December 24, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey

Author:  Shannon Stacey
Publisher: Harlequin
Category:  Adult Fiction

Payback is a Bitch.

That’s what Keri Daniels, celebrity tabloid writer par excellence, realized after reuniting with Joe Kowalski, the reclusive best selling author whose heart she broke 20 years ago.  To keep her job she needs to get the dirt on Joe, who would only grant an exclusive interview if she goes with him on the two week annual Kowalski family vacation of Doom, which means no cellphone, no computer, lots of bug bites, pesky children and Terry, Joe’s twin sister and Keri’s former best friend who loathes her to death. 
Quitting the trip is impossible because as per contract (yes Joe actually drafts a contract), Keri can only ask one question for every day that she stays with him.  so she goes and gets reacquainted with the entire family plus plus.  And falls back in love with the same man whom she only left in college for dreams that still hadn’t entirely come true.  But eventually the same problems arise.   Keri needs to finally figure out if her happiness is in California with her job or with her first love Joe Kowalski.

I loved Joe and Keri.  They are such fun characters to read.  the situations they get into are laugh out loud funny.   add to that the entire Kowalski family which is full of crazy yet full of love. I like Joe’s twin Terry.  she can be annoying in wanting to stop Keri and Joe from getting back together (which makes you root for them more) but you know she’s coming from a good place having been the rejected former BFF of Keri. Exclusively Yours is un-put-downable as every page leaves you asking: will they or won’t they?.     Eventually happiness finds them all… except one…. which brings us to the sequel.  UNDENIABLY YOURS, the story of Kevin, Joe’s younger brother.

Shannon Stacey reminds me of author Kristan Higgins in that her characters are funny, witty, memorable and easily relatable.  Though when it comes to the sexy moments, Stacey adds more fire and leaves you wanting.  She brings new excitement to contemporary romance.  Suffice it to say I highly recommend this book for your enjoyment.   

December 07, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: DON'T YOU WISH by Roxanne St. Claire

Author: Roxanne St. Claire
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Category:  Young Adult Fiction
Due Out:  July 10, 2012

Annie Nutter is an "Invisible".  A social outcast and perennial bag stopper (meaning people's bags stop moving when they hit her head).  With only one friend in school, Annie is unhappy.  Her social status is non-existent as well as her lovelife.  The only notable part of this is when the hottest boy in school asks her out for homecoming.....just so his dog has a "date".  
Her mother on the other hand is depressed.  Seeing her now multi-billionaire ex-boyfriend on a major magazine made her doubt whether she truly married the right man....which makes Annie think.... What if she's the rich man's daughter instead of her current failed inventor father?

Then one night her father's invention accidentally transports her into a parallel universe where she is finally all she wished to be.

She becomes Ayla Monroe.  Otherwise known as A-List Ayla.  The most beautiful, rich, envied girl in school.  The Queen Bee.  
Annie is happy being Ayla.  Finally she has everything she wanted....or does she?

Her friends are drug users who steal for fun,  her boyfriend Ryder pressures her constantly to have sex, her father is never there, her mother (even in this universe) is depressed and her brother hates her.  
Then she meets Charlie.  An outcast.  A former homeless boy who's in school on scholarship.  Naturally everyone hates him and is a victim of constant bullying.  
But there is something about him that draws Ayla close and to everyone's horror, they fall in love.  But love is never easy, especially when you are not yourself.  So with Charlie's help, Ayla tries to go home, back to where she belongs...back to where Charlie can not follow....unless.....

I love, love, love this book. 
Yes the plot has been used many times before, but the writing, the mapping out of characters is just so good. 
Annie is easily relatable.  Who among us hasn't felt the need to be accepted? Wanted? Loved?.  I also appreciate her misery at seemingly having everything yet also nothing because truly money can only go so far and in the end, it is still love and friendship that makes us  who we are.  
Now Charlie is a sweet one.  He is the underdog who we want to root for and maybe fall in love with.  A mature boy with a good heart who loves the Annie in Ayla, with or without the pretty package.

I recommend this book to teens everywhere, especially those who have been, or are currently part of, the "Invisibles".  This is a reminder that though life on the other side seems perfect, it probably isn't.  And that what we have might just be better after all.

November 12, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: CRAVE by Melissa Darnell

Book:  CRAVE
Author:  Melissa Darnell
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Category: Young Adult Fiction

The Clann: Book I

Forbidden to Love
Doomed to Fail
Savannah Colbert has never known why she’s so hated by the kids of the Clann. Nor can she deny her instinct to get close to Clann golden boy Tristan Coleman. Especially when she recovers from a strange illness and the attraction becomes nearly irresistible. It’s as if he’s a magnet, pulling her gaze, her thoughts, even her dreams. Her family has warned her to have nothing to do with him, or any members of the Clann. But when Tristan is suddenly everywhere she goes, Savannah fears she’s destined to fail.
For years, Tristan has been forbidden to even speak to Savannah Colbert. Then Savannah disappears from school for a week and comes back… different, and suddenly he can’t stay away. Boys seem intoxicated just from looking at her. His own family becomes stricter than ever. And Tristan has to fight his own urge to protect her, to be near her no matter the consequences…
Bloodlust.    Magic .    Forbidden secrets.

