Chew on this: Gastro Park Kapitolyo

My boyfriend and I spent one sunny afternoon in one of the newest foodie spots in Pasig City: Gastro Park Kapitolyo.

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Food parks have been popping up here and there as of late. The first one I heard about was Maginhawa’s Streat, Z Compound in Malingap Street. Both are in Teachers Village in Quezon City where restaurants of all sorts seem to bloom on a regular basis. And then recently there is Gastro Park in Kapitolyo. Kapitolyo has already established itself as a foodie destination for homegrown hole-in-the-walls that serve good and affordable food. New restaurants are opening every now and then and they never go out of style.

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Gastro Park Kapitolyo is an expansive (not expensive) space with different food stalls of different cuisines and specialties, wooden tables and chairs, and music. The garage-style food court has inventive burgers, Mexican bulalo, Filipino-styled sandwiches, bagnet, Thai-Mex street food and more. The vicinity, after all, is still partly residential even with the presence of commercial establishments. This is the exact ambiance that foodies can have at the district’s 1st Street where Kanto Freestyle Breakfast also is.

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We tried as much food as our tummies could handle, and here are the dishes or drinks that we tried that day:

Sweet Nothing

 | Menu |@sweetnothingshakes |

Upon entering the park, the first stall that greets everyone is Sweet Nothing. Sweet Nothing is the park’s beverage provider. It also serves fun milkshakes, aside from refreshing juices and canned sodas.

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I may be wrong but it seems that Sweet Nothing is the main stand for dessert items. Sweet Nothing is also the most attractive and thought out among the stands.

One of the most popular stalls in Gastropark is Sweet Nothing, which serves juices, milkshakes and desserts. We tried the Strawberry Shortcake Shake (Php 120) and the S’mores Milkshake (Php 120).

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Though I’m biased with chocolate, I was more impressed with the Strawberry Shortcake Shake, topped with cotton candy. I enjoyed sipping the Strawberry Shortcake Shake more when I mixed the cotton candy with the shake.

Brick Plate

And one of the kiosks that caught my attention was Brick Plate. Brick Plate serves American comfort food including steaks, ribs and pizza.

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The shake ribs come with two ribs packed with meat. The corn, coleslaw and barbecue sauce come in small plastic containers. The meat was slightly on the tough side and it was lightly seasoned. It is best enjoyed with the sweet barbecue sauce.  I liked the two side dishes as it added crunch and more flavor to the bland ribs.

Japbox

Menu | @japbox_ph |

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Japbox is Japanese food in a box. Putting a twist on the popular Chinese takeout boxes, Japbox is sure to surprise your eyes and buds whenever you unbox their filling and flavorful Japanese treats, from sushi to tempura to rice toppings and more.

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Bagneto

Menu | @bagneto |

Bagneto is an Asian fusion restaurant specializing in bagnet (a deep fried pork delicacy hailing from the northern Ilocos region) served in different forms and flavors. Bagneto does their bagnet right.  If you’re looking for something different, Bagneto’s sisig is made entirely of crunchy bagnet, with a lovely egg cracked on top of it. In case you haven’t noticed, the name and logo was inspired by the character Magneto from X-Men.

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We had a great time trying out various dishes and drinks at Gastro Park Kapitolyo. The prices are reasonable and the choices are numerous that one visit is not enough to try everything. This place is great for gathering of friends and family where you can buy different kinds of food and share it with every one so you can try them all. Unfortunately, we cannot try all of it because they were so many for just the two of us. I would love to visit this again and try out more food stalls soon.

What are you waiting for? Grab your friends, drive up to Kapitolyo, Pasig and enjoy the food. For more updates you can check their Facebook.

Gastro Park Food Park
1st Street, Bgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig City
Monday 4:00pm to 12:00mn
Tuesday to Thursday 12:00pm to 12:00mn
Friday to Saturday 12:00pm to 1:00am

Chew on this: The crib that’ll make you crave: AMO YAMIE CRIB

Fed up of your usual cafe spot? Wanted to try something new? Here’s a quick tour for you to my newly discovered cafe. Located at the heart of the University Belt, Amo Yamie Crib is the now being frequently visited place by students and barkadas.

One word for Amo Yamie? Everything in this place is Instagram – worthy! For those Instagram – lovers out there (like me!) who loves taking pictures of good food and good places, I have finally found the perfect place for you!

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When we’re already arrived in the place, we waited for at least 30 minutes because there’s still no vacant place. For first timers, this is the room where you have to enter to get table reservations. Place is full of students/ group of friends who actually spend a lot of time occupying the cribs, so making a reservation is recommended. Then when we already got the chance to enter the cafe, we liked the ambiance, their wooden designs and their other fancy decors that made the place cozy and feel like you’re at home.

From the cafe’s name, this coffee house indeed has a cribs inside! Yes! You heard that right. You can watch rent DVDs here and watch movies while sipping your coffee, and eating there specialty. The cribs look like a playhouse where you can do whatever you want like indian sit or even lie down. Each spot looks like a room which has a center table and pillows. I really love the theme of this coffee shop because it is very colorful and very festive.

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While most of the mainstream and well known cafes serve their blended drinks, fruit teas and other drinks using plastic cups or styro cups, Amo uses the seemingly being in the trend nowadays, mason jars. I find it very cute. It adds up to the entire feeling of being at home.

As if the fancy interiors weren’t enough; their food joins the vibe, too. From their creative names to their fancy presentation, a lot of “wows” and “OMGs” might have been blurted out, and bountiful Instagram-worthy photos were captured, as well.

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Their menu range from fun coffee and frappe concoctions, to sweet milk tea drinks. They also serve waffles, cakes served on pots, mini burgers, tacos, and other snacks to fill you up.

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Lots of choices are part of the menu, from hot or iced coffees, fairy tale frappes and frosts, cartoon characters named milk teas down to fruit teas. And yes, the list of drinks will make it hard for you to decide. But thanks to the magical named drink – Wizard of Oreos, at first glance, it  won my heart , which is a cookies and cream frappuccino topped with whipped cream and of course oreos. And, my best friend orders the  Snow White Vanilla Fairy tale frost, which is basically comprised of nuts and a crispy waffle on top. Each drink really serves true to its name. You can taste the presence of the ingredients individually, but more importantly, they jive well altogether.

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If you’re looking for a coffee house that has a twist like a fairytale concept at an affordable price, Amo Yamie is the right place for you! Their beverages and food is just ordinary but it will surely meet your taste and preferences and the money you will be paying would be worth it.

Location: AYC – UBelt is now open, located at 2nd floor, Gordi Plaza Bldg, Legarda St. Same as Bon Chon’s building, across Mendiola.

Chew on this: Crisostomo: Turn of the Century Filipino Cuisine

With the mixture of influence from colonizers and the rest of the Western world, it is no longer a surprise to hear the very diverse food preference of many Filipinos. I can say Filipinos can really relate with the food. You can see lots of Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Thai restaurants in the country that sometimes, you can’t help but wonder, is the old traditional Filipino taste already seeing its demise?

