Ow, my eyes and brain....But I'm still reading it for some reason, hence the second star.
Things that piss me off so far:
1. Mild protestations to the...moreOw, my eyes and brain....But I'm still reading it for some reason, hence the second star.
Things that piss me off so far:
1. Mild protestations to the contrary, the (married, but hey, as long as everyone's on board) author clearly sees himself as some kind of cynical, charismatic, aging Lothario, out to sample the beauty and "freshness" of Eurasia's women (the much younger women, of course, not the ones closer to his age). Like a salad bar! He's much less forgiving of one Canadian woman he meets than he is of himself. (She's married to a somewhat younger Ukrainian dude and doesn't "understand" said dude or his culture and he portrays her as somewhat pathetic.) Of course it's implied that HE'S cracked the mysteries of the East, just like Pierre Loti or something. Which of course, he, as A Man, can do by sleeping, or attempting to sleep, his way through Central Asia, in the way that A Woman can't, or shouldn't (supposedly). The tone kind of reminds me of that chapter in Confessions of an Economic Hitman where the author is all like, "well, all those OTHER relationships between young local (Southeast Asian? I read it a long time ago) women and their much older, grizzled, White counterparts are exploitative and have a power imbalance at their core, but MINE are real, totally, I swear, because I *KNOW* these people, and I'm so knowing and smart and cynical!" Right....
2. The description of the Tatars in his Ukrainian-Canadian mother's picture as "slit-eyed." I mean REALLY....It's one thing to be all cynical and self-deprecating about prejudices you've moved on from, but, at least from the amount I've read so far, it's not at all clear that he's actually moved on from them.
What keeps me reading--aside from enjoying a turn of phrase every once in a while, or literary rubbernecking, or feeling the general dearth of contemporary Central Asian travelogues--is author's positioning of himself as sort of closer culturally to the people he's describing than the usual, pardon me, Lawrence of Arabia type. The only other travelogues and memoirs about the so-called "East" I've read are written by Western Europeans or people who identify with the sort of neo-Anglo-Saxon parts of the former British Empire (U.S. Canada, Australia, etc.). It's nice to see one by someone who feels a greater cultural/geographical connection to the places he visits. It's just a pity so far that it should come with so much baggage and entitlement and racism.(less)
I had no idea that there was a gaping hole in my life that could only be filled with some really gorgeously done Story of the Stone fanfic, but appare...moreI had no idea that there was a gaping hole in my life that could only be filled with some really gorgeously done Story of the Stone fanfic, but apparently there was! Cao Xueqin always seems to me to sympathize with his female characters, but this novel gives that extra look into their lives that I always wanted, while being consistent with the tone of the original works. I've been strictly Team Daiyu for many years since high school when I first read the book, but this retelling has compelled me to have some sympathy for Baochai as well. I feel even worse for Wang Xifeng than I did before though....Anyway, if you've read the original and remember that part when Daiyu, Xiangyun, and the nun are improvising poetry together, and you really liked it, then you'll probably like this version, which retains that sense of female camaraderie without simplifying the relationships or giving them too overtly contemporary a feel. (less)
I don't know what this book was doing in my tiny podunk New Jersey childhood library, but I've always loved this enormous tome so much that I finally...moreI don't know what this book was doing in my tiny podunk New Jersey childhood library, but I've always loved this enormous tome so much that I finally ordered it at work several years ago to make sure that it got to me safely and then lugged it home on my one-hour subway commute (couldn't resist taking it out and reading it and then ended up explaining to a bunch of curious commuters what "Finno-Ugrian" means and getting them interested in bear ceremonies). The poetry is beautiful, the photographs are divine, and the whole thing totally feeds my Finnophilia. (less)
**spoiler alert** This is my favorite Pink Carnation book, not least because, in a cleverly Austenian move, the author compels us to care deeply about...more**spoiler alert** This is my favorite Pink Carnation book, not least because, in a cleverly Austenian move, the author compels us to care deeply about a hero who is much more principled and loving than he is intelligent or suave. In a book where Jane Austen is an actual supporting character, no less! Handsome, clueless, silly, sweet-natured Turnip may be one of my favorite characters of all time, actually. And it's easy to see why plain, intelligent, invisible-to-most Arabella would fall for him, when he was nearly alone in recognizing her worth. I enjoyed the small dramas surrounding the girls' school, and the appearance of Alex Reid's Anglo-Indian younger sister as a pupil and funny character in her own right (maybe she'll get a novel when she's older? That would be fantastic....). And--this may be petty of me, but--it was refreshing to have a tall, somewhat generously proportioned heroine along with a tall hero, since it seems like the last 90 or so romance novels I've read have a giant, stocky, muscular hero and a teeny little heroine who could probably fit in his pocket. Not that there's anything wrong with that at all, but I do appreciate variety. It's also a nice change when the hero is beautiful and the heroine is not, as was the case here.
I was a bit dismayed to see that my beloved antiheroine Mary and antihero Lord Vaughn from The Seduction of the Crimson Rose snubbed Arabella (who held her own well, by the way) in one scene. But given that they probably snub and quiz everyone, it was probably nothing personal.
