Jan 31, 2011

Review: The Last Sunrise by Robert Ryan

Title: The Last Sunrise
Author: Robert Ryan
Publication Year: 2006
Genre: Historical Fiction/WW2

1948: INDO-CHINA: Lee Crane is an American pilot flying transport planes across South-East Asia for the highest bidder. He'll fly anywhere, carry anything, if the money is right. But his experiences during World War Two still haunt him, and when he meets a woman from the past, memories of a time when his innocence was shattered threaten to ground him.

1941: BURMA: Crane is a young and carefree pilot flying fighter planes for the notorious Flying Tigers against the Japanese. He's one of the best pilots in the air. But when he falls for the charms of a beautiful Anglo-Indian girl, she has a devastating effect on him. As the war ignites across the region, Crane is separated from her, and, caught up in a world of death and corruption, he desperately needs to return to find his lover, no matter what the cost.

My two cents: I was surprised by this novel. It is no doubt that the writer had put a lot of efforts and extensive research in writing it. The Last Sunrise follows the story of Lee Crane, a young pilot in American Volunteer Group (AVG). Posted in Burma for training, he met Kitten Mahindra, an Anglo-Indian woman who took him as her lover. But tragedy struck and they were separated. The book then follows Lee for the next few years as he tried to survive the life as a pilot and to find Kitten.

The book opens in 1948 Singapore where our hero was preparing himself to leave South East Asia. A blast from the past stopped him and he was caught in a scheme he wanted no part in. I won't tell much, but let's just say...it's an Italian job during WW2, with planes and Himalayan ranges. The author managed to write a beautiful novel with vivid description of China-Burma-India as seen from the air and during the WW2. The story is told interchangeably between the present (1948 in this book) and the past (1941-1944). The present is told in first person's POV (Lee Crane) while the past is told in third person's POV.

For me, this novel works at every level. I can feel the longing and the pain in Lee when he lost Kitten, whom he thought he loved. And the air combat scenes were beautifully written. I could feel the tension and the suspense reading 'em. Also, I have to say that I'm very pleased that the author included a few Malay words in the novel. I might be bias since I'm a Malay but it's apparent from the setting that our hero would pick up a few local words. It felt so surreal, reading about Singapore in 1948 and a few references made to Malaya since I never really wanted to imagine how they must had been like back then.

All in all, the book pleases me. It was a smooth read. Throughout the novel, I couldn't help but wonder what does the title refer to. I found out the answer at the end of the novel. It left me wanting more of Lee Crane and his adventures, as well as what could have been. I could certainly feel the desperation the war brought. I formed a quick opinion on Elsa, as a woman who was clouded by her greed. But, there are always two sides to a story. At the end of the novel, I didn't really know what to think of her, just like Lee couldn't form a concrete opinion on her. I was, however, hoping the author included more of Lee and Kitten's times together. Anyway, it's still a beautiful read. And now I can't wait to get my hands on 'Dying Day', which picked up a certain story from where it left in this novel.

Note: I read the acknowledgment section and was surprised to find out that the backgrounds of most characters are influenced by real persons who fought the war.

My verdict: 4/5

Jan 28, 2011

Follow Friday (Jan. 28)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View.

This week's feature: Marie of Mission To Read

This week's question: What is/was your favorite subject in school?

In high school, it was Physics. I loved learning the logics and principles behind every day's occurrences, simple things that most people never really think about. I also liked History but only on a few chosen topics. In university, I really enjoyed Public International Law and for this semester, I'm enjoying the Spanish class. Oh, I love languages and I enjoyed learning and discovering how a set of laws can or cannot prevent international conflicts from occurring and also the rationales behind every international convention.

Jan 22, 2011

Review: Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Title: Here Lies Arthur
Author: Philip Reeve
Publication Year: 2007
Genre: Young Adult/Historical Fiction

Arthur fights giants, rescues maidens and tricks the Devil with his words - or so they say. Gwyna is overwhelmed. She's only a slave-girl and he's a king. Soon Arthur's magician, Myrddin, will show her the real secret behind Arthur's power...

My two cents: Brilliant! I think that one word sums up the whole book pretty well. This was on my wish list for a very long time. I finally managed to get my hands on it last Wednesday.

