ISBN-13: 9780062379849
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 12 May 2015
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Publisher

How many times do you check your smartphone a day? And how many hours do your surf online? What about those social media platforms? Do you have all the accounts to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc etc? Yes to all, some of you may answer. After all, we stay connected through our smartphones and computers in this time; we'd considered to be living under a rock if we don't, isn't it? That said, have you ever wondered what you would do without a smartphone or Internet? 

Evie Rosen, our heroine in this story, is given this ultimatum "off-line" experience after she is being terminated for abusing the company's rule by sending too many personal emails and texts at work. Before this, Evie has dreams of becoming a partner in a well-established law firm and thinking of getting hitched to her famous restaurateur boyfriend of two years. Unfortunately, the latter didn't want to commit into marriage and they broke off. But what makes it worse is stumbling upon his wedding photos on Facebook six months later they broke up and Evie wasn't sure if the problems lied on her or that he just changed his mind on marriage. As if that was not enough, her date scurried off after knowing that she had Googled him before their meeting together. All of these incidents have made her decided to put off smartphones and Internet for good, well at least for some time. 

Initially Evie felt anxious of the withdrawal from the Internet; it was unsettling to be so out of touch with the world, and not to mention it was undoubtedly getting harder to ignore the inconveniences of being computer-less. Then again, there was an undeniable calmness she hadn't felt in ages, and for that she felt a sense of peacefulness. From there, she starts things afresh by going back to the basics: communicating through phones instead of texting and emailing, meeting guys the conventional ways instead of online dating. She began to see things in a new light and learnt that she didn't unplug from life even though she'd unplugged her smartphone. 

Fun, witty and relatable, that's my impression of this novel after reading it. I have to confess Evie didn't warm up to me initially but her character grew on me the more I read about her and how she'd changed her mindset on certain things. I liked reading about her relationship with her grandmother; some of those moments warmed my heart and it was rather inspiring to see how her grandmother coped with news of her breast cancer through optimism. 

Well I don't think I would shut off Internet entirely, for there are certainly pros and cons for everything, including modern technologies. I can think of one very useful application such as FaceTime or video calls which allow us to talk and to see the faces as well. I certainly use this a lot communicating with my husband when he is away for his overseas business trips. Overall, I appreciate the conveniences of Internet, the connections of social platforms etc, and it is only an issue of not going overboard and making good use of it. 


Adapted from the webtoon of the same title, The Girl Who Sees Smell (aka Sensory Couple) is a romantic comedy cum mystery drama about a man (who lost his sense of smell and taste) and a woman (who has hypersensitive senses) befriended on a chance encounter and later work as a team to capture the murderer who had killed his younger sister. 

That same murderer had killed a couple years ago, leaving their only daughter as a witness to the gruesome murder. Unfortunately, the girl had an accident while escaping, thus the murderer had to abandon the chance of killing her, considering her accident had drawn a commotion but he did know her name through her school uniform's name tag and vows to take her life the next time. 

Choi Mu-gak's (starring Park Yoo-Chun) sister, Eun-seol, was slashed in the throat while recuperating in the hospital. Bearing the same name as the fleeing girl, she had lost her life due to a mistaken identity. Her death devastated him which led him in a coma for months after he'd left himself in a hunger and sleepless state. He lost his senses the day he woke up, not only that he also couldn't feel any physical pain. This whole trauma has made him closes himself up emotionally. He also left his job at the aquarium and join the police force so that he could investigate the case of his sister's death. 

Oh Cho-rim's (starring Shin Se-kyung) dream is to be a comedienne. She has no memory of her past but she has a hypersensitive senses and she can "see" smell after waking up from a coma when she was nineteen. She can easily trace things or people through their lingering smells. Mu-gak thinks her special capability could help him solve his sister's death, but what he hasn't count on is falling in love with her in the end. 

I have to confess it is Park Yoo-Chun that had me drawn to this drama, though I also have to admit I was intrigued by the premise, and not to mention a character who can see smell. I have been following all dramas casting Park Yoo-Chun; and I was especially thrilled to see his debut movie, Haemoo, released last year. From his debut role as a quiet scholar (Sungkyunkwan Scandal), a humble businessman (Miss Ripley), a time-travelled Prince (Rooftop Prince), an elite agent (3 Days) to his role as a cop (also a cop in Missing You) in this latest drama, Mr. Park once again demonstrates his versatile acting skills and this time around showing us his comedian side pairing up with Ms. Shin. 

Although there is suspense and murder cases involved in this drama, I felt the suspense element wasn't as intense as I had expected, partly because the killer's identity was revealed halfway of the drama and well, it's a romantic comedy. That said, I enjoyed watching this drama - funny, intense (OK, some parts of it) and romantic. And I loved its soundtrack, too. 

