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text 2019-06-19 13:55
BL-opoly: Dice Roll #9 ... Parts a, b, c and d!
The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Aminatta Forna




Today is June 9 was another roll day for me, and it turnsed out as a result I'll probably be I was set, reading-wise, for quite some time! 


Let's take this one step by step ...


Beginning on my just-finished square, #16, my first roll today is was a double, which puts me on square 23: The Cape-to-Cairo Railway -- read a book set in Africa or by an African author (a square I've visited before).  My read for this square will be was Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love.

Finished June 16, 2019.


Curiously enough, in a repeat of my Memorial Day results, my next roll again puts me on the BookLikes square.




The Spin-the-Wheel Decide gives gave me two extra rolls ...


... the first one of which takes took me to square 35: The European Vacation -- read a book set in Europe or by a European author, or that involves travel by boat or with a boat on the cover.  There are plenty of choices for this one so I'll make it a spur-of-the-moment pick, which means that for the time being my little helpers get another refreshment break.

Decided on Israel Zanwill's The Perfect Crime, aka The Big Bow Mystery. 

Also finished on June 16, 2019.



And with my final roll I pass GO and finally end up on square 9: The Stay-Cation -- read a book involving a visit to a museum, concert, library or part, or by an author whose first or last name begins with a letter in R-E-L-A-X.  Again plenty of choices, so in the interim more break time for Sunny and Charlie!

Decided on John Le Carré's A Murder of Quality.

Finished on June 19. 2016.




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text 2019-06-18 22:18
Re Moonlight Reader's Essential Reading List
Gilded Needles (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Christopher Fowler,Michael McDowell,Mike Mignola
The Day Of The Jackal - Frederick Forsyth
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë,Peter Merchant
Howards End - E.M. Forster
Forbidden Journey - Ella Maillart
A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
The Comedians - Graham Greene,Paul Theroux
Artful - Ali Smith
Embers - Sándor Márai,Carol Brown Janeway

Ok, a lot of the titles that are special to me have already been listed, so these are the ones that I would add (listed in no particular order - I love them all equally):


1. Gilded Needles - Michael McDowell

This book blew my socks off. I'm not a horror reader but McDowell has changed my entire outlook on that genre and I consider Gilded Needles to be his best work for me.


2. The Day of the Jackal - Frederick Forsyth

The short explanation for this pick is that it set a standard for me about what a thriller should be. I seriously love this book. It has action but also makes one think. Note - The Bourne Identity did cross my mind as a potential contender but it would be like like bringing a knife to a gun fight. LoL. 


3. The Tennant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte

This is the book that tipped Jane Eyre of its pedestal for me. Anne was a badass.


4. Howards End - E.M. Forster

This is a conventional choice. I get it. It's a book that is on many lists already. However, this is Forster's best work and it is a shame that it is on any "Best of List" because that kind of hype usually backfires. At least it does for me. It's one book that also should never be forced on high school students because this book is deeply personal and no one should be forced to discuss how this book makes sense to them. I don't know. 

So, yes, this is a "classic" by a dead white guy, I am not going to hold that against the book. 


5. A Single Man - Christopher Isherwood

Where compilers of Best of Lists like to include Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, I'd usually like to substitute their entries with Isherwood. Yup. I know. Dead White Guy. But still one of the best books I've read. There is especially one part where I always think that the Bell Jar can bugger off - For me "I am. I am. I am." has nothing on "Waking up begins with saying am and now."


6. The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

I love this book for so many reasons: it literally has no plot and yet Tey managed to turn this into a suspenseful murder mystery, showing that actual history is thrilling. Tey challenged the accepted view of historical fact and basically had the guts to challenge Shakespeare and every school history book being taught at the time of writing. Moreover, she made me look at historical paintings in a more enlightened way. I love Tey - as you are sick of hearing by now, I'm sure - and this one started that that journey.


7. Forbidden Journey - Ella K. Maillart

I am listing this because this is the seminal book of Maillart's that established her firmly as my favourite badass travel writer and explorer. She's usually overshadowed by her two-time travel companion (and brother of Bond creator) Peter Fleming, whose books are really shallow and short-sighted in comparison to Maillart's. She's one author that may not have the stylistic skills of her peers, but she's one that has more things to say than most of the travel writers I have read.