Savannah loves Tristan.  She always has.  But there is one big problem.  He ignores her, and so do the rest of his group, the powerful kids belonging to families in THE CLANN.  It hasn’t always been this way.  Sav and Tristan used to be best friends and more…. but something happened  which Sav never truly understood. 

What she didn’t know was that The Clann members are powerful witches, eternal enemies of Vampires, and that the reason they are told to stay away from Savannah is that she is an anomaly in both their worlds…she is a dhampir, half vampire half witch, a daughter of an incubus father and a witch mother…there has never been one like her and as such, her parents were prevented from teaching her magic or telling her anything about her heritage until one day she gets very sick.  Two weeks later she goes back to school a more beautiful version of herself…and everyone notices…. including the Vampire Council to which her absentee father belongs…. And Tristan.

Tristan is failing in his promise to stay away from Savannah.  It’s not just her beauty.  He has always been drawn to her but much more so now.  His family never told him what she is and thus never understood why he was asked to leave her be.  But he can no longer ignore his attraction to her.  So against all odds, he pursues the one person who can eventually kill him.

Two extreme powers lie within Savannah. The question is, which one will emerge: will she be a vampire who feeds on humans for blood and witches for energy? Or a witch, whose power of fire can destroy vampires? 

I love the fact that the author wrote in both characters’ perspectives.  it gave me a clearer sense of who they are as people.  Tristan is the strong one, a fighter.  And though he tries to be a good son, particularly when it comes to staying away from Sav, he can not fully ignore her nor his feelings for her.    Sav on the other hand is afraid.  Not that she is weak, but it just takes awhile and a lot for her to go against the rules, even if it is what her heart wants.  Two other characters I liked were Tristan’s sister Emily and Sav’s bestfriend Anne.  Unfortunately they were a little more than extras in the storyline but hopefully there will be more of them in the next book. 

This is an interesting twist to the usual vampire-human love story. It is a good read but a bit too long as ¾ into the book the pace slows to give Savannah and Tristan more time to develop as a couple, it felt like it went on too long.  Overall though it is something that paranormal romance lovers shouldn’t miss out.

October 25, 2011


Author: Yvonne Woon
Publisher: Disney Publishing
Category: Young Adult Fiction

WARNING: Spoiler Alert.

This is the sequel of the book DEAD BEAUTIFUL. The biggest premise of the series is that children (up to age 21) who die and are not buried nor burned will reanimate after 10 days.  they will retain memories from their former life and still be functional yet are quite different.  their senses will be dull and they will be emotionally detached, apart from having very cold skin.   The Undead can only live up to 21 years after reanimation unless they can find their lost soul, which is virtually impossible.  And one kiss from them will mean a stolen soul and death.

Renee Winters’ parents died after being kissed by the undead.  She gets shipped off by her grandfather to Gottfried Academy where she meets mysterious and gorgeous Dante Berlin. She falls deeply in love with him only to find out that he is an Undead.  While she on the other hand is a Monitor, a person who can sense the dead and is tasked to kill them if necessary.  Circumstances happen and she willingly kisses Dante to give him her soul and die herself.  But at the end of Dead Beautiful, Dante sacrifices his new life to give Renee back hers.

Life Eternal starts with Renee not quite herself anymore.  She died and lived again because of Dante, but in the process literally lost a big part of her soul to him, and as such they have become one entity, only fully alive when with each other.  She knows that the only chance they have at life together is if Dante finds eternal life.  Another problem is that Dante is on the run from Monitors who are hunting him down as they are convinced that he killed the former headmaster at Gottfried Academy.  But rumors abound about the Nine Sisters who are believed to have discovered the secret to living forever.  So Renee searches for clues that may lead to eternal life….or death.

I love the character of Dante.  He is strong and loyal.  And even though at a certain point in the book Renee starts wavering on her trust in him, he never lost his faith in her.  Renee on the other hand is confused.  Certain events, and deaths in the book point towards Dante and since he chooses to remain silent about his activities while on the run and his whereabouts, Renee has reasons for her questions.  There’s also Noah, another Monitor who is a really good and supportive friend to Renee.  But he wants more than what she can give….. because in the end, there is always Dante. 

This is a good read.  although it’s quite lengthy, I didn’t really notice time pass as  every chapter drew me in more.  the pace is just right and as expected, the ending left me hanging.  It left me frustrated about Noah (the ice! The ice!) and hopeful about Dante and Renee.  It also left me with questions, the biggest being:  will one truly have to die for the other to survive?  Let’s ponder this one ladies until the next book comes out.  Till then, read these with a tissue or two…. 

October 13, 2011


Book: Marian's Christmas Wish
Author: Carla Kelly
Publisher: Cedar Fort Inc.
Category:  Historical Fiction

Marian Wynswich’s life is about to change.  Their father died deeply in debt after gambling away all their money and property, including Covenden Hall, their home since forever.  So Marian is determined to make their last Christmas here as happy as it can be before it is taken away from them. 

