Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sisters by Hulton Getty

This Christmas, one of my sisters, Nikki, gave me a book titled Sisters by Hulton Getty. The book is probably not much bigger than the picture above and has 107 pages. It's not a lot to read but the content of it packs a punch. The book contains many quotes pertaining to relationships between sisters including beautiful vintage pictures.

I have plenty of favorite quotes in the book so I'll share some of them with you.

Your sister will be the first to criticize you, but if anyone else tries to, your sister will defend you until the end of the world. ~ Liselle Favier

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~ Marion C. Garretty

Even when you are sixty, you are still six to your sister. ~ Pam Brown (So true! I'm 33, and sometimes, my sister still treats me like I'm three. Haha!)

She is your witness who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. ~ Barbara Alpert

The best thing about having a sister was that I always had a friend. ~ Cali Rae Turner (Love this!)

Having a sister means you'll never be left alone in life or left alone by your sister. ~ Felicity Martin

I could have read through the whole book in five minutes. It actually took me five days to finish. Each quote that I read made me cry because it was so touching.

This book is a definite keeper and something that will remain in my bookshelf or maybe in the drawer of my nightstand where it's easily accessible.

It is probably the best book a sister can give to another. The quotes describe the relationships (no matter how simple or complex) between sisters to a T. Having a sister, I believe, is a special and unique gift one should always treasure.

Out With the Old, In With the New

The holidays are over, and so is my hiatus from my blog. I apologize to my readers for being gone. After two months without blogging, it certainly feels good to be back. I almost didn’t return to my blog. I even made a declaration of it awhile back in Facebook.

One my friends, Christy, was bewildered and she said, “I thought you enjoyed blogging.” I admitted to her that I did at first. I mean, sure. It was fun. I reviewed a book. I met some nice and interesting people and got the chance to talk to them about books.

After awhile though, I felt that I HAD to complete a book to review it. Well, sometimes, I didn’t like the book and didn’t want to review it. I’d feel guilty, and later on I felt that I HAD to blog about it whether I wanted to or not. That part of blogging wasn’t fun anymore. It became a chore.

Many bloggers post reviews everyday. I think that’s wonderful. I wish I can, but I simply can’t. There are priorities in real life that take precedence over my blog. I have a fulltime job as a medical technologist, and sometimes I have to work overtime due to a staff shortage. I also help take care of my elderly father. He’s the reason why I moved back home to Louisiana this year. I don’t and never will regret that decision. I also write part time, and I hope to become a published writer. For those of you who are curious how I did in the National Writing Novel Month, I didn’t reach the 50, 000 word quota. I was only able to complete 32, 620 words.

I know I shouldn’t have too much expectations of myself, which is hard since I’ve always been an overachiever. Just picture me as the girl with the thick glasses from school. Yeah, that was me. I realize that I’m no super woman. I can’t do everything, and I have to accept that.

I’m going to change my attitude for the new year. I’m not going to sacrifice quality over quantity. I’ll still read and review books although I’ll do it at my own pace. I’m not going to feel guilty because so and so finished 3 books in a week while I’m still struggling halfway through a book. I will also do my best to visit other blogs. Best of all, I’m going to have fun.

I look forward to a new year with a new outlook. I am excited to read new (and old books) and share my thoughts on them. I also can’t wait to see book reviews and recommendations from fellow bloggers.

Here’s to a great year! Happy 2010!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Books on Writing

This year is my first year to participate in the National Novel Writing Month. So far I've made it to 5,725 words. It's been really fun so far. I say fun because so far I haven't ran out of ideas. Knock on wood.

But what happens if I suddenly run out of steam? What if I suddenly can't put the words on the screen? I know I shouldn't be worrying about getting a writer's block since it hasn't happened yet. But I do know that there were days when I just stared and stared at my monitor. Depending on my mood or events going on in my life, I couldn't write for days, weeks, months, or sometimes even years.

This month though, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to stay in this contest. Reaching the goal of 50,000 words is hard, but I think that getting those words on paper is also a battle. So to fend of the writer's block, I've chosen three books to read in case I get to a point where I can't write anymore.

My first choice is Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. My creative writing teacher recommended this when I took my writing class at Gotham Writer's Workshop. Natalie Goldberg encourages writers to keep writing no matter how bad it is. She also has some writing exercises. She does talk quite a lot about Zen, but I really didn't mind it too much.

The second writing book I'm keeping close by is The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron. There are so many writing prompts to choose from in this book. I use this book often when I run out of ideas for my creative writing projects. It's extremely helpful.

The third book, is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamont. I haven't read it yet, but I've heard how inspiring and funny it was so I'll give it a try.

And now...back to my writing...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fatal by Michael Palmer

Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: Physician Matt Rutledge is looking for a score to settle with the local mining company in Belinda, West Virginia. He believed that his wife and father were victims of toxic waste exposure. In Boston, pathologist Nikki Solari is devastated of her friend's mysterious and sudden death. She goes to Belinda where her friend is originally from to investigate. A new vaccine has been developed, and Ellen Kroft is afraid that it hasn't been further tested. After disagreeing on its release with the committee, Ellen gets a visit from a stranger who threatens to harm her granddaughter. Ellen tries to find out the real source of threat, which leads her to Belinda, West Viriginia. Matt, Nikki, and Ellen find out that they are dealing with the same enemy. They join forces to seek answers and before they lose their own lives.
Review: The first Michael Palmer book I read was The Fifth Vial. I enjoyed the story so much that I decided to read The Second Opinion next.
Fatal was written before The Fifth Vial and A Second Opinion. I bought the book at a second hand store and was being sold for a couple dollars. I remembered how excited I was to read another Michael Palmer medical thriller. Now I'm relieved that I didn't spend as much.
Fatal, though it was entertaining, was just okay for me. I didn't think it was as good as the first two books I read. It started off well, but towards the end I was ready for it to be done. Maybe because I was starting to suspect the culprit was, and in the end, I was right. Although I should be pleased that I figured out who the villain was, I wasn't. Maybe because I wanted to be shocked by the ending.
Recommendation: Although Fatal wasn't the best book Michael Palmer has ever written, the story was still good. You might enjoy this if you like medical thrillers, or if you're a big Michael Palmer fan. If you haven't read any of his works, read The Fifth Vial, which was an enjoyable read from start to finish.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

On the Nightstand

After recovering from laryngitis last week, I finally had the chance to turn my attention to reading my books. Yay! Only I soon found out that laryngitis or not, I really couldn't find the interest to read The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

I know. I know. Ms. Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for this. I really don't know what my problem is with this book. Maybe I got so bored reading all that gossiping about Madame Ellen Olenska. I am determined to finish this, however. I'm just going to set it aside for now.

