Apr 29, 2012

I'm Back!

Aaaa, it feels so good to be back here. It's been such a long time, too long in fact. Things got out of control and life happened! But I hope to be back for good. I'll try to make a schedule to post something on this blog.

So, last year I joined two challenges and didn't finish any. Shame on me, really! This year, I will not join any challenges, not before I know how much time I can commit to this blog.

I did read a few books in the time I was not on this blog, but I don't think I'll be able to go back and write reviews for those books. So books, forgive me please. Currently I'm reading "Washington's Lady" by Nancy Moser. I've had this book (and some others) for quite some time, but it's really taking me forever to clear off the books on the unread list.

Let's hope all goes well! And I'll start writing for this blog again.

Jul 10, 2011

Review: Evermore by Alyson Noël

Title: Evermore (The Immortals, #1)
Author: Alyson Noël
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

After a horrible accident claims the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever Bloom can see people's auras, hear their thoughts, and know someone's entire life by touching them. Going out of her way to avoid human contact and suppress her abilities, she has been branded a freak at her new high school - but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste. 

Damen is gorgeous, exotic, and wealthy. He's the only one who can silence the noise and random energy in her head - wielding a magic so intense, it is as though he can peer straight into her soul. As Ever is drawn deeper into his enticing world of secrets and mystery, she's left with more questions than answers. And she has no idea just who he really is - or what he is. The only thing she knows to be true is that she's falling deeply and helplessly in love with him.

My two cents: This review is certainly long overdue. But, don't blame me...I've been busy. Where do I start? I admit, I was drawn by the cover. I debated with myself whether to buy this or not until one day, it was on sale and I just couldn't resist the temptation. First few pages into the book, and all I could think was that this is just another 'Twilight' (never been a fan of that series). I was wrong. Damen is not a vampire and Ever is not obsessed to be whatever Damen is. I, at least, enjoyed this one. I have to admit though that an immortal can easily be interchanged with a vampire (he he).

Character-wise, I could totally see why Ever would shut herself out from other people. Her unique abilities were well-explained. But, it's a bit funny how she seems to never care enough to find solutions to her problems. Anyway, that is exactly the point, isn't it? However, Ever's friends are sometimes so one-dimensional. Miley is the typical gay sidekick. And Haven is the typical girlfriend who never heeds her friends' warning. Now, Damen was described as gorgeous, exotic and wealthy. Well, I get the wealthy part...but I can't really find anything exotic and gorgeous about him. I have to admit, it was kinda appealing at the start but it just becomes a bit 'blah' after a while. Having said that, I still enjoy reading about him and Ever. And the antagonist is the antagonist...typical one, cheesy and predictable and stupid!

The story is nothing new...girl is an outcast, new guy comes, they fall in love, things happen. I still enjoyed it immensely though. Kudos to the author for making this an enjoyable read. The dialogues are funny and witty and are exactly what glued me to the page after page of the book. And yeay to the flower reference and all. I am all about the symbolic meaning behind things and the flower thing totally earned a few points from me. But, I do have a few complains about the ending or the built-up towards the ending. Everything just seemed so easy. I would have liked it better if it was a bit more complicated. However, all in all, an interesting start to a series. I already have Book 2 and 3 in my safe-keeping and I certainly can't wait to read them.

My verdict: 3.5/5

Jun 8, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday #4

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

It's been a really long time since I last participated and it does feel good to come back. 

For this week, my WOW is 'Haunting Violet' by Alyxandra Harvey. I love her Drake Chronicles and I hope I will like this one.

Description: Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?

The hardcover edition will be available from June 21, 2011 onwards. And I'm hoping I can get my hands on it as soon as it's available here in Malaysia.

Jun 7, 2011

Review: After Midnight by Robert Ryan

Title: After Midnight
Author: Robert Ryan
Publication Year: 2005
Genre: Historical Fiction/WW2

In 1944, a Liberator bomber pilot never returns from a mission to Domodossola in Northern Italy. The aircraft and its pilot are seemingly lost for ever.

In 1964, his daughter, Lindy Carr, resolves to find out what happened to her father on that terrible night. She employs the help of motorcycle TT racer Jack Kirby, a man who has his own inner demons to combat. He was a Mosquito fighter pilot during the War and experienced at first hand the astonishing courage of the Italian partisans in the face of Nazi brutality. Jack is keen to find one of the partisans, a woman with a past as dark as the secrets she still holds close to her heart.

