Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Frustrating Characters

hosted by The Broke And The Bookish

Today's List: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters in Literature

God from The Bible
Is it just me, or is he constantly playing the hypocrite? Plus, I'm not 100% sure that he likes women...

Scarlet O'Hara from Gone With the Wind
Vain, selfish, self-centered, basically your average sixteen year old. However, I am always so frustrated by how hung up on Ashley Wilkes she is and doesn't realize that she has Rhett Butler right in front of her for like, the whole book, well at least until the VERY END and then she says she's going to go after him NOW that SHE'S ready. Typical girl. However, she is so intelligent I have to love her for being able to survive in the time that she did. Scarlet is such a complicated heroine. She's so easy to hate yet you also have to love her.
image from enjoytherandom.com

The Mother from Perfect Match
Really, all the characters in this Jodi Picoult novel, but especially the mother. So basically what happens is that the mother thinks that this priest has molested her child and so instead of allowing the court to decide his fate she takes it into her own hands and kills an innocent man and then doesn't feel any remorse for him. The only remorse that I felt in this book was that she wasn't given to the chair.

The Parents from Matilda
What sucky parents these two were. They didn't encourage her to read. They didn't appreciate her intellect. They were just awful. However, our precocious heroine did get her revenge on them through some very sneaky and clever trickery!

Dolores Umbridge from The Harry Potter Series
You would think that I love this character since she also loves kittens, chocolate, biscuits, tea and cute things. However, this bitch was condescending and totally treated our delightful Harry unfairly. Plus she purposefully did things that she knew were wrong and I just can't stand people like that.

Elna Baker from The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance
Read the original review of the book here in which I relate why I do not trust her as a narrator and how I am constantly aggrieved about how she sabotages herself then plays the victim.

August from Water for Elephants
He's mean to animals. Enough said.

Lucy Hull from The Borrower
As a young persons librarian myself, I have felt that feeling of wanting to remove a child from a home environment that does not quite nurture the love of reading that a child has. However, I have never and will never act on it and the fact that this narrator did, and in such a sloppy manner, really pissed me off.

Rosemary from Rosemary's Baby
I hate stupid women characters. They make the rest of us look bad. However in the film version, Mia Farrow plays Rosemary which gives her a few more points in my book.

Each and every single character in Maine by Courtney J. Sullivan
Wealthy white people with problems. Ugh.
image from rich-people-problems.tumblr

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Naked Came the Leaf Peeper by 12 N.C. Authors

Naked Came the Leaf Peeper arrived in my mailbox when I returned home from visiting my parents at Christmas. I had not previously heard of this book so I wasn't sure what to expect of it. I was still reading Anna Karenina so I put it on my TBR shelf and didn't think about it much until I was cruising twitter and saw the book mentioned by my favorite bookstore in the whole world: Malaprop's.  This book was apparently written in celebration of the bookstores 30th birthday. It was collaboratively written by twelve North Carolina authors as a farcical take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larrson.
The book is a who done it murder mystery set in Western North Carolina staring a liberal and environmentally friendly girl named Garnell Lee Ray who we learn is in the business of creatively offing people, specifically people who are greedy and people who have murdered her parents. After offing one man using a BRP (for those of you not from the greatest state in the USA that stands for Blue Ridge Parkway) overlook and a potato gun our heroine returns to her campsite and is shot in an assassination attempt  but survives thanks to a binder clip and some duct tape. Suddenly her cover is blown and she's on the lam, but people in Western NC aren't who they appear to be and we're not sure who Garnell can trust.

Title: Naked Came The Leaf Peeper
Authors: Brian Lee Knopp, John P. McAfee, Susan Reinhardt, Tony Early, Gene Cheek, Wayne Caldwell, Fred Chappell, Vicki Lane, Tommy Hays, Alan Gratz, Linda Marie Barrett, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Burning  Bush Press of Asheville
Pages: 190
Where I Got It: Christmas gift from family member
Dates I Read It: January 21 - January 26, 2013
Number of Stars: 3.5/5
Read For:  No challenges, just for fun!

