The Scottish Bank of Surabaya (Ava Lee #5) by Ian Hamilton

Its been a while since I’ve dived into the Ava Lee series.  I really love the whole Chinese-Canadian roots for this intelligent, brave and tough forensic accountant.  I’m still thinking this series would be prime for TV but then, maybe not for various reasons that don’t bother me but might bother other viewers.  Without being too offensive, if you’ve read it and know the character, you might know what I’m talking about.

I have reviewed all the previous books if you missed it.  You can find it here:

#1 The Water Rat of Wanchai
#2 The Disciple of Las Vegas
#3 The Wild Beasts of Wuhan
#4 The Red Pole of Macau

Now, let’s check it out! 🙂

The Scottish Banker of Surabaya (Ava Lee#5)

By: Ian Hamilton

scottish banker of surabaya

After the events of The Red Pole of Macau, Ava has slowed down to heal from all the physical damage (if not a little, her mindset about her business as well).  That is until her mother introduces her to a woman in need who has a bunch of Vietnamese investors that fell for an investment scam and lost a lot of money.  Being forced into taking the business, Ava flies to Vietnam and then Surabaya hoping to figure out and trace back the money. This leads her to a Scottish banker in Surabaya who runs Bank Linno who ends up having a rough clash with her and takes it to a more personal issue.  While Ava has finally figured out where the money has gone, the situation gets more complicated when she realizes that its related to one of the biggest Italian mobs and their grand scheme of money laundering. Faced with difficult decisions and dangerous situations, Ava must try to make the best choice while things also get more personal as she realizes that there is something Uncle (her partner) is hiding from her about his health.

I love this Ava Lee series a lot.  I stumbled on this book completely be accident and honestly, its one of the series that has a lot to love.  The adventure and the wit in all the stories are great.  The cases themselves are unique and feature a whole travelling adventure just to track it down with compelling characters each time.  What the previous few books did lack was diving a little more into Ava’s personal life and her relationship with Uncle.  We saw signs of her personal life being a part of the picture in the previous book and when things get more personal, the stakes get higher, making the story even more intriguing.

At this point, after 4 books, jumping into this one, Ava Lee is a character I know fairly well of.  She’s connected with me and I look forward to what she’s up to.  This time, Ava Lee is given a much more dangerous situation and she even gets into a few bad tangles herself.  Those tangles are the turning point for her character and I think that is the game changer here.  One that is tough to swallow but also one that shows us what Ava is capable of.

I still struggle a little to understand why branding is a such a huge thing in these books.  I wonder if its to show the class that Ava is or the type of person she is or its just brands that stick out.  I don’t think that talking about Adidas workout gear or Brooks Brothers shirts or Cartier watches are details that matter so much.  They don’t quite bother me as much as it did in the earlier books but its still something I have a hard time wrapping my head around the reasoning of choosing that.  It feels like meticulous unnecessary details.  Still, thats not enough to pull away from just how awesome this novel is.

For a series to run for so long and after 4 books, still manage to drag me right into the story and craving for what will be next in the following novel.  It definitely something that I never expected when I spontaneously picked up this book after the bookstore shelf.  I love pleasant surprises and this fifth book is one that you don’t want to miss! 🙂

Have you read the Ava Lee series? What are your thoughts on it?

Book Review: Marionette by T.B.Markinson

I have been following T.B. Markinson and herblog, 50 Year Project for a good while now. Earlier this year, she released her debut novel A Woman Lost which impressed me a lot. You can check out he review HERE. When she reached out to me at the end of November to review her second book, Marionette, I accepted right away. I had already read excerpts she had posted and it sounded like a really intriguing book. The only deal was that I had to complete my NaNoWriMo month first so for the last few days I have been plowing through this book. Lets start with a little synopsis.

marionette coverSeventeen-year old Paige is ready to go to a small town college to escape her dreadful controlling parents who blame her for past tragedies that have happened.  However, right before school starts, Paige suddenly decides to slit her wrists and her girlfriend Jess finds her in the nick of time and saves her.  Not knowing why Paige did it, since she won’t talk about it, Jess makes her promise to go see a psychiatrist to sort out her issues.  Paige doesn’t believe it’ll help but she reluctantly still does it. However, at the same time, she’s trying to hide being a lesbian while in college, one to prevent her parents from finding out but also as the debates of gays and lesbian equal rights are brewing and tension builds up, she does it also to protect herself and Jess.

