Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review: A Shot of Red by Tracy March

A Shot of Red by Tracy March

Standalone novel
Publisher: Entangled Publishing LLC
Release Date: 22nd April 2014
Tagged under: review copy, 3.5, 2014 read, romantic suspense, romance, book review
Pages: 400
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

Her only ally is the one man she's forbidden to love...

After fleeing DC following an intense one-night stand that left her reeling, biotech company heiress Mia Moncure has devoted every waking hour to working with a humanitarian aid team in Haiti. When the United States is threatened with a flu epidemic, she is forced to return home to unveil a new vaccine. But when the company's PR Director dies in a suspicious accident in Switzerland, Mia soon realizes there is a murderer in their midst. 
Determined to seek justice and reveal the killer, Mia heads to Switzerland. But she quickly becomes a target when she uncovers a conspiracy to sabotage the vaccine. Desperate for backup, she has no choice but to turn to sexy Gio Lorenzo, the one-night stand she can't forget. Millions of people are being vaccinated, and Mia and Gio soon discover there's more than her family's legacy at stake. While struggling with their stormy relationship, they race to expose the deadline scheme, but it just might be too late.

Book Review [Spoiler Free] 

A Shot of Red is a romantic suspense by Tracy March that delves into a complicated plot with murder, millions of lives potentially at stake and amongst all the drama and intrigue, a love story filled with passion. Mia Moncure, while in Haiti both for humanitarian work as well as escaping the personal dramas she left behind in the States, is suddenly called back by her grandmother - head of the Moncure Therapeutics - to head their new PR campaign to get millions of people vaccinated with the new annual flu vaccine. However, once she returns, she discovers that not all is as it seems. The company's PR Director's sudden death in the Alps does not appear to happen the way she was told, there could be more in the vaccine that they are aware of, and someone appears to be after Mia's life.

To make things more complicated, Mia is forced into close proximity to Gio Lorenzo, the one man she escaped to Haiti for as he invokes deep feelings within her that leaves her all flustered and confused. The pair shared one intense night together and with so much left unspoken between the two of them, will they be able to work together to uncover the mystery and stay alive in the process?

The overall story plot is intriguing and incredibly enjoyable to read. While the story does take awhile to build up the pace as there are some background setting and information to convey to the reader, once the ball gets rolling, it is almost impossible to put the book down. Just be careful in the earlier chapters when the narrative flashes between the present and the past.

In addition, all the characters are well-developed. I especially found Mia really relatable. She is an independent woman with her own mind and certainly no damsel-in-distress. Rio, on the other hand, is just the type of man you wish is there on a rainy day to jump in and sweep you off your feet. Even the secondary characters are all three-dimensional with their own personalities and agendas.

Plus, the chemistry between Mia and Rio is palpable across the pages and enjoyable to read. My only minor quibble with the entire book would be how quickly their chemistry is established in the story. I do appreciate that Mia is attractive and Rio is desirable. But their attraction to each other initially felt like a stated fact without much explanation. However, once the story progresses and the pair interacts with each other more, the relationship developing between the couple is more realistic and highly entertaining.

Overall: 3.5/5

I really enjoyed this book and having been a new reader of Tracy March, this book definitely gives me the confidence to try her other books. I'm particularly looking forward to reading her contemporary romances such as the Suddenly Smitten series. For fans of romantic suspense, I'd definitely suggest giving A Shot of Red a try. 

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of the ebook was provided to me by the author and publisher in exchange of an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in, no way, affected by the source of this book.
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Pivot Point (Book #1) by Kasie West

Pivot Point by Kasie West

Series: Pivot Point (Book #1)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 12th February 2013
Tagged under: 2014 read, 2014 favourites, fantasy, 4.5, YA-fiction, book review
Pages: 343
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

One Girl. Two Fates. One choice

Knowing the outcome doesn't always make a choice easier... 
Addison Coleman's life is one big "what if?" As a searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It's the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie's parents ambush her with the new of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with - her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the "Norms," or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should always be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it's not. 
In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school - but she never wanted to be a quarterback's girlfriend. When Addie's father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she's unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she's willing to live through... and who she can't live without.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

This book, like so many books I'm reading recently, came to me highly recommended, so much so that I listed this book and its sequel, Split Second, on my Autumn TBR list. The plot is intriguing, almost in a pick your own adventure/ending sort of way, and I eagerly dived into this book.

As the plot summary suggests, Addison Coleman has an advanced mind. Her ability, Divergence, allows her to "live through" two lives whenever she needs to make a choice and thus, helps her select which outcome she wants to end up in. Thus, when the story opens with the news of her parent's divorce, she decides to Search it for six weeks to decide her fate.