I've moved on to The Portrait of A Young Lady by Henry James. Isabel is the type of person who tells it like it is. She makes the story interesting. So interesting that I didn't realize that I was already on page 120 on the first night I read it.

Here's Isable Archer from The Portrait of a Lady.

I wasn't going to read it until December, but War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy was just calling my name one chilly Friday evening. Finally, I just said, "What the heck! It can't hurt." So I plucked it out from my bookshelf and started reading. I finished the first chapter, the second...and then the third... Well, you get the picture. I was so absorbed in the story that I almost didn't take my sister's invitation to go watch Cirque du Freak The Vampire's Assistant. (She was paying. How can I say no?) I don't care how long it will take me to finish War and Peace, but I do intend to enjoy every page of it.

Saturday Loot

Not only did I go Christmas shopping this Saturday, I also went book shopping. What can I say? I can never get enough books. So here's what I bought:

The first one is I, Claudius by Robert Graves. This is Peter's (from KyusiReader) favorite book. Just by reading from an excerpt of the book blurb below, it really caught my attention:

Despised as weakling ad dismissed as an idiot because of his physical infirmities, Claudius survived the intrigues and poisonings that marked the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and the mad Caligula to become the Emperor of Rome in 41 AD.

I love any book (fiction or non) that has anything to do with world history so this is right up my alley.

The second book shown is actually three books. They were all combined into one. It's the first three books of Cirque du Freak series by Darren Shan. They are: A Living Nightmare, The Vampire's Assistant, and Tunnels of Blood. I just watched Cirque du Freak The Vampire's Assistant in the movies this past Friday. I was really intrigued by the storyline. It's about this teen named Darren who decides to go to the Cirque du Freak show with his best friend Steve. There they meet Mr. Crepsley, a vampire. When Steve falls into a coma after being bitten by a spider that Darren stole from Mr. Crespley, Darren goes to the vampire for help. Of course, they only way Mr. Crepsley helps him is if Darren agrees to become his assistant. There's more to it, but I don't want to say too much.

Written by Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God is the life story of Janie Crawford. Janie is a black woman who is very independent. She goes through three marriages, survives poverty and challenges while trying to find herself. I've heard so many good reviews on this so I am excited to read this.

Finally there's Tana French's The Likeness. Detective Cassie Maddox investigates a murder of a young woman who turns out to be Cassie's double. The victim's name is Alexandra Madison, an alias that Cassie once used when she was undercover. Whew. Talk about weird. Still, weird stories are enough to get my interest.

Well, that's it for now...until the next loot...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Yet Another E-Reader

Usually just before I start working my 12 hour/7 day schedule at the hospital, I try to review a book. Unfortunately, I've been sick with flu-like symptoms. I tried to continue The Age of the Innocence by Edith Wharton, but it was just too difficult to concentrate when my head felt like it's about to split open. book finished = no review.

I decided to blog about the new e-reader that Barnes and Noble just launched. It's called the Nook. I think they could've have come with a better name, but oh well. I guess it's kind of cute in a weird way. PC Magazine released an article about the Nook. You can also learn more about the Nook at the Barnes and Noble website. You can also pre-order it. The Nook will also be available in November at the Barnes and Noble bookstore.

Am I excited that my favorite bookstore in the whole wide world is finally releasing their own e-reader? Well, yes, in a way. I wish them luck in taking on the e-book competition with Kindle 2, which everyone of my friends, but me, seems to have. Still, when I got my email from Barnes and Noble this morning, I didn't jump up and say, "Oh, boy! Let me pre-order that Nook right now!"

There are times when I wish I have an e-reader. The truth is I'm a little apprehensive shelling out $259 plus tax for something I might end up rarely using. I'm really not a gadget geek like brother who likes to buy the latest and the greatest mp3 player or laptop out there.

Even though I think that I can put that $259 to a better use, like say a monthly car payment, I do wonder if it will be worth it economically in the long run. I have read in some people's blog that if they like the e-book they bought through their e-reader, they will still buy the real book. That's fine. I just don't see any sense spending $14.95 (if it's a paperback) or $24.95 (if it's a hardback.)

I'm not trying to be an anti e-reader here, but I guess I need to be convinced a little bit more. And for those of you who have an e-reader (or e-readers), I have some questions. How often do you use your e-reader? Do you think that it was worth buying it in the long run? Has it saved you money?

I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dracula by Bram Stoker

First Published: 1897
Pages: 422
Rating: 5 out of 5

Introduction: My original intention was to read Dracula by Bram Stoker for Halloween and review it. Then I saw this book:

I thought, "Hmm. Why not read and review all three books?" Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were pioneers of horror tBoldales. All their stories were very original and creative that many storytellers of today still use the ideas and adapted them to the modern standards. This is my way of reminding us to give the credit where its due.

So...let's go on with the review.
Summary: Jonathan Harker is a young lawyer who travels to Transylvania to settle a business with Count Darcula. Little does he know that Dracula is a vampire who is set on having Jonathan as his next victim. Jonathan escapes, but the Count is far from over. He is determined to unleash his bloodthirsty terror on London society.

Review: Unlike Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde, I already read Dracula. I was sixteen year old. It was one of the scariest books I'd ever read. I admit it gave me nightmares. You would think that I would stop reading it, but I didn't. The story was so amazing that it was hard to put down.

That's why seventeen years later, I decided to pick Dracula up again. While it no longer gave me nightmares, it still gave me the creeps. I do scare easily. I remember reading it this past quiet Saturday evening and familiarizing myself with the story again. While doing so, our family dog who slept next to me, got up and started barking. Startled, I nearly jumped out of my seat. Of course, I stopped there and picked up Norwegian Wood. I do have a wild imagination, and I like to immerse myself into what I'm reading...which is probably why I don't mind reading books with plenty of description.

