Category Archives: book challenge 2018

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

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I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

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I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!

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The Iliad – Homer (part 2 of 4)

I set myself an extra challenge this summer, in addition to #20booksofsummer, I decided to read The Iliad. It’s a book I’ve wanted to read for e v e r. This is the second part of my review, the first one can be found here. The biggest reason I kept putting it off is because I thought it would be very difficult to read (like how I find Shakespeare!) but this translation is written in a very straightforward way and it’s actually really easy to read.

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I love the look of this book. 

As ever, if you are serious about your classic Greek literature, this is not the review for you. Haha. Stay away! Otherwise, let’s see what happens from chapter 7…

Book 7

The Gods intervene again to make Hektor offer one on one combat to a Greek warrior. Any Greek warrior. Winner takes all.

No one’s that keen at first, but Menelaos starts to volunteer, calls the rest of them women (pfffft) and that shames nine of them into volunteering, Lots are drawn and Aias is the… winner?

They have a bit of a fight, seem equal, and then they are stopped because it’s night time. Seems quite badly planned tbh.

They go home for the night. It’s suggested in Troy that maybe they should… errrr… just give Helen back? along with all the stuff Paris nicked from them. He says he’ll give back the stuff, and some extra, but not Helen.

They have a break the next day to gather the dead on both sides and burn the bodies. The Greeks make one massive pyre and then build a fortress on top with massive gates, a big ditch with spikes etc

Poseidon is pissed off with this because they didn’t make any offerings to gods first. He’s stays quite grumpy about this throughout the story.

Finally Jason makes a cameo by popping over on a ship with some wine for the Greeks. Yey, Argonauts!

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err… hello

 

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That’s more like it. 

Book 8

There’s a bit of fighting. Mostly we’re with the Gods.

Zeus forbids any of the gods from interfering. He decides to help the Trojans himself. And he goes off to a mountain to watch for the day.

Hera and Athene decide to sod his orders, and suit up to go and help the Greeks. Luckily Zeus gets wind of this and sends Iris to warn them about the consequences. Basically he says he’ll lightning strike Athene so bad she won’t be healed for 10 years. He says he won’t do the same to Hera because he expects this behaviour from her. lol. They decide to heed the warning and go home.

Zeus returns from his day out. Athene sulks. Hera gives him some shit about it. I like Hera.

During some Gods discussion, the prophecy about Hektor only dying by Achilleus’ hand, after the death of Patroklos, is mentioned. Well, I think that’s going to be important later. *taps nose and winks*.

And that’s the end of another day.

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A futile attempt at reading The Iliad while the chaos of slime making goes on around me.

Book 9

The Greeks realise they are basically fucked without Achilleus. Agamemnon sends a party of two messengers and Odysseus, plus Aias and Phoinix, to tell Achilleus he can have his war bride back, plus some other lovely ladies, plus a load of stuff, and he can marry one of his daughters and have a massive kingdom (desperate much?).

Achilleus tells him to piss off, and says he might even go home the next day.

On returning to give Agamemnon the news, Diomedes, a younger warrior who is gaining confidence, says: Oh well sod him then. Lets just ignore him and get on with the fight.

Then everyone goes to sleep again.

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beer

Book 10

Diomedes and Odysseus decide to go on a spying mission to the Trojans. Meanwhile, coincidentally, Hektor sends his own spy to the Greeks.

Diomedes and Odysseus catch the spy on his way into the Greeks camp. They get some info from him and kill him.

They then go and kill a bunch of Trojans and nick some awesome horses.

Book 11

There’s fighting and all the key Greek fighters get some sort of injury. It’s not looking good.

Achilleus and Patroklus get back in on the story. Achilleus sends Patroklus to look at who is being brought back injured. This allows Nestor to tell Patroklus that things aren’t looking great… and maybe he can borrow Achilleus’ armour and… maybe just pretend to be Achilleus a bit and scare the Trojans…

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wine

Book 12

Wow. It’s all properly kicking off in Book 12, leading up to the half way point of the whole thing.

All the leading Greek fighters got injured so are out of action. The Trojans are feeling invincible, and the push back to the ditch/wall arrangement that the Greeks built a few chapters ago, is on. Even when their horses won’t cross the ditch they just leave them behind and go on foot.

