Pages turned in 2013

My reading year was composed of an interesting mix of sequels, new releases, and classic reads. Some moved me to tears while others got me smiling for quite a while. I fell in love with many characters and I also wanted to strangle some of them. Haha! I didn’t reach my reading target for last year but I read 3 more books compared to 2012. Here are my 2013 reading escapades:


Mark of Athena and House of Hades by Rick Riordan

I intentionally held off reading “Mark of Athena” so that when “House of Hades” was released I wouldn’t have to wait so long. More than getting a refresher on Greek and Roman mythology, what I love about Rick Riordan’s novels are his characters: Leo and his awkward humor, Athena and her quick wit, Piper and her amazing charmspeak, and the heroics of Percy and Jason. And then there’s the array of quirky but lovable creatures like Coach Hedge, Tyson, Calypso, and Bob. 🙂

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I can’t believe it ended that way. I was too shocked to be sad. But I like that this dystopian novel is closer to home, meaning the cities are real and existing. There were parts that were a bit confusing so I had to slow down my reading but it all made sense in the end. I look forward to watching “Divergent” this year!


Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Another cliff hanger though not as good as the first one. I expected more from Evangeline in terms of character development. I hope Trussoni redeems herself on the third book. I mean it’s still entertaining but not that engaging.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

I was pleasantly surprised that this book is a good one! I didn’t get to watch the movie but curiosity really pushed me to reading the first instalment of the Mortal Instruments series. I definitely look forward to finishing the next two! That plot twist in the end caught me by surprise. I like the fact that it’s unpredictable to the very end.


And the Mountains Echoed by Khaleed Hosseini and Inferno by Dan Brown

These two were so good that I made a thorough review on them. 🙂 You can read them here and here. 🙂

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This creepy but crazy good novel gave the mystery genre the overdue spotlight it needs. You can read my review here. 🙂


Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weiserberg

It’s not as vengeful as the title implies. It’s your typical chic lit though it fails to come through as a worthy sequel to the “Devil Wears Prada” and its blockbuster movie. Ten years of waiting should’ve been 15 if the result will be a better sequel. Picture Meryl Streep getting a few minutes of screen time and it’s all Anne Hathaway throughout the movie. It’s that unbalanced.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is the queen of tension and gray areas. She is so good at putting readers in a position where they will question their morals, loyalty, and beliefs. This novel does exactly the same thing. It’s the story of Jacob, an 18-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome being accused of murder. Picoult will keep you guessing that by the time you’re done with the novel you’ll still find yourself mulling over a handful of questions.

Bloodline by James Rollins and Judas Strain by James Rollins

James Rollins is my go-to guy for page-turning thrillers. He is my comfort author, so to speak. That is not to say that his books are an easy read. Despite the many details in his novels, he keeps you engaged and glued in. Bloodline by far is his best novel I’ve read to date. Judas Strain is good, too! I like that he researches a lot and takes his time to explain fact from fiction.



Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

After reading this, all I could think of was “What happened to Lettie Hempstock???” I’ve fallen in love with her character. She’s a brave young girl who would do anything to save a friend. I think everybody needs a friend like her. See? I’m still attached!

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Highly recommended by a good friend, I now understand why he was raving about this book. I have yet to write a full review about it because it’s just too good not to dissect. Haha! It’s more than just a magician’s tale. It’s a historical fantasy infused with suspense and mystery.  Marco and Celia are pitted against each other by two powerful magicians. It gets more dangerous when they discover that they are drawn together by some strong force which can destroy one of them. It’s probably the best debut novel I’ve read to date.


Every day by David Leviathan

This novel gives a new twist to fantasy by making it as real as it gets. A is the protagonist who wakes up in different bodies every single day. He can’t control it. Sometimes he wakes up to a male body and other times he ends up being in a female body. Things get complicated when he fell in love and tried to explain his unpredictable situation. A is one of the characters I admire deeply. He made sacrifices despite his transient state. It’s the novel that truly captures the statement “carpe diem.”


Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo

This true story is about the journey of 4-year-old Colton to heaven and back. Narrated by his father Todd, this book details the honest, straight forward account of Colton’s experience in heaven. Colton revealed specific information that he could not have possibly known. It’s a book that gives hope to people who are wondering if there’s more to life here on earth. Set to be shown on the big screen, I’m excited to see who will play the adorable Colton! I still plan on doing a more thorough review of this one. 🙂


Hacked Off (author to follow) and Miracle Child by James Wilcox

I do book reviews for Reader’s Favorite. I get the privilege of reading newly released titles and soon-to-be published ones. As reviewers, we are also allowed to send a message directly to the author! Two good books I reviewed are “Hacked Off” (I forgot the author’s name!!!!) and “Miracle Child” by James Wilcox. One of my comments on “Hacked Off” was an improvement on the title because it was a dead giveaway on what the book is all about. It already has a few reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble when I picked it up. I can’t find it now when I was trying to look for the author. I’m assuming they probably changed the title. “Hacked Off” is the story of a girl hacker along the lines of “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo.” It’s a page-turner with smooth plot development. I am actually looking forward to a sequel! Meanwhile, “Miracle Child” hits close to home because my son also went through a lot from his premature birth to hernia operation and everything else in between. Wilcox’s son faced a lot health challenges from the time he was born. Some of which were life-threatening. It’s a great story of how trials brought families and communities together to save the life of a brave little child.

