ISBN-13: 9781910751411
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: November 2015
Format: Paperback, 440 pgs
Source: Library

This is the third instalment of Angela Marsons' DI Kim Stone series and although I have yet to read the first two books I'm glad this could be read as a standalone.

The story begins with DI Kim Stone being assigned to be in-charge of an abduction case whereby two nine-year-old girls are kidnapped. Truth be told, it is one of the girl's mother who'd requested for Kim to lead the investigation since they are friends going way back to their foster care days but had lost touch as they each go through separate ways. As much as their friendship is estranged, Karen trusts her friend's capability and competence and she knows Kim would do a good job despite everything. 

Elizabeth, the other lost girl's mother, is friends with Karen and since their girls are close with each other and that both families are financially loaded, they become easy target for the kidnappers. However, this is an abduction unlike the others. Though the kidnappers still demand for a ransom, they've raised the stake by playing an auction game and which family pay the most will get to have their daughter back; the family who didn't succeed will lose their daughter. It is a sick abduction case and Kim knew their games very well because they'd lost a girl through the same tactic a year ago. Like Charlie and Amy in present day, Emily and Suzie were both kidnapped but only Emily returned. No one knew why Emily was released and Suzie's mother always think that she'd failed because she didn't raise enough money. Suzie's body is never found. 

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Kim treats the current case with extra caution; first the media blackout and that no extended families or friends to know about anything. Still, it is all a challenge as Kim often finds herself crossing paths with a nosy reporter who is believed to have indirectly caused a teenager's death due to her inappropriate article. Kim despises her for releasing the information of the teenager's condition while his gang leader wants him dead for leaving the gang. Tracy Foster claims she is innocent and that the timeline didn't match with her article when it was released so Kim has this task to look into as well. 

I've to say Lost Girls is an intense, well-crafted crime thriller and unlike other abduction stories I've read in the past (the abduction part really got to me and my heart really went out to both sets of the parents.) Kim is an unforgettable character, in terms of her personality and her work ethic. She is one tough detective but she also shows readers her softer side when the girls are concerned. All the characters are superbly portrayed; each showing their strength as well as their flawed side. Even our heroine, Kim, has her dark past and I'm very curious to learn more about her and to find out how she's become what she is today. 

Aside from the plot, this story also tells us the side of parental love, about gang culture and finally, what drives a person to extreme pressure and insanity under certain circumstances. There's definitely a few things to ponder about in this story but what really stands out is the parental love and the courageous acts of the girl(s) during dangerous situations. 


ISBN-13: 9780062402158
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: March 2016
Format: Hardcover, 432 pgs
Source: Publisher

"Taxidermy - the art of preparing and preserving the skins of animals and of stuffing and mounting them in lifelike form." ~

Constantia "Connie" Gifford witnesses something unthinkable and dark on the eve of St. Mark, the night when the locals of a remote village believe that the ghosts of those fated to die in the coming year are said to materialise and amble through the church doors. While Connie isn't one who is superstitious, she is fascinated by this tradition which has been passed down for more than a decade. But, what most astounded her is seeing her father amongst the crowd as well. What is her father doing there? Crowley Gifford rarely mixes with the residents nowadays ever since their taxidermy museum business had gone down ten years ago. It is like he has become a different person. Gone is his cheerful and charismatic demeanour, the present Crowley Gifford is a man who drinks and keeps things to himself. Although his museum has gone, he had passed on the art of taxidermy to Connie, which she has not only mastered it with ease but also has the capability of capturing the essence of the animals, in particularly the birds. 

As the night falls and the crowd has dispersed eventually, Connie creeps out of her hiding place after all the commotion which has took place earlier. What she sees shook her to the core - for a woman is found murdered with a bloody wire coiled around her neck. Though Connie doesn't recognise the woman, she finds herself deeply affected by her death for there is something familiar about her. Perhaps affected by this ordeal and the feelings of being watched, Connie's long lost memories of her childhood accident begins to tease through her mind slowly. What had happened on that night when she was twelve? Is the dead woman somewhat connected to her forgotten childhood days? As unfortunate events began to happen in the quiet town of Fishbourne, Connie knew she has to find some answers surrounding her past as well as the secrets which Gifford seems to be keeping from her all these years. 

While I have to admit I wasn't really taken in by the art of taxidermy, it is without a doubt a fine art of its own and it was great learning more about taxidermy through some of the descriptions written in this story. Taxidermist seems to be a position dominated by men so I was quite surprised to read about a female taxidermist in this book, never mind it is a fiction and all Connie does is working on birds. Species like jackdaws, magpies, rooks and crows play a significant role in this story and as you read further you will begin to understand the reason of their roles and how the mystery unravels. 