Filipino cuisine is slowly wedging its foot in the international food scene. The difficulty lies in how to translate the usual family-style servings to something that’s more sophisticated looking to be more easily accepted by the other parts of the world. Albeit it would be splendid to see adobo or sinigang in some minimalist and artistic creation, sometimes though, those big servings are the ones that spell comfort and home, and I think those are some of the endearing characteristics of Filipino food, one fact that is equally important to portray to the rest of the globe.

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One restaurant, found in the heart of the newer side of Metro Manila, begs to disagree. With renewed vigor, Crisostomo’s a restaurant claiming to serve turn of the century food, is bringing back the interest for Filipino delicacies with gusto. It has even improved some of the most common Filipino dishes we have.

The first thing that came to mind when I heard the name was the two popular novel by our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal, the Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Who can forget the lead character named Crisostomo Ibarra?! Reaching the place it sure showed Filipinos during the Spanish time, probably during the times of Padre Damaso and Donya Victorina. Attached in the walls are portraits of people obviously wearing Filipino clothes during Spanish times. The covering of the menu has a portrait of a man in Barong (National Filipino clothes) and wearing a tall hat. The pouch they used for packaging take-out foods has a sketch of a woman or man in Filipino costume.

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Crisostomo is a Filipino restaurant named after the protagonist of Jose Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere. It specializes in Filipino cuisine–the restaurant’s facade even boasts that they serve “turn of the century Filipino cuisine”.

Few weeks back, my family and I tried Crisostomo, the new Filipino restaurant owned by the famous Chef Florabel Co, located in Resorts World Manila, Newport City, Pasay. We opted for Filipino food because of my balikbayan cousin. He’d been in Singapore for quite some time and are dying to gobble up as much Filipino food as they can. Anyways, we got there almost ten o’clock in the evening already and to my surprise, there were still a lot of people. The place was full and we have to wait for around 10 minutes for a vacant table. When we were finally able to get seats, we were already starving. Reading through their menu was like taking a trip down Noli Me Tangere lane as every dish title included a character’s name or a place from that setting.

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With my pretty sister
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With my adorable grandma
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My grandma and handsome daddy
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My balikbayan cousin

The restaurant was a bit small. Nonetheless, the decor exudes a Spanish maharlika vibe that’s cozy and warm. Wooden balusters line up the glass windows, portraits are mounted on the spring-green. A big distressed wooden China cabinet houses liquors, wine glasses and pristine white tea sets. Locket and vintage pendants as well as beaded jewelries hang from wooden hands that protrude from mirrored walls. The interior and lighting were posh enough to exude an inviting ambiance for couples, groups of friends or with family. It could, however, ward off potential Crisostomo customers who may conclude that the food may be priced sky-high.

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My oh-so-lovely family enjoying our foods. :)

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And now for what you’ve all been waiting for: The Food.

Don Juan (Php 295) is an inihaw na liempo dish that was typically your run-of-the-mill pork ribs (though it looked more like belly). Cut into strips, these grilled meat rests on a small banana leaf and showered with chopped chives and garlic bits. The meat was marinated nicely and tender to the bite but for the price I had expected something more.

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Salome’s Secret (Php 295) is actually stuffed squid which I really loved. The big squid was grilled beautifully with a bit of charred portions on top. The chopped chives was sprinkled across the seafood’s length. Imprisoned within the rings were slices of tomatoes and onions, which rendered color to the plate. The squid was tender and I liked how the sweet sauce complemented that smoky flavor.

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Escolta (Php 375) Birthday noodles, pancit canton with assorted meat, seafood, and quail eggs.

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De Los Santos Platter (Php 1695) is a family platter, combining the best of Crisostomo, Pork barbecue, liempo, chicken, pusit, bangus belly, oyster, inihaw na talong and achara or grated fermented papaya. This is a good thing to get for a big group of people.

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If you are planning to treat your balikbayan friend or friends from other countries for dinner or lunch, Crisostomo Filipino Cuisine can be one of the best choices.

Overall, everything we ordered tasted good, and for me are considered comfort food, them being Filipino dishes. The prices are a bit on the expensive side, and when I asked the waiter how big the servings were, he said it was good for sharing (2-3 persons). When the dishes came, it turned out that the sharing portion is indeed good for 2-3 persons. Service wise, it wasn’t exceptionally good, pretty fair or what you would expect from a restaurant.

We had a hearty, satisfying dinner at Crisostomo. The staff were also very accommodating. It was a nice dining experience, it feels like singing a kundiman with contemporary spin.  These were more than enough reasons for us to want to go back there.

For more info about Crisostomo you can check their website.

Book Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

kafkashoreSUMMARY from GoodReads:

Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky.

There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle – yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.

REVIEW:

Finished my reading assignment for myself for this month. Actually I started reading this book some months ago, around July in fact, but only got serious with it late last week, and finished it just now. My head’s still spinning. I feel like I can’t think properly, but I also feel like I’ll forget all my thoughts and feelings about the book now. When I finished reading, my immediate reaction was ‘There is no way I can possibly write a review of this’. Mostly because I could not even dissect my own opinion of the novel.

*SOME SPOILER ALERT*  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Kafka on the Shore has two ongoing plots that seem to parallel, yet seem to have nothing to do, with each other. Kafka on the Shore opens as 15 year-old Kafka Tamura, who is described by one of the characters in the book as a “cool, tall, fifteen-year-old, lugging around a backpack and a bunch of obsessions.” He prepares to run away from home. Living in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, Kafka is fleeing his father’s twisted, Oedipal prophecy – a prophecy that predicts Kafka will kill his father, and sleep with his mother and sister. Although both mother and sister left home when Kafka was just 4 years-old, Kafka is resolved to ensure that the prophecy has no chance of realization. At times, Kafka is accompanied by a spectral alter-ego named Crow, who encourages him by spouting the mantra: “You have to be the world’s toughest fifteen-year-old” but often he is alone though he never seems to have any trouble getting help from benevolent strangers. He flees to Takamatsu, where he establishes himself as an assistant in the Komura Private Library, thanks to the help of the librarian Oshima. When Kafka’s father is murdered, however, the threads of reality begin to unravel and time oscillates. As the narrative of Kafka’s journey progresses, the plot is intersected with the parallel odyssey of the elderly Nakata. After undergoing a strange childhood experience during the Second World War, in which he fell into an inexplicable coma after seeing a flashing light in the sky, Nakata was left with a blank memory and the loss of his reading and writing abilities. Now designated mentally-impaired, Nakata’s old-age is distinguished only by his strange talent for talking to cats. After a run-in with the mysterious Johnnie Walker, a man who murders cats and eats their hearts, Nakata sets out on his own journey across Japan – a journey that sees fish raining from the sky and a pimp modeling himself on Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame). As Nakata’s and Kafka’s fates look set to collide, it is clear that resolution for both cannot be achieved without further bloodshed. And the closer the plot comes to its conclusion, the more reality loses its shape to the riddle of existence.

