ISBN-13: 9780062328021
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 6 January 2015
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Publisher

Greek mythology, Bulgarian folklore, and the taste of first love - this about sums up the story of Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova. 

The story opens with the Bulgarian legends of the samodivi - forest witches who are believed to beguile and entrap men and then consumed them with vengeance by taking out their eyes and hearts. 

Thea Slavin hears of this legend from her father, but only after her persistence and that she'd promise to let go of finding her elder sister's past; in which everyone believes Elza was dead but unsure of what happened and why. Her body was never found. Thea, however, is very curious about her sister and she intends to find out as much information as she could while in Princeton, the same college where Elza was studying before tragedy strikes. 

Thea then knows of a mysterious guy called Rhys when she was playing Chopin music during a performance. She is intrigued by him, but she is also wary of his behaviour because he seems possessive although he admits he isn't a one-woman guy. To complicate matters, Thea later finds out that it was Rhys' younger brother, Jake, and not Rhys who left a stalk of rose for her during the performance. Who are these two brothers really, who have intrigued her and have her attracted to them at the same time? And as the more she finds out about Elza, the more she is convinced that Elza is connected to Rhys and Jake, and that is where she will learn of a shocking truth surrounding a myth which consists of the darkness of rituals and sacrifices. 

Wildalone is a good read if you are into fantasy, myth and romance all in one. I enjoyed reading all of the above elements, however I felt something was lacking in this novel but I couldn't put my finger on it. Perhaps it is the characters, because I didn't really care about them. The two brothers, Rhys and Jake, are interesting but that is about them; Thea is one brave and determined girl but at times she just infuriated me with her indecisiveness. The positive side is, I thought the myth and the legends are nicely written and they blend in well with the atmospheric plot. As the back blurb suggests, this novel would appeal to readers who are into the characters as fascinating and compelling as those of Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness and Stephanie Meyer. 

ISBN-13: 9780143124542
Publisher: Viking Penguin
Publication Date: 30 July 2013

Format: Paperback, 400 pgs
Source: Personal Library

My first Jojo Moyes book, and oh how it made me smile, laugh and cry at the same time. Me Before You tells a story of two people, who are so different from each other in so many ways and how their encouragement and love for each other wins the battle of all. 

Louisa Clark is a twenty-six year old girl who finds satisfaction in working in a café. Though life is simple and hard (the family struggles to make ends meet), she feels happy. She's into a relationship with her boyfriend, Patrick for some years and she could foresee her future settling down with him not far away from her home in a few years time. 

Unfortunately, she has no control what lies ahead as Frank, the café owner has decided to close the café and she has to look for a job. With limited skills she is forced to take up a job as a caregiver. 

William Traynor is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Before the tragic accident he has always lived a huge life; he travels, do extreme sports and life has never been more carefree and luxurious with the money his family has. He himself has an ambitious career and many people would do anything to get that kind of life he's living. But alas, obstacles come in all kinds and Will is unfortunate to be the recipient of the worst kind. One couldn't blame him for being acerbic, moody and bossy. After all, he used to be the golden boy who has everything. 

Lou, at the other end, has no experience in caregiving but the pay is good. She only has to endure Will's temperamental moods for six months, no matter how tedious it would be. And as the days go by, they begin to open up and learn some new things about each other. Just as Lou feels she's not so intimidated by Will, she then learns that Will has had a plan long after the accident and it horrifies her. 

And then there's the struggles Will's parents have to face regarding his decision. It definitely pained me to read parts of Will's mother's thoughts (as below), which I'm sure all mothers are able to relate to: 

"I looked at Will and I saw the baby I held in my arms, dewily besotted, unable to believe that I had created another human being. I saw the toddler, reaching for my hand, the schoolboy weeping tears of fury after being bullied by some other child. I saw the vulnerabilities, the love, the history. That's what he was asking me to extinguish - the small child as well as the man - all that love, all that history." 

Me Before You is a moving, tear-jerker story but what I liked is not only the emotional factor but the inspiring and motivational spirits that prompt you to think beyond this story. I liked it that the journey Will and Lou had gone through have changed and gave them new perspective of a life they've not lived before; way before Will's accident, and way before they even knew each other. It was simply... I couldn't describe that feeling actually, just that it'd touched me immensely. Most of all, I liked it that Will and Lou have pushed beyond their comfort zones for each other's sake. Their thoughts, their gestures are simply selfless, touching, and so, so beautiful... If anyone ask me if I've read anything meaningful and memorable this year, I'd say this is it. 

ISBN-13: 9780312948559
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: 1 May 2007
Format: Paperback, 336 pgs

Source: Personal Library

Ms. Penny introduces us Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from the Surêté du Québec in this first book of the series. The setting is a picturesque Canadian village which is named "Three Pines", whereby everyone seems to know one another in this rural, quiet countryside. Their crime rate is near to nil, since it is a small community and the villagers feel there's no need to even lock their doors; they are that trusting. Unfortunately, that trust is shattered when a dead body is found from what seems to be a tragic hunting accident. Inspector Gamache and his team are called to investigate this case. 

