Monday, February 22, 2010

War and Peace-Original Version

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Time for yet another book review on Magic and Mystery. This one has taken me quite some time to complete so I am pretty excited to pass on the information to you. I purchased War and Peace-Original Version by Leo Tolstoy at a Books-a-Million in St. Louis for $7 and started reading it back in August. It has been a hard read but there is much of it that I have enjoyed. Sitting at just below 900 pages though I would hardly call it a summer read! Oddly enough by purchasing the original version I may have been in error as I discovered it differs slightly from the "normal" version in several ways possibly even in the ending so for those who have read the original I would love to hear if you find any glaring differences as I review it. I shocked several people by choosing this book to read, but I am a huge fan of Dostoyevsky and I wanted to know whether this meant I was a fan of Russian literature. I decided to tackle War and Peace despite a few misgivings, because honestly, I just was not interested in Anna Karenina.

First and formost the main thing that stuck out to me as I read was that I enjoyed the "Peace" parts far more than the "War". This may be the main difference between a female reader and a male reader...or it might just be me who despises war.

The other thing I noted as I read this book is that Tolstoy seems to be very fatalistic. In writing about war he states several times that individuals do not shape history but the collective conscience does. He also talks about how things happen as they should and that they unfold regardless of people's intentions. Here is a quote near the end of the book:

"everything that happens in a matter in which many people act together does not happen according to these people's will, but according to various zoological laws. and it is not given to man to foresee their outcome."

And earlier in the book:

"Fatalism is as rational in history as it is irrational in the individual. It is no accident that Solomon's saying- ' the kings heart is in God's hand' - became proverbial"

Tolstoy appears to believe that individuals have freedom of choice, but that freedom diminishes when you gather together large groups or people. It also decreases in direct proportion to the level of power and authority that you have. In this way, Tolstoy believe that Napolean was only acting on behalf of the people and not the monster that some people of his time made him out to be.

In comparison to Dostoyevsky I would say that I find Tolstoy's writing more contrived. Dostoyevsky writes of life amidst the poor class of society and deals with the root causes of dark human issues murder, jealousy, guilt etc. Tolstoy on the other hand focuses more on upper class society and attempting to find the meaning of life amidst all of the chaos and confusion in the world. Although Tolstoy's topic is lofty and he points to God in several passages of his book I find that his philosophizing does not feel as genuine as some of Dostoyevsky's writings. That being said, I do enjoy much of what he has to say about God and the meaning of life.

"Love, compassion for one's brothers, for those who love and hate us, yes, the love that was taught by God on earth, that Princess Marya tried to teach me-that is waht would remain to me if I were to live" ~Prince Andrei

"But for me, even now when I am dying, there is nothing certain in all this except for the pettiness of all that I understand and the greatness of something else, something incomprehensible but supremely important"

And Pierre, a passionate, but bumbling man who doesn't understand a lot (but lives passionately much like Peter of the bible) says, "Yes, my friend...there is a God in heaven and good on earth"

I did fall in love with characters who came to life and leapt off the page, but I had a hard time keeping track of a few of them, because there are many people throughout the book (much like in Dickens' novels). Some of my favorites include Princess Marya a young single girl who lives with her father and longs to get married, Prince Andrei, her brother who loses his young wife in child birth and struggles with the meaning of life and Pierre the passionate bumbling idiot who society laughs at but finds amusing.

Although this book is long, and parts of it are hard to read I would recommend it to others. I would, however, recommend reading another lighter book at the same time though to balance the heaviness of this one. The next two books I am reading are "Under the Dome" By Stephen King a book about a community that gets trapped under a mysterious dome and the chaos that insues in their society (kind of like Lord of the Flies) and "The 1001 nights" aka The Arabian Nights. Make sure to check back for updates on those. Since "Under the Dome" is 1000 pages I may finish Arabian nights first!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Retreat: Day 2

So today has been one of the most perfect days ever. I think I may have just started a new valentines tradtion!!!

