Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Was it through reason that I arrived at the necessity of loving my neighbour and not throttling him? 
I was told it as a child, and I joyfully believed it, because they told me what was in my soul. 
And who discovered it? Not reason. 
Reason discovered the struggle for existence and the law which demands that everyone who hinders the satisfaction of my desires should be throttled. 
That is the conclusion of reason. 
Reason could not discover love for the other, because it's unreasonable."

~from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy~
Artwork : Del Parson

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

I actually hate this VAR crap.
It makes the refs lazy and slows down the gameplay.
Just let the beautiful game be played the way men have played for generations before now.
I really don't think a 93% accuracy rating is so bad and using VAR to bump that up to 99% isn't worth the disruption to the game.
This technology is not our friend, people.
Make the refs to do their job and make the players respect the refs' decisions.

How hard is that?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Anna Karenina

I have finished reading my first Russian novel. I realize this is not a very big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I'm feeling more than a little proud of myself for this small life accomplishment. It took me four solid months (February-May) to complete this 817 page monster but, to put that in perspective, I also read 11 other books (and started on 2 more) during the time I was working my way through this one and I really think that if I had given this novel my undivided attention, I could have read it in a much shorter span of time. 

Anna Karenina was written by the famed Leo Tolstoy and first published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 with the first complete version of the novel appearing in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it "flawless as a work of art", William Faulkner described the novel as "the best ever written", and in a Time poll as recent as 2007 it was voted by 125 authors as the "greatest book ever written". Pretty high praise.

There are no less than 11 major English translations of Anna Karenina with the 1901 Constance Garnett translation (later revised in 1965 by Kent and Berberova) and the 2000 Pevear and Volokhonsky translation being the two foremost translations according to scholars. I read the Pevear and Volokhonsky version and while I often found myself wondering how much of the author's tone and impressions might have been lost in translation, I found the novel to be very readable and would recommend this translation to anyone looking to read Anna Karenina. 

The book itself is divided into 8 parts which are each broken up into several small sections (the longest having 35 sections and the shortest having 19). 

In Anna Karenina, we meet a myriad of characters but the main stories center around Anna herself and a man named Levin. While these two main characters do interact in the book, their stories are mostly separate from one another. Anna's story is mainly about her adulterous affair with the affluent bachelor Count Vronsky while Levin's story details his life as a wealthy country landowner, his marriage, the birth of his first son, and his struggle to accept the Christian faith.

The novel explores a variety of topics including gender, morality, religion, politics, and social class. Tolstoy's themes emerge naturally from the lives of his characters and I was constantly questioning what the author's personal views and motives for writing the novel might be. Tolstoy doesn't explicitly moralize and leaves it up to the reader to draw their own conclusions about the behavior of his characters. 

I was very impressed with Tolstoy's ability to capture the human experience in his writing, and I understand why this novel is considered a pinnacle in realist fiction. I could relate to the characters' experiences and emotions, and I often found myself wanting to slap Anna for her poor choices or getting impatient with her jealous inner diatribes against whoever she was mad at. I sympathized with Levin during his little marital scrapes and got annoyed with him whenever he went off on one of his whiny rants. Tolstoy had a gift for writing the human condition accurately but simply. 

The name game in this novel got very confusing, not only because my brain isn't used to complicated Russian names but also because the same character could be referred to by any number of complicated Russian names at any point in the book. Bless the translator who would just simplify this and call each person by one easy nickname for the entirety of the novel. (Scholars disagree with me on this, but I don't care. These names are ridiculous, y'all.) I also couldn't care less about the politics in the story. Parts 3 and 7 were particularly slow as I slogged through the evaluations of the feudal system that existed in Russia at the time and the political meetings several of the male characters attended to vote politicians in and out of office. Shoot me. 

I was also extremely underwhelmed by the ending of the novel. A seemingly minor plot point (Levin's faith) turned out to be the entire subject of the conclusion of the book and while it was interesting to peek into the Russian religious views of the 19th century, I was left feeling disappointed with some of Levin's spiritual conclusions particularly as they related to differing religious beliefs. The novel ended somewhat abruptly for me despite its crazy 817 page length. 

