ISBN-13: 9780062305848
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
Publication Date: 8 July 2014
Format: Hardcover, 368 pgs
Source: Publisher

Don't try to find me.
I'll be okay. I'll be better.
I love you. 

This is the note fourteen-year-old Marley left on the whiteboard affixed to the fridge to her parents before she run away from home one day. 

Needless to say, Rachel is devastated. She is sure Marley is playing a joke on them; after all she couldn't think of any good reasons Marley would run away from home. There's no sign of any distress in Marley either - she's doing fine in school; and she's never been bullied. Well Marley used to see Dr. Michael, a psychiatrist, for panic attacks' issue but had stopped seeing him when she was eleven, since he said he had every confidence that Marley would be fine. 
Rachel, on the other end, is sure someone has either threaten Marley at a gunpoint, or being abducted because her iPhone and iPad are around; and she always carry them around, especially her iPhone. Paul, however, is sure Marley would return home after the fun is over. Unlike Rachel, he is always the rational one; one who has a brain for acronyms and statistics. 

When there're no leads from the police, they decided to turn to social media to expand their network so that they'd have a whole community looking for Marley. However, this would also compromise their privacy, and not to mention there would be media scrutiny and people calling them lousy parents. 

Onto to Marley, it seems she'd been planning the runaway for months, since after she'd knew B., a guy from Facebook and he too, has problems at home. They figured they'd leave home and live somewhere else together. But Marley is skeptical about him as well as his motives after she lives with him. B. doesn't want her to interact with the outside world, saying that it's best that they stay that way and no one can disrupt them. They'd have new identities and a new life. 

To complicate matters, Dr. Michael and Rachel's close friendship is out in the open and people began to wonder if they're in together on Marley's disappearing act. 

This is simply not a runaway story but there's more depth to it and it's multi-layered too. There're speculations everywhere and at some point it seems like each character has his/her little secrets. Through Marley's and Rachel's narratives, we're able to read into their minds and see the things through their eyes; and I was totally taken by surprise over where they lead. 

As I read further, I also realised that this is more of a family dynamics story, as it tells us how miscommunications and assumptions may lead to drastic measures which may in turn destroy a family. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think this is the core of the story, and Marley's disappearance is the secondary issue. Then again, there is also focus on today's socia media and how things could spiral out of control, no matter what our intentions are. Good or bad, there're bound to be people talking. I suppose it's a natural behaviour when people are concerned, with or without the technology. 

Well I'd expected a mystery before reading this book, but it turned out to be something more and something which I thought is important too, given the family communication issue and that is not to take a person for granted. This is one of those books that you can't put down and would make you treasure your family members more after reading it. 

ISBN-13: 9780062227331
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: 5 August 2014
Format: Paperback, 384 pgs
Source: Publisher

I've heard countless stories of the ghost brides, being on TV shows or stories told by the older generation. They are often either portrayed as a couple who are dead and in love and their families want them to be together in the other world, or human women (sometimes girls) to marry a dead man through arrangement by both families, under certain circumstances. Even now, I don't know if they are myths or not (and would imagine being told off by my grandmother should I asked her such topic, if she were still alive), I choose to believe half in them. 

This story took place in 1893 in Malaya. Pan Li Lan is the daughter of a genteel Chinese family on the verge of bankruptcy. Her mother died when she was young, leaving her with an opium addict father and Amah, an elderly personal maid whom she looks upon as her grandmother. 

Due to their financial state, the Pan family received a proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family, in which Li Lan's father is in debt with. However, the proposal is no ordinary proposal as they want Li Lan to marry Lim Tian Ching, their only son, who had died under mysterious circumstances. 

To avoid the marriage and Lim Tian Ching's hauntings, Li Lan has consulted a medium but has accidentally took an overdose of some powder which is believed to ward off Lim's hauntings, thus resulting her soul to leave her body. 

Not quite dead, Li Lan is able to see the ghosts and other demons which belong to the other world. Like the living world, the other world too has their system and order to ensure all things are in control. But of course like everywhere else, they also have briberies and corruptions even among the border officials. 

Now in the Plains of the Dead, the towns and villages roughly correspond to the places above. Time seems to move erratically there, and there is nothing permanent at the Plains of the Dead, as the ghosts come and go as they move on to the Courts of Judgement, waiting for their sentence to be either punished or reborn, depending on the sins and/or deeds they had done when they were alive. The ghosts depend on their live family members to burn offerings to them, so that they can eat or spend like the human world. However, unlike the human world, the things at the Plains of the Dead bear no smell or taste except a resemblance of it, which is an explanation of them being made of paper as offerings.

Li Lan suspected that Lim Tian Ching has to do with the bribery, since he seems to have some power with the underworld officials. There are also speculations that there are rebellions in the Courts of Hell, which Li Lan has heard from Er Lang, a deity-like being she met. Er Lang wants to find out if there are more other than Lim Tian Ching for the rebellions, and he needs Li Lan as a spy to help him out. Likewise, Li Lan needs Er Lang's magical powers to get over the obstacles which are thrown into her path. 

What happens next is a series of incidents that Li Lan encounters which put her in danger; and through Er Lang's countless help they have somewhat forged a bond one could never forget. 

Whether if all is a mystical myth or if there are some truth to some incidents, I've to say I quite enjoyed this story. The journeys Li Lan traveled often left me both curious and worried, because I'd no idea what is in store for her and most of all, who is telling the truth and if one could even trust the ghosts, or things alike? 

