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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-04 17:20
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne
The Extraordinary Journeys: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (Oxford World's Classics) - Jules Verne

TITLE: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas

 

AUTHOR: Jules Verne

 

TRANSLATOR: William Butcher

 

EDITION: Oxford World's Classics

 

DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2009 (reissue)

 

FORMAT: Paperback

 

ISBN-13: 9780199539277

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Description:

"French naturalist Dr Aronnax embarks on an expedition to hunt down a sea monster, only to discover instead the Nautilus, a remarkable submarine built by the enigmatic Captain Nemo. Together Nemo and Aronnax explore the underwater marvels, undergo a transcendent experience amongst the ruins of Atlantis, and plant a black flag at the South Pole. But Nemo's mission is one of revenge—and his methods coldly efficient.

This new and unabridged translation by the father of Verne studies brilliantly conveys the novel's varying tones and range. This edition also presents important manuscript discoveries, together with previously unpublished information on Verne's artistic and scientific reference.
"

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Review:

 

When a giant sea creatures starts sinking ships, Dr Aronnax (a marine biologist), his unflappable manservant Conceil, and hot tempered harpooner Ned Land, are invited to join the hunting parting in an attempt to catch it.  Well, things don't go as planned and they end up as the unwilling (sort of) guests of Captain Nemo. Thus commences the fascinating, fast paced, exciting, and at at times, terrifying adventures under the seas (with the occassional land expedition interrupted by cannibals) inside the Nautilus (which is in itself absolutely fascinating).  I love that Verne included such things as an underwater passage between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, Atlantis, pearl fishing, shark hunting, a journey to the South Pole, giant squid and a host of other wierd and wonderful experiences. The relationship between Captain Nemo and Dr Aronnax is particularly fascinating, as is the development of the relationships between the unwilling guests.  Conceil is at times amusing, even though he doesn't intend to be.  Dr Aronnax is a marine biologist so every organism he comes across gets mentioned and classified, along with an encyclopedia worth of facts.  This might annoy some readers, but they can just be skimmed over those bits, though they will miss out on the ocean panarama described.  

 

This is another Jules Verne novel that got butchered and abridged in translation.  This new unabridged translation by William Butcher aims to be faithful to the original French novel and makes use of both manuscripts Verne produced while working on this novel.  I found this translation to be well done, with the narrative flowing smoothly.  The book includes relevant notes, which are of great help when Verne refers to scholars, ships captains, local politics and other goodies.  This edition also has in interesting introduction which discusses certain aspects of the book, what Verne intended with this novel from letters to his publisher, the bits his publisher insisted he change (he was worried about offending the Russians), amongst others.  The extra information adds additional depth to the story and I'm pleased it was included.

 

 

 

 

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review 2018-08-22 20:15
The Centrality of Honour: "The Iliad" by Homer
The Iliad (Penguin Classics) - Homer


First a disclaimer: I don’t have ancient Greek (or any other kind), so please correct or chastise me if I misunderstand any passages for that reason. Equally, my analysis involves some assumptions about what was common, idiomatic English in Pope’s day: if I’ve got it wrong, please set me right!

I think the overarching drama played out between the vigorous, up-and-coming Greeks and the more cultured, slightly decadent Trojans is one that we profoundly recognise. In western societies, we are of course at the Trojan stage, but most western societies can look back at an earlier, less sophisticated, more vigorous founding generation or generations. And even where the parallels are not nearly exact, I think there’s a sense of recognition. In fact, I think most readers have a sneaking regard for the simple, thuggish side of the Achaeans. This is maybe reinforced by the fact that we know that these Greeks eventually produced the Classical Greece society and invented democracy. In a sense, we are the Achaeans and the Trojans at the same time. I’ll leave the question to one side as to whether Homer and the Greeks stamped this archetype on our minds or whether it is a universal of human nature (or to stay in this corner of the Med, a Platonic ideal). This drama is also played out at the family level, and people still love stories of rough, determined self-made people who carved out a successful living and founded a dynasty. We don’t expect these founders to be morally impeccable or culturally sophisticated: they allow subsequent generations to be that.