In an effort to save everything though one night her older brother Percy comes home with two moneyed gentlemen in tow.  The first is the ugly Sir William Clinghorn whose only aim is to find a meek and dutiful wife.  He later on proposes to poor Ariadne, Marian’s sister, who happens to be in love with the town vicar Sam Beddoe.  The other guest is Gilbert Collinwood, Earl of Ingraham.  
At once Marian and Gil hit it off, with him saving her many times from embarrassment, especially with Sir William whose high and mighty airs did not endear him to the family.  Having had enough, Gil plots with Marian’s other brother, the troublemaker Alistair, to scare William out of their lives permanently and succeeds. 

Upon learning that Gil is not spending Christmas with his mother only because he is embarrassed about his facial scar, Marian and Alistair schemes to bring him to his home themselves, conscious or not.  What happens after changes all their lives forever

Set in the time of Napoleon, the story has political undertones that explain much of what and why Gilbert is as he is.  In fact, the nature of his work is the reason for the main confusion and heartbreak of the heroine ¾ into the story.  The author completes the personalities of the heroine and her hero with their words and actions.  We see that Marian, though with a good heart, gets into much trouble with her loose tongue and sharp mind.  Gil on the other hand is secretive yet very kind and particularly attached to Marian, despite the 12 year age gap.  There are many threads in the story which weaves together nicely enough in the end.  But one must be most interested in a historical romance before starting this book as it will take awhile to finish. It is a lovely story though with a sweet ending.  Perfect for romantics this holiday season.

October 11, 2011


Author: Jus Accardo
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Category: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

Deznee is a thrill seeking teenager hell bent on getting her stoic father’s attention one way or another.  One night she meets Kale, whose fear, desperation and constant wonder at everything ordinary seemed out of place.  Turns out he escaped from Denazen, the company for whom Deznee’s father worked.  
Kale is one of the SIX, a group of people with special abilities being rounded up and trained to be the perfect assassins.  Kale’s ability is to disintegrate every living thing he touches…. Except for Deznee. She is somehow immune to his powers. She decides to help him when she finds out that her mother, whom she believed died giving birth to her, is actually alive and is kept prisoner at Denazen.  And in the process falls in love with Kale.

TOUCH is a combination of the book I AM NUMBER FOUR and the TV show HEROES.  Its plot is interesting with lots of action, drama and romance in between. 

Deznee’s character is the typical rebellious i-hate-my-dad-he-doesn’t-give-me-any-attention-so-I’ll-give-him-hell teen.  Since she was made to believe and feel that her mother’s death is all her fault, it’s no wonder she feels so much hate for her father at the same time, without pointing it out, she actually tries to always look for a spark of kindness and understanding in his eyes, which she gets only once…kind of.  
Sympathizing with her character is easy, more so Kale’s.  He is an innocent.  He was raised in captivity so he lives and breathes Denazen and knows nothing of the outside world.  He has never touched anyone he has never tried to kill so touching Deznee was like a miracle to him.  He looks at everyTHING with the eyes of a child yet looks at everyONE with those of a killer’s.  they get attached to each other pretty quickly since aside from being the gorgeous beings that they are,  Deznee also has abilities which in the end, may be more powerful than his. 

Marshall Cross, Deznee’s father, is much like Noah Bennet of Heroes.  You can’t quite pinpoint if he is pure evil or is still saveable.  Another interesting character is Alex, Deznee’s former boyfriend whose love for her forced him to make bad decisions.  My favorite though is Brandt, Dez’s cousin whose power comes out so much later yet may just be the best among them.  And there is a lot of them.  As the story moves further, more characters and powers come out, again, not unlike the tv show. 

The book is worth reading.  Lovers of Pittacus Lore books I AM NUMBER FOUR and THE POWER OF SIX will appreciate the adventure that is within the pages.  The pace is very good and the ending is hopeful, and yes, poised for book 2 or even book 3.  There is no lull in the story though admittedly I did not get quite as attached to its characters as I did with the abovementioned titles.  It does have a lot going for it though that I am sure lovers of science fiction will appreciate.

October 04, 2011


Author:  Prudence Bice
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Category: Historical Romance

The book starts with 12 year old Georgiana luring her friend Ridge under the massive oak tree, otherwise known in the community as the kissing tree, as a dare by her best friend Samantha. She happily obliged and kissed the one boy she has always fancied herself in love with.  Then she left. 
And 5 years later returns as a proper lady come home to help out her grandfather in his cattle ranch.  For some reason, even with men clamoring for her attention, she has never given her heart completely, not even to Dawson, her handsome and accomplished friend and suitor.   Upon seeing Ridge again though things became clearer, yet more complicated, as he can never seem to be straightforward with his intentions and instead teases her until her Irish blood boils.  She herself didn’t know what she wanted: Ridge, the man she has always loved, or Dawson, the man everyone thinks she is meant to be with.  And so she fights against her heart.  But with the help (or scheming) of her grandfather Angus and Samantha, it’s a battle she was meant to lose.

