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A Glimpse Back to My Top 5 Best Reads of 2019

Say ‘yes’ on the comments if you have already made a partial list of books you want to read this 2020.

I already have a few, but before diving into new adventures, I’d like to pay tribute to some of the best reads I’ve had last year – books which I would not mind rereading and hyping up to friends. They’re that good.

Plus, if you haven’t read them yet, consider them as my personal reading recommendations to you this year:

In no particular order…

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Date finished: January 6, 2019

Synopis: The circus arrives with no warning. No announcement precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Reves, and it is only open at night.

My thoughts: Beautifully-written, dream-like and spectacular. I love it.

Goodreads average rating: 4.04 stars / 5

Deep Fathom by James Rollins

Date finished: January 27, 2019

Synopsis: Ex-Navy SEAL Jack Kirkland surfaces from an aborted underwater salvage mission to find Earth burning. Solar flares have triggered a series of gargantuan natural disasters. Earthquakes and hellfire rock the globe. Air Force One has vanished from the skies with America’s president on board.

My thoughts: Awe-inspiring adventure to the world beneath the seas! Makes me want to explore ancient ruins up close! Here’s my full review on this book.

Goodreads average rating: 4.09 stars / 5

The Judas Strain by James Rollins

Date finished: March 18, 2019

Synopsis: From the depths of the Indian Ocean, a horrific plague has arisen to devastate humankind – a disease that’s unknown, unstoppable…and deadly. But it is merely a harbinger of the doom that is to follow. Aboard a cruise liner transformed into a makeshift hospital, Dr. Lisa Cummings and Monk Kokkalis – operatives of SIGMA Force – search for answers to the bizarre affliction. But there are others with far less altruistic intentions. In a savage and sudden coup, terrorists hijack the vessel, turning a mercy ship into a floating bio-weapon lab.

My thoughts: Byfar the most action-packed adventure in this series! No less than wonderful! And I’m totally in for GrayxSeichan ship!

Goodreads average rating: 4.15 stars / 5

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman

Date finished: July 6, 2019

Synopsis: Call me by your name is a story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliff-side mansion on the Italian Riviera. Unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, at first each feigns indifference. But during the restless summer weeks that follow, unrelenting buried currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire, intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them. What grows from the depths of their spirits is a romance of scarcely six weeks’ duration and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.

My thoughts: Can’t put words on this. It’s a masterpiece.

Goodreads average rating: 4.26 stars / 5

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England by Juliet Barker

Date finished: November 10, 2019

Synopsis: Waged almost six centuries ago, the Battle of Agincourt still captivates. It is the classic underdog story, and generations have wondered how the English-outmanned by the French six to one – could have succeeded so bravely and brilliantly. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Juliet Barker paints a gripping narrative of the October 1415 clash between the outnumbered English archers and the heavily armored French knights. Populated with chivalrous heroes, dastardly spies, and ferocious and bold king, AGINCOURT is as earthshaking as its subject – and confirm Juliet Barker’s status as both a historian and a storyteller of the first rank.

My thoughts: Fine historical read with helpful references.

Goodreads average rating: 4.11 stars / 5

I’m still beefing up my 2020 reading list, so if you have some recommendations up your bucket, drop them down on the comments!

The Readers Guide to The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell – Answers

Undoubtedly one of the most memorable reads on my 2018 list. But I decided to opt out on a review.

I will instead take time to answer the 12 questions Ms. Rindell has for the readers at the end of the book to somehow bare my own thoughts about The Other Typist. It’s a very good piece of work. But one might have the tendency to find himself questioning the events as they are subjectively presented by the narrative.

Anyhow, here we go.

1. Do you think Rose is a reliable or unreliable narrator? Why? If you did question her veracity, at what point in the novel did you begin to do so?

I see Rose as a reliable narrator. She’s very keen on details both objective and subjective, and makes sure the readers know the difference between the two. And yes, I did start questioning her. It started on that part when she introduced the ‘doctor’ she’s been talking too.

She seemed well to me. But someone who sees a doctor to talk about personality is indicative of some behavioral issues. Not necessarily disturbing issues but still issues.

2. Why is Rose so captivated by Odalie, someone she wholly disapproves of initially?

I think it’s primarily because of their stark differences. As they say, opposites tend to attract.

Odalie is Rose’s opposite. She is a character that challenges Rose’s ‘comfort’ and ‘familiar’ zone and shows her another side of the picture. This makes Rose’s initial disapproval understandable. Odalie, being an unfamiliar territory seems like a threat to the practices she grew up with.

