Sunday, 12 July 2020

The Odyssey by Homer


The Odyssey by Homer
Believed first composed in the 8th Century BCE. English language translation by Richard Lattimore published in America by Harper And Row in 1965.

A Classics Club read.
I am linking this review up with July 2020 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story

How I got this book:
Bought the paperback at a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


A classic for the ages, The Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War—and the obstacles he faces along the way to reclaim his throne, kingdom, and family in Ithaca.

During his absence, his steadfast and clever wife, Penelope, and now teenaged son, Telemachus, have lived under the constant threat of ruthless suitors, all desperate to court Penelope and claim the throne. As the suitors plot Telemachus’ murder, the gods debate Odysseus’ fate.  With help from the goddess Athena, the scattered family bides their time as Odysseus battles his way through storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops, the isle of witch-goddess Circe, the deadly Sirens’ song, a trek through the Underworld, and the omnipresent wrath of the scorned god Poseidon.

An American poet and classicist, Richmond Lattimore’s translation of The Odyssey is widely considered among the best available in the English language. Lattimore breathes modern life into Homer’s epic, bringing this classic work of heroes, monsters, vengeful gods, treachery, and redemption to life for modern readers.

I have finally read a 'proper' edition of Homer's Odyssey albeit in translation, but, still, the famed poetry instead of a retelling. Thank goodness I will (hopefully) never have to do that again!

The Odyssey is such an ancient classic that I am grateful that it exists in the modern day and can be read, but I am also grateful for how much storytelling has advanced over all those centuries! Perhaps this is unfair because, by reading the book instead of going to watch a storyteller perform this work, I know I missed out on much of what must have made the original work vibrant and compelling. Also, contemporary audiences would already have been familiar with the central characters, what men they are and where from, who their parents might be, etc. I found this repeated need to establish everyone's identity and genealogy just a tad tedious, especially once the many gods start getting namechecked too.

The set-piece stories - of the Cyclops or Circe for example - were where The Odyssey really came to life for me, but I was surprised at how little of the poem these adventures account for. Unfortunately they are hidden away amongst a lot of formal chichat and outrageous amounts of eating. Seriously, Homerian men apparently need to eat more often than Hobbits do! And every meal comprises of killing, dismembering and roasting multiple animals then pouring out bowlfuls of wine. These valiant heroes must actually have been unheathily rotund with worryingly high blood pressure! I did enjoy spotting the repeating verses, refrains I suppose, where the poet could have recited almost on autopilot whilst getting their thoughts in line for the next section of the story. For example, these same two characters appear in every good house at dinnertime and I'd love to read The Odyssey from the Grave Housekeeper's point of view:
A maidservant brought water for them and poured it from a splendid and golden pitcher, holding it above a silver basin for them to wash, and she pulled a polished table before them.
A grave housekeeper brought in the bread and served it to them, adding many good things to it, generous with her provisions.
They put forth their hands to the good things that lay ready before them.

Of all the characters, of course, our Odysseus is the most heroic and doesn't he know it! I struggled to understand why Penelope hadn't declared him dead at the earliest opportunity and availed herself of the best of the suitors instead. Odysseus might have suffered terribly, but he is exasperatingly full of his own importance and loves to boast at every opportunity. The ease with which he lies to even  his elderly father, Laertes, when there was no reason to do so made me suspect he was making up most of his travails. Margaret Atwood's wickedly wonderful The Penelopiad might also have coloured my opinions!

I can understand why The Odyssey has endured but, for me, the style hasn't aged well. There's too much dull dialogue and I nearly gave up altogether early on before Odysseus even makes his entrance. A richly detailed modern retelling is a more my idea of a satisfying read than the original - and I know I have a copy of Circe by Madeline Miller awaiting me soon!


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Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Boy With Two Hearts by Hamed Amiri


The Boy With Two Hearts by Hamed Amiri
Published in the UK by Icon Books on the 18th June 2020.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A powerful tale of a family in crisis, and a moving love letter to the NHS

Herat, Afghanistan, 2000. A mother speaks out against the
fundamentalist leaders of her country. Meanwhile, her family’s watchful eyes never leave their beloved son and brother, whose rare heart condition means that he will never lead a normal life.

