OMG! – She’s Pregnant!: Week 2 of Reading Anna Karenina

Last week I shared that I was embarking on a fun reading adventure  of the classic novel, Anna Karenina with my friend. As of now, I am on page 325, which puts me into part 3 of the book,(out of 7 parts). Let’s just say this week of readings was a mixture of surprise, disappointment and boredom.

First of all, let me say this: I. AM. SHOCKED!

Anna revealed to Vronsky (her lover) that she is pregnant with their child. Now let me explain why I was so astounded to read this in part 2 of the story. Earlier on when Tolstoy mentioned Anna (who is a married woman in high society Russia) and Vronsky were spending a lot of time together, I just assumed they continued to meet at private gatherings amid other society people, like the ones  her friend Princess Betsy was hosting. I was a bit disappointed to read of the hand holding, exchanging of looks, igniting feelings of love, etc. I wanted some details – you know, the tearing off petticoats, sweaty bodies romping underneath lace eyelet sheets, ducking into closets so as not to be discovered, heavy panting and kissing sort of thing. But then I remembered: This book is more than over 150 years old. There were certain ways delicate topics had to be referred to. I’m wondering if a woman had written this book would there be more of this detail? As I have not read other classics written by women from that time period, I can’t say for sure. Just to let you know I wasn’t looking for Jackie Collins, but I needed more love affair details to suspect  physical intimacy, which would of course lead me to wonder if the result of their infatuation could result in a pregnancy.

I was also surprised when Anna told her husband, Karenin, that she loved Vronsky so soon in the book. Now what? There are still a lot of pages left to read. What else is left?

Well, there are the characters of Kitty and Levin. I do hope the rest of the book does not continue in the slow, monotonous fashion of a day in the life of Levin. I nearly fell asleep from boredom while reading the chapters chronicling Levin’s attempt to both avoid his half-brother and work like a peasant for one day. There was way too much detail about mowing and tools and laying about in the tall grass. I would have much preferred details of Anna and Vronsky laying about in the tall grass if you know what I mean?

And then there is poor Kitty. So young and confused about life. But weren’t we all confused about life when we were 18 without the added stress of being a princess? She needs to toughen up like the Scherbotsky she is (again I’m thinking of Robin Scherbostsky from How I Met Your Mother.)

So dear readers who have swallowed this tome of Tolstoy already, were any of you surprised when you read Anna was pregnant? Were you hoping for sensational details of her affair with Vronsky? Were there moments when you felt bored and wished you could just skip a chapter?

Until next week.

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Winter Book Reading – Anna Karenina

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Way back in November of last year a friend and I briefly discussed the idea of forming a mini book club together. We finally  met up  last week for lunch. Over black bean burgers and croque monsieur we made our selection – Anna Karenina. Really it was her idea, but I agreed because I have never read it and heard it was a good book. Besides, it seemed fitting as we were experiencing our own Russian winter in Chicago. Plus, how could I resist her lovely idea of discussing the book at Russian Tea Time?

I immediately went to the library to check out a copy. At 975 pages, I was not intimidated as I completed The Count of Monte Cristo  recently (which reminds me, I should write a blog post about that) which is a whopping 1235 pages or so. We decided to finish the book before the official start of Spring (because who wants to be reading a book like that in Spring?). That means we need to read a minimum of 20 pages a day or 140 per week.

I am not through with my one week yet, but already I have made it to page 170. I’m glad to be ahead. So far, the story is easy to follow. It is interesting to read because Tolstoy’s writing style lets you into the minds of all the characters at the moment. I noticed he is a bit “wordy” but I have to keep in mind the writing of the time, over 150 years ago. I have four  main thoughts up to this point circulating in my brain:

1. Kitty’s last name is Shcherbatsky. Every time I read the family surname or about her, all I can picture is Robin Scherbatsky from the television show How I Met Your Mother.

2. In the translation I am reading, I came across the word “diva”. I had to go get my dictionary (yes I still own a real heavy one) to look up the definition since when I think of diva, images of Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Madonna pop up.

3. Does everyone’s last name end in sky or ski? Well no, but it sure seems like it.

4. Anna is revealing herself to be self-centered and devious.

I curious to know how many of you have read Anna Karenina? If you have, when did you read it? High School? College? Later? Stay tuned for next week’s update.

Children’s Book Week

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I just found out today is the first day of Children’s Book Week. I am so excited for many reasons. First, the U.S. has many illiterate adults. I do not want to give statistics because they may vary depending on the source and what  definition  of literate one is using. I think most people would agree that adults  who love reading had  a significant experience during their childhood with books. As a former preschool teacher, my first unborn child had a library waiting for him before he was even conceived. I used the books for my classroom at the time, knowing it was a worthwhile investment.

On my son’s first day home from the hospital my husband and I read to him. We continued to do so every day. Our bedtime ritual involved books. We followed the same path when his sister was born. I continued to read to my son each time I nursed my daughter during the day because otherwise he would get into mischief – like smear Aquaphor ointment all over the carpet or jump into the shower fully clothed and turn the water on. Books were often our household sanity saver.

My children are now eight and ten years old. They have read on their own for many years now. I miss reading to them, but am happy they have continued our traditions of reading before bed. They have added a few of their own: reading instead of doing homework, reading before school, reading at the table, reading while walking down the stairs, reading at restaurants, reading in the car and reading while on vacation (to name a few!)

Each day this week I will share with you some of the books my children have enjoyed over the years. Don’t be expecting the usual suspects, although they were enjoyed as well.

What book did you enjoy as a child or does your child or children enjoy now? One of my favorites was Hand, Hand Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins.

It Is Quiet at Our House

Ah, the good old days of early parenting. Those long-awaited hours of the afternoon when our children would  stop fighting sleep and just give in to it and we parents would attempt something productive,  then fall prey to the surrounding silence and succumb to sleep, too. We have long since outgrown “naps” for the children in our house. In order to save our sanity (and perhaps preserve the nap that my husband usually needed come Saturday and Sunday) and to make an easy transition for our vacations to Spain, quiet resting reading time was born in our house.

During this time our family members are quiet, rest/nap or read. This midday break, much like a siesta, gives everyone time to just be and enjoy words or silence or both. I usually do not nap unless I am sick because then I have trouble sleeping at night. While sometimes I get caught in the kitchen cleaning up from lunch or transferring laundry to the dryer, I force myself to let those things go for an hour or so and grab a book or catch up on my writing or blogging during this time. I also supervise the children to make sure they are not playing. (There is plenty of time for that during the other parts of the day.)

Today all is quiet except for the pages of books turning and the occasional question from the 9 yr old asking “What is gout?” or “What is a parasite?” While other families put on movies or the television if they need to rest, or use the weekend to tackle chores and errands, our family thinks this a much healthier use of time. Who doesn’t look forward to curling up to a good book or snuggling under the covers in the afternoon?

I have to go now. It’s quiet resting reading time and I want to sneak in some reading time before it is over..

Yes, I Am a Serious Book Reader

My Filled to the Max (on both sides!) Bookshelf

Last Fall,  I stumbled upon the site Goodreads.  The site  indicated it would give recommendations of books I might enjoy reading based on books I had already read. I was in a book rut, so I spent many hours clicking on all the books I have read, not understanding they became part of my bookshelf (which made them available for others to view). It wasn’t until  later (as in many months) when I realized  of the 159 or so books I had indicated reading that eighty-seven (yes, 87!) were children’s books. For all you math folks out there, 54% of my rated books were children’s books. I thought to myself, “How Pathetic!” Then I thought, “Maybe I should start a blog reviewing children’s books, since I have read soooooooooooooooooo many.” Hmm, I will have to think about that (another day of course).

