Category Archives: Review

Books Read in 2014

In this post I have compiled all the books I read in 2014. This took a while to put together because I’m terrible at summarizing and rating books.

Roomies (Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando) – A story about two girls who was assigned to be roomates in college and how they got to know each other through email.  I couldn’t relate to them that much since I never had the dorm experience, but it was still a nice read. 3.5 out of 5 stars

If You Find Me (Emily Murdoch) – About two girls who grew up in the woods after their mother hid them there.  Their father eventually found them and brought them back to civilization where they struggled to adapt to regular society. 3 out of 5 stars

Some Girls Are (Courtney Summers) – Highschool life and drama. A popular girl loses her popularity and had to turn to the people she used to bully for comfort. 3 out of 5 stars

Falling for the Ghost of You (Nicole Christie) – Generic story of a playboy and an innocent girl who try to fight the odds. 2.8 out of 5 stars

Split (Swati Avasthi) – A story about domestic violence and how two brothers manage to escape their abusive father.  4.3 out of 5 stars

Cruel Beauty (Rosamund Hodge) – Goodreads describes it as “Graceling meets Beauty and the Beast” so I had high hopes for this.  Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped.  I skipped a lot of parts that confused me. 2.6 out of 5 stars.

Better off Friends (Elizabeth Eulberg) – Macallan and Levi became friends instantly when Levi transferred to her school. Everyone knows they should be together, but they’re too scared to ruin their friendship.  A light and fluffy read.  I enjoyed this a lot. 4.5 out of 5 stars

My Favorite Mistake (Chelsea M. Cameron) – This had a high rating on Goodreads but it was just another generic college romance story. 2 out of 5 stars

Wonder (R.J. Palacio) – This is one of my favorite books for 2014.  It took me a while to get through it because it’s not the typical love stories I like to read, but once I got into it I couldn’t put it down.  It’s about a little boy with a disfigured face, and how he touches the lives of people around him.  It was such a heartwarming story and it made me cry more times than I could count. I wrote a short review which you can read HERE. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Making Faces (Amy Harmon) – This is a story about a girl who was in love with the town’s resident pretty boy, but things changed when he left and returned with a different face than what people remembered.  I abandoned this book halfway through – not because it was horrible, but simply because I didn’t enjoy it that much and I didn’t want to waste my time on it.  I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

Me Before You (Jojo Moyes) – Lou Clark gets a job taking care of Will Traynor, a cynical paraplegic who lost his desire to live.  It took me a while to get through the first part of this book because it dealt with some heavy issues, but once I reached the halfway point I just couldn’t put it down.  Like Wonder, this book made me shed so many tears.  I had to lock myself in my room to finish the last few chapters in peace, and by the time I came out my eyes were puffy and swollen.  I give this 4.7 out of 5 stars.

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart) – This book was pretty popular on Goodreads and I see it a lot in the Bestsellers section of National Bookstore.  I wasn’t as impressed with it though.  I was bored for the majority of the story and only started to enjoy it towards the end. There was too much mystery and I felt confused for the most part.  Although I gotta say, the last part of the book was pretty interesting.  3.5 out of 5 stars

Playing for Keeps (R.L. Mathewson ) – The ratings for this book on Goodreads is incredibly high, so I was shocked to discover that this book read like a poorly written fanfic.  It was funny, fluffy and (in some parts) ridiculous.  I couldn’t believe that the characters in the story were adults because they behaved like children most of the time.  1.5 out of 5 stars.

Like Gravity (Julie Johnson) – I remember reading this book, but I couldn’t remember what it was about until I read the reviews from other people.  I guess that’s a clear sign of how unmemorable this was.  Considering how much I love NA romance, this didn’t do it for me at all. 1.5 out of 5 stars.

There is No Light in Darkness (Claire Contreras) – Another book that I remember reading but can’t recall the story unless I read  other people’s reviews. But I do remember that this ended on a cliffhanger and I didn’t even bother looking up the next book in the series because I didn’t really care about the story that much.  1.4 out of 5 stars.

