Blogging for Books: The Book of Esther

I’m back! And I’m starting with a long-overdue book review. But it’s ok, because I just finished this book a week ago! It was, shall we say, a slog and a half. The only reason it got finished was because I had to much plane/airport time in the past two weeks, because I was barely 100 pages in for a year. Yeah, an actual year. I put more time into wondering if I should just write the review as a “did not finish” than try powering through. But I am glad I powered through.

book of esther

The Book of Esther by Emily Barton references the Biblical book of Esther, wherein (in a gross oversimplification) Queen Esther saves her people from Genocide and lays the basis for the Jewish holiday Purim. The Book of Esther is about Esther, the daughter of a Royal Adviser, who sees the impending threat World War II poses to Jewish culture and sets out to, well, stop a genocide. The book is written in a magical realism style and plays on concepts and place names and traditions to create a kind of alternate reality.

And fails to engage.

Esther bat Josephus decides to leave her home in Khazaria and find a group of Kabbalists who will hopefully change her into a man so that she can join the fight against Germania. Khazaria references a real kingdom which historically was located between the Black and Caspian seas in an area we’d now know as “Caucus states.”

Barton explains absolutely nothing, however, and my own research into Khazaria didn’t really translate into insight when it came to reading the book. I am not Jewish by faith or heritage but I’ve felt that I have a pretty decent layperson’s understanding of the faith, especially the mystical (Kabbalah) side of things just because of my interest in studying religions. It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong about that, but I think it’s equally possible that Barton just failed to show OR tell anything about the world she was trying to create.

Another area where Barton fails is weaving in the magical realism. I am a huge fan of magical realism and that’s a genre where I do feel that I have strong footing. A magical realism novel set during WWII and focusing on a Jewish perspective sounded like a truly, well, magical, recipe to me. But more than enchanted I was confused. One of the big “characters” in the book is Seleme, Esther’s “mechanical horse.” Which is mostly described just like a motorcycle, but actually is supposed to be a horse that is mechanical?

There are plenty of interesting threads in the book that don’t come to fruition. Esther is a teenager growing into womanhood and questioning and testing her relationship to her faith and society as she grows and begins exploring her place in the world and her sexuality. This goes nowhere.

The book has a transgender* character who is intended to (I think) represent the difficulty of managing a desire for knowledge in a restrictive and gender-segregated society, but it goes nowhere. Also this character is just the absolute WORST and part of a totally useless, underdeveloped love triangle that kind of dances around Esther exploring her sexuality but just never commits to it in any capacity.

* Using the term ‘transgender’ feels a little wrong here, the character does undergo a change but the motivation is less “I was born in the wrong body” and more “these doors are closed to me unless I am a man,” which is the same motivation behind Esther’s quest to transition. I didn’t get the impression that either character, least of all Esther, would consider this kind of change in a society without those restrictions. This seems like an oversimplified (though certainly respectable, especially historically!) view of gender identity. But I cisgender so maybe I’m getting this all wrong too.

Things I did like: the pigeons, the exploration of religious devotion and sentience that was explored in the golems, the theme of uniting people from all different backgrounds to help the common good.

2 stars.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Irreverent Reviews: Mary Kay

(This review was originally supposed to go live the same day I found out Aromaleigh had linked to my blog! I pulled it almost immediately when I realize that, despite actually being diligent about saving, WordPress had eaten most of the post. It’s  been hiding in private while I drew up the willpower to refinish it. Very little has changed since the initial posting, certainly my feelings about Mary Kay haven’t! I’m re-posting this so interested parties can see the whole thing in it’s completion)

Lest you think I love everything I try… ugh. So sometime in the recent past a friend from HS who became a Mary Kay consultant out of nowhere. Around the time that started I was working at the grocery store and lashing my hand probably a hundred times a day… which might be a low estimate. I made a Facebook post about how November was causing my hands to freak out and said friend to schill for satin hands. Despite my better judgement (They sell in the Chinese market which requires animal testing) I took up the free sample offer and then apparently I was good enough to be contacted because we had a Skype consultation. I ended up buying the set because I did like it and was desperate to fix my hands. Turns out I had eczema so the only effective treatment was a steroid cream and quitting that damn job. Getting out of food service completely cleared up my problem. But that is ultimately neither here nor there in the grand scheme of this review. The satin hands lotion itself is… it’s not a bad lotion, but it is not some absolutely phenomenal life changing lotion. I would say it’s pretty on par with most of the other decent hand creams I’ve used. it doesn’t leave them feeling greasy but I do find I have to reapply a lot, which is honestly most lotions for me. The rest of the set is a nice exfoliater/or (spellcheck says neither is a word, but spellcheck also does not recognize itself as a word) for your hands and a tacky conditioning cream. I like the exfoliant, and combined with the conditioning cream it does make my hands softer and smoother. You must be careful though, the cream only comes off with the exfoliant, so where you put the cream you must exfoliate also! I’ve gotten out of the shower with tacky, greasy spots on my wrists from where I didn’t get the scrub, and that feels gross. I would probably buy the set again if I ran out in the winter or something. I’ve also heard good things about the satin lips scrub though I haven’t used it. The other face-care samples I tried left me feeling a little bit oily but I used them during the skype call and not like… right in the shower. The cost for a face-care product would be worth it if I knew that I would ONLY have to rely on that product to achieve balance on my “so dry it’s oily” face, but given that my entire adult life has been about frequently switching products before my face can develop a resistance to the formula… I dunno. Experimenting could be really uncomfortable for me financially and facefully. A few months later I entered a contest she hosted on her Facebook page, asking people to rank their personal preference to red lipstick. I gave red a 3 because i feel like it’s so hard to apply well and always draws attention to any and all application flaws (this was before I had tried Besame’s red velvet).

