Tag Archives: Review

The Odyssey

This year, I have been using a reading list to guide my reading. The list gives topics to follow, and in the end, you will have read twelve books throughout the year. One of the items on the list is “A book you should have read in school.” For this category, I chose to read Homer’s The Odyssey.

The Odyssey is a story I should have first read in high school. However, I went to one of those schools where we watched the movie for everything and never actually read anything. Then in college, all the freshmen at my college read The Odyssey in a mandatory first semester course. Except for my class. My instructor decided we should read The Iliad instead.

So now, ten years after I should have, I read The Odyssey.

To be honest, I think I was able to enjoy it now better than I would have as a student. Currently, I teach a literature class that does a section on Ancient Greek Literature. I think teaching this section of my course helped me a lot while reading this story.

It is a good story. However, the style of writing is very different than what most of us are used to today (another reason why I feel I was able to enjoy this story better now than I would have ten years ago). As I have gotten older, I have started to enjoy different story-telling techniques. It’s interesting to me the amount of variation that exists in the way different cultures tell stories.

My only negative about this story: Odysseus tends to be a bit long winded at times. He likes to tell stories to the people he meets along his journey, which is fine, but sometimes those stories start to feel like they should be a book themselves. At times, these stories of Odysseus’ draw the reader’s attention away from the main story line.

Overall, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this one. It’s not necessarily in my top picks, but worth a read. Just make sure you get a good translation. It turns out, the way the story is translated can make a big difference regarding how enjoyable it is.

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The Historian

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is told from multiple perspectives moving back and forth between a period of fifty or so years. There are three point of view characters. The first character is a sixteen-year-old girl who discovers her father’s dirty little secret in his research as a historian. Her father, Paul, has a fascination with Dracula that he has kept hidden from much of the rest of the world. This fascination was passed down to him from his mentor in college, Prof. Rossi. The story moves between the views of Rossi, Paul, and Paul’s daughter as each decides to continue the previous’ research on the historical figure of Vlad the Impaler and the legend of Dracula to see just how connected the two figures really are, and to discover if there is any truth to the legends.

This is a book a got years ago (when it first came out) but never got around to reading until just recently. When the book first came out, my aunt asked me if I had read it. When I said, no, but it was on my list, she wrinkled her nose and informed me it wasn’t very good. When I finally got around to reading this book, the whole time all I could think was, what was my aunt talking about? I went through 875 pages thinking, this is a pretty good story! And then I got to the final 35 pages.

In all honesty, it doesn’t matter how good the first thousand pages of a story are. If the ending is unsatisfying, the book is unsatisfying because the ending is what people are going to remember. By the I had finished reading those last 35 pages, I was so mad that I had to fight back the urge to throw the book across the room. Do you know how long it takes (me, at least) to read 900 pages? The answer is too long to be met with such a dissatisfying resolution by the end of it.

The climactic moment, completely anti-climactic.

Character growth, completely flat.

Sense of job well done, completely lacking.

When I got to the big moment of confrontation at the end of the story, I was left with the immediate reaction of, that was it!?! Taking the time to read such a book to be left with so little at the end was a complete waste of time.

I hate writing negative reviews because I feel like most stories always have something positive to offer, but sometimes, there’s just no getting around it. 😦

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Heart Shaped Box

I just finished reading my first book of 2016. The book was Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. Now, I’m not one for scary stories (though I handle scary books much better than I do scary films); however, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with its ghost story elements. The book is an easy read and entertaining story.

The book follows the story of a man named Jude who was once a great rock star but has been sitting on the back burner for a few years now.  Jude, who has a fascination with the occult, finds a ghost for sale online and jumps at the opportunity to buy it. What he doesn’t realize is that the ghost he purchased is the dead step-father of his ex-girlfriend–a girl who killed herself after he broke up with her. Now, this ghost is determine to make Jude pay for the pain he caused.

The story is fast-paced and offers one event right after the other without much downtime. As far as style is concerned, while reading this book it is not hard to believe that Joe Hill is the son of author Stephen King. The two writing styles are very similar. Also like King, Hill’s characters find themselves in situations that seem unbeatable, mostly because they are faced with villains they don’t quite know how to fight against.

Even though this was a book that I had to read during daylight hours (because, again, I have a heard time with scary things at night), it was a book I really liked. It was a quick, easy read and very entertaining. It might not be a good novel if you are looking for deep meaning, but it’s a great story for passing the time.

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Lord of Light

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny is not necessarily a book that would have caught my curiosity on its own. This book was actually given to me as a gift by my mother after she learned that it was a book that inspired Neil Gaiman to want to be a writer. I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I didn’t expect something entertaining, something inspiring. What I got was a story that, at first, I had a hard time wrapping my head around, but as I moved through it, I slowly came to an understanding.

