It is that time again to reflect on the books we read and which books have made it on my top reads. Although I wish I have read more books, overall I was quite satisfied with my reading this year. I had read a total of 51 books this year; though it is not considered to be a big amount, it is considered to be a good reading year to me, quality wise. Hence, that also means I had a hard time deciding which book(s) to make it on to my top 10 reads and after some consideration I finally have a list. I know I am cheating here but please note I am also counting a trilogy/series as one title.  

My Top 10 Reads of 2015 (not in any order):

- A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton 
- Half a Lifelong Romance by Eileen Chang 
- I Am China by Xiaolu Guo 
- Behind Closed Doors by Elizabeth Haynes 
- Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon 

- The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson 
- A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay 
- The Cainsville Series by Kelley Armstrong (this series is still ongoing, but I enjoyed the first three installments so here it is. Also, by clicking on each word of the series here will bring you the link to my review of each title respectively. The same goes to Last Policeman Trilogy.)
- Last Policeman Trilogy by Ben H. Winters 
- Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

There you have it - my top 10 reads of 2015. What's yours? 

Here's wishing you a Happy 2016 and may it be a year filled with more books and wondrous reads. 


ISBN-13: 9780062390486
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 2016
Format: eBook, 304 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Jack Harris has been framed for murder. It all started when he spotted a beautiful stranger along the Hudson River during his morning run, enjoying her champagne picnic alone and reading his favourite novel. She reminds him of her late wife, Molly, who had died during a mass shooting situation. It should have stayed that way, he reminiscing his wife and go on with his life but his best friend thinks otherwise. He posted a message on a popular website, hoping Jack would find love again and true enough, that same beautiful stranger responds and they agreed to meet in person. Unfortunately things didn't turn out that way; Jack did turn up for their meeting but she is nowhere in sight. And the next thing he knew, he is accused of killing Malcom Neely. He is the father of the shooter who had killed Jack's wife and a few others three years ago. 

Olivia Randall is Jack's ex-fiancée. She is also one of New York City’s best criminal defence lawyers. When she heard that Jack has been arrested for murder, she is sure this must have all been a mistake. The Jack she knew is not a person who would kill; and she knew she has to help him as a make up for past regrets and that they had parted ways due to some unfortunate circumstances. 

As Olivia begins to work on Jack's case, she realises that things are not as easy as what she has thought. Who and why would someone wants to frame Jack? And then there is this thought: What if she never really knew him? After all, she has not seen him in twenty years. 

I have to admit I had a hard time focusing on reading The Ex in the beginning; I think it was the measured pace that put me off reading it quickly but then, December is a busy month so my attention might be on elsewhere, too. That said, I was glad I stuck with the book and towards half of it the pace quickens and the intrigue as well as the intensity build up. What makes this book such an interesting read is the characterisation of Olivia Randall. She is definitely one unforgettable character with a strong voice. All in all, I found The Ex was an engaging legal thriller. The ending wasn't what I had expected and that is a good thing.

(Photo Credit - Google Images) 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas! I hope you have a wonderful holidays with your loved ones!

ISBN-13: 9780349002231
Publisher: Atom 
Publication Date: October 2015
Format: Paperback, 352 pgs
Source: Purchased

It seems like I couldn't get enough of Kelley Armstrong’s books lately. After finishing her first three books of the Cainsville's series, I was very glad to find she has a new standalone - a YA novel about hostage situation and survival. I have read several books about hostages but they are more to mysteries and police procedural, rarely YA so I was quite intrigued by this book. 

The story opens with our protagonist, Riley Vasquez, being haunted by a brutal murder of the Porters' family she was babysitting for. At the time of the murder, she had her attention on the child in the room upstairs so the moment she heard gunshots, she hide under the bed with her. Though she was viewed a hero after the tragedy for saving the child, Riley couldn't help feeling guilty for hiding under the bed doing nothing while the murder took place within the house. Her mother and older sister thought it would do her some good if she is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp, alongside with five other teens who have 'issues'. 

The camp is actually an isolated building which used to be a warehouse; it is then restored with metal steel doors for security and there are no windows. Handphones are not allowed and the exits are all sealed shut. The group's real nightmares begin when three masked men burst into the building and take them all hostage. Max Cross is one of the other victims; a guy who is suffering from Schizophrenia and his condition is controllable under medications. Riley thinks he is full of himself at first, but when dangerous circumstances force them to be together when the others are either hurt or dead, she realised that looks can be deceiving and most of all, they have to rely and trust in each other, issues and all, to get out alive. 

Once again, I found myself engrossed in Kelley Armstrong’s storytelling and the way she writes well-developed and layered characters who made me care for them. Aside from the intrigued plot, what also makes this book stand out is these characters struggle with their own mental issues and how the hostage situation has made them stronger despite their conditions and weaknesses, especially Max. Max isn't a character whom I feel warmed up with at first glance but he grew on me the more I flipped through the pages. I also liked the interactions between Riley and Max; their exchanges could range from humorous to sarcasm, and from honest to sincerity but ultimately it is worthwhile to 'watch' them battle their own demons and the real 'demons' as well. I wouldn't say this story is entertaining given the dark elements but it provides an insightful look at the challenges the mental illness patients are going through and how the society view them. 

