Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Books in my Beach Bag

Many thanks to Nancy who tactfully reminded me that summer is quickly approaching and it is in my best interests to have some books lined-up to maintain a focus that has been disturbingly absent so far this year.  So with a new resolution in mind to be more organized, here are some of my possible reads for a summer that in my part of the world, looks like it's going to pass us by.

Shadow of the Moon

Cirtnecce suggested a read-along of this wonderful M.M. Kaye book and how could I resist?  I haven't read any of Kaye's novels in ages and summer is just the right time.

The Gormenghast Trilogy

I suggested a read-along of The Gormenghast Trilogy to Cirtnecce ages ago, as I know it's on one of her book lists.  Will she join me?  We shall see.

The Fountain Pit

I really need to read some more novels for my rather pitiful Russian Challenge.  This one has intrigued me for a couple of years.  I can't wait to read it.

Plutarch’s Lives

I know this book is part of my The Well-Educated Mind History Project, but I want to get a start on it because I plan to go more in-depth and hopefully post a little on each figure. At least, I think I do.

An Infamous Army

Lately, I've been trying to target some books on my Guardians 1000 List.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps an impulsive scramble to look like I'm accomplishing something.  I quite like Georgette Heyer, so this one is a good choice.

Precious Bane

Honestly, this one is a capricious addition.  I have no idea whether I'll read it, but it's always intrigued me.  And summer is an excellent time to be capricious, wouldn't you say?

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Another addition for my Russian Challenge.  I've heard good things about this novella and I'm looking forward to it.

The Game of Kings

Has anyone ever thought that I'm delusional?  Well, this is proof.  I'm sure I will NEVER get to this book before summer has ended, but I still dream that I might ......

And here ends perhaps hopefully my possible, potentially unplanned but feasible reads for the summer of 2017.  Dare I look back at the end to see what I accomplished?  Might I get someone to do it for me?  Maybe ............  Ha ha!

Happy summer reading everyone!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Cyrus the Persian by Sherman A. Nagel

"The city of Babylon, 'the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency,' 'the lady of kingdoms,' lay quiet under the silvery splendor of an oriental moon."

I just finished reading Herodotus' The Histories, where the story of Cyrus figures prominently, so when Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children's Classic Literature Event appeared for April, I thought what better time to read a children's book about the same historical figure?

Nagel sets the story of Cyrus in the time of the Jews captivity in Babylon, and their story runs parallel to that of Cyrus before the two intersect.  One hundred years before Cyrus' birth, the prophet Isaiah named him as the man who would permit the Jews of Babylon to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the story allows us to be a part of events leading up to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

King Astyages sending Harpagus to kill young Cyrus
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin
source Wikipedia
The grandfather of Cyrus, Astyages king of the Medes, is visited by a disturbing dream and his magi tell him that he must destroy the child of his daughter, Mandane, if the child she bears is a boy.  At Mandane's marriage to the Persian king, Cambyses, Astyages extracts a promise that she will return to him before she gives birth to her firstborn and the promise is fulfilled as Cyrus is born in the kingdom of the Medes.  In fact, so crafty is Astyages that he persuades the parents of Cyrus to leave him with his grandfather, and then sends for his trusted servant Harpagus, commanding him to kill the child.  At the notification of the baby's death, his parents are grief-stricken but unknown to them and Astyages as well, as Harpagus gives the child over to his chief shepherd, Mitradates, to dispose of the will of God is stronger than all. Upon returning home, Mitradates is distressed to learn of the death of his own child and, on a whim, his wife and he substitute the corpse for Cyrus and pass off his death without a hitch.  Raised as a shepherd boy until, through unexpected circumstances, he comes to the palace an adolescent, he is ultimately recognized as a possible heir to the throne.  With Cyrus back in Persia and Astyages becoming more nervous of his grandson's power, a force is gathered by Astyages to invade Persia but Harpagus turns loyal to Cyrus based on the king's cruelty and arranges with Darius, Cyrus' uncle, that half the army will fight for Cyrus.  At the completion of the battle, Cyrus is victorious. Eventually he will become king of both the Persians and Medes.