Despite this, human curiosity wins. And Rose, being an observant and curious as she is just can’t resist the allure of knowing something more out of the other’s new and unique ways of doing things.

3. Through Odalie, Rose gains entry into a world she’s never seen before, one filled with opulence and rich, glamorous people. Clearly Rose is an outsider who doesn’t belong. Yet she seems to take it all rather quickly. Why do you think this is so? Why, despite all the new people she comes into contact with, is Odalie the only one she seems to be charmed by?

Because Rose’s a fast learner. At least that’s how I see her. She’s also a survivor. It’s her nature. So it’s only a matter of time before she masters the new ways of a new environment. Plus, her interest in Odalie tends to enhance her observation skills, absorbing how the former acts in various situations, all the while learning it herself.

As to why she’s charmed by Odalie, the same answer with no.2.

4. Some readers may think that Rose is a lesbian. Do you? Why or why not? Might her Victorian sensibility, when viewed by a contemporary reader, be misinterpreted and sexualized even if it might be innocent and pure?

Maybe, but I don’t think so. She doesn’t seem like the person who gets along easily with others. She’s not social, so to speak and her real friendship is primarily confined in a childhood experience with no other than a lady like herself. It’s only natural to see her longing for that experience once more.

But yes, since people seemed to see her as the aloof, reserved and anti-social typist or roommate, seeing her so close with someone can be interpreted as harboring some special, romantic affection to that person.

5. Rose is such a stickler for the rules, yet as the novel progresses, she starts breaking them frequently. In retrospect, do you think she ever follows the rules? Or does she follow only the ones she agrees with?

I’ll go with the latter. Rose may seem straight as an arrow, but she has the tendency to disobey. She is an observer – a thinker. And she knows more things than what she tells. She acts accordingly as necessary. But I think she’s not completely averse to bending rules. She’s smart enough to know when to do just that. And not getting caught.

6. Rose is actually quite a funny, astute observer. (“I crawled into [bed]… exhausted from the efforts of making conversation with a man who, if he were any duller, might be declared catatonic by those in the medical profession.”) Why, then, is she so humorless when it comes to people like Iris, Gib, and the Lieutenant Detective, especially?

I can’t say for sure, but she obviously has some preconceived notions about them. Most likely based on her personal observations. It just so happen that those notions were not onto their favor.

7. Rose states in the beginning of the book: “I am there to transcribe what will eventually come to be known as the truth.” The novel plays with the notion that the written word is superior to the spoken – Rose’s transcripts and her diary that the reader is reading versus the narration she provides throughout the book. Do you think the written word carries more weight than oral history? Why or why not?

It’s more like a combination of both. I mean, I won’t discredit one over the other. Rose’s diary brings out more honesty in her experience. She supports it with her narration, although the latter also has some added prejudices and opinions here and there.

I guess at some point she felt the need to show her written works because she also feels like we will understand her better if we read the actual recount of her experiences – no matter how irrelevant they may seem. And in fact, as I read through her diary, there are aspects of her experiences – some she might not be conscious of –  that obviously contributed to the change that we see on her attitude. Yet, her narration seems to always lean on her being aware of it all and just giving herself the chance to learn.

8. Consider the many possible storylines for Odalie’s history. Did she really kill her ex-fiance? Was Gib really the driver of the train? Was she indeed a debutante from a wealthy family in Newport? Did she at a young age leave her mother to live with Czako, the Hungarian, in Europe? Which of these stories is the most plausible? Do you believe any of them is true?

It’s hard to trust Odalie. That, I am sure of. I’m not saying she’s a liar. But she’s not exactly the honest person you’ll expect to hear real-life stories. She fabricates stories like a pro and gets away with it without anyone questioning her. Gib also has his own agenda so I can’t say I trust him too.

But of all the stories about her, I’d say the one about her being a debutante from a wealthy Newport family is highly probable. And yes, I think she’s capable of killing her ex-fiancee.

9. What do you make of Roses’s appearance? Throughout the novel she takes pains to point out that she is plain-looking. Yet the Lieutenant Detective obviously finds her attractive, and at the end of the book she is a doppelganger for Odalie, who is portrayed a knockout. What do you think Rose really looks like? Should her appearance even matter?

To be honest, I’ve always seen her as beautiful. Not the type who wears lipsticks and makeup but more like the natural type.