I realized I have spent the last 9 1/2 years raising children and many years before that teaching children, and that probably accounts for the sheer number of children’s books I have read (what parent hasn’t read Brown Bear, Brown Bear or If You Give a Pig a Pancake? But have you read Lyle’s Birthday, Sylvester and The Magic Pebble or Chrysanthemum? (Okay, it sounds like I am still thinking about a children’s book blog…) But come on, 87  kids books! I absolutely love books and I read a lot  (or so I thought).

How much do I love reading books? Here are a few examples of my complete adoration of literary bound pages :1) I turn into a grouch when I don’t have time to read. 2)I stay up way too late if a book is so well written it leaves me completely enthralled. 3) On a _____ day, (substitute sunny, rainy, snowy, cloudy, etc. You get the picture) I would rather be reading. 4)My nightstand seems bare if there are fewer than 3 books on it at a time. 5) I feel thrilled when I receive books for my birthday, Christmas, Los Reyes Magos, etc. So there you have it, I am a bibliophile, a bookworm, a lover of the written word in short story or novel format.

I have followed a blog called 101 Books  to get ideas on what books I should read that I somehow missed out on. There are a ton of old favorites, like The Time Travelers Wife, which I just got around to reading last Fall. I think I missed it because I was either pregnant and reading those types of books, or had just had my first baby and was reading those types of books.  Either way, you get that I was not reading anything literary. So now I guess I need to play catch up.

It’s a new year with new possibilities. So far, my list includes:

Running With Scissors

Like Water For Chocolate

Runaway

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

When She Woke

A Prayer for Owen Meany

Never Let Me Go

White Oleander

The Book Thief

What else  should I  include in my next batch of must reads??

I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

More Books, Please

My vacation books

When preparing for vacation, I always spend as much time deciding which clothes to pack as I do on which books to bring. I am an avid reader. To be without a book to envelope my self in would be like a chef who found all her ingredients used up, yet hungry for something to eat.

For my recent trip to Spain, I chose 5 books: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Moveable Feast, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson,  Uncle Tom’s Cabin and  The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, by Gail Tsukiyama. I tried to think of how much free time I would have for reading. Aside from a few set obligations, like The Colacho Festival and  my nephews baptism, our plans were pretty open. Of course we try to plan time with friends and family while we are visiting. But as usual,  plans fall through and other times they surface out of nowhere.

Upon arrival, we stopped at our local destination for a few days before setting off to the pueblo. I left 3 of my books behind, as we had planned to stay for only 5 days. I figured I would be fine, as there would be so much to do and so many people to catch up with. Well, of course things changed and not only was I half way through my second book, but we had decided to stay a few extra days and go on a few small outings in the region.

I began to panic. What would I read when my remaining books  were well read and digested? My husband suggested I read a novel in Spanish. WHAT? I can read children’s books and get the gist of a newspaper or magazine article, but  my reading capabilities in Spanish are not such that I am ready for that type of challenge. Reading a novel in Spanish would take the enjoyment out of reading altogether. It would be like college where I filled my margins with underlines, question marks and a list of words that I did not know the meaning of. “No, thank you,” I told him, “I’m on vacation.”

Instead, I talked to our cousin to get a recommendation for a bookstore in the big city of Burgos, about 25 minutes from the pueblo. We had planned to go to Burgos after lunch in a few days. I was once again content that all would be well for my inner bookworm.

The day arrived, the store was in sight, yet the lights were out. It just so happened that it was a holiday. Some stores (mostly souvenir types), bars and restaurants were open, but others like this bookstore had closed in observance. I tried to hide my disappointment and kept a lookout for other bookstores while we walked around the city.

It wasn’t long before I found one, but lo and behold, the bookstore did not sell any books in English. Sigh. I vowed to keep my chin up. Maybe I would try  to read a book in Spanish after all, if that’s what it came down to. I felt desperation creeping over me like a grimy blanket.