At this time as well, Jewish discontent is fomenting due to their religious persecution and captivity by the Babylonians, which the reader experiences through a raid on Rabbi Hermon's house during a weekly meeting, as the Jews impatiently wait for their prophesied coming deliverer.  We also encounter Jewish history through the activities of Azariah, better known by his Babylonian name of Abednego from Biblical tradition, and his relationship with a Babylonian woman, Iris.  History weaves into story, battles into harmony, and captivity into freedom.  It's an enduring story that Nagel has obviously thoroughly researched with his attention to historical detail and the relationships he so subtly crafts.  Themes of loyalty, betrayal, persecution, love, friendship, death and perseverance, one can hardly put it down.

Cyrus hunting the great Boar
source Wikimedia Commons

Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:

I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.

I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name ........


This book contained a number of wonderful quotes of which I'll share.  There are many but every one is worth reading!


"When one is full of himself, he is empty."

"Love is a very rare quality.  So many emotions are mistaken for love.  Of all the counterfeits, lust has always been love's strongest opponent.  Nothing is so wonderful, so conducive to happiness, so health-producing, as the heart union of two lives, where true love reigns and lust has no power."

"If there is one thing heaven hates in man it is pride.  Not self-respect, but that quality of pride which causes a man to think more highly of himself than he ought."

"Unholy ambition has brought ruin to many a man who has followed her unhallowed footsteps.  Multitudes of the human family have suffered and died because of the ambition of one.  He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping."

"How often we doubt because we cannot know all that is going on which we cannot see. Faith is believing in God.  It is taking Him at His word.  It is evidence when there is no evidence in sight.  It is 'the substance of things hoped for.'  Belief is accepting a map; faith is taking the journey."

"Patience is a pearl oft produced by petty irritations.  The human heart cannot be whole until it is broken.  Care becomes its own cure when it drives us to prayer.  To our prayers God gives answers, but in His love, makes ways and times His own.  Their leaders wisely taught the people not to worry about the future, but to be optimistic.  Nature hates to disappoint the man who is always looking for the worst to happen.  We only live a day at a time."

"The average man is like a match; if he gets lit up, he loses his head."

"And Astyages talked boastfully on, like a man who may think he is eloquent when he is only evaporating."

"Those who throw themselves away usually do not like the place where they land."

"Best character is developed amid storm clouds and tempests."

"Conscience is not like a bore; if you snub it a few times, after that it won't bother you."

"When one was asked the secret of his happy life, he replied: 'I have a friend.'  True friends are to be cherished for they are precious.  One should keep a little cemetery in which to bury the failings of one's friends.  The man who never puts in an honest day's work on friendship's railroad, has no reason to expect a sidetrack to his door.  Selfish people may have acquaintances but not friends.  With some people you invest an evening, with others you spend it."

"Cyrus was naturally of a very affectionate disposition.  He had a great deal of sentiment.  No man is worth much without it but to have too much is suicidal."

"God has not promised to do for us that which we can do for ourselves."

"Some of the unhappy folk in our world today are men and women with more money than they know what to do with."

"It has been said that happiness is made of so many pieces that there is always one missing.  Happiness is never found by searching for it.  Like boys chasing butterflies, happiness is always just out of reach.  It does not consist in a fine house, fine furniture, a sixteen-cylinder car or alot of money.  In many places dwell unhappy hearts.  All of the things enumerated may conduce to happiness but the poor man has access to happiness as well as the rich.

Happiness consists in contentment, in having a clear conscience.  It will be found in acting in an unselfish manner towards others.  You cannot pour the perfume of happiness upon others without getting a few drops on yourself.  Victor Hugo has well written: 'The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.'"

Monday, 1 May 2017

May ~ Rain, Rain, Go Away .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Ugh!  I don't know how else to say it.  Most of April was rain and not just regular rain, but capricious rain.  It would pour and then stop, sprinkle a little and then stop, be sunny for not very long and then stop, because mother nature must know how torturous it is to have fleeing views of that warm golden orb before it is snatched away and the rain continues.  I do realize that we live in a rain forest, but seriously, it can become ridiculous!  Fortunately the last week has seen less rain and more fleeing glimpses of the orb so I'm going have a positive outlook for May.  Work with me, okay ...... ;-)

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

April was not such an exciting month for me as the last couple, I must admit.  I've continued with my yoga classes, which I still enjoy but haven't been going as frequently as I'd like due to time constraints.  I am improving, although with some poses I wonder if I'll ever be able to bend my body completely in such unusual shapes.  I was able to take one long bike ride, which was very exciting because I wasn't tired at all afterwards. Do you know what that means?  Yes!  I'm in shape!  Softball season has begun and I'm starting to search for scorekeepers for the international tournament in July and practicing my skills.  It's nice to be able to be outside more, even though the weather has not been cooperating to make it pleasant.  Dratted rain!

