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Archive for December 2010

2010 Wrap-Up: Books/Reading Related

I planned to do two 2010 wrap-ups: one for a book-related and one for an overall personal post.

So, in line for the beest and worst discussion of my book club for 2010, let me present my bookish highlights for 2010!

Some Awesome Things that Happened:

Best Books Read for 2010:

Disappointing Reads for 2010:

Book with the best cover [that I read for 2010]:

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I was not too impressed by the writing style, but dang, the cover is absolutely gorgeous! The one I borrowed from my friend has a holographic effect to it. It's tooo pretty!!
Bring on 2011!! :)

I got featured on an author's site! =)


I reviewed Death By Garrote last December 28th and lo and behold, some friends from my book club, Flips Flipping Pages, informed me that Mr. Ambeth Ocampo shared a link to this blog on his Facebook site!

I was squeeing in happiness.  Lookie! Lookie!

Aahh... what a way to end 2010! :)

[Review] Death By Garrote by Ambeth Ocampo

Death by Garrote is the third book in the Looking Back series by Ambeth Ocampo. But not to worry, you don't need to buy Looking Back 1 and 2 before you appreciate Looking Back 3. They are all standalone books which comprise of a series of editorial articles that Ambeth Ocampo wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer which revolve around Philippine history. These articles do not necessarily just delve in the heroes of the past, but also of various foods, establishments, and so much more!

I was introduced in the Looking Back series when I was at Ambeth Ocampo's talk at the Ayala Museum last August 14th, 2010. I bought a copy of Looking Back 2 to have signed, and was instantly hooked!

What I absolutely loved about the Looking Back series is that they provide short glimpses of Philippine History without being too boring! They were written in such a way that is entertaining, informative, and fun! Unlike some of the other history books I read when I was younger [flashback of my Araling Panlipunan days back in high school where I fall asleep], this book would definitely interest you in Philippine history. I know it peaked my interest, and yes, I was also insistent on peaking my mom's interest that I kept badgering her with some questions about who was the president during her time, the food she ate, what it was like strolling through Quiapo and Sta. Cruz and how they compare to today. Okay, back to the book. I also loved that some old photos were incorporated in the book. Something that is very difficult to find now.

I learned while reading that these articles was researched thoroughly by the author, and maybe someday someone would browse through his notes and make a living out of his research [Hmm.... I may have to find those notes and trawl through them]. And yes, that particular note made me want to stand up from my seat and go directly to the Lopez Memorial Museum in Ortigas, and the dumdum in me initially did not know where it was until the wonder that is Google pointed me in the right direction. [Note: Rosie, if you are reading this, please can we go there on our historical tour this 2011?]

Oh, another noteworthy thing about the books, the title of Looking Back 2 and 3 is already an overview of the first few articles presented. In Looking Back 2, it was about Mabini's dancing [could you ever imagine, our most precious hero, dancing? Normally we just associate him with his wheelchair], and in Looking Back 3, it was all about the garrote. [Another note: Frankly, I also never knew what a garrote was. Uh.. dumdum moment again!! Thanks again to Google and this book to erase the stupid factor in me].

Can I just say - when is the next book out?? At 100 pages, it is enough to leave you hanging and wanting more. So, while there are no books out yet, you can discover some of the other Ambeth Ocampo books available in the local bookstores. 

So, overall, this is a must read book. You may not be a history buff to appreciate all the articles, but maybe after reading this, you'll get to learn more about Philippine history and look at our heroes and past differently.

Published: 2010
Available From: All local bookstores! [I checked National Bookstore & Powerbooks and they already have a copy of this. Not sure about Fully Booked but I'm sure they have this also]
Publisher: Anvil Publishing
Book was: Provided by Anvil Publishing for review. Many thanks also for Gege and Honey for offering :) 
Read it if: You want to know more about Philippine history. I know, I would!
Rating: I loved it, one of my favourite reads of the year [5/5]

Merry Christmas!

