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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The Complete Poems by Catullus (Review)

The Complete Poems by Catullus (Translated by Guy Lee)

About the author

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Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84-c. 54 BC) was a Latin poet of the late Romans Republic. He favoured writing about personal life rather than the classical heroes.

About the translator

Guy Lee was a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge. He is the translator of numerous Latin texts including works by Ovid, Virgil, Tibillius, and Persuis.

Blurb

Of all Greek and Latin poets Catullus is perhaps the most accessible to the modern reader. Dealing candidly with the basic human emotions of love and hate, his virile, personal tone exerts a powerful appeal on all kinds of readers. The 116 poems collected in this new translation include the famous Lesbia poems and display the full range of Catullus’s mastery of lyric meter, mythological themes, and epigrammatic invective and wit.

Review

I had to read about 40 of the poems from this book for one of the assignments in my Masters but I loved the poems so much that I decided to read the whole book.

This book has the Latin on the left hand page and the translation opposite which was a massive help when I was writing about how different translators have treated certain poems. At the beginning of the book there is lengthy introduction by Guy Lee the translator which is very informative as it gives you details about Catullus’ life, work and translation. I loved this introduction as it was very interesting and gave me a compact introduction to Catullus. The Explanatory notes were also useful and the Appendices.

This book of poems had me laughing out loud and that is not something I do often when reading poetry as I am not generally a poetry fan. I loved the humour in the poems and I will be honest I was quite shocked at how rude some of the poems were. Some poems were just two lines long and some were pages and I will be honest the lengthier ones could be a struggle to read in full.

I will be honest I have taken breaks from the book and have dipped in and out of the poems. I have also returned to old favourites and re-read them with joy. I have also found some of the poems useful to reference in my assignments.

I really enjoyed the book and I am grateful for it being part of my required reading because it has been a good read. It is also in my opinion a good translation because it is less wooden than certain translations I have also read. I highly recommend this book of poems to people who want to read more of the classics. I give this book 3 out of 5 Dragons because I did find some of the lengthier poems a bit trying.

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The Fall of Icarus by Ovid (Review)

The Fall of Icarus by Ovid

About the author

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Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18AD), known as Ovid in the English speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.

Blurb

Enduring myths of vengeful gods and tragically flawed mortals from ancient Rome’s great poet. Ovid tells the tales of Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, the Calydonian Boar-Hunt, and many other famous myths.

Review

I really enjoyed this little book and I thought the translation flowed well. This little book contains lots of well known myths and legends that are a joy to read.

I had a teacher at school who loved the Fall of Icarus and told it to us often and reading it brought back a lot of fond memories.

The myths flowed well from one to the other and were easy to read.

I loved this book and I found it a wonderful glimpse into Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I have given this book 5 out 5 Dragons.

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The Madness of Cambyses by Herodotus (Review)

The Madness of Cambyses by Herodotus

About the author

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Herodotus c. 484-425 BCE was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire. He is known for having written the book The Histories.

Blurb

The story of the great and mad Cambyses, King of Persia, told by part-historian, part-mythmaker Herodotus of Halicarnassus.

Review

Just recently I dug out my collection of Little Black Classics and selected all the ancient Greek and Roman books to read because I thought they would be good background reading for my course and this is the first one I have read.

This little book is only 50 pages long and is a nice little snippet from the main book The Histories by Herodotus. I happily read it enjoying the sunshine we have been having and drinking a nice mug of tea.

The beginning was a bit hard to digest due to all the different names but once I got past that I really enjoyed the book. The translation is a little wooden for me but it still flowed nicely. I must admit this did make me giggle as King Cambyses is completely mental and just kills everyone for the slightest thing and in most cases this is like cutting off his own nose to spite his face, because all this death doesn’t do him any favours.

Herodotus does meander about a bit with his knowledge but I loved that because you learn extra little bits about what the ancients thought about different cultures. Some facts Herodotus tells you definitely come across more as myths but I liked that because that is what the ancients believed.