Given the subject and the atmospheric setting of Fishbourne in the 1910s, it is natural to think this story has a dark, gothic feeling and while it is to a certain extent, I actually felt this is more of a story about justice in retribution and righting the wrongs when the victim feels the law is working against them. Despite the subject, I found myself engrossed in this story from beginning to end and like Connie, I was very anxious to find out the mystery and the truth behind it. Although there are some dark elements, there are also some bright, positive ones that show in a person's trait, like Connie and a few people in her life. Her acquaintance and her liking towards Harold Woolston, a man she has encountered while finding the truth might consider to be a bit in haste to some readers but I could feel the chemistry between them through their exchanges and their little gestures. They may be subtle but they are there.   

While I wasn't surprised by the ending (I did make a guess early on and found my speculation to be right), it was still a compelling read in my opinion. 


Starring: Song Joong-ki, Song Hye-kyo, Kim Ji-won, Jin Goo, Kang Shin-il, Onew
Written by: Kim Eun-sook, Kim Won-seok

Synopsis from DramaWiki:

This story tells of doctors stationed in the fictional war zone of Urk, and follows the love story that develops between a surgeon, Dr Kang Mo Yeon (starring Song Hye-kyo) and a special forces officer, Captain Yoo Shi Jin (starring Song Joong-ki), both elite in their respective fields. The story will track both their personal and professional struggles while exploring issues about the value of life.

Is Descendants of the Sun really over? The finale of the drama was aired last night and here I was still in denial. I am sure many fans of DOTS will share the same sentiments as me. Unlike the other Korean drama series, DOTS was pre-produced so it is unlikely the producers would prolong this popular series with a few more episodes but hey, I understood that there would be a 3 special episodes next due to the popularity of the drama so I am looking forward to that. 

So, my thoughts on DOTS? I loved, loved, loved this drama series so much that on few occasions I had to search the raw clips without any subtitles on the same night it was aired because I just wanted to know what happened. And then the following day I would watch it again with English subtitles (not every episode, though, as there were some nights I couldn't find any raw clips and had to endure the wait). 

And so, what made DOTS so addictive? The premise, the cast and not to mention a few beautiful scenes shot at Zakynthos Island, Greece. Plus, it was an action thriller with lots of alpha males in military gear and yes, there is romance in it, too. For the romantics, there are enough unforgettable and romantic moments as well as swoon-worthy dialogues (quoted a few below) that had had me sigh, and sigh some more. 

(Zakynthos Island, Greece)

But most of all, I think it is Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo who have brought their roles to life; thus leading us into wondering if their romance in the drama is real in reality as well. I had anticipated this drama since knowing that Song Joong-ki would be starring in it, after all this drama marked his comeback after his discharge from the military service last year. The role of Captain Yoo fits him perfectly especially after his military completion and I think what makes his role unforgettable is aside from his macho-ism, it is his devotion and his protectiveness towards Dr Kang that has won not only her heart but many female viewers' as well. And Song Hye-kyo is as beautiful as before; I remember seeing her on Autumn in My Heart (2000) and that story simply blown me away. In the past, she often portrayed as a vulnerable woman but in DOTS she played a surgeon who took full pride in her job and wouldn't succumb to bribery and political pressures and I like that trait in a female character. However, she also shows us her cutesy side whenever Captain Yoo teases or making fun of her. 

And then, there is our secondary characters, Sergeant Major Seo Dae Young (starring Jin Goo) and First Lieutenant Yoon Myung Ju (starring Kim Ji-won), who seemed to have an on-off relationship and their love is further complicated by the disapproval of Myun''s father, who held a high rank in the military force. Like the lead characters, I enjoyed watching this couple as well. 

(First Lieutenant Yoon Myung Ju and Sergeant Major Seo Dae Young)

Finally, I think what attributed to this drama is these elements in it - humanity, patriotism and friendship that has no boundaries when it comes to racial and countries. I would ramble on like a fangirl would do but I won't so I shall leave you a few interesting links to read herehere and here

A few notable dialogues:

  • “Don’t worry. Protecting beauties, elders, and children is my rule.” ~ Captain Yoo
  • “The doctor will save her patient and I will protect what I have to (protect)” ~ Captain Yoo
  • Captain Yoo: “Doctors don’t have boyfriends because they’re too busy.”
    Dr Kang Mo Yeon: “Soldiers don’t have girlfriends because it’s too hard (too much work).” 
  • “About that kiss... should I apologize or should I confess my love?” Captain Yoo
  • “If I had known I would die like this, I should honestly confessed my feeling – I was kissed by an awesome man and my heart was fluttering the whole time.” ~ Dr Kang Mo Yeon
  • “I want our relationship to be a melodrama but it turns into a blockbusters.” ~ Captain Yoo
  • Captain Yoo: "What’s your blood type?"
    Dr Kang Mo Yeon: "Your ideal type. A beauty? A doll? The type that would get me locked up in your heart?” 