At first, the two separate choices are distinct stories, each with their own share of problems and intrigues. In the life that Addison chooses to stay with her mother, she stays with her best friend and is being pursued by the school's quarterback. But life soon changes from idyllic to something sinister as trouble brews in the horizon. In the life that Addison could have if she chooses to leave the Compound with her father, she becomes the new girl in a Norm school and has to juggle the need to keep her past life a secret and the growing friendships she is developing with the Norms. However, even out here, she couldn't escape the mystery that's brewing back in the Compound. 

As the two stories progress, things begin to intertwine and the reader discovers that perhaps the two lives are not as separate as everyone thinks. One of the best features of this book is as the two stories begin to overlap and blend, pieces of the two time streams begin to appear in one another. A close friend in one life will appear as an interesting stranger in the other. Someone that pops in and out of the characters' lives in one life has a name and background slowly revealed in the alternative. Witnessing Addison live out the two lives, the reader has a bit of foreknowledge yet at the same time, Kasie West keeps a tight reign on the plot and only reveals things at the time and place of her choosing. 

And the relationships! I'm not a big fan of love triangles unless it's done well and this one had me all gooey and melting on the inside. It's not technically a love triangle yet at the same time, Addison is in theory torn between the two boys and with her decision on which life she wants to live out, she does end up choosing one or the other. That's all I'm going to say on this topic. And my lips are zipped with regards to the ending. Suffice to say, I eagerly dived into Split Second as soon as I closed the cover of this book.

Overall: 4.5/5

This book is definitely a strong contender to be featured on this year's favourites list. I enjoyed it very much and can't wait to start its sequel. I highly recommend it to people looking for a good YA-fiction that's urban fantasy in nature without dystopian elements thrown in. 
Saturday, April 26, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: Personal Pets?

Feature Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee Alison Can Read. It's a way for bloggers and readers alike to make some new friends and gain some new followers as well. The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers. I follow you, you follow me.

Also, this week's featured blogger is Literary Escapism, so make sure you check it out too.

While I do prefer GFC and/or Bloglovin follows, if you would like to follow me via email/twitter etc, that's great too! Also, please leave a comment so I can follow you back!

Question of the Week

Have any pets? Tell us or show us.
I am a huge dogs person! But unfortunately I don't own one. Mostly because as much as I adore dogs, my mother is freaked out by them by just as much. Seriously, we would be walking by the shops and there would be a fat little beagle tied to a lamp-post who's ignoring us and my mother would let out a scream and back away.


But one day when I get my own place, I'd definitely get my own dog - probably a golden retriever or a labrador! :D

So yeah, sadly I have no pets at the moment. What about you? Leave a comment and/or link down below and I'll be sure to check it out!
Friday, April 25, 2014

Recent Book Purchases

As a follow-up to my post earlier regarding Dymock's 101 Best Books, I recently visited the bookstore and simply couldn't resist picking up a few books from the list. Dymocks had a 3 for the price of 2 deal going on, which meant I ended up walking out with 3 books (after having agonized for a good twenty minutes which 3) and they are as follow:

Firstly, I got a book that I've mentioned several times in the past and which I finally now have in my possession - The Fault in Our Stars. This was the first book I grabbed and I knew I had to get it. Yes, I haven't read TFIOS yet and I still haven't read any of John Green's books but it's now finally in my TBR and I will get to it for sure.

Having recently finished The Book Thief by Mark Zusak, as soon as I finish TFIOS, I will have read the top 5 books on the 101 Best Books list.

The next book I got was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. To my eternal shame, despite The Lord of the Rings being my favourite novel of all time, I never got around to reading The Hobbit. I've ever read some volumes of The Simarillion for crying out loud! But yes, I am definitely looking forward to reading this book and then watching the movie adaptation. And yes, I haven't gotten around to that either. So much to read and watch in so little time!

The last book that I got was the omnibus edition of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. To be honest, I'm not too familiar with the story premise but I have heard some great things about this book and I'm intrigued to find out what this book is all about.
Thursday, April 24, 2014

Book Review: The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

The Book Thief by Mark Zusak

Standalone novel
Publisher: Picador
Release Date: 1st September 2005
Tagged under: 2014 read, 2014 favourites, favourites, historical, literary, 5
Pages: 584
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller...

It is 1939. Nazi Germany.
The country is holding its breath.
Death has never been busier,
and will become busier still.

By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, and it is her first act of book thievery. 
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burning, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. 
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

Book Review [Spoiler Free]

Having heard so many glowing review from fellow book bloggers, booktubers and just book lovers in general, I knew going into this book that this will be amazing. I guess, in a way, that's what made me hesitant to start this novel. After all, what if this book doesn't live up to all the hype?

Let me reassure you, this one does. It totally does. It even exceeds all my expectations.

