Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Antonia

by Willa Cather

Rating: 5/5
Grade: C - 14 and up

There could be no better arguement for writing what you know than Willa Cather's My Antoinia. A casual traveler, or researcher could never evoke such powerful imagery of place, people and time. Cathers passion for and love of the wild and hard country that she was transported to at an early age stands off of the pages with bracingly strong imagery. Her representation of the strong and determined imigrants who fought, through much hardship, to subdue the prairie, is beyond realistic. These were the people she knew and admired. And yet she paints them with all of their faults fully in view. One of the powers of her works is that you cannot find yourself saying, "How could someone do something like that?" Because you know. She is able to show human nature so well, but with a kindness and understanding which exonerates in many cases, or at least shows pity.

This book is the most autobiographic of Cather's works. She had many of the same experiences as her male narator, Jim. She too came from Virginia to Nebraska as a child to live with her grandparents, she too went to school in Lincoln, and ended up far from her prairie home. It is hard for me to separate Jim and Willa, and I don't think that it is really possible to. Jim is the key through which she was able to return to her past without actually writing a memoir.

Even the main character and focus of the book, Antonia, was based on a friend from Willa's life. To have such a strong, spirited, definate person in a work of literature, I think that they almost have to be based off of a person, or people. It is hard to believe that someone could live as fully on the pages of a book who had not lived in real life. Antonia is a delightfully vibrant child, life deals harshly with her again and again, starting with the death of her father when she is a child. Though changed, and hardened on the outside to do what it takes, her heart is never hardened, and her spirit never quelled. There are those in the story who lament the loss of what she could have been, that her potential was short changed because of the events of her life. The last paragraph in the book even says, "this had been the road of destiny; had taken us to those early accidents of fortune which predetermined for us all that we can ever be." Which the author must believe to be true. And yet the picture that is painted of Antonia at the end of the book - her many children, her farm, her worn and battered frame - show us that Antonia has just the life she has desired, and even if life took her down a different path than those she could have had, in the end she is what she is meant to be. "She is a rich mine of life, like the founders of the early races."(p.194)


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Moll Flanders

by Daniel Defoe

Grade: C - 14 and up (for sexual themes,

Moll Flanders first and formost challenges ones conception of right and wrong. Do the ends (survival) justify the means (whatever deception or crime it takes to secure it). In the past, I have always been one to argue, emphatically, that no, there is no such thing as situational ethics. Yet, as I read this book, I realized that my thoughts on this came from a life of ease, in a society of justice and equal oportunity. I am left thanking God that I was not a woman, especially one fallen on hard times, in the time and place that this book was written. Time after time Moll is faced with the dilema: a life of misery and starvation, or a dishonest act that will pull her through a little while longer. I find it hard to cast judgement on any of the choices she made under these circumstances; and impossible to swear that I would not be brought to the same decisions. The only thing that I cannot justify in her behavior is the total disregard for her children that is displayed. Not enough mention of her children was made for me to even remember how many she bore. Part of this I am going to attribute the the fact that the book was written by a man. If her strivings were for herself and her children, I would cast no blame on a single choice she made, yet she even, essentially abandoned one of her infants in order to care for herself.

Overall, a very engaging read, giving insight into the life of women in 18th century England; So believable that I find I almost think of it as a memoir.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Triple 8

I am participating in a book reading challenge for 2008; it is called the '888' challenge. Rules are that you must read eight books in eight different categories (presumably because of the year '08) for a grand total of 64 books. There may also be eight books that are in more than one category which comes to 56 books. Reading 64 books in a year is definitely not a challenge for me, but reading in eight different categories is. I have tried to pick some categories that I might otherwise not get to (anything other than fluffy fiction).

