Top 10 Awesome Restaurants of the Philippines

WHAT makes a restaurant awesome? Some would say great food and the right ambiance. “Great food” is subjective and varies with each person’s experience and background, however. To be considered awesome, a restaurant has to take the overall dining experience to a higher level. That means food that leaves an indelible mark on your taste buds and imprints lasting memories in your mind in an ambiance that carves out a special place in the heart to share with other people.

Every restaurant in this list has been carefully chosen. Each serves gourmet food with the freshest ingredients, and combines nature elements, artifacts or a sense of history in its atmosphere. Simply put, these restaurants have a story to tell that is spread via word-of-mouth. I can proudly say that these restaurants are found ONLY in the Philippines.
Kubli Springs @ Kinabuhayan Café, Dolores, Quezon

The road to Kubli Springs is literally the road less traveled, and when you do get on it, you’ll be glad you decided against taking your sedan car. Flashlights, candles, mobile phones, and the moon are the only sources of light. Occasionally, they may put up Christmas lights connected to a portable battery source to make the place special. You’ll find yourself in the middle of a forest, surrounded by boulders, a spring at your feet and a clear starlit sky overhead. You sit on rocks and makeshift benches, savoring the aroma of steak being grilled on the spot. Ah, this is the perfect time to play the acoustic guitar for a sing-along with the barkada (gang) without fear of disturbing anyone.

For P500 per person, you get fresh salad with flowers, grilled steak, Jay’s special rice, and a fruit platter. The meal ends with lambanog and a special roast of barako coffee. For drinking, there’s fresh mineral water from the mountains. You’d wish the night would never end.
Antonio’s in Tagaytay

Dining at Antonio’s is like entering a magical portal to a world where any food you choose is worth a rave. The service is that of a six-star hotel where you need not worry about a thing. Even going to the restroom is a chance to appreciate nature and its beauty. The positive energy in the place encourages conversation and bears witness to thousands of memorable life stories.

You won’t mind waiting for your food because you know it’s being prepared to perfection. The real flavor of the meat and other ingredients stands out without the sauce overpowering the taste. Any wine selection seems to match the food you order. My favorite in Antonio’s includes the Salad with Foie Gras, the steaks, sea bass and the soufflé dessert. I envision our silver wedding anniversary at this place because of the food, service and its enchanting garden.
Ugu’s Pottery Garden Restaurant, Tiaong, Quezon

It remains a secret place in Tiaong because Ugu never advertises and there are no road signs. Even the neighbors don’t realize that such a place exists. The whole of Ugu’s Pottery Garden Restaurant is a labor of love, with the entire family designing everything from the huts, the garden layout, the pottery and the food concept.

Ugu is known for such dishes as Kulawo and Lato. Kulawo is charcoal-grilled banana heart with a smoky flavor that tastes like tuna, while lato is seaweed in vinegar. Both are traditional Filipino dishes you seldom find in Metro Manila. It’s home-cooked Filipino food served on Ugu’s signature pottery. I do hope it remains a secret.
Isla Naburot, Guimaras

Isla Naburot resort is like wine—the older it gets, the more exotic it becomes. Electricity is supplied by solar panels that can only support the incandescent bulbs in the room. Even mobile phones seem superfluous as there are no charging stations nearby. Your itinerary revolves around swimming in the clear beach, playing sungka and spending quality time with the family.

The main attraction is doing nothing and eating gourmet Filipino dishes prepared the traditional way. Fresh seafood is patiently grilled to lock in their natural juices. Meals are served with home made sinamak vinegar. Fruits are abundant, especially the famous Guimaras mangoes. The taste of the food is enhanced by the open air environment. It’s a foodie heaven I can’t wait to go back next summer.
La Cocina de Tita Moning, Manila

As you enter the gates of this old mansion, you can’t help but feel transported to a different era inhabited by the Old Rich. You are welcomed with drinks and pica-pica in the patio, before being given a mini-tour of the place, where antiques and turn-of-the-century design is evident in the living room, bedroom and especially the bathroom.

It’s a treat to enjoy Spanish food cooked from recipes handed down from generations. You leave La Cocina raving about its paella and its bread pudding. The former could rival the paellas in Manila’s Spanish restaurants. The latter tastes like bread leche flan that melts in your mouth. The service is slow but sure. What’s important is that they serve you with a smile and exert every effort to make the experience memorable. Our La Cocina experience was way back January 2005, but I’ve never forgotten it since.
Kusina Salud, San Pablo, Laguna

We need to give credit to Kusina Salud for making the Viaje del Sol travel route popular. It’s the “Sonya’s Garden” of San Pablo, Laguna but even better because of its wide selection of gourmet dishes. Occasionally, you can chat with Nina and Chef Paul Poblador about the story of Kusina Salud. The place seems to smile back at the camera, with its odd pieces of furniture and accessories fitting harmoniously with styles from other eras.

