The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Review)

The Mysterious Affair at Style by Agatha Christie 

Blurb

Hercule Poirot is intrigued by the details surrounding the murder of wealthy Mrs Inglethorp, mistress of Styles Court. This was Agatha Christie’s first Poirot novel, published in 1921.

Review

This is my first full length Christie novel that I have read and is part of my challenge to read more Christie novels and not just the short stories. I love watching adaptations of Poirot and Miss Marple on TV and so I was really excited to read my first full length novel and the first ever Poirot novel. 

I was pleased to see that Hastings was his usual bumbling self who is always wrong but convinced that he is right and that Poirot is wrong and going senile in his old age. He really made me laugh in this book and his random outbursts were hilarious.

Poirot was a massive surprise and I absolutely adored him. He is so eccentric and you never know what he is going to do next. My favourite scene has got to be where he goes off skipping with joy down the lawn. He is a truly brilliant character which is ten times better in the book than on the screen. 

I really enjoyed the story and it really kept me on my toes because once I thought I had worked out who the murderer was I got it completely wrong and the story went in a different direction. We also got a glimpse of the famous Inspector Japp and although we didn’t see much of him it was a good introduction that I am sure we will see more of.

The edition of the book I read also had the original ending that Christie had written as well as the one published and I must admit after reading both I much prefer the one that is published rather than the one Christie originally planned. The two endings are very good but I really like where Poirot and Hastings sit down and sum everything up and talk over the case at the end of the published ending.

This is my first full length Christie novel and it will definitely not be my last and I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons. I just loved all the twists and turns and Poirot’s bright green eyes.

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About the author

Agatha Christie (1890-1976) was an English writer known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. She also wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap. She also wrote 6 novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

The Nutcracker by E. T. A Hoffmann, illustrated by Sanna Annukka Ltd (Review)

The Nutcracker by E. T. A Hoffmann, illustrated by Sanna Annukka Ltd

Blurb

Hoffmann’s classic Christmas fairy tale, immortalised by Tchaikovsky’s ballet, is brought to life by the gorgeous contemporary artwork of Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annuka.

On Christmas Eve, Fritz and Marie excitedly await the arrival of Godfather Drosselmeier and the marvellous gifts he brings for them every year. When Marie discovers a curious nutcracker doll among the presents, she suddenly finds herself caught up in an age-old battle before being transported to a magical world of sugar-frosted castles, chocolate kings, and true love.

Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko. The Nutcracker is her third book project.

This cloth-bound edition combines the charm of Hoffmann’s original nineteenth-century tale with the freshness of Sanna Annuka’s gorgeous illustrations. A beautiful gift to give and receive.

Review

As most of you know by now I love the story of The Nutcracker and I read a new edition of it every year. The story for me will always have 5 out of 5 Dragons and thankfully this edition was not abridged so I could enjoy the story in full.

Over the past few years I have read some beautifully illustrated copies of this story and last year’s was a pop up book version, which although abridged really made me smile as the detail of the book was stunning. The illustrations in this year’s edition for me was rather a shock and not what I had expected but this year due to the pandemic I had had to order my copy rather than explore an actual book shop.

The illustrations in this book are bold and only use a limited range of colours but they work so well together and you can really see how Annukka is influenced by her love of printing and Finnish design. The only issues I had was that the illustration of the mouse king sadly did not have seven heads but just the one. You could clearly see it was the mouse king because it was a mouse with a crown but I did miss the seven heads. The other issue I had was that there was an awful lot of black used that made certain illustrations appear rather gloomy.

I really enjoyed reading this edition and I am glad I chose it because in a bookshop I might have overlooked it as the illustrations are not something I would usually choose. However, I really liked how different the illustrations were and how they expertly added to the story. As usual 5 out of 5 Dragons from me.

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Sonnets by William Shakespeare (Review)

Sonnets by William Shakespeare 

Blurb

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate . . .’ Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets contain some of the most exquisite and haunting poetry ever written, dealing with eternal themes such as love and infidelity, memory and mortality, and the destruction wreaked by time. This new edition collects them in a pocket-sized volume, perfect for gifting. William Shakespeare was born some time in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died in 1616. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Review

I’ve read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets in the past as our Drama teacher used to make us memorise them and then recite them on stage but that was a long time ago. So being as I am trying to read all of Shakespeare’s works I decided to read his sonnets next.