But I digress. Like in most of my reviews, I don't really talk about what happened in the story. I like for the readers to find out about the story themselves.

Dracula is an epistolary novel. The story is told in different point of view by the characters. I didn't find myself bored or skipping through some parts. Mr. Stoker does a good job of building up one suspense after another. Even though I read it before, I thought it was exciting. I flew through this 400 plus page novel.

I love the characters here. The protagonists - Jonathan, Mina, and Van Helsing - were all very strong, and so were the minor characters who were all interesting in their own way. They are dealing with a powerful adversary here after all - Count Dracula. There are no veggie-eating vampires in this story (No offense to Twilight fans.) Just an evil, blood-sucking monster hell bent on causing his reign of terror during the night.

There are many vampires stories out there. While they are all unique in their own way, Dracula stands out as being the original and, to me, the best vampire book.

Recommendation: If you like horror, gothic, and suspenseful stories, this is the one to get especially if you are a huge vampire fan.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

EDIT: I forgot to include this in my post. I was reminded by it when Diane made a comment about the book covers. Last month while I was at the bookstore buying my copy of Dracula, I saw its illustrated version. The story, of course, was still by Bram Stoker but there were drawings made by the talented Jae Lee. For those of you who don't know, Jae Lee is a Marvel comic book artist. The drawings in the illustrated Dracula version were awesome. Anyway, below is the book cover of the Illustrated Dracula. There's Count Dracula himself on the cover.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage International
Pub. Date: September 2000
Pages: 304
Rating: 4 out 5

Summary: Toru Watanabe is a college student who is in love with Naoko. He and Naoko are bound together by a tragedy - the suicide of Kizuki, Naoko's boyfriend and Toru's best friend. While Naoko slips into severe depression, Toru tries to live his life and meets Midori - a lively, young woman who is a classmate of Toru. They become friends, and he starts developing feelings for her. He soon becomes torn between the Naoko and Midori. Will he choose someone from his past or someone who can be with him in his future?

Review: What an incredible story! I really enjoyed this. Some books take awhile before I find out what the conflict is. Not so with Norwegian Wood. At the very first chapter, I learn that Toru is in love with Naoko yet he can't be with her.

Both Toru and Naoko have a common friend from high school - Kizuki. After he committed suicide, both Toru and Naoko tried to go on with their lives. Toru enrolls at a university in Tokyo and so does Naoko. By doing so, they hope to escape their past and their memories of Kazuki. Each of them cope with their loss their own way.

At first, I thought that Toru was headed in the wrong direction. Well, actually, I didn't agree with his coping mechanism, which was drinking and sleeping with a variety of girls. But I suppose he was living his life like he knows how. Then there's Naoko who eventually decides to seek help with her problems. I thought this was the best way...but the problem was Naoko needed far more help. The cause of her depression was far beyond her boyfriend's suicide.

In the midst of Toru going through grief and depression, he meets Midori. Although sometimes she annoyed me, and she did the craziest things, I actually liked her. Let's just say that Midori gave color to Toru's bleak world. She's like the jalapeno to his nachos. I was really quite entertained by her, and she made me laugh.

Perhaps that's why Toru is drawn to her. Heck, Toru even admitted to himself that he was more fascinated watching Midori than watching a porn film. If that ain't love, then I don't know what is. (Well, I say that for the sake of Toru's point of view.) At the same time, he really can't leave Naoko. Sometimes I got frustrated by him not being able to choose, but in the end I understood that he had to settle things with his past before he could go on with his future.

There were many things I liked about this book. Even at the beginning of the book, I really felt the emotions. Seriously, I almost cried just reading page 9 because of the foreshadowing.

Of course, it really seemed like another love story on the surface. It was more than that. It's a story about living and dying. It's about about grieving and coping. It's about knowing the difference between surviving and truly living by enjoying life.

Recommendation: If you are in the mood to read something with angst, then I would recommend Norwegian Wood.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

First Published: 1818
Pages: 280
Rating: 5 out of 5

Introduction: This is the second book I'm reviewing for Halloween. I got the idea last month when I purchased this:
Three classic horror tales compiled into one book. Perfect!
Summary: This is the story of Victor Frankenstein who pushes the boundaries of science by creating a creature made of dead human remains.
Review: This book is awesome! I can't believe that Mary Shelley wrote this book when she was only 18 years old! Pure creative talent!
I was really surprised how I came to love this book. This is the original story...not some adapted version of forget about looking for Igor here or hoping that it's like any Frankenstein films/stories you have heard of.
Frankenstein is more than just a horror story. Much, much more. It is a story of discrimination, nature vs nurture, and the creator vs. the created. It shows the beauty and the ugliness of human nature.
The story is a story within a story. The first narrator is Robert Walton. He meets Victor Frankenstein while they are in the Arctic. He discovers that Victor is chasing someone. This leads to Victor who narrates his side of the story. He is ambitious and very driven. He decides to create a being made of human corpses...and later realizes the mistake he's made and the prize that comes with it. Then the creature who Victor created tells story, and I learn the pain and discrimination he goes through.
Notice that I said creature, and not monster? Well, that's because towards then middle and end of the book...I really didn't know who the true monster was. Was it Victor who spat and hated his creation? Or was it the creature who acted on the society that feared and loathed him because of his appearance?
Since I'm all about character development, this is probably one of the reasons I love this book. I love how Ms. Shelley made Victor and the creature into dynamic characters. They were both protagonists and antagonists at the same time. I thought it was brillant, and she did it so well.
This is one of the best I'd ever read this year. While it didn't change my life, Frankenstein really made me think. It's one of the books that will stay with me.
Recommendation: Highly recommended! I think this is one of the books that should be in one's library. I'm not a horror book fan, but I enjoyed this one. Don't let it scare you because it's a classic. I found it easy to follow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

New Books From the Mail

After a busy week at work and catching up on some rest, I finally had the chance to go through my mail yesterday. The books I ordered from Barnes and Noble came in on Tuesday. I really prefer to buy my books at the bookstore. I like to browse through the book and decide if I like it enough to buy it. However, if I can't find a certain book, I am forced to buy online. Anyway, here are the goodies:

I do apologize for the quality of the picture. The first one is Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. (That's some name, don't you think?) I heard good things about it from Becky's Book Reviews. The next one is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Ever since I read After Dark, I became a Murakami fan. Then there's David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I always wanted to read it. Finally, there's Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. It's about a son who rebels against his father. I know. I know. There's nothing new about the plot, but this is set in 1862. In Russia, I might add. I think it will be an interesting novel.