With Death as its narrator, you know The Book Thief is going to be quite an unusual book. And it is. Nothing is told in chronological order. There is a heavy sense of foreshadowing of what is to come. And it is a story set in World War II - yet it's not about all the action and drama of the battles (though there is some elements of that) nor is it about the struggles of the Jewish (though there is some elements of that too). Instead, it is a tale of a young German girl growing up with a love of books and it is through her eyes, with the voice of Death, that you the reader experiences the daily lives that German citizens lived through.

If you go into this book expecting plenty of action and drama, you will be sadly disappointed. Yet at the same time, there is a lot more to the book than the daily lives of the residents of Himmel Street. Several strands of stories are woven together into a bigger tale and there are many spots where you have all the pieces of the puzzle but it takes a further couple of chapters before you see the full picture.

Another highlight of this book is its language. A quick glance through the reviews on Goodreads shows that most of them have listed some amazing quotes from this book. There are so many simple yet profound statements dotted throughout the book that leave you with a sense of wonderment as if you have suddenly realized - of course, why did I think of that? I wish I had kept track of all of my favourite quotes on my first read-through but I know I'll soon return to this book with plenty of post-it notes for a re-read. The following one still haunts me -

[On the topic of Jews on their death march to another concentration camp]
The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help - they were beyond that - but for an explanation. Just something to subdue this confusion.

Overall: 5/5

This is an amazing book, definitely one of this year's favourites and it has even earned itself a spot on my all-time favourites shelf. Had I read it in one go, I definitely would have been moved to tears. Unfortunately, due to work, I read it in fragments and had time in between to absorb some of the shock. Even then, there were a couple of moments where I came close to tears. I'll definitely be heading back for a re-read soon and putting a lot of post-it notes in to mark my favourite spots.
Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dymocks - The best 101 books as voted by Dymocks booklovers

So recently, I came across Dymocks' list of the best 101 books as voted by their book buyers. For the complete list, you can click here. Curious, I grabbed the catalogue and started ticking the books that I have read and here were my results:

  • In the top 10, I'm actually not doing too bad and I have read 6 of the top 10 with another 1, TFIOS, on my TBR list. Plus, 1984 is sort of tentatively on my TBR.
  • In the top 11 to 50, I've only read 6 with another 2 on my TBR. I definitely fall short on the classics genre, which features heavily on this list. There's another 2 that I've started and can't really say I've finished - the Bible (read it sporadically in high school - I went to a Lutheran college) and Fifty Shades of Grey (sorry but I couldn't stomach the writing - made it partway into the first book and had to put it down)
  • In the top 51 to 101, I've only read 5 (*sigh*) with a few on my TBR. 

I recognise most of the books on this list but I just haven't had the time to read them, especially the classics. Classics just takes forever to get through and although, at the end of it, they are worth the effort, I don't have that much spare time to devote to them.

My goal is to make an effort to be able to tick off most of the books on this list, starting from the top.
Friday, April 18, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: Dream Spring Break Destination

Feature Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee Alison Can Read. It's a way for bloggers and readers alike to make some new friends and gain some new followers as well. The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers. I follow you, you follow me.

Also, this week's featured blogger is Pabkins @ Not Yet Read, so make sure you check it out too.

While I do prefer GFC and/or Bloglovin follows, if you would like to follow me via email/twitter etc, that's great too! Also, please leave a comment so I can follow you back!

Question of the Week:

Spring break. Where would be your favourite destination spot if you could join the Spring Break festivities?
Considering I'm heading into Autumn now, anywhere warm and beachy would be awesome. I would love to go to somewhere tropical with a bunch of my friends. If only, of course, I didn't have work. :D

Anyway, so that's where I would love to go. What would be your ideal spring break getaway? Leave a comment and/or link down below and I'll be sure to check it out!
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Bookish Things That I'd Like To Own

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week, we have to list the top ten bookish things that I'd like to own (that are not books). They can be new bookshelves, bookends, bookmarks or other book-related things. So below, I've listed out some of the things on my wish list :D
1. A book handbag - it's just so pretty and book-like!
2. The LoTR Ring - it's my favourite book so of course I want this!
3. Reading mug - keep calm and read a book
4. Book stand - not something I need but it looks cool
5. Book mark that can actually mark the line you're on too
6. New book shelf - because I really do need one
7. Owl book ends - they are so cute and big-eyed
8. Bookish earrings - in case my friends didn't get the message that I'm a book nerd
9. Ravenclaw scarf - because everyone can do with a bit of Harry Potter in their life
10. Book light - great for reading in the dark

Which items did you pick this week? Leave a comment and/or link down below and I'll be sure to check it out! :D
Sunday, April 13, 2014

Book Review: Raising Chaos by Elizabeth Corrigan

Raising Chaos by Elizabeth Corrigan

Series: Earthbound Angels (Book #2)
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Release Date: 4th February 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, YA-fiction, mythology, fantasy, 4, review copy
Pages: 270
Buy at: Amazon

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge...