The best time is breakfast; go at 9 a.m. and use the place as your jump-off point to explore Laguna and Quezon. I long for the hamonado- style longganisa, fried adobo flakes and bangus (milkfish) belly for breakfast. Buffets are served on special occasions but I still prefer to order from the ala carte menu. Massage service is available and would be perfect if you make this your last stop before heading back to Manila.
Vieux Chalet, Antipolo

Operating for more than 20 years now, Vieux Chalet remains a mysterious place. The house cum restaurant on top of a hill in Antipolo rewards diners with an awesome view of Manila, especially at night.

What keeps me going back to this place is the passion with which Susan Hassig prepares the food. You’ll never forget the taste of the homemade pasta, the freshly baked bread and the varieties of homegrown cheese. Some people go to Vieux Chalet to taste its refreshing lemon-grass drink or to indulge in its version of the Osso Bucco. This is our favorite hangout if we want to escape and eat good gourmet food.
Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung, Pampanga

You’ve never really tasted Pampanga cuisine until you’ve dined in Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung house. This is perfect for those long lunches with friends when you don’t even notice the hours passing by. Diners are greeted with frozen baby cologne-scented towels and steamed peanuts that bring back memories of childhood. The entire house is a showroom for Claude Tayag’s creative and artistic brilliance.

Mr. and Mrs. Claude Tayag will serve you personally with simple Kapampangan dishes artistically presented. They will also entertain you with the history of Bale Dutung. My favorite dishes here include the catfish with buro (fermented fish) and green mustasa (mustard leaves), and Pampanga’s version of the paella. The meal ends with a simple Paradiso dessert made of smoked ube, camote and macapuno on sweet carabao milk pastillas. After the meal it’s so nice to just laze around the house and chat up Claude Tayag before saying goodbye.
Charley’s in Lipa, Batangas

I fell in love with the place after seeing the beautiful horses at Leviste’s Equestrian Farm in Lipa. Till then, I’d seen only the tired horses in Baguio and Tagaytay and never imagined seeing such thoroughbreds on Philippine soil. Lunch or dinner is courtesy of Les Roche-trained chef Popit de Leon who’s passionate about cooking his foodie creations either in his Makati condo or in Charley’s on weekends. Popit uses fresh herbs from Charley’s garden in all food served at the farm. Diners might even get a personal tour of the farm with Charley herself after the meal.

Unfortunately, the place recently closed its doors to out-of-town diners. Popit now cooks exclusively in his Makati condo. This is a simple tribute and thank you for becoming part of our foodie memories, accompanied by a wish that the place opens its doors again.
Entalula Island, El Nido, Palawan

Imagine having an exclusive picnic with gourmet food on a white-sand island far better than Boracay. Entalula Island in El Nido is definitely a bit of paradise that you can enjoy privately for lunch or dinner. Everything is set up for you, and you can request exactly the food you like. Your imagination sets the limit on how creative you want the experience to be.

It is definitely worth saving up for and reason enough to go back to El Nido resorts. When you book an El Nido vacation, make sure to reserve the island for your lunch or dinner date. Next time, I’ll have dinner here with just my wife and lay down after in the pristine sands with limestone cliffs as backdrop.

The Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of 2011

The dust has settled at Cowboys Stadium and the Green Bay Packers are taking the Lombardi Trophy home. But now that the game is over, it's time to talk about the ads! We've selected our favorites and now you can vote for the one you thought was the best.
We've narrowed down our list of Super Bowl commercials to the ones you'll see below. So sit back, crack open another beer, and let us know which one you liked best by voting in our poll on the next page. The voting is only open until Friday, so vote now!

New Top 10 Predictions for the News Media in 2011

In many ways, 2010 was finally the year of mobile for news media, and especially so if you consider the iPad a mobile device. Many news organizations like The Washington Post and CNN included heavy social media integrations into their apps, opening the devices beyond news consumption.

In 2011, the focus on mobile will continue to grow with the launch of mobile- and iPad-only news products, but the greater focus for news media in 2011 will be on re-imagining its approach to the open social web. The focus will shift from searchable news to social and share-able news, as social media referrals close the gap on search traffic for more news organizations. In the coming year, news media’s focus will be affected by the personalization of news consumption and social media’s influence on journalism.

1. Leaks and Journalism: A New Kind of Media Entity

In 2010, we saw the rise of WikiLeaks through its many controversial leaks. With each leak, the organization learned and evolved its process in distributing sensitive classified information. In 2011, we’ll see several governments prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in disseminating classified documents and some charges will have varying successes. But even if WikiLeaks itself gets shut down, we’re going to see the rise of “leakification” in journalism, and more importantly we’ll see a number of new media entities, not just mirror sites, that will model themselves to serve whistle blowers — WikiLeaks copycats of sorts. Toward the end of this year, we already saw Openleaks, Brusselsleaks, and Tradeleaks. There will be many more, some of which will be focused on niche topics.