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Just like Kafka, and most of the characters in the book, he has lost something and is trying, in his own way, for the most part without realizing it, to get it back.

“Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it’s important to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Individual errors in judgment can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form and continue to thrive. They’re a lost cause, and I don’t want anyone like that coming in here.”

First things first: I’d be lying if I said I understood this book. I don’t, for the most parts. I’m not even going to attempt to summarize it, because I don’t think I can. It just isn’t that simple. This novel is weird. Really weird. But in a good way. My reading experience of Kafka on the Shore was full of confusion – in fact, I’ve finished it now and I still don’t understand what the hell was going on. There’s a man who collects cats’ souls to make flutes, fish falling from the sky, a ghost of a woman who’s still alive. I mean, I should have expected this sort of craziness from Murakami, but this was definitely beyond the level of crazy that I’m used to. All I can say is that it’s brilliant, and thought-provoking.

Nevertheless, the story was strangely addictive. Despite my constant state of confusion – and the many times I flinched at something horrible or eerie – I did actually enjoy the book. Kafka on the Shore is not a book that offers answers. Kafka is a labyrinth of metaphors and whether you ever make it through this labyrinth and get to the centre is not a certainty. I’m certainly not there yet. Every time you turn a corner and think “ah-ha!” thinking you have finally got it, Murakami sweeps out of your way and you’re left puzzled once again.

I keep getting the feeling that understanding what the story is about, what all the metaphors and symbols are trying to tell me, is just around the corner. But the above quote, spoken by Oshima, stuck out to me as perhaps the best explanation of what Murakami is trying to do. You know that underneath the randomness, the weirdness there is a depth hidden like a yet to be explored world.

Both narrative paths were quite interesting to read and both Kafka’s and Nakata’s paths introduced a number of other characters that were equally interesting and amazingly well developed.

The characters in Kafka on the Shore are amazingly well written. I felt like I could see each and every character so clearly in my mind’s eye. On top of great characters, Kafka on the Shore is a book this is easy to get lost in. This is a novel that has incredibly blurry lines between reality and the fantastical.  It challenges the reader to decide what is real, what is imagined, and what is possible within the bounds of reality that is represented in the story.

“And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm is all about.”

Kafka on the Shore is a book that pushes the limits of imagination by twisting experience within the boundaries of reality. It is not set in a world invented entirely by the author’s mind but is, instead, grounded in contemporary Japanese society and culture. As a reader, I found this abstraction uncomfortable – but not in a bad way. It is uncomfortable because it naturally sends you looking for answers, trying to work out why. But as the above quote illustrates, Murakami did not write this book to offer a simple plot with eventual resolution. Rather, Kafka on the Shore is comprised almost entirely of riddles, few of which are given any kind of answer.

I believe everyone’s journey from youth into adulthood has a little bit of magic in it no matter what. There’s no doubt that relationships, love and life can take on a magical quality during those times. There’s some beautiful moments, some brutal moments, and some that are just flat out weird. This blend of fantasy-literature/magical realism made for an enjoyable read.

My main problem with the novel, though, is the same one I had with 1Q84. There are no explanations, no conclusions. The hundred-and-one weird and wonderful events in the novel remain a mystery to all involved. Sure, a lot of people might like that in a story, but for me it’s a little annoying – if a fantasy takes place in the real world, I want to know why and how it happened as it did. Why did the man want to make souls? How did Nakata make it rain mackerel? Why did the ghost appear?

Obviously, I really enjoyed this book, but it’s one of those books that is hard for me to articulate why I found it so enjoyable. Sure, this is a fantastic book on a technical level.  And it’s a great book on a readability level.  But it’s frustrating when I can’t point to why I like something so much.  Maybe it’s that combination of technical skill and storytelling that makes this book feel so different and special to me.

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. If you like fantasy and are looking for something thrilling and addictive, give Kafka on the Shore a read. I know this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but even so, I would still recommend that people give this book a try. The book is weird. Really weird. But it’s a powerful story that will, at the very least, challenge one to think about this very strange, very familiar world. But if you want a light-hearted read, or are easily confused, this is not the book for you.

Book Review: Love and Misadventure by Lang Leav

18003300SUMMARY from GoodReads:

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Awarded a coveted Churchill Fellowship, her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss.

Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

REVIEW:

I’m not really an avid reader of poetry and my expertise in the genre is minimal at best. However, I do appreciate well-written poems that I read every now and then. I remember that the first poem that I really liked, that had a profound effect on me, was Sylvia Plath’s I am Vertical which I read back in college.  Since then, for brief spurts of time, I read poetry whenever the inspiration to do so strikes. In this regard, I think I now have a handle on appreciating poetry.

If you are familiar with Instagram and Tumblr, then you have most likely come across this book or pictures of the poems. It has taken social network sites by storm and the hype of the book is undeniable but is it really worth it? Enter Lang Leav’s Love and Misadventures. Admittedly, I was intrigued by its hype and, therefore, decided to read it since it was short and also because I was curious as to why a lot of people were raving about it. Surely, a lot of people can’t be wrong all at the same time and that Leav’s poetry would merit such a magnitude of fame. So, this evening with nothing better to do, I plunged in and finished it in one sitting.

When sifting through this book, I had mixed emotions. I believe that love is one of the most complex and the illogical thing in the world. Authors and poets spend a ample amount of time trying to unravel it. At first sight, one may mistake this as a collection of love poems. But for me it reads as the internal ebbs and flows of a person throughout many different kinds of relationships; from unrequited love to crushes, to the end of love and moving on. The beauty of Leav’s collection is that I don’t feel the need to uncover the details of these stories. The feelings evoked are enough.

There are three parts to the book: Misadventure, A Circus of Sorrows, and Love.  Most of the poems are quite short, but I didn’t mind that. Sometimes it’s nice to just relax and read short poems that don’t require much analyzing – this was a massive perk to this book. The poems don’t try to have hidden meanings. They are about pure and hard love, as well as pain, which is touched upon in The Circus of Sorrows.

There is something in her words; a kind of warmth that makes her poems stand out. It’s like she can read our minds and transform our thoughts into beautiful poems. Here are some of my personal favourites from the book:

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Highly recommended for people who needed inspiration for love stories or for those who just wanted a light read. :) It’s the book that becomes your diary and your best friend. I can’t wait for the sequel –Lullabies.

Learn more about Lang Leav visit her official blog.

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

SUMMARY from GoodReads:

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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Hazel is a 16 year old girl with stage IV thyroid cancer, and has been living with an oxygen tank since she was first diagnosed at 12. She realizes she is going to die, but she is on a drug that is keeping the tumors at bay. At a support group meeting she meets hottie Augustus Waters, who is in remission. They immediately hit it off and change each other’s lives drastically.

