Monday, February 21, 2011

Presidents' Day Sale!

Please visit my etsy shop and enjoy 5% off your order by using the coupon code PRESIDENT5 at checkout!  I look forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Review: The Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy

My Review:

After finally finished Atlas Shrugged, I wanted something quick to read so I turned to a few short stories from Tolstoy (best known for War and Peace  and Anna Karenina - two very long novels). This book contains three stories: "How Much Land Does a Man Need?," "The Death of Ivan Illych," and "The Kreutzer Sonata."

"How Much Land Does a Man Need" was a quick 14 page read but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I normally try reading long novels rather short stories because I love becoming involved with the characters and seeing them grow and mature.  However, I liked this story for the point that it made, which I'll leave at: "Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed" (The Kreutzer Sonata and other Short Stories Tolstoy 14).

"The Death of Ivan Illych" was a bit longer, ~50 pages and told the story of the end of a man's life. I found that this story seemed to drag just because I didn't really care about Ivan Illych.  However, I can see Tolstoy's reason for writing this story as he was going through his own spiritual crisis and awakening at the time.  Significant lines: "'It is as if I had been going downhill while I imagined I was going up. And that is really what it was.  I was going up in public opinion, but to the same extent life was ebbing away from me. And now it is all done and there is only death'" (Tolstoy 56-7) and "'What if my whole life has really been wrong?'" (Tolstoy 60).

"The Kreutzer Sonata" was the longest story in this collection.  It relates the story of a man on a train who tells a fellow passenger why he killed his wife. I know that this story was written to somehow mimic Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata, but beyond that, I don't think it was anywhere near a remarkable story.  I was often bored with the man's story except for the action at the end, but even that was only action without much insight to the man's choice.  We are told why commits murder and how he felt, but there just wasn't the same depth that you can find in Tolstoy's longer novels such as Anna Karenina and War and Peace.

Overall, I once again confirmed that short stories are not my cup of tea. Within this collection by Tolstoy, I surprisingly enjoyed the shortest story the most, "How Much Land Does One Man Need?"  I loved the point of that story and especially the last line.  The other two stories were rather boring because I felt they lacked the depth that I can find in novels.

My Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winner's Choice: Sun Set Collection Cotton Washcloths

I recently sponsored a giveaway on Wicked Cool Giveaways. The winner received their choice of any of the washcloth sets in my etsy shop and they chose the sun set collection!  Congratulations to the winner and everyone else, please check out the winner's choice as well as the rest of my shop for great handmade housewares!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand


At last, Ayn Rand's masterpiece is available to her millions of loyal readers in trade paperback.

With this acclaimed work and its immortal query, "Who is John Galt?", Ayn Rand found the perfect artistic form to express her vision of existence. Atlas Shrugged made Rand not only one of the most popular novelists of the century, but one of its most influential thinkers.

Atlas Shrugged is the astounding story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world--and did. Tremendous in scope, breathtaking in its suspense, Atlas Shrugged stretches the boundaries further than any book you have ever read. It is a mystery, not about the murder of a man's body, but about the murder--and rebirth--of man's spirit.

* Atlas Shrugged is the "second most influential book for Americans today" after the Bible, according to a joint survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club (Image and synopsis from

My Review:

The premise of this book is an interesting idea... what if the movers and the shakers of the world stopped moving and shaking? Well, what if? While I think some of Rand's points are extreme and she idealizes corporate figures and demeans the common worker for the sake of making her point, I do think she makes some excellent arguements and is definitely worthwhile reading.

Dagny Taggart runs Taggart Transcontinental, the largest railroad company in the U.S., in reality, although not in name.  Her brother Jim Taggart is the president of the company, while Dagny is Vice-President in Charge of Operations. Through her skills, intelligence, and hard work, Dangny manages to keep her railroad running in spite of the opposition and hatred of business found in Washington D.C.

The government is run by 'social'- minded people who care more for the human need than the greed of corporations.  This government continues to spew  out orders, directives, and laws that eliminate any freedom that businesses had, including the freedom to fire workers who are incompetent or not needed!

Along the way, we find the lost city of Atlantis. But I won't say anymore about that! :)

Atlas Shrugged is a political coming of age novel.  Not a coming of age in the sense of a character moving from childhood to adulthood but from ignorance to full acceptance of a political, spiritual, and realistic philosophy. Dagny must mature and grow to accept the philosophy that has ruled her life without her knowing it. 

While Atlas Shrugged is a long novel, it is compelling and keeps moving.  However, I must admit that I did skip one part towards the end, it was basically a reiteration of Rand's philosophy- which only the most dense reader would not have already recognized in the novel, so I saw no point to spend my reading time on 60 pages of what I had already learned. 

