The Epic of Gilgamesh… and how it was boring the sh*t outta me.

After putting it off since, oh I dunno, like FOREVER, I finally purchased a copy and decided to tackle this. One of my reading projects is reading chronologically through the ages (more about that in another post) and what better way to start than with the oldest known epic.

If you are unfamiliar with what this is about, here is a brief synopsis:

*contains some spoilers if you’ve never heard of the story*

The city of Uruk is the self proclaimed most badass city in the world ruled by the handsomest, strongest, bravest guy in the world… Gilgamesh. He’s two thirds divine and also a bit of a douche so the citizens cry out to the gods for relief who respond by creating a rival for Gilgamesh. This rival, called Enkidu, is a wild man who lives out in the wilderness with the animals. Stuff happens and so a temple prostitute is sent out to the wilderness to civilize this guy. We then get an account of how Enkidu is such a man that he has sex with this woman for 7 days and 6 nights straight and suddenly he’s civilized and goes back to the city with her. He decides to fight Gilgamesh and the two decide they should become besties (obviously). They then decide to go wreck shit up in the Cedar forests of Lebanon. Later they get into a shouting match with the goddess Ishtar which culminates with Enkidu launching the thigh of the bull of heaven into Ishtar’s face (yes you read that correctly). Obviously Enkidu needs to die for that disrespect and Gilgamesh is inconsolable. He decides to go on yet more adventures to try and find a way around death and seeks out Utnapishtim, the Noah character of the Sumerian flood story. This ends up not working how he planned and eventually Gilgamesh learns that death is inevitable and so he decides to go back and rule his city that he abandoned.

My thoughts:

I have to point out that I didn’t do a lot of research before beginning this and so I picked up a copy without verifying the version (total rookie mistake). Being such an old story, there are many different versions of it recorded on stone tablets in languages ranging from Akkadian to Babylonian. I knew a little background of the story before reading so I was somewhat bewildered when I started reading and whole sections of the text were missing. Not only is it an ancient text with nothing I can relate to, it was also missing large chunks of the story (see below) and there were long sections where I wasn’t sure what was happening. Needless to say I started getting bored and put it away for days at a time.

Determined to get through it, I bought the audiobook… and LOVED it. Because I purchased the audiobook of the ancient Babylonian version there were fewer gaps and it flowed so smoothly and George Guidall as a narrator is on point. I was able to follow along for the most part with my paperback and the experience went from boring to thoroughly entertaining.

The story itself is difficult to critique. This is a piece of literature that is thousands of years old, so while I cannot stand Gilgamesh, I understand that to an ancient he probably had impressive qualities. I also realize that I probably do not appreciate it for the reasons I should. I was amused and entertained when a contemporary of the work would have been awed and impressed. There were adventures galore but I found myself giggling a lot because Gilgamesh was super extra and a lot of the dialogue amused me.

All in all, I do think the book ended on a serious note and focusing on a solemn theme and I do think there were a lot of adventures but I could not stand any of the characters. I am glad I’ve read this and I would love to hear other people’s opinions of it so please tell me if you loved or hated this.

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Reading with toddlers: rereading the same book over and over… and over again

Recently, we’ve been obsessing over the original Very Hungry Caterpillar book. Like, I’m not even exaggerating when I say we read it ten times last Sunday. We even got to the point where I was so sick of reading it over and over that day, that I let Bella watch YouTube videos of caterpillars turning into butterflies for an hour. Oh and guess what? Thanks to YouTube showing related videos, my toddler found… that’s right, you guessed it… a video of someone reading the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar! Yay! As if I hadn’t had enough already. And instead of me reading it ten more times I got to hear someone else read it 5 more times. At which point I was caterpillar’d out and it was bedtime for Bella. The resulting toddler meltdown was almost comical with her sobs of “I want paterpiller (caterpillar)”.

Now of course, this is not a new thing. Our trusty standby and all time favorite, The Cat in the Hat, is read so often that we’ve literally memorized it. And we’ve read The Little Red Hen so many times that the last page fell out.

But the funny thing is, I’m not even mad. Yea it may get mind numbing after a while, but toddlers learn a lot through repetition and I couldn’t be happier that story time is one of her favorite daily activities… and that she wants to spend time with ME. Just to see her wide grin when I sit and listen to her “reading” the same book back to me is worth it.

