How are you, my dear friends and readers? My apologies for neglecting this blog, as I have to say I have been spending much of my time watching dramas and not to mention reading. How come there are no reviews,  I can imagine some of you asking. Well, it is because I have been reading Chinese novels lately but didn't have the time in posting them. You see, usually I will try to have a brief English summary (or translation) after writing my thoughts in Chinese and as much as I want to write them, my mind keep telling me to do otherwise, ha. Anyways, this post is about Sungkyunkwan Scandal, a Korean drama which I watched some months ago but the purpose of this post is to share my thoughts after reading the Chinese book version of it (written by Jung Eun-gwol). Usually I'm the person who would read the books first before watching the movies (dramas), but in this case it is vice versa since (i) I didn't know there is a book version until later, and (ii) my idol, Micky Park YuChun starred in this drama. To keep this post from an idol raving post, I would try to keep this post focused on the drama instead of Micky, or at least the role he played as a diligent and down-to-earth scholar.

Set in the late Joseon era during the reign of King Jeongio, Sungyunkwan Scandal is a story revolving four youths during the time they are studying in Sungkyunkwan University. The society during that period does not allow females to be educated, thus Kim Yoon Hee, a girl disguises herself as her brother (under his name, Kim Yoon Shik) to enrol into that University to make ends meet for her family, while at the same time she earns extras by becoming a substitute test-taker (which is an illegal act) for the entrance examination in the prestigious Sungkyunkwan University. There, she befriended the intelligent and upright Lee Sun Joon (starring Micky Park YuChun), the playboy Goo Yong Ha (starring Song Joong-ki) and the rebellious and hot-tempered Moon Jae Shin (starring Yoo Ah-in).

Studying in Sungkyunkwan is a challenging task to Yoon Hee as she has to keep up with the heavy school works besides keeping her disguise from being discovered. However, the most difficult task is trying to act nonchalant with so many men around her and trying not to act like a huge sissy while insisting to keep her clothes on whenever there are events such as soaking in the lake, playing in the field or even sleeping topless. Little did she know that Yong Ha and Jae Shin harbour suspicions over her gender but they remain silent and protect her in their own ways.

As the days passes, Yoon Hee begins to fall in love with Sun Joon yet she couldn't tell him the truth, for fear of expelling from Sungkyunkwan. On the other hand, Sun Joon begins to question his liking towards Yoon Hee and is afraid that his emotions towards her is unnatural and immoral, since he thinks Yoon Hee is a guy. It is only during an outing when Sun Joon accidentally discovers she is a woman and their feelings towards each other soars thereafter. Still, they have to keep their acts calm and together and the moments they are together alone are so rare and precious.

To complicate matters, Yoon Hee has an admirer in Joseon's most famous courtesan, who thinks he is an intelligent and righteous fellow unlike her other clients. Meanwhile, Jae Shin has a secret identity as he anonymously posts poetic essays about the unfairness and unsatisfactory views on the state of Joseon. Now posting such essays are illegal acts and he could be sentenced to jail or receive severe punishments, and it is through these times that he receives assistance from his three trusted friends.

What I liked about Sungkyunkwan Scandal is the various characterisations and the intense (and comedy at times) plot as the author brings us to the old Joseon where different clans and classes do matter and most of all, how the brave heroine has conquered all the difficulties and finding her true love in the end. 

Speaking of the heroine's true love, I couldn't help but to share my thoughts on Sun Joon. This is Micky Park Yuchun's debut drama yet he had portrayed the said character very well. I have to say I couldn't differentiate my feelings towards this character as I wonder if I have fallen for Sun Joon or Micky himself, considering I'm his huge fan. That said, Sun Joon is a likeable character as not only he is good-looking but he is diligent, righteous, humble and down-to-earth as well. I mentioned on my Facebook status before that he is the most perfect hero I have ever read, and by saying that I'm not exaggerating or simply because he is played by Micky but the fact by being who he is. Sun Joon is borne with a silver spoon and his father holds an important role in the Emperor's court but these do not make him an arrogant man, instead he feels for the netizens who are especially poor and to convince the emperor to act on improving the state matters from their perspective. He made me swoon (or is it Micky?) and needless to say, he has made this book (and drama) such a pleasurable and unforgettable experience I have had. 

Oh, before I end this post, I have to say there is a sequel to this book (奎章阁之恋)but I don't think I have found the same for the drama. And, there is a slight difference between the book and the drama version on some plots but that doesn't affect the overall story in my opinion. As I'm writing this, I couldn't help feeling sad that I have finished reading the books. The thought of re-reading them all over again is overwhelming and as much as I wanted to do this, I feel at this moment it would be better if I should give other books my time since I'm so way behind, where my reading is concerned. 