REVIEW:

****This review contains some SPOILER-ish comments****

I have been trying to read this books from past five months (which took several trips to the bookstore, since it always seemed to be out of stock) and this weekend, I finally took a step forward. When I am reading a good book, it doesn’t take much time for me to finish that book. The Fault in Our Stars, beautifully written, light-read and fast-paced book. This is my second piece of John Green’s writing and I must say that I am still impressed by his style and lightness of the book.

I’ve been putting off writing this review for weeks, not because I hated it, but because I loved it and I am fully aware that this will probably turn into a fangirl-ish rant but, I can’t help it!

The Fault in Our Stars wasn’t the best book ever, but it deserved the massive hype.

The Fault in Our Stars is another beautifully written book by John Green. The title is inspired by a famous quote from Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar;  “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” The book is told through the eyes of Hazel, a diagnosed cancer patient. Life seems black and white until Augustus, a handsome, confident, charismatic 17 year old, comes along and brightens up the clouds. Forced by her parents, she attends support group only one day meet Augustus.

Seventeen year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster has this really caustic, dry sense of humor that I tend to greatly enjoy in characters. However, hers was made all the more interesting because it was exhibited in such a unique and dire situation. She made an otherwise serious and overwhelmingly emotional tale full of surprising laughter and occasional smiles. At least, that was the first two thirds of the book because the last third was a killer.

Augustus Waters deserves his own praise. My favorite aspect of young adult leading men is flaws. I love the flawed ones because they’re real, they’re not these perfect men that are unattainable in reality. They’re doubly perfect because of their flaws. Somewhere in the world, such a person could exist and walk among us. It’s characters like this that make reading worthwhile and, in my opinion, Augustus Waters is one of these characters. He had to get a limb amputated from his cancer. Despite his ability to be highly romantic, the boy in him shines through his love of zombie video games and novels, but this also gives way to his obsession with helping others and going out as a savior instead of a victim. The boy who puts a cigarette between his lips signifying the ability to kill, but refusing to light it to show that he has the heart to beat it. This boy is perfect because of his complexity, uniqueness, faults, and drive. It’s funny to think that when I first met him in the story I couldn’t pinpoint if he was an arrogant character who was all too aware of his good-looks or if he was putting up a front. It was neither, he’s a boy with unbelievable depth who just so happens to be aware of the fact that he is gorgeous (both inside and out. This guy is full of so much love and the romance in this one is real. It’s not a silly little teenage love story–this is one that deserves to have a place in the real world.

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The characters are unique, especially between the drunk yet well written and respected Peter Van Houten, Augustus Waters, Hazel, the newly blind Isaac, the ball-less Peter and all parents in this novel you will discover a cast that is easy to remember for their diversity, message, and perfect characterization.

The plot was simply “ok” for me, never wowing me or keeping me on the edge of my seat. There weren’t many plot twists or “ah ha!” moments because you could tell from the beginning how it would end. You knew from the subject matter that it would be sad, and yet…I did not really cry. I did shed a lonely tear, but it wasn’t for the characters. It was because of the situation they were in. It was because cancer sucks. For the first half of the book, I honestly spent most of it smiling. I loved watching Hazel and Augustus fall in love. It was slow, sweet, and beautiful…and sometimes you just forgot what they were going though. Sometimes, they just seemed like regular happy teens – gorgeously intelligent, fun, flirting teens.

The Fault in Our Stars is the-emphasis on the ‘the’-perfect book to snuggle up with whatever the setting, it is an amazing feeling to sit on the sofa with dim lights and a few candles.

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It’s refreshing to read a book where the teenagers aren’t dumbed down into hormonal, whiny, selfish, depressed characters.  In most young adult books, the focus is either on survival or romance.  In The Fault in Our Stars, the characters already know they’re going to lose the battle against cancer, so all they have to do is wait. I liked the philosophical debates between Hazel and Augustus. Considering that they don’t have any of the normal teenage activities to keep them busy like schoolwork, prom, or sports, it makes sense that they’d spend more time pondering the reason for their existence.

It’s easy to see why John Green has the following he does. There is just something magical in the way he strings his sentences together that I can’t help but admire it. It’s simple, deep and humorous all at the same time. You go into the book knowing the characters are terminal and I didn’t know how I would fare connecting with a character, loving a character, to ultimately have them suffer and die. I’m a really easy crier and I don’t like seeing people (fictional or real) suffer. But somehow John Green manages to take a cancer book and fill it with the sweetest memories.

Green’s amazing writing skill easily allows us to be caught up in Augustus and Hazel’s relationship, their easy banter and worry in the first 2/3 of the book that when things get real, you ALMOST forget that you’re reading a cancer story.

Further, it was almost like Green relied on the severity of the ending and the character’s intelligence to jar emotion from the reader. Clearly, this worked since few days after finishing, it’s depressing  just from thinking about Augustus’ letter to Hazel. But again, this was not for the characters. It wasn’t remotely similar or as powerful of an emotion that I’d felt after I read A Walk to Remember where I cried bucket of tears. I’m talking about complete and utter sorrow for Landon and everyone else. DON’T JUDGE ME.

There is simply one complaint I have about this book. John needs to make his 17 year old characters sound more like 17 year old teens than 35 year old men.Also, he being a male writer, wrote the entire book in female teenager’s point of view. And I feel, he did a good job. Never once, I felt that something was too manly about his female characterization.

The main reason that I completely fell in the love with this book is not that it is highly anticipated or that it has mostly received 5 star reviews, but because the writing was very pure and genuine, it sounds weird, I know, but that is the only way I can describe it. I don’t want to give too much away on the book because that ruins everything for people who haven’t read the book yet. Hazel and Augustus set sail on a roller coaster that only goes up; one filled with sadness, happiness and emotion.

The novel is riddled with lines worth quoting in every day conversations and I highlighted this wonderful quotes. I see them posted everywhere and every time I read one, my heart just squeezes.

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I know you guys have probably all seen the TRAILER to this movie adaptation. But just in case you haven’t watch it below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ItBvH5J6ss

If you’d like to find more about John Green don’t hesitate to click the Links:

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Movie Blog: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Are you ready for another Marvel Superhero movie?

Yes! Yes, I am!

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When you buy a ticket for a Captain America movie you know what you’re going to get: A super-powered dude in blue doing crazy things with a shield, busting people in the jaw, and being very ‘Americanny’. Good news! Captain America: The Winter Soldier scratches those  itches just fine.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” lives up to its hype & more. Running at a little over two hours long (136 minutes, to be exact), this film deserves a decent viewing and you would be tantalized for MORE! And I meant that in a good way!

Despite the deluge of never-ending superhero movies, we still keep on digging them. This is the fact studios, such as Marvel, use against us helpless followers. I am not complaining though, since most of the stuff we’ve seen so far in cinemas are great (with the exemption of a few). Now, come summer, we will once again see the sequel for Captain America and the best thing about it the hero now lives in the present time.

Unfortunately, in order to talk about The Winter Soldier, I’ll have to put the SPOILERS shields up.

