2012 Reading challenge: DONE

Life without books? Not gonna happen!:-)

Last week, I gave myself a big pat on the back for having reached my Goodreads challenge 2012 to read 20 books. And it’s only October! hence, I’m pushing for ten more. Oh, the thrill of reading! I’m just amused with the selection I’ve read so far this year because I truly think that they are an eclectic mix. I started the year bawling my eyes out with Jonathan Safran Foer ‘s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and read Neverwhere, my first Neil Geiman. Pretty heavy stuff there, I’m telling you. I then delved right into the world of Panem, poisonous berries, Haymitch, Katniss Everdeen, the boy with the bread  and the rest of Survivor: North Korea Edition that is the Hunger Games trilogy.

2012 paved the way for a more fruitful spiritual journey for me as well. I’ve gotten to know more about Jesus Christ and how I’m just so grateful having him in my life. Truly priceless reads for me this year are the books, ” If God is Good, why do we hurt?” and  HOW GOOD is good enough? I cannot thank my sister and her mom in law enough for giving me those little books with tremendous amount of wisdom to impart. Now more than ever, I’ve realized and let me share one of the most beautiful quotes I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading in this lifetime: ” When it comes to goodness and evil, present suffering and eternal joy… the first Word, and the last, is Jesus.” Utterly profound, isn’t it? Along with this genre, my GBF (gay best friend) finally succeeded in making me read Frank Perreti. Christian fiction at its finest, I really enjoyed reading In This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Perreti’s books are plausible enough that you as a reader can affirm that the things he wrote are real and happening in our daily lives. I like how he represented the concept of faith and demons. I just felt that I read his books at the right time in my life. I certainly would recommend them if you haven’t read the 2 that I mentioned.

Moving along, please do not judge me as I confessed that yes, I did read (gasp!) The Fifty Shades of Grey series, well just the book 1 and 2. I couldn’t bring myself to read the 3rd book just because I find the series, ridiculously trashy.  I apologize for the word, Christian Grey fans. Don’t get me wrong, I think their love story was sweet but It was annoyingly sweet for my taste. Excuse me while I gag. Let’s not even go to the supposedly movie adaptation of the series. For the love of bacon, please!

The next book I read was Unbroken. And my golly, wow! It is arguably the best one I’ve read this year. The author, Laura Hillenbrand did her research for this non fiction, and she did it well. Very well, as a matter of fact. The story of Louis Zamperini is something I will remember for a really long time. Truly inspiring and extremely heartfelt, this is one book that I felt so lucky to have read it, because seriously, you’re missing out if you haven’t. I read Ellie Weisel’s Night right after Unbroken. I suddenly became really interested in war drama, reading additional research about Hitler, POW’s, Japan and WW II. How my heart was broken knowing the gas chamber existed, what a tragedy for humanity.

While reading about adversities, I decided to read my first Ernest Hemingway novel as well. I have to say, The old man and the sea didn’t quite live to my expectations. Before I go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson is also a worthy read. I liked the plot of this thriller and thought that it was fast paced. When Tess Gerritsen says it’s the best debut novel she’s read, believe her. I did and was not disappointed.

Another book I read was Between Summer’s longing and Winter’s end, just because I will always have a thing with swedish crime novels. I also read, Nicole KraussThe History of Love. Ms. Krauss is Safran Foer’s wife and to say that their writings are a bit the same is pretty obvious. The novel has multiple winning moments, in fairness, but it was in fact dragging. The last book that completed my challenge was a National Book Award finalist. Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary lives in North Korea. I am aware that I have an obsession about the dysfunctional and so unimaginably brainwashed prison that is NK. Such a harrowing eye opener, did you know that dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea? Yet, this non fiction was so incredibly written and remarkably unforgettable that it still gave me hope that someday, those poor souls trapped in there will be enlightened with the truth and own the freedom they deserve. How it will happen? I don’t know, I can only pray for them.

So there you go. 20 books so far. Not bad, considering I live a crazy life in the concrete jungle. I’m on my 21st book, CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters which scares me, to be honest. And that would be in another blog. Happy reading for now, fellow bookworms!:-)

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Broadway: JERSEY BOYS

This has been long overdue for me and my friends, but just last week we finally saw the Tony award winning musical, Jersey Boys. I was with a smile the entire show, it really was very entertaining. Even if you’re not familiar with their music, just the beat and the happy vibe of the musical are enough to keep the audience singing and even dancing along with the cast.

