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

A Day at Sky Ranch Tagaytay

It’s been years since I’ve last been to an amusement park. Although it’s a happy place to be in, I just cannot understand why the passes and rides have to be so expensive.

Tagaytay is really one of my favorite places outside Metro Manila. It’s very accessible, it’s very beautiful, lots of good food and really nice weather! Last week together with my family we went to Tagaytay to have some family bonding since my cousin will go back to Singapore in a few days.

Probably another reason to visit Tagaytay is the Sky Fun Amusement Park. It’s a theme park located in Tagaytay City and it’s the most visited place there every weekend and especially during this holiday season, many people go here to eat, to enjoy the rides, enjoy the Taal volcano view and also the cold breeze. I suggest that you bring your camera and jacket when you go here in Tagaytay because its super cold whenever its cloudy and also much cooler at night.

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Also, It boasts the current tallest ferris wheel in the country, The Sky Eye, at 63 meters (207 ft), beating the MOA Eye at 55 meters (180 ft), and the Enchanted Kingdom’s Wheel of Fate at 130 ft It has 32 air-conditioned gondolas presenting guests with a breathtaking view of Taal at over 2,000 feet.

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The center of attention is the Tagaytay Eye, which commands a huge presence along the ridge.

We arrived there quite early and I was surprised to see that there were already a number of cars parked and a line has already formed at the ticket booth where we were to pay the entrance fee. Maybe it was because the park had just opened its gates. And oh, they charge for parking too! Bummer.

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And the best part here is that the regular entrance fee is priced at Php50 per person. Kids below 3 feet get in for free. They also get to ride the carousel for free but they must be accompanied by an adult with a ride ticket. The entrance fee is separate from the individual ride fees, which can be purchased from the 2 ticket booths inside the Sky Fun Amusement Park. The lines could get quite long so I suggest that you already decide on what rides you’re going to take and purchase those in one go.

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with my big sister and her boyfie Kuya Kiko
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with my grandma, mommy and our favorite house helper Ate Lyn.

We first tried the famous Sky Eye, taking advantage of the few people falling in line for the ride. We were anticipating it would get very crowded later on in the morning. Hey, it’s a weekend so what should we expect, right. It has got to be the main attraction of Sky Ranch. From the Sky Eye, you get a birds-eye view of Tagaytay, Taal Volcano and the surrounding provinces of Laguna and Batangas.

We occupied 3 separate gondolas because they were quite small and each can only fit a maximum of 4 adults. Because each gondola’s air-conditioning unit is located below the seats, it cools only the lower part of the space around the leg and feet area. Not much cool air, really. However, we were quite busy taking in the view of Taal so we didn’t mind the discomfort. It lasts around 10 minutes for a whole ride. What you’re really paying for here is the view since the ride itself is pretty boring.

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Ate Lyn and my Grandma
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with my beautiful mommy

There’s also Super Viking. The ride I enjoyed most. :) It just felt so good feeling literally seeing the risk or danger you’re in while almost airborne and facing the ground and machinery. I was literally screaming on top of my lungs because I can feel the falling sensation and the feeling felt real. Okay, so that was creepy but fellow adrenaline-junkies could probably relate. I had a moment of perfect clarity and happiness while my side of the Viking was at the apex and the wind was rushing and I was looking up into the clear sky. I promise, your shouts won’t make sense too if you try this one! This is for thrill seekers and brave ones.

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At first glance, it does not seem to be scarier than Anchor’s Away. I even think that Anchor’s Away is bigger than this. At Php100 per head, it was a no-brainer for us to try this ride. When you are seated at the back-most row (where we sat), the swing of the boat would take you to a 90 degree angle from the ground. Maybe it was the altitude or the pressure from being 2,000 ft above sea level, this made the ride more thrilling than Anchor’s Away.

Next is Nessi Coaster. It’s a mini roller coaster for kids and adults. If you don’t like the bigger roller coasters, then you can try riding the smaller ones. I just saw that kids at age of 3 years old above can ride this with their parents.

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One of my favorite rides when I was kid, this classic Double-decker Carousel will surely be loved by everyone. Kids and adult above 4 ft can enjoy and experience the ride. The horses rotates in counter-clockwise and moves up and down.

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My favorite couple, Mommy and Daddy too much sweetness in the carousel.

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Also, if you’re seeking for an exciting adrenaline rush there’s the Zip Line, where you can transverse the 300-meter long steel cable car over the breathtaking view of Tagaytay. Price at Php400 (one way) and Php500 (two way) on weekends. Weekdays are much cheaper.

There are various food stalls lined along the entrance of the amusement park offering snacks so you don’t have to leave just in case you guys get hungry. There are also restaurant establishments waiting to be finished.

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They also provided gazebo’s located along the ridge. Not sure if you can bring food from the outside though.