The book tells the story of Gwyna, a young slave-girl who was taken in by Myrddin. It was through her eyes and mind that the story unfolds. This Arthur is not the Arthur we know from the legend. The whole book, in short, is based on the premise "everyone's heard of King Arthur but no one's ever heard the truth".

Though King Arthur's story has been told many times in hundreds different ways, this is certainly one of the best that I've ever read. It stays true to the legend but with its own twists to every occurrence found in the legend. Arthur wasn't a king or a hero, but just a warlord, motivated by greed and pride to take as much as he could from other warlords. But, it was Myrddin, his advisor as well as a story-spinner, who turned Arthur's struggles into something heroic and magical. These stories told around campfires at nights were convincing enough that people started to believe in Myrddin's Arthur and ignored the fact that the real Arthur was nothing more than just a tyrant.

Kudos to Reeve for writing a very compelling read. Written in a journal-style, it wasn't hard getting into it for it didn't waste time on unnecessary stuff. The author got to the story right on and brilliantly. The main events in the legend were fantastically explained. You can easily see how all the magical and fantasy stuff surrounding the legend came into being.

It is a refreshing take on the legend and in all honesty, I'm glad that it sheds some new light on King Arthur and his knights. If they ever existed, perhaps they were not very much like what has been passed on in legend. Perhaps they were more as depicted in the book. Gwenhywfar might not be a beautiful princess. Bedwyr might not be a strong knight. Medrawt might not be a heartless traitor. And Cei might not be boorish. But does it really matter what the truth was? The people needed a hero, and they got one...known as King Arthur. And he will live on in the stories, no matter what the truth had been. This is exactly the message this book is trying to relay....that in the end, what matters about him was the stories.

A few of my favourite quotes:

"...it didn't matter any longer what the truth had been. The real Arthur had been just a little tyrant in an age of tyrants. What mattered about him was the stories."

"People see what they expect to see, and believe what you tell them to believe."

My verdict: 4.5/5

Jan 21, 2011

Friday's Round-Up (Jan. 21)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View.

This week's question: Who do you cheer for?

I'm not exactly a sport buff. But, I do like watching football (soccer) as well as NHL. For soccer, it's Real Madrid CF all the way (go Iker Casillas and Kaka!!!). I think I can safely say that I'm a madridista through and through. As for NHL, it's Toronto Maple Leafs. And occasionally I cheer for Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. I don't really watch other sports that much. Oh, maybe tennis...where I cheer for Rafael Nadal.


The Friday 56 is weekly hosted by Freda's Voice.

  • Grab a book, any book.
  • Turn to page 56.
  • Find any sentence that grabs you.
  • Post it.
  • Share it.

Elena blinked, forcing herself to deal with her new situation. She hadn't seen Stefan for nearly long enough. But her memories of their short, sweet time together were wrapped in jonquils and lavender and nothing could ever take them away from her. - pg 56, The Vampire Diaries The Return: Shadow Souls by LJ Smith.

Jan 19, 2011

Wednesday's Round-Up (Jan. 19)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This meme spotlights upcoming release that we're eagerly anticipating.

My choice for WOW this week is a Young Adult fiction, 'Waterfall' by Lisa T. Bergren. It's the first novel in the River of Time series and set to be released on February 01, 2011.

Description: Gabriella has never spent a summer in Italy like this one. Remaining means giving up all she’s known and loved…and leaving means forfeiting what she’s come to know…and love itself.

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Bentarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives with their parents, famed Etruscan scholars, among the romantic hills. Stuck among the rubble of medieval castles in rural Tuscany on yet another hot, dusty archeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds… until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

And thus does she come to be rescued by the knight-prince Marcello Falassi, who takes her back to his father’s castle—a castle Gabi has seen in ruins in another life. Suddenly Gabi’s summer in Italy is much, much more interesting. But what do you do when your knight in shining armor lives, literally, in a different world?

My notes: I'm a sucker for both young adult fiction and historical fiction. There's little that could make me more happier as a reader than both genres combined. I hope this turns out to be good and live up to my expectations.


WWW Wednesdays
is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following 3 questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you'll read next?

What are you currently reading? I'm reading 'Here Lies Arthur' by Philip Reeve. It's a retelling of Arthurian legend as we know it but from a view point of a young servant girl, Gwyna. I'm currently halfway to finishing the book and I'm hoping to finish it by the end of this week.

