ISBN-13: 9781451691214
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: August 2015 
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Library

At first glance, Crazy Love You may seemed like a typical crazed-man-stalked-woman kind of thriller but let me tell you this novel took me by surprise, which is a good thing. Well, although the stalking and obsessive parts are still present in this story, the author has taken a different approach with the storyline and weaved something different out of it. 

Ian and Priss are childhood friends. When Ian was ten, his mother suffered from postpartum psychosis and killed his baby sister. Ian has somewhat felt lonely and a little depressed after the birth of his sister, given that she had attracted most of their mother's attention but it is mostly after his mother's admittance to a mental hospital which led to a downward spiral of his life. His father is more of a practical person and hardly someone who has a gift in words. Although he too feels the ache and pains for himself as well as Ian, he never really shows his emotions. And Ian feels he is lost to the world, until he met Priss in the woods. 

Priss is everything Ian is not - she is wild, bold and unreliable and most of all, she is Ian's personal hero and an avenger. Ian used to be fat, acne-faced and often gets bullied in school but now they are all scared of him. His 'relationship' with Priss continues all the way to adulthood. Ian is a successful graphic novelist then but Priss remains where she is, except that she is getting wilder, bolder and more beautiful. Although Ian is satisfied with his career, he is getting tired of the wild things he's done with Priss - the drinks, the drugs and their passionate nights together; all his efforts in trying to keep his depressing past at bay until the day he met Megan. Megan is nothing like Priss; she is sweet, kind and has a loving parents. Ian wants to have a future with Megan but Priss isn't happy. And from there onwards bad and unexplainable things begin to happen to Ian. This chain of unhappiness events will lead Ian to return to his childhood home in The Hollows, where he would learn something about the place he'd grown up in and the secrets which are still hidden there, waiting to be exposed. 

As I mentioned before, Crazy Love You threw me off by surprise. I couldn't say what the surprise is, because that would take away your, er, surprise. However, I can say it was a very different read from the others which fall into the obsessive love category, and to me it was a good thing and definitely offers a fresh perspective. Aside from the storyline, what I liked best is the graphic novels culture which is an obvious important thread in this story. You see, Ian finds solace in comic books as a boy and his love for them has made him as what he is today. There are parts of Ian's graphic novel story, Fatboy and Priss, being incorporated into the novel so readers will understand more about Ian's and Priss' world, after all Ian devotes most of his life story into his graphics. I wouldn't say I liked all the characters here, but suffice it to say they are all very interesting and are well developed. The setting of The Hollows is an atmospheric place and I understand that the author has this setting in her previous books before; and readers will be able to read about this setting again in the author's latest release, Ink and Bone, which would be out in June 2016. 


ISBN-13: 9780062379313
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: January 2016
Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Library 

I had read Emily Arsenault's What Strange Creatures a while back and enjoyed it. Thus, when I knew she has a new releases out I knew I have to read it. 

Unlike What Strange Creatures, The Evening Spider has a mix of psychological suspense and historic true crime, and most of all it has bits of a supernatural element in it. Told from two perspectives between the past and the present, this is a story of two women who face the challenges of early motherhood and unravelling the truths surrounding their lives. 

Frances Barnett, the woman from the 19th century, is kept in Northampton Lunatic Hospital by her family members when they suspected the strain of her pregnancy and the birth of her child may have impaired her sanity. Before her isolation at the hospital, Frances devotes her attention by following a local murder trial when her postpartum experience didn't hit her. Frances is not really someone who would take on a wifely role after her marriage to Matthew Barnett, an attorney who is then working on a big murder case. Aside from her husband's case, Frances is also very interested in another murder case that involves a clergyman murdering a young woman, Mary Stannard. Frances' interest might seemed weird but she is more of a science and logic person than anything else. Before her marriage, she would use her twin brother's microscope and they would exchange conversations relating to science and any other logical topics they find interesting. However, the Mary Stannard murder must have got on to her because she finds herself at a stage of obsession with the details of the murder. 

Back to the present in 2014, Abby Bernacki is adjusting her new role as a mother to baby Lucy, who is only five months old. She suspects there is a supernatural influence which might be inhabiting their house because there are times she hears some strange 'shhhing' sounds coming from Lucy's room and especially over Lucy's unexplained bruised injury. Abby is set to find out the history of their house, and soon finds herself stumbling upon the time-worn journal of Frances Barnett. From there, Abby begins to piece the puzzle of Frances' past to her hospitalization days and ultimately discovers something (including her own) which surprise us all. 