The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful - overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there - Bedlam's best friend, Khet - he can't sit idly by. 
Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer's request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ's side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place. 
His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel - his angelic ex - and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, "wrong" is just an arbitrary word, and there's no way he's letting Khet die without a fight.

Book Reivew [Spoiler Free]

Back in March, I had the pleasure of reading the first book in the Earthbound Angels series - Oracle of Philadelphia, the review of which you can find here. I really enjoyed that book so when the opportunity came to continue on the series with the second book - Raising Chaos, I immediately put my hand up.

Once again, I was not disappointed. Raising Chaos is as good as, if not better than, the first book.

Following the events of the first book, Khet and Bedlam went on with their lives, expecting Azrael to be in the Abyss for at least a couple of decades if not centuries. However, while hanging out in a bar that's frequented by angels and demons, Bedlam finds out that not only is Azrael back, she has come back with a plan. Knowing full well that Lucifer will never let Azrael collect her agreement with Khet, she has an alternative plan - finding the Spear of Destiny - and with that in her hands, nothing will stand in her way to claim Khet.

This book is an excellent follow-up to the first book in the series. The pacing of the plot kicks up a notch or two as you realize things are no longer in balance as they have been and changes are in the air. Khet is on the move and keen for a change of scenery. Bedlam is looking for the Spear of Destiny and trying to keep a step ahead of Azrael. And even the angels get involved in this mess.

A key highlight of this book is Corrigan's handling of the multiple POVs. There is rarely any confusion with regards to which character you are following. Each character's tone and personality shines through the writing. There is the soothing calm tone of Khet, the bizarre and hilarious rambles of Bedlam and the sarcastic yet honest commentary of Siren. All three POVs are entertaining in their own right and have their own, separate stories to tell. (Bedlam's POV is a personal favourite of mine!)

And the ending! I'm possibly not the only one who's left speechless regarding the ending. I won't reveal what it is but rest assured, it's amazing. Sit tight and be prepared to be entertained!

Corrigan's twist on things shines through once more. I'm constantly pleasantly surprised at the way she casts shades where there's light and brightens what appears to be dark. There is no simple black of white. Angels are not inherently good and even they have regrets over their decisions and actions in the past. And demons are not all bad. The relationships between the angels and demons are complicated and intriguing. 

Overall: 4/5

A very worthy follow-up of Oracle of Philadelphia. I would definitely recommend this, as well as the whole Earthbound Angels series to those looking for good urban fantasy.

Disclaimer: A complimentary copy of the ebook was provided to me by the author and publisher in exchange of an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in, no way, affected by the source of this book.
Friday, April 11, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: Book I Didn't Like

Feature Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee Alison Can Read. It's a way for bloggers and readers alike to make some new friends and gain some new followers as well. The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers. I follow you, you follow me.

Also, this week's featured blogger is Cassi @ My Thoughts... Literally, so make sure you check it out too.

While I do prefer GFC and/or Bloglovin follows, if you would like to follow me via email/twitter etc, that's great too! Also, please leave a comment so I can follow you back!

Question of the Week:

Tell us about a book you didn't like and why we shouldn't read it... nicely.
Throughout my reading journey, I have come across a couple of books I really haven't enjoyed, the most recent of which was The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, the review of which you can find here. However, I think I'm going to raise up All That Glitters by Linda Howard. Now, let me begin by saying Linda Howard is one of my favourite romance authors. However, this book just was not enjoyable. I like alpha males. I enjoy books in which the domineering male does things his own way but eventually falls under the charm of the female protagonist and slowly changes his behaviour.

This book just took it way too far. It borders on domestic abuse. I can't imagine any woman still falling in love with him after everything he did, including [spoiler] ruining her wedding day. And if you doubt my reaction to it, have a look at the reviews on Goodreads.

Anyway, so that was my answer. What was a book you didn't like? Leave a comment and/or link below and I'll be sure to check it out!!!
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Unique Books I've Read

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week, we have to list the top ten unique books we've ever read. Whether it is because the main character was really different, or maybe it was due to the way it was written, or it contains a very unique spin on a genre or topic etc. So below, I've listed 10 books that come to mind when I see this topic. However, it's not really in any particular order.

1. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Of all the novels/poems/plays that I had to study in English during high school, this one stuck with me. I think this is really one of those things that the more you analyse, the more enjoyment you derive out of it. Using one tale to depict another, that really stayed with me.

2. Atonement by Ian McEwan

To say I was shocked by the ending would have been an understatement. The postscript practically killed me and whenever I think of Atonement, my heart always feels like it got torn into two.

