ISBN-13: 9781447280026
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Paperback, 256 pgs
Source: Purchased

I am sure many readers are familiar with this author's name - Emily St. John Mandel. After all, she is the author of Station Eleven and this book was well received by critics; most of them stating her writing beautiful and lyrical. I should have picked up this book based on all the glowing reviews but instead, I decided on reading her debut, Last Night in Montreal. Why? Perhaps I wanted to have a feel of her writing first before I dive into her other well-known works, not that LNIM isn't popular and anyway I believe readers who loved Station Eleven would have snapped up Emily's earlier works by now. 

Rambling aside, here is what I thought of Last Night in Montreal. Did I love it? Yes! Is Emily's writing good? It is more than good; her writing is as what other readers said - beautiful and lyrical. Most of all, I loved the way how she plot the story; intertwining with flashbacks and some doses of lost memories and melancholy. So what is the story about? It is a love story, a mystery and basically it is a story of a girl, Lilia, who travels since young and why she never stays in a place for long. When she was seven, her father "abducted" her. They travelled from a state to another, sometimes to Canadian border and little Lilia finds them very thrilling. This thrill continues all the way to her twenties, and though she no longer travels with her father the thought of staying at a place never lingers in her mind. 

Lilia befriended some friends and found herself a few lovers during her travellings, but it is Eli, her most recent boyfriend, who finds her leaving most puzzling and is adamant to find her, even if it means leaving for Montreal and French is a foreign language to him. There, he met Michaela, who is the one who tipped him off about Lilia's whereabouts in the first place but she wants some answers from Eli first. You see, Michaela is the daughter of a private detective who is entrusted to oversee the case of Lilia's disappearance years ago. 

While Lilia seems to take the centre stage in this novel, I think Michaela and her father also play a huge part in this story. So what did I think of Emily's debut? I was totally entranced by her storytelling; and yes I was blown away by the ending, too. All in all, it is a well-rendered melancholy story about human connections. 


ISBN-13: 9780008165253
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: December 2015
Format: Paperback, 390 pgs
Source: Purchased

Someone Out There not only has a grabbing title but it is also an intense psychological thriller that had me at the edge of my seat. 

Laura Maxwell seems to have it all - she is a successful solicitor and she has a good-looking, loving husband whose family runs a hotel business so their life is blissful and perfect in anyone's eyes. However, since Laura took up the Pelham divorce case there are a series of accidents which cause her to believe they aren't coincidental and that someone is watching her and wanting her dead. 

Her client, Anna Pelham, wants to get a divorce from her abusing husband and gets a custody of their daughter, Martha. Harry Pelham is hot-tempered, impulsive and gets jealous easily. Laura totally understands Anna's decision of getting a divorce and she will try every means to win the case. Anna fears for her safety as well as for Martha, and she is sure the two death threats emails she has received lately came from Harry too, though they had not come from his email address. 

But that is not all that occupies Laura's mind. She faces some difficulty at work in which a colleague has forgotten to do a proper procedure for another case and has landed both of them in hot soup. Their superior, Marcus Morrison, wants them to cover their mistake without tarnishing the firm's image but in the end, it just got worsened and her colleague is fired. Morrison can be ruthless when it all comes to business and protecting himself. 

While this story mostly centers around the culprit targeting Laura (oh, the intensity!), the reader also gets to know more about the secondary characters (they can be quite complex) and how they all got entangled in Laura's "mess". While the culprit's identity is revealed during the last quarter of the story, it will still keep the reader engrossed because of the culprit's motive. Overall, it is an impressive debut by UK author Catherine Hunt and I am very curious to know what she will be writing next. 


I'd had a blast watching two Korean dramas lately. Though they aren't new, it always thrill me to discover new-to-me artistes and getting sucked into the melodramas. I picked up Protect the Boss (released 2011) because it features a workplace romantic comedy and from it I discovered Ji Sung, an actor who played an immature young director of a company and how his secretary changed him to be a better person.

