Really liked it, is slightly off. It's a book about a massacre. A readable book about a massacre, not too graphic but very important to read, especial...moreReally liked it, is slightly off. It's a book about a massacre. A readable book about a massacre, not too graphic but very important to read, especially considering the current play in the news.(less)
One has to feel sorry for Marie Antoinette. Yes, yes, it’s popular to see her as a spoiled brat of a queen, but it can...moreDisclaimer: ARC from Netgalley.
One has to feel sorry for Marie Antoinette. Yes, yes, it’s popular to see her as a spoiled brat of a queen, but it can’t have been easy to marry a king with some type of erectile dysfunction while moving to a throne country where everyone doubts your loyalty.
And then when you finally start having children, your eldest son dies. And everyone is talking about your gambling habit and whether or not you might just be slut. Of course, they are far more polite about than that.
Finally, to make matters worse, some common person pretends to be you, “seduces” a nobleman whose excuse for doing something illegal is that he could believe that the women was such a loose woman.
That is the story set forth in this book. What is more Jonathan Beckman presents more than just rumor. He not only details the story, in far better way than Hollywood did with its adaption of Dumas’ work, but with more life and passion. It reads like a good old fashion mystery cum soap Opera. The thing is that the story is true. Beckman checks and rechecks his sources. He lets the reader know of the conflicting stories.
What is more Beckman links the effects of the Diamond Necklace Affair not only to the French Revolution but he does much to redeem Marie Antoinette. She isn’t perfect, far from it, but she is handled deftly and with more nuances here, even more than in more recent biographies. It’s strange that she is remembered for a quote that is taken out of context and not for being the victim, in part, of a scandal that didn’t cost her money but her name and reputation. She isn’t the only woman to suffer because of the scandal. What is interesting is that feminists haven’t taken this story up more considering that the women involved, from the planning to the victim herself, all faced harsher penalties than the men did. Don’t we sue people for that?
Barbara Hambly’s work is something that goes back with me. From her twist on a dragon story to impassioned defense...moreDisclaimer: ARC read via Netgalley.
Barbara Hambly’s work is something that goes back with me. From her twist on a dragon story to impassioned defense of puntable dogs, she is a great writer. Her historical fiction, however, is usually better than her fantasy fiction. Crimson Angel is an entry in the Benjamin January Series, in which the title character is a freed black man who has trained as a surgeon, but who lives in New Orleans post-LA purchase.
While this is well into series, it isn’t fully necessary for a reader to have read the other books in the series. Hambly, unlike many authors, gives just enough back story to inform new readers without boring old fans. Few authors know how to do this, and it is wonderful to see an author do this skillfully.
January and Rose his wife find themselves caught up in mystery surrounding Rose’s family and a possible treasure. Together with long time friend Hannibal, the couple is forced to travel outside of the United States to solve the mystery and ensure their safety and that of their young son. The mystery, as most of the mysteries in this series, is a combination of gothic as well as mystery. While the plot is not repetitive, January’s forced travel to unsafe places, Haiti in this case, isn’t, and one wonders if January himself is concerned about this tendency of his.
The use of the dangerous situation/place might be slightly over done in this series, but it does allow Hambly to illustrate the historical time as well as present the horror/inhumanity/wrongness of slavery. This is done not only though the use of January as a child of slaves whose master determined to education him, but also by his relationship to his mother, sisters, his wife, and his wife’s family. Hambly makes a distinction between French Orleans and American Orleans with the difference in society and its treatment of the disenfranchised and enslaved members. Furthermore, January will compare his reaction to something as opposed to his brother-in-law’s. The pain that January feels because his need/desire to protect his family is hampered by his status in an unjust society is stunningly illustrated.
But the theme that draws attention is the difference in perspective.
It’s true that Hambly could not have known about the latest flashpoint, Ferguson, but the analysis is apt and important. John Oliver was correct when he stated that it is impossible to live in the world and not be aware that race is always there, everywhere. To disregard that two segments of the population can see the police or government in two different ways is dangerous and, quite frankly, something that should inspire severe introspection. What Hambly does though the character of January is example and showcase how the dominant culture/race/gender can view one thing and how the repressed culture/race/gender does. It’s why the release of the video of Brown seeming to commit a crime is non-point, but the police did not, or while the claims of a racially diverse police department in Fergusson sound so stupid.
In other words, and I’m not expressing this well at all, while the mystery in this novel is easily figured out, while the plot might be too gothic for some, the use of race and perspective is beautiful, making the novel, and the series itself, worth reading. (less)
Oh to be a doctor in rural apparently was not a good thing because the people would not listen when you tried to tell them about STDs, in particular,...moreOh to be a doctor in rural apparently was not a good thing because the people would not listen when you tried to tell them about STDs, in particular, syphilis Oh, to be a patient in rural Russia where doctors come after graduating and having no experience. This is the basis for the Ovation/BBC series of the same name, and a reader can see why it had so many champions for adaption. IT is at time poignant and at times very funny. It feels very true. It should be noted that if you have seen the series, this book contains several of the cases that are used in the first season. It also lacks the magical realism flair of the series (though Bulgakov himself would use magic realism). (less)
Peter Ackroyd wrote the best biography of a city in his London. It is a magnificent, unsurpassable prose poem to a famo...moreDisclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.
