BR: The Iliad

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.

 

Category:A book that is at least 100 years older than you.

1371.jpgThe Iliad –Homer (683)

 

Rating: ★★★★★

Favorite Line: Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Review:

The Iliad is perhaps the oldest piece of literature in the world, passed down from generation to generation, translated into hundreds of languages, dated back to somewhere between 1260-1180 BC. There are many reasons why it has stood the test of time. It is a poem of epic proportions, bringing the mythical world and the natural world into one fantastic war. It gave us characters that now hold their own power, known outside of the story for their immortal qualities.

Two events many people associate with The Iliad are the famous shot to the heel that killed Achilles, and the Trojan Horse. Unfortunately, if you were able to go back in time and ask Homer what The Iliad was about, neither of those events would appear in his answer. Both the death of Achilles and the overthrow of the city of Troy happen after the end of the poem and we only know about them thanks to the Homer’s follow-up epic poem The Odyssey.

The Iliad is about the Trojan War, but it only really covers the final year of the ten-year war. Furthermore, it includes not one, but three different “wars” which last throughout the narrative. The first being the primary conflict between The Trojans and the Greeks, the second being the conflict between Achilles, the Grecian hero, and Agamemnon, the Grecian king who leads the armies against the Trojans, and the third being the battle between the mythological gods, which influences the mortal battle.

Homer’s ability to compose a poem that has withstood the test for thousands of years is beyond extraordinary. This story covers themes all men can relate to, not just those living in the time of Homer. Themes of love, friendship, mortality, pride, and bravery are portrayed throughout with the same value and influence as they do today.

To me, critiquing this poem seems a little absurd—it has been reviewed and studied thousands of times determining it’s greatness…I don’t need to do that. Therefore, with this being the classic of classics, I’m just going to share with you my favorite quotes that have withstood the test of time.

 

Lastly, my favorite quote just proves that even in the time of Homer, long before the car was invented, human beings suffered from severe road rage:

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BR: The Light Between Oceans

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.

 

Category: Book becoming a movie this year

13158800.jpgThe Light Between Oceans– M.L. Stedman (343 pages)

Rating: ★★★★

Favorite Line: You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day.

Review:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman is a sweet love story that turns into a tragic “this isn’t going to end well is it?” story very quickly.

The story follows a young, quiet lighthouse keeper, Tom Sherbourne, off the coast of Australia. Tom is ex-military and his strict military blood flows deep—he likes rules and regulations and he follows them to a tee, this makes him a perfect lighthouse keeper.

Everything was under control in his quiet, routine life, until he fell in love… which seems to always throw a wrench in a protagonist’s life plan. Isabel was Toms exact opposite in every way except one; she also loved him uncontrollably.

The two are happily married but they soon find out that the isolated life on an island with nothing but each other and a revolving light gets lonely, it gets hard, and, as what happened to this couple, it can make you forget that your actions can affect more than just those on your own little island.

“Right and wrong can be like bloody snakes: so tangled up that you can’t tell which is which until you’ve shot’em both, and then it’s too late.”

The gist of it is this: Isabel makes a mistake, Tom tries to convince her not to make said mistake, Isabel, longing for more love than Tom can give, convinces Tom that if he really loves her he will allow her to make said mistake, Tom allows Isabel to make said mistake, Isabel is happy, Tom is guilty and paranoid, narrative continues as we, the reader, wait nervously to see what the consequences, if any, await the couple.

The Light Between Oceans shows how much people are willing to do for the ones they love.

“The law’s the law, but people are people.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, parts were slow, but even that was fitting as it reflected the life on the island as opposed to the fast paced life they gave up back on the mainland.

Tom is a great character. He is passionate and kind, yet reserved enough to where even the reader doesn’t always know what he truly feels—which is nice, it’s fun when the protagonist doesn’t give us everything and we have to dig/assume a little.

Isabel is a loose cannon and for the reader it was just about as frustrating for me as it was for our mild-tempered lighthouse keeper. As much as this character aggravated me, I have to admit, she was excellently written by Stedman, because I felt for Isabel and I absolutely understood why she made the choices that she did.

Other characters I will not go into due to the risk of spoiling the plot, but they are also excellently portrayed.