I haven’t fallen in love with a historical romance in a very long time.  So this was a welcome surprise.  From the very beginning I was caught up by the intensely sweet love-hate relationship of Georgie and Ridge.   There’s an innocence in these characters that’s refreshing to read.  also, no one is left hanging as practically all the characters have an end to their stories, including the bad guys.   Since I cannot divulge the ending, all I can say is that for eternal optimists like me who love happy endings, this book will not disappoint.

Technically, the pace of the book is perfect.  The progression of the love story is just right.  you can’t help but feel invested in their happiness.  Not just Ridge and Georgie’s, but also Samantha’s and Dawson’s….even Georgie’s mom Charlotte.  and despite all the different characters’ points of view, you still won’t get distracted from the main point which is the relationship of the two.  There are several plot points in the book that could have gotten distracting, yet was written so well it was seamless.  There are no loose ends in The Kissing Tree, just a great ending.  And that my friend, is why I love this book!

September 21, 2011

Bonjour Paris Part 2

Two of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world (in my opinion) are found in Paris, France.

The first and more famous is the Notre Dame cathedral.  As usual the biggest problem is not getting to the place but lining up to go inside. I had to wait an hour before getting in.  Since there were too many people going up the towers to see the gargoyles up close plus challenging themselves to a really long and steep walk up, we decided to just stay downstairs.   The cathedral is Majestic.  Apart from being huge, everything inside was old and beautiful.  The sculptures, the stained glass windows, everything.  The pews were cordoned off for people who want to say a prayer, or gawk at the interiors, or both.  I took a few moments to pray for my family among the awed visitors. 

Saint Chapelle 
 A few minutes away from Notre Dame is the less popular, yet equally beautiful, Saint Chapelle Cathedral.  It’s inside the compound of the Palais de justice (Hall of Justice)  which meant that for safety reasons, everything we brought had to pass through metal detectors, so the line going in was long.  We went there early hoping to be first in line, only to fall in the middle of a long one, half an hour before it opened at 10am.   After getting in the compound though, everything else was a breeze.  The first floor of Saint Chapelle is inconsequential.  The beauty was on the second floor.  Going up I had to pass through a short and tight winding staircase then voila! I was in heaven. Beautiful stained glass windows, most of which were preserved from the 12th century, surround the whole place.  My senses were pleasantly bombarded by vibrant colors.  It’s especially stunning when the morning sun shines through.   What’s unusual though is that every pane of those windows tells stories from the Bible, from Creation to Revelation. Searching for a particular pane is difficult as there are just too many, but if you have the time and patience, why not.

The Arc du Triomphe is hard to miss as it’s right smack in the middle of Paris with 12 boulevards converging in one circle that surrounds it.  From Champs Elysee, all we had to do was walk through the underground tunnel to get to the arc.  Crossing the street is not advised unless of course, one has a death wish.  The arc is an imposing structure.  I had to stand under it for a few minutes just to be able to properly appreciate its entirety.  The arc has names of generals and battles etched on its walls, and underneath is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I by which the eternal flame is placed.  The view of Paris from the top of the Arc is great.  But to get there I’d have had to walk up more than 200 steps, something which my under exercised self wasn’t ready for again (I went up there on an earlier trip with my husband and by the time i reached the top i thought i had developed instant asthma :-)). So I stayed downstairs with other tourists who were either too old or too young.  I was neither (shame on me!).  then it was on to Champs Elysee. 

The most famous avenue in the world is long and wide, lined up with stores ranging from car dealerships to designer brands and fastfood chains.  Seeing McDonalds and Quick (the French equivalent of McDonalds) was jarring.  It felt out of place.  But when hunger pangs hit me, I made a beeline for Quick.  It was easy, convenient and quite cheap.  Perfect for penny pinching tourists like me. 
Also I had to pay respect to the mother ship that was the LOUIS VUITTON main store.  The line outside was long.  What surprised me though was this Chinese lady who spoke to me in the mother tongue (mandarin… she just assumed I could speak, which I couldn’t…well, at least),  asking if I was going inside the store as she wanted me to buy her a bag.  I turned her down saying I wanted to buy for myself.  I ended up not getting anything at all since I wasn’t in the mood to spend big moohla, that’s when I realized I could have made an extra 100 euros easily had I become her temporary bag mule!  Sad but true.

QUICK eating
Shopping in Paris is fun as it is where big French labels are at their cheapest.  But more so at the La Vallee Village outlet right outside Paris.  Via RER-A, we reached the outlet as soon as it opened at 10am and went straight for my favorite store, Longchamp.  The prices there are about 40 to 60% cheaper compared to retail stores so I had a field day.  The most saleable item there is the Le Pliage but unfortunately they have a new rule which limits a buyer to just 3 of these items per person (That’s because some buyers tend to hoard them  which leaves none for others).  Lucky me though since it was a slow day, I got away with buying an extra.  Aside from Longchamp, other notable stores I loved were Burberry, Givenchy, Armani, Ferragamo and Tod’s. 