I'm behind on my garden prep work too.  My potatoes from last months farm visits are chitting and I need to get them into the ground now!  It's my plan for this week.  And, of course, I still haven't looked very closely at my seeds to see what I need to plant now and what will wait.  So disorganized!  I'm usually an organized person, honest, but I have so much to do that it becomes not humanly possible to be organized in every task. So I become a little organized in most things, and not so much in others. Anyone have any ideas how to fix me? ;-)

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

The most dreary part of the year falls in April for me, only because it means taxes, taxes, and more taxes.  Sadly, in spite of my cheery determination to stay on top of my bookkeeping during the year, inevitably other things ---- other more pleasant things ---- tend to monopolize my time and every year I'm scrambling come April to put everything together from square one. No, not a relaxing start to spring.  Of course, this year was no different so I spent much of April, searching and gathering, finding and entering until the completed tax document was finally on hand.  Arduous work, certainly. No wonder I like to put it right out of my mind when it's all over.  Can you blame me?

My reading has still been progressing at what seems like a snail's pace but I did have some highlights in April: I finally finished reading Herodotus' The Histories and put up my final review.  It was such an enjoyable read but I must admit, I'm happy to move on to Thucydides.  My thorough reading of Herodotus has given me a great base for The History of the Peloponnesian War, which I've begun.  Thucydides is certainly drier than Herodotus, but more organized.  I also was able to read four books for Amanda at Simpler Pastimes' Children's Classic Literature Event:  Finn Family Moomintroll, Cyrus the Persian, The Moomins and the Great Flood and Alice in Wonderland, although so far I only have reviews up for the first one.  I was happy with my accomplishment.  My read of Dead Souls has come to a screeching halt as I absolutely hate my Pevear-Volokhonsky translation.  Why do I torture myself with them?  This is the third of their translations that I've read and they somehow manage to kill any life that the stories have.  I don't know how they do it.  Their marketing is superb but their translations are painful.  I've ordered a used copy of the Chistopher English translation, which seems simplified (I'd rather the Bernard Guilbert Guerney translation), but at least the satire is apparent.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

My plans for May include gardening (someone needs to show up with a cattle prod to keep me focused), scorekeeping, blogging and exercise.  I'd like to find some days to take a couple of hikes, but we'll see.  I'm leaving for a little scorekeeping get-away mid-May and then at the end of May I was supposed to be off to the island but I might have to cancel.  Very unfortunate, as I would have been able to get lots of reading accomplished.  And speaking of reading, I'll continue with The History of the Peloponnesian War, Dead Souls and my Deal Me In Challenge and Great Ideas project. I have a few temptations that have come my way from a couple of my Goodreads groups: a re-read for me of the Epic of Gilgamesh and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain which also would be a re-read.  The latter is pretty long, so I probably won't join but I'd like to.  I'd also like to begin another Russian novel when I finish Dead Souls, perhaps One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  AND I'm pondering starting Ulysses and reading it very slowly.  I did not get on well with it the last time I attempted it, but there is a Ulysses aficionado on Goodreads who assures me that he'll help me out. Ulysses or my good common sense?  Who will win?

And the oh-so-elusive food blog?  It's coming ...... very slowly.  I've been prepping recipes and cooking ...... when I started this blog with my partner, neither of us realized the logistical incompatibility.  I cook the recipe and then have to somehow get it to my partner to test it.  With two busy people, we've been using drop-and-run/grab and go tactics.  Perhaps we should find a hollowed-out log somewhere where I can drop it and he can pick it up later.  Ha ha!  And we still have to write up our bios in order to get the blog launched, which we've been promising to do for over a month but obviously are rather uninspired.  What does one say about oneself?  Anything that would appear interesting to others, seems boring to oneself.  Sigh.  We'll just have to take up the gauntlet ---- or the pen ---- and get writing!  But to give you a little foretaste, I'll leave you with a photo of one of our/my creations.  Here's to a great May filled with food, books and friends!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel