Book Review: “Ayesha at Last” by Uzma Jalaluddin

A mix of giving up on a dream in exchange for security, dealing with a bad boss, crazy relatives, a case of mistaken identity, and old family secrets already reads like the kickass start of a great romance novel. But add in the cultural context of the Canadian-Indian Muslim immigrant experience and you’ve got yourself the gem that is Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jalaluddin’s debut novel.

A modern and inclusive romance

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2013 in photos

With certain notable exceptions, 2013 was a personal banner year. I’m not sure how 2014 will top it, but hopefully it will *graduation!!!*

February: I got to meet Costas Christ when he visited El Nido Resorts as a judge for the World Travel & Tourism Council’s 2013 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. It was an honor to be able to pick his brain about sustainable tourism.
02 Feb Costas Christ

March: Bloc Party in Manila! HOMG Bloc Party in Manila!!! I’d dreamed of this moment since I got hooked by Weekend in the City. To see and hear them in the flesh… WOW.

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Celebrating Lucy’s third birthday at Fully Booked!

First off, congratulations to Lucy for turning three-years-old! Lucy is Fully Booked‘s mascot/spokesperson and overall social media “figure”. Second, sorry for only writing about the event now >_< Lucy’s birthday celebrations took place last July 27-28 in Fully Booked’s Bonifacio High Street and Alabang Town Center branches but due to work, school, and reading my book haul, this post is a month late. Anyway, enough of that! Danes wanted to go to the party but wasn’t able to because of prior commitments. This post is partly to annoy her and tease her a bit about what she missed 😛 Games, free books, and Magnum ice cream? The perfect party!

00 event proper

It was a small party but still fun 🙂 Fully Booked’s staff set up tables where partygoers could play bookish games. You win a game, you get to pick a book “blind date” as a prize 😀 The first table had a word scramble game, where you had to unscramble at least five Star Wars or Harry Potter terms within 30 seconds to win. I wasn’t sure I wanted to play this game as I’m a massive fan of both franchises and it would be very embarrassing to lose 😛 Luckily, I didn’t so I earned my ticket for the book blind date. Wheee!

01 word scramble game

The second game was a “pair us up” challenge, where you and a friend had to match up at least five famous literary pairs within 30 seconds to win. I got the deck with Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley in it and submitting their cards together broke my heart. I did, however, qualify that I was doing it under duress 😛 Mwahaha! The only pair I wasn’t familiar with was Eleanor and Park, who are apparently the main characters in the popular YA book “Eleanor & Park”. Danes says the book is really nice (it’s about first loves) so that’s one more book to add to the “to read” pile. Found it funny that the comic book-themed deck had Iron Man and Pepper Potts as the pair (along with Mr. Fantastic/Invisible Woman and Clark Kent/Lois Lane) when they’re not together in the actual comics. Ah well 🙂

02 pair them up game

My favorite part of the afternoon: choosing my blind date! Instead of simply giving the books away, Fully Booked wrapped them in opaque paper and wrote short descriptions on the front. I ended up choosing a book described as featuring “secret society”, “1920’s New York”, “romance”, and “magic”. I double-checked with their super-friendly staff just to make sure it wasn’t The Diviners by Libba Bray (since I’d already read it) but it wasn’t! Something similar then 😀

03 book blind date

Book Blind Date candidates. Who to choose?!

05 my blind date

I ended up with this one.

04 friendly fully booked staff

The super friendly Fully Booked staff and Marketing Team

06 free book

My book blind date! Read my review here.

All in all, it was a great party. Kudos to the kickass Fully Booked team who organized the event! Special shoutout to Ms. Victoria from the Marketing Department who recognized me from the “What’s Your Story” campaign. Haha! I met her in the Katipunan branch November last year 😀

Book review: “Born of Illusion” by Teri Brown

born of illusion coverIs 1920’s New York the new “in” thing in Young Adult publishing? Not that I’m complaining, but Born of Illusion by Teri Brown is the second book this year I’ve read that’s set in 1920’s New York and features a girl with unusual powers (see: The Diviners by Libba Bray). The good thing is that’s where the similarities end.

Born of Illusion centers around Anna Van Housen, a gifted teenage stage magician working with her mother, the “medium” Marguerite Van Housen. Her father (or so her mother says) is the most famous magician of the time: Harry Houdini. But while her mother’s powers are fake, Anna’s powers are not. Behind her illusions and tricks lies a real power: the ability to feel other people’s emotions, to see the future, and to communicate with the dead.