I really enjoyed this little book, it was a quick and knowledgeable read and it was fascinating to see one of the world’s earliest historians at work. I highly recommend this little book to people who are interested in the ancient world and to people who want a gentle introduction into some ancient texts. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

About the author

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Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. He was a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond and chronicling his adventures in twelve novels and nine short stories. Additionally, Fleming wrote the children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two non-fiction books.

Blurb

“With the proceeds from his latest invention, Crackpot Whistling Sweets, Commander Caractacus Pott buys his family their first car. It looks like a wreck, but once restored it turns out to be no ordinary vehicle: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car which can fly, swim and even think. Chitty and the eccentric, plucky Pott family set off on a succession of increasingly perilous adventures that take them across the English Channel and all the way to Paris.

Review

I will be honest I have never read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but I absolutely love the film and watched it again over Easter which made me think it was high time to read the book. Thankfully I had some Waterstones points to order the book.

I was so excited when I started reading this book and it was just perfect, I loved everything about it. The first thing that I did notice was that the book and film are completely different. Now I know that there are always differences between the book and film but this was major, it was like Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes who wrote the screenplay only read the first few chapters of the book and did not bother with the rest of the book.

Thankfully, I did love the book just as much as the film. I also loved the background information that you got in the introduction about the original Chitty Bang Bang built by Count Zborowski.

The Pott family are just adorable, the perfect eccentric family. Caractacus the father is an inventor and explorer but he is much more interested in his inventing. Mimsie is the mother who lets Caractacus get on with his inventing and supports whatever he suggests. The twins Jeremy and Jemima love their crazy family and also fully support their father. The twins also go to private school so their adventure with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has to be during their school holidays.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car that is part of the family and you can’t help but feel for the car when you read about her. She comes across as that wonderful favourite family pet.

The story is beautifully written and it does feel like a James Bond story but for children which I love. I adored this book and highly recommend it for children and adults. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Andromache, Hecuba, Trojan Women by Euripides (Review)

Andromache, Hecuba, Trojan Women by Euripides

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About the author

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Euripides (Ancient Greek: Εὐριπίδης) (ca. 480 BC–406 BC) was the last of the three great tragedians of classical Athens (the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles). Ancient scholars thought that Euripides had written ninety-five plays, although four of those were probably written by Critias. Eighteen of Euripides’ plays have survived complete. It is now widely believed that what was thought to be a nineteenth, Rhesus, was probably not by Euripides. Fragments, some substantial, of most of the other plays also survive. More of his plays have survived than those of Aeschylus and Sophocles together, partly because of the chance preservation of a manuscript that was probably part of a complete collection of his works in alphabetical order.

Blurb

Diane Arnson Svarlien’s translation of Euripides’ Andromache, Hecuba, and Trojan Women exhibits the same scholarly and poetic standards that have won praise for her Alcestis, Medea, Hippolytus. Ruth Scodel’s Introduction examines the cultural and political context in which Euripides wrote, and provides analysis of the themes, structure, and characters of the plays included. Her notes offer expert guidance to readers encountering these works for the first time.

Review

I got this book because Trojan Women is a set text that I am studying for my course but I must admit that I enjoyed reading Trojan Women so much I read the whole book.

I found the introduction and notes by Ruth Scodel hugely informative and really helpful with my research but also not too in depth and easy to read which was wonderful because sometimes introductions can be a bit of bore I find.

Andromache

I loved this play and my heart bled for poor Andromache, she really has not had the best of lives having already suffered losing her child and husband in Troy she now suffers in her new home as Neoptolemus’ concubine and risks losing everything including her life again.

Andromache is a wonderful character who tries to do everything she can to save her own life and her child’s and works out a plan that if it works should keep them both safe.

Hermione is a spoilt brat who is used to getting her own way and will do anything to get it and her father will let her get her own way. I found her character rather annoying but you could tell that was what Euripides was after.

My favourite character was Peleus, he was a true gentleman who though mature in years was not frightened to stand up for the weak and vulnerable and send Menelaus scurrying off with his tail between his legs.

I loved this play and would love to see it on stage one day.

Hecuba

Wow! What a character Hecuba is in this play. After everything she has been through with the fall of Troy and the knowledge that her future is bleak she still has strength.

