ISBN-13: 9780618494828
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 28 September 2004 (Reprint)
Format: Paperback, 112 pgs
Source: Purchased
Illustrator: George Hughes 

  • To many book lovers, trapping in a library is a dream come true, isn't it? After all, you can read all the books you want and don't have to worry over which books to borrow. However, two young girls in this story think otherwise. Mary Rose and Jo-Beth have stumbled into an old library when they go in search for a restroom. It is a wintry night and their father has left the car to look for a gas station, bringing with him a gas can. 

    What they see in that old library is an extraordinary one as not only there isn't any people around (perhaps it's due to the blizzard and that it's near to closing hour) but there are all kinds of strange displays in it - featuring some characters from storybooks or some scenes of the past (an old school bus which they called it a 'kid hack'). 

    While Jo-Beth is fascinated by the overall atmosphere, Mary Rose doesn't feel excited like Jo-Beth is as she is more worried that their father couldn't find them now that they have lost contact with him. You see, Mary Rose is a responsible and practical-minded girl while Jo-Beth is more of a drama queen. 

    As the night slowly drags along, they find something in the library that would make their hearts race and their imaginations run wild. There, they met a mynah who talks and a strange old woman called Vilmor Finton, who is both the librarian and the owner of this big manor. 

    Filled with mysteries and adventures, this gem would delight all young readers (9 - 11 years) and adults as well. I liked the two sisters despite their differences; and their dialogues made me smile at times. Miss Finton is a character that you won't like initially but will grow on you the more you read about her. What I liked most about the ending is not only the father and daughters' reunion but the plan they have had for the library (or old mansion?) in the near future. 

    Note: A big 'Thank You' to Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty for bringing this book to my attention. I can see why this book is one of her top 10 books from her childhood that she would love to revisit. 


    I'd had a wonderful time making the milk loaf with the bread machine the last time, so this past Saturday I decided to make another - Mango and Banana Bread. Doesn't this sound yummy? And what I love about the bread machine cookbook is the step-by-step instructions and the introductions of all the necessary ingredients as well. This book definitely suits well for a novice like me, but of course it also includes other recipes which I find very challenging interesting so perhaps one day I'd be able to reach to that stage, ha. (Please note all rights remain with the original copyright holder, Jennie Shapter. The photos of the bread are all mine, though.)

    Ingredients (Medium Loaf)
    60ml orange and mango juice
    200ml buttermilk
    1 large banana, peeled and mashed
    45ml clear honey
    4 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour
    1 tsp salt
    3 tbsp butter
    1 tsp easy bake dried yeast

    1) Pour the fruit juice and buttermilk into the bread machine pan. Add the mashed banana to the bread pan, with the honey. 

    2) Sprinkle over the flour, ensuring that it covers the liquid. Place the salt and butter in separate corners of the bread pan. Make a shallow indent in the centre of the flour and add the yeast. 

    3) Set the machine to sweet/basic, light crust. Size: 750g. Press start. 

    Note: The original recipe includes adding chopped dried mangoes, which I didn't. If you wish, add in 1/3 cup of it to the automatic dispenser before pressing 'Start'. If adding it manually, add when the machine beeps during the kneading cycle. 

    Personally, I'd prefer this bread more to milk loaf due to its sweeter flavour (my two young daughters said it was not sweet enough, though. I suppose most children tend to have a sweet tooth so their opinions of the sweet level may different from us.)

    Linking this to: 

    Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

    ISBN-13: 9780062276117
    Publisher: Harper 
    Publication Date: 31 March 2015
    Format: Paperback, 496 pgs
    Source: Publisher

    After having read Elizabeth Haynes' Under a Silent Moon, the first installment of the Briarstone series and enjoyed it, I was very eager to read Behind Closed Doors, her next installment featuring DCI Louisa Smith and her team. I like Lou and most of all, Ms Haynes' writing style. Lou's first investigation after her promotion was one complicated case, but together with her team they had managed to close the case although what she and her subordinates had been through has left an unforgettable memory in her. 

    In this second installment, it turns out that the case Lou has been assigned to is even tougher than before since it involves an unresolved case she had been looking into ten years ago when she was still a DC - a missing fifteen-year-old girl by the name of Scarlett Rainsford. That unresolved case still haunts her today until she has learnt from her superior that Scarlett has unexpectedly been found during a Special Branch raid of a brothel in Briarstone. 