From the back cover:

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she experiences frightening visions of her mother in peril, which lead her to explore the abilities she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a society that studies people with gifts like hers, she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than keeping secrets.

As her visions become darker and her powers spin out of her control, Anna is forced to rethink all she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusions? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

What I enjoyed:

I actually liked Anna. Compared to Evie O’Neill of The Diviners, Anna is a likeable person who’s unfortunately stuck in the unenviable position of trying to “parent” her mother. She’s talented, works hard, and keeps her and her mother’s lives from falling apart. In short, she’s easy to root for.

It has a good ensemble cast. There are only a few characters so everyone gets fleshed out to some degree.

The mother-daughter dynamics are notable. You can feel Anna’s frustration at having to constantly look after her mother and stopping herself from shining just to keep her mother happy. Anna and Marguerite are so different, I’m surprised their big blow-up came so late in the book. Marguerite does redeem herself somewhat but it felt a bit fake and out of the blue.

What could have used some work:

The book suffers from a thin plot. It was interesting enough but “Born of Illusion” felt like it was only the first half of a novel. Sigh. I guess that’s what sequels are for.

The so-called “red herrings” are hardly misleading. It’s pretty obvious who the villain is right of the bat and who between the two guys chasing after Anna is the good guy.

The long and dragging exposition. “Born of Illusion” is told from Anna’s point of view and we suffer through continuous exposition and info dumps as the other characters tell Anna what’s happening in order to move the story forward.

Overall verdict: 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to love this book the same way I loved The Diviners but it just wasn’t possible. Born of Illusion isn’t bad per se, but it’s not extraordinary either. I’m hoping that Book 2 will have a more substantial plot.


P.S. Huge thanks to Fully Booked, who gave me a free copy of this book during Lucy’s Birthday Party last July 27 in Fully Booked-Bonifacio High Street! Here’s to more years of making booklovers happy! 😀

The Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard MasterCard – the booklover’s credit card


The booklover’s credit card is finally here! I was invited to the launch event last April 17 but was unable to go because of work commitments. Much sighs of disappointment were expended. But the important thing is that they finally released it – the Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard MasterCard! If you consider Fully Booked as your second home, then you’ll definitely like this card.

What’s so great about this credit card?

First up: a year-round 10% discount on regular items! You probably already have Fully Booked’s in-store discount card but this card limits you to a 5% discount on credit card purchases. The Fully Booked-RCBC Bankard card is the only credit card that gives you 10% off the regular price. Please note that the discount is not applicable to magazines, office supplies, CDs, DVDs, consigned items, gift certificates, and sale items.

Second: up to 10% rebate on your Fully Booked, Bibliarch, and Sketchbook purchases when you charge at least P20,000 elsewhere per billing statement! You also earn a flat 0.5% rebate on all of your outside purchases, such as restaurant meals, groceries, airline tickets, utility bills, and the like. You can earn as much as P1,000 worth of rebates per monthly billing statement for a total of P12,000 per year.


Third: invites to Special Buys and Private Sale Events and advance notifications on new arrivals, special events, and promos. Hey, the little things count too so this is a nice perk.

And finally…

Four: 0% interest installment plans for big book purchases! You can get a 3-month installment plan for a minimum purchase of P3,000 and 6-month installment plan for P5,000.

One last bonus: you get a P500 Book Voucher for spending at least P12,000 anywhere within the first 3 months of receiving your card. Just remember that you need to present both your card and the charge slips when you claim the Book Voucher at any Fully Booked branch.

Part of me is seriously thinking about getting this card, especially since they waived the first year membership fee. Nuninuninu… *dreams about all the wonderful books she could get*


Complete details here
Online application
Printable application form

Book review: “I’ve Got Your Number” by Sophie Kinsella

The official description (because I’m normally too lazy to write my own synopsis except for when the official synopsis is on the misleading side):

Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!

Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.

What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents . . . she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

In a nutshell: I LOVE IT. I may be in the minority but I much prefer Sophie Kinsella‘s non-Shopaholic books over the Shopaholic series, primarily because I wanted to punch Becky Bloomwood in the face after “Shopaholic Takes Manhattan“, but I digress. Why do I love this book?

Firstly: I like Poppy. Seriously. She’s a physical therapist who loves what she does. Even though she may not be a Robert Burns fanatic and mispronounced Proust in front of her super genius soon-to-be in-laws, you can tell that she’s smart. The high jinks she gets into to find her ring and hide the fact that she lost it are funny, not grating. And lastly, she’s got a good heart.