The first Captain America movie was a solid period action film. It did a great job of establishing Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as a stop-at-nothing epitome of good fighting against the Nazis. The Avengers showed Captain America in an unfamiliar world, dealing with things both familiar and—pardon the pun—alien to him. But, he got by all right with a little help from his friends. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve’s past, present, and future all collide to set up, not only the next Avengers film—The Age of Ultron—but also, the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

The basic plot of the film is this, Steve Rogers is still trying to get acquainted to life in the modern world, post Battle of New York (Avengers), while still doing the occasional mission for Nick Fury and SHIELD. But he quickly becomes aware that SHIELD has been compromised from the inside and there are very few people that can be trusted. However, the mysterious Winter Soldier isn’t gonna make it easy, and will force Steve to make some tough decisions. But as Cap struggles to embrace his role in modern society, his past comes back to haunt him in the form of a deadly assassin known as The Winter Soldier, who happens to only be one piece of an intricate scheme years in the making. There are definitely a few telegraphed punches along the way, but there are also some genuine surprises as Cap tries to unravel the mysteries behind a murder and its perpetrator, the enigmatic Winter Soldier.And that’s all I’ll tell you about the plot, as it would spoil everything if I tried to delve into the twisty story.

The first thing that made the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger great was the script. There were so many unexpected twists and turns in the story that I definitely didn’t see coming, so it made the movie watching exciting. It borrowed just the right amount from the source while still offering enough new and different material to make it fresh for long-time fans. I felt the writers treated it with respect and definitely did it justice with their adaptation. Everything about this film raises the bar from Captain America: The First Avenger. The action is tighter—there are some really wicked fight scenes in this one.

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Next, the action sequences were very well done and the overall look of the film was really cool. There was a distinct action thriller feel too much of the movie that was reminiscent of classic spy movies, but with a superhero twist.

Captain America is a hell of a fighter. The action is grounded for the most part, but there are some spectacular feats as well, thanks to the Super Soldier Serum pumping through Cap’s blood. The way he uses his shield in this film is spectacular.

The performances are all fantastic. The rest of the cast did agreat job reprising their roles. Chris Evans is your regular goody good guy that has really grown into the role of Steve Rogers. When he first got cast, people wondered if the former Johnny Storm would be able to handle the weight of that shield. In this film, Evans is Cap, not just an actor playing dress up.

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Scarlett Johanssonis, as always, great in her role as the silky assassin as Natasha Romanova / Black Widow. She’s a great foil for Steve and they have a lot of fun scenes together. She is making the character her own, which is good. Every villain has a weapon that fires a gazillion rounds of ammo, yet nobody is as accurate as ScarJo with a pistol.

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The greatest surprise to me was Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson AKA The Falcon. I was not surprised that he was great, I was surprised that we got to see so much of his greatness. I assumed that he wouldn’t get very much screen time, but I was wrong. His chemistry with Chris Evans made it seem like they’ve been friends for years. I can’t wait to see him and Cap working together again. They have an easy camaraderie that comes from their common bond of military service. His wing suit is actually pretty badass too. The trailer really short changes him, but it led up to a nice surprise while watching the film.

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Samuel Jackson is back as Nick Fury and we learn a little bit more about him through both the way he handles adversity and in some quieter scenes.

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New to the film,Robert Redford also puts in a nice performance as SHIELD leader,  Alexander Pierce, a bureaucrat and friend of Fury’s.He was just perfect. There are other actors of his calibre that I could imagine in that role, but none that would bring the same level of class and composure.

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Sebastian Stan known for his role as James “Bucky” Barnes / The Winter Soldier. Speaking of the Winter Soldier, he is a complete and total badass. Unquestionably one of the best villains that Marvel has unleashed yet, the Winter Soldier is the strong silent type, capable of going toe-to-toe with Captain America. He isn’t some one-dimensional baddie either, and his dark past comes to light near the end of the movie. The reason the Winter Soldier is such a good villain is because, like Loki, he can actually hold his own against the hero. He’s a real threat, not just some pushover. Plus, he has some depth and layers which makes him all the more interesting.

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Emily VanCamp appearance as Agent 13 bodes well for the future as does Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow.

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Oh, and there are plenty of cameos and one liners, just as you’d expect from Marvel. Stan Lee makes an appearance, surprising nobody (but he always shows up when you least expect him to, so I guess it also surprises everybody at the same time).
This film will have audiences cheering and they’ll finally see why Captain America is one of the greatest heroes in Marvel’s pantheon.

Finally, at the end of the day, the best thing you can say to describe the Star-Spangled Avenger’s latest feature film is that it’s awesome. Cool beans!!! As Marvel has consistently done in the past, they raised the bar for the superhero genre once again. If there is anything I didn’t feel obliged to applaud, I’d say the plot was overly intricate at times, and more than once it gets a bit confusing keeping up. But it’s a very minor gripe on my end.

I was glued to the screen for the entire film, and when it was over I only wanted more. Oh, and in case you are a Marvel movie virgin remember to stay after the credits. I’m always surprised about how many people get up and leave the theatre before the credits are over. Ummm guys, this is a Marvel movie, come on!

Make sure you stay till the very end. And I do mean the VERY end. Sit through ALL the credits, because there are scenes (1 mid-credits and 1 post-credits) that you’ll miss if you leave early. You gonna have a first look at the twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who’ll be joining the Avengers team in Age of Ultron.
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Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch were members of the Brotherhood Of Mutants (Credit: Marvel)
Now, go see Captain America: The Winter Soldier! It’s your duty!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SlILk2WMTI

DISCLAIMER: Photos are not mine. Credit from their respective owners.

Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

SUMMARY from Barnes and Nobles:

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The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi drivers enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghost-writing project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

REVIEW:

“Risk is the spice of life.” – Komatsu

Hooray! So happy I’m finally done reading 1Q84! You could only imagine how many days or weeks I spent just to finish this. Haha! I felt compelled to turn the page and continue. I needed to know what was going to happen. Who were these people? What was the Air Chrysalis? Would Aomame and Tengo reunite? And as each book ended, I was strangely satisfied by what I had read and yet eager to begin the next chapter. FYI, the original version of 1Q84 was written in Japanese and divided into three separate books. The version I read, though, had been translated in English and published as a single book.

I’ve sat down a number of times to write my reactions, and I’m finding it difficult to do. Partly because the book was such a monster – at 900+ pages, it took me almost months to finished it. The thing about 1Q84 that you can’t ignore is that it’s…well… very long. It’s definitely a time and dedication investment on the part of the reader, but I can promise you one thing: from the get-go, you will not be bored at all but you’ll see some repetitions of roundabout events. Every page leads fluidly to the next.

The first thing I need to say here is that there will probably be a few SPOILERS in this review so if you haven’t read the book and don’t want to have outcomes disclosed at this point, then stop reading, dear!!

