June Book Haul

Hello, everyone! This is not technically a book haul, this is just a monthly book-buying which ended up being way over my budget (again, yes), but I’m going to share with you the books that I bought this month. I’m pretty much certain that I’ve bought all the books that had been on my radar or I had been meaning to buy, but we’ll see…

Here are the images of the books that I’ve bought this month (so far):

I completely lost track of the number while I was buying them, but I ended up buying 17 books… this is plain crazy lol  But only five are physical copies (paperbacks) and most of the Kindle books were on special offers (or incredibly low-priced), so the number itself is pretty staggering, but as far as the bottom line goes, it didn’t put me in much of a strain.

Totally unexpected was this:

Kindle

Yes, my new Kindle Fire 7 which came out on June 7th. I didn’t even intend to buy this, but I noticed what had stopped me from reading on my Kindle was the colorless, black-and-white display of my Kindle Paperwhite. As you guys know, I do AN AWFUL LOT of cover buy. I am an epitome of ‘judging-a-book-by-its-cover’ reader, so not being able to appreciate beautiful covers means quite a downside to me 😦

It’s been more than a week since I got this baby and I’m really enjoying the reading experience. This won’t change my preference for physical books but I’m now more inclined to read on my Kindle than before unless physical books seem more appropriate than e-books (For instance, I don’t think books like ‘Everything Everything’ and ‘Illuminae’ will work well with e-book formats; they do contain a lot of graphics and I’m not quite sure how truthfully e-book formats can recreate and visualize them.) If you have such e-books and think they work perfectly well, definitely let me know. I might change my mind about e-books in general 😀

In addition to those books, my dear Twitter friend (she likes reading English books, too) got me Jane Green ‘Summer Secrets’

I asked her to get ‘Summer Days & Summer Nights,’ a collection of short stories by popular YA authors on behalf of me and then she decided to throw in that book, too!
I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but the SPINE IS ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS with an alternative stripe pattern of different shades of blue, I fell in  love with it.
This is going to be my very first Jane Green (as a newbie, there are so many authors whose books I have never read…), and I am so excited to read it this summer!
Thank you, my friend! I know you’re reading this, I cannot thank you enough for all the love toward me ❤

 

That’s it for today. Those are the books I recently bought and plan to read during this summer (not everything, but hopefully).
What are the books you’re planning to read or you’re anxiously waiting?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll talk to you all again soon 🙂

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

The keeper of lost things

The Keeper of Lost Things: A Novel

 

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realizing he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfill his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…


 

This is a delightful, beautiful read. The gentle undertone running through the book absolutely enthralled me and kept me turning pages.

The story opens up with Anthony Peardew, once a celebrated author of short stories, coming into possession of a biscuit tin containing what seems like cremation remains, and then the story reveals why Anthony has kept collecting lost things and been trying to reunite the items with their rightful owners.

The Anthony part grabbed my heart instantly – the gentle, quiet undertone of the writing beautifully and amazingly reflects his declining health and lets us know that his time is running out. His angst and regret for having failed to fulfill the promise he made with his loved one and his resignation just broke my heart. I was only 60 pages in the book, but I swore that I felt my heart constricted with grief. It was simply amazing how the author got me so invested in a character at such an early stage of the story.

The writing is stunningly beautiful. ‘Gentle,’ and ‘atmospheric,’ are the words that I would employ to describe the writing. It’s full of soft nuance, simply breathtaking.

The story features two parallel stories – one in the present with Laura inheriting the legacy as ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ that Anthony entrusted with her, and another featuring Eunice who builds a strong, abiding friendship (love on her part) with her boss Bomber. Interspersed by stories of the individual items that fell into Anthony’s lap, this Eunice part narrates their story starting in 1974 and then slowly inches toward the present. These two, what seem like irrelevant stories eventually come together in the end so perfectly, fitting the final piece of a puzzle and answering we readers’ questions.

At first, I wasn’t quite convinced with the necessity of Eunice and Bomber side of the story; it does clear my question why there is at the relatively early part of the book, and I could tell this Eunice part would play a significant role later in this book. But I felt it was a bit too lengthy to follow largely because the story in general moves so slowly. This applies to not only Eunice part, but Laura’s side of the story does develop rather slowly, both in terms of her progress as ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ and her personal relationship with a gardener, Freddy.
That said, this pacing didn’t come across boring nor drag, I could tell the author wove those two stories with utmost care – they are really detailed and meticulous. It sank in on me so naturally when the two stories finally intertwined. The way some of the items finding its way to their owners was really well-done, too. It felt like untangling some knotted threads, it cleared the misty fog that’d been sitting in my mind and filled me with a warm feeling.

