The books I gave for Christmas

I admit it: I love giving books as gifts because 1) it’s always a challenge to come up with something that the recipient will like, and 2) getting it right is a huge rush. And hey, books are gifts that keep on giving because you can always pass them around when you’re done with them 🙂

The books I gave this Christmas:

“Something Borrowed” by Emily Giffin

  • To whom: Mom
  • Why: My mom loves her rom-com novels. After a long day at the bakery, all she wants to do when she gets home is relax AKA no thinking involved. I’ll probably give her a Julia Quinn novel next year.

“Dog Tricks” by Mary Ray and Justine Harding

  • To whom: Dad
  • Why: because we have two American Cocker Spaniels at home who my dad loves as much as his (human) children 😛

“1,000 Places to See Before You Die” (2nd edition) by Patricia Schultz

  • To whom: Mom and Dad
  • Why: because these two folks love to travel. Upon browsing the book, they were tickled to find out that they’ve already been to quite a few places on the list. Mom always says that we (her children) are way luckier than she was because we started traveling while we were still young. (My parents took me on my trip out of the country when I was 12, compared to my mom first going abroad when she was almost 30.) My mom also believes in spending her hard-earned money on experiences like traveling instead of on stuff.

“Leviathan” by Scott Westerfeld

  • To whom: my younger-younger brother
  • Why: because he likes to read (OMG IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY TO WRITE THAT). After successfully getting him hooked on Harry Potter (after many years of trying!), I steered him towards Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book gets a thumbs-up), then Eoin Colfer (he says Artemis Fowl is okay), then Rick Riordan (he loves Percy Jackson). For my encore, I figured I couldn’t go wrong with an Aurealis Award-winning steampunk novel that was also listed by YALSA as one of their “2010 Best Books for Young Adults”. Will be borrowing this book from him once he’s done with it.

“That Summer” by Sarah Dessen

  • To whom: my younger sister
  • Why: because I needed a novel targeted towards teenage girls that did not feature 1) vampires, 2) werewolves, 3) angels, 4) demons, 5) shapeshifters, or 6) some other supernatural thing. Seriously. I asked the guy at the Customer Service counter in Fully Booked if he could recommend something and all he could say was “Uhhhh….”. *facepalm* Thankfully, I remembered that Danes lent me some Sarah Dessen books via Kindle (that I haven’t read yet >_<) and Danes would never give me anything shitty.

For my other brother, my Christmas gift was doing all of his Christmas shopping and gift wrapping plus a Doctor Who shirt 😛

Happy holidays everyone and have an awesome 2012!

Book review: “Heat Rises” by Richard Castle

Let me start this off by saying that I have not seen a single episode of Castle. Tragic, isn’t it? And this is coming from someone who loved Nathan Fillion in Firefly and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. The only things I know about Castle is that it’s about a writer (Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion) who rides along with an NYPD homicide detective (Kate Beckett, played by Stana Katic) in order to conduct research for his new book.

I have to give ABC serious props for the brilliant idea of co-branding an entire line of crime fiction books to tie-in with Castle. After all, fans of the show keep hearing about the novels that “Richard Castle” writes, so why not give them the real thing? There are two levels of enjoyment in books: the first is as a regular crime fiction reader and the second, deeper level is as a Castle fan who’ll enjoy the little meta moments sprinkled throughout the books. The best thing about the books is that they rise above being mere gimmicks and merchandise to become truly good and fun reads on their own. No, ABC has not yet revealed who the real writer behind “Richard Castle” is.

Heat Rises is the third book in the Nikki Heat series (after Heat Wave and Naked Heat) penned by Richard Castle. The blurb:

Fast-paced and full of intrigue, Heat Rises pairs the tough and sexy NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat with hotshot reporter Jameson Rook in New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle’s most thrilling mystery yet.