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The amusement park, being new, is very clean and is easy to navigate. Kids will really love it there because most rides are catered for them. For the Sky Eye, honestly, I didn’t feel that it was worth the money you shell out for a 10-minute, single loop ride. I mean we can surely enjoy Taal’s view for far less than that. It would be a different story if people were to ride as a couple though, especially during sunset, which can be quite romantic. Not enough that I’d come back to Tagaytay just to go there, but if I do I’m going on Super Viking again. And the zip line too.

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Look! The girl photobomber behind us ahaha

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After spending time at the Sky Ranch, it’s time to feed our hungry tummies. We decided to have late lunch at Mer-Ben Tapsilogan and Bulalo. We settled in one of the dining huts down the restaurant that gives more privacy to us. Parking is not a problem, with a blue guard assisting their customers on their open space at the right side. Its signage has a large “Tapsilog” written on it, but I haven’t seen other customers ordering it. Perhaps their tapsilog is more popular in early mornings, while bulalo is their bestseller on lunch onwards. We left with full and happy tummies. It is flavorful and also value-for-money at its price.

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All in all, we enjoyed our visit at the Sky Ranch. The young and the young at hearts will surely love the Sky Ranch because of its festive atmosphere and most of all, it’s cheap-affordable admission fees. It’s a place where stress can’t reach you and all you think about is how crazy the rides are. Aside from the rides the park itself is bordered by the pristine beauty of nature. At least there’s something new to look forward to whenever friends/families decide to go to Tagaytay. It’s 1-2 hours away from Manila by car depending on the traffic. Here’s a location map.

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Directions: From SLEX, take the Sta. Rosa exit. Turn right onto Tagaytay-Calamba Road and from there you’ll reach Tagaytay. Turn right and go straight ’til you see the Sky Ranch on your left. 

Life, like a big playground, has with ups and downs. Whether you’ll enjoy the rides or complain about it – it is YOUR call and perspective. Sometimes, grown-ups need a little reminder too.

You can visit their Facebook account for updates and price lists.

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.

Movie Blog: That Thing Called Tadhana

Where do broken hearts go? And can they find their way home? “That Thing Called Tadhana” tries to answer those questions and more.

Tadhana. Fate. Destiny. Do you guys believe in it?  How about soulmate?thatthingcalledtadhanadsweetbox

Let me tell you upfront that this is the HUGOT film of the year. Most chick-flicks revolve around the blossoming of love. Others focus in the moving on process. This film tried to cross those boundaries and let everyone know that both of them can’t just happen on the same day.

Ever since I missed the initial screening of this movie, I’ve waited for it to be released. Due to positive reviews from fans and critics, the indie film has been picked up by Star Cinema for nationwide release on February 4. So when I finally got to watch it, I was so- so about it.

Before you continue I should warn you that this may contain SPOILERS!!! A lot of emotions and a whole lot more of feelings. So if you think that you will not be able to handle them, you can always press X and come back after you see the movie.

One more thing, PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE ME.

Part of this year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival is Antoinette Jadaone’s  ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’. A Rom-Com that tells the story of Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM De Guzman) met, by fate and chance, at the airport in Rome on their way back to Manila. Mace recently got out of a terrible breakup from an eight-year relationship. With nothing better to do, Anthony decides to accompany the damsel in distress from crying in a street corner to heaving large luggage along Session Road. Through a series of embarrassing but endearing events they eventually learn more about each other spurring them to go on an instant trip to Baguio and Sagada to find escape, release and consolation for their romantic miseries. In the process, they found hope for a new love and a new beginning with each other.

The movie started really strong. With the way Angelica’s character, Mace, was throwing away clothes (and even thongs) to fit the baggage allowance on her way back to Manila from Italy, you’d expect more funny scenes and kilig moments just like how JM’s character, Anthony, saved her in that dilemma. The palpable chemistry between the two makes for an engaging and pleasant watch. The two characters were well defined at the beginning– their language, their decisions, etc.

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Antoinette Jadaone’s That Thing Called Tadhana has a small scope, having only two characters and a story that relates to something deeper and more poignant, resisting the kilig factor common to romance films. What’s remarkable about this movie is its simplicity. The movie was mostly just about the two of them – talking, walking, eating, singing, etc. But the lack of actors does not equate to lack of depth. Since it is just the two of them in 95% of the scenes,  you’ll expect that the story will find a way to add some twist. The story also inserted the narrative of the Arrow Pierced with a Heart, which somewhat gave a break on listening to the two characters talk about their past and hopes for the future.

