ISBN-13: 9780765328670
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication Date: 3 July 2012

Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
Source: Personal Library 

I'm late to the party, at least when Kendare Blake's books are concerned. But of course, as they always say, it's better to be late than never, so here I am. 

I'm always fascinated by the ghost slayer theme, be it movies or books. I'm not talking about the hardcore horrors, just the entertaining and fun ones that allows me to escape from reality once in a while. Reality can be harsh sometimes and we all need something fun and adventurous to take our minds off even if it's only for a while. Reading Anna Dressed in Blood did that to me because it's a story between a ghost slayer and a ghost called Anna, whom he'd set his eyes on to slay since hearing about her hauntings. But most of all, this is also a love story and I knew I'd be in for a good reading treat. 

Theseus "Cas" Cassio Lowood is not your ordinary 16-year-old boy who loves having a little fun here and there. Sure, he loves good old fun but his idea of real fun is travelling to places and hunt ghosts down. He inherited his late father's athame; a deadly tool which allows him to kill the dead. His mother, on the other hand, has a knack in fortune telling and selling occult stuff online. One may call her a witch who's good with herbs but she's more like any mother who worries non-stop about their children. They also have a spirit-sniffing cat called Tybalt. 

Now Anna is a ghost unlike Cas has hunted and slayed in the past. Cas heard of her name through a friend, and apparently there's a legend of her haunting and killing people that scared most people. But, Anna Korlov actually had a sad story behind it. She was murdered in 1958 when she was on her way to a school dance; her white dress stained with blood. She'd kill anyone who steps into her old Victorian house. 

However, as much as Cas wants to slay Anna, he found out that beneath that scary demeanour Anna is simply an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl who's trapped in an old rage and revenge which makes her kills. And on top of it, Anna didn't kill Cas despite knowing that he wanted to kill her. 

There are some explanations regarding Anna's past and the way she died. But the climax of this story is when they encounter another supernatural who's more powerful and murderous than Anna, and by then Cas has found himself fallen in love with Anna. 

Told from Cas' perspective, Anna Dressed in Blood is an extraordinary ghost story in my opinion; one which is both horrific (there's gore but not many that would put you off) and romantic. Before then, I didn't know that these two elements could mix but it works beautifully in this story. So much so that it made my heart ache, just thinking about Cas and Anna and had me wonder how they'd get a happily-ever-after ending out of the mess they are in. Secondary characters such as Carmel (the popular girl in school) and Thomas (the psychic) add interest and entertainment to the story as they assist Cas in the ghost huntings. 

Overall I enjoyed this story. And I've to say the outcome of the ending left me quite speechless, which is a natural reaction given that there is a sequel - Girl of Nightmares. Needless to say, I'm going to devour it after writing this.

  • ISBN-13: 9780425215586
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication Date: 27 June 2007
  • Pages: Paperback, 528 pgs
  • Source: Personal Library

The Russian Concubine may have a romance theme, but it is also a historical fiction centering China's revolutionary stage during the 1920s, whereby there are protests and rage between the Communists and the Kuomintang Nationalists, with Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek as their leaders respectively. 

Weaving together with this epic historical is a love story featuring a Russian girl and a Chinese youth. Lydia, together with her aristocratic mother, Valentina, are exiled from their country Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. All the men are not spared, including her father, and they were either being captured or killed. Lydia feared her father was dead, after being taken away by the Bolshevik army and they are then forced to take refuge in Junchow, China. 

With no skills and knowledge of the Chinese language, Lydia feels like a fish out of water, but she's a survivor and most of all, she steals to make ends meet. She'd pawn away the things she has stolen and would lie to her mother about them, not wanting to worry her mother any further. It was by chance that fate allows her to meet a young Chinese Communist, Chang An Lo, on her way home after stealing a ruby necklace. He'd saved her from being caught, after all that necklace is both valuable and important and is to be presented as a gift to a diplomat's wife. Lydia couldn't stop thinking about Chang thereafter. 