This book follows the story of Sam, on who is called the Buddha in a world not quite like our own, but one ruled by gods who are determined to make the people of the world depend on them for eternity. Sam, however, has a different plan for the progression of mankind, which leads him into a battle against the gods.

This is one of those stories that I am certain I did not fully grasp on this first read through, one of those stories that will reveal so much more on a second or third read. Going into it without any idea regarding what it contained, I found myself confused halfway through. (I later discovered that this was due in part to the fact that the story is not told chronologically.) Trying to piece together the sections of the story, doing my best to comprehend where I was in time at any given point, detracted from my being able to devote my attention to the message of the story itself. By the time I reached the end, I wish I had paid more attention to Sam’s message, and the message of the gods presented in the story. This is my goal for my next read, to understand the text on a deeper level and not to get distracted by what is superficial.

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Good Omens

Good Omens is an older book written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. If you are a fan of these authors’ styles, then this book is definitely entertaining. However, if you’re not big on British sarcasm and wit, you’ll probably find yourself completely unamused.

The book follows two supernatural beings: Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon). Each is the representative on Earth for Heaven and Hell. Their jobs: bring about the Apocalypse without any snags along the way. The only problem is that after a couple thousand years on Earth, they have both grown to like the place and hate the idea of seeing it destroyed.

British wit is something I find highly entertaining. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors (and the reason I pick up this book in the first place). I was not disappointed. Good Omens was everything I had hoped it would be. And it was refreshing for me as well. It had been a while since I had read something written in this vein—sarcastic, witty, humorous—and it was just what I needed after dealing with some heavier texts.

Though the book is around 400 pages, I would say it’s a light read. It has uncomplicated prose and you can move through it pretty quickly. So if you are looking for something to give you a good laugh and be entertaining, Good Omens is definitely a good choice.

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Neighbors: Facing the Fact We’re Growing Up

Last night I saw the new movie Neighbors starring Seth Rogen and Zac Efron. The movie is about a young couple with a new baby who has just moved into their first house. They are getting ready to start their grown-up life together. And then a fraternity moves into the vacant house next door. With all the parties, loud music, stunts, and people coming and going at all hours of the night, the couple’s dream of being adults is coming apart.

To be completely honest, this movie was full of a whole lot of stupid. However, I went into it expecting as much. What I wasn’t expecting was how much I ended up being able to relate to the overall theme of the movie.

Let’s get the stupid out of the way first. The R rating comes from the language and nudity throughout the film. Think of all the stupidest hazing gimmicks a frat could run, and they were in there. Some of it got hard to watch at times, but I suffered through.

But once you got past the stupid, there were a lot of things I found myself relating to. As someone who went through college, spent time at frat parties, and is now approaching 30 and trying to act like an adult in society, I realized I had to be seeing this film in a completely different light than the high schoolers sitting in the back of the theater. Growing up is a weird thing, and this film hit the point in so many ways. Just because we get married, get jobs, and have kids, doesn’t mean we want to stop having fun. But what counts as fun starts to change, sometimes without us even realizing it. It’s something we all have to face–the horrible realization that college was years ago, and as grown up as you thought you were then, you’re so much different now.

From IMDB

From IMDB

The hardest thing for me to come to terms with in this one: I was the old people. I don’t like the idea of getting older any more than the characters in the movie did, but it happens so we have to learn to live with it.

Would I recommend this to others? If you like stupid, then yes, because this film if full of it. Otherwise, approach with caution because the stupid is really hard to get past.

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The Road: Questioning Humanity

MV5BMTAwNzk4NTU3NDReQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU3MDg3OTEyODI@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_The Road is a 2009 film based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where hope and the lifespan of the human race is slowly dying. Though I’ve never read the book, I know a lot about it. A professor at my school teaches this novel in her class, and I’ve worked with many students writing essays over the novel for her class. Director John Hillcoat does a nice job of capturing the dismal world the characters find themselves in.

The movie follows a man and his boy as they travel south to the sea. Along the way, they search for food, do their best to avoid cannibals, and continue to “carry the fire.” The boy has only ever known this dying world, but the man can remember the time before the world began dying. Because of this, the two characters see their situation through different lenses, thus affecting their viewpoints and actions throughout the film.

One thing I enjoyed about this film is that even though I knew what was going to happen at each point and how it was going to end, I was still emotionally invested. I was sad during sad parts, inspired during moments of hope, and scared during startling scenes. (Though I didn’t really like the being scared part. I don’t like being scared…Notice there are no reviews for horror films on this site.) I believe that the fact this movie could get to me even when I knew what was coming means those who worked on it did their jobs well.

In the end, The Road doesn’t leave you with a happy feeling. But I don’t think it was supposed to. What you do end up with is a question. Is there still hope for the human race?

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