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text 2017-02-22 05:13
Fiasco and WTF
Venom and Vanilla (The Venom Trilogy) - Shannon Mayer

Uff da, this is some silly stuff.

 

Venom and Vanilla started with a bang. We're introduced to Alena on her death bed, cut down by a communicable disease that's so virulent that she's flown out to Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle to die isolated and alone. It's a sad, slow beginning, nostalgic for her simple life and small rebellions. Alena was a member of the Firstamentalists, an almost cult-like religious group who brooked no contact with the Supernaturals: vampires, werewolves, etc. Of course, fiction being what it is, the narrative lack dictates that, in order to cure the fatal disease rapidly killing her, Alena must become a Supernatural. 

 

I actually loved watching a protagonist struggle with her religion. Alena holds to her principles, even though she'd long questioned them, long past my expectations. While I found her childish refusal to do anything close to cussing annoying -- for fuck's sake, donkey butt has nowhere near the frisson of asshole -- I commend the commitment to character. Alena is a good girl, a religious girl, and she's not going to shed her convictions just because she's like a giant snake or there's a hot vampire or whatever. 

 

But that's about where I stop my praise, because this novel is such an absolute fiasco. Alena is turned into an ancient Greek monster by Merlin, THE Merlin, of all people, to be murdered by Achilles, who is apparently a thing, and Zeus works for Wal*Mart, plus there are vampires and naga and werewolves and satyr and god knows what fuck all. Oh, and there's a standard dystopia where Supes are second class citizens dumped onto the other side of a wall (oops, sorry Canada, you're now the dumping ground for supernatural creatures). 

 

This is one of those stories that is so far gone that I enjoyed it, just waiting for whatever bananas ass shit was going to happen next. Lightning shootout in Wal*Mart? Fine. Naked girl fight in a Queen Anne neighborhood attic? Sure. Casual slut shaming while reveling in the lead's nascent sexuality? Whatever. A house-sized snake fighting minotaurs? I guess. So much random shit happens, SO MUCH. SO MANY characters hide footballs, and not even stealthily, but like right in front of you like you don't have eyes in your head. It's so blatant it passes over insulting into something else completely. 

 

Anyway, I guess what I want to say is that the reader for the audio is fucking amazing, and I think she's the only reason I finished this thing. Her name is Saskia Maarleveld, and I really like her voice. 

 

The End. 

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review 2016-12-30 19:26
Review: A Killer Kebab
A Killer Kebab (A Greek to Me Mystery) - Susannah Hardy

See this and all of my reviews at Mystereity Reviews

With The Bonaparte House closed for the season and her mother in law gone for the winter, Georgie is looking forward to a relaxing winter; having a some long needed work done on the restaurant's bathrooms, catching up on her reading and plans to throw a huge Thanksgiving dinner. After the contractors demolish the bathrooms, Georgie finds the body of James MacNamara, her divorce lawyer, dead on the floor, stabbed with a Kebab skewer! When Russ, the son of Georgie's employee, falls under suspicion, Georgie puts aside her dislike for Russ, who has caused trouble for Georgie in the past, and starts investigating, uncovering several suspects with some very big motives to commit murder.

This is a cute cozy series, well written with great characters and intriguing plots and Killer Kebab is no different. With a well paced multi-dimensional plot that kept me turning pages, the book deftly juggles several storylines, including the murder, a mysterious illness at the resort owned by Georgie's friend, and even the mystery of an original recipe for Thousand Island dressing, all sprinkled with a bit of humor. Although there was a lot going on in the book, it was all well plotted and easy to follow, and that's what makes this series so enjoyable. But it was the shocking ending that really makes this a 5 star book. I dare you to read this and tell me that you saw the end coming. Go on! I dare you!

There's some great recipes at the end of the book, and I'm going to try the Maple Walnut Sandies very soon, and the Tiropita (Greek Cheese Pie) sounds so easy (and so tasty!) I've got try it at some point.

Overall, Killer Kebab is an entertaining read to curl up with, and will keep you guessing until the very end.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-25 11:05
Secret Women's Business
The Thesmophoriazusae (Or The Women's Festival) - Aristophanes

I actually quite like Aristophanes, not because he is a brilliant playwright, though since eleven of his works have survived 2500 years I really do not think that I am in a position to comment on his ability. Obviously there is a reason, and probably a good reason, not only why his plays have managed to survive, but that his plays managed to survive a somewhat puritan Dark Ages where pretty much anything that wasn't Christian was discarded. Okay, that is probably a bit too general since the Catholic Church didn't really begin banning books until after the Catholic Reformation (and despite my respect for my former Church History Lecturer, I still somewhat disagree with his assessment of the Catholic Reformation).

