Spook Yourself Out This Halloween with These Books.

books-for-halloween

Another 5 more days and it’ll be October. How time has flown by so quickly, hasn’t it? And in a few days’ time, y’all will be preparing for the Oktoberfest and Halloween. Free flow fun, food and frolicking on the streets with pretty little ladies in skirts and pigtails. Not to mention, the beer as well! Yes, we must not forget the kegs and barrels and beer taps.

And later on, everyone will be celebrating the end of October with a fiesta of fright and freakiness. The Halloween food and drinks, a smorgasbord at your dining table. The endless night of trick-or-treating for the children. Let’s not also forget the haunting and spooky sensation when watching classic horror movies.

So for the month of October, I tripped over a stack of horror books that you could pick up on your way home from work or school. Just head down to your nearest bookstore or library and select a couple of these titles. I could only find 8 but I’m pretty darn sure there are more than just 8 scary stories:

[1] The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe

This book apparently ranks amongst his finest written collection of works. Considered to be claustrophobic and nerve-wrecking, the tale tells the story of Roderick Usher and his dead sister with one of the ghastliest conclusions of any ghost story.

[2] Under the Dome by Stephen King

The book’s plot takes place in a small town in Maine which has been sealed off from the world by an invisible force field. Nobody knows what the force field it is or how it even got there. As far as anyone knows, it’s on the sealed-off stage of the town where the best and worst of human nature will be displayed. Mysterious, isn’t it?

[3] Neverland by Douglas Clegg

This sinister tale had originally been published back in 1991, yet it is still as haunting now as it was then. Neverland is a Southern Gothic story about a 10-year-old boy who becomes drawn into a web of evil while on vacation with his family. There is a shack on the property of his grandmother which the boy’s cousin has named “Neverland” — and this is where reality gets blurred with nightmare. Not quite your kind of bedtime story, eh?

[4] Red Rain by R. L. Stine

Famously known for his Goosebumps and Fear Street series (stuff of horror that I grew up with yet not learning to appreciate the fine arts of fear), Stine returns with a title enough to send shivers down your spine.

Red Rain tells the horrifying tale of a woman who adopts two twin boys, orphaned by a devastating hurricane… Only to discover their true evil nature later on. No one had expected nor suspected that within a matter of weeks that their small town in Long Island would fall into the grips of unspeakable evil, as what had seemed like an innocent teenage rebellion suddenly turned into something much more sinister. Are you having any goosebumps yet?

[5] Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson by Jeff Guinn

Not all the scary shit take place outside the comfort of our homes. Sometimes, the bumps in the middle of the night can happen in our very own backyard. There are few men who are as frightening to you or me, no more than Charles Manson, one of the most notorious serial murderers in the history of the world.

In this New York Times Bestselling biography, a new set of interviews and previously-unknown details of his life are included to help us understand Manson in the context of his time and why some of us still find ourselves fascinated with his criminal career.

Great. Just writing this post alone tonight is already giving me the creeps and it isn’t even October yet. Every sudden noise outside my condo makes me jump in my seat. When Fright Night comes round on October 31 and you’re thinking of reading one of these books, make sure you have a friendly sleepover with your pals or you might never want to turn off the light! Have a frighteningly great Sunday night, guys!

 

What’s the Most Unusual Bookmark You Have Ever Used?

extraordinary-bookmarks

I’m sure by now you all know how often I read. I read in the morning while having my breakfast. I read at lunch time while sipping my hot sencha and dipping crab maki (small rice-and-crabmeat-wrapped-in-seaweed) in wasabi and soy sauce. I read at night before bedtime. I even read at night way past my bedtime. Basically, I read all the freakin’ time.

I even read while I’m on vacation!

Long story short, I can’t live without reading. But what I can’t live without the most next to reading is using a bookmark. Some people I know prefer to dog-ear the last page they stopped at but that really gets on my nerves. It’s like torturing a book! Why would you do that? Use something, anything! A piece of paper, a one dollar note. Heck, even a plastic ruler works just as well!

I was doing some reading online and stumbled across a website called Head Tale where the author had left a link for a discussion on Reddit about someone using dust jacket flaps as bookmarks. This led to all kinds of other bookmark-related anecdotes. An English professor gave his two-cents’ worth on the best way to boost reading comprehension — by not using bookmarks! Imagine that!