Aside from the characters, that narrative is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. For a while it actually makes you want to quit your job and become a lighthouse keeper…until of course you read about all the men who went crazy and killed themselves because of the loneliness, and the fact that that position is really no longer available for hire…too bad.

Stedman has a beautiful poetry to her writing while bringing you along this tragic love story.

With it being slow-paced and covering many years, I don’t know how well it will translate onto the big screen this year, and it makes me a little nervous. However, I am looking forward to seeing it, even if only to hear the Australian accents😉

 

****

The Light Between Oceans is M.L. Stedman’s first novel. The movie is set to hit U.S. theaters September 2, 2016.

 

Here is the complete list of Popsugar’s reading challenge:

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BR: Red Queen

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.

 

Category: A YA bestseller

22328546.jpgRed Queen – Victoria Aveyard (383 pages)


Rating:
★★★

Favorite Line: The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain.

 Review:

I was torn between giving this book three and four stars, but I settled on three for a couple reasons:

  1. I had little desire to continue reading the book until I was over half way through it.
  2. I was unable to empathize with the main character or even begin to understand why she is the way that she is…. which is mostly annoying, in my opinion.

The book follows the story of Mare Barrow, a Red girl living in the Stilts, a poor village which sits just outside the of the Royal summer castle. In this world, the Reds are ruled by the Silvers (the 1 percent billionaires), who have superpowers and rule with absolute authority.

In this society there is virtually no room to move up in the social ladder because the sects are determined by the color of a person’s blood, red or silver. Some Reds are better off than others because they have been fortunate enough to find a job, but the rest are forced to join the military and fight in the never-ending wars with bordering countries.

The story opens on Mare, a daredevil pickpocket, who steals to keep her family afloat and maintains a high level of sass while doing it. Like all Reds, Mare has a strong hatred for the Silvers, especially the royalty, who, from the Reds point of view, do nothing but send their people off to die in the wars. Mare is determined this will not be her fate, although she is scheduled to join the army upon her next birthday…as it turns out, it was not her fate after all.

After a series of unusual events (I don’t want to give too much away because after all this is a popular Young Adult series and I don’t want to ruin anything), Mare finds herself a servant girl in the castle and accidentally reveals that she is no ordinary Red girl, but has some form of power like a Silver (which shocks everyone involved, including herself). Mare is then taken into the inner circle of the royal family, in order to be “figured out” by the Silvers.

Mare finds herself in the middle of enemy territory while a revolution stirs outside the palace walls, and she is scared to death.

In the fairy tales, the poor girl smiles when she becomes a princess. Right now, I don’t know if I’ll ever smile again.

Mare finds she has to be careful with every step, every word, and even every thought, and determine who can be trusted and who wants her dead.

The plot is fun, but again, I have a hard time enjoying a book with a main character whom I find exhausting. It’s a YA book, so the character has to make stupid decisions, it’s an unofficial YA rule, but this girl seems to make more than necessary.

The plot was a little slow for a while, there were a few different sub-plots going on to occupy the time, but I felt I was just waiting and waiting for it to pick up and get to the “can’t put it down” stage. Once it did (60-70 percent through), it was a fun read I just wish I could’ve gotten into it sooner.

If you are not a YA fan, I don’t think I would suggest you add this book to your list, it would only make you like the genre less.

If you are a YA reader, however, check it out and decide for yourself. The plot has similar aspects to all the fairy tales you know and love, with new twists to keep you interested, and the ending does make you want to go to the library to get the sequel just to see what happens next.

****

Red Queen was Victoria Aveyard’s first novel and was published in 2014. The sequel Glass Sword was recently released and the third novel of the series Queen Song is currently in the works.

 

 

Here is the complete list of Popsugar’s reading challenge:

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BR: Troublemaker

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Book Challenge.

 

Category: A book written by a celebrity

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Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood & Scientology – Leah Remini (256)

 

Rating: ★★★★

Favorite Line: In a time of universal deceit—telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

Review:

I gave this book four stars not because of how well written it was, but because of how interesting it was.