This little book has been perfect to dip into when I have a few minutes free and I will be honest I have been reading it when waiting for my next student to appear on Zoom. 

I really enjoyed reading this little book and although the sonnets are mainly love sonnets there are also sonnets on the seasons and other things. Some are a bit similar in my opinion but they are still enjoyable to read and really show the talent of Shakespeare.

A highly recommended little edition that literally just gives you the sonnets and is perfect to just dip in and out of when the mood takes you. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I will leave you with one of my favourites.

116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when alteration finds, 

Or bands with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor to man ever loved.

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(All purchases made using one of the above affiliate links gives a small percentage of money to myself with no extra cost to yourself. All proceeds go towards the upkeep of this blog. Thank you ever so much, your support is gratefully received.)

About the author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor. He is widely known as the greatest writer in the English language and is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”.

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry (Review)

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold by Stephen Fry

Blurb

Rediscover the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths—stylishly retold by Stephen Fry. This legendary writer, actor, and comedian breathes new life into beloved tales. From Persephone’s pomegranate seeds to Prometheus’s fire, from devious divine schemes to immortal love affairs, Fry draws out the humour and pathos in each story and reveals its relevance for our own time. Illustrated throughout with classical art inspired by the myths, this gorgeous volume invites you to explore a captivating world, with a brilliant storyteller as your guide.

Review

My first encounter with Stephen Fry would have been watching Blackadder episodes with my big sister when I was little and since then he has always been a great favourite. I can’t believe I have put off reading Mythos for so long but I know that I won’t be putting off reading Heroes. 

Fry’s retelling of the Greek myths is brilliantly done and a great read that had me laughing my head off at regular intervals. Fry’s humour comes through this book with subtly and also when the myth calls for it straight in your face brilliance. 

Mythos begins right at the beginning of what the Greeks believed was the beginning of everything and progresses from there onwards. Each main section is divided into subsections that make the reading easier and more accessible.

Fry’s retelling of these familiar myths gives them a fresh and new feeling and makes them highly informative but also fun. I loved Fry’s commentary throughout and his very useful little extra bits of information in the footnotes. Fry’s talent as a writer shines through with this book but also his excellent knowledge into Ancient Greek Mythology. 

My particular favourite characters are Zeus and Hera, how Fry portrays them is hilarious and you can’t help but laugh at some of their marital stories. My favourite retelling of all though has got to be Hermes stealing Apollo’s cattle and then Apollo being utterly dumbfounded by meeting his new half brother Hermes.

This is an amazing read that makes the Greek myths accessible to everyone. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons and highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good laugh. 

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About the Author

Stephen Fry (1957) is an English comedian, writer, actor, humourist, novelist, poet, columnist, filmmaker, television personality and technophile. As one half of the Fry and Laurie double act with his comedy partner, Hugh Laurie, he has appeared in A Bit of Fry and Laurie and Jeeves and Wooster. He is also famous for his roles in Blackadder and Wilde, and as the host of QI. In addition to writing for stage, screen, television and radio he has contributed columns and articles for numerous newspapers and magazines, and has also written four successful novels and a series of memoirs.

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti (Review)

Rossetti: Poems by Christina Rossetti

Blurb

Poems: Rossetti contains a full selection of Rossetti’s work, including her lyric poems, dramatic and narrative poems, rhymes and riddles, sonnet sequences, prayers and meditations, and an index of first lines.

Review

I have been dipping into this book since the New Year and I must admit it has been lovely to sit and read a poem or two whilst drinking a mug of tea or in fact muting the adverts and reading a poem. When I first started really reading poetry a couple of years ago I soon realised that one of my favourites was Christina Rossetti and so when I found this little book I was delighted and it has lived on my coffee table ever since.

Rossetti penned my all time favourite Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter. I love it as a poem but my favourite thing is to sing it to the tune written by Holst. Christmas is not Christmas without this carol for me and thankfully I found this poem in this little book.