Chang An Lo, on the other hand, is mesmerised by the fiery foxy girl he'd saved that day. He felt she is courageous and unlike other foreign young women. However, their romance is threatened by the clash of the Communists and the Kuomintang Nationalists. And not to mention they are spies and bribery everywhere that one never feels safe, as there are also brotherhoods triads in the already chaotic Junchow. Some foreigners who live in the International Settlement are besieged by their own rivalries and revenges as well. Overall it was bad times. 

Despite the grave theme, I was totally wowed by The Russian Concubine. It is an epic historical story which is rich with ethnic cultures, in particularly to the Chinese. Set in pre-revolutionary China, this story tells the journey of Lydia's escapades from Russia to China, and how she survives living in a foreign country with limited skills and language. The relationship between Valentina and Lydia, as well as Valentina's affair further add intrigue to the story. 

What I also liked about this story is the intertwining of history and romance. Both have interesting elements that kept me interested throughout the story; the history wasn't too dry or boring and the romance wasn't cheesy either. I think it is a well balanced read. There is a sequel to this book and The Concubine's Secret is definitely onto my to-read list.

Here's my thoughts on Kate Furnivall's The White Pearl, (the first book I read by her) which I thought was good too. 


ISBN-13: 9781771380201
Publisher: Kids Can Press, Limited
Publication Date: 1 August 2014
Format: ebook, 32 pgs
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
Source: Netgalley

It's been a long time since I'd shared my thoughts on Children's Fiction I read here. While browsing through Netgalley, I found this adorable Children's Fiction featuring Red Riding Hood. Well to be exact, she's a little girl called Ruby who likes to dress in her red cloak and thinks of herself as a superhero who goes out of her way to save the day. 

One sunny afternoon, her mom asks her to pick some raspberries in the woods. With a flashlight and a lunch box in hand, she bids her mom goodbye and set out to the woods. Despite the chill drifted out from the shadowy darkness in the woods, she trots ahead and tell herself that a superhero must be silent like a cat and watch out for danger. She meets several small animals on the way, but her final encounter is one yellow-toothed and a huge-clawed wolf. 

Ruby uses her 'superhero' skills to avoid the wolf, but it turns out that the poor wolf is simply feeling hungry, after all. So what did Ruby do? Like a superhero who always helps those in need, she shares her raspberries with the wolf together under the big oak tree. 

Super Red Riding Hood is an adorable retelling of the children's favourite folk-tales but unlike the original tale, this little story has a humorous twist to it. Aside from the bright, colourful illustrations, another thing I liked about this picture book is the message it conveys - do not judge others quickly, be brave and to share. This is simply a wonderful picture book which I'd enjoyed reading with my youngest daughter (who's six). She's especially attracted to Ruby and the red things she adorns (cloak, boots, lunch box). And of course, she too thinks that being a superhero is cool. 


ISBN-13: 9780062216915
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 21 October 2014

Format: Hardcover, 288 pgs
Source: Publisher

Sometimes the Wolf is a crime thriller, but it is also a story between father and son and how time distance and danger would test the limits of their relationship. 

Patrick Drake was a Sheriff but a bad decision and a reckless action had thrown him into prison. He was supposed to lead a normal life, raising his family in a small mountain town at Silver Lake, Washington, and catching bad guys, but fate seems to have another plan laid out for him. His wife passed away and he was faced with financial woes. What's a desperate man to do at that point? As foolish as this sound, he had turned to smuggling drugs and got caught. He spent twelve years in jail, and now he's out of parole under his son, Bobby Drake's watchful eyes. 

Bobby used to have dreams. He has a basketball scholarship to Arizona but he has to forgo his dream since his father’s guilt. As if that's not enough, he's now deputy sheriff in his father’s old department, and despite all those years have gone by, most people in their small town still remember his father's deeds. However, the Drakes are far from having peace as not long after Patrick’s release, a threat from his past reappears. 