8. The Comedians - Graham Greene

Yup. Greene. I cannot leave Greene off a list and I still consider The Comedians his best book. There is no wallowing in Catholic guilt in this one like there is in what is usually listed as his best work. This one faces and exposes the inhumanities of a violent regime gripping Haiti at the time Greene wrote this and pokes it with a very pointy stick. 


9. Artful - Ali Smith

Ok. Smith. Artful is not a novel. It's a lecture that is presented as a part-fictional narrative. What is important to me about this one is that it encapsulates how language works and how an author can make language work in a multitude of ways. If I were to compare this another work about a different art - John Berger's Ways of Seeing had a similar effect on me. (But he is usually listed on a Best Of list somewhere and I wanted to pick a book about language and literature.)


10. Embers - Sandor Marai

Maybe an odd choice but this is a book that I read decades ago and it is still with me. It is one of the books that set a standard for other books to follow with respect to creating atmosphere because even thinking about Embers I can smell the wood burning in the fireplace and the pine trees outside. 


So, one of the things I noted with some regret while compiling this list is that there aren't many titles on here that originated in languages other than English. There are a lot of authors I adore who did not write in English but the ones I would have picked usually also appear in the Best of Lists - which I take as a sign that I need to make more of an effort to read diversely. 


Of those I would have picked, these are my top 5 (again in no particular order):


- Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf & Unterm Rad (tr. Beneath the Wheel)

- Klaus Mann: Treffpunkt im Unendlichen (no idea if this was translated into English)

- Kurt Tucholsky: any of the satirical works

- Jules Verne: Journey to the Centre of the World

- Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo


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review 2019-06-17 17:16
On Trauma and Healing (of Sorts)
The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna
The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Aminatta Forna

Sierra Leone gained independence from British colonial rule in 1961, but, like so many other African countries, after enjoying a few brief initial years of peace and democracy, it was torn apart by dictatorial rule, military regimes, civil war and corruption in the decades that followed.  As a result, surveys have shown that a staggering 99% of the population exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.


This is the background against which the events in Aminatta Forna's novel The Memory of Love unfold.  Don't be fooled by the title: Yes, love in all of its shapes and forms is a driver of people's motivations here, but this book is about so much more -- it's a vast, virtually boundless tapestry of events, emotions, action and reaction, illness and health (mental and otherwise), war and peace, ambition, greed, selflessness, loss, beauty, ugliness ... and again and again, trauma; pathological, emotional and in every other respect you can imagine.


Forna unveils the enless layers of the novel's complex tapestry with a painstaking and almost painful slowness and care (as a result, it is virtually impossible to describe the plot without giving away major spoilers): The events, alternating between the late 1960s / early 1970s and the present day, are told from the point of view of three men -- Elias Cole, a former university professor lying on his deathbed in a Freetown hospital and telling his story to Adrian Lockheart, an English psychologist who has come to Sierra Leone with an international aid organization but has decided to stay on and help since he specializes in PTSD, and Kai Mansaray, a surgeon at the hospital where Elias is wheezing his way back through his life for Adrian's benefit (and his own -- or so Adrian hopes).  Though strangers initially, over the course of the novel it becomes clear that the three men not only establish a relationship in the here and now but that what connects them goes deeper and has roots in the past; their own as much as the country's.  At the same time, through the PTSD sufferers that Adrian treats at a nearby mental hospital (not the general clinic that ties him to Elias and Kai but a different place), through his and Kai's friends and colleagues, and through Elias's narrative and the men and women inhabiting it, in turn, Sierra Leone itself and its people collectively become a further main character to the novel -- the one that, ultimately, is the most important one of all and which drives every action and event; a huge, many-limbed, monstrously traumatized and brutalized organism that can't help but swallow its own constituent organs -- its own people -- and those whom it does eventually spit out again after all will be changed forever.


It took me a while to get into this book, and this is not the kind of novel that you can race through in a day or two (or at least, I can't).  But this definitely is one of my reading highlights of this year -- and this reaview wouldn't be complete without me giving my due and hartfelt plaudits to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, whose unmatched, deeply empathetic narration lifted an already profound, complex and harrowing reading experience onto yet another level entirely.  Highly, highly recommended.