The Evening Spider has a compelling storyline but what drawn me to this tale is it has a gothic, creepy feeling the more I flipped through the pages. Both Frances and Abby may seemed like unsettling characters and the more I read about them, it stuck me that they are quite similar in some circumstances; both face some challenges being new mothers and are doubtful of themselves. I was also especially drawn to Frances' journal; her recount of the events happened were sad, harrowing and horrific at some points. Thus it is Frances' story which most fascinated me but that doesn't mean Abby's story is weak either. It is just that their life experiences are different but their motherhood roles are what intertwined in this story. I couldn't say I was entirely satisfied with the ending, but in my opinion it is quite fitting to the overall melancholy feel of the story. 


ISBN-13:  9780062203670
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published Date: February 2016
Format: Hardcover, 336 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

A mystery set in the prestigious Oxford University. I knew I wouldn't resist reading this by the academic setting alone; plus there is murder and bits of dark power forces in this story. Sounds like a winner to me. 

When Cassandra Blackwell received a mysterious package surrounding her late mother’s past, she knew she has to leave America for England to uncover the truth about Joanna Blackwell. She managed to get through the scholarship system to find a place in the prestigious Oxford University, but she isn't prepared by the erratic schedules, the aristocracy of some students who think they have all the rights to their claims and most of all, the attention of Hugo Mandeville, the guy who both intrigues and intimidates her at the same time. 

As she spends more time in Oxford and trying to mingle with the popular group to get information of her late mother’s existence in the university and the reason why she fled without completing her studies, she stumbles upon a dark secret - a secret society called the School of Night within the University and though there are very few speculations about it, no one dares mention it out loud. Plus, there is no evidence supporting there is such a society and the library archives are equivalent to non-existence if one doesn't has a special pass for the access. But Cassie is smart and determined and she has found one or two resources who have helped her in every means they can. 

When her findings lead her into dangerous circumstances, she knew she has hit the right direction and is more determined to unravel the truth about the society and the activities they undertake, especially seeing her bubbly room-mate, Elvie, is dead and there is no explanation over her suicidal act, as so they claimed. 

I have to admit I didn't know what to expect before reading The Oxford Inheritance. I knew there would be mystery, conspiracies and secrets and I loved the way how the author built the suspense and the academic world-building she created, leading me deeper and deeper into the story until I was as caught up as Cassie's determination in solving the mystery. Although this is unlike the usual crime thrillers or police procedurals which I read, it is intriguing and intense just the same. As I mentioned before, there are bits of dark power forces mentioned so this novel has a little paranormal feel but didn't really take up the overall story; there isn't much romance element (definitely no love triangle here) but I was glad to see there is a love potential between Cassie and one of the characters towards the end. The core of this story is mainly on the characterisations, the search and the mystery behind the society; and of course I was quite satisfied with the ending too. All in all, it was an enjoyable read to me. 


ISBN-13: 9781471142246
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: January 2016

Format: Paperback, 512 pgs
Source: Purchased 

Ally and Charlotte are not supposed to meet under any circumstances, not when they had an unpleasant exchanges over a guy back during their university days, and definitely not at the same hospital where their husbands are being admitted under emergency circumstances. 

David, who is Charlotte's husband, used to date Ally then. Despite different personalities, David and Ally loved each other and they were very happy. Charlotte came between them unexpectedly and unintentionally after she shared the same dorm with David and two of his friends. Although Charlotte knew of their relationship, she couldn't help being attracted by David all over again. She first met David when she was seventeen; it wasn't a pleasant encounter considering they'd almost died in a skiing accident but David's bravery and his looks are forever etched in Charlotte's mind all the way towards adulthood. When David and Ally broke up due to lesser time together and some misunderstandings, Charlotte ended up getting her dream man and married him eventually. They are happy but Charlotte always have this fear that David might go back to Ally if they have the chance to meet again. 

Ally is devastated over her husband's accident. On top of the bad news, the least person she wants to meet is having to face Charlotte in person after all these years. Despite the awkwardness, Ally and Charlotte share the same grief and worry over their husbands' lives as both of them are in critical conditions. David suffered from a serious heart problem while Ally's husband, Joe, is unconscious after he had fell into a frozen lake while rescuing a dog. Charlotte and Ally might not be the best of friends right then, but this circumstances has brought them a chance to speak of the past while they waited for news of their husbands. 