December is usually a busy month for us all - not only because of the festive season but also it is school holidays; the time whereby many parents would take their time off to spend more time with their children. This December, my husband decided Taiwan would be the destination for our vacation so that was where we were last week. 

We went for a 8-days guided tour package and the journey covered the following provinces: Taichung, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Nantou, Hsihchu and Taipei. We had been to Taipei a few years ago but the other places are new to us. And since we covered these places for merely a few days, the schedules were all pretty tight so it goes without saying we changed hotels every night. 

I took a few dozens of pictures and while it is impossible to share them all here, I created some photo collages highlighting some of the places we had went to. 

Night markets everywhere. One wouldn't go hungry even late at night outside. 

Some of the places we went (clockwise to centre for all collages):
  • Beautiful painted walls (situated near the Beimen Crystal Church)
  • JingZhaiJiao Tile-Paved Salt Fields
  • Sun Moon Lake - this is the only structure which survived the earthquake which had ruined Sun Moon Lake back in 1999
  • Beimen Crystal Church
  • Wen Wu Temple, that is dedicated to Confucius, Guan Gong and Yue Fei 
  • Miaoli's Schokolake, where we made some DIY chocolates
  • A vampire-themed restaurant (which I'd failed to note down the name due to my enthusiasm in joining the group to call out a "password" before getting into the restaurant (which is a rule, so the reception staff said)
  • Taipei 101 World Building
  • Green Green Grasslands, famous for its picturesque natural setting and of course, sheep
  • Leofoo Village Theme Park
A few picturesque shots I took: 
  • Short cruise around Sun Moon Lake
  • Inside Green Green Grasslands
  • Inside Green Green Grasslands
  • Sun Moon Lake
  • Inside Miaoli's Schokolake
A few random shots I took:
  • Taiwan High Speed Train
  • A beach at Cijin Island
  • A beach at Cijin Island
  • Kaohsiung Rail Station
  • Blue sky filled with cotton-candied clouds (couldn't remember where)
The things we ate: 
  • One of our vegetarian meals
  • Seaweed wraps
  • Vegetarian burgers at Leofoo Village Theme Park
  • Cheesy baked rice at Miaoli's Schokolake
  • Honey Star honey & butter snacks from Korea. Korean snacks seem to be the "in" snacks in Asia
Some of the attractions at Leofoo Village Theme Park 

Some animals which we saw at Guanshi Leofoo Resort (we stayed for a night there; it was a great experience waking up with the animals, so to speak.)

We travelled via SilkAir to and fro for our trip. The top two pictures were taken by my 7-year-old daughter, who had the privilege of taking the window seat. 

So that is all on our vacation. Reading wise, I have to admit I only read a few pages during the flights and needless to say, no chance to read during the trip. Our Taiwanese tour guide was a man in his mid forties and he was one of the best tour guides I have met throughout our travelling journeys. Funny, knowledgeable and deeply patriotic towards his country, he shared with us lots of insightful things about life (and of course, the history and political stuff of Taiwan), his few working experiences as well as other informations which had either keep us intrigued or entertained. All in all, it was an enjoyable trip. My two daughters said they would like to visit, again. 

I love a good medical thriller. Most of all, it is actor Joo Won who had me drawn to this drama. His role in Good Doctor had left a very deep impression on me. In that drama, he was autistic but was discovered to have a genius-level memory and spatial skills. He eventually enters the paediatric surgery field as a resident for a few months to prove his capability, but due to his medical condition he was often being questioned not only from his patients but from his peers as well. As he had admitted in an interview with a local entertainment magazine (an English translation of the article by a fan) lately, that role was his most challenging thus far and I thought he had portrayed that role very well and convincingly, too. 

Anyway, back to this drama he was cast as a doctor too but this time round, he is Kim Tae-hyun, a talented surgeon but due to a desperate need to fund more money for his sister's medical bills, he adopts a code name "Yong Pal" to take house calls for patients such as gangsters, criminals  and other corrupt plutocrats who are in need of medical attention but couldn't do so publicly. Back in the hospital, he stumbles unknowingly with a team of corrupt medical practitioners to "rescue" Hanshin Corporation's heiress, Han Yeo-jin (starring Kim Tae-hee), who was in coma for three years but in fact was medically induced so she couldn't take over the Corporation her late father left her but her half-brother, Han Do-joon (starring Jo Hyun-jae), who is her legal guardian. When Tae-hyun finally discovers what he is into, he decides to rescue Yeo-jin and there begins a battle for power and revenge. 

Once again, I marvelled at Joo Won's wonderful acting skills here. His role as Tae-hyun might viewed as a "money bug" in this drama but he is still a righteous and responsible doctor who would treat anyone - good or bad, rich or poor. He is a simple-minded person who loves life and nature and although he eventually fell for Yeo-jin, he doesn't crave for title or wealth but has asked her to follow him instead. 