The bizarre murder of a parish priest at a New York bondage club opens Nikki Heat’s most thrilling and dangerous case so far, pitting her against New York’s most vicious drug lord, an arrogant CIA contractor, and a shadowy death squad out to gun her down. And that is just the tip of an iceberg that leads to a dark conspiracy reaching all the way to the highest level of the NYPD. But when she gets too close to the truth, Nikki finds herself disgraced, stripped of her badge, and out on her own as a target for killers, with nobody she can trust. Except maybe the one man in her life who’s not a cop: reporter Jameson Rook.

In the midst of New York’s coldest winter in a hundred years, there’s one thing Nikki is determined to prove:  Heat Rises.

This book in a word? Entertaining. Yes it’s a crime-mystery novel that doesn’t make light of its subject matter, but the interplay between Rook, Heat, Raley, and Ochoa is so natural and the quips flow just as effortlessly. Even if it’s just Heat and Rook enjoying a night in or Rook attempting to tail a suspect, the little spots of humor in the situation don’t fail. Castle also did a great job in setting up a potential plotline for Nikki Heat 4 (all those unanswered questions!).

The main weakness of Heat Rises is that the Big Bad and the Big Bad’s lackeys aren’t that well-hidden. I already had my suspicions maybe two-thirds into the book and was proven right by the reveal at the end.

The 2nd level of analysis exposes quite a few wink wink nudge nudge moments designed to appeal to fans of the TV show. First, it’s very interesting to read Castle’s book while knowing what he’s experienced prior and during the course of writing it. The depth of his feelings for Beckett come out in the guise of Rook’s feelings for Heat. Castle’s writing of the relationship between Rook and Heat is his way of letting Beckett know that they can work and not just in fiction.

And then there are the meta moments. Oh, the meta moments. This is my favorite from the entire series so far:

Phil Podemski to Jameson Rook [on setting up Rook as a male stripper]: “Sure, guess I could give you a bullwhip and a fedora. We’d market you as Indiana Bones. Or maybe go sci-fi. You sorta look like that guy who roamed outer space everybody’s so crazy about.”

Jameson Rook: “Malcolm Reynolds?”


Then there’s also Richard Castle’s acknowledgements: “To Nathan, Stana, Seamus, Jon, Ruben, Molly, Susan, and Tamala – you remain the embodiment of dreams that come true relentlessly and tirelessly. You always bring the heat.” 😛

All in all, I don’t regret a single minute of the time I spent reading Heat Rises. It was a welcome respite from working on my thesis and something that kept me sane. I highly recommend it for Castle fans and non-fans alike 🙂

Rating: 4/5


  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (September 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324436
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324438

Lookie at what just arrived :p

This baby just came in a few days ago:

Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific
Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific
Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific
Reef Fish Identification - Tropical Pacific

Whoohoo! This book isn’t available here in the Philippines so I had to order it from Amazon, have it sent to my aunt, who then packed it in a balikbayan box with all of the other stuff she’s sending home. It took about a month to get here but at least I saved a bunch on shipping. Haha. It’s really depressing that we don’t have books like this available here, considering that the Philippines has amazing marine biodiversity. Sigh. Then there’s also the matter of “A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines” by Kennedy et. al, (IMHO) the most comprehensive book out there on birds found in the Philippines, being out of stock here. Here, the country whose birds are featured! Arggghhh.

I love you Neil!!!

I’ve spent the past few years trying (and failing) to get my younger brother (now in 1st year HS) and sister (grade 7) to read. “Harry Potter”? They didn’t get through the first book. Same thing with “Artemis Fowl”. “The Thief Lord” put them to sleep. My sister finished “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” but didn’t show any inclination to pick up “The Great Glass Elevator” or the other books. The only printed material of mine that they willingly read were “Rurouni Kenshin” and “Skip Beat!”. Of course manga counts but I was hoping that they’d be interested in other things too. Then, a ray of light: Neil Gaiman!

I lent them “M is for Magic” last month, figuring that short stories would be easier to digest. Wonder of wonders: they actually liked it! As in really liked it.Then a few days ago, my brother borrowed “Stardust” to read for his book report. The clincher was a note he left me today:

Got “The Graveyard Book”. Very interesting. — Jay

Hallelujah! I love you Neil!!!
Maybe I should get them “Coraline” for Christmas