What do you think of this haul? Have you read any of these books? What did you think about the story?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata

Publisher: Counterpoint
Original Pub. Year: 1958
Pub. Date: October 2000
Translated by: Michael Emmerich
Pages: 227
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: None really. This was a compilation of short stories written by Yasunari Kawabata.

Review: First Snow on Fuji was the third book I chose to read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 (or JLC 3 for short). To this day, I really have no idea how many books I will read for the JLC3. I'm having way too much fun! (Thanks, Ms. Bellezza!) I just might see how much I can complete until the deadline even though I had originally planned to read just one book.

Let's talk about First Snow on Fuji. I never heard of Mr. Kawabata until I decided to read this for the JLC3. My verdict: I liked it. I liked it a lot. I admit that as I write this review that I haven't even read The Boat Women, the last story (which is actually a play) in this collection. That's okay though because Mr. Kawabata had already won me over.

There were short stories that I enjoyed better than others: This Country, That Country; Nature; First Snow on Fuji; Silence; and Yumiura. Some were downright creepy like Silence, Chrysanthemum in the Rock, and Her Husband Didn't.

I noticed that there were recurring themes of cheating wives and husbands (or characters fantasizing about cheating) and life post World War II. Yet all the stories had one thing in common: beautiful and poetic words. The endings were abrupt and were left for the reader to make interpretations. That suits me fine since I like to use my imagination.

Recommendation: Mr. Kawabata used a lot of descriptive sceneries. I think that people who want their stories straight forward with solid endings might get frustrated. I would still recommend to those who enjoy stories with vivid imagery and ambiguous outcomes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feels like Winning the Lottery!

I'm a card-carrying book addict, so naturally when my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I replied with only two words.

A book.

Giving a book as a present to someone who loves books can be very tricky, especially if that person has piles and piles of books in their possession. I have friends and family who love to read so it's always a problem for me to buy a book for them during birthdays and Christmas. I'm always wondering if they'll like the book; if they read the book, or if they already have it in their collection.

With my birthday coming up, I gave my mom a list of some books that I would like to have. I chose about four books from my overwhelming wish list. The four books were all classics since I wanted to expand my classic book collection after I finished the Classics Challenge 2009. I told her to choose one book from any of the four, and that way I can be at least surprised when I get my birthday present.

Want to see what I got?

I got all four! Needless to say, I was shocked and very pleased. I expected one or maybe two books, but she bought four instead! Then my mom apologized (Apologized!) that she didn't give me a hardback book. She wanted it special since it was my birthday. I assured her that wasn't necessary. I was very happy with what I got.

I love books, no matter what they look like - hardback, paperback, fat, skinny, tall, or short. I even buy used books, but I draw the line if I see some notes written on the side. I think writing notes in a novel (textbooks are okay) is a sacriledge. That's just me though since I'm anal. ;)

Before ending this post, I just want to say: Thanks, Mom. You really are the best, and I love you. what am I going to read first?

From left to right: The Age of Innocence (Wharton), Nicholas Nickelby (Dickens), The Bostonians, and The Portrait of a Lady (Both by Henry James). In the back: my coffee mug, my clock, the base part of my lamp, and two other books I'm currently reading. I think I need a bigger nightstand.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Two Book Reviews in One: Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: April 2005
Pages: 352
ISBN-13: 9780312321192
Rating: 4 out of 5

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pub. Date: March 2006
ISBN-13: 9780312323868
Pages: 368
Rating: 4 out 5

Summary: In Something Borrowed, Rachel sleeps with her best friend Darcy's fiancee Dex. In Something Blue, after her engagement breaks up, a pregnant Darcy decides to start over and flees to England where her old friend Ethan lives.

Review: I'm going to be very honest here. I rarely read chick-lit books. And I do mean rarely. When my sister let me borrow four of her Emily Giffin books (Something Borrowed, Somehing Blue, Love the One You're, With, and Baby Proof), I hesitated. I kept the books in my shelf for months before I finally said, "What the heck."

I read Something Borrowed first. Trust me I was ready to cringe. Well, shock of all shocks! I loved it! The story started out with Rachel who ended up sleeping with ther best friend's fiancee, Dex. Rachel and Dex were ready to put the incident behind them, but due to the laws of attraction, they just can't!

At first, I didn't like what Rachel was doing even if her best friend Darcy was a selfish, self-centered witch. Then as I kept reading, I started to understand Rachel. In fact, I was able to relate to her...and later on, I was rooting for her. The book was so good that I picked up Something Blue immediately after finishing Something Borrowed.

Something Blue was all about Darcy. I never liked Darcy but I was interested in what was going to happen next. (There's a twist in the ending of Something Borrowed that I'm not going to tell you about because that's what made me pick up Something Blue next.)

In Something Blue, Darcy's pregnant. She's still the same mean woman from the first book. However, with a baby on the way, Darcy started to change. In the end, I actually started to (gasp!) like her.

Emily Griffin developed her characters very well. Both books were so entertaining that I ended up going to bed at 3 am the next morning. I just couldn't put them down.

Recommendation: Both books were fun to read. If you're a chick lit lover, you will definitely enjoy these.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Rating: 4 out of 5
Last month, I posted that I will celebrate Halloween by reading some classic horror tales and writing reviews about them this October. Why the classics? Why not read some Stephen King novels or maybe some Dean Koontz? Well, after finishing the Classics Challenge 2009, I really began to appreciate the classics. After all, where would be the novels of today if these classics were written?
It's the same for these classic horror tales. Would we be reading the Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, or the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice if Bram Stoker didn't write Dracula?
My book review for today is on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a novella published back in 1886. The story is about Mr. Utterson, a lawyer and an old friend of Dr. Jekyll who decides to leave everything (money and all his possessions) to Mr. Hyde. Mr. Utterson starts to investigate after Mr. Hyde murders a man after beating him with a cane that Mr. Utterson gave to Dr. Jekyll as a gift.