It's that time of the year to give and receive gifts and spend time with loved ones!
I just wanted to greet you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday! :)

The blog may be inactive until the 27th as I have been going to a few parties here and there, and haven't had time to blog much, let alone read. Plus, the evil that is the Sims 3 keeps me away from my other interests =)

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[Review] Percy Jackson & The Olympians - The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

It was just the beginning of summer and Percy, Annabeth and Thalia were out to help Grover, as he was trying to protect two new half-bloods, Bianca and Nico. As they go through their adventure, a manticor suddenly attacks, and Annabeth falls off a cliff. What comes next is a quest to save Artemis and Annabeth, and find out what is brewing in the Titan's camp, as the prophecy about the hero who may bring down the gods looms nearer.

I am loving this book!! It's quite different from the Sea of Monsters, where I know the basic plot of the story so its a breath of fresh air for me. Here, I meet the warriors of Artemis, and the gods that had no direct interaction with Percy on the previous books: Artemis, Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus. I'm loving the new characters too: the Ophiotaurus, and the Pegasus Blackjack, Porpie and Guido!

Although I'm not used to not having Annabeth around in the story, it is quite amusing to read about Percy trying to battle his feelings about her. Awww... it looks like he's growing up and likes Annabeth as more than a friend. It's amazing also how these new characters got injected in the book, which a part of my mind was saying "are they part of the Heroes of Olympus spinoff book?" Although there were certain elements in the story that I guessed easily [Atlas, for example], it is a fun and entertaining read as well. There may be some new characters and scenarios that are a bit hard to follow at times, but I guess they would all form a part of the final two books that would ultimately conclude in Percy's choice when faced with the prophecy. Oooooh.

I can't provide much thought on this book without giving too many spoilers, so I'd better wrap this up now.

Published: 2007
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Book was: Borrowed from a friend
Read it if: You want to continue the tale of Percy. This is the middle book, by the way
Rating: I liked it! [4/5]

[Review] The 39 Clues: One False Note by Gordon Korman

The 39 Clues: One False Note follows immediately after Dan and Amy had discovered the clue that would lead them to Vienna. In this book, they face off with the other teams as they try to outwit them and find more ways to get more clues given their limited resources.

I find that the second book is not as interesting as the first one. Don't get me wrong, maybe I'm just trying to get used to the writing style of this author, as it is quite different from Rick Riordan. There were some parts of the story that were boring, and predictable. I knew they would happen and what would happen before I even finished reading that particular chapter, would you believe? Also, the darker side of the Cahills are showing in this book - they would steal and make cunning efforts to try and get to the next clue, however, I guess they have to do that as they are obviously the underdogs, only relying on wits and information that Grace may have passed on to them. Thankfully the book picked up near the end, as they were in Venice and in Vienna. Those parts, I can't literally put the book down. Hmm... both cities, I would definitely add to my to-travel list.

One thing I can't take was how the other characters/teams seem to be non-existent in the book. Where was Irina, where were the Holts, what happened to Jonah after he had lost Amy and Dan during the chase? There were quite a lot of loose ends and I am not quite happy about that.

What surprised me about the tale was how Marie-Antoinette was included in the book. Oh, you'll have to read it how she was involved, but she is all right. One thing about the 39 Clues is that they mix historical facts to the storytelling, which I guess from what I read in a press release before was a goal of the publisher - to make kids love learning about history as they read the books. And I totally agree, since I can't help but research some of the facts and places mentioned in the book to add to my own general knowledge.

I can't wait to pick up the next book - it is currently in my TBR list, and although book 2 disappointed me for a bit, here's hoping that book 3 won't!
Published: 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
Book was: Borrowed from a friend
Read it if: You want to continue the story as outlined from book 1
Rating: It could get better! [3/5]

Everyone needs minty fresh breath, right?

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Toms of Maine. All opinions are 100% mine.

Another personal post for me, and this time, as per the header, it is a sponsored post and was compensated to write this but all opinions, insights, and anything under the sun is mine.

Living in the third world can have its limitations - of course, some products being offered in the US cannot be bought directly here. But hey, that's what my relatives are for! Anyway, this post is about Tom's Of Maine - a company that provides personal hygiene products, which everyone needs! I honestly have not tried their products yet but they do look promising. I have checked on the ingredients of their toothpaste [something that not all companies provide] and they offer peppermint flavoured toothpaste - I love peppermint!