Tip#1:  Before going to Paris, try downloading French language applications with audio options on your phone.  I did this a month ahead so I was able to practice speaking french.  At the very least, I was able to order my favorite Crepe Nutella easily.
With my partner in crime Nino

Tip#2:  Consider buying the Paris Museum Pass which gives you access to almost all the major sights in paris.  They have a special line for pass holders which can cut down waiting time considerably.

Tip#3:  If you only have 2 days in Paris then you may want to take the very convenient loop tour.  I took the 2 day Le Rouge bus tour which has only 9 stops, almost all of which are at major sights.

Tip#4:  Eat, Drink and Be Merry.  Enjoy the beautiful city of lights!

September 19, 2011

Bonjour Paris!

I love traveling.  next to eating good food, that's the thing i love the most.  And one place i can go back to over and over again is Paris, France.

A few weeks ago, i was lucky enough to be sent to Paris.  They gave me two whole days to go around and shoot what i can.  and so i set about arranging the tightest shoot schedule physically possible.  A few days later, armed with several different sized cameras (personal cam Sony HD and Flip Mino HD plus a professional camera), extra batteries, enough tapes for a ten day shoot, my work partner Nino and i set off for Paris via AirAsia.  And after a 7 hour layover at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, we were finally in the City of Lights.

One thing that always hits me about Paris is the history in its structures.  Even amidst modern buildings and shops, there's always something old and beautiful.  Of course being greeted by the magnificent ARC DU TRIOMPHE and  to hear the french speak is always a big plus... ooohhhh la laaaa.

We were billeted at the very comfortable and well-priced Hotel Acacias Etoile near the arc.  The room was nice and comfortable, but more importantly, they had both RER and Metro stations nearby.
The Metro is the best public transportation within city.  With its many stops and and easy to read maps, it's quite impossible to get lost.  The RER on the other hand is the easiest way to get out of the city to go to Versailles and the La Vallee village outlet.

Within two days in Paris, we were able to visit the Musee du Louvre, Musee d' Orsay, Saint Chapelle cathedral, Notre Dame cathedral, Eiffel tower,  La Vallee Village, Arc du Triomphe plus walk along the Champs Elysee and ride the Bateaux Mouches Seine river cruise.  Believe you me, by the end of the first day our feet were dead.  but dragging our feet to get from point A to point B was easier knowing that we would see another beautiful part of french history.
Just walking around the city itself was a pleasure.  The temperature was a bit hot as it was summer when we went and tourists abound, but the idea of seeing  the city with people just as excited fueled us to move faster and enjoy the surroundings ourselves.

Museum visits in Paris is a must, especially both the Louvre and Orsay museums.  The Louvre houses 35,000 thousand artworks but it seems all tourists want to do is gawk at Leonardo Da Vinci's The Mona Lisa.  I can't blame them as it is the most beautiful painting in the world albeit quite small.  It was surrounded by so many people that i didn't bother going near it (i was able to do so a few years before).  it was amazing though how people are so willing to squeeze themselves in tight spaces just to be able to take pictures with her.  The Louvre is HUGE and it would take hours to finish looking at the most popular artworks, and to look at ALL of them would take days.  If you're a 1st time visitor though, a six hour viewing time plus an hour and a half of line-up time would suffice.

I have to admit the Orsay museum was a bit of a disappointment.  Certainly not the artworks within the former train station, but the fact that taking pictures and videos are no longer allowed.  This new rule surprised me as the last time i was there, people were free to take as many pictures as they wanted provided flashes would not go off especially on the paintings.  It was a downer for fans of impressionist paintings, however it didn't stop people from lining up for hours and still visiting this beautiful museum.

You can see the Eiffel tower from  most parts of Paris.  To say it's imposing is an understatement.  1,060 feet high, one has to look way up to SEE the top.  To GO to the top though is another matter.  since it was the height of summer vacation, tourists swarmed the Eiffel and lining up for tickets was hell on earth.  even with my trusty umbrella, the sun was unbearable as i lined up for 3 full hours before getting our tickets to go to the first two viewing platforms.  Unfortunately, buying a ticket to the the top (and 3rd platform) of the eiffel was moved to the 2nd platform.  I guess it was their way of discouraging too many people from going up at the same time but It was such a letdown for someone who wanted to see the view from the top.  and being bone-tired, lining up another hour for the extra ticket was no longer possible.

so we just moved instead to the Trocadero to see the tower at night....and My what a sight!!!
The Eiffel Tower lit up by thousands of lights was great, to see the Twinkling Eiffel though was magical.  it made me feel like i was in Disneyland for a second.  There was even a collective ooooohhh and aaaahhhh from among the people waiting with me when the twinkling lights came on, which lasts only for 10 minutes at the start of the hour for a few hours late at night.  So all those hours waiting and standing were well worth it in the end.
More of my Paris sojourn in Bonjour, Paris Part Deux to be posted in a couple of days.  Thanks for reading and have a Great day!