Just like with other media entities, there will be a new competitive market and some will distinguish themselves and rise above the rest. So how will success be measured? The scale of the leak, the organization’s ability to distribute it and its ability or inability to partner with media organizations. Perhaps some will distinguish themselves by creating better distribution platforms through their own sites by focusing on the technology and, of course, the analysis of the leaks. The entities will still rely on partnerships with established media to distribute and analyze the information, but it may very well change the relationship whistleblowers have had with media organizations until now.

2. More Media Mergers and Acquisitions

At the tail end of 2010, we saw the acquisition of TechCrunch by AOL and the Newsweek merger with The Daily Beast. In some ways, these moves have been a validation in the value of new media companies and blogs that have built an audience and a business.

But as some established news companies’ traditional sources of revenue continue to decline, while new media companies grow, 2011 may bring more media mergers and acquisitions. The question isn’t if, but who? I think that just like this year, most will be surprises.

3. Tablet-Only and Mobile-First News Companies

In 2010, as news consumption began to shift to mobile devices, we saw news organizations take mobile seriously. Aside from launching mobile apps across various mobile platforms, perhaps the most notable example is News Corp’s plan to launch The Daily, an iPad-only news organization that is set to launch early 2011. It will cost $0.99 per week, though Apple will take 30%. But that’s not the only hurdle, as the publication relies on an iPad-owning audience. There will have been 15.7 million tablets sold worldwide in 2010, and the iPad represents roughly 85% of that. However, that number is expected to more than double in 2011. Despite a business gamble, this positions news organizations like The Daily for growth, and with little competition, besides news organizations that repurpose their web content. We’ve also seen the launch of an iPad-only magazine with Virgin’s Project and of course the soon-to-launch social news iPad application from Betaworks.

But it’s not just an iPad-only approach, and some would argue that the iPad isn’t actually mobile; it’s leisurely (yes, Mark Zuckerberg). In 2011, we’ll see more news media startups take a mobile-first approach to launching their companies. This sets them up to be competitive by distributing on a completely new platform, where users are more comfortable with making purchases. We’re going to see more news companies that reverse the typical model of website first and mobile second.
4. Location-Based News Consumption
In 2010, we saw the growth of location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla and SCVNGR. Even Facebook entered the location game by launching its Places product, and Google introduced HotPot, a recommendation engine for places and began testing it in Portland. The reality is that only 4% of online adults use such services on the go. My guess is that as the information users get on-the-go info from such services, they’ll becomes more valuable and these location-based platforms will attract more users.

Part of the missing piece is being able to easily get geo-tagged news content and information based on your GPS location. In 2011, with a continued shift toward mobile news consumption, we’re going to see news organizations implement location-based news features into their mobile apps. And of course if they do not, a startup will enter the market to create a solution to this problem or the likes of Foursquare or another company will begin to pull in geo-tagged content associated with locations as users check in.
5. Social vs. Search
In 2010, we saw social media usage continue to surge globally. Facebook alone gets 25% of all U.S. pageviews and roughly 10% of Internet visits. Instead of focusing on search engine optimization (SEO), in 2011 we’ll see social media optimization become a priority at many news organizations, as they continue to see social close the gap on referrals to their sites.

Ken Doctor, author of Newsonomics and news industry analyst at Outsell, recently pointed out that social networks have become the fastest growing source of traffic referrals for many news sites. For many, social sites like Facebook and Twitter only account for 10% to 15% of their overall referrals, but are number one in growth. For news startups, the results are even more heavy on social. And of course, the quality of these referrals is often better than readers who come from search. They generally yield more pageviews and represent a more loyal reader than the one-off visitors who stumble across the site from Google.
6. The Death of the ‘Foreign Correspondent’
What we’ve known as the role of the foreign correspondent will largely cease to exist in 2011. As a result of business pressures and the roles the citizenry now play in using digital technology to share and distribute news abroad, the role of a foreign correspondent reporting from an overseas bureau “may no longer be central to how we learn about the world,” according to a recent study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The light in the gloomy assessment is that there is opportunity in other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa, where media is expanding as a result of “economic and policy stability,” according to the report. In 2011, we’ll see more news organizations relying heavily on stringers and, in many cases, social content uploaded by the citizenry.
7. The Syndication Standard and the Ultimate Curators
Syndication models will be disrupted in 2011. As Clay Shirky recently predicted, more news outlets will get out of the business of re-running the same story on their site that appeared elsewhere. Though this is generally true, the approach to syndication will vary based on the outlet. The reality is that the content market has become highly fragmented, and if content is king, then niche is certainly queen. Niche outlets, which were once curators of original content produced by established organizations, will focus more on producing original content. While established news brands, still under pressure to produce a massive amount of content despite reduced staff numbers, will become the ultimate curators. This means they will feature just as much content, but instead through syndication partners.

