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. 
Related Posts: 
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). 

ISBN-13: 978-1847673015
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd 
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Trade paperback, 320 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Translated by: Rebecca Copeland

I first came across Natsuo Kirino's novel when I read her most famous crime fiction, Out. It was a very intense read and I was not surprised at all that it received the Grand Prix for Crime Fiction, Japan's top mystery award and was a finalist (in translation) for the 2004 Edgar Award. Her other novels, Grotesque and Real World were published subsequently and they received good reviews too, though Out is still considered her best work due to the thrilling and disturbing plot. It is no doubt a masterpiece in many readers' opinions. 

The Goddess Chronicle, her latest release, however is unlike her previous works. Based on the Japanese myth of Izanami and Izanagi, this tale is about the relations between gods and men, men and women, yin and yang as well as life and death. It is a story between two sisters who live on a small, remote island called Umihebi - the island of sea snakes as the seas surrounding the island were abundant with them. On their island, It is believed that they still ruled by the ancient gods and there are traditions and the people have to adhere to the strict customs which has passed on to them from generations to generations.The women would collect sea snakes, tend the mountain goats, collect shellfish or seaweed from the shores,but the most important task they do is to pray. They pray for the safe return of their men fishing on the high seas and most importantly, they pray for the prosperity of the island. There would be a great miko, the high priestess known as the Oracle, is responsible for all the prayer rites. 

Two sisters, Kamikuu and Namima, were born from a prestigious family where their grandmother, Mikura-sama is the Oracle. The younger sister, Namima is very close with her sister although they are so different in their looks and personality. Kamikuu is the sturdy girl and the cleverest child on the island and she is a beauty too, while Namima is happy enough to live in her sister's shadow. However, on Kamikuu's sixth birthday, she is sent to train with their grandmother to become the next Oracle and this forces them apart. Namima is also requested not to see Kamikuu as she is proclaimed as the impure one. It is a tradition that there is always a yin and yang in the family so if the elder sister is yin, then the other will be yang. Yin represents light and yang is the darkness so it is no wonder that Namima would receive different treatment from the islanders. Not only that, she is also to serve the goddess of darkness. 

Shocked by this discovery and the traditions that had laid so long ago, Namima decides to change her destiny and there begins her adventure in The Goddess Chronicle. Her journey is a rough one, but it allows her to experience the real meaning of love and kinship, as well as the dark side of bitterness and revenge. And most importantly, the difference between gods and men and how it is like to be a human being. Part fictional and part mythology, The Goddess Chronicle explores the humanity and the emotions of all beings.

I have to say I had a wonderful experience reading this novel because not only Natsuo Kirino has once again captured my attention through her great writing skill and her most unforgettable plot, but what most made this book such a satisfying read is the thought-provoking message behind the story. I couldn't put my feelings into words; this is one novel that you need to read it to experience it. 
Another new year has arrived and that means participating in new reading challenges. Like last year, I'm going to commit myself to three reading challenges; and the genres I chose will remain the same (Romance, Young Adult and Mystery/Crime) since I tend to read them the most.

January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

Romance Reading Challenge is hosted by Naida of the Bookworm (click here for more details). Participants are requested to read at least five novels and since I have no idea what books to read for the upcoming months I will keep the list open. 

January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

Mystery/Crime Reading Challenge is hosted by Amy of The Crafty Book Nerd (click here for more details). 

January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013

The Young Adult Reading Challenge is hosted by Amy of The Overstuffed Bookshelf (click here for more details).

I'll be participating in the Mini YA Reading Challenge, which is to read 12 Young Adult novels. 
It has been a long while since I have done a 'Wordless Wednesday' post here. During the last weekend in December, we went to Legoland in Malaysia. The location was not far away from Singapore checkpoint and the overall journey only takes about an hour to reach (if there is no jam at the checkpoint, that is). Anyway, here are some pictures we took. As for the weather, it was fine during the day but it got rainy towards the evening. 

1) Entrance to Legoland
2) Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (There is an attraction called 'Miniland' where they used Lego bricks to build the capitals/states of some countries.) 
3) Singapore Flyer and the cityscapes 
4) Taj Mahal, India
5) Beijing's Forbidden City, China

There are also a few more that features most Asian countries which I did not post here but I have to say they are equally amazing.  

Here is a list of books I read in 2013. They are sorted in alphabetical order by the authors' last name.