One thing that I didn’t expect about this book was a fantastical aspect; I don’t want to be spoilery so I’ll refrain from going much into this, but the ghost thing and Sunshine’s uncanny ability of ‘feeling’ the voices of the items threw me off a little bit. This is the twist I wasn’t expecting from this book and I momentarily thought it was a bit unrealistic.

But then again, this magical, bit fantastical aspect gave the book a whimsical vibe and made it really an enjoyable read.

The underlining themes of this book, I assume, are redemption, ‘abiding love,’ and keeping promise.
Each character drags heavy luggage of the past for either breaking promises or failing to live up to expectations and they are struggling and striving to atone for what they had failed to fulfill.
Anthony’s struggles for atonement is particularly heartfelt. His angst for having failed to keep the promise and wish to get reunited with his loved one is simply heart-wrenching and this unfulfilled promise, which Anthony entrusts to Laura, is the core of the entire story and this is what makes the ending breathtakingly beautiful.

To be perfectly honest, the very ending was a bit anticlimactic for me and I wish the author spent a few more pages to wrap up the story, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

This is such a delightful, beautiful, charming book. It’s perfect to curl up with along with a lovely, hot cup of tea.
I simply cannot believe this is Ruth Hogan’s debut novel. I cannot wait to read her next book.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

#WeekendReads & Emojiathon Weekly Wrap-Up #2

Half of the month has already passed; I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but how fast time flies! 

Every Friday, under this hashtag I keep you updated on my weekly reading progress and share with you the books that I’ll be reading over the weekend.

Without further ado, let’s start with my Emojiathon weekly wrap-up.
Since last update, I read:

I got to tick off 3 books on my Emojiathon TBR this week and with two weeks left, I have another 3 to go. It’s been coming along pretty nicely and I’m kind of proud of myself.

This week’s highlight is definitely The Nightwalker, a disorienting yet engaging psychological thriller. The creepy vibe kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and I really enjoyed this. This one takes the cake.  You can read my thoughts on this book here.

Paige’s Turn was a cute quick read which I think will make a perfect summer read. There’s nothing special that makes this book stand out, the plot and the romance between the two main characters are pretty predictable but it is just so darn cute. If you’re a sucker for romance books or love stories (like me), this is for you.

Out of the three books that I finished this week, My Sweet Revenge ended up the least impressive. I did enjoy reading it, but it pales in comparison with the other two books.
You can read my thoughts on this one here.

 

As for my weekend reads, I’ll be most likely to keep working on the non-fiction book that I got from the editor for a review.
It’s been 5 days since I started reading this book but I haven’t made much progress with this one. I’ve just started the second chapter and I’m literally reading this at a snail’s pace. Reading 20 pages a day feels like such an achievement for me. It’s really dense and the diction employed in this book is super sophisticated; it’s far cry from the books I’d normally pick up.

Slogging on

Since this book is jam-packed with various kinds of information and my memory retention is getting weaker by the minute, I started to take notes and scribble my thoughts in a word document as I read along.  It is time-consuming, but I figured it would be better if I did this so as not to leave anything out. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I’m enjoying the process so far.

That being said, as I mentioned in my last update, non-fiction is basically not my cup of tea; I think I’ll go nuts if I keep focusing on this book the entire weekend, so I think I’ll pick up The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

The keeper of lost things

This wasn’t on my Emojiathon TBR, but when I picked up Luck, Love & Lemon Pie (Amy E. Reichert) for my next challenge, which is to read a book I bought because of its cover, I was a bit put off by the synopsis.  I don’t gamble nor do I know anything about poker, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get attached to the story and I decided to swap it for The Keeper of Lost Things. This is my TBR so I can bend the rules, can’t I? 😛

Anyways, this will be my fifth challenge on my Emojiathon and hopefully I get to complete this during this weekend!

 

What are you going to read during this weekend?
If you are participating in the Emojiathon, how are your challenges coming along?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll talk to you again soon 🙂

Happy reading!

Paige’s Turn by Jennifer Peel

Paige's Turn

Paige’s Turn

 

With the encouragement of her beloved Aunt Mitzi, plain and overlooked Paige James left her hometown of Bella Port ten years ago and never looked back. But free-spirited Aunt Mitzi had plans for Paige to stop being pushed into the background. Those plans included leaving Paige as sole heir to her fortune and owner of her bookstore, Paige’s Turn. Begrudgingly, Paige returns home to fulfill her aunt’s last wishes, no longer the girl who’d left in baggy jeans and an ill-fitting t-shirt.