I really enjoyed the riddles in this book as well and thankfully I am pleased to say I managed to work most of them out. In fact that was what I loved about this book, the fact it was full of variety and contained examples of Rossetti’s poems, sonnets, riddles, prayers and more. 

This little pocket sized book really gives a broad spectrum of Rossetti’s work and is a joy to read and just dip into when the mood suits you. Some of my favourites were Goblin Market, In the Bleak Midwinter, Advent, A Wintry Sonnet and Strange Planets. I give this little book of poems 5 out 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote romantic, devotional and children’s poems. She was also the sister of artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (Review)

Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime by Oscar Wilde

Blurb

Wilde’s supremely witty tale of dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.

Review

I picked this up the other day as I fancied a quick read that I knew would put a smile on my face. Oscar Wilde always makes me laugh and I just love his subtle humour.

The story begins at a party and involves a palm reader who sets a series of events into motion. Lord Arthur I will admit is rather a silly character who totally believes in the power of fate and will do anything to make sure it goes to plan. Wilde is most definitely having a little fun subtly mocking the English aristocracy with the characters of the party and Lord Arthur.

The thing I love most about this is just how ridiculous this story is. Lord Arthur does some very suspicious things like purchasing poison and meeting with bomb makers but nobody bats an eye lid.

I really enjoyed this short story and read it with a nice mug of tea as it is only 50 pages long. An amusing version of a murder mystery that I give 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. He was a playwright, poet, novelist and short story writer.

Sappho: Poems and Fragments by Sappho (Review)

Sappho: Poems and Fragments by Sappho, translated by Josephine Balmer

About the author

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Sappho (Σαπφώ or Ψάπφω) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. In history and poetry texts, she is sometimes associated with the city of Mytilene on Lesbos; she was also said to have been born in Eresos, another city on Lesbos. Her birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.

About the translator

Josephine Balmer is a British poet, translator of classics and literary critic.

Blurb

This second, expanded edition of Josephine Balmer’s classic translation of the Greek poet Sappho has new, recently-discovered fragments, including the Brothers Poem, the Kypris Song and the Cologne Fragment. In a new essay on these additions she discusses the issues raised in translating these fragmentary and ever-shifting texts. Poems & Fragments is now the only complete, readily-available translation in English of Sappho’s surviving work. Sappho was one of the greatest poets in classical literature. Her lyric poetry is among the finest ever written, and although little of her work has survived and little is known about her, she is regarded not just as one of the greatest women poets, but often as the greatest woman poet in world literature. In a comprehensive introduction, Balmer discusses Sappho’s poetry, its historical background and critical reputation, as well as aspects of contemporary Greek society, sexuality, and women.

Review

This is another read for my Masters and I must admit I was very excited to read it as I had done a unit on Sappho and just a handful of her work so it was nice to read all her known works. Sappho’s work sadly is mainly only fragments and I will be honest I find this so depressing as from the known fragments that we do have it is evident that Sappho was an amazing talent. I just hope more of her work is found over time like it has been so far.

The introduction of this book is excellent and I really enjoyed how it was broken down into sections and was so informative. I also enjoyed the section on the new fragments that have been found recently.

I’ve always found Sappho a fascinating character and I wish more was known about this very talented poet but sadly not a lot is known and what we do know was written many years after her death and can’t be relied upon.

Sappho’s poetry although only fragmentary is full of passion and life and it was a joy to read. Her poetry is full of different forms of love; romantic love, maternal love, friendship and love for all the many wonders in this world. I love reading her poetry because it is as relevant today as it was when it was written, Sappho is timeless.

Balmer has been really sympathetic with the translation and the translation flows well which makes reading this book a joy. I will admit I could not put it down once I started reading it.

I highly recommend this book, it might be mainly fragments but it is worth the read to see how this amazing woman’s voice has survived all these years and opens up a small window to a part of history that was thousands of years ago. I really hope we continue to find more of her work and hopefully learn more about this talented poet. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I leave you with one of my favourite fragments.

Beauty endures only for as long as it is seen;

goodness, beautiful today, will remain so tomorrow.

 

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blurb

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson’s Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer’s music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer’s swift, smooth pace.

A fascinating, informative introduction explores the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the poem’s major themes, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this is an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of readers.