What did you recently finish reading? I've just finished reading 'After the Break' by Penny Smith. Not the best novel ever written, but it wasn't the worst either. An 'okay' one.

What do you think you'll read? Hmm, I think I'll try to read 'The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Shadow Souls' by LJ Smith. I've had the book since forever but I'm yet to start reading it.

Jan 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (Jan. 18)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share (2) "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers! (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week, my read is 'Here Lies Arthur' by Philip Reeve.

Arthur fights giants, rescues maidens and tricks the Devil with his words - or so they say. Gwyna is overwhelmed. She's only a slave-girl and he's a king. Soon Arthur's magician, Myrddin, will show her the real secret behind Arthur's power...

My teaser: Myrddin was right. People see what they expect to see, and believe what you tell them to believe. (pg 43)

Jan 17, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading #1

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted at Book Journey. It is to share what we have read this past week as well as what we plan to read this week.

I've been busy this past week with Will Drafting as well as with other things which comprise the life of a law student. And I expect this week to be the same, third week into the new semester.

Despite that, I managed to read a few books this past week. Among 'em are:

'My Love Lies Bleeding' by Alyxandra Harvey

'Blood Feud' by Alyxandra Harvey

'After the Break' by Penny Smith

And this week, I'm reading and planning to read:

'Out for Blood' by Alyxandra Harvey

'Here Lies Arthur' by Philip Reeve

'Atonement' by Ian McEwan

'Dead Spy Running' by Jon Stock

Jan 15, 2011

Review: After the Break by Penny Smith

Title: After the Break
Author: Penny Smith
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Katie Fisher, former breakfast TV star is a little down in the dumps. She may be dating drop-dead gorgeous Adam but her career has screeched to a halt, and there seems to be no light, at the end of the tunnel. But then she gets a call from Celebrity X-Treme, TV’s reality show, where ten washed-up celebs try desperately to revive their careers in a freezing Norwegian cabin. Scheming producers, ratings-crazed directors, a Page-3 model, an out-of-work soap actor and some woman who had an affair with a politician. What could possibly go wrong?

My two cents: I started reading this book without having read the author’s first book, 'Coming Up Next' which features the same heroine, Katie Fisher. Getting into it wasn’t difficult even without reading the first book. It certainly can be read as standalone. Events previously happened in Katie’s life were well-explained which served as well to avoid any confusion which might arise from not reading the first book.

To be honest, I enjoyed this book though there are a few minus points. Katie was described as obsessed with words and language. She would utter big words and play around with the language at the most random of times. It was funny and witty at some times and at other times, it was just plain confusing. There were a few phrases which I didn’t really get but I decided not to dwell on since they didn’t really have any significance to the storyline. It was repeatedly stated in the book that Katie thought of herself as funny when in reality, she really was not. Hence, all those lines which sometimes didn’t make sense (or at least to me, they didn’t). I read that Penny Smith herself is a newsreader. I actually wonder if she based Katie on herself.

This book surely has a lot of characters. There are those celebs who participated in Celebrity X-Treme, Katie’s former colleagues who she still maintained good relationships with, people involved behind Celebrity X-Treme, people from Katie’s family and random characters who were in a way or another related to the main characters. I found Dee, the weather presenter at Hello Britain! and Katie’s closest friend to be very likable and funny. Then, there was Keera Keethley, the ultimate bimbo who took over Katie as the main presenter of Hello Britain! Her character was good for laughs and in a way presented the most stereotype of celebrities. There are a whole bunch of other characters such as Siobhan Stamp (the scheming producer of Celebrity X-Treme), Adam (Katie’s current boyfriend who happened to be the director of a production company), Bob (Katie’s ex and her parents’ friend), Paul Martin (fellow reality TV participant who was a part of Siobhan’s scheme to bring down Adam and to bring up the rating of the programme) etc. As I told you, the book is in no way lacking of characters.

The book shifted between its many characters so much that I sometimes lost track but the way all the characters were well connected to each other helped to bring it back. Anyway, I believe it could do with proper descriptions of the more prominent characters. Also, I wish that the author had focused more on the reality TV. I found that those few scenes, though hilarious at best, felt rather inadequate. In fact, I found that the rift between Katie’s parents to be better written than the whole reality TV’s affairs.

