Undercover Tai Tai

Undercover Tai Tai by Maya O. Calica
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish
Number of pages:  224
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

Amanda Tay thinks she is losing her mind or starring in a surreal film by Stanley Kubrick.

You would be too if you’ve been knocked unconscious on your first date in 27 years only to awaken in a beautifully appointed apartment that looks like a page from Tatler Magazine.

Last time she checked, the film student-turned-book researcher was renting a tiny room in a flat, so what was she doing sprawled on a king-sized bed with 600-thread count bed sheets and a ponkan-sized bump on her head?

The Undercover Tai Tai is a hilarious journey of a young woman who, while pretending to be someone else, makes connections with her past and discovers parts of herself that she never thought existed.

* * *

Undercover Tai Tai is my first Maya O. Calica book, and I bought a copy as a thank you to her for giving us a pep talk for National Novel Writing Month. I have been wanting to read another one of the Asian chick lit novels republished by Anvil in the Philippines after I read Amazing Grace, so I thought it was just timely to get this, too.

Amanda Tay is a small, quiet girl who hates her job and her roommates, does capioera and dreams of something exciting to happen in her life. Her prayers get answered when she accidentally knocks CID Agent Brian out, and soon she finds herself as a new undercover agent mingling with Singapore’s rich and famous socialites to find out what really happened to tai tai Jasmine Kwong.

Undercover Tai Tai is a fun and surprising novel. Surprising, because I was expecting to read one of those typical chick lit stories where the heroine goes through one mishap after another to find herself, but instead I found something a little deviant of the usual chick lit formula. I like watching undercover movies and shows, so this book was a real treat for me because it appealed to the adventurous part of me that liked espionage. It’s fun, because even if the plot is highly unbelievable and requires suspension of disbelief, I thought it was well written and the mystery part of the story was kept well under wraps up until the end. The cast of characters added to the fun of it all, too. I am particularly fond of Agent Omni, who works on Amanda’s designer gadgets (such as diamond bracelets that has hidden surveillance cameras and binoculars) and doubles as her personal stylist as she goes undercover. Oh and let’s not forget Alexis, the crime fighting chihuahua. Gotta love it when there’s a dog involved in the story. ;)

Like I said, it’s a fun novel, and it was a good and quick in-between read. While I don’t hold it in the same regard as the other chick lit novels I liked this year, I thought it was still pretty good. If you’re looking for a usual chick lit novel you may want to skip this, but if you’re in for something a little bit different, then I suggest you pick this up and enjoy the ride. I am pretty sure Maya wrote this as her NaNoWriMo novel because Chris Baty, NaNoWriMo’s founder, is cited in the acknowledgments, and that explains all the craziness that happened in the story and, of course, the crime-fighting dog. :)

Rating:

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Amazing Grace, Amazing Race

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering
Marshall Cavendish, 184 pages

Pre-school teacher, Grace Lim, thinks that she has finally found her man at age 27. Mr-Blind-Date-No.-7, Mike, has turned out to be everything that she s ever wanted, dreamt about, and more!

With a marriage proposal in hand, Grace thinks that she is set for life. Trouble begins to stir in paradise when Mike informs Grace that he is re-locating from Manila to sunny Singapore because of work.

But the conveniences of modern technology aren’t enough to bridge the distance between Mike and Grace, and what of Mike s colleague Kaela who appears in every photo that Mike s uploaded online?

So Grace decides to give Mike a surprise visit in Singapore but is she ready for what she will find?

The thing with Summit chick lit books is they seem to be too thin for a Php 150 priced novel. That’s why I hesitate buying them because I feel like they’re a bit too expensive for such a quick (albeit enjoyable) read. So when I spotted Anvil Publishing’s reprinting of Asian chic lit by Filipina authors from Singapore in National Bookstore, I was curious!  Here are some thicker chick lit books at the same price.

The next question is: are they any good?

I finished reading Tara FT Sering’s Amazing Grace this week, and I can answer 1/3 of that question (since there are three Asian chic novels out as of now): it’s very good.

Amazing Grace is the story of Grace Chua, a 26-year-old Filipina-Chinese single woman who has been egged on by her friends and family to find a man and settle down before her biological clock stops ticking. Grace realizes that, and she allows herself to be set up for blind dates. However, none of the guys were deemed worthy, until guy #7, her Valentine’s Day date, Mike. She and Mike clicked, and after two years, he proposes to her. It would have been perfect if Mike hadn’t gave her the next bit of news: he got a job in Singapore and will have to move there for two years for his contract.

Grace was determined to make the long distance relationship work — after all, they were engaged, and there’s no way she’s letting go of that! — but things become complicated when Mike seems to have less and less time for her (acting like she has some kind of contagious eczema or something), and he always seemed to mention a woman named Kaela in their conversations. Grace goes to Singapore on a weekend to surprise him, and finds herself in a race around three countries, all in an effort to get her man back.

Amazing Grace was unlike all chick lit I have read so far, and it was mainly because of the second person POV used in the story. Second person makes use of the pronoun “you”, making it seem like the reader is also the main character in the story. I’ve managed to write one second person POV story, and I am not even sure if I did it right. From NaNoWriMo research, I’ve learned that its best to avoid writing in second person POV because it almost never works properly. For this novel, however, I think it really works. The POV effectively puts the reader in Grace’s place, but still maintaining enough character to distinguish Grace from the reader.