After brushing your teeth, it's now time to use some mouthwash. Oh yes, additional freshness too. That way, you could have a wicked fresh moment with some friends, family members or loved ones, and have the chance to chat with them all day and not have to worry about your breath stinking. That would be so embarrassing.

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Okay, I caved in and all self control went out the window

This morning, I was searching through http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ and saw that my well-wished for book is still available on stock.

After watching their youtube video performance of Never Forget with Robbie at Children in Need, I went out of my mind and pondered if I would really, really, really want to get a copy of this book.

And I did, BUT after I consulted a few websites.

Checked http://www.amazon.co.uk/ and the book is out of stock, checked http://www.asda.co.uk/ and its also out of stock - http://www.play.co.uk/ is also out of stock. Oh.My.Gosh. I definitely, definitely should get this book now!!!

And then I filled myself with thoughts and explanations on why I would get the book:
1. It's sold out in all the UK websites I'm expecting it to- I need this book NOW!
2. It's a collectors item
3. It's a book about one of my favourite bands, enough said!
4. Maybe one day I'll get the band members to sign the book when I stalk them somewhere
5. It's a book.
Aaaahh.. .So now the debate continues if I'll get the other book [as photographed on the side]

But somehow it's not as good as the Take Two book, given that the photographs here are not as recent....

BUT.... these are photos with Robbie! Aaaahh..


And no, I did not think of the price. The Take Two book is much too bloody expensive for me, and is enough to buy me two hardbound books here in Manila. But all the logic went out the window already!

Have you guys ever experienced the same way that I felt? Trying to justify your purchase even though it's way out of your budget??

[Travel] The Inconveniences of Travel.

Since I am absolutely tired and cranky most of the time this month, I decided to do a little personal post about the inconveniences of travel. Don't get me wrong, I adore traveling the world: seenig new places, and enriching my knowledge, but there's just some annnoying factors about travel.

Everyday, I travel around 30km from my house in the suburbs to my office. A few years ago, when I first started going to university and traveling the same distance, it used to take me only an hour and a half and I'm home! Well, that was when I used to come home in the afternoon and if there was traffic, there's always the sun to help me out while I read some notes or a book as part of my homework or just to relax myself. Fast forward to now and I am averaging nearly 2hours just to get to work! And so it takes me 4 freaking hours daily just to get to and from work. Why? Because of the traffic, that's why! Gah. In my daily travel, I can go to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur by plane! On a weekly basis, I can go one-way to Europe or to the US West Coast!

*Sigh* Living in a third world country where the traffic is horrible and the transportation system is unreliable sure is annoying and frustrating but I can't really do much about it since duh, I do live here.

So, what do I normally do to make the most out of that time I've spent stuck in traffic?
If it's the morning or afternoon [whatever, as long as the sun is still out], I read. It's an excellent way to make some more book reviews to feature on this site, and well, it provides me with additional information too on where I could go travel next, or just get factoids of stuff.

In the evening, I listen to audiobooks. It's just like reading a book only someone reads the book for you.

Other things you could do whilst stuck in traffic:
1. Sleep. Not highly recommended if you've got a really expensive gadget in your bag or you've got something to lose. Just exercise sleeping in a public utility vehicle with caution.
2. Read. It's worth it. See my reasons above why.
3. Write. Sometimes, I write stuff on my journal or make lists of things I need to do. It is definitely a time saver.
4. Watch. Entertain yourself by watching downloaded shows or even tv on your mobile, iPod or other gadget. I wouldn't do this whilst living in a third world country as you may be mugged. Do this with caution!
5. Meditate. Talk to God, or just think of things you need to do, or just close your eyes and shut off the world for a moment. It's a very relaxing thing to do.
6. Talk to your friends/family. Either by text or by calling them, it sure is an easy way to pass the time.
7. Chat up the person you're sitting with. I'm not necessarily a nice person to strangers, but to each their own.
8. Eat. It's a good time to eat dinner, as long as you don't spill anything on yourself or the person you're sitting next to.
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[Review] The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Dan and Amy Cahill's are orphans, and their grandmother just died. When the will was being read, they were faced with a choice that would change their lives: take their 1million dollar inheritance or embark on a search for the 39 clues, which would make them the most powerful people in the world. Dan and Amy took their first clue, burning their voucher for the money and realized that their relatives, whom they never knew existed, are much more interesting and dangerous in the world!