Paige discovers, though, that Mitzi’s last wishes include a lot of meddling in her love life. From the grave, and with the help of some friends, Mitzi has set out to make sure Paige and Bella Port’s most eligible bachelor, Sam Kennedy, find true love together. What Mitzi didn’t foresee is the firestorm and gossip she created that paints Paige as a swindler and liar, leaving Sam to wonder about the grown woman Paige has become. It doesn’t help when Paige fires him after their first meeting. But as friendship blossoms between Paige and Sam, they find each other hard to resist.

Was Mitzi right about the two of them? Will Paige finally have her turn?

 


 

This is a cute, quick read.  For being such a slim book with only 225 page count, it’s got pretty solid story line and subplots in there. It touches on life, relationships, the struggles in a dysfunctional family and romance. The author did a pretty decent job of squeezing all those elements into this little book.

That being said though, there isn’t nothing particular in this book that makes this book stand out. I did enjoy reading this, it’s pretty unputdownable once you start reading, but I had some issues with the plot.

Firstly, the story. The whole ‘once insignificant ugly duck later turns into a stunningly beautiful swan and astonishes everyone who once scowled at her’ type of trope is pretty predictable and I could spot how the story would unfold from miles away.
Being predictable is in fact OK with me. It in a way gives you some reassurance that things will eventually look up in the end and I tend to see it as comfort food, but Mitzi’s persistent, meddlesome intervention put me off a little bit.
Once or twice could be tolerated, it was touching indeed, but it came across a bit forceful to me and I didn’t appreciate it that much.

The whole plot seemed a bit too expedient and plain-sailing too. The ’10 years-later’ part kicks off pretty nicely introducing the rift between Paige and her family after Paige’s inheritance of Mitzi’s money. Sam’s drastic, rather disturbing change of attitudes towards Paige worked really well and pulled me in the story, making my heart ache a bit.  But the reconciliation with Darren arrives too early in the story and the family issues didn’t come across deep-rooted either. Her mother’s antagonism against Paige which is a prominent element in this story wasn’t convincing nor did the reasoning that Mitzi and her father gave to Paige feel strong enough to drive a deep wedge in the family. It felt kind of forced and a bit of a stretch.

That said though, there are a lot of emotional, rewarding moments throughout the book.
My favorite moment is definitely the shift in the dynamics between Paige and her sister, Maggie. They were both kind of aloof and they never felt they knew each other well, but once the confession made by Maggie’s husband sheds a light to what Paige is really like – making Maggie come to her senses that Paige is not as black as they painted her – they get bonded and start forging a strong sisterhood. This is undeniably one of the highlights in this story; it is such a delight to read how all the misconceptions and misunderstandings about Paige gradually get straightened out.

As a protagonist, Paige seemed a bit weak. She is liberal, independent and mentally strong and darn attractive (her beauty and grace is well showcased), but her character doesn’t seem to possess the ‘draw’ that pulls me in. There are scenes that she displays her strength and compassion for others and I loved reading her finally letting out all the feelings that she has bottled up inside whenever she channels her aunt Mitzi, but other than that, I didn’t get to connect with her emotionally.  That said, it doesn’t affect the way I looked at the story at all. I enjoyed reading it just the same.

As for the romance between Paige and Sam… I can’t find words to describe this other than to say, ‘swoony.’ The opening scene in the tree house is simply stunning. A teenage crush on her big brother’s best friend, a kiss on the cheek – it seems typical, but for me, it’s enough to make my heart do cartwheels.
Their attraction towards each other is pretty palpable right from the beginning; we can easily spot the sparks running between them and anticipate the distance between them getting closer and closer by the minute, but it actually develops really slowly and the situation sometimes gets in the way and makes them push each other away, which frustrated me in a pleasant way. It was almost tantalizing.

Reading this book made me realize what a sucker I am for romance books.
Despite some issues and flaws that I mentioned earlier, I still enjoyed reading this. My gut-feeling wouldn’t go so far as to declare my abiding love toward this book due to a bit too beautiful ending, but I liked it enough.
If you are into this genre, or as big a sucker for being addressed as ‘princess’ as I am, then this book is for you – you’ll be sure to enjoy this 🙂
I gave this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek

The nightwalker

The Nightwalker: A Novel

 

Leon Nader suffered from severe insomnia as a child.

