Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Zorba the Greek - Nikos Kazantzkis (And some finished challenges)

Title: Zorba the Greek
Author: Nikos Kazantzkis
Date Finished: Nov 26, 2008 #67
Published: 1946 Pages: 311
Rating: 2.5/5

First of all, HAPPY THANKSGIVING! I hope everyone is well and stuffed to the brim with delicious food.

Zorba the Greek is another one of those books that has been lurking on the shelf for years and years. I'll be glad to move it to the "read" bookshelf!

Zorba the Greek is about a man on his way to Crete to start a lignite mine. Along his way, he encounters a curious and aging man, Zorba, whom he befriends and hires as his foreman. Zorba and the narrator couldn't be more different from one another. The narrator is a scholarly bookworm who buries his nose in such works as Dante's Divine Comedy and is writing a book about Buddah (or maybe that is just the title?). Zorba, on the other hand, is full of life and zest and chastises the narrator for writing and reading about life but not living it. The two characters, in their adventures, learn a lot from one another, and in the end the narrator decides he will continue nosing around in books but will do so with vigor and purpose.

Bottom line? I felt like I was reading the surface of the book the entire time. The language (although this is translated, so not sure how to "review" that) is at times gorgeous, but I never really understood what was going on in the book and what the purpose was. Eeeks! Zorba, while an endearing character difficult not to like, spouts off so much philosophical crud that I was often lost and confused. I guess I just didn't get it. And I had a tough time finding anything about the book online-even the wikipedia entry is short and incomplete. I could definitely use another reading of this book, but not next year--and probably not the year after that either.

A taste of the reading:
"The aim of man and matter is to create joy, according to Zorba--others would say "to create spirit," but that comes to the same thing on another plane. But why? With what objects? And when the body dissolves, does anything at all remain of what we have called the soul? Or does nothing remain, and does our unquenchable desire for immortality spring, not from the fact that we are immortal, but from the fact that during the short span of our life we are in the service of something immortal?" (272).

My head hurts. :P But, finishing this book allows me to cross of two challenges! Yippee!!! Below are my lists. I usually provide links, but I'm really really hungry (because I dropped my hot lunch on the floor today at work), and I don't think anyone actually links from here, so...that's that.

ORBIS TERRANUM CHALLENGE COMPLETE - 9 books, 9 countries--Thanks Bethany!!
Zorba the Greek - Greece
*Half of a Yellow Sun - Nigeria
Swiss Family Robinson - Switzerland
**The God of Small Things - India
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Ireland
Anne Frank Remembered - Netherlands
*The Robber Bride - Canada
A Long Way Gone - Sierra Leone
The Translator - Darfur (Sudan)

Wraping it up for Bethany:
1.) What did you like about the challenge? I loved getting to "visit" so many different countries and "experience" so many different cultures.
2.) What would you like to see change for next year? I like Corinne's idea about having a "database" where we can search for reviews by country for new ideas.
3.) About the rules, or the non-existent rules...did you like that? Yup!! I like rules. :P
4.) Are you going to join us next year? Definitely!
5.) Pretty please give me any suggestions for changes, the betterment of the challenge, or just anything that you would like to see changed for next year. See above about database. Also, an easy link for the Mister Linky would be great, too. Until I finally bookmarked it, I had to do a lot of searching to find it.
6.) Would you like the challenge to be more involved? What if we read books together sometimes? Would that interest you? I like the idea of group books, but unfortunately my schedule doesn't always allow for it. Boo!
7.) would you be interested in helping somehow next year? How would you like to help? I'd love to help with anything! Just let me know. :)

TBR CHALLENGE COMPLETE - sitting on my shelf for an embarrassing amount of time (Thanks MizB)
Zorba the Greek
Mother of Pearl
A Map of the World
A Rumor of War
The Left Hand of Darkness
*The Robber Bride
*Tender at the Bone
Angela's Ashes
*Snow Crash
All the King's Men

* denotes favorites although most of them were great reads! So hard to define a favorite anyway when they are all soooooo different!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Emma - Jane Austen

Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Date Finished: November 19, 2008 #66
Published: 1816 Pages: 386
Rating: 4.25/5

So, I've kind of noticed that my 4.25 rating is kind of a go-to rating when I really like a book but it just doesn't have that edge (which I can't define). If you do ratings, do you have a difficult time rating books--stacking them all up against one another, rating for the writing as well as entertainment? It's sticky for me and I've thought about just doing away with the ratings, but on the other hand I like having them. Maybe I just need to sit down and define what my ratings mean? Maybe this is a conversation for another post.