I'm not going to talk about what happens next since I don't want to spoil it for you. I'm huge on characters so I'll talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is a well-respected doctor who's very mild-mannered and described as "tall, fine build of a man." On the other hand, Hyde is short, deformed, cruel, and very violent. The differences stop there.

In the story, Mr. Hyde tramples on a little girl without much thought and not caring whether she's hurt or not. I think Mr. Hyde has a bit of a superiority complex where he thinks that he is going to get away with what he did by just giving the girl's family some money. Dr. Jekyll has that same reaction after he's told that Mr. Hyde is wanted for murder. Instead of telling the truth, Dr. Jekyll lies about Mr. Hyde's whereabouts. He doesn't care that Mr. Hyde has murdered another man.
At first, I thought I would feel some pity on Dr. Jekyll. In the end, I really didn't because he's very much aware of his actions but did nothing to stop them or claim any responsibilty for them.
Was the story scary? Well, not really. It was creepy. It's more of a mystery/thriller type of story to me. I think the only time I felt there was some real suspense in the story was when Mr. Utterson and Dr. Jekyll's servants were about confront Mr. Hyde.
Would I recommend this? Absolutely! I had fun reading it. The story was simple and straight-forward. It's a good story to read if you're in the mood for some classic mystery.
Richard Mansfield (shown in the picture above) was the actor who played Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde in one of the plays that was adapted from the story. This was taken in 1895. (Source: Wikipedia)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky

Paperback Edition

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: July 2008
ISBN-13: 9780307388001
Pages: 160
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: After years of traveling around the world, Silvio returned to the French countryside to take care of his family's farm. As an old man, Silvio lived alone and unmarried. A scandal involving love affairs suddenly erupted, and Silvio was reminded of the pain and the love he lost years ago when he was young...when he had fire in his blood.
Review: Fire in the Blood was written in 1942, but it was never finished by Nemirovsky who was captured by the Nazis in that same year.
I read Suite Francaise awhile back, and since I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to read more of Nemirovsky's works. (My review of Suite Francaise is here if you are interested).
I'm not going to talk too much about the plot since I might reveal some spoilers. (The story is not even 200 pages!) What I will talk about is how lovely Nemirovsky writes. Her description of the French countryside is beautiful. She also has a way of painting Silvio that perhaps the reader might emphathize , not symphatize like the characters in the book do.
The plot may be predictable, but there's a small twist in the end that I just didn't expect. I would certainly would have loved to find out what kind of closure Silvio would have had with his past. Perhaps out of respect for the late Nemirovsky and her family, no one decided to finish the manuscript, but this is just my speculation. On the other hand, I think it's kind of fun for the readers to give their own interpretation of the ending.
Recommendation: I think Nemirovsky fans might enjoy this book. If you're looking for a quick read with a simple plot, this is a good choice, but just be aware that the ending is abrupt.

Hardcover Edition

Friday, September 18, 2009

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: March 2006
ISBN-13: 9781400078776
Pages: 304
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy grew up in a boarding school called Hailsham in England. As an adult, Kathy became a carer and both Ruth and Tommy re-entered her life. Kathy remembers the bond they have shared and their life in Hailsham where they had been regarded as "special" by their guardians and teachers. This is a moving and unforgettble book about friendship, love, and betrayal.

Review: This was the first book I ever read by Mr. Ishiguro, and I loved it! Immediately, when I picked it up at the bookstore, I just had a good feeling about it. Based on the book blurb, I also knew that there was a little bit of a love story and a love triangle. I later discovered that I was right, but the love story here wasn't overbearing so I wasn't disappointed.

So what's this really all about? And what the heck is Hailsham anyway? Why are Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth "special?" Well, Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are human clones. In Hailsham, they and other children clones are raised like "normal" children so that they can become organ donors. But not all of them become donors. Kathy (the narrator), for instance, becomes a carer - someone who takes care of the donors.

Actually, it isn't surprising for Kathy to become a carer. Even as children, Kathy has that type of personality where she takes care of everyone. It becomes a disadvantage though since she seems to forget her needs over everyone else's, even when it comes to her love for Tommy. I do like Kathy, but at the same time, she irritates me because she lets Ruth take advantage of her. Ruth is suppose to be Kathy's best friend, but because of her selfishness and insecurity, she does things to ruin their friendship and even Kathy's friendship with Tommy.

What else did I like about this book? Well, the writing, of course. I think Mr. Ishiguro is just wonderful. I have a favorite scene where Kathy and Tommy were in Norfolk, and Tommy bought this old tape that Kathy had lost when they were in Hailsham. The scene just touched me. There was also a line that Tommy said to Kathy. It's a little sad but here it is:

"I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the river moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold on to each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end, it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart."

It was just beautiful. Sad, but beautiful.

Even though the ending left me disappointed, I gave this book my highest rating. I suppose it's the issue about cloning that made me wonder if it was right to give the clones hope to have a normal human life when their sole purpose was to become organ donors. It really made me think about what our society could be capable of. I guess that's why this book will stay with me.

Recommendation: Yes, I definitely recommend it to everyone. It was an eye-opener for me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Classic Monstrous Tales

Ever since I finished The Classics Challenge, I've fallen into the classics phase. Lately, I found myself wandering to the classics aisle or section whenever I'm at the bookstore. With Halloween coming up, I thought it might be best to re-read and review Dracula by Bram Stoker. That changed, however, when I went to Hastings. Much to my delight, I recently discovered that Signet Classics decided to publish three classic horror stories of Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde into one compilation with an introduction by Stephen King. All it cost me was a measely $7.95.
This altered my plans a little bit. I decided to read all three books and review them in October for Halloween. I get to satisfy my classics cravings and look forward to read these scary tales. Perfect!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pub. Date: June 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385528702
Pages: 531
Rating: No rating

