When the Rogue Returns (The Duke’s Men #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

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“When the Rogue Returns” told a story of a young couple torn apart by deceptions and lies. 10 years later, Victor Cale received a case inquiry about a woman with a distinctive skill in making faux jewelry and with similar features to his wife and he travelled to Edinburgh where he found the person he had spent a decade searching. Isa had live a content existence as a respectable tradeswoman while keeping her identity a secret and away from prying eyes but when her past in the form of her husband came out of nowhere. She knew it could much more than a heated kiss or two to made her forget about all the pain and anger she had blamed on him or fill her empty heart again.

I never read any Sabrina Jeffries books nor any of “The Duke’s Men” series prior to reading this one. At first, I skim over the dragging first chapter and then the story went into a much linear pacing and straight into the conflict and drama. Victor and Isa had a dangerous chemistry between them and they’re too much alike that made their interactions vicious and their attraction explosive. Both have their own ugly pasts and both still distrustful, secretive and cautious about their broken pride and most importantly broken hearts. The conflict between them were layered when their demons still chase after them and threaten their happiness.

The book was surprisingly fast paced and enjoyable. Jeffries did wonderful with her prose without being terribly redundant which usually came with the genre. I’ll be looking forward for the future installments of the series.

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

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War Horse (War Horse, #1) by Michael Morpurgo

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I never knew that it was a book before it was made into a movie. Although I have a primary bias regarding to the story but I enjoyed this book just as well it deserved. War Horse is written in a similar way Black Beauty did by the first person narration. Unlike Black Beauty, War Horse told the story about a half-thoroughbred horse, Joey, and his life at the farm where he grew up with his master, Albert and his fate when he was brought into the army, encountering massive tragedy and fate, had traveled the continent between both sides of the war, befriended with new friends and suffering lost and death at the same time.

The narration proved to be intriguing. In a way, the storytelling is passive because it was being told by a horse. But whatever limitation it have, the story through the observant eyes of Joey was more telling than the characters themselves. In the movie, the story was told around the horse and the characters and the conditions of the war itself but due to the medium, it lack the crucial part of what the book really is, the wisdom within the horse himself. For all its worth, its a hard book to adapt into the movies but they did it well. For most part, I like the movie better in making the plot realistic than what was written in this book.

Even if Joey is passive as a narrating character, he’s clearly an active observant of the people around him. In a way, the author drove a humanizing element into the story in the eyes of a horse. It was an impressive feat on its own to craft a war story around an animal but it did work. I’m not certain if the story was intended to be a children book because its clearly isn’t just as the movie isn’t for me. It is a story about animal but it is a genuine misnomer to assume that all animal anthropomorphism stories belong to children’s fiction. Then again, the idea of a genre is always subjective through the eyes of the readers. In this case, War Horse is a historical novel and a drama around the era where the world is in chaos where the soldiers getting younger and die faster and where people and animals are also suffering in both sides without a choice in this madness.

 

The Aeneid by Publius Vergilius Maro & Robert Fagles

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I do think it is a commendable effort by Fagles to translate another lengthy epic but I do think my on-going ennui while reading through this epic poetry even with the help of Simon Callow’s narration was the result of Virgil’s prose and storytelling itself. The Aeneid is a continuation after the fall of Troy and it set around the adventures of Aeneas and his role in the founding of Rome. However, this doesn’t mean Virgil is ripping off Homer although obviously he did base his work around Iliad but Mediterranean culture often derive from the same geographical source, much like how there’s some similarity between food cultures around South East Asia.

Unlike Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid is highly political and almost devoid of storytelling until usual good parts. Most of the time the poems constantly surrounded itself with ‘prophetic’ grandeur of the future Roman empire and its people and there’s a lot of  brown nosing in this book that it became unbearable. That made more sense why Virgil wanted his manuscript destroyed. Its not just a story of Aeneus, its also a 19 BC product placement story about how the then-Roman families and rulers being placed inside the mythology with stories of their grandeur.

The role of various women in Aeneid is by far the most troublesome element I had with this book. I could blame it on my modern bias but there are prevalent amount of misogyny in this book that made the process of reading as discomforting. This whole story seem to assert itself that a woman couldn’t hold a position of power and always in danger of irrationality and on the verge of hysteria and suicidal at the whims of men. First we see them with Juno and Venus then Dido and Queen Amata. I do admire Dido at first but due to a deus ex machina, her characterization was tarnished and she became an even more caricatured version of Homer’s Penelope and Calypso.

There are some good parts with war and fight scenes and occasional description of gore but overall the narrative seem to jump around characters. But unlike Greek’s thematic Xenia where hospitality is one of the most important values, Aeneid focus more on Pietas which was piety toward the gods, the prophecy and responsibility which was prevalent throughout the book. It show Aeneus in varied position where he was pushed to his destiny and held back from his goal by people or divine stalker entity. It is laughably distracting that in a way it is a classic way to teach its listener about being pious but all I want was some coherent storytelling instead of a propaganda and a story within a story. Aeneid have its historical significance but it certainly doesn’t give me much entertainment without being distracted by all the allegories.