Monday, April 27, 2009

Books, books, books! after work, I went to the mall to go to the Hallmark store so I can buy some Mother's Day cards for my mom and my sister. I should have gone straight home...but instead I took a detour to Borders Bookstore...just to check out some books. Big mistake.
Borders was having a "buy four and get the fifth book for free" sale. O, Dios mio. Well, being a card carrying bookaholic I am...of course, I did get five books. But I didn't get just one book for free...but two because I had a free $5 coupon for being a member! Sweet!

Here were the books that I bought:

1. The Help by Kathyrn Stockett
I have wanted this book from the get-go! The book is about three women living in the 1960's South. It's similar in The Secret Life of the Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, and since I loved that book, I got The Help.

2. The Diplomat's Wife by Pam Jenoff
Y'all know about my WWII obsession right? Well, this was why I bought this book. It's part romance and part war novel. It should be good.

3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle It's a mystery classic featuring Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick, Dr. Watson. This was my free $5.00 book. Heehee.

4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Platt
The first time I saw this on the shelf, I just grabbed it and never looked back.

5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Finally! I got his first novel. Yay!

I can't wait to read these books. I hope I will not be disappointed although I think they all got pretty good reviews.

More Challenges and Changes

I have decided to join two more reading challenges. First off, I signed up for the 100+ Reading Challenge. I didn't think J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog was going to let me join since it's already April...but she did. Thanks, J. Kaye! The challenge is that the reader has to read 100 plus books before the year ends. I posted a link on the side if anyone is interested. Or you can click on the picture below.

Another reading challenge I've joined is the War Through Generations Reading Challenge which Anne and Selena are hosting. I just couldn't pass up this chance. I love, love, LOVE learning about World War II. I record any documentary that the History Channel and History Channel International feature. Can you see Geek Girl written across my forehead? Yes, I know I don't have a life but I don't care.

I'm digressing again. The challenge is that at least 5 books related to WWII have to be read before the year ends, but more than five is allowed. I also posted a link on the side but you can click on the button below to sign up. There's a reading list to choose from that includes both fiction and nonfiction books. I guess you are wondering...what do these challenges have to the with the changes I'm making? Go ahead...let me hear it.

"Helen, you crazy girl...what do these challenges you've joined have to do with the changes with the blog?"

Well, I've decided to create three more blogs where I will be doing reviews of each of the books I have read for each challenge. I've already provided links so just check them out. I honestly never thought I would start another blog. Let alone 3 more...but I want to organize my reviews a little better and keep track of what I've read. I also want those blogs to be strictly about reviews.

So what does this mean for A Reading Collection? Nothing, really...except I will keep blogging about books I've read...and post anything related to reading. This is my first baby so this blog will always be special to me.

I hope you will stick with me throughout these changes. Like I said before, I'm still learning the ropes around here and making some improvements. So just bear with me here...and thanks to everyone who have been following this blog. I really appreciate your visits.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Change is Good

This is just a short update on one of the changes I will be making in this blog. I will no longer be posting what I'm reading nor will I be posting what will I be reading in the future. Instead, I will be listing what I have read this year. I just feel like I HAVE to read what's on my future reading list...but this is more of a personal thing. I just get so anal sometimes. LOL. Sometimes, I don't get to update my list too. For example, I had finished The Rose of Sebastopol days ago, and I didn't realize it was still in my current reading list. I also finished World War I by H. P. Wilmott and it's listed as a future reading. I guess I read faster than I get to update my blog.

I hope everyone is having a good weekend.