As a curmudgeonly Jew, I was originally reluctant to read this because it was a Christmas-themed novel, but I'm very glad I did, and it remains one of my favorite novels ever, and my go-to novel when I need something light of great substance.(less)
Visually, this book is stunning, but as an anthropologist who studies Central Asia, and a daughter-in-law in a Central Asian family, I have to wonder-...moreVisually, this book is stunning, but as an anthropologist who studies Central Asia, and a daughter-in-law in a Central Asian family, I have to wonder--exactly which tribes/nations are being portrayed here,and where does the story take place? I recognize various dress styles/lifestyles of various tribes/ethnicities, all in one family, but it doesn't seem to be done in a deliberately multicultural way (except for the addition of Amira). Also,if the story really does take place in the nineteenth century, the ethnographic photos that I suspect the author used as references show more evidence of certain types of "modern" technology than were present in the story. It seems like the author has created this sort of timeless, geographically vague Central Asian never-never land, where a hodgepodge of real-life couture and customs serve as a colorful vehicle for a story that had my husband going "HUH?! He's HOW old? WTF?" There's nothing wrong with using real-world phenomena as inspiration for a fantastical story--how else do we world-build?--but I don't get the impression that this story is intended to be fantastical. From reviews and comments, it's being received as a culturally accurate story rich in ethnographic detail, which is troubling. Though the author may not come from any of the culture(s) that colonized the region, she still appears to be approaching the subject matter in an Othering way--as in, "the existence of actual colonized people doesn't matter as much as the story I can invent--and pass off as authentic--using pieces of them." I'd previously given it five stars, but my conscience is bothering me. (less)
**spoiler alert** This is the first Pink Carnation book that I really loved. I was a bit turned off by the formula of the previous ones, in which the...more**spoiler alert** This is the first Pink Carnation book that I really loved. I was a bit turned off by the formula of the previous ones, in which the small, curvy, earnest, idiotically impetuous heroine teams up with the big, burly, intellectually superior hero, and together they have hijinks and misunderstandings and a squirmworthy PDA scene that may or may not be unwillingly witnessed by a member of the servant class, and usually fight leering, mustachioed French spies with unwholesome appetites. It gets so I can't even really tell the first three heroes apart, nor the first three heroines (the fact that they're nearly all friends with each other or become so complicates matters).
Despite all that, something kept me reading the series, and I'm really glad I did, because I adore the cool, pragmatic, self-aware Mary and her partnership with and eventual attraction to the would-be villain of the previous books, Lord Vaughn, who turns out to be much more 3-D and interesting than before, and light years more interesting than the heroes of the previous books. Mary is a refreshing antidote (in the modern sense, not in the Pink Carnation era sense) to all that curvy earnest impetuousness. She's haughty, calculating, and also principled where it counts. Her honesty about her shallowness makes her a far deeper heroine than the usual archetype. She's completely open about the fact that she's husband hunting, and that she loathes her own situation in which she's dependent on her brother-in-law (whom she had been engaged to marry before the adventures of book #3) and her annoyingly earnest younger sister. She takes Lord Vaughn to task very bitterly and succinctly over his male privilege and class privilege when he makes a condescending reference to what he sees as feminine shallowness and manipulation on the part of women like her. She doesn't expect to find love, which makes it all the more delicious and surprising when she does, with the person she does. And she does so without sacrificing any of her antiheroine qualities. There's no taming going on here, on either side, which makes for a very satisfying, formula-busting HEA. (less)
On the darkly funny, gripping first page: "Everyone important in Turkey, it seems, has Jewish ancestry. Ghost Jews haunt the Turkish popular imaginati...moreOn the darkly funny, gripping first page: "Everyone important in Turkey, it seems, has Jewish ancestry. Ghost Jews haunt the Turkish popular imagination. Many Turkish secularists believe that Prime Minister Erdogan is a crypto-Jew working to undermine Turkey's secular order. Islamists and, increasingly , large segments of the Turkish reading public think atheist Jews overthrew the Ottoman sultan, dissolved his Islamic empire, replaced it with an anti-Muslim secular republic led by the "secret Jew" Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and still today control the country.
The Republic of Turkey has in fact never been led by a secret Jew."
You'd think that didn't need to be said, but I know from personal experience that it does. It makes me want to LOL. Oh, Turkey! To think you were one of the GOOD places for my ancestors....I can't wait to read the rest.(less)
I'm halfway through the Litva chapter and he's not scoffing at Belarusian claims to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, so I admit that probably swayed me....moreI'm halfway through the Litva chapter and he's not scoffing at Belarusian claims to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, so I admit that probably swayed me. I do like this book, though. Next up will be Galicia/Halych and Byzantium, the other side of the family tree....(less)
I'd give this five stars except it's the second one in a cliffhanger-packed trilogy and I won't get to read the third one for some time, so I'm massiv...moreI'd give this five stars except it's the second one in a cliffhanger-packed trilogy and I won't get to read the third one for some time, so I'm massively irritated and being petty. But it really was great! In a punch-to-the-stomach way, but still....(less)
I must really like this book because I read the entire thing in one sitting. I practically forgot to breathe. Can't wait to get my hands on the next t...moreI must really like this book because I read the entire thing in one sitting. I practically forgot to breathe. Can't wait to get my hands on the next two!(less)