Kate / Lady Lucy Hampton-Wentworth
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a mother who read to me.
- Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)
- Br, Australia
- member since September 1, 2008
Amanda B reviewed a book.
“"Another focus of the article was on Madame Nhu--a woman who seemed to be a fascinating character to the journalists of the time as I found several references to her in more than one Newsweek article, and as many pictures of her in fashionable dress. It's reported that Diem is little more than...”
“"Another focus of the article was on Madame Nhu--a woman who seemed to be a fascinating character to the journalists of the time as I found several references to her in more than one Newsweek article, and as many pictures of her in fashionable dress. It's reported that Diem is little more than the puppet of Madame Nhu and her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu. She's portrayed as an almost comic book like villain--an Asian femme fatale known as 'the dragon lady' by journalists in Saigon. She is described as being 'imperious and iron-willed,' 'a devious, chain-smoking intellectual with a low, rasping voice,' and 'molded into her . . . dress like a dagger in its sheath.' While she's acknowledged to be a serious threat to the United States, much focus is placed on insignificant details about her life. I found it unbelievable that the author of this article made constant reference to how dangerous she was, yet never bolstered these statements with any concrete fact. More time was devoted to her romanticized childhood and her couture clothing than her politics. It made me curious--was the lack of information because she was simply a woman and her dress was more interesting than her politics, or was there a lack of specific information about her involvement in the crimes being committed by the government?"
So, yes, I've quoted myself here. This is from a paper I wrote in response to a Newsweek article entitled Getting to Know the Nhus from September 9, 1963. One of my favorite assignments in my Literature of the Vietnam War class was the personal reaction papers that sent us scurrying to the library and pulling the old bound periodicals from the shelves and reading articles from magazines like Time and Newsweek. Others would simply grab a book, photocopy the first Vietnam article they came to, and trot off to write their paper. Me? I spent hours flipping through the yellowed pages and photographs before I settled on one for my article. And that was how I first encountered the petite dynamo that was Madame Nhu.
While she certainly piqued my curiosity, it quickly became obvious that learning about the real Madame Nhu was virtually impossible due to the obvious negative bias of the press, as well as Madame Nhu's own role in crafting her own image. So when Monique Brinson Demery's book about her personal relationship with Madame Nhu was released, I was excited by the prospect of finally meeting the "real" Madame Nhu.
And did I? Well, yes and no.
This is not a criticism of the book, but rather a reflection of the fact that Madame Nhu was the product of endless contradictions. Born in another time, another culture, another economic class, she certainly could have been a shrewd and intelligent politician. However, her arrival as an unwanted and unloved middle daughter (her mother always suspected she had been "switched" with a common child while she was left in the care of her paternal grandmother) created a keen sense of inferiority that she railed against her entire life (a defiant streak nurtured by a fortune-teller's prediction that "Her star is unsurpassable" and that the young girl was destined for greatness). Her upper-class family had both royal and colonial ties, leaving her oblivious to her Marie Antoinette-like disconnect from the common people (even commenting that she would she would clap her hands as Buddhist monks "barbecued" themselves). Raised in a Buddhist and Confucian household, her later conversion to Catholicism was embraced with a zealot's fervor--and a hurried convert's misapplication of principles (her morality laws banning contraception, polygamy, dancing, gambling, and, of course, the evils of the underwire bra quickly turned her people against her, despite her belief that she was protecting women in particular with many of these edicts).
It's no wonder that the girl who should have been a boy, the Vietnamese woman who couldn't understand the Vietnamese people, the Buddhist who became the dogmatic Catholic, the very embodiment of the collision of East and West, would become such a polarizing and often confusing historical figure.