All in all, an OK read when you are reading just for fun. Really, I picked it up just because it was on a very good Christmas bargain. But I found myself quite enjoying it. I guess there was no harm done.

My verdict: 2/5

On My Wishlist #2

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City which runs every Saturday. It's where you list all the books you desperately want but haven't actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. To participate just head on to the said website.


I don't think I should have a wishlist when I still have 9 books left to finish. I've been reading between these books back and forth and haven't managed to finish any. But here I am, wishing for more. Here are this week's picks.

"City of Masks (Stravaganza, #1)" by Mary Hoffman At first, I thought this was one of the books in the Mortal Instruments series (haven't read any of the books from the series, I'm quite clueless) but the synopsis at the back reveals that this is another series altogether.

Description: Set in Talia, a parallel world very similar to 16th-century Italy, the narrative follows Lucien, who in our world is very ill. Given a marbled notebook to use as a diary, the notebook is the unexpected means that transports Lucien to this dangerous new world; a world that thrills to the delight of political intrigue and where a life can be snuffed out with a flash of a merlino blade. The city of Bellezza (Venice in our world) is astonishingly evoked, with a filmic eye to detail, from the sensuousness of silks and velvets, to the thrill and danger of assassination attempts both and foiled and successful.

"Poison Study (Study Series, #1)" by Maria V. Snyder I came across this book a few days ago while browsing BookXcess. But, since I already picked up four other titles, I decided it could wait and now I'm dying to get my hands on it.

Description: About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear.

Jan 12, 2011

WWW Wednesdays (Jan. 12)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. To play along, just answer the following 3 questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you'll read next?

What are you currently reading? I'm currently reading 'After the Break' by Penny Smith. It tells the story of Katie, a television presenter who is at the evening of her career. To help with her career, she takes part in a reality TV show called Celebrity X-Treme. I would say that it is an enjoyable read and currently, I'm 60 pages away from finishing the book.

What did you recently finish reading? That would be 'Blood Feud' by Alyxandra Harvey. It's book #2 in the Drake Chronicles series and it was an easy read. Typical vampire love story though.

What do you think you'll read? Let's see. I'm yet to read 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan. And I also got 'The Last Sunrise' by Robert Ryan. Both are historical fiction with the setting around World War II. I'm a sucker for historical fiction.

Jan 9, 2011

Top 5 Sundays #1

Top 5 Sundays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Larissa at Larissa's Bookish Life. Head on to the website to find out more and also to participate. =)

This week's theme is Book Covers I'm Coveting for 2011.

So, here are my Top 5...in no particular order.

Waterfall (River of Time, #1) by Lisa T. Bergren

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey

Haunted (Dreaming Anastasia, #2) by Joy Preble

Timeless by Alexandra Monir

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

Review: Blood Feud by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: Blood Feud (Drake Chronicles #2)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

It’s been centuries since Isabeau St. Croix survived the French Revolution. Now she’s made her way back to the living, and must face the ultimate test by confronting the evil British lord who turned her into a vampire and left her buried for two hundred years. That’s if she can control her affection for Logan Drake, a vampire whose bite is a sweet as the revenge she seeks.

My two cents: This second instalment in the Drake Chronicles is told from Logan’s and Isabeau’s perspectives. Isabeau first appeared at the Royal Court at the end of the first book and helped save Solange but she was not then named. Isabeau is a Hound princess and was sent to the Royal Court for negotiations between the two tribes. But, there was something else. A prophecy also told her that she would find her mate at the Royal Court.

I’m really glad to get the insight of Logan’s funny mind. And I can totally see why Isabeau thought the Drakes family is weird…for vampires. To be honest, when the first book ended, I was hoping for more Nicholas and Lucy. This book gives me that. Nicholas and Lucy are ever present as well as Kieran who is now dating Solange. Seeing from the perspectives of our two narrators, it is easy to appreciate the humors and ironies in their relationships.

