ISBN-13: 9780679781387
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: March 1998
Pages: 272
Source: Personal Library

Set in Britain during the 1950s, this is a story narrated by Dr Peter Cleave, a psychiatrist over an incident which happened to the Raphaels during his work at a countryside mental institution. Stella Raphael, who is the lead character of this story, is supposed to have a happy family. After all, she and her husband has a ten-year-old son and her husband has the hope of becoming the next superintendent at the mental institution. However, she has done the unthinkable and has an affair with Edgar Stark, who is a patient of Dr Cleave.

Not only that Edgar is mentally disturbed, but he also shows no remorse after he gruesomely murdered his wife and think what he did is justifiable. The reason he murdered his wife is because he thinks his wife had a lover and even a small and mundane gesture would ignite his anger. In other words, he simply has this disillusion that his wife is betraying him.

Not deterred by his past, Stella sees him as charming and a talented artist who shows passion in his sculpture. Their relationship started when Edgar, among many parole patients, is asked to restore an old conservatory which is ruined when they moved into the house. They were living in London before then.

The story then escalates to the point where Stella decides to ditch her family and follows Edgar after he managed to make an escape from the institution. But soon that attraction slowly fades and Edgar began to show his dark side when he starts to get violent with her. What happened then, I shall leave it to you to read it yourself but I would say this is one of the best books I read since the beginning of 2012. Aside from the characterisations, the setting and the plot, what I liked is it is written in a narrative style and from an observer's point of view. Dr Cleave's POV is refreshing in a way that you may view it as a medical case study as well as reading what he had experienced throughout the ordeal.

What I felt while reading this book could be described as a roller coaster experience. There are times I felt intense after reading what Edgar had done with his ex-wife; the things he had done to her are unbelievable and gruesome. Then, there are also times when I felt angry at Stella. I was angry that she failed to recognise the danger she would be in and at some points even gave excuses when Edgar behaves irrationally. After all, how reliable Edgar can be? And what about her family, especially her young son? She did give readers the impression that she is bored with her life; after all Max barely showers her with love and attention, but still . . . to get involved with a mentally disturbed patient is simply appalling.

That said, Asylum is a great literary fiction that had my attention from the first page right till the end. I understand that there is a movie (starring Natasha Richardson, Hugh Bonneville and Ian McKellen) based on this novel which was released in 2005 so I might check that out too.
Wow! It’s been a long while since I have done a meme; a meme which is non-books related but more on yourself and your life. I love reading other readers’ answers, and yeah I love playing along too. So, when the lovely Trish tagged me for this, I just knew I wouldn’t say no. Here goes…

1 You must post the rules.
2 Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3 Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4 Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Trish’s questions:
1. What app do you love above all others? Not an app person? What about website?
I love the greatness and the fun of apps, but seriously I don’t seek them and I will download those which are useful to me. I do download some games sometimes, but not many though.

2. Describe your dream profession (sky is the limit).
I don’t know about you, but I suppose dream profession changes as we get older, or am I the only one who think of that? When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming a scientist. When I reached adolescent, I dreamt of becoming an architect because I think people who created those beautiful skyscrapers are such a genius! When I stepped out to the society to work, I wanted to become a graphic designer (well I was an Arts student during my high school time). Due to that interest, I pursued a part-time course while working in my second job but didn’t venture further. At that time, I was thinking that interest and career don’t mix, but perhaps I was wrong. Right now, if you ask me about my dream job, I will just say, be my own boss. Ha!

3. Appetizers or dessert?
Definitely dessert!

4. If you could be BFF with any fictional character, who would you choose?
Wow, so many to choose from and yet my mind is blank at the moment.

5. I say BLUE. What immediately comes to mind?
Beach. I just want to take a vacation, right now!

6. Favorite song to blast and sing in your car with the windows down?
Probably some songs from Debbie Gibson or Bananarama. I’m a fan of the 80s.

7. What fashion fad makes you hang your head in shame?
I don’t know, maybe jeans in loud colours, like bright orange or lime green?

8. What are your thoughts on 80s Hair Bands--specifically Monster Ballads?
Not a huge fan, but I don’t hate them either.

9. What is a book you wanted to throw across the room? What is one you wanted to hug?
Perhaps the book which I’m reading right now – Asylum by Patrick McGrath. Don’t get me wrong, the writing style and the plot is great! In fact, I’m enjoying reading it. It’s just that I couldn’t understand why a normal, psychiatrist’s wife would want to get involved with a mentally disturbed patient. Bored? Love struck? I don’t know. I suppose I’d find out why the more I read it.

