November books

The Aeneid- Virgil: Robert Fagles translation (physical book, new read)

‘’Robert Fagles’s latest achievement completes the magnificent triptych of Western epics. A sweeping story of arms and heroism, The Aeneid follows the adventures of Aeneas, who flees the ashes of Troy to embark upon a tortuous course that brings him to Italy and fulfills his destiny as founder of the Roman people. Retaining all of the gravitas and humanity of the original, this powerful blend of poetry and myth remains as relevant today as when it was first written.’’ (The Aeneid synopsis)

I’ve never studied literature or classics so I definitely don’t get as much from books like this as others, however, I’ve finally binge read enough mythology retellings to be able to read and keep up with The Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid. I knew little about this book, but I found it interesting and fairly readable, although I did prefer the early chapters with Dido and the underworld, and I began to feel a bit restless by the end of the story as wars and battle scenes are not my favourite unless I’m extremely invested in characters. The most striking thing I did find was the parallels between ASOIAF, particularly Aeneas and Daenerys and to a lesser extent Jon (unsurprising as Dany/Jon’s stories parallel in themselves). I’m extremely interested in ASOIAF mythology parallels and already made a blog post about some Greek/Norse parallels if you’re interested 😊. I recently bought the illustrated Game of Thrones (I do enjoy wasting money hahaha) and I’d love to reread the series (maybe one character at a time?) analysing anything that interests me and looking for parallels. I think next year (woohoo goodbye 2020) I’ll definitely give this a go and incorporate it into some rambly blog posts in a way.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Do the gods light this fire in our hearts or does each man’s mad desire become his god?”

Pride and prejudice- Jane Austen (audiobook, reread)

‘’Pride and Prejudice is one of the most cherished love stories in English literature; Jane Austen’s 1813 masterpiece has a lasting effect on everyone who reads it. The pride of high-ranking Mr Darcy and the prejudice of middle-class Elizabeth Bennet conduct an absorbing dance through the rigid social hierarchies of early-nineteenth-century England, with the passion of the two unlikely lovers growing as their union seems ever more improbable.’’ (Pride and Prejudice synopsis)

I read this in a very strange format, because I listened to Jen Campbell reading the book aloud. For those who don’t know, Jen is a writer with a youtube channel focusing on books. Over lockdown, she read Pride and Prejudice aloud and turned it into a youtube audiobook. This was a really interesting way to read this book! I’ve always loved the film, but I didn’t really have strong thoughts towards the book the first time I read it, around 6 years ago- I read wee bits at a time over a few months which made if feel a bit disjointed. I loved it a lot more this time around, I think with classics, audiobook can be the way to go for me to really bring the characters to life 😊. I’m sure everyone knows what this is about or has read it, but if you haven’t, I’d recommend giving it a go 😊. I love Lizzie as a character and the feminist themes throughout, particularly interesting due to the time period of the story. Also, not relevant to the book, but I’d recommend listening to the films score, especially ‘Your hands are cold’, it’s so beautiful.

Important/meaningful quote:

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Great Goddesses: Life lessons from myths and monsters- Nikita Gill (physical book, new read)

‘’Wonder at Medusa’s potent venom, Circe’s fierce sorcery and Athena rising up over Olympus, as Nikita Gill majestically explores the untold stories of the life bringers, warriors, creators, survivors and destroyers that shook the world – the great Greek Goddesses.
Vividly re-imagined and beautifully illustrated, step into an ancient world transformed by modern feminist magic.’’
(Great Goddesses synopsis)

I read this at the start of the month and my memory is fading haha, but I found it interesting 😊. The writing style is lovely and I’m glad that I found it enjoyable as I don’t always love poetry. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, I’ve already stolen an idea to try and paint hahah. Again, it got me wanting to find more asoiaf parallels, such as Arya and Artemis, Stannis and Agamemnon. It’s a very engaging feminist retelling, however, there are trigger warnings for themes of rape and assault. The intention of these accounts is to shift the blame back to the men and Gods carrying out these horrific assaults, supporting woman to overcome trauma, however, it could nevertheless be triggering so it’s important to know going into the story. I would say, I enjoyed this book more before they started bringing the Goddesses into our modern world- apart from Percy Jackson, this seems to be a theme within my reading experiences of mythology, I don’t really enjoy reading about the Gods and Goddesses within the modern world.