I did enjoy the heck out of this book. I'm not sure that anyone who is not from North Carolina would fully appreciate the full effect of the novel. The novel is basically a love story to the land that is Western NC. It is gorgeous and it is plentiful but it is also in danger. Being as beautiful as it is, naturally developers drool over it and yearn to slash and burn and build (mostly huge housing developments for the wealthy). The book was written in a short-storyesq style where each author got a chapter and had to go on what was previously written to finish out the story. The character development was spotty and shifted somewhat in each chapter, which is to be expected. The characters were credible though. They were human, and as it is set in Western NC, many of them were true to form of the people that you meet there. Sometimes overly stereotypical each character perfectly fit the role that they played and even the most vile of the vile characters (in this case, a Republican politico from Raleigh) plays his part with humor. You knew who the true villains were and the character delineation was very direct.
The story itself was a campy mystery. Each chapter threw a major surprise that topped the one in the previous chapter. It was almost as if you could feel the wink wink, nudge nudge playfulness that each author had with one another. In the end everything came together, albeit in an extremely silly way, and one of my favorite North Carolinian's-  Doc Watson, saves the day. There was one plot hole that I couldn't quite grasp: there are two dancing girls who are aspiring dancers who decide to do a theatrical haunting of haunted places. They appear and have a pretty large part in the story, and then seemingly disappear without fulfilling their role to completion. As the book ended I found myself wondering what ever became of them as the two were not mentioned again in the book.
The writing was light, simplistic and fun and this is a book that you can read in a day. Had it not been for a lot going on at work, I would have. I actually read it in about 2 sittings and I was able to read the majority of the book Saturday morning. The rhythm changed from chapter to chapter, again as to be expected. I could almost pick out the chapters that were written by the two authors that I had read before, Vicki Lane and Fred Chappell. The story satirizes each person in turn and even the town of Asheville that boasts a tagline of "Keep Asheville Weird." The book was itself very weird, but super enjoyable to read. I do not think that I would recommend it to anyone who is not from North Carolina, but if you are from here, especially if you are from, or have ever lived, in Western NC, this is one you shouldn't miss.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Classics Club January Meme

As per one of my resolutions for this year, I am almost late for it but not quite- this is my post for the January Meme for The Classics Club. This month's questions is:

What is the best book you've read so far for The Classics Club- and why? Be sure to link to the post where you discussed the  book! (Or, if you prefer, what is your least favorite read so far for the club, and why?)
 I'm very grateful for these monthly memes. I just now looked to see what books I have successfully been able to cross off of my list and was dismayed to see that I've only done three: Sense and Sensibility, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Villette. Out of those three, however, I think that I have to select Sense and Sensibility as my favorite so far. I read this book for both The Classics Club and Austen in August (hosted by Roof Beam Reader). Here is a link to my original review. After thinking it over, I have concluded that this book is my favorite simply for the fact that I loved the story long before I ever read the novel. As you will read in the original review, I had become enamored by the PBS/BBC version of the film years ago and knew and loved the story. Too afraid to attempt the novel I only viewed the video (over and over and over) and never read the book. However, this past summer I faced my fear of classic literature (despite being an English major in college and having read several classics then) and found that I was now able and ready and excited to read the book from which one of my favorite movies was based.
The video adaptation followed the story very closely and this helped me to be able to understand the prose of the time. I loved the whole experience of simultaneously reading and watching the story unfold and thought that it added a little extra something to the whole reading experience. Both the book and the movie are delightful and I highly recommend that you experience both. Plus Edward Ferrars is yummy in the film, and it took me until last week upon a re-watch that Edward is also Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Review: Follow the River by James A. Thom

Image from National Parks Service
Follow the River is the fictionalized story of the true tale of Pioneer woman Mary Draper Ingles who survived a raid on her village one sunny summer day by Shawnee Indians only to be kidnapped by the warriors, along with her sister in law, neighbor and two sons and one unborn daughter (she was 9 months pregnant). The Shawnee warriors take the captives all the way to Ohio where they continue to inflict torture on the captives. On the way there Mary gives birth on the forest floor, hops back on horseback, and keeps on trucking through the backwoods. Finally, right before winter Mary decides enough is enough and starts walking back to Virginia via the New River with a blanket, a dress and an old Dutch woman she thinks might be named Ghetel. Smart plan. Very well thought out. So, with almost 1,000 miles to go and the weather plummeting into the teens at night Mary begins the long walk back home by following the river.

