Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff - and Giveaway Winner!

Title: Cleopatra: A Life
Author: Stacy Schiff
Published: Little, Brown and Company, November, 2010
Where I Got It: Tahleen sent it to me!
Why I Read It: I love pretty covers.

The number one thing that I learned from Cleopatra: A Life was this: I had deceived myself in thinking I knew anything about her before reading this book. Stacy Schiff digs deep into the life of one of the most well-known, yet misunderstood women in history. Most of us know her as the Egyptian queen who had affairs/children with both Caesar and Mark Antony, the two most powerful men of their age. She herself was much, much more than that.

Cleopatra was a fabulously rich woman. In contemporary terms, her net worth would be around $95.8 billion dollars. She was worth more than three Queen Elizabeth IIs. Amazingly, she also lived in a culture were women were greatly empowered. A woman in first century B.C. could choose her own husband, own property, grant their own divorces, operate businesses, and serve as priests. As much as one third of Egypt was controlled by female hands.

There are many other things that stick out to me about Cleopatra's life. The biggest was her incestuous family ties. Her grandparents were uncle and niece, her parents were brother and sister, and Cleopatra herself was married to both of her brothers. I question how there were no physical or mental deformations! Another interesting point pertains to her beauty. Third century A.D. records call her "strikingly exquisite" in appearance, while those of the Middle Ages say she was "famous for nothing but her beauty." Shakespeare raves about her looks. However, her contemporaries, those who actually knew and saw her, say nothing about her beauty. In fact, her appearance was called "not remarkable." Quite different from what most of us have heard about her!

Stacy Schiff wrote an extremely entertaining book full of fun, interesting facts. I loved her sarcastic voice and the humor she injected into the characters. I will say that it seems to drag on forever at the end. The story began to focus too much on Mark Antony and the military, which quickly lost my interest. I skimmed the last 100 pages. That being said, I'd rate it 3.5 stars; the plethora of amazing facts was overshadowed by the fact that I felt I had to force myself to even finish it.

This book hasn't even been published, yet it is already the basis for a movie to be released in 2011, starring Angelina Jolie. You can read more about it here.

OK, a big thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway to win this book - and an even bigger thank you to my followers who made it possible!

The winner is....Allison!

Congratulations! She has 24 hours to respond to my email, if I get no response I will pick another winner. Sorry for the rush, but in order to get it in the mail by Saturday, I need addresses quick. Happy reading and enjoy the book! :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Sex with Kings" by Eleanor Herman

Author: Eleanor Herman
Published: Harper Perennial, 2004
Where I Got It: Online
First Line: "If prostitution is the world's oldest profession, then the finer art of being a mistress must be the second oldest."

A month or two back, I read a FABULOUS book called Sex with the Queen. It was seriously one of the best books I've read this year. Needless to say, I was excited to pick up it's predecessor, Sex with Kings. I consequently got my hopes raised too high (story of my life).

This book takes on the view of the women who more than likely had the most influence over some of the most powerful men in the world: the mistresses. We learn about everything pertaining to them: their privileges, relationship with the king (and the queen, for that matter), their incomes, bastards, husbands, and their fate. The common denominator among the majority of European mistresses over the years: bitchiness. Some of these women were pure evil! (Is it weird that I used three colons in this paragraph? Sorry, just the ex-journalism student in me..) I said, I was severely disappointed by this book. My biggest problem is the author's creepy fascination with the French. I'd safely bet that more than half the book deals with some sort of French monarch. I couldn't keep the fourteen different Louis' and their Madames de Wherever in line. Not nearly enough English monarchs, or the Tudors for that matter! Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were mentioned in passing. I will say that if you like 17th century England, you will find plenty of Charles II smut (and Barbara, Lady sick of her now). You will read about Charles and the various Louis' about fifteen different times....there's no real variety. The set up is very messy; it's not chronological, and gets confusing real fast.

So what do I rate it? A sad 2.5 stars. It was somewhat entertaining at times, yet for the most part....just..blah. That's seriously the best word I can think of. Blah. Do not fear, however! Just pick up Sex with the Queen, which will more than likely delight you, as it did me.

