In Ferocious, Paula Stokes returns to the world of Vicarious in this sequel, a high-action psychological thriller with a protagonist out for vengeance.
When Winter Kim finds out that her sister is dead and that she has a brother she never knew about, only two things matterfinding what’s left of her family and killing the man who destroyed her life. Her mission leads her from St. Louis to Los Angeles back to South Korea, where she grew up.
Things get increasingly dangerous once Winter arrives in Seoul. Aided by her friends Jesse and Sebastian, Winter attempts to infiltrate an international corporation to get close to her target, a nefarious businessman named Kyung. But keeping her last remaining loved ones out of the line of fire proves difficult, and when all seems to be lost, Winter must face one last devastating decision: is revenge worth sacrificing everything for? Or can she find a spark of hope in the darkness that threatens to engulf her?
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My name is Winter Kim. Today I killed a man. Soon I hope to kill another.
As the MetroLink train shimmies along its metal tracks, I repeat those words over and over in my head. I recently found out my sister, Rose, was murdered. Her ex-boyfriend, Gideon Seung, suggested we attend a bereavement support group together. But before I could even think about that, Gideon was killed too. And then I killed his killer.
I close my eyes and envision telling a room full of strangers that the only two people I loved were both murdered. There would be the obligatory sympathetic cooing and perhaps a gasp of shock. Then I'd tell them I'm a killer too and I'm not finished yet. The expressions of bland disinterest would twist into disgust. The woman who comes mostly for the free food would choke on her coffee cake.
You're a monster, she'd whisper, before quickly averting her eyes.
Maybe I am a monster.
As far as I know, there's no support group for that.
The train hisses slightly as it pulls into the next station. Snowflakes batter the windows, sticking fast to the cold glass in tiny deformed clumps. Beyond the platform, the streets of St. Louis stretch out empty and cold. And dark. It's only six P.M., but it might as well be midnight.
A man pushing a metal cart ducks through the open doors, the wheels leaving trails of grayish sludge on the patterned floor of the train. He takes a seat across from me and folds back the lid to his trolley, exposing items for sale — perfume, neckties, designer purses. The strange combinations of what people sell on the train remind me of the subway stations back in Seoul. You could buy almost anything there.
The train starts moving again. The man steps out into the aisle and begins pushing his trolley toward the front of the car, stopping occasionally to address specific passengers. Turning toward the window, I pull an envelope out of the center pocket of my hoodie. My name is written on the front in black ink. My eyes water as I consider Gideon's neatly printed capital letters. I'll never see that handwriting again.
I run my thumb along the flap of the envelope and the paper slices into my flesh, leaving behind a thin trail of red. I lift my hand to my lips and taste the metallic flavor of blood. My fingers brush against the rose pendant that hangs in the hollow of my throat. The necklace used to belong to my sister.
I wrap my fingers around it, grip it so tight that the metal cuts into my palm. Rose died so that I could escape our past.
And now I am free.
Vengeance is all that I have left.
Monster, a voice hisses from inside my brain.
Monsters don't get happy endings.
The train reaches the end of the line — the airport — and I stay tucked in my seat as the other passengers disembark. A pair of security agents passes by in their navy uniforms, followed by two teens in NFL parkas. After them, a group of people wheel suitcases up the wet floor, most of them looking down at their phones as they trudge along. Finally it's just me and the man with the trolley. He gestures at me and I slide out of my seat. Behind me, his wet, metal wheels bump into the back of my ankles. The man grunts an apology. I nod an acknowledgment without looking back.
Outside, the sharp air cuts through my hoodie and the T-shirt beneath. I exhale a puff of white, half expecting the droplets of my breath to freeze and fall to the ground like a tiny ice storm.
"Cold, huh?" Trolley Guy says as he slides past me. A dark red necktie dangles from the top of his rolling cart.
"Yes." My voice is barely audible. My eyes home in on the red slash of fabric. I am thinking about the man who took everyone I love away from me. Kyung. His name is a knife blade, but I'm done being stabbed by it. It's my turn to inflict the damage.
