Tag Archives: review

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 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 ofΒ  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…

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. πŸ˜€

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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!!!!!!

 

20 Books of Summer – Month 1 Update

I’m taking part in the 20 Books of Summer Challenge. It’s exactly what you think: try to read 20 books over June, July and August. I like this challenge because it’s jut a bit more than I normally read, and I have my long summer holiday to help!

I also find it amusing that I can not stick to the intended plan. I set out at the beginning what I think I’d like to read, then it goes off track quite quickly.

So how am I doing after month 1? I finished 6 books plus read a third of The Iliad, so that’s perfectly on track. Two of the books were quite short, but that’s ok.

Here’s the original list, ones I’ve read in red, links to reviews at the end. Books not on the original list are just tagged onto the end.

  1. Homegoing – Yaa GyasiΒ (review)
  2. Still Me – Jojo Moyes
  3. Conclave – Robert Harris
  4. Sarah – J.T. Leroy
  5. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley – Charlotte Gordon
  6. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
  7. How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne
  8. The Pisces – Melissa Broder
  9. How Not to be a Boy – Robert Webb
  10. Β Things a Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls
  11. The Iliad – Homer
  12. Story – Robert McKee (review)
  13. How To Stop Time – Matt Haig (review)
  14. 2666 – Roberto Bolano
  15. Β I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  16. The Dark Dark – Samantha Hunt
  17. Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life – Helen Czerski
  18. The Dark Road to Mercy – Wiley Cash
  19. My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  20. The Mother of All Questions – Rebecca Solnit
  21. Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates (review)
  22. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf (review)
  23. Little Black Book – Otegha Uwagba (review)

I realise I’m writing this halfway through July, and so really I’ve already read 3 more books! Shhhhh those will be in the next update!

How to Stop Time – Matt Haig

Living for hundreds of years and love. That’s what How to Stop Time is about. Plus a bit of an action thriller element. But mostly about love, and loss, and how to love, and is life meaningful if you don’t love?

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I know, clean my shoes. Do it now. Do it immediately.

Our main character, Tom Hazard, is over 400 years old. We catch up with him as he takes a job as a history teacher, in modern day London. Interwoven with this story are various stories from Tom’s past. There aren’t too many different times and stories to contend with, it all works very well together and isn’t confusing at all.

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Train reading and excellent book mark from Tate in Liverpool.

I’m not going to give away any of the plot here, but it’s well worth a read. There are a few famous historical figures turning up, which I didn’t really like, but it was minimal enough to not be that annoying!

And just because I’ve got a friend called Martin, here is my favourite quote from the whole book:

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Pahahaha

Little Black Book – Otegha Uwagba

A super short guide to how to successfully carve out a career in the creative industries. It is full of very useful advice, especially relevant to freelancers, and people who work in an area where people will often want to try and get you to work for free.

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It definitely took me longer than 32 minutes to read this. What is that time calculator on?

When I got this book, I didn’t really think about how focussed it would be on creative jobs. I realise this is probably very idiotic of me, because every description of it mentions it being an ‘essential handbook for creative working women’.

Also, it is probably more useful for younger people. I am not young, and I am not in a creative job. So this book isn’t really for me, but I enjoyed the easy style of the writing, and it is full of confidence building advice.

This book is really great for any young woman, aiming for a creative career. I still got quite a bit out of it, but yeh…. comfy, old woman, never going to change jobs ever because mine is ace. Not written for me, clearly! I would buy it for any young women I know though.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

A really engaging read about eight generations of a family, starting with two sisters, Effia and Esi, one sold into slavery, one becoming a slave traders wife. We follow each side of the family by generation, in turn. This means we have what is essentially fourteen short stories about (mostly) new, but connected characters each time.

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Great read.

From the back of the book:

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader’s wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow: from thr Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem. Spanning continents and generations, Yaa Gyasi has written a miraculous novel – an intense, heartbreaking story of one family and, through their lives, the story of America itself.

The first stories take place around 1770, on the African Gold Coast, the final stories take place in modern day United States, and also back on the Gold Coast. One side of the stories follows the family into the United States and into slavery. The other side of the family stay in Africa, and only in the final generation make the journey to the United States.

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Classic book and beer combo.

The book read, to me, very much like a collection of short, connected stories. Almost every story has a new setting, new characters, and a new focus. Each chapter was written so well, I quickly cared for and got involved in the new story. This is almost miraculous to be able to keep this up through fourteen chapters, and is a real testament to the excellent writing and the engaging stories.

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Such a beautiful cover

I have read quite a lot of books about slavery in the United States (notably The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Beloved by Toni Morrison), and I really liked how in parallel to the United States experiences, you get stories of the same time period on the Gold Coast. It’s a perspective I’ve never read about in fiction before.

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What book are in your bag today?

I don’t want to get into describing the individual stories – we would be here for a while! It is a great read. Really interesting to get the different aspects of the slave trade on the two different continents, and I would really recommend it. I read this for a book club I’m in, and it was overwhelmingly loved!