You already see this taking place on sites like or, both of whose technology sections feature headlines and syndicated content from niche technology publications. In this case, it won’t only be the reader demand for original content that drives niche publications to produce more original content, but also its relationship with established organizations that strive to uphold the quality of their content and the credibility of their brand. Though original content will be rewarded, specialized, niche publications could benefit the most from the disruption.
8. Social Storytelling Becomes Reality
In 2010, we saw social content get weaved into storytelling, in some cases to tell the whole story and in other cases to contextualize news events with curation tools such as Storify. We also saw the rise of social news readers, such as Flipboard and Pulse mobile apps and others.

In 2011, we’ll not only see social curation as part of storytelling, but we’ll see social and technology companies getting involved in the content creation and curation business, helping to find the signal in the noise of information.

We’ve already heard that YouTube is in talks to buy a video production company, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for the likes of Twitter or Facebook to play a more pivotal role in harnessing its data to present relevant news and content to its users. What if Facebook had a news landing page of the trending news content that users are discussing? Or if Twitter filtered its content to bring you the most relevant and curated tweets around news events?
9. News Organizations Get Smarter With Social Media
In 2010, news organizations began to take social media more seriously and we saw many news organizations hire editors to oversee social media. USA Today recently appointed a social media editor, while The New York Times dropped the title, and handed off the ropes to Aron Pilhofer’s interactive news team.

The Times‘ move to restructure its social media strategy, by going from a centralized model to a decentralized one owned by multiple editors and content producers in the newsroom, shows us that news organizations are becoming more sophisticated and strategic with their approach to integrating social into the journalism process. In 2011, we’re going to see more news organizations decentralize their social media strategy from one person to multiple editors and journalists, which will create an integrated and more streamlined approach. It won’t just be one editor updating or managing a news organization’s process, but instead news organizations will work toward a model in which each journalist serves as his or her own community manager.
10. The Rise of Interactive TV
In 2010, many people were introduced to Internet TV for the first time, as buzz about the likes of Google TV, iTV, Boxee Box and others proliferated headlines across the web. In 2011, the accessibility to Internet TV will transform television as we know it in not only the way content is presented, but it will also disrupt the dominance traditional TV has had for years in capturing ad dollars.

Americans now spend as much time using the Internet as they do watching television, and the reality is that half are doing both at the same time. The problem of being able to have a conversation with others about a show you’re watching has existed for some time, and users have mostly reacted to the problem by hosting informal conversations via Facebook threads and Twitter hashtags. Companies like Twitter are recognizing the problem and finding ways to make the television experience interactive.

It’s not only the interaction, but the way we consume content. Internet TV will also create a transition for those used to consuming video content through TVs and bring them to the web. That doesn’t mean that flat screens are going away; instead, they will only become interconnected to the web and its many content offerings.

New Top 10 for 2011: Hotel Openings

Every year we get a brand new list of hotel openings, but it can be hard to sort the trash from the flash. Poring over hundreds of press releases and mulling over dozens of bits of insider information, we've done the hard work so you don’t have to. The result? We've compiled a list of the top 10 most hotly anticipated hotel openings of 2011. All you have to do is check in and check them out.

No.10 St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, London, UK

The golden era of glamorous rail travel is long gone (at least for those who can't quite afford the Orient Express), which is why London will welcome the return of Britain's showiest railway hotel with open arms when it reopens in March. Formerly called the Midland Grand Hotel, no less than £150 million has been invested to return the original Victorian-Gothic structure to its former glory. A 10-year renovation has ensured that all the best bits have been kept and painstakingly retouched (such as Sir George Gilbert Scott’s cantilevered staircase), while shiny new additions, such as the 189 bedrooms in the extension at the back, are in keeping with the building's original style. A 120-seat fine-dining restaurant will wrap things up nicely, no doubt flanked by the capital's most chic commuters.

No.9 W London, London, UK

As the most anticipated hotel opening in the UK this year, W London certainly has a lot to live up to -- and if early media whisperings are to be believed, it will. Scheduled to open on February 14th in an attempt to capitalize on an already bled-dry holiday, this hotel is the W brand’s first opening in the UK and is well located on London's tourist-filled Leicester Square where the Swiss Centre once stood. No less than £300 million has been pumped into the project by parent company Starwood, which has seemingly forgotten about the recession, allowing for 194 blingtastic rooms, a destination restaurant, a bar-club combo, a fully equipped spa, and an on-site store selling party frocks and whatnot. There's even a 48-seat cinema should leaving the premises prove a little too strenuous for would-be guests. Expect the launch party to raise the roof (and more than a few eyebrows, with celebs getting up to no good inside).