3. Letters From The Inside by John Marsden

A novel written entirely as letters between two pen pals who have (I think, I can't really remember) never met each other. They slowly opened up to each other and started telling things that I think they would have had difficulty telling their friends in person. And the way the novel ended, so real and nostalgic.

4. The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I don't honestly know why I'm putting this book onto the list. It just contains a sense of surrealism and the writing is so enchanting. I think someone on the Internet says it correctly that Neil Gaiman's works can't really be shuffled into a genre - it's simply a Neil Gaiman novel.

5. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

This novel is heartwarming and heartbreaking both at the same time. Never has a book had me going back and forth over the fence with indecision. And it really raises a lot of ethical questions that don't really have clear cut answers. Plus the fact that the movie had a different ending to the book really didn't help me decide. I think ultimately, I side with Picoult's novel ending as it seems more fitting with the whole theme of the book.

6. Animal Farm by George Orwell

I still remember being super creeped out with the subtitle "A Fairy Tale" the first time I read Animal Farm. There's nothing fairy tale about the novel. Like The Crucible, it's one of those stories that stick with you because of the hidden tale underneath.

7. The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

A novel composed entirely of emails, instant messaging and formal letters. Strangely amusing and entertaining.

8. Carrie by Stephen King

I knew this book was going to be scary but to be composed of a mixture of narration and  well as excerpts from textbooks and official documents. Plus, the ending was heavily foreshadowed right from the beginning yet it took nothing away from the climax and ending - if anything, it kept building the anticipation. It was scary, yes, but incredibly engaging at the same time.

9. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

A rare science fiction has made its way onto my list! Again, it's the ending that really got to me and made me think and remember this book.

10. Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

This is a short story but it contains a theme that really makes you think - what happens when society forces everyone to be equal in every aspect.

So there you have it, my 10 picks for unique books. What were your picks? Leave a comment and/or link down below and I'll be sure to check it out!
Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Had a long week last week so I haven't had much of a chance to catch up on my reading. It's the start of a new week and I thought this would be a perfect time to regroup and figure out which book(s) I will be tackling this week. This is a meme by Sheila @ Book Journey so make sure to check out her post if you're interested in doing this meme too!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It is 1939, Nazi Germany.  
The country is holding its breath. 
Death has never been busier, 
and will become busier still. 
By her brother's graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up an object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, and it is her first act of book thievery. 
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. 
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up, and closed down.

Yes, The Book Thief has finally made its way back onto the top of my TBR pile and I am so excited! As stated in some earlier posts, I started reading this book earlier this year but then when I came home with a massive library haul, I had to read those first (as they had a due-by date). I have heard nothing but amazing raves about this book so I am really eager to dive into this book and experience it myself.

(Plus, some of my workmates want to watch the film and I practically had to beg them to let me finish the book first before we go and watch it.) :D

So which book are you reading this week? Leave a comment and/or link below and I'll be sure to check it out!
Friday, April 4, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: April Fools Prank

Feature Follow Friday is a blog hop hosted by Parajunkee Alison Can Read. It's a way for bloggers and readers alike to make some new friends and gain some new followers as well. The point of this hop is to follow other bloggers. I follow you, you follow me.

Also, this week's featured bloggers are The Unusual Files and Annoushka Reads, so make sure you check them out too.

While I do prefer GFC and/or Bloglovin follows, if you would like to follow me via email/twitter etc, that's great too! Also, please leave a comment so I can follow you back!

Question of the Week:

Late April Fools. What was the best prank you've played or had played on you? Share!
 I'm not sure if this is the "best" prank (or even a good prank at that) but it's the most recent one that was played on me. I was working in the ED that day and I was absolutely swamped with work - juggling four patients and writing notes at the same time. All the while I kept getting missed calls from this private number, which I thought was important (as I was waiting for an insurance company to get back to me). So when the number called me back and I was actually there to pick it up, it turns out to be some random scam trying to match-make me to someone? I was not in the mood to deal with that. I basically snapped it over the phone, telling them I was at work and to never call this number again. 

Turns out it was my friends from next door trying to prank call me while playing poker. Ugh!

Anyway, so that was my answer. What was the best prank you want to share this week? Leave a comment and/or link below and I'll be sure to check it out!!!
Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Liebster Blog Award (#2 & #3)

Back on the 18th of March (I know, that was ages ago), the lovely Tash @ TashBrilliantBookBlog nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award. Thank you so much Tash! :D I can't believe it's taken me two weeks to get back to this. I'm so honoured and very thankful for the nomination.

Then, a couple of days ago, Hagar @ The Serial Book Lover nominated me again (which reminded me of Tash's nomination and the fact that I'm yet to blog about this). Again, thank you so much Hagar for the nomination as well!