His night-walking even caused him to be violent.

After extensive therapy he was cured.
Or was he?

Now as an adult, Leon wakes one morning to find his wife Natalie hastily packing a suitcase. Severely bruised and evidently scared of him, Natalie runs out of the door and disappears.

Confused about what’s happened, Leon begins to wonder if his night-walking has started again. Fitting a motion-activated camera to his forehead to record what he does when he sleeps, Leon makes a shocking discovery. There’s a hidden door in his apartment which he never knew about. As he descends into a nightmare somewhere between sleeping and waking, Leon discovers that there’s a fine line between reality and dreaming – but sometimes waking up isn’t an option…


This is the most mind-bending book I have read all year; I still can’t completely wrap my head around what I’ve just read. This is such a disorienting, trippy read – far more trippier than I had expected.

When I started this book, I was expecting a story describing a young man once suffered from insomnia resumes his nocturnal excursion and commits a litany of brutal, abusive conducts.
How far off I was – the plot is by no means as simple as that – it is more of Leon’s unsettling exploration of his sleepwalking self. It is much more complex, strange and absolutely mind-bending. I felt like I was groping for something to latch on in pitch darkness.  The deeper I went into the book, the more discombobulated I was.

The writing is solid, strong and extremely descriptive. The goriness and brutality displayed in torture scenes are so graphic and raw, it was painful at times thus I wouldn’t recommend this book to someone who can’t tolerate such writing styles – this book is definitely not for the faint of heart.
The unreliable narration has a stunning effect on building up the tension and anticipation. It beautifully amplifies the uncertain, hazy feel of the book and blurs what is already a fuzzy boundary between reality and imagination even more, making you keep questioning yourself whether to believe what you’re seeing or doubt there may be more to that.

And the huge, HUGE twist that arrives in the end… my gosh, I didn’t see it coming at all!
Trust me, it is really a surprising twist that will take you by surprise. I almost felt it sickening though. How could they possibly go to such length????
That was the first thing that sprang to mind.

It is extremely hard to talk about this book without giving anything away; all I can say is just ‘pick it up and read to see how you feel about it.’ That’s pretty much says it all.
The eerie feels running throughout the book and the cliff hangers at the end of some chapters… this is such a page-turner, such a delight to read. Simply gorgeous. I loved it.

This is one of those books that’s best to go into completely blindly without knowing almost anything. The joy of reading will be tenfold that way, I’m convinced.

Although I ducked a half star due to a bit anticlimactic and extended epilogue which comes across an afterthought, this is undeniably an exhilarating, thrilling read that gives you creeps.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

My Sweet Revenge

 My Sweet Revenge

 

■Synopsis <Excerpt from Goodreads>

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?

 

■ My Thoughts

I was a bit ambivalent about this book in the beginning; it’s got a strong introduction, but the middle part felt a bit slowed and drag. It was the very last part of the book that made me had a change of heart. The remaining 100 pages to be more precise.

This book opens up with what I found a very strong first chapter where Paula finds her husband having an affair for God knows how long with Saskia, a co-starr for the show who ironically plays the role of Robert’s wife in the show.
This revelation (confession) part was really well done. Paula’s shock and devastation definitely registered and left a strong impression on me. I had a good feeling about this book.
However, the whole ‘revenge’ plot felt a bit hackneyed, immature and even over-the-top. Teaming up with Saskia’s husband who happens to be the producer of the drama and tweaking/rewriting the character settings/plot for the drama just in order to get even with them didn’t sit well with me. It even felt a bit unrealistic and implausible. I must admit I was a bit put off by it.

The middle part felt a bit plain and redandunt, too. In Part two, we start to follow the story from two POVs, one of Paula as in Part 1 and another of Saskia’s. The story is told by the very two people in the middle of the mess, you’d think things would only get interesting and entertaining. But for me, it didn’t work that way. Partially, it did. But I was just kind of along for the ride, I wasn’t emotionally stirred that much.

That being said though, there are some very strong scenes that totally entertained me. For instance, I enjoyed reading how Paula’s attempts to hold ‘bonding’ sessions with Robert to rekindle the flame of love fall through, how her attempts to carry a conversation like the old times fall flat by Robert’s curt one-word responses. I personally found it really well-done. Felt very realistic.
I also adore the unexpected waft of romance between Josh and Paula that springs from their concoction of revenge schemes; as time goes by their dynamics change and start to form a strong bond after the initial shock of their spouses’ affair. It was pretty heart-tingling and made me want to read MORE of this side of the story.

