The first thing I did not realize when I started reading this text is it's size. I suppose that is one of the drawbacks of eBooks. This book is over 1The first thing I did not realize when I started reading this text is it's size. I suppose that is one of the drawbacks of eBooks. This book is over 1100 pages of stories that range from a couple of pages to nearly 100 and the quality of the stories vary widely. For every "The Little Mermaid," "The Emperor's New Clothes", and “The Shadow” there are two or three obscure and usually not very interesting stories.
Over all the stories have a very strong Christian theme and the moral of the story is almost always related to a church teaching or involve God or angels stepping in to reward the much suffering main character. Consequently the tone of many of the stories is a little preachy which took rather than added to the stories in my opinion. The stories are also usually less bloody and dark than the reputation of the stories collected by the brothers Grimm have (I've not yet read their collection). Some of the stories are really well thought out with a good story arch and some character development like “The Snow Queen.” Others are disjoint and random like “What the Moon Saw” which reminded me of Mussorgsky's “Pictures at an Exhibition” with its random milieus.
A major complaint I have with this edition is that five or six of the stories show up more than once under different names throughout the book (Barnes and Noble The Complete Collection of Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales). I don't know if this was an oversight or if Anderson originally published it that way but in either case I found it quite annoying.
I can not say I recommend this book to anyone except for hard core fairy tale readers. Stick with an abridged version which only includes the more famous and better stories which are quite good. ...more
Somehow in my history of reading, Anna Karenina escaped my attention. The tome sat silently on my shelves for years without my giving it a second glanSomehow in my history of reading, Anna Karenina escaped my attention. The tome sat silently on my shelves for years without my giving it a second glance. In fact, not until I saw a trailer for the recent movie (a travesty I’m told) did Anna Karenina appear on my radar as a book I need to read. One good thing to come out of the movie is that it finally prompted me to read the book and I’m glad I did as this novel was a joy to read.
Anna Karenina revolves around two main characters, Anna Karenina and Konstantine Levin, who each try to buck societal norms by going their own way. The novel itself is primarily a juxtaposition between the stories of these two characters as both of their approaches are almost polar opposites. Anna, a married woman, has an scandalous affair with a young officer (Vronsky) yet insists that society and her husband accept her choices on her terms and without consequences. Conversely, Levin is almost antisocial and has to be all but forced into fulfilling his social obligations as an aristocrat in tsarist russia. But, as Anna gradually becomes more of a social pariah and consequently becomes emotionally unstable, Levin slowly becomes more content and happy and his social standing continues to grow.
In addition to these two main themes, a number of other deep concepts and themes are explored throughout the book including: the decline of the aristocratic class, the responsibility of landowners towards the peasants, faith, societal double standards between the treatment of men and women, forgiveness, the spiritual benefits of hard physical labor, and the role of children in family life, just to name a few. With a few exceptions, examination of most of these themes and concepts occur from both Anna’s and Levin’s perspective which adds a depth to the novel. Tolstoy plays both arguer and devil’s advocate at the same time and the result feels like a thorough examination of these deep ideas.
While reading other reviews and critics of the novel, often I encounter a feminist focused analysis which paints Anna as a tragic heroine who is unfairly punished by society for daring to assert her own wants and desires. Such an analysis does have its merits. One of the many sub themes in the book is the stark contrast between the consequences of Anna’s affair verses the affair of Anna’s brother, highlighting the misogynistic nature of society. However, I find it difficult to accept this analysis.
In my reading, I could not help but see Anna as a selfish woman who believes she can do whatever she wants, including change her mind, without consequences to her no matter who she might hurt in the process. Anna is completely unable to see anyone else as a separate individual with their own equally valid and important needs, wants, and desires nor does she seem to care about the impact her actions have to others. Even Anna’s relationship with her own son has more to do with what Anna wants than what the son wants or needs. In short, I found Anna to be a despicable person bordering on clinical narcissism and certainly not worthy of being held up as a positive example of feminism. Throughout the novel, Anna’s primary motivation seems to be focused on how she can get what she wants and little else.
For me, the more important character is Levin, the pseudo-autobiographical land own who is juxtaposed with Anna throughout the novel. He is primarily consumed with wanting to know what is right and how to live what philosophers call “the good life.” As the novel progresses, he starts out as an anti social hermit who loves one of Stepan Oblonsky’s (Anna’s brother) sister-in-laws from afar. Over the course of the novel he explores various philosophies and tries various experiments on himself and his land in an attempt to figure out how he should behave and what he should believe in to be a good and responsible person. The much criticised last volume of the novel is the climax and resolution of Levin’s development. Levin’s primary motivation throughout the novel, unlike Anna’s, is one of personal development and a pursuit of “the good life.”