Emma. That's what I'm talking about, right? :) Emma is the story of a young woman who has no desire to get married herself, but she loves to play matchmaker to her friends and acquaintances, especially after a particularly successful "match" between her close friend Miss Taylor and Mr. Weston. When her matchmaking endeavors fail between her friend Harriet and Mr. Elton, and she receives criticism from the respected Mr. Knightley, and she becomes tangled up with the strange and elusive Frank Churchill, Emma reevaluates the way that she interacts with others and what she must do to amend the messes and offenses she has created. (Um, really difficult to shortly summarize an Austen novel!)

I really enjoyed Emma. I was kind of dreading it and have put it off for years. Actually, I started it right before grad school, but never picked it back up after the school workload forced me to put it down. Once I did pick it back up, I vowed to take it slowly, and I'm glad I did because this book was really a treat. Austen isn't one of my favorites--I much prefer the darker Bronte sisters (yes, you know I love Wuthering Heights). I was so familiar with the Pride and Prejudice story line, that when I read the book last winter I wasn't very enthralled. I liked it, but it didn't give me the urge to read anything else right away. Now after finishing Emma, I'm excited to visit some of the others that I haven't read. Yes, I'm still intimidated by the language and the fact that it takes me twice as long to read as a regular novel, but overall I did find the reading very easy to swallow (and follow).

I think part of the reason why I liked Emma a little more than I expected was because on some levels I could relate to Emma, the character. There are thing to like about her, but she also definitely has her faults, whereas Elizabeth Bennett is seemingly perfect (other than her pride...and prejudice). Emma sometimes loses sight of what is really important and she is a little bit of a meddler, but I think she has good intentions. She cares about the happiness of people around her, she just doesn't always know how to effectively instill happiness in others--and more importantly that it isn't necessarily her job to make other people happy by "fixing" their lives.

My only complaint, really, with the book is how neatly everything wraps up in the end. Of course I knew what the outcome was going to be (especially having seen the movie Clueless several times in my teenaged years), but to suddenly realize who it is you want to spend the rest of your life with--"duh, I should have known all along!"? I don't think life is really that clean. And certainly the events leading up to Emma's discovery are not necessarily "clean" but really, Jane--can't you write containing the dark sordid details? Why does everything have to fit so well? And what the heck happens to these characters after they are happily married? I guess that's what the modern day sequels are for. :P

I searched and searched for other reviews of Emma--this is what I came up with. Of course, let me know if I've missed yours.
Amanda, Literary Feline, Book Chronicle

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bookworm Award

Dar and Ramya both presented me with this Bookworm Award/Meme. Thank you guys for thinking about me!!
Open the closest book to you, not your favorite or most intellectual book, but the book closest to you at the moment, to page 56. Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following.
From: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (which I just picked up at the used bookstore)

"Her two younger sisters, still at school, pelted her with rose petals, and burst into tears when she kissed the groom.
The Ocheretko men strode into the church in their riding boots, embroidered shirts, and outlandish baggy trousers. The women wore wide swinging skirts and boots with little heels and coloured ribbons in their hair. They stood together in a fierce bunch at the back of the church and left abruptly at the end without tripping the priest."

Finally, tag five people to pass on the award: Amanda, Laura, Lisa, Melody, Kim Feel free to join in on the meme if you'd like, but definitely take your bookworm award!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

7 + 7 = 14 Things About Me AND a Video (of me)

RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME! (aka Trish Overload)

Ok, Ok, I hear you tags! Well, I read your tags. I procrastinate. I don't know why. But since I'm reading Emma and won't be blogging about much else in the next few days, I finally have some quiet time to catch up. And instead of doing the list thing for the 7 random personal things, I made this little video. Yes, very scary. :P I'm getting a big giant pit in my stomach thinking about hitting that "publish post" button. I don't know why I'm so nervous!! LOL.

*note of clarification--shooting was during target practice. My husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law participated. It was very safe--no animals around. :) Not a big fan of firearms.

And then the seven random book things:
1. Even though I have gone by Trish for 10 years, I still inscribe my "read" books with Tricia.

2. I got my library card revoked when I was in high school because of a book I failed to return (Joy Luck Club) and haven't gone back since except in college.