What makes this drama so interesting is not the boss himself but the feisty and tough secretary, Noh Eun-seol (starring Choi Kang-hee) who not only helps him in his work but also helps him in dealing his phobia of facing the crowds (think about giving a speech in front of a sea of strangers). Eun-seol may not have a fantastic certified qualifications (in fact she had a juvenile delinquent record during her school days), but what makes her stand out is her persistence and her ever positive attitude which has not only won her boss' heart in the end but also respect and admiration from the others. That said, Ji Sung's role is more comedic as he tries to act tough but shows his vulnerable, sentimental side instead. 

(4 stars)

Secret (aka Secret Love) (released 2013), on the other hand, portrays Ji Sung's role in a totally different perspective. Here, he is bitter and revengeful after having lost his girlfriend to a hit-and-run accident and would try every means to track and punish the driver himself, if the law enforcement hasn't got to him or her first. Although the driver did eventually turn herself in, she isn't the culprit and her confession is to protect her boyfriend, who has just started his career as a prosecutor. There are a lot of interactions between Ji Sung and Hwang Jung Eum (who played the wrongly accused driver) and I have to say both of their acting skills are excellent. While it was intense to see them entangled in a game of revenge, what most satisfying is seeing them falling in love with each other towards the end. Sigh.

Unlike Protect the Boss, this drama has brought Ji Sung's acting skill to another level as it allows the viewer(s) to see his transformation from a spoilt, rich, ruthless businessman to a righteous man who found peace and love towards the end. Cliché or not, it was moving nonetheless and I loved seeing his transformation. The ironic (and sad) thing about this story is while we see a "bad guy" slowly making his path towards righteousness, the other end we see a "righteous man" betrays, lies and corrupts for the sake of moving up the career ladder. The story may be overly dramatic but it does offer some food for thought. Because I was impressed with Ji Sung's acting, I am going to look out for his latest drama, Kill Me, Heal Me (released 2015). I am hoping this drama will surprise me with Ji Sung's versatile acting skill.

(4.5 stars) 


ISBN-13: 9781476791456
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
Source: Purchased

I have to admit I chose this book because it is the Winner of the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance. Since I rarely read romance nowadays I tend to rely on reviews and book highlights for my picks, especially authors whom I am not familiar with. I have definitely heard of Colleen Hoover's but just never got around to reading her books so I figured this is the time to dive into Confess

Twenty-one year old Auburn Reed is trying to put away her sad past and to rebuild her shattered life. She had lost her first love to a sickness in Portland when she was fifteen and till now she still misses him. But life has to go on and she's moved to Texas where she got herself a job as a hairdresser. A chance leads her to enigmatic artist, Owen Gentry, after she's seen his "Help Wanted" ad and a series of confessions pieces left by anonymous people displayed outside his art studio. Owen gets his inspirations from these confessions and he expresses them to his paintings. Auburn is not only attracted by his creativity but him as a person as well. 

Owen's painting means the world to him. After losing his mother and brother to a car accident a few years back, he is sure life wouldn't get better until he meets Auburn. Auburn is like a ray of sunlight into his dark life; and for the first time Owen feels he has a life besides painting. As much as Owen likes Auburn, there is something which he couldn't tell her because if he does, not only it would destroy their relationship but it would also destroy what is important to Auburn, too. 

I can see why Confess is chosen for Best Romance because it is quite an intense love story with lots of emotions. The things Auburn and Owen have gone through make one's heart ache. Then unforeseeable circumstances challenge their love and there are some choices and sacrifices to make. While there are times I knew what would be coming, I still found myself getting caught up with the wave of emotions through Ms. Hoover's writing. She managed to capture the voices of Auburn and Owen and make you care for them; and in this novel she has two narratives so the reader is able to understand more about each protagonist and the feelings they are experiencing. I couldn't say the story is new, but it was moving and made me think about fate and second chances. I have added Ugly Love to my to-read list as I have heard it is another great read by Ms. Hoover. I shall see how that book goes when my reading moment arrives. 