Title: Follow the River
Author: James Alexander Thom
Publication Date: 1986
Pages: 406
Publisher: Ballentine Books
Where I got it: Used from Amazon
Dates I Read It: January 18 - January 21, 2013
Read it For: Book Club
Number of Stars: 3.5/5

I enjoyed this book. I hate to say it, but it really was a page turner. I had to know what was going to happen to ole' Mary. Even though I knew that she made it back home I had to know HOW she was going to do it because, honestly, I would never have thought she'd be able to. The story, though it is a fictionalized account of a true event, was very unbelievable and I think that Thom may have taken several liberties with his telling. The story seems almost fantastical and just when the worst is about to happen some kind of primitive trail magic appears for the two women and they are given a little boost to keep them going for the next hundred miles or so. Since there are no official records of what actually took place on the journey back, Thom had to use his imagination to fill in the gaps and the dialogue that happened on the trip. Many times in sleet and snow the women would cross the river up to their waists deep and how did they NOT get pneumonia or hypothermia and die? Towards the end of the novel Mary is literally naked having lost her shoes and dress to the elements and climbs a mountain in a snow storm. Though this is a true story, you do need to suspend your disbelief quite a bit and just go with the flow (pun intended). I read this book so quickly because I just honestly did not believe that they could survive a winter in the mountains with a blanket and each other only for warmth. The trials and tribulations that these two women experience is nothing short of remarkable, both the actual event and the story itself. The hardships and dangers and fears that they had to endure just to make it to freedom. Several times the women are driven mad with starvation and turn on each other. Mary had a husband to return home to, but what was Ghetel aiming for? The book is worth a read if for nothing else, just to gain an appreciation for modern advancements and for a warm home and clothes!

The characters were the most frustrating part of the book. I was so angry at Mary. Why in Hell would you choose right before Winter to try to escape and walk 1,000 miles in the mountains?! I know that it was a dangerous situation being a captive, but my God, woman, wait a few months and save yourself from almost freezing to death MANY times! Ghetel was a stubborn woman who only thought of how hungry she was and was a miserable traveling companion for both myself and Mary. Talk about gripping and moaning the WHOLE trip. Had I been Mary, I sure would have turned right around and left her with the Indians! Mary's husband was no better, he only half-assedly tried to ransom her back and failed miserably at that (Mary was able to ransom family members back after she had hauled her ass through the woods and almost died). She should have dumped him flat. She was the stronger of the two and he was driftwood. Upon being reunitd with her, he found himself disgusted at how emaciated she had become and was hung up on the fact that she had probably been "ruined" by the Indian men. This is after he watched her being kidnapped and ran for the hills basically saying "save yourself, woman!" She's sure got herself a real winner there. As I was reading, Mary continually reminded herself that she was making this awful journey to be reunited with him. She would have been better off becoming a Squaw. The only character I could tolerate was Mary's young son Tommy who braved the kidnapping, braved the captivity, showed some spunk, and eventually became a Shawnee Warrior high up on the totem pole.

The story is not the best writing one can hope for, but I didn't expect it to be. Whenever a character speaks dialogue, Thom writes it in what he believes would have been their "accent" (Mary is from Ireland and Ghetel is from Germany) sparing no typical lingo that would be expected. It can be difficult to decipher some of the phrases. The grammar is poor and Thom would have benefited greatly from an editor or two. However, with my many gripes about the book, I did enjoy it enough to give it 3.5 stars and I have told all of my friends and co-workers about the outrageous story of Mary Ingles and encouraged them all to read the book as well. The book is not for everyone, but if you're in the mood for a survivor story to top all survivor stories with a little bit of capricious storytelling mixed in, then this is the book for you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Settings To Explore

Hosted by the Broke and the Bookish

Top ten settings I would like to read more about (bearing in mind that setting is defined as both a time and a place):

The Holocaust
Having thoroughly enjoyed books like Number the Stars, Night and The Diary of Anne Frank, I would like to further explore this period in history through literature. Some possible titles for future reading:
The Book Thief (Marchs Zusack)
Schindler's List (Thomas Keneally)
The Reader (Berhnhard Schlink)