My two cents: Robert Ryan is officially one of my favourite authors. If I was impressed with 'The Last Sunrise', this one totally makes him one of my favourites. The book opens with a letter from a pilot posted in Italy to his soon-to-be one-year-old daughter (which was based on an actual letter), written right before he went MIA. Twenty years later, desperate to find out what really happened to her father, Lindy Carr hired Jack Kirby and his one aircraft airline. Soon, Jack Kirby was transported back to the years he spent with the Italian partisans and the role he might have had in the missing of Lindy's father and his Liberator.

I've read plenty of books with Italy as the settings but nothing captures me like this one. The WW2, as fought in Italy and the involvement of partisans in the war are not something I'm familiar with and in the beginning, I had quite a hard time following the events described. I guess a little bit of before hand knowledge would make for a smoother read. 

What I like the most about this book is that the story works at every level, be it the story of Jack's involvement with the partisans during the war, Lindy's search of her father or Jack's post-war life. The building of the pace is neither too slow nor too fast which is just right for my reading. The blurb suggests that this  centred around the missing Liberator and Lindy's search. It's true in a way but the missing Liberator itself is the key to many other unfolding events. The way Ryan intertwined the past (1944) and the present (1964) to build a complete picture is amazing, to say the least. I was totally hooked and I brought this book with me everywhere. The twist was unexpected, especially the one with Lindy and Jack's old love, Francesca.

Jack Kirby is complex. A man with his own demons to combat and the scars that war leave in him, I can't help but feel sorry for him and I keep wishing for things to turn better for him. But, the book is not all dark despite the theme and the story. It's written in a lighthearted way and the dialogs brought smiles to my face on many occasions. My only complain is that this story is quite short (only 300+ pages). The author ended it beautifully, in the wee hours of the dawn. The title might suggest at the darkest hour of the day, that is after midnight before the dawn. After all, the darkest hour is always just before the dawn and did Jack Kirby manage to go through it. 

One of Ryan's many strengths is to create believable settings no matter what the year is and this could only be achieved by extensive research. Though this one leans more towards fiction, the atmosphere portrayed stays close to how one might imagine war and its aftermath are like. If there is one thing that I learned, it is that wars leave scars in everyone and in war, nothing is too personal as people do many things out of desperation and the instinct to survive prevails for most of the times. All in all, an amazing read. 

My verdict: 4.5/5

Jun 6, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness (June)

Book Soulmates

Random Acts of Kindness is created and hosted by Vanessa and Isalys of Book Soulmates. The idea is simple, to spread the love to fellow book lovers/bloggers by giving them the books (and other goodies) they have on their wishlist. This is my first time participating, and I think that this idea is BRILLIANT.



  1. Sign up each month that you'd like to participate. 
  2. Show off your participation by grabbing the RAK button from Book Soulmates.
  3. Create a wish list (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog etc) and post it in the Google Doc located in each RAK post for the month (located at Book Soulmates). 
  4. If you choose to do a RAK for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger for their address. 
  5. At the end of the month, show your RAK to everyone! Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it at Book Soulmates.  

Since this is my first month, I am yet to have someone to thank to.

Here's a sneak peak of my wishlist for this month:

May 31, 2011

Review: Hannah (Daughters of the Sea) by Kathryn Lasky

Title: Hannah (Daughters of the Sea, #1)
Author: Kathryn Lasky
Publication Year: 2009
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Hannah wants to be normal, but she's not. The sea calls to her, and she can see a delicate tracing of scales on her legs. Billowing waves soothe her, but flat land makes her sick. She knows there's something wild in her that's different, wrong - and deeply thrilling.

Only one person seems to know who - or what - Hannah is. He's a guest in the house where she works as a scullery girl, and his fascinated gaze follows her. She doesn't understand his terrifying allure, or her longing. But even as the mystery deepens, Hannah is sure of one thing. A sea change is coming.

My two cents: I came across this series while looking for something with mermaid to read (since I couldn't locate my 'Selina Penaluna' book). I was a bit reluctant to pick this up because of the mixed reviews it receives but it sounds like something I'd really like.