So would I recommend Anna Karenina? Not necessarily. Russian literature isn't for everyone. I personally have eight Russian novels on my Life List, and I think Anna Karenina was a great one to start with. If you're looking to branch into the Russian authors or round out your reading life that way, I definitely would recommend Anna Karenina. If you're wondering if this novel is indispensable to a well-rounded list of classic literature, I'll have to reserve my opinion on that until I get a few more of these Russians under my belt. Ultimately I'm glad I read it, and I sincerely hope I didn't peak too soon by choosing "the greatest book ever written" for my first Russian novel. 

Have you read any of the Russian greats? Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak, Nabokov? Which ones are an absolute must? Which one should I tackle next? Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think of it? I can't wrap up this post without giving a shout-out to my little band of lit lovers who read this one with me. Y'all kept me going, and I'm looking forward to our discussion of this beast of a novel!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are."

~from I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak~
Photo Credit : Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

Even when the USA is in the World Cup, my loyalties lie not so secretly with Brasil.
Does this make me a total Benedict Arnold? 
I don't even care.

2006 FIFA World Cup

Monday, June 18, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : I Am the Messenger

I Am the Messenger was not even on my radar. But it caught my eye the other day at Barnes & Noble  when I saw that it was by Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. I picked it up because I was so impressed with The Book Thief when I read it a couple years back, and the plot of I Am the Messenger sounded intriguing. 

In this 2002 novel by Australian author Markus Zusak, we meet Ed Kennedy, underage cabbie and hopeless loser. When he accidentally stops a bank robbery one day, he gets singled out to become the Messenger. Aces start arriving with nebulous assignments on them, and Ed has to start growing up.

Well as it turns out, the historical context of The Book Thief seems to be what set it up for success. I did not appreciate I Am the Messenger nearly as much. While Zusak did write with the same unconventional, slightly disturbing style that came off so well with Death being the narrator in The Book Thief, the plot of I Am the Messenger was not as gripping and the conclusion turned out to be just as nebulous as Ed's assignments throughout the story. Hardly satisfying for all the buildup. 

I liked the way the book was cleverly divided into five parts, the first four parts being the four aces with chapters from ace to king and the fifth part being the Joker. I liked Ed's coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. I liked how Ed's character developed while completing his mysterious assignments. I liked the general mystery throughout the story.

I didn't like the unnecessary profanity. I didn't like the casual attitude all the characters had about sex and the sometimes graphic way it was described in the novel.  I didn't like that the mystery was sort of weakly wrapped up in a way that was more disappointing than fulfilling. 

All in all it was a pretty fun and entertaining read though not one I'll be likely to revisit. The pros and cons ended up weighing in pretty even making it a somewhat mediocre book, in my opinion. If you ever read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts, particularly about the ending. I think if the ending had been stronger, I'd be able to forgive some of the other things I didn't care for throughout the story. 

Have you read any of Zusak's work? Apparently, he has written five books with a sixth set to be released later this year. What do you think of him?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Just because God can doesn't mean He will.
But just because He hasn't doesn't mean He won't.
The bottom line is that He is able
And because He is able, and because He is love, 
our hearts are completely secure in every situation."

~Priscilla Shirer~

Monday, June 11, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : A Walk to Remember

I finally read A Walk to Remember. It's been a favorite movie of mine for years, but I had never read the novel until a few weeks ago after I picked it up in my new favorite little used bookstore. Like The Wizard of Oz, I just can't separate this book from its movie counterpart so I'm going to be talking about both in this recap. Here we go. 

A Walk to Remember was first published in October of 1999 and is the third of Nicholas Sparks' many novels. It received mixed reviews from critics but despite that, it was on the bestseller list for ten months. According to Sparks, A Walk to Remember was his favorite novel to write and the only one to actually make him cry while writing it. Probably because his own sister was the inspiration for this story.

In the novel, we get the sweet high school love story of Landon Carter and Jamie Sullivan which breaks all our hearts when we find out that 17 year old Jamie has terminal leukemia. 