The morning started off with me waking up at 9. Since I ate late in the day yesterday I never ate dinner (just a cookie and popcorn) I was starving. I wandered downtown to find a place to eat breakfast and stumbled upon a little cafe. After eating breakfast (toast and fruit)I made my way to Mirage Cafe to have a latte decorated with beautiful latte Art

Next I ventured futher downtown exploring stores as I went. I had been sent on a mission to find my grandma some large peice puzzles so I walked the 7 blocks to Value Village and found one! I was excited to run across some of the homeless outreach locations I had heard so much about such as Street Links. On the way back I walked through Chinatown and stumbled upon a demonstration (I think raising awareness about missing or murdered women)

I then proceeded to walk the 10 blocks back to the hotel and drop off all the goodies I bought (which included tea, jewelery, and perfume) and then head to Miniature world. I hadn't been there since I was 8 and it is still a delightful place as an adult. Wee versions of things are just so darling.

Next I wandered aimlessly, feeling quite tired but wanting to go to High Tea at the Empress. I arrived at 2:45 trying to hit "real" high tea at 3PM. Unfortunately it was sold out, and I couldn't get a seating until 3:30. I waited in the lobby trying to rest my feet and it was definitely worth the wait...and the insane price. Tea coast $44 but included chocolate strawberries, little sandwiches, fancy pastries, a huge pot of tea. It also includes a box of Empress Tea bags to take home.

I decided to make the trek to Moka House having heard about it a few years ago. It was well worth the walk. The place was packed and the special latte today was a cinnamon heart inspired latte. It was delicious. By the time I arrived back at the hotel I was still full, so I waited a bit before going to dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory. It was a zoo thanks to it being Valentines day and I had to wait for 40 minutes to get seated but it was worth it.

I also had bubble number 2 tonight, gotta love pink glittery, suds. I head home tomorrow, but I plan on taking my time as I don't have to go back to work until Wednesday. I fear the final total of Operation: Valentines Retreat will be far more then I ever would have expected someone else to spend on me. Oh well, it has definitely been worth it. It is not every day that you get to spoil yourself rotten.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Operation: Valentines Retreat

(crazy display at Murchies Tea)

I have never been a huge fan of Valentines Day, but that being said I have never been Anti-valentines either. I have been single on Valentines day my entire life so most years the day makes little difference to me. Generally, I believe that Valentines is one of those "Hallmark holidays" and should therefore be discounted. However I haven't been as able to ignore it these last few years. I guess the older I get the more I long to have a super girly, over-the-top valentines day. (Perhaps this is my biological clock ticking). However, not being one to feel sorry for myself, I decided to plan my own over-the-top valentines retreat. This is the second year in a row I have had to use holidays in February and I am not a huge fan of taking a vacation and staying at home. After combing the internet for deals and taking stock of what I really wanted out of a holiday, I came to the conclusion I wanted to take a retreat and have nothing but "Me" time doing exactly what I wanted. I found a cheap hotel in Victoria (just because I wanted something over the top doesn't mean I had to spend a lot of money) and went from there. I found a hotel that was centrally located so I wouldn't have to stress myself out by navigating the one way streets of Victoria and set about planning activities within a few blocks radius of the hotel.

So far today I have gone shopping in two malls, eaten "linner" or "lupper" (a meal somewhere between lunch and dinner) at Red Robin, bought tea at Murchies, bath stuff at Lush, drank coffee at Blenz, read 1001 One Nights aka Arabian Nights while curled in a chair, taken a bubble bath and climbed into bed.

(night time view from my hotel room)

Tomorrow, another day of relaxation and fun will ensue. I intend to take a nice walk to the water and find Moka House coffee shop which I have heard all about. After that I think I'll go to Miniature World (which I loved when I was 8). Then continue shopping down town (but hopefully at a much more relaxed pace). At some point I would like to stop at Mirage coffee that apparently does beautiful latte art. Lastly, I will have dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory (provided that is if I can get a seat what with it being Valentines and all). The only unfortunate part of travelling alone is eating alone in restraunts...not the greatest thing to do in the world (but potentially a source of some great people watching when you are not being stared at yourself). Of course I will take a second bubble bath with the remainder of my pink glittery bath bomb. Monday I will mosey on home possibly stopping in Nanaimo on an errand for my aunt and grandma. Happy Valentines all!! What will you do to treat yourself right tomorrow??

(pink, glittery bubble bath)