This is one of two bedtime books I regularly read to Little Man. Snuggle Bunny is nice and soft and fluffy, and you can even rotate him. The story wouThis is one of two bedtime books I regularly read to Little Man. Snuggle Bunny is nice and soft and fluffy, and you can even rotate him. The story would be useful to get Little Man prepared for bed when he's older and can actually understand it. The corners of the book are a bit sharp for babies, although I suppose it was designed with older toddlers in mind. Funny thing is, Little Man shows a preference to his other bedtime read, the Sleepy Kittens story from Despicable Me....more
When I saw the book in Despicable Me, I knew I had to get it for my wee man. been reading it to him every night since he was 2 months old, and he stilWhen I saw the book in Despicable Me, I knew I had to get it for my wee man. been reading it to him every night since he was 2 months old, and he still loves it. Now he crawls towards me when I pick the book up. It's sweet and cute with catchy rhymes, but I too was disappointed to find there wasn't a mini brush to groom the kittens with. :-( At least I can still make them drink their milk....more
Chimera is such an apt title for this book. The best way to describe the story is that, like the mythical creature the novel is named after, it is a hChimera is such an apt title for this book. The best way to describe the story is that, like the mythical creature the novel is named after, it is a hybrid: technothriller meets sci-fi meets mystery meets adventure meets political thriller. Wellington has taken the best aspects of these different genres and put them together into an explosive whole.
I was hooked and intrigued from the very first page, when mysterious forces release a group of men from some sort of detention camp in the middle of the Catskills. Who are these men? Why were they imprisoned there? Who helped them escape? And eyes that are all black (not a spoiler, as it is mentioned within the first few pages)? Whoa! What's going on here?
Jim Chapel is one of the most original, most loveable main characters I have read in a long time. Still getting to grips with the war wounds he suffered in the line of duty, he is a soldier through an through. Nevertheless, while he would follow orders unquestioningly, and would sacrifice himself for his country, he continues to conduct himself within a strict code of ethics. This human empathy and all round niceness, in spite of his physical flaws, is what makes Chapel such a likeable hero. It was also interesting to see how the adversaries he meets in the course of the story underestimates his because of his apparent handicap.
With the help of a red-headed veterinian, and a disembodied voice he calls Angel, a computer whiz he communicates with only by phone, Chapel has to not only hunt down the escaped men, but to uncover the agenda behind their release, a conspiracy that resonates right up the chain of command within certain government circles.
Wellington weaves a taut, fast-paced tale that keeps you guessing at what's coming round every corner, just as he sends you hurtling towards said corners. And while I managed to guess at one major plot outcome, it may only be because being female, I am more sensitive towards the issue (can't say more than that without spoilers).
The one (small) down point about Chimera, is how it overly depicts one of the big no-nos: gratuitious sex or violence (which you'll have to read the book to find out). In fact, I have tried skipping over a couple of chapters of the stuff, and losing them does not detract at all from the story.
All in all, reading Chimera is like being strapped to a roller coaster packed full of dynamite, with broken tracks ahead. You'd better hang on for the ride!
Perhaps the fact that I can read and understand the Chinese pinyin in the story made it all the more profound for me. The story strikes close to the hPerhaps the fact that I can read and understand the Chinese pinyin in the story made it all the more profound for me. The story strikes close to the heart of my Chinese heritage and culture, and I love how it's written in simple, plain English, as quite often the award-winning short stories put me off with overly flowery language. Definitely worth 10-15 minutes of your time!...more
With a reputable new job and a loving boyfriend, Serenity Holland’s life in London seems settled and almost perfect. Then a routine assignment turns uWith a reputable new job and a loving boyfriend, Serenity Holland’s life in London seems settled and almost perfect. Then a routine assignment turns up something that could threaten boyfriend Jeremy’s charity construction company. As always, Serenity decides to take matters into her own hands, without telling Jeremy. But is Jeremy also keeping a secret from her? And can their relationship survive all this secrecy?
After Build A Man made me a chick lit convert, I had high hopes for Construct A Couple, and happily, I was not disappointed. Serenity remains her inquisitive, lovable, Jaffa-chomping self, as she gets herself stuck in another sticky situation. I enjoyed re-visiting her best friend Kirsty and family, as well as new characters like the quirky Lizzie and the snotty (literally!) Gregor, proving once again that Roland has a knack for creating unique, memorable characters. I also enjoyed how Roland included the ins and outs of working for a newspaper magazine in Construct A Couple, which includes lots of details I never knew about.