Important/meaningful quote:

“Every woman is both match and spark, a light for each other from the dark.”

Athena’s Child- Hannah Lynn (physical book, new read)

‘’Gifted and burdened with beauty far beyond that of mere mortals, Medusa seeks sanctuary with the Goddess Athena. But when the lustful gaze of mighty Poseidon falls upon her, even the Temple of Athena cannot protect her. Young Perseus embarks on a seemingly impossible quest. Equipped with only bravado and determination, his only chance of success lays in the hands of his immortal siblings. Medusa and Perseus soon become pawns of spiteful and selfish gods. Faced with the repercussions of Athena’s wrath Medusa has no choice but to flee and hide. But can she do so without becoming the monster they say she is?’’ (Athena’s Child synopsis)

I can’t tell who this book was aimed for as it was interesting and fast paced but something about it felt young, it sometimes felt like YA but I’m not certain. Either way, it would be a good place to start in terms of myth retellings. This is a very glum story, but I enjoyed learning more about Perseus and his story (I knew quite a bit about Medusa already), particularly learning about his mother and I previously only knew what I’d read from Percy Jackson haha. I mentioned Jen Campbell earlier on, she has been discussing the use of disfigurement in characters as a negative trope being associated with ‘ugly’ or ‘evil’ characters, I’d recommend looking up her Instagram and reading her article. This is a very prevalent issue in stories and this book definitely equated disfigurement with ugliness and becoming evil or losing humanity in some way. This is not Lynn’s fault as this stems from early mythology itself, however, when retelling these stories, I think authors could be more conscious about this and use the opportunity to rewrite these tropes.

Troy: The Siege of Troy Retold- Stephen Fry (audiobook, new read)

‘’The story of Troy speaks to all of us – the kidnapping of Helen, a queen celebrated for her beauty, sees the Greeks launch a thousand ships against that great city, to which they will lay siege for ten whole and very bloody years. The stage is set for the oldest and greatest story ever told, where monstrous passions meet the highest ideals and the lowest cunning. In Troy you will find heroism and hatred, love and loss, revenge and regret, desire and despair. It is these human passions, written bloodily in the sands of a distant shore, that still speak to us today.’’ (Troy synopsis)

I loved listening to this, you can feel Fry’s interest in the subject and his enthusiasm makes it even better to listen to. This was my favourite listen of the trilogy as I’ve always been slightly more interested in the Trojan War and the people involved than the stories of the Gods alone (and I’ve never been particularly interested in the heroes, I can never seem to retain much info about Hercules/Heracles despite reading lots). This trilogy is definitely a great place to start with mythology and I enjoy the humour and input from Fry throughout. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading the story of the Trojan War, I enjoy the different perspectives of each writer and I was happy to see Achilles/Patroclus mentioned as lovers in this account as this is the version of their story that I prefer. I’ve mentioned this before, but I love that in every single myth retelling that I’ve read (including the Iliad), Patroclus is consistently a genuinely good compassionate person (there are few others that I can say the same about, except Briseis and some of the Trojan women).

Love lessons- Jacqueline Wilson (e-book, reread)

‘’Fourteen-year-old Prue and her sister Grace have been educated at home by their controlling, super-strict father all their lives. Forced to wear Mum’s odd hand-made garments and forbidden from reading teenage magazines, they know they’re very different to ‘normal’ girls – but when Dad has a stroke and ends up in hospital, unable to move or speak, Prue suddenly discovers what it’s like to have a little freedom.

Sent to a real school for the first time, Prue struggles to fit in. The only person she can talk to is her kindly, young – and handsome – art teacher, Rax. They quickly bond, and Prue feels more and more drawn to him. As her feelings grow stronger, she begins to realise that he might feel the same way about her. But nothing could ever happen between them – could it?’’ (Love Lessons synopsis)

I wanted to finish my nostalgic Wilson binge with another book that I loved as a child/teen. This is another of her older, darker books with themes of authoritative fathers (potentially verbally abusive) and heavily features a grooming type scenario between a 14 year old student and her art teacher. I’ve always found the tone of this book to feel far different from Wilson’s other books, you definitely get the sense of alienation Prue feels around others her age and the strain within her family and environments. Again, I appreciate Wilson’s approach to discussing heavy topics and would recommend this book if you enjoy her others.