Told from Ally's and Charlotte's perspectives and with chapters alternating between the past and the present, this novel is about four different people and how one fateful night had decided their past, present and future. While this is a love story, there are also friendship and families elements which have made this book a moving read. What makes this book a worthy read to me is aside from the story, it is the author's ability of bringing her characters to life. Each of them is unique and memorable, but I have to say Joe is my favourite character among all. He is kind, funny and most of all, his selfless attitude which has not only won Abby's heart but mine as well. 

While some of the premises aren't new, this book is still an absorbing read and will take you on an emotional roller-coaster 'ride'. I may have gone past the height of the intense emotions it had evoked in me, but it is the act of selfless love as well as hope that still lingers in my mind. 


ISBN-13: 9780062424792
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: February 2016
Format: Hardcover, 336 pgs
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Told in alternating voices between the two lead characters, this psychology suspense tells a story about a long-lost brother convicted of a horrifying crime and a lawyer sister's fight in clearing his name. 

Iris is a single mother and a lawyer. She has a young son, Alex, who has behavioural issues and while her relationship with her mother is lukewarm, she needs her help at times in taking care of Alex when she is busy at work. She loves Alex, well which mother doesn't love their children, but Alex isn't an easy child to manage and sometimes, she blames herself for being a bad mother and wish she could do something more for Alex. She knew Alex loves fishes and thus, she didn't question about the aquarium in her mother's house until an incident that leads her into questioning it. That incident is knowing she has an older brother, Ray, and why her mother didn't mention him all the while. 

However, the news of having a sibling isn't as shocking as hearing that Ray has committed a crime and is now put in a mental institution for the criminally insane considering he is autistic. Although Iris doesn't know Ray very well, she believes there must be something amiss behind that hideous crime; surely Ray wouldn't murder his neighbour and her little girl for an unreciprocated love? Plus, he is mentally challenged so that adds on to her doubts. Curious about Ray as well as the case, Iris decided to search for answers to this mystery and of course, why her mother has hidden Ray’s existence from her from the beginning. 

As much as I was intrigued by the mystery, unfortunately this psychology thriller fall short to me due to the credibility part. The thrill and the mystery had me flipping through the pages quickly but I just didn't buy the part about Ray's hidden existence and the motive of the crime; overall it didn't make sense to me. I won't go further expressing my thoughts as I don't want to spoil anything but I was just disappointed that the reason behind was simply that. Still, this story portrayed a descriptive tale about family ties, lies and secrets which I think might appeal to readers who enjoy reading these issues. 


ISBN-13: 9780547053738
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: June 2008
Format: Paperback, 304 pgs
Source: Purchased

There is a Chinese saying "民以食为先 " (min yi shi wei xian), which means "food is god for the people" or simply put "food is the basic need of man". Indeed, we strive in life not only to enrich our minds but to feed our stomachs as well. 

In this novel, author Nicole Mones shares with us not only the history and the art of Chinese cuisine but also a life experience story of a widowed woman and a chef and how food can nourish one's body and soul as well. 

Maggie McElroy is a food writer for Table magazine. Her husband Matt passed a year ago and while she is still coping over the loss of Matt, she finds some solace in her work but that peace is shattered when she has received news that a woman in China has filed a paternity claim against Matt and now that he had gone, Maggie has to fly there to settle it. Without a doubt, Maggie is shocked over the news but thinking back she knew Matt's infidelity comes with a reason considering she doesn't want a child in the first place. With their busy work schedules and frequent work trips, she thought it isn't a good time for them all, plus she isn't ready, yet. Despite the difficult times, Maggie accepts an assignment from her editor to profile Sam, a half-Chinese American chef when she's in China. She knew work will keep her sane plus her editor told her that Sam is the last in a line of gifted chefs tracing back to the imperial palace. With Sam gearing up for China's Olympic culinary competition and news that his new restaurant would be opening soon, she knew this profile will make a great article for her column. 

On the other end, Sam Liang is disappointed that his restaurant is not going to open as he'd lost his investor. When Maggie asked if she could do a profile of him, he rejected because without a restaurant there isn't much to say about but Maggie is adamant and is willing to interview and watch him prepare for the banquet for the competition. As the days go by, Maggie finds herself fascinated by Sam's culinary skill as well as his determination. Through their exchanges, she found out that Sam's late grandfather, Liang Wei, was a great chef himself and had written a book called The Last Chinese Chef. Sam and his father, Liang Yeh, are currently working together in translating that book but the progress is slow, given that Sam's father's heart isn't in it. Liang Yeh used to cook but has given up this skill the time they'd moved to America. Sam decided to continue their family's line of cooking and he returns to China to learn all the skills and techniques from his three Uncles, who are living in China. Sam knows that the Chinese cuisine is different from the Chinese-American cuisine back home and he intends to cook up a storm not only for the competition but for him and his father as well. 