Leah Remini, who is known mostly for her lead role in The King of Queens, has a very commanding control from the start, and she definitely does not hold back anything at all. If you are familiar with her acting, you will probably be able to hear her voice through the entire book.

The book goes through Remeni’s life, from growing up in New York to her family moving to Florida in order to work for the Church of Scientology.

I did not know much about the Church of Scientology before reading it, and while it’s not the best idea to get all your information from somebody who has essentially declared World War III on the organization, but if it is even half of what Remini described it as then it is absolutely insane.

Remini describes her leaving Florida, moving to California, starting her acting career, getting married, and going deeper into the world of Scientology. She discusses the amount of hours, money and “counseling” spent with the church and how much the church controls the life of its parishioners.

“You were either all in or all out. It is an extremist religion. There is no middle ground. And there within its structure lies the danger.”

Remini then takes the reader through the difficult process of her leaving the Church and being exiled from the community she has known her whole life.

I was not expecting much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a quick read and it keeps you reading. It’s full of straightforward language and Remini’s fun New York attitude all while giving some inside to a ridiculous new age religion. It’s no wonder this book was a New York Time’s Bestseller.

 

****

Leah Remini is an actress and producer originally from Brooklyn, NY. She has also been featured discussing Scientology on many documentary series, including an episode of ABC’s documentary series “20/20” called “Troublemaker.”

 

 

Here is the complete list of Popsugar’s reading challenge:

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The Tales of Spring

Last year I wrote a post containing my favorite quotes from Irish authors in honor of St. Patrick’s day, and now this year I’ve compiled some of my favorite quotes about Spring!

My birthday falls on the first day of spring, plus I’m from the midwest and the winters here are so horribly dreadful, so I may be biased about this season, but I do find so much joy in the spring. It makes me so happy to know I am not alone in the literary world!

Spring is perhaps the best metaphor for any writer of any story. In (almost) every story there is a form of “rebirth” after a time of trial–this is the story’s metaphorical spring.  It’s no surprise, therefore, that springs is a writer’s best friend! It is a time of fresh starts, cool breezes, early sunrises. It is a time to break away from the darkness of winter and embrace the light. See, it really is the perfect season for writing!

Whether it’s poetry, prose or essay, Spring has a dominant presence in literature and here are some of my favorite quotes from some of my favorite authors!

 

BR: Poisonwood Bible

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge.

 

Category: A book about a culture you are unfamiliar with.

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The Poisonwood Bible — Barbara Kingsolver (544 pages)

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Favorite Line: To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.

Review:

I went through waves during this book; there were times I couldn’t put it down, and times I had to force myself just to read another sentence. This, I believe, is very reflective of the book itself.

Most of the book is a train wreck—not the writing or the plot (the writing is actually quite beautiful), but what happens to the family and those around them is a train wreck. It’s one thing after another and it hurts to have to read, but then there are times when the train wreck isn’t as bad and you think for a moment, or a couple of chapters, that it’s all going to be uphill from here…and then it’s not.

The Poisonwood Bible follows the Price family as they move to the Belgian Congo to be missionaries in a small village. The father, Nathan Price, is about as stern of a Christian preacher as I have ever read about. Having been born and raised a Catholic, I’m not exactly an expert on the mannerisms of Protestant preachers, but I am certain the majority of them are not like Nathan Price; he is an extreme of the extremes.

He accepts his post as missionary without hesitation and brings along his wife and four daughters, who are all, as it turns out, opposed to the move. For Nathan Price, however, this was his mission from God and he would complete his mission no matter the cost.

Nathan Price sees the Congo as a diseased beast more than anything. He was determined to save the country, which is a righteous goal, but he is misguided because he refuses to believe that he could learn or gain anything from the country or it’s people. For example when planting crops he insists on only using western techniques, even though all his attempts fail in the African climate. This is just one example of how his blind pride and stubborn attitude lead his family more into despair and isolation in the Belgian Congo.

My father wears his faith like the bronze breastplate of God’s foot soldiers, while our mother’s is more like a good cloth coat with a secondhand fit.”