Lucky me, I won that drawing and got to select my choice of lipstick. I opted for the Creme Lipstick in Amber Suede. They also feature(d) a color called ‘Downtown Brown’ which is the worst name for a makeup color in the history of forever, unless there’s actually a color out there named “shitstorm” or “anal.” The website appears to be telling me that the creme lipsticks are discontinued. Perhaps that is why the color I received sucked so much. Well, the color didn’t. “Amber Suede” is one of the most incredible lipstick colors I’ve used (you can see it swatched in this post). Forget the “four hours and a meal” test, this lipstick did not last drinking a small cup of coffee during a one hour car ride… on an exfoliated and primed lip! That, to me, is completely unacceptable. Had I paid, I would have demanded my money back. Also, this lipstick is incredibly drying, to the point of being unwearable. In the event that that event was a fluke I broke it out for a few other occasions only to experience the same drying, non-lasting results. I can only hope that is why they no longer have the product and that they are working to improve the formula, because an established makeup company should not be charging money for a formula that unusable.

Fortunately I found a close color comparison in Bare Minerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick in Raise the Bar. The formula isn’t as incredible as Besame, but it’s still good.

That and the constant promotion and posting, the fact that my friend no longer seemed to care or want to communicate outside of MK were enough to turn me off the whole company. Besides, when it comes to makeup I’ve been getting better products for better prices with better options from indie companies. The she announced she was trying to selling a grand worth of product in one day. This person is still a friend, and despite my feelings about Mary Kay product I do want to see her succeed! Besides, at this point I had been inspired by the eyeliner in this blog post. Look at that amazing blue color! Blue is my favorite color, I just had to have it! So I shelled out my actual money for some Mary Kay at Play “fluid” liner in Blue My Mind. The color payoff here is, once again, fantastic. The formula is crap. Putting a simple line on my lids makes them feel like they are weighted down with face paint, and the stuff NEVER drives. It took multiple tries and multplie minutes of me flapping my hands by my closed lids to reach a point where I could open my eyes and not destroy the liner. Even then, it was wet enough that one swipe of my finger over the primed liner completely removed it.

I was so bummed, I want fabulous blue liquid liner! I know I spoiled myself by going from “only pencils” to “Kat Von D” because her tattoo liner in Tropper seriously stays on my (primed) lid like it’s a stylish part of my skin, but Sephora tells me that only comes in black, because apparently I’m not allowed to have nice things. Inspired by Brightest Bulb in the Box I picked up some NYX Studio Liquid Liner (in Sapphire) the next time I was in proximity to an Ulta. Color wise I should have gone for the Extreme Blue, but Sapphire is still a very nice color. It is a little tricky to apply but despite Robyn’s warnings and myself not being a liquid liner expert I got a very good application. It has the same consistency as the Mary Kay liner when applied BUT this one dries much faster and has a similar life expectancy to the Kat Von D liner when used on a primed lid. Even on an unprimed lid it stays better than the Mary Kay liner.

So why pay Mary Kay prices? Other than to help out a consultant friend I really don’t know why I’d over pay for shoddy quality. And as much as I do try and support friends, everything I’ve seen from Mary Kay leads me to believe that the course of action is to shut off your social skills and just inundate, inundate, inundate. It’s not a good look, for anyone.

In an attempt to recruit me (not sure if it’s because I like makeup or because I’m a warm body with lady bits), I listened to a recorded message from someone higher up the Mary Kay totem pole, and she spoke about how she was harassed with phone calls after attended the party, and told the woman she didn’t want to “be annoying.” When the woman asked if the woman on the recording thought her contact was annoying, it was concluded that no, frequent unsolicited calls are totally fine. I also spoke with my friend’s recruiter, who seemed very eager to find loopholes in my life and ways to make my current, awesome, non-pyramid scheme of a job seem less awesome. This was immediately after the move, I wasn’t thinking straight at all and I knew that. I mentioned that I had too much on my plate and was given a coy “well there’s never a perfect time!” Yeah, there are a lot of less bad times though. Ultimately I do not want to be a consultant, I do not even want to continue being a customer because I find the company lackluster and abrasive. I leave you with these two links to forum-esque places of mediocre quality which discuss Mary Kay and way the company operates:

Pink Truth

Pink Lighthouse