The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon

The Rose of Sebastopol is set during the Victorian Era. Brave and adventurous Rosa Barr follows her calling as a nurse and joins Florence Nightingale with her nurse corps during the Crimean War of the 1850’s. When Rosa becomes missing, her first cousin Mariella Lingwood dashes to Turkey to find her.
The novel opens with Mariella arriving in Italy from London to be with her sick fiancee Henry Thewell. Henry is a surgeon who serves in the Crimean War. When Mariella is reunited with Henry, it is Rosa’s name that Henry calls for and not Mariella’s in his delirium. What has happened to Rosa? Has she and Henry fallen in love? Has Rosa betrayed Mariella?
No two people could be more different than Mariella and Rosa. It’s a surprise how these two could get along. They are the best of friends and the best of cousins. Mariella is a Victorian lady who is conservative and lives a sheltered life. In London, she has a sewing circle and keeps a scrapbook about the Crimean War. Rosa, however, is a rebel and out-spoken. Unlike Mariella, she isn’t satisfied by watching the war in Turkey from London. She wants to be a part of it.
At first, I admit that Rosa is annoying. I think it is selfish of her to leave her sick mother with Mariella’s family. I start to understand her when she claims that nursing is her calling and feels that she could do more where she is needed. My view of her changed from irritation to admiration.
My sympathy goes to Mariella. Jilted by her fiancee, Mariella at first hesitates to find her cousin Rosa. At first, I could not blame her since she is feeling betrayed and suspicious since both Henry and Rosa have left her to go to war. Yet not all is what it seems as the novel progresses. One of the best parts in this book is how Mariella’s character blooms as she remains in Turkey.
The author does a great job of pulling readers to the scenes. While reading, I feel like I am transported to 1855 with the sounds of cannon booming in the background. I could also see the sick and the dying with the rotting flesh as Mariella goes from hospital to hospital to find her cousin. I have to add that back then more people have died from infection rather than in battle. Hand washing is almost unheard of so I’m sure viruses and bacteria have had such a party back then.
Another note, I should mention that the tone of the language here is affectionate at times. I think I read someone’s review saying that Rosa is a lesbian. LOL. Far from it. Back in the Victorian era, people have used more words of affection compared to today. McMahon has such eloquence in her words. It’s almost as if she lived in the Victorian period herself.
One of my favorite characters there is Captain Max Stukely, Rosa’s stepbrother. He is cavalry officer in the war. He’s very charismatic and is admired. I feel like I’m being swept off my feet myself. LOL. Mariella develops complex feelings for him, and he seems to care for her a great deal too.
Sometimes the book seems to drag a bit. It isn’t boring though. Pay attention before starting a new chapter because of the timelines and the places. One chapter I will be in London, 1854. The next chapter I will be in Turkey, 1855. Sometimes, the book goes back to Derbyshire, 1844. I have a habit of not looking at title chapters sometimes since I get too impatient to get to the next chapter, especially if the book is really good.
The ending…well, I can’t say that I like it too much. Readers might be disappointed especially if they are looking for a happy ending. So…beware.
I would recommend this book if you like character-driven novels and not plot driven. I’m not saying that there isn’t a plot but I wish there is more information about Rosa while she is in Crimea. However, I wouldn’t read this book if you are looking for something light. If someone asks me to rate this between a scale of one to five, I would rate this as a four.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Classics Challenge 2009

I love a when I saw the Classics Challenge for this year, I just had to join.

I picked these books to read:

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
As a true blue historical fiction reader fanatic, I had planned to read this book from the get-go.

2. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Funny enough, I have never read this book even though Hemingway is one of my favorite authors.

3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Everytime I go to Starbucks Cafe in Barnes and Noble in Florence, I would look at the posters of the great classics. One of them was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I told myself that one day I was going to read it. Well, that one day will come soon enough.

4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath. Enough said.

5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Bloom
Ten Bloom recounts her horrific days in a Nazi concentration camp in this book.

6. Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I love I chose this book which starred Doyle's best known character - Sherlock Holmes.

As a bonus selection, I chose The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I once saw my friend Christy reading it. I've read Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns and I was completely blown away. If you haven't read it, you should.

For a future classic, I suggested Little Bee by Chris Cleave. The novel stayed with me for days after I read it. Suzanne of Chick with Books did a review if you want to read it. We both enjoyed the book so much that we went on and on about it. LOL. Reading that book felt like riding an emotional roller coaster. The book was funny that I had to laugh out loud, but some parts were so sad and terrifying that I just wanted to cry. There was also a portion of the book where I felt just as vindictive as Little Bee. The book had so much impact that it was unforgettable. It was excellent and will forever stay in my book collection.

If you would like to join the Classic Challenge of 2009. Check it out. You don't have to have a blog to sign up. You just have to love reading. Have fun! See you there!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

World Digital Library, I Love You!

As a Filipino who became a US citizen at such a young age, I've always been curious about my Filipino heritage. Thanks to the internet, I can research about the history of the Filipino Americans and the Philippine culture and history without leaving my home office and spending over $2000 worth of roundtrip ticket to the Philippines.

I recently visited the World Digital Library where they posted online some of history's earliest works such as the Christian Doctrine in Spanish and Tagalog which was the first book printed in the Philippines. It was published in Manila in 1593. (FYI, Tagalog is one of the dialects that is commonly spoken in the Philippines. There are 170 dialects in the country.)

One of the pages featured online in Christian Doctrine in Spanish and Tagalog
Sources: World Digital Library and the Library of Congress

I was in complete amazement as I viewed the scanned pages of this book that was nearly five centuries old. The book showed the Tagalog alphabet, which were the same alphabets that I learned from my early childhood education in the Philippines. It also featured the Our Father prayer both in Spanish and Tagalog.

The real (not scanned) Christian Doctrine in Spanish and Tagalog can be located in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. I found it strange that this book was not in the Philippines or in Spain.