Grace is a quirky, relatable character. I loved being in her shoes, I loved reading her thoughts, I love her reactions to the situations she was in. It was easy to sympathize with her and that may be because I was in her shoes as I read it, but I also felt her pain when she found out about Mike. Grace is not exactly a woman scorned, but there was a sense of desperation in her that made her want to save the relationship even if her sister says to let him go. Her growth in the story was believable in the sense that there wasn’t really much drama over her epiphany. More often than not, there isn’t much grandeur whenever we reach a certain point or realize an important thing in our lives; it usually comes quietly. The same thing happened to Grace, although unlike others, she found herself in a hilarious situation. What is that exactly? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. :)

Other than the effective second person POV, there were a lot of fun sequences in the story, all in respect to the humor of chick lit. There were the good life lessons, too — lessons that a single woman would definitely find useful. :) I’d also like to praise the epilogue of the novel — it had me chuckling all the way to the end. :)

Amazing Grace is a fun read, and it is worth the Php 150 I paid for. If you enjoy chick lit, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one too. :) If you’re not yet convinced, here are some quotes from the book that I found memorable/funny/both. :)

And factoring in the fact that only fictional chicks in movies get the guy they like on the first and second try (or after many cute pratfalls in equally cute outfits), you can expect a period of tumultuous hitting and missing, so getting together with someone by the time you’re 28 will require you to start looking around and dating about…well, last year. (p.15)

The truth is, you begin to suspect, a woman will go through great lengths designing the rescue, and then hurry back to the place of distress where she will recline and pine, and wait for the man she has chosen to act out the rescue. Then she will gloat and tell all her friends about it. The man, clueless on all unseen workings, will then appear extremely pleased with himself and feel entitled to act it out again — on someone else. (p.38)

In this day and age, a Bad Hair Day, contrary to what the term says, is no longer just a 24-hour nightmare. With a single click of a teeny digital camera, your Bad Hair Day will not end when the sun goes down, but rather, will continue to live on for as long as your friend’s Multiply account is online. (p.81)

Again, you wonder: How did you get here?

Lena calls out from the room. “What?”

Say: “Nothing!”

You really should do something about your tendency to think aloud. (p.151)

Rating:

2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 53 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 8 out of 20 for Project 20:10

My copy: paperback, Php150 from National Bookstore

Cover image & blurb: Goodreads

CymLowell

In My Mailbox (1)

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to do this, but I thought I’d try whenever I do have a stash to blog about. In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme hosted by Kristi from The Story Siren, where bloggers post about what books received that week, be it via  mailbox, library or store.

Here’s what I got this week:

Table for Two by Marla MinianoTable for Two by Marla Miniano

A corner table at a cozy coffee shop witnesses many things:

A long-time couple about to break up after college graduation. A young teacher accepting a dare from her teenage brother to quit dating for two months. A wedding photographer trying to convince his best friend not to get married. A boy meeting up with the girl he never quite got over. And a girl sitting alone, reading romance novels, wondering if today is the day she will stop being lonely.

Do their lives intersect and intertwine — spiraling them through an obstacle course of love and loss and hope and heartbreak? And can they each find the happy ending they so desperately want?

I’ve already finished reading this book and I thought it was positively charming, and it has a lot — and I mean a lot — of quotable quotes. I’ll be posting a review of this book soon.

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering

Pre-school teacher, Grace Lim, thinks that she has finally found her man at age 27. Mr-Blind-Date-No.-7, Mike, has turned out to be everything that she s ever wanted, dreamt about, and more!

With a marriage proposal in hand, Grace thinks that she s set for life. Trouble begins to stir in paradise when Mike informs Grace that he is re-locating from Manila to sunny Singapore because of work.

But the conveniences of modern technology aren t enough to bridge the distance between Mike and Grace, and what of Mike s colleague Kaela who appears in every photo that Mike s uploaded online?

So Grace decides to give Mike a surprise visit in Singapore but is she ready for what she will find?

This is one of the new Asian chick lit published here by Anvil. I’ve seen this about a month ago but only got around today to buying myself a copy. A friend said it’s a good read, and I like that it’s thicker than the other local chick lit which makes the Php 150 (around $3-4) feel more worth it. The story is told in second person, though, and I’m really curious about how that works out.

The Red Pyramid (Kane Chronicles #1) by Rick Riordan

Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe–a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

I saw this last week and I didn’t mean to buy it today (I meant to buy Ever by Gail Carson Levine), but I realized I should get this one because this would be a more relevant book to review since it’s just out. Egypt and such adventures — should be fun. Funny because I haven’t even finished reading all Percy Jackson books yet, and here’s another Riordan. Funny, though, I’m trying to remember if I read any of his books before Percy, and I remembered: 39 Clues #1.

That’s it for my mailbox this week. I’m still kind of wary about buying actual books because I have no storage space yet. And impulse buys — eeep. Maybe when my room gets fixed, I’ll be more into impulse again? That won’t be too soon, though. :)

Don’t forget, Philippine residents, I’m giving away a copy of Feed by Mira Grant — you can enter until June 30! Have a great Sunday, everyone!