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review 2017-01-09 19:37
Pleasantly Surprised
The Enemies of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy) - Sally Christie

I'm not even sure how I ended up with an ARC of this book. My reviews of the previous two novels weren't exactly glowing. After the end of the second novel, I had promised not to even bother with the final book in the trilogy. Well if I had a nickle for every broken promise, I'd own a lot more books. 


I was not blown away by the final installment of the Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The manner in which the author handled the French revolution and the demise of the nobility was rather well done. I actually found myself feeling sorry for a character. This is quite the accomplishment since most of Christie's leading ladies have been nothing more than brainless, foot-stomping, spoiled brats. The leading ladies in this novel are not much different, especially Madame Adelaide, daughter of Louis XV. The reader is constantly beat over the head with Madame Adelaide's arrogant internal dialogues. I get it. She's a princess. She was raised to believe she's better than everyone else. When one is reading about French princesses who spend most of their time feasting in the halls of Versailles, the arrogance is implied. There's no need to keep reminding me. 


Countess du Barry was once again portrayed as just another one of Louis XV brainless mistresses who cares more for shiny jewels and new clothes than whatever is going on in the world around them. However, her end was excellent writing. If the writer had applied that level of emotion and insight to all three of these novels, I would be recommending them until I was blue in the face. 

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text 2017-01-03 16:33
Reading progress update: I've read 35%.
The Enemies of Versailles: A Novel (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy) - Sally Christie I had promised myself that after the second installment of these books, I wasn't even going to look at the third novel. Write me down for another broken personal promise. So far in this novel there is a man who is making wigs out of the hairs of his conquests. That doesn't seem so weird right? It's not the kind of hair you have on your head.
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review 2016-06-07 21:29
Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere
Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere - André Aciman

Great books, like great cities, always let us find things we think are only in us and couldn’t possibly belong elsewhere but that turn out to be broadcast everywhere we look, Great artists are those who give us what we think was already ours. (p. 34)


Sometimes, it’s nice to sit down and read a book that feels like you’re being talked to. I don’t mean the kind that makes you feel like you’re indirectly having a conversation with the author on the topic he’s writing about, rather more like an engaging lecture that you simply want to sit and listen to. This is very much what “Alibi” is like. It isn’t a collection that’s interested, I would say, in making the reader feel welcome or engaged with what its talking about – quite the opposite. Instead, it’s rather like listening to a prof who’s lecturing on a topic they’re very passionate about, a topic you might be interested in yourself or simply wouldn’t mind finding out more about, and so you sit there are enjoy the storytelling moment of the event, occasionally picking up bits that resonate with you or that strike you as something that relates to your own experiences.


Aciman has a clear understanding of the direction in which his essays are going, and an excellent grasp of the language he uses to get him there. Unsurprisingly, some essays were more interesting than others – the opening “Lavender” was particularly strong, same with the epilogue “Parallax”, although the latter got a bit wordy in a couple places that were similar to moments when someone gets so engaged and lost in their own discussion that they forget they have an audience who might have trouble following along. I personally also preferred the more historical essays, or bits of essays, in this collection, simply because that is what I like reading frequently – I love the close proximity between the author’s personal experience and historical, textbook-like facts next to each other in one narrative. That is what I hoped to get when I picked up this book, and that is certainly what I received. There wasn’t a single essay that I disliked, merely some that I found simply good without any other thoughts or reactions attached to them.


If you don’t like feeling like you’re potentially being talked-down to or lectured at, then perhaps this isn’t the right book for you. Aciman presents his thoughts and experiences quite clearly, and doesn’t make any open and direct invitation for the reader to say “I can relate to that” – such a reaction will come naturally to either a curious reader or a lucky one, depending on which side of the fence you fall on. The collection is certainly interesting well-written, and there’s no mistaking that the author is knowledgeable and well-spoken. The decision to read or dismiss this book, in the end, is just a matter of personal taste.

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text 2016-05-30 14:00
Themis-Athena Elsewhere

This is a bandwaggon I'd hoped never to have to jump onto, but just in case -- here are links to my profile pages on other websites:


ThemisAthena on Leafmarks

Themis-Athena on Goodreads

Themis-Athena on Libib

ThemisAthena on FictFact

Lioness at Large on Wordpress

ThemisAthena on Pinterest

Ulrike on LinkedIn

Ulrike on Facebook


Essentially my handle is the same on all sites except for LinkedIn, Facebook and Wordpress; just note that sometimes it's hyphenated and sometimes it isn't, depending on the respective site's user name parameters.