As much as I loved the premise and the characterisations, I felt the ending was a little abrupt but overall it was still a great one and I think it is because Joo Won plays a big part in it. Yes, I think I have found a new idol. 

I will be taking a short break off of blogging so I won't be blog hopping and commenting but please feel free to leave your comments and I will reply to them once I am back. Meanwhile, I am going to read more books and spend more time with my family since it is the school holidays. I hope you have a great month in December, reading or family wise! 

(All photo credits to Google Image)

ISBN-13: 9780718177010
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 2015

Format: Trade Paperback, 416 pgs
Source: Purchased

* Some spoilers for Me Before You *

I am sure many of you have read some books and wonder what happens to the protagonists long after the books are finished, especially if their lives took a turn and we want to know how they are getting on with their new life. After You is such a book which had me so excited when I knew the author would be writing a sequel to Me Before You. I loved that book so much; it was romance and an inspiration all in one lovely package. I wept over the ending and though it was a sad one it had made Louisa Clark a different person; someone who thinks life differently after meeting Will Traynor. 

And as much as Louisa is living to adapt her new life without Will, she still misses him terribly. Her job at an airport bar is miserable, and she still doesn't feel at home with the flat she's owned for a year. Her family members think it is a good idea for her to enrol in a grief counselling group and though she attends the sessions she feels she is there to listen to others' experiences, since she still finds it hard to speak of Will. 

She is still thinking about her stagnant life when a rooftop accident turns her world upside down and lead her to Sam Fielding. Sam is a knight in shining armour, considering he is a paramedic and he had held her hand throughout their drive to the hospital. 

But despite Louisa finds Sam likeable, she is unsure about everything. And then, there is that guilty feeling about not loving Will more if she thinks of someone else. But that is not all, she somewhat feels responsible for sixteen-year-old Lily; a girl who has stumbled into her life drunk one day and reminds her so much of herself. While it seems Sam and Lily have helped changed her life into something more meaningful and exciting, Louisa still ponders about Will and her promise in living. But moving on involves risks and she isn't sure if she is brave enough to embrace everything, again. 

After You, like Me Before You, is an emotional and thought-provoking read but they are so much different from each other. While Me Before You allows one to think of the meaning of life, After You questions readers if they are willing to take risks and move on. Once again, the author has captured Louisa's voice perfectly and I could feel her loneliness, her misery, her struggles and of course, the happy moments she has had with Sam and Lily. I just couldn't help but to think things after closing the book. I felt for Louisa; the struggles and the dilemma she was facing as well as the decision she has made towards the end. It was a great book for a sequel and most of all, it had satisfied my curiosity about Louisa's life after what happened before. 


No matter how scary vampires are, they are enticing in a way so that explains why many of us couldn't get enough of them, no matter in book or movies. This South Korean drama, based on a webcomic, tells a tale of the 120-year-old  battle between an evil vampire and a vampire scholar set in the Joseon dynasty. Trapped in between their battle is a human girl called Jo Yang-sun (starring Lee Yu-bi), who is believed to be a descendant from the vampire bloodline. 

Yang-sun doesn't have any idea of her family history; and her memories of her childhood days are fuzzy. Now as an adult, she disguises herself as a male bookseller to make ends meet, since she is the sole breadwinner of the family but there is a history why she cross-dresses to hide her gender. She encounters a mysterious scholar Kim Sung-yeol (starring Lee Joon-gi), who requests her to look for an old memorandum of a Crown Prince who had passed decades ago. This transaction begins a treacherous journey for Yang-sun and also leads to their attraction for each other later, after Sung-yeol discovers her identity as a woman. However, Sung-yeol is a guardian vampire and he is on a hunt for Gwi (starring Lee Soo-hyuk), the evil vampire who uses his powers to control the royal empires for decades and this has led to the suffering of the people. Sung-yeol believes that once he has got hold of the memorandum, he would be able to defeat Gwi using the secret methods written by the late Crown Prince. 

Sung-yeol is quite a character as he is a righteous man but there are moments he questions himself when he is in need of human blood; some thing he wouldn't wish to do and prey on the animals instead. Yang-sun, on the other hand, is a diligent and a courageous woman who would do anything for righteousness and love. Gwi may be a ruthless character, but there was a time he did love a human woman. While ultimately it is the good versus the evil, it is the greed of some humans whom I found to be the scariest, as they would sacrifice their own family members to gain power and wealth. 

(Gwi, starring Lee Soo-hyuk)

I enjoyed this drama thoroughly. There are actions, intrigue and romance and yes, I liked the characterisations, too. There are some clichés about the vampires but there are also some new ideas too, for example, Sung-yeol wears a black cloak which was passed down from a late old guardian so he is able to walk in the daytime; unlike Gwi who has to hide himself in the palace's dungeon. The story is multi-layered and although there are some minor flaws, they didn't dampen my pleasure of watching it. Because of this drama, I hope to catch more dramas by actors Lee Joon-gi and Lee Soo-hyuk, especially contemporary drama for I am very curious how they would portray in a modern day setting.