(All pictures credit to Google Images)


ISBN-13: 9780545870986
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: Paperback, 214 pgs
Source: Purchased

My eldest daughter, who is twelve, got me into reading this graphic memoir by Raina Telgemeier. She told me it has a great storyline and that it would make me smile towards the end, just like the title. And she is right. 

Raina is your normal sixth grader girl who enjoys being with her friends and having some teenage insecurities the way many teenagers have at this age. But one night has changed her perspective in life when she fell and lost her two front teeth. What follows thereafter is a series of frustrating trips to the dentist, the orthodontist, the periodontist... (as Raina mentioned, I didn't know there are this many kinds of "dontists") until she feels like a freak. And that is not all, she and her family have survived an earthquake; she has a crush on a boy who didn't take notice of her and then there are some of her friends who don't feel like her friends at times. 

Through the artwork, Raina shares with her readers her pains and her frustrations visiting the dental clinics, her journey from middle school to high school, and finally how she discovers her artistic voice and what true friendship really means. 

An inspiring coming-of-age story, I found myself being transported back to my teenage years reading Raina's story (well, minus her dental woes, though) and some of the things she had gone through. Her dental experiences made me think back of my fear of being called to the school dental clinic and how small and helpless I felt lying on that patient chair (and even now at adulthood). Despite all the unhappy experiences Raina had had, I was happy to note that they have made her a stronger person and that they had inspired her to tell her tales through writing/drawing Smile

Thank you, Raina, for making me smile reading this book. 

Note: Smile won a Will Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens, received a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, and has appeared on many state reading lists. Raina Telgemeier is the recipient of a Stonewall Book Award Honor, and one of YALSA's Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens. 


ISBN-13: 9780857521965
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 2016
Format: Hardcover, 352 pgs
Source: Library 

"There are three ways out of here. You can die... You can escape... Or you can convince them you're sane enough to leave." - Pg 135

Let me start off by saying this novel is nothing I had expected, in terms of the premise and the ending. It is a tale about madness and sanity, of obsession and unlikely love. 

Set in 1911 within an asylum on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, this story comprises of three characters and their experiences in the asylum. The first character is Ella Fay, a young woman who finds herself as an inmate after breaking a window in the mill where she worked. The others thought she is distressed but truth be told she wished for an open window so she could look at the sky. Her reckless act leads her to Sharston Asylum and she decides that if she keeps a low profile and works hard she might have a chance of an early release. 

Dr Charles Fuller was the one who had assessed Ella upon her arrival. He is one of the three characters whose story is told and I have to say among the three his character is the one which left me most appalled. It is by no means his intention to work at Sharston Asylum in the first place; his father has expectations of him yet it is music which he loves and one which has gotten him a job at Sharston's. Though his position is First Assistant Medical Officer, his other role is to head a musical band to perform for the patients for their dance every Friday. Not all could attend the dance though, and Charles thought the dances might help with their conditions, since he has noticed a slight change in John Mulligan as he has shown some feelings with a particular music he'd played. However, his obsession for recognition and preparing a paper for the Eugenics Society would soon send him over the edge. 

John Mulligan, the other character in this story, is a quiet man who had lost his wife and their child. Knowing Ella has changed his perspective in life and it is only through the dances that they are able to meet. They began exchanging letters; it is a lovely gesture of some sort as John would tell Ella what he sees while working outside since Ella and the other women inmates are confined inside the building, doing laundries basically. Ella wouldn't know how to read and write, but she has her good friend, Clem, to help her. Clem has an unhappy past and although her story is a short one, it still left a deep impression in my mind. Till now, I was quite bothered by the route she had chosen to escape from an unwanted marriage. 

As the story progresses, we would learn more about these three characters' inner thoughts and what drives them towards a destiny none of them has predicted. At its core this is both a love story and a character-driven kind of story that allows us to think about the past and future life of these characters and that there is a fine line between sanity and madness. Overall, I felt the story to be beautifully written and that this book would make a good book club discussion. 