ISBN-13: 9789573330165
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Paperback, 254 pgs
Source: Personal Library




老实说,我读完了这本小说后,心情是复杂的,但那种心情又非几句话可形容的。起初,我还以为这是本纯推理小说,但是惊悚率不高。总的来说,这是本描述男孩在他19岁的夏天里邂逅了21岁的女孩的爱情故事。整本书里,从不知道男孩的名字,作者只以 “我” 来讲述了他的世界和他所经历的事物。作者用他那细腻的手法,巧妙地描述了男孩的感想和他所经历的一切。身为读者的我,完全跳进了岛田庄司所编的故事里,好像那位男孩所经历的每一件事物,就像发生在我的周围里。不知不觉中,我也跟着男孩的心情而起伏不定。震惊、伤感是我对这本书的结局而产生的感觉。即然过了一天,那种感觉还在,觉得有点落寞的。但无可否认,这本书已促使我对岛田庄司的确认与尊敬,我相信我在接下来的日子里,会继续读他的书,不管是新或旧的作品,我都会非常非常的期待。

Brief summary of the novel:

A story of a 19-year-old college student who has fallen in love with a 21-year-old female murderer. Due to a motor accident, the narrator was admitted to a hospital. During those time, he was bored and he would use a telescope to view out of his window. There was an apartment near to the hospital where he stayed and he would use his telescope to watch the residents. He knew there were three people staying in the apartment: an elderly couple and a pretty young girl. Almost every day, he would watch the girl came out from her house and watch her every moves. He was fascinated by her and wanted to know her. Until one night, he witnessed her murdered her father with a knife. 

What most shocked him thereafter is, he also witnessed her dumping a black bag at the hospital construction site on a rainy night. The hospital planned to expand a wing and the girl thought that the construction site was the best option to dispose off the body. However, little did she know that what she has done was being seen by the narrator. 

Despite what happened, the narrator was very much attracted to the girl and after he was dismissed from the hospital, he followed her. He then tried every means to befriend her and finally they were friends. As the days gone by, the narrator felt more in love with her and protective towards her, until he started to receive warning notes to stay away from the girl. He knew there were risks if he continued his relationship with the girl but he couldn't help it. Then bad things started to happen and he felt he has to keep his watch on her and found out some things he didn't want to know. 

My thoughts:

Initially I thought this was a suspense thriller. Well, it is a suspense thriller at some part, but the core of it is a narrative story of a 19-year-old college student and his love towards a 21-year-old girl, who killed her father. What attracted me to this story is not only the mystery surrounding the girl but the way the author described the narrator's encounter from the beginning till the end. You could say this is more of an emotional-drive story than a suspense thriller, as the narrator's thoughts was well described. I couldn't help but to shake my head on what he thought and done, yet at the same time I felt sorry for him too. Yes, I had mixed emotion reading this book but it was a good reading experience. After closing the book, it was hard to describe how I really felt but there was a sense of shock and loss at the same time. I really look forward to reading more of Shimada Sōji's books in the near future.

ISBN-13: 9781472106957
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: Paperback, 224 pgs

Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Japanese by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates

I have to say when I first saw this book, I was attracted to its bright cover and the cover quote by Natsuo Kirino (author of Out) as this book being "fascinating". Fascinated by the theme and Natsuo Kirino's quote of course, I picked up this book with high expectations, since the back cover stated that this book is taut, atmospheric and cool and will steal my breath away.

Told from a first person perspective, The Thief is a sad story about a seasoned pickpocket named Nishimura. A loner with no family, friends or any other connections, he weaves through the crowded streets of Tokyo in search of potential targets. His targets are usually the rich; and his stealing skills are so good that stealing becomes a natural to him. At times, he does it with needs; and there are other times he does it subconsciously. No matter the circumstances, he always never get caught. Just when he wonders about his pathetic life, he encounters a young boy by chance. Like him, the young boy steals stuff but that is because he is being instructed by his mother. Raised in a single-parent family, the young boy lacks the care and love by his mother and is often abused by his mother's 'boyfriends'. 

Nishimura couldn't help but feel sorry for the young boy, and since then they became friends and even teach him a few tips on stealing. It is also about this time that Nishimura's past catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime, Ishikawa reappears and offers him a job he can't refuse. The mastermind behind the job is a gang leader named Kizaki, and what he wants Ishikawa and Nishimura to do is to break into a wealthy old man's house and raid his safe. Thereafter, they would get some shares of what they have stolen and their task would be accomplished. 

However, that is not what Kizaki has in mind from the start. After Ishikawa and Nishimura have done their job, they are shocked to find that the old man they had robbed is no ordinary man and most of all, he is eventually killed by Kizaki's men. 

Nishimura soon finds himself caught in a web when Kizaki offers him another three tasks and that he couldn't say no. What's worse, should he fail the tasks, Nishimura would be a dead man. 

As a noir thriller, I would say that The Thief has great characterisations and readers could feel the cynicism and the moral ambiguity about today's society. As much as I find the plot tense and engaging, what disappointed me is the ambiguous ending which I feel is somewhat anti-climactic. Still, it is a thought-provoking read and it had allowed me to get a glimpse of how a pickpocket's life is. 