ISBN-13: 9781474603041
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group 
Publication Date: November 2015
Format: Paperback, 80 pgs
Source: Purchased

This short story by Gillian Flynn first appeared in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology and it won the Edgar Award for Best Short Story in 2015. With an old Victorian mansion setting, one could easily classified this as a creepy read but there is something more than that - it contains an interesting view of characters and behavioural studies and most of all, I was very intrigued with the author's different take from her other well-known works and I plunged into this book with anticipation. 

The unnamed character is a young woman who frauds for a living. To be exact, she gives hand jobs to men and act as a psychic to clients, who are mostly women, to offer them some "guidance" in life and offer solutions. Then one day a woman called Susan Burke came to her, telling her her life is troubled and she suspects there is something in her house. She believes some malevolent spirit is inhabiting their home and her 15-year-old stepson, Miles, is behaving strangely and it scares her. 

The narrator doesn't believe in the supernatural; she is sure the old house has Susan's imagination running wild and that Miles, being an adolescent, has his issues and nothing more. However, when the narrator steps into the mansion she does feel something weird about the house, and Miles seems to be watching her every move and yes, behaving strangely. Soon the narrator finds herself locked in a chilling battle between Susan and Miles and it is up to her to discover the evil lurking within the old mansion. 

Honestly speaking, The Grownup is not something I have expected but I have to say the author has done a terrific job in building up the intrigue and one couldn't help but to get suck into the story. However, since this is a short story there isn't enough characters development but the author has vividly described the characteristic of the narrator and her thoughts so this allows readers to get to know the person as who she is. I wouldn't want to say too much about the story but that the ending bothered me. I suppose that leaves to each reader's interpretation but personally I wished the ending was anything but. Nevertheless, Gillian Flynn's writing style is brilliant and I hope she has a new release out soon. 


ISBN-13: 9780751557602
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: Paperback, 464 pgs
Source: Purchased

I enjoyed reading the first two books of the Cainsville series, and needless to say I "devoured" it the moment it arrived in mail. I wanted to know how Olivia Jones goes about finding the truth surrounding her birth parents being serial killers, as well as her relationship between Gabriel Walsh and Ricky Gallagher. The former used to represent her parents during the trial but is now Olivia’s boss as they began to work together to unravel the truth behind her parents' crimes. Olivia thinks Gabriel is a man of steel who is void of emotions but the more they work together the more she is convinced he is not really the person she thinks he is. As for the latter, Ricky is the son of a bikers gang leader who has the looks and brains as well. He and Olivia fell for each other badly in the previous installment and readers are able to see their relationship just escalates in this installment. But that is not all, Gabriel begins to feel some emotions towards Olivia and although they are hardly romantic, readers will see a new side of Gabriel and how the three of them are somewhat connected to an age old folklore surrounding faes, huntsmen and other fantastical creatures alike. 

Aside from being troubled by her ex-fiancé, Olivia will also find some shocking answers concerning her birth parents and the real reasons of the crimes they had committed. Truth be told, there are a lots of things happening in this installment and Olivia sees a lot more visions than before that leaves her baffled and more determined to unravel the truth about her birth parents and her identity as well. 

A much as I enjoyed this installment and found it satisfying for more answers being revealed, there are multiple plot lines here which had my mind spinning in various directions; ranging from Olivia’s ex-fiancé obsessive stalking, the relationship and conflicts between the faes world and finally the motivation behind Olivia’s birth parents' murders. That said, I was quite satisfied to note some little change in Gabriel, emotionally wise. He had a rough childhood and it would be good to see him get out of his tortured emotional shell, slowly. 

I wasn't sure if there would be an intense triangle love entanglement in the future but at the rate now it is always interesting to see how these three characters interact with one another, and how Olivia connects with them individually.


ISBN-13: 9780552574235
Publisher: Corgi Books
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
Source: Purchased

Living a normal life. Falling in love. Such simple little things in our lives yet Madeline Whittier finds doing them is a huge challenge. You see, Maddy is allergic to the world. She is suffering from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and anything can trigger a bout of sickness in her. And she hasn't stepped out of her house in seventeen years. Her mother and Carla, her caregiver are the only persons she really sees face-to-face; other than that she studies and surf online, read books and living her life in an enclosed room. Anyone who wants to visit has to go through air decontamination and no touching is allowed. It is no wonder Maddy has no friends until a new family moves next to them. 

Olly is an energetic guy who loves parkour and mathematics. He has a younger sister, Kara, and a father who vents his anger onto them when he's drunk or in a foul mood. Olly and Maddy first saw each other through her window the day they moved in, and after that Maddy couldn't get him out of her mind. She is fascinated by his zest, and she wonders what it would be like to be Outside. Olly is intrigued by the mysterious Maddy, too. He made the first move by giving her his email address and a friendship is formed. They talk a lot through IMs and it is Olly who makes Maddy's once isolated life becomes something more alive and meaningful. And the more they corresponded and got to know each other, the more Maddy wants to know the world beyond her confined house and of course, seeing Olly in person. They have fallen in love with each other and finally one day Maddy decides to take the risk and venture outside, despite anything. 