Office Girl- Joe Meno (physical book, new read)

‘’Set in 1999 – just before the end of one world and the beginning of another – Office Girl is the story of two youths caught between the uncertainty of their futures and the all-too-brief moments of modern life. Odile is a lovely 23 year-old art-school dropout, a minor vandal, and a hopeless dreamer. Jack is a 25 year-old shirker who’s most happy capturing the endless noises of the city on his out-of-date tape recorder. Together they decide to start their own art movement in defiance of a contemporary culture made dull by both the tedious and the obvious.’’ (Office Girl synopsis)

I don’t want to spend much time on this as I found it incredibly pretentious and want to roll my eyes even thinking back now. I can barely remember how it ended, the characters were manic-pixie dream girls and boys and the themes were so dull and pretentious, I bought this from a charity shop not knowing anything about it and the only reason I finished it is because it’s a quick read and I have a compulsive need to finish books haha. I’m genuinely getting annoyed thinking about it. I also mentioned the representation of disfigurement earlier, I can’t remember the specific quote but there was a disgusting comment from a character that was very anti-disfigurement. I would not recommend this book; I will be trying to forget it.

I hope you’ve been reading lots of good books recently, please let me know if you’ve read any of these and liked them! 😊 I’m currently on 91 reads this year so I now feel a compulsive need to reach 100 before 2021. I’ll see what happens because I’m lazy haha, but December is usually filled with childhood rereads. Anyway, Merry Christmas month!

My favourite tv programmes

Game of thrones

I started watching this programme just before season 3 came out and I just absolutely love it. I was so glad when it became so popular because it was getting hard to convince my friends to watch a programme that features incest and a child being thrown out a window in episode one hahaha. This show is so incredibly well written- it obviously went downhill after the writers ran out of GRRM’s book material, but even so I’ll forgive it it’s many flaws. The characters are so intriguing, well rounded and realistic (most of the time) and the fact that GRRM has no problem killing and torturing makes you root for the characters and watch in fear when your favourites are in danger. With the exceptions of Ramsay and Joffrey, there are no definitively ‘bad’ characters that I hate. The Starks are obviously the ‘good’ family that the audience can grow with and root for, but the Lannister’s are incredibly interesting. I don’t think I can pick favourites; I love them all. I also love the character development throughout the story, characters often lose what is essential to their makeup for example, (SPOILERS!:)

 Cersei’s constant fear of losing her children, Jaime his hand which represents his safety, pride and arrogance, Sansa her idealistic view of the world and so on. Jaime and his redemption arc (kind of ruined at the end by the writers but ah well) is a good representation of the extremely rich, well written arcs in this programme. Even the minor characters who I typically wouldn’t find interesting such as Tywin have depth to their character and an intrigue (made even better by the exceptional acting). The power dynamics and different geographical locations are incredibly interesting, and I love the politics (Littlefinger and Varys are amazing). I also love the fantasy elements and I think they are so well woven into the plot; this is a political, character driven story overall and I think that is so important. I was going to talk about a few of my favourite characters but in trying I’ve realised that I honestly love them all, it’s too hard. Most of my thanks goes to GRRM because his source material definitely makes the programme what it is, but the acting, costume design, special effects and so many things that come together make this an amazing programme. The writers made mistakes and I feel that the show would have benefitted from another season or two, but I’m happy they pitched the idea of a tv programme, or we might never have had the chance to watch this. If you were let down by the last couple of seasons, I’d recommend reading the books, they are absolutely amazing and don’t feature any of the issues within the tv show (such as the unnecessary horrific rape between Daenerys and Khal Drogo and Cersei and Jaime). The books also have time to add depth to the minor plot points and are so so intricate. I’m now going to rewatch Game of Thrones immediately.

Killing eve

This is such an unusual programme and the relationship between Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer really make it. The mystery and music are used so well to create an intense and intoxicating atmosphere that keeps you really intrigued. I think season two has been my favourite so far, but I love the different plot points and elements of focus that each season brings, as well as the ever-changing dynamics between Eve and Villanelle. The characters in this programme are amazing, I love Carolyn and Constantine, and I’m so interested in Villanelle and Constantine’s relationship. I don’t want to say too much about the show, I think it’s better to watch it not knowing too much but it’s so intriguing and very addictive (however, I do think it might be a love it or hate it type of show). This is also one of the rare instances where I’ve liked the programme better than the book it’s based on, the writers have developed the story so well, and the actors are exceptional (Jodie is the queen of accents). The fact that this is a female driven story that steers away from gender stereotypes and positively represents sexualities (this is a hard one to explain because the story is written in a way that promotes good gay and bisexual representation, however, Villanelles relationships or rather fixations are definitely not okay hahaha, I hope you get what I mean).  