The red tie vanishes from sight as Trolley Guy disappears behind a pillar. Kyung wore a tie that color the first time I met him. Rose and I stood side by side in the center of a room while he evaluated us like we were farm animals. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but I guess they'll do. My sister's face burned with shame as he circled us, touching her hair, lifting her skirt to examine her legs. I didn't understand what was happening yet, but she did.
A set of sliding glass doors opens and the stream of people funnels me into the airport and up a set of narrow escalators. I glance back at the MetroLink tracks through a wall of glass windows. It was probably foolish of me to come here. I don't even have any luggage — no place to check my knives and hide my spare IDs.
I couldn't go to my therapist appointment, though. If I had, I would've broken down and told Dr. Abrams everything. She would have been obligated to put me in a psychiatric facility and warn Kyung that I had threatened his life. Plus, she would've gone to the police and they probably would have figured out what really happened in the penthouse.
What really happened is this: Kyung sent a man named Sung Jin to coerce Gideon into giving up the ViSE technology. Gideon tried to refuse and Sung Jin killed him. Sung Jin also shot my friend Jesse Ramirez and Gideon's head of security, Baz Faber.
And then I killed Sung Jin.
I should probably feel something when I think about that, when I think about pulling the trigger on the gun. When I think about his sharp, mercenary eyes turning to black glass. It's no small thing — ending someone else's life. There should be some sort of gravity to that, shouldn't there? My insides are heavy, but it has nothing to do with what I did. It is only about what I have lost.
I take a seat in the ticketing and departures lobby and watch travelers mill back and forth, their suitcases trailing behind them like obedient toddlers. A cell phone buzzes in my pocket. Sung Jin's phone — it's a text from Kyung.
Kyung: Should I arrange for a car to pick you up at LAX tomorrow?
Me: Tomorrow is too soon. Gideon told you the ViSE technology was stolen, right? I know who has it but reacquiring it will take time.
I actually have both the neural editor and recorder headset that Kyung wants me to bring him. Gideon lied to Kyung and said they were stolen to try to buy more time to figure out how to protect the technology. I'm hoping I can use his lie to my advantage.
Kyung: Two more days.
Me: That's not enough. I need a week.
Kyung: Five days. Bring the tech to me at UsuMed by Wednesday, or else.
Kyung and I have struck a deal of sorts. He claims I have a younger brother, Jun, who works for him, and that if I turn over Gideon's ViSE technology, he'll introduce us. ViSEs, or Vicarious Sensory Experiences, are neural recordings that allow a person to experience an activity via someone else's brain — all the thrills of rock climbing or bungee jumping or running from the police with none of the risk. I don't know what Kyung wants with the tech, but he wants it badly enough that he's threatened to kill Jun if I don't hand it over.
I hate that I'm risking my brother's life — assuming he's real — by not turning over the tech immediately, but I'm fairly certain Kyung is just trying to intimidate me. He won't really hurt my brother, as long as I don't push him too far. If he does, then he'll never get what he wants.
I switch to a browser window and do a search for "Jun Song" in Los Angeles. There are several screens of results, but none of them seem like they could be my brother. I try "Jun Song" and "UsuMed," but there's no overlap as far as I can tell.
I call up an airline website and search for flights to L.A. But then I get a better idea. Kyung is expecting me to fly into LAX or perhaps one of the local Orange County airports. I don't know how powerful he is, whether he might have men looking for me there. I clear the search box and search for flights to San Diego instead. I can drive up to Los Angeles. That way I'll have the element of surprise on my side.
There are open spots on two flights that are leaving later tonight, but my mind wanders back to the envelope from Gideon. I flipped through the contents but I didn't read all the documents. I should find somewhere to go through them in detail. There's no need for me to get to L.A. tonight. It makes more sense to find a place to stay, to make a plan.
I book myself on a flight leaving late tomorrow morning, using a fake name on one of the IDs Gideon left for me. Then I take the escalators down two floors to the baggage and ground transportation area. I try not to focus on all of the people down there reuniting with loved ones, but when a group of men — boys, most of them — in tan camouflage stroll past with green duffels slung over their shoulders, my legs go wobbly beneath me. Jesse was one of these guys once, so proud to be a soldier, so sure that he could make a real difference.
I pause for a moment, lean back against the cool concrete of the airport wall and close my eyes. "Please don't let Jesse die," I whisper.