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It is a movie uses the first encounter concept, similar to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, which made the film a thoroughly pleasant experience. It is the best Filipino version of Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy with a little inspiration from E. E. Cummings’ poem, “I Carry Your Heart With Me”. It was effortlessly romantic despite the absence of any kissing scene; funny without trying to be. Through excellent scriptwriting and realistic portrayals they were able to illustrate the painful, torturous and excruciating walk one goes through after a betrayal and  they were able to capture it down to the last detail. The past is the villain so conversations were prevalent, but it was never a bore especially because they convey the ones that always hits home.

The movie provided a stirring start and with an even more provoking ending. It tells a story that even how dark, cold and tedious your night was, the sun always rises again — beautiful as the glorious Sagada Sunrise—to usher in a new day for your renewed heart ready to make and fight for your destiny.

It’s rare for a movie to simultaneously make you laugh and cry at the same time. That Thing Called Tadhana does it effortlessly, that I walked out of the cinema with a ridiculous grin on my face and overflowing emotion in my heart. In under two hours, Angelica Panganiban and JM de Guzman had me enthralled.

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The movie appealed to the emotions of the viewers as the characterization of our leads seem to be based on real life events, too real that 4 out 5 of those who’ve watched can claim that it’s their story they were watching. It takes ordinary life situations and turns them into a little gem of a movie. It shows that a character-driven plot and well-written dialogue are enough to make for a great story. The compelling storytelling makes the hour and a half movie feels longer, but in a good way. There’s no unnecessary side characters, no filler scenes, no nuances often common in romantic comedies.

Tadhana avoids being predictable. Just when you think they’re about to kiss, the movie takes on a different route. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen next (because it’s what happens in every freakin’ Filipino RomCom!), they turn the other way. They take every Filipino RomCom tropes, then dissect and disassemble them into something fresh, yet familiar.

I found myself squirming with glee in my seat in almost every scene. It may not be a love story in the strictest sense of the concept, but there’s no point in denying that JM and Angelica look great together. Be it in the petty bickering or the intense gaze between the two, it’s easy to like the two, together or as individuals. While Angelica ravishes in her hysterical crying and witty line delivery, JM charms with his controlled tears and quiet gazes.

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Honestly,  this is my first time to watched an indie film so I’m not sure if I’m writing this review right. Anyway, I have watched only this film from the line-up of Cinema One Originals this year. I am glad That Thing Called Tadhana is one of them. The movie isn’t perfect, and there are lapses I am willing to overlook. The gentle moments and silent understanding between Mace and Anthony more than make up for it. They didn’t answer all the hanging questions on love, but they didn’t really need to. Also, what is admirable about the film is how it showcased Baguio and Sagada, you’ll actually invite your company, or probably your partner who is best watching this with you, to go to Baguio. The sea of clouds was fantastic and it would be great if the cinematography managed to capture the clouds while Mace releases her anguish over them. The movie shows what traveling can do to broken hearted folks and how it can develop two people together.

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That Thing Called Tadhana is a meet-cute type of movie, but with more realistic insights on how love affects us mere mortals. In its raw and unpolished takes it succeeds in making us not just see a character but rather a part of ourselves in the film.No heart is hard enough not be swayed or melted with a love so true that it consumes you whole. Mace and Anthony aren’t just movie characters—they’re your friend, officemate, classmate, sister, brother, neighbor, and heck, even you.

Unlike most indies, this one had wide mainstream audience appeal; which definitely a good step forward for Philippine Cinema. The story is completely relatable and brought to life with pithy witty words and delightful disarming performances. I think I want a sequel

Here are some #HUGOT lines from the movie that most, if not all, can relate to.

  1. “Para sa mga umibig, nasaktan, ngunit umibig pa rin. You know, tatanga-tanga.” At the beginning of the film, this lines appeared, which brings some truth in them. This suggests that the film is dedicated and made for those loved and lost, but chose to love again.
  1. Kung mahal mo, habulin mo, ipaglaban mo. Wag mong hintaying may magtulak sa kanya pabalik sa’yo. Hilahin mo. Hanggang kaya mo, wag kang bibitaw.” If you love someone, set them free, right? And if they come back, their yours? No, no. Mace believes that if you love someone, you run after them and fight for them. You don’t wait for destiny to push them back towards you. You pull them hard as long as you can.
  1. “Alam mo ‘yung sinabi ni F. Scott Fitzgerald? There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.” You will surely see this quote in a different light after watching this film.
  1. “Kasi ‘yung ganyang kalaking pagmamahal, ganyang overwhelming love, imposibleng walang pupuntahan eh. May mababalik sayong pagmamahal. Not necessarily sa taong pinagbigyan mo, pero sigurado ako, mababalik ‘yan sa’yo.” No matter how hard or how long it takes, chances are, you can always recover from a heartbreak. As Anthony said, it’s impossible for an overwhelming love to go to nowhere. That love will always come back to you. It may not necessarily come from the person whom you gave love to, but love will definitely be reciprocated.
  1. “Pano ba makalimot?”“Pwede kang uminom gabi gabi, pwede kang umiyak gabi gabi, pwede kang makipagdate kung kani-kanino, o pwede ka ring makahanap ng new love.” There are many ways to mend a broken heart. You can drown yourself with beer, you can cry every night, you can go out and meet other people, or you can find a new love.