Everything, Everything is a different yet unforgettable story about love and finding oneself. The storyline is simple yet it is powerful and it evoked all the emotions in me. There are laughter and tears; and there are also love and forgiveness. Through Maddy's eyes, she shares with us the meaning of life and taking that leap towards risk for the sake of love and embracing it. The author has captured Maddy's voice beautifully and what I felt about her chemistry with Olly is so strong that it made my heart leaps up and ache at the same time. This is a great debut in my opinion and I also have to mention that the interior illustrations are gorgeous, too. David Yoon (who is the author's husband) created the illustrations for Everything, Everything and they certainly put this story into better perspective through Maddy's eyes. The ending will definitely lead readers pondering but not in the way they have expected. 

ISBN-13: 9780380725397
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: June 1995 (Reissue)
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
Source: Purchased

I enjoyed reading Rebecca a few years back and thought Daphne DuMaurier was a master in creating an atmospheric setting and intriguing characters in Rebecca. Though Jamaica Inn is different from the haunting classic Rebecca, I have heard it is a fine romantic tale rich in suspense and intrigue so I cracked open this book with much anticipation. 

The story opens with a 23-year-old Mary Yellan travelling in a coach from Helford countryside to a forbidden, rundown inn in Launceston. The ride is an uneventful one, given the bad weather and the coach driver's remark about nobody ever make a stop at Jamaica Inn anymore but these do not deter Mary from travelling there. She is very determined to go to Aunt Patience's inn because she had promised her late mother she would do so after selling their farmhouse. There is no point for her to stay on considering her father had passed before her mother and sickness had struck and killed the livestock in the villages round Helford. 

However, once she reached Jamaica Inn she soon learnt that Aunt Patience doesn't seem to be the same person she had corresponded years ago. Gone is her cheerful, optimistic demeanour and the present Aunt Patience is more like a squeamish old lady who is afraid of her big, boisterous landlord husband who only loves drinking and throwing abusive remarks. As the days pass by Mary soon realises why people are afraid of Jamaica Inn and most of all, its notorious landlord. But that is not the worst of all, for Mary will soon find herself ensnared in the villainous schemes being hatched within Jamaica Inn and she needs to find someone she could trust to share what she has learnt within Jamaica Inn. Dare she trust the landlord's younger brother, a horse stealer, who claims he has no business with his elder brother except their blood ties or the vicar of Altarnun? 

Honestly speaking, Jamaica Inn isn't what I expected initially but that didn't take away my reading pleasure. The blurb didn't mention too much of what this story is about so it definitely has a mystery aura surrounding it. The setting is well described and the characters are well developed though it takes readers some time to see the mystery unveils. However, that anticipation is worth waiting because I was taken aback towards the end. That said, this is not really a whodunit story but more like a behavioural study of characters and the things some people would do under certain circumstances. Mary Yellan is an interesting heroine; she is brave for a woman living in older times and she is not afraid to speak up what she thinks is right or wrong. She has a soft spot for Aunt Patience and this is one reason I felt connected to her. I couldn't say too much about other characters for fear of spoilers but let's just say they are well described and are intrigued in their own way. 

Although I felt this book is not on par with Rebecca, it was still a good read in my opinion. 


ISBN-13: 9781605988634
Publisher: Pegasus
Publication Date: September 2015
Format: Hardcover, 400 pgs
Source: Purchased
Translated from the Korean by Ha-Yun Jung

I fell in love with Kyung-Sook Shin's prose after reading I'll Be Right There. In that story, she has eloquently captured the voices of her characters and made me empathise and care for them. You can say her writing is poetic because that's how I felt about it - beautiful, meaningful and thought-provoking. Thus, when I found this latest release I grabbed a copy without bothering to read the blurb. Do you have one of those moments? I'm sure you understand what I'm talking about. Anyway...

Written in the past (the '70s) and present setting alternatively, this story reflects the life of an unnamed character, a 16-year-old girl who travels to Seoul from her countryside home to work in a factory while studying part time. The other time frame is where we see her as a thirty-ish woman, already a successful novelist but occasionally finds herself locked away in her 16-year-old's loneliness self when she'd dreamt of writing; a pitchfork which had marked an unforgettable memory after it'd pierced her foot and led her dumping it into their well and finally, the pain and struggles she'd gone through working at the factory, with low wages and unfair policies which have made the employees either shed their dignity and their teeth or clash with their superiors and risk losing their jobs. Most of them are in their twenties, excluding the narrator, who's managed to get in thanks to her oldest brother. Despite the hard work, sleep deprivation and most of all, the unfairness and the extreme exploitation of employees' rights. While some of them grit their teeth and move on, hoping to have a better life once they have a certificate to grant them better jobs, the others retaliated by forming a Union and risk losing their jobs; their dignity and their self-righteousness are the only things that keep them going. 