Demery embraces these contradictions and presents Madame Nhu as a flawed woman with extraordinary potential--a woman desperate to blaze her own trail, yet restricted by her time, her gender, and her own misconceptions about the world. Demery's portrait does not shy away from the vain, arrogant, and manipulative aspects of Madame Nhu's personality. Indeed, we see Madame Nhu baiting Demery with promises that she will release her memoirs to her, as well as controlling and dictating the terms of their relationship. Demery becomes exasperated with Madame Nhu's machinations, but holds out in the hope that their continued exchanges will reveal something genuine about the woman history has both fairly and unfairly maligned. And she succeeds in this. While Madame Nhu is never exonerated by Demery's story, Demery does succeed in creating some sympathy for a woman who, behind closed doors, was pained by the failure of her marriage, desperate for love and approval, and denied the ability to help her husband and her brother-in-law, President Diem, sidestep some of their more foolhardy missteps.
Compelling and readable, Finding the Dragon Lady does not attempt to put Madame Nhu on a pedestal, but rather to dust away some of the misconceptions that have settled over the years on the legacy of the dragon lady.”
Amanda B rated a book.
Amanda B reviewed a book.
“See that cover? That is a kick ass cover. So the next time you're in a bookstore, stop and gaze upon its beauty--then return the book to the shelf and slowly back away because that moment, the moment where you gaze upon that glorious golden image of Ra and then wonder at the contradictory image...”
“See that cover? That is a kick ass cover. So the next time you're in a bookstore, stop and gaze upon its beauty--then return the book to the shelf and slowly back away because that moment, the moment where you gaze upon that glorious golden image of Ra and then wonder at the contradictory image of a modern day soldier in front of a battlefield and think WTF--that's as good as it's going to get, baby.
I have put off reviewing this for days because reviewing it seems cruel, like kicking a three legged puppy for not being able to run fast enough. I knew that I was in deep suck by page 20, so it's my fault that I kept reading. And I know, I know--there will be those who say, why did you keep reading if you hated the book so much? A) I bought it, so I felt a misguided need to get my money's worth, B) this is my busy time of year, so reading a crappy book almost ensured I would more readily turn my attention to grading semester finals, and C) I can't count the number of times I have despised a book right up until the very end and something clicked, the other shoe dropped, all was revealed and, hallelujah, it's a literary miracle--the book was amazing! There were no miracles this time. I clapped my hands and really believed, but Tinkerbell never came back to life. This sucker was DOA and should have come with a DNR. Damn, I kicked the three legged dog, didn't I?
Age of Ra has an interesting premise. The gods of old are real, they go to battle for dominion over man, the Pantheon of Egypt wins by destroying all other gods. This idea isn't entirely new, but usually these types of books focus on Greek and Roman mythology. The Egyptian slant seemed promising. But this type of book has been done better by Gaiman's American Gods or even Max Gladstone's created mythology in the Craft Sequence books Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. There are several issues:
1. All nations now worship Egyptian deities, but align themselves with different gods (some Asian countries worship Anubis, England worships Osiris, South America worships Horus--you get the idea). These countries now choose their allies and their enemies based upon which gods their chosen deity considers friends and enemies. The god also blesses his or her people with his divine power, or ba, as a power source to charge weapons and vehicles (but, don't worry, if you're god forgets to send you some of his mojo, there's still gasoline). This sums up all the interaction the gods have with their people; much of the book consists of military battles that simply throw the gods' names around but really don't rely upon the gods at all. So all that amazing gods-among-men anticipation I had built up was a serious letdown.
2. The Egyptian gods defeated all other gods 100 years ago, yet the novel is set in what seems to be roughly the present day. Within a century and in the face of the knowledge that the gods are real, one would think the Egyptian culture and mindset would have radically changed society and redrawn the map. Nope. Apparently not. We still have Russia, Japan, China, and all the other countries and societies speaking and acting as they always have.
3. The integration of Egyptian culture into present day is unimaginative and lazy at best. We still have the United States, but its president is now known as the Pastor President. We still have Britain, but its head of state is now His Pharaonic Majesty. We still have Mercedes Benz, but it's now known as the Mercedes Lotus. We still have tanks, but they're known as Scarabs. The world-building is weak.
