A melodrama about love and revenge, Hotel King tells a story about a heiress who's in search of finding her father's murderer and a man who seeks revenge to his "mentor" who'd raised him with deceit, and how they've fallen in love despite all obstacles which are thrown in the their paths. 

The story opens with two young boys, Jayden (starring Lee Dong-wook) and Ju-han (starring Jin Tae-hyun), who are street beggars and they failed to provide their earnings to some crime gangsters. Needless to say, they'd a good beating from them but being the eldest one, Jayden fought back and accidentally shot the leader. His savior, Lee Jong-goo (starring Lee Deok-hwa) is a crippled man who took him under his wings, trained him to be a hotelier and told him that he is to seek revenge from Chairman Ah Sung-won, who's a top hotelier at that time. He also told Jayden that Chairman Ah is his father. 

With this thought in mind, Jayden plans his move to get close to Chairman Ah but he died before Jayden could do anything. Rumors claimed that Chairman Ah was hit badly by depression, but Jayden thinks otherwise. Then came Ah Mo Ne, the daughter of Chairman Ah and she's there to claim what's remaining of her father - their prestigious seven-star hotel, Ciel. And this begins the drama and romance between Jayden and Ah Mo Ne. 

I thought the premise is quite intriguing; plus there's a cast of characters who are interesting in their own way. One could see different characteristics through each of them, and let your emotions be evoked by their behaviours. I liked how the mystery is wrapped around initially and have you wondering about a few characters, but the suspense was dragged for too long and there are scenes which I felt was unnecessary. 

That said, I liked how the characters of Jayden and Ah Mo Ne are played out. Their dislike towards each other in the beginning to towards their goal in finding out the truth adds a warm touch to this melodrama. I liked seeing the change in Jayden and Mo Ne; the former from a cold-hearted man to someone who feels remorseful, and the latter from an airheaded heiress to someone who feels for her employees. Secondary characters such as Ju-han and his adoptive mother (starring Kim Hae-sook) portrays a bittersweet relationship between mother and son, but what perplexed me is the relationship between Jayden and his "mentor". To avoid spoilers, all I've to say is it's unbelievable. 

Overall I enjoyed this melodrama but felt it'd be better if it's not dragging. The ending is a satisfactory one but personally I felt it was somewhat anti-climatic. Still, I've to applause for the excellent acting skills of the cast, especially Lee Dong-wook who played Jayden. It pained me whenever I watched him cry. Yes, he may be a cold man with a strong competence but he's a human after all. 

Finally, as today is the last day of 2014, I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I hope everyone has a great and wonderful year ahead! 


I know there's still a few more days left before this year ends; and knowing my reading progress would be slow with all the holidays and other stuff going on, I doubt I'd squeeze in any more books before the end of the year, thus there goes this post. 

This year has been a good reading year for me, at least as compared to the last. According to my list, I'd read a total of 44 books to-date. The amount may not be many, but based on the quality side it's been a good one to me. Here are my top ten reads of 2014 (not in any order): 

1) Alphabet House by Jussi Alder-Olssen 

I've read many good reviews of Jussi Alder-Olsen's Department Q series; and although I've yet to read any of them, this standalone is enough for me to rave about this author's writing. Filled with great characterisations and taut tension, this book is a true page-turner; it's a true action thriller that have you hold your breath and race through the pages until you get to the bottom of it. I'd love to go through that reading experience, again. 

2) Wolf by Mo Hayder 

Mo Hayder. Oh how I love this author's works! Her standalones are a good read, but it's her Jack Caffery series that makes you hope for more. Jack is a flawed character but that doesn't stop me from liking him. He has a past that haunts him, and though that makes him vulnerable, he never let that weakness takes him down when solving cases. He's one of my literary crush, there I've said it. 

3) Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton 

Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton is an intense read. Female detectives are as mesmerising as their male counterparts; in fact they are much braver in my opinion given that they do not cower what seems to be a male dominance world with their machismo. Lacey Flint is one fine example and I'm also hoping to see romance blooms between her and DI Mark Josebury in the near future. Obviously they care a lot about each other but didn't want to admit it. 

4) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes 

Me Before You is definitely one of the most emotional reads I read this year. Though it's a love story, I'd say it's more of an inspirational story filled with love and selflessness. I liked the concept about these two very different individuals who have their own struggles but nonetheless go out of their way to encourage and try to make each other's life happy and satisfying. This novel definitely makes me think about my life and be grateful of all the things I have, most especially my family and friends. 

5) Still Life by Louise Penny 

Louise Penny astounded me with her first book of the Inspector Armand Gamache series. Great plot, great characterisations and great suspense all in one. A true crime thriller fan wouldn't ask for more. Inspector Gamache is a hero; one I admire and respect not only for his intelligence but his humbleness as well. I can't wait to read the rest of this series! 

6) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell 

Eleanor and Park. My heart warmed just thinking of their sweet little love story. I loved so many things about this story; the imperfection of Eleanor which makes her so much more of a real person than a fictional character. Then there is Park, whose actions definitely speak louder than words and his love for Eleanor is beyond words could describe. This story makes you believe that courage and hope could definitely ward off obstacles. And finally, not be afraid of differences. Yes! I love that spirit! 

7) Help for the Haunted by John Searles 

I love reading ghost stories; and I'm not talking about those traditional, cliché ones that goes bump in the night. Although Help for the Haunted does have some creepy stuff going on, the core of this story is about a family's tragedy and how the protagonist set her journey in pursuing the truth surrounding her parents' death. Heartbreaking as it is horrific, this is definitely one unique ghost story to me. 

8) I'll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin 

Kyung-Sook Shin is a South Korean author and I don't think I've read any South Korean literature before her. That said, I was pleased to discover her name and read I'll Be Right There; a poignant story about friendship and the journey of four young people set during the South Korean political times in the 1980s. Bittersweet yet beautiful, Ms. Shin has crafted an unforgettable story about their dreams and their struggles. Though it's a fiction, I felt the realism throughout the story. 

9) The Secret Place by Tana French 

Tana French. She's another must-buy author for me. Her writing is just beautiful and her suspense always keep you at the edge of your seat. Her books may not feature the same protagonists every time, but they are mesmerising and grew on you the more you get to know them. This is a good option if you like suspense and didn't want to stick to one main protagonist. After all, Ms. French has a team of great detectives in her good hands and I'm sure you could find a few of your favourite characters there. 

10) The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters 

Sarah Waters' prose is simply beautiful; she's also a great storyteller. Her characterisations may be complex at times, but I believe they all have their weaknesses when it comes to love. After all, love comes in all kinds and they can be, well, complicated. I also liked the multi-layered plots and most of the times the endings astounded me. I may only have read two books by Sarah Waters, but they are enough to wow me and make her one of my favourite authors to read. 

There you have it. What are your top ten reads this year? 

ISBN-13: 9780062328021
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 6 January 2015
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Publisher

Greek mythology, Bulgarian folklore, and the taste of first love - this about sums up the story of Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova. 

The story opens with the Bulgarian legends of the samodivi - forest witches who are believed to beguile and entrap men and then consumed them with vengeance by taking out their eyes and hearts. 

Thea Slavin hears of this legend from her father, but only after her persistence and that she'd promise to let go of finding her elder sister's past; in which everyone believes Elza was dead but unsure of what happened and why. Her body was never found. Thea, however, is very curious about her sister and she intends to find out as much information as she could while in Princeton, the same college where Elza was studying before tragedy strikes. 

Thea then knows of a mysterious guy called Rhys when she was playing Chopin music during a performance. She is intrigued by him, but she is also wary of his behaviour because he seems possessive although he admits he isn't a one-woman guy. To complicate matters, Thea later finds out that it was Rhys' younger brother, Jake, and not Rhys who left a stalk of rose for her during the performance. Who are these two brothers really, who have intrigued her and have her attracted to them at the same time? And as the more she finds out about Elza, the more she is convinced that Elza is connected to Rhys and Jake, and that is where she will learn of a shocking truth surrounding a myth which consists of the darkness of rituals and sacrifices. 