The chapter leads up to a big battle at the wall. Hektor and Sarpedon are key Trojan figures for this part. Hektor leads an assault on one of the places to get through it. And just at the end of the chapter he manages to get through and the Trojans start scaling the walls and going through the gap and the Greeks scatter. It’s all looking terrible for the Greeks!

 

Can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Everyone is reading and loving Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, and now I’ve joined that club. It’s easy to see why this has been such a great success. It’s moving, funny, and relatable (maybe only in very small ways to some people! I’ll come back to this later).

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Eleanor Oliphant is a woman with serious social issues. She tries to convince herself she is fine, but she so clearly is not. We learn about her life, and slowly about her history. Some events happen to change her clearly carved out, rigid routine and the book follows the consequences of this. No spoilers here!

It’s such a great book. I really love Eleanor. She doesn’t do things just because it is expected, or the done thing. She questions everything and makes her own mind up about them. I loved this about her, probably because I’m a bit like that too. Not to aaaannnnyywhere near the extent that Eleanor is, but you know, I could see some of myself in her socially awkward charm.

 

I think most people occasionally feel like they don’t fit in, or feel a bit awkward. Maybe not everyone, I don’t know, there must be some psychopaths who never feel these things. And so I think everyone at some level can relate to Eleanor, even though she is very, very extreme. You also feel very sorry for Eleanor and her situation. From very early on you are rooting for her to get more in her life!

Eleanor’s observations can also be very funny.

I went to see Loretta, the office manager. She has overinflated ideas of her own administrative abilities, and in her spare time makes hideous jewellery, which she then sells to idiots.

I did feel personally attacked by this one though, on music and physics:

I have yet to find a genre of music that I enjoy; it’s basically audible physics, waves and energised particles, and, like most sane people, I have no interest in physics.

Oh, Eleanor.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine does go to very dark places, but even the darkest moments are littered with humour.

I wanted to die – this time, in addition to actually wanting to die, I meant it in the metaphorical sense too.

So join the bandwagon with me and, if you haven’t already read it, go and read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

 

The Pisces – Melissa Broder

I reeealllly enjoyed The Pisces by Melissa Broder. It’s very funny, I loved the main characters voice. It also contains quite a lot of erotic scenes, yey! It’s also dark. Very dark about love and obsession. The perfect triad of words to describe a book: funny, erotic, and dark.

… the darkness that inevitably fell when you spent too much time basking in the sun of a man.

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Our main character is Lucy. She is struggling to finish her PhD on Sappho when she has a devastating break up with her long term boyfriend. It causes her to spiral into a breakdown and she ends up recovering at her sister’s beach front house, in Venice CA, where she house sits and looks after her sister’s precious dog. She also has to attend group therapy where she meets other love obsessives in various states of control over themselves and their love lives. Lucy then meets a Merman, obviously, and falls for him hard.

I instantly fell in love with Lucy’s voice. The Pisces starts with her musing about picking up dog shit and I was with her. And it was gross. Lucy is wry, and sarcastic, and funny, and makes excellent observations about the people she meets.

On the therapy group she’s required to attend:

There were four women in the group, plus the therapist and me. But they all blurred together into a multiheaded hydra of desperation.

I identified with a lot of  Lucy’s situation, not all of it, thank god. But she is the same age as me. She is dating for the first time in a decade. Snap. She has PhD problems – mine are very historical, but snap. She is completely not in control of herself when it comes to men. Erm.. thankfully I’ve got a slightly better handle on this one! I agreed with a lot of her thoughts and observations. If you’ve read The Pisces, you can judge me accordingly!

On the outcome of a quite bad date:

Sure, the experience itself had been disappointing and gross, but at least it was different from the disappointment I’d grown used to in my years with Jamie.

She also makes quite a lot of references to Homer and the classics, but she is a PhD student studying Sappho, so it completely fits. Also, obviously she has met a mythical creature, so references to this type of thing is also to be expected. It fits in quite well with my summer reading of The Iliad. Serendipitous, you could say. As well as all the classics chat there are quality sentences like:

“The universe is a wanker,” she said

Clever things + swearing. I’m in heaven.

and if you’re in any doubt about the tone of The Pisces, I’ll end with this quote:

Didn’t we all just want a thousand hard cocks attached to the bodies of boys who have died for us, still warm, to plug our infinite holes?