Another Reddit user had a better comeback:

Wait until our kids start saying, “I thought bookmarks were the same names they gave that button on my e-reader or on the Internet web browser!”

So what do people use as bookmarks anyway? Here are some of the  strangest items that people use to place in between the pages to mark where they last stopped reading:

  • A check-out slip from the library
  • A piece of clean Kleenex tissue paper
  • A slip of paper ripped  from a notepad or a nearby magazine
  • A Post-It note
  • An envelope
  • A business card (which seems appropriate if you ever misplaced your book!)
  • A piece of string or ribbon

These are probably some ideas of what you could use if you were desperate and the place you’re at doesn’t have many bookmarky stuff to use. I would prefer to use a proper bookmark, which I have anyway. My sister had gone abroad for vacation several times during her university years and came back with a standard, long bookmark with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it. I’m still using it after all these years. It’s my favourite bookmark!

But you don’t have to limit yourself to using regular bookmarks. Test your craft skills with a little creativity and imagination to make some special bookmarks of your own! Or if you prefer to get them from a craft store, these are what you can buy online (or at your nearest stationery store!):

  • Zipmark Bookmarks (via Amazon)
  • Fingerprint Bookmark Bands (via MoMA Store)
  • Sprout Bookmarks (via Mochi Things)
  • Buonanotte Table Lamps (via AllModern)
  • Liquid Bookmarks (via Connox)
  • Iconic Mini Bookmarks (via FallinDesign)
  • Lili Lite Bookmarks (via Design Milk)
  • Leather Hearts Corner Bookmarks (via Etsy)
  • Reading Lamp Bookmarks
  • Hippo In Water Bookmarks
  • A Dragon and Knight Bookmarks
  • Wire Design Bookmarks
  • Origami Bookmarks

They you go… SEVEN of the most unusual bookmarks in the first half of my post, and another THIRTEEN of the most creative bookmarks in the second half of my post. Altogether they make 20 of the most extraordinary bookmarks that you’ve ever seen!

So, what kind of bookmarks do you use? Or do you even use any bookmarks in the first place?

A Simple Vision for Your Blog is Always Easy to Remember.

Hey there,

How are my lovely readers doing? How has your week been so far? Granted, it’s still only Wednesday (that dreaded middle-of-the-week feeling) but just hang in there a little bit longer because in another two more days, it’ll be the weekend again!

Anyway, I have another question for you:

Do you often find yourself stuck in the mud with a serious case of writer’s block? I do, and when that hits me squarely in the noggin, I’ll go online to find some inspiration to get me out of the creativity quicksand.

One of the things I recently discovered was this short and sweet infographics on how to create a simple vision statement for your blog. Now I did this was because I had plans on growing my reader base and perhaps moving into the creative writing industry, and becoming a professional blogger or writer or maybe an author as well! So I had to spruce up and tidy up my personal blog Facebook page before moving onto bigger fish. If you ever have any doubts or are not sure of what to write for your vision statement, well, consider this a step the right direction. I hope this helps you out as much as it has helped me out:

227_vision_infographic
Image via www.becomeablogger.com.

Literary Travels: Books to Bring When You’re Travelling.

10-must-read-books-to-bring-on-your-travels

Alright, I have a question for you guys. Do you often find yourself sitting on your sofa or in bed reading and daydreaming about being that character in your book? The one who’s busy exploring the world, having amazing adventures while meeting incredible people?

If you said yes, then you’re just like me. I envy my characters (even though they’re just characters of a book) being able to travel the world within the confines of each chapter, sampling a taste of the greener grass on the other side of the world. You certainly can’t deny that books are indeed a wonderful source for travel inspiration and a delightful way of helping us discover new destinations that we might not have contemplated visiting before.

There are so many inspiring titles that trigger our wanderlust. Even so, throughout your travels, you’d probably find yourself tapping your fingers with a few hours to kill. Whether you’re on a plane crossing the Pacific Ocean, or on an oceanliner doing the star cruise, or on an overnight train traipsing across the European plains. It’s during those hours that you’ll find yourself yearning for something to do. And reading a book is the perfect way to pass the time! Don’t go for just any book, though. Try going for books that tell the tale of travelling. Imagine reading a book about travelling while you’re doing your own travelling!

Here are 10 books that I found that might very well pique your interest (it most certainly did for me!):

[1]. Barkskins by Annie Proulx

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

[2]. The Vacationers by Emma Straub

For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.

[3]. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

[4]. Greyhound by Steffan Piper

Sebastien Ranes’s single mom and her feckless boyfriend can’t be bothered to take care of a stuttering twelve-year-old. Banished to live with his grandmother on the far side of the country, the boy can barely understand a bus schedule when he gets dumped at the Greyhound station in Stockton, California. Given $35 and a one-way ticket to Altoona, Pennsylvania, Sebastien must cross the country – alone, without a clue how to fend for himself.

Filled with youthful anger and naïveté, Sebastien heads out into the “Morning in America” of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s, encountering temperamental bus drivers, charming, shifty, and downright dangerous strangers, the music of Daryl Hall and John Oates, and an ex-con named Marcus, who takes the boy under his wing. In an unforgettable trek that evokes Oliver Twist and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the unlikely pair lurch from one misadventure to another, tumbling toward an elusive understanding of where and how, in a troubling world, to look for light.

[5]. Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and , unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

[6]. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

[7]. The Beach by Alex Garland

The Khao San Road, Bangkok – first stop on the backpacker trail. On Richard’s first night there a fellow traveller slits his wrists, leaving Richard a map to “the Beach”. The Beach is a legend among young travellers in Asia: white as sands circling a lagoon hidden from the sea, coral gardens and freshwater falls surrounded by jungle. In this earthly paradise, it is rumoured, a select community lives in blissful innocence. For Richard, haunted by the glamour of Vietnam war movies, a trek into unknown Thai territory is irresistible. He was looking for adventure. Now he’s found it. He soon discovers that the beach and its Edenic existence located on a remote island is actually forbidden for tourists, and it becomes clear that its culture is rather troubling and dissolves in a rather disturbing fashion.

[8]. Eat. Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want–husband, country home, successful career–but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India, and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.

[9]. The Backpacker by John Harris

Some say that The Backpacker can be compared to The Beach. If you enjoy spontaneous adventures, then John Harris’s unbelievably real story across Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and Hong Kong is for you! It combines tales of danger, friendship, and travel into one unexpected journey. 

John’s holiday in India begins badly. His girlfriend returns home after falling ill and he finds himself at the end of a knife in a train station latrine. But then he meets Rick, an enigmatic, streetwise traveller, who persuades him to embark on a series of increasingly bizarre journeys.

[10].  Almost French by Sarah Turnbull

The charming true story of a spirited young woman who finds adventure–and the love of her life–in Paris. “This isn’t like me. I’m not the sort of girl who crosses continents to meet up with a man she hardly knows. Paris hadn’t even been part of my travel plan…”

A delightful, fresh twist on the travel memoir, Almost French takes us on a tour that is fraught with culture clashes but rife with deadpan humor. Sarah Turnbull’s stint in Paris was only supposed to last a week. Chance had brought Sarah and Frédéric together in Bucharest, and on impulse she decided to take him up on his offer to visit him in the world’s most romantic city. Sacrificing Vegemite for vichyssoise, the feisty Sydney journalist does her best to fit in, although her conversation, her laugh, and even her wardrobe advertise her foreigner status. But as she navigates the highs and lows of this strange new world, from life in a bustling quatier and surviving Parisian dinner parties to covering the haute couture fashion shows and discovering the hard way the paradoxes of France today, little by little Sarah falls under its spell: maddening, mysterious, and charged with that French specialty-séduction.

An entertaining tale of being a fish out of water, Almost French is an enthralling read as Sarah Turnbull leads us on a magical tour of this seductive place-and culture-that has captured her heart.

These are only 10 books that I found that might be of interest to you, and there are many more books on travel that you might find in your nearest bookstore. So explore your literary imagination before planning a trip around the world, I say, through the great books and unique travel experiences, and encourage the travel bug in you with a list of inspiring, must-read titles. If you’re looking for more travel-based books to pack for your next trip but haven’t the faintest idea what to bring along, then perhaps you could do a quick search online or at your friendly neighbourhood bookstore for any of the 10 listed above. Happy hunting!

Disclaimer: The synopsis of each book was taken from Goodreads.

