Chrissie's Reviews > The Birth of Venus

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
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's review
Mar 09, 11

bookshelves: hf, italy, kirkus, text-checked, religion
Read from February 20 to 24, 2011

Halfway through the book: I do NOT think this is a wonderful book. I am terribly disappointed. Description of Renaissence Florence is fine. I have no quibbles with that, but the plot is so foreseeable, so predictable. The characters seem as modern day caricatures. For me this is pure fluff. Am I learning anything new, to compensate for all my my other disappointments? No!

On completion: If you want to read a book about art during the Italian Renaissence read The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo. You will learn something there, and the time spent reading will be enjoyable.

If you are looking for a light fiction novel where lead characters just happen to meet all the right people at the right points in time, where all the strings of lfe are neatly tied up, where character portrayal is shallow, go ahead - read "The Birth of Venus". Then read "The Agony and the Ecstasy" and make a comparison. You will see what I mean. Here is my review of Stone's book, which I gave 4 stars:

On the other hand I did very much enjoy Dunant's In the Company of the Courtesan.

I will give "The Birth of Venus" 2 stars b/c I did bother to complete it. Do keep in mind that is is a very light read.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 56) (56 new)

message 1: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie Love your review-to the point, respectful but funny, & definitely left me knowing that I didn't want to hurry to get to this book.
With my TBR list, that's important. :)

message 2: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 25, 2011 03:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie You know this was at the top of the Best Art Books List here at GR. I never thought I would be so disappointed. Many others do like it.

Glad to oblige! It is just as important to know which books to avoid as which to grab.

Thanks, Ellie.

message 3: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie It is. It's part of why I'm here. :)

Chrissie Gosh before GR I lacked good books. Now I am buried under them.

message 5: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie LOL.
But so true.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Chrissie, I like your comment about lacking good books before gr and now being buried under them! It is the same here! But, I love it!

Chrissie Of course! However it does demand that one becomes particularly selective when choosing a book.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

So true!

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I'm sorry you agreed with me about this one!

Misfit Susanna wrote: "I'm sorry you agreed with me about this one!"

Lol, I couldn't finish this one. I think it hit the wall around page 100.

Chrissie Susanna, yeah. It is more fun to read a godd book! You and I aren't the only ones who have been disappointed. How did it rank so well on the art list? This is what I find most astounding.

message 12: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 25, 2011 10:56AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Misfit, I saw later that you called it a wall-banger......... You know what I was thinking? You know how you can recommend books? Well, it ought to be possible to tell people NOT to read a particular book.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I believe this one ranks high on my Listopia list for "most disappointed" or similar list.

Chrissie Oh, is there such a list? I will not know any more whether to look at the top or the bottom of the lists to find books.......

Misfit These days I always try to look more at the critical reviews than the gushing ones, at least from reviewers I don't *know*.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I think the list in question was "Disappointing Books" - .

message 17: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie I definitely tell people in a review if I was disappointed in the end. Problem otherwise is I don't usually finish a book I seriously dislike so don't write a review. Unless they enrage me like Jenny McCarthy or Jodi Picoult. But then no one listens anyway, I don't think. One person even wrote than having read me & someone else hated on House Rules, s/he went out to see if it was that bad. They agreed-after they read it. I hope they didn't actually buy it but who knows.

Chrissie Susanna, I voted :0)

Misfit and Ellie, it does feel pretty hopeless when the general opinion is against you, but still it is important to voice the disappointment. The same thing happened to me with Little Boy Lost. They read the book to see what they thought. That I gave only one star!

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Yeah, that's how I feel with The Secret History, too.

Misfit No, I don't care how bashed around I get, I think critical reviews have a place. I definitely use them when I'm struggling with a book and see if others are having the same problems I am.

Chrissie And it feels nice to share frustration!

message 22: by Isis (new)

Isis Misfit wrote: "No, I don't care how bashed around I get, I think critical reviews have a place. I definitely use them when I'm struggling with a book and see if others are having the same problems I am."

I completely agree!

From what I've heard about this book, seems like it's not all it's creacked up to be. :(

message 23: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie I want to say I don't mind being bashed around but I do. Unfortunately-or otherwise-books matter more & I am, whatever I would like, pushed from the inside to say what I see as the truth. A site like this is not only a breath of fresh air & fun (it is): I need it to figure out or more probably get honest with myself about what I like. Or even just practice saying it "out loud." Before taking it on the road. That's what you folks do for me. :)

Misfit What's really funny and very unexpected are the votes on the Amazon reviews for Auel's new book (not out to the public until late March). Typically you'd expect serious fans to be negging the critical reviews but so far they've all been positive. Very refreshing to see I might add.

message 25: by Isis (last edited Feb 25, 2011 03:14PM) (new)

Isis I think people have been put on their guard after how Shelters of Stone went down - not as quick to jump of negative reviews of Auel's books after the really significant portion of people who gave a thumbs down to SOS. Almost as if, if it's popular opinion, it's okay, but if your negative review is in the minority and not shared by a considerable number of other people then they think you're a "hater". *roll eyes*

message 26: by Ellie (new) - added it

Ellie So if you like a book that's unpopular (or, I guess, popular to hate), then you're a fool.