Review

The Odyssey is one of history’s greatest stories and you can see why. It has monsters, fighting, adventure, gods, violence and much more. It does not stay still for a moment and  Wilson’s translation keeps the story fluid and easy to read.

The introduction by Wilson was fantastic and I could not put it down. I will admit sometimes I struggle with introductions to books mainly because sometimes the people who write them always come across as rather stuck up and they love to use extremely long words which are just not necessary. Wilson however writes an amazingly informative introduction that is interesting and keeps you hooked on every word. It was a joy to read and left me excited to start the epic poem. I also enjoyed the translator’s notes as it really showed how Wilson translated the poem and why she did certain things.

The poem was equally as good and again I could not put it down. It is a tale well known and has been translated by many different people through the years and many versions have been published. This translation in my opinion was stunning. It kept the flow of the poem and was almost song like to read which fit well as they think originally it would have been told orally.

Odysseus has a seriously rough deal. He spent 10 years at war in Troy and then he can’t get home. His journey is filled with monsters, women who want him as husband, and the loss of his men. Odysseus is cunning though and uses his skills at lying to get him out of problems with a little help from certain gods.

I highly recommend this book to people with a classical background and to people who have never read a classical book and want to try one. It is such a good read and one I will happily read again. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Iliad by Homer (Review)

The Iliad by Homer (translated by Alexander Pope)

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is considered one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry, and his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssesy.

Blurb

The Iliad in Classical Attic; sometimes referred to as the Song of Ilion or Song of Ilium) is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Review

I have been meaning to read this for many years and have finally got around to it and so I chose Alexander Pope’s translation that I had also used for a recent assignment.

Although I had never read this in its entirety before I am well aware of the story and have loved anything Greek Myth based since I can remember.

It took me a while to get into this as I must admit I found the translation rather stilted to begin with. However, once I got into the style I really began to enjoy the text and was happily reading it whenever I could.

This poem is absolutely wonderful. It has love, sex, violence, friendship and much more. Oh and it also has some very interfering Greek Gods who can’t help but meddle in the Greek and Trojan affairs.

The war between the Trojans and the Greeks begins because of Paris stealing Helen from Menelaus, or Helen went willingly depending on your take of events. Menelaus goes to his brother Agamemnon who immediately uses the situation to go to war on the Trojans who he has long wanted to conquer. Achilles the half man half god hero is the main character in this tale who goes to war with Agamemnon. Achilles does not take being told what to do well though and causes many problems for Agamemnon, including refusing to fight in the war for a very long time.

This is essentially a love story and not a love story about Paris and Helen. This is the love story of Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus is everything that Achilles isn’t. He is a much better man, he is loving and he hates to see all the death caused by the war, he wants to help stop this war. Achilles on the other hand is too proud and when his pride is injured he refuses to help and does not care about the damage it causes.

Overall, I can see why this book has lasted through the centuries as I absolutely loved this book and I really want to read other translations of the text to see how different translators treat the story. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon by Aesop (Review)

The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon by Aesop

About the author

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Aesop (c. 620-564 BCE) was a Greek fabulist and storyteller credited with a number of fables now collectively known as Aesop’s Fables.

Blurb

Aesop’s animal fables are some of the earliest stories ever told, thought to have been composed by a slave in Greek antiquity and giving glimpses of a world that is harsh, pitiless and yet also eerily familiar.

Review

Having never read Aesop’s Fables I thought reading this little book of just some of them would be a good introduction to them and now I will be honest I desperately want to read the complete book.

I started reading this little book thinking that I would dip in and out of it but I could not put it down. I just loved every fable and could not believe how relatable they still are for the modern day. These fables will never age in my opinion.

Aesop was clearly a man who had met a lot of people and seen a lot of life to have come up with so many of these very true fables. I really loved how most of the fables used animals instead of people and these animals did not follow the traditional stereotypes of animals so in The Ageing Lion and the Fox the lion is sly and cunning and the fox is the clever one who works out what the lion is doing. Where usually we think of a lion as a brave and noble creature, Aesop is telling us not to judge a book by its cover.

I loved this little book and it took me a tea break to read it. The book made me laugh, it made me smile and it made me think. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons and I highly recommend it to everyone.

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