Almost Home (Joan Bauer) – I normally really enjoy pre-teen stories because they’re light and fun to read, but this one dealt with some serious issues.  I think the main reason I picked this book up was because of the cute dog on the cover. It’s not something I enjoyed, but I do admire Sugar for her strength and wisdom. 3 out of 5 stars

Divergent Series (Veronica Roth) – I think most people have seen the movie by now and are familiar with the story.  I LOVED the first book (and the movie adaptation).  The idea of the 4 factions and the choosing ceremony was awesome.  I’ve been wondering what faction I’ll be in and I’m guessing it would either be Erudite or Amity.  I give the first book a definite 5 out of 5 stars. But the 2nd and 3rd book wasn’t that great. I give both 3 out of 5 stars.

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Looking back on 2014

I’m finally posting this.  As some of you may know, I write a wrap up entry every year here on my blog.  I do it so I can look back on the important and memorable events which took place in those 12 months.  Here’s my entry for 2014.  Some of the items on my list are linked to blog entries I posted previously.  I’m still catching up on blogging so some of the later events don’t have entries yet.

January

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March

  • My highschool friends, Eugene and Cherry, were visiting the Philippines at the time and I was able to have dinner with them :D
  • IMSP held the first IMSP All Stars Concert to celebrate our 30th foundation day. I’m not much of a dancer but I had a lot of fun performing with the people I work with.

 

April

  • My first two thesis advisees successfully defended their work and passed, yay :D
  • Celebrated April’s birthday by having lunch at Baan Thai
  • Celebrated Ezra and Kurt’s birthday
  • Went to California for the summer.  Kurt took us to Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Little Tokyo on our first weekend there

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May

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Awesome 2014 – SKDR Films Compilation

I’m still working on my 2014 wrap up blog entry (it’s almost finished, I promise), so for now here’s an awesome video that Kurt made for his YouTube channel. I’m present for most of it so I told him that this could serve as my 2014 highlight video as well.

Thanks for including lots of clips of me in your compilation video Kurt!  I look forward to shooting more videos and creating more memories in 2015! :D

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Book Review : Black Lies

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I don’t really know if this counts as a review or not because it’s going to be really short.  I’m swamped with deadlines but I just had to tell everyone about this book.  It’s *that* amazing. This is one of those stories that I will remember for a long, long time.

It will be difficult to write this entry without giving out any spoilers, but I promise there won’t be any.  Instead of trying to summarize the story and risk giving anything away, here’s the actual blurb from Goodreads, just so you have an idea what the book is about:

Brant: Became a tech billionaire by his twentieth birthday. Has been in a relationship with me for 3 years. Has proposed 4 times. Been rejected 4 times.

Lee: Cuts grass when he’s not banging housewives. Good with his hands, his mouth, and his cock. Has been pursued relentlessly by me for almost 2 years, whether he knows it or not.

Go ahead. Judge me. You have no idea what my love entails. If you think you’ve heard this story before, trust me – you haven’t.

Honestly, I was very apprehensive after reading the blurb because I don’t condone cheating.  I have no idea why some people find it romantic or thrilling, I just think its despicable. I hate it so much that I’ve actually abandoned books before because the main character was so unfaithful.  But this popped up in my recommendations on Goodreads, and it had incredibly high ratings so I wanted to at least give it a chance before dismissing it.  Words can’t express how glad I am that I did.

This book took me on an emotional rollercoaster.  It was beautifully written and the author did an amazing job telling the story while unraveling its secrets layer by layer.  The characters she created were all incredible too.  I loved Brant.  He was sweet, caring, intelligent, refined, and rich as hell.  I’m talking Tony Stark/Bruce Wayne kind of rich.  Hell, he gave his girlfriend 3 cars as a present and booked a 30 thousand plane ride home just because she wasn’t feeling well.  I don’t think there was a moment in the story when I didn’t love him. With that, you would expect me to despise Lee, the “other guy”.  To be honest, I did hate him for a while, when he first showed up.  How dare he walk in and ruin the beautiful relationship between Brant and Layana.  But, as the story progressed, I grew to love him too.  He was the complete opposite of Brant – rough, crude and a little selfish, but something about him draws you in.  And then there’s Layana, the heroine.  You will love her and you will hate her. You will question her and you may think that she’s the absolute worst.  Personally, I think she’s amazing.  I suggest that you keep an open mind when you read this book.  There were moments when I doubted Layana’s love for Brant and Lee.  After all, why would she do something that would obviously cause them so much pain.  But as the story progressed, I realized how deep her love was for Brant and Lee, and how much pain she was willing to go through for both of them.  I don’t know what I would have done if I was placed her situation.  She is definitely one of my favorite characters of all time.

