Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Count of Monte Cristo

"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

The story begins with 19 year old Edmond Dantès on top of the world. He is about to be married and he is to be captain of his own ship. However, jealousy among his acquaintances cause them to sabotage the life coming his way. He is framed for being a Napoleon supporter. His judge has political reasons to continue the treachery. Edmond winds up in prison for the next 14 years.

Edmond's prison mate just happens to know where untold riches have been buried so long the world has forgotten them. He's also a Italian scholar who educates Edmond. Then circumstances allow Edmond to escape and claim the treasure. All of the players from his betrayal have left Marseilles and gone to Paris. They have also gotten rich. After roaming the earth for a spell, Edmond assumes the title "Count of Monte Cristo" and follows where he begins a campaign of revenge.

This book has every thing: love, murder, revenge, betrayal. But it's completely implausible. Every step of the way, things just fall into place to accommodate the Count. If he needs a murderous wife, she's there. If he needs a secret passage, it's there. If he needs a witness, it's there. (If his lucky star shined that brightly he'd have never gone to prison in the first place). It is over-the-top melodrama.

That being said, it's still a captivating book. The characters are so black and white you can predict most of it (but not all--I did have one big surprise from it)but it's easy to get swept up in. I recommend it to anyone who wants an adventurous escape.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Great Expectations

"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens

Pip is an young boy living with his sister and her husband after the deaths of both his parents. He expects to be apprenticed to his brother-in-law, Joe, to be a blacksmith. After a while, a lawyer comes to him with startling news. A "Secret Santa" is going to sponsor him to learn to be a gentleman. But he must never question who. The sponsor will show himself at his own convenience.

I have decided to read all the books my book club read before I joined and this was one of them. My first Charles Dickens and I loved it. I read it in two days. I wish I'd been in on the discussions with the book club. Anyway someone has nominated "Bleak House" for our next season of books and I'm all for it. I want another Dickens.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Vanity Fair

"Vanity Fair" by William Makepeace Thackeray

"I think I could be a good woman, if I had five thousand a year."

So says Becky Sharp, one of the most cunning characters in literature. Set in the Victorian Age, "Vanity Fair" tells of the Crawley, Osborne and Sedley familys. The book begins as Rebecca Sharp and her best friend/rival leave boarding school. Becky's ambition leads her into marriage with Rawdon Crawley. Amelia marries George Osburn. Crawley makes his living by gambling. Osborne is in the army and is disinheirited after he marries Amelia. This is because Amelia's father lost all his money and this makes Amelia no longer good enough for George.

It's a soap opera, folks. But it's highly entertaining. Thackeray goes off tangent sometimes (often) but the narrative is an easy read.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Black and Blue

"Black and Blue" by Anna Quindlen

The first tome my husband hit me I was 19 years old.

So begins a story as frightening as anything Poe or King ever wrote. Fran has been married for 18 years. Her husband is a policeman who brings his frustrations home. He follows the typical pattern of hitting where the bruises will stay hidden. And Fran helps keep the secret until she realizes her young son is being harmed in another way.

So with the help of an underground organization who help women escape abusive husbands, Fran and her son move to Florida in a kind of domestic witness protection program. Now Fran and her son must learn to live a new life without revealing their old life.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Picture of Dorian Gray

"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

Basil Hallward has found his greatest artistic inspiration in a young man named
Dorian Gray. While painting Dorian one day, his friend Lord Henry Wotton expains his philosophy of life to Dorian. That is, the persuit of beauty. Dorian embraces this philosophy and wishes his painting would age instead of him. Wish granted. As time goes on and Dorian slips further down into debauchery and hedonism, his painting begins to show the tell-tale signs of the corruption of his soul.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Vicar of Wakefield

"The Vicar of Wakefield" by Oliver Goldsmith

Straight from Wikipedia:
The Vicar of Wakefield is a novel by the Irish author Oliver Goldsmith. It was written in 1761 and 1762, and published in 1766. It is briefly mentioned in George Eliot's Middlemarch, Jane Austen's Emma, Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Charlotte Brontë's The Professor, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther as well as his Dichtung und Wahrheit. It is also mentioned in Dan Simmons's The Terror as a book brought along on the ill-fated Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin, which the book takes as its source. (In actual fact a copy was found near some skeletons of the last surviving members of the expedition.)

This book was considered a "sentimental novel" and seems to have been popular. Life for the Reverened takes a turn for the worse. And things continue to get steadily worse and worse as time goes on. But the Reverend Primrose is an optimistic man who believes in the goodness of others and refuses to let his troubles dampen his spirit. It's a simple little book that tries to send the message that life is good.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Noticed Something


I picked out 17 books for my challenge. I've already read 3 of them. Trouble is, I got it into my head the challenge started June 1st. Nope...wrong!!! It starts July 1st. So I guess my list is down to 14 books. Oh, well. I enjoyed all three books, so I won't be complaining.

All Quiet on the Western Front

"All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque

The coffins are really for us. The organization surpasses itself in that kind of thing.