No.8 Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Bringing a big slab of New York-style hospitality to Germany this year is Waldorf Astoria Berlin, housed inside a 31-floor glass-fronted tower in the business district of Kurfürstendamm. Catering predominantly to the corporate crowd, Waldorf Astoria Berlin will boast 242 extremely well-appointed rooms as well as an on-site restaurant, bar and spa. The crowning glory of this new build, however, will be 1,000-square-meters of conference and meeting facilities, sure to lure hundreds of white-collar office workers through its doors once the ribbon has been cut on opening day. Waldorf Astoria's signature no-nonsense approach to service will also ensure that the city's notoriously discerning (read: picky) residents will be kept in the manner to which they've undoubtedly become accustomed.

No.7 The Queen Victoria, Cape Town, South Africa

Having enjoyed good press and endured bad press last year, it's good to see that Cape Town's public perception is once again tipping to the more positive side of things with the opening of a new boutique hotel in March. Called the Queen Victoria, this sumptuous new stay (housed in an existing building in the Victoria and Albert Waterfront) is small but perfectly formed, with just 35 rooms for weary guests to hunker down in. Murals of Queen Vic (who else?) abound inside, while plush furnishings, rich fabrics and a muted color palette of oyster, taupe, gray, silver, and burgundy link public spaces. The hotel's most impressive feature, however, will be its grand entrance, characterized by a spectacular triple-volume atrium with a spiral staircase and glass elevator. Indeed, if this doesn’t get five stars, we don’t know what will.

No.6 W Paris-Opéra, Paris, France

While W Paris-Opéra isn't due to open until the end of 2011, the buildup begins now. Found in the trendy Parisian district of Opéra, just minutes from the Garnier Opera House, the plush property will add 90 sumptuous rooms and suites to the capital's already chic hotel scene. Housed inside an elegant 1870s Haussmann-era building, the hotel (the brand’s eighth in Europe) will be an all-encompassing destination station, with a restaurant, bar, fitness facility, spa, and lounge. As with all W properties, the W Paris Opéra will boast the brand's signature Whatever/Whenever concierge service, providing guests with anything from a gourmet picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg to shopping excursions in the emporiums of Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

No.5 Ritz-Carlton Montreal, Montreal, Canada

In renovation since 2008, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal will finally reopen this autumn after a $150-million face-lift. The iconic stay, located at 1228 Sherbrooke Street West, will celebrate with a paparazzi-worthy opening to show off its revived facade, lobby, Palm Court, Grand Ballroom, and Ritz Garden -- all of which have been restored to their former dazzling glory. The best bit, however, will be the 46 private residences that have been added to the property, all furnished to shades-on superstar standards. Having this as your home address would certainly be a talking point with the ladies.

No.4 Palazzo Versace Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Versace isn't known for its understated aesthetic, but when the Italian brand comes into contact with Dubai -- land of flash and trash -- you can only imagine what would happen. In fact, you don’t need to imagine, as the Palazzo Versace showcases what would become of such a meeting. Following in the flamboyant footsteps of Versace's sister outpost on Australia's glossy Gold Coast, this £400-million wonder will be one of the United Arab Emirates' most ridiculously over-the-top stays when it opens mid-2011. Inside will be 213 suites and 169 private residences, as well as a host of slick restaurants and bars, an on-site superspa, a ballroom, and a boutique for the not-so-subtle flogging of Versace wares. But the hotel will also feature its own “refrigerated” beach, plugged into a system of heat-absorbing pipes and wind blowers to keep beachgoers in barely there swimwear calm, cool and collected. The green scene clearly hasn’t caught on here.

No.3 The Breakwater, Miami, USA

Although it rang in the New Year by opening on January 1st, the Breakwater's launch will be remembered long after the streamers have been swept away and the champagne has been mopped up. Fulfilling its promise of “chic and sexy and unfiltered individuality,” the hotel boasts supersleek interiors by renowned designer Stephen B Jacobs, with decor that sets a more serene scene than the rock ‘n’ roll-inspired Clevelander next door (where TVs are chained to walls to avoid them being thrown out of windows). Think minimal furnishings and muted tones across 100 spacious rooms, with bright pops of color adding extra pizzazz. The rooftop lounge, obligatory at any Miami hotel worthy of its Art Deco facade, is the perfect place to kick back, with the deck flanked by daybeds during the afternoon and lit with candles by night. Date night, anyone?