Now What? By Gary Chapman

This short book is about how married couple can adjust to life after the baby. Although I read it when my son was around 26 months already, it still helped me get my priorities straight. Marriage usually takes a back seat when the baby comes. This book is a great reminder on how this can be avoided and how you can prioritize your spouse despite the demanding toddler in the background. 🙂



Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son by Lois Lowry

“The Giver” is one of my favorite books of all time. Last year I finally had the chance to finish the rest of the quartet! 🙂 Lois Lowry created a dystopian world with touches of fantasy and mystery. He masterfully created characters that grew in the story as the series developed.

In “The Giver” you’ll meet Jonas who meets the Giver and was passed on memories that moved him to leave the utopian community he grew up in. In “Gathering Blue” you’ll meet the lovely Kira who not only weaves beautiful tapestry but also foresees the future through it. Despite the beautiful colors she’s able to make, she doesn’t have blue. Her friend Matty helped her gather blue from a valley. Matty returns with somebody that alters Kira’s life for good. Matty becomes the lead character in “Messenger.” From being an out of control little boy in the previous book, Matty becomes a responsible young man who breathes new life to the Village he moved into.

The quartet comes full circle with “Son.” Claire is the mother of Gabriel, the baby that Jonas brought with him when he left their community. The book is divided into three parts: Before (The Giver timeline), Between (Claire’s life), and Beyond (Claire’s travel to the Village where she sees Gabe all grown up.) The conclusion to the quartet is about redemption and new beginnings. Lowry masterfully created a world where love and courage cannot be undermined. His characters and their story lines were seamlessly weaved together. Their connections are strengthened over time. It’s the most beautiful and poignant series I’ve ever read.


There you have it—my 2013 in books. 🙂 I look forward to reaching my 100-book target this year. It seems impossible but we’ll see! Cheers to more pages turned this 2014! 🙂

Joining James Clyde’s Adventure

“James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra” is a fast-paced fantasy adventure novel that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

James Clyde is not your typical 11-year-old. His obscure past is full of mystery. James’ grandfather, Wilmore, left James as a newborn at a children’s home.  He was later adopted by Ann Brown along with his friends (and partners in adventure) Ben and Mary.

Although Wilmore left James mysteriously, he looks forward to spending each Christmas with him—Ben and Mary also find Wilmore to be a strange character.  Little do they know that this Christmas will be one of the greatest adventures of their lives. When an ill-intentioned man persues James—he learns about his true identity as the chase leads them to Orchestra.  Orchestra is a majestic, fantasy-world in which James feels “invincible” and “he feared nobody.”  He describes Orchestra “as though he had entered a beautiful painting and was enjoying at first hand the wonderful use of Colour.”As he finds his place in the kingdom and fulfills his role in saving it—James falls in love with Orchestra and feels at home, although he is in danger.


This story will appeal to all who root for the underdog; and who doesn’t?  It really is a page-turner while the palaces, magic, royalty, and battles hold your interest.  The short chapters make it easy for readers to remain glued to the story to discover what will happen next. Colm McElwain carefully crafted each chapter to reveal new insights to keep the story moving.

Every character has a story to tell. I like James’ character development growing from someone who doubts himself to a young man determined to fulfill his mission. Ben and Mary were both entertaining in their own way, as cool sidekicks that pick up the slack where James lacks. Ben’s pessimism was balanced by Mary’s optimism. Wilmore’s dedication to protecting James was a crucial part in building his own back story. The villains were cunning, relentless, and vicious. The malevolent Queen Abigail of Darken, her sorcerer, and her renegade right-hand man made James’ journey every bit intense and challenging.


This novel is a treat for adventure-seeking readers within the young adult crowd. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, this novel is embedded with lessons on loyalty, friendship, honor, love, and sacrifice. I’m looking forward to the next addition in the series, the journey of James Clyde is definitely far from over. I’ve read a lot of young adult books and I must say that this is one of the best in my list. It has the perfect balance of fun and suspense, making it a real treat!

Overall this is a very fun read; I really do hope that book two is in the pipeline!

Of closures and lack thereof: A Book Review on Gone Girl

I like books that have concrete endings. It bothers me when a book is open-ended. I must say, though, that those with vague endings are the ones that really get me to thinking for quite a while. A few months ago, I read Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” It seemed to have a closure but not quite. It is an intense, multi-layered novel that left me wondering what happened beyond that last page.

The Story

“Gone Girl” paints the picture of a miserable marriage that turned into a vicious vendetta. Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing. Amy is much loved by the people around her. She was the inspiration behind the Amazing Amy book series written by her parents. She was a poster child and trophy wife, so to speak. Just like in any crime investigation, the husband is the first suspect when the wife disappears.