Why is “The Iliad” modern?

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2018-08-17 17:42
The Complete Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) - Truman Capote

These stories show a great capacity for capturing time, place and character. Highly evocative. On the whole I think I prefered the Depression era Alabama childhood stories to the more recently set ones, but the one set in a cemetary was great. This volume has made me take a wider interest in Capote's work.

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review 2018-08-09 20:18
Review: Give The Dark My Love
Give the Dark My Love - Beth Revis

Review - Give The Dark My Love

 

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read.

 

Initially I had mixed feelings about this book, mainly as the beginning was rather boring and seemed to have some fantasy tropes that are starting to seem rather overdone.  However the latter half of the book took a darker turn and the end was pretty damn good and unexpected. 

 

It starts off with the story's heroine Nedra is leaving her twin sister and her parents to head off to a posh academy she has earned a scholarship to to study alchemy. She comes from a poor village, and despite her reservations about leaving her family they all tell her it's the right thing to do and of course she's destined for greatness. 

 

We learn there is a terrible plague sickness sweeping through the lands and there appears to be no cure, once the symptoms are spotted the sufferer is doomed. There are quarantine hospitals for the sick, the disease spreading mostly through the poor people. 

 

Nedra didn't seem to have much of a personality at all really. She was nice enough, ready and willing to learn, and of course all the fancy rich students who attend the school look down their noses at her. Right away she manages to make a friend with a very rich handsome boy, Greggori And gains the attention of one of the most difficult professors to please. 

 

It's just a tad bit eye rolling. And of course before long it's abundantly clear Nedra is far more talented than anyone initially thought she would. Much to the chagrin of some of the students. The plot is interesting enough as Nedra learns more about the plague and how alchemy can help the victims. The way the alchemy works a little stomach churning. But it seems to be the only thing doing some good. 

 

There's a subplot going on along the lines of some of the wealthy rich men (including Greggori's father and his best friend and their family) don't like the fact that the island they live on is under rule by one Emperor who governs countless lands and empires. They want the island to be free so they can make their own laws. Doesn't help that the emperor is only a teenager. Nor do they like the new governor he has appointed to rule their island is a woman. (This comes into play much more later on the novel).

 

Nedra finds herself caught up in a search to find the cause of the plague which is becoming worse by the moment, and not just affecting poor people throwing everyone's theories on the origin out the window. This is becoming the sole focus of the plot. Along with Nedra's relationship with Greggori is of course growing into something more than friendship. Greggori is slowly starting to realise there's more to Nedra. And his own views on the side plot are changing. 

 

The Governor makes a few appearances in the novel helping the sick at the hospital Nedra is working in and appears to be nowhere near as bad as the press and everyone else is making her out to be. 

 

Biggest problem for me was Nedra is just so dull as a main character. Both she and Greggori are so wooden and uninteresting. I had no interest in their barely there slow burn romance (which is usually one of my favourite romance tropes) Nedra becomes almost dangerously obsessed with stopping the plague. 

 

She finds herself using darker and more forbidden forms of alchemy - necromancy. This was where the plot really started picking up and I just didn't want to put the book down. I needed to know. Nedra becomes much more interesting and so meticulous and careful about her planning. Faced with a personal tragedy  that seems to define a turning point for her. 

 

I can't say I particularly liked her any more as a character but I could certainly empathise with her and completely understood her determination to find a cure, no matter where it took her. Though there is a fine line between using alchemy to help a greater cause but then finding something darker that works to a personal gain. There's definitely an interesting grey area that all logic seems to vanish over once things become more dangerous and intense. 

 

There were some pretty epic twists towards the end that I did not see coming at all. And left at one hell of a cliffhanger. At one point I wasn't even sure I was going to bother finishing this book, but now I have to know what happens next!

 

A bit of a slow start but definitely worth sticking with. 

 

 

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text 2018-08-09 18:43
Reading progress update: I've read 244 out of 297 pages.
The Complete Stories (Penguin Modern Classics) - Truman Capote

A passing reference to a character that might possibly have been inspired by the same person who inspired Boo Radley...

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