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Book Review : Veiled Innocence

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I have to say I’m in love with Ella Frank’s writing.   I’ve never read any of her other works before, but now I’m probably going to have to check them out.  Reading Veiled Innocence was like putting together a puzzle in my mind, it was very fascinating.  It alternates from past to present events, therefore readers only get bits and pieces of the story at a time.  The book starts in the present, so you know where Addison has ended up, but you have no idea how she got there, and you just can’t help but read on to find out.  At the same time, the point of view changes between Addison and Mr. McKendrick, so readers get an idea of what goes on in their minds.  I couldn’t put the book down because I couldn’t wait to see how everything unfolded.

I should probably mention that this book belongs to the student-teacher romance genre.  I love reading forbidden romance novels, and although I don’t necessarily gravitate towards student-teacher romance, it seems to be a pretty popular genre and I’ve read several of them already.  I know it’s probably not a good thing for me to admit that I enjoy student-teacher romance novels, considering that I’m a teacher myself.   Believe me when I say that my love for the genre does NOT translate to real life.  I know it’s wrong and definitely unethical.  I have never gotten a desire to be romantically involved with a student, nor do I think it’s okay for other teachers to do so.  I understand that sometimes a teacher will form a special bond with their students and might end up dating one of them.  As a teacher, I think this is only acceptable if (a) the student has passed the class/has graduated, and (b) you are not breaking any laws (example : dating a minor).  If for any reason the teacher and (former) student feels like they have to hide the relationship, then that probably means that they know that they’re doing something wrong and should probably stop.  I believe that true love is beautiful and it should be celebrated and not hidden.  But, this doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy forbidden romance novels :D

(Technically you could say that I’ve been in a student-teacher relationship before.  My boyfriend and I were batch-mates during college, but I graduated before he did.  I started teaching immediately after that, so for a while, I guess you could say that we were a student-teacher couple.  We were both Applied Physics majors, and after I graduated I taught in the same department he was studying in.  But I don’t think this counts since everyone knew that we were already a couple before I started teaching.  Besides, he was never MY student since he was already finishing up his thesis at the time, and I was a new instructor so I only handled general service courses.)

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Book Review : More Than This

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I rarely do book reviews these days, but I finished this the other day and I still haven’t moved on so I figured I should write a quick entry about it to get it out of my system.

This is a story about how a young girl’s entire world shattered in one evening, and how she managed to piece it back together with the help of some amazing people.  It’s a story about fate, destiny, love, friendship and family. It’s about accepting our weaknesses and finding our strengths and moving on.

From the very beginning, I was immediately intrigued because the main character is part Filipino.  It doesn’t really play a huge role in the story but I rarely come across books with Filipino characters.  I think the last one I read with a character who was part Filipino was from the Georgina Kincaid series, and she was just a minor character.  Then I learned that Mikayla’s favorite book is The Sea of Tranquility, which was my favorite book of 2013.  (You can read my review HERE).  I actually had to put the book down when she mentioned this and tell all the people around me that Mikayla Jones loves The Sea of Tranquility and Josh Bennet as much as I do.  Instant connection, right there.  Throw in a hot guy with a sexy accent to the mix and I didn’t stand a chance.  I really enjoyed the writing too.  It was very enchanting and I felt like I was putting together a puzzle in my mind.  Within the first few chapters, I experienced a whirlwind of feelings and emotions.  Anger, happiness, joy, and pain … so much pain.

I loved the characters in this book.  I admire Mikayla for being so strong.  She lost so much in one evening, and at such a young age, but she managed to keep her head up and find a way to move on.  And I love Jake because, seriously, what’s not to love?  Hot guy, sexy accent, athletic discipline, kind, supportive, caring and a family guy.  I respect the fact that he never pushed Mikayla to do something she wasn’t ready for. He always let her know know that he will be there to support her no matter what path she chooses.  It’s kind of unbelievable that a guy she only knew for 24 hours would take her under his wing and help her get through something so horrible.  But then again, there are genuinely nice people out there.  Jay McLean undoubtedly created Jake Andrews to give female readers someone to drool over.