Wildalone is a good read if you are into fantasy, myth and romance all in one. I enjoyed reading all of the above elements, however I felt something was lacking in this novel but I couldn't put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the characters, because I didn't really care about them. The two brothers, Rhys and Jake, are interesting but that is about them; Thea is one brave and determined girl but at times she just infuriated me with her indecisiveness. The positive side is, I thought the myth and the legends are nicely written and they blend in well with the atmospheric plot. As the back blurb suggests, this novel would appeal to readers who are into the characters as fascinating and compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness and Stephanie Meyer. 

ISBN-13: 9780143124542
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: 30 July 2013

Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Personal Library

My first Jojo Moyes book, and oh how it made me smile, laugh and cry at the same time. Me Before You tells a story of two people, who are so different from each other in so many ways and how their encouragement and love for each other wins the battle of all. 

Louisa Clark is a twenty-six year old girl who finds satisfaction in working in a café. Though life is simple and hard (the family struggles to make ends meet), she feels happy. She's into a relationship with her boyfriend, Patrick for some years and she could foresee her future settling down with him not far away from her home in a few years time. 

Unfortunately, she has no control what lies ahead as Frank, the café owner has decided to close the café and she has to look for a job. With limited skills she is forced to take up a job as a caregiver. 

William Traynor is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Before the tragic accident he has always lived a huge life; he travels, do extreme sports and life has never been more carefree and luxurious with the money his family has. He himself has an ambitious career and many people would do anything to get that kind of life he's living. But alas, obstacles come in all kinds and Will is unfortunate to be the recipient of the worst kind. One couldn't blame him for being acerbic, moody and bossy. After all, he used to be the golden boy who has everything. 

Lou, at the other end, has no experience in caregiving but the pay is good. She only has to endure Will's temperamental moods for six months, no matter how tedious it would be. And as the days go by, they begin to open up and learn some new things about each other. Just as Lou feels she's not so intimidated by Will, she then learns that Will has had a plan long after the accident and it horrifies her. 

And then there's the struggles Will's parents have to face regarding his decision. It definitely pained me to read parts of Will's mother's thoughts (as below), which I'm sure all mothers are able to relate to: 

"I looked at Will and I saw the baby I held in my arms, dewily besotted, unable to believe that I had created another human being. I saw the toddler, reaching for my hand, the schoolboy weeping tears of fury after being bullied by some other child. I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history. That's what he was asking me to extinguish - the small child as well as the man - all that love, all that history." 

Me Before You is a moving, tear-jerker story but what I liked is not only the emotional factor but the inspiring and motivational spirits that prompt you to think beyond this story. I liked it that the journey Will and Lou had gone through have changed and gave them new perspective of a life they've not lived before; way before Will's accident, and way before they even knew each other. It was simply... I couldn't describe that feeling actually, just that it'd touched me immensely. Most of all, I liked it that Will and Lou have pushed beyond their comfort zones for each other's sake. Their thoughts, their gestures are simply selfless, touching, and so, so beautiful... If anyone ask me if I've read anything meaningful and memorable this year, I'd say this is it. 

ISBN-13: 9780312948559
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 1 May 2007
Format: Paperback, 336 pgs

Source: Personal Library

Ms. Penny introduces us Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the Surêté du Québec in this first book of the series. The setting is a picturesque Canadian village which is named "Three Pines", whereby everyone seems to know one another in this rural, quiet countryside. Their crime rate is near to nil, since it is a small community and the villagers feel there's no need to even lock their doors; they are that trusting. Unfortunately, that trust is shattered when a dead body is found from what seems to be a tragic hunting accident. Inspector Gamache and his team are called to investigate this case. 

The villagers are shocked to learn that Jane Neal is dead. Jane was a retired schoolteacher and was well liked to the villagers. She is a quiet but observant lady, and her best friend Clara Morrow felt life had played a cruel joke to them all. After all, who would want to kill a quiet, retired schoolteacher? Inspector Gamache, however thinks otherwise. For starters, the arrow which is believed to have killed her on the spot, was never found. And reports have shown that that shot was meant to kill, but the question is, who and why? Before Jane's death, she had submitted her drawing to be considered for an exhibition. Now Jane was not an exhibitionist by nature, and not even Clara has been to her living room, so it is perplexing that she'd decided to submit her work, even if it is hideous in anyone's eyes. Surely she has a message to convey, and died because of it? 