4. It's also laughable that, in a world that still has high tech weaponry and alternate fuel sources, our hero enters combat with a crook and flail. Or that mummies so clueless they make zombies look like the life of the party are sent into battle against tanks and artillery. Or that high priests use wooden birds to carry their consciousness for reconnaissance missions, but, if that fails, they send out the planes we would normally use for reconnaissance. Because a high priest in a trance forever is always preferable to the intel a plane could send back in a fraction of the time. The inclusion of modern technology in the book renders the Ancient Egyptian inspired tech moot and useless by comparison.
5. Cardboard, stereotyped characters so one-dimensional that they make the Kardashians seem human; an obligatory will-they-won't-they romance with less passion than a Liza Minnelli marriage; plot twists so obvious they practically nudge you ("You'll be so surprised! You'll never guess what's going to happen! Here it comes, here it comes! Did it get ya?").
6. The best part of the book? The gods. One can tell that Lovegrove really did his research here and he's smart enough to realize that the gods have to adapt and change somewhat to move the plot forward. Holding them to their archetypal roles would have added little interest whatsoever. As Ra begins to develop a consciousness outside of his divine role and manipulate the Pantheon to avert disaster, it's easy to think something might be salvaged. However, the god chapters are too few and far between (and ultimately anticlimactic) to add much to the narrative.
There was an idea here, somewhere beneath all the problems, but it never delivers on the promise presented by that beautiful cover.”
Rekha K rated a book.
Lady Dixie reviewed a book.
“This is an older, wiser, and *SPOILER ALERT* widowed Bridget Jones. This edition of her saga has a more sober tone, but it's still our girl, obsessing over her weight, worried about how she compares to the other mothers at her children's school, and concerned about dating in the post-50 world. If...”
“This is an older, wiser, and *SPOILER ALERT* widowed Bridget Jones. This edition of her saga has a more sober tone, but it's still our girl, obsessing over her weight, worried about how she compares to the other mothers at her children's school, and concerned about dating in the post-50 world. If you thought Bridget was funny before, wait until you see her on Twitter and in the cyber-dating world. Shags abound, and there are laughs galore, but this episode in Bridget's life naturally has more depth, just as her life has more layers with children, playdates, and career struggles. I couldn't put it down. Absolutely charming.”(read full review)
Lord Manleigh reviewed a book.
A.K. Klemm reviewed a book.
“It's no secret, I ADORE M.G. King.
So when I heard she was writing another book, I was pretty excited. We love Librarian on the Roof! here at our house and I completely devoured Fizz & Peppers. Anything M.G. King touches, pretty much turns to gold in my opinion. She’s Kingwood’s very own...”
“It's no secret, I ADORE M.G. King.
So when I heard she was writing another book, I was pretty excited. We love Librarian on the Roof! here at our house and I completely devoured Fizz & Peppers. Anything M.G. King touches, pretty much turns to gold in my opinion. She’s Kingwood’s very own Rumpelstiltskin.
This latest picture book is 47 pages long, with a lot of glorious black and white pictures. Think The Spider and the Fly when Tony DiTerlizzi did the illustrations – a myth to last the ages in combination with high quality sketches can’t go wrong.
Right now the book is only $3.99 on Kindle. Maybe if everyone buys one and supports our favorite local kid’s author there will be a hardback edition in our future. My bookshelves are already itching for a copy… I can hear them calling for it… this book belongs in every mother’s library… and child’s, and dragon lovers, and clock collector, and art appreciator, and… ”
Louisa van der Luyden reviewed a book.
“An essay about the dangers of ignoring the facts of global warming, by the authors who pointed out (in Merchants of Doubt, 2010) that the global warming "debate" was started by the very same people who brought us "safe" cigarettes. The Amazon link leads to a paperback edition that is due...”
“An essay about the dangers of ignoring the facts of global warming, by the authors who pointed out (in Merchants of Doubt, 2010) that the global warming "debate" was started by the very same people who brought us "safe" cigarettes. The Amazon link leads to a paperback edition that is due to come out in 2014, however the essay I read is available online on http://mahb.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/A-View-from-the-Future.pdf”(read full review)