ISBN-13: 978-1862308169
Publisher: Definitions
Publication Date: May 2010
Format: Paperback, 432 pgs
Source: Personal Library

As the title suggests, this story is about forbidden love. However, it is not your typical love story about a couple being cast aside by their friends and family but is instead taken on a more seriously and taboo note - a brother's and sister's "special" love for each other. In other words, this is called incest and though it is not an easy read, I find it even harder to write a review on it due to its subject. Despite this, I told myself to keep an open mind before reading it and I was glad I did read it in the end. 

Lochan is seventeen and he is a quiet and shy boy. Maya is sixteen and like her elder brother, they are both responsible young adults who take care of their three younger siblings since their mother is an alcoholic and is always not at home most of the times. Thus one would never think of their close relationship as being unnatural given their family's circumstances and the fact that they are sharing their time and efforts in looking after their siblings, hoping that the family would not fall apart or worse, having their younger siblings being taken away by Social Services. 

While reading this book, I find it hard to point fingers on either Lochan or Maya because no matter how wrong their feelings for each other is, their love for each other is genuine and one could feel it through their dialogues and the caring thoughts they have for each other. It is not like they wanted this to happen but it just happened that they often feel they are more like soul mates than siblings, and they wished life is simple and not complicated like the world is. Initially, they have tried hard to keep their feelings for each other in a brotherly and sisterly way, but as the days go by they both knew it is impossible to deny their feelings for each other and the only thing they can do is to keep a low profile. But how could their relationship last given their relations and it is only a matter of time that it would be exposed and at what consequences it would be if that happens? 

Despite the taboo and sensitivity of the issue, Tabitha Suzuma has written an excellent story about the forbidden love between Lochan and Maya and the difficulties and dilemma they faced through their narratives in alternate chapters. I had wondered how the author would end this book and after reading till its last page, I just couldn't describe how I felt to this point but yet I also felt there is no other (better?) (Perhaps the word 'better' is wrong but I couldn't find any words to describe how it is) way to end the story as it is. This is one of those books that would linger in your mind for a long time and should anyone ask me about a book I find it emotional and/or unforgettable now or after, this is it. 

Note: Not suitable for younger readers.

ISBN-13: 9781846556562
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Publication Date: August 2013

Format: Trade Paperback, 303 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Wow. It seems like a long time since I have updated this blog. I hope everyone is doing well, and not to mention reading lots of good books. My reading has been slow; but that doesn't mean that I have stopped reading altogether. 

The latest book I read, The Never List by Koethi Zan, is a  psychological thriller and I have to say it is a good read for a debut. 

This story is about four girls who were held captive by a sadistic psychopath and how they decided to seek and unveil the truth after Professor Jack Derber, their captor who abducted them is up for parole and their testimony is a crucial decision if he is to be released from the prison or not. 

Sarah and Jennifer are best friends and they took their freedom and life seriously so much so that they would spend years methodically studying and documenting every danger that could possibly ever touch them - avalanches, disease, earthquakes, car crashes, sociopaths and wild animals. They believed their paranoia would protect them and at least prevent them from happening. They don't believe in fate and think that it is a word used when one is not prepared; fate is a weak man's crutch in their opinions. Not only that, they also made a Never List which they would jot down and remind themselves never to do this or that; such as never park more than six spaces from your destination, never trust a stranger with a flat tire . . . stuff like that. 

However, bad things do happen no matter how careful one is and that happened to Sarah and Jennifer when they thought they are safe enough to attend a private party off campus since they had called for a transportation service to bring them back. Unfortunately, they had somewhat let their guards down and hopped into a black sedan when it arrived. After all, they had called for the service and everything would be fine, right? 

Their nightmares began when they realised they were kept in a dark cellar and they weren't alone. There were two other girls who were there before them and they were chained to the walls. The four of them were locked down there for more than three years, and Jennifer's fate still remains a mystery to Sarah even though the three of them had escaped from the devil's grasp. 

Sarah, one of the survivors and the leading heroine of this book, wants to find out what had happened to Jennifer after all those years and she planned to work with the other two survivors who had shared her nightmare. What Sarah had discovered along her journey would shock and remains an unforgettable memory for the rest of her life, but that wouldn't stopped her from exploring no matter how bad or shocking the truth is; even if it meant she has to enter into that dark cellar, again. 

Though The Never List is never a pleasant read in regards to the unfortunate events that happened to the victims, but what made this a good read is the author's attempt in keeping this reader captivated through her writing style as well as the intense plot which entitled me to question the captor's motive in the end. After all, he was a respected professor teaching at a college campus. Certainly there must be some reason for him to commit such hideous crimes, and this is where part of this story is about. . . for Sarah and the readers to find out the captor's motive and the other part about Sarah's frightening experience of being a captive and finding out the truth. All in all a great read for a debut author, and I would definitely look out for her next releases. 
I had watched two Korean dramas lately and they had left me a deep impression. Aside from the intense plots, what has really made the dramas stand out is the leading actresses who portrayed as bad women who would do anything to climb to the top.