Peter Ackroyd wrote the best biography of a city in his London. It is a magnificent, unsurpassable prose poem to a famous city. In some ways, Ackroyd had it easy. After all, despite Boudicca, the Great Fire, and the Blitz, London stands; it has been rebuilt, but it always stands.
Baghdad doesn’t quite stand the same way it used to.
Justin Marozzi’s book is a history of famed city that has fallen on harsh and violent times. While Marozzi’s work isn’t quite the prose poem of Ackroyd’s London Trilogy (London, The Thames, London Under), it comes very, very close when writing about booksellers or Rashid Street for instance.
This isn’t really Marozzi’s fault. It must difficult, if not impossible, to write a prose love poem that will also have to cover what Hussein did as well as the two Iraq Wars and the build up to the current conflict. While Marozzi cannot for obvious reasons deal with the current Iraq situation, he does cover underlying issues that are coming to light – the religious conflicts among others.
Marozzi traces the city from its founding to the aftermath of Gulf War II. In many ways, Baghdad does seem to constantly be the city of the title – of peace and blood. The blood comes early, not just recently (though the hardest parts of the book, the most unnerving have to do with the modern era), for some of the early rulers had a tendency to be Bluebeard before Bluebeard. It does raise the question of another source for the Bluebeard tale. The locked door even plays a part in the story.
There are some interesting facts, like the treatment of the Jewish population post-WW II, but overall what the book does, perhaps unintentionally, is though a description of a city make the current crisis in Iraq not understandable but seen as part of a boarder and large canvas, something that few, if any, American news outlets take the time to do.
This isn’t to say that the book is all heavy going. Much time is spent on the description of Baghdad as a center of learning, introducing the reader to writers and artists as well as rulers who founded them. Less time is spent on women, but Marozzi takes the time to explain why women are not as evident in the historical record, and describes in details several of the women who escape this trend for a variety of reasons. This includes not only members of the harem, but also prostitutes, one of whom was pulled though the streets by a man who blew raspberries. Western women, like Gertrude Bell, make appearances, and some of the most moving passages of the book have to do with the grave of Bell.
Marozzi might lack the poetry of that Ackroyd possesses when writing about London, but Marozzi’s passion for a city that today is only known for violence comes though quite strongly. At the very least, this book will deepen your knowledge of Baghdad and regret that visiting it is so out of reach at the moment and perhaps forever. (less)
Okay, this isn’t a perfect book. There are some typos (though I am convinced some of them are intentional), but it’s so funny. It sends up the whole a...moreOkay, this isn’t a perfect book. There are some typos (though I am convinced some of them are intentional), but it’s so funny. It sends up the whole author who doesn’t stop talking train wreck. Some of the stuff is crazy, but if Michelle Foal is a real person, she must be so fun at a bar.(less)
The first half of this mediation about reading is good, nice and strong. Yet the book feels as if it has gone for a tad bit too long. There are some i...moreThe first half of this mediation about reading is good, nice and strong. Yet the book feels as if it has gone for a tad bit too long. There are some interesting facts and stories crammed into this mediation about reading. The Library at Night, however, was a stronger book.(less)
Disclaimer: I won an ARC (uncorrected proof) via a Giveaway on Goodreads. My news program of choice is Newshour on PBS. I watched World News Tonight w...moreDisclaimer: I won an ARC (uncorrected proof) via a Giveaway on Goodreads. My news program of choice is Newshour on PBS. I watched World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson, and my reason for the change, in part, is below. I should also note that Katie Couric makes me feel like someone put their nails down the blackboard. I really don’t like her online delivery.
If you can remember a few years back, back when Egypt had first erupted into massive protests, a reporter Lara Logan, was sexually assaulted while reporting from Tahir Square. Around the same time, Anderson Cooper reported that he was punched by a member of crowd. The discussion in the media of the two events was different, and not because of the different in the crime. Logan was subjected to a level of, if not necessary criticism, description that Cooper wasn’t. Most pictures of Logan used when the media reported about the assault were of Logan, a very beautiful woman, dressed in a revealing dress for an awards ceremony. The implication, intended or not and even voiced by some of the radio hosts and online pundits, was that Logan was dressed revealing while reporting from a largely conservative and honor bound society, in essence that she was asking for what, and if she wasn’t, then what was a mother doing in a such a place to begin with. Strange considering, she was dressed conservatively and wore little make up during her reports from the square. Strange too, that the subject of sexual assaults in the Square died in the US media for the most part with the return of Logan.
