Quote: from The Stand by Stephen King

No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just... come out the other side.

Quoted from The Stand by Stephen King

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Personal Copy
Format: Hardback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd— whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself— Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, and monsters both real and imagined.
There is nothing in the world that could prepare a person to face a life that has been shattered by circumstances. Let alone when that life belongs to a ten-year-old boy, Connor, whose father left to live with his new family in the States, leaving him behind with his beloved mother, who is fighting for something that may not end the way he wants it to be. There is too much that weigh on his small shoulders without having anyone there that he could really turn to. One day, The Monster that claims to be answering Connor’s call starts visiting him at the exact time, 12:07, everyday. Taking the form of a yew tree, he brings along with him three true yet unpredictable stories, which he presents to Connor one at a time. Once he is done, The Monster wants Connor to tell him a true story, one that Connor swears not to tell anyone, or else he will eat Connor alive. In the midst of this chaos in Connor’s life, is seeing this Monster the sign that Connor has actually reaches his breaking point? Or The Monster is really there for a grand purpose that Connor could only see once he is ready to see it?

A Monster Calls is truly an epic tale that is compact with concise, lyrical prose and full to the brink with mixes of emotions. Having just finished this book for the second time, I feel that I’ve just stepped off an extremely emotional roller coaster ride, witnessing a life that no ten-year-old really should have. The original idea of this book comes from the late Siobhan Dowd, the Carnegie Award winner, and the author, Patrick Ness, deserves a standing ovation for his remarkable job in turning this idea into a memorable and beautiful story that could moves anyone who reads it to tears. I strongly believe that the outstanding black and white illustrations by Jim Kay really help in accentuating the dark theme of the book and suit the sombre mood perfectly. Another one thing that truly satisfies me is when I finally figure out the significance of every metaphors and symbolisms that Ness used throughout the story. It is like everything is there for a reason and to really see the puzzle being put together, pieces by pieces, really gives me such an incredible feeling.

To be quite honest, I truly cannot list down anything that I did not like in A Monster Calls. This is not the book that you can tell whether it is good or it is bad by analysing its characters or its plots, but rather by reflecting its meaning and see how much it fits to real life. Reading A Monster Calls makes me think back about my life when I was ten, the age when I feel that future is like a sea that will give me access to everywhere without realising that there is something sinister down there that can snatch me at anytime and put my life to a sudden halt. Connor meets that sinister creature, so does many other children in this world and for some reason I really cannot stop thinking about that. Despite sounding like a middle grade novel by judging from its description and a hybrid of paranormal and fantasy genre by its cover, A Monster Calls is indeed a pure contemporary novel that speaks for people of all ages. I highly recommended this book to everyone despite its depressing and emotionally exhausting nature cause I assure you that every single tears that you shed will be totally worth it. Kudos to Patrick Ness for providing us with such a masterpiece.

The Summoner by Layton Green

Title: The Summoner
Author: Layton Green
Series: The Dominic Grey Novel #1 
Source: From author for review
Format: Digital Edition
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A United States diplomat disappears in front of hundreds of onlookers while attending a religious ceremony in the bushveld of Zimbabwe. Dominic Grey, Diplomatic Security special agent is assigned to investigate. Aiding the investigation is Professor Viktor Radek, a phenomenologist and Nya Mashumba, the local government liaison. The first work in a globe-hopping series whose protagonists investigate the world’s most bizarre and dangerous cults, The Summoner is a stylish, haunting novel of mystery and suspense that will linger long after the last page is turned.

It’s the year of 2009 in Harare, Zimbabwe. A Diplomatic Security Special Agent, Dominic Grey, is assigned to investigate a mysterious disappearance of an ex-US diplomat, William Addison, under the supervision of local authority, a government liason named Nya Mashumba. Earlier investigation showed that Addison went missing whilst attending a religious ceremony held in a Zimbabwean bush. With the help of an expert on cults, Victor Radek, they later find out that this ceremony was held by a movement derived from a traditional Yoruba religion, JuJu. This new version of JuJu has a darker side that involves evocation of evil spirits and ritual sacrifices that includes human sacrifice. As they get deeper into this investigation, they uncover more disturbing evidences that they believe to be related to this eerie movement. In this race against time, will they manage to locate Addison alive? And can they unmask the man behind this disappearance before they, too, become the victims?

