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.