Winner of the 2006 Tony Award for Best Musical, Jersey Boys tells the story of how Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons went from being unknown New Jersey kids to international pop superstars. The show features over 30 beautifully sung tunes, including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” I certainly recommend this show, for 2 hours and a half, you get non stop of terrific entertainment! I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, Broadway, I love you! See you next time at The Book of Mormon!:-)

My Playbill of this terrific musical!

Hike. Yoga. Wine.

I am not exactly the most outdoorsy person in the world, so three weekends ago was indeed, a treat! My co worker, Ana Banana dragged me to go hiking, yoga, and wine tasting. She found a deal online and since she’s never without an activity during weekends, she invited me to come along. I’ve never gone hiking before and true to my New year’s resolution to try new things, I said yes. Needless to say, it was really tiring. It was a 6 mile hike but it was worth it! Just to be able to commune with nature is awesome in itself. Living in busy NYC, when do we even get to do things like hiking? seldom. And to do yoga on top of the mountains? it was, for lack of a better word, amazing! I just started with Vinyasa and Bikram yoga, so having done it in open air was really a memorable experience. We capped the afternoon off with a little wine tasting, and who doesn’t love wine?

I am really pleased that I did the hike, yoga, wine day with my friend. It is so refreshing to breakaway from the monotomy of everyday life and just be free. Because certainly, there will be days when I can no longer hike and do yoga, I’m just happy that it wasn’t that day.:-)

Ana and I, ready for our al fresco yoga class!

loving yoga now, I should have done it when i was younger:-)

wine tasting at Palaia Vineyard

🙂

Obsessed: The Newsroom

Suddenly it’s Christmas! Not only is Breaking Bad back on its final season, but  another awesome series is keeping me glued to the telly on sunday nights. From the brilliant mind of Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom is just as intense as it is freaking compelling! Obviously thought provoking, it tackles on mostly political issues that shaped current events, the show tries to depict the different types of news and how a network or a certain newsroom presents it to the world. With an amusing glimpse of just how chaotic the behind the scenes can be.

It goes without saying that the script is very Sorkin. Engaging, quick witted, smart and did I say sarcastic? The dialogues are intelligent, well written and to say the least, entertaining. I like how they show the viewers the importance of  real journalism, the essence of accurate news reporting. This show is really a promising drama, only 5 episodes under their belt and they’ve garnered quite a strong audience already, they were renewed for a 2nd season. Yes to that! I just hope that the writing and the material will be consistent.

Leading the cast is Jeff Daniels, as the headstrong, bullshit intolerant Will McAvoy. He’s really great as the main character. The rest of the ensemble is an amazing cast of known and unknown actors. They are characters in their own rights, with much love to Sam Waterston, his acting is unquestionable. I got to say that there are tons of great shows out there but none of them got me so hooked like the Newsroom, I had to have  HBO activated. Trust me, it is that awesome. If you need more convincing, watch the pilot and dare to tell me otherwise. Thank you Aaron Sorkin, sunday nights are cool again!

ONCE

One of the very best things to do in New York City is to watch a Broadway show. NYC’s theatre district is the mecca of everything and anything Broadway. And once you find someone who loves Broadway as much as you do, hold on to that someone. Because not everyone will love it. 2 hours and a half of pricey musicals may not sound interesting to other people, others find it a bore even. I’m just glad that my sister Van is a fan, but she lives in Washington so we don’t watch it together. She just saw the Pacific Northwest production of the classic, Les’ Miserables and she absolutely loved it. I know, i’m jealous. Here in NY, me  and my GBF (gay best friend) Richard, are big fans of Broadway musicals. There is something so thrilling to see it live, the feel of the theatre and just the magic that’s happening right before your eyes. Yes, it’s pricey but hey, that’s what TKS is for!

Richard and I have made a mid year resolution to watch a broadway musical every month. We’ve made a list of which shows to watch first and so we originally chose Rock of Ages or Jersey Boys, then Book of Mormon and Once. But upon watching the coverage of 2012 Tony Awards, we were just so intrigued with the new musical, Once. It’s based on the Academy Award-winning film, about the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music. Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. So basically, Once was now our priority. And yesterday, we saw it live on broadway. WOW.

It was absolutely one of the most beautiful musicals I have ever seen and will ever see in this lifetime. It was romantic and beautiful in every sense of the word. The music is just authentic, raw and full of emotion. It is heartfelt and deeply moving. One can’t help but be enthralled. It’s a profound love story. Falling Slowly, their main track won an Oscar for best original song, it’s written by Glen Hansard ( who is an awesome musician ), and Marketa Irglova. Both also starred in the movie. Hearing it live on broadway was just pure joy!

