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 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.

No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay

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Fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge woke one morning to discover that her entire family – mother, father, older brother – had vanished. No note, no trace, no return. Ever. Now, twenty-years later, she’ll learn the devastating truth. 
Sometimes it’s better not to know…

Cynthia is happily married with a young daughter, a new family. But the story of her old family isn’t over. A strange car in the neighborhood, untraceable phone calls, ominous “gifts” – someone has returned to her hometown to finish what was started twenty-five years ago. And no one’s innocence is guaranteed, not even her own. By the time Cynthia discovers the killer’s shocking identity, it will again be too late… even for goodbye.

 


Upon finishing this book, I thought this book deserved solid 3.5 stars. However, as I reflected back on the story to write up my personal thoughts, I changed my mind and decided to give 4 stars instead for its entertainment value.

This is my first Linwood Barclay; as I mentioned in my #FridayReads post, I got this book from my friend and it turned out to be quite a read. I enjoyed the ride from beginning to end.

First, it is gripping right from the start. The writing is engaging and the plot is well-crafted. I liked how the undertone of the story gets darker and creepier as the story develops. When the story takes off, where Cynthia decides to make an appearance in a program to glean further information on her vanished family, the tone of the writing is still somewhat uplifting; it well showcases the one happy family despite the indelible, dark past that Cynthia has.

However, as Cynthia and Terry get themselves deeper into the case, the more strive they are to get down to the bottom of what happened to Cynthia’s old family 25 years ago, the strings of mysterious things start to happen around them; her father’s fedora left on the table, untraceable, anonymous calls, a stranger watching their house on the street, and a strange brown car parked on the street. These small bits and twists kept me intrigued and engaged in the story; it made me keep turning pages. This is really a page-turner.

It’s quite twisty, too. When I say ‘twisty,’ I mean ‘twisty down to the last minute.’ Although I found some of the revelations a bit anticlimactic, yet the revelation that is to be made in the very end kind of took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming.

That said, however, it also left me feeling a bit far-fetched; it seems to me a bit inconceivable for a certain character – whose name I won’t divulge here – to go to such length even the given situation. I felt it was a bit of a stretch and spoiled the thrill, yet looking back the whole story, I guess I have to admit there were some hinting throughout the book. It didn’t make a ton of sense to me, yet it did to some extent. I guess I could live with that.

Story-wise, I thoroughly enjoyed the plot on a vanished family and the mysteries surrounding it. I also liked how the side story on a crumbling marriage deftly intertwined with the main plot. While Cynthia gets more convinced that her family is still alive, Terry remains skeptic and even starts to doubt if Cynthia is pushing herself over the edge and making up the whole story to atone what he wonders she did 25 years ago. And the slight discordance on their take on the case starts to cause a rift in their relationship. I really enjoyed this aspect of ‘trust’; it gives more depth to the story.

The Clayton part is also gripping, too. It is where the big revelation is made and where the questions that readers might have will be answered.
Up until that point, with some of the questions being answered, I still had some issues with the story. I was like, “Okay, I got how it works. But how do you explain such a such a thing?” There were still some questions need to be answered.
This is where this Clayton part comes in; I personally absolutely loved this part. I would even go so far as to say this is what made this book for me. This is what hold this story together and shows the true meaning of the title of this book. I thought it was beautifully done.

Another thing I want to mention about this book is the tone of the writing.
Despite being a thriller, I didn’t scare the daylights out of me. There are some scenes where I found a bit graphic and too descriptive, but it was not like a full-on spine-chilling thriller to me; it was more like an entertaining, exciting thriller if you like, and I quite enjoyed it.
It is also pretty gripping, too. I think the author is really good at displaying the ferocity of the villains in the story. In particular, the sudden display of Vince’s ferocity made me gasp in surpise; it completely caught me off guard and grabbed me, wondering what’s going to happen next.
He is also brilliant at building up the tension at the suspenseful moments; there are some scenes that really put me on the edge of my seat, made me turn pages with bated breath.
It was a pure joy to go through his writing.

Although I didn’t get to connect to the characters as much, it didn’t pose any problems for me. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even emotionally attached to Terry, the narrator of the story. If anything, I adore Jane and Vince – the side characters. Jane is sassy, yet well-minded, such a likeable character and I liked how Vince’s character undergoes a change as he hangs out with Terry. I pretty much warmed up to him. I really liked him.