Once Upon a River: my thoughts

Hey, fellow readers! Unrelated to the review, but totally related to the cover of this book: this book had been on my shelf for over two weeks and I was probably a good 100 pages in before I realized that the river on the cover is actually a swan. 😆 See, what had happened was with the lighting being dim and all and with my eyesight… ok fine, I just didn’t notice.

A brief synopsis: On a cold winter’s night, Mid Winter’s night in fact, a group of regulars are gathered at their favorite inn on the river, drinking and telling stories when a severely injured man bursts into the inn with a drowned little girl in his arms. When the little girl, who is clearly dead, awakens several hours later, it sets off a chain of events and the reader is left to guess whether something supernatural is at work here or whether there is a rational explanation.

My thoughts:

I really loved the characters in this book. They were so fleshed out and complex and with the amount of main characters, that was no small feat. I think Robert Armstrong is my favorite character I’ve come across in years. Rita Sunday was also a favorite of mine. I love how Ms. Setterfield managed to make a strong female character without trying to make her “edgy” and unpleasant. I was so invested in everything that was happening to all of these characters that I even shed a few tears when they encountered certain situations. I also thought it clever how she incorporated a black main character in a book that takes place in Victorian England. She managed to make me hate the antagonist(s) and love the rest of the characters so I’d say she nailed the characters.

As far as plot is concerned, I could not put this down once I picked it up. The atmosphere was perfect and I love how the different character’s paths intertwined to create a real suspenseful read. The whole book was incredibly mysterious and for most of the book I was wondering whether something paranormal was going on or whether there was some rational explanation for everything that happened. There were also a lot of difficult themes in this book that could potentially trigger some people but I really felt it was worth it. I found the parts dealing with the loss of a child to be especially difficult but the end result was so worth it.

The book was also very beautifully written. It came across like literary fiction without being to flowery and over the top so I really think people who shy away from LitFic would enjoy it if they like a good mystery.

It may only be February but I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite books this year and I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.

Daughters of the Lake: My Thoughts

Brief synopsis:

Kate Granger has the perfect life. She has her dream job and her dream husband all the while being an heiress.

This all changes when she begins having strange dreams about a mysterious young woman and also finds that her husband is having an affair. She runs home to mom and dad to regroup and is shocked when a young woman’s body is washed up on the shore by her parents’ house. Nobody can figure out who the woman is but Kate recognizes her as the woman from her dreams. Now it is up to Kate to figure out what happened to this woman as she rebuilds her own life.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book enough that I kept reading even when I was thinking “REALLY?!”. The main character was as relatable as an attractive Caucasian heiress with a home on Lake Superior and free access to a quaint Bed and Breakfast and Open Bar can be to me. That being said, I actually did like her and did relate to her struggles. The book is technically a ghost story and I enjoyed the melancholy aspect of it. I enjoyed how the dreams were incorporated and how the book switched between the past and present. The actual writing was ok. Not too descriptive that I learned how the different shades of red on a flower made a character feel and not completely lacking in description either.

The plot was interesting if a little far fetched (but hey it’s a ghost story so I guess that’s ok) and there were a handful of very likeable characters. HOWEVER, there was so much in this book that was a little too good to be true. There does end up being a slight love interest in the book but it strikes me as being too good to be true. The utterly freaking perfect gay guy confidante who happens to be on hand and gives Kate access to open bar at his beautiful bed and breakfast all the while gushing over her was wayyyy too perfect. I found myself wishing he was my best friend and I really enjoyed his character but man if it wasn’t hard to believe.

The ending was a little… much… but again it’s a ghost story so ok. As far as the supernatural is concerned, there are a couple of spooky moments but nothing really scary so I would not consider this horror or even hardcore suspense. I would recommend this book to anyone who’d be interested in a light gothic read.

All in all I enjoyed it and give it 3/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

The Classics Club 50 Question Survey

1 Share a link to your club list.

My list.

2 When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? (We are SO CHECKING UP ON YOU! Nah. We’re just asking.) 

August 2017 and I have read 17 so far.

3 What are you currently reading?

Wuthering Heights

4 What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?

Just reread Dracula and loved it just as much as before.