The book opens in an orphanage in Boston where our protagonist, Hannah had lived most of her life. Now fifteen, she was ready to leave the house but she was deemed unsuitable for the employment and was instead sent to Kansas. But Kansas, being far from the sea, made her sick and soon she returned to the orphanage and found a job as a scullery girl at the Hawleys' house, one of Boston's wealthiest families. It was at this house she began to slowly learn of her true identity and destiny.

I would say that the book is more of a historical fiction with a twist of fantasy rather than the other way round. Most of the book is spent on describing Hannah's life as a scullery girl in the household and the elaborate tradition of what it was like to serve in the 19th century in a house of a wealthy family. Though I would have preferred more if more pages were devoted to the fantasy part of the story, I nevertheless enjoyed it thoroughly. I never really read anything with historical settings that took place in the USA and I was kind of intrigued.

Hannah's true identity is kept secret to the readers for most of the book. Clue is given bits by bits particularly through the remarks of one Stannish Whitman Wheeler, a renowned painter who was working on a piece with the Hawleys. Though it is never made clear until a few last pages, it is very clear from the very beginning what the mystery is and who Stannish really is.

I have to admit that the romance between Hannah and Stannish felt a bit rushed. And I was kinda hoping that Lila (one of the Hawleys' daughters) was more than just evil and lunatic. Rather she is just a convenient means to Hannah discovering her true self. The youngest of Hawleys' daughters, Ettie though likable seems a bit too mature for her age sometimes and it is somehow unbelievable. I, nevertheless, love her for all the love she has for Hannah.

The only complain I have is that the story ended rather abruptly. I'd really like to know what would happen between Stannish and Hannah after all those initial attraction especially when he seems to have the answers to Hannah's many questions. However, I'm glad that there are two more books in the series and I hope some of the unresolved story lines in this one will be addressed. Though it ended abruptly, I have a pretty good idea of where Hannah's life would be intertwined with that of her other sisters.

All in all, 'Hannah' is a pretty good read. A very easy read too. I'd totally recommend it to younger readers.

My verdict: 4/5

Challenge: Historical de Tour Genre Reading Challenge 2011

Apr 26, 2011

Review: City of Stars by Mary Hoffman

Title: City of Stars (Stravaganza, #2)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Publication Year: 2003
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback)Amazon (Kindle)

Georgia would love nothing more than to ride horses every day and avoid her annoying stepbrother at all costs. But she could never have guessed that a tiny, antique winged horse figurine would be the key to her escape to another world and another time. When Georgia arrives in a 16th-century city called Remora, she is plunged into a dangerous and treacherous world of horse-racing, family honour and deadly rivalry. And there, as a new Stravagante, Georgia will have a dramatic and extraordinary role to play.

My two cents: This review is certainly long overdue. In this second instalment of 'Stravaganza' series, a new city and a new Stravagante are introduced. The new Stravagante, Georgia, a girl from Lucien's past, lives with her mother, stepfather and stepbrother (who would go extra-length to annoy her) and is fond of anything horses. After saving up for and purchasing a statue of a winged-horse she spotted in an antique shop, she fell asleep holding it. Upon waking up, she found herself in a stable in Remora, Talia, the equivalent of Sienna, Italy. Divided into twelve sections, each section of the city is related to a sign of zodiac and everyone in the city was buzzing with excitement for the Stellata, a horse race similar but different to the Palio, the horse race held annually in Sienna. In the stable of Twelfth of the Ram, she saw a living winged horse, the first to be born in Remora in over a century.

Georgia was reunited with Lucien (now Luciano) and had a hard time accepting the growing relationship between Luciano and the Duchessa of Belleza as she once had a crush on him. She also met other Stravaganti including the owner of Twelfth of the Ram stable where she stravagates and she befriended crippled Falco, the youngest son of Duke Niccolo of the Di Chimici's family.

This book maintains the political intrigue surrounding the Di Chimici's family and Talia's city states (in particular, Belleza). This time, the political war between the city states is apparent in the form of the Stellata. There was much lobbying and there were some who believed that the Stellata is rigged every year so that one of the city states under the direct influence of the Di Chimici would win the race. Also, a little more is revealed about the act of stravagazing. It seems that the talisman would find its way to someone who is not happy in our world. Lucien was suffering from brain cancer and Georgia is constantly being bullied by her stepbrother. Often Stravaganti find their way to Talia in times when one of the city states of Talia needs their help.