When the Taliban gave an order for the execution of Hamed Amiri’s mother, the family knew they had to escape, starting what would be a long and dangerous journey, across Russia and through Europe, with the UK as their ultimate destination. Travelling as refugees for a year and a half, they suffered attacks from mafia and police; terrifying journeys in strangers’ cars; treks across demanding terrain; days spent hidden in lorries without food or drink; and being robbed at gunpoint of every penny they owned. The family’s need to reach the UK was intensified by their eldest son’s deteriorating condition, and the prospect of life-saving treatment it offered.

The Boy with Two Hearts is not only a tale of a family in crisis, but a love letter to the NHS, which provided hope and
reassurance as they sought asylum in the UK and fought to save their loved ones.

The Amiri family's story is one of incredible bravery and dedication to each other. Even before Hamed's mother, Fariba, made her inspiring playground speech criticising Afghanistan's Taliban regime, the Amiris already knew they would one day need to seek specialised healthcare in the UK for the eldest son, Hussein, to rectify his life-threatening heart condition. However, immediately after Fariba's speech, the need to escape overtook everything else meaning that the family swiftly sold everything they possessed in order to raise the funds necessary for their illicit journey. I was reminded of Massocki Ma Massocki's comments in Pride Of An African Migrant about the unimaginable amount of money that vanishes into traffickers pockets, year after year, by refugees and migrants desperate to escape their native countries.

The Amiris harrowing journey took eighteen months all told and I was humbled by their determination to reach their safe haven, despite all the obstacles put in their way. It must at times seemed to have been an unachievable dream, especially with the ticking clock of Hussein's heart growing weaker as each day passed. Hamed writes beautifully of his relationship with his elder brother so I could strongly empathise with their plight.

The Boy With Two Hearts portrays life in Wales and England as I wish it could be for all refugees who arrive here. The family meet with kindness and understanding as they resettle in Cardiff, with the specialist heart department in Southampton being keen to do all they can for Hussein once they learn of his condition. In return, the Amiri boys give back to their new communities by way of voluntary service within the NHS, Hussein even winning an award for his unstinting efforts. I appreciated this depiction of the ways in which sheltering refugees can enhance the communities that take them in. The misguided nationalist narrative that refugees only take is proven very wrong here.

The Boy With Two Hearts is an uplifting memoir of young refugees and family unity which, I admit, did have me welling up at times. I liked Hamed's engaging prose style and I hope his memoir goes on to enjoy a wide readership across the UK. As one of a number of such memoirs I have now read, I think this tale would appeal to readers who enjoyed Butterfly by Yusra Mardini and The Journey by Abdul Musa Adam.


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Friday, 10 July 2020

Cover Characteristics - Streetlights

I've long been a fan of the beautiful Cover Characteristics posts that Kristen curates over at Metaphors And Moonlight so I've been putting together similar posts myself. You can see my previous collections up to February 2020 on my Stephanie Jane blog and from March 2020 here on Literary Flits.
The idea is to choose book covers which are linked in some way (featuring an object in common, perhaps, or a similar title font) and to then display them artfully. Sounds easy, turns out not to be! But it is fun to look back through my old reviews.

All this month's book covers feature:

Streetlights

Click each cover image to see its book review post on Literary Flits




Thursday, 9 July 2020

Arms of the Ocean by Jamie Webster & M Dalto + #Giveaway + Excerpt


Arms of the Ocean
Jamie Webster, M. Dalto
Published by: Parliament House
Publication date: July 7th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Young Adult
Nineteen-year-old Tristaine lived a life of bitterness. When her mother abandoned her family, and her father began drinking, Tris discovered the only thing that truly brought her happiness: the sea.
It called to her like a lover and flowed through her like a life force. When her only peace is threatened to be taken away, Tris realizes there is nothing she wouldn’t do to remain with the ocean.
Even if it means taking her own life to do so.
But the sea isn’t done with her -not yet- and Tris soon finds herself submerged in a world where love, betrayal, and honor stand stronger than any other force of nature.