OK, something else must be said about the author. The very first page was her bio, and this is the accompanying picture:

I thought it was a bit odd, but not too out of place for a book about historic royal families. I then started researching her a bit more....and this is what I found:

The medieval look is quite common for her! I'm not sure how I feel about this. Does she do all event/signings in this attire?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Book Couples

My favorite meme from The Broke & the Bookish!

Top 10 Favorite Couples

Not sure I can make it to 10....I tend to shy away from books with romance in it. I also shouldn't need to point out that my list will be full of real-life historical characters. May take away from the coolness.

  1. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice - dur.

  2. George and Martha Washington from Washington's Lady - What a sweet couple. Martha loved George even though he had horrible teeth. It doesn't get much better than that.

  3. Hermione and Ron from the Harry Potter series - I wish I could put Harry and Hermione for this list (yes, I was one of those people), but this one will do. I think it's just because Ron is so awesome that I rooted for this couple.

  4. Andrew and Rachel Jackson from The President's Lady - another sickeningly cute presidential couple.

  5. Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner from Atonement - sheesh, what a tragic couple. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about....if not, I don't want to spoil anything.

  6. Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram from Mansfield Park - OK, in actuality, I hate this book. I die a little inside when I say I hate a Jane Austen novel. The only reason this is on my list is because it gives hope to quiet, shy girls (ahem, me). Other than that....gross.

  7. Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre - I call this one The Caveman Love Story (Mr. Rochester looks like a caveman or some early primate on the cover of my copy). Love is more than appearances, thank God.

  8. Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series - ah, yes, the time traveling couple. These two have a lot of physical attraction (which we get to read all about), but there's much more's almost a sort of maternal love....which isn't creepy at all. Jamie is just adorable, especially with his Scottish accent and kilt.

  9. Holly and Gerry from P.S. I Love You - another sickeningly cute couple. What a sweet Irish guy.

  10. Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn from any novel - I couldn't resist. What a weird couple. I wouldn't say that most love stories would end with him having her beheaded, but I still think Henry loved Anne until the day he died.
Looking over my list, the only American men are two old, dead Presidents.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"The Secret Bride" by Diane Haeger

TitleThe Secret Bride: In The Court of Henry VIII
Author: Diane Haeger
Published: NAL Trade, 2008
Where I Got It: Online
First Line: "A collection of columbines, sweet peas and lilies of the valley clutched tightly in her hand, Mary dodged through the rows of apple trees in the orchard, chasing butterflies out behind the palace." So sweet it's almost sickening.

I'd been eyeing this book for quite sometime and was super excited to find it online for 99 cents, and with a dollar off coupon...-1 cent. Yes!

I've been searching for a book on Princess Mary, Henry VIII's sister, not daughter, for a very long time. Some people call her the only woman that Henry every truly loved or had mercy on. If their relationship was anything like in this book, I would definitely agree! Anyways, The Secret Bride basically covers Mary Tudor's entire life, but the main focus is on the romance with her brother's best friend, Charles Brandon.

Mary and Charles have a passion for each other that must remain secret, due to the power of her brother, the king, and the fact that Mary is a princess and Charles is only a Duke (alas, only a Duke!). Mary is later wed to the old, ailing king of France, whom she comes to respect, yet Charles is always lurking in the background. When the old king Louis dies, Mary and Charles follow their feelings and heart, even against the wishes of her brother.

All in all, I'd say this was a pretty good book. I liked it even though it was more of a historical romance book, something I'm not too fond of. It was excusable only because it dealt with the Tudors! After seeing The Tudors, Charles' relationships have always interested me....I spent the whole book wondering if he really did love Mary.

One thing I am personally tired of reading about is beautiful people. Mary's beauty is repeatedly gushed over several times a chapter. Sure, sure, she truly may have been beautiful, but c'mon, we get it. She had an exquisite body, luscious strawberry blonde hair, and adorable nose, etc. Not to mention, Mary is also witty, intelligent, and headstrong. Haven't I read enough books with women like that? I am now on the prowl for a book about a less than perfect main character. What about you guys, do you find that a lot of heroines are just too perfect?