To wrap up my thoughts, I’m afraid to say that it didn’t grab 5 stars from me as a thriller, but I can say this is a such a delightful read.
This is undeniably a page-turner with an engaging, twisty interesting plot. You won’t get bored, I can vouch for that.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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The Shadow of the Wind

 

One cold morning in 1945, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel to a labyrinthine library of forgotten titles, hidden in the old city of Barcelona. Allowed to choose one book, Daniel pulls out The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. But as Daniel grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. What begins as a case of library curiosity turns into a race to discover the truth about the life and death of Julian Carax, and to save those he left behind…


This book is simply amazing and superb.
I can find hardly any flaws in this. The story line is wonderfully and intricately crafted and it’s so twisty till the very last minute, which makes a perfect Gothic Mystery, I literally devoured this book. I gulped down the last 80 pages in almost one sitting; it goes to show how stunning and riveting this book is.

The writing is absolutely gorgeous; very strong and solid, not a single word is out of place, every single word is there for a reason.  It’s also very descriptive and suspenseful.
I like how the shadow of ‘Lain Coubert’ hangs in Daniel’s life in the first 100 pages or so.
Ever since the first encounter with the limping, faceless man under the name of the character from The Shadow of the Wind, he hovers like a shadow over Daniel’s life, his presence is always felt, wherever Daniel goes and whenever the moment is. It adds a lot of tension and creepiness to the already gripping story and makes it even more enthralling.

The plot is also very intriguing and twisty down to the very last minute of the book.
I personally think this is one of those books that makes you really think. Tugging the hints and the foreshadowing scattered here and there throughout the story, putting two and two together, you try to solve the mystery yourself. At least that’s what happened to me. I did a lot of tabbing and re-reading the paragraph and scene where the specific events and characters first mentioned in the book.
The power of the story and the writing is so strong. Although I have to admit that I felt it a bit dull somewhere in the middle and I reached the point where I almost gave up, but it makes sense; I now think the first half is spent on building up the story and tension that will come to a head in the second half. I am glad that I didn’t give up on that point. The story develops a lot from there and it only gets more intense and gripping.
I don’t remember how many annotations and scribbles that I made, which is a rarity for me.

The characters are all well-fleshed out and feel very realistic. I personally loved Fermin’s character; he’s comedic and funny, however somber and serious the scene was, his presence and remarks always brought a ray of hope and smile. I also loved the despondent yet calm voice of Nuria. She carries incredibly heavy luggage from the past and her life has always been fraught with grief, sorrow and sadness, yet I think that’s what makes her endearing to me. I really love her voice.
Although I found the description of Julian Carax in the latter part a bit over the top, reminiscent of some super-human characters from Marvel comics, but it works perfectly to bring an end both to this grand, epic story and the outstanding unfinished business between Fumero and Julian. It is just amazing how the story beautifully and masterfully wraps up towards the end.

Like I mentioned earlier, there’s not a single piece which is out of place. Every single hint comes together perfectly in the end and the ending is simply glorious.
The way the author describes how each character leads his/her life after all the mysteries solved is purgatorial and delightful. It put a smile on my face.
The undertone of the story is dark and somber but it lightens up in the end which I personally am very happy with.

I myself think this story conveys the message of ‘redemption’ and ‘rebirth’ or ‘re-do.’
Daniel’s urge to reveal the secrets of Julian Carax, the author of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ ends up messing up almost everyone’s life and hurting them. It even drives a wedge between his long-time friend and himself in its wake and the consequence Daniel brings upon himself was heartbreaking for me; it was so poignant and haunting.

That said, I adore the message what I think Julian wanted to impart to Daniel – ‘live for me‘ – I thought it was so beautiful. It almost made me cry.
This is an incredibly dark, haunting and complex story, but the feeling that I had reading what a significant figure Daniel has become to Julian and how Julian starts to see a hope in Daniel is something I can never express with my words. It’s just inexplicable. It even felt purifying and purgatorial. It’s so, so good.

This book is beyond flawless. I almost gave up in the middle, but I am glad I persevered and kept reading. This now has become one of my favorites.
This is definitely worth your time. I highly recommend reading this.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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Dark Matter: A Novel

 

Let me say this out loud first – I have never read anything like this before.
I’m still reeling from the impact that this book had on me and I still can’t process all the feelings that this book gave me.
This book has just toppled my perspective upside-down.

