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review 2017-11-18 20:04
Representation of Human: "The Odyssey" by Homer (translated by Robert Fitzgerald; read by Dan Stevens)
The Odyssey: The Fitzgerald Translation - Homer,Robert Fitzgerald,D. S. Carne-Ross

I humbly declare this book to be the greatest literary work of mankind. If you don't learn Greek (worth it just to read this Meisterwerk, never mind the rest of the immortal trove of Greek literature) you can read it in so many translations that have become classics in their own use of the English language, Fagles and Murray, just to mention two. Oh, what the Hades, let's throw in a third, not just for its brilliant translation, but also owing to the exotic character behind it: no less than Lawrence of Arabia.

 

The Homeric poems were sung in a less-enlightened time, in comparison with the later Greek tragedies, and with the later epics too. Apollonius' Argonautica was composed, post Greek Tragedy, and his audience would have been, no doubt, familiar with Euripides' Medea. Questions such as how justice and revenge affect societies were addressed by Aeschylus in the Oresteia; likewise, the reception of the anthropomorphic gods, and their pettiness, was raised by Euripides in Hippolytus and the Bacchae. Furthermore, the real nature and brutality of warfare was also raised in the Trojan Women. Throw in how one state views another state, and questions of racial identity, and you have The Persians by Aeschylus, and Medea by Euripides. Additionally, if you include Philoctetes by Sophocles, and the issue of how youth should conduct themselves is also raised. If you consider, too, Ajax by Sophocles, and you find that the bloodthirsty myths of an earlier age are filtered through questions that C5 Athenian society faced. What is better, the brute force of an unsophisticated Ajax, or the sophistry and rhetorical arguments of Odysseus in Ajax? By the time we arrive at Virgil, and The Aenied, brutal events such as the death of Priam by Neoptolemus in Aeneid Book II, are tempered with a more enlightened approach. Neoptolemus is condemned for killing Priam, and rightly so, as mercy is important, and exemplifies the Romanitas of 'Sparing the humble, and conquering the proud'. However, Aeneas doesn't show mercy in his killing of Turnus at the end of Book XII.

 

 

If you're into Greek Literature, read on.

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review 2017-11-14 19:59
Review: A Natural
A Natural: A Novel - Ross Raisin

Let's get something out of the way. I don't always like the rules. I think all of us can agree that sometimes the rules are stupid. I don't always play by the rules, but sometimes I do. And sometimes I just dance around the issue discussing the rules instead of getting to the point... I was raised in the States and so, we have a little sport we call soccer. Growing up, I believed that's what its name was until, later in life, I learned that much of the rest of the world calls it football. That makes sense. I like that name better. I'm not much into sports, but when my kids started to play competitive “soccer,” I started to follow the sport minimally. And man, can some people get upset about the name. Okay, I agree it shouldn't be called soccer, but it is what it is. That said, I believe I'm mostly writing for an American audience, so I'm going to use the term “soccer.” Some of you may get upset about this. Given the comments I've come across online from time to time, some of you may really get upset about this. But let me tell you why none of this matters:

Because this book isn't about soccer (or football).

Yes, the protagonist is a semi-professional soccer player (footballer). Yes, the supporting cast is almost entirely made up of fellow or former soccer players. And there are certainly many scenes that take place on the field (pitch). In fact, I imagine a semi-comprehensive knowledge of the sport is significant in understanding what is going on with the action of the story. But such knowledge is not required: soccer is merely the conduit through which the story is presented. At its heart, A Natural is a story that skillfully tackles questions of gender roles and sexuality.

A Natural is an excellent blend of literature with sports. The last and only time I enjoyed a sporty story was for a similarly named book, Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Despite the similarities in name, the two books share little in common, aside from the sports theme and an exploration of the influence of others on ones fears and desires. Yet, without clear indication as to why, Raisin has named his book A Natural—is this a nod to the everyman role of Malamud's protagonist Roy Hobbs? I see the potential, but I don't have any solid answers.

Tom Pearman is the Roy Hobbs of A Natural. At nineteen years old, Tom is on the fence that separates tomorrow's bright young stars from the never-quite-did-make-it duds of yesterday. Tom himself is unsure of who he is and struggles to find his place amongst the competition, both on and off the field. Pearman and his fellow players are a wonderful cast. Though they many times fall into the stereotypes of professional players, they are not limited to this role.

I tore through this book. This may have just been a result of having the time to read, or it could've been that the story pulled me in. Either way, I was far from uninterested. I do feel that Raisin could've spent more time in the minds of the players and less on the pitch. The action sometimes takes over, and though it is important, it wouldn't have hurt the story by any means. My biggest disappointment with the novel came in the concluding scenes. Overall, the conclusion felt rushed. While the rest of the novel kept me fully engaged, it was in the final pages that my mind finally began to wander some. Having already made the comparison to The Natural, this is surely the biggest difference between the two novels. The greatest moment in Malamud's novel comes in those final pages, where we see Hobbs' decision play out. “Say it ain't so.” I expected something of equal weight with this one, but it just didn't play out that way, which was fine, but it was a mildly disappointing ending to an otherwise stellar story.