Chrissie Me, I know I have no sifnificance. Nobody cares what I think. This gives me the freedom to express my views! Knowing that nobody cares is quite liberating.

Nevertheless I always think it is important to explain why you come to a particular view. It is important to clearly state whet I liked and what I disliked and if possible give direct examples form the book that "prove" what I am saying.

On the other hand this can lead to a review that is too lengthy! See, I am doing it - I can have a debate sitting all alone in a room, just me and my head.... Too long is no good - but a solution to that is writing the reviews in short installments!

message 28: by Isis (new)

Isis Yes! If there's one thing that annoys me it's reviews that are just "I LOVED this book! It was fantastic and I loved Main Character X. Go and buy it now!" Er, yeah, that's not really a review because you're not explaining why you loved it, what about the book was fantastic - you're just giving an opinion without explaining how you got there. Now, if I write a review that says I didn't like the book, but I explain why and give reasons, even if you had a different reaction than I did how can you possibly vote my review as unhelpful when I provided supporting reasons and you didn't?!

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Or, why I no longer use Amazon's reviews for much of anything.

message 30: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 27, 2011 11:49AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Beth, OMG I hate reviews that only express an opinion without reasons. We readers are all different. If you want to help another decide whether to read a book or not you must explain WHY. Then others will use this information to decide if the book fits them. I never try and convince someone to read a book. I know what you mean. I can get reaaly pissed too when reading such reviews. they can keep their mouths shut!


Susanna, I absolutely NEVER look at Amazon reviews. I look there to look inside the book. Then I go to B&N and read the Kirkus review. They are fun. they say the meanest things about terrible books. But you have to read them carefully, and you cannot expect a good mystery to please you if you do notlike mysteries.... I get a huge kick out of some of their reviews. Amazon will take only the complimentary sentence out of the Kirkus review and print JUST that, eliminating all the negative points! Kirkus is really the only one I trust. Library Journal is OK. Both are avbailable at B&N. I never buy my books there. I just read these reviews there.

It is SO nice talking to people who feel exactly as I do!

Misfit Le sigh. I do hate the if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all attitude. What works for one reader may not work for another and I like knowing the good and the bad. I mean Barb liked this a lot if IIRC. Is she getting huffy with me because I tossed it? I don't think so.

If you just want to hear nothing but gush there's always Harriet and her ilk. Although Harriet sure can get the books wrong. Lol what she just did today to EC's To Defy a King.

Chrissie Misfit, look at it this way - Harriet keeps you amused! Laughing is healthy. Best medicine there is!

Misfit Chrissie wrote: "Misfit, look at it this way - Harriet keeps you amused! Laughing is healthy. Best medicine there is!"

Lol, she is the best show on Amazon. That said, there are definitely other reviewers like her, they're just harder to spot. Which is why I'm happy here. Everyone can speak their piece and opinions respected (for the most part).

Chrissie I like that - (for the most part). But it is true, varied opinions are voiced about many books.

message 35: by Isis (new)

Isis I never knew who Harriet was before I heard you guys talking about her on here. We don't have her on Amazon UK. Now that you guys have enlightened me and after a cursory Google search to further inform me... I'm baffled. I don't understand. She's obviously not real - that is to say, she may have been a real person long ago but it's obvious that the name has been long since taken over. I don't care if she is a specialist fast reader, no one can be clocked at 60 books AND reviews of those books per day. That's one book AND review every 24 minutes - she's got to sleep and eat, hasn't she?! Even on lesser days - she only clocked a woeful 14 books and reviews today - it's not possible. Doesn't she have a job, for goodness sake?! Or go on holiday?! And she never gives anything lower than 4 stars, or at least hasn't for several years - I don't care about all that "if you can't say anything nice" spiel, not every book in the world is fantastic and if she was really reading books but just not leaving reviews on bad ones out of being "nice" then she'd be posting far less reviews per day as a result of having to not leave reviews for books she found bad. The only circumstances in which I can imagine she is a single real person doing all these reviews is that she basically just rephrases the back cover blurb, flicks through a page or two in order to give one book detail and reel off some pre-prepared praise, varying the adjectives she uses once in a while... and if that's what's going on you've still got to ask yourself "doesn't she go on holiday? Is this all she does day in and day out?". EITHER way - whether its a team of people, or just her posting reviews without actually reading the books - it so obvious that either foul play is at work or these are reviews of books she hasn't actually read and I don't understand why Amazon doesn't turf her off and expose her or the team behind the name. I really do not understand this - it's so obvious to everyone.