Curious to know more about the doctrine? Check it out here. This link will also feature the scanned pages of the book.

I strongly urge you to visit the World Digital Library. Journals, maps, and even old videos are just some of the media featured from all over the world. If you love history or if you just want to itch that scratch, run. Don't walk there. I promise that you won't regret it, and it's worth your time.

Just one of the manuscripts that was featured online from World Digital Library. It was written by Antonio Pigafetta who journeyed with Ferdinand Magellan when the latter discovered the Philippines in 1521.

An Oracle Bone from China made between 1200 to 1180 B.C.

Two Awards

I received two awards for my blog. Woot! Woot! I want to thank Suzanne of Chick With Books and Yvette of True Crime Book Reviews. They have been so sweet to consider this blog since it's still in its infancy stage. I had to figure out how to add the awards to my blog since I'm not that blog savvy yet. LOL.

Here are my awards:

The Premio Dardos Award

Our Lovely Blog Award
Thanks again for everyone's support. Your visits mean a lot to me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bernice Bobs Her Hair: A Short Story by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Best known for writing The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a member of the "Lost Generation" who were a group of authors and poets that included (just to name a few) Ernest Hemingway (one of my favorite authors), Ezra Pound, and John Steinbeck.

F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1921

Bernice Bobs Her Hair was written in 1920. It first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and later in Flappers and Philosophers. I had a wonderful opportunity of reading this selection in Great American Short Stories from Hawthorne to Hemingway.

The cover of Saturday Evening Post in which Bernice Bobs Her Hair was published back in May 1, 1920.

In the story, Bernice had trouble fitting in with her cousin's friends. Her cousin Marjorie was embarassed to be around her. To make herself appear more interesting, Bernice told them that she was going to get her hair bobbed. Back in 1920, for a woman to get her hair bobbed, it was considered to be outrageous, and it gave an impression that she was "loose." The ending was so funny, and I thought I should share this because I enjoyed the story.

Pages from The Saturday Evening Post
If you would like to read it, here's Bernice Bobs Her Hair. Have fun! Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Monogamous Reading

I just started reading The Rose of Sebastopol by Katherine McMahon. I was curious to see why it became an interenational best-seller so I ended up buying it.

I began reading this on Sunday while I was at work (It was Easter so I had some downtime), and I learned very quickly that this was one of the books that you can't "cheat" with others. This was a book that was not to be played around with. I'm not saying that I'm not enjoying it, but this novel confused the heck out of me because there were not just two story timelines that needed to be followed…but three! Oh, good grief.

The Rose of Sebastopol reminded me when I was reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. (Haven’t read it? You should.) The Time Traveler’s Wife was complicated to read at first because they were told in different timelines by two different characters, Henry and Claire. I later decided to read it in Claire’s point of view, even though some chapters were told in Henry’s. Sounds confusing? Yes. Great read? You bet!

I usually "cheat" and read two or three books at a time, but I am going to be faithful to The Rose of Sebastopol.

A Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Aida D. Donald

I rose like a rocket.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Indeed, before he became the youngest president in U.S. history at age 42, Theodore Roosevelt had done it all. He was a New York assemblyman, assistant secretary of the Navy, New York governor, a Rough Rider, New York police commissioner, a cowboy, and an author.

This was why I had a problem with this book. For a man who accomplished so much for the American people and later the world, I didn’t think a 269 page biography was enough to cover his life. In my opinion, a timeline would have been a nice addition to the book. I also felt like the book was rushed through and the language, though simple, was very mechanical. It was boring, even though Theodore Roosevelt was an interesting person.

I found that this book only excelled in giving a generalized view of Theodore Roosevelt’s life, but unfortunately it didn’t give me a chance to find out more about the former president.

I actually bought Edmund Morris’ The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt which chronicled his from his childhood to being the vice president of the United States. I also plan to buy Morris’ Theodore Rex which talked about his years in the White House as president.

I think that A Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt could have been written better. Theodore Roosevelt was larger than life so I was very disappointed when I finished this book.

My take: Save your money. Don’t buy this book.

Blog Renovation

I’m thinking about giving my blog a facelift. I might change the background. I have looked at the Cutest Blog On the Block. They have wonderful freebies and some tips to improve blogs

I have also decided to add some links to the side for easier navigation. Blogging is fun but I’m still learning how to improve this blog. I’ll have to take this one step at a time. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Buy Two, Get One Free

Last Thursday, I went to Barnes and Noble. They were having a “Buy Two Books, get One for Free” sale. As a card-carrying book addict, how can I pass up the chance?

When I arrived at the bookstore, I had a difficult time trying to choose which books to buy. The books on sale were all piled on one table. I was hoping for more selections, but I suppose the branch was trying to get rid of these books. I thought of buying from their website since there were more choices, but I always hesitated to buy books online.