A Natural is probably one of the greatest novels I've read that deals with sexuality. It addresses the subject of men who do not conform to standard roles of masculinity and heterosexuality, but it approaches the subject from many different angles. It feels genuine and never relies on authorial manipulation. You see, you can define a man, slap a label on him, and expect him to play by the rules. But sometimes, people just don't play by the rules. Some of us watch football, some watch soccer, and some just play a different game all together. That's the core of this novel. A Natural is a novel written not only for the GLBT community, but for all who step out of societal norms, and maybe, just maybe, even for soccer fans (regardless of what they call themselves.)

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text 2017-11-06 18:04
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Task 10 - World Peace Day & Pancha Ganapati
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie
Y is for Yesterday (A Kinsey Millhone Novel) - Sue Grafton
In the Woods - Tana French
The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas
A Crown of Wishes - Roshani Chokshi

Doing two tasks in this combined post!

 

World Peace Day-

 

If I had wings like a dove I would love to fly to Montreal or Toronto. I really want to explore Canada more and since it's so close (I live in the D.C. area) I think I would be able to go for a week or longer and just explore. I think that either in spring 2018 or maybe summer I am going to aim to take a trip up north and go exploring. If I don't go to those cities, I did hear about cool things that I can do though that I would love. When I was in Ecuador two Canadian tourists were on the trip with our excursion and they enthused about so many things and showed me videos. 

 

Image result for canada montreal

 

Montreal

 

I know that I want to tour Niagara Falls, but I have heard about walking tours of Old Montreal and I could do a private tour of Prince Edward Island (home of the fictional Anne of Green Gables). 

 

Tasks for World Peace Day: Cook something involving olives or olive oil. Share the results and/or recipe with us. –OR–

Tell us: If you had wings (like a dove), where would you want to fly?

 

Pancha Ganapati:

 

My 5 favorite books of this year was hard to narrow down. I decided to pick the top five that I have already read more than once this year and of course that I read/reviewed for the first time this year. I just included excerpts from my full reviews so you can see why they are my favorite books for this year. 

 

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders-Wow all I have to say is that this book was great. More than anything I love clever books like this, and this was definitely very clever. I honestly was a bit worried for a couple of minutes that maybe I wouldn't be able to get the book since the setting is in Japan. But wow the author Soji Shimada is able to pretty much show you that murder is murder no matter where it takes place.

 

 

Y is for Yesterday- I have to say that I love the fact that even though this book takes place in 1989 there's definitely some similarities to what's going on in the world today in this book. There's the question of rape, there's the question of getting consent, there's the question of violence against women and what do women do in order to fight back against that. I feel like all of those are discussion topics that are very relevant in today's world. 

 

I've really hated how isolated Kinsey felt to me in the past few books was just her interacting with Henry and Rosie. But this one definitely showcases how many people are connected to Kinsey, and how many people just love her.

I was really glad to finally see it seem to laying to rest her whole relationship with the missing Robert Dietz. And I think I see a game plan coming with regards to Cheney Phillips. It was good to read what was going on with him and finally having me not wanting to kick the crap out of him based on what I thought was going on with this character.

 

 

In the Woods- What a compelling read. I finished this thing in about a day and a half. I will say that at first I found myself somewhat bored. But this book ends up being a nice slow burn of a read. I wanted even more by the time I got to the end. I already put a hold on the second book in the series. I have to say that I am really glad that French didn't try to solve the overarching mystery for the main character, Rob Ryan. I know that some readers ended up loving this character and I had to say that in the end, I didn't feel love, but just outright pity for him.

 

 

The Hate U Give-I got so many feels while reading this book.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Thomas takes a look at a teenage black girl who is trying her best to be Starr back home in Garden Heights and Starr at her suburban prep school.

 

Thomas doesn't just make this a YA book, she makes this a YA book accurately showing the struggle for black Americans, for black men, black women, interracial relationships, the pain that we feel when we move away into what is considered "good areas", etc.

Thomas is able to show you so many layers to Starr and the other characters in this book that is becomes mesmerizing to read. Even with the subject matter, I loved that Thomas was able to inject humor and show how for many black Americans that tragedy does not define us, that you still keep going as much as you can, as long as you can. Heck, Thomas even shows you how much simmering anger is under the skin for many black Americans in the U.S. right now, and how those that people screech about as "thugs" and "monsters" can finally just have enough and yes start rioting.

