top 5 tuesday: Favorite Quotes

Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the fantastic Bionic Bookworm.  This week’s topic:

OCTOBER 17 – Top 5 book quotes

Narrowing down this list PAINED ME so think of these as my top 5 book quotes at this exact moment in time (8:54 pm on a Monday in October), because in ten minutes I’m sure I would have chosen a different selection.  Also I’m not going to add my commentary to these, I’m just going to let them speak for themselves, but if there’s anything that needs clarifying or if you’re curious as to why any of these struck me, do let me know.

31548“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”

– W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

michaud-the-subversive-brilliance-of-a-little-life-320“Now he got out of bed and wrapped his blanket around himself, yawning. That evening, he’d talk to Jude. He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew he would be safe; he would keep them both safe. He went to the kitchen to make himself coffee, and as he did, he whispered the lines back to himself, those lines he thought of whenever he was coming home, coming back to Greene Street after a long time away – “And tell me this: I must be absolutely sure. This place I’ve reached, is it truly Ithaca?”- as all around him, the apartment filled with light.”

– Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


“If you show someone something you’ve written, you give them a sharpened stake, lie down in your coffin, and say, ‘When you’re ready’.”

— David Mitchell, Black Swan Green



harper-perennial-edition“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

— Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

51yqc21t3nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_“He stood between death and life as between night and morning, and thought with a soaring rapture, ‘I am not afraid’.”

— Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven




What are your favorite quotes and what did you think of mine??  Comment and let me know!

top 5 tuesday: Book Worlds I Want to Live In

This month’s Top 5 Wednesday prompts aren’t really up my alley, so I’m going to temporarily jump ship and do a couple from Top 5 Tuesday, hosted by Bionic Book Worm. We’re starting out with a sort of difficult one, because I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but let’s see what I can come up with!

AUGUST 1ST – Top 5 book worlds I want to live in

3Harry Potter.  I mean, this is almost too obvious to even mention, but I have to say it anyway.  There is no fictional universe that I have ever wanted to be a part of more than the Harry Potter world.  Touring the Leavesden Studio in London was one of the most magical experiences of my life.  (Tragically, I was always too practical to be ‘waiting for my Hogwarts letter.’  I knew it was fictional.  Kid me wasn’t much of an idealist.)

11388429When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen.  I had some problems with this book, but one thing is for sure: I loved the atmosphere.  This is a vaguely Victorian paranormal fantasy with a moody, evocative, sultry vibe, and it was awesome.  I mean, granted, I’d much rather be rich in this universe than poor, but that’s true of most places, isn’t it?


9361589The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I read this book almost two years ago, and I still can’t decide what I thought of it.  Sometimes I think it’s gorgeous and compelling and beautiful, and sometimes I think it’s underdeveloped and overrated.  But again, there is absolutely no arguing that the atmosphere in this novel is stunning.  I don’t even like ‘circus stories,’ usually, but damn did I ever want to dive straight into these pages and visit the Night Circus.

51yqc21t3nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault.  This is usually my answer to the ‘which historical period would you visit’ question.  What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and see Alexander the Great in action.  He’s a historical figure who’s practically become mythologized, so you can’t help but to be curious about what the real person was like.


30319086If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio.  I can’t help it, I love the aesthetic of elite academia.  I would love so much to attend Dellecher Classical Conservatory, Rio’s fictional school of higher education, where students study theatre, Shakespeare, dance, art, etc…  I can’t remember if classical languages is a department at Dellecher, but if it is, that’s definitely what I would do.  Continuing my studies of Latin in a vaguely pretentious environment like that is the aesthetic dream.

Which fictional universes do you want to be a part of?  Comment and let me know!

book review: Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault


Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault

published in 1969


I know I said I wouldn’t finish this today, but I surprised myself!  I’ll have to edit my monthly wrap up post accordingly.  I can’t believe I actually finished this in April.

Coming in at around 3 months, this is the longest it’s taken me to finish a book in years. That isn’t to say that I didn’t love it. I did. But make no mistake: this book is hard. Renault’s prose is gorgeous but dense; pages upon pages upon pages are devoted to military strategy; characters appear without proper introduction because of a certain amount of knowledge already expected from the reader; the third-person omniscient narration is at times difficult to follow. Verbose and academic, this isn’t exactly one to take to the beach this summer.

But I loved it.

“He stood between death and life as between night and morning, and thought with a soaring rapture, ‘I am not afraid’.”

This book is beautiful. Immersive, lyrical, and intelligent, Renault gives us a truly credible window into the world of Ancient Greece, and into the life of Alexander in particular.

Fire from Heaven is about Alexander the Great before he was Alexander the Great – when he was just Alexander, son of Philip II and Olympias, tenuous heir to the Macedonian throne.

Alexander only lived for 32 years, from 356 – 323 BCE, but in that time, became one of the most accomplished military strategists in history, creating one of the largest empires in the ancient world, that extended into Egypt as well as Asia. Even during his lifetime, Alexander’s character became almost mythologized. No wonder countless books – fiction and nonfiction – have been written in an attempt to understand him, to humanize this man who was the cynosure of all of Greece, who seems too legendary to have ever been mortal.

But Mary Renault does just that. There are no first-hand accounts of Alexander’s early life, as Renault tells us in her afterward, and this book is an attempt at recreating this period of Alexander’s life, drawing on the few sources that do exist. Raised by two parents who openly disdain one another – haughty, manipulative Olympias, and proud, cruel Philip – much of Alexander’s childhood is characterized by this tension. Alexander, the boy we first meet and the man he becomes, is kind, bright, forgiving; but he’s also impulsive and stubborn; ambitious but without a clear path leadership, as the question of his birthright and Philip’s chosen successor dogs him through adolescence. In short, though the Alexander that Renault creates is in many ways a product of her imagination, he’s also clearly been derived from intensive research; his fictionalized personality dovetailing with the historical records of his character.

Renault also famously, controversially, depicts the relationship between Alexander and Hephaistion to be a romantic one. While the romance is just about as explicit as you would expect from a novel written in 1969 (i.e., not very), it’s an undeniable force to this story, which adds yet another compelling layer to this novel already so rich in detail.

Fire from Heaven is not for the casual reader. It’s a good introduction to Alexander the Great… if you truly want to learn about Alexander the Great. While it is historical fiction, this book is decidedly strong on the history and light on the fiction. Renault’s research is thorough, and undoubtedly will not be of interest to readers hoping for a fast-paced story. There actually isn’t much action to be found here, despite the numerous battles recounted. This is a sort of quiet historical reimagining, that in some ways serves as an elaborate preface to the latter two novels in Renault’s Alexander series – The Persian Boy and Funeral Games, both of which I look forward to reading.