Hecuba has lost her kingdom, her husband, most of her children but she believes her one son and some Trojan treasure is safe with a family friend Polymestor. However, she discovers that her beloved son Polydorus is no longer safe and Hecuba seeks revenge.

Agamemnon in this play seems very different to the Agamemnon that I am used to. He listens to Hecuba’s plea and lets her carry out her plan. He shows pity and in my opinion almost reverence for the fallen queen.

I loved this play because it showed the true power of a woman who seeks revenge.

Trojan Women

This play was heart breaking, you can’t help but feel sorry for the women of Troy and see the unfairness of war on those who are left behind.

Hecuba in this play disappointed me slightly because when she was mourning what she had lost the main thing she kept focusing on was her kingdom and the fact she was no longer queen. Her lost family always seemed to be an after thought.

Cassandra was perfect in my opinion and a hard act for any actress to perform. Poor Cassandra who has been dealt such a hard blow and is now mad.

Andromache, the perfect wife who is now left with nothing who you can’t help but pity. A stark contrast to Helen that you can’t help but hate.

Helen, the woman who brings destruction wherever she goes but gets away with it because of her beauty. Menelaus was basically a lamb to slaughter where Helen was concerned. As much as the women of Troy hated her and Hecuba made the case pretty clear that Helen should be punished, you just know that Menelaus will buckle and let Helen get away with her deeds.

All in all I loved these plays and thought the translation by Diane Arnson Svarlien was really well done, the added stage directions were also excellent. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Trojan Women by Seneca (Review)

Trojan Women by Seneca (Translated by Frederick Ahl)

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About the author

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Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca) (ca. 4 BC – 65 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero. While he was later forced to commit suicide for alleged complicity in the Pisonian conspiracy to assassinate Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian emperors, he may have been innocent.

Blurb

This free and eloquent translation skilfully reproduces the imagery, power, and frequent irony and sarcasm of Seneca’s language.

Review

I recently read this play because it is required reading for my course, however before this my course had made me read Euripides’ Trojan Women and I find that personally I much prefer Euripides’ interpretation.

The play is about the aftermath of the war of Troy and is about the fate of the survivors of Troy which is sadly the women of Troy who no longer have husbands, fathers or brothers. They are on their own and their fates are left in the hands of the Greeks and those fates will not be good. There are also two tragedies left in the play for the audience to see.

I did enjoy Seneca’s interpretation but I did find it very long winded and some of the speeches just seemed to drag for me and because of this I found it hard to visualise the play on the stage. I also found the language quite stilted but this could be because of the translation by Frederick Ahl.

The other issue I did not like was I found the play overly graphic in places and found it hard to read. I just found the detail of the gore rather overboard but I suppose this is what the Romans enjoyed on stage.

I liked the play and must admit that if I had not read Euripides’ version first I might have enjoyed it more but Euripides’ version is faster paced and I could not put it down but Seneca’s version I was quite happy to have a break from.

I also really enjoyed the introduction by Frederick Ahl and found it very informative but did find it rather amusing to see differences between Ahl’s information and information from what I have discovered in my research.

Overall I found this play ok but it just lacked the wow factor for me, maybe I prefer the Greek playwrights to the Roman playwrights but it was a good read and I am glad I have discovered the works of Seneca and hope to read more. I give this play and translation 3 out of 5 Dragons.

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A P. G. Wodehouse Pick-Me-Up! by P. G. Wodehouse (Review)

A P. G. Wodehouse Pick-Me-Up! Goodbye to All Cats by P. G. Wodehouse

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About the author

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Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse wrote more than ninety novels and some three hundred short stories over 73 years. He is widely recognised as the greatest 20th- century writer of humour in the English Language. In 1936 he awarded the Mark Twain Prize for ‘having made an outstanding and lasting contribution to the happiness of the world’. He was made a Doctor of Letters by Oxford University in 1939 and in 1975, aged 93, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He died shortly afterwards, on St Valentine’s Day.

Blurb

A Wodehouse pick-me-up that’ll lift your spirits, whatever your mood.

Review

I picked up this book when I was last in Bath. I picked it up at the counter. I must admit a lot of bookshops tend to sell me an extra book at the counter.