Nick is unable to prove his innocence in the first half of the book. He narrates his side of the story in the first chapter then Amy gives her side via journal entries on the next. The back-and-forth narration continues until the big twist happens halfway through the novel. Nick’s poker face before the media, suspicious spending of her trust fund, increased life insurance policy of his wife, and hidden affair put him in a bad light. His guilt becomes so undeniable with mounting evidences sealing his fate slowly but surely.

Amy, on the other hand, is secretly watching all the media mayhem from an isolated motel. She has successfully faked her death and framed her cheating husband. In an unfortunate turn of events, Amy’s newfound friends stole all her cash and left her with nothing. She then sought the help of an old flame who almost worships her. He becomes overly protective to the point of locking her in. The posh mansion becomes a prison that Amy escapes by murdering his poor knight and shining armor. Amy is a crafty liar who leaves no loose ends to prove her guilt.

The story ends with Nick and Amy getting back together in their dysfunctional marriage where each one of them is treading on treacherous ground, moving chess pieces, pulling the strings, until their marriage reaches its inevitable end whatever that may be.


Gillian Flynn created a web of lies and deceit in this novel. Nick excels in lies of omission while Amy puts grandeur and perfection in lying. It’s a story that involves layers of hidden agendas, intricate treachery, and misleading clues.

As a reader, it kept me guessing to the very end. Nick shows innocence and guilt throughout the novel. Meanwhile, Amy’s dark side will catch you by surprise. Her careful planning and perfect execution is both admirable and appalling. From the outside looking in, you will see the daily woes of married life. The lack of communication, boredom, and unmet expectations can slowly erode a once happily-ever-after marriage.

Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn

It is a noir mystery novel on steroids with fingerprints everywhere but pointing nowhere. My search for truth has never been more complex and challenging with this book. In the end, it is a very satisfying yet cumbersome read. Knowing that Nick and Amy are back together didn’t settle nicely with me. If you have a philandering husband and a psycho wife, would you want to be in that marriage? Yet, irony of ironies, they complemented each other and brought out the best and worst in themselves when they’re together.

Amy had these to say about their marriage:

“We weren’t ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves – surprise! – we were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way.”

“All this time I’d thought we were strangers, and it turned out we knew each other intuitively, in our bones, in our blood. It was kind of romantic. Catastrophically romantic.”

Though I think Nick said it best:

“Yes, I am finally a match for Amy. The other morning I woke up next to her, and I studied the back of her skull. I tried to read her thoughts. For once I didn’t feel like I was staring into the sun. I’m rising to my wife’s level of madness. Because I can feel her changing me again: I was a callow boy, and then a man, good and bad. Now at last I’m the hero. I am the one to root for in the never-ending war story of our marriage. It’s a story I can live with. Hell, at this point, I can’t imagine my story without Amy. She is my forever antagonist.

We are one long frightening climax.”

I would’ve preferred that they either parted ways or genuinely reconciled. I like that kind of closure. Gillian Flynn refused to give me that. Instead, she masterfully allowed me to wander and wonder how Nick and Amy’s marriage will thrive or survive. Oh and there’s a baby on the way, which can either be their saving grace or the loose wire that burns them altogether. So yes, it’s worth reading and watching on October 2014 when it hits the big screen. 🙂

Read your book and eat it, too!

I’d like to think that every book lover wants a personal book cake. I, for one, would love to have my favorite books immortalized not only in my head but also in my taste buds. 🙂 My sweet tooth and book lust have finally found the perfect home in these customized cakes! They’re too beautiful to eat, though. 🙂 Nonetheless, I’m sure it’s worth devouring every single bite the same way books are worth relishing every single page. Enjoy! 🙂


Dr. Seuss Cake by  (everything from Lorax, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, etc.)

Dr. Seuss Cake by Fancy that Cake
(everything from Lorax, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, etc.)

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dream Day Cakes

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dream Day Cakes
Who wouldn’t want that for a graduation cake?!

Cat in the Hat Cake Love the gaping fish right there!

Cat in the Hat Cake
Love the gaping fish right there 🙂


LOTR Wedding Cake inspired by Aragorn and Arwen

LOTR Wedding Cake inspired by Aragorn and Arwen
So classy!!!

Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf at the Shire

Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf Cake (at the Shire)
This is too cute to eat!

The Barad-dûr Tower or The Dark Tower with the Eye of Sauron

The EDIBLE Barad-dûr Tower Cake or The Dark Tower with the Eye of Sauron


The Golden Ticket cake Finally found the chocolate bar with the ticket!

The Golden Ticket Cake
Finally found the most coveted chocolate bar!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cake What a fun cake!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Cake
What a fun colorful cake!!!



Alice in Wonderland Love the exquisite details!

Alice in Wonderland Cake
Love the exquisite details!

Eloise cake Perfect for a little princess!