The Innocent Man (aka Nice Guy), the first drama I watched, is a story of a young man taking revenge on a woman who had betrayed him after leaving him in jail for a crime he didn't commit. The woman, Jae-Hee, is a television reporter and while trying to unravel a case she has accidentally killed a man while trying to defend herself. Kang Ma-ru, who is Jae-Hee's boyfriend then, attempts to counsel her to turn herself in to the police but Jae-Hee appears to be too shaken to do anything. It is then that Ma-ru decides to take the blame and turn himself in to the police, despite he is a promising medical student and he has a bright future ahead of him. He believes that Jae-Hee will appreciate what he has done for her and that she will wait for him until the day he is released from jail.

Jae-Hee (starring Park Si-yeon)
However, Jae-Hee wants to change her life and to escape poverty, she married a rich man who owns the Taesan Corporation. Her brutal betrayal leaves Ma-ru not only angry but a changed man. Without finishing his studies, he works as a bartender and he later meets Seo Eun-gi, who is the young heiress of the Taesan Corporation. Eun-gi is a cold and calculating young woman, but she is intrigued with Ma-ru and she later falls in love with him, not knowing that he is using her to get back at his ex-girlfriend, who is now her stepmother. Just when Ma-ru finds himself genuinely care for Eun-gi, she met in a car accident and loses her memory.

Yawang (aka Queen of Ambition), is another South Korean drama which featured a love betrayed man, Ha Ryu, and what he would do to bring his childhood love down no matter at what price he has to pay.

Ha Ryu and Da Hae are both orphans and they came from the same orphanage, however Da Hae is adopted by a family but she is unhappy as her stepfather often harassed her. She still fears for her stepfather even she is now a grown woman and has left the family, but that doesn't stop him from pursuing her. When her stepfather manages to find her one day, she kills him with a sharp tool out of fear and desperation. Ha Ryu decides to take the blame and buries the dead man after they have decided not to report to the police.

Life seems to be back to normal to Ha Ryu and Da Hae and it is at this time that Da Hae wants to further her studies in an University. Ha Ryu becomes a gigolo to pay for Da Hae's studies but he keeps this from her, thinking that this is best for everyone. Da Hae manages to get her degree in the end, and they had a lovely daughter thereafter although they haven't married. Da Hae later got a job in Baekhak Group, one of the leading companies in Korea and acquainted with the heir of Baekhak Group. She becomes distant with Ha Ryu, and though he tries to understand her ambitiousness, he eventually snaps when he loses their daughter to a car accident due to her negligence. Da Hae by then has decided to ditch Ha Ryu for good and this is when they began their games of conspiracy as each wants to bring the other down. 

Da Hae (starring Soo Ae)

While there is a slight similarity between The Innocent Man and Yawang as both dramas have the same plot of the good men taking revenge on their women, I felt the highlights of the dramas are not only their intense plots but how the leading actresses portrayed their roles seamlessly. You couldn't help but to swear and grit your teeth while watching them performing their bad deeds over and over again, and despite this you couldn't tear your eyes away from them. They may be the villains, but these intelligent and evil women stand out from the rest and usually score more coverage as compared to other kind and innocent female roles. They always put themselves first and most of the times, they make use of men and woman power to change their past life and to get what they want. They are the 'new' women villains who have their good reasons to be bad, and we being the audience can do nothing but to keep watching and hope for their crumble. 
ISBN-13: 978-0593068168
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: Tradesize paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Personal Library

poppet  / [ˈpɒp.ɪt] 
— n
1. a term of affection for a small child or sweetheart.
2. a small human figure used in sorcery or witchcraft.

Anyone who follow my blog would know that I am a huge fan of Mo Hayder. Whenever she has a new release, I'd rush out to get it and read it the moment I receive it. No kidding. So when I knew her latest Jack Caffery thriller, Poppet, is out, I was so excited that I don't even mind the image of the cover, no matter how creepy it looks. 

If you have read Mo Hayder's Jack Caffery's series, you'd know that Jack is a brilliant detective of the Bristol Major Crime Investigation Team. What I like about him is his overwhelmed determination in solving the crimes, even though he can be stubborn and don't play by the rules at times. He has his flaws and he knew it but that doesn't diminish my admiration of him; as I feel this has made him to appear more real and human rather than a perfect superhero. 

In this latest 6th Jack Caffery Series, Mo Hayder brings her readers to Beechway High Secure Unit, a psychiatric hospital. One of the things I like about reading settings that took place in an asylum is one could never expect what would happen in there. The patients are not reliable and plus the high secured and confidentiality state of the place, you just wouldn't know who to believe. Back to Beechway, a hallucination spread like a virus as some of the patients believe The Maude is back. The Maude is believed to be a little figure which dressed in a nightgown and it'd straddle on one's chest. The terror then heightened to a point when a series of unexplained episodes of self-harm among the ward's patients and especially after the death of a patient. Overnight shift staff began to call in sick and this made AJ LeGrande, the senior nursing coordinator at Beechway very perplexed and not to mention curious. 

