Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

I actually read “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Gilbraith (aka. J.K. Rowling) last May, so this is a post that has been on my Drafts folder for far too long. I’ve been reading a couple of books these past months, but I’m still way behind my Reading Challenge goal for this year. Hopefully, I’ll catch up on my list and you’ll read more reviews soon.

The Cuckoo's Calling Book

The Blurb

After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, thelegendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.

You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.

Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

*From Amazon

My thoughts

One of the reasons I read this book is because of the hype it received when it was revealed the author was actually J.K. Rowling writing under a pseudonym. Did you know, there were reports that before the news came out, several publishers actually turned it down, and that the book only sold 1500 copies? After the revelation, sales rose by A LOT!

Some reviews I’ve read said it’s “well-written, but quiet”, and I have to agree by the quiet part! It was such a slow read for me that it took me almost a month to finish it. I’d read it for a couple of minutes before going to bed, and it literally put me to sleep. I think J.K. Rowling went for the Agatha Christie vibe here, I can see some resemblance in the writing. But man! This book is just so…SLOW! Halfway through it, I’d figured out who the culprit was, and I kept thinking that some of the events leading up to the ending were really not necessary.

But the thing that J.K. Rowling does best is giving such clear and vivid descriptions about her characters and the locations. By the end of the book, I could envision who Cormoran Strike and Lula would be, should it ever end up being turned into a movie. And I also wanted to know more about Coromoran’s back story, if he and his assistant would end up together.

Verdict

If you’re a J.K. Rowling fan and was expecting something like Harry Potter, you won’t find that same magic here. Although it was a good effort, to me, the book really wasn’t that good. If the publishers had not revealed who the real author was, this wouldn’t have sold as many units as it has.

But obviously, a LOT of other people have a different opinion (or maybe the publishers just want to make more money), because the second book on this series was released just recently. Reviews say “The Silkworm” is much better than this first book, so I’ll probably go ahead and read that one too, just to see if the reviews are true.

Read this book when You’ve drunk a lot of coffee, and you can’t sleep. This book is guaranteed to make you doze off.

Have you read “The Cuckoo’s Calling”? What did you think about it? Sound off on the comments section or email me. I’d be happy to discuss this with you!

I’m Still Here

Hey there! Just a note to let you know that I’m still alive, I’m still here and still figuring out how to work WordPress. A couple of months ago, I moved from Blogger to WordPress, and I was so psyched to get all these changes going and on to this new site. Unfortunately, I only managed a couple of posts before my momentum ran out. There I was thinking of all these great things I wanted to do for the blog: the design, the widgets, the pictures, posts, etc. I spent hours and hours on Pinterest, on many design blogs, and read up on blog tips from popular websites, I was even listening to podcasts about blogging. In the end, I think I got overwhelmed with all the choices I had to make that I just decided to stop — stop pinning design ideas, stop tinkering with these cool widgets on WP, stop listening to podcasts, I even stopped drafting posts.

Blogging

So it’s been almost a month now of no posts here. And I’m alright with that. This long break in writing is helping me to think about which way this blog will go. You see, I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years, and I think it’s time the blog takes on a slightly new direction. There have been a lot of opportunities for me and this blog these past couple of years that I’ve ignored, which I think I should try to explore soon. But for now, I pause to rethink, refocus, rejuvenate and hopefully, come up with something good. I hope to share this with you soon!

Being Whole vs. Being Happy

Happy Friday! Here’s something I found while looking around the web. It’s very philosophical and at first you may not agree with it, but something about it rings true.

“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

–Hugh MacKay, The Good Life

What do you think? Be Happy or Be Whole?

Making Mealtimes Special: Put Your Phone Down

On one of our dinner dates, I was looking around the restaurant and noticed that in more than half of all the tables, most people were looking down at their phones. I thought it was such a sad thing for people to find their phones more interesting than the person who was seated right there in front of them. I told JP (who himself was playing a game on his mobile) about my observation. Just for kicks, I suggested, that we put away our phones, and just talk until we finish our dinner.

