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review 2017-05-30 17:32
The Palace / Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The Palace - Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Renaissance Florence 1490-1498. They say his palazzo is to be a magnificent work of art-a dazzling edifice to rival the most opulent in the city. Its owner is a stranger to Florence, a wealthy foreigner who dresses in black silk and practices the age-old secrets of alchemy. But the man who calls himself Francesco Ragoczy da San Germano conceals his own dark secrets that have exiled him to a life of blood-filled torment and eternal wandering. Yet in the sensation-craving Estasia, cousin to Botticelli, San Germano has found a woman whose unquenchable passions could exceed his own. And in the fanatical monk Savonarola, he has found a powerful enemy: a dangerously obsessed ascetic who exerts a hypnotic power over the citizens of Florence. Savonarola is embarked on a reign of terror that will not end until every thing of beauty is destroyed and every heretic burned at the stake. As the city becomes a hotbed of religious fervor and escalating violence, San Germano is faced with an impossible choice that could doom those he loves forever...and transform his own existence beyond recognition.

 

CQY writes excellent historical fantasy. I appreciate the amount of research that she obviously put in to get Renaissance Florence just right. I don’t know enough Italian to know if that language was being used appropriately, but it sounded good to my untutored ear.

I like her main character, Saint-Germain, but sometimes I think he is not quite “vampirey” enough, if you know what I mean. He is altogether too nice and thoughtful and gentle—rarely does he use his vampire strength or powers of persuasion. Although the books’ covers display ladies’ necks with puncture wounds, the reader really doesn’t see very much to that effect in the novel. There seem to be more problems with being a vampire and fewer impressive powers.

I’m also intrigued with Yarbro’s version of the vampire, where the combination of blood & sex is better than just blood. Apparently Saint-Germain is limited to lips & hands to stimulate his partner (not such a bad thing from a female perspective). However, it would get boring in the long-term, as it does for Estasia in this adventure, leading her to threaten Saint-Germain with exposure and becoming a tricky adversary for him to deal with. This was where I figured he should just drain her and eliminate a problem, and his reluctance to do so made no sense to me. Plus, there is a scene where Saint-Germain visits his alchemical apprentice in prison—the sexual dimension of their meeting when his assistant had just been tortured just felt icky. I know they needed to do a blood exchange if she was to escape, but as I say, the sexuality felt inappropriate to me during that scene.

The recurring theme seems to be loneliness—Olivia writes frequent letters asking Saint-Germain to come to Rome, which for some inexplicable reason he is unwilling to do. S-G seems to be frequently creating new vampires, who then get upset about their situation (despite the fact that they asked for the transformation) and they head out on their own.

Obviously, an eternal vampire gives an author the excuse to research & write about whatever historical setting they are interested in. While the historical angle is great, I wish the vampiric nature of the main character was more apparent.

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review 2017-05-26 15:28
The Glass Slipper : Women and Love Stories
The Glass Slipper: Women and Love Stories - Susan Ostrov Weisser

The Glass Slipper is about the persistence of a familiar Anglo-American love story into the digital age. Comparing influential classics to their current counterparts, Susan Ostrov Weisser relates in highly amusing prose how these stories are shaped and defined by and for women, the main consumers of romantic texts. Following a trajectory that begins with Jane Austen and concludes with Internet dating sites, Weisser shows the many ways in which nineteenth-century views of women’s nature and the Victorian idea of romance have survived the feminist critique of the 1970s and continue in new and more ambiguous forms in today’s media, with profound implications for women.

 

The Victorians have a lot to answer for! The basic formula that they set in motion for the romance is still very much in use. The woman protagonist has to be beautiful, but not vain. She can be aware that she’s moderately attractive, but mustn’t put too much stock in it. She must also be stubborn (or spunky or full of vitality) because she’s going to need all her resources to win her man. And she better be a one-man woman—not too easily tipped into bed, as she needs to be sure that the man is truly interested in her, or she will be left alone and humiliated. There is no doubt that “alone” is a punishment and a sign of being “less than,” which makes me laugh, as it’s the only way I want to live my life.

Men in this genre are usually rich or at least comfortable financially, but billionaires abound these days. Then they should be hunky—broad shoulders, small waists, ripped abs—because why waste all that work on a regular guy, right? Plus, he should be powerful, both physically and in the world (Alpha male, anyone?). No wonder men don’t like to read the romance genre—who could possibly live up to that standard?

I can see why the author doesn’t really decide if romance is pro- or anti-feminist. I’m a feminist, but after decades of ignoring the romance genre, I find that I’m enjoying it again. I’ve never married and I don’t expect to. I don’t expect romance in my own life—my own relationship is a pretty pragmatic one. And yet I really do enjoy reading a good romance. I’ve read Ilona Andrews’ Burn for Me at least 3 times since January (and it really, really fits the Victorian pattern above) and I’m waiting on tenterhooks for the sequel White Hot. Does this make me a bad feminist? I don’t think so.

The author covers a lot of ground: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Disney princesses, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, Harlequin romances, and internet dating sites, among other topics. Do we need to smash the Glass Slipper the way we need to break the Glass Ceiling? Or can we hang onto it for playing dress-up?

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review 2017-05-12 14:53
No Bed for Bacon / Caryl Brahms & S.J. Simon
No Bed for Bacon - S.J. Simon,Caryl Brahms

Shakespeare's in love, perchance, in this rollicking send-up of the Age of Elizabeth. A very funny look at Elizabeth I, Will Shakespeare & the Elizabethan era which shows the Queen at her riotous best and the author unappreciated.

 

It’s a tribute to William Shakespeare that we are still interested in him, 400 years after his death. His life provides just the right mix of known facts and mysteries. We know the bare bones of his life—who he married, how many children he had, details of his career, and elements of his reputation.

What’s missing are the personal details—how did he feel about things? What kind of person was he to work with? What were his religious beliefs? Was he a faithful husband? Who was that Dark Lady of the sonnets, anyway? Did he really write all those things attributed to him?

This leaves authors lots of lee-way to write their own adventures for the Bard. I’ve enjoyed the likes of Shakespeare Undead and The Dark Lady's Mask, not to mention a short story involving Atticus O’Sullivan of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series (Goddess at the Crossroads). Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of collated list of fiction featuring Shakespeare as a character, but No Bed for Bacon is the earliest that I have yet encountered. I’m surprised that there aren’t many more novels with Shakespeare figuring prominently as a character! If you know of any, please let me know in the comments, I’m intrigued to read more. There are tons of books written as reinterpretations of his works, but fewer which feature the Bard himself.

Despite being first published in 1941, No Bed for Bacon still feels remarkably fresh to me. Reputedly, it is the basis for the movie Shakespeare in Love.

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text 2017-05-11 22:17
Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 256 pages.
No Bed for Bacon - S.J. Simon,Caryl Brahms

Okay, it's your turn No Bed for Bacon!  I will finish this evening or know the reason why!

 

However, I do have a massage scheduled (and I need it--my shoulders are so tight & sore) and I must make some rice krispie squares to take to Book Club tomorrow night.

 

Plus dealing with Mr. Cat.  Take one menopausal woman with sleep issues.  Add one cat that firmly believes that said woman should get up at 5:30 a.m. like his owner does.  Agitate.  Result?  Increased need & desire for coffee!

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text 2017-05-08 19:54
Just received via interlibrary loan
No Longer Human - Osamu Dazai,Donald Keene

I'm hoping my next Booklikes-opoly roll accommodates this in some way. It doesn't sound at all like something I'd normally read, but it's been on my radar for ages (I heard about the manga adaptation first) and I wanted to finally take the plunge.

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