But it is not only the narrator who is working hard, her oldest and second brother, together with her 19-year-old cousin, are also out working to pursue their dreams. The narrator's oldest brother works the hardest amongst all, perhaps being the eldest with much responsibility, he works two jobs and continues to do so while serving his military service, even if it means wearing a wig to cover his bald head so he can appear as a civilian.

Aside from the relationship with her siblings and her cousin, the narrator also shares with readers her interactions with a girl who lives in the same complex (which is actually a building with rooms for the employees to stay so they can travel to and from work easily) and how their connection would later make her reflect upon her pent up feelings despite many passing years and each has gone their separate ways. 

Not quite fact and not quite fiction, as the narrator put it, this novel, at times read like a memoir and one couldn't help but to sweep away by the narrator's voice and the haunting journey she has led us into following. Melancholy and definitely insightful, once again I felt myself mesmerised by Ms. Shin’s beautiful writing and her storytelling. And I just got this feeling that she's written a very personal story in this book. 


ISBN-13: 9780751547238
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: Paperback, 496 pgs
Source: Purchased 

This is the second book of the Cainsville series and the story picks up where it left off from the previous installment, Omens. Olivia Jones have some answers regarding one of the murder cases involving her biological parents, who are known to have murdered four couples, but they aren't enough and she knew she still needs to find out more. 

Together with Gabriel Walsh, her parents' former lawyer, they continue to search for more information and answers. However, this time around Olivia begins to feel the danger as she keeps seeing death omens and when a dead young woman was outfitted to look like her, she knew there must be some connections surrounding the case they are investigating. 

As much as Olivia doesn't want to work with Gabriel for many reasons, she finds herself needing him now more than ever; especially finding out that the discovery of the dead woman's body is really meant as a warning to her. And she still needs to find out if her parents are indeed responsible for committing those horrendous murder crimes which have put them behind bars. As if things aren't complicated enough, Olivia finds herself attracted to 22-year-old Rick Gallagher, son of a biker gang "Satan's Saints". Unlike any other biker members, Rick is taking his MBA part-time at the University of Chicago and figures an MBA might help him run his father's "business" one day. Well they do run a legitimate business amongst many other things, after all. 

Once again, I found myself caught up in this installment. Everything in it seems to have intensified in terms of mystery, intrigue and yes, even passion, as we see Olivia and Rick fall into a relationship and more intimacy as the story progresses. But that is not all, readers also got to know more about Gabriel and why he becomes the person as he is today (I am still not sure of the relationship between Olivia and Gabriel, though, because I still think there are some attraction and chemistry between them even though they have kept it business.) And last but not least, the secrets Cainsville and its residents are hiding and Olivia is set to unveil more of them, considering she is part of this mystic circle. 

This second installment has slightly more urban fantasy/folklore theme as compared to the first and given more answers have come to light here I have a slight feeling where this story will be heading and I can't wait to find out what would happen in the next installment, Deceptions


ISBN-13: 9780307278401
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication Date: June 2008 (Reprint)
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
Source: Purchased

24 year-old Zhuang Xiao Qiao, or "Z" to foreigners, left her home in China to stay in London to study English. With only a cheap suitcase and her "little red book" - a concise Chinese-English dictionary, she is set to learn English language and return home proudly with a new dream and a new hope instead of following her parents' path - making shoes in their little town, Wen Zhou. 

As much as her willingness to learn English, she finds herself trapped by the cultural differences and the grammatical challenge that so often confuse her. On top of that, she feels lonely and hope for someone whom she can talk and share things with. She found that person in an Englishman she met in a cinema (a nameless character whom I thought would be better off with a name) and fell in love. But like her struggles living in London, their love is equally full of challenges as aside from their cultural  differences, their thoughts and their passion for food (she loves meat while he's a vegetarian) are so different from each other, too. Her lover is more of a drifter and let nature decides his future while Z feels being together and plans are what make a couple closer. It is only the intimacy part that keeps them together. However, as the days go by they realise love is not enough to keep their relationship going. Their thinking and goals are different: He wants freedom, and she wants a future of them together. Readers, you should know where this ending will lead... 

Written in Z's POV like a diary (with a dictionary-like format with words that portray her emotions/thoughts before a page starts), this book chronicles her journey into the West, her struggles in learning English language, her relationship with a foreigner and discovering her sexuality. 

Z is a simple-minded woman who, like a toddler, explores everything with curiosity and always have full of questions. Her thoughts are sometimes naive but that shows how she is coming from a peasant family. Her lover, on the other hand, who once travels and enjoys company is now moving towards a life with peace and nature. He feels suffocated by Z's love and thinks a future is a future; there is no plan for it for who knows what would happen next. Z thinks a couple should work together for that future to come. Honestly I didn't know who was the one who'd failed this relationship but I did know they have came out of it a different person, especially Z; what she'd experienced has made her into a more mature woman. 