ISBN-13: 9781250045393
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Hardcover,
Source: Library

At first glance one would think that this is a story about the mental patients and the horrific encounters they have gone through staying in the asylums. While it is indeed true at some point, what makes this book such a harrowing read is it is based on some true events which happened from the 1930s. 

Let me start off with the fictional part - Martine LeDuc, the heroine of this story, works as a public relations director for the Montreal mayor's office. Her job is basically to make sure that the name of Montreal city is kept well at stake and to make any necessary amendments should a PR related issue arises. Like all other PR reps, they always have a fear for any PR disaster and in this case it became a nightmare for Martine as there were four women being brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout Montreal. Montreal becomes unsafe and Martine's boss appoints her as liaison between the mayor and the police department. Martine will work together with a young detective named Julian Fletcher as they go around asking questions surrounding the victims. It is a challenging task as the victims appeared to have nothing in common, varying from ages, backgrounds and body types. The police speculates that they are random sexually motivated serial killings but yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. They then began to dig into the city's past and uncovered some dark secrets hidden during the 1950s, involving orphans and how they were being admitted to hospitals for the insane. 

Now comes the factual part (as stated under the author's note) - There were indeed orphans who were shipped from orphanages to asylums back in the 1940s. Back then, a scheme was developed to obtain additional federal funding for the children, most of them "orphaned" through forced separation from their unwed mothers (they were called as the Duplessis orphans, under the leadership of Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis.) The federal government offered more monetary support (primarily financially) for asylums than orphanages and medical experimentation soon overrode the mere fiduciary rewards (You can learn more about Duplessis orphans here.)

While there is indeed a mystery to be solved here, what made this book such an unforgettable read to me is the characterisation of Martine and Julian and not to mention the disturbing facts of the Duplessis orphans. Martine may be a mere civilian but she was a courageous heroine in my opinion. Julian, on the other hand oozed charms but he was a competent detective when it comes to fishing information and making some necessary connections. He could also be witty at times. While I can't say I enjoyed reading this due to the true events, it was overall a very satisfying read with the mystery and the facts tied together. I will be looking forward to reading more of Jeannette de Beauvoir's books (the back cover flap mentioned that she explores personal and moral questions through historical fiction, mysteries, and mainstream fiction; which I think sometimes a factual story is best told through fiction.) 


ISBN-13: 9780373788934
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: April 2015
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Library 

I was in the mood for a military romance. If you are watching Korean's current hottest drama series, Descendants of the Sun, you'd know what I am talking about. Anyways, Lindsay McKenna's Running Fire rightly stands on its own and I was glad to read it; and it's been a long while since I have read a contemporary romance with characters in uniform. 

Running Fire is part of the Shadow Warriors series and I was glad it could read as a standalone. The story opens with Chief Warrant Officer and pilot Leah Mackenzie surviving a helicopter crash after her crew is assigned to pick up a SEAL team from the Pakistani border. The black ops team had been out for a week hunting high-value-target Taliban leaders and with nothing but mountains and caves around the borders, the crew knew it would be a challenge to find an open, flat area without alerting the Taliban. And the rainy weather was making it harder for the rescue. Unfortunately, it wasn't the bad weather but the Taliban who had taken down their helicopter. Leah was the only survivor. 

SEAL Kell Ballard was on a mission when he saw a rescue helicopter being shot down by three Taliban. He couldn't believe his eyes when he found out it was a female pilot he had rescued, considering the position was mostly dominated by males but he didn't care as long as the pilot was alive. Leah did live, and they were forced to stay hidden in the caves till a rescue team has transported them back to camp. During those waiting moments Kell and Leah had come to know a lot about each other; and the reason why she was intimidated by men outside duty. It wasn't a fast and easy confession and it took her some time to open up to Kell as thinking of her abusive ex-husband still give her nightmares. Not only did Hayden Grant physically abused her but he had every intention of ruining her career, too. 

Running Fire, no doubt was an intense read but it also has a fair share of tender moments as I read about the emotional intimacy shared between Kell and Leah. Kell may be a tough SEAL but he understood Leah’s feelings when it comes to her vulnerability. Leah may appear vulnerable in Kell's eyes but when it comes to flying she has became a different person and took full pride in her job. Part of the reason is she was trying to prove her capability to her father, who is the battalion commander of the squad. She lost her brother and mother when she was young and her father has never paid any attention to her. Instead, her father has focused all his attention on her ex-husband and was oblivious of the abuse she's been getting from Hayden during their three years of marriage. This is not only a story about love but also having the courage to stand up to a bully, in which this case is the abusive Hayden Grant. The closure was a heart-warming one, and I liked what Kell and Leah have chosen for their future plans. All in all, it was a great escapism read to me.