The story is primarily narrated by the four daughters, with occasional narration by the mother. The girls all have very different mannerisms. The eldest, Rebecca, is well into her teenage years and very superficial. Next are the twins, Leah and Adah, both very smart, but as opposite as could be. Leah is positive and remains so longer than the rest, and Adah has a very dark and sarcastic mind. Lastly is the little girl, Ruth May, who is under the age of ten during their African days.

The point of view of these girls is important because due to their difference in age and in attitude give a more complete narrative about what was going on given the four different voices. While they were very different, they all agreed on one thing, their father was wrong. Even Leah, who was very attached to their father in the beginning, grew distant from him because of his crazy tactics.

The mother is despondent throughout the entire book, and despite her internal rebellion against her husband, she barely speaks out against him, and when she does her tone is extremely passive aggressive. She is a sensible woman, but is unable to put her good sense into action, until after terrible tragedy strikes.

I gave this book three stars because while it was a captivating book at times, I could not fully believe the story. All the characters seemed too extreme to me, there was no one who I could relate to and fully become captivated in their lives. Now, perhaps the characters had to be extreme just to fit with the extreme situation they were put in, but for me it was not believable.

In the end the family is broken and distant. The end of their family unit is brought by the stubbornness of the father, which again, I find hard to believe. His actions do not follow what he claims to believe and unless he became possessed while he was there, I can’t see him actually choosing his mission over the safety of his family.

Kingsolver fills this book with beautiful imagery of Africa, but also with the harsh truth of how hard the life is over there. I do believe this book is an important read, but more for the social issues and history is addresses rather than the plot of the Price family.

****

Barbara Kingsolver is an award-winning author with multiple books on The New York Times bestseller list.

 

 

Here is the complete list of Popsugar’s reading challenge:

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BR: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Reading my way through Popsugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge.

 

Category: A Science Fiction Novel

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Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea—Jules Verne (320 pages)

 

Rating: ★★★★

Favorite Line: One can resist the laws of men, but not those of nature.

Review:

This book has always been on my “To Read” list, but if it hadn’t been for multiple references to it in All the Light We Cannot See, I probably would have continued to put it off. However, All the Light We Cannot See peaked my interest in it, so it was next on my reading list.

All science-fiction books are a little strange; it’s in their DNA. In fact, I believe the odder the SF book is, the more believable it becomes. Based on his work in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Verne, one of the “Fathers of Science Fiction,” appears to believe the same thing, for this is a very odd book.

The story follows the adventures of Professor Pierre Aronnax and two of his companions as they are rescued and then consequently kidnapped/taken hostage by Captain Nemo aboard his submarine The Nautilus. They are treated not as prisoners but more as guests, but the submarine has the same rules as The Eagles’ Hotel California; you can come but you can never leave.

The unlikely circumstances, however, do not seem to be as much as a nuisance for Arannax as you would assume. Being a scientist he thrives in the submarine, soaking in every bit of information he can from both Captain Nemo and his observations of the vast ocean through the large windows in The Nautilus.  

Did you know, Professor,” he asked with a smile, “that the sea contained such wealth?”

However, as the story progresses the protagonist and his companions begin to witness strange and reckless behavior from the captain and they begin to worry about not only their future, but also the real possibility that they will never see solid land again.

This is a very entertaining book. Verne has a witty, yet dark humor that leaks through the comments of both Captain Nemo and Aronnax. While Verne does tend to ramble at times and he gets extremely detailed about everything around him, it still is a rather fast paced story (also, let’s be honest, every classic novelist tends to random at one point or another). Furthermore, with it being so detailed and specific, Verne creates a world and story that the reader can’t help but think actually happened.

I can’t guarantee everyone will absolutely love this book, BUT I can guarantee that if you read this book you will feel like an expert of all aquatic life by the time you are finished. Jules Verne clearly had a vast knowledge of life under the sea, and he did not want to leave a single fish out of his book. I actually hope he made a lot of them up, because no one should know how to classify that many fish.

****

Jules Verne originally published Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in 1869 in French. He is known as one of the “pioneers” of the science-fiction genre. His most famous works, along with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea are Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

 

Here is the complete list of the Popsugar 2016 Reading Challenge:

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BR: All the Light We Cannot See

In 2016 I am reading my way through the Popsugar 2016 Reading Challenge. Popsugar comes out with a book challenge at the beginning of the year with a few dozen categories for you to read your way through during the year. With each category I will be sharing what book I read and a short review of each of them.