ISBN-13: 9780091959067
Publisher: Hutchinson
Publication Date: July 2015
Format: Hardcover, 304 pgs
Source: Library 

I found this book through my friend and fellow blogger, Wendy of Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and after reading her lovely review I knew I wanted to read it. 

Amaterasu Takahashi is the only survivor after the bombing of Nagasaki forty years ago. She and her husband, Kenzo, decided to leave for America for a new life because the past carried too much horrific and painful memories for them, especially Amaterasu. She blamed herself for leading her daughter, Yuko, to her death after telling her she would like to meet up at Urakami Cathedral to talk with her over some matters. Japan was at war then and no one expects the bombing would happen until it was all too late. Amaterasu escaped the bombing but unfortunately Yuko didn't. Her body was never found and while Amaterasu and Kenzo initially held onto the belief that she might be alive, they have soon given up hope and decided that Yuko may have perished after all. Their young grandson, Hideo, wasn't spared too and all these had devastated the couple. 

Amaterasu and Kenzo managed to find some peace in America until sickness has taken Kenzo away from Amaterasu. As if things aren't painful enough, Amaterasu opens her door one day to find a scarred man claiming to be her grandson. Amaterasu doesn't believe him, but the man has a collection of old letters which Amaterasu couldn't resist to read; and once again Amaterasu is being brought back to the past and led her into thinking that if she hadn't protect her daughter from a forbidden relationship would she be alive then. 

While one can say A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding is a war story, it is also a heart-wrenching story about family, love, secrets and forgiveness. While the reader is concerned if Hideo is Amaterasu's long-lost grandson, at its core this is more of Yuko's story and the reason(s) why Amaterasu has gone through all lengths to protect her. The impact and the aftermath of the war wasn't an easy read and while it doesn't take too much of the story, the sad and horrific event remains in the reader's mind as Yuko's past slowly unveils through bits of her journals as well as Amaterasu's recollections. The reader will also came to understand more about Amaterasu because there is also part of her story too. 

This is Jackie Copleton's debut novel and I will be sure to watch out for her next release. 


ISBN-13: 9780062413864
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: December 2015
Format: eBook,496 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Rachel Jenner's life is never the same again after her eight-year-old son, Ben, has gone missing during their late afternoon walk with their dog, Skittle. It isn't supposed to happen, since they always walk the same route in the woods many times and Rachel could only blame herself for allowing Ben to run ahead of her on that fateful day.  Ben's disappearance has added a strain to her already disarray state, since her ex-husband, John, has walked out of their life ten months ago and had married another woman who is working in the same hospital as her husband. John is a consultant paediatric surgeon and he certainly take pride in his job. Rachel, on the other hand, is trying very hard to move on but found herself being depressed most of the time. 

DI James "Jim" Clemo has never taken on a big case until he is summoned by his superior to take on the case of Ben Finch's disappearance. Eager to perform and take his career to a higher level, he grabs this opportunity and even recommend his girlfriend, DC Emma Zhang, as the family liaison officer to Rachel's family. Jim and Emma's relationship is never made known to anyone in the police force and Jim is confident that their secret affair wouldn't mess with their professionalism. 

Tension and anxiety began to build as Ben's disappearance has dragged for a week yet there isn't any clue of the case. To complicate matters, Rachel's unconventional speech during the press conference has led to an outrage of discussions and comments on all social media platforms; while some offer sympathies, most of the comments are harsh and some even insinuating that she has something to do with her son's disappearance. 