I also have to add that one could learn a great stuff of Chinese folklores and Chinese traditions through this story. I think the details are quite informative to readers who are not familiar with them. 

As for the ending, I've to say it's quite subjective and that it's a twisted one. Honestly I was fine with it (don't ask me more or I'd babble).

Cast: Song Seung-Heon, Lim Ji-Yeon
Director: Kim Dae-Woo
Genre: Erotic Romance
Language: Korean (English/Chinese subtitles)

I've to admit it is Song Seung-Heon who attracted me to this movie. After all I'd watched several Korean dramas starring him and most of his roles are unforgettable. Well it didn't hurt that he has a fit body and a good-looking face too. 

Onto the topic, Obsessed is a story of a decorated war hero, Colonel Kim Jin-pyong, who falls in love with a young woman and would risk everything for love, in which ended up in tragedy eventually.

Colonel Kim seems to have everything; from his prestigious rank right to having a beautiful wife, but apparently he isn't that at bliss considering he suffers from post-traumatic disorder after the Vietnam War and his affection towards his ambitious wife has faded.

On an occasion he happens to meet Ga-heun, a wife of his subordinate. Ga-heun is unlike any other officers wives, and Colonel Kim is quickly attracted to her. However, it is through one life-threatening incident that allows Colonel Kim to save Ga-heun, thus creating a chance for them to get to know more about each other. Since both of them are married, their exchanges are usually discreet. And in no time they are so smitten (obsessed?) with each other that they have a forbidden affair. 

Before meeting Colonel Kim, Ga-heun's marriage is no bliss either as her relationship with her husband feels more like a brother and sister rather than lovers. After all, she was adopted by his family when she was younger after she had lost her family. Colonel Kim is the first man whom she has fallen in love with, but despite the fact that she loves him she felt she couldn't abandon everything and left with him. Colonel Kim, on the other hand, confessed that he couldn't live without her. 

What happened next wasn't something I had expected, and all I can say is regret, and more regret. With the attraction and love they had for each other, I felt it a regret that they didn't meet earlier; and then I also felt regret that what happened to the secondary characters weren't explained clearly (i.e. Colonel Kim's wife and Ga-heun's husband). Overall the film was shot quite beautifully (the lovemaking scenes are tastefully done too). And finally, the only thing that left me unsatisfied is the ending; it left me feeling hollow because of Ga-heun's choice. For a quiet and demure woman, she seems firm in some aspect and not caring what other women thought of her. 

Colonel Kim, on the other hand, seems weak as compared to Ga-heun when it comes to love, but then that is the attractive side of him. A devoted man is what most women want in a relationship isn't it? But then again from another angle, love and devotion can also consume and destroy a person. . . And I think, in my opinion, is the core of this story. 

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. If only it has a happier ending. . . 

ISBN: 9781590516737
Publisher: Other Press LLC
Publication Date: 3 June 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 pgs
Source: Personal Library
Translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell

I'll Be Right There is a powerful and moving story about friendship, loss and young love set in 1980s South Korea. Alongside the setting there are also tremors of political revolution and the demonstrations of quests for democracy and freedom. 

Filled with lyrical prose throughout the story, author Kyung-Soon Shin tells us a beautiful yet a sad story of Jung Yoon, a highly literate twenty-something young woman's journey of growing up and her relationship with her three closest friends - Dahn (her childhood friend), Myungsuh and Muri; a boy and a girl she knew from college respectively.  

Captured the innocence of youth, the characters' mixed feelings of growing up and seeing life as it is. There are some touching moments when Jung Yoon mentioned about her mother, who  knew that her days were numbered, sent her to live with her cousin in the city as she didn't want Jung Yoon to see her suffering. Jung Yoon, on the other end, thinks otherwise. 

While there are tough times, there are also tender moments when I read about Dahn's letters to Jung Yoon during his army service as he poured out his feelings to her, as well as reading Myungsuh's journal about his thoughts in general. I felt I could read into their minds reading through those words.  

Then there are joy, sorrow, despair . . . when Myungsuh told Jung Yoon his love for her is as much as those emotions he experienced through different stages of his life when he was younger. And then, there is Muri as she recalls to Jung Yoon how she had lost her elder sister when she ended her life after learning that her boyfriend would never return, due to the demonstration and he may be part of it. 

I'll Be Right There is Jung Yoon's memories of her past; a highlight of her fragile and emotional experiences in an era filled with uncertainty and anxiety. What makes this story a poignant read is not only the characterisations but the way how they would make you feel as you read about their lives, which was written so beautifully that I felt a sense of melancholy reading them. It is a thought-provoking read about life and relationships, and finally never hesitate to hold out to the person you think who might need it, hence the title "I'll Be Right There". I want to say Ms. Shin is a great storyteller; aside from the characterisations, she also has a talent for noticing the detail that characterises the particular situation she describes. 

Finally, I want to applaud the translator, Sora Kim-Russell, for the translation of this work. Although I couldn't compare the translation to the original work, I want to say it read smoothly and that at times I even forgot I was reading a translation version. 

Please Look After Mom, which is the author's previous book, would be onto my to-read list. 

Note: The Chinese translation of "I'll Be Right There" is "我们不要忘记今天"〜 申京淑.