Summary: The Angel's Game is set during the early 1900's to 1930 in Barcelona, Spain. It is the story of David Martin, a famous writer who spins crime novels under a pseudonym while living in a mansion with a mysterious history. He later meets Andreas Corelli, a wealthy publisher from Paris, who offers him 100, 000 francs if David will write a book that will change peoples' minds and hearts. David takes the offer but later realizes he is getting more than he bargained for. What's even more intriguing is the former owner of the house, the late Diego Marlasca - a writer just like David. Diego's death also involves Andreas Corelli, and it seems that David's life mirrors Diego's. Will David be able to escape the clutches of Andreas or will he suffer the same fate as Diego?
Thoughts: I wanted to like this book. I tried to like it, but I eventually quit reading at page 300. I almost didn't review this because I didn't think it was fair to rate a book that I didn't finish. In the end, I decided to post my thoughts.
Let me talk about the good points of this book first. The blurb was catchy, and I was drawn to the story because it was about a struggling writer who wanted to be published. I thought: That's cool. I know what that's like because I'm going through the same challenges myself. Another reason why the story appealed to me was because The Angel's Game was also about books. A book about books. How neat, right?
There were three parts in this novel. I didn't have any problems going through the first part of the book. I was able to relate to David who loved books. David was abused as a child and sought refuge in books. As an adolescent, he started to work as a runner for a newspaper company and had a friend in Pedro Vidal who's a writer. Vidal became his mentor and soon David started writing stories for the paper.
The second part of the book started out well. However, it was losing its firepower towards the middle. I struggled to finish part two, and finally I just gave up. Don't get me wrong. The author's brillant. Zafon wrote beautifully about Barcelona. It almost felt like I was there. The writing was dark, but I didn't mind that at all. The description and how the author wrote in David's voice were all wonderful.
What failed to keep my attention was that I lost interest in the characters. I got to a point where I just didn't care about David's findings about Diego. I didn't care who exactly Andreas Corelli was. I especially didn't care if Cristina Sangier (David's first and only love) went crazy because she didn't love her husband Pedro Vidal. In fact, I detested Cristina because I saw her as an opportunist.
If you have read any of my reviews, I love to talk about the characters and how they're the driving force of the story. The plot in The Angel's Game was great but the characters just failed to bring the story around. This might just be a personal thing though since some might care about the plot only. I'm the type of reader who wants to symphatize with the characters and be able to connect with them.
Zafon authored The Shadow of the Wind, and from what I learned, it had very favorable reviews. I just might read it one day and hope that it's a better book.
Other thoughts I'd like to share: Usually I post my recommendations after a review, but I'm not going to do that. I don't think I'm in the position to tell people not to read this book because they might enjoy it. People have their personal preferences when it comes to books, and so do I.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Reading Collection Gets a Facelift

Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. In honor of this special time, I have decided to update the background. Thanks to The Cutest Blog on The Block, I have managed to do this. Although I have tried to choose a background that was close to my previous one, I have ended up changing the color of the fonts as well.

Maybe it's me or I'm just used to the old one, but I'm not sure I'll stick to this one. I get bored easily so only time will tell if I will find another fall theme background.

Let's Show Some Love

Jules from Jules' Book Reviews gave me the Who :Heart's:You, Baby! Award. Basically, the rules of this award is to pass it on to fellow bloggers who awarded you in the past. So here they are:

1. Suzanne of Chick With Books
2. Yvette of True Crime Books
3. Shellie of Layers of Thought

Edit: I forgot to also add:

4. Book Dragon from A Dragon's Lair. For some reason, I thought I received only three awards. Anyway, I'm sorry, Book Dragon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Publisher: First Vintage International
Publication Date: April, 2008
Pages: 256
Ratings: 4 out of 5

Summary: After Dark is a novel that takes place in a single night at a city. Three different story arcs are omnisciently narrated yet they are linked together. At the center of the story is nineteen year old Mari who decides to spend the night alone in a city instead of going home. There’s also Mari’s older sister, the beautiful Eri, who suffers from a tragic fate. Finally, there’s Shirakawa who hides a sinister side from his work and family life.

Review: Strange things happen…after dark.

After Dark was the first Japanese literature book I’ve read, and one of the two I had chosen for the Japanese Literature Challenge 3. The book blurb really didn’t say much. I felt like I was buying Chris Cleave’s Little Bee all over again. Yes, I was a little apprehensive since I was taking a risk of buying and reading a book that was out of my comfort level. But hey, wasn’t that part of the challenge?

Surprises of surprises, I loved this book! I finished it in one day. It was that good! The book had a way of pulling and holding my attention. Even after the book was finished, and I was done with reading, I felt like I wanted more. The ending was a little ambiguous, but that’s literature fiction for you.

And the writing! Oh, the writing! I absolutely loved how Murakami used simple words and brought the story to life through personification. It was remarkable! I even have a favorite quote in the book, and that’s the character Takahashi’s motto which was, “Walk slowly. Drink lots of water,” That’s the same meaning of the cliché, “Take it one day at a time.”

The main character in this story was Mari. At first, I didn’t know what to make of her. In other words, I didn’t know if I was going to like her since she seemed so cold and unfeeling. In fact, she wasn’t. She helped a total stranger who was in need, and she showed how much she really loved her sister Eri. I would say that Mari’s more guarded because perhaps she had such cold parents who didn’t pay much attention to her, and she had a sibling rivalry with Eri.

Sometimes I thought the book was a little creepy especially when I was reading the parts on Eri because it seemed like Murakami wanted readers to believe what was happening in the story was real, but later it seemed like a dream. Or was it? It was hard to distinguish, and it wasn’t revealed what really happened to Eri until towards the ending. The mood can be dark at times, but there’s humor sprinkled here and there.

Honestly, I would have given it my highest rating, but I was hoping for a happier ending. I wanted to see if Takahashi and Mari were going to get together. Or if Mr. Shirakawa’s secret was going to be discovered. What was going to happen to Eri? Still, even if the ending was left to interpret for my imagination, I believed that After Dark was worth it. I really enjoyed it. If there was someone who will ask me if there will there be another Murakami book added to my shelf in the future? I’d tell them, “Yes! Absolutely!”

Recommendation: I think this is a nice starter if you’ve never read any Japanese literature or if you’d like to try to read something new. I don’t think I would recommend it though if you’re looking for something light and heart-warming. It’s just not that type of book. This is still a good story even though it is depressing and eerie at the same time.

This is the cover of the first US edition of After Dark. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Another Challenge Bites the Dust

Yippeee! I didn't think I was going to finish the Classics Challenge this weekend but I did! After I joined this challenge, I thought I was going to regret being ambitious by choosing seven books. Actually, I almost did since there were books that were a little difficult to continue. I kept going though because the stories got better.

