ISBN-13: 9780062283238
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 22 July 2014
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Publisher

Theresa Battle is a divorced woman in her thirties; has three cats and a dog, and working as a copywriter at a local candle company. Theresa also has a passion in reading and researching Margery Kempe. She was the subject of Theresa's dissertation way before her divorce but never got around to finishing it. 

While she is smart though somewhat eccentric, her older brother Jeff is towards the loyal and trusting type. Regardless of their personality difference, they are quite close with each other. It is partly due to the fact that their parents were divorced when they were younger, and that they are so used to disappointments in their lives. But Jeff's life changes after he has met Kim, an attractive waitress in her twenties. He appears happier, and Theresa feels happy for him although she is skeptical of Kim. She simply thinks they aren't meant for each other. 

Her worry came true when she agreed to dog-sit Kim's dog for a weekend and Kim didn't turn up. Just when Theresa wonders about Kim's whereabouts, she receives news that the police has found Kim's body and Jeff is the prime suspect. 

Theresa believes Jeff is innocent, but the evidence pointed otherwise. Desperate and eager to clear Jeff's name, Theresa began her plan to dig into Kim's past life and unravel a series of secrets involving politics, murder and scandal. As if those aren't enough, she found herself entangled in a dangerous romance. 

Emily Arsenault's What Strange Creatures is a wonderfully written literary mystery filled with suspense with a tinge of political and legal elements. The case revolving Kim's death is filled with complexity and doubts, and very often I found myself as vexed and clueless as Theresa but that's the beauty of the story. It just sucks you in and never let go until you've reached the last page. 

Towards reading third-quarter of the book, I realised this story is more than a mystery. It is also a story about humanity and what some people will do under circumstances; and most of all, some things aren't the way they seem to be. 

What I liked about this story is the relationship between Theresa and Jeff. Theresa's faith in her brother is so strong that one could even taste it. She may think the Battles family is cursed with disappointments, but I think it's a good thing that she hasn't given up on hope. 

Another thing I liked is the literary style even though this is a mystery. I think it is rare to see these two mixed together, but author Emily Arsenault has done it well. (I've to say I've learnt quite a few things about Margery Kempe although I don't even know who she is in the first place.) I'll be sure to check out Ms. Arsenault's other works. 


ISBN-13: 9780062361004
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 1 July 2014
Format: Paperback, 320 pgs (Reprint)
Source: Publisher

Twenty-seven year old Cassandra Simon thinks her life living in New York City is mundane and routine, especially her job and her love life is concerned. Then her life suddenly changes after she received news that her late grandfather left her a property (sixty acres of land, to be exact) in Sweetwater, Tennessee. 

Cassandra hardly knows her grandfather; in fact she has nil contacts with her mother's family, ever since she passed away in an accident when Cassandra was three. Despite this, Cassandra decides to travel to Tennessee where her mother, Ellen, grew up. 

The moment she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassandra is overwhelmed by her mother's family. For starters, her grandmother Constance Clyde doesn't feel too excited to meet her. The same goes to her mother's siblings, Elaine and Horace. They all thought she has a motive moving there and their attitude towards her are both wary and lukewarm. 

Cassandra tries her best to adjust to the new environment as well as the cool attitude she receives, but she soon realises that her mother's family harbours a secret which involving her grandparents and her mother, and she intends to find out what happened. 

Cassandra and Constance are two interesting characters, and they are two very different people. Cassandra is a woman who's brave enough to embrace changes; one quality which I liked in her, as well as her persistence in finding the truth surrounding her mother's past. 

Constance, on the other hand, is a woman who's afraid to face the past. She has too much hatred in her, and she doesn't open her heart to anyone else; in which I couldn't really fault her, given the betrayal by her husband and her best friend. Deep in her heart, she has a secret which she intends to bury to her grave but inevitably truth will out.

Told from Cassandra's and Constance's perspectives (the latter switches between past and present), Sweet Water is a story about family secrets, betrayal and finally the redemptive power of forgiveness. The mystery surrounding the family may not classified as a thriller, but what makes this story stands out is the way the two narrators tell their story, in which ultimately leading the readers towards the truth. 


ISBN-13: 9780060779641
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 15 July 2014
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Publisher

Help for the Haunted is a story about an unusual family and secrets; as well as a girl's journey to finding the truth surrounding her family. 

Sylvie Mason knew her family is unlike the others; after all her parents are known to help "haunted souls" to find peace. As much as the Mason family is unusual in some ways, they tried to lead life as normal as everyone is. Sylvie seems to be the perfect daughter in her parents' eyes, while Rose, the eldest daughter is the opposite. She couldn't be bothered with what their parents do, and she doesn't believe in them anyway. 