ETA1: My Wordpress blog -- Lioness at Large -- is now operational, too.  Currently I'm still mainly copying my reviews there just to have an additional home for them, but I think from here on out I'll be blogging on WP as well.


The only other sites (besides BookLikes) where I've so far actually interacted with others are Leafmarks and Facebook.


ETA2: Well, duh.  Bookstooge just shared Leafmarks's announcement that the site will be shutting down as of July 1.  There goes yet another option then ...


So that leaves Facebook as the only other site where I am truly active.  Time to start experimenting with the others for real, I supose.


FWIW, up to now, this has been my stance vis-à-vis my accounts on the other sites, respectively (and to the extent not expressly struck, the following is still true):


Libib and Fictfact to me are merely (as yet incomplete) backup book catalogues.


Pinterest is my "everything but the kitchen sink" meme repository.


Wordpress is not much more more than an ID and a blog devoid of even the first post at the moment, so as to be able to follow other people's blogs (on WP and elsewhere).  Depending on how things go on here, this may or may not change.
It has changed.


LinkedIn is another "just in case" account.


Goodreads, finally, is also merely a temporary expedient.  I pulled out of there in 2013 and have no intention to go back for good -- just using my vestige ID as a fall back option in the current situation.



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review 2015-11-09 00:00
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere - Z.Z. Packer I loved or strongly liked the eight stories that made up this book.

Brownies (3.5 stars)- A tale of a young girl going along with the crowd to bully and harass a separate group of brownies that are made up of young Caucasian girls. I though this story had a bit too much going on with it though I enjoyed it. I think it was because the main character was worried about not fitting in and also with a poem and life of a girl in her brownie troop as well. With an ending that seemed to be about much bigger things than what the story showed, I was a bit puzzled by it.

Every Tongue Shall Confess (4 stars)-Reading about a nurse named Clareese who "testifies" about Jesus and God even while at work had me shaking my head. I seriously know people who do this. As I tell people all of the time, God and I are good, I don't need to sit and talk to you about my faith. This story made me hard cringe for Clareese a few times. She definitely seemed lost and seemed to want something bigger than acceptance at her church and to testify about God.

Our Lady of Peace (5 stars)-A story about a woman who starts teaching at an inner city school in Baltimore. This was heartbreaking in so many parts.

The Ant of the Self (5 stars)- Reading about a young man and his father who go to D.C.'s Million Man March in order to sell birds. Yeah that at first made me scratch my head. But reading about the young man's issues with his father, with the whole thought process behind the million man march, with being pushed to a certain extent into a white only world and not enjoying being the only black person that is invited to play in there. I know that right now that a lot of older black adults have an issue with how the younger generation (including me) seem to ignore the struggle that has come before and does not seem appreciative of everything that was done to give us opportunities. This story was one of my favorites.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (5 stars)- Once again another story about a young black girl at college who seems hellbent on ruining her chances. Reading about her unlikely friendship with a girl named Heidi who she seems to be running from in order to deny a piece of herself made this my second favorite story in this collection.

Speaking in Tongues (4.5 stars)- The main character Tia is trying her her real mother and imagines a perfect life before the reality of her situation comes crashing in. This story was much longer than the other and wow. It was really good and shocking.

You could only truly speak in tongues when all worldly matters were emptied from your mind, or else there was no room for God.

Geese (4.5 stars)- Character named Dina who is leaving Baltimore for Tokyo because in her head, Japan has to be better than where she is leaving and what she is doing right now. Or is it?

The plan was not well though-out, she admitted that much.
Or rather, it wasn't really a plan at all, but a feeling, a nebulous fluffy thing that had started in her chest, spread over her heart like a fog.
It was sparked by movies in which she'd seen Japanese people bowing ceremoniously, torsos seesawing; her first Japanese meal, when she'd turned twenty, and how she'd marveled at the sashimi resting on it's bed of rice, rice that lay on a lacquered dish the color of green tea.

She did not want to say it, because it made no practical sense, but in the end she went to Japan for the delicate sake cups, resting in her hand like a blossom; she went to Japan for loveliness.

Doris is Coming (4 stars)-Reading about Doris Yates and her thinking about the world coming to an end on New Year's Day 1961. Apparently the countdown to the end of the world started in 1948, and how a preacher put the rapture happening in 1955, and when it didn't occur, recalculated and had it happening on the last day in 1961. This sounds so familiar to me. Or at least I recall something similar happening back a few years ago. I went out in D.C. at happy hour with friends and there were a ton of people wearing yellow shirts proclaiming the end of the world. I remember just feeling sorry for these people. Same sentiment I had for Doris during this story which also segued into her going to school and being questioned for not believing enough.
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