She describes herself as plain, but that’s probably because of her traditional upbringing. Plus, she never saw the importance of comparing herself to other women. She’s also not stylish. She can blend well with the crowd, but not the type that can completely go unnoticed.

As to the ‘doppelganger’ reference on the last part of the book, I think it has nothing to do with her looks. She was conned. By Odalie. And as I’ve mentioned, Rose is a natural beauty. It wouldn’t take much effort in coaxing police to believe how Rose is actually the rich kid and not the other way around. The evidence just needs to be planted. And let’s face it. Odalie is a master manipulator who can do just that.

10. When Rose is in the hospital at the end of the book, the doctors call her “Ginevra.” That is the name Teddy used for Odalie. Who do you think is the real Ginevra? Are Odalie and Rose the same person?

No. Never (at least at the time I finished reading the book) did it occur to me that they are the same person. And I am more than convinced that Odalie is Ginevra. Teddy knows it so he needs to be eliminated. Odalie did so. Then, capitalizing on Rose’s devotion to her, she strategically placed all the evidence in a way that would incriminate Rose in the most convincing, foolproof possible.

11. What do you make of the kiss at the end of the novel? Is Rose doing it just to get the Lieutenant Detective’s knife, or is there some true feeling behind it? Were you surprised that she admits she’s never kissed a man before?

It was partly strategic, I should say. But I think Rose’s curiosity combined with the shock and psychological trauma of what Odalie did to her made her do it. She was already aware of that point that the Lieutenant somehow harbors an affection towards her.

And no, I wasn’t surprised that it was her first kiss.

12. What do you believe really happened at the end of the book? Did Rose kill Teddy? Or did Odalie?

Odalie. I think all of those things that Odalie did with Rose – the parties, vacation, fine dining, etc. were part of her grand plan. She must’ve at some point realized the need for an escape plan just in case things go awry – think Teddy. And given how smooth everything went, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not the first time she conned other people.

She needed someone who can be her. And Rose was the perfect fit.

But really. Thinking back about the story, there could be other angles we can explore to see what really happened. Most of them are big chunks of ‘what ifs’ but not entirely impossible. Say,

  • What if everything was a lie and Odalie was just really a fragment of Rose’s (the real Ginevra) imagination?
  • What if Odalie was the one saying the truth and Rose just made it the other way around? In this case, she conned us all?
  • What if Rose was really sick, to begin with (her mental issues) and decided to create a story that will make her appear as the victim?

These and possibly more.

But I guess it’s best we leave those ‘what if’s’ open for discussions.

So what do you think about the story?

Book Review: Nothing Lasts Forever by Sidney Sheldon

Nothing Lasts Forever - banner

This is another one of those books that we all can finish in one-sitting, nonstop reading.

Nothing lasts forever is an easy-to-follow storyline with characters that represent varied and distinct personalities that many might find easy to relate. Unlike a number of medical drama that mostly includes suspense, this presents a fascinating mixture of romance, family story, and office politics all meshed around our main characters’ predicaments.

Common but at the same time complex story conflict

This story is set in a time when female doctors are viewed as inferior professionals compared to their male counterparts. They aren’t revered as much as their male counterparts and are usually the subject of harassment and bullying. Nothing new, really.

But it becomes interesting by looking at the backstory of the main characters:

Dr. Paige Taylor who grew up with her father – a WHO (World Health Organization) doctor who traveled around the world, servicing tribes and communities with no access to hospital facilities. These frequent travels enabled Paige to learn various local dialects while enhancing her cultural knowledge.

Dr. Kat Hunter, a runaway teen who was abused by her stepfather. She found hope on her aunt’s constant encouragement and her love for her little brother, Mike. Never the ‘people person,’ Kat pretty much did well on her own – eventually braving the profession dominated by men.

Dr. Honey  Taft who was considered inferior among her family of over-achievers. The constant pressure to excel on something made her succumb to unconventional methods to get what she needs. Her natural warm and vulnerable bearing became an asset – something which she soon learned to be a double-edged sword.

Amidst their differences, they all somehow managed to stay together, drawing strength from their common prejudice and excelling well on their respective fields.

But even at that, they never really fully knew who was who.

Honey spoke very little. There’s a shyness about her, Paige thought. She’s vulnerable. Some man in Memphis probably broke her heart.

Paige looked at Kat. Self-confident. Great dignity. I like the way she speaks. You can tell she came from a good family.

Meanwhile, Kat was studying Paige. A rich girl who never had to work for anything in her life. She’s gotten by on her looks.

