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Archive for the tag “reading challenges”

Review: Anna Karenina

I originally started Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy in 2004 when it was taken up by Oprah’s Book Club. It was the only book I ever picked up for Oprah’s Book Club, and I didn’t get far before I decided it would be better to quit. Anna Karenina moved with me from my parent’s house, to my first apartment in Baltimore, back to their house, and later, to New York where it would be packed and unpacked, all the while collecting dust between moves. Until this summer when I decided I needed to finish it.

When I stumbled onto Five Alarm Book Reviews Anna Karenina Read Along for July, I decided I had found the perfect solution, something to keep me motivated, and an opportunity to discuss the rather thick tome. What I did not anticipate, however, is how easy it would be to fall behind. Mid-July I got behind on my reading, and never recovered, but these last  two weeks, I found myself determined to finish.

Tolstoy is a story teller, and a wildly ambitious one. The Russian novelist creates an obscene number of characters for his eight part epic novel, all with overlapping lives, and formal and informal names. It was necessary for the first half of the book to pay close attention to character names and nicknames.

The novel begins,

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It is an appropriate opening line, as Tolstoy unfolds the story of three families, each unhappy in its own unique way- Dolly and Stiva as they deal with his infidelity, Anna and Karenin as they deal with her unfaithfulness and her continued relationship with Vronsky, and Kitty and Levin, as they navigate what was a difficult start for both of them as they seem surrounded by infidelity. The backdrop of this magnificently complicated series of stories is the changing political climate of Russia, Tolstoy’s own thoughts on religion, and Europe’s art and culture scene.

In spite of it all, I found myself drawn into Tolstoy’s storytelling, wanting to see how things played out in each of the character’s lives. Would Karenin allow the divorce? Would Anna continue to manipulate Vronsky, and everyone around her? Would Levin and Kitty live happily ever after? I had to know. And though I found myself bored at times, such as when the perspective would turn to Levin whose primary internal monologue involved farming, or when the political discussions took on too many references that I was unfamiliar with, I still read on.

Tolstoy draws the reader in with his narrative arc and complex characters. He changes the perspective and internal monologues the reader observes, giving a fuller picture of the characters relationships and interactions. And he builds the novel to such a climax and holds it that you really start to wonder if anything is going to happen. When Anna does finally take action, it was nearly impossible to believe.

Although I may not have always enjoyed the characters and found myself bored as Tolstoy sought to make a point I really didn’t care about, Anna Karenina is without an amazing piece of literature. I admire Tolstoy’s boldness and his use of narrative and change in perspective in adding depth to the story and characters.

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Weekend Recap: Readathons and exciting arrivals

I originally envisioned this past weekend as a time to get a fair amount of work done around the house. But when I got home from work on Friday, I realized how exhausted I was from the week and the house was empty and quiet. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted a completely different plan for my weekend.

I had been considering a readathon to tackle my increasingly lengthy to be read pile from my Summer Reading Challenge, my Summer Reading booklist, and my library loot for this week, but in reviewing my calendar, I realized it was an impossibility- my schedule is incredibly full and I wasn’t going to be able to devote much time to it. So, instead, I ventured on Friday and Saturday to have my own mini readathon. I was able to read ahead just a bit for my Anna Karenina read-along, and I fully completed two books: Death Comes to Pemberley and How to Love An American Man: A True Story. I loved being able to conquer some of the TBR pile, and it was relaxing to simply spend time reading, something that feels delightfully decadent to me.

Sunday, was much less calm, and involved absolutely no reading. I had been asked by a good friend, L. to be one of her on-call people to watch her son H. when she was going to the hospital to give birth to Little J. So, at 5:29am on Sunday, I received the call from L. that I needed to get over to her house because Little J. was preparing for his appearance.

Around 11:28am, Little J. made his appearance to the world. After spending the day with Little J.’s big brother, H. we were able to meet Little J. It was an honor to be on call for my friends in anticipation of the arrival of their second son, to babysit their oldest, and to meet their newest little one only hours after he was born. And seeing big brother meet little brother is an experience I will never, ever forget. 🙂

Congratulations L., R., & H. on the arrival of Little J.! So excited for you all!

Library Loot June 27-July 3

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (located this week at The Adventures of an Intrepid reader) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Last night after my walk around the local high school track with a friend, I moved onto my errands, one of which was a stop at the library to return a few things and to pick up a reserve item. I am trying to minimize what I take out from the library right now- not because I don’t love the services of my local library, but because my Summer Reading List and Summer Reading Challenge Lists are primarily composed of books that I own, and if I hope to finish both lists by Labor Day, I need to read mainly off the lists. But…because reading is also fun, and because I just love finding new books, I find myself in the library once a week to either browse the incoming books or pick up a reserve item.

Here’s this weeks loot:

On the Outside Looking Indian: How my Second Childhood Changed My Life by Rupinder Gill

“Rupinder Gill was raised under the strict rules of her parents’ Indian upbringing. While her friends were practicing their pliés, having slumber parties, and spending their summers at camp, Rupinder was cleaning, babysitting her siblings, and watching hours on end of American television. But at age 30, Rupinder realized how much she regretted her lack of childhood adventure.

Stepping away from an orderly life of tradition, Rupinder set put to finally experience the things she missed out on. From learning to swim and taking dance lessons, to going to Disney World, her growing to-do list soon became the ultimate trip down non-memory lane. What began as a desire to experience all that had been denied to her leads to a discovery of what it means to be happy, and the important lessons that are learned when we are at play.” From Amazon.com 

Admittedly, I tend toward true life tales like this one, but I am interested in how Gill chooses to form her second childhood and the impact it has.

My second book was actually one a friend recommended- Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. By all accounts, P.D. James is an amazing mystery writer, and this particular work, incorporating some of my favorite Jane Austen characters displays a rare genius. I’m looking forward to this interesting spin on Elizabeth and Darcy’s story.

 

Summer Reading: Anna Karenina Read Along Announcement

The chunkster on my Summer Reading Challenge (see post here: https://thenerdreports.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/summer-reading-challenges/) is Anna Karenina, a rather daunting read I attempted a few years ago. I was trying to figure out how I was going to tackle this one when I was on the Five Alarm Book Reviews blog and noticed an announcement for an Anna Karenina Read Along in July (see post here: http://fivealarmbookreviews.com/2012/06/12/anna-karenina-announcement-and-sign-ups/).

According to Steph over at Five Alarm, here’s how it works:

“This is summer, so we are keeping it fun and easy.  There will not be any official questions, although I will post some each week if you would like to use them for conversation starters.  We will each write up our thoughts on the book on the scheduled dates and link up.  If you link up within a few days of the scheduled date, that is fine too.”

You DO NOT have to be a blogger to participate.  You can sign up by using a link to where you will be posting.  ie: Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.

We will use the hashtag #ReadingAnnaKarenina on Twitter.

Post and Readding Schedule

Start Up Post/Announcement Post – Now through July 1

1st Post for Parts 1 and 2 – July 7

2nd Post  for Parts 3 and 4- July 14

3rd Post  for Parts 5 and 6- July 21

4th  For Parts 7 and 8- July 28

Final Review – July 31

So…be prepared to follow along as I, and others, work through Anna Karenina together. Please feel free to join- I would love for all of you to be reading along!

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