On the other end, Jack Caffery is looking at a missing person case. Jacqui Kitson is pressing the police to search for her daughter, Misty, a model who disappeared some time ago. It is not that Jack is incompetent, in fact he knew some of the facts about Misty's disappearance but he has chose to keep it silent as he is trying to protect someone. However, that feeling has slowly gnawed at his conscience and now he wants to convince that person to own up. 

Jack later is assigned to the Beechway's case after the psychiatric hospital had released a patient in error. According to the records, Isaac Handel brutally killed his parents when he was younger and they are worried what he would do outside given his unstable (and murderous) condition. Suddenly, the hysteria at the hospital doesn't seem to be simple any more and they are wondering if it is supernatural or simply a person's deed. 

Mo Hayder is a master in crafting chilling and well-plotted thrillers and I'm glad to say Poppet is no exceptional. In this thriller, she continues her trademark in creating an intense and haunting story of what happened in Beechway's asylum and how Jack resolved the case as well as his struggles in dealing with the case of Misty's disappearance. Though the asylum case is closed, I can't wait to find out what happens to Misty's disappearance case as there is a hint of something is going to happen at the ending. I hope Mo Hayder will write quickly and have her next book release soon! 

Japanese Title: おおかみこどもの雨と雪
Chinese Title: 狼之子雨与雪
Release Date: July 2012

I love Japanese animations. Among all I had watched thus far, Spirited Away remains the most unforgettable one in my mind but of course I am not going to talk about that but the recent one which I watched lately, The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki

A young woman, Hua (name based on the Chinese pronunciation, ) falls in love with a fellow University student. However, the young man is a werewolf but this does not stop Hua from loving him. They live together after she had given birth to their children - Ame (who was born in winter) and Yuki (who was born on a rainy day). They are supposed to have a happy life but the father's death changes their life thereafter. To avoid the public's knowledge of her having wolf children, Hua decided to move to an isolated place and start their new life there. Nevertheless, life is tough on Hua as not only she has to look after her active children but she has to rely on her own when mending their old hut and planting vegetables for food. 

Ame is the eldest girl and she is kind of a happy-go-lucky girl; she is not afraid of her true identity and she easily shows her emotions by shifting. Yuki, unlike her sister, is a quiet and timid boy. Despite their difference, they are still a pair of loving siblings and they have promised their mother that they would keep their identity as wolf children a secret, and that they would not shape-shift whenever there are people around. 

Life move on and they are quite happy with their new life. Ame and Yuki can wander freely and their mother has even began to make new friends with a few residents who are staying in the same area, although they are living a distance away. Ame has also started school, after much persuasion to her mother. Slowly, her school life has lead her to become more 'ladylike' as she wants to mingle with her friends. A goal starts to form in her mind as she wants to be more human-like. 

Yuki, on the other hand, starts to embrace his true identity after an accident nearly caused his life. Through his acquaintance with a fox, he begins to explore the jungle and learn the nature of being a predator. Though Hua knew of his intention, she knew she couldn't stop her children from following their paths, no matter if they chose to be a 'normal' human or a werewolf eventually. 

The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki is a heart warming story of a mother's love and devotion towards her children. Unlike other werewolves' stories, this animation focus more on the relationship between a mother and children and the siblings themselves instead of their shape-shifting life we most often watch in movies or read in books. However, this does not mean that the plot is lacking but more of an emotionally driven story that will evoke emotions in your heart, especially if you are a mother.

ISBN-13: 9780062197269
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 2013

Format: Trade paperback, 410 pgs
Source: Personal Library

When Catherine Bailey first met Lee Brightman in a bar in 2003, he gave her the impression that he was a handsome and charming man. Never mind that he was a bit mysterious, as Catherine herself liked meeting people and she liked having fun. She was flattered and couldn't believe her luck when Lee expressed his interest in her. All her girlfriends are envious of her and they think that Lee is too perfect to be true, but nevertheless they are all happy for her. 

However, things began to turn ugly the more Catherine got to know Lee. He was no longer the charismatic man she knew when she first met him, instead he had begun to show his ugly side - jealousy, controlling and worst of all, abusive. He isolated her and controlled every aspect of her life; Catherine tried to escape from him but he always seemed to be a step in front of her. After all, he was a police officer and who would believe what she said? 