Gavin and Stacey

I love programmes that focus on everyday events and ‘normal’ relatable characters that focus on ‘British humour’. The characters in Gavin and Stacey are obviously slightly characterised for humour but I relate to so many aspects of the events and both families are incredibly relatable (I agree with Smithy, food is not for sharing and I will always get my own hahaha). It is the ability to empathise with the characters that make this programme so funny and heart-warming, this is such a good programme to watch if you feel a bit down or in need of comfort. The Christmas special just reaffirmed how well loved this programme is and created a sense of community with everyone else watching. James and Ruth are incredibly good writers and extremely funny actors, what a skill to write a show where the title characters are the least interesting. I would love to hear from anyone outside of the UK who has watched this programme, I’d be really interested in how it comes across. 😊 p.s the catch phrases will stay in your mind forever, I find myself saying ‘Oh my Christ!’ constantly hahaha.

The Inbetweeners

This is another programme with this type of British humour, the caricatured personalities are still incredibly (and depressingly haha) relatable and lots of the joy of this programme is cringing at the misfortunates as you decide what character you are most like. I’ve probably seen each episode 20 times and I still find is so funny, I’ve never really watched anything from the same genre that lives up to it. I think my favourite episodes are maybe Caravan club, and Will’s birthday with the French guy.  I think I might be a mixture of Neil and Simon, but as long as I don’t become Jay I can deal with it.

Friends

This is the type of programme that I will always find funny and comforting, and I probably know 90% of the words to every episode. The characters are incredibly likeable (although I’m still not sure how to feel about being compared to Phoebe more than once hahaha, I think I’m her with a lil bit of Chandlers sarcasm and self-loathing thrown in) and it’s overall just a classic, I’m not even sure what to say about it because everyone has seen it! I think Ross is probably very underrated (although he does have many MANY issues), so many of his moments are the best (holiday armadillo, sandwich, english accent at uni, FRONT AND BACK), but I love every character. I also appreciate the minor characters, Gunther’s hair, Mike’s piano miming and Janice’s laugh will stay with me forever. I just rewatched Friends in order and strangely season one and ten are my least favourites. In saying this, I’ll watch any episode that’s on forever and feel instantly comforted.

Orange is the new black

I haven’t seen this since the final season came out, so my memory has faded a little bit, but this is such an incredible programme. I love the time that has been spent developing each character’s arc and creating everyone’s voice and story, and the way that the writer’s use the plot to highlight social justice issues. I would define this as a drama/dark comedy, and I think there is an incredible balance between each of these elements. This is another example of a tv show that I have enjoyed more than the book it’s based on (although the book is good), and it was such a good decision to move on from Piper’s story to represent the less privileged characters that make up the majority of the prison system. I have so many issues with the prison systems and justice system in general (particularly America’s, the gun crime and corruption between police officers and POC is horrific), and this programme does such a good job of emphasising that woman in prison are people before they are criminals, so many crimes are related to addiction and mental health issues, and the lack of rehabilitation and prison conditions are doing nothing positive to counter the cycle of deprivation and lack of opportunity. I would definitely recommend this programme to all and think it has something to offer everyone, please do be prepared to cry (although you will laugh lots too). 😊

Grey’s anatomy

This is a programme that I watched around two years ago and haven’t seen since, I’ve still to watch the last season but I’m really not in the place to be crying at 3am just now haha. This programme is not realistic, both in terms of the number of main characters to die horrific deaths and- as my nurse friend has informed me- examples of the medical treatments administered. My memory is a little bit fuzzy as to what exactly makes this so addictive (and has made me stay up until 5am on many a night), but I think it’s the interesting characters and melodramatic yet easy to watch plots that create an addictive combination (interestingly, I find Meredith incredibly annoying and yet that doesn’t put me off the programme). I think the earlier seasons are slightly more enjoyable as everything felt new and the many MANY character deaths felt slightly more realistic, and I preferred the programme before (SPOILERS!):

Sandra Oh left (I love her), and most of the main characters died or left the show. Lexie’s death got me most of all, that was one of the few that wasn’t spoiled for me and I SOBBED at 3am, that whole episode was so intense and haunting. I may eventually re-watch Grey’s (when I want to torture myself haha) and return to the crazy world. 😊

Honourable mentions:

Misfits– this programme is incredibly unique and funny, I love the black humour, characters, and crazy plotlines. The music in this show is also amazing, I created many an angsty playlist based on this show in my teenage years. I preferred Misfits before Nathan left (he was an incredible character), but it stayed original throughout.

