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Archive for January 2010

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran

Cleopatra VII is one of the most known historical figures of all time. Her love story with Marc Antony, was also considered to be one of the most well-known throughout the world. But what most of us didn't know was that their love had produced three children: Alexander, Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy.

The book begins at 31BC, when Octavian defeats Marc Antony's forces at the Battle of Actium. We all know what happens, Marc Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide to avoid being taken as prisoner by Octavian and their three children were taken to Rome by Octavian.

The rest of the novel chronicles the early life of Cleopatra Selene, and is told in her point of view, as she experiences and sees Rome. How Alexandria is so much different to Rome, how she fears for her life, as she awaits Octavian's orders to marry her off to a senator, and basic, everyday life in Rome with her friends.

Thoughts - This novel is well-researched as I read about numerous rituals, gods, and "events" happening in Ancient Rome and Egypt. I am fascinated by how the author fed me these information - it's as if I was living in those times as well. And I would never have known all about those rituals, gods, and events, had it not for me 1) reading the book and 2) researching them as well.
This book also chronicles a glossary at the back, so if you get lost in the wonder that is Ancient Rome and Egypt, head on to the glossary and you'll have something to guide your way. Although not everything is explained or described in the glossary, if you're a curious reader like myself, you'll spend hours traipsing around Wikipedia, searching for the characters, events, and terms!Some of the buildings described in the novel may not be standing anymore [ie the Library of Alexandria], it's definitely fun to imagine them! There's even a map at the front part of the book to let you imagine how Rome looked like way back then. And also plots Europe and the other cities in there. Excellent.

Although the book may become boring at some parts, the mystery of the Red Eagle will be sure to rouse you a bit. But for those of you who are looking for an action-packed novel, well, there's definitely not a lot in this book, so don't expect too much. However, I found myself wondering what would happen next to the characters so I'm guilty of looking through the next few pages [oh all right, even right through to the last chapters], trying to get a sneak peek of what might happen next!

Overall, the book was an honest and pretty accurate description of daily life in Ancient Rome. How much simpler the times were then, and how various forces eventually shaped the characters of Tiberius [who will eventually become the Roman Emperor when Jesus was crucified], Selene, Julia, Marcellus, Juba, and Agrippa. I feel these characters were well-developed and felt very "alive", although Selene's stubbornness has got me annoyed most of the time. But hey, feeling annoyed at a character definitely means the book got to you, right?

The author went all ou to try and give a very visual representation and feeling to the readers that they are indeed in that time, that place. Exquisite attention to the details too! Very informational for readers like me. This book made me want to get on a plane and explore Alexandria and Rome, and see some of the structures that were still standing!

So, on to the rating & information:
Published: 2009
Publisher: Crown
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Read it if: You're looking for something historical to read and want to learn more about Ancient Egypt!

Many, many thanks to Michelle Moran for providing a copy of the book!

In My Mailbox # 10

I completely spazzed out and realized that the links I'm posting at Kristi's site for 2010 have been wrong!

Anyway, In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.  It features bought, borrowed, or received books as well as other cool stuff from the mail. Isn't it fun?

For this week:

Received in the mail:

Left - Author swag from a contest I've won at Bitten By Books

Right: "Crossing the Bridge" by Michael Baron [for review]
Hugh Penders has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade since his brother Chase died in a car accident. He carries with him two secrets that he has never been able to share with anyone: that he believes he might have been able to prevent the accident, and that he was deeply in love with Chase's girlfriend, Iris.

When Hugh's father suffers a debilitating heart attack, Hugh must return to the New England home he's been running away from for the past ten years. One day, he encounters Iris - who has long since moved away - on the street. They begin a friendship and Hugh believes he's falling in love with Iris all over again.

But the ghost of Chase haunts both of them. And when each reveals a truth the other never knew, their lives, their vision of Chase, and their chances for a future together will change forever.

So, that's it for now, until next week. What did you get in your mailboxes this week?

Review: Sherlock Holmes Movie

Last Saturday, I got a chance to watch Sherlock Holmes at the cinemas!

By golly, I waited for this for a month, given that it was shown elsewhere last 2009, but only got to watch it this 2010! Jeez, what a loser. One part being that from the third week of December 2009 until the second week of January 2010, only local [ie Filipino] movies were being shown from a film festival. Ugh.

Anyway, the plotline is quite simple [and here's me without giving any spoilers]: Holmes was called in to a case wherein he was chasing after Lord Blackwood, stopping a crime involving magic & human sacrifice. He catches Blackwood, he was tried and hanged. But wait! Blackwood rose from the dead! And Holmes was called again to capture Blackwood and find out how he did his death-defying act.