Honey was looking at the two of them. They’re so confident, so sure of themselves. They’re going to have an easy time of it.

They were all mistaken.

Strong individuality

What I think drove the story forward is the strong individuality of the characters more than that of the plot’s twists and turns. The revelations weren’t that surprising, and few were predictable, but thinking of how Paige, Kat, and Honey would react on the situations thrown at them kept me hooked.

They value their profession, but their priority lists don’t necessarily show it’s the only thing that matters.

Paige has her romantic idealism. Kat has her brother. And Honey has her family.  Personal factors that can always throw even the most straight-headed personality out of balance. One just has to place them in peril.

And Sidney Sheldon did just that.

It’s because these characters were very well crafted that makes them real and memorable. You can get the sequence of events jumbled up, but you’ll forever remember how each character acted.


⭐ ⭐ ⭐ / 5



Get your copy from Book Depository! 

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Makes breathless reading from first to the unexpected last.OBSERVER

I love this book.

This is my first Agatha Christie read and it was very much worth it! No regrets.

It has an easy-to-follow narrative with well-written characters that all had motives for the book’s eventual murder case. But most of all, it has that very likable detective which I think just climbed up my top favorites list.

Let’s talk about Hercule Poirot

Who is the real star of the story (and basically in the whole Poirot installment)… He is a nice fellow, who can easily pass as anyone’s casual acquaintance. His presence in the Murder of Roger Ackroyd wasn’t the plan. He was merely taking a vacation, away from work, when the unfortunate murder happened.

But because he is the ‘Hercule Poirot’ whose name already made headlines, he was bound to somehow be involved.

But it wasn’t his wit or profession, though it’s a part of it, that made me love his character – and the story. It was his obvious sensitivity and knowledge of the human psyche.

One can press a man as far as one likes – but with a woman one must not press too far. For a woman has at heart great desire to speak the truth. – Hercule Poirot

He is as real as anyone else could be in the story. He is confident but never arrogant; secretive but not suspicious. He gives that feeling of a strange mix of opposites that never overpowers the readers but instead balances out all of the attributes that make him unique.

He is a welcome mystery to me. A good storyteller, too!

Whereas a lot of main leads from other detective stories give off that air of intimidation and spot on ‘know-it-all’ vibe, Hercule Poirot is breath of fresh air. He is that detective who you will want to sit down and listen to for hours. At least that’s how it is for me!

Stitching the story’s missing links….

Was downright impressive!

Not all mystery writers do that. A lot of times you are presented with the core case – and that is all that matters. Detective A works with the rest of the characters to solve the mystery, backtracking previous events all the while introducing those people whom the victim interacted with, their motives and benefits for the latter’s demise.

Twists and shocking revelations are added on the way to add drama or suspense.

Agatha Christie wrote this in a way that makes me appreciate the beauty of looking beyond the current case and understanding the character’s role in it regardless if it’s directly related to the murder.

She, through Poirot, revealed side stories with their own life. Most didn’t have anything to do with the case but important nonetheless in dismissing the involvement of those people as the murder.

At the end of the day, it’s the knowledge of those minor details that led to the true murderer’s identity.

The shocking last…

I will just leave this here:  You can never prepare for what she has written for you. 

So YES! I am recommending this book for fans and non-fans of mystery novels! It’s something to enjoy in one-sitting that I’m confident will leave an impression. You might even end up rereading it again and again….I’m planning a second round myself.


⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ /  5


😮 😮 😮 😮

First Impression on Meteor Garden 2018 Remake!

I was in elementary when the Taiwanese version of this series aired on our local TV.

And because online streaming was not predominantly popular at that time, watching every episode is imperative to make sure you don’t miss anything. That also means half-running my way from school to our home just to keep up with this daily viewing appointment. #nostalgia

So when I heard about this 2018 remake, I decided to give it a go. But it wasn’t until the original Chinese airing has released its 15th or 16th episode that I started with the first one.

And ‘just one episode’ easily turned nine.

As of this writing, I in fact just finished the 22nd episode!

Of course, I’d be lying if I say that I don’t have my biases. The Taiwanese version left a huge impact, and it is almost natural to compare the two. A given.

And I’m happy to say, that this remake did really well – did even better on some scenes.

THE CAST is just stunning! I like them! I especially love this new version of HuaZe Lei played by rising star, Darren Chen!