Then I saw another bookstore, Espolon. And YES, they did sell books in English, in a section just past the guitars for sale on the wall. On a rotating stand with German and French titles were a few books in English.

I spun the carousel and hoped I could find something worth reading. I had decided not to settle for just anything and mentally tossed the blanket of desperation away. I immediately ruled out books about vampires, cave women, shopping and mystery.That left me with a choice between a British hubby-wife marriage falling out book or a memoir.  I chose the memoir.

It turned out I didn’t need the book after all. Our days and nights were suddenly and delightfully filled. I decided to save it for the many flights needed to return home. At least I would not  go hungry.

Speaking of home, now that I am back, I will have to round-up some new books for my nightstand to keep me company for the rest of the summer. I would love to hear some recommendations!

Readers, what are your thoughts on a book or two that I should have on my “must read” list?

There are Fairies in My House

There are moments when time seems to drag on in a repetitive circle in my life as a parent. Five days of school with activities, hustle and hurry, two days on the weekend playing catch up. Repeat. Then something happens and the world seems off kilter, leaving me to wonder:  In which new direction are we headed?

I had decided to take my children to the bookstore one afternoon when they had a day off from school. We all went our separate ways in the small store, looking for new favorites to devour. I ordered hot chocolate and a cookie for the children and called them to the table. Neither of them wanted to leave the books. I told them they could each choose a book to buy before we left.

When it came time to pay for the books, the 6-year-old begged for three chapter books from the Rainbow Magic Fairy series. I held firm to only one and wondered where she had seen these books and why the sudden interest in them.

On the way home we had to stop at the library to pick up a book I had on hold. Once again, the children scattered to the children’s section. And the 6-year-old had found yet more Rainbow Magic Fairy books and wanted to check them out.

During the short ride home she called out page numbers and chapter numbers, announcing her reading accomplishments. The rest of the day I watched her walk up and down the stairs with her nose in one of the books. She brought a book to the dinner table. She attempted  reading while brushing her teeth, a task that even I have yet to do.

When it was time to read before bedtime, I asked her which book she wanted me to read to her. She said, “I don’t want you to read to me tonight. I want to finish my book about Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy.” I tried every trick I could think of to change her mind. All of them were unsuccessful.

I felt deflated, like a day old balloon. For the past four months, we had a routine in the evening where we curled up on a mound of pillows and I read her chapter upon chapter of wonderful books, like the Ramona Quimby series. She was attentive. She asked questions. She compared herself to Ramona and other characters. She laughed at all the right parts. It was a special time of the day for just her and I.

It all seemed to vanish in the blink of an eye. But as I reflected later on, I realized that we had built up to that moment over time. She has always been a self-starter. It was she who told me that she wanted to learn how to read when she was in preschool. She practiced and challenged herself with new words and their pronunciations. The former teacher in me encouraged her to read some of the passages out loud from these chapter books geared toward second and third graders, just to see if she was ready for this type of reading material on her own.

In addition to the mountain of books oozing out of every surface possible in our house, I indulged her and bought books that  interested her, like “Fancy Nancy“, “Pinkalicious” and “Angelina Ballerina“. But now, these books that she had been in love with only a short time ago were unacceptable. “They’re baby books,” she told me. I suggested chapter books that her brother had read when he was younger. She turned up her nose to “The Magic Tree House” series and others. I began to realize how important it was for her to have a say in the genre of books that she chose to read.

Now, she is a full-fledged member of our book-loving family. She wakes up early like her brother, turns on her reading lamp and gets a dose of words before breakfast.  She begs me to take her to the bookstore so that I can buy her more books to read (Fairy books of course). I know that when she is ready to read some of the outstanding literature  we have at home, (like Pippi Longstocking) she will dive right in and eat it up, just like she does with everything else.

As for me, I think this summer I will impose a Mama’s choice night where I get to choose the book and read to everyone. I am not quite ready to give up reading with my children. I guess I should start on my list now. I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you, readers.

Which books should make it to my “summer reading with my children” list?