Monday, March 30, 2015

Apollo's Angels by Jennifer Homans

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Written by a former professional ballerina, this comprehensive work covers the entire history of ballet, from its beginnings to what the author sees as a present-day stagnation. Each country's approach to ballet is given an equal amount of attention, with special emphasis placed on how the dance's forms reflected and shaped the culture of that country at the time. The book therefore becomes not just a history of dance, but of how cultures borrow and modify each other's content to create something they believe reflects their individual national characters - and of how any art form must evolve over time if it's to survive.

What I Thought: I knew nothing about ballet before beginning this book - I'd picked it up in the hopes of learning the plots to famous ballets - but Homans's passion and precision shone through every page. The book worked just as well as a comprehensive history of Europe as it did as a ballet book; I ended up checking out more history books after finishing this one because I wanted to find out more about the events she was only able to allude to here. The bigger questions Homans asks about art also remain relevant: does codifying art stifle it? Is it necessarily bad when things change? How do people remake and reinterpret existing stories (or dances) in their own images? This book made me think, but the lively cast of dancers and directors - including Louis XIV the "Sun King" of France, himself, who used to dance as Apollo in court ballets - and Homans's writing style also kept me engaged.

Readalikes: Chasing Venus by Andrea Wulf, for more well-told history with a twist; From Splendor to Revolution by Julia P. Gelardi, for more opulence (and anyone particularly interested in the Russian chapters)

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Night of the Hunter by R.A. Salvatore

Posted by Rebecca Brendel



Reviewed by: Andrew Zollman

What I Read: Night of the Hunter by R. A. Salvatore

Find It @YCLD: Here!  

What It's About: R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms Saga continues as dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden returns to Gauntlgrym with old friends by his side once again, as they seek to rescue Bruenor's loyal shield dwarf-turned-vampire. But not only do Drizzt and his allies face a perilous journey through the Underdark and the dangers of the undead that lie within, but they must cross through a colony of drow, who would like nothing better than to see Drizzt Do'Urden dead.

What I Thought: Legend of Drizzt Book #25. The Companions Codex series is one of many in the Drizzt Do’Urden storyline. This particular series restarts the companions of the hall again on an epic adventure. Each individual of the group is born again to a new body with their experience and skills intact. They train and grow to one day meet with one another to help Drizzt. This time however it’s not just men against men, it’s also god against god in this epic adventure.  I would consider this book to be up there in the series of quick reads. The content is dark but also encouraging to all involved and helps the reader (even a new reader) to follow along from the start if they haven’t read the entire Drizzt series. 

Readalikes: The Fall of Highwatch (Chosen of Nendawen, #1)

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

Posted by Rebecca Brendel


Reviewed by: Becky Brendel

What I Read: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

Find It @YCLD: Here!

What It's About: Part history of fashion and part biography, this book traces records of Marie Antoinette's clothing from her childhood in Austria up to her execution in the French Revolution. Although the ill-fated Queen of France is usually remembered as a spendthrift, frivolous woman, Weber argues that Marie Antoinette attempted to carve out a sphere of power for herself by setting fashion trends - even inspiring those who sought her downfall.

What I Thought:  This book started heavy-handed but quickly fascinated me. Weber's attempts to "prove" her unprovable thesis - we can't know for certain what a historical figure had thought or intended - sometimes seem far-fetched, yet she's also an excellent storyteller, with both an eye for detail and the ability to weave those details into a story without veering off on tangents. She also includes plenty of historical context, immersing the reader in a society where the clothes really did make the man (or woman, as the case may be). This book is highly recommended to anyone who likes clothes, is interested in new approaches to familiar history, or just wants to see a picture of a woman wearing a miniature ship on her head.

Readalikes: The Warrior Queens by Antonia Fraser, for more history from a woman's perspective; Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran, for this same period (and focus) retold as a novel.

Or look this book up on NoveList!

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