The author did a good job of developing totally different voices of Paula and Saskia. As I mentioned earlier, we start to follow those two voices from Part 2 and get to the bottom of things what is really going on.
Paula’s voice is compliant and down-to-earth while Saskia’s reflects her conceited, bitchy personal traits. I’m not usually good at following multiple perspectives (as you can guess), but their voices are so disctinct that I didn’t get confused for once.  I particularly enjoyed following Saskia’s POV; she thinks she’s got the upper hand over Paula and that she wraps Paula around her finger, but in actuality… I won’t reveal the plot, but it’s glorious.

There’s not much to say about the characters, but Paula’s self-development was a joy to read. She used to be one of those who loathes any form of physical exertions, but with a strong resolve to get a revenge on Robert and Saskia, she engages herself in walking/running and even signs up for a gym. In the process, she becomes comfortable with her physique and gains confidence in herself. Character developments is definitely my thing; I loved that.

This book is basically unpredictable. Despite a bit lackluster middle-part, there are some surprising twists and turns of events scattered throughout the book. It’s like having a huge twist coming when you start to feel bored. Twist after twist after twist. I would probably have been on the verge of giving up on this book had there not been this sense of suspense; that was what kept me going and I am glad that I persevered. The last twist coming in the last 30 pages was totally engrossing, immersive. That sucked me in the story and made me flip-flop my mind about this book.

With a brilliant, rewarding ending, I decided to push up my rating from 3 to 3.75 out of 5 stars. What kind of rating is this, you think? But I’m still debating whether to give this book 4 stars…

#WeekendReads & Emojiathon Weekly Wrap-Up

This week has passed so quickly; it’s already Friday (here in Japan)!
Like I always do, let me reflect back on my reading progress that I made so far and share the books that I’m going to be reading this weekend 🙂

First, the Emojiathon. Out of 7 books on my Emojiathon TBR, I read The Handmaid’s Tale and am working on My Sweet Revenge at the moment.

(You can read my thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale here.)

As I was reading some books which were not on my TBR and got completely wrapped up in reading them, I haven’t made much headway in my actual Emojiathon TBR which I find a bit disappointing 😦
I’m currently on page 128 in My Sweet Revenge and I hope that I get to finish this by Sunday.  A girl can dream, right?

My usual self would normally pick up another book from the TBR, but there’s one thing that makes me hold off on doing so.

I’ll come straight to the point – I got a book sent by an editor for an entertainment magazine for a review; she asked me if I’d be willing to write a book review.

Surprise, surprise, isn’t it?

I was a bit concerned if I’d be interested in the book – a biography – which is not a type of book I’d normally pick up.
I don’t know what it is about non-fiction in general that puts me off, but I just don’t get tempted to pick it up.
For that reason, when she first contacted me through my Facebook friend, I was a bit hesitant but agreed to at least take a look at the book. Jumping the gun will never be a good thing, I figured.

I received the book last night and skimmed through the first few pages.
And who’d have thought? I found myself engrossed in the book; I was literally voraciously devouring every single sentence on those pages. Then I thought:

I might be able to pull this off, I might as well give this a try.

Long story short, I sent the editor a message that I’d like to discuss the timeline and the details about the review. I haven’t got the reply yet, but I think I’ll have one soon.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not even 100% sure if I can do this; I’m not and I have never been confident in myself.  Not having done anything like this, I’m kind of scared of failing to live up to her expectations.

That said, I do believe there’s a grain of truth in the adage, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ I’ve decided to at least give this a try. Sometimes you just need to push your limits and see what lies ahead of you. And I thought this is the time for me to do exactly that. Besides, we have yet to discuss the details yet! It’s too early to brush it off, isn’t it? 😀

Anyways, I’ll see how it goes and just do the best I can.

If the reply doesn’t come by tomorrow, I’m going to pick up the Nightwalker for a thriller fix.

The Nightwalker

Contemporary novels and YA books are so much fun to read, but you just need some engrossing spine-chilling thriller for a change and I’m definitely in the mood for that.

 

That’s it for this week.
If you are participating in the Emojiathon, I’d love to know how you are getting along with your TBR. Please comment below whatever you want to say, I’d love LOVE to hear your thoughts! 🙂

Thank you for reading (as always) and I’ll talk to you guys again soon!
Have a great weekend!