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.