I was surprised at how much fun I had. Now that I'm done, I also have a new appreciation for these classics. To read my musings about this challenge, check out what I had to say here. To see the reviews of what I read in this challenge, go to my Classics Challenge 2009 page. I had to categorize the challenges I joined in different pages in order to keep track of how much progress I'm making in each challenge. Also, I'm kinda anal. Okay, I am anal.

Now it's time to turn my attention to the Japanese Literature Challenge 3 where I originally had one book to read, but I decided to have two instead. My copy of First Snow in Fuji hadn't arrived in the mail yet so I will start on After Dark. I'm so excited to read this book and tell you guys all about it so check back here for my review.

A Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Pub. Date: January 2006
ISBN-13: 9780800794057
Pages: 272
Rank: 5 out of 5
Summary: A Hiding Place is a true story of the Ten Booms who helped saved the Jews by helping them escape and hiding them during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Holland.

Review: I absolutely loved this book! Though Ten Boom’s writing style was first person narrative, it made me feel like I was sitting in front of her having coffee by the fireplace, listening to her wonderful tale. Her descriptions just drew me in, and I felt like I was right there in 1940’s Holland.

I flew through this book. I just marveled at the simplicity of her life before Holland was invaded by Nazi Germany. Towards the middle of the book, I felt so tense because I already knew something terrible was going to happen when Corrie and her family started hiding the Jews, but I kept reading.

What truly amazed me was Corrie’s and her sister Betsie’s undying faith, and their ability to forgive and to love their enemies no matter how things went from bad to worse. They remained spiritually strong and so was their belief in God even after they starved and suffered in the concentration camp in Germany.

The Hiding Place is a remarkable story of courage, strength, forgiveness, and hope. It will be forever in my collection. It is definitely one of the best books I have ever read.

Recommendation: This is a great book to read if you are looking for a World War II story or if you are looking for something inspiring.

When Judging A Book By Its Cover

Growing up in a multi-cultural background (Filipino, American, Irish, Italian), one of the first things I learned was to be open-minded and learn to accept people by who they are and their appearance. Part of my childhood was in the American South, and I've learned very quickly that it's easy to be judged by how I look since I have light brown skin.

I admit that sometimes I do judge people by their appearance, even though I try not to. When it comes to books, I am very guilty of such. Yesterday, I went to the bookstore and found a copy of After Dark by Haruki Murakami. I was very intrigued by the cover where there was a picture of an attractive Japanese girl. The colors of her make-up and her flawless face blended well against the dark background.

After Dark was one of the books listed in the Japanese Literature Challenge. I wasn't going to buy this book since I had already chosen (and bought!) First Snow in Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata. Since I liked the story synopsis and heard good reviews about After Dark, I bought it. I was thinking about adding another book to read for the challenge, so why not After Dark? However, I do think that the cover had a lot to do with my decision. I don't think I would have picked it up if I didn't think if it was so pretty.

This isn't the first time I picked up a book based on its beautiful cover. Check out the cover of April and Oliver by Tess Callahan. I love how those different shades of blue and gray blended together.

So how about you? Do you sometimes buy a book because of its cover?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Pub. Date: August 2004
First Publication Date: 1859
ISBN-13: 9781593081386
Pages: 404
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary: A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. It is the story of the French peasants who suffered under the French aristocrats. England provided as a refuge for the oppressed French yet the social injustices towards the poor in England were no different. In the French Revolution, the aristocrats were brutalized by the revolutionaries who made them pay heavily for their lives.

Review: What an excellent book! After reading, I was really surprised how this became one of my favorite books. However, it didn’t seem that way in the beginning. It started out slow, and I felt that Charles Dickens can be overly descriptive in his scenes. This was his way of laying the groundwork of the story. It worked for me (and the story, of course) because I was hooked.
The book was divided into three parts. In part one, the characters were introduced, and the setting was before the French Revolution. In part two, more characters came into play and events slowly led towards the revolution. Finally, part three was set during the French Revolution, and I thought this was the most exciting and suspenseful part of the book.

The story was more than just about the madness that led to the chaotic French Revolution. As I read on, I discovered that it was also about second chances. One of the characters who experienced this was Dr. Manette. He was released after being in jail for eighteen years. He was traumatized so severely that his mental state deteriorated. With the love and support he received from his daughter Lucie, he slowly recovered.

Charles Darnay started over with his life by denouncing his French aristocratic family. Like Dr. Manette, he moved England to leave his past behind.

I also came to love all the characters in this book, but I was mostly impressed with Sydney Carton. He became my favorite. He wasn’t perfect, but he, nonetheless, had a good heart. His love for Lucie was rivaled by Charles, the virtuous gentleman. Ah, to love someone you can’t have! I really felt for Sydney. That’s probably why I had a soft spot for him.

The description of how the poor and the prisoners were brutalized was gruesome. Honestly, I had second thoughts about continuing, but my curiosity got the best of me. I thought that perhaps Dickens felt that he had to write these horrific descriptions because he wanted the readers to understand why the revolutionaries were so angry and vengeful towards the aristocrats.

Even though some parts were gross, I got past it because the story was getting better, and I was eager to see how the ending was going to be. Still, I shivered when I read that women, men, young or old, peasant or not were “all red wine for La Guillotine….Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death; the last much easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”

The ending was astonishing. I shouldn’t have been surprised because there had been some foreshadowing. I was equally shocked as the story revealed how and why Dr. Manette was jailed, why Charles Darnay never hesitated to denounce his family, and how Madame Defarge became such a vindictive, evil character. I was really sad at the ending. Yet, it had so many twists that I wasn’t disappointed with the whole book. There’s no doubt in my mind why this was one of the best classics ever written.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a serious book with powerful themes, this is it. Be prepared though because some descriptions can be disturbing.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Ah! Friday, you're finally here.
Today I joined the Friday Feud from Cathy's Kittling: Books for the first time. Friday Feud is a weekly meme. Today's question was: Name an award you would like to win.

I would like to win the Discover Award for new writers. Although it might be years before I could actually write a book, I can only dream at this point. I've often come across a book where it would leave breathless, and I would say to myself, "Boy, I wish I can write a good story like that!" I hope that one day a reader would express that same sentiment about my work.