Simple enough, eh?

I wouldn't give away any other parts of the movie because I came in the cinema with absolutely nothing! No spoilers, nothing, and I guess that's what made me enjoy and appreciate the movie more. Although the movie is not based on any of A. Conan Doyle's novel, the story gave it enough justice, staying loyal to the methods of Holmes on how he apprehended the perpetrator, and the steps the perps went through as they were doing their deeds as was described in the novels and short stories. Holmes mastery of disguise was also clearly shown in the movie. Look closer at some of the characters and you'll realize that it's Holmes, playing another part!

Robert Downey Jr as Holmes was awesome. Hands down. No wonder he was nominated [or won?] several awards from his portrayal of Holmes. Jude Law was also great as Watson! I loved their bromance and banter on the screen! Absolutely entertaining!

Loooooved the costumes and setting as well! Costumes were typical of the 19th century. Setting-wise, several London landmarks that we now know and love today were featured! St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament, and Tower Bridge. I loved that they showed the Tower Bridge when it was still under construction at the time. It was the perfect backdrop! One thing that caught my eye as well: Eros at Piccadilly Circus!! It's an amazing contrast to the Piccadilly of now, where there's neon signs in one area! Wheeee!! Okay. I am biased. I loooooove London hence plus points for the movie to be set there! =) The Thames also has a major part in the movie! Watch out for that!

One complaint though: in the movie, Holmes has a tendency to talk very, very quickly! It's quite hard to catch on what he's saying, as his words may sometimes be fuddled with Downey's fake British accent. Then again, that's my only complaint!

The ending is open-ended in such a way that there might be a sequel in the works! Wheeeee!!!! I hope there will be one! I'll keep on googling it! 

I'll give this movie a 4.5/5!! Very worth your money!! Go watch it!

In My Mailbox # 9

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

It features bought, borrowed, or received books as well as other cool stuff from the mail. Isn't it fun?

So last week, I didn't get to post anything -- blame the busy day job schedule! Since typing this post, I've also received two parcels but I'll feature them for next week's IMM since I don't have time to type this post on a Saturday as well!

I got the following today:


An Advanced Review Copy of "Explorer-X Alpha" by LM Preston! This is my first ever ARC so many, many, many thanks LM for sending this book over to me even though I live on the other side of the world! I can't wait to read and review this!

I also got some swag from LM Preston -- a poster and a magnet for Explorer-X Alpha. I also got a bookmark and a magnet featuring LM Preston's new book, "The Pack" which is coming out Fall 2010! Wheee..

Do get a copy of Explorer-X Alpha and add it in your 2010 Debut Authors Reading List! :)


And so, here I was at my favourite bookstore and I saw a bargain bin! So, off I was, looking for anything interesting when I saw "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson. ON SALE! It's the UK version too, so it's huge and fat and gooorgeous! I got it for around $4.50 [PHP 200] but that means I'll have to get book 1 too! Yaaay

As I said from my previous post, I received two parcels yesterday but don't have time to post them today. As a teaser, it contains a book and some author swag. wheee.

So, what was in your mailbox this week? Care to share?

Book Review: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter is back on his second year at Hogwarts! This time, with even more adventures and lessons along the way! This year, strange happenings have been going on at Hogwarts, which all points strangely to the legend of the Chamber of Secrets! Will Harry ever survive the monster hidden within the depths of the chamber?

My first book for 2010!! What a good read it has been! I didn't imagine I'd finish it this quickly. Anyway, I initially re-read this book as part of the Harry Potter book challenge on at GalleySmith, which I'm doing badly on as I need to finish all 7 books by July 2010. Here's hoping that I get to finish this!

Anyway, back to the review of the second book. It's faster-paced compared to the first book, and this time, the characters are more defined and I get to learn more spells and "wizard terms" so to speak. I got to know some new characters as well, including the mandatory new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. I'm learning all about magical enchantments and othe rmagical creatures!

This book definitely did not lack in trying to explain what had happened to Ginny and Tom Riddle. Although the book did not necessarily build Ginny's character at all, it helped build more stronger relationships and character backgrounds for Ron, Harry and Hermione. This book also provides a stepping stone to the other Harry Potter books, which I spent time trying to figure out and remembering who played a part in what on the latter parts of the books.

Quite a quick read, so definitely good to start my new year, it's definitely a boost to the stats! It's also written in such a way that anyone could understand it: young adults, and adults alike! I like!