I enjoyed reading this book but not as much as reading I Am China. Perhaps I have high expectations; but I think the characters here are not as strong and unforgettable as Mu and Jian in I Am China. That said, I will still check out other Xiaolu Guo's books but the question is, which title?  

Note: This book was shortlisted for Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007


ISBN-13: 9780751547184
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: July 2014
Format: Paperback, 496 pgs
Source: Purchased 

Kelley Armstrong has a new series out and in this first book of the series mystery is the main focus of the story. Although her urban fantasy signature is present (Wicca, gargoyles, a few sinister-looking ravens and crows and some folklore here), it doesn't really play a major plot to the story (perhaps at a later stage) though it does add more intrigue to the overall atmospheric setting set in a mystic town in Cainsville, Illinois. 

In Omens, our heroine Olivia Taylor-Jones is a young woman who has everything in her life but all is shattered after learning that she was adopted and her biological parents are notorious serial killers. Though her fiancé, James Morgan, is still willing to marry her at some point; Olivia feels it is better that she finds out the truth of her parents and what had happened at her own pace. Thus, their relationship drifted away while Olivia flees to Cainsville to escape from the media frenzy as well as to find some answers of her past. 

As much as Cainsville and its residents offer Olivia some space to breathe, there are secrets and not to mention some strange occurrences (or signs) lurking around the small town. And this is also where Olivia starts having some premonitions and finds herself reading omens; a special "ability" she found she couldn't explain after moving to Cainsville. And then there is Gabriel Walsh, a lawyer who once represented her biological parents and a man Olivia finds mysterious yet charismatic in his own way. He offers to help Olivia investigate her parents' cases again and though Olivia needs his help, she isn't really sure of what she thinks of him. 

I really enjoyed reading Omens, despite the measured pace in the beginning and that the focus is more on Olivia's search for answers to the murders than anything else. Since this is the first book I think we can expect more developments as the story progresses. The characterisations are intriguing; I liked it that Olivia has backbone and doesn't shun from obstacles. As for Gabriel, like Olivia I still have some doubts about him but I have a feeling my opinions of him might change as the story goes. All in all, it was a good read and I look forward to reading Visions, the next book of this series. 


Jekyll and Hyde. They may be fictional characters but what they (or he) have suffered - a rare mental condition called Dissociative Identity Disorder, is one of the most controversial psychiatric disorders, for there is no clear consensus on diagnostic criteria or treatment. With no knowledge of this medical condition nor having read the classic sci-fi written by Robert Louis Stevenson (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), I watched this drama with a fresh perspective, knowing that with the romantic comedy element it'd be a totally different spin of tale and not to mention entertaining.  

Goo Seo-jin (starring Hyun Bin), our tortured hero in this drama, seems to have everything - looks, intelligence and wealth. He is also in line to become the next CEO of Wonder Group, the conglomerate his family owns which consisting of a theme park, Wonder Land, and Wonder Hotel which oversees by his cousin. As much as Seo-jin is capable, he is also considered as cold and ruthless in everyone's eyes. His alter ego, Robin, on the other hand is kind, gentle and compassionate. This split personality began 15 years ago and Seo-jin has consulted Dr Kang (starring Shin Eun-jung) for a while. She believes Seo-jin's condition is triggered by an incident when he was a boy. On that fateful night, he and his childhood friend, Yoon Tae-Joo (starring Sung Joon), were kidnapped and their attempt to escape had led to a tragedy. It is believed that Seo-jin had abandoned Tae-Joo out of desperation to save himself and no one knew what happened to Tae-Joo thereafter. Dr Kang believes Robin is a manifestation of Seo-jin's guilt and has thought of a treatment to "cure" him until she was attacked and was held captive by her abductor. No one knew why and both Seo-jin and the police are desperate to find her. 

Jang Ha-na (starring Han Ji-min) returns to Korea to join the circus show at Wonder Land. She has dreams to revamp the circus back to its former glory, but she has problems with Seo-jin since he thinks the circus show is no longer the theme park's attraction and they are merely a waste of money and manpower. Despite his dislike for Ha-na, he has saved her from dangerous situations a few times and judging by the circumstances we all know it is Robin who has made his appearance but Ha-na didn't know that and thinks he has a twin brother who's keeping on a low profile. She fell for him gradually, because he reminds her so much of a boy who'd saved her when she was a teenager. 

As the story slowly unfolds, the mystery of Dr Kang's abduction unveils and Ha-na would soon realise the man she loves is none other than Seo-jin; whom Robin shares the body and mind with. 

I've to say the premise was a great one. The beginning part was filled with mystery as we wanted to know the identity of the abductor and the reason behind the abduction. Once the truth is unveiled, we began to see the different side of Seo-jin and Robin; and how Seo-jin slowly changes from a cold, ruthless man to someone who really feels and cares for others. But of course the big question is: What happens to the love between Ha-na and Robin? Despite Seo-jin has became a better person, he is still not the same man she'd loved initially. Plus, Robin wants to live and be a real person, not hidden behind Seo-jin's mind and appear only at a certain timing and when circumstances are called for. 