Right. Jesse is in the hospital being taken care of by doctors and nurses. I need to take care of myself.
I take a cab to one of the motels that is just across the highway, a rundown, seedy sort of place where a girl who just killed someone can be invisible. I check in under an alias and dead-bolt the door. Then, I lay out everything that was in the envelope from Gideon onto the bed: A bundle of hundred-dollar bills.
Three sets of fake ID.
Bank statements from multiple bank accounts in both of our names. Just the money in these accounts would be enough for me to go to college and buy a small house — to live a life.
A business card from a lawyer who undoubtedly has additional paperwork for Gideon's business and personal assets.
And then something I'm not expecting: a blue memory card with my name on it.
It's a ViSE recording. It can't be of my sister, because she died before Gideon ever developed the technology. So it has to be a message from him to me. Which means that he must have known this day might come.
I pull in a deep breath and then let it out in fluttery little gasps. Retrieving my headset, I unfold the lightweight metal apparatus, slip the recording into the slot on the back, and adjust the prongs over my neural access points. I lie back on the mattress and press PLAY.
Gideon is sitting at the desk in his study, his laptop open in front of him. His black hair is slicked back like he just got out of the shower. He smiles slightly and a lump rises up in my throat. My eyes burn with tears.
I pause the recording. Sometimes when you're vising, you can't distinguish what you're feeling from what the recorder is feeling. The lump, the tears — are they mine or someone else's? I lift a hand to my cheek. My fingers come away wet.
Crying is difficult for me. Dr. Abrams says that it takes more courage to express emotions than to hide them away, but it's hard to feel brave in this moment. I'm split between desperately needing Gideon and knowing that a ViSE of him won't be enough. It'll be like standing outside in a frigid St. Louis winter with nothing but a picture of a coat to keep me warm.
I give up and remove the headset. I'm not ready to play this recording. Dr. Abrams also used to tell me that love strengthened people. Right now my love for Gideon feels like a weakness, just like my tears.
I set the headset down on the bed and remove the memory card. As I slip everything back into the envelope, my fingertips brush against something cold. There's a thin metal chain at the very bottom that I missed when I dumped out the contents. I loop my finger around it and hold it up to the light. It's a necklace with a snowflake pendant. Why would Gideon buy me this? It's pretty, but everything else in this envelope is essential.
As my fingers trace the snowflake's detailed prongs, I notice there's a crack in the middle. Not a crack — a seam. The pendant pulls apart to expose a micro flash drive. My mind whirls as I turn the tiny storage device over in my hands. What sort of information could be so crucial that Gideon felt the need to disguise it in jewelry?
I'll have to wait to find out. I don't dare turn on my phone in case the police are looking for me, and I left my tablet computer back at the penthouse. I won't be able to access the information on this drive until I can buy a new one.
I tuck all of the items back into the envelope and slip it into the motel room safe. Then I make a list of things I'm going to need in Los Angeles and have the front desk clerk call me a cab to a nearby shopping mall.
The taxi ride takes about fifteen minutes. Inside the mall, I duck into an electronics store to purchase a new tablet and two disposable burner phones. I debate buying more, but I figure that might stand out as suspicious, especially since I'm paying in cash. At the last second, I add in a few micro memory cards — just in case I need to record something.
"One for each boyfriend, huh?" the sales clerk jokes as he rings up the phones.
I want to ignore him, but I have a mission now. A purpose. One that's going to require me to act normal. I might as well start practicing.
I paint what I hope is a crafty smile on my face. "Our little secret, though, right?" I say.
He chuckles awkwardly and I realize he took my words as flirty.
That's because they sounded provocative, more like Rose than me.
Not my dead sister — a different Rose who lives inside of me. I have dissociative identity disorder and my alter persona calls herself Rose. Sometimes she takes over completely and I end up with blackouts and lost hours, but other times I just hear her in my head, encouraging me, calming me. And every once in a while, my words come out feeling like hers, like maybe she just stepped in for a few seconds.
I don't know what's actually possible when it comes to DID. I should do some research on my condition, but right now I'm still learning to accept that this is who I am.
I reach out and gently pat the sales clerk's arm — another Rose-like maneuver.