I dunno this just seems appropriate to leave here…

Still Me – JoJo Moyes

I’m not going to say a lot about this book. I am definitely not the right person for the series of books this is part of (though I enjoyed the first one, Me Before You). Many, many people love this series, and that is great. They aren’t wrong, this book just isn’t for me.

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I ended up reading it because it was chosen for book club. I had already read the first in the series, but clearly I couldn’t skip the second book (After You), so this as a book club book, actually meant I had to read two books! Two books I didn’t like….. urrrghhhhhhhh…

Our main character is Louisa Clark. While still grieving for Will, and drifting aimlessly, she takes a job in New York as an assistant to a rich lady. We meet her as she arrives in New York having friendly banter with an immigration officer. Because that’s what immigration is exactly like in the USA.

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I did this one as an audio book.

She becomes the assistant of Agnes. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but she is concerned about men a lot. Then things happen where she feels sorry for herself, but then magical amazing things just land in her god-damned lap.

I get irked by the number of characters who are basic stereotypes, and I don’t really like Louisa either, though her character develops in this book to be more like I wanted her to be from the start!

The saving grace of Still Me is old lady Mrs De Witt. Fiesty, fashionable, ferocious Mrs De Witt. Thank you Mrs De Witt.

The End.

The Iliad – Homer (part 1 of 4)

As it is a literal epic, I’m splitting my review of The Iliad into four parts. Mostly because I’m summing up each chapter (called books in The Iliad) as I go through it, and because there’s 24 of them, it would be a bit much to put in one review! Plus I get to see I’m making progress!! So each part of the review deals with 6 of The Iliad’s 24 books.

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The cover is exciting.

Before I got started with this, I took some time to try and carefully choose which version of The Iliad I would read. There are many different translations, and you too can go online and read the pros and cons of each one. I can’t now remember why I decided to go with the Richard Lattimore translation, because it’s over a year ago that I bought it, but I’m happy with it. It doesn’t rhyme but it is actually really easy to read. This was a surprise! There is now a translation by Caroline Alexander, and articles about it tell me she is the first female translator of The Iliad. I’d definitely be interested in reading this version at some point.

I’ve been wanging on about wanting to read more really classic books for years, and finally, realised I could just actually do it. I worked out that, as part of my 20 Books of Summer challenge, I could get through it by reading 6 pages a day. This includes a really lengthy introduction. I was really encouraged by reading Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, as this is set amongst the events around the Iliad, so I felt like I was going into it with a clear idea of the story. I am also partly motivated by wanting to know more about it so I am better at answering quiz questions on the topic. I’ll let you know if this works. 😀

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don’t think I’ll need the calculator for this one.

If you are in any way an academic, or learned person, you should probably not read my summary of the story. Leave now.

The setting

We join the battle at Troy after it’s been going on for 10 years. The reason there’s a battle at all is because Trojan Paris went and stole Helen away from her husband, Menelaos. King of Sparta. The Greeks all join forces to go and get her back.

Book One

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Actually surprisingly easy to read.

Agamemnon has a war prize lady called Chryseis. Her Father is a priest of Apollo, Chryses. He brings ransom to Agamemnon and asks for his daughter back. Agamemnon tells him to do one. Chryses asks Apollo to step in and sort it out for him. Apollo begins to reign death and destruction on to the Greeks.

Achilleus asks Agamemnon to change his mind and give the daughter back, you know, to stop all the death and destruction. Agamemnon tells him to do one. But eventually is persuaded by all the death and destruction to give Chryseis back. He’s feeling all wounded though, and to save face he demands Achilles war bride, Briseis in return. Achilleus says if he takes Briseis he will be mega offended and won’t fight anymore. Agamemnon takes Briseis. Achilleus has a cry.

Achilleus cries to his mum about it (scary sea nymph, Thetis, a goddess of water). She goes and persuades Zeus to intervene on her son’s behalf by letting the Trojans win for a bit. Hera, Zeus’ sister-wife (wtf?) is well pissed off that Zeus has agreed to help Thetis and Achilleus, but she’s persuaded to let him get on with it. She’s fuming though, you can tell.

Book 2

Zeus is going to appear to Agamemnon in a dream and trick him into thinking the he’s on his side. He says he’s going to help make the Trojans weak

But then they all get on their ships to go home, so I think I might have misunderstood Zeus and his dream thing.