Pioneer America
I am so intrigued by this period in American History yet I have read very little about it. I adore the Little House books and used to spend hours in the woods behind my childhood home pretending to by Laura Ingalls. I would love to read more books set in this time period. Currently for book club I am reading Follow the River which is the true story of Mary Ingles who was captured by Shawnee Indians, escaped, and walked almost 1000 miles barefoot in the winter with only a blanket and no shoes back to her homestead in Virginia  Starting this book made me realize just how much I love this period and long to read more about it.
Possible selection:
O Pioneers! (Willa Cather)

Tudor England
I read The Other Boleyn Girl in graduate school and really enjoyed it! I decided then to read more about this time period, but for some reason I never did. However, I still would like to and I'd like to start with the author that got me interested in this period:
Phillipa Gregory
Wolf Hall & Bring Up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
I, Elizabeth (Rosalind Miles)
Allison Weir

I have read very little set in Africa, but this continent is on the top of my to-visit list. I have wanted to go on a safari for as long as I can remember. Hopefully I will be able to visit this setting in books until I can actually go on my safari!
Possible Selections:
Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese)

As you already know, Reader, I adore books set in North Carolina. My favorite NC setting of all would have to be books set in the Appalachian Mountains. There is always something dark and mysterious and foreboding about the books that are set there and I love the mood that is created just by setting a book in a particular place. I think that the Appalachian region evokes such a somber mood because it really is so remote and foreign, even if you happen to live in the state.
Possible Selections:
Vicki Lane
Cold Mountain (Charles Frazier)
Ghost Riders (Sharon McCrumb)

Asia (especially Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand)
I pretty much love any and all books that I have read that have been set in any Asian country. I love the foreign landscapes and the unfamiliar customs and the descriptions of the dress. Right next to Africa on my to-visit list is Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. So, for now, in lieu of physically going there, I hope to visit these countries more through books.
Possible Selections:
Lizard Cage (Karen Connelly)
Anna and the King of Siam (Margaret Landon)

The Pacific Northwest
I love all things cold and rainy and what better place to go for cold and wet days than the Pacific Northwest?  Since it is smack dab in the middle of winter here and a balmy 57 degrees, I will visit snowy days through books instead.
Possible Selections:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Sherman Alexie)
Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Jamie Ford)

Victoria Era
I have loved the books from this era ever since I took a Victorian Literature class in college. I had the most wonderful professor for this class and it was my favorite class I took in college. I have always wanted to read more from this period and now that I am engaging in challenges like The Classics Club and the 1001 Books To Read, I will undoubtedly be reading more books from this time.
Possible Selections:
Bleak House (Charles Dickens)
Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackery)
Wilkie Collins

File this under "want to visit, but can't, so I'll visit in books instead."
Possible Selections:
Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie)
Passage to India (EM Forester)
Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

Edwardian England
Yes, Like the rest of America and England, I adore Downton Abbey and am obsessed with this time period now and want to read everything set in this era!
Possible Selections
Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh)
The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was my January book from my 2013 TBR Pile Challenge as well as being a book on my Classics Club Challenge List.

Growing up in the South and reading and relating to a story like To Kill A Mockingbird is what I believe little girl readers did in the North with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The book is a coming of age tale of precocious Francie Nolan who is eleven years old in 1912 and is as poor as is expected of any immigrant family in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. The novel follows Francie and her family from 1912 to 1916.

Title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Publication Date: 1943
Pages: 483
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers
Where I Got It: The School Library I Work In
Dates I Read It: January 5 - January 18, 2013
Number of Stars: 5/5