Aristophanes' comedies stand out in two ways: first of all they give as an insight into the common people of Athens of the 4th century, and also gives us an understanding, and some very good examples, of the vernacular language. It is the difference between reading a book written in proper English and a book that relies heavily upon a region's slang (such as Australia: for instance, the word <i>sook</i> and <i>prima-donna</i> mean the same thing, but in Australia we use the former, where as the latter is probably a more polite and correct usage). The second thing about Aristophanes' plays is that they are incredibly imaginative, and in some cases quite fantastic. Moreso, the plays are actually pretty funny and remains so despite the 2500 year gap and the language complications. Okay, a lot of the humour (such as the puns) are lost, however the Barrett translation of his works is still very good (and he even manages to use a rhyme scheme in places, noting that English is probably the only language, at least what I know of, that uses rhyme as a poetical form).

The Thesmophoriazusae is one of those interesting, and imaginative, plays that also gives us a bit of an insight into Classical Athens. Remember that the tragedies are written in a stylised language, and people do not, and have not, transacted like that. People in Elizabethan England did not talk to each other using blank verse and Shakespearian language. While the vernacular was no doubt a lot different to what it is now, they still used it. The only time such high form language would have been used would have been in diplomacy, and even then I can't imagine Queen Elizabeth and the King of France speaking to each other (or even writing to each other) in blank verse.

The play is set around a festival known as the Thesmophoria, which was a woman's only festival that lasted three days at a place known as the Pynx. Having read this play I have now learnt that the Pynx was the location of the assembly (I always thought it was the Areopagous, but that was the high court). Type Pynx into Google Images to get an idea of what it looked like, and I have also managed to locate it on the Google Maps image of Athens. It is located to the west of the Acropolis just to the southwest of the intersection of Dimitriou Aiginitou and Apostolou Pavlou. From what I can remember of Athens, there is a promenade that runs along the south side of the Acropolis, and then another path to the west heads uphill, past the Areopogaus, and then curves around to the north of the Acropolis (with a gate that leads to the Agora). Anyway, you do not take that path, but actually continue along the promenade to the west, and it will then curve to the north, but you should be able to find it (and if you don't ask somebody, they do tend to be quite helpful in Greece). Okay, that is enough of me showing off how well I know Athens after spending only a week there, so now onto the play.

 

Pynx and Acropolis

 

The play is about Euripides and how he learns that the women of Athens are upset about his portrayal of them, so he decides to sneak into the Thesmophoria in an attempt to convince the women that he was not all that bad. However, his plan involved a young Athenian who had yet grown a beard (all Athenian men had beards, some quite long at that) to disguise himself as a woman and sneak into the festival. However, this young Athenian didn't want anything to do with it so he gets his brother-in-law, the foul mouthed Mnesilochus, to do it instead. Obviously getting Mnesilochus to act like a woman was never going to work, and sure enough he ends up getting found out and tied to a stake to be executed. However Euripides comes in and convinces them (through a fine sounding argument) to release him.

 

 

This play is clearly about women and their role in Athenian society. It is not incredibly deep, but it is clear that the women, despite their lower status in the society, did have some freedom, and also the right to religious celebration (as is clear with the Thesmophoria). These women though are compared to two women from antiquity, namely the model wife that is Penelope, and Euripides' presentation of Helen. Sections of the play actually recite Euripides' Helen, and while I will not go into details of that play here, I will simply mention that the purpose behind Helen was to redeem her in the eyes of the Athenians. Euripides borrowed from a legend that had the Helen of Troy as nothing more than a mischievous phantom, and that the real Helen had been kidnapped by the king of Egypt and that was were she spent the war. In Euripides' mind, Helen was innocent of the charges laid against her.

 

 

This is why I find the play rather strange because Euripides is being accused of being anti-women, but it is quite clear from his writings that he is not. Of the plays that I have read, particularly the ones involving women, they are the tragic figures. Consider Medea, Hecabe, Helen, and Iphangenia. They were all innocent of any crimes, yet suffered simply because they were women. In fact, with regards to Medea, it is Jason that is considered to be the antagonist by tossing Medea out of his bed for a younger, more influential, woman.