Eloise Cake
Perfect for every little girl 🙂

Gruffalo cake Have a storytelling first before cutting the cake!

Gruffalo Cake
Have a storytelling first before cutting the cake 🙂

The Very Hungry Caterpillar cake What a very faithful depiction of the book's art work!!!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Cake
What a very faithful depiction of the book’s art work!!!

The Little Prince cake Reminds me of my childhood reading days :)

The Little Prince Cake
Reminds me of my childhood 🙂

Where the Wild Things Are cake Too adorable to eat!!!

Where the Wild Things Are Cake
Too adorable to eat!!!

The Giving Tree cake The cake of sacrificial love (sniff)

The Giving Tree Cake
The cake of sacrificial love (sniff)

Vintage Cakes from The Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating (1974). I love these classics!

Vintage Cakes from The Wilton Yearbook of Cake Decorating (1974).
I love these classics!


Harry Potter cake by Charm City Cakes West  It's as realistic as it can be :)

Harry Potter Cake by Charm City Cakes West
It’s as realistic as it can be 🙂

Harry Potter World cake Everything you need to know is right there!

Harry Potter World Cake
Everything you need to know is right there!


Book Slices For the book lover who can't decide :)

Book Slices
For the book lover who can’t decide 🙂

Fashion Book Cake For the trendsetter book lover :)

Fashion Book Cake
For the trendsetter book lover 🙂


The Twilight cake A sophisticated cake depicting the entire series!

The Twilight Cake
A sophisticated cake depicting the entire series!

The Hunger Games Cake Receiving this proves that the odds are in my favor :)

The Hunger Games Cake
The odds are in your favor, indeed 🙂

The Percy Jackson cake This made me drool.

The Percy Jackson Cake
This made me drool.

LITERARY CAKES (save the best for last!)

Jane Austen cake Simplicity and elegance for the devout Austen reader :)

Jane Austen cake
Simplicity and elegance for the devout Austen reader 🙂

Edgar Allan Poe cake Have some red velvet cake while reading Poe's "The Raven." :)

Edgar Allan Poe cake
Have some red velvet cake while reading Poe’s “The Raven.” 🙂

Sacrifice and Redemption: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini is the only author who shames me every time I read his novels. My daily complaints become irrelevant compared to what Afghan people have gone through. So if you need a good jolt of reality, read any of his three novels. “And the Mountains Echoed” is his latest addition to his two previous bestsellers “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”  All three were inspired by the history, culture, and life in Afghanistan.

And the Mountains Echoed

And the Mountains Echoed


The novel starts with siblings Abdullah and Pari travelling to Kabul with their father. They thought they were there to simply visit their uncle Nabi, a chauffeur to a wealthy man named Suleiman Wahdati. It turned out that the Wahdatis are unable to bear children and Pari is the solution to that problem. The siblings were separated and this event branched out to different story lines involving the characters in the novel.

Afghan refugee children

Afghan refugee children

As the story moves along, you will find yourself caught in a web of relationships—a sibling rivalry between two sisters, one being more beautiful than the other; a homosexual tension between an employer and his employee; an unstable mother-daughter relationship; a strained friendship between an Afghan expat and a girl refugee; and an unlikely friendship between a landlord’s son and a peasant.

The novel comes full circle with the reunion of Abdullah and Pari but not in the way that most readers want or expect but it is closest to what happens in real life.


At the core of this novel is the sacrifice that family members are willing to make for the sake of their loved ones. The growth of the characters in this multi-generational novel is what makes it more engaging. The tension between their past and present pulls the reader deeper to their journey of self-discovery and individual redemption.

I would’ve preferred a parallel growth in the lives of Abdullah and Pari in the course of the novel instead of having it summarized in the end. Pari’s life was given more focus than Abdullah’s although both were characters were equally significant in the story. Other than that, it is a masterpiece that rips your heart and pierces your soul. “And the Mountains Echoed” is a novel that beautifully juxtaposes loyalty and betrayal, morality and corruption, kindness and cruelty, hope and despair.

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini depicts human suffering and triumph so eloquently and painfully that it made me want to reach out to the characters and hold their hands throughout the entire novel. He is a master storyteller who knows how to blend reality and fiction in a way that awakens empathy on his readers. He removes you from your selfish little world by taking you to a place beyond your reach but nonetheless ever so real.

Blending the old and new: Inferno by Dan Brown

I love books that are full of intrigue, mystery, and suspense. Dan Brown is one of those authors who do this in the most clever way. Despite the letdown of “The Lost Symbol” (for me, at least), I still eagerly anticipated the release of Inferno a couple of weeks ago. So if there’s anything you need to know about this book, it’s this: Dan Brown redeemed himself a million times with this new book and every single page is worth devouring. 🙂 Although certain allusions in the book sparked outrage among a lot of Filipinos, I think it’s important that one reads “Inferno” entirely in order to make an objective opinion. I will deal with that later on. Allow me first to give you a glimpse of Robert Langdon’s latest adventure while trying my best not to give any spoilers. 🙂

Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno by Dan Brown

Amnesia in the midst of global crisis

Robert Langdon, famous American art historian and symbologist, woke up in Florence suffering from amnesia. He had no recollection of what happened to him the past couple of days. He was told by his doctor Sienna Brooks that he was shot in the head. As if this disorientation was not enough, Langdon found himself running for his life with a hired assassin trailing him eager to finish the job. The cat and mouse chase was further complicated with Langdon’s urgent mission which he could not remember. Brooks showed him a device which turned out to be a map that led to more disturbing clues. All of the symbols and road maps were patterned after Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno.”

