and was hiring English teachers, so it all just fell into place.

As for challenges ... well, largely the challenges are due to the low English ability of the girls I teach, and the nature of the reform itself. I teach in high school, and while some of the reform (ie the assessments) have been rolled out to them, other vital parts of the reform (ie the focus on biliteracy and simply the time to have learned the English necessary to succeed on the assessments they're expected to do) has not. Add to that the fact that - at least at my school - we have rather large classes where the abilities are completely mixed, and it can sometimes be quite challenging. But it's a great experience as well, and I wouldn't take it back for anything.

2) How do you find the time to read and write despite the tight schedule of being a teacher? What are your hobbies aside from reading and writing? 

To be honest, I don't always manage to balance my schedule very well. I was doing okay mostly until I moved to the UAE, and then my time spent reading - and blogging - took a huge hit. I'm starting to re-find that balance now, though ... basically I just try to spend any free evening time I have reading instead of watching too much television or doing other things. The blogging is still lacking a bit behind, but I'm really hoping to re-engage and find more time now that I'm settled in more in the UAE and don't have to worry so much about all the new things going on around me. Aside from reading and writing - I like to travel, and cook, and my partner and I like to geocache and explore new places. 

3) You mentioned on your blog that your reading tastes range from the mile to the extremely eclectic. What kind of books would you classify as 'eclectic'? 

I'm not sure how accurate that might be at this point, as I seem to have fallen into a kind of a pattern with my reading that didn't exist to the same extent when I started blogging (and back when I wrote that section of the blog). I tend normally to read a lot of memoirs, YA, non-fiction about Islam and other topics. I also read a little bit here and there about other topics and in other genres, though, like about running, food ethics, ADHD and depression, abuse, eating disorders, education, politics, sexuality ... it can sometimes get a bit all over the place, hence the "eclectic". But that seems to be hit and miss these days - I sometimes feel like I'm losing a bit of my reading eccentricity and falling into neat little categories more often than not.

4) What is your favourite genre? Why?

I adore reading narrative non-fiction and memoirs of people who aren't necessarily famous. I think it's that these books teach me more about the world and expand my horizons a bit more than they might be normally. It's also a bit more clear-cut going into the book whether I'm going to like it or not; if I find the topic of a non-fiction book or a memoir interesting, I'm more willing to put up with mediocre writing than I might be when reading a novel. Other than that, I'm not really sure why I like non-fiction so much. I just seem to keep gravitating towards it, even when I'm actively trying not to! 

5) Which title(s) is the best you have read this year and tell us more about that book. 

That's tough! I seem to have re-found my groove, as I've read lots of great books this year. A few that stand out are Stiff, American Gods, Snakewoman of Little Egypt (which I'm reviewing today!), and The Night Circus (which I'll be reviewing later this month).

Stiff is a non-fiction popular science book by Mary Roach, and it's basically a look into what happens to our bodies after we die, how we use (and have previously used) corpses in all kinds of medical research and other uses, and generally how scientists work with cadavers. I fell in love with her writing in this book, as it's a nice balance of "science for everyday people" (but not too dumbed-down) and wry humour. I've since gone on to read one of her other books - Bonk, to be reviewed later this month - about the science of sex, and it's also great.

American Gods is somehow the first Neil Gaiman book that I've read, and it made me extremely sad that I'd waited this long to do so. It's basically about what happens when the "old gods" of the world (like those of ancient Egypt, and also including things like leprechauns) brought over to America face off with the "new gods" of media, the internet, and so on ... all superimposed on the background of a good old road trip. It's seriously fantastic, and nothing I say here can do it justice.

Snakewoman of Little Egypt by Robert Hellenga is about, among other things, what happens when the main character tries to start her life fresh after her release from prison, where she had been incarcerated for shooting her husband (a preacher and community leader in a snakehandling church) after he forced her to put her arm into a box of rattlesnakes. And yes, that's the simplest way I can explain the premise of the book. And it's brilliant, particularly in audiobook format.

The Night Circus ... I'll leave you to find out about that one for yourself. Trying to figure out what's going on is half the fun.

6) Finally, would you read a book which has received lots of hype, despite the bad writing? To you, which is more important: the writing or the plot? (Though it's ideal to have the best of both worlds, what would you choose if you are given only an option to choose?) 

That's a rather timely question, given that I just read the Fifty Shades trilogy a couple of weeks ago, and will be reviewing the books in a few weeks. I generally don't like reading books that have tons of hype, particularly if they hype comes along with lots of lots of criticism of the writing. For example, I held off for quite a while from reading the Twilight series as well. In the end, I decided to read it just so that I could legitimately critique it when the subject comes up, which is pretty much the reason that I read Meyer as well. Though, to be fair, it was more important for me to read the Twilight books since so many of my students were talking about them, and it wasn't fair for me to argue with them about the themes or content when I hadn't actually picked them up and read them myself ... something that I definitely won't be doing in a teacher/librarian role with the James books. In the end, I'm almost always just as unimpressed with these hyped-up books as I expect to be, particularly if they're known for having bad writing.