Are you helping? I think.
No response. She doesn't generally answer me — it isn't like we can have a conversation at will — but she's responded to direct questions in the past. At least I think she has. I guess her responses could have been hallucinations — I'm no stranger to those either. Sometimes I wonder if everything is a hallucination, if I'm really some other girl in some other world, and I've created this complex reality of murder and multiple personalities because it's somehow better than the life I actually lead.
A man coughs behind me. Another customer, whose patience is wearing thin. The salesclerk has pressed my receipt into my hand. He's staring strangely at me.
"Thank you for your help," I say quickly.
I hurry out of the store, but not before I hear the guy who was behind me mutter something about kids all being on drugs these days.
Next I visit a clothing store and head directly for a rack of hoodies in gray and black. And then I remember I'm going to Southern California where it's about seventy degrees. And also that I want somewhat of a disguise. I don't know what Kyung knows, whether Sung Jin might have followed me or researched me while he was in St. Louis, but it's better if the girl who shows up in L.A. can pass for someone else.
I allow myself one hoodie and a pair of jeans for times when I can be myself, as well as some sweatpants and a T-shirt to wear as pajamas. Then I reluctantly cross the store to a rack of dresses and pick out a couple that are modest but look like nothing I would ever wear. I buy some tights and boots to go with them.
I buy a coat and a purse, two more things that feel normal to most people but foreign to me. Then I leave the shop and stroll the mall's wide marble promenade, stopping in a drugstore where I buy makeup and a pair of nonprescription reading glasses, and a luggage store for a new backpack and a small suitcase. On my way out, I visit a brightly lit shop filled with beauty products. I pick up a couple of wigs — one long and black with a fringe of choppy bangs and one reddish blond with waves that will make me look different, but won't stand out on the streets of L.A. I had no idea how many things I would need to become someone else.
Back at the motel, I organize my purchases and pack them into my suitcase. I pull the tablet computer from the box and plug it in to charge. There is a sheet of instructions about the fastest way to connect to the Internet, but right now I just want to access the flash drive.
Excerpted from "Ferocious"
Copyright © 2017 Paula Stokes.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was a great follow up to Vicarious. After Winter's sister Rose's death, Gideon's death, the near death of two other people in her life, and the realization that she may have a brother, Winter is determined to bring down Kyung (the man who ruined her life in so many ways). This mission takes her back to California and even to South Korea where she was born and spent her early years. Winter is damaged from the events of her life and deals with some pretty heavy psychological issues. This is interesting to observe throughout this book. She's also not entirely sure who she can trust when it comes to what's left of the St. Louis group and there are some things that raise suspicion in one of the crew in particular. She also faces some trickery and discovers something new about Kyung. Perhaps most importantly, she's faced with whether it's important to get back something Kyung has taken from her and be content with that, or whether she won't be satisfied until she ends his life. This book has plenty of suspense but the mood is a bit different and the pace a bit slower than the first book. If you read Vicarious, definitely read Ferocious to see how it all ends, though. Also, there's a great epilogue for the story.
I'm a huge fan of Paula Stokes, and Vicarious, the first book in this duology is one of my favorite books of all time, so I was hugely excited for this follow up! I'll try to make this spoiler free. Winter is messed up from the end of Vicarious with a lot of twists that have made her determined to bring down the man who has ruined her life, Kyung. Together with Baz and Jesse, her love interest, they travel to Korea to find him. But her path to vengeance may not turn out the way she expects. Ferocious is in a lot of ways a quieter, more introspective book, and the development in the first half is relatively slow. I recommend that people realize that this book is going to be a lot different than Vicarious, because I imagine some people will be disappointed that it doesn't quite have the same whirlwind feel. That said, I think this is a very strong book that needs to be heard. Winter has a lot of psychological issues to deal with, and a romantic entanglement with Jesse that she needs to figure out. Winter is a complex, damaged, but very strong female Korean character, and still one of my favorite characters to date. Jesse is dedicated to her and wonderful. But the standout for this book (although he makes some bad decisions), is Baz. While we only get to see him in the sidelines in Vicarious, he is a main character in this installment, and steals most of the scenes he is in. I loved learning more about him! I loved visiting Korea and this book is rather an homage to the country. The prose is still dark and beautiful, and there are several important turning points for Winter near the end of the book, and I was very satisfied with how it ended. Overall, a beautifully and darkly written followup to Vicarious with a strong cast and a thoughtful, psychological portrait of a flawed character, which comes off as powerful and meaningful.
