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)