3. I keep multiple spreadsheets of the books I own and have read. Not sure why I don't consolidate.

4. I get to work 30 minutes early so that I can read in my car before work. I also do this to dodge rush-hour traffic, but my day just doesn't start right if I don't have those 30 minutes. Sometimes it's the only time of the day I get to read.

5. I collect copies of Wuthering Heights as it is my favorite (yes, I know...gag...).

6. I could talk about books 24/7, but since I can be a little overbearing when it comes to reading, I rarely talk about books/reading/blogging with non-readers.

7. I do this obsessive thing where I figure out when I want to finish a book I'm reading, divide the number of pages by how many days that is and try to read that many pages a day. Sometimes I read more, sometimes less, but it seems to keep me on track.

In case you're curious about the other memes I did pertaining to this, here is a short synopsis. Man--soon there won't be anything left to know!!

Six Random Things:
1. Texan but lived in Canada when little (born in Utah)
2. My husband was my next-door-neighbor when we met
3. Not good English student in high school--didn't even read assigned reading!
4. Aggie through and through, but Guns Up Red Raiders!
5. Bridget Jones is my hero(ine)
6. Two pets: Maggie (the cat) and Lexi (the dog)

Six Quirky Things:
1. Sing randomly, especially to Scott, Maggie, and food
2. Love musicals--listen to them at work!
3. Must have covers on while I sleep; one foot out is OK
4. Freshly made bed one of my favorite things
5. Deathly afraid of spiders--yes Bookfool--I know how ridiculous that is!!
6. Love love love food. LOVE food. :)

End of Trish Overload.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

Title: The Art of Racing in the Rain
Author: Garth Stein
Date Finished: Nov 9, 2008 #65
Published: 2008 Pages: 354
Rating: 4/5

From the back cover (because I'm feeling particularly tired and lazy after a family get-together weekend):
"On the eve of his death, Enzo, a philospher dog with a nearly human soul and an obsession with opposable thumbs, takes stock on his life. He recalls all that he and the Swift family have been through: the sacrifices his master Denny has made to succeed as an up-and-coming race car driver; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; and the subsequent custody battle over their daughter, Zoe, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to perserve the Swift family, holding in his own heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoe at his side."

This was our November bookclub pick and at first I was a little reluctant to read it because there are so many other books on the shelf that I need to read first (December 31st is coming quicker than I originally thought!). But, I borrowed a copy from a friend and took it with me over the weekend and read it in a matter of hours (spread out over the weekend).

Overall I really enjoyed the book. I loved the first half of the book, especially the musings of Enzo who is a completely charming narrator. I can't remember the last book I read that was narrated by an animal, but Enzo really got me thinking about our own pets and how they might see the world--something I don't think about often, especially with our dog, Lexi. Lexi is a great dog and is always at my side (much to my husband's chagrin since she is technically his), but since she can't cuddle with me while I'm reading or purr in my ear or comfort me when I'm sad, I don't have the same connection with her that I do with Maggie. Rambling--sorry. :P

So, I really enjoyed the first half of the book. But then things started piling onto poor Denny, especially after his wife passes and her parents are suing Denny for custody of his daughter. I was really angry at how the events were unfolding and felt that they were coming too quickly and too heavy. And then they all just unraveled just as quickly (or maybe it was because I read the last third of the book in a single sitting). I was still really engrossed in the book, but I didn't like the heaviness of it. All of that aside, I would recommend the book. It is a great weekend read that doesn't require a whole lot of thought but at the same time contains interesting metaphors about racing cars and handling life. And can I say again how endearing and wonderful Enzo is as the narrator? Seriously--loved him. I really think animal lovers will appreciate and enjoy this book!

Well, since this is probably the worst book "review" I've written, I'll leave you with a picture of Lexi and hope that you forgive me. This was taken over the summer when we could not get her to stay out of the water at my dad's lakehouse. She LOVES water--had the same problem this weekend when we vacationed with Scott's parents at the lake.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Swiss Family Robinson - Jan Wyss

Title: The Swiss Family Robinson
Author: Jan Wyss
Date Finished: Nov 5, 2008 #64
Published: 1812 Pages: 304
Rating: 2/5

Talk about books that have been sitting on your shelf for years! I’m not even sure how long this puppy has been decorating the shelf (collecting dust is more like it), but I think maybe I got this from my Grandma years and years ago. To be honest, I haven’t really had much of a desire to read it, but I was tired of looking at it!