Keep Calm and Put Your Phone DownSince then, we’ve been consciously doing it every time we’re seated for a meal. The only time we take it out is when either of us wants to take a picture of our food (mostly, that’s me, before eating) or when we need to answer a call (mostly, him). It was quite difficult to part with our phones in the beginning, and to be honest there are still some instances we forget, so one of us needs to remind the other to stop looking at his/her phone and just focus on our meal.

Whenever I’m tempted to whip out my phone during a meal, I ask myself a couple of questions first. So far, it’s helped wean me off my clinginess to my mobile. Maybe it can help you too:

1) Instagram: Take a picture of your food, that’s fine. But do you really think anyone cares what you’re having for your meal right now? Why not share it later, so you can add a story or a review, rather than just put #foodporn on your caption.

2) Twitter: Do you really have to know the latest news right now? Admit it, most of who you follow are celebrities. Will there be any difference if you take a look later?

3) Games: Seriously, is whoever you’re dining with that boring that you have to play a game in order to entertain yourself?

4) Email: If it’s a work-related email, I’m pretty much sure it can wait until later. If there is an urgent issue at work, people will CALL you, so resist the urge to check your email every few minutes. And by the way, most of your personal emails (ie. Yahoo, Gmail) are Ads and Promos, anyway, do you really want to waste your time scrolling through those?

5) Facebook: So you want to take a look at your friends’ latest status update. Can’t this wait? Do you really need to know who’s checked in where, what your friend is ranting about right now, or what your cousin’s OOTD is? Do you need to know about it right at this very minute, ie. will it bring a major change in your life?

If you answer YES to any of the questions (and I think it’ll be really hard to do), then go ahead and spend the entire meal hunched over your phone, totally ignoring whoever is seated across the table from you.

But otherwise, put your phone down, look at your companion, and TALK. Maybe it’s corny to say, but just BE PRESENT. Those thoughts you wanted to tweet about or post in your FB wall? Say it. Say it to your friend, your husband, your sibling, whoever is there with you at that meal. Tell them about it. It’s better than the 140 character limit, and you won’t be one of those annoying people who have very long posts in FB. You’ll also have instant feedback, instead of waiting for the comments or the “Likes” come in (and by the way, is “Like” really a conversation?).

Of course, there are times when there are lulls in mine and JP’s conversations. You know that point when you’ve talked about a LOT of things already, and you run out of things to say? Sometimes, I have the urge to reach for my phone, but then I remember the person across the table deserves my full attention. It doesn’t matter if we’re not talking, what’s wrong with silence, anyway? The important thing is we’re there, present for each other. And that’s something that no filtered photo, no status update, no tweet can ever replace.

Try it, guys! Put your phone down during a meal. Then tell me (in the comments section) if you found it hard to keep your hands off your mobile. I think it will be real hard at first, but I think soon enough, you’ll be able to sit down and just EAT and TALK without the constant barrage of information we get from our phones.

 

What Advice Would You Give a College Freshman?

I was an sophomore in college when Gremlin #1 was born. Time flies by so fast, that this boy (I should say, “young man”) is now going to college. College?! What? How can this be? Seems like it was just yesterday I was changing his diapers and wiping snot off his face. Haha. Seriously, I feel so old.

Our First College Boy

Gremlin #1 through the years. How time flies!

 

While I am happy that our boy, er…young man is moving on to get his degree, I’m anxious about how he’s going to handle college life. As an aunt, I feel like it’s my duty to give some advice, based on my own college experience. So here goes:

A. Academics

1) There is no way around this. You have to study, study hard and study a lot.Make sure to read your books and your notes before going to class. Professors have a habit of giving surprise quizzes and recitation.

2) Participate in class. Raise your hand, ask questions. Make sure the teacher remembers you (in a good way).

3) Submit your papers on time, and make sure the content is good (you researched very well), your grammar, spelling and punctuation is correct. Make sure to submit clean reports, not dirty ones! Do NOT copy from Wikipedia or other sites. If you are using these, cite them as your sources. Do NOT plagiarize someone else’s work.

4) ALWAYS attend your class. Attendance will always affect your grade.

5) If it is a group project, make sure to contribute and help your groupmates.