5 What are you reading next? Why?

Brave New World.  I’m in a dystopian kind of a mood and I always hear about this book in conjunction with 1984 so we will see.

6 Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?

I’d say it’s a toss up between North and South and Dracula.

7 Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?

Anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

8 Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?

Moby Dick. Because I just can’t. I have started this book three or four times and have always ended with me quietly closing the book and placing it back on the shelf.

9 First classic you ever read?

And Then There were None.

10 Toughest classic you ever read?

I had a hard time with Villette because it felt long and I couldn’t identify with any of the characters.

11 Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?

Madame Bovary made me angry and though I understood her frustration a little, I wanted to smack her around a little.

12 Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?

War and Peace is probably the longest and The Tale of Genji is probably the biggest I haven’t read yet.

13 Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?

Utopia is the oldest I’ve read to completion but I have read parts of works by Plato and other Greek works.

14 Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?

My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass. I was blown away.  It read like a fiction novel rather than an autobiography.  It was excellent.

15 Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?

1984.  Really makes you think about what it would take to get to that point.

16 Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?

I own a beautiful copy of The Tale of Genji, the collected works of Jane Austen, and my pop up version of Alice in Wonderland.

17 Favorite movie adaption of a classic?

The most recent adaptation of And Then There Were None.

18 Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.

The Shuttle.

19 Least favorite classic? Why?

So far, I’d have to say The Dumbhouse.  I get the whole trying to make you think, but I have a hard time reading about cruelty to children or animals and this one had both.

20 Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.

Lady Muraski

Edith Hamilton

Emily Bronte (currently reading)

21 Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?

I’m excited to finish Wuthering Heights because I wasn’t enjoying it at first but I’m starting to really enjoy it and I have heard about this book for years.

22 Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)

Pride and Prejudice. I was not as familiar with the culture and language when I first read it and now I love it and frequently read regency and Victorian literature.

23 Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?

Frankenstein’s monster.

24 Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

I really identified with Anna Karenina when my first marriage failed.

25 Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?

26 Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?

Merry from Lord of the Rings. She’s cheerful and carefree.

27 If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?

Lord of the Rings. Hands down.

28 Favorite children’s classic?

ANYTHING by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I loooooove all of her children’s lit.

29 Who recommended your first classic?

Nobody really.  I just wanted to read more difficult books and picked up Pride and Prejudice when they released one of the movie adaptations.

30 Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)

There are a few people on Booktube who I tend to listen to because they have similar tastes as me.

31 Favorite memory with a classic?

Relaxing with my newborn in my arms and reading through all the Frances Hodgson Burnett children’s classics.

32 Classic author you’ve read the most works by?

Agatha Christie, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Jane Austen.

33 Classic author who has the most works on your club list?

Probably Frances Hodgson Burnett.

34 Classic author you own the most books by?

Agatha Christie.  See my Agatha Christie Collection.

35 Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?) 

I added My Cousin Rachel because I found a copy of it and wanted to read it.

36 If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with.  Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?

I am sort of doing this right now with the Project Poirot that I’m participating in.  Reading all of her Poirot books in order.  It has been interesting to see how Christie’s handling of characters and plot progresses.

37 How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?

There are four re reads on my list. I have already re read Dracula but I am very excited to re read Persuasion and War and Peace.

38 Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?

Moby Dick has been like this for me but I intend to get through it before this challenge is over.

39 Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?

Dracula. With all the cheesy movie adaptations I expected the worst and it ended up being one of my all time faves.

40 Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?

Reading more nonfiction and translations from eastern literature.

41 Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

42 Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

This one depends on my mood.

43 Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?

Finding titles I’ve never heard of and sharing a love of classic literature.

44 List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?

I will have to come back to this question later because I haven’t really come across many.

45 Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber? See above.

46 If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?

I began a readalong of Crime and Punishment with my cousin and it didn’t work out the way I’d like because he didn’t read at the same pace as I did and it wasn’t a priority the way it was for me.  We ended up finally having a little discussion about it long after I had finished the book.

47 If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?

Moby Dick so I have to finish and because other people’s thoughts might help me to see the book from a different perspective and be more inclined to finish.

48 How long have you been reading classic literature?

Off and on since I was 13.

49 Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.

War of the Worlds: My thoughts

Messy bookshelves

A Dr Seuss birthday

You force your toddler to read?? In which Nicky rants… just a bit.