So, this is the first of the 10 book series. This is a great prelude to what might happen in the other 9 books which would take Dan and Amy around the world! The destination in this first book: Philadelphia and on to Paris!

I love the clues and the descriptions of the places. As my friend told me, "It's like Da Vinci Code, but for kids!" And I totally agree with her comment there! It is highly thought of, and yes, I admit that I spent some time thinking of what might happen next to Dan and Amy. It's just a bit hard not to spoil myself by turning the page to the middle and the last part of the book to see if my theories are correct! What's amazing also is that the book has these cards included. You log on to their website, http://www.the39clues.com/ and solve some of the puzzles that Dan and Amy encountered too! Brilliant, right? I think I read from a press release that this was done to entice more young readers to pick up books so I guess this is now the age of interactive book reading! Hmm.. I totally agree. The new generation of kids now have much smaller attention spans compared to when I was younger!

So, I'm not too keen on the death, the blackmail and the threatening each other part to get the clues, but then again, it's all part of their game and what makes the book more interesting. Good enough then. And can I just say that I <3 the title of the book??? I never even expected what it meant until I read the explanation in the book! Gah! How could Amy have solved it and I haven't?? Also, I do adore Dan and Amy - they both have their own specialties to add to the hunt. Dan is a math whiz and obviously can memorize vast amounts of information in a short span of time, whilst Amy is the bookworm and takes care of the history and geography part! Ahhh the perfect tag team!

Would I be reading all 10 books? Yes! Yes! Yes! I already have books 2-6 with me too, all happily borrowed from one of my closest bookish friends! And yes, I am playing the game too - I am in Ekaterina!

Published: 2008
Publisher: Scholastic
Book was: Borrowed from a friend
Read it if: You want an adventure story that's much like the Da Vinci Code [but for the YA market]
Rating: I loved it! [5/5]

[Review] Adventures of Rusty and Ginger Fox by Tim Ostermeyer

The Adventures of Rusty & Ginger Fox is a children's picture book that tell the tale of two fox pups as they explore the forest, learning about new creatures. There is also a tiny mystery tale in the end where the fox stumble upon a hidden treasure!

So, anyway, a brief back story. When I got the pitch to review the book, I squealed because it was cute! And when i finally got the book from the post office, here it was, in fully glory and read it as soon as I opened the package. Then again, I would have read it sooner had I not come home from work late after a Christmas party.

Packed with photos of wildlife, the book is one of the cutest things ever! The author is also the photographer of the stunning photos you'll see in the book. It must have taken him hours and hours and hours of waiting just to get that perfect shot! What I do adore about this book is that the photos do tie up to the narration in the book. However, I would have preferred if the author has worded the narration in rhymes or rhythmic syllables so the little ones would appreciate the story more. Oh, and myself included. I guess it would help me remember the whole book if it was rhymed! Not sure if the copy I got is an arc or the finished copy but I found a misspelled word and a grammatical error but no worries - maybe it would be fixed in the future books to be released by the author!

Rusty and Ginger and their new friends are just so cute, you have to get this book and see it for yourself! I also love the fun facts on the side of the pages about the animals and even humans! Of course, any additional information on some of our furry friends is a big plus for me!

Published: 2010
Publisher: Synergy Books
Book was: Provided by the publicist for review. Thank you =)
Read it if: you adore nature, animals, and children's picture books!
Rating: I absolutely loved it! [5/5]

[Travel] Symphony of Parols at the Ayala Triangle

'Tis the season to be merry! And just when our office has moved from Ayala to the other side, Ayala Triangle has been "refurbished" in a way. What once was a jungle in the middle of the CBD, it has now become a park for everyone to enjoy.

So, this Yuletide, the Ayala group has launched the Symphony of Parols - a light & sound show every weekday from 6-8pm, where the shows last for 5 minutes, and there are shows every 30 minutes.