Map of Dante's Inferno

Map of Dante’s Inferno

Later on, Langdon discovered that he was sent to discover where a certain biological weapon was hidden which when unleashed could result in a global catastrophe. The exquisite beauty of Florence and Venice coupled with the magnificence of Istanbul made searching for answers more breathtaking and enigmatic in Dan Brown’s new book.

Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul


“Inferno” is the perfect blend of literature, art, and history made believable in fiction form. The timeless poetry of Dante was forged so well with the modern times which resulted in a haunting yet satisfying reading experience. Something that I missed in “The Lost Symbol” which I found again in “Inferno” was the unpredictability and edge-of-your-seat plots that truly captured my attention. Compared to his previous book which for me was just a bunch of compounded symbols waiting to be translated, “Inferno” has more depth and soul to it. It is more socially relevant, too, as it dealt with issues such as over population and shortage of resources.

I particularly like the intriguing premise of Langdon’s amnesia and his recurring visions. His supporting cast surprised me and made me gasp repeatedly. You know how it is when your mind just screams “What the?!?!” I experienced that many times and it is very gratifying for a reader like me! 🙂 This book is very much reminiscent of “Angels and Demons” in terms of technique except that this one is better. Dan Brown used the right amount of intrigue to reel you in, the perfect dose of suspense to keep you hooked, and just the ample amount of pressure to urge you to finish it. 🙂

Dan Brown

Dan Brown

The Gates of Hell

Yes, the Philippines was mentioned in “Inferno” and the phrase “gates of hell” was stated in relation to it. However, you have to read the context when it was actually said by the character. Sienna Brooks, the female doctor I mentioned earlier, went on a humanitarian missions trip to the Philippines. She went to Manila where the city was accurately described by Dan Brown. She got overwhelmed by the number of people in the city particularly the poor and the hungry she was trying to help. She had a panic attack and ran as far as she could. Brooks ended up in a place, which we would most likely call as a “squatter’s area.” She was horrified to see the overlapping shanties, the poor living conditions, and the pungent smell of human excrement all over the place made her think, “I have entered the gates of hell.”

That being said, the allusion is but a mere reaction to what she saw which was seemingly a god-forsaken place. The conditions were so awful it seemed like she saw hell. The author did not refer to the entire country as the “gates of hell” per se. So chill, fellow countrymen. 🙂 I suggest that you read the book in its entirety before passing judgment. It is too great a book to pass up just because opted you to listen to hearsay.

With that, I quote Dante and invite you to open the pages of “Inferno.” 🙂

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Pages turned in 2012

Despite being the year with the least books read, 2012 has been a great book year for me. I loved almost every book I read and I’m really hoping that this year will be just as amazing. Although I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs that I will post around five more books before the end of the year, I miserably failed to do so. 😦 I’ve been busy putting on different hats especially in the last quarter of 2012. The hands-on mommy hat and the homemaking hat took most of my time. Reading took a back seat toward the end of the year but the great thing about books is that they’re the most patient friends. They don’t complain when they get neglected. They understand when you need to prioritize other things. They don’t need to talk because they can read between the lines. More importantly, when you go back to them they welcome you with open arms and a great story at hand. 🙂

Having said that, allow me to introduce you to my awesome BFs (book friends) last year. 🙂

Top picks for 2012

Top picks for 2012!

I’ve read a total of 19 books last year but I think “1Q84” and “Clash of Kings” should count for three books because they’re over a thousand pages! Haha! Long novels are challenging to read but they are usually the ones that take you to places you never thought possible. 🙂

More great books!!!

Great reads from amazing authors!

I have to mention that reading Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God” is one of the best reading decisions I made last year. Learning about God’s grace in its purest and simplest form is very enlightening. You don’t have to believe in God to read this. Just knowing about how grace is shown and experienced will more than compensate the curiosity of any searching soul. 🙂

“When the Elephants Dance” is like a breath of fresh air. Reading a Filipino author after being so used to foreign authors made me appreciate our culture all the more. It inspired me to read more Filipino authors this year! It’s a different reading experience when you know exactly where the places are and what the local nuances mean. 🙂

I fell in love with John Green's books <3

I fell in love with John Green 🙂

John Green knows exactly how a teenager’s mind is wired. His books portray teen protagonists that mirror what almost every young adult experiences. I’m a young mom, eons away from my teenage years, but his books cross different ages and it speaks uniquely to anyone who picks up his books.