The Swiss Family Robinson is about a husband, wife, and their four boys who are shipwrecked and deserted on an island in the East Indies. The rest of the crew is able to sail away to safety in the lifeboats, but the family is left behind on the boat so they must make their way to the island in order to survive. They learn the terrain and the flora and fauna and eventually make various homes on the island.

I started off liking this book much more than I expected. I disliked Robinson Crusoe (perhaps because I HAD to read it for a grad course) and I expected this one to be similar. But I was surprised at how easy the reading was and how engaging the characters were. There was a lot of dialogue, especially between the father and his sons, which was nice since Crusoe didn’t have much dialogue except with Polly (the parrot) until Friday came along. But, then I realized that this isn’t an adventure book like I thought it was going to be.

The Swiss Family Robinson is more of a didactic book about survival in the wilderness. The father is constantly creating lessons out of every daily aspect and is often condescending to his children. He chides them for not having knowledge, but the knowledge the father possesses is completely from books he has read (how convenient!). After getting further into the book, I had to change my perspective and read this book for the interesting things the family built and how they survived in the wilderness instead of for a wild adventure. The book is an interesting look at the nature of animals as those in the early nineteenth century understood them (before Darwin and his theories) as well as European imperialism and colonial ideals.

I wish I could say that I ended up enjoying this book as much as I did when reading the first few chapters, but the reading became redundant and almost a chore. It sparked an interesting conversation between Scott and myself about what makes a classic a classic and if this even qualifies. It is still being read (although not sure I’ve seen any other reviews of it around here), but I wonder if its popularity comes more from the Disney adaptation than from the actual text. Are there books that you read that are considered classics and you just can’t figure out why? I’d love to hear about it!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Map of the World - Jane Hamilton

Title: A Map of the World
Author: Jane Hamilton
Date Finished: Oct 31, 2008 #63
Published: 1995 Pages: 390
Rating: 4.25/5

"When I was very young I used to sit before my map of the world imagining myself in an ideal country, alone and at peace. Now, if I could make the world over, I said ... to Howard--if I could make an impossible, new world, Howard, this is who you would see: You'd see Emma, and Claire and you'd see yourself, and me, all together, dancing on the porch with the shades down, outcasts making a perfect circle" (382).

I can't remember when I picked this book up, but it was one of the first library booksales I attended--so it's been at least five or six years since it first graced my shelf. I'm not sure why I let it sit for so long (oh--probably because I can't stop acquiring new books!), but I'm definitely glad to mark this one off the ole TBR list. Do you buy/get books and let them sit for years upon years??

A Map of the World is the story of the Goodwin family, Howard, Alice and their two small daughters Emma and Claire, who has recently moved to a farm in rural Wisconsin. When one of Alice's friend's daughters drowns in the farm pond under Alice's care, she struggles with her guilt and fault of the little girl's drowning. Her life slowly begins to fall apart and a few months later she is accused of sexually abusing a small boy while working as the school nurse. After Alice is arrested and sent to jail, the Goodwin family must either bond together in their unthinkably tough times or crack under the pressure of false accusations and damaged reputations.

While this sounds like a soap-opera type book, it is actually a very quiet novel. Most of these major events happen in the first quarter of the book and the rest of the book is about how the characters are dealing with their situations. In all senses, this is an absolutely character-driven novel. It does have a little bit of courtroom stuff near the end, but even then these parts of the novel focus more on the characters than what is being argued by lawyers. So, in a way this feels like a Shreve or Picoult book, but with more emotion and more development.

I really don't have any complaints about this book other than the fact that it took me three weeks to read, which feels like a lifetime. There is very little dialogue in the book, and that made for very slow reading, especially because life has been so hectic lately. But despite the length of time it took me to read this, it was a compelling read because of the intimacy shown by taking a deep look into the lives and thoughts of the characters. The book begins with Alice's narrative and after her arrest switches to Howard's point of view, finally returning to Alice's thoughts again for the remainder of the novel. I love when books present different points of view, and showing how both Alice and Howard are coming to terms with the events gives a more complete representation.

Definitely not a cliffhanger book, but if you like character-driven books, I would recommend this one. I also have Hamilton's The Book of Ruth sitting on the shelf (also purchased years ago...maybe even at the same sale?). Have you read these two books? What were your thoughts?
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