Everyone just made fun of Cooper. But when a male reporter is injured or killed the pictures used are always of said reporter in action, during his job, not the glamour shot that was used for Logan (in fairness, with Marie Colvin’s death, I didn’t see one glamour shot). When Bob Woodruff was injured reporting, no one questioned whether it was responsible for a husband and father to report from a dangerous war zone.
It is unfair no doubt to Logan that she will be remembered, even in this review, for becoming the story as opposed to reporting the story, but what the reaction to her story illustrates is vitally important – the double standard in regards to news reporters – a central theme of Shelia Weller’s The News Sorority, strange though that Logan’s story while included is brief and isn’t quite used fully.
Not totally surprising because the main focus of the book is the rise and in some cases, fall of three of the most well known female newscasters in media history. Tracing the careers of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, and Christiane Amanpour, Weller looks at the not so changing face of the news while examining the reaction to female newscasters and reporters.
In some ways, this dual purpose part mini-biography, part media criticism doesn’t quite work. Why, for instance, is a story about a martial spat involving a cereal bowl included? It’s funny, sure, but who cares? It’s great that Sawyer likes D.H. Lawrence and e.e. cummings, but who cares? So Amanpour implied her background was different than what it was when she went to school, who doesn’t? Did that transfer to her reporting (apparently not)? And incidentally, would we care if it was Dan Sawyer, Chuck Amanpour, and Ken Couric?
The book is on surer and far more interesting ground when dealing with the impact the women had on various issues and workplaces as well as the ramifications and battles that occurred in the various newsrooms. In fact, the most interesting off topic tidbits occur during the time of CNN’s start up – the first building had no restrooms. The most compelling and interesting sections deal with the issues of gender in the newsroom. Couric might have been the first full time solo female news anchor at 6.30, but at the same time many female news producers on the same network lost their jobs. Weller is at her best when she is either analyzing the performance of the newscasters (her discussion of Couric’s interview with Palin is apt) or the conflicts in the work place.
This is largely because Weller does not turn her three leads into victims. While all three women did work in sexist workplaces to some extent or another, Wheeler presents those flaws and all. In other words, Wheeler does good reporting, presently both flattering and unflattering views of the women while also debating whether some of the negative views are the result of gender not behavior. (Peter Jennings does not come off looking good and neither does Dan Rather). Her narrative and descriptions are so good that even if the reader doesn’t like the woman being focused on, the reader can at least understand and emphasize with them. She also clearly shows the subtle but importance difference between Couric and the other two women, while still showcasing Couric’s skill. This is done by tracing the career path of each woman and how each chose to respond to different challenges. In many ways, Sawyer and Amanpour come off as the more interesting because of their backgrounds, but all three women come off as hard workers. The sexist and workplace section are also more than impact on marriage and family – though it is interesting that both Couric’s and Amanpour’s section deal with the idea of househusband, having more to do with how society sees the husband of a successful woman more than anything else.
But in some parts the book doesn’t quite go as in depth as it should. For instance, when writing about Sawyer’s work on the 6.30 network news, there is a lack of talk of change. While Weller does mention Sawyer’s more emotional approach, she doesn’t address all the changes, including changes that led to me not watching the newscast anymore. For instance, was the change of Person of the Week from a person who was not famous but who truly did something (under Charlie Gibson), to a famous person who has a movie or book coming out – was it Sawyer’s or someone else’s? How about the over the top Royal coverage? Honestly, who cares who has to courtesy first? Furthermore, while discussing the failure of Amanpour and Couric to carry shows as anchor, she does not mention the female team of Gwen and Ifill and Judy Woodruff on PBS’s Newshour. True, not a big three network, but surely worth a nod? How much of Amanpour’s “failure” as an anchor of weekly show also due to the fact that she lacked the glamour/look factor of the other two women? This isn’t to suggest that Amanpour is not a beautiful woman, but she doesn’t do the glam shots that the other women do. And am I the only one who is disturbed by the closeness between reporters and people in positions of power?
In short, the book could have been a bit boarder without losing focus. Still as it is, if you are interested in the news or gender, this is something to read.
This was an impulse buy. I was at the Smithsonian, the Native American, American Indian, museum, and this was in the bookstore. And since I get like...more This was an impulse buy. I was at the Smithsonian, the Native American, American Indian, museum, and this was in the bookstore. And since I get like 20% off because I’m a supporter and the cover was interesting, and the start sounded good.
And I had a really nice lunch.
So I figured what the hell.
And it was one of those times where it worked out. Go figure. Horowitz travels to discover the discovery of America (at least discovery by white folks, but he’s honest about that part of it). Some of what he covers, a reader of history will now, but his writing makes up for the lapses. Part travelogue, the book also covers people’s reactions to history or to a changing view of history.
While the focus is largely on the land that makes the US, other parts of the Americas do get the spotlight shown on them. Additionally, the book is not simply the repeating of facts, but also a study of how facts and myths switch places.
It’s quite a fun read and you will learn quite a bit. (less)