Having said that, what is usually most important for me in a book is the plot rather than the writing. Not that I want the writing to suck, or that I will tolerate it much if it does ... but I find that good writing with a crappy story is harder to get through, for me, than a good story with mediocre writing. I managed to get through a few thousand pages of both Twilight and Fifty Shades, for example, even though the writing in both is decidedly not good. (I'm not saying the plot is inspired, either, but it's at least compelling enough to allow me to finish reading.) I can't say that I'd have gotten through that many pages of a book with lovely writing but no plot.

Thank you, Carina, for being my interview swap partner this year and I enjoyed reading your answers! I'm glad to know you through this interview swap and I look forward to reading more of your posts! 

Yesterday was the first day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) and I want to apologise for posting this post a day late! Initially I had made plans for drafting and get this posted yesterday but my eldest daughter was sick. Anyway, it is better to be late than never so here you go. 

First of all, I want to thank Amy of My Friend Amy for hosting the BBAW again! This year marks the fifth year of the event and I want to thank her and her team for bringing many book bloggers around the world together and making things easier for us to explore more book blogs and make more new friends through this event. 

The first day of the BBAW topic is:
Appreciation! There are no awards this year, but it can still be hard to navigate the huge universe of book blogging. Share with your readers some of the blogs you enjoy reading daily and why.

I have to confess I have been slacking in commenting on blogs since the last year. I subscribed to about 200+ blogs and although Google Reader has made things easier for me to read all the blogs in one place, it is the commenting part that pose as a huge challenge as I wish I have more time to comment on every blog I read.  

Last year, I didn't specifically highlight any book blogs but instead thank all the book blogs which I subscribed for their book recommendations and their enthusiasm in spreading the book love. It is this wonderful community that make the book blogging business getting bigger and bigger as the years go, and I think this is a wonderful thing! 

This year, however, I want to highlight a few blogs (in no particular order) which are my daily read and bloggers who have now become my friends (despite the physical distance and the fact that I have not met them in person)!   

Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity - I love reading what she writes and most of all, her humourous and her bubbly personality! 

Sandy of You've GOTTA Read This! - She is another book blogger who is humourous and I always trust her books recommendations! 

Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty and Nymeth of Things Mean A Lot - They write good reviews, and needless to say, they are equally eloquent too!

Naida of The Bookworm - I know I can always count on her when it comes to reading romance!  

There are many, many more book bloggers I want to highlight but it is impossible to list all the 200+ blogs I read on this post. Having said that, I want to thank all the book bloggers for sharing their book love and their reviews. Blogging can be time consuming and one don't get to earn anything from writing the posts. Without the passion for books and reading, it is hard to maintain a book blog so I want to take this opportunity to thank all book bloggers for your enthusiasm and persistence in churning out all those book reviews! 

I also want to thank readers (no matter if you own a book blog or not) for reading my blog and it is your readership that always inspire me to write better and more! 

Thank you! 

  • ISBN-13: 9780062122636
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: June 2012
  • Format: Trade Paperback, 480 pgs
  • Source: Publisher

At first glance, the cover of With My Body may seem like an erotica romance but after reading the blurb, I realised there is something far more than just sex and lust, for behind the sensuality this is a story about family, marriage, self-discovery and love. 

Written in second person point-of-view, the nameless character is a mother of three and she has what many women want - a husband who is a GP and one who will not let his family down. She is supposed to be happy with her life, but she is not. She realised that she and her husband have reached a point of stopping in the relationship; where they both are either too busy, or too swamped by everything else. There is not much romance or sparks left, so to speak. Deep inside, the woman is craving for a release and she can't help but to think of her ex-lover, whom she has kept hidden in her mind all these years. She didn't want to ruin her marriage, for she thinks her husband is a good man and all, and she will make sure that he will never know of her past as she revisits her memory (and a notebook whereby she had noted down lessons she had learnt from her ex-lover) where the core of this story is. 

The woman had a secret affair with an older man when she was about seventeen. She had accidentally came across a secluded house where she discovered the man, who had chosen the quiet and remoteness of the place from the city so he could write his second book. Initially Tol wants nothing to do with the girl but he is piqued by her naivety and in the end, he gave in through her persistence of seeking him out. And there begins their relationship and their secret affair. Through their affair, she has learned things from Tol that would make one raise eyebrows and frown. Tol seems to learn something from her too, as he finds out more about a woman's psyche. One could say their relationship is a complex one, and there are times I wondered about Tol and if there are other agenda behind his acts. But of course I would not spoil the story and say anything more about him. 

