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url 2018-08-23 16:01
Podcast #115 is up!
Before and After Alexander: The Legend and Legacy of Alexander the Great - Richard A. Billows

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Richard A. Billows about his book assessing the factors behind Alexander the Great's success as a conqueror (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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text 2018-08-20 09:17
Lost real estate Property Documents? You Can Get Duplicate Documents

Worried what to do if you lose your property real estate athens greece documents? No worries! Now, you can easily get the duplicate ones that would help you to carry out the activities efficiently. You may need to file a police complaint that would help you to safeguard your documents and thus you can feel confident knowing your documents won’t get any unauthorized access.

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Creating an Advertisement with the help of real estate agents in Athens Greece

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review 2018-08-16 07:45
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel - Daphne du Maurier

Philip Ashley's older cousin Ambrose, who raised the orphaned Philip as his own son, has died in Rome. Philip, the heir to Ambrose's beautiful English estate, is crushed that the man he loved died far from home. He is also suspicious. While in Italy, Ambrose fell in love with Rachel, a beautiful English and Italian woman. But the final, brief letters Ambrose wrote hint that his love had turned to paranoia and fear. Now Rachel has arrived at Philip's newly inherited estate. Could this exquisite woman, who seems to genuinely share Philip's grief at Ambrose's death, really be as cruel as Philip imagined? Or is she the kind, passionate woman with whom Ambrose fell in love? Philip struggles to answer this question, knowing Ambrose's estate, and his own future, will be destroyed if his answer is wrong.

Amazon.com

 

 

Orphaned at a mere 18 months of age, Phillip Ashley is taken in and raised by his much older cousin, Ambrose. Over the years, Ambrose grooms young Phillip to one day take over as heir to Ambrose's Cornish estate. Then the time come when Ambrose embarks on one of his frequent trips to Florence (where he spends the winters so as not to aggravate his health problems). This year though, Ambrose writes to Phillip to say he has become quite enamored by a woman by the name of Rachel, a distant cousin. The letters continue to come, illustrating the rapid development of the relationship. Before long Ambrose sends word that he and Rachel have married.

 

Ambrose extends his stay in Florence, renting a home there. Ten months away from England, his letters turn from that of a blissed out newlywed to being saturated in melancholy.  The letters get alarmingly more frantic, showing a mental breakdown. A year and a half passes and Ambrose's letters begin arriving in near illegible script and a distinctly paranoid tone. Then one last cryptic letter comes urging Phillip to come quick to Italy, writing "she watches me... Rachel, my torment."  Unfortunately, Ambrose dies before Phillip's arrival, so explanations regarding Ambrose's state of mind at the end remain elusive. 

 

Phillip returns to England to take up his position as the new heir to Ambrose's estate. Shortly after settling into this new role, he gets word that Ambrose's widow is due to arrive any minute and wishes to spend some time on the land that meant so much to her husband. 

 

The novel is narrated by Phillip. Through him, we get a first hand account of his initial impressions of Rachel, even how he imagined her from Ambrose's letters. He gives her a pretty hilarious ripping (describing what he imagines pre-introduction) but in person he finds her quite beautiful and beguiling. Still, he can't entirely shake suspicions that she may have had something to do with Ambrose's unexpected passing. They have a bit of a rocky start, but later Phillip chocks it up (at least in part) to Rachel having difficulty with his physical likeness to Ambrose. 

 

 

Also in the mix is Phillip's longtime friend, Louise --- honestly, my favorite character in the whole story. Her quietly slipped in snark! When Rachel first arrives, Louise later remarks, "Mourning certainly does not appear drab on her." Reading that brought to my mind the scene in Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind when Scarlett goes to that first dance / social event after being widowed. But it irked me how annoying and almost bratty Phillip was around Louise. His poor behavior left me feeling like he certainly didn't deserve a friend of Louise's caliber. 

 

A historical note in the edition I read from mentioned that du Maurier may have based Cousin Rachel off of Ellen Doubleday (wife of Nelson Doubleday of Doubleday Publishing), whom it was speculated Daphne had "confused" (as the historical note worded it) feelings for. Going into a du Maurier novel, it's often a given to expect a certain level of mystery to the plot. With this one, there were bits of mystery / intrigue here and there, but overall I didn't find as much suspense as I would normally expect from her work. Rachel was painted a bit like a Borgia in the beginning, but the element of suspense fizzed out a bit as the story progresses. While Rachel is undoubtedly an intriguing character, du Maurier doesn't quite land the full punch in terms of the character's level of sly dastardly-ness.

 

 

 

 

 

But true to her reputation, even here du Maurier does leave questions for the reader to work out. Was there a deeper motive behind the birthday plan? I was perplexed by Phillip's decision!