The opening is quite a stunner with the murdering scene, but left enough intrigue for readers to find out what it has to do with the Drakes. What also makes this story a compelling read is the element of trust. Should Bobby trust his superior, who's used to work with his father? And most importantly, does he think his father had killed two men and had those drug money stashed away? Like a lone wolf being hunted, Bobby soon finds himself like that wolf he and Ellie, a Fish and Wildlife staff, who tried to track down after it has made its appearance at Silver Lake in fifty years. 

Filled with tension and mystery, Sometimes the Wolf is a gripping thriller not only about the crimes and murders but of family intrigue, deception and loyalty as well. Mr. Waite captured those tense feelings through his wonderful prose which I find captivating. There is something about his writing that I find quite different from other thrillers; it's like there's more finesse and artsy in his style and I find it refreshing. The way he described the relationship among the three Drakes men (Patrick, Bobby and Morgan, who's Bobby's grandfather) truly defines that saying about blood is thicker than water, no matter whatever the circumstances is and to me, that melancholy feeling is just so great given the premise. However, despite the beauty, I was somewhat skeptical towards the ending, for I felt something was amiss but I'm willing to let it go because, well, sometimes things are better if one left unsaid. 

ISBN-13: 9780425251270
Publisher: Jove Books
Publication Date: 6 May 2014
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
Source: Personal Library

It'd been a long time since I've read a contemporary romance. Several years ago, before I started this blog, most of the books I read are romance. Contemporary romance, historical romance, romance suspense, paranormal romance. . . you name it, they are on my read list. Then I found myself in this wonderful blogging community, and it has allow me to explore other books which I don't think I'd be reading without all the lovely reviews and recommendations. Thank you, my bookbloggers friends, for sharing those books! 

Back to this post, I want to say reading It Happened One Wedding reminds me why I love reading romance in the first place. Witty, sexy and romantic; this book has all the right elements of a good romance story. 

Sidney Sinclair is a career-minded woman. She takes pride in her job as a director at a private equity firm and while she scores in clinching business deals, she finds it lacking when it comes to the love department. She has decided that men who are commitment-phobic or playboys are off from her list. 

Special agent Vaughn Roberts is the man who fits right on her list. Confident, flirty and good-looking, Vaughn is the man Sinclair who'd avoid at any costs but fate decides otherwise and they are thrown into close contact since they are best man and maid of honour for their siblings' wedding. You see, Vaughn's younger brother, Simon, is to marry Sidney's younger sister, Isabelle. 

Sidney is stuck with him no matter she likes it or not, until Isabelle walks down the aisle. Vaughn, on the other hand, is determined to win over this cool and confident redhead. After all, he has not encountered a woman who would say no to him until her. 

What makes this story a fun read is the exchanges between Sidney and Vaughn (they've some witty dialogues there.) As you can imagine, they didn't leave a good impression with each other initially and I liked the fact that they didn't fall in love at first sight. I think love at first sight do exist, but I'm a little skeptical about it. Thus, when I read that Sidney and Vaughn didn't fit into that category, I was curious on how and what it takes to make their relationship grows, especially since they rub each other off the wrong way the first time they met. 

But of course, sincerity, trust and respect play a huge part in a relationship and as the time goes, Sidney and Vaughn can't help but to be attracted to each other. But what's so memorable about the romance is Vaughn changed his mindset about commitment and the things he'd done for Sidney simply made my heart melt. Yeah. 

I really enjoyed reading this love story between Sidney and Vaughn. They had me chuckle over their squabbles; and they had me smile over their exchanges and the things they have done for each other. I also liked reading about their siblings, Simon and Isabelle, whom I felt are humble and down-to-earth people. Their sweet romance may not be the core of this book, but they do play a part in putting Vaughn and Sidney together. 

It Happened One Wedding is the third book I read by Julie James (after Just the Sexiest Man Alive and Practice Makes Perfect, that is) and I have to say each book didn't disappoint me. Ms. James is one of my favourite romance authors and I know I can always count on her books if I want something romantic and fun to read.