    As much as her family and the police team are glad that she's back alive and breathing, the latter thinks there's more than meets the eye. To begin with, Scarlett seems reserved and her answers are always vague; and then there are her parents whose behaviours seem odd as they don't appear to be excited over her return. Scarlett's mother even 'anticipated' that she might return at some point, as if her ten-year disappearance means nothing. 

    In the first installment, I mentioned I'd like to see more of DS Sam Hollands and I was glad to see her role is more significant in this second installment, as she tries to earn Scarlett's trust so that she could speak up and hopefully give some helpful information surrounding her case, after all human trafficking is a serious offence and Scarlett is one of the unfortunate victims being trafficked for sexual slavery. I was also glad to see the relationship between Lou and Jason Mercer has taken on another level in this book; though Lou is still cautious and is taking their relationship one step at a time. 

    Behind Closed Doors is a dark thriller to begin with, as "human trafficking is thought to be one of the fastest-growing activities of trans-national criminal organizations" (Wikipedia). While this is considered to be an intense thriller, I looked at it from another perspective that aside from the intensity, it allowed me to understand more of the dark, horrendous side of what Scarlett Rainsford had gone through may very well be the true story of the trafficked victims in reality. I couldn't fathom the horror, pain and fear these victims must be experiencing. I'm hoping that through this story more people will be aware of this horrendous subject (crime) because this is so often being dismissed or disregarded. As Ms Haynes put it in her words, "There are no easy solutions, but ignorance and denial are a big part of the problem.

    The ending clearly indicates there's a next case to be resolved and I can't wait for the third installment. 


    ISBN-13: 9780062345431
    Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
    Publication Date: 14 April 2015
    Format: eBook, 320 pgs
    Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

    From China to Hawaii, author Cecily Wong brings us an unforgettable tale of a Chinese family - the Leong’s, spanning from three generations set in the twentieth-century. 

    The story opens with a young driver, Peter Choi, chauffeuring Amy Leong and her daughter, Theresa. Amy's husband, Bohai, is deceased and she's the surviving member of the family. As Peter chauffeurs the two women where his funeral is held, Theresa gives us more than a glimpse of her thoughts about her father as well as the history surrounding their family. 

    Maku, as she fondly called her father (that's 'father' in Hawaiian: makuakane), was born not by his father's wife but a concubine, a girl who's barely sixteen. As in Chinese traditions and beliefs, Theresa's grandfather (or as in most Chinese families) believes that it is important to bear a son to carry on the family's name (in fact that belief still continues today, especially with the older generation). Theresa's grandmother couldn't bear any children, let alone sons so it seems appropriate to take in a concubine. As Theresa reminiscences based on what her mother had told her, it seems there's more to the family history. Memories and tales of her grandparents' days; and how the war had separated her grandfather and his brother, Shen. 

    What ties this family story to fables is an ancient tale of Yue Xia Lao (ζœˆδΈ‹θ€), a lunar god who's known to be responsible for the fate and marriages between couples and how an invisible red string of fate binds a person to his or her partner. Likewise, how one would be punished for making mistakes in love and that a knotted string will follow them through generations. 

    Narrated in different voices among the female Leongs members, Diamond Head is a poignant story about family, tragic love, loss and heroic acts of patriotism mingled with Chinese cultures, traditions and fables. Each narrator has an instinctive voice and it is hard not to be swept away by their stories or not have your emotions evoked under the skilful handwriting of the author. Through their voices, we have a further understanding of their thoughts and actions, their differences under different generations. Still, they share the same vulnerability being a woman, in terms of love, emotions and the circumstances they are thrown into. At most times, the choices they made are beyond their control. Is this what fate is when we feel things are out of our control? Perhaps. 

    Diamond Head is a story not to be missed, if you enjoy reading about family saga and Chinese culture. 

    ISBN-13: 9780099461814
    Publisher: Random House UK
    Publication Date: 25 January 2005
    Format: Paperback, 32 pgs
    Source: Library

    Last weekend, my youngest daughter happily shoved a book into my hand and asked me to read it to her. She got it from her school library for her buddy reading program - a 20-minute reading program to allow the pupils to read before the school assembly. I glanced at the book cover and thought it has a lovely illustration; plus who doesn't get intrigued by that title? 