If you are a not too picky historical fiction lover, or any kind of Tudor lover, I'd say this book is for you. It was a light, fluffy read, good for reading outside in the sun, as I did! I give it 3.5 stars.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

September 24 Blog Hop!

Hosted by Jen at Crazy-for-Books!

This week's question is:

Do you write reviews as you read the book or after you are finished?

Most definitely afterwards. Usually while I'm reading, my thoughts are all in a jumble. I need a few days after I finished the book to actually collect them and put them in a review that makes sense. The only exception is my Harry Potter re-read!

Happy weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. You should check out my giveaway here!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

GIVEAWAY - Win a copy of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff!


I've been mulling this over for quite sometime and have finally decided to do it! Since I've now reached 100 followers (yay!) I am hosting my first giveaway!

I am offering up my ARC copy of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. It is due to be published on November 1, 2010. Look for my review of the book to be up sometime soon!

This giveaway will run until September 29, 2010. This date is subject to change, as the post office here charges outrageous shipping prices, so this will all depend on when I can get to another post office to mail it.

You do not have to be a follower (though it would be nice if you were!), you just need to fill out the simple form below. International entries are welcome. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Quotes

This weeks's list from The Broke and the Bookish is:

Top 10 Favorite Book Quotes

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    "If you look for perfection, you'll never be content."
  2. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    "The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
  3. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
    "You can only be in a bad mood for so long before you just have to face up to the fact that it isn't a bad mood at all; it's just your sucky personality."
  4. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
    "He tried to name which of the deadly seven [sins] might apply, and when he failed he decided to append an eighth, regret."
  5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
    "If you go on flirting with the king with those sickly little smiles, one of us Boleyns is going to scratch your eyes out."
  6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein
    "All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost."
  7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
    "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
  8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
    "Forgiveness is a gift of high value. Yet its cost is nothing."
  9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    "Sometimes the last person on earth you want to be with is the one person you can't be without."
    This one is just for fun because it made me laugh for a solid five minutes:
  10. The Children of Henry VIII by Alison Weir
    "By the time [Elizabeth] was twenty, her menstrual problems were notorious, and a matter of concern to foreign ambassadors..."

    P.S. My giveaway will go up tomorrow! :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Harry Potter Re-read - Part 3

Part 3 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I think this may be my favorite book in the entire series.

Why? Remus Lupin, who is probably the most awesome person EVER. He's a werewolf, but not one of those kinds that takes their shirt off every five seconds,
like you find in other places...hmph. He may dress like a homeless person, but he's kind, a great teacher, and even has a creepy little mustache in the film.

Anyways, Harry is back for his third year at Hogwarts (even though we have a hilarious encounter with his aunt blowing up in the beginning). This crazy murderer, Sirius Black, is after him and causing havoc all around Harry (big surprise there). It is interesting and suspenseful to see how that interations between Snape, Dumbledore, Harry's parent's, Sirius, and Ron's rat all link together in the end! Speaking of Ron's rat, I love the 'tension' between Scabbers and Crookshanks. Talk about odd foreshadowing. I also love (in an creepy, twisted way) the Dementors.

Something else I noticed is how amazingly long the book is, even though it's one of the shortest books. It almost feels as if it's three books shoved into one: book 1 being Harry's summer and majority of the year at Hogwarts, book 2 as Sirius' pursuit of Harry and the whole Shrieking Shack confrontation/Lupin is a werewolf/Scabbers is really an overweight man in a rat's body debacle, and then book 3 is when Harry and Hermione go back in time to save Buckbeak and Sirius. Whew. I don't know if it's an overkill or a miracle. It feels a bit overwhelming at times.