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Giveaway Spotlight

I am sponsoring a giveaway on another blog, Wicked Cool Giveaways.  If you didn't win a set of crocheted cotton washcloths from my own blog/etsy shop, please check out this blog enter for another chance! This giveaway ends 2/14 and has a low entry, so you have a good chance to win!

Here is the link for the giveaway: Enter the giveaway!

Enjoy :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Handmade with Love Giveaway Winner

And the winner is...



I will contact Joshlin by email and she will have 48 hours to respond.  Thank you everyone for participating in my first blog giveaway and the handmade with love event!  Please visit my etsy shop and continue to leave comments here on my blog- I love to hear from you!

 Thank you!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Handmade with Love Giveaway

~~ CLOSED ~~

**This is  a 'sticky' post and will remain at the top of the blog until Sunday, Feb. 6- the end of the giveaway**

Welcome to By the By Books and the Handmade with Love Winter Giveaway. 
Hundreds of blogs are participating in the Handmade with Love Winter Giveaway Hop!  Each one is offering a themed giveaway - all the prizes are handmade treasures or gift certificates to shops that sell handmade items. There is a linky at the end of this post.  After you've entered here, hop on over to the next blog on the list and keep going as long as you'd like!  The more you enter, the more likely you are to win.  Good luck!

Giveaway Prize

One set of three cotton washcloths

A set of 3 handmade cotton crocheted washcloths.  I personally crocheted the washcloths and sell them on in my etsy shop.  The winner may pick any set of washcloths from my shop.  These washcloths are great because they are made from USA grown cotton, are very soft and absorbent, crocheted with a tight stitch so that they are functional as washcloths or dishcloths, and can be machine washed and dried!  Please check out my shop for my other products.

Mandatory Entry:

Follow By the By Books via google friend connect.

Extra Entries:

Leave a comment telling me your favorite item in my shop

'Favorite' my etsy shop, in left column under 'actions'

'Like' my shop on facebook

'Follow' me on twitter

'Tweet' about this giveaway.  There is an automatic tweet button above the linky. (3x per day at least 1 hour apart)

Leave one comment for each entry. Giveaway ends February 6, 2011 at 11:59PM EST. There will be one winner chosen for each prize. The winners will be selected by and notified by email to the email address provided in the winning comments. The winners must respond within 48 hours of the notification email, or another winner will be chosen.

Open to U.S. and Canada residents.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review: Pamela by Samuel Richardson


One of the most spectacular successes of the flourishing literary marketplace of eighteenth-century London, Pamela also marked a defining moment in the emergence of the modern novel. In the words of one contemporary, it divided the world "into two different Parties, Pamelists and Anti-pamelists," even eclipsing the sensational factional politics of the day. Preached for its morality, and denounced as pornography in disguise, it vividly describes a young servant's long resistance to the attempts of her predatory master to seduce her. Written in the voice of its low-born heroine, Pamela is not only a work of pioneering psychological complexity, but also a compelling and provocative study of power and its abuse.
Based on the original text of 1740, from which Richardson later retreated in a series of defensive revisions, this edition makes available the version of Pamela that aroused such widespread controversy on its first appearance.  (Image and synosis from Amazon)

My Review:

From a modern perspective, the plot of this book is very interesting.  A poor girl serves as a maid for a rich woman who dies, leaving the girl subject to the lust of the rich woman's son.  The girl, Pamela, was raised to value for virtue over life itself so chaos ensues when Mr. B, whom she commonly refers to as her master, attempts to seduce her.

Pamela's 'master' even smuggles her to a one of his other estates in order to have his way with her away from anyone who would stop him.

I won't spoil how it turns out for Pamela.

While the book drags in places, as expected from a book first written in 1740, it still maintained my interest because of the psychological aspect.  The book is written in the epistalary form (written in letters mostly from Pamela to her parents), which gives the reader an insight to Pamela's private thoughts and feelings.  Because of the intimate nature of the letters, I was able to imagine myself in Pamela's position and empathize with her.  I found myself hoping Mr. B would leave her alone and cheering Pamela on in her escape attempts.

Besides the psychological aspect of reading Pamela's thoughts and feelings, I often compared her situation to the nature of our society today. Pamela's predicament would not have been possible today, unless she was kidnapped... but then the police would have gotten involved and found her.  Pamela was on her own when Mr. B kidnapped her, even her parents were helpless in saving her.  It was also interesting to observe Pamela's beliefs about the importance of her virtue in comparison to everything else.  Pamela said many times that she would rather be killed than seduced.  Also, her seduction would always be own fault rather than Mr. B.'s, which is directly in contrast to how we view rape today.  It is not the victim's fault today.  This is an interesting concept compared to how we think today.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


I will be hosting a giveaway starting tomorrow.  The giveaway is part of the handmade with love event and will be something from my etsy shop :)

Stay tuned and check in tomorrow to enter the giveaway!