I’ll preface this review by saying I have not read a lot of Murakami. I certainly am no Murakami expert. I’m only comparing this book to The Norwegian Wood while keeping in mind the opinions of friends and reviews online who have read the novel. But the books I have read, and what I’ve read about him, have always made me feel that his work is essentially Japanese–in its style and content.

“There are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.” – Leader Tamotsu Fukada

The book centers on primarily two main characters, Aomame and Tengo. It consists of three parts. The first two books are split into chapters from Aomame and chapters from Tengo, then switching back. In the last part of the book, a third point of view was introduced in the person of Ushikawa. At first I found Aomame’s story the most interesting, although I loved Tengo as a character, I can certainly see why he is so popular! Gradually though I became just as interested in each storyline.

Murakami’s 1Q84 starts with a bang. The story opens in 1984, but slowly the two characters who at first seem to be completely unconnected to each other transition into a parallel world where there are two moons and the world is subtly different than the 1984 we were introduced to.

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The book is like of Haruki Murakami’s past books where it is about self discovery of the main character. This time it is about how two long lost lovers find each other’s to the point that they were meant for each other. One of the main character in the book, Aomame, a sharp dressed woman, where in the beginning, escaping from a freeway parking jam by climbing down a multiple story fire-escape ladder and it gets even better when we find out that she is more than just a fitness instructor, of course. She also doubles as a hired assassin. Her agreement with the potent Dowager includes topping men who carry out violence against women, using a special technique she has perfected over the years that involves a long, thin ice-pick-like. After the first incident, Aomame started to notice things that were different from what she used to see. At this point, she started to speculate that she might be in a parallel universe. She was certain that it was not the 1984 she knew she was in. To temporarily reconcile these events, she called that year 1Q84—Q for question mark—where logic didn’t seem to fit in. There was also one major difference in her world and this world—1Q84 had two moons.

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Meanwhile Tengo, another of Murakami’s passive males, who is a math teacher, who was a classmate of Aomame. Tengo rewrote a novel by Sakigake member Fuka-Eri entitled Air Chrysalis, which he didn’t know would be the turning point of his life. From there on, many secrets had been revealed. The events which revealed the characters’ destinies.

1Q84 is a fiction of everything serious and profound. It’s like whatever you read means something else or something deep. 1Q84 is a book full of vagueness. Instead of becoming boring and confusing with overflowing mysteries, 1Q84 just keeps on drawing you into it. The total cluelessness as to where the story is headed, even when I am already done with a couple of hundred pages, has pushed me to continue. It’s that ignorance that got me hooked.

It was interesting as well how he built in areas of the two story lines which fitted together but only really mentioned them briefly. It made me want to read more to find out exactly how the two stories linked together, and just work out the general puzzles of Murakami’s normal oddities.

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The first section is a bit slow and I don’t mean that it was boring or that it dragged. Murakami spends a lot of time setting up the characters and giving you a feel for their surroundings. The last few chapters then drop just enough information that makes you start trying to read faster. The problem with trying to speed through this book though, is you can’t. I found myself stumbling over sentences and having to re-read things when I tried to rush it too much. It is clear that 1Q84 is meant to be enjoyed at a relaxed pace. Like what I said, it deserves your time and attention.

The characters of the story were strong. By strong, I meant they were able to put up with their roles. The course of their actions matched their personalities well. I have to admit that when the Little People were introduced to the story, I did wonder if Murakami had completely lost it, but fortunately he doesn’t go too over the top with the magical realism in the ‘Air Chrysalis’ aspect of the story. The experience you have while reading the book and getting little bits and pieces of information at a time is important and helps you relate to the characters better. At least, I think so.

If there were anything I didn’t like much about the book, it would be the fact that it ended abruptly! Going through some of reviews for 1Q84, I know some people felt like there were moments when the plot did drag on but I personally never noticed it. My only major issue is that there are certain plot points that were left hanging in the end with no resolution. If you had read the story, you’d know that was not where it should’ve ended. The conclusion wasn’t that satisfying. There were still a lot of things which needed answers. What would happen to the Sakigake? What was the purpose of the little one in Aomame’s belly? What about the new air chrysalis the Little People were doing? But the author decided to finish the story right there and then, so poof, end of story. I don’t know, but I strongly believe there are still lots of unresolved issues here.

Overall, this is a great story that is highly recommendable to all who love to read, especially to those who love to take on a challenge or not afraid to read a book that is over 1000 pages long. The book really dazzled me and I loved the surreality of it. The story is intricately written and very well plotted.  It’s complex, surreal, ambitious, and thoroughly engrossing and entertaining.  I’m happy to have read it and will recommend it to anyone that is willing to give it a try. Don’t let the sheer size of the novel keep you away. If anything, reading 1Q84 also made me want to explore more of Murakami’s work. If it’s all as well translated as this novel is, and equally as intriguing or gripping, I am interested.

This review has gotten pretty long, and I can’t remember if I’ve forgotten anything that I wanted to mention specifically. I know this book has gotten a lot of publicity in literary circles so if you have any questions on anything about 1Q84 please don’t hesitate to ask me I’ll try my very best to answer it. :) You can share some of your thoughts too! :)

Here’s the book trailer, in case you’re still not convinced:

Chew on this: Chili’s

Yo, all my foodies…It’s been a long time since I post a food review, but the belly is back to burp! :)

I’ve been creating quite a post backlog, and got a loads of good food for me to review. But today I’m posting about my delicious experience at Chili’s. Chili’s is a well known international franchise restaurant where you will feel at home eating wonderful food and drinking cool refreshing drinks. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chili’s is basically a resto that offers not really a spicy food literally, but they have frozen margaritas and amazing fajitas! The price might be a bit expensive but it’s all worth it. Currently it has 6 locations around the metro. Chili’s is a great hang-out place for foodies who want authentic American and Mexican specialties.

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Another fixture of malls among other places is the Chili’s Restaurants and their trademark Chili Pepper sign. A good advertising ploy since the “chili pepper” can be seen well before you can actually spot the restaurant. You see, Chili’s is one of the few casual dining places I like.

It’s nice to go out and treat yourself to a good meal. During our lunch dates, my friends and I decided to splurge a little since it was our first time being together again for months so we had lunch at Chili’s in Greenbelt 5 during a hot afternoon. The Chili’s place at Greenbelt 5 was actually big; it also has some more tables outside to accommodate customers who smoke and love seeing the skies. It is a great place to relax with friends and family. It is our favorite hangout if we are craving for Mexican and American food.

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L-R: Zackie and Me
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L-R: With my friend boyfriend, Ron, Gaena and Paige

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There were four of us and if you frequent Chili’s you know that they have big servings. Imagine four girls ordering Bottomless Tostada chips, Buffalo wings, Pesto Pasta, Sandwiches and Bottomless Iced Tea all at once. There were only four of us but our table was so full of plates. **Since we frequently eat at Chili’s the pictures I posted are on different lunch dates with the friends. :))**

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L-R: Me and Paige
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L-R: Jen and Zackie
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Here we are enjoying our foods!! :D

The menu includes starters, salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, fajitas and hamburgers. They have a full service bar and I’m sure I won’t be the first to tell Chili’s staff knows how to mix some pretty nice drinks. I find their food to be exceptional and fantastic. To me it all had different taste to each item I sampled; perhaps it was their signature blend of spices applied to all their food.