So, what can you expect? It is a breathtaking experience - just stand up a few feet away from the center and watch the christmas lights dance in time to the music blasting from speakers surrounding the area. I absolutely loved the show - my friend was able to video the whole thing, and yes, very much worth going to Ayala just to see the lights. I played around with my camera effects a bit, and had  a bit of a photoshoot with my friends! Yes, it's that good!

You can also hang around at the belen in front of Tower One. Aaah... Ayala in the evening is such an excellent place to be in! After you've had your photos with the belen, you could go directly to Rustans and have photos in front of the exquisitely designed windows of the store. It has that Saks Fifth Avenue store window feeling - one that I would absolutely love to see in the future!

When's the best time to come? Well, anytime between 6-7:30 so you could get an excellent view!

After the show, you could also eat at some of the newly opened restaurants there such as Wee Nam Kee and Bon Chon.

Note though - if you plan to eat at Bon Chon, it's going to take forever!! So make sure you're not that hungry yet. And they are a fast food restaurant. So if you can't find a seat, you'll have to do a picnic outside! =p

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[Review] City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

The second book of the Mortal Instruments series. In this second installment, Clary and Jace are now coming to grips that they are related to each other, and would they still continue their forbidden love? Valentine is back and has stolen yet another Mortal Instrument,  which he would use to summon Demons, thereby killing a child from every Downworlder race. Jace, Clary, and the gang have set out trying to stop Valentine, but would they be successful in doing so? And would Clary's mother finally wake up?

Thoughts: This book is much better written than the first book, where I got all confused. The narration is now more fluid, and it looks like what would happen next in the book are well-thought of [well, maybe the first two parts, the third part bored me a bit]. However, I do have a comment: I got confused with the names of the Seraph Blades. Why in the world would there be so much names? Honestly, I don't think it plays such a huge part in the story, it just adds to the confusion.

I noticed that this book has a lot of similarities to the Potter books too, given that this was written by someone who used to write Potter fanfiction. In the latter part of the book, the author also wrote something about Dumbledore: "Who would win in a fight? Dumbledore or Magnus bane?" "Dumbledore, because he's got that wicked killing curse." "But Dumbledore isn't real!"

Okay, other similarities:
The stele & the wand
The Inquisitor [Imogen] & Umbridge -- both horrible and annoying characters
A two-way mirror - the one Jace used to see Idris, whilst the one Sirius gave Harry to communicate with him before he was killed
The quest of both Valentine & Voldemort for a pureblood race, killing everyone who doesn't want to side with him
The Circle and the Death-Eaters
Mundanes & muggles
Agramon & the Boggart - where they shape shift to whatever you fear the most. I mean, come on! Waay too many ideas lifted from the Potter books. It could have been a coincidence but *shrug*

Can I just say I do adore Simon? He probably is one of the best characters in the book, and I loathe Clary, as much as I loathed Bella from the Twilight novels. THey are both whiny, helpless little girls who can't stand up for themselves. Argh.

My favourite character though is Luke -- he seemed like such a cool dad and would do anything for Clary's mum!

Would I read other books by Cassandra Clare? Yes, if I could find a friend who has the books and willing to lend a copy to me. I'm not sure I'd buy her books but maybe if I encounter something from the bargain bin.

So, on to the summary then.

Publisher: Walker Books
Book was: Borrowed from a friend
Read it if: you want to find out what happens to Clary after reading book 1.
Rating: It was okay. [3.5/5]

Book Challenges: Mystery & Thriller from Book Chick City

It's nearly 2011 so it's time to sign up for a few more challenges!

This time, I've enlisted on to Book Chick City's Mystery & Thriller challenge - minimum number of books to read for 2011 is 2 books [yay, just enough for me], and maximum has no limit!

So, to aide us on what constitutes the mystery and thriller challenge, BCC has posted a list of sub-categories here: http://www.bookchickcity.com/2009/06/sub-genres-for-thriller-suspense.html

Since I'm trying to read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, I guess this book series counts!

Oh, as an incentive, Simon & Schuster UK are sponsoring this event and would provide ARCs of The Survivor by Sean Slater for everyone who signs up! So, all the more reason for you guys to sign up too! :)

Who says reading and book challenges can't be fun?

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