For you guys, who haven’t see the film..here’s the trailer and the OST the film.

 Enjoy, and feel free to let me know if you enjoyed the movie! Happy love month!

 Disclaimer: All photos were from That Thing Called Tadhana’s Facebook Page.

Chew on this: 8 Cuts Burger Blends

Hi my lovely-awesome readers! It’s been a while since I wrote a food review and now I’m posting my first food review for this year! Hell yeah! If you’ve been following my blog by now it’s quite apparent that I’m a sucker for good food! Burgers and I have a weird relationship. Normally, I’d prefer pastas and pizzas over burgers. However, when I crave for burgers, I yearn for it really badly. Like a mad man who needs his doze of bacon at once!DSC01274

8 Cuts Burger Blends had been quite popular in the past months. There were lots of news that they serve really good burger. Naturally, when I got a whiff of this new burger joint, I immediately informed my fellow carnivores and decided to finally try it out for ourselves in their branch in Megamall.

8 Cuts Burger Blends is brought by the same people who gave us Burger Bar. What they showcase here is that you can create your own burger. You can choose what meat cut to use for your burger and what toppings to put. I think choosing your own meat is a clever idea. I have my preferences when I eat my burger. I like to have my burgers meaty and yet juicy. Plus, I like my burgers how I like my steak; medium with perfect grill marks. And I was quite happy with how my burger was made.

8 Cuts was very casual with the concrete floors and unpainted walls that really sent out that “I just want to enjoy my food” vibe. Still, everything worked for us and we were looking oh so forward to our burgers ahead. Most burger places allow you to customize the toppings of your burger, but did you know that there’s a restaurant where you can customize as well as what cut of beef your patty will be made of?

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Alright, I wouldn’t blabber much, so let me now share with you the “comfort food” we had!

The place was not packed when we got there. Luckily there was one vacant table which was perfect for us. Each table has utensils, napkins, and condiments on standby.

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My best friend and I decided to dine at 8 Cuts Burger Blends which gets its name from the eight different cuts of beef from which you can choose your burger patty. Each cut has its own characteristics to suit everyone’s preferences. You can completely customize your own burger since you have the option of choosing everything from the bun, toppings, and beef. Everything sounds so good it’s such a shame you can’t just load up everything on your burger.

First thing that you notice about the place is the open kitchen. It’s basically an aquarium where you can see how the staff prepares the food—a food factory line. Kinda neat seeing that your food is not tainted by a mischievous kitchen crew, right?

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The server let us study the menu, and came back when (he thought) we were ready to order. Honestly, the menu was easy to comprehend but we were overwhelmed with the choices; I wanted to have them all! In magazine format, their ultra-cool menu was an innovative approach that I had never seen before. The pages illustrates their five patty types, each formed from eight cuts of meat in various amounts and combinations (hence the name “8 Cuts Burger Blends”). I was so torn between ordering the Four Cheese (parmesan-crusted patty, cheddar, gruyere, mozzarella) or the Q-daddy (bacon slices, caramelized onions), that I just opted to Make-My-Own.

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If you’re not feeling creative with your meal, you can just choose from the Tributes which are their own mouth-watering burger creations. While I honestly wish I could have tried all of the burgers, Jen and I just went for their best-sellers which are Piggy and Q-Daddy.

While waiting for our food, I couldn’t help but take pictures of their cool interiors. The place has a very modern, hip feel to it. The ambiance is relaxing amidst its simplicity. The place is cozy and refreshing. I guess its rustic design is a welcome reprieve from the normal dining decor. I love the gigantic butcher’s knives all over the walls because it adds so much character to the space. The casual and energetic atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for getting your hands dirty and digging into some greasy, delicious grub.

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Cute set of knives hangin’ on the wall

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Not to mention the tempting smell and sizzle of patties that welcomed us. It was a perfect timing because we’re in the mood for some #yoloburgermeal. 8 Cuts is an ultimate burger heaven. For me, it’s like a patty lab where they create assorted burger patties and invent various meat blends. Take note of the word lab – not factory. Each order is hand-pressed to make sure that it won’t look and taste too processed.

Now, on to the main event — the burgers!! The burgers are made in a systematic, assembly line like fashion. The process begins with: The Grind. Fresh cuts of meat are forced down the grinding machine, where it is blended with the other cuts, to create 8 Cut’s signature blends. The ground meat is then seasoned and rolled into a ball, where it goes into; The Press. The meat is hand pressed, and formed into patty, and slapped on to; The Griddle and The Build station where the burgers are then assembled, from the condiments to the sauces, depending on what you ordered.