Let's talk about the movie. The third film got a new director and it had a totally new feel to it. There were little visual things I liked, such as the Whomping Willow showing the changes in the seasons, yet overall I disliked how different the movie was as compared to the previous two. Now to the biggest change of all: Dumbledore. The actor who played Dumbledore in the two other films died and Michael Gambon replaced him. His Dumbledore is much more full of life (truthfully, the other actor put me to sleep sometimes with his amazingly slow speech), yet is very loud and almost aggressive. In the later movies, I'd call him scary, which is definitely not true about him. Which actor did you like better?

This cartoon sums it up perfectly:
Goblet of Fire may not be posted for awhile - I haven't even started it yet and it's about 3 times as big as this one. I also have other books I want to read first. Let's hope I can read the whole series before the movie comes out, fingers crossed!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Alone in a non-reading world

This is something I've been thinking about for awhile: what are your friends like, reading-wise? Are you alone in your bookish ways? Or are you one of the lucky ones surrounded by book-loving friends?

I decided to be incredibly creepy and stalk my friend's Facebook pages to see what their reading tastes are like. My findings? Other than the fact that a very low percentage actually have any books listed at all, I have exactly one friend who shares my love of reading. Luckily she likes the classics and historical fiction! Other than that...nada.
Here are some samples of what I found.

These three are my roommates:

Yes...this is what I live with every day.

This is my childhood best friend:
I'd say that if I had stayed in California, we'd still be friends
(I would look over the Twilight thing).

This one made me die a little bit on the inside:

Now my absolute favorite:
My ex-boyfriend. Gahh.

So what about you? If you have no bookish friends, like me, how do you deal? My favorite ways of venting are goodreads and my blog! Maybe if I had a book-loving friend I could save some money and just borrow from them....hmm..

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Top 10 Books I'm Dying to Read

My favorite meme from The Broke & the Bookish!

Top 10 Books I'm Dying to Read

  1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - I own this book and can't believe I haven't read it in all these years. I have seen the movie, which I adored.
  2. East of Eden by John Steinbeck - I own this book as well. I've heard a lot of good things about this one and need to get more into Steinbeck. I've only read Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath by him.
  3. Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I'm anxiously waiting to find this one because the premise sounds awesome: a woman only in her 40s is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Whoa.
  4. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith - I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn so I naturally wanted to read more by the same author. I think all of her stories have the same premise though, all based on her own life.
  5. Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty - I'm not one for chicklit/young adult novels, but I loved the two previous books in this series. My library never has it though.
  6. The Secret Bride by Diane Haeger - Okay, I may be cheating here. I just started this last night. I've been reading too much historical non-fiction recently and needed a nice break. I'm so excited to jump into this one! Princess Mary is fascinating.
  7. The Price of Innocence by Vicki Hopkins - I love but don't read enough books set in Victorian times. How about one about a prostitute?
  8. The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir - Favorite author, favorite historical figure (Anne Boleyn). Enough said.
  9. Elizabeth I by Margaret George - Okay, another favorite author, but not one of my favorite historical figures. Maybe I'll grow to love Elizabeth.
  10. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay - This is one of the books that has been on my TBR list the longest. WWII novels always depress me (The Book Thief, Stones from the River, etc), but this one looks really good.
Next Week: Top 10 Favorite Book Quotes

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A much needed blogging hiatus

I have decided to take a bit of a hiatus from blogging. I shouldn't have to defend myself as to why, but here are a few reasons:
  • School is eating my life right now. I spend up to 9 hours a day studying, taking tests, or attending classes. I practically live in the library...but I'm not doing fun things like reading for pleasure anymore.
  • I've been sick off and on again for the past two weeks. In other words, I'm simply exhausted.
  • When I do happen to have some free time, I don't want to spend those few precious hours writing up reviews. I love my blog friends dearly, but I need a life right now.
This applies to my blog, Twitter, goodreads, and Facebook. Yikes!

In the past, I'd usually write 3 or 4 reviews a week and participate in Top Ten Tuesday, as well as write for The Broke and the Bookish. I will still review for B&B, and do Top 10 Tuesdays (love those!), but MAYBE only put up one review a week. I will still get to my Harry Potter re-read.