Like my previous Liebster Award post, this award is designed as an opportunity for smaller blogs to get some love and recognition. 

Here are the rules:
  • List 11 facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by whoever nominated you
  • Ask 11 new questions to 9 bloggers with less than 200 followers. You cannot re-nominate the blog that nominated you
  • Go to their blog and tell them they have been nominated!

11 (New) Facts about Me :D

1) I was born in mainland China
2) I am a chili head! I absolutely adore hot food and I have a very high tolerance level. For example, Thai green curry or Indian vindaloo paste barely makes a dent on my palate.
3) My favourite colours are baby colours (like baby blue or baby green) but the majority of my clothes are black and white (just easier to coordinate for work)
4) I cried on my third night shift (which was also my third day of working) after I lost my first patient in a code blue. I was a wreck for the rest of the shift.
5) I am semi-bilingual - my verbal Mandarin isn't bad but my writing and reading is a bit sketchy.
6) I read all four Twilight books in one sitting over one afternoon - that is one afternoon of my life I'm never getting back. I know this is not really a popular opinion but seriously, saying I disliked the series would be a serious understatement.
7) I play the flute & piccolo but it has been years since I have picked up either instrument. I secretly want to learn to play the piano though.
8) I listen to a lot of K-pop even though I don't understand a word of it! :D
9) I read a lot of shoujo manga - don't know why but they are really addictive. My favourite would have to be Fruits Basket.
10) I'm not a big fan of audio books. Some of the voices for characters just doesn't sit right with me.
11) I'm a Leo :P

11 Questions from Tash

1) How long have you been blogging?
Not very long - only for the past two months. I started back in February this year. 

2) Why did you start blogging?
I had been contemplating starting a blog for quite some time before I committed. Firstly, to keep track of my reading and help me reflect on what I read. Secondly, to challenge myself to expand my horizons and pick up books that I normally wouldn't have read. Lastly, to connect with other book lovers out there - there is a limit to how much I can gush about books to my friends.

3) Favourite Book(s)?
So many! But number one would have to go to The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Closer runner-ups would be Harry Potter and the Demon Child trilogy. The rest of my favourite picks really depend on my mood. If I want romance, I go Nora Roberts. If I want chick-lit, I go Meg Cabot or my recent favourite Fangirl. 

4) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
London. I was briefly in Glasgow before and I love how old UK is. It's a place full of history, culture and of course, literature. Plus, UK is such a short step away from the rest of Europe that I'd be able to visit a different country every weekend, something that's slightly more difficult here down under.

5) Fictional crush?
Well... I'm more into shipping couples than having fictional crushes. My biggest OTP at the moment is Doctor x Rose. My other giant OTPs include Cloud x Tifa (Final Fantasy VII) and Akatsuki x Ruka (Vampire Knight).

6) Favourite film?
Really depends on my mood. But all time go-to favourite would be LoTR trilogy (noticing a trend here?).

7) Have you got a quote you live by?
"If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place."
~ Nora Roberts

8) Do you have any other hobbies/interests?
Sleep :D and well, I enjoy writing as well. And some TV shows.

9) Favourite thing about blogging?
Connecting with other book lovers and finding books through recommendations. There's nothing better than reading a book and discovering to your delight that it does live up to all the hype and expectations.

10) What has blogging taught you?
Be passionate, be consistent, be disciplined and network with fellow bloggers.

11) Blogging advice?
I'm still a relative newbie but I think the best advice is that slow and steady wins the race. If you're here to get famous fast or make money quick - forget it. Blog about what you're passionate about and that way, every small achievement will feel like a success. :)

11 Questions from Hagar

1. If you could switch lives with any book character, who would you pick?
Can't really pick one off the top of my head, sorry. But anyone who finds her happily-ever-after and the love of her life would be good, thank you. :D

2. How do you usually get your books (i.e. online, library etc.)
I used to solely rely on public libraries because my mother was very strict with book purchases. Her philosophy (which is fair enough) is if you buy, there is never time pressure to read them whereas if you borrow, you are forced to read it in the time period. Having my TBR pile explode recently, I most definitely agree with her assessment. Nowadays, I'm more into online books simply due to my busy schedule & the fact I commute to work. I don't want any library fines! :D

3. What book made you really angry?
All that Glitters by Linda Howard. I get sometimes in romance, the male can be a tad too alpha. That's okay and I enjoy it. But this male protagonist was just being such a douche bag to the female protagonist that I don't understand how she could have possibly forgiven him and loved him back. Ugh.

4. If you could live in any fictional world, which one would you live in?
Hogwarts - you get the best of both worlds: comforts of modern muggle society as well as the magic goodness!