Being the creatures of habit that we are, we ordered pretty much the same food that we always do. Food serving here are big. So ready your tummy for it will be great dining experience. Make sure to loosen your pants button. :)

For starter, we ordered The Triple Dipper and Bottomless Tostada chips.

We started our dinner with our favorite Tostada chips. Since we were hungry and this one is very easy to prepare, this can help us pass the hunger for a few minutes.

The Bottomless Tostada chips are crunchy with mildly spicy salsa dip.  Like oh my goodness I’ve been craving for this for so long already. This is like a bowl of goodness. You can “top-up” the chips for free as many times as you want. We Filipinos love this sorta “free” thing, hence why Chili’s is always, always packed. By the way, the chips and salsa dip have unlimited refills so if you want to simply eat this till you are so full of chips, go ahead! :) We managed to finish two or three refills of the chips and have taken home the fourth refill (nearly empty too).
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Tostada chips with salsa dip
The Triple Dipper is a combo of their best selling appetizers: Buffalo wings, this one is really spicy but it complements really well with the cheese dip. It was okay to me which needs a little more tanginess flavor. Chicken Crispers, perfectly golden brown breaded chicken. I was surprise that it’s really juicy and tender! And South Western Eggrolls, its crispy flour filled with smoked chicken, black beans, corn, cheese, red peppers and spinach. I find it a bit spicy, but who cares, its gooood! Served with their winner sauce and dipping.
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Triple Dipper: Buffalo wings, Chicken crispers & South Western eggrolls
We also ordered the Chipotle Chicken Pesto Pasta. We first thought that it’s same boring pasta when they served it to our table. But I was wrong. Really creamy, pasta on a chipotle based pesto sauce topped with huge chunks of grilled chicken. The portion of this dish was very large. I think it really was meant for three to four people to eat. The taste of the garnishing and sour cream and the green stuff was not that bad actually.
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Chipotle Chicken Pesto Pasta
As addition to our meal, we have the Cajun Club Sandwich. The sandwich itself is delicious served with french fries. It’s little, roughly three bites’ worth, and is very tasty.
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Cajun Club Sandwich
And the Bacon Burger was quite satisfying. Just looking at it, you could sense some serious substance. The solid slab of beef is served with crispy-thick bacon, aged cheddar cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and mayo. The quantity was pretty good considering what I paid. Served on a sesame seed bun Plus! It was also served with fries. The fries were crispy and hot with enough salt already on them. Their patty was huge and awesome!
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Bacon Burger
For drinks all of us ordered Bottomless beverages you can choose from Iced Tea, Lemonade and Fountain drinks. The lemonade was okay but I didn’t really enjoy them since they were not too sweet (I have a severe case of sweet tooth!)

By the end of the meal, we had our leftovers wrapped to go and asked for the bill. We were making wild guesses as to how much our total bill would be. Our bill was around Php2k+. Crazy but well worth it. We just said we’ll never over-order ever again! It’s just that Chili’s has so many scrumptious foods to choose from and it’s difficult to only choose 1 among 50 choices. What’s good though is that their servings are big enough to share as a group.

The staffs are very friendly and accommodating. They have a good knowledge of the food they serving. You can always ask them what’s good or not according to your taste preferences. Despite having a lot of customers, the service was very fast.

All in all, it was quite a gastronomical dining experience. The overall menu is a bit expensive, but the food choices will fill you up. Chili’s isn’t a bad deal for food. Good little bites, though, but filling as hell. Extremely addictive until you actually get full. I just wanted to keep eating and eating until my stomach reminded me that it was full. And everything tasted great. I can’t complain.  I’d really like to go back and try other dishes. It is definitely worth a second (or even a third & fourth) try. Plus I’d like to claim my free buffalo wings on my next visit. :)

You can check their website or you too can enjoy these yummy foods by simply visiting there branches at these following locations around the metro:

MAKATI: 2nd Level Greenbelt 5 Ayala Center Makati City
GREENHILLS: 26 Missouri St. cor. Nevada St., Northeast Greenhills San Juan
TOMAS MORATO: 199 Tomas Morato Ave. cor. Scout Fernandez Quezon City
ROCKWELL: P1 Unit 36 Power Plant Mall Rockwell Center
ALABANG TOWN CENTER: LGF, Corte de Las Palmas Expansion, Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City
MEGAMALL:  2/L Mega Atrium, SM Megamall Edsa cor. Julia Vargas Ave., Mandaluyong City

Book Review: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

SUMMARY from Amazon:
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This stunning and elegiac novel by the author of the internationally acclaimed Wind-Up Bird Chronicle has sold over 4 million copies in Japan and is now available to American audiences for the first time.  It is sure to be a literary event.

Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before.  Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable.  As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. A poignant story of one college student’s romantic coming-of-age, Norwegian Wood takes us to that distant place of a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.

REVIEW:

WARNING! Some spoilers ahead. Be careful if you haven’t read the book!

I have never been good at reading translations. It’s always in the back of my mind that what I’m reading is not the piece in its original forms: it is not how the author originally wished it to be presented. I don’t know, therefore, whether it is to Murakami or its translator Jay Rubin who I should give the credit for keeping me thoroughly engaged with this one.

It was my first time to read a Murakami. I am brand new in reading Haruki Murakami’s novels and this is my first novel written by him. And that intrigued me to read of his famous novels, Norwegian Wood. I’ve wanted to read something by Murakami for a while now, just from reading reviews on GoodReads and it sparked my curiosity.

I must say that the author has that talent to turn every sentence like a work of art—something worth millions…Every sentence is poetic. I started reading his works, it intrigued me, it creep me out, it weirded me — but the bottom line is: I LIKED IT. Before I bought this book, I’ve heard so many things about it. Publishing this book in Japan made Murakami somewhat a ‘literary superstar’ in his country. Right now most people are reading 1Q84, that I’m planning to read also but I wanted to start with something a little more simple and basic.

Before reviewing or rather I would say giving my naive opinion on this book, I better start with my assumptions with this book. Was this book a little ego-centric and self-serving? Yes. Did that prevent this book from being another example of Murakami’s brilliance? No. When we read a novel from a new author, we start expecting something new and better every time we read of their works but along the process we tend to forget that there are very few writers in this world who challenge themselves to tread a different path and walking upon it too and that’s exactly Murakami did with this novel.

Essentially, the book functions as a love story. It’s a love story with a pragmatic and realistic view on human emotions. At its center is Toru Watanabe and his experiences as teenager living in Tokyo during the 60s. The novel opens with Toru, already in late 30s. He heard the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” which overwhelmed him and reminded him of his experiences in the 1960s which he claimed to have changed his life. Then the story suddenly shifts to his memory of the 1960’s, when he’s 17.