I had the had The Q-Daddy which is a quarter pounder Ox Blend patty of flank, oxtail and rib eye, with yellow cheddar, onion tangles, crisp bacon strips, iceberg lettuce, tomato, jalapeño ranch and sweetly spiced BBQ sauce, all on a Sesame Seed Bun.

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The Q-Daddy

This is a burger of excesses, I tell ‘ya! This pretty much has everything I look for in a Burger…Cheese, Onion strips and bacon, and two kinds of sauces in a single burger? I didn’t even know how to start eating this! But, it all works. I enjoyed this burger so much that from my first bite to the last, I was in pure, meaty nirvana. I just can’t have enough! This pretty much has everything I look for in a Burger…Bacon, Cheese, BBQ sauce, and Onion Rings. It’s like it was made specifically for me in mind! I loved the Q-Daddy, and this is most likely what I would order again.

My best friend, Jen had The Piggy which is a quarter pounder Beef Bomb Blend patty of the chuck and short rib with mozzarella, fried bacon strips, house-made bacon jam, lollo rossa, tomatoes, garlic aioli, all on a Sesame Seed Bun. For bacon lovers, this is heaven on a bun.

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The Piggy

According to my best friend, the whole burger was so enjoyable, it successfully satisfied her burger craving. And the beef bomb blend is the bomb! Succulent yet not too intense, it’s definitely a beef patty that can work, work, work with all kinds of toppings.

Unfortunately we were not able to try making our own burgers. Since we had to wait in line for quite a time, we were already so hungry the moment we were seated. We just tried some of  their own combinations and it was not as bad.

Just like any good Burger shop, 8 Cuts has a delicious selection of Milkshakes too. I ordered the Salted Caramel Milk shake (P150 12oz/P180 16oz) from the “Classic” Milkshake selection. It was delicious, with its rich creaminess hitting the sweet spot of my taste buds. Jen ordered the Chocolate Milk Shake(P150 12oz/P180 16oz). The creamy and not so sweet chocolate shake was something to have as a drink to balance the taste from the burger. And besides, American dining won’t be complete at all if milkshake is not available on the table right?

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Salted Caramel Milkshake
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Chocolate Milkshake

By the time we finished our meal, I thought I had already lost any skill at breathing!

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That’s me and my bestfriend Jen happy with our burgers! :)

Although I am not much of a burger person, I was able to appreciate the quality and taste of the burgers here in 8 Cuts. However, what took away some of the points was the lack of creativity in the presentation of each burger. Service was also exceptional. The service crew were very engaging and accommodating to our requests. But more importantly, our orders were served within committed delivery (10-15 minutes).

What about food, you say. Well, good food is a prerequisite in ANY restaurant. Without decent food, concept and service and ambience are nothing—although these three complete the overall dining experience. 8 Cuts’ food is undeniably good, it’s just that by sticking to their standard medium-well patties, they might be limiting their customers. Of course, we can always make a special request, but we must be informed beforehand!

I had a taste of all the burger we ordered, and I could definitely suggest this place guys! Burgers was AWESOME. It was succulent and you just can’t stop taking bite after bite. It was kinda hard to distinguished the taste from one another but good thing was my burger has these almost caramelized onions which was sweet and crispy chips on top adding more distinctive taste to my burger. But rest assured, all the burgers we had was great!

There’s so much going on in their burgers that there’s definitely no other way to eat them than to just go right for it, and get your hands dirty. The patties are so tasty and juicy that you should expect meat juice to run all over your hands while eating. I couldn’t actually taste the ingredients individually, but all the flavors just come together in every bite! Seriously, every mouthful was just an explosion of flavors! Throw your diet out the window because these burgers are not for the faint of heart.

Overall, my 8 Cuts Burger Blends experience is a pleasant one. Everything, from decors to menu, stuck to the concept, and for me theme is everything. Execution comes next, and at this 8 Cuts definitely did not fail. Indeed, good food are best consumed with friends. So that was it!

If you’re looking for food porn-worthy burgers, then head on over to 8 Cuts and “meat their blends.”

See you guys on my next Travel Food Trip! Where should I go next?

For more information about 8 Cuts Burger Blends, visit their WEBSITE, FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Ciao.

Movie Blog: Big Hero 6

It’s been a while since I posted a movie review, so are you ready??

I introduce to you, the most huggable robot ever!

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Normally, I don’t cover review for Disney films, but I decided to make an exception for Big Hero 6. It’s not because the film is outside of Disney’s comfort zone or that it offers anything out of the ordinary. It’s simply a really fun and entertaining superhero flick with a lot of heart. Big Hero 6 is based upon the Marvel series of the same name, but it has far more in common with a typical Disney production than it does with the comics it is based upon.

Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead!!!

The movie’s plot is nothing new, but it is enjoyable. Big Hero 6 is set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, a fusion of modern-day Tokyo and San Francisco. A 14-year old genius in robotics, Hiro Hamada, and his older brother, Tadashi, live at a coffee shop with their eccentric Aunt Cass. However, Hiro is more interested in participating in illegal bot fights than going to a ‘nerd school’ that will teach him things that he apparently already knows. All of this changes once Tadashi shows Hiro his university’s lab. At the lab Hiro meets his brother’s friends: GoGo Tomago, a no-nonsense, adrenaline-driven, developer of electromagnetics; Fred, the school mascot and resident comic-book expert/hippie otaku; Honey Lemon, a quirky chemistry expert; and Wasabi a heavily-built, slightly neurotic lasers expert. Hiro is also impressed by the esteemed Professor Callaghan, and Tadashi’s invention, the personal healthcare robot, Baymax.

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Hiro is with the in-crowd. The in-crowd in a science lab but they’re a fun bunch.
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This is Tadashi, Hiro’s brother. You don’t see much of him but he’s always there.
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Our protagonist ‘nerds’ before and after suiting up.

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As you go on with the movie, you actually get a bit more, you find out that he starts his own superhero group and call it Big Hero 6. But what you don’t know is that there’s so much more fun that happens in between all that.

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This is the bad guy. Yokai, the villain.

Final Battle

This film is one of the most visually interesting movies Disney has put out and you can totally believe that you are watching a live action movie. However, it is also a love letter to super hero comics and Japanese culture. In many ways, it is similar to Wreck it Ralph. Just as Wreck it Ralph is a tribute to retro video games and arcades, Big Hero 6 is homage to mecha shows. Being an adaptation of a Marvel comic, Big Hero 6 is also equipped with stylistic camerawork during action scenes and slick entertainment that goes well with its brisk pacing. The scenery of this film is quite gorgeous, with its mash up of San Franciscan details and a futuristic, fantasized Japan. San Fransokyo looks great: There are architectural designs of buildings that look quite identical to the skyline in Tokyo. At the same time, the cafes and streets are shaped and designed like of San Francisco. It’s brilliant.

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San Fransokyo. Just attempt to say it fast five times.

big-hero-6-progression-cass-cafe-3-copy-586x245 tumblr_inline_n8r413Xqna1qz4h4rSan-Fransokyo-City-Big-hero-6Every character in this movie is either relatable or lovable. Of course, both are great. Hiro is a relatable character, since he is young and at a stage to discover what he is meant to do. In addition, you get to see all the cool things that he can invent. You can’t help but root for him. As for the robotic nerds, Hiro has four teammates. Though you don’t know their personalities enough, they each have a character archetype that you can associate with easily. They’re all likable, but the film focuses more heavily on Hiro’s relationship with Baymax. Hopefully if Big Hero 6 ever gets a sequel, it should take the time to develop more layers for each supporting character.

Hiro_and_BaymaxOkay, now the real scene-stealer in this film is, you guessed it, Baymax. If I can give only one reason for you to go see Big Hero 6, it is to see Baymax be hilarious and cute and kickass and cute and cool and…Did I say cute? His chemistry with Hiro is what makes the film shine like gold. Everything about it works. There are definitely moments that will remind you of other film scenes. But here, Baymax is like this: Imagine WALL-E being transformed into a big marshmallow-like balloon that you can hug and bounce off of. Sometimes the simplest of designs are the best. . I mean, Baymax’s face is literally composed of two circles connected together by a straight horizontal line. In the end, the robot is the best thing about Big Hero 6.

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Baymax goes from adorably silly looking to cool better than most heroes.
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A big silly cuddly robot petting a big fat cuddly cat. Cute quota complete.
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At the end of the day, I think everyone could use a hug from this big guy.
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Yeah, everyone loves Baymax. And you will to by the end of the movie. Or maybe after watching him for 10 minutes.

The only possible criticism or nitpick on this movie is its story. Big Hero 6 falls a little short of the emotional depth and dazzling imagination of Wreck-It Ralph and is not as clever a take on the superhero genre as The Incredibles was, it still is well-made family entertainment. Compared to previous Disney entries, this one is very straightforward with little concepts or themes to talk about. Because of that, the film becomes more predictable. The narrative moves really fast, which is great, but it is also filled with countless entertaining action scenes or humor scenes that you might want some more exposition. You might think Big Hero 6 is a big game-changer in the type of story it’s telling, but as the film progresses more and more and it gets closer to its ending, you will realize that Big Hero 6 just wants to be a simplistic entertainment flick for the whole family. As a film on its own, the film works really well, and it does have a couple moments that are touching. However, for others who have been spoiled by how much deep content Frozen or Wreck-It Ralph had, this new one might feel like a step down for Disney. It just does what Disney confidently knows they are good at doing.

