Monthly Archives: November 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Ah, Paris, the City of Lights and Love. Whenever I come across anything related to French, I would immediately feel giddy and romantic inside. I even took up a French language course when I was in college. Someday, I will surely make it a point of visiting Paris and go sight-seeing at its famous tourist spots – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Notre Dame, just to name a few.

A couple of months ago, I bought Anna and the French Kiss – a book (French-related object!) that has built quite a buzz in the blogosphere for some time now, thus convincing me enough to buy it. Here’s the plot description of the book:

Anna was looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. So she’s less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris – until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? Stephanie Perkins keeps the romantic tension crackling and the attraction high in a debut guaranteed to make toes tingle and hearts melt.

On a general note, the book basically captured the senior-year-life experience of Anna during her stay in School of America in Paris (SOAP) for one year. She was actually sent by her father, a famous author whom she hated, to study there for the purpose that it will be for the better of Anna. It was a rough start for her – to study in a foreign country with no friends to begin with –, but Anna eventually made friends with Merideth , Rashmi, Josh, and St. Clair.

Having finished the book, I felt that I can completely relate with the protagonist, Anna. Her characteristic showed her OC-ness by the way she organized her things neatly. I am also a neat-freak. Just like Anna, I want things to be returned to the way they are supposed to be placed and I want everything to be clean as possible.

Although Anna didn’t try to find love in the most romantic place in France, her relationship with Étienne St. Clair soon bud into something more than just friendship. They became best of friends and Étienne flaunted his palpable charisma by being thoughtful enough to take Anna to places that made her feel welcomed in Paris. It may not be the grandest or the world-renowned places in Paris, but his sweet gesture amused and surprised Anna in the simplest way possible. Readers will come to love them both, especially the parts where their sexual tensions or raging hormones were evident whenever they were together. As much as they want to share that feeling, reality will set in as Étienne already had a girlfriend.

I liked the fact that the characters were portrayed as realistic as normal people in real life. Each of the characters had their own flaws while a part of them made them unique which will eventually outshine their flaws. In Étienne’s case, he was described as short (a few inches shorter than Anna), but to Anna, he was a perfect guy in a lot more ways anyone can imagine – his smile, his hair, his looks, his charisma, etc. In short, Stephanie Perkins created him imperfectly perfect – hence, allowing readers to relate to easily, since nobody is perfect in this world. Moreover, the supporting characters were not neglected by the author because they also played a big role in the book.

I won’t deny that I wanted to strangle Étienne at some parts of the book. His actions were inconsistent which left Anna confused by her feelings toward him. On the other hand, I guess this was crucial for the conflict of the story. Otherwise, the book will not be a successful work. Aside from this, Stephanie’s portrayal of Anna’s dad reminded me of an author I know. I was unsure if it was only a coincidence, or she intended to make fun or bash that author. Maybe she had this way of playing around characters that will make readers remember of a person they know in real life.

Moving on, I was glad that the story had depth in it. The feeling of loneliness was significantly tackled which showed that one way or another, it will affect one’s decisions, actions, and thoughts, whether it may result to a positive or negative outcome. A lot of things had happened in just a span of one year and toward the end of the book, it was evident that Anna, Étienne, and the rest of the characters grew mature over the course of time. They came to know themselves better. And obviously, the conflict was resolved. I couldn’t ask for a better ending than this. I liked this book. And I’m sure readers new to the book will enjoy Anna and the French Kiss as much as I did.


The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two: The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Most of you guys might had been itching to read the second book of the second series of Percy Jackson – The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two: The Son of Neptune – when it was released after one year subsequent to the first book, The Lost Hero. I myself had felt the same way, too. Previously, I was not into reading fantasy novels, but the way my sisters eagerly talked about the first series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, convinced me enough to read the whole series as well. True enough, I enjoyed every bit of the story and I never regretted to have made that decision.

At first I thought the second series would be about the second generation of demigods after Percy’s time, but little did I know that the story still set at a present time, just months after the great battle between Percy and Kronos. With that said, the story did not just end in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Heroes of Olympus is basically the continuation of the first, and it will be in this series that the “Great Prophecy”, which was discussed a bit in the first series, will largely take place. This time, Gaea – the earth goddess – is the enemy. How will they defeat her? I don’t have the slightest idea.