The villagers are shocked to learn that Jane Neal is dead. Jane was a retired schoolteacher and was well liked to the villagers. She is a quiet but observant lady, and her best friend Clara Morrow felt life had played a cruel joke to them all. After all, who would want to kill a quiet, retired schoolteacher? Inspector Gamache, however thinks otherwise. For starters, the arrow which is believed to have killed her on the spot, was never found. And reports have shown that that shot was meant to kill, but the question is, who and why? Before Jane's death, she had submitted her drawing to be considered for an exhibition. Now Jane was not an exhibitionist by nature, and not even Clara has been to her living room, so it is perplexing that she'd decided to submit her work, even if it is hideous in anyone's eyes. Surely she has a message to convey, and died because of it? 

This book is simply a page-turner. I was drawn by the mystery as well as the characterisations, in particular to Inspector Gamache. He is a very observant and patient man; he is always calm and detailed in accessing each situations and his team respect him not only of his position but also as a person overall. Even when trainee Agent Yvette Nichol is assigned to his team and apparently has sabotaged his plans a few times, Inspector Gamache gave advice to her like a mentor, and on occasions even gave her chance when she somewhat sabotaged a few of their plans. I have to confess I was never warmed up to Agent Yvette; she was too arrogant and stubborn. The relationship between Inspector Gamache, Yvette and Jean Guy Beauvoir, who's Inspector Gamache's second in command, is another factor which makes this mystery such an interesting read. 

Back to Inspector Gamache again. What I liked about him is he was a thoughtful man, above all. He believed in his instincts, and he was not intimidated nor affected by how's the systems work. And most of all, I liked it that he discusses his cases with his wife and hear her views. This not only reflects how close their relationship is but also deep down what kind of a person he is - humble, respectful and not afraid of being different. 

Can you tell I really enjoyed this book? Yes, I think Ms. Penny had written this fine story like a piece of art; the plot and details all planned and laid out beautifully, challenging her readers to find out the flaws (in this case the mystery) if scrutinised carefully. I was in awe with the story overall. And then there's the characterisations, with Inspector Gamache on the top of the list. Last and not surprisingly, this first book of the series was the winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards. Of course I'll be sure to check out the rest of this series. 

ISBN-13: 9781442474260
Publisher: Simon & Schuster 
Publication Date: 7 October 2014

Format: Hardcover, 400 pgs
Source: Personal Library

Hush, Hush Saga's author, Becca Fitzpatrick has a new standalone out and unlike her previous fantasy romance, this time round she delves into romantic thriller, with a treacherous backdrop of the mountains of wintry Wyoming. 

Britt and Korbie are best friends in high school they have decided to take a hiking trip during their spring break. This is the first time they would go hiking on their own and stay in Korbie's family lodge at Idlewilde. Korbie's older brother, Calvin, would be tagging along since Korbie's parents wouldn't be with them and Britt has mixed feelings with him joining them since he had dumped her on the night of her school dance a year ago, plus she isn't really over him, yet. 

Despite all that, Britt is looking forward to the trip. And most of all, she wants to prove to Calvin that she could do all the things on her own without him (or anyone) breathing on her neck. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating. The unexpected heavy snowfall has forced them to seek refuge at a secluded cabin with two good-looking young men, Shaun and Mason. Britt had met Mason at a gas station before she set her trip, and she was grateful that he'd helped her out by posing as her boyfriend to spite Calvin, even though she didn't know him or ask him to. 

As much as Britt is glad to see Mason again for assistance, he however acts like he doesn't know her and his attitude towards her is cold and unfriendly. It took them a while to realise that Shaun is taking them hostage and they need her help in guiding them out of their place towards the forest, after hearing that Britt hikes and may know the area. 

Although this story is very much about hostage and survival, the core of this story is the matter of trust and how Britt sees the three guys as her harrowing journey goes. Shaun seems to be the ultimate bad guy throughout the story; as he had shot a few people who got into his way. Mason, on the other hand, may seems to be the cold and quiet one but on several occasions he has somewhat saved Britt from Shaun. Perhaps he's trying to save his own butt as Shaun could be authoritative and ruthless if things don't go as he wish. And then there's Calvin, who cheated on Britt before they broke off and then witnessing an unbelievable act which is so unlike him. Or is this the real him? 

Though the story isn't something new, it has enough suspense to keep me reading on and had me guessing who's the good guy ultimately. I have to admit there are parts which I wasn't totally convinced or agreed with, but since this is also a story about finding the truth, I decided that is enough to satisfy my justification (curiosity).