That being said, Big Hero 6 is filled with beautiful animation, endless humor, and memorable characters. It is Avengers for younger viewers. For the kids, there are enough fancy gadgets to not only hold their attention but to also inspire them to create something cool in the future. If anything, the film asks the younger folks to pursue whatever passion they have. Expect more people wanting to pursue engineering or robotics after this film’s release. In fact, expect some amazing genius to create a real-life Baymax. When that happens, I’m buying one immediately.

Overall, Big Hero 6 is a solid, if slightly generic, family film. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. From start to finish this was a fun movie. It’s a movie that all ages will enjoy. It’s not a kid’s movie it’s a movie for everyone. Kids will love it; adults will have fun watching it too. Its story is instantly familiar to anyone acquainted with superhero franchises. So is Big Hero 6 a complex, life-changing movie? No. Is it fun? Hell yeah. Even if certain aspects of the film seem a bit too familiar at times, Big Hero 6 is well-paced and so lovingly put together that it’s impossible not to smile while watching it. It has a playful agenda that is out to constantly tickle our hearts, and at the right moments, touch them. Finally, as I mentioned before, Baymax is the heart and soul of the film. He may just be one of the best Disney characters of all time.

Like all Marvel films, there’s an end-credits scene following the movie featuring a big cameo, but barely anyone seems to know to stick around for it. So, be sure to stick around for a great post-credits scene.

If you left the theater early, here’s what you missed…

Last chance to head back before spoilers!

POST-CREDIT SCENE: We see Fred in his house looking at a family portrait talking at his father and say he wishes he could have been better. Fred then touches the portrait, which opens up a secret room with gadgets and suits. We then see Stan Lee appear behind him and we learn he is Fred’s father. Stan Lee holds up a pair of spandex underwear and they find they share the same method of underwear use (front, back, inside out, then front to back). They hug, and Stan Lee says they have a lot of catching up to do. We then see a final credit that reads “and Stan Lee as Fred’s father”.

Also, here’s the film trailer. Yeah I liked it that much. The kid in me loved it.

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: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor park FINAL updatewebSUMMARY from GoodReads:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor…Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park…He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

REVIEW:

I first read Fangirl, then it was time to pick up the ‘big one’, Eleanor & Park. Would it live up to its tremendous hype? Was it even possible to make me ship a couple as strongly as I shipped Levi and Cath?

I just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. Since, I’ve been MIA for quite sometime and I haven’t done anything I open up this blog and begin typing. I don’t want the magic to fade in my mind at all before I capture at least a tiny speck of it here. And, because I am so enraptured and enthralled, perhaps you will also capture a tiny speck of the same magic emanating from my computer screen to yours.

Fangirl will always occupy a special place in my heart but Eleanor & Park has this slow, messy, beautiful, strange, broken, healing quality to it that sucked me in from the start. We’re presented with two teenage protagonists with issues and passions and insecurities of their own: the overweight and under-loved Eleanor, and the half-Korean, fully-music-obsessed Park.

Not wanting to give away any of the plot, my summary doesn’t do the book justice. Just suffice it to say it is way better than I am making it sound.

Technically, this is a Young Adult novel. This is a lovely, carefully observed novel, about the way in which we move from strangers to intimates, and vice versa—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Our so-called lovebirds meet on the school bus in Omaha in 1986. Eleanor is the new kid. She wears men’s clothes, she’s curvy, she has wild red hair, and she’s shark bait for the bullies. They do not get off to the greatest start. They’re both humiliated, cranky, and none too complimentary towards each other in their thoughts. Her mother has recently remarried, her step-father is a violent and controlling drunk. Eleanor has four younger siblings, and they all share a single small room in a tiny house in Omaha Nebraska.

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Park is half-Korean, sensitive to his oddity. Even his younger brother looks whiter than he does. He hides behind headphones and comic books on the noisy bus ride to school. The two of them meet when Park takes pity on the new girl, and offers to share his seat on the bus.

The story is told in two voices in alternating chapters so we get to know, and love, both Eleanor and Park equally. As their relationship develops and deepens we also get to know and appreciate Park’s parents, who play an important role in the story. Slowly, Rowell builds their budding friendship and growing attraction. Most of their interaction occurs on the bus at first, although they share English and History classes. It is the careful, delicate shifting of their relationship that is the book’s amazing talent. Awkwardly, they maintain a big space between them, studiously ignoring each other, but eventually finding things that connect them. Eleanor finds herself reading Park’s comics. Park notices the names of songs and bands written on her notebooks.