This book is simply a page-turner. I was drawn by the mystery as well as the characterisations, in particular to Inspector Gamache. He is a very observant and patient man; he is always calm and detailed in accessing each situations and his team respect him not only of his position but also as a person overall. Even when trainee Agent Yvette Nichol is assigned to his team and apparently has sabotaged his plans a few times, Inspector Gamache gave advice to her like a mentor, and on occasions even gave her chance when she somewhat sabotaged a few of their plans. I have to confess I was never warmed up to Agent Yvette; she was too arrogant and stubborn. The relationship between Inspector Gamache, Yvette and Jean Guy Beauvoir, who's Inspector Gamache's second in command, is another factor which makes this mystery such an interesting read. 

Back to Inspector Gamache again. What I liked about him is he was a thoughtful man, above all. He believed in his instincts, and he was not intimidated nor affected by how's the systems work. And most of all, I liked it that he discusses his cases with his wife and hear her views. This not only reflects how close their relationship is but also deep down what kind of a person he is - humble, respectful and not afraid of being different. 

Can you tell I really enjoyed this book? Yes, I think Ms. Penny had written this fine story like a piece of art; the plot and details all planned and laid out beautifully, challenging her readers to find out the flaws (in this case the mystery) if scrutinised carefully. I was in awe with the story overall. And then there's the characterisations, with Inspector Gamache on the top of the list. Last and not surprisingly, this first book of the series was the winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards. Of course I'll be sure to check out the rest of this series. 

ISBN-13: 9781442474260
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Publication Date: 7 October 2014

Format: Hardcover, 400 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Hush, Hush Saga's author, Becca Fitzpatrick has a new standalone out and unlike her previous fantasy romance, this time round she delves into romantic thriller, with a treacherous backdrop of the mountains of wintry Wyoming. 

Britt and Korbie are best friends in high school they have decided to take a hiking trip during their spring break. This is the first time they would go hiking on their own and stay in Korbie's family lodge at Idlewilde. Korbie's older brother, Calvin, would be tagging along since Korbie's parents wouldn't be with them and Britt has mixed feelings with him joining them since he had dumped her on the night of her school dance a year ago, plus she isn't really over him, yet. 

Despite all that, Britt is looking forward to the trip. And most of all, she wants to prove to Calvin that she could do all the things on her own without him (or anyone) breathing on her neck. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating. The unexpected heavy snowfall has forced them to seek refuge at a secluded cabin with two good-looking young men, Shaun and Mason. Britt had met Mason at a gas station before she set her trip, and she was grateful that he'd helped her out by posing as her boyfriend to spite Calvin, even though she didn't know him or ask him to. 

As much as Britt is glad to see Mason again for assistance, he however acts like he doesn't know her and his attitude towards her is cold and unfriendly. It took them a while to realise that Shaun is taking them hostage and they need her help in guiding them out of their place towards the forest, after hearing that Britt hikes and may know the area. 

Although this story is very much about hostage and survival, the core of this story is the matter of trust and how Britt sees the three guys as her harrowing journey goes. Shaun seems to be the ultimate bad guy throughout the story; as he had shot a few people who got into his way. Mason, on the other hand, may seems to be the cold and quiet one but on several occasions he has somewhat saved Britt from Shaun. Perhaps he's trying to save his own butt as Shaun could be authoritative and ruthless if things don't go as he wish. And then there's Calvin, who cheated on Britt before they broke off and then witnessing an unbelievable act which is so unlike him. Or is this the real him? 

Though the story isn't something new, it has enough suspense to keep me reading on and had me guessing who's the good guy ultimately. I have to admit there are parts which I wasn't totally convinced or agreed with, but since this is also a story about finding the truth, I decided that is enough to satisfy my justification (curiosity).