Thanks for understanding! I won't be completely silent on here, just a little more quiet. I don't know when I'll be back full swing, although I was thinking of doing some sort of giveaway when I reach 100 followers. We'll have to see!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Harry Potter Re-read - Part 2

Oh wow. I'd totally forgotten about my HP re-read! I read Sorcerer's Stone at the end of July...and nothing until now. Since I've had a long weekend, I finished Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban! I'll just focus on the second book for now.

So how about this book cover? This is the 'adult' version of the book, for those adults who deem themselves too sophisticated to be seen with a normal Harry Potter book (they look class but are really expensive). Anyways, in normal J.K. style, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has gotten just a wee bit bigger than the last book. This didn't stop me from reading it in less than 5 hours, but because I read it so fast, I'm not sure I am able to collect my thoughts for this review as easily...if that even makes sense!

So in this book, Harry has returned for his second year at Hogwarts. We are introduced to new characters such as Dobby, the insane house-elf, and Gilderoy Lockhart, the narcissistic Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. We get to learn more about Ron and his strange but lovable family. Snape is still a prick, Hermione is still the tolerable know-it-all, and Dumbledore is still our magical Santa Claus.

As in the previous book, Harry has bitten off more than he can chew. He, Hermione and Ron were the only ones aware of the troubles in the school in the last book, but here, the whole school is aware of the new dangers haunting Hogwarts. Unlike the last book, these troubles are in the present, not the past, which makes the action run smoother.

As in all the books, one of my favorite aspects of Harry's world is the creativity/usefulness/hilarity of the spells! A favorite of mine is ducklifors (used to turn someone into a duck. Why?). Avis causes a flock of ducks to fly out of the tip of the wand. In this particular book, Ron's faulty wand backfires....causing him to vomit slugs uncontrollably. The creativity (or in this case, disgusting-ness) always amazes me! On a related note, Ron was quite excellent in the film, especially the slug scene (at the left) and in the Forbidden Forest with the spiders.

Something that has always highly amused me is Voldemort's physical transformation.
Please tell me how he went from this:

to this:
I've always wondered where his nose went.

A lot of HP fans don't especially like this book. The biggest reason I've seen is because of Dobby. It seems that he is a rip-off of Jar-Jar from Star Wars (I've always pictured him as Smeagol) and this sends people into a flurry. I personally don't care for Dobby that much, but since he plays a larger role later on, I put up with him. And to my delight, there is a nice amount of Weasley twin mania in the book to keep me more than satisfied! :) Well, that's it for this review. It's not as good as it could of been, but the new school term has really been killing me and I've had an ever enduring sinus infection. I'll put up my Prisoner of Azkaban review sometime next week!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Words

This is one of the most random Top Ten Tuesdays ever! I almost sat it out, however when my roommate told me last night that I write/speak like a middle aged British woman (?!), I decided to explore this further.
Anyways, be sure to check out all the entries at The Broke and the Bookish!

Top 10 Favorite Words

  1. Abomination- I use this word entirely too much for no real reason.

  1. Flagellum - A sciency word. Makes me feel smart.
  1. Wormwood-Something harsh. Wormwood. So entirely random.

  1. Hoodwinked-To be deceived...Dumbledore uses this word a lot. Enough said.

  1. Alohomora-Okayyy, this isn't a real word. It's a Harry Potter spell! I think it unlocks doors.

  1. Potpourri-In reality, potpourri kind of freaks me out, but the word sounds like a cat.

  1. Rumpus- I don't think I even know what this means. Isn't it a loud noise or something?

  1. Bodacious- Okay, I would never use this word in my vocabulary ever, but it simply rolls off the tongue!

  1. Hogwash- I need to find a way to incorporating this into everyday conversation without sounding like a redneck (this is difficult in north/central Florida).
  1. Manorexic- I in no way condone anorexia, in either males or females. This word is just hilarious.

So did that sound like an old British lady? Not to me. My roommate is a lunatic.

