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text 2019-07-16 20:51
Reading progress update: I've read 40%.
Identity Crisis - Ben Elton

I'm not sure how to describe this. It feels like a satire except that it's unflinchingly honest and that kind of honesty makes me flinch rather than smile. It's not a polemic as it's not selling a solution, just displaying a problem by flaying the surface of it and exposing the bloody mess underneath.

 

The focus is on how social media is being used to create a climate of fury and of distrust of evidence-based argument, to undermine support for any view of the world that is neither angry nor extreme.

 

It's told with a bitter wit but it's so close to home that I feel like I'm watching a vivisection. I'm taking a break from it now. I can only take so much expostion of just how bad things are in one sitting.

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review 2019-06-13 08:23
Identity Crisis
Identity Crisis - Ben Elton

Ben Elton, one of the planet's greatest comedy writers, is normally a safe bet for an amusing read whilst pushing the boundaries. These boundaries change with each novel, but something didn't work for me this time.

 

Ben, what changed? Is it you, is it me, or is this just part of your evolution?

 

With previous titles like Stark, Gridlock + Dead Famous, I enjoyed your stories. I suffered through this one, but I'm not sure if that's because I am a conservative, white, hetrosexual male (by the end of the book, I felt like a minority) And I don't do Twitter. Safe to say this novel only makes more more determined NOT to join the Twittersphere!

 

Set in the lead-up to the Brexit vote, our stoic Scotland Yard detective Michael Matlock is rapidly discovering the blowback for making comments considered Politically Uncorrect. What IS actually PC is a moving feast, and Matlock is not the only one scrambling to avoid becoming victim of a Twitter war.

 

I normally find Elton to be on the cutting edge of the present, or taking a fantastic view of a possible future. This one seems somewhere inbetween, and for that reason, I wasn't sure what to 'feel' as I read it. One night I would chuckle away, the next night I'd put the book down in utter confusion.

 

It's a coherent mystery, there is resolution, but it was not a satisfying tale for me...

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text 2019-03-22 16:14
The Housing Crisis By Kate McLay 99 cents!!
The Housing Crisis: New Adult Lesbian Romance - Kate McLay

Wanted: female roommate to take over lease. Non-smoker. No boys allowed.

When Alyssa’s roommate leaves her in a lurch, she’s desperate to find someone, anyone, to move in with her. Rent is coming due and she can’t afford to pay it by herself. There’s only one rule: no boyfriends allowed. Her religious family would throw a fit if they knew she was living in a house with boys.

Needed: new place ASAP. Female preferred. 

Hannah doesn’t have a boyfriend. But her cheating ex-girlfriend has made her housing situation untenable. With her career as a musician about to take off, she can’t afford a distraction. A tip from an old friend leads Hannah to Alyssa and a roommate match made in heaven is born.

Filled: one girl next door plus one singer equals domestic bliss?

Alyssa thinks Hannah is really cute. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she were into women. Hannah has no interest in dating a straight girl. But when sparks fly, neither young woman can say no to the chemistry between them. 

Despite their passion, Alyssa’s worried about the reaction from her conservative family. Even worse, Hannah’s career may take her out of state for good, stopping their relationship before it even begins. They will need to face their problems together or be torn apart. 

Can Alyssa overcome who she thinks she is in order to be with the woman she loves? Can Hannah learn to trust again after a failed relationship? 

Or will they both be putting up housing wanted ads before their lease is up?

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review 2019-01-06 11:52
A necessary stop for understanding Mazarin, but not the first one
Mazarin: The Crisis Of Absolutism In France - Geoffrey Treasure
In the mid-17th century, France emerged as the dominant power in continental Europe. While this development was the result of a range of historical factors and personages, one of the people who played a decisive role in bringing it about was the Italian-born Jules Mazarin. As chief minister of France for nearly two decades, he served as the main architect of French policy during this period, establishing the kingdom's preeminence through war and diplomacy. By the time he died in 1661 France had eclipsed Spain militarily, while the marriage Mazarin arranged between the Spanish princess Maria Theresa and the young Louis XIV helped to end France's ongoing wars with the Habsburgs and cemented its status for decades to come.
 
Given his achievements, Mazarin deserves a thorough biography that details his life within the context of his times. One of the things that makes Geoffrey Treasure's account of his life so impressive is that he manages simultaneously to both succeed and fall short in providing one for his readers. In it he charts Mazarin's life from his early years as a precocious young Italian nobleman through his years as a papal envoy (during which time he became a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church) to his emergence as Richelieu's deputy and successor as chief minister. Throughout it he describes the development of Mazarin's considerable diplomatic skills, his application of them in the service of both the papacy and the French monarchy, and his broader influence on policy. While an admirer of Mazarin's, Treasure does not hesitate to identify his flaws and the errors he made in both politics and policy, which he weighs against his many accomplishments to provide a nuanced examination of his subject.
 
It is for these reasons that Treasure's biography is an valuable resource about Mazarin and his role in events. Yet the author's style often inhibits his efforts. His book is a dense text that assumes the reader is already well-versed in the context of 17th century French and European history, which can be problematic given the range of complex subjects he addresses, from state finances to international diplomacy. Treasure's excessively florid prose only exacerbates this problem, with some sentences so convoluted as to be indecipherable. As a result, while his book is a necessary read for anyone seeking to understand Mazarin, to fully benefit from its value it should by no means be the first one they tackle.
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text 2019-01-06 00:00
Reading progress update: I've read 233 out of 432 pages.
Mazarin: The Crisis Of Absolutism In France - Geoffrey Treasure

This is proving to a more advanced of an examination of Mazarin and his times than I was prepared for when I requested a copy of the book. I'm focusing for now on wrapping it up, but I definitely need to return to it after I've improved my knowledge base about 17th century France.

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