Back to the Classics 2018

50 Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!)

How has Reading classics affected your life?

I think I am more aware of the world around me. When I’m in certain situations, I might think “wow, this is just like in insert book title here!” I feel like I have a better appreciation for different human natures and let’s face it, my vocabulary is fabulous now. 😉

The most disturbing book I’ve read this year…so far

Hello fellow readers. Today I wanted to discuss a book that really disturbed me. I am still gathering my thoughts and I am unsure as to whether I liked or hated this book. The book in question is… the Dumb House by John Burnside.

A brief synopsis:

Young Luke is fascinated with the secrets of the human soul and how it relates to human language. He becomes obsessed with a story his mother told him as a child about the Dumb House, a palace where children were raised in complete seclusion and never hearing human speech. He decided to conduct his own experiment with children and creates his own version of the Dumb House.

My thoughts:

The book is told from Luke’s perspective and I have to say that it was very disturbing to be inside the mind of a psychopath. The book opens where it eventually ends and we go back into Luke’s childhood and his relationship with his parents. From the onset it is very apparent that his family environment is unhealthy. Without over analyzing, I saw that he was governed completely by his mother who haunts the rest of the story. His relationship with his father is almost nonexistent. As he grows older, his twisted tendencies go unchecked (you might even say that they were encouraged) and he takes it upon himself to begin experimenting on animals seeking answers about life and the question of where soul comes into play. His later relationships with other characters are twisted and when he performs his biggest “experiment” I was appalled.

As a human and especially as a mother I was completely disgusted and uncomfortable throughout the whole book. I found certain parts very difficult to read.

The writing was excellent. The sentence structure and language were well done and narrating the book from Luke’s thoughts were a great way to present such disturbing content. I was inside his mind the entire time and I was uncomfortable even while I kept reading. Beginning the book at the end and then working from his childhood to the end was probably the best way this story could have been told. While I would consider it a psychological thriller, it is not the quickest paced book out there. Nevertheless, even with the disturbing content and relatively slow pace, I found myself turning pages wanting to know what happened next and hoping it wouldn’t get any worse. It did.

All in all I found it to be disturbingly interesting though I probably won’t read this again. This is not a book I’d recommend to everyone but if you are looking for something disturbing to read that isn’t as gory as some other more horror type books than this might be worth your time (though I’d recommend checking out my warning below).

Warning ⚠️

This books contains elements of child abuse, possible child molestation, rape, exploiting of mental illness, and cruelty to animals.

If you’ve read this book please tell me what you thought. I’m still gathering my thoughts and can’t tell how I’d rate it but I’d love to discuss with someone.

Creepy (but not too creepy) books for fall…the classics

Greetings fellow readers! I am beyond excited we recently said goodbye to summer and hello to fall. Even though I typically veer towards gothic reads, I am still a mood reader but fall always tends to put me in an even more gothic mood than usual so I find myself reading a lot of more melancholy books this time of year. So today I thought I’d discuss some books that are creepy enough for this time of year but are considered classic literature.  Being the fan of Gothic fiction that I am, this is right up my alley and I had a lot of fun coming up with classic titles that embody the eery atmosphere that we all like to come across in books during this time of year.

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

I love the format of this book and it remains one of my favorite books of all time.

2. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

Melancholy and full of suspense. The setting and the suspense make this story a great fall read.

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I have a love/hate relationship with this one. Dr. Frankenstein is a character I want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into but it is fascinating and has very creepy parts.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Another all time favorite. Typical gothic fiction complete with mansion, brooding man and young female heroine.

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The book that kindled my love for Agatha Christie and scared the pants off 13 year old me.

6. 1984 by George Orwell

The paranoia in this book makes it terrifying. Definitely enjoyed this.

7. In a Closed Room by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Nothing at all like her other works (which I love). This one has ghosts and children. Spooky and sad.

8. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe

I am still reading this one but definitely worthy of being on this list.

9. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

You can’t get much more gothic and suspenseful than this book. A worthy classic that I loved.

10. Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

I am currently reading and enjoying so far. This is a collection of shorter stories that are all creepy in a different way.

So that’s it. I decided to keep this shorter because I could have kept going on and on. If you have any creepy classics you think I should try please recommend them to me!