5. What book would you like seen transferred to TV/film?
The Legend series by Marie Lu!

6. What is your favourite book to movie adaptation?
Easy answer would be LoTR as it is both my favourite book and movie. However, I think my favourite adaptation would have to go to the Hunger Games simply because having suffered through so many disappointing adaptations, this is the first one where I went "Yes! This is exactly how I pictured everything in my head!" I cannot sing enough praises about it. 

7. If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what song would you pick?
The Ashokan Farewell. It's really sad but nice. :)

8. What are your favourite TV shows?
Doctor Who - Russel T Davies era. I absolutely detest Moffat's episodes.
House MD. How I Met Your Mother. Friends.

9. What are your thoughts on the New Adult genre?
I enjoy it if it's done correctly. But like the romance genre, sometimes it can be too generic or too implausible for me to derive enjoyment out of it. I guess you can say I approach New Adult books with high expectations and a very critical eye.

10. What book/TV/movie character death did you not agree with?
[Spoiler!!!!!] Allegiant's ending. If it had been a sacrifice for the greater good, I may have accepted it. But it was just such a waste for no reason what so ever. Definitely did not agree with it.

11. What is your favourite book cover?

11 Questions from Me

1) Favourite place(s) to read
2) Bookshops vs library: which do you visit more often? Do you prefer buying or borrowing books?
3) Do you notate your books or keep them clean and pristine?
4) Who's your favourite artist/painting?
5) Do you know a second language? If so, which one? If not, which one would you want to learn?
6) Who's your celebrity crush?
7) Besides reading and blogging, what else do you like to do in your spare time?
8) Do you also write? If so, which genre?
9) Are you a coffee or tea person?
10) When you are having a bad day, what do you do to destress?
11) If you suddenly received a monetary windfall (say $1000), what would you do with it?

Nominated Blogs

Monique @ Mo_Books
Itara Sosa @ My Midnight Fantasies
Alisa Kepner @ The Reading Obsession
Ipshita Ranjana @ Gateway to Different World
Lauren B @ The Hottie Harem
Kyendwarrior @ Eternity Through Pages
Lakin Higgins @ Wonderous Reviews

Over to you guys :)
Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie

Series: Chance Sisters (Book #2) - all can be read as standalones
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Release Date: March 26 2014
Tagged under: 2014 read, historical romance, romance, review copy, 4
Pages: 336
Buy at: Amazon, The Book Depository

They both thought they'd never marry...

Damaris Chance's unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway - and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun. 
When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him - as long as it's in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride. 
Will Damaris's secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?

Book Review [Relatively Spoiler-Free]

I was extremely excited to pick up this book because I am a huge fan of historical romance and it has been a while since I have read one. The book synopsis sounds good and there's nothing I love more than a compromising situation bringing together two reluctant individuals who end up finding everything they have ever wanted in each other. The premise of this book is a familiar one and I was looking forward to an enjoyable read.

I totally underestimated how much I would enjoy this book.

Damaris' haunted past is heavily foreshadowed in this book. Right from the beginning, you as a reader realized that she strongly believes she is not suitable for marriage and her one goal in life now is to be truly independent - live in a cottage somewhere with her own garden and animals to tend to. No more relying on others. There is less risk that way. Her fortunes will be solely based on her own actions and not the wills or desires of others.

Freddy Monkton-Coombes, on the other hand, is a rake of the highest order. With his own secrets lurking behind his playful facade, this wealthy eligible bachelor is determined to avoid being trapped by a muffin (eligible young females who want to ensnare him in marriage). So when his mother forces his hands, he had to come up with a plan - and fast. Before muffins from all over town descend down on him.

Admittedly, this is a very familiar premise that has been played out in other historical romance works. However, once you start reading the book, all thoughts of comparison fly out the window. Both main characters are well fleshed-out and relatable. Damaris is sweet and rather than complain about her life and how she got to where she is, she simply takes stock of her situation and attempt to make the best of it. She is trying to be the maker of her own destiny, often coming across to Freddy as being stubborn. 

Freddy Monkton-Coombes, or Hyphen-Hyphen as some characters in the book call him, is also charming and lovable. He is truly a mixed bag. His abject horror to literary society and the muffins that he comes across is laughable at times. Yet rather than flee, he doggedly remains because of his promise to his best friend. He is often coming across as happy and without a care in the world, yet there are times where his facade would drop away and reveal the real man hidden beneath.

The chemistry between the pair is palpable yet not too overly done to come across as forced. With plenty of humour thrown into the mix (experimental Chinese swimming pigs come to mind!), Anne Gracie wields a deft hand at creating an enjoyable ride that blends the light-hearted banter with serious issues, character development with plot advancement. There are some beautiful passages in here with some character introspection. My favourite one is still:

There were parallels here, she realized, even though their lives had followed very different paths. It was a discomforting thought. It was so much easier to look at someone else's situation and see what should be done than to apply the same principles to your own problems.
Was that arrogance? Or cowardice?
Having already introduced all the characters in the first book of the series, The Autumn Bride, there is a lot less character introduction in this book which is welcoming. And even for new readers of this series, the characters aren't that hard to pick up as Anne Gracie gives enough background information to get you up to speed.

