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 fiancĂ©, 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.