It was a bit hard getting into the story at first since I just couldn't picture how the city is divided into twelve parts despite the wonderful description by the author. Add to it, all the rivalries and alliances among the twelve parts. Each Twelfth owes allegiance to another city states of Talia though they are located in Remora. This is quite confusing and often I lost track of who are the allies and who are the rivals of each Twelfth. But, as the story progressed, things did become clearer.

Of all the characters, including those newly introduced, I found Falco very moving. The relationship between him and his brother, Gaetano reminds me of those moving stories we often heard about siblings making sacrifices for each other. The decision taken by Falco, though, have consequences on more people than just himself and not just on the lives of those from Talia.

It is easy to see the parallel between what happened to Lucien in the first book and the adventures gone through by Georgia in this one, though their adventures are different in nature. All in all, a great sequel to its first instalment.

My verdict: 4/5

Apr 3, 2011

In My Mailbox #2

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted at The Story Siren every Sunday. The aim is to share the new stuff we got for the week with other participants of the meme. Books don't have to literally come in our mailbox. The idea is just to share what's new on our book stacks.

This is how my mailbox looks like this week:

Title: Keep Me in Your Heart: Three Novels
Author: Lurlene McDaniel
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Young Adult

Three of Lurlene McDaniel's bestselling novels in one volume. Readers will relate to the compassion and strength of the characters as they piece their lives back together after tragedy strikes.

Saving Jessica: Jessica McMillan and Jeremy Travino are a perfect couple. When they met in high school, Jessica's upbeat spirit helped Jeremy to see that there must be a reason he was spared in the car accident that killed his brother. But now Jessica has been diagnosed with kidney failure. Her only hope is a kidney transplant but no one in her family is a match. Jeremy believes that his life was spared so he could save Jessica by donating a kidney. Will Jeremy go against his parents' wishes to do what he must to save Jessica?

Telling Christina Goodbye: Trisha Thompson and her best friend, Christina, are having a great senior year. The girls love to double-date -- which would be perfect if only Trisha got along with Christina's boyfriend, Tucker. Their lives are forever changed when one night Tucker drives them all home from a basketball game. He hits black ice and the car overturns. The aftermath is devastating. Can those who are left behind learn to heal and find the courage to move on?

Letting Go of Lisa: Nathan Malone has always been home-schooled, so he hasn't spent much time with kids his own age. Then circumstances change. On the first day of senior year at a local school, he notices Lisa. Lisa is a loner, but she is attracted to Nathan. Nathan is the happiest he's ever been. But Lisa has a tragic secret and when she decides to deal with it herself, Nathan has to make a choice. Can he ever let go of Lisa?

Now three novels in an edition, isn't that just great? I'm on the second novel.

And I also got myself this:

Title: City of Flowers (Stravaganza, #3)
Author: Mary Hoffman
Publication Year: 2005
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

Everything changes for Sky when he finds a perfume bottle that whisks him away to the city of Giglia, an ancient city similar to Florence. This may be the beautiful City of Flowers, but things that seem beautiful might also be deadly. As a new Stravagante - someone who can travel through time and space with the help of a talisman - Sky finds himself caught in a deadly feud between Giglia's two ruling families. Now, the Stravaganti must do all they can to avoid further bloodshed as politics, conspiracy and espionage unfold.

What have you got in your mailbox?

Apr 2, 2011

Review: Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Title: Sleeping Arrangements
Author: Madeleine Wickham
Publication Year: 2001
Genre: Chick lit
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

Chloe needs a holiday. She's sick of making wedding dresses, her partner, Philip, has troubles at work, and the whole family wants a break. Her wealthy friend Gerard has offered the loan of his luxury villa in Spain. Perfect.

Hugh is not a happy man. His immaculate wife, Amanda, seems more interested in her new kitchen than him, and he works so hard to pay for it, he barely has time for his children. Maybe he'll have the chance to bond with them on holiday. His old friend Gerard has lent them a luxury villa in Spain. Perfect.

When both families arrive at the villa, they realize the awful truth: Gerard has double-booked them for the same week. What no one else realizes is that Chloe and Hugh have a history, and it seems Gerard's accidental double-booking may not have been accidental after all.

My two cents: Okay, in short I wasn't really impressed with the book. It's okay but I don't love it. It's definitely not one of those books which stay with me long after I'm done reading.