The cast of the musical is relatively small, but each shine in their portrayals. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti are a compelling pair. These two actors are beyond talented. Both were nominated for a Tony, with Steve wining it for best actor in a leading role in a musical, which he so deserved. I’m geeking out about this for 3 weeks now, the soundtrack has been on repeat as well. And much to my horror, I have yet to see the movie. But for now, I still have  a hangover from this intensely real and incredibly beautiful musical. I had goosebumps for the most part of the show, it was that surreal. This is why I love Broadway, it’s pure exhilaration and ecstasy!

the playbill, so thrilled!

LOVE

Will watch it again!

TO ROME WITH LOVE

Woody Allen, in my opinion, is dysfunctional and creepy. Yet, I like his movies. Apart from his revolting personal relationship, he’s undeniably a gifted writer and director. Having seen Annie Hall, 3 times and  Midnight in Paris, approximately 10 times, it’s clear that I’m a fan of his work. It’s been noted that he makes only one  movie per year and this year, that movie is To Rome with Love. There have been mix reviews about his latest movie, some say it’s a joke and his worst. Others have vouched that it’s classic Woody. Engaging, witty, a tad sarcastic, and funny.

I don’t pretend that I’m a movie critic, but I like this movie. I think it’s refreshing, light and amusing. The script is smart and spontaneous. It’s witty and not cheesy. Woody is in the movie  as well and was it just me or weren’t his lines too personal? it’s really entertaining. He was born a comedian, no one will argue that. And the casting was pleasantly eclectic. Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni and the director himself were naturally hilarious. So if you can forget for 2 hours the fact that Woody Allen is a DOM, I would certainly recommend this one.

UNBROKEN

Instantly, one of my favorite books!

You know you’ve read a damn great book, if after a week, you’re still thinking about it. Such is the case with Unbroken. How do I start? Louie Zamperini is the heart and soul of this compelling non fiction. His story is heartbreaking yet outstandingly inspiring. It’s a beautiful story of hope, resilience and redemption. It’s beautiful, in the truest sense of the word. Poised to be an Olympic runner, his life was forever altered during WWII.

The next paragraph is an excerpt from Laura Hillenbrand, the author of this larger than life book.

On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.

Save the goosebumps for now, there will be more, I promised. On that fateful day, unfolds a story, so incomprehensibly devastating. Literally, the pages turned by themselves. You think you know adversity? try reading Louie’s story. Never have I been so blown away by a non fiction! His spirit is beyond admirable. It will make you ponder on what war really means, and yes, this book really made me question the depth of the evilness of humanity. It’s really horrifying what the veterans had to go through. Yes, I was traumatized of Louise’s unimaginable horror as a POW. And yet, I was gripped by his will to survive, and the rest of all the POW’s will to survive. This is a story of love for the country and for their families. And of personal triumph. That in the end, with the grace of the Lord, everything will be alright. Unbroken also confirmed a personal belief of mine that time heals nothing. Time heals no damn thing, you know what heals? Forgiveness! and Louie Zamperini is a concise manifestation of my belief.

God bless also the brilliance of Laura Hillenbrand. Holy smoke, she can write! Her research is obviously unquestionable. She writes from her heart and that clearly resonates as evidenced by this book. I’ve written her a personal thank you note message ( stalker alert:-)) simply because, I was compelled. The way she presented Louise Zamperini’s journey is a gift to mankind. My family and I are going through a colossal adversity right now, yet I draw strength from God, my family and yes, from this non fiction. I ask myself, you think you know adversity? and I know the answer. My friends are mandated to read this gem of a book, I cannot bear the thought that they will miss this one.

Once in a while, we need an inspiration most especially if we’re going through tough times and believe me, you will feel the overwhelming amount of hope in Unbroken. Do yourself a favor and read it. It will break your heart but in the end, it will cleanse it as well. That’s just about the cheesiest thing I wrote for this blog, but what the heck.

Broadway: SPIDER-MAN

A month ago, my friends and I went to see Spiderman: Turn off the dark, the musical. It wasn’t really our first choice, my friends wanted to see The Lionking, and I wanted to see Once, but since I saw the former already, we decided on Spiderman. If you recall, it garnered a ton of controversies during their early production. There have been rumors about injuries in the set and budget overrun. After watching the broadway musical, I now understood the budget overrun. Because they just about change sets every 10 minutes. It was a good show, but not the greatest, that’s for sure. I’m kinda impressed with their production. The first parts were a tad too boring, but as Peter Parker the character evolved, the show became more interesting. Not to mention the music was great! It’s very Bono. The music was my favorite part. Here are the pics.

the poster

outside Foxwoods Theater, home of the musical.