Admittedly, there are some areas that I found was a bit excessively done. The foreshadowing of Damaris' past was slightly heavy-handed. Literally every time the protagonist has a conversation with someone, be it her sisters, aunt or Freddy, there is brief hints about her past, which isn't ultimately revealed until the latter half of the book. But that is really just a minor complaint of mine.

Overall: 4/5

This is a solid read, a really good example of how entertaining historical romance works can be. Definitely comes recommended for all your romantics out there and I'll be waiting for the next book in this series in 2015. 

Disclaimer: A complimentary Netgalley copy of the ebook was provided to me by the author and publisher in exchange of an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in, no way, affected by the source of this book.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten "Gateway" Books/Authors in My Reading Journey

TTT is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week, we have to list the ten books and/or authors who have been the "gateways" to our reading experience. These may be the books that got us into reading, or books that opened up a genre to us or books that have helped us out of a reading slump. So here, below, in roughly chronological order, are my "gateway" books.

1. 25 Fairy Tales

This is the first set of books that my parents bought for me to read. It is all in Mandarin and is a collection of twenty-five very familiar fairy tales such as The Little Mermaid, Cinderella and The Little Match Girl. You can probably say these are the books that got me in love with stories and reading in general. My mother recalled that I would often sit there with a book in my lap and read out loud. My aunts were all amazed I was reading at such an early age but my mother would roll her eyes and say that I couldn't read, it was just that I had gone over the stories so often that I knew all the words off by heart. :P

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

This is the first book that I picked up by myself and attempted to read (in English that is). Back in grade four, about three months since my migration to Australia, my teacher was reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to us in class. I remember being bored out of my mind because I had no idea what was going on. We had to sit there, on the floor, cross-legged until our feet would go numb. Everyone else was so excited but I really didn't see the point in it all. So out of curiosity, I went to the library and borrowed the second book out and attempted to read it over the weekend. I think I manage to make it about four chapters in before I had to return the book.

3. Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell

This series was my staple read during primary school. I think I went through a whole horse-craze phase because of this series and I briefly considered being a jockey because of these books. I only ruled it out because in grade seven, at 1.7m and growing, I was way too tall for the sport.

4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

My favourite novel of all time. There isn't enough praise I can heap onto this book. I picked it up in grade 8 and I couldn't believe I hadn't read it before. This is also the book that had me falling in love with the fantasy genre. After this, I simply couldn't get enough. From this, I moved onto Jennifer Fallon, Sara Douglas, Philip Pullman, C.S. Lewis etc.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

You cannot read this book without being completely and utterly moved. I read it back in grade ten as part of the English curriculum and *shiver* it still haunts me today. This is the book that really opened up the experiences of World War II and made me view conflict and battles in a different light.

6. Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts and all her fabulous works made me fall in love with the experience of falling in love. I can't remember which one of her books I read first but afterwards, I was determined to rifle out every single one of her works that was available in the library. She is a prolific author and in turn, she made me into a prolific reader of romance. I eventually branched out and fell in love with the works of many other authors such as Diana Palmer (though her books always give me mixed feelings), Linda Howard and Elizabeth Lowell. But if I'm in the mood for romance, Nora Roberts is almost always my first choice.

7. Oscar Wilde

Another compulsory read of my high school English curriculum but I really did enjoy it. The Importance of Being Ernest was my first foray into classic plays that were not written by Shakespeare and I really had a blast.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Not sure if it's fair for Harry Potter to feature twice on this list but honestly, this series has been the book ends of my reading experience during school. The first two books was the beginning of my reading experience and the final book came out in grade twelve and was possibly one of the last books I read during high school. I was determined not to be spoiled (unlike the sixth book) and despite the fact I had upcoming exams and assignment deadlines, I finished the book in one night, staying up all the way until four o'clock in the morning.

9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is the series that really brought me back into reading. I was in my last semester of university and for the five and a half years before that, I really didn't do much reading for enjoyment simply because I didn't have the time. But The Hunger Games created such a huge wave through modern culture that even a hermit like me found out about it. Intrigued, I read it and a) it was fantastic (with the minor exception of the final volume) and b) it reminded me how much I enjoyed reading. Once I rediscovered reading, there was no way I could go back to my former habits.

10. The next book I read

I'm going to keep this last slot open because I'm always going to be in the hunt for the next book that will mark a milestone on my reading journey.

So that is my list! What books did you pick to mark your reading journey? Leave a comment and/or link below and I'll be sure to check it out!