Director: Shim Sung-Bo
Cast: Han Ye-Ri, Kim Yun-Seok, Park Yu-Chun, Moon Sung-Geun, Kim Sang-Ho
Language: Korean
Subtitles: English, Chinese

Based on true events, Haemoo tells a gripping story of a voyage of survival and humanity. 

Set in South Korea in 1998, a fishing vessel sets sail for their catch. The crew isn't in luck, for their catch isn't what they have hoped for. Captain Kang (starring Kim Yun-Seok) is desperate, for the times are bad and if they fail to bring in anything it'd mean the whole crew would be in trouble. 

With nowhere to go, he agrees to transport some Chinese-Koreans stowaways from China on his vessel. When the crew knew that they would be smuggling immigrants, they are worried but they have no choice. Moreover they trust and respect Captain Kang; they knew that whatever he does he always have their best interest. 

Unfortunately, the deal is a doom from the start. Apart from the large group of immigrants that leave them stunned, they are not prepared of consequences should any happens. Captain Kang has to resort to violence, and his action shakes the cores of his crew members. And that's only the beginning of the nightmares... 

Haemoo is a sad, dark and thought-provoking movie that evolves around the subject of humanity, and what drives a man to do under desperate measures. Greed is another factor, as well as lust. There is a little romance to this movie, but it is all sad and a tragedy. Dong-Sik (starring Park Yu-Chun) is the youngest crew in the vessel who falls in love with Hong-Mae (starring Han Ye-Ri), a young woman immigrant who wanted to look for her brother in Korea. Their scene also plays a major part to this film when Dong-Sik tries to protect Hong-Mae from his crazed captain and fellow mates. 

The cast did a wonderful job in their respective role. Two characters really left an impression on me and they are Captain Kang and of course, Dong-Sik. Captain Kang is a man who cares a lot for his crew (You could tell this when he still gives advance money to them even if he has to loan it.) He is simply a simple fisherman who wants to bring home money despite the bad times. He is simply down with miscalculations and bad luck. 

Dong-Sik is another simple-minded soul with a big heart. His falling for Hong-Mae has given him the courage to act devilishly. From the point of love I have to applaud him for the things he has done for Hong-Mae, but from another view it's so sad to see the crew crumbles and became the enemies instead. 

Overall I felt the direction was great, until it came to the ending part. It was a let down and I felt terribly disappointed. Walking out of the theatre I could hear some discussions and sighs from a few audiences. Truth be told, I didn't really get the ending. That said, I suppose it gives viewers a melancholy feel over what all happened to that unfortunate event. 

Note: Haemoo is listed as South Korean's submission for the Foreign Language Film for the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062088260
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication Date: 23 September 2014 (Reprint)
  • Format: Paperback, 256 pgs
  • Source: Publisher

Don't you think there's a overwhelming sense of melancholy and sadness just by reading the title itself? I definitely think so, and what made this book not an easy read is it revolves around two girls - twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old younger sister, Ruby, and how they are on the run with their father.

After their mother's passing, they have been staying at their foster home. Their ex-minor league baseball player father, Wade Chesterfield, left them a few years back and they'd been living with their mother since the day their parents signed a paper on the Termination of Parental Rights. The legal document has stated that Wade would thereby relinquish his parental rights to Easter and Ruby. And from then on the girls never saw their father, again. It was then known that their father was arrested for DUI. And now he's appeared at their foster home and took them away in the middle of the night.

On the other end, Robert Pruitt, is a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta. He is, however, determined to find Wade and claim his due. He and Wade had known each other way back when they were both baseball players. Pruitt is also driven by money to track Wade from a triad boss who believes Wade had stolen a huge amount of money from him.

Brady Weller is the girls' guardian and he has a little history himself; he'd been a police officer and then a detective for almost twenty years. He has found his way being a guardian by trying to undo something that can never be undone. His current job is installing security systems but when he knew of the girls' disappearance, he began a search with the help of his ex-buddy whom he had worked with  together during his days in the police force.