As for the one I wanted to hug, I’ve to say it’s A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. It is such a tender yet a powerfully, thought-provoking story I’d read in a while. That said, I also want to hug Connor O’Malley, the boy who is faced with his own personal demons and came out strong in that story.

10. Imagine you are an aerobics instructor--what song must be on your playlist?
Relight My Fire by Take That.

11. What's for dinner tonight?
No idea. It’s always grocery shopping on a Friday night so we usually eat out. I guess it’d have to depend on the malls we decide to go and what eating outlets they have over there. I’ve got a feeling that I may have a Veggie Delite sandwich and cream of mushroom from Subway this evening, hehe.

Bonus: What's your favorite go-to lipstick (including color)
Revlon lipstick. Mauve colour.

And here are my questions:
1. Who’s your idol? It can be anyone and don’t have to be a celebrity or a public figure.
2. If you can be someone famous, who do you like to be?
3. What are your favourite TV shows or movies?
4. Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Why?
5. Popcorns. Sweet or salty? Why?
6. Facebook or Twitter? Why?
7. What are your pet peeves?
8. Where do you like to go on a vacation?
9. Your most wonderful memories you had last year.
10. What’s your favourite holiday?
11. Finally, I couldn’t resist asking a bookish question: Would you read a book which has received lots of hype and positive reviews, even though the storyline isn’t what you like to read?

I’m tagging:
8. Ti
10. Carrie
11. Ryan
ISBN-13: 9780349123745
Publisher: Abacus
Publication Date: February 2012
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Personal Library

With The Times quoted Keigo Higashino as the Japanese Stieg Larsson (which stated on the print copy cover), I know I just have to read The Devotion of Suspect X; a book also which many of my fellow bookbloggers raved and recommended.

Yasuko Hanaoka is divorced and lives with her teenaged daughter, after being escaped the horror grasp of her abusive ex-husband, Togashi. Unfortunately, Togashi continues to harass Yasuko on and off even after their divorce and this made Yasuko and Misato, their daughter, both annoyed yet fearful of him at the same time.

One day when he shows up at her place to extort money and threaten her, the event has quickly turned disastrous when Yasuko and Misato murdered Togashi out of fear when their exchanges became ugly. Just when they are helpless and terrified of murdering someone, their lone neighbour, a high school mathematics teacher, Ishigami, heard of the commotion and came over to investigate. Due to his wit and his attraction towards Yasuko, Ishigami offers to help them to dispose of the body and even went out of the way to devise plans to divert the detectives from pointing the direction towards them.

Because Ishigami is Yasuko's neighbour, it is a matter of time that the detectives link him to the murder case, even though they have limited information or evidence to the case. Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and a college friend of one of the detectives, however thinks there is more than meets the eye. Although he isn't a detective and he is not asked to assist to solve the mystery, Yukawa is friends with Detective Kusanagi and he has in fact offers some insights into some of the past cases.

When Yukawa heard that Ishigami is linked to the murder case, he is both curious and doubtful; after all he knew Ishigami back during their University days and he gave him the impression of an intelligent yet reserved man who would challenge him on some mathematical questions, and vice versa since they specialise in different subjects. As the detectives begin their investigations, Yukawa has in fact, came up with a few speculations of his own which may surprise not only to the detectives but to himself as well, for Ishigami has thrown to them a simple yet complex problem to tackle which is ultimately the climax of this story.

Although this isn't much of a whodunnit thriller, what makes this story stands out is the characterisations, the issue on humanity as it taps onto the emotional struggles one may face during a circumstances, in which this case, obsession. I see the obsession in Ishigami as he works out complicated mathematics problems, for he is not only a high school mathematics teacher but a resourceful mathematician as well. I also see the obsession in him as he will patronise the bento place where Yasuko works, even though they rarely talk to each other then.

Like a mathematical problem, The Devotion of Suspect X is a thriller that will challenge your mind and makes you think outside the box. It is no wonder this book garners so much attention; I really enjoyed the reading experience and if you haven't read it, go read it now!

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!

No control. You don't control falling in love, she said, you can't. At the time it had amused her that it should happen like this, with this man. A patient. A patient working in the vegetable garden. Stella, I said, you could not have chosen more unwisely had you tried. But the truth is, she said, I didn't choose.

(Pg 36, Asylum by Patrick McGrath)

I am pleased to have Margaret Wurtele, author of The Golden Hour, to do a guest post here at Melody's Reading Corner today. I enjoyed reading The Golden Hour, which has a WWII setting and if you haven't read my thoughts on it, here's the link.

