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!

Weekly books (May 15th to May 21st)

Convenience Store Woman- Sayaka Murata (audiobook, new read)

‘Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years. Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married.
But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…’
(convenience Store Woman synopsis)

This is one of those books that I have no idea how I found haha, I just remember reading about it somehow and I listened to the audiobook straight away. I like to read translated books every so often to learn about different environments and cultures. The main character Keiko is by self-definition- or rather by definition of those around her- unusual and does not conform to the norms of societies. The plot covers Keiko’s time working in the store; however, this book is a social commentary on the pressures of society and expectations based on factors including age and gender. Keiko is a very interesting character; she absolutely does her own thing despite a lot of pressure to conform. She is very black and white, literal and at times appears to lack empathy with a preference for logic. The plot itself is not necessarily very interesting but I loved the unusual presence and interesting discussions. I love books that focus on elements of diversity and discrimination of difference, and I think everybody universally has at some point felt pressure to ‘fit into society’ or feel some sort of time constraint. I turned 24 at January and I have to remind myself how young I am because I instantly felt extreme pressure from friends and family (extended family, my close family are amazing), social media and society in general to ‘get my life together’. I am already constantly asked why I’m single or feel in some ways ‘odd’ for enjoying being single, and this pressure definitely comes from the expectations of society. I think it can be difficult (and these are first world problems, I am very privileged compared to some people) not to compare yourself to others, not to think about age and time and ‘what you’re doing with your life’, but it’s important to remember that our life is our own and there are so many people who feel the way we do.

I loved reading about the relationship between Keiko and her sister, it cleverly addresses that way that even those closest to us feel the need to understand us or ‘fix’ things that we are not doing right according to their own value of a meaningful life. This may be explicit as is the case in this book or can be an unconscious desire or pressure that we place on those around us. If we do not think about these expectations, it is likely that we are deciding what makes someone happy and therefore assuming that they must be mistaken if their ideas do not align with our own.

“She’s far happier thinking her sister is normal, even if she has a lot of problems, than she is having an abnormal sister for whom everything is fine.”

Feminism is also a theme throughout this story, addressing negative gender stereotypes; specifically, that men and women should get married and have children, men should have high earning jobs and women should support their husbands as a homeowner. This is not to say that choosing to marry, have children and take on these roles as a couple are in anyway wrong, but it is wrong and shocking that these are still the expectations and often deemed the only ‘acceptable’ way to life your life. Interestingly, a male character in this story acts as though he is countering such stereotypes, however, he is doing this in an attempt to manipulate Keiko into becoming a woman who can ‘serve’ him in a way that he deems to be appropriate. I think this book raises some very interesting points and whilst it is a short book with a basic plot, I will definitely be thinking about the social justice issues in Convenience Store Woman for a long time. This would be such a fun book to analyse in depth, but I think I’d need to spend more time thinking about it to do this. I strongly believe that if an individual has free will to make their own choices and is not hurting anyone, they are doing absolutely nothing wrong. The world is incredibly judgemental, and we spend so much time comparing ourselves that we cannot truly focus on being happy.

I suppose the message to end with is do what you want to do and remember no matter how different you feel, someone else is feeling this way. 😊

Favourite/meaningful quotes:

You eliminate the parts of your life that others find strange–maybe that’s what everyone means when they say they want to ‘cure” me.”

This society hasn’t changed one bit. People who don’t fit into the village are expelled: men who don’t hunt, women who don’t give birth to children. For all we talk about modern society and individualism, anyone who doesn’t try to fit in can expect to be meddled with, coerced, and ultimately banished from the village.”

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan (physical book, new read)

‘Look, I didn’t want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God.

I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. Now I spend my time battling monsters and generally trying to stay alive. This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I’ve stolen his lightning bolt – and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.’ (Lightning thief synopsis)

I never read this series as a child so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel reading them now as they are middle grade, but decided to give them ago for the mythology (and I know that those who’ve read the books hate the film so I thought it’d be an injustice to never give the books a try haha). I loved this! I needed something quick and cheerful after Mockingjay and this was really entertaining and funny. The characters reminded me of the golden trio in Harry Potter– in a very positive way, they still felt original, and I loved the nostalgic feeling that only middle grade Harry Potter style books bring. I forgot how much I love reading characters who are slightly younger than the typical 16-year-old YA protagonist, Percy is funny, cheeky and sarcastic and reminded me of how much I love sassy young Harry. I also loved the innocent friendship dynamic between the three characters (although I assume something will happen between Percy and Annabeth at some point). The three are very strong characters, I love Annabeth’s kindness and wisdom that never borders on arrogance. I also loved the depiction of a satyr, Grover’s hippy nature and the environmental elements were one of my favourite parts, I’d love to see more of them throughout the books. Riordan is very good at simple messages such as kindness to animals, acceptance of difference, environmental issues, and I really liked the way he touches on ADHD and dyslexia, I think children experiencing either of these will relate to these characters,