@ Times Square:-)

so NYC, the hotdog is a classic:-)

Weekend BBQ

Last saturday, my friends and I were in Jersey to celebrate our friend, Sujie’s birthday. Sujie is definitely one of the nicest people I know, she is sweet and thoughtful. She also is a budding food network star. It was a BBQ party, to basically kick off summer. As expected, Sujie prepared most of the food. I often kid her that she will soon be on food network. She made everything, from the burgers, to the chicken kebabs. She also has her own make your own taco station. But of course, my favorite was the dessert. Apart from the many many cakes she had, she made her own vanilla cream pudding with fresh strawberries. It was so good, I had seconds and thirds. It really can give magnolia bakery’s banana cream pudding, a serious competition.

The cutest part about her party was meeting Oli. Oli is her stepdad’s dog. She is a menace, in the cutest way. You know how dogs are, they’d do anything for food and oli is not an exemption, how she threatens to bark if a chicken kebab is not in her mouth in 5 seconds is hilarious because she is so tiny. Her demands are really irresistible. We had a lot of fun during the party, most especially in the grilling area. We took turns grilling everything from zucchinis, hotdogs, burgers and sweet corns. It really was cool and laid-back, just like Sujie’s personality. Before I post some of the pics, forgive my appearance, my eye bags are so clear due to the fact that I didn’t sleep at all the night before. For a reason that’s kinda embarrassing to divulge, ok, I was up all night finishing Fifty shades darker. There, I’ve said it. Please don’t roll your eyes.:-)

love all the food! so summer!

Jessica, trying not to burn the corn.haha

time for the cake!:-)

such a nice couple:-)

a group shot with the birthday girl!

me and oli, the little prince.

he’s eyeing the chicken kebab!

in his far away look, Lord, I really need a dog. please.:-)

Mischief Managed!

Last week, I crossed out one item from my 30 things to do before 30 list. As I blog about this, I am still in glee. The happiness still resonates to this day, just because I’m kinda nerdy like that. Together with my sister and her hubby, I visited The Wizarding World Of Harry Freaking Potter! As a fan, it can only be described as magical, it really would take you back on your years and years of relationship with the whole series. It was truly splendid! I’m not even sure if I shed a tear or two.

At the first sip of a cold butterbeer, I am magically transported to that certain day at Hogsmeade. LOL And I just have to get my own wand too, only because I feel like a muggle if I don’t own one. I’m just so thrilled to be inside Dumbledore‘s office. How my heart was beating so fast at the sights of Hogwarts Express, the sorting hat, Honeydukes, the marauder’s map, Every Flavour Beans, The Daily Prophet, even a fake hippogriff and Zonkos to name a few, plus their bathroom has moaning myrtle on full blast! how freaking amazing! It really was heaven for any true blue HP fan. Thank you, JK Rowling! I forgive you now for killing Fred’s character and you will always be on top of my list of people I want to meet. I solemnly swear I’m up to no good, Mischief Managed!:-)

Happiness! like the fact that my hair in this pic was kinda messy, just like Hermoine.ha!:-)

Please Respect the Spell Limits! woohoo!

as a fan, one can’t help but scream at the sight of this!

Inside The forbidden Journey, ecstasy!:-)

trying on a broomstick.:-)

The marauder’s map!

Sirius Black, one of my favorite characters in the whole series.

with Godric Gryffindor’s sword!:-)

be still, my fatty heart!:-)

LOVE

my sis and her hubby. thanks a bunch guys, for putting up with my screams! LOL

Team Gryffindor!

somewhere inside is a fake buck beak, but I was still psyched!

chocolate covered frog, for Ronald Weasley!

every flavor beans!tee hee!:-)

had to drink it again, just because:-)

It really was so much fun, to see Hogsmeade and a bit of Hogwarts come to life, all those years and beautiful memories I had while reading the series. Just pure joy and ecstasy! Albeit, the theme park was certainly very kid friendly because they didn’t give much focus on the Dark parts like there were no sights of He-who-must-not-be-named or Horcruxes or other dark characters, and there are so many stuff they didn’t include, still it was more than any HP fan could ask for. I can’t wait t be back!