Now, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect going into this read. Like I mentioned before, A Walk to Remember has been a favorite movie of mine for many years and I've seen it countless times. I had people tell me the book was so much better (not hard to believe, that's usually how it works), and that I would cry a lot while reading it (also realistic since I cry at the drop of a hat). 

Surprisingly, I remained pretty dry-eyed through the majority of the book....until the last chapter in which I sobbed my little heart out. To my relief, I found that the movie really did maintain the integrity of the book despite the modernization. In the book, the story is set in the late 50s while the movie updates the story to be set in the late 90s to appeal to a teenage audience. I wouldn't necessarily say the book is so much better: actually, I think they're pretty equal. This is probably due in large part to the fact that Sparks is a screenwriter as well as author, he had already sold the film rights to Warner Bros. before the book was even published, and the book is simple and easily adaptable to film in my opinion. There were a few things that were changed (like Landon's father's character) and some things that were omitted (like the collection of Jamie's donation jars around town), but I appreciate where they took the story on film as opposed to other famous film adaptions that break my heart (I'm looking at you 2005 Pride & Prejudice). 

All in all, I would recommend the book and the movie. I read the book in a day so it's not a huge investment of time to read it, and I'll love that movie forever so there's that. The messages that love changes you and love is sacrificial are right and worth remembering. I'm not ready to fall down the Nicholas Sparks hole and read all his novels after reading A Walk to Remember, but I'm glad I read this one. 

Have you read any of Nicholas Sparks' books? What's your favorite movie to watch for a good cry? 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"One person of integrity can make a difference, a difference of life and death.
As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true.
As long as one child is hungry, our life will be filled with anguish and shame.
What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone;
that we are not forgetting them,
that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours,
that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs."

~Elie Wiesel~

Monday, June 4, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Sisterchicks Do the Hula!

Sisterchicks Do the Hula! was the last book I read in April (yes, I know we're so behind with the recaps), and it was just what I needed after reading Night and The Kite Runner. I chose this book because I needed to knock out another book from my 2018 list (I subjected myself to The Kite Runner without it even being on my list!), but I also needed something full of beauty and light and I knew Robin Jones Gunn wouldn't let me down. 

In Sisterchicks Do the Hula!, best friends Hope and Laurie are determined to celebrate their 40th birthdays together in Hawaii, even when one of them unexpectedly finds herself expecting a new addition to her family. 

This is the second of Robin Jones Gunn's Sisterchicks books that I've read, and while Sisterchicks in Sombreros might have slightly edged this one out for my favorite so far, I still loved Sisterchicks Do the Hula!, and I especially loved it after the other dark reads I got mired in during April. 

For those of you who know me or have followed this blog for any length of time, you know that Robin Jones Gunn is one of my very favorite authors. For those of you who may be new around here, I've been reading her books since I was in middle school. She has a series about a girl named Christy Miller and from the very first book I ever read about Christy, I was hooked on Robin Jones Gunn. In the first Christy book, it's the summer of Christy's 15th birthday and Robin has continued to write about this character until she is grown up, married, and having babies. Her most recent book about Christy came out just last November. 

Since I've been an adult, I've branched out into Robin's non-Christy related work and I love all of it just as much. I was super-psyched to grab 4 of her 8 Sisterchicks novels on my church's free table a while back, and I've been doing my best to not just sit and read them all (which would inevitably lead to a blissful swan dive back into the world of Christy and all the rest of Robin's work). I think I've been doing a pretty good job with the self-control so far though I've been sorely tempted to re-read her Glenbrooke series lately. 

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, I love Robin Jones Gunn and I have zero qualms about recommending any of her work to all my girlfriends out there. (I just don't see men appreciating her books the same way we women do, but hey, if any of you fellas want to read them, I say go for it.) Her books never fail to encourage my heart and lift my focus upward, and I'll always be grateful to her for that.

Have you read anything by Robin Jones Gunn? What author do you find yourself turning to when life gets yucky? Which Sisterchicks book should I read next? The two I have are Sisterchicks Down Under! and Sisterchicks Go Brit!