A Fast-paced Suspense/Thriller Note: This review contains NO spoilers This series is a first for me reading any of Paula Stokes' books. I was drawn in by the synopsis of both Vicarious and Ferocious. The synopsis alone boasted it's fast-adventure thriller that played with the mind. And... I have to say that it does live up to it. Paula Stokes has created and continued this action/adventure-filled thriller following the main character on a "mission" to avenge those she loved dearly. Of course, the adventure flows as she travels to destination(s) to takes her even closer to her goal(s). Her characters are well developed with complex and individual personalities. As regards to its pace, Ferocious seemed a bit lacking as compared to Vicarious. But, I would not say that it lacked in the intensity of the characters and plot. Paula Stokes has continued to reveal the resilience and strength of the main character, especially after everything she has been through and survived. Moreover, I would have to say that Ferocious contained its own fast-pace and compelling story to tell readers. Of course, I would have to say that reading Vicarious first is recommended since Ferocious basically starts off where Vicarious left off. Plus, Vicarious pretty much sets up for Ferocious! Either way, Ferocious can definitely hold its own when it comes to the suspenseful and thrilling twists and turns of a hi-tech mystery/thriller. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from the author/publisher for an honest review, all opinions are my own
I had to immedietely pick this book up after finishing Vicarious, the first book in this duology, because Winter's story just hooked me; and when the book finally ended, I was very satisfied with how Winter's story came to conclusion. There was one thing that I didn't like in this book. Ferocious had a lot of slow parts to me, and that was hard to push through at times. It also had some actions moments which was great. Something that I liked was the character development of Winter. You can really see her grow throughout this duology. And I also loved Jesse - how could you not if you have read this book. The romance between the two of them was cute, but not a huge focus, which I wish wasn't the case. The best thing about this book was the plot twist. I wasn't really expecting it, so I was shocked when it happened. All in all, a good book to read, and a great serious to get your hands on if you haven't already. I highly recommend it.
4.5 Stars 'Ferocious' lives up to its name and then some. It's a fantastic science fiction novel full of action and thrills, and it's sure to have readers devouring the pages. I've read several of the author's other books, so I'm familiar with her amazing talent and storytelling abilities. This definitely was no exception. The writing was awesome - she brought Winter's world to life in front of my eyes with vivid imagery and detailed descriptions. I easily slipped inside Winter's mind and world right from the beginning of the story, and I didn't come back out until I finished the last words. Winter is a fierce main character, but she was still easy to connect with. She's been devastated by the loss of the two people in the world she loved, and she's out for revenge. She's determined, smart, resourceful, and strong in so many ways. The author made her realistic in her flaws - including her broken heart over the loss of her sister and her need for revenge and make the people responsible pay. I really liked getting to see inside her mind and experience the story from her perspective. The author wrote the story in the first person - from Winter's point of view, and I'm so happy that she chose to do it this way. It's by far my favorite writing style because of the deeply personal connection it allows the reader to have with the narrator. I think it was a perfect fit for the novel and it brought Winter's story closer for me. I very highly recommend this book for fans of the author, as well as fans of science fiction, dystopia, and thrillers. Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Oh man, this is was amazing. I didn't reread Vicarious before I started this and I probably should have, but I was pretty excited to get to it. Winter is a straight up BAMF. She's stronger than she thinks and it so satisfying to see her come to that realization. Jesse and Baz are delightful in their own ways and the three of them work quite well together as they are complimentary as a trio. Plot wise, it goes back and forth between build up and madness and it's fast paced right from the beginning. There's always movement and plotting and in between there's some sweetness and kissing. As the ending gets close, there are a few surprising moments that had me guessing at what would happen next. Overall, I was captivated right from the start and I constantly straddled the line of wanting to devour it and wanting to savor it. I loved the story and the epilogue was a perfect as it could be. **Huge thanks to Paula for sending me an arc and Tor Teen for providing a finished copy free of charge**
I am always super nervous with going into second books because for the most part I usually don't like it nearly as much as the first one, but that wasn't the case for this one, I actually liked it as much as Vicarious (if not more). My favorite part was definitely the fact that Winter goes to South Korea because it was super cool getting a look into that culture. Besides getting that look into South Korea, I just thought the overall story was really good and it was a great conclusion to the duology. The only things I wish there was a little more of was that I really liked ViSE in the first book, and would have loved to see more of it (but I totally see why it was not included more in THIS book, the point of this book wasn't the ViSEing, I just loved it so much in the first book that I wanted more).