September 11, 2011


Author: Douglas Rees
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN
Category: Young Adult Fiction

Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo?
Is Perhaps the most famous line from William Shakespeare’s Tragedy, ROMEO & JULIET.  The play itself is one that everyone seems to know most.  Well, the story is given a new spin here in the Juliet Spell.

Miranda Hoberman is desperate to play Juliet in their town’s upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet.  So one night she casts a witch’s spell for fame and instead got an unexpected visitor in the form of Edmund Shakespeare, the brother of the bard, William himself.   He took to his new life easily, so easy in fact that in no time at all, he snagged the part of Romeo and got himself a girl, much to Miranda’s chagrin.  Good thing though she got the part of Juliet and starts getting close to other players such as the genius Drew and Bobby, who happens to like Vivian, the girl Edmund was dallying with.  Eventually Edmund drops Vivian and realizes his real Juliet is Miranda all along.  All goes well until time traveling, and life, gets in their way.

Miranda is a great heroine.  She is funny with lots of biting comebacks for Edmund whose ignorance of all things modern does not minimize his skill at  verbal tussles.   not surprisingly, she fell for him really fast…as fast as day 2 actually.  But he is gorgeous with brilliant blue eyes, long sandy hair and the perfect old british accent.  The progression of their relationship is pretty slow.  While Miranda has always liked him, he only realized it in the middle of the book, reluctantly too since he feels like he is betraying the trust not only of Miranda, but her mother as well.  But they get it together enough to have some sweet, special moments, albeit few and far between.  But then there’s also Drew.  Of course Miranda is blind to his affections with Edmund around, but then he proves to be a great friend to her…and maybe more… all I can say is, He is the reason everything comes together…… and ends.

This is a fun read.  it is nicely written and well paced.  Short too, it just took me 3 hours of lazy reading to finish the entire thing.  and even with the number of ayes, nays and old world words in edmund’s end of conversations, everything is easy to understand.  Plus there is a twist ¾ into the book that you shouldn’t miss.  Perhaps after reading this book, you’d go straight to reading the real thing.  Aye? I think so….

August 21, 2011

Book Review: Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

Author: Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin
Category: Adult Fiction

She’s having serious prom-night déjà vu…
Posey Osterhagen can’t complain. She owns a successful architectural salvaging company, she’s surrounded by her lovable, if off-center, family and she has a boyfriend—sort of. Still, something’s missing. Something tall, brooding and criminally good-looking…
something like Liam Murphy.
When Posey was sixteen, the bad boy of Bellsford, New Hampshire, broke her heart. But now he’s back, sending Posey’s traitorous schoolgirl heart into overdrive once again. She should be giving him a wide berth, but
it seems fate has other ideas…

The plot has been done many times over it's true. A bad boy from the past comes back, things get complicated, they fall in love against all odds and live happily ever after. So the ending itself is not the point of the book, it never is, but how the story is written. And written wonderfully this was.
I'm happy to say that typical Kristan Higgins style, Until There Was You is romantic, hilarious and quite sarcastic. Three points that sell well with women like me who just want to stop thinking when reading, have a laugh or two and get absorbed by the story.
As in most of her books, Higgins has the sarcastic heroine with a heart of gold, the funny friend with great one liners (or in this case friends) and the gorgeous man who proves that in the end it's all about the heart.

Here the heroine is funny, perpetually thin, successful but self doubting Posey Osterhagen. She is the adopted daughter of two hulking German Americans who own a restaurant called Guten Tag. Unfortunately she has a short affair with the competition who wants to run their business to the ground. The same man who later on dates her very own gorgeous cousin Gretchen, who seems to have it in for Posey. Then gorgeous Liam Murphy, the man for whom she suffered unrequited love for years, comes back to town with his beautiful daughter Nicole, and for some reason , they always seem to end up together and at each other's throats. And therein lies the complication. To love or not to love, because Liam thinks that he is not ready for a relationship after losing his wife to cancer or is he just not ready for Posey?

As for her friends, there's Jon, the gay bestfriend who happens to be married to her older brother Henry. Kate, Posey's bestfriend whose relationship with her adopted son James is just too close for comfort and too weird (in a funny way of course) and there's also Brianna, the emotionally stunted sister Posey never had.

I love how all the characters were well developed. You could somehow read into their minds and understand why they say what they say but at the same time laugh out loud because it came out of nowhere.  Of all her books, this probably has the funniest characters.
As for Posey, i like that she is tough yet unselfish. Self doubts aside, she really knows how to share herself with people she loves and even when they don't seem to deserve it, she gives them herself anyway. As for Liam, he is THE MAN. A bad boy biker with a heart full of love for his one and only child. He is the kind of father you would love to have for your own daughter but never for yourself. He is crazy scary in his need to protect Nicole, but after all is said and done, he is a great father.
So if you need to have a good laugh, to curl up with a good book and just relax, read UNTIL THERE WAS YOU. It will definitely leave you smiling at the end of the day....