Without further ado, please give her a warm welcome.

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

I’ve been asked to share a little about my writing life and to talk about the process of becoming a published author. My first two books were non-fiction (memoirs) and The Golden Hour is my first novel.

First, let me say that I’m afraid I’m the opposite of a writer. I am an extroverted, action-oriented person, who is loath to sit still at a desk. I am easily distractible, and any available alternative to writing will do: a ringing phone, accessible email, a hunger pang, and the neon to-do list that flashes in my brain. I say yes to far too many community projects, lunch and bridge invitations, and social events. Still, after a day spent writing, I feel more satisfied and complete than after anything else I do.

So writing three books required wrestling myself to the ground, and the novel was the toughest of all. In fiction, the blank page is especially daunting. While writing the memoirs, I had journals and the raw material of my own experience to draw from. In writing The Golden Hour, the characters and their interaction had all to come from my imagination. Finally, I came up with a firm personal rule: Nothing could be scheduled on Mondays – nothing at all. I would begin the day with cups of coffee, wandering about the house, going through mail – anything that attracted me. But all the while, the story was brewing in my head. Finally I would sit down about 2 or 3 pm and write furiously in longhand for a couple of hours. Whew! Then, the rest of the week, I could type, edit, and fiddle with it to my heart’s content. Then, I would wait in dread for the next Monday. It took me three years to complete a draft of the novel I could live with.

I sold my first book, Taking Root, without an agent. It was a spiritual and gardening memoir, and (with the help of a friend who owned a bookstore) I chose five or six publishers of spiritual and religious material and sent them the manuscript. St. Mary’s University Press called and wanted to publish it! I was lucky.

For my second book, Touching the Edge, I did find an agent, one who worked both in my home state of Minnesota and in New York. The manuscript was a memoir about parenting and the recent death of my 22-year-old son in a mountain climbing accident. It took at least a year of receiving one turndown letter after another, but finally John Wiley & Sons bought the book. My editor there had a beloved aunt who had lost her son, and he felt a particular resonance with my story.

That same agent was enthusiastic about the draft of The Golden Hour, and he eagerly offered me a contract. But after a few months, he disappeared. Something troubling must have happened in his life, because he was unresponsive and out of communication for many months. At last, reluctantly, I severed our contract. I took advantage of the break to hire an independent editor, who worked with me on the manuscript for several months. She was excellent, and it was the right thing to do. The revised manuscript was accepted by the first new agent I tried. She has Minnesota roots like mine, and I know a few of her other clients.

This is a terribly difficult market, and my agent kept my expectations very low. Her in-house editor made a number of suggestions, and finally they sent the manuscript out to a first round of five or six publishers. She was more skilled than lucky. The interest was there, and NAL/Penguin was chosen to publish The Golden Hour.

In the last few years, the world of marketing books has changed. This time around, it’s a new ball game: a website, a Facebook page, a blog tour. I am excited to have people begin reading The Golden Hour.

Margaret Wurtele is the author of two memoirs. She and her husband split their time between Minnesota and Napa Valley, where they are owners of Terra Valentine Winery. Visit her online at
ISBN-13: 9780451237088
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: February 2012
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

I love reading stories which have a war setting; don't get me wrong, war stories are never a joy to read but they are part of history and they allow us to get a glimpse of the war through the eyes of the characters, even if they are fictional ones.

The Golden Hour is a story about a 17-year-old Italian girl, Giovanna Bellini's journey during the Nazi occupation in Tuscany during the 1940s and how the war affected her throughout and into her adulthood. Being the daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, her life should be carefree and filled with happiness but all was shattered when the war broke and their lands are being occupied by German officers. As you are aware, Italy armistice with the Allies and this resulting in the disarming of Italian forces and seizing the military control of Italian areas.

While Giovanna helps at the local Catholic academy tutoring refugee children, she is attracted by one particular German officer named Klaus; he is married and has a young son and though Giovanna likes him, yet at the same time she is also torn by guilt and a sense of patriotism as she feels their acquaintance is wrong to begin with. On the other end, Giovanna's brother, Giorgio, left home to join the resistance. His parents never knew of his whereabouts, thinking something must have happened to him during the war although they are still hopeful of his return. Truth be told, he is very much alive and Giovanna is secretly helping him to smuggle food and medical supplies for the partisans.