 

Even so, I appreciated the subtle wit sprinkled throughout passages of dialogue. It's what held my interest during the bits where not much else was going on! 

 

So how does the recent film adaptation hold up? Honestly, I preferred the film! One of the troubles I had with the book is the feeling that sense that du Maurier was not sufficiently answering all the questions or conflicts she posed in the book. But the film expands on what du Maurier offers and gives readers some nice closure on some of those topics, particularly with the film's ending. Some scenes in the film were so beautifully shot they reminded me of Impressionist paintings... it was hard not to be instantly captivated! 

 

 

 

Some changes that caught my attention though:

 

* The whole scene Rachel has in front of the Arno River seems to be cut from the film. The thoughts she had in that book scene, in the film she speaks them to Rinaildi.

 

* Rachel Weisz, cast as Cousin Rachel, plays the conversation regarding Italian lessons in a rather weepy tone, which threw me. The way the scene is laid out in the book, I imagined the lines delivered with much more of a dark humor with a side of steely glint in the eye vibe.... but the 2nd fight later on was shot just about how I pictured it!

 

* The candles! So many candles SO close to canopy bed drapes! Made me wonder about fires on set lol

 

* It might just be me on this one, but I felt like some scenes had some odd close-ups, strange angle choices, and sometimes even just straight up out of focus. 

 

Overall, the film adaptation is pretty faithful to the book. A good chunk of the dialogue in the film is actually pulled verbatim from the book text. Not surprisingly though, the film does blaze through a number of plot points in the interest of time. One of the major reveals near the novel's end actually shows up smack in the middle of the film!

 

I would definitely recommend reading the book first to experience all these little nuances yourself, but either way there's a pretty good story to be had here... the film brings out what the book dropped off! But as Roger Michell, the film's director, put it: "Of course, the best version of all, perfectly cast, impeccably lit and designed, with the greatest soundscape, most dizzying score, infinite budget and cast of thousands, will always be the one projected into the keen reader's imagination as she or he turns the pages that follow."

 

 

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review 2018-08-13 16:09
The shoulders of giants, the exaggeration of inheritors
Before and After Alexander: The Legend and Legacy of Alexander the Great - Richard A. Billows

In this book, the classical scholar Richard Billows offers something different from the histories of the Alexander-centric historians who have preceded him. Rather than concentrating on Alexander, Billows expands his focus to  encompass the pre-Alexander history of his homeland of Macedonia and the fate of his empire that followed. Though these subjects have been addressed by others, by bringing them together into a single book, Billows assesses Alexander's achievements from a different perspective and the result is quite different from what might expect from previous books on the Macedonian conqueror.

 

The greatest consequence of Billows's approach is the highlighting of the achievements of Alexander's father, Philip. A great conqueror in his own right, while his reign has been overshadowed by his son, Billows makes clear how much of Alexander's success were due to his father's accomplishments. It was with Philip's army and Philip's commanders that Alexander waged his campaigns, which often used tactics that predated Alexander to win in battle. Yet Billows also notes that Philip himself was hardly an innovator, as he drew upon the experiences of decades of Greek wars in building his army into the Asian-conquering force of legend. This army was also the product of a region ripe for success, for as Billows details, its climate and geography gave it several natural advantages over the more tenuously-existing Green city states to the south.

 

From this perspective, Alexander's achievements were less as a creator than as an exploiter. This Billows underscores by emphasizing the unsustainable nature of his empire. As their abandonment so soon after Alexander's death makes clear, the Indian and Afghan territories comprising the easternmost edge of his conquests were simply too far off to be controlled from his resource base in Macedonia. While his plans for campaigns in North Africa and southern Europe may have been more realistic, they demonstrate that the essence of Alexander's achievements was conquest rather than construction. In this respect, his successors the diadochi deserve more credit for developing his legacy than Alexander himself merits, yet they too are often given only passing mention in most Alexander-centric considerations of the period.

 

All of this Billows lays out in an accessibly fluid text that makes for easy reading. He pulls no punches in his assessment of the "great" conqueror, and in doing so offers a valuable corrective to the overlarge reputation Alexander enjoys today. This is a book that anybody interested in a measured assessment of the legendary figure, one that details just how much of it rested on the shoulders of his predecessors and depended on the achievements of his successors.

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review 2018-07-11 16:05
My one-hundred and eleventh podcast is up!
The Treasures of Alexander the Great: How One Man's Wealth Shaped the World - Frank L. Holt

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Frank L. Holt about his examination of how Alexander the Great financed his many conquests and what he did with the loot he seized. Enjoy!

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