 

 

A Crown of Wishes-  I needed a fantastic book and I savored this one for two days though I wanted to swallow it whole at times. It lingered with me in my sleep and I smiled when I woke up because I was so happy to just keep reading this book. Chokshi includes Indian myths and also just really great characters that you want to keep reading about. We also get appearances from characters from the last book that I was sad to see go when we finished. I often worry when authors start writing a YA book and write a sequel or decide it will be a trilogy. That's only because not many have held up. This one holds up. I highly recommend.

 

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR–

Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

 

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review 2017-10-28 23:30
Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars: (A Havenwood Falls... Written in the Stars: (A Havenwood Falls High Novella) - Liz Ferry,Kallie Ross,Kristie Cook

I received this book to give an honest review.

 

For a novella I really found myself enjoying the story and was a bit sad to see it end. I felt that the characters were well developed and the plot was steady.

I really liked how the alphas were women and so the pack had a female to lead them instead of the normal male alpha. That really was a selling point for me because I have never read that in a book before. Willa is a teenager and hasn't shifted yet, so she isn't fully like her other packmates though it seems that something else might be going on because ones we got towards the end something fishy sounds like it was going on. 

Now not only does Willa have to worry about shifting before she loses her position in the pack but she has to deal with her feelings for Tarron who is not a wolf. 

This book is more for the teens as it is a clean read. I do believe I will read more with this series because I want to know where it is all going go. 

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review 2017-10-22 03:27
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada, translation by Ross and Shika Mackenzie
The Tokyo Zodiac Murders - Ross MacKenzie,Soji Shimada,Shika MacKenzie

The Tokyo Zodiac Murders starts off with a “last will and testament” written by Heikichi Umezawa in 1936. In this document, he detailed his belief that he is possessed and how he came to the realization that killing six of his daughters and nieces would solve his problems. Using their zodiac signs as a guide, he’d take one body part from each young woman and construct Azoth, the perfect woman.

The story then fast forwards to about 40 years later. Kazumi, a mystery fan, is describing the facts of the Tokyo Zodiac Murders to his friend Kiyoshi, an astrologer and occasional detective. The six young women were, in fact, killed and mutilated in the manner described in Heikichi’s will, but Heikichi couldn’t possibly have done it: he’d been dead for several days prior to the murders. In addition to Heikichi’s murder and the Azoth murders, one of Heikichi’s other stepdaughters was also killed. No one is sure whether that murder was related to the others or not.

After Kiyoshi takes on a client with a distant but potentially embarrassing connection to the case, Kiyoshi and Kazumi end up with a one-week deadline to solve a mystery that no one else has managed to solve in 40 years. Diagrams included throughout the text invite readers to solve the mystery along with them.

If you like trying to solve mysteries before a book’s fictional detective does, you really need to give this a try. It’s an excellent puzzle, and the author even interjects a couple times in order to let readers know when enough information has been included to allow them to solve the mystery. Of course, he interjects late enough that readers have more information than they need, muddying the water a bit, but that’s part of the fun.

The first part, with Heikichi’s will, was particularly strong. Heikichi casually describing why he needed to kill his daughters and nieces was incredibly creepy. I promise, though, that that’s as creepy as the book gets. Although the description of how the murders were actually accomplished was horrifying, the book’s overall tone didn’t have much of a feeling of creepiness, horror, or even urgency to it. Yes, Kiyoshi only had a week to solve the mystery, but the only things at stake, really, were his ego and reputation. Most of the people directly affected by the Tokyo Zodiac Murders were long dead.

There were a few times when I started to lose interest as the book became a little too “two guys talking about the facts of the case,” but for the most part those facts were really interesting. I had all kinds of theories about who might have killed Heikichi and how, how Kazue, Heikichi’s eldest stepdaughter, was involved, and who had killed the other women. None of my theories fit all of the facts of the case, and all my theories were torpedoed after Shimada included one particular document.

Kazumi, who was basically Kiyoshi’s Watson, had some ideas of his own that sounded promising, but I was fairly certain that he’d miss the key detail that would bring everything together. By the time Kiyoshi finally announced that he’d solved the murders, both Kazumi and I were thoroughly lost. It got to the point where I felt like Shimada was practically shoving the finished puzzle under my nose and I still couldn’t solve it. It was frustrating and fun at the same time. If it hadn’t been for work and sleep, I’d probably have read the last part of the book, where everything was finally revealed, all in one go. I can confidently say that I’d never have figured everything out on my own. There were aspects that stretched my suspension of disbelief, but, even so, the solution was really good.

All in all, this was a very enjoyable mystery that kept me guessing until the final revelation. It was very deliberately structured like a puzzle that readers were invited to solve along with Kiyoshi and Kazumi, but, despite the author’s two interjections, it still didn’t feel quite as detached as a couple similar mysteries I can think of. Kiyoshi and Kazumi had some life to them and didn’t just feel like pieces on the author’s gameboard. I particularly enjoyed their conversation about Sherlock Holmes and well-known mystery authors, and Kazumi's enjoyment of various locations in Japan made me wish I could visit them myself.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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