6) Be nice to your professor.

7) NEVER ever cheat in Exams. That’s just plain wrong.

B. Outside of class

1) Join an organization or two (or three). Join the official org of your course. Your orgmates will also be your classmates, so you can talk to them there, ask for any tips about your subjects, etc.

2) Grades first,before Orgs!

3) Whatever anyone says, NEVER join a fraternity. (Apologies to those who are in a fraternity. I feel that the negative news about fraternities in the Philippines just outweigh any positive ones, so I will not recommend joining one).

C. Social Life

1) Make new good friends. Some of these friends will be your friends even after college.

2) There will be kids that are “cool”, ie. Rich, pretty, “sikat”(popular). You can befriend them, but understand that their lifestyle will be different than yours. You are NOT rich like them. So be careful. If they want to gimik in a bar or resto that is expensive, and you don’t have money, don’t go. If they tell you to party with them and you have school the next day, DONT go with them.

3) There will be times you’re going to get home late, or even spend the night with your friends (because of traffic, or project work you have to finish). Always let your parents know where you are and who you’re with. You have seen the news. There are kids who meet accidents, get robbed, etc.

4) It’s inevitable that you’re going to be exposed to the following — drinking, smoking, sex(!) and drugs (well, it has to be said, right?). Please remember the following: a) You are just 16(as of this writing), even if you’re in college, you are underaged. You are not yet an adult. b) You have studied the effects of drinking, smoking and drugs and teen pregnancy. You have seen it with your own eyes. Why would you even try? c) If your “friends” insist you try them even if you have said “No”, they are NOT your friends. In which case, stay away from them.

So there it is. My “Tita’s Guide to College”.  Lengthy post notwithstanding, I think college is really a great time to discover one’s self. If you make the right choices (with learning being the top priority), you can get your degree and have fun along the way. Some people view college as a license to do more of the things they did in high school, with less oversight from their parents ie. more opportunity to party, to hang out with friends.

I think you have to view college as a chance for you to show your parents that you can be a responsible adult. Understand that in graduating and getting your degree, it’s not only YOUR dreams you’re working towards, but you’ve already made your parents dreams come true. So, young man, are you ready for the really big school?”

Collage Monday: Random Eats in Singapore

Happy Monday! Today’s collage is all about food! In the early part of this year, JP and I have been trying different restaurants around Singapore. These pictures have been stored in my computer for a while, so I thought I’d share them today with you. The food cost a little bit more than the usual fare at the hawker centers, but they are fairly reasonable for the quality and the taste. They’re all good!

Random Eats in Singapore

1-2 MadNest – This is located along East Coast Road, and their menu is a mix, from different culinary regions. We visited this twice in one month, because JP and I really liked their Green Mango Salad. Their Green Curry with Chicken is also good. The servings are generous for the price, which is also reasonable.

The place wasn’t full when we visited (on a Sunday afternoon), and I hope they get more customers. I’m promoting it for selfish reasons, because I want them to stay open so we can always have our Thai food fix. So if you’re around the East side of Singapore, please try to visit!

3-4 Skinny Pizza — I don’t feel as guilty when I eat their pizza as much as when I eat Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Their pizza crust is so thin, flaky and crunch. Plus, it’s not oily, and they are quite generous with the veggies. When we visited a couple of weeks ago, we had the ham and cheese pizza plus truffle fries. Now, the truffle fries, I feel guilty about. But it is so GOOD! As I always say, whoever invented truffle fries deserves a place in heaven!

5-6 British Hainan — This restaurant is a couple of minutes’ walk from our house. It’s tucked in a quiet street behind the HDB complex near our place. JP actually went here at lunch time, after his gym session. He was raving about their roast chicken, so I went along for dinner. This time he also ordered their strawberry salad, which was light and tasty. Apart from the food, the place is decorated with vintage furniture, which

7,8,9 Brekko Cafe — We had brunch with our friends here one Sunday. This is located in Holland Village, quite far from our flat, but easily accessible via the MRT. I really liked what I ordered (salmon on bagel). JP had the “Brekkie in a Pan”, eggs, sausage and tomatoes served hot from the pan. Their coffee (decaf for me) is also good.