 

However, the charges that Euripides (and in a way Aristophanes) is that the women of then modern Athens, were nothing like those women in Euripides' plays. In fact they came nowhere close to them in virtue. Remember, at this time Athens was in the middle of a very long and drawn out war, which means that a lot of the young men were off fighting leaving only the women, the children, and the elderly at home in Athens. It is suggested here, and it is the bait that Euripides uses to free Mnesilochus from the Thesmophoria, namely that while the cat is away then the mice are at play. Of course, you don't want anybody telling the husbands what their women were up to when they returned, and in a way this is a reflection of the Orestia, despite that play being written prior to the Peloponesian War.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/348724269
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review 2016-12-14 08:06
Good food, a magical place, and a sweet and enchanting romance
The Amulet - Mrs Effrosyni Moschoudi

I obtained a free ARC copy of the novel and I voluntarily decided to review it. I had read great reviews of Effrosyni Moschoudi’s novels but hadn’t read any yet and couldn’t resist when I had the chance to grab this novel, as I am interested in books featuring angels, and must confess that the cover caught my attention. This light romantic comedy introduces us not only to nice characters, like Katie, and all the staff and guests at Sifnos but also to quite a few supernatural beings and to Sifnos, a wonderful Greek island. Katie is a young woman who despite her studies and interest in tourism, ends up working at a pipes’ factory due to the economic crisis in Greece. She is kind and generous, but she is not happy due to her job situation. Her boss is a terrible woman (although Katie learns through the novel that we should not be too quick to judge others), and she ends up getting sacked. Her kindness is recompensed by Esmera, a gipsy woman who holds a few secrets and more than a bit of magic up her sleeve. She gives Katie an amulet, an angel pendant that changes her life. She gets a new job working in a small hotel at Sifnos, and her own personal angel, gorgeous Aggelos. This is a gentle comedy, where all the characters are memorable people we’d like to meet in real life, where there is some drama and minor crises, but never taken to extremes, and where the love story is gentle, fumbling, but never heats up to adult level. It is family-friendly, although it touches sad subjects too, but always in a sensitive way. Although readers might think they are on familiar ground (and in some ways, that is the case), there are surprises and a great twist at the end that makes the ending more joyful. The writing is fluid, easy to read, and although it shares the story from several points of view (always in the third person), it does not result confusing. The way the story is told might make us think we’re ahead of the main character, but it never reveals all its secrets and manages to make us keep reading. Without making use of heavy descriptions, the author manages to create an enchanting image of Sifnos, with its beautiful villages, beaches, tavernas and traditions. I must warn readers that it’s best not to indulge in this novel when they’re feeling hungry because the descriptions of Greek food might result in slobbering all over their Kindle. In sum, a thoroughly enjoyable light read, full of magic, that will make you want to travel to Greece and will leave you with a smile on your face, planning your next holidays (and setting off for the nearest Greek restaurant!).

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review 2016-12-04 06:50
The Greek Genesis
Theogony (Classical Library) - Hesiod,Richard S. Caldwell,Richard Caldwell

There seems to be a debate as to the usefulness of this little text and I would pretty much fall into the category of not much. The reason that I say that is because if this book was lost then we would lose very little of our understanding of Greek Mythology. Everything that is contained in this little book is also contained in more expanded works such as the Library of Greek Mythology and Ovid. While it is a primary source, it is still something that we could probably do without. Fortunately its small size means that it does not take up much space on my bookshelf, however I would probably not find myself ever actually needing to reference it. Okay, we could probably use it to talk about the accuracy of later works, but then again, this is Greek mythology, there is no consistency in it. In fact, there isn't even any consistency with the twelve tasks of Heracles.

 

Now, you would probably say that since this book is one of the earliest Greek texts then it gives us an idea of the development of Greek mythology, and yes, that is probably true to an extent, and from an anthropological view that is probably important, but I am not interested in that. On the other hand a lot of authors seem to look back at Hesiod with some sought of awe, and granted, it helps us understand the background from which they were writing, but remember most of Greek mythology back at this time was passed down by word of mouth and Hesiod is only one view of it.