It is also through Giorgio that Giovanna meets Mario, an injured partisan who is Jewish and as she nurses Mario back to health, she couldn't help but to fall in love with him and his courageous spirit as well. At that time, she is unaware of the situation where the Jewish stand and even after she knew of the danger of being acquainted with a Jew, she stand by her decision of helping and loving him despite her parents' objection. However, the real battle lies in the ruthless Nazis and Giovanna has to confront her demons as she faces Klaus once again.

Filled with wonderful characterisations and a rich setting of the wartime, author Margaret Wurtele has weaved a captivating, and an unforgettable story about love of all kinds (couples, family as well as friends) and the acts of heroism in all forms. Giovanna is a wonderful and a likeable reader; you couldn't help but to sympathize with her for all the difficulties she encounters both in her personal life as well as the hardship during the wartime. Mario is another likeable character to me as he is brave yet humble at the same time.

As I have not read a war story with an Italian setting before The Golden Hour, I was glad to read this book based from the Italian's perspective. It has definitely made me understand more about the resistance forces; and not to mention what the partisans did are selfless and they are willing to sacrifice themselves in saving their country.

Although The Golden Hour is about the Nazi occupation, I would also like to view this as somewhat of a coming-of-age story, as I could see how Giovanna has grown from a naïve young girl to be a mature lady as the story progress. A great debut I would say, and I would highly recommend this book to readers who love historical with a little romance theme in it.

And, I have a guest post from author Margaret Wurtele tomorrow so do keep a look out for 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!

He had expected the police to identify the murder weapon. Which was why he had exchanged the Hanaokas' kotatsu with his own. Their old kotatsu - the real murder weapon - was packed away in his closet.

(Pg 205, The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino)


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!

War hung over us like an insistent fog. It was always there, clouding everything, separating us from one another under a blanket of secrecy and fear.

(Pg 55, The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele)

  • ISBN-13: 9780525423270
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: December 2010
  • Format: Hardcover, 384 pgs
  • Source: Personal Library

There have been a lot of rave reviews on this book, and I am sure many fellow book bloggers would understand that kind of "anticipation" and/or "need" to read a book that caused such a stir over the blogosphere. I have to confess I was curious about the hype, but more than that, I was intrigued by the plot and that the setting is Paris, a city well known for romance and it has the beauty name of "The City of Light".

Our heroine, Anna, lives in Atlanta and though her life isn't perfect, she loves her family (her parents are separated but her mother decided that they need a father figure so he still see the family occasionally) and aside from that, she has her best friend and Christopher, a guy whom she likes for a long time.

However, her world seems to come to a halt when she learnt that her father is sending her to a boarding school in Paris. Now Anna has never been away with her family for such a long time, not to mention the distance, the language barrier and all. But, she adapts quickly to her new environment and have made a few good friends along the way. Among them is a guy named Étienne St. Clair, who is not only good-looking and popular but also has a girlfriend.

Anna enjoys being friends with them, but little does she know that she is falling in love with Étienne the more they spend their time together; and it seems their friendship has turned to more after they have spent the time together for Thanksgiving and that Anna being there when his mother has cancer and has to go for treatments. The relationship between Étienne and his father is strained so he appreciates that Anna is there for moral support, plus he and his girlfriend has fallen apart but they are still together despite the lesser communications.

Just as Anna is feeling confused over their relationship, she is more shocked to learn that Christopher is going out with her best friend back home in Atlanta. Which is worse, being seeing the guy you likes is still together with his girlfriend despite the strained relationship, or being betrayed by your best friend? Needless to say, I find myself rooting for Anna throughout my reading journey and on top of the premise, what makes this book such a delightful read is learning more about Paris and its culture (the scene on French pastries, macarons . . . simply made my mouth waters). I have this longing of visiting Europe (especially Paris) for a while so reading this book has further increased that longing.

Although this book is very much about the relationship between Anna and Étienne, it also touches on issues such as the relationship between friends, between boyfriends and girlfriends, as well as between family. Both Anna and Étienne have issues with their fathers; and while Anna's father is portrayed more like an egoistical father who seems to know what is best for her (he is most proud of the books he writes), Étienne's father, however, couldn't care less about anyone's feelings (except his own) and this shows especially when Étienne's mom is diagnosed with cancer and I didn't understand why he would stop Étienne from seeing his mom (which I feel is ridiculous). Then again, I would also like to highlight that there is an allusion to teen sex and drinking but those are minimal.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to reading Stephanie Perkin's next book, Lola and the Boy Next Door, which I heard is equally wonderful too.

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 Metroreader.

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

1) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (signed copy!)

2) Kiss Crush Collide by Christina Meredith

3) The Thorn and the Blossom by Thedora Goss

What books came into your house last week?