P.S. I will post my reread of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on Thursday! :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

"The Secret Life of Josephine" by Carolly Erickson

Title: The Secret Life of Josephine: Napoleon's Bird of Paradise
Author: Carolly Erickson
Published: St. Martin's Press, 1999
Where I Got It: Online
Why I Read It: It was on sale for only $1

I've always been wary of books that include 'The Secret Life' or 'The Secret Diary,' or really any 'Secret' at all in the title. When it comes to historical figures, the 'Secret' usually means a lot of historical discrepancies or guessing on the author's part. Now I didn't know a lot about Josephine Bonaparte, so I wasn't sure if this was the case or not with Carolly Erickson.

Anyways, as you might have guessed, this book is about Rose Tascher, later known as Josephine Bonaparte, throughout the course of almost her entire life. Before Napoleon comes into her life, she lived on a plantation in Martinique, was married off to a minor nobility in France and later found herself on the wrong side of the French Revolution. She, unlike her husband, narrowly escaped the guillotine and to support herself, 'entertains' the French military through the means of a sugar daddy. Through this profession, she meets Napoleon Bonaparte and marries him. She endures his hateful family and enemies, and Napoleon's temper, to live her fabulous lifestyle. They have an extremely bipolar relationship and eventually divorce. We then follow her the rest of her life through lovers, assassination attempts and then her sudden death.

The author kind of glosses over the point that Josephine was a bit of a slut. She loses her virginity to a random ruffian on the beach (they never actually spoke), and was basically a call-girl in her later years. Though all of her sexual encounters are handled very tastefully, it has the tendency to read as a bad romance novel in parts. Because of all of the fluffed up bits, I will say that I'm interested in reading an actually biography on Josephine.

Carolly Erickson has never particularly amazed me with her writing, but I keep coming back to her because of the subjects she choses to write about. I've read two other books by her about Katherine Parr and Marie Antoinette (titled The Secret Diary of Marie Antoinette...grr) and am looking forward to one coming out this month about Elizabeth I and Lettice Knollys.

Part of the reason I was inspired to read this book is because my mom was in Corsica yesterday, Napoleon's birthplace. She was able to tour his home, Casa Buonaparte, and I am extremely jealous.

Overall, 3 stars. Oddly written books are justified in my opinion if they are written about an interesting person, as was this one.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

"The Trophy Bride's Tale" by Cyrilla Barr

Title: The Trophy Bride's Tale
Author: Cyrilla Barr
Published: Bascom Hill Publishing Group, August 2010
Where I Got It: The publishers sent me an ARC!
Why I Read It: Well...I had requested it, it'd be rude not to read it!

This review is also posted on The Broke and the Bookish!

I seriously feel as if this book is a boyfriend of mine. The ups and downs I associate with The Trophy Bride's Tale went to a personal level. I attempted it at least seven different times, only reading 10 or so pages each time, before completely ignoring it for about a month. I finally decided to grow a pair and try to slog my way through it and ended up reading the remaining 300 pages in a few hours and LOVING it! I might need relationship counseling after this one.

Prudenza is a teenager in sixteenth-century Italy when she is betrothed and married off to a wealthy Florentine silk merchant. Their union is initially a tender, yet awkward, relationship. Over time, things slowly unravel. Shortly after the birth of their first child, Prudenza's husband, Matteo, evolves into a psycho, wife-beating prick. His only use for Prudenza is to show her off as his trophy bride. She finds solace in those around her, yet realizes that all her troubles would vanish if only her husband vanished too. She almost unwillingly 'disposes' of him, only to almost immediately be arrested and then later beheaded. Whew.

I usually would have considered the murder of her husband and subsequent arrest and execution as a spoiler, but the forward, or the first five pages, actually takes place at her execution. What are your guys' thoughts on forewords that ultimately give up the end of the story? I thought this one could slide a little bit, as this is based on a true story, but usually these foreshadows are unwelcome in my opinion.