Overall, I'll give it a 4/5 rating! I know most of you guys have either already read the books or seen the movie so go watch or read them again :) Harry definitely is part of our pop culture now and is here to stay!

Ruby & Yam's Amazon Wishlist

Below is Ruby & Yam's Amazon wishlist. I recently got a $25 gift certificate from Amazon and I'm stoked to buy stuff online that's not available in my country! =)

But first off, HUGE apologies for not updating my blog. My day job work has been so stressful this past two weeks, only posts I've scheduled for the first week of January have been posted in my blog. Whenever I get home, I just want to sleep and/or check my personal email or just relax. *sigh* year-end blues! I need a holiday, quick!

Regular blog updates would happen starting today [until the next month-end comes] eeeeep!

See ya!

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Review: The Young Victoria Movie

The Young Victoria is a British movie that chronicles the early life of Victoria as she ascended to the throne of England. It shows how she was very protected as a child, not being able to interact with any other children, would need to hold someone's hand as she was walking down the stairs, and had to share a bedroom with her mother. The movie also chronicles how Victoria and Albert had met, and how their love story had blossomed.

This movie was such a blast for me to watch! I love all things England, so was thrilled when I saw that it was showing on a limited engagement at the local cinemas. For starters, I don't really know much about Albert & Victoria, much less gone to most of the famous landmarks that were left in their honor in London, so I came to watch this movie with an open book, willing to learn and understand more about them. Now, that's a disadvantage to me because I don't know which parts are historically correct and which parts were just exaggerated for the cinematography.

The setting, costumes, and actors were very brilliant. The Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace scenes were believable, as were the period costumes at the time. The actors also showed the youth of both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as I tihnk most of us only know them as part of history now, and don't give them much thought. Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria? Absolutely AMAZING! Rupert Friend as Prince Albert? HOT! And very, very, very believable! Their chemistry on screen was sizzling! And in some scenes, they managed to make me cry. And bawl. Like a baby. Yes. It's that good.

My biggest surprise in the movie was that Queen Victoria proved to be quite a looker when she was younger! I googled her paintings when she was younger and she wasn't the grieving, rotund widow that is usually portrayed of her. And Prince Albert! Oh my gosh. He was a stunner!! Look through Wikipedia and you'll see how he was when he was younger!

Go and watch this movie, if its showing in your area! I think its in limited engagement only but it's definitely a must-see

2010 Debut Author Challenge

Just when I thought I'm done joining book challenges, I found some more in the internet!

This challenge is hosted by The Story Siren and challenges peeps to read at least 12 books from 2010 Debut Authors!

I already have one book with me, so it's quite exciting! Look into my review posts over the year to find out more about new authors and their awesome books!

Go and join as well if you wish :)
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Books On The Spotlight # 2

Books on the Spotlight is a monthly event I'm doing to highlight books that I've been reading and would feature reviews in the next few weeks.

For January 2010, the books I hope to complete and post reviews of are as follows:
*all images searched from google images; product descriptions from Amazon.com*

Extravagance - Gary Krist.

William Tobias Merrick, an energetic young man from the provinces, travels to the big city in a time of great optimism and ferment, hoping to make his mark on a frenzied, money-crazed society obsessed with the promise of new technologies.

The city in question is London in the 1690s; but it is also New York in the 1990s. The new technologies are diving bells, pneumatic winches, and "sucking-worm" drainage engines; but they are also wireless telecommunication devices, patented biotechnology processes, and revolutionary electronic Internet routers. Only the sense of unlimited possibility remains the same throughout.

Unfolding simultaneously in two distant--but remarkably similar--periods of history, Extravagance is a comic, pictaresque novel of financial mania, the story of a world gripped by a terminal case of irrational exuberance. Navigating the perils of both eras is a single cast of characters: Will himself, a young man on the make, eager to do whatever it takes to make his fortune; Will's uncle (and sponsor) Gilbert Hawking, a shrewd businessman with one foot in the Old Economy and one in the New; Benjamin Fletcher, the developer of a pioneering new technology destined to set the world on fire; and Theodore Witherspoon, the cheerfully unscrupulous wizard of the financial markets who promises to make them all wealthy beyond their dreams.

Meanwhile, Will's aspirations are complicated by his pursuit of Ben Fletcher's sister, Eliza, the gorgeous and disconcertingly aggressive woman who is as desirable as she is elusive. Can Will succeed in his efforts to win both Eliza and the fortune that her brother's new technology seems likely to bring him? And can he make it all happen before the general euphoria of the age reaches its inevitable climax?