I loved this book. I was smitten with Francie from page one and I didn't stop loving her despite her awkward adolescent years and her sometimes frustrating choices. Picking up the book was never a chore for me and I often found myself longing to be curled up on my couch with my friend Francie. I loved each character in this story despite not being able to relate to a single one of them (except, of course, Francie). I love a good Immigrant story and that's exactly what this is. Francie and her brother Neely are second generation Americans living in Brooklyn born of an Irish Father and an Austrian mother. The family is dirt poor as the father is a drunkard and the mother works entirely too hard for a woman to provide for her family and invents games to play when there is literally no food in the house for weeks at a time. I kept picturing Francie as a young Sophia Petrillo as the only previous notions I had of Brooklyn came from Sophia's character on the television show The Golden Girls and her frequent rants about the old days which started with "Picture it, Brooklyn, 1912.."
The story is very much character-driven and there is little to no action in the entire book. It is about the day to day lives of American families doing their best to survive in war time (WWI breaks out two years into the book while Francie is working for a newspaper company) with no money and difficult jobs. I read this book for almost two weeks and one evening Geoff asked me about it saying that a friend of his read it in high school and hated it. It would be a difficult read for a boy as there is no action and it is the story of a girl coming of age. However, as a girl who came of age (albeit not in the early 1900s), I could relate a lot to the struggles of Francie and I could easily sympathize with several life moments that she had to go through during the course of the novel. Things like losing a first love, death, the loss of dreams and hopes and the fact that women are at a disadvantage to men, especially in areas like education and the workplace.
Betty Smith does have a knack for writing and I had serious suspicions that this was more memoir than fiction for her. After I finished the book this morning (thank goodness for a teacher workday that I opted out of) I went online to read about Ms. Smith and discovered that most people believe that this was the story of her own coming of age. The emotions were so true and she was able to capture a moment perfectly that it would be very surprising if the events of the novel were not something that she had lived through herself.
The novel caused me to both laugh out loud and cry, especially the ending. I found myself being nostalgic for my youth more than usual while reading this book, much like a grown-up Francie does at the end of the novel. I don't want to ruin the ending, but Francie leaves us on a high note with recaptured hopes for her future, which in turn made me reevaluate my own future and have hopes that perhaps I, too, could one day recapture some dreams I once had but forgot due to the pressures of bills and the day to day grind of life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2013 Debuts

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
Top Ten 2013 Debuts I am looking forward to:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Covers

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

This weeks Top Ten Tuesday theme is the bookish resolutions that we hope to keep in 2013. Since I already kinda covered that with my end-of-the-year wrap up, I decided to dig back into the TTT vaults and participate in one that I haven't done yet, so this week for me is My Top Ten Favorite Book Covers

Reader, you know how the book that I'm either currently reading or the book that I have just finished reading will almost always appear on my next TTT list, and Anna Karenina is no exception. I did not read this version of the book, rather, I read the Barnes and Noble one but I love this cover of the book. Purple is my favorite color and it mixes so well with the black and white of the rest of the illustration.  There is something so innocent yet hinting about this cover; I think that this cover could also double for the cover of Lolita.

All of the covers of Sarah Addison Allen's books are breathtaking. Google any of the works by her and you will see what I mean. Every single edition of every single book that she has written has a gorgeous cover that makes you want to read the book. The writing is just as beautiful and magical as all of her covers. This edition of Garden Spells isn't even the best one!

I feel like even if I didn't enjoy the story of Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, I would still consider this book to be one of my all-time favorites just based on the beautiful cover art. The colors are amazing and invoke a since of witchery and earthiness and spells and girl power and even the most minute details like the thorns on the roses are perfect. I also love the font that the title of the book is written in and I think it lends itself to being a part of that overall magical feeling that engulfs the front of this book.

Reader, anytime there is any purple on a cover of a book, I'm sold. As is the case with Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. I saw this book in a Barnes and Nobles when I was in my first year of teaching and I wanted to read it so bad. Ever since then the poor book as been on my TBR list, but I have never bought a copy of it. When I moved to the Charlotte area this past summer I looked at the county's library catalog and they do have two copies, one available at the library just down the road. Seriously, one of these days I am going to read this book with the beautiful cover written from Mina's POV.

Okay, guys, I know that this image is burned into our minds forever now and there is no escaping it and it's not a very well written book, nor is it a masterpiece of American literature, but even if you didn't care for the book itself, you gotta admit that this cover is pretty stunning. What's great about it is the simplicity of two innocent hands offering an apple, the forbidden fruit. This cover has spawned several classics to come out with re-vamped covers that look very similar including the same Twilight Font that we've all come to know and love!