Can't get enough of Dystopian novels!

Dystopian novels are too good to resist! 🙂

I’m a dystopian addict. I love how authors can come up with different dystopian plots and how the books I’ve read last year took it a notch higher than the previous ones I’ve read. These are not “Hunger Games” wannabees, mind you. They are compelling, intriguing, and riveting in their own unique way. 🙂

Some light reads from bestselling authors :)

Some light reads from bestselling authors 🙂

Of course, my year wouldn’t be complete without reading the latest books from mainstream bestselling authors. I’m the kind of reader who needs a break from emotionally heavy books that made me hyper focused for days. Thus, I pick up a light read in between. Sophie Kinsella never fails to crack me up! Haha! I have to say that Mitch Albom did a good job with “The Time Keeper.” It’s a lot better than his recent books and it hits closer to home. 🙂

There you have it! My 2012 reading companions in a nutshell 🙂 What does your list look like? 🙂

Working with a Legend

Working with a Legend

Not everyone gets to work with an icon. And not everyone gets to work with a business icon who doesn’t act like one. I was a twenty-year-old fresh grad when I first met National Book Store’s matriarch Mrs. Socorro Ramos or “Nanay Coring” as we fondly call her. She was around 80 years old back then. I didn’t know what to expect from the founder of the country’s leading bookstore. I was pleasantly surprised to see a tall charming old lady who sauntered her way into our department, carrying with her a warm yet commanding presence.

Nanay Coring

Nanay Coring

During my first meeting with her, I knew that I wanted another grandmother. She was beyond nice and extraordinarily humble. She laughed heartily, even playfully nudging me once in a while during meetings. 🙂 She had no pretentions, serving others first before serving herself. I remember that every time we had a meeting, merienda would be served. She would give the mamon or burger first to the rest of us, distributing it quickly before getting her share. Little did she know that small gestures like that leave a huge impact in the people she worked with.

I was introduced to her as the new girl in-charge of the books for Powerbooks branches. Like any granny, there were times when she remembered my name and there were times when she simply called me “the little girl.” She taught me the secrets of the trade—how to negotiate and how to always end up in a win-win deal. I learned by example, watching her talk to foreign publishers with respect coupled with her natural charm and spontaneity. Publishers gave into whatever she asked without much effort from her. She was every bit sincere and irresistible. 🙂

First pic with Nanay Coring after nine years in the book industry!

First pic with Nanay Coring after nine years in the book industry!

With every presentation, she showed genuine interest and asked questions. She was an engaging listener and communicator. She is naturally generous and thoughtful. She gave gifts to every visiting publisher and even noted their favorite food or fruit! I remember this one US publisher who loves our mangoes. Every time he visited, huge ripe mangoes would be served (much to my delight because I love mangoes, too! Haha!).

When I celebrated my 22nd birthday, I brought food for our department and gave her some. I didn’t know she was coming to the office that day but I was secretly happy that she did. It made my day extra special. 🙂 Much to my surprise, she called me in the conference room, asked me to sit down, and gave me a gift! I will never forget that day. 🙂 I wanted to hug her but I was too shy to do so. I guess my body language betrayed me and it prompted Nanay Coring to give me a beso and a hug. I never felt kilig in receiving a lola hug ever except from her!

One of my favorite moments with her involved listening to her stories from World War II (my own lovable granny will narrate war stories to me, too!). She would share how business was difficult, how she strived and thrived, and eventually became successful. Even though she would tell this story repeatedly, I never grew tired of it. Her animated eyes and gestures made each retelling new to me. I also enjoyed listening to her conversations with publishers as they recalled how they used to do business back in Rizal Avenue with their feet soaked in knee-deep flood.

First National Book Store

First National Book Store

I also witnessed some of the cute quirkiness of Nanay Coring. She had this penchant for repeatedly eating something that she recently liked. There was a time when she grew fond of coffee crumble ice cream. So for months, we had coffee crumble during our afternoon meetings. Then came bibingka and so it was bibingka bonanza for weeks! Then came Jollibee hamburger (not even cheeseburger just the plain one) which she found really delicious and we had it for weeks as well. I’m not sure if she still has these cravings up to now because I haven’t been in a meeting with her in a long while. Nonetheless, that was really cute of her to saturate herself with her newly discovered food until she grew tired of it. 🙂

Nanay Coring lived by example and because she walked her talk, I saw the influence she made directly to her family. When I worked with two of her grandchildren I saw the ripple effect of her kindness and humility in them. I had a privilege of working with Gabby full-time in Powerbooks for four years and with Trina as a book consultant for five years now. Trina, my boss, doesn’t act like a boss. She works as a team player. She knows how to handle her people in a way that unites them together. I admire her the way I admire her grandmother. She is also a servant leader much like Nanay Coring. 🙂

With Ms. Trina and my friend Bea

With Ms. Trina and my friend Bea

I have to mention that Nanay Coring’s dedication to her work is unbelievable. She still goes to work full of energy at 90 years old. She reads the newspaper from cover to cover to keep her updated. One time she shared to me that she wakes up around 2:00am just to watch the news. It’s amazing how she can even keep up with the fast pace of the retail industry!