This is a very quick read but a very fun read that contains three short stories.

Goodbye to All Cats

This story is the first in the book and I must admit my favourite and made me laugh out loud a lot! This story is all about Freddie’s experience with cats that made him dislike all cats in general for the foreseeable future.

The story is hilarious but at the same time I did feel sorry for Freddie who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ukridge’s Dog College

I was surprised by this story as I had just presumed all the stories would be cat related. I was so pleased to see this assumption was wrong because I love dog stories. This story focuses on the eccentric Ukridge, who will do anything to make a quick fortune that doesn’t involve hard work. A fantastic little read for dog lovers.

Ukridge’s Accident Syndicate

This is an interesting story but for me lacked the humour of the other two stories. I just found the story dragged a little. The basic concept is a group of friends who pool all their money to buy insurance for their friend and wait for the friend to have an accident. Oh and it does involve a dog, which is always good.

All in all I loved the book and think I will purchase the other three books in the series as they are quick fun reads that you can read in one sitting or one story a day. I highly recommend the book especially for animal lovers and anybody who just wants to read a light hearted fun book. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons! Pan loves the book as well.

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Emma by Jane Austen (Review)

Emma by Jane Austen

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About the author

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Jane Austen born 16th December 1775 died 18th July 1817 was an English novelist known for her six major novels. Austen’s novels are known for social comedy and accurate depiction of human relationships.

Blurb

Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organises the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

Review

This is a reread for me and thankfully a better read than when I first read it in 2002. I must admit when I first read Emma I swore never to read it again as I really did not enjoy the book. However, this year I plan on giving some books another chance and this was the first one on the list. In 2002 I rated this book 2 out of 5 stars.

I really enjoyed reading this book for about the first third of the book but I must admit the middle did drive me a little insane. It comes across as long winded and rather overly written and I must admit I just wanted it to get to the happy ending.

The second time of reading I felt rather differently about the characters, I still disliked the Elton’s greatly and found Frank Churchill a spoilt brat who should never have been forgiven for his awful behaviour. Mrs Bates I felt very sorry for living in ever increasing poverty and with a daughter who means well but does not give anyone a moment’s peace. Miss Bates’ dialogues I will be honest I skipped over in places because they just made me cringe.

Mr Woodhouse bless him was more of an old fuss pot than I remembered but he made me smile. Emma was her annoying vain self but thankfully Mr Knightley as usual rescued the situation. Harriet I found very endearing this time and it was nice to see her journey through the book.

I must admit I enjoyed Emma but my rating has only increased slightly to 3 out of 5 Dragons. I will be watching the new film adaptation this year to see if it beats my favourite  adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Still my least favourite Austen novel but I do not hate it and would read it again.

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The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde (Review)

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

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About the author

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

Blurb

Everybody in the county knows that the great manor of Canterville Chase has been haunted for 300 years. But when the American minister Mr Otis moves in with his wife and  family, they refuse to be frightened by something as Old World as a ghost.

The Canterville Ghost vows to have his revenge and terrify them all to death with his most despicable deeds. But after the minister offers practical solutions such as Pinkerton’s Champion Stain Remover for the bloodstain in the sitting room, and the twin boys torture him by pelleting him with their peashooters, it’s the poor ghost who is left severely spooked.

Can he possibly rescue his reputation, or will the family offer him a chance to finally lay his – detachable – head down forever?

Review

I was very excited to find this book whilst looking for Christmas presents at Waterstones. I love the film of this story where the ghost is played by Patrick Stewart.

This is a super little short story where you can not help but feel sorry for the poor ghost. He has spent all his ghostly life haunting and terrifying the residents of the manor and now all of a sudden he has a family he can not scare and who delight in scaring him instead. He tries all his tricks but to no avail and slowly it starts to affect his health. That’s if ghosts actually do have ill health?

The Otis family are stereotypically American and a real good laugh. They take everything in their stride and are not fazed by anything. Thankfully one member of this family can also be the ghost’s biggest aid.

I love this little story, I find it sweet and funny and just generally a fun read. I highly recommend this book to everyone and give it a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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