Peaky blinders– this would probably be in my favourites, but it’s another show I haven’t seen for ages so I can’t remember much about it (and I haven’t seen the last season, please no spoilers). I really enjoy the suspense and atmosphere, I love a programme that can feel relatively slowly paced but keep me intrigued, and I of course love Tommy Shelby and the outfits. I will also always be thankful to Peaky Blinders for sparking my love of Arctic Monkeys (I’m starting to realise that music has a large part to play in my enjoyment of a tv show or film).

You– a good example of black humour, my old favourite. This is such an interesting concept for a show and every time I watch it, I binge it within a day. Somehow despite the incredibly annoying characters (Joe’s a psychopath, Beck is so irritating, and I despise Love), this is amazing. I think the characters are actually meant to be annoying to parallel society and reflect Joe’s perception (I hope so anyway because it’s quite a talent to write such intensely irritating characters). Based on this list I think I’m drawn to a good psychopath now and again.

Black mirror– another incredibly interesting concept, I love this programme. If you haven’t seen it, I will advise that it’s very dark and maybe not ideal for these crazy pandemic times haha, but it’s so so interesting. I also love that each episode is standalone (although that didn’t stop me from binging it), though there are little linking features throughout, such as that one song that comes up in most episodes. This was another show that made me look a bit like a psychopath when I recommended it to family and friends, given that the first episode really sets the tone with the prime minister/pig scenario (I actually think they’ve swapped the Netflix order so that that episode doesn’t put people off haha).

Girls/broad city– every so often I like a self-involved parody of twenty something year olds in New York. I really enjoyed watching Girls, however, I’m vaguely aware that there is controversy surrounding Lena Dunham and Girls has a number of issues, such as the lack of representation of POC in the early seasons. These characters are incredibly selfish and very unlikable towards the end haha, but this is almost the point of the programme and it’s well written. Broad City has the same humour and satirical vibe (sorry for saying vibe hahaha I can’t think of another word), but a far better representation of issues of feminism, racism and discrimination throughout- although it is predominantly a satirical comedy.

Vampire diaries– this is such a guilty pleasure; I haven’t watched this in a couple of years and I’m so tempted to rewatch it during lockdown. Elena is incredibly whiney, and Stefan irritates me (as do many of the characters) but there are surprisingly touching elements and I love the melodrama (I love Damon hahaha). I did stop watching when Nina left, I don’t think it was the same after this point. The programme has many problems but for its teen angsty vampire genre, it is not the worst I’ve seen.

Overall, I think my favourites are character driven, heart-warming addictive tv shows, with a few psychopaths and eccentric characters thrown in. I also like to torture myself with programmes that will make me cry at 3am. Please let me know some of your favourite programmes and feel free to recommend! Thank you for reading, I hope you’re well! 😊

Welcome to the rambling

Thank you to whoever is reading this, I hope you’re doing okay in these crazy times. During lock down I feel thankful that my family, friends and I are healthy and safe- as safe as anybody can be- and are able to stay inside. I’m not someone who naturally likes to stay in, I love going out and staying busy although I am naturally shy and introverted. I’ve been trying different things to keep myself entertained (whilst feeling guilty that I’m struggling to find a way to be helpful during this pandemic) including painting, cooking (mixed results), and reading lots as usual.

I like writing (just for fun) and love reading, so I think this will be a good place to talk about books and the emotions that I experienced whilst reading them. I tend to read fiction- some literary, some fantasy and I love retellings of mythology, particularly Greek, however, this blog will not be at all professional or offer indepth literary analysis; I read purely for fun and love Harry Potter, ASOIAF (and I will admit that in times of stress I enjoy the comfort and ability to rant that rereading a book like twilight brings). I’m always looking for recommendations and love to talk about books with people, so please talk to me whenever you feel like it (I say this, this blog will probably get 2 views a year hahaha)!