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He’s an average guy and a decent student. He tells us about a woman he loved intensely and lost.  Toru at nineteen is a young college student who rekindles a friendship with Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend, Kizuki, who killed himself when they were seventeen. He has been haunted by the incident…even prompting him to move out of town, and continue studying where no one really knows him and what happened in his early years. However, when he met Kizuki’s long time girlfriend, Naoko, everything changed. He and Naoko share this distinct connection, struggle to build a friendship that is more than simply sharing memories of their friend. They are bound together by Kizuki’s death, but also limited by it. Unfortunately, Naoko grows increasingly troubled, and she admitted into a sanatorium, a communal mental establishment hidden far in the mountains, where residents care for each other and free from the stress of the outside world.  As Naoko struggles with her health, Toru must figure out what their relationship is and how he can help her.  At the same time, in the days that he seeks human companionship, he meets another girl, Midori, a student in his classes, who he found himself drawn to. Midori has her own issues and although the two take comfort in each other’s company, they can’t seem to move past the Toru/Naoko connection. What starts off as an innocent friendship turns into something else, but how far can it go when your heart also loves another? The book chronicles the struggle Toru has in figuring out his feelings for the two ladies, as well as figuring out himself.

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Norwegian Wood is definitely not just another predictable romantic story. Written in the perspective of the male protagonist, it’s likely a book that boys can appreciate better than girls. I find the male perspective to be interesting, to see the world through a male’s eyes. Girls might appreciate the book as it provides a peek into the minds of boys. But again, there are several other things Murakami surfaced along with love, and how it symbolizes sadness, like Death and quoting here: “Death exists, not as the opposite but as the part of life,” but in this book, Death exists as a part of this Book. There is a lot of death and a lot of grief in this book.

The characters in the book were another thing. Besides Toru Watanabe, who is the main character of the story who labels himself as “ordinary”. He is an average college student majoring in drama who enjoys reading classic American literature. The way Toru speaks shows much of his personality. The book has a lot of interesting characters that I’ve grown to love.

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Naoko, which forms almost one third of the triangle that the book focused on, is developed in some detail, though not in as much detail as I would like. She was the girlfriend of Kizuki and the new lover of Toru. She is gentle and beautiful but also emotionally fragile and susceptible to the world around her.  Murakami portrays her as a very gentle, almost angelic figure, a timid, shy woman who was clammed up in innocence as she struggles to free herself in her past and everything that’s holding her back. Same with Toru, but in a more serious way.

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And then there’s Midori Kobayashi. She is a strange, outgoing classmate of Toru who acts as a foil to Naoko’s character. Midori is one of the few people whom Toru reaches out to in a life of solitude and isolation. Unlike Naoko, Midori has a unique way of thinking that shows her character in a straight forward way. She is fiercely independent and impulsive of her actions which are refreshing to readers when compared to the other melancholic, pensive, and introspective characters. I love her. In a story where negativity is all over the place, having a character like her is a breath of fresh air. For me, she provides the balance in the whole story.

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But one of the characters’ I’ve enjoyed reading in this book is Toru’s friend, Nagasawa, is a prestigious diplomacy college student and a friend of Toru. He had this unique way to deal with the world. Nagasawa acts as the epitome of someone who Toru would never want to be. I enjoy how his mind works, and how he tends to make living less complicated.

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And there’s also Reiko Ishida, is Naoko’s roommate in the mountain sanatorium who acts as a joyful and rather optimistic therapist between Toru and Naoko’s relationship.  Her story was something really tragic, and one that really stuck with me.

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I must admit, the overall tone of the novel has been too depressing for me. Though I like myself an emotional reader, reading it became unbearable at times especially when I need some motivation to go on with. Hehe Suicide is very rampant in the whole novel.  So if you can’t really tolerate such negative emotions all at once, this book is not for you.

I liked how Murakami, while concentrating on big themes of love, loss, and disconnectedness, really pays attention to the small details of daily life, like bus routes and part-time jobs.  Money isn’t a key issue in the story but it’s definitely recognized by characters as important. I’ve never been to Japan, but Murakami’s vivid description made me feel I was there.

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Thus the book presents us with completely different ways of dealing with the emotional imbalance. One tries to escape the world, one tries to come in terms with the world, one tries to look out for some hope and the other tries to sleep with women. For me the book is very special for its beautiful depiction of the amazing feeling of being in love and clearly separates it from lust. The beautiful poetry and the usage of metaphors to get the right impression hit everyone alike. The pain, the love and emotional impact experienced by every character which is very special in its own sense are so well presented and it enthralled me. It’s no wonder the novel had created wonders in Japan becoming success.

This book is beautifully written, and I really enjoyed the characters and identified with their struggles.  The story is dark but not overwhelming; it somehow remains subtle.  I occasionally found the dialogue stilted, compared to the rest of the narrative.  I expect that has something to do with the translation of the book, or cultural/language differences.

Also, I saw the movie after reading the book. They say the book is almost always better than the movie, right? I bet that is true in this case as well. Since I start reading the book first I know that many of the book lovers may be disappointed with all the details left out, you’ll hunger for more information about these characters, which you will get by reading the book. And I say that the book left me with a stronger impression than the film but I commend the beautiful visuals and music which are stunningly gorgeous and work very well together, even though the film had clear flaws. This is probably the strongest aspect of the film. Reviewing the film on its own, though, I would say that more background information was needed to give the characters more depth and bring meaning to their actions.

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Here’s the trailer of the film that was released in Japan in 2010:
I kept seeing quotes of this book everywhere! The funny thing was the quotes were just so strangely worded that I understood it and got me interested. Here are some few:

“But who can say what’s best? That’s why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.” 

“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth,no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it,but what we learn willbe no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.” ~ Toru Watanabe

“So I made up my mind I was going to find someone who would love me unconditionally three hundred and sixty-five days a year. That’s the hard part. I guess I’ve been waiting so long I’m looking for perfection. That makes it tough.” ~ Midori

“Memory is a funny thing. When I was in the scene, I hardly paid it any mind. I never stopped to think of it as something that would make a lasting impression, certainly never imagined that eighteen years later I would recall it in such detail. I didn’t give a damn about the scenery that day. I was thinking about myself. I was thinking about the beautiful girl walking next to me. I was thinking about the two of us together, and then about myself again. It was the age, that time of life when every sight, every feeling, every thought came back, like a boomerang, to me. And worse, I was in love. Love with complications. The scenery was the last thing on my mind.”

This is a moving story about love, friendship and first relationships.  I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to reading more of Murakami’s work. I do recommend reading it, but read it with fresh eyes and see if the book impressed you in the same way. It would definitely appeal to anyone who has interest in the Japanese culture. Please give it a try if you find sometime and feel the difference. If you’re a Murakami fan, what would you recommend?