No.2 Mondrian New York, New York, USA

Thank God there's something else to focus on in February other than Valentine’s Day; opening in the most depressing month of the year is the Mondrian New York, the brand’s downtown debut. While details are being kept hush-hush, pics forwarded to us by in-the-know PRs (now unemployed, we imagine) reveal wonderfully trippy Alice in Wonderland-style interiors (courtesy of superstar designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz), particularly throughout the enchanted manicured gardens drenched with moody-blue lighting. Indeed, if you haven’t smoked anything suspicious prior to entering, you may want to in order to appreciate the head-spinning aesthetics. The theme carries through to 270 jaw-droppingly beautiful rooms as well as the destination restaurant to be headed up by none other than culinary genius Sam Talbot.

No.1 Shangri-La Paris, Paris, France

While current Paris gossip is largely centered on French Vogue’s new editor, we’re more concerned with the much-anticipated Mandarin Oriental Paris opening on Rue Saint-Honoré. When is another story, with the launch date having been pushed back countless times, but we do know that it will throw open its doors toward the latter part of 2011. With 138 rooms, a slew of restaurants, a spa, and an inner courtyard in which to smooch with your loved one, this hotel will have the city's other hotels shaking in their designer-heeled boots -- particularly Shangri-La Paris, which opened in December and has every intention of holding on to its press attention.

Top 10 2011 Books I want now!

We are now within the confines of 2011 and with the New Year comes a whole new swath of great books to look forward to! While I have two dozen books I want to read coming out this year, these are the books I’ll be buying the day they are released!

I’m betting some of them are on your list! Let’s find out, shall we!

In alphabetical order by last name:

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
I have not read Joe’s work. He has assured me this is a perfect place to start. And I’m fascinated by the first sentence of the book description. “They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls.” Sounds dark. Gritty. And full of badassery. I may not have read Joe’s earlier work but I know his signature when I see it—and I’m in the mood for something dark. Gritty. And full of badassery! Ha!
The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
I have also not read Daniel’s work. I’ve been busy writing and editing, writing and editing, and my reading time drastically dropped in 2010. That changes in 2011 and it’s time to remedy that as well with Daniel Abraham. He has made an ever growing splash with his The Long Price Quartet and The Dragon’s Path is the first book in a new series that makes a great jumping on point for new readers. And it sounds great. From the book description, “Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.” Want it!
The Inheritance by Robin Hobb
The Inheritance by Robin Hobb
I love short story collections. After having read Robin’s story in the 2010 Warriors anthology, I’m more than looking forward to The Inheritance. My only gripe is it isn’t being published in US hardcover. Annoying. But it will be chocked full of Robin Hobb goodness, the stories pulled from her career with several new additions in the series that made her a beloved writer! And is that a new Fitz series possibly in the works? Hmm, the future is full of possibilities!
A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
Enter the skeptic. Will this publish in 2011? I have no idea. I stated it was my opinion it would hit in 2010 but GRRM proved my optimism wrong. As I’ve said for years now, he has been unprofessional with this book and the fans have every right to be frustrated. I hate to say it, I’ll take it a step further into territory even detractors won’t go. GRRM seems unavoidably stuck on certain plot elements and I’m more worried about the integrity of the whole series at this point than just one book. One book can be late and it can still be a great book, one that is a great addition to the series; a book with plot inconsistencies or holes can ruin the entirety of Ice & Fire all the way to its climax. It’s sadly the latter I’m leaning toward now, at least until Dance proves me wrong. And I hope I’m proven wrong!
As one blogger out there stated though, George is beyond the amount of manuscript pages seen in A Storm of Swords—the largest book of the series—so when it does finally publish fans will be getting one helluva large book, that’s for sure!
On a different point, in preparation for the HBO series, Suvudu will be conducting a re-read of A Game of Thrones. Get ready! More on this at the end of this month.
Embassytown by China Mieville
Embassytown by China Mieville
China is one of the finest writers working today. His awards won in 2010 prove it from a literary point of view and his readership grows yearly, a testament to his readability. The City & the City was one of his best novels, one that stretched his imagination and his ability. This year we get Embassytown, his first foray into hard science fiction. “Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie. Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts. And that is impossible.” Sounds right up my alley!
The Dark Commands by Richard Morgan
The Dark Commands by Richard Morgan
It has been a long time coming but the sequel to 2008’s The Steel Remains looks like it will publish in late 2011. Keep your hope safe though. As with A Dance With Dragons, The Dark Commands (The Cold Commands) has been pushed back several times. Still, I enjoyed The Steel Remains a great deal. I don’t think it was revolutionary but it was dark and gritty and went into some areas that made many readers squirm. And as a writer, I like authors who make people squirm. So let’s hope the October 2011 release date is the final one! After all, I’m in the mood for some dark and gritty fantasy and Richard Morgan is a master at dark and gritty!
Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik
I am hoping this book sees 2011. I don’t know for certain. I know Naomi was trying to wrap up the seventh book in the Temeraire series by December before she gave birth to her first child. Still, it can’t be far away from completion if she was near the end, which means it very well could see 2011. And if it does, great! I love Temeraire. As dragons go, he is one of the most amusing I’ve read. And with Laurence and his companion barging/flying all over the world, alone for all intents and purposes now, it will be interesting to see where Naomi takes their story! And who knows? Perhaps this will be the year the series is greenlit onto the silver screen! Stay tuned!
The Unremembered by Peter Orullian
The Unremembered by Peter Orullian
Here is the only debut book on the list. The Unremembered by Peter Orullian. It is a massive epic being published by Tor Books, definitely in the vein of Brandon Sanderson or Terry Brooks’ early work. It publishes in April, and here is a bit more about it: “he gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.
Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells…. “ Sometimes I need a big epic to immerse myself in for a month. I think April will be a great time for it, while it rains and rains and rains here in Seattle…!
The River of Shadows by Robert V.S. Redick
The River of Shadows by Robert V. S. Redick
I loved The Red Wolf Conspiracy. It was one of the best debut books, in my opinion, a few years ago. The Ruling Sea, it’s sequel, started slow but picked up strong enough I am really looking forward to the third book, The River of Shadows. I love seafaring tales and the tale of the epic ship Chathrand is that—and so much more! Throw in some great and fascinating characters, and Robert Redick is proving himself to be one of my favorites!
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
The Name of Wind. Arguably one of the finest debut books in the last decade. It is the story of Kvothe, who sinks from gypsy to homeless pauper to University student and beyond. Kvothe is one of the most fully realized characters I’ve read and his story is one most people fall in love with immediately. The Wise Man’s Fear is the continuation of that tale and it’s been three long years in the waiting. It’s also a massive book! Love that kind of pay out! When March 1st arrives, be prepared for a swell of publicity surrounding this release, as it will be one of the biggest bestsellers of the year! Can Rothfuss pull off another wonderful tale? I hope so! March can’t come quick enough!
There you have it! My list of books I want right now! What books make your list? Post them! Maybe I can get around to them too this year!