August 20, 2011

Book Review: Mr. Right There All Along

Author: Jackie Braun
Publisher: Harlequin
Category: Adult Fiction

The one thing Chloe McDaniels has always depended on is her friendship with Simon Ford. even if it's been tough thinking of the gorgeous guy who makes her heart flutter as just a friend! But now, with their upcoming high school reunion dredging up memories of bullies and broken hearts, she needs him more than ever.
As Chloe plans to unveil her new and improved self, Simon creates a plan of his own.
Step One: Show her that Love is worth the risk.
Step Two: Give her the Happy-ever-after she deserves

I enjoyed reading this book. The start was quite slow and initially i didn't feel any connection to the characters, which tends to happen when a story is told in the third person. However a fourth into the story, I started falling in love with them, particularly with Simon.
Chloe tends to be too hung up on her past which could turn a person off, but then again having faced bullying personally, i understood her point of view, and her obsession to be her best, or at least LOOK the part when she sees her former tormentors. The character that stood out though was Simon. The whole book was just basically the two of them...from conversations to intimate moments...just really them! The only other characters i remember are Millicent and the other gorgeous guy.

But Simon...ahhhhh Simon... He is such a sweetie. From the very beginning he was loving and supportive to Chloe, no hang ups except for one, he has abandonment issues which complicated their already comfortable relationship, which of course was electrified with incredible sexual tension.
Simon has always loved Chloe. On the other hand she couldn't identify what she really felt for him until past half the book. But when she did, when things finally clicked for her, I loved how she took charge of her feelings for Simon. He on the other hand.... Well... Went in the other direction.
Mr. Right There All Along was a joy to read, albeit very short (it took me just two hours of relaxed reading to finish the whole book). And honestly i felt the ending was quite abrupt. But then again it gives one leeway to imagine and perhaps hope for a happily ever after for Simon and Chloe.

July 22, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

Author:  Julie Kagawa
Category:  Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

It is hard to say goodbye to the book series I love most, but say goodbye I must.  Having finished the final installment to Julie Kagawa’s The Iron Fey series just moments ago, I need to start writing my review before I start reading it again …… and again.  Yes I am a happy reader.  The Iron Knight is worth the wait.

The book starts with Ash (prince of the Unseelie court) and Puck (Seelie court jester) looking for Grimalkin, the annoying know-it-all cait sith (in human terms: a cat).  But going through the Wyldwood is never easy. After battling many monsters, they finally find Grim, only to be joined later on by the eternal enemy of the cat, the Big Bad Wolf (whom we met in WINTER’S PASSAGE…. And Little Red Riding Hood).

Ash’s quest is to get a soul and become human, as the soulless immortal fey that he is can not survive in the Iron Realm, which is now the home of his beloved Meghan Chase, the Iron Queen.  But to do so, he has to pass extremely torturous tests, the 1st of which is to face the Seer.   I actually shrieked in surprise when the fey was revealed.   The Seer is the key to the quest.  Yet the question is, will Ash be able to let the Seer go?   

Herein lies the stupefying twist.  Of all the past characters in the book, this was the most unexpected.  For fear of spoiling the gem that is the Iron Knight, I can not say anymore about the plot.
Just know this:  from beginning to end, The Iron Knight is filled with thrilling adventures, unwavering friendship, surprising loyalty and uncompromising love from the most unexpected of characters.   It pulls you in, makes you sympathize with each and every Fey, including the one who may just destroy Ash’s resolve to finish the quest.  Perhaps my only bone to pick with the book is that it didn’t have enough Meghan and Ash moments.  But then again, this is Ash’s version, plus the ending more than made up for the iron queen’s absence.
Beautifully written by Julie Kagawa, this book is a Must read.  Of course you have to start from the very beginning with The Iron King, followed by Winter’s Passage, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen and Summer’s Crossing respectively.  But I promise you, all the hours you spend reading the series will be worth it. 
Happy Reading!

China, China Part deux

Aside from Tobogganing at the Great Wall of China, there are other things I recommend you do when you visit this great country.  One of which is eating at Dadong

With several branches across Beijing, one can not miss this restaurant.  One reason is the crowd.  My friends and I went early evening after a 3day reservation.  A few people were already in line to order and taste their famous Beijing duck, more popularly known as the Peking duck.  In the middle of the restaurant was an elevated area, the four corners of which stood brick ovens, and right smack on the middle of it was the hanging rack.  Right there in front of all its guests, the chefs would put duck after duck inside each oven.  Once cooked, the duck is pulled out by a long metal stick and hanged on the rack for oil dripping purposes. 
After which it is wiped down,  beak removed and served to the customers.  I tell you, having tasted Peking duck many times over, this was the best I have ever had.  The Duck was moist and very tasty.  Served with the wrap and several condiments, you can have it any way you want.  Plus, should the guest agree, they stew the bones for soup, though that I didn’t like at all.  Stick to the duck and your foodie spirit will be very happy indeed.