Odysseus nicks Agamemnon’s special sceptre and goes about trying to persuade everyone to stay and fight. He’s been persuaded to do this by Athene, who in turn was encouraged by Hera (Zeus’s sister-wife who was pissed off in book 1, remember).

Some banter happens, then they are all staying to fight.

Then about 100000 pages of listing everyone involved and how many ships they’ve got. OMG please stop.

Book 3.

They start to go back to fighting. On the way Paris goes ahead of the Trojans to offer himself to a Greek for a one on one fight. Menelaos steps forward and Paris shits himself and tries to go back into the main crowd of Trojans. Hektor shames him, and Paris then says, ‘yeh, well I would totally just fight Menelaos if everyone else would just sit down!’

Hektor gets them all to sit down and arranges the one on one fight. Obviously there’s sacrifices that must be made first, and important people brought to watch (Priam, Paris’s father, and Helen). The winner gets Helen, and everyone will then go home.

They fight, but gods intervene (Aphrodite for Paris). Aphrodite just whisks him away to his bed, and then makes Helen go to him. Helen is well pissed off.

Agamemnon rages outside and declare Menelaos has won. And all the Greeks cheer. End of Book 3.

Book 4

The Gods are sat around like they are spectating the battle at a stadium. Zeus needs to decide if he should make the battle continue, or make them all friends. It’s decided there should be more battle, with the Trojans breaking the oath made previously.

Athene goes and persuades a Trojan archer to try and kill Menelaos. He tries, but she goes and makes sure it’s only a bad scratch.

Fighting ensues.

Book 5

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A good Friday night in. Awesome sticker being used as a book mark. Special pencil. haha.

More fighting happens.

Diomedes, the greatest Greek fighting, while Achilleus is not participating, is in a proper battle fury and kills loads of people.

What happens next is the pesky gods start to intervene. Athene helps out, Aphrodite gets involved. Ares goes battle crazy and ends up on a super murderous spree for the Trojans. Then Athene gets permission from Zeus to sort him out.

It ends with a petulant Ares going whinging to his Dad, and his Dad (Zeus) gives him a ticking off. It is not OK to go on a mad killing spree for the Trojans, son.

Book 6

Some fighting happens without any Gods intervening. Hektor gets sent back to Troy to tell the ladies to make an offering of a robe to Athene to see if she’ll help them again. She ignores them. While he’s there he tells Paris to stop sitting about and actually do some fighting. He visits his wife. Then Hektor and Paris set off back to the fighting. That took 15 pages.

****

Just a quick note: I’ve tried my best to stick to the spellings of names as they appear in my version of The Iliad. Some characters have several names, but I’m sticking to just one in my review, because otherwise it’s super confusing. Paris is also called Alexandros, for example. The Greeks are also referred to as the Danaans, the Argives, and the Achaeans. Quite.

Bet you can’t wait for part 2!!!!!!

 

Conclave – Robert Harris

A book about a bunch of old dudes sitting around and choosing the next Pope. Sorry, a THRILLER about choosing a Pope. What?? I was glad this was chosen for book club because I couldn’t see how this book could possibly be as good as everyone said it was.

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I ended up really enjoying Conclave. It makes a nice change to have elderly people as the all the main characters. I wasn’t so enamoured about the dude level of this story, but I can forgive it because at least there was a clear reason for it! The youngest cardinal in the conclave is a sprightly 62, and all the reeeaaalllly old ones (over 80 years old) are not allowed in to vote.

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I liked how the ‘action’ was centred around these old dudes and them having meals, then being shuffled off the the Sistine Chapel for a round of voting or two, then back for a meal, then a bit more voting, then another meal, and to bed! There were some events that happened in the outside world, but it barely affects our conclave of elderly cardinals.

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Having said all that, there builds a real anticipation over events. I almost cried when the next Pope was chosen. As if! Me, a committed atheist, almost moved to tears by a fictional Pope being decided on. Craziness. And of course none of the events are going to be as straightforward as they could be, even if a few things were a little predictable, not everything was.

I’ve also learned more than I could possible want to know about the choosing of a Pope. I ended up on a Wikipedia adventure after the Pope who exploded is mentioned. And I now know more than I could ever want to know about Cardinal clothes.