Going into Anna Karenina I was a little worried that the writing style would be challenging. I’m not sure if it was because the translation I was reading is particularly good or if the original Russian translates so well but I found the prose very easy to follow. Even keeping track of the many names each character goes by was not a major challenge. One thing I did find fascinating about the writing was that there is very little description of scenery. Trains, sledges, horses, dogs, and people are all described to some degree but there is almost no description of buildings, cities, or landscapes which is a sharp contrast to the similarly length writings of authors like Victor Hugo who fills The Hunchback of Notre Dame with lurid descriptions of Paris and its buildings and scenery. This lack of backdrop sharpens the focus on the characters themselves and makes the novel one primarily of character with the plot there to serve as a backdrop upon which the characters develop.
Anna Karenina is clearly deserving of its place among the best novels ever written in any language and I highly recommend it to readers who love a book primarily focused on characters....more
This fifth book in the Barsoon series is the last one that is in the public domain and therefore probably the last one I read for quite awhile. The boThis fifth book in the Barsoon series is the last one that is in the public domain and therefore probably the last one I read for quite awhile. The book was true to its predecessors in almost every way. Once again almost insurmountable odds odds were overcome, lots and lot of people dies, two new civilizations were discovered, and the hero came out ahead in the end. However, The Chessmen of Mars does a better job with plot pacing, foreshadowing, and resolving plot points without resorting to my pet peeve, the deus ex machina.
Like the previous novel, this novel too does not follow John Carter as the main character but instead follows one of his children, this time a spoiled princess of a daughter. She gets caught in a storm and blown to unknown parts of Mars. All of here adventures revolve around her escapes from capture and fates worse than death on the journey back to Helium.
If you made it this far in the series there is no reason not to read this novel. I found it to be the second best over all, with Princess of Mars being the best....more
This fourth in the Barsoon series is the first not to follow the nietzschean super man like character of John Carter. In this case, the main heroes arThis fourth in the Barsoon series is the first not to follow the nietzschean super man like character of John Carter. In this case, the main heroes are Carthoris, John's son, and Thuvia, Carthoris's love interest. However, despite this the book follows the same patterns as the previous books. Once again a new race of Martians is discovered and once again there are characters with unexplained super powers which come to the rescue just as things are at their most grim. The story itself is entertaining but the books are starting to become a bit monotonous. There is only one more book in the series that is in the public domain and I think it will be the last Burroughs that I read for awhile....more
This third in the Barsoon series is actually a direct continuation of the last novel, so much so that the two novels could easily be merged into one.This third in the Barsoon series is actually a direct continuation of the last novel, so much so that the two novels could easily be merged into one. As with the last novel, this one is full of action and adventure and light on almost everything else, but unlike the last one where the reader is left groaning for some of the plot twists that are so foreshadowed the reveals are seen from miles away, The Warlord of Mars avoids such plot gimmicks and is so much the better for it.
If you read The Gods of Mars and enjoyed it, The Warlord of Mars is a must....more
Going into this novel I was not sure I was going to like it. I'm not the biggest fan of westerns to begin with and I believe that Wister's The VirginiGoing into this novel I was not sure I was going to like it. I'm not the biggest fan of westerns to begin with and I believe that Wister's The Virginian is the prototype for the genre. I was pleasantly surprised; though there were some elements which I disliked enough to keep me from giving the novel four stars.
First I'll describe the good parts. The prose of Wister is a joy to read. The dialog and descriptions create a nearly fully realized image of the cowboy era in Montana. The plot itself moves along at a good pace and, while predictable still manages to built tension, a mark of a master writer.
In many ways, Western genre is an all American version of chivalric literature. A lot of the same tropes are there including the knight on horse back (cowboy in this case) who rescues a maiden and receives a handkerchief as a reward. The knight/cowboy is honorable almost to a fault and he is forced to do battle to defend his honor. The arc of the story over all is very romantic yet there is plenty of action and bloodshed.
However there are some aspects of the novel which I disliked immensely, one of which cost my review a whole star. As I mentioned before, the plot itself was excessively predictable. I can almost forgive this as its predictability probably has more to do with the fact that it is almost the archetype for the genre. But what I can not bring myself to look past is Wister's use of perspective. The book uses alternating point of view and does so inexpertly. The novel starts off as a first person narrative and then jumps to third person omniscient in the middle of a chapter. At one point, Wister breaks out of the story completely and speaks directly to the reader as himself, again in the middle of a chapter and with little indication that the switch is made. Rather than adding to the novel in any way, I found it distracting and annoying.
