Review: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

Homicide: A Year on the Killing StreetsHomicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
written by David Simon is a non-fiction account about the time he spent with Baltimore police department homicide squad.

For a detective or street police, the only real satisfaction is the work itself; when a cop spends more and more time getting aggravated with the details, he’s finished. The attitude of co-workers, the indifference of superiors, the poor quality of the equipment—all of it pales if you still love the job; all of it matters if you don’t.

David Simon joined the Baltimore Police Department’s homicide unit as a “police intern” in 1988. During that year 234 cases of homicide took place in the city of Baltimore. This book provides a frank, detailed insight into the city’s murders and the homicide detectives who solve them. The character of each detective is portrayed brilliantly as they all have their personalities and flaws and approaches to how an investigation should be run. This book also notes how TV has skewed jurors’ perception of what evidence is required for a guilty verdict. These real-life cases are compelling and heartbreaking and also show how the detectives’ practiced emotional distance from these cases is essential for their ability to function.

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Review: The Song of Achilles

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is a novel set in ancient Greece and tells the story of the love between Achilles and Patroclus. The title could refer to a song sung by Achilles or it could also refer to a song sung about Achilles.

The title of the book may be The Song of Achilles but the story is narrated by Patroclus, an awkward young prince who has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia after accidentally murdering his friend over a game of dice. Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess and yet Achilles takes Patroclus under his wing and soon they develop steadfast friendship. From there on, their bond develops into something deeper, much to the outrage of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

 

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” – Patroclus

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Achilles joins their cause to fulfill his destiny to become the greatest warrior of all time. Patroclus, through fear and love for his companion, follows Achilles to fight in the war, neither of them knowing what tests the future years will hold for them.

I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology. So, I decided to read this modern retelling of Homer’s the Illiad. Miller has taken one of the most legendary and familiar of stories from the Illiad and successfully managed to create a modern masterpiece out of it. In the Illiad, Patroclus is a relatively minor character. But in this book Patroclus is chosen as the narrator which would have been quite tricky after his death but Miller pulls it off brilliantly. Patroclus’s narration gives a convincing account of his childhood, the events leading up to the Trojan War and the War itself.

This depiction of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a overwhelming love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

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Review: Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Death was not the opposite of life. It was already here, within my being, it had always been here, and no struggle would permit me to forget that.”

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami is a fictional novel set in 1960s Tokyo. Norwegian Wood, which gets its title from The Beatles song of the same name, is a novel that centered in death and the feeling of loss related to it. The song is often mentioned in the novel, and is the favourite song of the character Naoko.

The book begins with the narrator, Toru Watanabe, on a plane and looking back to when he was 19 in the late 1960s as a college student living in Tokyo.He recalled Naoko, a childhood friend with whom he shared a traumatic experience, the tragic suicide of Kizuki, Naoko’s boyfriend and his best friend. Naoko grows increasingly troubled and goes to an isolated mental facility. Meanwhile, Toru strikes up a friendship with Midori, a fiercely independent and lively classmate who is exactly the polar opposite of Naoko.

“Why?” she screamed. “Are you crazy? You know the English subjunctive, you understand trigonometry, you can read Marx, and you don’t know the answer to something as simple as that? Why do you even have to ask? Why do you have to make a girl SAY something like this? I like you more than I like him, that’s all. I wish I had fallen in love with somebody a little more handsome, of course. But I didn’t. I fell in love with you!” – Midori

Norwegian Wood is the first book of Haruki Murakami that I read. Norwegian Wood is a story of love, commitment and coming of age and is simply one of few books that you wouldn’t stop reading once you started it. It was a emotional read with endearing characters. I really enjoyed the characters and identified with their struggles. The story is dark but not overwhelming. In this book, Murakami really shows you the intricacy of depression, suicide, and the struggle of characters to get past the tragedies in their lives and find happiness.

The Beatles’ song Norwegian wood is a favourite of Naoko’s and Reiko plays it frequently on her guitar. The lyrics could describe Toru’s relationship with Naoko as well as Midori:
“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.”

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Review: Catch-22

Catch-22
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller tells a story of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces bombardier who wishes to be grounded from combat flight because he thinks everyone is trying to kill him(obviously!). The novel looks into the experiences of Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp, and their attempts to keep their sanity in order to fulfill their service requirements, so that they can return home.

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.”

“Catch-22” is based on the explanation by the character Doc Daneeka as to why any pilot requesting a psych evaluation hoping to be found not sane enough to fly, and thereby escape dangerous missions, would thereby demonstrate his sanity.

I can’t believe I hesitated so long to read this book. This book got me all the emotions. One minute i’m giggling aloud, and next I’m stumped by the horrifying depiction of the insanity of war. One of the things i loved about this book was it’s structure. The narrative’s events are in non-chronological order and many events in the book are repeatedly described from different point of view so the reader must ultimately piece together a timeline of events.

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