Another place to visit is the YASHOW market.  This is China’s version of our Greenhills tiangge.  A building packed with stalls full of bags, clothes and what have you.  Fakes abound of course but buying is in your discretion.  What I liked most about the place is the extreme bargaining.  Clothes, overruns of famous labels, can cost just 10% of its retail price.

Tip though, you have to be willing to walk away after naming your price.  Normally, the salesladies would run after you anyway.  Also try to appear disinterested.  Do not show excitement as they may just jack up the price.   My friend bought a beautiful short dress which originally was being sold for 350RMB.  In the end, after bargaining for 5minutes, she gave it for just 50RMB.  So if the salesperson refuses to give it at your price, stick to your guns, turn around and walk away.  Remember, with the number of stalls in Yashow, there’s bound to be a few selling the exact same items.
You can also go to the Qianmen Dajie.  Much like LA’s The Grove or the local BGC, this place is a 500 year old shopping area which the Chinese government renovated before the 2008 Beijing olympics.  Walking the long street takes a couple of hours what with stops at the many stores lining it. 
Local and foreign stores sit side by side. The facades of these are classic Chinese yet modernized. There are also souvenir stores which surprisingly have reasonably priced items.  If you get hungry there are several stalls selling candied fruits.  My choice?  Candied grapes.  Try not to get the candied sweet potatoes though.  It’s just not as good.

Do not miss the ever popular Tiananmen Square, Hutongs, Forbidden city and the Olympic sites especially the bird’s nest, the lights of which are still a sight to behold.  Overall Beijing was a fun experience.  Before going though perhaps you can download some Chinese language applications with audio options on your phone.  English is still not widely spoken there so this may help you, especially when ordering food.

Happy trip!

July 21, 2011

China, China

I am not singing though i have to admit, the song is ringing in my head and undoubtedly that would be my LSS (last song syndrome) the rest of the day.
Actually i just wanted to share with you my trip to china recently.
The first time i went to china i was 10 years old, terribly obese and looking like a boy, in fact an old lady went up to my grandmother to tell her that i was such a cute little man.  apparently there were no obese little girls in China with short hair except me.  anyway, it wasn't much of a trip.  at such a young age, i appreciated nothing but food.  so aside from that insult, i didn't really remember much else.

my second trip to china was a couple of years ago with my best friend Chiara.  we went to visit our friend Lylah who had just transferred there from manila.  She took us to the have-to-visit areas like Tiananmen Square, the olympic sites and the Great Wall of China: Badaling section, which supposedly is the most picturesque of the 7 great wall sections. indeed it was really beautiful and awe inspiring,  but for the adventurous at heart, there's something even better.
On our visit to China a few weeks back, with the addition of our friend Haze,  we went to the Mutianyu Great wall.  it's farther than the Badaling section from the main city but the one hour drive was so much worth it.  going up the wall, we had to ride the cable car.  the Great Wall itself is...well.....Great!  massive and long, with a beautiful view of the mountains.
We were there at 8am, the most perfect time of the day as the sun was not yet as hot and the place was not yet as packed with tourists. After two hours of picture taking, walking and hiding in the shade, plus eating, it was time to go down.  There are two fun options you can choose to go down: one is the Ski Lift which we didn't really go for since it was too like the cable ride.  the other one was the Toboggan ride.
The toboggan has a stick right smack in its middle that you can use to either break or go faster on the very long winding metal track that reminded me of playground slides...only wider and much much longer.  To say that i enjoyed it is an understatement, however, a warning... make sure to ride after fast people, otherwise you'd be like me.  we rode after 2 older ladies and i felt that by the time i reached the bottom, my hair had turned white from all that stopping and waiting.

For souvenir hunters, go back to the entrance of Mutianyu near the ticket booth.  there are stalls upon stalls of pretty much anything.  from clothes to dried fruits, shoes and calendars, everything was there.  Bargaining skills required of course, this is China after all, where a few bucks goes a long way. 
more on our Beijing, China trip next time.

Thanks to: Jojo and Lylah De La Cruz for the photos and everything else.
also to Chiara Bautista and Hazel Tolentino for the adventure.

July 14, 2011

The Iron Knight is coming!

I am more than excited for this book....Literally i am having a hard time breathing from anticipation.  the end to my favorite series, the one which i have a copy of in every form (paperback, ebook, kindle).  Is the end really the end? here's hoping that after The Iron Knight, more will come....Julie Kagawa i seriously can not wait any longer.  For those who do not know what to expect, read this from

Ash, former prince of the Winter Court, gave up everything. His title, his home, even his vow of loyalty. All for a girl… and all for nothing.
Unless he can earn a soul.

To cold, emotionless faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing any gentler feelings the Winter prince might have had. Or so he thought.
Then Meghan Chase—a half human, half fey slip of a girl— smashed through his barricades, binding him to her
irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer fey can  survive.
With the (unwelcome) company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through to its end— a quest to find a way to honor his solemn vow to stand by Meghan’s side.
To survive in the Iron realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. At least, no one has ever passed to tell the tale.
And then Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that turns reality upside down, challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.