Thursday, April 24, 2014

Philology by James Turner

Philology is defined as "the multifaceted study of texts, languages, and the phenomenon of language itself". According to this book, it's also the parent of disciplines such as history, literature, and basically most of the humanities (except Philosophy).

Personally, I've never heard of Philology before this book. But after reading it, I can say that... Oxford's Philosophy, Politics and Economics course sounds absolutely fascinating. It's not covered in the book (it's only mentioned at the end), but I took a look at the course on the website and it looks good.

Now back to the book. This book is a survey of the history of philology. It doesn't try to go in-depth, which seeing as its 576 pages in total, might be a good thing. Philology has had a really long and interesting history, but it has always been a broad-ranging subject. It was only when philologists began to specialise in areas such as History and Archaeology and so on that it started to be forgotten.

But think about it, do we need a Jack or all trades or a master of one? It's not a simple question (for example, I want my doctor to be a master of the field of medicine, not a Jack of all trades), but I would say that with the internet connecting us, a broad base of knowledge is beginning to become essential. Sure, we'll need (and we should) specialise in one thing, if only because it'll give us something unique to brag about in our resumes, but it's only smart to know about a lot of other things as well. Like Philology (although that does restrict things, albeit a broader base of things).

So that means, perhaps in 20 years time, the norm for humanities students would be to have a minor in philology, as well as an area of specialisation. I mean, I think it would really help a literature student if she knew the history of the time period of the piece she's analysing, and a history student could always use literature sources as a secondary source. It's all interconnected.

The writing in this book is a bit dense, and since it's a technical subject, is a little hard to read. However, there were times where I chuckled, as the author occasionally tried to inject some light-heartedness into the book. For example, I love this description of Athanasius Kircher:

"Take Alexander Pope's dictum, "a little learning is a dangerous thing"; imagine it walking on two legs and you have Kircher in his wilder moments."

And of course, this bit of information is going to be useful to know in the future (when talking to friends about their coffee addiction):

"Oxford's Arabist, Rev. Edward Pococke, protege of John Selden, set the model for the modern scholar by downing endless cups of coffee."

So while the subject matter might be heavy, this book isn't as unreadable as you'd expect. If you have an interest in the humanities and its origins, you should definitely pick up this book.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox

Do I love this book? Do I want to throw it across the room? I don't know.

The Glass of Time is the sequel to the excellent book The Meaning of Night. If I remember, I said in my review of the first book that I wanted an ending where Edward triumps and Phoebus and Emily get their comeuppance (as it stands, only Phoebus dies at the end of The Meaning of Night). Did this book achieve that?

Well, the meaning of night follows Esperanza Grost (dubbed Alice by Lady Tansor, aka Emily) as she serves her as a ladies maid while trying to fulfill some great task. In the same house as her is the (rather volatile) housekeeper Mrs Battersby, and her two sons Perseus and Randolph and of course, all the servants. If you've read the first book, you can probably predict what the mission is. If you haven't read the first book, well, you should read it beforehand, or else the reason for the mission might seem very implausible.

It's really hard to talk about the book without using spoilers, but I shall try. Basically, vengeance was achieved, although it wasn't as satisfying as I thought.

But what I was really surprised at was the development of Emily's character. I went into the book fully preparing to hate her, but as the story went on, I started to sympathise with her. She becomes a more complex character than the first book, which was both infuriating (because I wanted revenge, not to feel sympathy) and admirable (this book humanized her. I admire that).

The next strong character would be Esperanza/Alice. The narrative is told mainly through her point of view, and she's a very likable narrator and character. Because she starts her Great Task with very little information, she basically fumbles her way though everything. The relationship between her and Emily is really interesting as well.

Unfortunately, apart from these two ladies, the rest of the characters were rather disappointing. Perhaps its because my focus is on Emily and Esperanza (and finding out how the events in The Meaning of Night end), but I found Mrs Battersby, Perseus and Randolph, and the relationships they had, to be boring. I felt that they were not fully sketched out, which meant that I didn't sympathise with her.

In fact, I thought that the subplot involving Mrs Battersby and Randolph rather unbelievable. The same goes for the relationship between Esperanza and Perseus. These relationships felt unconvincing and distracting to me. Sure, they added plot-twists, but I never understood the character motivations.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good sequel. It clears up questions and frustrations that I had from the first book. I would really like to know more about the time period between the two books though, although we do get hints, I would love to know more in detail. Pity that a third book won't be coming out.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kirsty Cambron

This book's not coming out for another two months or so, but I'm giving you an early review so you know whether you should pre-order the book or not.

The Butterfly and the Violin follows Sera James, an art gallery owner obsessed with finding a painting she once saw as a child; and Adele Von Bron, a famous Viennese violinist who gets arrested by the Nazis for hiding the Jews. The two stories are connected by that one painting and yes, there is a love interest for both girls (although Sera's love story was much more prominent).

To be honest, I basically read the book for Adele's side of the story. Sera had an interesting plot, but for some reason, I wasn't drawn in. Perhaps its because the impact her past had on her didn't impact me as strongly - what happened to her was terrible, but by skipping over it (and key events), I felt distanced.

On the other hand, I was fully engaged in Adele's story. It helped that it wasn't totally a love story, well, it was, but it had familial (the kind of family that isn't bound by blood but you don't choose either) and romantic love. And of course, the music.

I would have been happier if this book focused only on Adele and fleshed out her story more. Or, if the dual-plotline was important, expanded the book by fleshing out both Sera and Adele's plots. Because while Adele's side of the story was very well-written (although a bit short for my liking), I felt that Sera's side of the story was rather rushed.

 All in all though, this is a good book. It was absorbing and moving. It's length makes it a quick read, although I think that with its subject matter, it's not a fluffy book that you'd want to take to the beach. It's more of a book that you curl up with.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Apologies and Updates

Hey everyone. You might have noticed my absence since Tuesday. The truth is, I got some bad news and it really affected me.

If you want to read the full story, please go over to my other blog: A Sister's Reaction to my Brother's Bullying Case.

In 2012, I moved to Japan for further studies. At that time, I left behind my family, including my little brother, who was turning 8 at that time. That same year, I received a message from my mother, telling me not to worry, but that the teachers had caught my brother attempting to jump from the fourth storey at school.

Apparently, my brother's classmates had told him that if he jumped they would be his friend. He believed them. 

My brother has been diagnosed with mild autism. To put it simply, my brother does not know how to interact with others. My brother wants to make friends, he would love to be friends, but he does not know how to go about doing it. 

Every day, my brother goes to school and tries to make friends. And every day, he has to learn to shrug off the bullying and teasing that goes on. His coping mechanism is to deny that bad things happen. 

Read More

I'll be back with regular updates from Monday. 


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