Book Review: The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain.

the-red-notebook-antoine-laurainType: Paperback, 159 pages

Publisher: Gallic Books, April 7, 2015 (first published on March 5, 2014)

Original Title: La Femme au Carnet Rouge

It took me only a week to finish reading The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain. A week. This is by far the shortest duration I’ve ever taken to reading a book! Especially since I’m working and don’t really have that much free time to muck around often with books. But I guess this is because the book was thinner than most I’ve read and each chapter was shorter as well, thus making it an easy read at any given time of the day.

Now, allow me to give you a gist of the story before sharing with you my thoughts about it. To put it simply, the book was shortened and summarised to my best ability:

It’s the story of a bookseller who finds a handbag in the street one day, takes it home with him, empties out its contents and decides to look for the woman who owns it. He succeeds but when he finds her, he runs off like an idiot.

In the first chapter, we are introduced to Laure Valadier. A gilder by occupation, Laure is a widow in her 40s, who was mugged and had her handbag stolen just as she was entering her Parisian apartment building one night. Then we are introduced to Laurent Letellier, a middle-aged bookseller who happened to chance upon the handbag the following morning in the street just before the garbage collectors came round to clear the trash, never to be seen again. After having gone to the police to hand it in as lost property, Laurent decides to take it upon himself to reunite the handbag with its rightful owner instead. He has no idea where to start as the only items he had with him about the owner were the contents of the handbag. And nothing in her handbag had stated her name. Which made it look like a fruitless detective search. What’s worse is that he had no idea that Laure had fallen into a coma as a result of the mugging!

Synopsis by Goodreads:

Heroic bookseller Laurent Letellier comes across an abandoned handbag on a Parisian street. There’s nothing in the bag to indicate who it belongs to, although there’s all sorts of other things in it. Laurent feels a strong impulse to find the owner and tries to puzzle together who she might be from the contents of the bag. Especially a red notebook with her jottings, which really makes him want to meet her. Without even a name to go on, and only a few of her possessions to help him, how is he to find one woman in a city of millions?

There’s only one word to sum up a charming story like The Red Notebook. Beautiful. It was a beautifully-written novella (I don’t think the word ‘novel‘ is suitable since it had no more than a couple of hundred pages), with a sense of spirit and determination from the owner of Le Cahier Rouge. The novella expertly captured the very essence of two compassionate individuals who began as strangers (Laurent knew more about Laure than Laure did about Laurent – I liked how their names had the same first 5 letters) and ended up being together. Two strangers who were searching for something missing in their lives, physically and emotionally. The author had captured and shared this in his prose, simple in scope yet complex in its beauty.

It was a brilliantly-doctored evocation of two people taking life by its horns and getting on with things, with a sense of comforting evidence that when people do good deeds for others, they have a better chance at having good things falling into their laps. The thing is, the book wasn’t just about the two main characters either. The author had given a mixture of less routined narrative  styles, opening out in surprising ways to find secondary characters and bringing them into the plot. For example, the endless entries written by Laure in her red Moleskine notebook (another factor that drew me to love the book even more) were the first alerts to Laurent on the spirit of the woman whom he was looking for.

It certainly isn’t the longest book in the world. Like I mentioned somewhere up there, it has the snappy concision of a novella that, on the whole, would have made it a successful movie adaptation. If only there was one, I would have paid good money for it. It was a really beautiful book, despite its thickness. I loved how each chapter was just a page or two (or three, at most), with just the right amount of information, details and plot for you to read and understand and digest.

It was a perfectly pleasant read, with clear and concise sentences; not to mention, the less-than-chunky paragraphs that I usually see in other thicker novels. Sometimes, reading in simple English is the way to go with few names to remember and a little love story that is waiting to bloom and blossom. All it needed was a little fate. And a push from Laurent Letellier’s daughter Chloe. It also wasn’t your average modern day, typical sex-in-bed kind of romance (which was good!), but it was a classic kind of romance that captivates you, melts your heart, softens your expression and makes you sigh with happiness and contentment. All the ingredients that was needed to make the book monumental and thoroughly enjoyable to read.

In fact, The Red Notebook was so wonderful that I went ahead to look for Laurain’s other two books, The President’s Hat and French Rhapsody on Book Depository. A friend had recommended the online book website to me where I can buy books at a much cheaper price than other online bookstores I know, with no delivery charges too! That is so not going to help me with my book-buying addiction now.

Excuse me while I carry on with my next book: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.