I highly recommend this novel to all fans of Westerns, chivalric literature, and classics. I even more highly recommend it to readers who can get over the inexplicable changes in voice throughout the story. However, if you find such switches troublesome, avoid this book....more
This sequel to Princess of Mars is the second book in the Barsoon series and, like the first book it is a romping adventure story which is big on actiThis sequel to Princess of Mars is the second book in the Barsoon series and, like the first book it is a romping adventure story which is big on action and adventure but lacking in almost everything else. The plot is action packed and the writing style is above average. However, the novel is almost completely lacking in character development, addressing philosophical ideas and the human condition. And even though the plot itself is entertaining, its only purpose seems to be offer opportunities for John Carter to fight. In large part, reading this book was similar in entertainment value as playing a single player first person shooter video game.
If you enjoyed the first book or you just want some mindless entertainment, this is a book for you....more
Edgar Rice Burroughs has a reputation for almost defining early pulp science fiction but Burroughs's talent as an author and his adept use of languageEdgar Rice Burroughs has a reputation for almost defining early pulp science fiction but Burroughs's talent as an author and his adept use of language cements his place among the greats of action, adventure, and science fiction authors. I fully expected the novel to be enjoyable but A Princess of Mars exceeded my expectations.
The pacing of the plot is fast but not overly so as I find in some recent novels like The Da Vinci Code and it was full of high action and adventure. There is also a good deal of salaciousness which I'm certain made the novel controversial when it came out.
I only have two major complaints about the novel. The first is the fact that almost the entire premise of the novel centers around a massive deus ex machina, my least favorite literary technique. The second major complaint is the callousness of the violence and death perpetrated by John Carter and others.
I can whole heartedly recommend this novel to any fans of classic action adventure, early science fiction, and pulp. ...more
I was inspired to read this book after attending an art of the 1920s exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was expecting to read a novel that gives aI was inspired to read this book after attending an art of the 1920s exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was expecting to read a novel that gives a feel for what it was like to live in such optimistic yet turbulent times. What I found is a novel that is timeless.
George F. Babbit is a successful Realtor in the mid sized city of Zenith. He is a well known and well like business man, conservative, and leading a safe and boring middle class lifestyle. Babbit is also the very definition of cognitive dissonance. For example, he will start a screed against unions by complaining that they are evil because men are forced to join and end the screed by saying that all business men should be forced to join an anti-union organization.
The first half of the novel hits home over and over Babbit's "belligerent conformity," contradictions, and hypocracy and really serve as setting the stage for the latter half of the book. The core of the book cover's a period where Babbit experiences a mid-life crisis which threatens nearly everything he has worked his entire life for. You will have to read it yourself to discover what lengths he went trying to find himself and whether he manages to pull himself out. I will say that the story ends very satisfactorily.
Lewis's writing style is fairly clipped and to the point. While not as terse as Hemmingway it feels much more efficient than a writer like Dickens. The plot pacing was a little slow. I think Lewis spent far to much of the book presenting example after example of Babbit's contradictions and making the reader almost loathe the character. However, Lewis was expert at transforming Babbit from a right wing conservative caricature into a rounded human character who the reader can relate to and empathize with.
Despite the aspects that I disliked I would still recommend this book to most readers. Lewis's transformation of Babbit as a character is well worth the experience....more
This last in the series is my favorite of the group. It has action, epic scale, treachery, and some very heavy themes. Obviously, much like The Lion,This last in the series is my favorite of the group. It has action, epic scale, treachery, and some very heavy themes. Obviously, much like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an allegory for the Christ passion narrative, The Last Battle is an allegory for Christian eschatology that appears in the gospels and Revelations.
From the title alone and from the first lines of the book Lewis makes clear that this book is to cover the end of Narnia and much like Revelations, it occurs in stages which start with greed and the creation of a false Aslan and ends with a judgement of the peoples and entry into Aslan's kingdom.
Unfortunately, given the allegorical nature of the novel it suffers from some of the same issues that the previous novels suffer from. One of these is an almost complete lack of character development, particularly among the "good guys." The book is also a little long on description and relatively short on actual plot, particularly towards the end.
Over all I would recommend this book to fans of the series. If one were to only read two books in the series, I would recommend this be the second book....more
I do not have a lot to say about this book. Perhaps the cause is my lack of philosophical training, over all background in Nietzschian philosophy, orI do not have a lot to say about this book. Perhaps the cause is my lack of philosophical training, over all background in Nietzschian philosophy, or a product of a particularly bad translation. No matter what the cause, I did not find a lot in this novel that I found particularly thought provoking, interesting, or entertaining.