Despite her hopelessness, Catherine did manage to escape from Lee eventually and he was given a three-year sentence in jail. Still, Cathy Bailey has always lived in fear and she has turned from a fun loving woman to a frightened obsessive-compulsive woman. She couldn't trust people and she always has this urge to check on her apartment and ensures that all the windows and doors are locked, six times. She has been doing these for three years since Lee had been put to jail. Then, her life changes when an attractive psychologist, Stuart Richardson, moves into the apartment. Her new tenant not only befriends her and encourages her to confront her fears but he has also fallen in love with her. Through him, Cathy slowly recovers from all the trauma but what she fears most has turned to reality when she learnt that Lee is released from jail and he is going to re-enter her life, again. 

Told in Cathy's perspective and alternated between Year 2003 and 2007, author Elizabeth Haynes gave her readers the detailed and harrowing account of Cathy Bailey's encounter with Lee Brightman and how she strived to escape from his grasp, both before and after his sentence. 

Although the plot may not be new, I find the success and the best part of this book is the writing style and how cleverly the story is being crafted. There was never a dull moment as I found myself being sucked into Catherine/Cathy's world of horrors. I felt the emotions she experienced through Elizabeth Haynes' skilful writing, from her fear in Lee to the love she receives from Stuart. Just when you thought there is nothing but fear and horror in this story, Stuart is like a breath of fresh air as he offers not only encouragement and hope to Cathy but he also allows us to trust that there are such kind and helpful people like him around us. 

Into the Darkest Corner is Elizabeth Haynes' first novel and I am very excited to learn that her next novel, Dark Tide, is already released this month. Needless to say, I have already added that title to my To-buy list and I can't wait to find out what is in store in that story. 
ISBN-13: 9781408704196
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: February 2013

Format: Trade paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Translated by: Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander

After reading Keigo Higashino's phenomenon The Devotion of Suspect X last year, I was very impressed with the author's writing style and the complexity of the plot and of course, not to mention the introduction of his two main characters, Detective Kusanagi and the physics professor Manabu Yukawa ("Detective Galileo"), whom the latter plays an important role in solving the mysteries. 

In Salvation of a Saint, the author had took on a different approach and instead of a whodunit crime thriller, he had crafted a brilliant howdunit in which he challenged the detectives as well as his readers on how the crime was committed by the clever killer.   

Yoshitaka Mashiba is a CEO of an information technology company. Aside from knowing how to run a business, he also knows he wants a child. He had told himself that if his wife, Ayane, couldn't give him a child after a year of marriage, he would divorce her and move on to other women who could give him a child. Ayane knew about this 'agreement' but she didn't expect that her husband would fulfill this agreement one day. 

Hiromi Wakayama is Ayane's apprentice quilter and both of them teach tapestry classes conducted by Ayane. Ayane suspects her husband and Hiromi have an affair but she chose to remain silent. She told her husband she would go to Sapporo to visit her parents, and Yoshitaka didn't think much of her decision to visit, after all his mind is all on Hiromi and how they would spend the weekend together. However, their happiness is cut short when Hiromi discovered that Yoshitaka is dead in his house after he didn't turn up on a date as arranged. Ayane had given Hiromi the house key and that is how Hiromi could get into their house; that is how she trusts Hiromi but does she? 

After inspection, the Tokyo police determined that Yoshitaka is poisoned by arsenic-laced coffee. Ayane immediately becomes their prime suspect, but how could she when she is hundred of miles away in Sapporo during Yoshitaka's death? Would it be Hiromi then? After all, she seems to be the last person to be with Yoshitaka but how could it be when she is in love with Yoshitaka, and to top if off she is pregnant with his child.

Detective Kusanagi tries very hard to solve the puzzling pieces, but he also finds himself being smitten by Ayane and he refuses to think that Ayane is connected with the crime. With his superior's judgement slightly clouded, Kaoru Utsumi, the junior detective is convinced that Ayane is the murderer and she will try every means to unravel this mystery, including calling upon Professor Manabu Yukawa, the brilliant physicist who would analyst every point and angle through his scientific mind. But Professor Yukawa is stumped with this case too, and he vows to unravel this mystery no matter how absurd or impossible the deed of the murder deems to be.  

Once again, I found myself sucked into Keigo Higashino's novel and I have to say Salvation of a Saint is one stunning and a brilliant crime thriller. During my reading journey, I not only got intrigued by the case but I questioned myself too on the crime and how it happened. In the story, the author has somewhat made his readers believe that Ayane is the suspect, but how to solve this mystery when she is absent during the crime and that she has an alibi to boot? Salvation of a Saint is more of a howdunit than a whodunit thriller, and I am glad to say Keigo Higashino has once again impressed me with this compelling and not to mention a beautifully plotted crime story. Professor Yukawa in this story said that the murderer has committed a perfect crime, this I agree with him; and I have to add in that this is a perfect read for fans of crime fiction, especially for those who like reading procedurals along the story.  
Starring: Park Yoo Chun, Yoon Eun Hye, Yoo Seung Ho, Jang Mi In Nae, Yeo Jin Goo, Kim So Hyun
Language: Korean (with Chinese subtitles)

First of all, I'd like to apologise to all my readers and friends for not posting a book review lately. As you can tell, I've been watching too many Korean dramas and though I still read, my progress is slow. I'm currently reading Keigo Higashino's Salvation of a Saint; he is the author of the phenomenon The Devotion of Suspect X and I really enjoyed that book. I can't wait to find out what is in store for Salvation of a Saint.