Hmm…so how to start? I really liked this book a lot! Marionette is an extremely captivating read and the best part that I liked was how Paige’s character went from this somewhat selfish and irritating girl to a more refined person as the story moved along. I love character development and a lot of times its hard to find a good story with that.  This one did a great job. Plus, the other characters that supported Paige, especially Jess was fun to read about.

There was a sense of suspense that kept the story going because we don’t get the final reveal of what the deal is with Paige and her parents and even her sister except during the little parts as she opens up about the whole situation and why she feels the way she does, and the big mystery of why she tried to commit suicide. We start with questions and then as we move along, as the situation opens up, we continue develop into something a little more complex and thats what makes this such a page-turner. As serious as this situation first starts, Paige and some of her cluelessness also makes it have some humorous moments to loosen the mood.

Overall, an extremely enjoyable read that I’d definitely recommend. Its intriguing and awesome! I devoured this super fast and I look forward to any future novels by T.B. She’s awesome and you need to head over and check out her blogs if you haven’t already: 50 Year Project HERE and Making Your Mark HERE! Show her some support and if you like reading, give her novels a shot, I promise its worth your time 🙂

 

Adapting to a New Pace & Attending a Book Launch!

Nanowrimo has started for a week now.  Surprisingly, a lot of my life has been consumed with it.  I can’t help but to be drowning in my own story.

On Thursday, I had a moment walking to work where my mind was still waking up and I found myself feeling like my character in my story.  Weird feeling, ladies and gents.  I pulled myself out pretty quickly but thats what happens when you have to cough up 1666 words a night, I guess. I usually aim for more.  It also marked the first day I had to stand on the way home and scribble in the upright position while balancing myself.  Probably didn’t look too elegant 😉 Still extremely efficient.  That fell apart when Friday came around and I was a full day behind and haven’t been able to catch up.  Right after this post, thats what I’ll be doing until I pass out from fatigue.  The pacing is alright in my book. With almost 12,000 words in the bank,I’m already pretty proud of myself especially since I’m using this Nanowrimo to experiment with some new stuff: a new genre (*ahem* romance) and third person narration (usually I just do first person).  Challenges all around! Another update next week!

Plus, I have my whole workout challenges that I’ve set in place and those will be more in detail on Monday’s post 🙂

One of the highlights of this week (and maybe a bit sad and cold realization) is that winter is sneaking its chilly arms into Montreal.  Snow is expected soon and its been getting cold.  Even the first of my Christmas cactus have started blooming.

White Christmas Cactus

White Christmas Cactus

I probably sounded like a crazy lady when I leaned over and had a heart to heart conversation with it about how they were blooming a bit too early.  Christmas is more than a month away, no? But then, the only witness was my cat looking at me through the plants by the window.  Although her main focus wasn’t me, which has lead us to focus a lot on bird-watching.  I actually say in one week, the abundant robins but also, one Blue Jay and an red cardinal. I haven’t seen one of those in so many years.  Imagine my excitement!

Bird!

Bird!

Another from last weekend that I forgot to mention in the last personal update was that I made another batch of those awesome Peanut-BETTER Gingersnaps! That recipe just total rules! If you missed it before, check it out HERE! This time, I made it for the Halloween party and I believe I made the best batch so far.  They were the perfect size and shape 🙂

Peanut-BETTER Gingersnaps

Peanut-BETTER Gingersnaps

There was another reason why my word count dropped on Friday.  I tried to write as much as I could but I was out pretty much from right after work till midnight with my best friend.  We went for a delicious dinner at our normal hangout, Les 3 Brasseurs and shared a pitcher of Sangria. Those look even nicer in the pitcher than in a glass. Plus, I finally had my fix of BBQ ribs that I’ve been wanting to eat forever!

Sangria

Les 3 Brasseurs Sangria!

Les 3 Brasseurs Ribs

Ribs! Yummy!