There isn't much to the plot. The writing style, perhaps driven by translation choices, was a pale imitation of religious tracts which gave the impression that it was trying too hard to be profound and failing to do so.
Obviously this is a book of great philosophical import but I cannot bring myself to recommend it to someone with a lack of background necessary to appreciate it....more
This second to last of the series chronologically takes place first as it is an allegory of the first parts of Genesis. In this book we see how NarniaThis second to last of the series chronologically takes place first as it is an allegory of the first parts of Genesis. In this book we see how Narnia is created by Aslan, the origin of the white witch, and how evil entered the world of Narnia at the very moment of its creation. The imagery in this book is beautiful. Lewis really has a knack for writing prose capable of revealing enough detail to picture the scene while still keeping a sense of mystery and awe.
However, of the series, this one is bar far the most boring. There is some action in the first half of the book but the bulk of the book is imagery and description. For a novel directed at a young audience, I think it might be a little too boring.
Philosophically/theologically I have a similar problem with this book as I do with the Genesis creation story. In this book, Aslan creates all of the universe in which Narnia exists. However, as soon as it is created he basically abandons the rest of the world and focuses only on Narnia. He mentions the other countries but makes clear he has no dominion over those realms. That leaves one with two possibilities in my mind. Either he created those other realms (which make up the majority of the world) and purposefully abandoned them to live without God, or he only is responsible for creating Narnia in which case where did those other realms come from?
I would only consider this book for those who enjoyed the other books and I do not recommend reading it first even though it takes place first chronologically....more
Another excellent addition to the Narnia series, The Horse and His Boy is a quest story which includes an escape, journey across long distances, and eAnother excellent addition to the Narnia series, The Horse and His Boy is a quest story which includes an escape, journey across long distances, and even includes a battle. Compared to some of the other books in this series, this one seems to be a bit more polished in its pacing, and plot development. As usual, Lewis' language is beautiful but not difficult to read. He even manages to introduce that literary device that I had such an issue with in Baum's work, namely the deus ex machina, in an expert manner and in such a way that it doesn't take away from the characters themselves. I think that is partially because in this case, the deus ex machina is actually one of the major purposes of the book as it is key to the aspect of Christianity that Lewis is making the alegory about in this particular novel.
Over all, this is my favorite of the Narnia books and I recommend it not only to fans of the other books in the series but to anyone who likes a good adventure story in a fantasy setting....more
This fourth book in the series (at least in the way the audio book I'm listening to has ordered them) is in many ways my favorite of the series. I finThis fourth book in the series (at least in the way the audio book I'm listening to has ordered them) is in many ways my favorite of the series. I find it difficult to pinpoint why though. In many ways the plot is more straight forward, the expected allegory is so generic as to be almost non-existent, and what is left is a straight forward fairy tale that compares favorably with many o Baum's Oz books. In fact, the over all story arch seems to have been heavily inspired by Ozma of Oz which also is a quest to find a lost ruler who is being held enchanted in an underground kingdom.
Despite this being my favorite of the series, I can still only give it three stars. For one, Baum's treatment of this particular story archetype was much better in my opinion; however, the actual writing style of Lewis is superior.
I recomend this book for anyone who likes a good straight forward farie tale or the other books in the series. ...more
I enjoyed this book more than Prince Caspian and it is hard to figure out why. Perhaps it is because the quest story was better paced and the ChristiaI enjoyed this book more than Prince Caspian and it is hard to figure out why. Perhaps it is because the quest story was better paced and the Christian aligories are somewhat more subtle and allow for analytical thought.
For example, Caspian is seaking seven friends of his father who were sent to explore the oceans to the east. On the quest each of the Seven Deadly Sins appears to be represented for each of the seven lords. Furthermore, Reepajeep (one of my favorite characters of all time) I think is a representation of the Old Testament profit of Elijah in his role as advisor to the king as well as how he exits the story.
More than any of the previous books, this book has a lot of facits for analysis and discussion which makes it a much more enjoyable read.