But of course, being a drama as it is, we'd see some events which would change Ha-na's views and be moved by them, including myself. So, did I like this drama? Absolutely. And what was the most satisfying part of watching it? Surprisingly it wasn't the suspense (well, it was intriguing but that wasn't the most important part, at least not to me) but seeing the transformation of Seo-jin and how it ended, given the complicated situation. I'd had various scenarios flashed across my mind regarding Ha-na's love interest but I thought the ending was the most satisfying one.  

(Jekyll, Hyde, Me Teasers with English subtitles)


ISBN-13: 9780593069189
Publisher: Bantam Press 
Publication Date: May 2014
Format: Hardcover, 444 pgs
Source: Purchased

This is the 4th book of the Lacey Flint's series. In this installment, Lacey quit the force from a detective to join the marine police unit. Aside to recover from the trauma the previous cases had led her, she feels she wants a safer, quieter life too - to allow her to think things and her relationship with DI Mark Joesbury, who has gone missing in action for an undercover assignment. 

But of course, life has its own way of turning things and before Lacey could find any peace living alone on her boathouse, she found a dead body floating on River Thames near her home; her body wrapped in burial cloths. Needless to say, this discovery shook Lacey to the core, especially knowing that the corpse was deliberately left for her to find after further investigation. As much as she didn't want to return to her profession she knew she couldn't (and shouldn't) let this case goes unresolved and let the woman died without giving her a justice. However, there are loads of questions surrounding the investigations; as no one knows why the corpse was wrapped in that way and further searches have shown it has got nothing to do with religions or honour killings. 

And as if the case isn't complicated enough, there are speculations about Mark Josebury's involvement in a cop shooting incident and whether if he's gone over the dark side after his most recent undercover assignment. After all, there's a very fine line between the good and the bad and some coppers could be bent given some circumstances and the law and rules they've known so well. Lacey, on the other hand, knew there must be some explanations behind and she intends to find that out, too. That said, like Lacey, I still believe in Mark; and I know whatever he has done or need to be done it's always for good reasons. 

As the story slowly unfolds, we will soon learn more about people-smuggling, as well as people-trafficking are some of the issues the world is still facing today and why they could be so hard to wipe off completely, especially if they are immigrants who are trying so very hard to escape from the hardships they are suffering and would pay any price to make their escape possible. And of course behind these sad situations there are some twisted people who'd do anything for whatever reasons they believe in. 

A Dark and Twisted Tide is not something I'd expected from a conventional thriller, but the intensity and suspense are all there. There are also some dark elements thrown in in a sense that makes you wonder about the assignments the undercover officials have to go through and to what extent they've to do to make their aliases believable. And lastly, not to mention the immigrants victims who are murdered not knowing the real reasons why they are lured and then disposed of cruelly. It was a compelling read, but there's also sadness behind the intensity. And after reading this installment I found myself liking and respecting Lacey and DI Dana Tulloch more than ever. 


ISBN-13: 9781783297627
Publisher: Titan Books 
Publication Date: 6 February 2015
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Purchased 

The Canadian setting of this thriller took place between the 80s and 90s. Told from a first person POV, this is a story about Evie Jones' obsession of finding the truth surrounding the murder of her childhood friend, 11-year-old Lianne Gagnon; who had disappeared after she was last seen hopping into a man's car and was found murdered twelve days after her disappearance. 

Ten years later, Evie still thinks of her friend's murder. And that curiosity heightens after she became crime reporter with the Toronto Free Press. The cop believes they have a name of the murderer - Robert Cameron, but he is never caught. There are speculations that he might be dead, but Evie believes he is hiding under different aliases. Then, there are some days Evie felt she is being stalked and someone is standing outside her balcony, as if watching her. Her childhood friend, David Patton, thinks she is in a constant state of paranoia and that the case she's investigating is getting to her. 

As Evie tries to piece the puzzle surrounding her friend's murder, she stumbles upon some information which would make her question about the people around her and most importantly, why Lianne Gagnon? 

The Devil You Know is neither written in a conventional thriller form nor a police procedural; for starters there are no quotation marks used for the dialogues here. While some readers may find this style creates a more intimacy to the storytelling, I found myself not getting used to it although it didn't really affect my reading. As much as this is a thriller, I'd say this is more of a case of characters studies as it shows us how some people reacted when they are being driven into a corner, or how much a person would do everything under certain circumstances. 

Although the intensity isn't as great and the pace is somewhat slow at the beginning, I continued to follow Evie's story because like her, I wanted to know who is Lianne’s murderer. Unfortunately, I felt the conclusion was a letdown although some questions are answered. As mentioned before, this is unlike other thrillers or police procedural so perhaps it is a book that allows us to think about the characters and their actions/motives. 

This is the author's first novel (she has one previous collection of short stories, How to Get Along with Women, which was nominated for the prestigious Giller Prize) and I'd be interested to read her next release. I hope it'd be something different from this.