Top 10 Social Media Blogs: The 2011 Winners!

Social media is a big subject. If you’re looking for some reliable places to go for the best tips and social media tactics, look no further!

Our second-annual contest generated more than 300 nominations. Our panel of social media experts carefully reviewed the nominees and finalists, analyzing the quality of their content, the frequency of posts and reader involvement (among other things).

The following are the winners of Social Media Examiner’s Top 10 Social Media Blogs for 2011.

If you’re looking to master all that social media has to offer, these rich blogs need to be at the top of your reading list.
  1. Brian Solis: The grand master of social media, Brian is one of the web’s leading social media evangelists and his blog is required reading for businesses.

  • TopRank: This popular blog, the brainchild of Lee Odden, provides exceptional social media advice and should be one of your daily destinations.

  • Convince & Convert: Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert provides outstanding content for businesses seeking to embrace social media. This is the second year Jay has made our list.

  • Six Pixels of Separation: Mitch Joel offers consistent and thought-provoking content delivered with personality.

  • Social Media Explorer: This blog, from Jason Falls, provides excellent perspective on the current state of social media and should be a regular stop for serious social media marketers. This is the second year Jason has made our list.

  • Brand Builder: For businesses looking to dive deep into social media discussion, check out Olivier Blanchard’s rich insights. This is the second year Olivier has made our list.

  • Spin Sucks: Gini Dietrich’s blog takes a look at social media from a PR perspective. Check her site out!

  • Danny Brown: Danny Brown’s blog examines the human side of social media with rich content and insights.

  • The Anti-Social Media: For something completely unique, check out Jay Dolan’s satirical blog on the state of social media.

  • BrandSavant: This unique blog from Tom Webster combines a great intellect with with common sense, giving it an edge.

  • Congratulations to the winners. Be sure to check out these amazing blogs!

    Top 10 for Least Desirable Women Of 2011

    Early next month, AskMen will reveal its Top 99 Most Desirable Women Of 2011. It will be a list full of jaw-dropping beauties, noted intellectuals and chicks with big breasts. But as a stark reminder that with light comes darkness, we must first explore the 10 women who failed to light our collective fires. Some wasted their once unlimited potential, while others, sadly, were born this way. So without further ado, please enjoy our selection of the top 10 least desirable women of 2011 -- and remember, without the sour, the sweet ain’t as sweet.