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review 2019-06-17 10:38
The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad by D. M. Smith
The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad - D M Smith

TITLE:  The Cypria: Reconstructing the Lost Prequel to Homer's Iliad 


AUTHOR: D. M. Smith




FORMAT:  ebook






In Classical times, the story of the Trojan War was told in a series of eight epic poems known as the Epic Cycle, of which only the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer survive to the present day. The first poem in the sequence was the Cypria, which described the early years of the war from Eris’ casting of the golden apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, to Paris’ abduction of Helen, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, Odysseus’ treacherous murder of Palamedes, and finally, the enslavement of Briseis and Chryseis, which sowed the seeds of the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad.

The Cypria is now lost, but the myths it once contained are known from a number of later writings. In an ambitious exercise in literary back-breeding, editor D. M. Smith attempts to reconstruct the lost prequel to Homer’s Iliad from the available material. Included are excerpts from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca, Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis and Colluthus’ The Rape of Helen, as well as lesser known documents such as Dictys Cretensis Ephemeris Belli Trojani, and the Excidium Troiae — a medieval summary of a lost Roman account of the Trojan War, discovered among the papers of an 18th century clergyman in the 1930s. This eclectic melange of Greek and Latin texts has been carefully edited and arranged in accordance with the known chronology of the Cypria, thus allowing readers to trace the story of this vanished epic as a continuous narrative for the first time in over a thousand years.




The Cypria (mostly lost or fragmented) was an epic poem in eleven books, variously attributed to Homer, Hegesias of Salmis, Cyprias of Halicarnassus or Stasinus of Cyprus.  The Cypria deals with the early history of the Troyan War ("pre-Iliad"), from its origins at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis to the capture of Chryseis and Briseis, leading into the events of the Iliad.

This is the author's attempt to reconstruct the lost poem from later writings, arranged and edited so as to approximate the lost originals.  The author's stated goal was to assemble a coherent, easy-to-follow narrative with the bare minimum of editorial intervention, in as great a detail as possible while relying only on Classical sources, i.e. works composed while the stories told in the Cypria were still a part of the public conscousness.  Smith hopes that this will at least allow a reader to enjoy this lost story as a single, (mostly) uninterrupted text for the first time in over a thousand years.  In this book, all the "pre-Iliad" excerpts and text are gathered together in one convenient volume, which provides the necessary back-story for anyone preparing to embark on a study of the Homeric epics.

The meat of the book is essentially a collection of excerpts from other texts that deal with the stories that were once included in the Cypria.  There is no author commentary to detract from this section of the book.  The book is also accompanied by an extensive introduction which details how Smith put together this book and which older texts he used as sources and any discrepencies in the tales.  I found the author's introduction to be very informative and this collection of the "pre-Iliad" narrative very useful.  This is something useful to have on hand for people who enjoy Homer's epics or wish to know more about the early Trojan War.


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review 2019-06-16 20:44
Barbie Solves a Mystery, Barbie #5 by Cynthia Lawrence
Barbie: Solves a Mystery (Book 5) - Cynthia Lawrence,Clyde Smith

Barbie is recruited by her small town's weekly newspaper as the fashion reporter. The rest of the staff is an accountant/social columnist, the editor himself and a flashy young buck from the city eager to make a name for himself. His name? Johnny November. So a teen fashion reporter makes sense.


To be fair, Willows has a large garment factory in town and a booming postwar population that may need a little fashion guidance. Barbie's start as a reporter coincides with the return to town of a famous New York fashion designer who left town fifteen years ago in a cloud of scandal. Can Barbie juggle her reporting duties with high school? Can she clear the name of a glamorous woman? Can her and Midge and Ken just hang out like they used to before she dropped them for these strangers?


Fun. The career-oriented Barbie is a great trajectory for a book of this era. Oh, there are problems, sure, but Lawrence pokes just enough at the expected limitations of women to get young readers thinking.



Does this look like a woman with a bad reputation? A bubblecut Barbie in one of the original glamour outfits 'Evening Splendor' #961 (1959). She's missing her pearls, but the hankie is in the purse.


Barbie Random House Novels


Next: 'Barbie's Hawaiian Holiday'


Previous: 'Barbie and Ken'

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