After that, we made a late decision to go do some long-awaited karaoke just the two of us! I did make some recording but I’m a tad shy to post it up.  So if you ask, maybe I’ll put it up in a separate post, or I’ll whip something up at home, of course, my system is not as awesome but I do have the gear. 🙂 It was really fun and thats what counts!

I ALWAYS leave the best news for last, right? You already know from the title but I attended a book launch this afternoon of an awesome girl friend that I’ve mentioned on multiple occasion and also a dear blogger, Day’s Lee! She did her official book launch for her young adult novel, Guitar Hero at a cute little bookstore called Babar Bookstore in Pointe-Claire.

Guitar Hero Day's Lee

Her books, Guitar Hero on display on top of a fireplace

Signing books for attendees of her launch :)

Signing books for attendees of her launch 🙂

The food table :)

The food table 🙂

Day’s offered us some very delicious snacks and in addition, she made the almond cookies.  They are pretty awesome. She actually posted up the recipe the other day, check it out HERE if you want to give it a shot! There’s no milk in almond cookies so I could have it. YAY! You rule Day’s! 🙂

My own signed copy! :)

My own signed copy! 🙂

I’m all for supporting my friends plus Day’s is my inspiration (she probably doesn’t know that).  She reminds me that no matter how hard it is, its perfectly okay to pick up our courage and follow our dreams.  A huge congrats to Day’s! I’m going to review the book in December (in case you were wondering).  I’ve already read it once before it was released last year but I’m not sure if she fixed anything, so I’m going to read it a second time.  I urge you to give it a shot.  Show her some love! 🙂 

This week has been pretty eventful.  Since I’ve taken up enough of your time (and well, my novel is calling out to me), I’m going to leave you with some music that I’ve loved this week!

Who is tempted to watch some Pirates of the Caribbean now, eh? 😉

This is my thoughts right now!

dont you dare give up

If you want some more reading, I actually wrote a post about something similar to encourage my writing in Nanowrimo the first year, it helps me till now (not so much the first time).  Its right HERE! These 300 reminds me to keep going!

Have a great rest of the weekend! 🙂

Book Review: ROOM by Emma Donoghue

I finally decided to end the indecisiveness and start reading Room by Emma Donoghue.

Now I’m contemplating on how I actually felt about this book but lets start by a little synopsis.

roomROOM is the world of 5 year old Jack who only knows his world in Room with his Ma. ROOM is all he has ever known from seeing this place the moment he was born to all the years learning, exercising, playing, reading, eating and sleeping.  TV shows him the imaginary things that are his friends and his favorite being Dora.  At night, Ma shuts him in the wardrobe to sleep when shortly after Door goes beep beep and Old Nick comes to see her.  In the morning, Jack almost always wakes up on the bed sleeping while Ma does what she has to.  To Jack, this is his whole world and he knows nothing more but to Ma, she feels the constant urge and know that their lives are getting more and more unable to be stuck in Room. ROOM is told through the thoughts, feelings and views of little Jack.

I really can’t summarize this without ruining it for others who would like to read it.  I’m guessing from my description you already know that Room isn’t supposed to be a happy story.  Its essentially the story of a woman that lives because of her son while trapped and hidden away from the world years ago.  We watch the struggle and the conflicts and we see it all through the simple mind of Jack as his Ma who once lied about the world outside of Room to not give him hope but being unable to do it anymore.

If I continue on that train of thought, I’ll start telling the whole story.  Room is a pretty emotionally tough story to read.  The first part touched and impacted me a lot more than the second half though.  The tone and pace was different also.  The end of the book had a little interview with the writer herself and she explained that using a little boy’s words would make it easier to read.  I actually disagree because it made it harder.  We fall inside the character of Jack, even if we’re not 5 years old.  The way the little boy speaks and his actions, reactions are familiar but then because we as the audience also know more than he does, its a painful feeling.  We can also see the struggle in his Ma that we don’t understand but at the same time, its like we have a little barrier that doesn’t exactly allow us to see it clearly either.

As I write this out, I believe that the book did achieve what it wanted to.  The story broke my heart but at the same time, it also was hopeful in the second half even if it was a tad bittersweet.  Maybe thats how I can describe it: Its a pretty good but bittersweet and at times, heart breaking read!