While the first series mainly focused on Percy Jackson and his quests, the second series paved its way to introduce other new significant heroes or demigods from both the Greek and Roman sides. I will not delve much into details in the first book, since I assumed most of you were already aware of the plot in The Lost Hero – Jason Grace finding himself in a strange place without any memories of the past and eventually made friends with Greek demigods, Piper and Leo, and stayed in Camp Half-Blood, while ultimately remembering bits and pieces of his past toward the end of the book. On the other hand, evident by just its front book cover and the title, The Son of Neptune revolved around Percy and his stay at the Roman camp, the Camp Jupiter.

Throughout the book, readers will actually see the differences between the Greek and Roman camps and how each camp was run by their leaders. In my opinion, I believed both camps were unique and I have no intention of favoring one over the other. Both camps had their own core values and own method of training, so campers from both camps will be strongly molded in such way.

I was a bit disappointed at some part of the book because I noticed that how Percy felt when he was not able to remember anything from his past except his girlfriend, Annabeth, was not described and discussed in full detail, so I didn’t exactly feel a connection with him. On the other hand, the Percy I had previously known remained the same, he still had his humor and wit, but I can see how he became more mature over the course of time. Hazel and Frank were the characters Rick Riordan focused on the most. Readers will actually be surprised by their godly bloodline and the powers they possess which will eventually make them more lovable to the readers. It was unfortunate that only a few gods appeared in the book. I was kind of expecting for Poseidon (or Neptune) to appear, but he didn’t. However, other gods might surprise some readers, especially by the way Thanatos was described.

Moving on, as far as characters are concerned, I came to hate and love a few characters here and there to the point that I would feel giddy towards some characters and at the same time, I wanted to strangle another. Some minor characters, like Ella the wise harpy, I believed, would eventually play a major role in the series and I can’t wait to read more about her. I was glad that I got to be involved in the book by judging whom I felt should be trusted and whom I should be doubtful of.

One of the things I liked about the book was that Rick Riordan was able to fascinatingly incorporate educational information in the book by introducing readers to Greek and Roman gods. I’m sure most readers, including myself, came to familiarize themselves in Greek mythology. Rick Riordan, then, further found a connection between the Greek gods and Roman gods in an amusing and creative way. While Greek gods, as a matter of fact, have their Roman god names counterpart, Rick Riordan differentiated those two by giving them different personalities, as what was mentioned in the book as well.

I also liked Rick Riordan’s writing style. Just like Nicholas Sparks, he was able to make me eagerly turn pages one after another, hardly putting the book down. And in just three days, I was able to finish the thick book. Although the story ended with a cliffhanger and I wanted to immediately start with the next book, the third book is still non-existent, so apparently, I have to wait for another year to ease my hunger for more Percy Jackson stories. All in all, this was worth reading and those who loved the first series will come to love the second series as well.

After reading the book, a lot of questions have been playing around my mind, but one thing that stood out the most was this: What role will Annabeth play in the next book and what will become of her and Percy?


The Sound of Music

I seldom watch theatrical plays or Broadway shows. I was actually not up-to-date with those sorts of things in the past, but lately, I get thrilled whenever I encounter musical productions that seem promising, and The Sound of Music was among those that I looked forward to watch.

Last October 23, my friend and I went to see The Sound of Music at the Newport Performing Arts Theater of the Resorts World Manila. The show began its production on the 15th of October and will end on the 11th of December.  Certainly, we’re all familiar with the show. It was originally performed as a film starring the famous Julie Andrews and I remember watching an animated adaptation series of this as well entitled the Von Trapp Family.

Here’s the plot description of the musical production:

Based on a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, a musical by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, The Sound of Music showcases the story of Maria Rainer, a young postulant appointed as governess over the seven children of widower Captain Georg von Trapp. Maria takes on the role of a mother to her charges, teaches them the art of music and singing, and captivates the heart of the once cold and stern captain.