Excerpt
Lips that were suddenly very, very close to my own.
I reeled back, kicking my legs in the sand, doing everything in my power to distance myself from this stranger.
This stranger who knelt upon the beach, bare chested in only a pair of tight, dark pants, wet and slick from the ocean’s water.
As if he had just emerged from a swim.
As if he had just saved me.
“Who...who are you?” I asked hoarsely, but my body
betrayed me, and I resumed coughing. Everything hurt, and all I could do was curl my body around itself to keep it in check.
“Just take deep breaths,” was all he said as he came up next to me, one of his strong arms draping over my shoulders as I tried to do as he instructed.
In through my nose, out through my mouth.
After a few repetitions, the coughing ceased, and I was able to uncoil myself. I kept my knees drawn to my chest for comfort as I continued to breathe, focusing on the ocean before me to help me regain my composure.
I had jumped from the cliff.
I was going to end it. Everything.
But he had saved me.
“Who are you?” I asked again, trying to remain calm.
“By the looks of it, I’m your salvation.” He smiled, showing me a mouth full of white teeth, smooth as mother- of-pearl.
“But...why?” I asked breathlessly. I hadn’t asked to be saved, and yet...
“Why does anyone need saving?” he asked quietly, and I swore he leaned in closer. My attention returned to those eyes.
“I didn’t ask for your help.” My heart—my broken, shattered heart—began pounding in my chest.
“You didn’t have to.”
His lips were abruptly upon mine, crashing into me like the waves upon the rocks.
Adrenaline soared through my veins, spurring me to return his kiss, even as my mind tried to protest.
He tasted of the sea and the salt and the sunlight.
He was everything I wanted and needed in my bitter, desolate life.
All that was to be taken away from me was right here, before me.



Author Bio:
Jamie Webster is an Adult Fantasy writer who recalls writing stories as early as ten. She first began writing fanfiction, though she typically created an original character to follow. In high school, she began to create her own fantasy worlds and roleplayed on Yahoo Groups and AIM. In her adult years, she has completed four books as well as written for several publications including a blog, Trials and Tribulations, for her local newspaper as well as articles on writing and book reviews for Fantasy-Faction.
Jamie received her B.A. in English with a focus in Creative Writing from UMaine and an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. She does most of her drafting during NaNoWriMo and fancies herself as the hybrid plantser. Her passion is reading, writing, crocheting and playing video games. She currently lives in Maine with her three children, Corgi, Mini Aussie, and a plethora of other animals that she’d rather not admit to.
Author links:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

M. Dalto is a bestselling New Adult author of adventurous romantic fantasy stories, having won a Watty award for excellence in digital storytelling for her debut novel, Two Thousand Years, in 2016. She spends her days as a full-time residential real estate paralegal, using her evenings to pursue her literary agenda, and when she’s not writing, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their corgi named Loki.
Author links:
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

GIVEAWAY!
Win a $10 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 30th July.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Grace & Serenity by Annalisa Crawford


Grace & Serenity by Annalisa Crawford
Published in the UK by Vine Leaves Press on the 7th July 2020.

G for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge


Living on the streets is terrifying and exhausting. Grace’s only comforts are a steady stream of vodka, and a strange little boy who’s following her around.

At nineteen, Grace has already had a child and endured an abusive marriage. But she’s also had her baby abducted by her vengeful husband and been framed as a neglectful mother. Even her own parents doubted her version of the story. So she did the only thing that made sense to her—run away.

The streets are unforgiving. Winter is drawing in. And Grace isn’t prepared for the harsh realities of survival. At her very bleakest, a Good Samaritan swoops into her life and rescues her. With a roof over her head and food in her stomach, she longs to see her baby again.

But nothing ever comes for free.


Grace & Serenity is a heartbreaking novel which explores how easily childish dreams can be smashed when confronted with the callousness of the adult world. Grace is only fifteen when ninteen-year-old Neil sweeps her off her feet at a party. Even after he uses her pregnancy as an excuse to abandon her for months, the socially conditioned desirability of marriage-and-happy-families leads Grace to immediately accept his eventual proposal, unwittingly putting herself and her unborn child into danger as she ignores or underestimates all the aspects of his behaviour that should ring alarm bells.

The novel is narrated entirely in the first person by Grace herself and I particularly loved how Crawford portrays the glaring differences between how Grace perceives herself and the immaturity of her actions. She is an unreliable narrator too, and I often felt as though I was being led to dismiss her words as unbelievable even when physical evidence backed her up. Grace's rapid slide into isolated homelessness is all too plausible though. Crawford vividly describes Plymouth's urban landscape and I could visualise this city in a different light after having been shown it from Grace's perspective. 

I would recommend Grace & Serenity to readers who enjoyed Angelica Stone by Susi Osborne or The Tender Birds by Carole Giangrande. Crawford's novel is a dark coming of age story that I frequently found upsetting. It is ultimately a rewarding read however and a book that should be pressed into the hands of all fifteen-year-olds, boys as well as girls, as a cautionary tale.