Anyways, back to this Korean drama I Miss You. This is a highly emotional drama about the love and life journey between a couple, Soo Yeon and Jung Woo. 15-year-old Soo Yeon often gets bullied in school because everyone thinks her father was a murderer. Everyone has been avoiding her like a plague, except Jung Woo who thinks she is special after she has shared her umbrella with him on a rainy day. 

Jung Woo comes from a wealthy family and he doesn't really get along well with his father. All his father thinks about is money and how to make more of them; and he has committed a few bad deeds that made him an enemy to a few people. Jung Woo became the target and is kidnapped one day, Soo Yeon saw what happened and wanted to help him, but ended up being a victim herself. Eventually, Jung Woo managed to escape but not Soo Yeon. This tragic incident has forced them apart and fourteen years passed then. 

Jung Woo is now a homicide detective and that kidnapping incident which happened so many years ago still remains in his mind but what most matters is, he is still in love with Soo Yeon and he is hoping to find her one day. Soo Yeon, on the other end, is a fashion designer and she has found her new love with a charismatic fund manager, Hyung Joon. Although Soo Yeon appears to be happy with her life, but deep in her heart she is bleeding in pain for the suffering she had endured and Jung Woo's betrayal for leaving her. Alas, fate decreed that they would meet again and this time around, Jung Woo vows to protect Soo Yeon no matter the circumstances after knowing that Hyung Joon would take revenge due to his past relationship with his family. 

Well the plot may sound old and cliché to some, but what I liked about this drama is the characterisations and the intense feeling of love between Jung Woo and Soo Yeon, no matter if they are teenagers or adults. I have to say the two actors and two actresses in portraying the teen-aged and adult Jung Woo and Soo Yeon had all done a great job, because they made me believe that their love is inseparable and oh so moving. The dialogues, and the little movements they shared especially just captured that precious feeling and you couldn't help but to be entranced by their emotions too. These days it is hard to find such love like Jung Woo and Soo Yeon and that is why I find this drama especially romantic. I have to confess I like Park Yoo Chun (the adult Jung Woo) after watching a few other dramas like Rooftop Prince, Sungkyunkwan Scandal (his debut) and Miss Ripley, which I reviewed on 5th February. He simply has the charisma no matter if he is a lovestruck hotelier in Miss Ripley, the shy and quiet student in Sungkyunkwan Scandal or the devoted and determined detective in his latest I Miss You. I really look forward to his upcoming dramas, and I hope the wait won't be too long.     

Starring: Lee Da Hae, Park Yoo Chun of JYJ, Kim Seung Woo and Kang Hye Jung
Language: Korean (with Chinese, English subtitles)

I have been watching a few Korean drama series lately; and I have to admit I am addicted to watching them. 

Miss Ripley (미스 리플리), the latest drama I watched, is a story of a young woman, Jang Mi Ri, who lies to get her way and how her greedy ambition has lead to the downfall of two men who has fallen in love with her. 

Mi Ri was abandoned by her mother when she was nine. Her mother had chosen to leave the family and to marry a rich man. After the death of her father, Mi Ri was sent to an orphanage where she befriended Moon Hee Joo. 

One day a Japanese family wanted to adopt Hee Joo, but Hee Joo had a stomach ache and the orphanage decided to send Mi Ri in her place instead. Mi Ri was then sent to Japan and she had a miserable childhood living with her adopted parents. They treated her badly and worst of all, the father had a huge gambling debts to pay and Mi Ri was forced to work in a bar when she was nineteen. She worked there for a few years under a man who called himself Hirayama. Hirayama had made her as one of the top bar girls but Mi Ri had been plotting ways to leave him once she has gotten back her passport and the contract she had with him. After much efforts, she managed to leave him and returned to South Korea. 

Staying in a run down residential motel, she encountered a young man Song Yoo Hyun. Yoo Hyun also arrived from Japan recently and though he came from an affluent family, he always believed that one has to be independent and learn/earn things on his own. Yoo Hyun liked Mi Ri but the latter wasn't interested. She has bigger dreams to follow and most importantly, she needed to find a permanent job before she is deported to Japan. Unfortunately, finding a permanent job was a challenge due to Mi Ri's educational background as she only had a high school degree. 

Meanwhile, Jang Myung Hoon, a hotelier needed someone who was able to speak the Japanese Hataka dialect to serve an important customer at the hotel. There was no one to fill up the position as the spoken dialect was extremely rare in South Korea. It was during a chance encounter with Mi Ri that Myung Hoon decided that she was the best person to fill that position. He offered Mi Ri the job on a temporarily basis but time was running out for her. Mi Ri had to decline the offer and muttered that even if she was graduated from Tokyo University, it would't change much of a thing for her. Myung Hoon misunderstood her remark and then told her that there was no reason for them not to hire her based on her qualification and that was where all her lies began. 