This was the first time I had been to Resorts World Manila and I was glad I got the chance to go there. Resorts World Manila is a hotel with, surprisingly, a built-in mall and a theater. Its theater, the Newport Performing Arts Theater, is actually huge and the seats are beyond comfortable as compared to other theaters I had been to. Moreover, the size stage was also spacious enough for the casts to move around. The place is, indeed, perfect for a show like The Sound of Music.

Throughout the show, I came to love the setting of the stage. The backdrop was evidently maximized in such a way that the production crews made use of an immensely large LED wall which served as the background scene for the show. The props and costumes used were sophisticated and were also appropriate for the scenes with which I was eventually amazed by how these props and costumes flawlessly portrayed what was actually happening in a certain scene. In short, they were well thought of and made perfectly. The crews’ efforts of making up the props and coming up with the costume designs surely did not go to waste.

Joanna Ampil landed the lead role as Maria Rainer and I was ecstatic to watch her sing and act. She was just as talented as Lea Salonga and she proved to be quite the professional performer. Her facial expressions paralleled to what her character was supposed to feel and her dialogues were as clear as glass. In fact, she truly outshone the other characters. What was a bit off in the show was that the other characters did not do justice to the level of professionalism Joanna Ampil showed. Some songs were sung off-key by the other characters. Moreover, their dialogues were not as clear as Joanna Ampil’s and the sound system of some scenes had minor glitches. What surprised me the most was that there was a live orchestra playing music throughout the show.

All in all, The Sound of Music was a good and enjoyable production, but I believed they can offer more to the audience than what they offer now. Either way, it was worth it. Lessons about love, family, and God can be drawn from the show and people will have an extraordinary opportunity to relive their past again, singing along in their minds the familiar songs such as “The Sound of Music”, “My Favorite Things”, “Do-Re-Mi”, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, “Edelweiss”, and a lot more.


Nicholas Sparks in the Philippines!

A few years ago, I suddenly had an urge to make a wish list that I wanted to accomplish throughout my life. The first thing that popped out of my head was to own at least a signed copy of any one of Nicholas Sparks’ books and meet him personally. It may seem farfetched since I live in the Philippines and he lives in North Carolina, but if one is passionate about something, nothing is impossible. I even planned to visit USA in the future and attend any one of his book signings just to make my dream happen. Little did I know that God had a better plan for me.

I was subscribed to Nicholas Sparks’ newsletter and after receiving his April Newsletter through email, I was ecstatically surprised to find out he’ll be coming to the Philippines this year! I immediately asked my parents that whichever day the book signing event will fall on, I will definitely not miss this one. I cannot just let this opportunity slip out of my grasp. Thankfully, my parents agreed. After months and months of waiting, National Book Store finally announced that on the 28th of October, they will be hosting the Nicholas Sparks book signing to be held at the Podium.

I was so excited anticipating the day of the book signing event that I even marked my office calendar with a heart drawn on it, too. I couldn’t help it; I’m just an avid fan of Nicholas Sparks! I even made sure I finished the new book before the event, and fortunately, I finished reading it on time.

When The Best of Me was released in all National Book Store branches, the book came with a coupon. That piece of paper I took a shot with the book served as the lucky draw coupon. It also contained the mechanics for the event, informing the buyers that upon registration, each person had to present the coupon to be eligible for the lucky draw. The first fifty (50) early birds who arrive at the event will automatically be allowed to exchange their coupons for a guaranteed signing pass. For the rest, once they participate in the lucky draw, a winning stub will earn them a signing pass. At first, National Book Store will only accept 700 signing passes, but they later on increased it to 1,000 signing passes.

It was kind of a relief for National Book Store to increase the number of signing passes to be distributed. When my sister, my friend, and I arrived at the Podium around 8:45AM, a long line had already been formed despite the fact that the mall’s opening schedule is at 10AM. I wanted to be included in the first 50 early birds, but to no avail, it didn’t happen. I never expected a lot of people to be that early. Anyway, time seemed to pass by slowly while waiting under the heat, but when 10AM struck, we were finally allowed to go in.

The first 50 early birds already took seats while we fell in line again for the lucky draw.