Though With My Body mainly looks at the discovery of sexuality of a teenage girl to a woman, there is one aspect which I think drives the greatest impact and that is the father/daughter relationship and the redemptive part which is surprisingly moving once the readers understand the intention behind it. 

Bold, honest and thought-provoking, With My Body will be one of the most unforgettable books on my read list. This book also includes an interview with author Nikki Gemmell and her insights of writing this story (which allowed me to learn more about womanhood, in all its complexity). 

  • ISBN-13: 9781442430358
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: January 2012
  • Format: Hardcover, 384 pgs
  • Source: Personal Library

I don't know why, but I just love this word - bittersweet. Although it is defined pleasure mingled with regret, it is often the regret that lingers the most in my mind, as this often reminds me that life is not perfect and that we should always treasure what we have and grab any opportunity 
that comes knocking your door.

Hudson Avery, the protagonist in Sarah Ockler's Bittersweet, is a talented ice skater. Before she competes for a competition, she learned that her father has been having an affair with another woman. And the sad thing is, her mother chose to live in denial, thinking that things would turn out better. Unfortunately, Hudson didn't think so and her father's affair has shattered her wish of becoming a professional ice skater, for he is the one who presented a pair of ice skate to her when she was young and offered her all the encouragement she needs. Thus, during the competition she intentionally performed like an ordinary ice skater instead of giving her best and thereafter, not to ice skate anymore. 

Three years later, she found herself inventing and baking scrumptious cupcakes at her mother's diner in Watonka, New York. The dining business is the only thing that keeps her mother going ever since she has split with her husband. After all, she is now the breadwinner but business isn't doing well. It is at this time that Hudson decides to skate again after she has been invited to enter a skating competition to win a $5,000 scholarship. 

However, she needs some practising and plus, she has to go to the rink if she really want to win the competition. Luck is on her side as Josh, co-captain of the school's hockey team asked her to secretly coach his team on the finer points of ice skating in exchange for some ice time at the rink. She agrees but the challenge now is aside from practising hard for the competition and coaching the team, she has to face Will, whom she had a crush on years ago and he is also the captain of the hockey team. While she is flattered that Will is attentive to her, she isn't sure if his feelings towards her is genuine or is he using her for the sake of the hockey team.  To complicate matters, she finds herself attracted to Josh but will he reciprocate her feelings? And, would she be able to keep the competition under wraps from her mother since it reminds her so much of the past? Finally, would she dare hope to win the scholarship after all these years?          

At its core, Bittersweet is more of a story about friends and family, commitment and dreams than pleasure mingled with regret. Sure, there is a dose of those but I was more glad that Hudson has come to realise what most matters to her and follow that direction. Bittersweet is not entirely a bad experience after all, if you have learned something from those experiences and become a better person. Now did I mention why I like the word - bittersweet?
ISBN-13: 978-0340977637
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: July 2012
Format: Trade Paperback, 544 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Broken Harbour is the 4th installment of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad Series. Her first book, In the Woods, has received many good reviews from readers and up to now, I still couldn't get that plot out of my mind. 

This time around, Tana French brought us to Brianstown (formerly known as 'Broken Harbour' to the residents living there); a ghostlike town where the residents would rather mind their own business and stay locked at home than going outdoors.  

Brianstown is supposed to be quiet, but now that peace is disrupted after a family was murdered. Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead, while the wife, Jenny is in intensive care. Detective Mick Kennedy and his rookie partner, Detective Richie Curran are assigned to this case and they learnt that Patrick was laid off. Their initial speculation is that Patrick was stressed and decided to kill them all before killing himself, but there are a few things that they have found and couldn't explain. For starters, why there are so many baby monitors lying around the house and why are there holes in the walls? Did someone break into the house and killed them all? If that is the case, then why didn't the Spain family reported to the police? Did they have something to hide, and what is it?  

As Mike investigates the case, he couldn't help but to think of his mother's suicide back in Broken Harbour when he was a boy when they went there for a summer vacation. He has been trying hard not to think of that past but this case has once again opened up his wounds and have his sister, Dina, off the rails as her mental state is a little unstable. 

Although Mike's past has nothing to do with his investigations, Tana French shows her readers the other side of Mike and how behind Mike's sharp, intelligent mind and being a star detective and all, he is simply an ordinary person just like you and me. This psychological aspect, aside from the police procedural part, is the highlight of this intense thriller and I have to say this is the best installment I read among the series to date. What I could say without spoiling the story, is that the ending had me totally stumped and I hope Tana French will write a sequel to this. I wish I could say more but this is it.  