Here are my lists for the challenge:

1.Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azir Nafisi
2. Jane Austen; a life by David Nokes
3. Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'Amour
4. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
5. Surprised by Joy; the Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis
6. Notes from the Century Before; A Journal From British Columbia by Edward Hoagland
7. The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev
8. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (completed 1/4/2008)

1. Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens
2. The PH Miracle by Robert O. Young
3. Genetically Engineered Food by Ronnie Cummins
4. The Jerusalem Diet by Judith Besserman (which I am suppossed to be getting an early reviewers copy of)
5. Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill by Udo Erasmus
6. Lazy Person's Guide to Better Nutrition by Gordon S. Tessler (completed: 1/2/2008)
7. TBD
8. TBD

1. Children:The Challenge bu Rudolf Dreikurs
2. John Rosemond's Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children
3. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours by Dr. Kevin Leman
4. Growing Compassionate Kids by Jan Johnson
5. The Mother Dance by Harriet Lerner
6. How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too by Sal Severe, Ph.D (completed 1/7/2008)
7. Parenthood Without Hassles, well almost by Kevin Leman
8. Parenting With Love and Logic by Foster W. Cline

Classics - Fiction:
1. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
2. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
3. Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
4. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
5. Silas Marner by George Eliot
6. The Ambassadors by Henry James
7. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
8. Middlemarch by George Eliot

1. Love's Labor Lost
2. King Henry VIII
3. The Comdey of Errors
4. The Two Noble Kinsmen
5. Antony and Cleopatra
6. The Winter's Tale
7. Cymbeline
8. Troilus and Cressida

1. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (completed: 1/1/2008)
2. The Theif Lord by Cornelia Funke
3. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
4. What Katy Did Next by Susan Coolidge
5. What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge
6. Homesick; My own Story by Jean Fritz
7. TBD
8. TBD

1. The Literary Message of Isaiah by Avraham Gileadi
2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
3. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
4. The Lost Language of Symbolism by Alonzo L. Gaskill
5. Believing Christ by Stephen E. Robinson (completed 1/6/2008)
6. Following Christ by Stephen E. Robinson
7. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
8. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Just for fun:
1. A Pocketful of Rye A novel by A.J. Cronin (completed 1/4/2008)
2. Brick Lane; a novel by Monica Ali
3. The Parting by Beverly Lewis
4. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella


Monday, January 7, 2008

How To Behave So Your Children WIll Too

by Sal Severe Ph.D

Rating: 2.5/5

Grade: A - All ages (though no one under 18 would have an interst in it)
This book was clearly written. The author gave logical solutions to common parenting problems. But, overall, pretty unremarkable. Main area's of emphasis: consistency, which the author states as the number one most important aspect of parenting (with which I agree); and positive feedback for behavior modifiction. Using positive reinforcement as 90% of discipline, and punishment only 10% of the time.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Believing Christ

by Stephen E. Robinson

Rating: 4/5
Grade: A

Good book, written in a beautifuly simple style. Reminiscent of Mere Christianity. The main premise being that while we believe in Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of the world, we don't actually believe him when he says this mercy extends to us. Thus the whole book focuses on the neccesity of believing that Christ means what he says; that our hideous sins can be forgiven, and not just those of our more righteous neighbors. (The book is written from an LDS perspecitve)


Friday, January 4, 2008

Into Thin Air

by Jon Krakauer

Rating: 5/5
Grade: C - 14 and up

As the cover states, this book is a personal account of Jon Krakauer's experience on Mt. Everst. Twelve fellow climbers and guides died during this disasterous season, and this book is Krakauer's attempt to explain what happened. The book was compellingly written. Beautiful, tragic prose pulls the reader quickly through the trajedy. Some reviewers have stated that Krakauer placed blame on everyone except himself, but this is certainly not true. His account was full of remorse for some of his actions, and his portrayal of others involved did not seem to be overly critical or derogatroy. In fact, he seemed to make allowances for all mistakes made. The book left me with only one question: Why in the wolrd would anyone willingly put themselves through such grueling torture?
If I had known non-fiction could read like this, I would have been hooked long ago!


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Walk Two Moons

by Sharon Creech

Rating: 4/5

Grade: B - 8 and up
Enjoyable read. I had read it years ago, and picked it up at a thrift store this fall. Sharon Creech always does an excellent job of making her stories fantastic and absolutely believable at the same time.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Lazy Person's Guide to Better Nutrition

by Gordon S. Tessler

Rating: 4/5
Grade: A

by Gordon S. Tessler
Great little book. The author very simply goes through the basics of good nutrition, but manages to cram a lot of information into a small space. No wasted words. Included: correct balance of food groups, best sources for nutrients, acid-alkaline balance, importance of water, proper protien and carb balance, supplement help, info on sugar in the body, allergies, stress, and exercise. A great starting point for a healthier lifestyle.


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