Oh, my gosh.

This
is
Crazy!!!!

 

All right, that’s my initial thought.  Let’s talk about my personal thoughts on this book.

Like I said, I have never read a book like this before. This is such a weird, straight-up crazy, yet a fantastic Sci-Fi book.  An incredibly powerful, mind-bending read that captures the imagination of the readers and hooks us on adrenaline.
The shear craziness and weirdness gripped me and wouldn’t let me go till the end. It was was so addictive and riveting.

I think it is next to impossible to express my thoughts and feels on this book without giving anything away, because even a snippet of details can be a spoiler and ruin the fun you’d get out of reading this book, but the plot is just incredible and the writing is brisk and spectacular, the last 60 to 70 pages are super fast-paced, incredible page turner, I just couldn’t put it down nor did I want to put it down.

Jason Desson is a brilliant physicist and teaches physics at Lakemont College. He was on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough in quantum physics when he found out that his girlfriend, Daniella, was pregnant with a boy fifteen years ago.

He was sort of content with his life as a mediocre professor and his role as a husband and a father.

One Thursday night, on his way home from the local pub where he had some drink with his old friend who has just won a prize, he gets abducted, knocked unconscious and then gets injected some weird substance.

when he wakes up on a laboratory bed, he senses that something is wrong.

Everyone seems to be overjoyed by his return but Jason himself doesn’t recognize any of them. They tell Jason that 14 months have gone by since his disappearing.
Daniella- who is supposed to be his wife in his world (The world Jason is familiar with) turns out to have been seeing his friend. Daniella and Jason parted ways 15 years ago; not to mention, they don’t have a son.

Dumbfounded and utterly baffled, Jason tries to figure out the way to get back to the life he belongs to – the way that leads to his beloved wife, Daniella and his son, Charlie.

The concept of the plot may come across a bit far-fetched; I must say I still haven’t been able to wrap my head around on some points and there are things that I find hard to process, but it is not over-the-top difficult to digest nor hinder you from enjoying the story.
Blake Crouch did an amazing job in breaking the mind-bending concept into manageable bits of information and make them easy enough to understand even for people like me who can’t make head or tail of science or physics.
Yes, it is still mind-blowing and crazy, but one part of me actually finds the idea very intriguing.

What if different versions of life do exist? What if different versions of YOU do exist?

That’s all can divulge as far as the story goes, that I can vouch for this being an extraordinarily fantastic, amazing book.

The writing is also amazing and just spectacular – he makes what is already creepy and eerie even creepier, what is already intense even more intense. This book sucked me in straight away and spat me out at the end of the book. How gripping it was!

I found the pacing was a bit odd somewhere in the middle because Jason makes a game-changing discovery in how to get back to his own world, what factors affect to which world he lands next.
I was like, “Hold up, isn’t it a bit too early for him to figure this out? We’ve still got more than 100 pages to go.”

But that’s how it should be – the plot gets even crazier towards the end.

Everything happens in the last 100 pages are totally unexpected – so twisty and mind-bending. I felt like I was in a vortex and looking how fast everyhting flies past in front my eyes.
The last 60 pages in particular, is such a page-turner; I couldn’t put it down and I read the rest in one sitting. I could even hear my heart hammering in my chest. I’m not exaggerating, I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath till the end.

My mind just went blank when I closed the book. ‘What was that I’ve just read?! ‘ That was all I could think of at the time. I was overwhelmed by the exhilarating twists and the brilliant end.

I’m so glad that I believed the hype and picked this book up.
This is no doubt a thrilling, exciting page turner that won’t disappoint you. I seriously think this book would make a fantastic movie and kind of hope it would.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is interested. Don’t worry if you’re not big on science fiction, the theory is broken down easily enough to follow.
This is definitely worth your time, I can vouch for that.

The Kindness of Strangers by Julie Smith

julie-smithTitle: The Kindness of Strangers

Author: Julie Smith

Length: 358 pages

I gave this book 2 stars out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

I picked up this book as part of the Spookathon hoping to wrap up this month with something spine-chilling. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped.

As I mentioned earlier in my blog, I don’t usually give up on a book. I see it that I try as I might to find something nice in the book.

It may have been partly because the book that I picked up – ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ was the 6th book in the ‘Skip Langdon Series,’ but I just couldn’t connect to the story as much I had thought I would.