    No.10 Danielle Staub
    Danielle can now add AskMen’s Least Desirable Women of 2011 to her resume, right under “former star of The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” “amateur sex tape maker,” “former junkie,” and “ex-con.” Why did she make our list, you ask? Please see above.
    No.9 Holly Madison
    What on earth is a Playboy Playmate doing on this list, you ask? Well, instead of handling the engagement of her former beau, Hugh Hefner, to fellow Playmate Crystal Harris with class and dignity, Holly Madison crudely exclaimed to Life & Style, “Basically, I think he could do better.” Ouch, Holly. Everybody knows that the only thing less attractive than a 24-year-old Playmate married to an 84-year-old man is a bitter former Playmate who wishes she was.
    No.8 Madonna
    Madonna has been out of the news until recently, when Piers Morgan announced that he will ban the Material Girl from ever appearing on his new CNN chat show. Judging by the hour-long show’s already plummeting ratings, Madonna won’t need the added publicity. What alarmed us were the photos of Madge most news outlets used when covering the story, which showed a bee-stung face so altered by Botox (and Lord knows what else) and were such a far cry from the Madonna of old -- the queen of forbidden sexuality -- that we get misty-eyed just thinking about it. Does anyone have a hot tub time machine?

    No.7 Lindsay Lohan
    It’s no secret that Lindsay Lohan has had her struggles with the white wizard for the majority of her career (or what’s left of it). Fresh from her umpteenth stint in rehab, the former biggest female star on the planet has a long way to go before she re-earns a spot in our hearts -- and in our spank banks. We’re rooting for you, Lindsay, because the only person who misses it when you lounge on the beach in a bikini more than you is us.
    No.6 Heidi Montag
    There was a time when Heidi Montag embodied the sun-stroked blond that came to define the West Coast over the years. Then she met something called Spencer, and things went downhill, culminating in a miserable 2010, which saw Montag’s horrific addiction to plastic surgery hit a new low. In an issue of Life & Style, the modern-day Frankenstein revealed a variety of scars from botched surgeries and begged for her old body back. Her sudden self-awareness helped redeem the once-clueless reality star, but it’s still a case of too little too late (or in this case, too much). When the Beach Boys wished they all could be California girls back in 1965, we doubt Heidi’s what they had in mind.

    No.5 Ke$ha
    The success of Lady Gaga proved that the days of pop-stars-as-pinups has officially come to an end. But behind her often grotesque aesthetic lies the promise of high art and impassioned expression. With Ke$ha -- who many likened to Gaga when she first broke -- it’s simply a case of an A&R department constructing an image that taps into every trope of what might be considered “cool.” Everything from the torn stockings to the teased hair seems fabricated and has Ke$ha looking more like a robot gone haywire instead of a new kind of sex symbol. Maybe she should stop brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack?
    No.4 Miley Cyrus
    Miley Cyrus showed promise; she really did. With every major pop star or starlet crumbling around her, Cyrus entered adulthood with a plethora of examples of what not to do. Since turning 18, though, Cyrus’ wardrobe has shrunk tenfold; provocative photos of her were “stolen” and plastered all over the internet; she’s been caught on tape doing drugs and laughing maniacally; and her public persona shows no signs of maturing (and remains as grating as ever). The arrival of a Miley Cyrus sex tape is not a matter of “if” but “when.”
    No.3 Khloe Kardashian
    If we ran into Khloe Kardashian awash in the dim light of a VIP room, under the influence of multiple shots of Ciroc, we might be tempted to compliment her hairdo and maybe even offer a kiss, as we'd be too drunk to recall her marriage to the behemoth hoopster Lamar Odom. But in the harsh light of day with the cold truth of sobriety in tow -- and especially with her next to her two far more alluring sisters, Kim and Kourtney -- well, let’s just say she’s not “the pretty one” for a reason.
    No.2 Snooki
    If there’s one redeeming quality about Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, it’s that she knows who (what?) she is and doesn’t give a damn what you think about it. For those of you who don’t know (and considering Jersey Shore’s massive ratings this season, there’re not many), let us help: She’s a short, stubby, loud-mouth alcoholic who’s garish wardrobe is matched only by her reprehensible taste in men (those of the juiced-up gorilla variety) and by her ability to discuss her own flatulence with the aplomb of a college professor. Her love of pickles may be the most attractive thing about her. Now that’s saying something.
    No.1 Sarah Palin
    We’ll be the first to admit that Sarah Palin can be construed as sexy, especially if you’re into that whole right-wing-extremist-who-loves-to-hunt-and-just-happens-to-look-like-a-porn-star-masquerading-as-a-librarian thing. Unfortunately Palin was given the gift of speech, and every time she opens her mouth to spew anti-Obama rhetoric, she adds at least one beer on the Molson scale (a determinant of how many beers need to be consumed before one beds her). Her much-maligned speech addressing the tragedy in Arizona -- in which she foolishly evoked the derogatory term “Blood Libel” in her own defense -- was the last straw. Don’t worry, Todd; we’re sure she picks up the checks.