Construct A Couple is a sweet and fitting sequel to Build A Man, but perhaps it’s because Build A Man was my first ever adventure into chick lit, it left a bigger impression on me. Nevertheless, I’m definitely going to read the third book in the series, Marriage to Measure, as I’m so excited to have Serenity and Jeremy tie the knot!...more
In Black Jasmine, Ms. Neal weaves yet another mesmerising mystery set in the exotic locales of the Hawaiian isles. This time, the death of a yo4½ stars
In Black Jasmine, Ms. Neal weaves yet another mesmerising mystery set in the exotic locales of the Hawaiian isles. This time, the death of a young girl, the victim of an apparent suicide, leads Detective Lei Texeira on a twisted trail through the island of Maui, from its homeless camps, to the fleets of luxurious cruise ships docking regularly on the island, all the way to its glitzy arts scene, as Lei uncovers the details of an elaborate and cruel organised crime operation.
Once more, Lei’s investigations take the reader on a relentless thrill ride, with clever plot twists that kept me guessing till the very end, proving yet again that Ms. Neal is a master of the whodunit. The fact that Lei herself becomes a target for a professional hit drives the stakes closer to home, and while it does ramp up the tension in the story, I found it just a tad unbelievable just how lucky Lei is to survive that many close shaves in such a short space of time. As one of her colleagues said in the book, she must have nine lives!
In terms of Lei’s private life, I was glad to see her back together with the dashing Detective Stevens, but once again their relationship is strained by her unwillingness to commit to marriage, and the tempting call of a promising career in the FBI. I still can’t decide if I agreed with Lei’s final decision, but the open-endedness of the ending makes me think that this love story is far from over.
On another note, I’m glad that Ms. Neal finally resolves the shadows from Lei’s past. I symphathised with Lei in the first two books, but her hang-ups about her past was starting to wear thin by book 3, so I’m happy she appears to have finally faced up to and slayed her childhood demons.
All in all, Black Jasmine is a satisfying continuation of the Lei Crime Novels, and I continue to look forward to what else Ms. Neal has in store for the series....more
Luke is a big fish in the private school he attends. He's captain of the soccer (or as we Brits call, football) team and popular with the girls. He liLuke is a big fish in the private school he attends. He's captain of the soccer (or as we Brits call, football) team and popular with the girls. He likes having fun by teasing the other students -- what harm can that cause? If they take his jokes the wrong way, they just don't have a sense of humour, right? That doesn't make him a bully, does it? But when his latest 'prank' gets him expelled, and loses him his best friend, Luke is transferred to his local school, where he ends up on the other end of bullying. As he tries to settle at his new school, he begins to see bullying in a new light.
I feel this is more Middle Grade than Young Adult fiction. For someone who's not read much MG before, I enjoyed the story from Luke's perspective: how he initially interprets his teasing as just having a bit of fun, and how his mindset changes when he transfers to a new school. As a former schoolteacher, I can relate to how sometimes children just don't realise that what they say and do in jest can actually be very hurtful, and it just never occurs to them that their actions can be construed as bullying.
Like teenage boys often do, Luke shows little emotion throughout the story, despite being expelled from his old school, losing his best friend, being subjected to the bullies at his new school, living with a mother battling depression, and having a father who's always too busy at work to be around. OK, perhaps Luke seems a little unemotional at times, so the scene with his dad near the end of the book was a welcome change.
While I found this a largely enjoyable read, with believable characters and very real current issues, I felt the story ended rather abruptly, with little resolution apart from Luke finally seeing the error of his ways, and making peace with some of his past victims (An example of a big loose end: Luke's older sister continues to torment fellow students via cyber-bullying). Perhaps it is the author's way of showing that bullying is a persistent problem that cannot be solved in one fell swoop, but I still felt a little unsatisfied by the ending.
If you enjoy MG fiction dealing with real-life social and domestic issues, if you enjoy stories with a strong underlying moral theme, then you may enjoy We're Done....more
On the picturesque island of Kaua'i where Lei is newly stationed, hippie backpackers -- transients with no fixed address and that few people will notiOn the picturesque island of Kaua'i where Lei is newly stationed, hippie backpackers -- transients with no fixed address and that few people will notice missing -- have been disappearing for the past few years, a pattern nobody detected until now. Could these disappearances be the work of a cult, or just one madman? Lei Texeira is on the case, but things become complicated with the addition of former fiancé Michael Stevens and the entrance of hot property developer Alika Wolcott.