Confession: I have never read Lolita. I'd like to one day. I did once pick up a copy in a bookstore in high school because I did know the gist of the story, I did want to watch the Kubrick version of the movie, and the cover (I got the one with the legs and shoes in black and white) blew me the hell away. Later I saw the mouth cover and was even more floored. I love them both and from what little I do know of the books, the covers are perfect reflections of the story.

Wicked Lovely is another one that I have not read, and I had never even heard of until I was shelving books in the library one afternoon and stumbled upon this beautiful cover. By now, you know what a sucker I am for purple in a cover and this one grabbed me immediatley. I'm not sure if I will ever read the book itself, but I do display this one often and it is circulated a lot and I think it's got a lot to do with that beautiful cover.


I love all of these updated covers of classic books. By adding a new, eye-catching cover to a book, I know for a fact that readers are more likely to pick it up than if it has a old, dusty cover. Hopefully by revamping these classic books looks and giving them some new clothes  a whole new generation of reluctant readers will be willing to shut off the screens and open up the books!

I have not read this one either, but I have to admit that as a child I was infatuated with the cover of this book. I wanted to pack my bags and move to wherever this book was set. The mountains, the forest, the rivers and streams, the beauty!

Any Cormac McCarthy book has the most bitchin' cover that I have ever seen. They are all frightening and eerie and you know no good is gonna come of the characters in these books. Whoever he has do his covers for him deserves a raise!

So, Reader, have you already done this TTT? If so, what do you think are some of the best covers out there? Even if you haven't done the TTT yet, what are some of your favorite covers? Which obvious ones did I miss? Which ones should I have left off? Let me know in the comments, and happy reading (and drooling over beautiful covers)!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Review: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Normal people living banal lives with a little affair and suicide to spice things up in Imperial Russia.

There. That's Anna Karenina.

But I guess that won't cut it in terms of a proper review, now will it?

Title: Anna Karenina
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Publication Date: 1877
Publisher: Barnes and Nobles Classics
Where I got it: Barnes and Noble- Huntersville, NC
Number of pages: 754
Dates I read it: December 9, 2012 - January 5, 2013
Number of Stars: 4 out of 5

Okay. So, Reader, it took me almost an entire month to read this damn book. I realize that I am probably giving you the impression that I disliked this book, and that's not an entirely fair impression to give as I did not dislike the book as a whole. I started off loving the book and was very into it. However, towards part 6 I started to wan on my happy feelings. I started to criticize and pick at each of the characters. You know how when you spend too much time with someone that you like you start to feel this burning hatred for them whenever they move or say something or breathe or smile or sigh?! That's how I got to be with this book and with the characters. The book was too long. Yeah, I said it. The version that I read was almost 800 pages long and dear Mr. Tolstoy, you do not need to take up an entire page of people deciding who they should go and visit and then having them not go and visit them at all. Trivial.

So, Anna Karenina is the story of two main characters- Anna Karenina and Konstantin Levin. Anna is married to Alexy Alexandrovitch who is stuffy and boring and serious and old and she does not love him. Levin is a hard-working farmer who is, for some reason, in love with Kitty. Kitty is a bore and I do not care for her. Kitty is pretty sure that Alexy Vronsky is going to ask for her annoying little hand in marriage and just before this happens, Vronsky falls for Anna and suddenly- passionate affair! Anna gives up her status and her beloved son and becomes an outcast in order to be with Vronsky. Soon she becomes jealous and raging and crazy and convinced that he will leave her for another (now, where the hell would she get a crazy idea like that?!) so she (SPOILER ALERT, kinda) jumps in front of a train to make him sorry and to end the cray-cray life that she has been leading. Meanwhile, in Russia, Levin has finally found the courage to swoop in on a rejected Kitty and get her to agree to marry him or else become a spinster. They have their ups and downs as a couple but basically end up in happy ever after land with a baby on a farm.

So, like I said, the book was really just about normal people living normal lives. I may sound unappreciative, but actually, that was what made the book so great and Tolstoy was able to take these characters and make them real and tedious and borning like we all really are (except maybe Lady Gaga). They were relatable and honest and raw and I have read a lot of reviews where people say that they hate Anna and can't understand her motives, but Reader, I saw a lot of myself in Anna. I wouldn't normally admit that to just anyone, Reader, but I appreciate you and I trust you and so yeah, I am a lot like Anna. I can be a real hot-head and I can be jealous and I am immature and I am rash just like she was. I was able to see pieces of myself in almost every character, even Alexy Alexandrovitch. The characters were abundant, but they were all, even the smallest of small characters, well and perfectly formed. Tolstoy is a master of the characterization and for this, I was able to forgive the novel its length.

