Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “michelle moran”

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #44: The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court by Michelle Moran

*Audiobook Review*

 Ahh, Historical Fiction.  The genre with which I have the strongest love/hate relationship.  Difficult to do properly, and incredibly easy to dissolve into a bodice-ripping romance novel.  However, the ones that are good tend to be worth the effort of seeking them out.

 This book has three narrators and each chapter alternates between the three: Marie-Louise, Napoleon’s second wife,  Pauline Borghese, Napoleon’s Sister, and Paul, Pauline’s half-black Haitian servant.

Napoleon was a total dick.  He was completely obsessed with being seen as the rightful Emperor of France, so for his second marriage, he demanded the hand of the nineteen-year-old Austrian Archduchess, Marie-Louise.  He figured that a princess of the incredibly prolific Hapsburg line would give him the son and heir that his first wife, Josephine, could not.  Of course, she is already in love with someone else, so there can be the obligatory “tortured lovers” angle.

Pauline is nuts.  She is completely obsessed with Egypt, and wants to marry her brother, Napoleon, just like the Pharaohs did.  She hated Josephine, because she was jealous of her, and she hates Marie-Louise, because she could possibly give Napoleon a son.  She has had dozens of lovers, and uses old ladies as footstools.

 Paul is boring.  His chapters contribute little to the story, other than to show what crazy crap Pauline was up to.  I really didn’t care about anything that happened to him.

 This novel was OK.  Not something I would really recommend, but it kept me entertained while driving to work and doing the dishes.  Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud was a much better novel.

2/5 Stars.

ambern’s #CBR4 Review #1: Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

After getting insanely behind in my reviews, I am finally caught up and will be posting them all pretty quickly.

This book seemed like an appropriate way to start my second Cannonball Read because the reviews have been generally good and I heard it compared to I, Claudius, which is my favorite book.  Unfortunately I was disappointed.  It’s not that Cleopatra’s Daughter is a bad book; it just shouldn’t be compared to I, Claudius.

The story begins in Alexandria, when Cleopatra comes to the realization that she and Marc Antony have lost.  After Octavian arrives in Alexandria Cleopatra kills herself, leaving her surviving children in the care of her enemy, who had already killed her son by Julius Caesar.  These children, Selene, Alexander, and Ptolemy, are all under 15 and should pose no threat to Octavian’s rule, so he takes them to Rome to be raised by his sister Octavia.  Ptolemy falls ill and dies before they reach Rome, adding more trauma for the young twins, who already afraid of their new guardian.  They are nervous because Octavia was their father’s wife before he left her for Cleopatra.  Luckily, Octavia is an incredibly kind woman who raised equally nice children.  She tries to encourage and help them as much as she can without angering her brother.

Soon Selene and Alexander are in school with Octavian’s young relatives, where Selene excels over the other students.  Anyone familiar with ancient Roman history will be know these names: Marcellus, Octavia’s son and Octavian’s presumed heir, Julia, Octavian’s only child, and Tiberius, Livia’s son, whom she wants to be there heir.  She is also given a unique opportunity for a woman at that time: she gets to apprentice with an architect and expand her love of the subject.  Aside from Selene’s adjustment to her new life, she tries to figure out the identity of the Red Eagle—a nobleman seeking to end slavery in Rome.

This was an interesting read, if very predictable.  The writing was fine although Selene seemed a little slow sometimes for someone that was supposed to be brilliant.  My biggest problem is with how Livia was portrayed—instead of being delightfully evil, she is painted as petty and jealous.  That is not the Livia that I want in my historical fiction.  But putting my personal preferences aside, the story had moments where it seemed that it would reach I, Claudius levels but it got stuck in kind of a bland historical fiction place (similar to The Other Boleyn Girl but not nearly that bad).  I would recommend this if you like ancient Roman fiction and have some time to kill, but don’t go out of your way for it.

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR 4 Review #22: Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

*Audiobook Review*

I had always heard of the famous Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London.  Every once in a while the news does a fluff piece about some new celebrity wax figure. I guess it is similar to getting your star on the Hollywood walk of fame.  I had no idea of the history behind the museum, or who the Hell Madame Tussaud was.  But, when I saw this book, and read the subtitle, “A Novel of the French Revolution”, I knew I had to read it.  I am fascinated with the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.  I read “A Tale of Two Cities” both my Sophomore and Senior years of High School (the one advantage of moving) and was hooked.  I have read several biographies of Marie Antoinette, and in 2005 finally achieved my dream and took a vacation to Paris.  One of the highlights of my trip was standing in the Place de la Concorde and looking at the plaque where the guillotine ended the French monarchy.

Madame Tussaud was born Marie Grosholtz, and at the start of the story is living with her Mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Curtius,  in Paris.  Curtius owned the Salon de Cire, a well-known wax museum, and Marie has learned the art of wax molding from him.  Commoners and the nobility came to their Salon to see wax figures of current political figures, royalty, and miscreants like the Marquis de Sade.  They continuously updated the figures to reflect the times. They were almost the TMZ of pre-revolutionary Paris.  Marie is the business head of the family and she has been begging Rose Bertand, the Queen’s dressmaker, to get Queen Marie Antoinette to visit the exhibition.  Marie Grosholtz is hoping that if the Queen approves of her own likeness, then the commoners will be beating down the door to visit the Salon de Cire.  Apparently she didn’t notice that the Queen wasn’t really very popular anymore.  Also, she must not have been paying attention to the revolutionary talk of men like Robespierre and Marat, even though her family regularly dined with them.

Eventually, Marie receives an invitation from Princess Elisabeth, the King’s sister, to come to the Royal Palace of Versailles and tutor the Princess in the art of wax sculpting.  This put Marie in an awkward situation. Some evenings she would dine with the revolutionaries and some evenings she would spend at masqued balls at Versailles.

French Revolution ensues.  Lots of people lose their heads.

This book was obviously well researched.  The mark of a good audiobook is when I find myself going out of my way to listen to it.  I couldn’t stop listening to this one.  I also learned quite a bit about the French Revolution.  I didn’t know that every evening all of the candles in Versailles were given to certain members of the nobility who got to sell them on the black market and keep the enormous profits.  Also, Marie Antoinette was required to wear completely new clothes every day, and the old ones were given to certain members of the nobility.  I read that Paris Hilton only wears an outfit once as well.

This was great historical fiction, and I am looking forward to reading some of Michelle Moran’s other novels, especially her upcoming novel about Napoleon.

5/5 Stars.

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