Before choosing a book, I scanned a few pages. I looked at the first few sentences of a novel to see how much of an impact they have. Check out the beginning of Michael Palmer’s The Fifth Vial:

Hold still, now. This won’t hurt a bit.

They're simple words, but immediately the reader is pulled right away into the novel, and hopefully, the interest is held throughout the story.

I’ve digressed a little…so…here were the books I’ve added to my book collection:

1. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
2. The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

I’m pretty excited to read them. They’re all historical novels and best sellers. I’m not sure if which one I should do a review on though. I’m leaning towards Skeletons at the Feast, since I’m a huge fan of reading about World War II, whether it’s pre, during or post. On the other hand, I’ve heard some great reviews about Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and I’m enthusiastic to see what the fuss was all about. I’ll know soon enough.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Rule of 50

Ever bought a book where you thought you would enjoy it, and then later realized it was awful? Then you wonder if you should continue. Well, why not follow The Rule of 50?

I’ve never heard of the Rule of 50 until I picked up my copy of Book Lust. This was the rule Nancy Pearl had always gone by, and I thought this was great advice. Simply put, the rule went like this:
“If you’re 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it or give it up. If you’re over 50, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100 - the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding.” - Nancy Pearl from Book Lust

Nancy Pearl also suggested to consider your mood. Do you feel that you should give up reading that book or come back to it later at another time?

Ninety percent of the time, if I don’t like the book, I stop reading it. I suppose the saying, “First impressions lasts,” rings true to me. My time is valuable. I don't like to waste it. I believe I could use that time to find other books that I will enjoy reading. It doesn’t matter whether or not the book received good reviews. Each of us is unique so we're not always going to like the same thing.

So how about you? Would you return and continue to read the book even if you don’t enjoy it? Or do you just give it up? Your thoughts?

Book Lust

Last week, I bought a book journal called the Book Lust by Nancy Pearl. Small and portable, the journal is divided into four sections:

1. Book Notes - This is where I can jot down my notes and thoughts about the books I’ve read. On the top of the page, I can write down the title and author.
2. Book Passages to Remember- This is my favorite part of the journal. Sometimes when I am reading, the words of the author are so beautifully written that it hits home for me. In this section, I can write down the passages. What’s nice about it is that I can go back and read them when I feel the need to be inspired.
3. Books I Want to Read - Self-explanatory. I can list the title, author and brief synopsis. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s not enough pages for my wish list.
4. Books on Loan - This an easy way to keep tabs on the books I’ve lent to family and friends.

The Book Lust also includes Nancy Pearl’s A List of Great Read. I have never read any of the books in her list. Let alone heard of. I expected some classics to be in this list, but they’re not. I recognize David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day and T.C. Boyle’s After the Plague and Other Stories. Frankly, I don't like After the Plague too much. Way too bizarre for me.

Other things I like about Book Lust: Its pages are smooth and made of quality paper. I like that I am able to use a roller pen and the ink doesn’t seep through the pages. It also includes a bookmark.

The Book Lust is a great journal to have during book club discussions to write down notes or for simply recording your personal thoughts.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Dark History: The Kings and Queens of Europe by Brenda Ralph Lewis

"This is not a book for the faint-hearted. It took a strong stomach to write it. It could require another to read it." - Brenda Ralph Lewis

Mass murders of virgins. Burning people alive at the stake. Debauchery. Insanity. Incest. These are the tragedies that some of European monarchs that Ms. Lewis mentioned in her book. I can't say that I enjoyed this book because some parts were so difficult to read. However, it is a well-written book with illustrations.

I normally don't read horror books, but I love history so much that I ended up buying this. It also helped that I got it at a great bargain from Barnes and Nobles. I thought the book might be an interesting addition to my history book collection. Although I skipped (and later returned) some of the beginning chapters due to its content, the end of the book wasn't all too bad. At least I was able to keep my dinner.

All in all, I did like the author's writing approach because it felt like she was right there telling me the story. Due to its subject matter, I don't think this is history book that everyone would like to read. but if you like shocking and intriguing stories, then this book is for you.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Now a national best seller, this debut novel has become one of my favorite books. Set in Seattle during the 1940's, this is the story of Henry Lee, son of Chinese immigrants. Though he is an American citizen, he endures the prejudice of his peers. Yet he gains a friend in Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American. Their friendship blossoms into something deeper but their happiness doesn't last long after Keiko is forced to be separated from Henry.

I won't go any further than that because I don't want to ruin the ending. I was so touched by this book that I actually emailed the author (something I had never done before) and thanked him for writing such marvelous work. Mr. Ford was nice enough to reply.

This book gets high recommendations from me. I think readers will find this enjoyable and well worth reading.