Okay. Now that I'm done daydreaming, I guess I better pick up that pen and start writing.

My pen and writing journal

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

An Interview with Dr. Preetham Grandhi

Last month I just finished reading A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi. A Circle of Souls is a psychological thriller where a child is brutally murdered in the sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut.

A little bit about the author: Preetham Grandhi is a child psychiatrist who resides in Westchester County, New York. A Circle of Souls is his debut novel. The book has received great reviews so congratulations on his success.

As busy as his schedule is, Dr. Grandhi was generous enough to allow me to interview him. This was my first time interviewing an author so this was such an honor. So here's the question and answer session between me and Dr. Grandhi.

1. What inspired you to write A Circle of Souls?
It was a few months post 9/11, and I was looking at the biographies of the people who had lost their lives. I began to wonder if there was a larger meaning to their lives. All of a sudden, a story flashed into my mind, and I quickly wrote it on a piece of paper. I knew then that I needed to write a story that was larger than life. It needed to communicate the essence that there is a bigger purpose and meaning to our passage on earth. I knew that in order to capture and convey such a message, the book needed to be captivating, interesting, and thrilling. I realized that a story based on the work I do would be the right place to begin.

I am a child psychiatrist and had just started a new job. During my fellowship, I worked with children with numerous psychosocial issues and had many life stories to tell. It was at that moment that I decided I could write a book that would capture all these thoughts. That was how A Circle of Souls was born.This book will keep you on the edge until the very end and will leave you thinking about the larger sense of individual purpose and destiny.

2. Do you think you will write another book that is in the similar nature as A Circle of Souls, or would you like to do something different?

I do have ideas for books with Peter, (the main character) that I hope to write soon after I have this one up and running on it's own.

3. I believed that Naya was one of the most interesting characters int he book. Would you like to meet someone as special as she is? How would you handle her case?

Naya is one of those characters that is completely fictional compared to some of the other characters. I think every child I work with is as special as she is and I treat all of them with the same respect and care.
4. How did you come to choose your specialty?

I believe it was destiny. I don't know why, but it was meant to be.

5. Dr. Grandhi, I know you must be busy as a physician. How did you find the time to write A Circle of Souls? What's your writing schedule like?

It is very difficult to write a book when one has a full time, tiresome job. The irony is without my job there is no book. But I came up with ideas as I drove to and from work and put them on paper when I got a chance. Now it gets only harder as promoting this book is by itself a full time job.

6. Did you always want to write a book? Or was that something you decided later?

I never dreamt I would write a book. I always wanted to make movies. Maybe I will make this a movie one day.

7. What is your advice to writers who are trying to get published?

It's a lot of hard work and a lot of luck. Just do your part and hope that destiny takes care of the other half.

Many thanks to Dr. Preetham Grandhi for devoting his time to answer these questions. For more information on A Circle of Souls and Dr. Preetham Grandhi, check out A Circle of Souls website. The book is also available in Amazon and in Barnes and Noble.

The Japanese Literature Challenge 3

One reading challenge done. One reading challenge to start.

I know I'm crazy to join another challenge, but I decided that this was just too good to pass! Belezza of Dolce Belezza is hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge 3. The requirement to this challenge is to read one work of Japanese origin. How could I pass that up?

The time frame of this challenge is from July 31, 2009 to January 30, 2010.

Belezza also set up a site for readers to do their reviews and provided the challengers a reading list of Japanese Literature to choose from.

Need more information? Check it out!

In the past I have read and enjoyed Japanese manga. I thought joining this challenge would help me broaden my reading horizons, if there is such a thing. I've always been fascinated by Japanese culture so I think reading a Japanese literature would be wonderful. I think this is going to be fun, and I'm really excited to join.

As for my reading list challenge, I'm going to choose First Snow on Fuji by Yasunari Kawabata. It's a book of short stories. I'm thinking about choosing one more but we'll see. Schedule is tight these days.

So if you are a fan of Japanese literature or if you just want to try something new, come and join the challenge!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: January 2005
First Publication Date: 1943
ISBN-13: 9780060736262
Pages: 528
Ratings: 4 out of 5

Summary: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie Nolan, a thirteen year old growing up in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. It is also the story of her family struggling to get out of poverty.

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of the books I chose to read in the Classical Challenge this year. The main character was Francie Nolan who dreamed of having a better life. As the oldest of the three children, she continued to study and work hard so she can become the first one in her family to go to college.

At first, I really didn’t know where the book was going. The beginning was fine, but towards the middle, my interest started to wane. Things began to pick up after a death in the family. The tragedy made the Nolan family closer, and it also made me feel closer to the characters. The author also included some humor towards the end, and the ending was really great. I felt that the author kind of let loose by then because the majority of the book was very serious.

Probably one of the most admirable characters in the book was Katie Nolan. As a wife of an alcoholic, she had to be the strength of the family. I really liked the part where Francie and Katie became close even after their misunderstandings.

Even though it took me awhile to warm up to this book, I consider this as a great read.

Recommendation: I recommend this if you like...
1. A coming of age story
2. A story of triumph even after heartaches and hardships
3. Historical fiction

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Author Interview

Dr. Preetham Grandhi, author of A Circle of Souls, has agreed to do an interview. I contacted Dr. Grandhi a few weeks ago and asked for an interview after I reviewed his book. I was surprised he said okay, and he was just so nice about it. I'm pretty excited about the interview since it's my first time doing one.

So... stay tuned for the interview.

One Down, Two to Go

Yippee! I finished the War Through the Generations Challenge! Now I only have two more challenges to do - the Classical Challenge and the One Hundred Plus Books to Read Challenge. I really should have finished the Classical Challenge first since the deadline is in October, but the WWII books were just so much interesting. I actually started on A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but it's kind of dragging. I doubt that I will ever finish the One Hundred Books to Read Challenge because of my work schedule, but it doesn't really matter since I still have fun reading books. I started late in the challenge but it would have been a different story if I didn't. I would hate to come to a point where I would be miserable trying to complete an X amount of books in an X amount of time. Reading wouldn't be as fun anymore, and I read for fun and for relaxation...not to add more stress in my life.