The story begins with Paul Bäumer and his unit receiving double rations because half of his unit has been killed in battle. They were engaged in trench warfare during WWI. Paul and his school mates had been talked into joining the German army by their teacher. Paul was 19 years old.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is a very disturbing book. Remarque was in the army during the war and he writes from experience. He tells of the artillery attacks, food shortages and fallen comrades. And the periodical monotony. He also writes of the difficulty Paul has identifying with his home when he goes on leave.

This book is a detailed look at what happens to a young mans mind when he goes from the schoolroom to the war front. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Known World

"The Known World" by Edward P. Jones
2004 Pulitzer Prize

"The Known World" tells the story of the people of Manchester County, Virginia during the 1850's. The novel is focused on Henry Townsend a farmer and former slave. After Henry buys his freedom, he gets his own farm---and begins buying his own slaves to work it. Henry is dying and he's worried his wife, Caldonia, won't be able to keep order on the farm. The book explores slavery from many different viewpoints: The white man who thinks slavery is the answer to economic issues, the slave who wants freedom, and the black man who resorts to slavery because that's the way the world is.

This was an amazing book. Jones' writing style flowed from past to future to present. And it was easy to keep up with who was who, which is incredible since the character list contains 40 people. Jones would drop in tidbits about something that happened 20 years ago or something that would happen in 60. I was left with a sense of the lives of all the characters beyond the book. I'm keeping my copy for rereading someday.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wanda's Vacation

The Great Book Marathon of 2007 is over. Wanda comes back to work Monday. I return to my office where I actually have to work. Bummer.
During 55 hours spread over 6 days, I got quite a bit off my TBR. I read 6 books and 1 play during this period.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
3. The Known World by Edward P Jones
4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
5. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
7. A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

I got off work at 1pm Saturday and created a spreadsheet document on Google. I have 64 books accumulated. The spreadsheet lists all my TBR under the category under which they fall.

1. Book of Great Books personal goal
2. TheClassicsClub on Oprah
3. Pulitzer_literature on Yahoo
4. BookAwardsChallenge
5. Oprah selections
6. In the house---meaning books I've picked up and haven't read yet so I better read them because if I don't it's my money I'm wasting. Really, just drop the money in the trash and save the shelf space. Duh!!!

I've decided I cannot buy anymore books until this list is cut in half. Unless I need something for the Pulitzer or BookAwardsChallenge. Oh, goody. A loophole.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Remains of the Day

"The Remains of the Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro
1989 Booker Prize

Perhaps, then, there is something to his advice that I should cease looking back so much, that I should adopt a more positive outlook and try to make the best of what remains of my day.

Mr. Stevens has been the perfect butler for 4 decades. He believes he serves humanity by serving a "great" English gentleman. But at the end of WWII his world is changing. After 35 years serving Lord Darlington, the estate has been bought by an American. Mr. Farraday foots the bill for Mr. Stevens to take a road trip. Mr. Stevens plans to look up the housekeeper who left service to get married 20 years ago. On this trip Mr. Stevens reflects back on his life.

Hindsight is 20/20. Mr. Stevens begins to realize his employer may not have been the "great" man he saw as the events of WWII were unfolding.

Mr. Stevens is a fascinating character. Over his career his determination to be a great butler has molded his character to the point where that is all he is. His dedication to duty has prevented him from seeing what his employer was doing, pursuing a woman or even exploring life outside the estate gates. And he never developed the ability to communicate on a purely personal level.

I loved this book. It's a new entry on my list of all-time favorites.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Road

The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
2007 Pulitzer Prize

He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

I pulled the book review out of Time Magazine and added it to my gotta read pile many moons ago. It took a while but I finally read it Monday. Only after it won the 2007 Pulitzer. And it was amazing.

It's the story of a man and his son traveling across the country on foot. The world is a postapocalyptic cinder, now sparsely populated by roaming bands of scavengers trying to survive. The travelers are trying to get to the coast, not knowing what they may find there.

It's a disturbing scenario. And McCarthy leaves so much to the imagination. We're not told what happened to the planet. We don't know when it's set; we only know it's cold. We're not even given the name of the boy or his son. All you know is the only world left for the two of them is each other.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


After 4 days of deliberation, I have finally made my list. I have a couple of favorites I'm going to reread. It's been a while. And there are two I enjoyed as a child I want to reread. It's been a looong whiiile. I followed the Yahoo Pulitzer_literature link and picked up a couple there. I got one from my ClassicClub list. There are two from my Book of Great Books. I wandered around the house and found a couple I already own. And finally, I picked the Pulitzer Prize winning books by 5 Nobel Prize winning authors. There was another eligible for this particular criteria but it's too soon to reread "The Old Man and the Sea."