I also felt that the myths fit into the story naturally and didn’t feel forced or too ‘educational’. I enjoyed the balance of traditional Greek tragedy and comedy, and Percy’s complete confusion at all times in the world that the other half bloods accept as normal (again reminds me of my favourite lil Harry, they’re very similar in the best way). Before reading I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy the story, however, the humour and elements of pop culture (such as Grover playing Hilary Duff which is even now slightly outdated but funny) make these stories fun to read for children and adults. This joke gives a good example of the humour:

The surfer screamed something about bad mushrooms and paddled away from us as fast as he could.’

I complained that I didn’t like the cheesy representation of the Gods in Lovely War, however, I enjoyed their ‘human’ portrayals in this book because this was a funny light-hearted representation. I feel that Lovely War tried to portray cheesy characters within a serious book which didn’t work for me. Overall, I’d really recommend this book for people of all ages! 😊

Favourite/meaningful quote:

Once I got over the fact that my Latin teacher was a horse, we had a nice tour, though I was careful not to walk behind him. I’d done pooper-scooper patrol in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and, I’m sorry, I did not trust Chiron’s back the way I trusted his front. ”

“Percy, meet Gladiola. Gladiola, Percy.”
I stared at Annabeth, figuring she’d crack up at this practical joke they were playing on me, but she looked deadly serious.
“I’m not saying hello to a pink poodle,” I said. “Forget it.”
“Percy,” Annabeth said. “I said hello to the poodle. You say hello to the poodle.” The poodle growled.
“I said hello to the poodle.”

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters- Rick Riordan (physical book, new read)

‘You can’t tell by looking at me that my dad is Poseidon, God of the Sea.

It’s not easy being a half-blood these days. Even a simple game of dodgeball becomes a death match against an ugly gang of cannibal giants – and that was only the beginning. Now Camp Half-Blood is under attack, and unless I can get my hands on the Golden Fleece, the whole camp will be invaded by monsters. Big ones..’ (Sea of Monsters synopsis)

Again, this was a great book! I did start to think about Percy and Annabeth halfway through though. Initially I worried that they are cousins (because I’m sure something will end up happening between them) but after looking it up (I’m still bad at remembering lots about the titans haha) I learned that Athena is Poseidon’s niece therefore Percy and Annabeth are removed cousins or something? So I guess it’s fine but I wonder if they’ll address that at some point (unless they do just remain friends or one of them dies, it’s a miracle that I’ve lived my life having none of this spoiled haha). Anyway, I found the story is this book really interesting as they kind of replicated Odysseus’ journey in a way and I love parts of that story, particularly meeting Circe and the sirens. I’m honestly like a child reading these, I was so excited to figure out who Medusa, Chiron, Dionysus and Circe were before being told hahaha. I love that Percy is not the original Perseus and that the characters are able to use the myths and his namesake to inform their quests and get out of danger, I think it makes the story more interesting and gives Percy his own personality (kind of sounds like a pun). I also enjoyed learning more about Jason and the golden fleece because this is a myth I am less familiar with; I’d say I now have a good knowledge of the trojan war, Odysseys and Circe but my memory is still not great with a lot of the Gods and stories prior to the War, which is something I aim to change in the next year or so. I also liked the introduction of Tyson and discussions surrounding difference and discrimination.

I would say I liked the first book more in the sense that everything was new, and I liked being introduced to the half blood camp and reading about the Underworld, but I enjoyed elements of this story more. I will say though, I’ve mentioned before that I’m very lazy when it comes to action scenes in books and I really can’t be bothered with Luke haha. I like the mini plots and encounters with monsters, but I’d be happy if Luke would just disappear hahaha. I know this is just my own strange problem though, and a book series does need to have an overarching plot. I’ll definitely keep reading this series (I will have a break to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes whenever it comes).

Favourite/meaningful quote:

“You weren’t able to talk sense into him?”
Well, we kind of tried to kill each other in a duel to the death.”
I see. You tried the diplomatic approach.”

Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins (physical book, reread)

I’ve written a whole rambling blog post about this series, I love this book. 😊