While What She Knew is a tense whodunit kind of story, what makes this psychological thriller different from the others is the way Rachel and Jim give their perspectives to the readers; the former being a broken woman who has too much to handle and the latter who takes his job seriously and blames himself for not solving the case sooner. The case has affected him so much to the extent that it affects his emotional state; where at times the readers are able to read his thoughts through the transcripts by his psychologist, Dr Francesca Manelli. Rachel's voice is very distinctive throughout the story; her emotions are painted descriptively and I felt she is very much like a real person. Jim, on the other hand, appears to be a tough detective but he has his vulnerable side that even his girlfriend hasn't seen. And that broke my heart, too. 

What She Knew is not only a wonderful debut by Gilly MacMillan, but it also has lots of issues for readers to ponder and discuss about. I think the ending offers a good resolution to the overall story; it is not perfect yet I couldn't think of a more perfect resolution than it. Highly recommended. 

Here is a list of book(s) I read in 2016. They are sorted in alphabetical order by the authors' last name.

Betrayals by Kelley Armstrong (Cainsville #4)
The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault
Our Song by Dani Atkins

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton
After the Crash by Michel Bussi

When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton

Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

Redemption Road by John Hart
Charlie, Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel
The Fireman by Joe Hill
Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
Confess by Colleen Hoover
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
The Ballroom by Anna Hope
Troublemaker by Linda Howard
Someone Out There by Catherine Hunt

Six Scary Stories (Selected and Introduced by Stephen King)
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin
The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan
The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel 
The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel
Lost Girls by Angela Marsons
Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard
The Oxford Inheritance by Ann A. McDonald
Running Fire by Lindsay McKenna
Fractured by Catherine McKenzie
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
The Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones
Travelers Rest by Keith Lee Morris
The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Hidden by Karen E. Olson

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris
Girl in the Dark by Marion Pauw

The Water's Lovely by Ruth Rendell
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Always On My Mind by Jill Shalvis
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Watching Edie by Camilla Way
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
The Longest Night by Andria Williams
Yesternight by Cat Winters

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

ISBN-13: 9781444775815
Publisher: Sceptre
Publication Date: May 2015
Format: Paperback, 320 pgs
Source: Purchased

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holidays. Now that the holidays are over, it is back to reality and honestly speaking, I am still trying to 'tune' myself back to fit into my normal routine and let's just say I am still coping, ha. Anyway back to the review. 

I am sure many of you have this experience - You have heard and read so many glowing reviews of a book but yet you have put off reading it for many reasons. A Man Called Ove is one of those books to me. This charming story has evoked so many emotions in me; it'd made me laugh, smile and cry. It's amazing how a story could do that to you, but here it is. 

Ove isn't a man you would warm up with at first glance, or even after your first meeting with. For starters, he is grumpy. And he doesn't think highly of anyone who doesn't do things the right way and properly. And he certainly doesn't stand people talking in codes; especially a language which may imply a slang or referring things in other words. In other words, he is simply an old-fashioned man who believes doing or mending his own stuff and following the rules. He has worked hard all his life, paid his taxes, never had a loan and is fiercely loyal to his Saab car. He is also a man of few words but as the story progresses, readers will be able to understand the characteristics of Ove; why he becomes the person he is and how towards the end he will make us readers think differently of him and even truly respect him as a person. 

I wouldn't want to say too much about this book as I feel it is best to read it yourself but I do want to say it has led me thinking about a lot of things after reading it. Such as, in terms of technology and lifestyles, it appears that things aren't what they used to be. We strive for improvements in technology, yet we seem to have forgotten how to take in the joy of building things our own way and preserving them. We tend to change new things more easily and more frequently now; and while this certainly implies that our society has improved over the years but from another angle it might also mean our sentimental values deteriorate.  

Of course the story might lean towards sentimentality, but it gravitate towards a feel-good and hopeful feeling which allows me to see the older generation differently and in a new light, especially people like Ove. 

As you can tell, I enjoyed reading this book very much and now I know why it is a bestseller. 

PS: I want to thank my blog reader, Reta Kenter, for taking her time in writing to me and recommending this book to me.