Narrated in alternating voices between Easter, Pruitt and Brady, This Dark Road to Mercy is an emotional read about the two sisters' struggles of living a new life and how fate has put their life in disarray.

What made this a compelling read is what seems to be an impulsive act from the start could spiral out of control into something so unbelievable and horrific. The three narrators are all binded into a complicated race of an unfortunate event which started out by greed initially. Wade is another interesting character whom I felt was a pity that his voice isn't included in this story. However, he plays a crucial role to this story so I suppose by leaving out his voice would probably add to the overall mysterious effect.

I enjoyed reading this story a lot. There are both tender and tense moments; and while I felt sympathy towards Easter and Ruby, there were also times that one has to admire their strength and courage at their age, especially Easter since she feels responsible for Ruby.

What also makes this story memorable is each role may differ from one another but they all have one thing in common, and that is having a second chance.


ISBN-13: 9781596439382
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: 16 September 2014
Format: Hardcover, 432 pgs
Source: Personal Library

The Forge School is an elite arts academy. What makes this school so special is they have The Forge Show; a reality show that tracked and broadcast the activity of each individual student at the school. For twelve hours each day, students are being monitored. The only places they have their privacy is the bathroom. Even their sleep is being monitored. For this show, each student is rated accordingly through the blip rank and viewers are able to select their favourite students' feeds. As if this is not enough, students who couldn't make it to the top fifty would be expelled. 

The Forge Show is inspired by a film teacher who teaches there twenty three years ago. They found out that the students who were being filmed began to work much harder. In other words, the camera eye itself has somewhat influenced their performance. 

Our heroine, Rosie Sinclair, her dream is to become a filmmaker. Coming from a poor family with a lazy and good-for-nothing stepdad, she managed to get into Forge with her little footage of her younger sister, Dubbs. Although they didn't share the same dad, Rosie loves her all the same. 

From the earlier chapters, we get this feeling that the Forge School is no ordinary elite school that nurture their students to excellence. Although they have twelve hours of sleep to ensure they perform to their best; that result comes from a pill and it is mandatory for all students to take every evening before bed. There's definitely something fishy going on here, and Rosie feels the same too. So one night, she pretended to have swallowed the pill under the attendant's watchful eyes before she climbs into her sleeping cell. And that night, she discovered something which she isn't meant to see (know). 

From there, we follow Rosie's adventures of exploring the secrets of the school. She has befriended a few friends along the way; and seems to have found her first love in Linus, a boy who works in the school's kitchen. But, there are doubts hovering in both Rosie's and the readers' minds about who not to trust, and it is no surprise that some staff do harbour some dark secrets that involve the students. 

The Vault of Dreamers is a dystopian and sci-fi thriller and honestly speaking, I'm not a huge sci-fi fan but the story captivated me from the beginning. I think it has a great premise and I thought the overall setting is pretty refreshing unlike the others. Characterisations wise, Rosie is an interesting character and she seems to be a girl with fierce determination and the fearless type, but there are times I just couldn't get past her reasons over some events and they either puzzled or frustrated me (not a criticism but simply my personal view.) 

As mentioned earlier, though I felt the premise was great, I thought it'd be better if the idea of some scientific events are further explored and elaborated. Also, I felt the last part towards the end was a bit rushed. The last scene might infuriate some, but knowing this is a series I suppose we'd get some answers in the next book. However, strange as it may sound, I felt that that scene could work as a standalone too. 

ISBN-13: 9780062326591
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 14 October 2014

Format: Paperback, 336 pgs
Source: ARC from the Publisher

Fifteen-year-old Samantha and her younger sister, Ollie, stay with their father, Frank "Bear" McAlister, in a meadow by the Crooked River in rural Oregon after the death of their mother. Bear is a beekeeper and believes that bees recognise those who cherish them and they won't sting if one comes to their hives humble and gracious. 