 

Category: A Book Set In Europe

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (530 pages)

 

My Rating: ★★★★★

Favorite Line: Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

Review: 

Set in France and Germany during World War II and the few years leading up to it, this story tells the story of two children, an orphan boy in Hitler Youth, and a blind Parisian girl who flees from occupied France to the coast with her father.

I read this book shortly after reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which had quickly become my favorite WWII based fiction, but this book challenged that ranking from page one.

Full of breathtaking passages and deep emotional scenes, All the Light we Cannot See hooks you to the two main characters, forcing you to embrace their story as if it were your own.

You can’t help but hurt for Werner, the Germany boy, as he goes through Hitler Youth. You watch his mind slowly change from the young innocent boy who used to listen to French broadcasts with his sister from the attic of their orphanage, to a young soldier locating enemy spies and ignoring any opposition he had in his mind. Even while he abandons his beliefs for those of his commanders, you never fully abandon your belief in him, because after all, He was just a boy. They all were. Even the largest of them.

Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, had to flee Paris with her father to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to stay with her wacky, secluded uncle. This bold girl, encouraged by her spirited father’s puzzles and her braille books, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, finds joy and courage everyday and helping those around her find their own.

Marie-Laure, despite her blindness, and the disappearance of her father, remains the true light of this book. Her determination never ceases and her cleverness only grows as the war goes on.

When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?

The book moves toward the inevitable meeting of our two protagonists in a beautifully written narrative with fun (yes, fun, even in a book about WWII) subplots, but yet in many places it will break your heart.

****

Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, along with several other awards for All the Light We Cannot See. Some other works by Doerr include: The Shell Collector (2001), Memory Wall (2010), About Grace (2004), and The Snake Handler (2011).

 

Here is the complete list of the Popsugar 2016 Reading Challenge:

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W, X, Y, and Z

My nephew Joseph asked me to teach him a little Dutch by making him a Dutch Alfabet. The easiest way for me to do this for him is through my blog. These are written for him, but hopefully anyone else reading this can learn a little Dutch! 

W is for Wagon.

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Wagon in Dutch means car.

In the Netherlands, the people try very hard to protect our environment, and one way they do this is by limiting the amount of time in a car. Instead, the Dutch tend to take public transportation, or more commonly, bikes.

When they do drive cars, however, they almost always drive a manual transmission car because these cars use gasoline that is not as harmful to the environment they are trying to preserve.

 

X is for nothing.

X is probably the most uncommon letter in the Dutch language and the only words that would start with X are words taken from other languages, such as x-ray or xylophone.

Y is also for practically nothing.

Y is another very uncommon letter and is usually, if not always, replaced with “ij”. One common and delicious word that starts with these two letters is “ijs” meaning ice. And by ice, they usually always mean ice cream🙂

 

Z is for Zomer.

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My last Dutch word to give you is zomer, which means summer. I moved to the Netherlands in the summer and it is a beautiful season to be there. It rains a lot but when it’s not, everything is green and alive. The country is full of animals and there are endless activities are festivals to go to because the Dutch love to have a good time!

U and V

My nephew Joseph asked me to teach him a little Dutch by making him a Dutch Alfabet. The easiest way for me to do this for him is through my blog. These are written for him, but hopefully anyone else reading this can learn a little Dutch! 

U is for Uil

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Uil is the dutch word for Owl.

Where I lived in the Netherlands the Owl was the symbol for the town.

During Karnival, which is the five days before Lent starts, the Owl is unveiled to mark the beginning of the Karnival festivals.

On Fat Tuesday, the last day of Karnival, the owl is covered up again, telling everyone the festivities are over and lent has begun.

 

V is for Vuurwerk

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Vuurwerk is the dutch word for firework.

In the United States we have fireworks in the summer, and especially on the Fourth of July. In the Netherlands they save most of their fireworks for a different holiday: New Years Eve!

On New Years Eve, right when the clock strikes midnight, all the towns set off fireworks so if you are standing outside you can see fireworks from every direction!!