I recommend it for any fans of the other books....more
This second book in the Narnia series was a little disappointing. The pacing was slower compared to the first book and the Christian alegory was quiteThis second book in the Narnia series was a little disappointing. The pacing was slower compared to the first book and the Christian alegory was quite a bit more strained. Despite this, I still enjoyed listening to the book. I do not really have much else to say about the book. It was not bad by any means but it was not inspiring. I do recommend it for anyone who like the first book or others in the series....more
I started out hating this book but just at the point I was about to give up I became hooked. The writing style is overly ornate and the pacing is slowI started out hating this book but just at the point I was about to give up I became hooked. The writing style is overly ornate and the pacing is slow. Collins is blatant with his foreshadowing and the plot is predictable. Even the ending is wrapped up in a deus ex machina. Collins is also clearly misogynistic to the point where his female characters approach Jungian archetypes. Despite these flaws, the over all pacing and the large collection of despicable villains makes this an enjoyable read. I recommend this book to all those who enjoy 19th century literature along the lines of Dickens and Poe....more
I always knew that On the Origin of the Species was an important book in the annals of scientific writing but I always assumed it was because it was tI always knew that On the Origin of the Species was an important book in the annals of scientific writing but I always assumed it was because it was the first to lay out a complete argument for evolution. I had no idea what a stunningly awesome (in the original meaning of inspiring awe) example of argumentation and reason the book truly is. Darwin not only comes up with a theory but he imagines every possible argument against it and counters each with facts, reason, and where warranted the weaknesses of his own arguments.
As I read through the book I could not help but remember that so much about what he reasoned must be true has been proven through fields of later science. I wonder how much stronger Darwin's already almost unassailable argument would have been had he met Gregor Mendel in his research. Many of the parts of his arguments where reliant on reason could have been even stronger had he had knowledge of genes and the laws of inheritance.
There are areas were Darwin was a little wrong. For instance, he asserted that evolution must take place very slowly but in the 20th and 21st century very fast evolution has been observed multiple times (e.g. antibiotic resistant bacteria). He also was much more pessimistic about how much would be preserved in the fossil record. He was convinced that we would likely never be able to identify truly intermediate forms but there are now relatively complete series of forms for multiple groups including horses and whales.
I believe everyone should read this book whether or not they are religiously fundamentalist or not. On the Origin of the Species is the best example of argumentation I've ever read and it is clear why it is among the top 100 books of all time on many lists....more
Conrad's Heart of Darkness is a relatively short but dense story full of dread and awe. The novella evoked similar feelings from meas 19th century gotConrad's Heart of Darkness is a relatively short but dense story full of dread and awe. The novella evoked similar feelings from meas 19th century gothic novels like The Italian by Radcliff and The Castle of Otranto by Walpole. There is even a little bit of otherworldliness to the story similar to H. P. Lovecraft stories, particularly in the character of Kurtz.
The novella is separated into three sections, each of which addresses a different form of darkness with each successive section becoming more terrifying (I'm using the old 19th century gothic sense of the word, see Ann Radcliffe's "On the Supernatural in Poetry" http://www.litgothic.com/Texts/radcli...). In the first section, the darkness addresses the mystery of the the unknown jungles of the Congo river basin. This darkness is more adventurous and even inviting. It is the type of darkness that has drawn explorers across time to discover new lands and peoples and fill in those blank spaces on the map. The second section addresses the darkness of African colonialization. In this section we get to see the horrible and dark actions of one group of people against a weaker. The final section is more personal and perhaps the darkest as it explores the individual's capacity for internal darkness.
With only a few paragraphs at the beginning and end of the novella, the entire book is narrated by Marlow and therefore takes on the speech patterns and idioms of an English river-boat captain. Consequently the writing style is a little hard to follow at times. One has to pay special attention as well as Marlow tends to jump forwards and backwards with no transition.
Heart of Darkness is a novella that will stick with me for quite some time to come. I anticipate it will be a book I read more than once in the coming years. If you enjoy 19th century gothic novels, Kafka, or Lovecraft I believe you will find much to like in this book....more
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Even more so than Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle exhibits Vonnegut's biting writing style aThis is one of the best books I've read in a long time. Even more so than Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle exhibits Vonnegut's biting writing style and wonderfully odd ways of telling a story. The entire novel can be taken as a cynical review of humanity and its absurdity. Cat's Cradle has to be the best treatment of the end of the world I've yet read, ranking up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in humor but with a great deal more cynicism.
If you enjoyed the movie Doctor Strangelove you will enjoy this novel. I highly recommend it for all readers....more
For a book written in the early 1920s, We holds up surprisingly well. Furthermore, it's influence on similar dystopian novels which came later like 19For a book written in the early 1920s, We holds up surprisingly well. Furthermore, it's influence on similar dystopian novels which came later like 1984, Brave New World, and even the movie THX is striking and it is clear both Orwell and Huxley took a lot of inspiration from Zamyatin from the structure of the society, the existence and nature of the supreme leader, the narrator becoming a subversive, etc.
The writing style is approachable and fun in a pulpy Princess of Mars kind of way and the plot is well placed. The character development is a little flat from most of the characters having little depth beyond the narrator, though that has more to do with the use of first person point of view.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed 1984, Brave New World, and early 20th century science fiction....more