Image result for darren checkk huaze lei gif

He is legit adorable. Cool, aloof, distant and weird but someone who’s impossible to ignore. You know what I mean? (…now I’m making myself too obvious…)

As for THE OST, I didn’t like it that much. But after some successive exposure episode after episode, it has come to grow on me. Coen Wang shares this easy lyrics of the song:

I find it a light-hearted variation from the original’s more mature appeal, and I’m all in for it! The pacing is also a bit faster but it’s fine seeing that the quality of storytelling isn’t sacrificed. The narrative is consistent, a bit bland on some scenes, but likable in general!

Few more episodes and this will be over! I bet none of us is ready to say goodbye just yet.

I am not ready. Are you?

And what’s your impression? Let’s hear ’em on the comments!

Ajin: Demi-Human Live Action Film – Brilliant Casting & Execution!

I haven’t seen the anime nor read the manga version of this show so I watched it with no prior reference to anything.

And I should say it’s a nice standalone film on its own.

The Premise

Set in a world inhabited by a number of Ajinshalf-humans gifted with extraordinary ability to regenerate, thus making them somehow immortal. 

Source: http://www.animenewsnetwork.com

Apparently, not all of the ‘Ajin’ are aware of their identities. The government publicly advertises their so-called ‘protection program’ for these beings, though, in reality, they hold them captive for research.

The research, of course, is far from ordinary. If any, it can be equated to torture.

The Stellar Cast

I’ve always been very mindful of the casting as they impact the overall delivery of the show. In this film’s case, they’re just brilliant. This is setting aside my personal bias to Takeru Satoh.

Gou Ayano, who played as the main villain Sato, was ‘ideal’ for the role. From his facial expressions to his natural bearing and voice, they all spell out terror – something that gives out this ‘run and hide feeling when he shows up and looks at you with a smile.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com

In fact, I consider him as a necessary element in bringing out Takeru Satoh‘s own character. They balance each other’s roles, which I saw as a crucial element in the film’s execution.

What I like best

Izumi and Tanaka’s fighting scenes

Were highly physical.  Contrary to the main character’s battles, these supporting characters engaged in hardcore hand to hand combat which I like considering that I’m fascinated with fist fighting. Tanaka (played by Shirota Yuu) and Izumi (played by Rina Kawaei) seemed to be an unlikely match in battle with their differences in physique, but it’s stunning to see them go all out against each other and be on equal standing.

Compact storytelling

Had I seen the anime or read Ajin’s manga, I might have a different take, but as of this writing, I’m pretty much satisfied with the delivery. The premise was presented well, though it still left questions. The character motivations were reasonable and humane, too.

I can’t say I felt attached to the characters, nor have I rooted anyone on the show since the characterization was not fully developed, but I still had a good time watching it come to a resolution.

Takeru Satoh was the initial reason why I decided to give this a try, but the movie did well in encouraging me to go ahead and watch the anime series.

I’m interested in what you think about this show. Any thoughts?

View the show’s cast here.





Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – A Review

Gloriously eccentric and wonderfully intelligent. – The Boston Globe

How far will you go to solve a neighborhood murder?

Perhaps not that far. Most likely not at all.

Murder is dangerous. And dangerous things are bound to get you in trouble. Or your family. Or friends. Even the innocent lives of those who become aware of your quest to solving the mystery.

But 15-year old Christopher John Francis Boone believed in the importance of solving this particular murder – the bloody demise of their neighbor’s dog, Wellington.

A Personal Take

This is an interesting read that combines humor and wit in an easy-to-follow storyline. It’s that type of book that you can finish in one sitting and that which can be hard to put down once you get yourself at ease with Christopher.

I find his character interesting, weird at so many points, but definitely a likable kid. Five simple facts about him include:

He is a Math prodigy. And he knows it. 

And that is why I am good at chess and maths and logic, because most people are almost blind and they don’t see most things and there is lots of spare capacity in their heads and it is filled with things which aren’t connected and are silly, like, “I’m worried that I might have left the gas cooker on.”

He finds people confusing. For two reasons according to him:

  • Because ‘people do a lot of talking without using any words’
  • ‘ people often talk using metaphors.

He hates the color yellow.

It’s unlikely for him to lie. He doesn’t lie.

This is another reason why I don’t like proper novels, because they are lies about things which didn’t happen and they make me feel shake and scared.

He doesn’t like to be touched. Nor shouted at.

What started as an innocent quest for a kid to solve a dog’s murder is really a story of family, acceptance, and reconciliation. It’s a nice read that leaves me a feeling of gratitude.

We can learn a thing or two from Christopher. Few of which, are those we often take for granted.