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Showing posts from April, 2014

Book Review: The Last Empress

16. The Last Empress by Anchee Min There was a reason the ending to Empress Orchid felt abrupt. The story wasn't over yet! I have to say, this was definitely a story that needed to be told in full, though I think the second book was a little weaker in places than the first. Towards the end though, it perks up a lot. And Min's powerful metaphors continue to adorn the text. Empress Orchid, now Cixi, describes her relationship with her son as "trying to hold onto a kite in a capricious wind." The death of her best friend is like having "[her] heart shattered and the pieces pickled in sadness." Cixi is a woman who inspires incredible loyalty and immeasurable loathing. In this book, Min more directly addresses the many criticisms of Cixi's character and reign that proliferated in the foreign press in her later years. Some of the accusations, according to the novel, are true, but the most heinous ones are not. Cixi is painted as, above all, a patriot,

A Feast for Crows

15. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin So, I went on a Song of Ice and Fire binge a couple years ago, but ultimately stopped reading because of my frustration with the violence and the knowledge that everyone would be killed off (or hideously maimed). Since then, I've been watching the HBO show "Game of Thrones," which, honestly, I like better than the books (and I am the kind of person who almost never says that). But now Season 4 has started, and I don't know what's coming! So to prepare myself, I read the fourth book, and am "up" on half of the upcoming storylines. I'll have to read A Dance with Dragons soon to be fully prepared. And then, well, I'm no worse prepared than anyone else, at least. The events of the fourth book were fairly in keeping with those of previous books. I know fans complained that there were a lot of new viewpoints and lack of older viewpoints, but honestly, it didn't bother me that much. It just meant

Book Review: Vienna Nocturne

14. Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell While reading Vienna Nocturne , I noticed that the back cover features a quote from Eva Stachniak, one of my favorite historical fiction writers. This realization brought me to compare the two author's debuts, which though both historical fiction, are vastly different in texture. Reading Stachniak's The Winter Palace is like wrapping one's self in velvet: thick, luxurious, and rich. In contrast, reading Vivien Shotwell's Vienna Nocturne is like being immersed in watered silk: exquisite but light and delicate. Vienna Nocture follows the career of Anna Storace, the soprano who starred in Wolfgang Mozart's most famous opera. Shotwell's writing is a sheer, unmitigated pleasure to read. Her language is flowing, her sentences are long, with clause after clause of description. One chapter begins: "The people of Venice sang as much as they talked, sang as they worked and wooed and slept, in gondolas and barges, on