Ms. Neal ramps up the mystery by keeping us guessing as to who the culprit is: so many suspects, so many secrets, and when I thought I had most things figured out, she hits me with a whammy of a climax, which may or may not make you face-palm yourself for not seeing it earlier. Fans of whodunits and police procedurals, you will not be disappointed by this epic puzzler!
In terms of her personal life, it is good to see Lei slowly moving on from her traumatic past. I almost cried when I realised Stevens proposed to her and she broke off the engagement (poor Stevens!), but Alika more than made up for it in the eye candy department. I felt torn for Lei as she struggled with her feelings for both men, and her decision at the end, well, let's just say I know it's probably for the best, but still feel ambivalent about it.
One character I would like to see more of is Lei's dad, Wayne. Newly released from prison, he seems determined to make up for lost time with his daughter, and I would really like to see how their relationship will progress.
As with the first book, there is no lack of atmosphere in Torch Ginger. Poetic descriptions of lush jungles, soaring cliffs, and endless beaches of Kaua'i place the reader in the midst of the idyllic island, and references to the island's peoples, language and customs add further flavour to the rich tapestry of the setting.
I loved the first book in the Lei Crime series, Blood Orchids. With Torch Ginger, Ms. Neal has firmly planted herself on my list of all-time favourite crime authors....more
Having read some of Michelle's previous works, I'm familiar with her literary, sometimes even poetic, writing style. The blurb definitely hooked me, aHaving read some of Michelle's previous works, I'm familiar with her literary, sometimes even poetic, writing style. The blurb definitely hooked me, and I was interested in how the author will provide a fresh spin on the classic Stockholm Syndrome, the psychological phenomenon whereby a victim develops an attachment to their kidnapper.
The story opens right after Naomi's abduction, when she wakes up in a motel room with two strange men. Her initial terror and confusion quickly drew me into the story. We are introduced to her kidnappers: the enigmatic, volatile Eric; the younger, gentler Jesse; then later, the kind, beautiful, and almost maternal Evelyn, and her husband Steve (who doesn't feature much in the story).
As the days pass and Naomi falls into a routine as the criminals' captive, her fear recedes to a dull numbness, replaced instead with an urge to escape. I felt her confusion at her captors' unusual kindness, so out of place in a kidnapping situation. She concocts a plan of escape: by seducing the youngest of her kidnappers, Jesse.
However, as days tick into weeks, then months, Naomi grows more and more attracted to Jesse and the other kidnappers, and her need to escape eventually gives way to a desire to start a new life with them. After all, what does she have to return to? Career-obsessed parents who leave her care and upbringing to an army of nannies; a cold mother she feels no connection with at all; a controlling, possessive boyfriend who was physically violent towards her ... and therein lies the story's over-arcing irony: that in more ways than one, Naomi felt more freedom as a prisoner than she did as the sheltered, latchkey daughter of parents who took two days to realise she'd gone missing.
The story is woven together like an intricate tapestry. I felt Naomi's loneliness, her frustrations, her guilt for giving up on her parents, her uncertainty of the future ahead, her confusion for the intense feelings she's developing with Jesse. Is it just another case of Stockholm Syndrome, or is it true love blooming in the most unlikely of situations?
The odd chapter is told from the perspective of Naomi's mother, Karen. In those chapters, we find a mother distraught by the disappearance of her daughter, who masks her distress by throwing herself into her work. Appearing cold and unfeeling on the outside, Karen masks the grief of losing her daughter, guilt at neglecting her, regret at having missed watching her little girl grow up, and helplessness as leads to find her disappear, and the trail goes cold.
The ending could not have been more unexpected, sad--or more satisfying. I was blown away by the intensity of this emotionally charged book, and have been late for work many a time, because I just could not stop reading it. The Breakaway is a spellbinding tale of freedom, love, and hope. Above all, it is a story about family--be it the blood-related kind, or not....more
Having been brought up on crime novels, I can be a bit particular about books in the genre. With the genre saturated with middle-aged, white male deteHaving been brought up on crime novels, I can be a bit particular about books in the genre. With the genre saturated with middle-aged, white male detectives with failed marriages and a penchant for the bottle, few protagonists in crime novels are memorable enough for me to sit up and take notice of them.