Ok, I’m getting hungry just looking at this. I hope that sets you off on a good start for the week. Happy Monday, folks

Baked: Pan de Sal

One of the things I miss while living in Singapore is pan de sal. It is one of those things that’s a staple in the Filipino breakfast. When we were kids, someone would wake up early to buy a paper bag of it from the neighborhood bakery. My favorite way of eating pan de sal is dipping it into a hot cup of Milo, and as I grew up, a hot cup of coffee.

Here in Singapore, JP and I would go to Lucky Plaza  to get our pan de sal fix. It’s quite expensive at SGD 2 for 3 pieces. That’s more than Php 60. That’s a LOT of pan de sal back home already! So one Saturday afternoon, I tried to make it at home. I searched for a good recipe and video for help, and this one from Youtube seemed easy enough (the accent is just a little annoying, though).

It’s amazing how few ingredients you need to make pan de sal.

Pan De Sal Ingredients

It does take a while to make. I had to wait for the yeast to bubble (15 mins), the dough to rise (about 1 hour), after cutting into small pieces, wait for the dough to rise again (45mins-1 hour), plus the baking itself (10-15 mins).

The first batch came out very pale, but they tasted just like the pan de sal I’m used to.

Pale Pan De Sal

For the next batch, I rolled the pieces of dough onto bread crumbs, and that made the color darker, which is how we really want pan de sal to look.

Well Cooked Pan De Sal

I now have a great appreciation for those bakers who wake up so early in the morning to make bread. Seriously, it’s a tough thing to make, kneading the dough gives your arm a good workout, plus you really have to be patient with all the waiting. Would I make it again? Definitely! Now that I know how, I’ll probably make it more often, that’ll probably save us a trip to the city.

Tulipmania in Singapore

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve written here. I’m stuck in this blogging funk where I just like to visit other blogs and try to get some inspiration, hoping something will bring back my enthusiasm for writing. Plus this whole blog makeover is taking a while to finish. I can’t seem to make up my mind on how I want it to look, so this space is a little “blah” at the moment.

But I think any space will look better with flowers, ‘no? Let me show you a couple of pictures from our visit to the Tulipmania Exhibit at the Flower Dome last May. We went to the Gardens by the Bay in the morning, but it was a very hot day outside,  so it was a relief when we entered the Flower Dome. TulipMania View from Above

We checked out the other plant displays before going down to the tulip display area, like the cactus section.

Cactus Garden at the Flower Dome

And the Bottle Trees section..

Bottle Trees at Flower Dome

There were also other flower sections, but the center of attention that day really was the massive display of tulips! Here are some of my favorites.

Pink and Red Tulips

Pink Tulips, mixed in with a little red. LOVE it!

Pink and Orange Tulips

Pink and Orange, a lovely combination

These smaller ones are also pretty

These small ones are also pretty

Dainty tulips

And these yellow fully bloomed tulips are so dainty.

Dutch display

I like the little hints of Holland in the display, like these shoes..

Dutch setup at Tulipmania

The windmills and the houses.

We caught the exhibit just a day before it ended, and the Flower Dome was quite crowded. It’s a good thing I bought our tickets online, printed it out and just presented it at the entrance. It saved us from lining up at the ticket counter, and got in quicker.

You can check out a couple more tulip pictures in my Tulipmania album. Seriously, they’re pretty!

Singapore To-Do: Walk the Southern Ridges

Last weekend, I told JP we were going to hike the Southern Ridges. I got a blank face when I told him, haha. “Sa’n yon?” (Where’s that?) He asked. I think he just got used to going to East Coast Park, which is our default go-to park if we want do some hiking or biking here in Singapore.

The Southern Ridges is a 10 km stretch that connects several parks: Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Hort Park, Kent Ridge and Labrador Nature Reserve Park. For this particular hike, we started out in the middle,  at Hort Park and ended at Mount Faber Park, which is roughly half of the route, about 4-5 kms. We started around 10am and ended a little after 12. The Alexandra Arch greets you at Hort Park.

Alexandra Arch Singapore

 

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