(All photo credits go to Google Images)

ISBN-13: 9781780622088

Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: 2014
Format: Paperback, 255 pgs
Source: Purchased

Kate Cypher and Del Griswold are two misfits in school. The former is more of a hippie girl who lives in a tepee while the latter, whose father owns a run-down farm, gets shunned by her schoolmates. As if that isn't enough, they also named her "Potato Girl". Kate doesn't want to be friends with Del initially, but Del intrigues her and on top of that, Del is the one who talked to her first. Although they aren't close on surface, Del has shared some of her secrets with Kate. As much as Kate doesn't want to be seen with her, she sees this as a way of trading secrets with the other popular girls in school so she could fit into their social circles. That is, until Del got murdered in the woods. They couldn't find the killer, and the mystery remains unsolved and some secrets are left buried. However, the stories of the Potato Girl travel among the small town, and she'd somewhat became their 'urban legend'; ghost stories to be told over and over. 

Thirty years later, Kate returns to New Canaan, Vermont, to find that another murder is committed; the victim's death quite similarly to Del's. Ten-year-old Opal is sure something sinister is going on surrounding her best friend's death. After all, Tori Miller died wearing her jacket when she wandered deep into the woods. There are stories of the Potato Girl coming back from the dead to haunt those who had teased or bullied her. What if Tori's death is a result of mistaken identity? Is the murderer a human being or is Del's ghost seeking revenge after all these years? 

Told between flashbacks in 1971 and what happens currently in 2002, Promise Not to Tell is an absorbing thriller about friendship, secrets, betrayal and of course, murder. Aside from the premise and the characterisations, what made this story such a compelling read is the paranormal element in it, which I felt made the overall setting to be creepy and atmospheric. And then there is Kate's mother, who has Alzheimer, certainly leads readers in doubt of the things she remembered or said. Speculations or truth? Human or specter? These are the things that had me wonder all the time while reading this book right up to the climatic moments towards the ending.  A very promising debut I'd say by Ms. McMahon. I'd definitely check out her other releases. 


ISBN-13: 9780007136834
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: March 2003 (Reprint)
Format: Paperback, 317 pgs
Source: Purchased

"Be sure thy sin will find thee out." - Pg 121

Agatha Christie. A name I'm sure all readers must have heard of or read her books. The first time I read her book was when I was thirteen; I can't remember the title but I knew I was awed by the number of books she'd had written. Sadly, I didn't explore more of her books at that time but still, it is always better late than never, right? 

And Then There Were None was a well-crafted mystery and no doubt considered one of Agatha Christie's masterpieces. The mystery was so thick with intensity that I found myself holding my breath, racking my brains and anticipating the mystery to unfold. 

The story is about ten people being enticed into coming to Soldier Island under different pretexts. They are people from all walks of life (a judge, a doctor, an ex-Army Officer, an ex-Inspector, a governess, a soldier-of-fortune, etc etc) and even though they have the vaguest idea of the invitation, they proceeded to attend since they have heard so much fascinating things about the island. And indeed the place looks beautiful and luxurious. 

Amongst the ten people, there are a Mr and Mrs Rogers who are employed to serve these guests but like them, they have no idea how their employer is like considering they are hired through an agency and that they just arrived two days before them. The mystery begun when a gramophone recording claimed each of them had committed a crime and they have to pay for their actions, since all of them having complicity caused the deaths of other human beings but have either escaped from justice or committed an act that was not subject to legal sanction. Since they are either employed or being invited and there is no sight of their host, they have finally came to a realisation that the murderer could be among them. And as the story progresses, these ten people will be executed one by one in parallel with the nursery rhymes "Ten Little Soldiers". 

Since this story is a little dated (after all it was first published in 1939) it is understandable to note why there aren't modern technologies such as mobile phones and CCTVs to get them out of the island and record any movements respectively, thus in my opinion made this mystery a more intense read. There are also times that made me wonder if this was all a horror story; or if there is a supernatural force at work, considering those little china figures discreetly disappeared one by one whenever a character passed. 

As much as this is a mystery, I felt it was also an interesting study/observation of human behaviours under stressful and/or critical circumstances. The postscript by the killer at the end of the story wrapped up the story nicely, detailing how he'd executed his plans flawlessly and perfectly. Most of all, I think the author had outdone herself, for she herself had claimed how difficult this book is to write. Indeed it is. And I was so, so glad to read it and wished I'd read it earlier. 

ISBN-13: 9780316334754
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: 28 April 2015
Format: Paperback, 448 pgs
Source: Purchased

I've seen this book around when it was first released and the title has definitely piqued my curiosity. Most of the reviews I've read then gave this book a good rating, which further intrigued me but since their thoughts on the storyline are vague, I've no idea what it is all about except the notion that I should read it. 