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My memorable books of 2011

My memorable books of 2011. Some things to take note of:

  1. These are books I read in 2011 – not necessarily published in 2011 but something I read this year.
  2. The books may or may not be any good but were nevertheless memorable for one reason or another.

The List:

1. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Why it was memorable:

I’m not much of a baseball fan – everything I “know” about baseball comes from watching countless baseball movies growing up, from Angels in the Outfield to Little Big League to Major League. However, I am a big fan of come-from-behind stories, of people who get things done when no one says they can. Moneyball’s human interest angle – chronicling Billy Beane’s rise and fall as a pro baseball player, his transition to the back office, and finally to the “broken” players he must somehow mold into a winning Oakland Athletics – is the glue that holds the book together. Lewis lost me during the all-statistics chapters but got me back when he talked about how a player ended up with the A’s.

2. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Why it was memorable:

This is the book that sparked countless debates spread over hundreds of web pages consisting of thousands of comments on what “proper parenting” really means. While I don’t think I’ll ever employ the “extreme” methods Mrs. Chua used on her daughters – threatening to burn Sophia’s stuffed animals if she didn’t get her piano piece right was really too much – she did say some things that stuck with me and got me thinking.

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences… Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something – whether it’s math, piano, pitching, or ballet – he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This is turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.”

That excerpt above is my favorite part of the book because it’s so goddamned true. Science was my favorite subject growing up not just because  it was science, but also because I was naturally good at it. I took up Biology in college because I was good at it. Being good at something made me happy, and being happy made me continue doing it.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my other endeavors, such as piano, guitar, ballet, and writing. Being the ambitious and supremely self-confident child that I was (ha!), I expected that I would take to other things the same way I did to science: naturally and quickly. What a wake-up call it was to read my attempts at fiction and think “This sucks. This really, really sucks.” Unused to failing, I saw these as signs that I should give up and move on to something else. It took several years before I wised up and committed myself to learning, reading, and practicing until I finally got it right (starting with writing!). I don’t believe in regretting anything or speculating, but when I was reading the excerpt, I couldn’t help but think of what could have happened if my parents weren’t so lenient with me quitting whatever lessons I signed up for just three months earlier.

3. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Why it was memorable:

As the book I most looked forward to getting my grubby hands on this 2011, including The Son of Neptune in this list was a no-brainer. It definitely wasn’t perfect (Nico and Rachel get shafted again) but I appreciated seeing Percy again, especially Veteran Soldier Percy. I’m just hoping that Nico and Rachel get bigger parts in The Mark of Athena.

4. Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz

Why it was memorable:

Such a fitting end to the long-running Alex Rider series. GAH. This was the best book of the series and, despite the ending, one of my favorites as well. The only things I could wish for is THAT THING to not have happened and an epilogue where we see Alex finally relaxed and safe.

5. Three books of the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn

Why they’re memorable:

No, I’m not cheating by lumping the three together. It just makes things easier 😛 The three of the eight books in the series are:

Confession time: I have a serious soft spot for romance novels, especially Regency romances. What I loved about these three books is the light and funny writing style. There’s the necessary drama of course, but it’s not heavy-handed. My favorite romance novel of all-time is still Until You by Judith McNaught but Romancing Mister Bridgerton and Colin Bridgerton are giving it a run for its money. Unfortunately, the Lady Whistledown plot line went on a bit too long to finally topple Until You from the top spot.

Of the five other books in the series, I’ve read When He Was Wicked and am currently reading The Duke and I. I tried To Sir Phillip, With Love and I couldn’t get past the first chapter. I don’t find Gregory or Hyacinth all that interesting so there’s no incentive to read their stories. Ah well. Maybe one of these days.

This year saw the release of Just Like Heaven, the first book in Julia Quinn’s Smythe-Smith series. While I liked the premise, Marcus is sick for more than half the book (if it isn’t the case, then it certainly felt that way) so the conclusion was very rushed. Sigh.

Honorable mentions for the list (not listed because of a lack of time):

  • Insight Guides Hong Kong Step-by-Step – my main reference for our Hong Kong trip
  • Trese Volume 4: Last Seen After Midnight by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo – AWESOMESAUCE.
  • The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo – bought for $0.99 as a Kindle Daily Deal, was the best $0.99 I ever spent. The wonderful drawings by Yoko Tanaka are a major incentive to get a physical copy.

How about you? Any memorable books from 2011?