Top 8 reads of 2013

Best reads
As the year is coming to an end, I have compiled some of the best books I have personally read that left lasting impressions upon me. It has been a wonderful year where I had the chance to touch base with some classics whilst keeping up with new titles as well as look at a few independently published books. Below is the eclectic mix I have put together and hope they will provide inspirations for your holiday shopping or reading list.

P.S.: Most of the books listed do have individual reviews. Click on the titles to read them.
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Book review: Alex

195kg46t59vd0jpgThis Halloween if you are looking for something frightful to read, look no further than ‘Alex’ by French author Pierre Lemaitre. This detective thriller will keep your fingers flipping and eyes glued to the pages while chilling you down to the bones.

Alex is the first book of Lemaitre, winner of multiple crime-writing awards, which is translated into English language. As an avid fan of detective stories, I thought I have seen all different types of story plots such that it would be relatively difficult to surprise me any more, but I was wrong. I was AWESTRUCK by this brilliant piece of work and let me explain myself.

At the heart of this novel is gory sex, the basic selling point found in many thrillers, especially in Scandinavian crime novels that I adore, repackaged to exude such calm and sophistication to give it the cold-blooded murder qualities. A young beautiful woman was kidnapped from the streets of Paris after dinner and taken to a warehouse as captive where her kidnapper told her, “I’m going to watch you die.” The details of her confinement are plainly horrifying and gruesome to read:

“All around the rats are watching, not knowing whether to attack her. Then she pulls her hand back, and they fight over the fresh blood, gnawing into the rope for a taste of it; they can’t get enough. But now they’ve had a taste of blood, now that she’s given them her own blood to taste, nothing will stop them.”

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Book review: The Moon Dwellers

The Moon DwellersI am not a huge fan of Young Adult fiction as I have professed multiple times on this blog (You can read them HERE and HERE) because the plots can get rather cheesy, run-of-the-mill and at times repetitive. But alas, I have a weak spot for most stories set in dystopian worlds even if it is a YA literature, something I personally blame George Orwell for creating this perfect story (read: Nineteen Eighty-Four) set in a totalitarian state.

There is admittedly no shortage of YA dystopian novels in the market but “The Moon Dwellers,” first book from The Dwellers Saga, is a hidden gem in this vast market self-published by author David Estes. Before you write it off, I am willing to testify that the storyline is as good as those released by publishing houses, sporting polished writing and an original plot that will suck you into the novel’s chilling fictional world.

Think the Hunger Games but grimmer, packed with more action, and a much faster pace. This has also been featured by Buzzfeed as one of the novels to read if you have enjoyed The Hunger Games.

Set in a dystopian world where humans are forced to move underground, citizens are now ruled by a dictator who divided the country into three realms, the sun, moon and star. The most privileged class lived in the sun realm, which is nearest to ground level and receives most artificial light. The least privileged class in contrast is forced downward to reside in constant darkness in the star realm. Continue reading

Book review: Born to run

Born to runI am a self-professed average runner who tries to hit the road at least once a week. Although I have never completed a full marathon, I do love running and the unadulterated joy of my heart pumping hard inside me.

But since the end of last year, I started having a problem with my left knee. A nagging throbbing pain would start shooting through my knee whenever I jogged. I have tried fixing the problem with cushioned socks, patella bands, ice packs and this new pair of shoes, which I switched to at the start of the year.My sports shoesTo be honest, I did pin my hopes on these high-tech soles to work its magic for my joint, but eight months down the road, nothing changed. The nagging pain persisted. Thus it was a shock when I read this in Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to run.”

“Wearers of expensive running shoes that are promoted as having additional feature that protect (e.g., more cushioning, ‘pronation correct’) are injured significantly more frequently than runners wearing inexpensive shoes (costing less than $40).

What a cruel joke: for double the price, you get double the pain.”

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Book review: A tale for the time being

A tale for the time beingWhat were you doing during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

While reading “A Tale for the Time Being” by author Ruth Ozeki, I recalled sitting in the newsroom, staring at the telly screen in aghast while monitoring Japan’s national public broadcasting station NHK for the latest footages. These images of monstrous tsunami waves sweeping cars, houses and everything along its way is etched indelibly in my mind.

With this disaster as the backdrop, Ozeki wrote this brilliant novel that has far exceeded my expectations, and is easily one of my favorite books for this year.

For starters, the introduction to the story is already a seller. A Hello Kitty lunch box was picked up along the seashore by Ruth, a writer living with her husband Oliver on an isolated island in Canada. In the lunch box, it contained a diary written by a Japanese teenage girl called Nao, and is believed to have been washed ashore because of the Tohoku tsunami. The couple then realizes that even though it is a personal journal, the writings seemed to be remotely addressed to them.

“If you ask me, it’s (diary in the lunch box) fantastically cool and and beautiful. It’s like a message in a bottle, cast out onto the ocean of time and space. Totally personal, and real, too…,” Nao wrote. “It’s the opposite of a blog. It’s an antiblog, because it’s meant for only one special person, and that person is you.”

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