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My Golden Princess Cruise Experience

I’ve still got several entries lined up before I even get to my US 2014 vacation, but I had such an amazing time on this cruise that I can’t put off writing about it any longer.  I want to write this entry while the experience is still fresh in my mind.  I’ll most likely be making more in depth blog entries about each day of our cruise sometime in the future, so this is just a summary of our whole experience.

My aunt and uncle have been on this cruise before and they loved it.  In fact, they loved it so much that they’ve actually gone three times.  They strongly recommended it to us, which is why we decided to go this year for our parents 30th wedding anniversary.

We started off in LA so we had to catch a flight to Seattle because that’s where the cruise starts.

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Our shuttle picked us up from the airport and took us to the Port of Seattle, where the ship was waiting

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My mom and I, with the Golden Princess behind us.  We got there about an hour before they started allowing passengers to board the ship, so we just hung around outside and took pictures

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Princess logo.  The Golden Princess has been sailing since May 2001.  The ship is 950 feet long and has 17 decks.  It’s HUGE!

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When you check in, they give you a map of the ship (the card on top), as well as your cruise card.  Your cruise card has your name and dining information on it.  (Ezra’s and my card both say “Maria Garcia”, lol).  It acts as your room key, credit card and “passport” during your stay at the Golden Princess.  The staff will scan it every time you disembark or board the ship.  And any time you want to buy cocktails, special sundaes, shakes, or things from the ship’s gift shop, they will scan your card and all your purchases will appear in your final bill at the end of the cruise.  Most of the food, drinks and facilities on the ship are free, so the only time we charged something on our card was when we bought some souvenirs on the ship.

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According to the Princess website, the ship has 1,318 state rooms where guests can stay.  Ezra and I were in room C728 on Deck 10 (Caribe).  My parents had the room next to us.  The passenger’s names are written on the white card just outside the door.  Once again, they shortened our names so this is what our card looked like:

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The cleaning staff were very curious and asked us why our parents gave us the same name, lol.

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This is what our state room looked like inside.  You can choose to get a suite or cabin with a balcony or a window, but we decided that if we wanted to see the ocean we’d just go out on the top deck.

And here are some pictures of the rest of the ship:

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The elevator and stairs area

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Inside “The Sanctuary”

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The Neptune Pool and the outdoor theater where they show movies at night

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They called it “Movies Under the Stars”.  I wanted to try watching a movie here but it was always so cold in the evening!  They give out blankets to keep the passengers warm, but I doubt that’s enough.  Most of the people we saw watching were bundled up in thick winter clothes.

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In the morning it looks just like a regular pool area with lounge chairs
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The Lap pool outside The Sanctuary

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The Calypso Pool, which is just outside the Horizon Court (AKA the “buffet room”)

The ship has several pools and a few hot tubs, but we weren’t brave enough to face the cold and try them

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The Piazza, where they hold several shows and activities every day

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Here’s a picture of people gathering to participate in an egg drop competition

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The ship offered loads of activities – from swimming and other sports, to shopping.  We even found a puzzle station there.  There are art galleries, lounges, theaters, etc.  There’s also a gym on board for those who want to stay fit.

There was always something going on during our stay there.  Every morning we woke up with the cruise newsletter at our door, which gives the schedule of activities for that day

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It’s called the “Princess Patter”
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Aside from the schedule, it contains notes from various members of the staff and friendly reminders.  We used it to plan our day on the ship.

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The had all sorts of things on there, like this Advanced Digital Photography seminar which we attended

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My parents also went to this other seminar which talked about diamonds

On Mother’s Day there was a “Mother’s Day Card Making” event in at the Sabatini restaurant, which Ezra and I attended

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The ship provided us with lots of cute craft materials

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We joined in on a few of their trivia game shows.  We weren’t very good, but we enjoyed learning new and interesting facts.

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We also participated in this Musical Murder Mystery game held by the staff and a few audience volunteers

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