I was actually amazed by how organized and secured the process of the registration and the waiting line were. The marshals and security guards were surely prepared and they handled it well. Kudos to the fans, too! They understood the mechanics of the book signing event and they were very patient waiting for hours while they still put a smile on their faces. The wait may have been long, but they found a way to comfort themselves even just for a while. The image above showed some fans in line sitting as they wait for the registration to start. The line, in fact, reached up to the fifth floor of the mall.

Around 11AM, the registration began and upon my turn, I was able to draw a winning stub and was numbered 115. My sister and my friend were numbered 114 and 116, respectively. Before I drew from the ballot box, I was actually a bit nervous while feeling confident at the same time that I’ll earn a signing pass. Good thing my guts didn’t failed me at this desperate hour.

Around 4PM, my sister, my friend, and I found a spot on the fourth floor to get a better view of the stage while we waited for the event to start. The second floor, where the event would be held, was already occupied by the fans. The same goes for the third floor.

As I looked around the mall to ease my boredom, I noticed a group of girls working on a poster for the event. I think the poster read: LIFE HAS SPARKS BECAUSE OF NICHOLAS. In my opinion, the statement was thought and structured creatively and at the same time, inspiring, too.

When the clock struck 5PM, fans began to stand up and from what I witnessed, a fan from the crowd screamed which made a bit of commotion that led to some other fans screaming as well. In fact, it was only a false alarm. The fans were just getting excited. Haha!

And then the moment the fans had been waiting for, including me, had finally came true. Crowds began to gather more closely to catch a glimpse of the famous bestselling author Nicholas Sparks. Watching the crowd two floors above made me think of a swarm of bees trying to pick nectar from a single flower.

When Xandra Ramos-Padilla, the Purchasing Director of National Book Store, came out on the stage, the fans had gone extra wild – screaming here and there, holding up their cameras to try to capture the special moment. Ah, the feeling of adrenaline rush.

Finally, after giving a bit of introduction to Nicholas Sparks and his works, Xandra Ramos-Padilla called on to Nicholas Sparks to enter the stage. The screaming just increased a hundred times more! And here he was, waving at all his fans as the fans waved back, I included.

Then there was a short segment of Question & Answer portion wherein Nicholas Sparks was asked about his new book, The Best of Me,  his writing process, his perception about love, and lots more.

Afterwards, Xandra Ramos-Padilla introduced a special guest to Nicholas Sparks. This special guest was the first early bird to arrive at the venue. Shockingly, the girl stood in line since 2AM in the morning! That action itself proved her determination to meet Nicholas Sparks and she was deservedly rewarded. From what I remembered, Nicholas Sparks signed three of her books that she brought and he even hugged her! What a lucky girl. The girl was besieged by the situation that it brought tears to her eyes. I’m sure Nicholas Sparks made her day and the outcome of her patience was definitely worth it.

And then we proceeded to the book signing segment. To avoid any possible problems and uproars, National Book Store divided the signing pass stub by batch. The first batch would consist of those who had signing passes numbers 1 to 50. The second batch would be those numbered from 51 to 100, so on and so forth. So my sister, my friend, and I were in the third batch. I was so excited and nervous that my body got warmer and my knees started unbuckling a little bit. I had never been that close to a celebrity.

I couldn’t believe I had an opportunity to personally meet Nicholas Sparks face to face. Excitement was even an understatement. Because of this immeasurable feeling, I couldn’t get to say more meaningful statements or remarks. The only words I uttered were: “Loved all of your books.”  I was so mesmerized by his mere presence and handsome look that it left me speechless. I even forgot to shake his hand! Sigh. Either way, at least he thanked me and I was able to take a picture with him.

At the end of the day, I was more than happy to own a signed copy of a Nicholas Sparks’ work. After years of waiting, my dream has finally come true. I couldn’t ask for more. And I never regretted to have attended this event.

This is the first book signing event I have ever attended.

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks is the first signed copy I get to own for the first time in my whole life.

The first of my wish list: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.