In a nutshell, Miss Ripley is a romance story with a hint of crime. The characterisations and the plot development are great and there are several intense moments that made me watch with both anxiety and anticipation. Lee Da Hae, the actress who played Mi Ri, is magnificent for her acting skills in portraying the greedy young woman and you couldn't imagine how many times I cursed while watching her meddling between Myung Hoon and Yoo Hyun. As you can tell, Mi Ri isn't a likeable character but from another perspective, I couldn't help but to pity her too. From her point, I began to understand why she lied although what she did is absolutely wrong. 

Myung Hoon and Yoo Hyun are two men whom I feel many women will fall in love with as they are both kind-hearted people and are so selfless, despite the prestigious positions they held. 

I wouldn't say I liked the ending, though there is a twinge of bittersweet to it.  In my opinion, bittersweet can be beautiful because one can always hope; and because it is not perfect, this what makes the memories more cherishable and unforgettable. 

ISBN-13: 9780062122551
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Trade paperback, 422 pgs
Source: Publisher

I have seen a few books by Jennifer McMahon but just never got around to reading them, thus when HarperCollins gave me the opportunity to review her latest book, The One I Left Behind, I know I wouldn't want to miss it. 

Architect Reggie Dufrane may be successful in her works but truth be told, her childhood wasn't at all bed of roses. Raised by her Aunt Lorraine, Reggie's mother isn't always around when she needs her and the worst of all is, she doesn't even know who her father is and Reggie's mother seems content enough to have her life be revolved around with men and drinks. 

In 1985, back in Reggie's hometown in Brighton Falls, there was a notorious serial killer known as 'Neptune' and his killing technique is to cut off the female victims' right hand (severed neatly at the wrist) and kept them alive for four days before strangling them, leaving their bodies displayed in public places. There wasn't any clues leading to Neptune and unfortunately, Reggie's mother appeared to be his last victim as there wasn't any similar cases all these twenty five years. Reggie's mother's body was never found and Reggie and her two friends, Tara and Charlie, had went to seedy bars and motels hoping to find her. The three of them are an odd trio back then - Reggie being the quiet girl, Tara has a dark gothic streak in her while Charlie is the shy son of a local detective. As the years flown by and just as the community and the police force think they would never unravel this mystery, Reggie is shocked to learn that her mother has turned up alive in a homeless shelter. 

However, Reggie's mother isn't in a position to tell Reggie what had happened as her mind is in a confused state and her days are numbered due to cancer. Reggie fears for her mother's safety and when the horrible truth strike that Neptune has found a new victim, Reggie has to confront the ghosts of her past and unravel her mother's riddles before all is too late. 

Gripping and intensely plotted, The One I Left Behind is a great suspense thriller in terms of both characterisation as well as the story development. Through alternating chapters between the Year 1985 and 2010, author Jennifer McMahon tells a frightening tale of a killer's motive and his reason for killing those women he chosen. The story revolves a lot on Reggie's family and Reggie's relationship between Tara and Charlie especially during their teen-aged years so you can say this is very much of a story about friends and family aside from the suspense. 

Speaking of suspense, it is so well crafted that I often find myself racing together with Reggie as we tried to unveil the identity of Neptune and to decipher his purpose of killings. And the more I read about Reggie, the more I liked her for her fierce determination and the way she is able to see things and objects beyond when architecture is concerned (you see, I have great respect and admiration for architects since young; and that feelings still persist till present). I couldn't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book and you can be sure that I would be reading more of Jennifer McMahon's releases. 
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Legoland, Malaysia #1 
Legoland, Malaysia #2

Interior in one of the eateries

So that is all for the Legoland Malaysia series. There are a few more attractions there but due to the crowd we didn't get to experience all the rides, which was a pity. Here's the link of Legoland should you want to know more. 
Related Post:

1) Land of Adventure - Dino Island (A 'boat ride' to the peak and prepare to get wet down the slide).

2) Alas, due to some technical problems it broke down when it was my turn to ride! (My husband, my eldest daughter as well as my younger sister-in-law and her husband were fortunate as they rode before me. I didn't join them in the first place as my youngest daughter didn't meet the height limit.) As a compensation, the staff gave us an express ticket so we were allowed to take other rides without queueing! Yeah!  

3) & 4) Imagine how many Lego bricks are used to build these!

5) Lego Kingdoms - Entrance to The Dragon ride.

6) Next to The Dragon ride is an eating place called "Knight's Feast" where they serve food such as burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, waffles, etc. 

7) Whoosh! The Dragon ride. It was great fun, but I find the overall ride was too short (perhaps the speed made it appeared short? And, the queue was super long but I was glad I got the express ticket).