As Maggie watches Sam prepares for the banquet, she finds herself drawn to him by his passion for cooking and most of all, the friendship he has extended to her when she is alone and helpless in China. Sam has even gone through the extent of being with her when she faces the woman's family and the little girl who is believed to be Matt's daughter for the first time. Aside from Sam's friendship, Maggie also learns a lot about Chinese cuisine, its history and artistry and most of all, the human connection (关系 guanxi) which not only brings people together in a banquet but also this "ingredient" which has warmed and healed her heart.

What I really liked about this story is aside from the history and the culture of Chinese cuisine, it tells a heartwarming tale of two different people coming together and the discovery of one's self. I especially liked reading snippets of the various philosophy and metaphor about the Chinese cuisine history/culture at the beginning of each chapter; and though they appear to be excerpts from Liang Wei's The Last Chinese Chef, I found them to be very informative and meaningful. One example: 
Apprentices have asked me, what is the most exalted peak of cuisine? Is it the freshest ingredients, the most complex flavors? Is it the rustic, or the rare? t is none of these. The peak is neither eating nor cooking, but the giving and sharing of food. Great food should never be taken alone. What pleasure can a make take in fine cuisine unless he invites cherished friends, counts the days until the banquet, and composes an anticipatory poem for his letter of invitation? - Liang Wei, The Last Chinese Chef, pub. Peking, 1925        
Finally, this novel is a nominee for the Kiriyama Prize* for Fiction (2008). 

* The Kiriyama Prize is an international literary award awarded to books about the Pacific Rim and South Asia. Its goal is to encourage greater understanding among the peoples and nations of the region. Established in 1996, the prize was last awarded in 2008. (From Goodreads)


I have mentioned before that I will be watching Kill Me, Heal Me after raving about Ji Sung's versatile acting skill not too long ago and here I am about to do so, again. 

While I thought the story of Secret was great, Kill Me, Heal Me tells a different story about a man who has dissociative identity disorder (also known as multiple personality disorder) due to some life-threatening traumatic events when he was a boy and how his encounter with a first-year psychiatric resident helps him in dealing with his condition ultimately. 

The premise is basically Cha Do Hyun (starring Ji Sung) is suffering from DID and depending on his mental state and emotions, he will "manifest" into one of his seven personalities. His personalities vary from a vehement man (with a hint of violence except to children and women) to a suicidal teenager; a witty man with a passion for boats and drinking to a feisty teenage "girl"; a 7-year-old "girl" and a mysterious Mr X who are both later revealed as part of the mystery surrounding his medical state. 

Hwang Jung-eum, who played Do Hyun's personal psychiatric, Oh Ri-jin, is once again co-stars with Ji Sung after their previous performance in Secret. I liked watching their exchanges so I was delighted to find they are pairing up again in this drama. Aside from these two, I also enjoyed the scenes between Ri-jin and her older brother, Ri-on. Despite they aren't biological siblings, how they feel and treat towards each other is equivalent or even exceed some siblings who share the same blood. There are times that I was really touched by their relationship. 

There are bits of child abuse element in this drama, though they aren't graphic and I was thankful for that; because the last thing I want to watch is seeing children being abused although I know in reality such things happen and it is all so sad and heartbreaking. 

There are a few surprises in the end and yes, I liked it that there was a twist. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing the different sides of Ji Sung's roles. I don't think I'd see him play so many roles in a drama other than this and I'm giving this a 5-star rating because of the storyline and not to mention Ji Sung's outstanding acting skill. 

Some memorable lines between Do Hyun and Ri-jin: 

"Aren't you scared of the personalities that live inside of me?" 

"Well, it's a little tiring, but anyways, I want to be close with all of them. And comfort them. I've things to say to them as well. From now on, rather than "kill me" ask "heal me". Even if that happens, you guys will not die. You guys will be still alive in here. [Pointing to Do Hyun's heart] But you guys are no longer scattered pieces but like connected puzzles, you'll become a cooler picture. With the name of Cha Do Hyun, you guys will become a cooler person."

(Kill Me, Heal Me Trailer - Fanmade)

(All images credit to Google Images)