First, there are so many characters some of whom probably are from the previous series, and the number of characters who appear in the story expands in the course of Skip’s private investigation, so it became pretty hard to keep track of the character dynamics. (A lot of name remembering required.)

Secondly, the pacing felt a bit off to me. It was a bit slow in the first half and it suddenly picks up speed somewhere around 70% and then things start going at breakneck speed toward 90% of the book.

There are indeed some strong and exciting scenes where I couldn’t put it down, but what I thought the weak first half failed to keep me engaged as much.

Again, I am not a kind of person who easily gives up on a book, though, I was so close to give up on this one. I kept wondering if I should keep going throughout the book. My ambivalence may have clouded my mind and hindered me from judging this book subjectively, which I feel a bit sorry and unfair to this book.

My rating and thoughts might have been different had I followed the series.

Thirdly, I’m afraid to say that I couldn’t relate to the characters – I wouldn’t say ‘at all,’ I could relate to Torian being all broken-hearted, and I do think it was a nice attempt to set the protagonist Skip Langton as being rather substantial (tall, slightly overweight) as opposed to being all skinny and pretty. But for the most part, I found the characters are not much relatable.
I also found a bit distracting that there were too many characters’ inner voices and narratives. They were supposed to describe what was running through behind the characters’ mind and they may actually work for you, but it just didn’t work for me and I thought it kind of disrupted a natural flow of the story, unfortunately 😦

More than anything, the description of the villain was quite a letdown to me – I was expecting a real psychopath and he was NOT what I had envisioned. He miserably failed to get the hair stand up on the back of my neck 😦

All in all, I could only give this book 2 stars.

Although my gut-instinct went for 1 star out of 5 starts, for the sake of some strong scenes, I settled with 2 stars.

 

Mini Mini Review: The Fireman by Joe Hill

The fireman

Yes, I’ve just finished reading ‘The Fireman’ by Joe Hill. It took me precisely one week from start to finish.

I’d normally post a review immediately after I’ve finished, but with this book, I think I’ll refrain from posting a full review and there are good reasons for this.

Firstly, this book is quite long; it’s got whopping 747 pages. I hate to admit this, but I’m afraid I’ve missed out some details which could have played a huge role in the plot as I sometimes found myself dozing off particularly when I was reading at night. So, I figure it’s not fair to say much about this book before I get a better picture of what this book is about.

Secondly, I find it extremely hard to gather my thoughts to be honest – as there are so many things and stories going on in this book, it’s really difficult to pinpoint what I found were really good and what I had issues with.

Not that I’m saying I actually had a lot of issues with; although I felt there may have been too much information or side stories that could have been cut, I did enjoy reading this book despite its length. It almost felt so addictive, keeping me engaged the entire time.

I picked up this book expecting a very thrilling apocalyptic story, it was actually included in Bookbub’s ‘creepy books for October’ list and I got tempted and asked my friend to get it on my behalf.

The preface was really enticing and gripping – describing how the mysterious plague (that causes spontaneous combustion) exploded and people started bursting into flames across the world -I thought it was exactly what I had expected.

However, then the story takes a different turn from what I was expecting. To be honest, I found it a bit of a letdown; I was expecting a super-exciting life and death horror story, like ‘you gotta have to keep running, the enemy is coming after you!!!’ kind of story so to speak.

That said, I also have to admit that I got hooked by this book somehow. I found there is actually a lot more to this book than just a horror story. Joe Hill did a great job in the character development; the intricately entwined relationships between the characters and the ensuing dramas are just amazing. His writing is so powerful and so emotional, there are a lot of scenes where I just couldn’t put it down.

I particularly liked the way he describes the change in the dynamics in the Camp Whyndam; after a shocking incident in the camp, the insidious, sinister side of their personality gradually start searing into surface and people who used to be described as kind and generous start to seem like stolid and harsh, even bitchy.
I seriously doubt this can be categorized as ‘horror story’ by the way – it feels more of a human drama with some horror twists to me.

Although I definitely NOT happy with what happens to the fireman in the very end, yet I have to admit it is so dramatic and even emotional. Gosh, I lost my words at that point.

Even if this is not a type of book you normally read, I’ll recommend jumping out of your comfort zone at times. Despite its length, I highly recommend this and I’ll definitely re-read it sometime later. Because I don’t want to miss a thing!!