The girls' grandmother wanted to fight for their custody, but she's willing to give Bear a chance after her husband's probing; plus their mother trusted him. Ollie has not talked since their mother's death; they all thought she would once the shock is over but Ollie remains silent. She's able to see ghosts too (she calls them The Shimmering). 

While wandering through the woods one day, they found a young woman floating in Crooked River; she was dead. They later found a bloodstained jacket in Bear's satchel after returning to their teepee, and this made Sam wonder about his whereabouts the previous night he was gone. Sam wanted to ask Bear but didn't have the chance; but when that chance came she decided she won't say anything. She's afraid that the others will see only what they want to see, not what is actually there. But most of all, she wants to believe in him although other people sees him as eccentric. 

Although there are evidence that points to Bear, Sam and Ollie still think that the police has caught the wrong person. Not wanting to see their family come crumbling down, Sam, together with Ollie, decided to take matters into their own hands and search for clues. While Sam goes about digging information, Ollie, on the other end, has The Shimmering to guide her to the right direction, if only Sam wants to accept and see through it. 

Crooked River is one fine literary mystery with a supernatural element to it. Emotional and character - driven, this is a story about family, friendship, secrets and of course, ghosts which are around us even if we can't see them. 

I've to admit I was a little skeptical over the supernatural element initially, but after reading halfway through I began to see why this is "injected" into the story. It may not be the mystery itself, but it allows the readers to understand how they'd make an impact on the sisters. 

What interest me is not only the mystery but the interactions between the sisters. I liked Ollie especially not  because she's smart but she's extremely brave too. What they have gone through is tough, but they have also made them stronger and more matured. Told in Sam and Ollie's perspectives through alternating chapter, I find this style to be appropriate and effective as their emotions and thoughts are well described through their distinctive voice. I really enjoyed this story; however I felt the closure isn't satisfying. The mystery, no doubt, is revealed but what becomes of some characters are unknown. I would, however, let it go with my hunch.


ISBN-13: 9781481435055
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: 23 September 2014
Format: Trade Paperback, 599 pgs
Source: Personal Library

A novel within a novel. That's what Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld's is about. With two different settings through alternating chapters, readers are whizzed into two worlds; one of the present through Darcy Patel and another through Lizzie Scofield, the character from Darcy's YA novel, Afterworlds. Simply put, it's like reading two books at the same time. 

The story opens with 18-year-old Darcy sending her query letter to Underbridge Literary Agent and getting an acceptance from them. She's going to get published and she's heading to New York City. There, she befriended a few authors like her as she's trying to learn the ropes from them. The writing industry can be a competitive world, and Darcy is scared and excited at the same time. 

Lizzie's story, is equally exciting but far more dangerous. Through Darcy's imagination, she becomes the sole survivor of a terrorist attack by feigning dead. However, she must have went into it deeply because the next thing she knew, she found herself in Afterworld, a place where dead people roams. There, she met this attractive guy called Yamaraj, who happens to be a psychopomp (in other words, a reaper). Lizzie becomes one of them after her near death experience, and she's able to travel between the real world and the Afterworld (by calling out to Yamaraj at first). But, as we could tell, Afterworld is a dark and dangerous place filled with ghosts and other supernatural beings. Added to the complexity is Lizzie's attraction towards Yamaraj.  

Although the concept of a novel within a novel isn't something new (though not commonly used), it is, however, my first time reading it. I liked the two protagonists, Darcy and Lizzie. Despite the different settings, they are girls who are trying hard to fit into a place so different from their own. However, as much as I enjoyed this concept of having two stories merged into a book, my interest wavered the more I flipped through those pages. The two stories did captivate me, but I felt they are a distraction due to the alternating stories. I think it might be different if the two stories are split to parts as a whole, but then again I suppose the concept might be lost. As much as I wanted to enjoy this story, I just felt that this concept doesn't work for me. So what I did is read Darcy's chapters and then going back to Lizzie's. 

Before ending this post, I'm curious to know: Have you ever came across such a style and did it bother you?