Meet the author 

Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, two sons, and dog.
Crawford writes dark contemporary, character-driven stories, with a hint of the paranormal.
Over the years, she has won several competitions, and had many short stories published in small press journals and online. Highlights include being placed 3rd in the Costa Short Story Award 2015 and being longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and Bath Short Story Award in 2018.

Author links: 
WebsiteTwitterFacebook ~ Instagram



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Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Aftermath Of Secrets by Cate Beauman


AFTERMATH OF SECRETS by CATE BEAUMAN
The Carter Island Trilogy, Book 2
RELEASE DATE:  June 4, 2020


BOOK DESCRIPTION:
When The Secrets Of The Past Threaten To Destroy The Future…

Boston’s Most Eligible Bachelor has it all: good looks, a great career, and plenty of wealth and prestige. But Bradley Sanderson’s charmed life quickly falls apart when scandal rocks his famous family. Arrests have been made; the media circus has begun, and Brad’s been tasked with the daunting chore of restoring the Sandersons’ good name. Moving back to Carter Island and picking up the pieces hasn’t been easy, especially when the one person he needs the most won’t give him the time of day.

Bakery owner and island resident Molly Carter is loyal to her core, but that doesn’t mean Brad’s homecoming hasn’t left her torn. Brad’s darkest days aren’t lost on Molly, but reaching out to her lifelong friend isn’t so simple when she’s forced to guard her heart. Everything changed when she woke up alone after their sexy summer night.

The complications keep coming when Brad’s long-lost brother shows up in town, bringing the remnants of his checkered past with him. Forgiveness and redemption are possible for all, until new secrets come to light that may have dire consequences.

*A contemporary romance with twists of mystery and suspense




REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS:
5 Stars! “I'm a big sucker for a good love story, especially one that has drama. Aftermath Of Secrets by Cate Beauman provided both in a beautiful way. I was swept in by the characters, their wants, and desires.” -Shannon Winings, Readers’ Favorite Book Awards


EXCERPT:
“What do you think it’s been, five or six years since you’ve been home for more than a week in a row?”
Brad nodded slowly. “Yeah, something like that.”
“It’s like the good old days.”
He shrugged, pushing off the wall, moving her way. “Sort of.”
Molly winced, foolishly forgetting that life for Brad was currently unrecognizable. “I guess that was pretty dumb of me to say.”
“No, I just meant Nate isn’t here hanging out in his boxers, and I haven’t done this yet.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Dunked you,” he said as he pressed his hand on top of her head and sent her under.
She sank beneath the watery depths, slapping at his hand and arm as he kept her submerged for a good three or four seconds. She came up sputtering and glaring. “You idiot.” She coughed again. “Are you trying to drown me?”
He dismissed her with a chuckle and flippant raise of his brow. “So dramatic. We had about three minutes before we needed to start worrying about brain damage.”
Her eyes narrowed again. “Oh, you’re dead,” she said, gritting her teeth, charging after him.
He laughed, swimming away.
But they were well-matched, both of them excellent swimmers. All the Sanderson and Carter kids had had numerous lessons in their younger days due to their proximity to the Atlantic.
She hooked her arm around his neck, maneuvered her way onto his back, and sent them both underwater, her legs locking around his waist to keep her leverage. But his sheer size and strength were her disadvantage.
Then they both surfaced for air, Brad laughing before she brought him under again. Within seconds, he had their positions reversed, and he held her against him, one arm wrapped around the front of her waist, the other around her shoulders as they came up for another draw of air.
His breath puffed against her neck in hot torrents as their legs brushed with their kicks to stay afloat, while he let her waist go and used his arm to tread water. “Molls, this is quite a predicament.
He wasn’t kidding. She was pinned beneath his strong arm, and her back was pressed against his solid chest, with no choice but to grip his muscular forearm caging her in place. “Fine. You win.” She just needed him to let her go.
“That’s it? Since when do you give up so easy?”
Since he’d kissed her brainless and taken her to bed. “Since I realized it’s time to get home and get changed for your party at Nate and Callie’s.” She tried to move away from him.
He switched arms, now holding her around the waist, and began keeping their heads above water with his opposite arm. “No problem. Just say, Brad, you’re the best Scrabble player I know. I bow to you, you genius.”
She huffed out a laugh, raising her arm to the surface to help keep their chins from bobbing under. “I won. Three years in a row now.”
“Just luck.” He held her tighter, whispering next to her ear, his voice full of teasing. “You’re the best, Brad. That’s all I need to hear.”
“Broody Brad,” she murmured, knowing he hated it when she called him that—a slight from their childhood.
“What was that?” he asked, drilling his fingers into her side, tickling her.
She scream-laughed. “Damn it, Brad.” She fought him enough to turn and immediately realized her huge mistake as he held her chest to chest, and they stared into each other’s eyes.
He grinned. “This is certainly a situation.”
A droplet trailed down his face to land on his firm bottom lip, and his eyelashes were webbed together, making him even more irresistible than he already was. Her heart pounded, her pulse thundering in her throat, and she glared at him, needing to be free of him, well aware he was enjoying this far too much.
There was an undeniable attraction between them. All she had to do was press her mouth to his, and they would have a repeat of August. But they weren’t going there again. She wasn’t risking their friendship a second time.