One snowy night, the Masons received a phone call which altered all their lives.  The parents are expecting to meet up with Rose, who ran away from home as an act of rebellion, but instead they ended up being murdered in an old church, the place which Rose had suggested to meet initially. 

Sylvie was in their car sleeping then, but the gunshots shattered her dreams and led her to the church, searching for her parents. The murderer was eventually put behind bars, but still Sylvie was left with a dozen of questions not answered. 

Rose became her legal guardian, but Sylvie's relationship with her remains cool, after what happened. And Sylvie needed to find Uncle Howie, who was her father's elder brother and she thought he might be able to give her some answers, even though he and her father were estranged. 

As Sylvie delved deeper into the mystery of her parents' death, she learnt more about her family's past and that certain things are not what they seemed to be. 

When I first started this book, I expected a story about ghosts and spirits, after all the title gave me that idea. However, as I find myself engrossed in Sylvie's lonely world I realised that this is more than a ghost story. This is a coming-of-age story written from Sylvie's perspective as she bravely seeks the truth, paranormal or not. 

Author John Searles is a great storyteller as he cleverly crafted the plot line with tension and a tinge of creepiness. The characterisations are equally stunning, as I found myself engrossed in the relationships between Sylvie, Rose and the various characters who revolved around them. I think these relationships are a mystery itself. The conclusion to this book is both beautiful and poignant, which I'm sure will evoke various emotions in a reader. Highly recommended. 


This is one of the older K-dramas (2010) I watched a while back. Road No. 1 is a war story which was based on real events between Seoul and Pyongyang. 

Since a boy, Lee Jang Woo (starring So Ji Sub) and his father worked as servants in a family. Jang Woo and Soo Yeon (starring Kim Ha Neul), the eldest daughter of the family, are childhood sweethearts. Soo Yeon's ambition is to be a doctor, but life becomes tough for them and Jang Woo decides to join the army in order to earn money to pay for her tuition. 

During the time when Jang Woo is out fighting, Soo Yeon spends her time studying and in the end fulfills her wish of becoming a doctor and treats injured soldiers. She is still awaiting for Jang Woo's return, until one day she receives news that he had died in combat. 

Soo Yeon eventually moves on with her life and knew an army officer, Shin Tae Ho (starring Yoon Kye Sang) through her work. Tae Ho falls in love with her on first sight, but deep down Soo Yeon still couldn't forget Jang Woo and is still hoping that he'd be back safe and sound. 

Tae Ho wants to marry Soo Yeon, and at that point Soo Yeon realises that Jang Woo wouldn't be back and she agrees to his proposal. Alas, on the eve of their wedding, Jang Woo returns home. He claimed that the news of his death had been a mistake. Soo Yeon is now torn between two men. 

However, her worries are nothing as compared to the war that befalls their country. The following morning, North Korea invades South Korea, marking the beginning of the Korean War. Both men, Jang Woo and Tae Ho are sent to the battlefield, without getting an answer from Soo Yeon whom she'd choose. 

Jang Woo and Tae Ho become rivalries, but both of them knew that if they bring their personal feelings to the battlefields, they'd get themselves killed. Gradually under those tough circumstances, they'd learned to work as a team and watch out for one another. But as we all know, war changes everything and fate does play a part when one's life is concerned. 

Road No. 1 is one unforgettable war dramas to me, alongside with movies Saving Private RyanPearl Harbor and Atonement. I don't specially seek out books and movies on wars, but their stories are usually knowledgeable and inspiring in some ways. Movies, on the other end, have made the images more vivid and thus most often stayed in one's mind long after a book is closed. 

Like many war stories, Road No. 1 is emotional and pull on your heartstrings. Wars are cruel, for sure, and they make it even harder to watch especially when one has to leave for battle while others scramble for their lives. In this case, Jang Woo and Tae Ho have to fight against their enemies, while deep down they are also fighting against each other over a woman they love. When one finally admits defeat, it is war that claims the winner. Not wanting to disclose spoilers, I just want to say the ending had me in tears. 

Actors So Ji Sub and Yoon Kye Sang have both brought their roles to life through their excellent acting skills. I've to say So Ji Sub left a deep impression on me due to his manly physique and not to mention the role he portrayed. He is never conceited and always spare a thought for his peers in the role he portrayed; he is most often calm under critical situations and most of all, he has a kind heart. I've to say I rooted for him all the way through the drama; and although my heart goes out to Soo Yeon too, it was always Jang Woo who caught my attention and had me hoping that he would win all the battles.

If you are a fan of historical and a good romance story, this drama is for you.