So here I am, with the finished book in hand and my mind is filled with thoughts I didn't know how to say it with eloquence except that "this is a book I wouldn't have picked up in the first place but glad that I did" kind of phrase. If you are a regular reader to my blog, you'd know that science fiction and zombies aren't my thing. I do watch movies of these themes though, but they are not really my kind of reading materials. It is a good thing I didn't know anything about this when I started reading this, otherwise I'd have missed out a good thriller. 

Set in post-apocalypse England, the nation is plagued by a mutant strain of a killing fungus, and scientists are working on a cure by experimenting on a group of zombified children. Unlike their peers outside the laboratory base, these groups of "children" actually retain emotions and they even behave human-like, with intelligence and all. 

Now what set this theme from the others is the well-constructed characters, in particularly to Melanie as well as the bonds she has had with her "teacher", Miss Helen Justineau. While there are actions and all the horrifying stuff when it comes to such theme, what makes this different and a compelling read is how emotionally touching it is. It is not a story that will warm your heart, no doubt, but yet the humanity behind it says everything about all. Melanie, the lead character of this story, is one extraordinary girl despite who she is. 

Miss Justineau is another character who shines in this story. She has clearly demonstrates the true meaning of compassion and benevolence, thus she makes a great heroine in my opinion. I loved reading the bond she has with Melanie; it being so simple and pure. Other characters such as Sergeant Parks, Dr Caldwell and Private Gallagher also play a significant role in this mayhem, thus making this a character-driven story as well. 

I've more to say about this book but I think it'd be better if you read it and find out yourself. And oh... there's a film adaptation of this novel starring Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine and Glenn Close, and to be directed by Colm McCarthy (best known for his work on Sherlock, Peaky Blinders and Doctor Who.) It's due to shoot in the UK in May 2015 according to the publisher's site. I know I'd be waiting in line when the film releases.  

ISBN-13: 9780141189390
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 31 July 2014
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Purchased
Translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury

Eileen Chang (张爱玲) is one of the most prominent authors in Chinese literature; and Half a Lifelong Romance (半生缘) is one of her most beloved novels. She's also the author for Lust, Caution (色,诫), and its film adaptation is released in 2007 (it is with this film that Director Ang Lee won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for the second time.) 

Set in 1930s Shanghai, Half a Lifelong Romance is a dramatic story of love, betrayal and family oppression revolving Shen Shijun and Gu Manzhen; two young people who fell in love with each other but unfortunately their love is tested and torn by circumstances and family pressures. Shijun is now the only son in the family (after his elder brother passed a few years ago); his parents separated although they are still legally married. It is common for a man to take a concubine during that time period and Shijun's mother could only tolerate despite her being the first wife. Shijun moves out of his Nanking home to work in Shanghai, where he befriended Manzhen through his college friend and now colleague, Hsu Shuhui, who's also working in the same factory. 

Manzhen, on the other hand, comes from a poor family and faces the burden of supporting her family after her elder sister, Manlu, got married. Although Manlu still contributes to the family since her husband is quite well-to-do, Manzhen feels she should bear that responsibility now after what Manlu had sacrificed her youth, dignity and a good marriage for the sake of them, by being a taxi-dancer and an escort. Although Manlu's role has risen to the top by marrying off to a wealthy man, her marriage isn't blissful. 

Manzhen and Shijun, though struggling in their own ways in work for financial and career prospects respectively, both of them are happy and satisfied with their simple life, until an unfortunate incident happens that shatters their dreams and drive them apart. 

I've to say I enjoyed reading this novel very much. The story is absorbing, and the characterisations are great. Ms. Chang has created a cast of interesting characters; each of them so intriguing in his/her own ways. Manzhen is a strong, independent woman who has her own mind and is not afraid of hardships, while Shijun is a reserved and a responsible young man. Despite their differences, they complement each other through their love and respect. 

At its core, this is a forlorn love story that makes you think that under certain circumstances, what people and misunderstandings could set off a chain of events that would wreck a relationship of a couple who's so much in love with each other. But, what most saddened me is the betrayal not among outsiders but by your own family members, which is in this case of the novel. Traditions, society and most of all, the traumas Manzhen had gone through are also a few factors that made it impossible to rekindle their relationship. 

'Shijun, we can't go back.' (Pg 372)

While this is a sad story, what makes this novel stands out is Ms. Chang's skilful writing, the characterisations and the intricate plot which capture not only the readers' attention but to evoke their emotions as well. A beautiful, unforgettable classic in my opinion; I know this story will stay in my mind for a long time to come.