Cold Light by Jenn Ashworth

Poppet by Mo Hayder
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
The Bat by Jo Nesbo

那年夏天,19岁的肖像 - 岛田庄司 (That Summer, the Nineteen-year-old Portrait by Shimada Soji)
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

The Never List by Koethi Zan
ISBN-13: 9780062076038
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: October 2012

Format: Trade paperback, 343 pgs
Source: Publisher

Twenty-something Laura has lived with a secret for the past ten years. This secret has been living in her memory and it strikes her the most when the council decided to build a summerhouse in memorial of Chloe's death but most of all, a monument to a young love gone wrong and a publicity for the City's urban renewal programme after all these years; after they have found a body and Laura knew who that person was. 

The story then proceeds to unfold the mystery as Laura narrates her life and her friendship with Emma and Chloe when they were fourteen year old. Laura, at that age, was a self-conscious girl and she didn't have many friends either. It was Chloe who became friends with her when she was transferred from another school. Laura wasn't sure if the other friends were scared or intimidated by Chloe, but either way Laura was glad to have found a friend in her. Chloe, unlike Laura, was bold and sassy. She knew what she wants and she knew ways of getting them. Emma, on the other hand, was a little like Laura but she knew the right things to say or do under circumstances. Laura was more like a goody-goody among the three. 

Their friendship took on a turn after Chloe knew an older man and began spending more time with him. Emma and Laura knew it is illegal if Carl would do anything to Chloe, but despite of this none of them ever mentioned the relationship between Chloe and Carl to anyone. It was at that time that Chloe chose to be closer with Emma; sharing things from accessories to secrets and Laura couldn't help but feeling jealous of Emma. She was a bit angry with Chloe too, but she wouldn't want to admit it, thinking that Chloe would come out of it in no time and they would be good friends again. 

However, things got worse after a chance meeting with a Down's Syndrome man called Wilson. It appeared that he had gone missing and Chloe, Carl and Laura were the last person to see him before his disappearance. Laura insisted that they should report it to the police, but Chloe and Carl rebuked that they didn't make Wilson wander into the woods so they should stay out of it. As Laura wondered about Wilson, the media connected Wilson's disappearance as the answer to the identity of a sex offender as it appeared that there was no repeating crimes after his disappearance. 

Filled with teen-aged angst and intensity, Cold Light is a book that makes you think of how one's secret could ruin a person's reputation or even, his or her live. As much as I think the story is interesting, I have to admit that the plot tends to drag as I felt three-quarter of the book was focused on the angst and jealousy of the three girls. In addition, Chloe isn't a likeable character and I didn't know what to feel towards Laura. There are times I felt like shaking her up and ask her to move on, even if it is your good friend who doesn't want to be friends with you anymore. But of course, sometimes things are beyond our control and often, we want to remind ourselves to be optimistic, no matter how bad the circumstances can be. So what's my verdict after reading Cold Light? I just felt hollow. Period. 
So I have been slacking in my reading in 2012, and needless to say the number of books I read for a few reading challenges is deemed to be pathetic. However, that does not mean I will give up on reading challenges for I think they are great fun and they allow me to discover more books and fellow new bookbloggers as well. 

Here are just a few reading challenges I participated and books read for each challenge:

Merely Mystery Reading Challenge

Romance Reading Challenge

As for which reading challenges I am going to participate this year, I have yet to go through the list but I will keep it to a minimal. 

What about you? Which reading challenges are you participating this year? 
Here is a list of books I read in 2012. They are sorted in alphabetical order by the authors' last name.

Archon: The Books of Raziel by Sabrina Benulis

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Broken Harbour by Tana French
The White Pearl by Kate Furnivall

With My Body by Nikki Gemmell


A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
Asylum by Patrick McGrath

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
Sleepwalker by Karen Robards

Overseas by Beatriz Williams
The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele

Happy New Year! So it is the beginning of a new year and I hope everyone had a wonderful holidays! 

Last year was considerably a good year for me but not so good in the reading department. Looking at my list I only read nineteen books last year. That's a great difference as compared to my reading habits as in the past few years, in which I read about two books in a week. Nevertheless, my habit of listing down my top reads for the year never change and here it is:

Best Crime Fiction:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Broken Harbour by Tana French

Best Literature

Asylum by Patrick McGrath

Best YA:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Best Romance:

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

As of this year, I hope I will be able to read more books and that my favourite authors would release their new titles more quickly (e.g. Mo Hayder, Tana French, Anne Stuart... just to name a few) and last but not least, to discover more wonderful books and new authors as well. 

So, what are your top reads for last year?