The Summoner is a plot-driven, well paced novel that is full with intrigues that will keep readers questioning and guessing till the very last page. While reading this novel, it is very obvious to me that Layton Green has done an extensive research in the subject of Yoruba religion, its derivatives and also the life in Zimbabwe itself. He filled his novel with articulate, summarised version of this vast information in such concise yet detail way, which makes it easier for someone with little to zero knowledge about these subjects to truly understand the important part of this novel, imagine the situation that shrouded the country and how depressing it really is. Besides that, Green also managed to maintain the suspence elements throughout The Summoner by carefully organised the mystery, spice it up with multiple interesting twists that readers could hardly expect. All these make this book such an engrossing read.

Like many other plot-driven book, The Summoner also comes a little flat when it comes to character development. It is true that there are some descriptions about the characters, for example Dominic and Nya’s backgrounds, but they are often spelled out rather than revealed. This makes me feels detached from the characters to the point that I do not really feel much when something happen to them. There is not much that has been revealed about the third important character in The Summoner, Victor, so I really hope that readers will find out more about this interesting, intelligent man in the next instalment. Other than that, there is also a brief romantic relationship that occurs unexpectedly in this book that I find too rush and little bit unbelievable. I understand the author’s intention in not turning this book into love story but I think it would be nice if there are some explanations on their relationship.

In the nutshell, The Summoner is a gripping, gruesome and disturbing story that is packed with action and information. For those who are squirmish, there are some parts of this book that will surely make you squirm (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!). The pace, the unexpected twists and shocking revelations surely make this book one engrossing read.

Favourite Quote: Juju was not just born out of fear - Juju thrived on fear. Juju was fear - Victor Radek

Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

Author: Brent Weeks
Source: Personal Copies
Format: Paperback
Genre: Speculative Fiction - Fantasy
Books in this series:
(1) The Way of Shadows
(2) Shadow's Edge
(3) Beyond the Shadows
The Night Angel Trilogy is a fantasy series written by Brent Weeks. The story follows the life of Azoth (later Kylar Stern) as he struggles as a guild rat to become the ultimate wetboy (an assassin with magical talent, such as the ability to muffle sound or to block an attack), but then tries to leave it all behind and finally becomes the avatar of retribution: the Night Angel.
The City of Cenaria is in an upheaval state as a new King is settling in the throne while The Sa’Kagé, the criminal underworld, who controls everything from smuggling to prostitution ring in the city is getting more powerful day after day. Life is even more challenging for children like Azoth and his two best friends, Jarl and Doll Girl, who scrounge to survive on the vilest part of Cenaria known as “The Warren”. As members of a guild, these kids’ main job is to stealing money to buy food and to pay for their dues. Failing to do so will caused them to be beaten by the sadistic Guild Fist, Rat. As the hatred between Rat and Azoth steaming further, Azoth knows that the only way to be something better is by running away from Rat’s claws. Azoth’s plan of escape comes in the form of one Durzo Blint, the famous “Wetboy”, Cenaria City’s most feared professional assassin. The plan quickly turns into revenge once Rat finds out about his intention and do unthinkable things to both Jarl and Doll Girl.

Azoth begs to be Durzo’s apprentice, but to be one, sacrifices need to be made and one person has to be killed. The going continues to get tough for Azoth, but he never falters and keeps on going. With Durzo as his Master, Azoth learns the way of being a skilled killer, the way of living in the shadows and eventually finds out his real purpose of being Durzo’s apprentice. Once he aces the art of assassination, Azoth is given a new identity as a minor noble, Kylar Stern, a name that means “Undying Dier”. Despite learning everything from his Master, there is still something that Durzo hides from Kylar, a secret that plays crucial role in the continuation of the series. As the Land of Cenaria continues to struggle, Kylar is torn between embracing the monster that he has become or be the greater good that he always wanted to be. Is that decision truly is in Kylar’s hand or circumstances will bare its ugly teeth and make the decision for him?

The Night Angel Trilogy is indeed a series that amazed me in so many levels. I didn’t put any expectation when I first picked up these books as they are not the kinds that I normally read but I’m pleasantly surprised to see how they are able to blow me away with mind blowing plots, unique characters and impressive world building. The trilogy is definitely a series that has it all: from story about adventure full of action, magic and violence to story about love packed with laughter, affections and heartbreaks. The beginning of the first instalment, The Way of Shadows, maybe a little confusing initially because it starts off from multiple angles and many loose ends are left open. However, as the story goes on, the author – Brent Weeks – expertly weaves each separated stories and slowly reveal the bigger picture, one that I honestly never sees coming. This totally proves that he is one of those extraordinary writers that have an incredible talent in writing and holding the suspense from the beginning to the end.