Lei Texeira is one such protagonist. Far from being just a pretty face (and a pretty name!), Leilani Texeira is a plucky, intrepid policewoman haunted by her past. Driven and ambitious, Lei aspires to ditch her uniform to become a detective, but her impulsive initiative and stubbornness can sometimes land her in more trouble than she can handle. A strong and kick-butt heroine in a genre populated by male detectives, Lei nevertheless has a vulnerable side, as she struggles to let go of her past as a victim of child abuse. Ms. Neal's background as a mental health therapist definitely helped in portraying a determined but troubled character, adding realism and depth to a complex and compelling heroine.
Now to the story: Blood Orchids centres around the double murder of two high school girls. As officer Lei Texeira pursues the case, she herself is pursued by a stalker. The story is gripping, with heaps of action, and Ms. Neal did a fantastic job pacing the story, revealing nuggets of information one layer at a time. Whilst I mentally patted myself on the back when I correctly identified the killer, I certainly did not foresee that the story didn't end there! No spoilers here, but suffice it to say that what I initially thought was a predictable read, became far from it in the end, and that Lei's troubles were far from over!
Sure, at some points in the story, I did wonder, "Wow, what are the odds of all this misery befalling one single person?" But Ms. Neal's fast-paced writing left me little time to stop and think as it sweeps me along, and her very vivid portrayal of Lei's damaged psyche makes everything seem all the more believable.
With a riveting plot, intense action and drama, and vivid writing, what really made Blood Orchids for me, are the characters. Set in sunny and exotic Hawaii, Ms. Neal brings Big Island living to the masses with her rich portrayal of the island state's diverse peoples and cultures: Native Hawaiians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos... the occasional inclusion of pidgin English adds flavour to the story, bringing the setting to life. My favourite characters include Pono, Lei's partner, and Keiki, Lei's faithful Rottweiler. Lei's budding romance with Detective Stevens made for some tender moments, and I am looking forward to seeing where their relationship will take them in the coming books -- yes, there are other books in the making! Lei Texeira will be back, and I for one am looking forward to it!
If you enjoy a taut murder mystery with some Big Island flavour, if you like your heroines to be strong yet vulnerable, and if you enjoy your stories dark, but laced with hope, then Blood Orchids is definitely for you!...more
I enjoyed TIDAL WHISPERS overall. All four stories are so very different, and not just another fishy mermaid tale.
HEART4.5*--curse the lack of ½ stars!
I enjoyed TIDAL WHISPERS overall. All four stories are so very different, and not just another fishy mermaid tale.
HEART'S DESIRE is a touching story with a tough, likable heroine. I found Tessa compelling because of her disability. Whilst the story is sweet, I felt it was rather predictable, and in my opinion ended quite abruptly.
THE SWEETEST SONG centres around Circe, one of the most successful sirens working for Poseidon, and Otis, captain of the Calypso, a ship that has eluded her several attempts to sink it. I adored the interactions between Circe and Otis, and the ending cannot be any sweeter. With this story and her romantic suspense THE P.U.R.E. (read my review here), Claire Gillian is fast becoming one of my favourite writers.
I have always been fascinated by the islands in the Pacific, and THE PEARL OF PAU’MAA brings all the flavours of simple island living to life. The villagers are banned from entering the sea after a series of drownings and shipwrecks, believed to be the wrath of angry gods. But without seafood and supplies from the mainland, the people are starving. Hungry Miki defies the elders’ orders, diving down to check one of her lobster traps. What she finds is far more unexpected–and precious–than her next meal. A tale of love and destiny, I was mesmerised by the underwater world and society Ms. Said managed to create within the space of the short story.
And finally, we have THE UNDERGARDEN. I adored Nixie’s childlike innocence, and the tale of friendship and love between man and water sprite had me reading non-stop. This story has by far the saddest and most touching ending of all, but it is no less satisfactory, as it ends with both closure, and hope.
Overall, TIDAL WHISPERS is a quick, enjoyable read, and I’d recommend it to readers of romance and lovers of underwater mythology everywhere....more
The story starts with Lauren at her late grandfather's cabin. After hitting a funk in life, she's escaped to her childhood retreat, and is out hikingThe story starts with Lauren at her late grandfather's cabin. After hitting a funk in life, she's escaped to her childhood retreat, and is out hiking when a snowstorm blows up. Next thing she knows, she wakes up in a stranger's bed, only that the stranger, a hunky mountain man named Will Frost, seems very familiar somehow. And Lauren is determined to find out why he stirs such feelings within her, even if it means putting her life in danger.
