Monday, July 28, 2008

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is the story of a woman's affair in the late 19th century. She is the wife of a government official and lives in the upper echelon of society. Upon arriving in Moscow to mediate between her brother and sister-in-law, she meets a military officer named Vronsky. Vronsky had led Kitty to believe he would be "making her an offer" but upon meeting Anna he forgot Kitty completely. And Kitty had just refused an offer from Lenin. Anna Karenina is a long book that tells the story of many people. And they are all well defined characters. It's hard to leave one character for a couple of pages, but then you get wrapped up in the next character.

Anna Karenina is a story of love gone bad and love gone right. Tolstoy uses his characters to explore Russian society, from the aristocrats to the peasants who work for them. Religion, agriculture, politics, society, culture, the list goes on.

Anna Karenina is a Great Book. One of the best I've ever read.FirstCrime and Punishment and now this. I can't believe I was ever scared of Russian literature. I'm ready to take on War and Peace.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Prince

The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli

Machiavelli was born in 1469 in Florence, Italy. His father was a poor lawyer and his mother was a poet. Being a natural politician, he entered into government service. He often accompanied diplomats to neighboring countries, but being of "low" birth he was only an assistant. But his shrewd observations were noticed.

Machiavelli lived in a very volatile era. Italy was divided into city-states. France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire were continuously invading these territories. The Medici family had controlled Florence for a century, but in 1494 Charles VIII dove them out. Florence becomes a republic until 1512 when the Medici family regain power. Machiavelli is ousted from government and exiled to his country farm. Here he begins writing.

The Prince was his attempt to regain favor with the Medici's and return to government service. In The Prince he attempts to council a new ruler on the methods he should use to keep his kingdom secure. He writes advice on the military, the public, nobility, foreign relations, etc. He picks through battle after battle and explains what went wrong and what should have been done.

The Prince
is the book which gave rise to the current Machiavellian definition-cunning and deceptive. He writes " looks at the outcome." This has been take to mean "the end justifies the means." But what Machiavelli is saying is that people don't care what a prince does as long as it benefits them. This is true enough.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Justine by The Marquis de Sade

Justine follows a young girl from the age of 12 to 26. She's determined to be virtuous but circumstances are against her. She keeps getting kidnapped and imprisoned by perverts. Of course, she usually walks into the situation. Some man will tell her he'll give her a job and then lock her in a dungeon when she follows him home. She'll try to talk him into leading a virtuous life and he'll rant on about how Nature makes a man what he is and he shouldn't ignore Nature.

I read this for the ILL challenge, but it is certainly not my cup of tea.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday-Vacation Spots

Booking Through Thursday

Do you buy books while on vacation/holiday?

Do you have favorite bookstores that you only get to visit while away on a trip?

What/Where are they?

I usually take something with me. Usually?? Always!! I can only remember once going ot a bookstore while on vacation and that was somewhere near Austin or Dallas. I can't remember which so needless to say I'd never find my way back. I do have good memories of it though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

The last priest in Mexico is running for his life. The government has decided all priests must be killed or forced to marry. The Power and the Glory is about an unnamed priest who is traveling among the poor towns trying to serve his church as best he can.

He's what's known as a "whiskey priest." During one night of drinking he fathered a child. He remembers better times where he was living good in the priesthood, not thinking much about the poor people in his parish. And now he's hiding from the authorities and depending on those same poor people to help him. He's tired of hiding but considers surrender a sin akin to suicide. He only sees his failures, not realizing he is making a difference in some peoples lives still.

This is a wonderful book. The priest is a great character---full of humility. And he has a nobility he is unaware of.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

East of Eden

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

East of Eden is the story of the Trask family. It's centered on Adam but it includes his father and his sons. Cyrus was injured early in the Civil War. But over time he convinces everyone, even himself, that he had a glorious military career. He eventually winds up in a DC cabinet position. And he forces his youngest son, Adam, into the army.

After the army, Adam returns to his Connecticut home which is being run by his brother Charles. The two do not get along. Charles has always resented Cyrus' favoritism of Adam. One day a young girl shows up at their door. She has been beaten to a pulp. Adam takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health.

Cathy is a bad seed. She murdered and robbed her parents. She then took a turn as a prostitute. Her pimp beat her and left her for dead. But Adam builds a picture in his head that has no basis in reality. He marries her and takes her to California. She doesn't want to go but Adam doesn't hear her.

After they settle in the Salinas Valley, Cathy gives birth to twins. But she has no interest in being a wife and mother. She shoots Adam and leaves to work in a brothel in a nearby town. Adam is left to raise the twins with the help of his Chinese servant.

East of Eden is about the struggle between good and evil within all people. Adam's son Cal has a dark side that he struggles against. It's the same side that his mother embraced.

I enjoyed this book. But out of the four Steinbeck's I've read it only ranks third.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Nathan Price has taken his family to live in a remote, primitive village in the Congo. He is fanatical and can't meet the natives halfway. He refuses to give an inch to their ways, insisting that only his way is right. His wife was once a fun-loving girl who has slowly become passive to her husband. And she's beginning to realize the Congo is no place for her family.

The story switches back and forth between the 4 girls in the family and told by their individual prospectives flavored by their personalities. As the political climate changes, life around them changes also.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge II

I completed part one of the Book Awards Reading Challenge and read some really great books. This years Part II will be 2 books fewer and 2 months shorter. I'm looking forward to it.

Here's my list:

The Alex Awards
1.) The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini 2004 winner
2.) Water for Elephants by Sue Gruen 2007 winner

The National Book Awards
3.) The World According to Garp by John Irving 1980 winner
4.) Middle Passage by Charles Johnson 1990 winner

5.) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner 1949 winner
6.) The Stranger by Albert Camus 1957 winner

Pulitzer Prize
7.) Ironweed by William Kennedy 1984 winner
8.) Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler 1989 winner

9.) Beowulf by Seamus Heaney 1999 winner

Hugo Award
10) Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clark 1974 winner