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)