 

I have written before, and will continue to write, about how my position with regards to the Greek gods is that they were humans that were deified, and Hesiod once again goes on to prove that point. This is a genealogical text much in the same way that sections of the Bible are genealogical texts, however by the time that Hesiod came around the Greek Gods had already been deified. There are some major differences between the two forms of genealogy though. As mentioned, the non-biblical genealogies tend to deal only with the gods, unless you are looking at a familial genealogy, where as the Biblical genealogies all deal with humans, and the Bible is very specific that the people mention in the genealogies are human. Secondly the biblical genealogies actually serve a purpose where as the non-biblical genealogies are simply a list of names.

 

The purpose of the biblical genealogy is to trace the line of people who in the end become the ancestors of Christ. These genealogies tend to reach their fulfillment in the Gospels, with both Matthew and Luke (and also, as some have argued, with John as well) containing genealogies. We do note that there are differences in the genealogies, and some have criticised the Bible for that, but I will simply say that the differences simply come out of methodology as opposed to inherent errors. My understanding is that in both maths and science one can reach the same proof even though two different methodologies were used.

 

Basically, whenever we see a genealogy in the Old Testament we are always looking at how it is directing us towards the saviour that was promised in Genesis 3. For those who are familiar with these genealogies you will note that they tend to only go down in one line, meaning that while a list of children may be given, the genealogy will end up focusing only one a handful of these children to narrow it down to a specific point. The exception is the table of nations in Genesis 10, the purpose of which is to outline the beginning of the nations as the readers would have known them to be at the time (namely during the Exodus). We do see a similarity between the table of nations and some Greek genealogies as it appears that a nation back then was defined by the father of the nation as opposed to a specific culture, language group, or location (and Apollodorus does give us that idea in the library of Greek Mythology).

 

There is a mention of the war of the Gods in Hesiod, and once again I have speculated on the origins of these wars. They can be twofold. The first is the idea that these wars developed out of different tribal groups moving into an already inhabited area bring their own culture and gods with them, winning a victory over the inhabitants, and installing their own culture (as defined by their gods). For instance, in early times we have a people group who worshipped Chronos as their chief God, but then they are invaded by a people who worshipped Zeus as their chief God and as the new group overran and conquered the old group, then Chronos was sidelined in favour of Zeus.

 

The second idea is the idea that I have proposed that these gods are little more than deified humans whose existence has been lost in the midst of times, so what we are actually seeing is some form of succession crisis. This would be particularly relevant if we are looking at an Antediluvian civilisation. In the era of short life spans and high morality, such succession crises would not be evident since when the old king died then the new king would still be old enough to assume the throne, but young enough not to have a number of children that would have to wait a long time for them to ascend the throne amongst a multitude of competeing claims. It differs today in that the Queen of England, the matriarch of the royal family, is still alive and well, and her grandchildren are now ready to marry and have kids. Pope John Paul II was the oldest living Pope in the history of the papacy, and it is likely that Pope Benedict will be around for a long time yet (unless he meets either with an unfortunate accident, or is removed for some reason or another - noting that this review was written prior to him stepping down).

 

When you have the antediluvian civilisation, where biblically (and elsewhere) you have people living for hundreds of years, even if you did not begin having children until the age of a hundred, by the time you die (even if it is five to six hundred years old) you still have at least four living generations below you, all of them struggling to get your position, and knowing that for them to get to that position they would have to wait a very long time. This is something that we see in this text, namely a fear in Chronos that his children would rise up and overthrow him, so he acts proactively and removes them before they have a chance of removing him. Much of it is allegorical though (and for the sake of space I will not go into detail here, for instance the gods all seem to have been born as adults, and also Chronos eats his children, but upon his defeat, all of them are released) so it can be difficult to understand what actually went on, though to take it literally can in itself be dangerous (and also somewhat ridiculous).

 

The final point I wish to make is the interesting note that Hesiod was a shephard tending sheep on Mount Helicon when he received this vision and wrote it down. This is something that seems to happen throughout the history of humanity in that many religious icons seem to have come from humble pasts and have made a tremendous impact upon human history. Many have suggested (and it is true to an extent) that history, up until the mid 18th century, was written by the upper class. However the reason for that is because it was only the upper class that had the time to write histories, as well as being the only ones who could read and write. However, this is not always the case, particularly with these early civilisations, because much of the history was passed down by word of mouth. This is why we can have shepherds actually becoming literary heroes because they did not need to read and write, they simply needed to be able to tell a story people could remember, and also convince them that they had a vision (or actually have had a vision) to make people sit up and listen.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/440745452
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