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These characters are placed in families that are also drawn with the same careful specificity. Eleanor’s home life bursts with the details of poverty–the safety pins that hold her clothes together, the cheap food her mother feeds them–beans and rice mostly. Park lives a more middle-class existence, with his own room, and only one brother.

Rowell seems to really “get” teenagers. Everything out of the mouths of these teens seemed authentic and true. It’s so sad as I read it because I suddenly realized that the horror that Eleanor lives in the pages of this book is likely the horror that some of the teens are currently actually living. I could have listened to Eleanor and Park talk about 80’s pop culture all the livelong day. I don’t even know what kind of shippy magic Rowell is wielding, but she made me swoon over a hand-holding scene.

Eleanor & Park also has one of the most shared, YA covers. It’s cute, and I’d seen a lot of people talk about how cute the story was, and how cute the romance was, and it was generally all rainbows and unicorns. Eleanor & Park is authentic and realistic, right down to the teenage awkwardness and self-awareness. The book captures the ways teens try to find themselves in the context of their families–what do they accept as normal, what do they chafe against. Exquisitely Rowell describes the growth of the relationship: the electric kick of the first time you hold hands with someone, the fear of being awkward at kissing, the fear of meeting the family, the way you become desperate for some privacy so you don’t have to enact your entire life in front of other people.

The plot? Well, there isn’t much, which is exactly right. It’s about how Eleanor and Park develop their relationship in the context of high school culture, and that is really enough. So Eleanor & Park is about the romance, yes, but it’s also about pushing through life, just trying to make it better in any way you can. The chapters are short and the writing style is amazing, which basically meant that I was reading while waiting in a coffee shop and eating, and giving up sleep in order to read some more. I was so invested in the characters within the first few chapters that I just had to know what they were going to do next.

This book is weird, and I mean that in the best way. Rowell has a way of putting together characters and descriptions and sentences like no one else would do. Sure, that might but some people off, but to me sinking into a Rowell novel is like sinking into a warm bath, and you just want to sigh and roll around and let all the loveliness was over you. Her descriptions are distinct because they’re honest.

Personally, I wish Rowell had dropped Eleanor’s body shame a bit. I mean, she’s got red hair and untamable curls, she’s the new kid, she’s wicked poor, gets her clothing from thrift store, and has to wear that to shreds–isn’t that enough? Did you have to make her obsess about feeling fat too? It’s not like she gets much food, even.

Basically, Rowell knows how to make me swoon, and she also knows how to make me feel. She has a way of understating really strong and dramatic things that somehow causes them to have more impact. And Eleanor. Perhaps this storyline veered a bit into melodrama, but my god, Eleanor’s horrible home situation and her nightmare of a stepfather made me ache. But it also made the tenderness and unconventionality of her relationship with Park all the more beautiful.

I loved the pace of their relationships, the safe havens they created for each other, and the healthiness of their love. It was so lovely to read about a teenage couple who seem to bring out so much good in each other. Equal parts heart-warmingly cute and heart-breakingly brutal, Eleanor & Park is kind of like that eclectic mixed tape that you need to listen to at just the right time in your life, and it will feel like it’s speaking directly to you.

With “Eleanor & Park” Rowell reminded me of what it was like to be 16 again. From insecurity ugly face and oppressive gut feeling on the first day of school, to ecstasy by making a whole night disappear with long telephone conversations about everything and nothing. It took me a single chapter, and I found myself suddenly in both forgotten and repressed teenage world again.

Here are some quotes from the book which I love. No spoilers, just hand-holding…

“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

“The first time he’d held her hand, it felt so good that it crowded out all the bad things. It felt better than anything had ever hurt.”

“Ever since the first day they’d met, Eleanor was always seeing him in unexpected places. It was like their lives were overlapping lines, like they had their own gravity. Usually, that serendipity felt like the nicest thing the universe had ever done for her.”

“Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

As for the ending, it’s good. I won’t say whether it ends happily or tragically- no spoilers policy and all that- but it fits the book. While it’s clearly understandable, there’s just the right amount of ambiguity, and it’s really just perfect.

It’s a good book. It’s a written romance that everyone has experienced. Not only is this story directed at teens, adults will fall in love with it as well simply because we were all teenagers once. It’s worth the read. This is the type of book where readers will want curl up on my couch and devour it because everything in this story is real; teens and adults know what it’s liked to be love, to be bullied, to feel scared, and to feel that things seem hopeless.

However, this story also shows what it’s like to be crazy happy. This books has managed to transform me into the 16 year old girl I was knew and it was because of her that I feel that Eleanor and Park will have the happy ending that we all dream of.

Eleanor & Park is a novel that you’ll read and understand why people love it so much, even if it’s not your cup of tea.

What did you all think? If you’ve read this wonderful book, please share your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, if you haven’t read this book, you can find out more about Rainbow Rowell here:

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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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