    How to Live Forever is not a book that tells you the secret of immortality, but a fantasy story about a boy called Peter who goes in search of a missing book (yep, you know the title) from a library where he lives. Well, to be precise, this library will come to life after it closes its doors at night and the shelves will begin to rearrange themselves and the rows of books will transform into rows of town houses and bustling with activities. That's where Peter really lives.  

    After searching high and low for it, Peter finally found the missing book through four old men. Peter doesn't understand why these four men aged if they have the book, surely it doesn't work, does it? But they told him it works and brings him to see the Ancient Child who will then enlighten him through his experience and why he's decided to hide the book. 

    How to Live Forever is a lovely picture book filled with an intriguing premise and not to mention those colourful illustrations (see below). I liked the idea of a library coming to life at night and I know how this imagination would fill the children with delight. The message behind this book is the philosophy of living life as it is and while I appreciate the meaning of it, I wasn't sure if my 7-year-old understands the message it's driving so I simply explained to her to be happy and appreciate our lives as what it is. All in all, this is a book that will charm young readers and adults alike.


    Last weekend I mentioned about a bread machine cookbook I bought and how I wanted to 'resurrect' it after 'hypernating' in our storeroom for about two years. So yesterday, I've decided to make milk loaf based on that cookbook recipe and I've to say I'd fun preparing the ingredients and measuring them. My two daughters looked on with fascination, as if I was going to perform a magic show. Anyway, here's the recipe (all rights remain with the original copyright holder, Jennie Shapter. The photos of the bread are all mine, though): 

    Medium loaf
    230ml (1 cup) milk
    100ml (7 tbsp) water
    4 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp granulated sugar
    2 tbsp butter
    1 tsp easy bake dried yeast 

    1) Pour the milk (make sure it's at room temperature) and water into the bread machine pan. 

    2) Put the bread flour in and make sure it covers the water. Add in salt, sugar and butter in separate corners of the bread pan. Make a dent in the centre of the flour (not right at the bottom that you can see the liquid) and add in the yeast. 

    3) Set to basic bread setting, medium crust, size 750g. Press Start. 

    And there you go. The milk loaf I made may not win a prize for best presentation, but it tasted good and the texture was soft (I recommend to consume it as soon as possible as the texture would not be as soft the following day, since we didn't use preservatives.) Next time I may try out something a little more challenging. 

    Linking this to: 

    Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post. 

    ISBN-13: 9780062362858
    Publisher: William Morrow
    Publication Date: 17 March 2015
    Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
    Source: Publisher

    Dana Catrell and Celia Steinhauser are friends and neighbours. They'd share recipes, gossips and any other stuff that women like to talk about, but not secrets. Not until Dana learned of her friend's death and the truth began to hit on her. Is Dana's husband, Peter, being unfaithful and goes after his secretary? Why is Celia's number listed on Peter's cell, and the message she left him was vague yet suspicious? Are they both doing things behind her back? 

    Before you could speculate if there's anything going on between Peter and Celia; Dana, as we know from the beginning of the story, is a little mentally unstable. However, that doesn't make her a mad person, just that sometimes she couldn't remember things and she finds there are troubling holes in her memory. And of course she couldn't recall what had happened on the afternoon of Celia's death. Did she kill Celia in a drunken, manic rage? After all, both of them had had some drinks in that afternoon, and that was the moment when Celia had told her that Peter was being unfaithful. 

    Detective Jack Moss is assigned to this case. Jack himself encounters some marital woes as his current wife walks out on him. He has a son, Kyle, from his first marriage and they are somewhat estranged, given the circumstances. Kyle isn't what anyone would call a good kid but he does has his own set of problems - mixing with the wrong crowd and so on. 

    As Jack runs through his list of suspects, he also fears that his son, Kyle, might be involved in the case. After all, Celia is his teacher. Suddenly, everyone becomes a suspect and he doesn't know what to think and where to begin with. Then, there's Lenora White, the assistant prosecutor, who he thinks is attractive and wants him to close this case as soon as possible. 

    The Pocket Wife has all the elements of an intense psychological thriller. And if you are a fan of unreliable narrators, this is another book for you to devour because the characters here all seemed to have their issues. And of course, there's Dana that makes you question over her sanity (or insanity) throughout the story. While overall this was a good read in my opinion, I felt disappointed that the ending was a little anti-climatic (I was still thinking about it while writing this and thought perhaps there is another better ending?). Nevertheless, it was neatly wrapped up and it had kept me engaged throughout my reading journey. This is Susan Crawford's first novel and I'm definitely looking forward to her future releases.