ABOUT CATE BEAUMAN
Cate Beauman is the multi-award-winning, international bestselling author of The Bodyguards of L.A. County series and the Carter Island Novels. She is known for her full-length, action-packed romantic suspense and contemporary stories.
Cate's novels have been named Readers' Favorite Five Star books and have won the Booksellers' Best Award, Maggie Award for Excellence, the Holt Medallion Award, two-time Aspen Gold Medal, two-time Readers' Favorite International Gold Medal, three-time Readers' Favorite International Silver Medal, and the Readers' Crown Award.
Cate makes her home in New Hampshire with her family and their St. Bernards, Bear and Jack.






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Monday, 6 July 2020

The Diary of a Late Bloomer by L.M.L Gil + #Giveaway


The Diary of a Late Bloomer; A quirky coming of age novel
L.M.L Gil
Publication date: June 29th 2020
Genres: Coming of Age, New Adult, Romance, Sports

A Book With a Vegetarian Character.

I am linking this review up with July 2020 Foodies Read over at Based On A True Story.
Every wallflower blooms at their own perfect time, but some like quirky Lo, take longer than others.
Lo is a sheltered 20-year-old who loves baking, manga/anime, and octopi. When she spots her college swim team’s tryout flyer sporting her favorite sea creature, an octopus she knows it’s a sign that she must join the Flying Octopi. The only things standing her way are her social awkward nature and the fact that she just learned to swim.


I don't often choose to read young adult fiction, but there was something about the synopsis of The Diary of a Late Bloomer by L.M.L Gil that really spoke to me so I decided to give the novel a try. I loved the brightly coloured octopus on the book cover too. It turns out that, other than our height, younger me had a lot in common with our socially awkward protagonist, Lo. I could genuinely empathise with her extreme anxiety in social situations and her tendency to blame herself for anything going wrong around her also rang uncomfortably true. I'm totally on board with with her cure-all balm of baking too. There's a lot of food in this novel so I would recommend having snacks on standby before you start reading!

As its title suggests, this novel is written as a series of diary entries. Lo writes about her days over the course of a year, ending each entry with a wonderful Plan Of Attack - three actions she is inspired to take as a result of the day's events. It was interesting to see how Lo's focus gradually changes as the weeks go by. This really is a lovely coming of age novel in which I witnessed her blossom from an incredibly oversensitive worrier to a confident young woman, albeit still an endearingly odd one. The Diary Of A Late Bloomer manages to portray the non-conventional behaviours of outcast teenagers in an authentic and humorous way, but I never feel as though Gil was poking fun at her characters. Instead, I felt a stronger connection with these young people because or their lack of bland normality.

What really made this novel for me was Gil's sharply observed relationships both between the swim team members and within Lo's immediate family. Perhaps the AIM conversations sometimes felt a little too formally worded, but the in-person conversations are beautifully written, full of the hidden information that each character is too repressed to openly reveal about themselves. I happily rooted for Lo all the way through The Diary Of A Late Bloomer and was delighted to have taken a chance on Gil's writing. I think this story would appeal to quirky young adult readers as well as, of course, those of us who've left those years behind but still retain our quirks!



Author Bio:
L.M.L. Gil is a writer, a reader, and a dreamer.
When she is not writing, editing, or thinking about her next story, she is either in the kitchen testing out a new recipe or snuggling with her fur munchkins reading.
As a glutton, she equates a good novel to a scrumptious dessert, which leaves your heart a little lighter and a smile on your face.
She hopes her novels provide a sweet treat without the calories

GIVEAWAY!
Win a $40 Amazon gift card and an ebook copy of The Diary of a Late Bloomer by L.M.L Gil.
Open internationally until the 16th July.


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