Misfit Welcome to the Harriet bashing club Beth. As for tossing her off of Amazon, technically she isn't breaking their rules. If (and that's a big if) anyone can prove it's a consortium of reviewers instead of just heard she'd get deranked by that's it. You have to be very very bad and very very guilty before they'll yank you off the site (see Amos Lasson).

She used to post on .uk and .ca but no longer does. Not sure why as she posts those everywhere else. B&N, her multiple blogs and websites and more.

Oh well, she's always worth a chuckle. There are exactly three books she's given two stars to and very few three stars and all were a long long time ago.

message 37: by Isis (new)

Isis I think there's more than ample proof in the number of reviews she's posting! It physically isn't possible. There isn't enough time in the day for her to read that many AND write and post reviews AND repost them on her multiple sites... and still eat and sleep - nevermind as I said a job or holidays, for goodness sake any person would have a job or maybe if she's retired they would at least go on holiday once in a while... no one would have nothing else to do day in and day out and no one would want to. And even if it is just her - as I said she's obviously not read the books, so shouldn't she be deranked for writing reviews of books she hasn't even read?!

Who is Amos Lasson?

The fact that all those were a long time ago strongly implies that she may have started out as a real person but has since been taken over. The good news is her reviews will eventually be gone.

Misfit Beth wrote: "I think there's more than ample proof in the number of reviews she's posting! It physically isn't possible. There isn't enough time in the day for her to read that many AND write and post reviews A..."

I know I know, but writing reviews for books you've never read isn't against Amazon's rules. It seems silly, but it is their playhouse and they don't like to take action against someone unless it's clear cut cheating or something. The Amos kerfuffle, you just fritter away a ton of time reading this thread,

That's how bad you have to be to get tossed off of Amazon.

Misfit PS, Chrissie hope you don't mind us going OT here :)

message 40: by Isis (new)

Isis Boy oh boy... that is disgusting. I hate how everything online is so dictatorial and autocratic don't you? It's just rife with corruption and back scratching isn't it?!

Misfit Beth wrote: "Boy oh boy... that is disgusting. I hate how everything online is so dictatorial and autocratic don't you? It's just rife with corruption and back scratching isn't it?!"

Unfortunately people are so litigious (sp?) here in the US I'm sure Ammy treads carefully to avoid unneeded legal entanglements. Since it's their playpen I accept so I can continue playing :D

message 42: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Feb 27, 2011 04:49PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Good Lord.

ETA: I am sort of reminded of the Crooks Source Apple Pie Recipe Incident.

Misfit Susanna wrote: "Good Lord.

ETA: I am sort of reminded of the Crooks Source Apple Pie Recipe Incident."

I think I'm afraid to ask...

Chrissie Misfit an all of you, the stage is yours. I am following along. I know very little of this since I stick to Kirkus reviews......They are reliable and often very amusing when they slash books they dislike.

Misfit I know you've mentioned Kirkus before but I always forget to go to B&N and look. It's so set in my mind against profession opinions like PW. I always chuckle when PW gets a major plot point wrong and then Harriet picks it up...

No, I'm not kidding that's been spotted before.

message 46: by Chrissie (last edited Feb 28, 2011 05:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Kirkus is good. I swear by them. They are the toughest to please. This doesn't mean I always agree, but usually I do. Some people may think they give spoilers, but by the time I read the book I will have forgotten.

Their negative remarks can really get you laughing!They are sometimes downright wicked! :0)

After you have read several you will recognize a certain formt. The last few lines always summarize their view, so you can skip the rest if you don't want a spoiler, I do not advise this. You will miss important information.

Maybe they fit my likes and dislikes, but not yours. I would say test them on books you have read. They are usually at the end of the "editorial reviews" at B&N.

Misfit Thanks I will do my best to remember to check.

message 48: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Feb 28, 2011 11:30AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Misfit wrote: "Susanna wrote: "Good Lord.

ETA: I am sort of reminded of the Crooks Source Apple Pie Recipe Incident."

I think I'm afraid to ask..."

Oh, the Internet exploded (because it had been poked with a stick) last autumn when the author of an article about historical apple pie recipes that was on the internet (at ), was ripped off wholesale by the editor of "Cooks Source" magazine. And got an insulting email afterwards saying she should say "thank you" for "being edited." She wrote a post about it on her blog on LJ and people got very angry.

And it turned out that "Cooks Source" got all of its articles, without apparent payment, from internet sources like Martha Stewart Living, Paula Deen, etc.

The Wikipedia summation of the goings on: .

ETA: With the name "Cooks Source" and the controversy, a lot of people were calling it "Crooks Source"!

Misfit Thanks, I seem to recall hearing something about it at the time now that you mention it.

message 50: by Isis (new)

Isis Okay, now I'm scared. I do these reviews here, and also I have twice contributed some articles to a new website about history that is expected to get a lot of hits. What do I do?!

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