I also learned that for her, owning National Book Store is not just a mere business. It is also her way of making books accessible to every Filipino. I will never forget her answer to one foreign publisher when she was asked why she had to ask for huge discounts. With much conviction she said, “I want our books to have the most affordable price so that Filipinos can buy them.” She would go on to say that books are not really part of a Filipino family’s basic needs since we are a third world country. If books are expensive, people won’t buy it all the more. She believed that with the best price, people will still buy books and be encouraged to read.

The matriarch of the country's national book store.

The matriarch of the country’s national book store.

Behind the more than 140 stores you see all over the country is a matriarch with a big heart. I’ve been with her in several branch visits before and I saw how she talked to the sales personnel. She didn’t limit herself talking only to managers, she talks to everyone. She’s the type who would randomly ask how you’re doing when she passed by your table. In a survey done some time ago, customers said that they perceive National Book Store as a reliable store. It was even compared to a mother and a grandmother who is able to provide what they need at any given time. I would like to think that the way Nanay Coring nurtured the growth of her business had something to do with that perception. Like any mom or lola she wants to provide everything her children need. I guess that translates to her customers as well. She wants to have every book, paper, pen—anything we need to be available in her store.

Nanay Coring's 90th birthday

Nanay Coring’s 90th birthday

This year is a remarkable year for Nanay Coring as she celebrated her 90th birthday and the 70th anniversary of National Book Store. She deserves every blessing she’s receiving right now. It is my prayer that God will grant her more years because she inspires so many people, including myself. Through her, I saw that rags-to-riches stories are true. Through her, I learned that you don’t need a college degree to be successful. Through her, I learned that little acts of kindness to your co-workers go a long way. Through her, I fell in love with books even more.

I saw her recently in a store opening, had a short chat with her, and saw once again how she can light up a room with her presence. I am beyond grateful that God allowed me to work with someone like her. It’s a great blessing to learn from the best. Nanay Coring is a living legend in the truest sense of the word and I have to say the most adorable one at that. 🙂

Nanay Coring book

Nanay Coring book

Book Giveaway Winners! :)

Congratulations to the winners of our anniversary book giveaway!

Dianne of itravelwithmylittleeyes
Misai of Paperblanc
Wanda of The Yellow Library
Rico of Writerico
Pattmarvin of Some Books and Coffee
Jason of Xexepattiserie (I know I said for Philippine residents only but his wife lives here so he still qualifies :))
Marvsz of bibliokleptomaniac
Auie MD

I will contact you via email or SMS (for those I know personally :)) Thank you for taking time to visit The Book Vineyard!

I know I’ve been quite behind with my blogs but here are some of the book reviews you can expect in the coming weeks:

Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza-Holthe

The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

By the way, a lot of new books came out just recently! I’m excited to finish Mark of Athena and Casual Vacancy! 🙂

**I would like to thank National Book Store and Powerbooks for generously sponsoring free books for The Book Vineyard! 🙂

Book giveaway! :)

I’m so happy to announce that The Book Vineyard is giving away free books in celebration of its first year anniversary! 🙂


All you need to do is follow The Book Vineyard! If you’re already a blog follower then you’re already qualified to our book giveaway! Feel free to spread the word, too! Winners will be picked via electronic raffle and will be announced on September 30, 2012. 🙂

Thank you for supporting The Book Vineyard!


P.S. This is for Philippine residents only. 🙂



Revisiting the Cemetery of Forgotten Books

After more than a decade of waiting, my reader radar sounded its deafening alarm, alerting me that Carlos Ruiz Zafón finally released “Prisoner of Heaven,” the sequel to his epic book “Shadow of the Wind!” So I did what every eager beaver bookworm does, I went to the nearest bookshop and grabbed a copy of “Prisoner of Heaven.” I feel like I’m the 10-year-old Daniel Sempere, the protagonist in “Shadow of the Wind,” holding one precious book from the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. This time, I’m holding its sequel! I read the book in roughly five hours but divided into two days (had to squeeze it in between my mommy duties). I was actually surprised that the book was only 278 pages long!

Before I move on with my review, let me just say that if you haven’t read “Shadow of the Wind” then you’re missing out on one of the best modern literary books of all time. Zafón has probably mastered the art of Gothic fiction. His three books in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series—The Angel’s Game, Shadow of the Wind, and Prisoner of Heaven—are all filled with mystery, intrigue, noir, and unbridled romance.

The Story

“Prisoner of Heaven” follows the life of Daniel Sempere who is now married to Beatriz. He continues to manage the Sempere & Sons bookstore with his father and his close friend Fermin Romero de Torres. It was Christmas time and sales were not picking up in the Sempere bookshop. The seemingly uneventful season became alive when a grim-looking stranger appeared at the store. He bought the most expensive book and left it for Fermin with a strange dedication:

For Fermin Romero de Torres,

who came back from among the dead

and holds the key to the future.