Extravagance is a uniquely conceived work of high comic entertainment -- an ultra-smart time machine of a novel that proves that both love and greed are timeless.

Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets

 The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he's packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike is does. For in Harry's second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageous stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls' bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley's younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone--or something--starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects...Harry Potter himself?

New Year Readathon Updates

I think it's better to post one collective post rather than many so below is my update for the New Year Readathon hosted by Bookworming in the 21st Century

Day Three: JANUARY 3, 2010:
- Proved to be a very, very bad reader. I watched Merlin again in the evening! Will do a bit of reading as well but maybe when I go to bed later. Was sick for the afternoon so I did a lot of resting + sleeping before going to work tomorrow. I suck. Lol. I suck on reading under pressure! =p

How did you guys do on this readathon?

 Day Two: JANUARY 2, 2010:
- Read Extravagance - Gary Kirst - 8 pages total
- Read Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets - 20 pages total.
- Watched a LOT of tv episodes & also The Young Victoria! lol. I love the holidays! I can't stop watching the telly!

Day One: JANUARY 1, 2010: 
- Read a total of 8 pages of Ribblestrop - Andy Mulligan
- That's all I read! lol. I spent most of the time catching up on sleep and hanging out with my family!


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In My Mailbox # 8

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.
It features bought, borrowed, or received books as well as other cool stuff from the mail. Isn't it fun?

So, I thought for this week, I would have a very disappointing NOTHING as a post since the post office was only open last Dec 28th and 29th. And I was doing my best to practice a no book-buying ban until I went to the bookstore today and saw a table of marked down books.

And so, I went home with the below books:

Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky
The Cuckoo in the Clock & Other Stories - Enid Blyton

The Cuckoo in the Clock was immediately borrowed by my colleague at work so I told her to take good care of it! lol.

What's in your mailbox this week?

My 2010 Goals

It's the New Year! It's a new decade! It's 2010!

Might as well have my first post of 2010 as a reminder to myself of my goals for this year.
To be honest, I'm very, very excited whenever there's a new year. There's 365 days of the unknown... new lessons, opportunities, and experiences! Woot Woot! A chance to grow!

Anyhow, my goals: 

1. Blog more. I'll be a better blogger this year compared to the past years I've had this blog up. I was a firm believer of notebooks before. I still am now, but I realized that my readers are very limited if I just keep them in a notebook. At least now I've got readers out there in the world who could share my views [I hope].

2. Read and review more. Oh yes. That was one of my goals for 2009. [which I didn't post online, see goal #1] I am starting 2010 with three books that I'm ready to review sometime in January. My initial goal for 2010 is to read 24 books. 2 per month. Kind of like 2009. Hopefully I could surpass that.

3. Travel more. See new places, experience different cultures. That would be one awesome thing to do. I already booked a ticket to Macau in July 2010. I wonder what other adventures await me this year?

4. Try to avail of my vices at a discount. Books, travel and shopping are my vices.
- Clothes/shoes --> only shop at the local Chinatown where there's lots of cheap clothes but are of good quality. For those high street brands, I would only get them on sale. Yes. No more paying full price.
- Books --> Sometimes the local bookstore has a table full of bargain books. Then there's the month-long sale where books could be availed of at a 20-80% off discount [usually around August-September]. I will hold off on buying books that are sold full price. If I really need to read something then there's the TBR or the handy dandy used bookstore. Or I could always swap books on BookMooch or Rosie, my new book buddy who also used to be my officemate!
- Travel --> I would avail of the crazy fares that the local budget airline is holding, and if there's no crazy fare sale anymore [ie P1.00 for a seat. That's cheap!], I would settle for a sale. Any sale, as long as I've got the funds and I'm free. "Have time and money, will book and travel. "

5. Spend more time with mummy and Goofybear the dog. I love those two. I'm planning on getting my mum to at least one new foreign country a year. In 2009, we went to Hong Kong. In 2010, hopefully somewhere else. She wants to go to Australia, but I don't think I've got the funds for that yet.

6. Save more. I need my nest egg to grow so I could have a happy retirement in 30+ years time. And well, those savings from goal #4 could come in handy for emergency or my travel vice!

7. Watch more theatre/musicals. They make me more cultured. :)

8. Watch more concerts. If they're free. =p

9. Go to more events. Book signings, parties, etc.

10. Make every moment count: read whilst stuck in traffic or in the bathroom, if its the evening, listen to an audiobook. Anything that would keep me preoccupied and just not bored. I will try to make every second count because I won't get that second back anymore.

And that's about my 2010 goals for now. Care to share yours?
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