I liked the book. I did not love it and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. However, there are some themes in the novel that I think many people, even today can relate to. Consider- what is the position of the lower class citizens? Do they deserve government assistance or are they to be shunned and used only as labor? What about women's rights? The hypocrisy of the men in this novel is astounding. Anna has one affair and is never to be forgiven yet almost every man (minus the endearing Levin) has affairs all throughout the novel. It was a tedious, but thought-provoking read and I am glad to be able to put this brick of a Russian masterpiece finally on my "read" shelf.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking Ahead: January

If you read my 2012 wrap up that I posted last night then you will know that one of my resolutions this year is to write up a post at the beginning of each month detailing what I hope to accomplish in the next 4-5 weeks and then another one at the end of each month going over what I accomplished and what I didn't quite get to that month. So, here is the very first one for January, 2013:

Right now, I'm about 200  pages away from finishing up Anna Karenina. I have hit a snag with it and I can't find the motivation to pick it up and read it at length like I had been doing. If I could find that motivation then I would have finished it by now, and I actually did expect to finish it over the break, but that didn't happen. However, sometime in January I WILL finish it and then move on.

January marks the first month in the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge and my January pick is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

I currently have The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman) and The Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare) on CD checked out from the library as well as a print copy of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I don't know if I can finish listening to either of the books on CD, but I did purchase a print copy of The Golden Compass that I will finish reading and then add to the library shelves and I am desperate to finish up The Clockwork Angel, so I may continue to listen to that one on my commute to and from work.

January Reads:
Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith) '13 TBR Challenge Choice
Follow the River (James Alexander Thom) this months Book Club Choice
The Golden Compass (Phillip Pullman)
The Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare)
The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Resolve To Read in 2013

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Happy 2013! Well, I just had a great low-key NYE. Geoff and I spent the majority of the evening playing a board game and listening to New Years Rockin' Eve on TV. We took a break at Midnight to watch the countdown and ball drop and see some neighbors put off fireworks from our balcony. In honor of the holiday I made Firecracker Chilli and we had some non-alcoholic "champagne" and spent the night in our jammies! It is a far cry from the New Years Eves of a few years ago when I was in full irresponsibility and party mode, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
For the first TTT of 2013 I now present to you the books that I resolve to read in 2013!

10. Life After Death- Damien Echols
Though this one has been out for a few months, I haven't purchased it yet because I like to buy my books from local stores and I haven't been to Park Road Books since it's been released. However, I do hope to get down there soon and snag me a copy to read in 2013.

9. Any of the books on my 2013 TBR list. I'm counting these as one since there are twelve (fourteen if you count the alternates) and that would take up my entire list (plus two (or four, if you count the alternates)).

8. Lolita -Vladimir Nabikov
Nope. Never read it. Always wanted to. 2013 might be my year for it.

7. Gone With The Wind -Margaret Mitchell
Read MOST of it in graduate school, never finished it, hope to do so in 2013!

6. Lone Wolf -Jodi Picoult
I love Picoult's work and I haven't gotten to this one yet. I need to get it read soon since she has a new one coming out next this year (how many times in the next few weeks will I do that?!) that I want to read.

5. The Ocean at the End of the Line -Neil Gaiman
Looks great! Plus, this is supposedly the last book tour that Neil is going to do, so if you want to see him on tour or get your books signed, this is the year to do it.

4. The Night Circus -Erin Morgenstern
Why have I not read this one yet?!

3. The Shinning -Stephen King
I need to read this one so that...

2. Doctor Sleep -Stephen King
...I can read this one which is the sequal to The Shinning. Danny is middle aged and still shinning like a crazy diamond.

1. Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls -David Sedaris
Damn, I love David Sedaris. Plus he's touring again and coming to Charlotte. This will be my third time seeing him! Is it April 26 yet?!

Happy 2013, Reader! I hope that this is an amazing year for everyone!