The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks has been my all-time favourite author. How do I come to know him, you might ask? When I was in 6th grade, we were required to write a book report about a book we chose from a list our English teacher gave us. I remembered that year was the time the film adaptation of A Walk to Remember was released, so our teacher included that title in the list. Without having any second thoughts, I immediately chose A Walk to Remember out of curiosity and because of its love story genre. Coming from a previously non-avid reader, I actually thought the book was surprisingly an enjoyable read. However, I was not aware of his other works yet, so I didn’t bother looking for them.

It didn’t end there. A few months had passed when I accompanied my mom and my sister to a bookstore. As I was browsing through the bookshelves, I noticed another work of Nicholas Sparks. It was the last hardcover edition of The Guardian displayed at the bookshelf. I instantly asked my mom to buy it for me and since then, after reading that book, I was hooked by Nicholas Sparks and bought all his works. Thinking about it, I actually had a Nicholas Sparks marathon read.  And every time a new book of his was released, I would buy it immediately. He became an auto-buy author for me and that hasn’t changed up until now.

This year, another new work of his came out entitled The Best of Me. Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

In the spring of 1984, high school students Amanda Collier and Dawson Cole fell deeply, irrevocably in love. Though they were from opposite sides of the tracks, their love for one another seemed to defy the realities of life in the small town of Oriental, North Carolina. But as the summer of their senior year came to a close, unforeseen events would tear the young couple apart, setting them on radically divergent paths.

Now, twenty-five years later, Amanda and Dawson are summoned back to Oriental for a funeral. Neither has lived the life they imagined . . . and neither can forget the passionate first love that forever changed their lives. Forced to confront painful memories, the two former lovers soon realize that everything they thought they knew – about themselves and the dreams they held dear – was not as it seemed. And in the course of a single, searing weekend, they will ask of the living, and the dead: Can love truly rewrite the past?

I am always fascinated by the book covers of Nicholas Sparks’ books. The eye-catching illustrations perfectly portray a particular setting or place in the story. In The Best of Me, the book cover depicts a portion of Tuck and Clara’s cottage in Vandemere. Although the look of the cottage has aged quite a bit, the place seems peaceful – a bit isolated, but it is surrounded by a mixed array of colorful wildflowers. As I imagined the appearance of the cottage, it actually made me want to live there. Who wouldn’t? And it serves a special place not just for Tuck and Clara, but for Dawson and Amanda as well.

Having read the book, I come to love Dawson, Amanda, and Tuck. Tuck was a different man than I would have imagined. As quiet as he may have seemed, he was like a father to both Dawson and Amanda. He might have a different impression on other people, whom they deemed as crazy, but he undoubtedly played a significant role in the couple’s lives despite his death. Amanda, on the other hand, was the character I felt who struggled the most. Her character development was the most complex of all and I somehow found my way relating to her more easily even though I’m still in my early twenties. I understand what she was going through as she was torn between reality and dream, her responsibility as a mother and wife VS her love for Dawson. Readers are also enlightened by the different point of views of a teenager and of an adult concerning life, dating, and love. It will make readers understand that a rebellious teenager with a concerned parent will soon realize how their parents would have felt once he (or she) becomes a parent himself (or herself).  Lastly, Dawson was described as a selfless, perfect man who cared more for others than for himself. Despite his family name’s reputation, he chose to walk the right path and proved others wrong about himself.

All in all, the book, once again, was an enjoyable read. It ended with the classic Nicholas Sparks tragedy trademark coupled with a feeling of hope. The book will make readers believe in the existence of true love – that with love and through love, one will give the best of himself/herself to the other regardless of how much one is willing to sacrifice. Furthermore, readers will learn to realize that the choices we make, no matter they are to our liking or not, will eventually shape our future. Nicholas Sparks truly never fails to amaze me with his writing and the story he comes up with. His writing style – the way he structures his sentences, and his choice of words – surprisingly keep me wanting to turn more pages, hardly putting the book down. He also has his way of coming up with his own version of a perfect man which is manifested not only in the looks, but also in his personalities and in the way he would treat his lover or partner. I’m sure that readers will aspire to meet such kind of man and I myself don’t deny that. So if you are into love stories and a fan of Nicholas Sparks, this is a book for you.