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!