The book maintains the antagonist from the first book, Montmartre as well as introduces to us another antagonist, Greyhaven, Montmartre’s second in command who was responsible for turning Isabeau and who was planning a coup against Montmartre. But, I can gladly say that by the end of the book, all conflicts are resolved including the one between Logan and Isabeau. This book also functions to change the Drakes’ and Lucy’s view (also mine) on the Hounds, a tribe which was said to be ruthless and savage in the first book. Love is indeed the best revenge

All in all, Blood Feud was an easy and enjoyable read. Unlike when I first started reading the first book, I no longer had confusion over the characters and also the various vampire tribes featured. I finished this one in less than two days (and hey, that’s achievement enough for me). If you’ve read the first book, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss this one.

My verdict: 4/5

Review: My Love Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey

Title: My Love Lies Bleeding (Drake Chronicles #1)
Author: Alyxandra Harvey
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal

Solange has always known she is a vampire. And as the only female vampire ever born, not initiated, she is surrounded by danger on all sides – from other vampire tribes who want to take her blood into their lineage, and from the bounty hunter who are set on destroying her and her family. When she is kidnapped, it’s up to her elder brother, Nicholas, and her best friend, Lucy, save her. But can Lucy save herself from Nicholas, who tempts her with every look – what will be her own fate if she surrenders her heart to a vampire?

My two cents: In all honesty, I had no intention to read this series. But as I was browsing through the bookstore, I came across this first book and it was on such a good bargain. And I thought I should give it a try.

The story is nothing new. In a way, it reminds me of Vampire Academy. The Drakes are one of the royal families though have since been exiled from the Royal Court. And I can’t help but see Lucy as Rose and Solange as Lissa…except that Lucy is really human and Solange can really kick some asses. But the way the story was written kept me interested. It has humors as well as action and romance. I really liked the way the tension between Nicholas and Lucy was presented. And I could straightaway guess that Solange and Kieran would be something something by the end of this book from the moment Kieran was introduced. Then, there is the whole drama involving the vampires’ Royal Court and Queen. I have to say that Solange’s seven brothers really help to keep the mood light…especially Nicholas and Logan.

I’m glad that it was told from the perspective of two people instead of one. This way, it prevented the book from becoming one dimensional and offered more insides of what the characters felt and saw. I would have liked it more if it was longer. But in a way, the author managed to not waste time going round background stories which might be or might not be boring. The author jumped straight into the issues at heart and it helped me not to lose focus. I think it’s because of this that I managed to finish this book in less than two days (I’m usually a slow reader…a very slow one). All in all, a good read if you’re looking for something to help you laugh and at the same time keep your heart beating fast.

My verdict: 4/5

Jan 5, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday #2

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Head on to the said blog to participate. =)

My this week's selection is Sarah Blake's 'The Postmistress' which will be available from February 01, 2011 onwards.

Description: It is 1940. Iris James is the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there.

Meanwhile, seemingly fearless radio gal, Frankie Bard is reporting the Blitz from London, her dispatches crinkling across the Atlantic, imploring listeners to pay attention. Then in the last desperate days of the summer of 1941, she rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on what is happening to the refugees there.

Alternating between an America on the eve of entering into World War II, still safe and snug in its inability to grasp the danger at hand, an a Europe being torn apart by war, the two stories collide in a letter, bringing the war finally home to Franklin.

My notes: To be honest, I've never read anything from Sarah Blake. But this one sounds promising. I've always liked stories set during the WW2 and the premise of this story sounds rather interesting. There are a few reviews which said that it doesn't live up to the expectations, but I'm still going to give it a try. So, I'll just get into it without any expectation. I still hope it turns out to be good though.

Jan 4, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (Jan. 4)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted at Should Be Reading.

The objective is to open to a random page of your current reading and post two teaser sentences from anywhere on that page.

This week, I'm reading 'Dead Spy Running', a spy thriller by Jon Stock.

Suspended MI6 agent Daniel Marchant is running out of time. He's alongside a man strapped with explosives at the London Marathon. If they drop their speed the belt will detonate, killing all around them. But is Marchant secretly working for the terrorists?

Marchant's father, ex-Chief of MI6, was accused by the CIA of treachery. To prove his innocence, Marchant must take a perilous journey via Poland and India to unearth his father's dark past, test his own relationship with fellow spy Leila and challenge the heavy hand of America's war on terror. Most of all, he has to learn to trust no one.

My teaser: Her eyes rested on the picture of her and Marchant at the Fort. She walked over to the desk, knowing that she might never see him again. (pg 117)
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