This is a book that I'm truly glad I persevered through. The first 100 pages or so are extremely slow; it isn't until Prudenza and Matteo are actually married that the plot picks up and becomes exciting. I'm just going to add that the cover totally wigs me out. Prudenza is described as being extremely beautiful, nothing like the devil possessed woman in the painting.

It's a good story, but not perfect; 3.5 stars.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September 3 Blog Hop!

Hosted by Jen at Crazy-for-Books!

This week's question is:

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Oh man, I must admit that I do. More so, I think I judge by the spine. If the font is nice and there are pretty colors, I'm much more likely to pick it up and thumb through it. As for covers, I'm a sucker for a picture of a pretty dress, being a historical fiction lover! If covers are unattractive, I tend to immediately have a negative feel to the book....though I recently read a book with a truly horrendous cover (truly awful) that I ended up loving! Oh well. :)

Happy weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

"The Other Boleyn Girl" by Philippa Gregory

Title: The Other Boleyn Girl
Author: Philippa Gregory
Published: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001
Where I Got It: The library
Why I Read It: Heard a lot of buzz about it

It could only be a matter of time before I reviewed this one. It was inevitable. I'm going to start this review off by saying this was the very first book set in a time before the 1700s that I'd ever read. It was definitely the first Tudor book I'd had an association with. You can basically say that this books started my love affair with 16th century England, Henry VIII, and everyone/everything else associated with this time period. For that, Philippa Gregory, I give you a mad props. You made the historical geek that was buried deep inside of me come screaming out into the world....and here I am today.

Like I said, I went into this book knowing virtuously knowing nothing at all except Henry VIII had a lot of wives and that this one in particular, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded. That's it. This is all that Philippa G. expects you to know, and she runs with it. As the title implies, the book is about the less famous of the Boleyn sisters, Mary. She was Anne's younger sister, an early mistress of Henry whom he delightfully deflowers and she later bore two of his children. When Anne comes waltzing into the court, Henry is immediately obsessed with her. Anne keeps him wrapped around her finger for six years, never fully taking the title of mistress. Henry in the meantime kicks out his old spinsterish wife, Katherine of Aragon and tells the Pope to GTFO. He marries Anne and they have a much unwanted daughter, Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Anne is sexually aroused by her homosexual brother, gives birth to a bunch of deformed babies, and in retaliation, and takes ward of Mary's son, never allowing Mary to call him her son again. Henry is getting tired of Anne's inability to produce a son and her general bitchiness, so when it is found out that she is a witch, he figures this is the perfect time to get rid of her. Since being a witch is a crime, and so is sleeping with hundreds of other men while being married to the king, Anne gets punished pretty severely: she gets her head cut off.

[Wondering why all of the random phrases are bolded? They are just a few of the historical errors found in the book. Since I was clueless when I first read it, I never noticed them, but just in summarizing the book more than a year later, I am literally pulling my hair out.]

So where is Mary this whole time? Other than being without her son and banished from court (which is probably a good thing in her eyes), she's living a grand life. She married a man of lower rank purely for love, lived in the country and planted crops. Because she stayed away from her family and the court during Anne's reign, she was able avoid punishment in being associated with Anne (their poor brother, George, one of the only likable characters, sadly did not).

Throughout her other Tudor novels, it is blatantly obvious that Philippa hates Anne Boleyn, and in essence, Elizabeth I. They are always written out to be awful, evil, horrible characters. Mary says something along the lines of "Anne wants everything that isn't hers" and it's so true; her selfishness is disgusting in this book. When her head was hacked off, it was the first and only time I would ever cheer at that event.

OK, it must sound like I hate this book with all my being, but I really don't. I just hate the fact that Philippa felt like she needed to fluff up and twist the book around just to make it interesting. In reality, this period of time doesn't need any help in being interesting and colorful on its own.

So after all this, what's the verdict? Believe it or not, 4 stars. I'm not sure if I can ever read it again without cringing but since it planted the historical seed that made me who I am today, it has a special place in my heart. And yes, that is the dorkiest thing I have ever written.


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