  • ISBN-13: 9781401341701
  • Publisher: Voice
  • Publication date: June 2011
  • Format: Trade Paperback, 416 pgs
  • Source: Personal Library

  • After reading the blurb at the back of this book, I knew I have to read it as the story is about the German Occupation in Guernsey during WWII, and also it revolves around the life of a woman whose husband has gone off to war and how she has fallen in love with a German captain. 

Vivienne de la Mare knew that life is not easy during the war times, especially when she has two young daughters and an ailing mother-in-law to take care of. Before the German soldiers invaded their town, she and her daughters are supposed to have left for London but Vivienne chicken out at the last minute after seeing so many people squeezed into the small ferry and that they had to travel under bad weather. Knowing that she has no choice but to stay, she grits her teeth and continues her life back at her countryside home. 

When a few German soldiers take up residence in the house next door to hers, she thought that as long as they remain low profile and discreet, then they would be safe but alas she never expect that she would fall in love with Gunther Lehmann, a German captain who is not only their enemy but also one who has a family like her too. 

Vivienne knew she is not supposed to love this man, but her relationship with her husband has already turned cold way before he has gone off to war. Plus, Vivienne feels connected with Gunther and she has never felt so lively with a man, at least not with her husband. So there begins their secret affair, and Vivienne now has to face another fear aside from the war - for being discovered by her family and the community. 

Life continues until a day her young daughter told her about a 'ghost' she met - a prisoner who has escaped from a Nazi work camp. Either feeling sorry for the prisoner or having guilty conscious for falling in love with the enemy, she decides to help the prisoner by giving him food and a place to stay, without the knowledge to anyone except her young daughter. It is at this time that she questions herself and wonder how much she could trust Gunther. 

Filled with intensity and emotions, The Soldier's Wife is one of the best fictions I read this year to date. Aside from the writing, the setting in Guernsey interest me as I don't think I have ever read a story set in that place before (yes, I should consider reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) and on top of that, both the plot and the characterisations are riveting and at times, I wasn't sure if I should feel angry or sympathy towards Vivienne. She isn't a strong heroine in my opinion (i.e.her indecisiveness) ; but the good thing is, she is a compassionate person. 

The scenes about her relationships between her two young daughters and her ailing mother-in-law are another highlight of this story. Through Vivienne's eyes, I understand how difficult it would be to be the only family member to take charge of the household. And finally, how would one justify her relationship with Gunther? It sounds wrong to fall in love with your enemy, but from another point, he is just an ordinary man, only with a wrong nationality. So what is Vivienne to do? I suppose you have to read this book yourself to find out, but I just want to say the ending ends well with me. 

  • ISBN-13: 9780399157646
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: May 2012
  • Format: Hardcover, 464 pgs
  • Source: Personal Library

When I first saw the book cover, I was totally smitten by the silver glittery fonts and the cityscape as the backdrop. What's more, Karen White (author of The Beach Trees; and one of my favourite authors) quoted on the front cover that this as "Irresistible. A memorable story of a timeless love."  Needless to say, I was hooked and I bought it, regardless of the eye-popping price tag (S$50.24). 

The story opens with the heroine searching in earnest for a Captain Julian Laurence Ashford. The year is 1916 in Amiens; a city in N France and World War I is raging at that time. The heroine doesn't really understand the urgent need in finding Captain Julian Ashford but she does know that she has to warn him of the danger he would be in and hopefully he would listen to her so he would be spared, from death. 

Fast forward to Year 2007 in New York City, Kate Wilson is a twenty-something Wall Street investment banker. She is good in her job but the thing is her superior rarely recognises her hard work and give all the important tasks and credits to another coworker instead. Being the low-profile person, Kate kind of accepts her fate but one business meeting allows her to meet the legendary investment genius Julian Laurence and her world changes thereafter. Julian is not only young and good-looking and it seems he is quite taken with Kate. 

What follows next is the alternative chapters that shift between the past and the present, allowing readers to find out and to understand the connection between Julian and Kate, and why these two people seem to have a purpose when seeking for each other, no matter in Amiens or in New York City. 

While this is a time-travel romance, it does has a tad of intrigue added to this romantic fantasy as there are scenes whereby Kate's safety is threatened at some point and makes you wonder who it is and why. 

I have to admit I am not a big fan of time-travel fiction, be it romance or mainstream but Overseas has definitely won me over with the unforgettable characters and the interesting premise as well. Author Beatriz Williams' style of writing is smooth and enticing and while I know the time-travel part is impractical and would never ever happen in reality, what matters is that love would never go out of time, anywhere. As long as there is love, there will always be stories to be told; and this is probably one reason why romance remains as one of the popular genres among others?