Another one aspect that I really appreciate in The Night Angel Trilogy is that it never really lost its stride. In every books, there are continuous heart pounding actions interweave with some tender moments that tend to occur during unexpected circumstances. The characters that Weeks created for this series are all complex, multi-layered and fit within the dark, unforgiving world that he created. Each and every one of them is complete with their own strengths, weaknesses and also secrets that are slowly unfold throughout the series. However, like many other epic fantasy books, this trilogy also contains so many characters, plot twists and in depth storylines. These maybe drawbacks for some readers as they may cause major confusion and difficulties in understanding everything that the author tries to convey. Though believe me, the more you read, the more you’ll discover and Weeks definitely did an excellent job in unravelling every single knots and confusions that readers have once they start reading his books. Do trust me when I said the wait and anticipation are totally worth it.

Without any doubt, The Night Angel Trilogy is definitely one of the best series that I completed in 2011. The author introduced readers to a world so awful and so devoid of any ethical sense. A world where people are willing to kill one another to gain power, willing to eat one another just to survive. This is the kind of series that will scare you with its gruesome details and also fill you with hopes and despairs. A remarkable read that I recommend to all.

Favourite Quote: "Life is empty. Life is meaningless. When we take a life, we aren't taking anything of value. Wetboys are killers. That's all we do. That's all we are. There are no poets in the bitter business" - The Wetboys' Vow

Winners: The Light Series & Eyes Like Stars

Hello everyone! I am so sorry that it took me quite awhile to announce the giveaway winners this time around. Things have been a little too hectic these days, so I am truly sorry. Though without further ado, the winners of the two giveaways held on my blog are as follows:

Winner of The Light Series by Jennifer DeLucy

Winners of Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Entry #89 Peep 
Entry #17 Alyssa

Congratulations everyone! Please check your inbox and get back to me within 48 hours or else new winners will be selected.

Cover Reveal: So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev

SYNOPSIS (Contain spoiler. Click to Read More)
Bertie thinks her quest is almost done. With the help of Ariel and the rest of her friends, she has managed to find her father and rescue the kidnapped pirate, Nate, from Sedna the sea goddess. Now all she has to do is reunite her father, The Scrimshander, with her mother, Ophelia, and she will finally have a true family of her own. However, things are never easy for Beatrice Shakespeare Smith. Her father has vanished, Sedna is out for revenge, her own actions have trapped the Theatre Illuminata, the only home she’s ever known, into a strange kind of limbo, and the stress of her in-between state is tearing apart the fragile threads of her mother’s sanity. Bertie’s best hope for salvaging the situation may lie in the summons by Her Gracious Majesty, Queen of the Distant Castle and hope of winning the magical boon given to the most pleasing performance. Bertie is caught between her growing responsibilities to home and family and the dream of flying free, just as her heart is torn between her two loves, Ariel and Nate. With so many forces pulling on her, how will Bertie be able to choose which wish to make come true?

I am so excited! What do you think of the cover?! It is deliciously gorgeous, don't you think? As Lisa mentioned on her blog today, "Once again, Jason Chan has created something incredibly beautiful and magical that wholly captures the essence of the book". Only one word that I think can describe this book cover: PERFECT. So Silver Bright is scheduled to be released on September 2011. If you're interested to pre-order the book, you may do so through: Book Depository and Amazon.

p.s. I'm extending the giveaway of Eyes Like Stars to 24th February 2011. So if you haven't entered, there is still plenty of time to do so. To enter, visit the giveaway page.

Cover Fragment: So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev

Do you remember Lisa Mantchev's books, Eyes Like Stars and Perchance to Dream? Can you recall how brilliant the cover arts for both books look like? I can promise you one thing: the cover art for the 3rd instalment of the book is even more fantastic! Here I feature the second fragment of the new cover. If you're interested to view the first cover featured on the other blogs yesterday, you can view them at: Princess Bookie, Page Turner's Blog and On the Nightstand.

Those two faeries are cute, aren't they?

The full cover for So Silver Bright will be revealed on my blog as well as a few others on this Friday, so stay tune! But for now, there is something special for all of you. Scroll down for details *wink*

Here is your chance to win the first book in the Théâtre Illuminata series, Eyes Like Stars. One US/Canada reader will stand a chance to win a signed paperback version of the book while another international reader will win a paperback copy of the book that I will send through Book Depository. So please make sure that they can deliver to your place before you enter.

Series: Théâtre Illuminata, Act 1
Eyes Like Stars is an excellent read which I highly recommended to people who love anything fantasy and to those who’s looking for a very fun book. Hilarious and one of the most imaginative book that I've ever read. I think you'd missed a lot if you don't pick this one up. That surely tells a lot!

Giveaway Details:
(1) This giveaway is open internationally
(2) Contest ends Friday, February 18th February 24th