I like Will Frost's character. In fact, I adore him. A handsome, mysterious, rugged stranger possessing immense powers, yet he is reduced to a stuttering wreck in front of the woman he loves, because he fears his secrets would endanger her. How he cares for Lauren and nurses her back to health is sweet, and his talent with charcoal drawing reveals another softer layer to his character. And what can I say? Any story featuring a charismatic animal character is a winner in my books! :) In this case, Will Frost's lynx companion, Calla, steals the show on more than one occasion.
Sadly, I don't feel as much of a connection with Lauren. After a string of failed relationships, she returns to the cabin feeling jaded, and upon feeling Will is "the one," refuses to let him go without a fight. With the latter, her stubbornness and directness with Will belies her strong, willful character, and that I like, yet I couldn't help feeling that the opening scene, where she broods over her lack of love and purpose in life, makes her out to be a bit whiney and woe-is-me. Most of all, I don't appreciate how she treats her supposed best friend, brushing her off when she clearly wants to try and help make her feel better.
One person I'd have liked to learn more about, is Lauren's grandfather, whose influence is present throughout the book. The wood carving of a lynx, the cabin, the suggestion that he may have known of Will... I would've enjoyed it if Adams had elaborated on this kind but absent old man.
All in all, the story is unique and intriguing, and the ending, although predictable, is definitely satisfying. However, I would have liked to have seen more investments in character development....more
The story started in the thick of action. I enjoyed how the no-nonsense attitude of the protagonist, Harry Levin, was made clear from the start. A surThe story started in the thick of action. I enjoyed how the no-nonsense attitude of the protagonist, Harry Levin, was made clear from the start. A survivor of the Holocaust living in 1971 Detroit, his daughter is killed in a car crash involving a German diplomat driving under the influence. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the guy has diplomatic immunity, and is never charged for the crime.
This tragedy prompts Harry to stalk the German all the way back to Munich, but his plans for revenge uncovers something much more horrifying (view spoiler)[: the German diplomat, Hess, was not only a Nazi in the Second World War, he was the commanding officer in charge of executing truckfuls of Jews in the forest, including Harry's parents, and burying them in mass graves. Harry himself survived and later climbed out of the grave. Harry discovers that Hess is not finished with his Nazi days, continues to support neo-Nazism, and he continues to hunt down and murder Jewish couples in execution-style killings even today.
When Harry teams up with a reporter and a charity seeking to reveal the names of Nazi war criminals, their lives are placed in danger as Hess works to silence the all remaining witnesses, and to derail any further investigations into the past. (hide spoiler)]
Voices of the Dead is a roller-coaster ride through the streets of Detroit and Munich, with a plot that gripped me right to the end. Harry is a likable protagonist, and Hess makes for a chilling villain. The history of Nazi Germany may not be a distant memory for some, it is for younger generations like myself (one of the increasingly rare occasions I can class myself as the 'younger' generation!). Although we are aware of the atrocities that happened, we never lived it, but Leonard's portrayal of the suffering and plight of the Jews made me see this slice of history in a whole new light. The Detroit and Munich of the 1970s (also before my time) were brought to life, complete with racial prejudices, neo-Nazi groups, and sex, drugs, and rock & roll.
There may be some aspects of Leonard's book that some people may not appreciate: the sometimes contrived-sounding dialogue (in a number of occasions, every other spoken sentence contained Harry's name. In reality, how often do we mention a person's name when speaking to them?); Leonard's spare writing style, with halting sentence structures that could take a bit of getting used to; the presence of rather crude sexual references that seemed unnecessary (click spoiler for an example: you have been warned!),(view spoiler)[ like how Harry's neighbour and casual sex partner has "breath that smelled like sauerkraut, and privates of wild geese." (hide spoiler)]Too much information, perhaps? There is also the odd backstory dump that I tended to skim over, and at least one instance of a confusing point-of-view shift between two characters. Nevertheless, these detract little from the fact that Voices of the Dead has a compelling storyline and an intriguing plot, and I found myself just having to read the next chapter: "I'll stop after the next one, promise!"["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more