I think I'm going to make this one short and straight to the points. To be honest, I picked this one up as the synopsis mentioned it took place in Spain and I'm intrigued with anything Spain/Spanish-related. However, there's not enough touch of Spain. Of course, there were a few Spanish words and sceneries thrown in...but that's about it. But, where they were thrown in, each scenery is well explained and I could almost picture it in my head. I guess that is why I was left wanting more. And of course, the book is about two families sharing a villa. I guess I shouldn't expect it to turn out like a Lonely Planet guide on Spain.

The book might have one major plot but it splits into many sub-plots. There's the story of Sam and the nanny, Jenna. Also of Philip and his job, of Hugh and his families etc. The characters are likable and funny especially the kids. And I love Philip to bits. I however really dislike Chloe and Hugh, Hugh especially. At times, both seem so selfish and think of no one but themselves. But Chloe at least, has lil' more sense than Hugh does. I particularly hate they way they handled one particular situation. Now, I find it a bit odd that Philip and Chloe are not married. I mean, they have been together for 13 years or so. But, whether you're married or not, once you've committed yourself to your partner, I'm all about being faithful. Also, I can't help feeling like there's too many coincidences. And it somehow feels so unrealistic at times. The ending too seems a bit rushed. I'd like it if it's more detailed.

All in all, the book is okay. It's not something I'd be shouting at the top of my voice to get people to read. However, if you're looking for a book to read on your long holiday and have nothing better to do, then by all means pick it up.

My verdict: 3/5

Mar 18, 2011

Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Title: The Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento)
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Translated by Lucia Graves)
Publication Year: 2001 (Translated in 2004)
Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
Links: Goodreads | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle)

Hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona is the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son, Daniel, one cold morning in 1945. Daniel is allowed to choose one book and from the dusty shelves pulls The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind.

My two cents: Greatly amazing! I don't really have any words to describe how I feel about this book but those two words seem inadequate. It is just simply outstanding and beautiful. Once in a while, you come across a book that leaves you speechless and wanting more. This book does just that to me.

It opens in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona, where young Daniel woke up one dawn screaming as he couldn't remember his mother's face. In his effort to soothe Daniel, his father took him to 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' where he picked up The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Enthralled by the beauty of the book, Daniel started looking for other books by Julian Carax. Soon, he found himself entangled in a web of mystery, affecting himself and those he knew and those he would know.

I have to admit, though I've heard good reviews and my friend said it's really good, I was a bit skeptical as I would be picking up a translated copy (my friend read it in its original language). I've read enough of works in my own language which had been translated into English and the end results are mostly disappointing. The beauty of the language and its expression is often lost somewhere in the translation. Somehow, as soon as I started reading, I knew I would not put this down until I finished it. The translation is beautiful. I guess I would never know whether it has done justice to the original text. But it's really good and it didn't really feel like I was reading a translated work.

The characters are complex. Daniel is likable. But the one character that really stole my heart is Fermin Romero de Torres. He's funny, witty, full of expression and dramatic. I just gotta love the guy. At some points, I questioned the introduction of the characters into the story. One such character is Clara Barcelo. At the introduction, I was deceived into thinking she played a key role in the story. But, as the story progressed, it's clear the purpose of her character is to warn the readers of the danger of unrequited puppy love. The lives of the characters are intertwined with each other in such a beautiful and twisted way I could never guess what was going to happen next. People from both past and present are related in ways so complex making the story more interesting.

Now, I've never been to Barcelona, the main setting of this book. It was quite difficult getting into the story at first since the names of the streets are all alien to me. But, the vivid description of the city and its streets helped. As the story progressed and I get more familiar with the names of places and streets, I can slowly picture the beauty of the city and the rich heritage it embraces. At the end of the book, I fall in love with the city and it is my hope to one day set foot in Barcelona. I can certainly feel the author's fondness towards the city.

My review could never do justice to this book. I'd say it certainly fits for bibliophiles. It's a book about books. And the twists are unpredictable. Just when you think the story is going in one direction, it changes its course. There's mystery, horror, romance and humour, all in one book. All in all, it is really a must read. The book stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I couldn't help thinking about the characters and the lives they led. Never before a book touches me the way this book does.

Some memorable quotes:

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."

"Wars have no memory, and nobody has the courage to understand them until there no voices left to tell what really happened, until the moment comes when we no longer recognize them and they return, with another face and another name, to devour everything they left behind."

"There are worse prisons than words."

My verdict: 5/5

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