My all time favorite characters are the bada-- ladies that take no s--t, and Winter is one of them. Winter's story comes to a close Ferocious, and while I am sad to let her and Jesse go, it was a great ending for both of them. This is more of a heist story, rather than the mystery/murder thriller of the first book, and the tension didn't feel as high. But, then again, finding your sister's killer will always be a bit more emotionally taught than stealing something. Paula does it well though, and I think if I wasn't coming off of Winter solving her sister's murder in Vicarious I wouldn't have noticed. With a new book comes a change in scenery, and Paula paints Seoul vividly. The culture and food are vibrant and sound delicious and I also just love travelling (and heisting) in YA books. And then there is Jesse, who is wonderful. I loved his relationship with Winter and its slow burn nature. They are good for each other, and I loved watching their friendship was built into something more. Most of all, I appreciated Paula's treatment of mental illness, and how Winter learned that seeking help for it wasn't something to be ashamed of. Ferocious is an excellent conclusion to this duology and it will keep you on your toes with all the action and questionable characters.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Ferocious by Paula Stokes Book Two of the Vicarious series Publisher: Tor Teen Publication Date: August 15, 2017 Rating: 3 stars Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): Paula Stokes returns to the world of Vicarious in this sequel, a high-action psychological thriller with a protagonist out for vengeance. When Winter Kim finds out that her sister is dead and that she has a brother she never knew about, only two things matter―finding what’s left of her family and killing the man who destroyed her life. Her mission leads her from St. Louis to Los Angeles back to South Korea, where she grew up. Things get increasingly dangerous once Winter arrives in Seoul. Aided by her friends Jesse and Sebastian, Winter attempts to infiltrate an international corporation to get close to her target, a nefarious businessman named Kyung. But keeping her last remaining loved ones out of the line of fire proves difficult, and when all seems to be lost, Winter must face one last devastating decision: is revenge worth sacrificing everything for? Or can she find a spark of hope in the darkness that threatens to engulf her? What I Liked: Ferocious is a little different compared to its predecessor, Vicarious. While Vicarious had a lot of action and jaw-dropping reveals, Ferocious felt more introspective. Fans of Vicarious will not be disappointed with this sequel, as it brings the story to a game-changing climax and wraps up everything in a neat fashion. This book picks up fairly closely to where the previous book finished. Winter is determined to find the brother she never knew about it, and she leaves Jesse and Baz to recover in the hospital in St. Louis, while she goes to L.A. But trouble follows her to L.A., and she finds herself with Jesse and Baz heading to Seoul. Kyung has the ViSE tech that Winter was determined to protect, and she will stop at nothing to get it out of his hands and to make him pay for all of his crimes. The pace of this book is much slower and involved more planning (in terms of what Winter, Baz, and Jesse were doing). I didn't mind this because the slower pace seemed necessary, with all that Winter had to take in, at the end of Vicarious. While most of the action deals with Winter trying to get the tech back, the other big part of the story is Winter's mental state. This book has Winter's mental illness at front and center. Winter is trying to figure out who she is and who her alters are, and what she can do to control these parts of her. I like that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is something that is talked about a lot in this book - meaning, it is something that constantly appears on the page. Winter worries about losing control to her other alters. She worries about not being strong enough to do this or that. She worries that there is nothing she can do to be "normal" again. But at the same time, she talks about DID to Jesse, and her therapist, and Baz. It's not something that she keeps in secret, and I liked that she kept things so open. Winter is such a private and sometimes closed-off person, which was obvious in book one, and is still obvious in this book. I must say, the author stays true to Winter's character. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)