1.) The Remains of the Day---Kazuo Ishiguro---1989

National Bood Award
2.) Cold Mountain---Charles Frazier---1997

Newbery Medal
3.) Up a Road Slowly---Irene Hunt---1967
4.) From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler---E L Konisburg---1968

Nobel Author W/ Pulitzer
5.) Sinclair Lewis 1930---Arrowsmith 1926
6.) Pearl S Buck 1938---The Good Earth 1932
7.) John Steinbeck 1962---The Grapes of Wrath 1940
8.) Saul Bellow 1976---Humbolt's Gift 1976
9.) Toni Morrison 1993---Beloved 1988

10.) The Executioner's Song---Norman Mailer---1980
11.) Lonesome Dove---Larry McMurty---1986
12.) The Road---Cormac McCarthy---2007
13.) To Kill a Mockingbird---Harper Lee---1961
14.) Gone With the Wind---Margaret Mitchell---1937
15.) The Known World---Edward P Jones---2004
16.) Gilead---Marilynne Robinson---2005
17.) Middlesex---Jeffrey Eugenides---2003

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Secret Life of Bees

"The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd

"I'll write this all down for you," I said. "I'll put it in a story."
I don't know if that's what he wanted to ask me, but it's something everyone wants--for someone to see the hurt done to them and set it down like it matters.

Lily Owens lives in South Carolina with her cruel father and her substitue mother, Rosaleen. After the Civil Rights Act is enacted, Rosaleen and Lily head for town so Rosaleen can register to vote. After Rosaleen insults three heckling bigots she is thrown in jail. Lily's father comes for her, but Rosaleen is left in jail and beaten. Lily returns to town and helps Rosaleen escape from the hospital where she is getting stitches but is still in custody.

The two of them head to Tiburon, where Lily believes her mother once was. Following a clue on the back of a picture of a black Madonna, Lily and Rosaleen find haven at the home of three black women who raise bees. Here Lily learns to live with the secrets of her past.

This was a delightful book. Being a Southern girl myself, Kidds writing brought back memories from clidhood. Hot summer days, waterhose fights, potluck funerals. I just flew through the pages, but the images are still with me.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Here on Earth

"Here on Earth" by Alice Hoffman
As one of the comments in the front cover says "Here on Earth" is a "Wuthering Heights" for the 90's. Trouble is I didn't much care for "Wuthering Heights." March's father found a young boy during a trip to the city and brought him home to raise. March gets a crush on him. Big brother Alan is jealous and hateful. Dad dies. Alan is king of the castle and treats the boy, Hollis, like a servant. Hollis leaves town. March gets married. Yup..."Wuthering Heights."

March Murray and her 14-year old daughter return to March's hometown for a funeral. Hollis squirms back into her life. Much more from me and you'll know Rosebud is a sled.

Anyway, the book kept my interest. I read it in one day. I was curious about what would happen to the characters but I didn't care for them. The book left an unpleasant aftertaste. But I liked Hoffman's writing enough to give her another try. So I'll be looking for good recommendations.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


I've found a book challenge that fits me to a T. I visited Stephanie while playing The Blogroll Game and there it was. Meets so many of my needs, you'd be amazed.

1. I found a site that offers to-do lists for you to complete. The Pulitzer and National Book awards are two of the lists I've chosen. And this challenge will take 5 off of the Pulitzer list.

I've set the goal to read all 100 of the books listed in "The Book of Great Books" and "The Good Earth" and "The Grapes of Wrath" will come off that list.

3. I've needed an excuse to reread a couple of my favorite books. These are "The Executioners Song," Lonesome Dove" and "Flowers for Algernon."

4. I'm in a book club and I've decided to read everything they read before I joined. This includes "Gone With the Wind."

5. And finally, I've decided to read two of my favorites from childhood. "From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" and "Up a Road Slowly" are two that I remember enjoying. They very likely started me down the path that led to my love of books. Who knows?

So, all-in-all, this is the challenge for me. So far between this challenge and recommendations I've picked up from the Blogroll Game I've got 17 more books to buy. I seriously need another book shelf.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Vanishing Acts

"Vanishng Acts" by Jodi Picoult

"Vanishing Acts" is the story of what happens to the world around Delia once the fact she was kinapped as a child comes to light. Delia makes a living finding missing people with her search-and-rescue dog never dreaming she's been missing for 28 years. Her father took her, changed their names and moved across country. As Delia plans her wedding, memories cause a chain reaction that causes her to question her entire life. After his arrrest, her father is extradited to Arizona where Delia meets the mother she was told was dead.

I really enfoyed this book. I read it in one day. It was a normal day at the office were I was. The good news is the office girl there is going on vacation next week. I'll be there 55 hours and I'll probably only have to work about 10 of them. I'm hoping to get at least 3 books off my TBR books next week. Plus overtime.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Moby Dick

"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville

After finishing "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick I decided to read "Moby Dick" while I still had all of the whaling terminology in my head. I needn't have bothered. As the blurb on the Barnes & Noble edition tells you, the book is a virtual enyclopedia of whales and whaling. Melville doles out the whaling life in mind-numbing detail.

The first quarter of the book was fast reading. The middle lost me.
The last quarter went quicker, but by then I just wanted to finish. But, it's on my Book of Great Books TBR list. So if I set a voluntary goal for myself I have to just bite the bullet and take the good with the long, drawn-out. Not one of my favorites.