This ominous visit led to a series of discoveries about Fermin’s life at the Montjuïc prison. Zafón’s description of this Spanish version of Alcatraz somewhat reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s “The Pit” in Dark Knight Rises. In this isolated no-escape prison, Fermin’s story intersected with the lives of two mysterious prisoners—the prolific writer David Martin and the guile Sebastian Salgado. He also came face to face with the vile prison governor Mauricio Valls and was even used against his will to extract information from the two inmates. The sinister events at Montjuïc prison later on unveiled the story behind the death of Daniel’s mother Isabella.

The novel ends with a cliff hanger that begs for the fourth and final installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series.


You might probably be wondering what it is about Zafón’s novel that’s worth reading. For me, his pervasive storyline that highlights the significance books and the relevance of writers to society is what made me swoon over his books. I believe every bibliophile should read one of his novels!

Now back to my two cents worth. Filled with secrets from the dark alleys of Barcelona, “The Prisoner of Heaven” is a novel of truth and deception, love and lies, corruption and integrity, survival and demise. It’s like peeling off an old wallpaper to find out the original painting behind it and discovering that there’s so much more to the image you exposed.

There are certain authors that have a distinct voice and Zafón is one of them. As I was reading this novel, I knew that I was reading raw Zafón. I can only imagine how beautiful it must be to read his novels in Spanish! His narration and descriptions reminded me so much of “Shadow of the Wind” and “The Angel’s Game.” The way he romanticized the landscape of Barcelona while juxtaposing its lurking darkness was enthralling. The riveting suspense was addicting to the point where you’d feel the urge to eat all the remaining pages of the novel.

The ending was a total prequel to the final installment in the series. My head was screaming for a closure but then that’s what penultimate novels are supposed to do. I don’t know how long I’ll wait again for the sequel but I’m sure it’s worth the last trip to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

Angelology: The Rise of Fallen Angels

“Angelology” is a novel of cosmic conflicts and earthly battles. Filled with historical, biblical, and mythological references, author Danielle Trussoni weaved an intriguing story of a young nun named Evangeline and her journey to unveiling the world of Nephilims—the hybrid offspring of humans and fallen angels.

A tranquil life threatened

Entrusted by her father to the Franciscan Order of Perpetual Adoration at a very young age, all that Evangeline knew about the world were confined in the walls of St. Rose Convent. Her mundane life was shaken when she received a request from art historian Verlaine to do research in the convent’s archives. It was through that inquiry that she discovered a correspondence between the famous philanthropist Abigail Aldrich Rockefeller and their former mother superior, Mother Innocenta.

As Evangeline discovered more letters, Verlaine found himself running for his life. Apparently, the person who commissioned him for the research was a Nephilim who came from the oldest and strongest family of their kind. Meanwhile, Evangeline’s unyielding curiosity led her to a series of conversations with an old nun, Sister Celestine, who took her deeply to the world of Angelology.

The past revisited

The novel took a different turn with the flashback story of Sister Celestine and her friend Gabriella Levi-Franche. The story of these two characters provided the indispensable background needed for the plot to move forward.

Albeit long, I found this part very engaging. As a reader, I felt the dedication and passion of the characters come to life in the perilous events that transpired in these chapters. The training of these two previous students under the Angelological Society and the dangers they faced along the way were filled with riveting and disturbing events that build up one after the other. This was also the part where the myth of Orpheus, the dangerous terrain of Bulgaria, the biblical nuances of Angelology, and the interplay of deception with Nephilims all merged to form the solid connection that completed the missing piece in the life Evangeline.

Facing divine enemies

The battle continued as Evangeline finally discovered her role in this centuries-old feud between humans and Nephilims. Alongside Verlaine, Evangeline came into contact with the members of the still-standing Angelological Society and a very significant relative.

Fast-paced action, relentless search for artifacts, and spontaneous confrontations with the Nephilim army packed the latter chapters of the novel. This masterpiece ended with a sequel-worthy scene that leaves the reader craving for more.

A new approach to the supernatural realm

“Angelology” is not your typical thriller. It’s theology, mythology, and mysticism all woven into a fictional story that produced an exceptional plot.

However, Evangeline as a protagonist only found her significant place in the novel when it was about to end. The character of Gabriella was even stronger and more influential in the entire course of the narrative.

Danielle Trussoni is a great storyteller. She knows how to keep her readers seeking for answers as the novel progressed. She developed the story intricately but not to the point of confusion. She made the facts work so well with fiction that it almost felt real to a certain extent. This book truly satisfied my literary appetite for a good mystery-thriller novel.

I picked up this book last year and my long wait is finally over now that the publisher announced that the sequel “Angelopolis” will be released on January 2013! Plus, Will Smith’s production company Overbrook and Sony Pictures will be working on the film version of “Angelology”! Can’t wait for both! 🙂