Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top 10 Characters I'd be BFFs With

I haven't done a Top 10 Tuesday in FOREVER. I'm not sure if I can even think up ten people for this week's list (10 Characters You'd Want to be BFFs with), but I'll try!

  1. The Weasley twins from the Harry Potter series - duh. These two may be my favorite literary characters EVER, so they're an obvious choice. I love them so so so much.
  2. Claire from the Outlander series - there's nothing particularly envious about this girl except for the fact that she TIME TRAVELS. TO 1700S SCOTLAND. Can I come?!
  3. Emma Woodhouse from Emma - why is she on this list? She's freakin rich and throws awesome strawberry-picking parties. 
  4. Cannie from Good in Bed - this chick had a seriously wacked out life. She eats a lot of ice cream and parties with movie stars. I'd hang out with her any day.
  5. Georgia Nicholson from all those weirdly named books, such as Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas - yeah. I kind of loved her boyfriend, that's pretty horrible that that's the only reason I'd be friends with her.
  6. Jessica Darling from Sloppy Firsts - OK, this girl reminds me so much of myself. Nerdy, very sarcastic and misunderstood. 
  7. Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings - I knew I wanted to include at least one other fantasy-ish character other than the Weasleys, but in LotR, the only other female character is Arwen and she's a total pansy. Éowyn's pretty badass.

That's all I can think of right now! I'm trying not to put historical characters on this list..thus having such a short list.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Merry Monarch's Wife" by Jean Plaidy

Title: The Merry Monarch's Wife
Author: Jean Plaidy
Published: Three Rivers Press, 1991
Where I Got It: alibris.com
First Line: "My life will end where it began, for in the year 1692 I left England where I had gone some thirty years before as a bride to the most romantic prince in Europe."

Guess what?! I have a new favourite Queen. Sorry Tudor queens, but Catherine of Braganza has taken your place. For being a rarely talked about person in English history, she sure was a fascinating person.  She may not have conducted scandalous affairs or had her head chopped off, but she is memorable in her own way.

Jean Plaidy’s book, The Merry Monarch’s Wife, is written in the form of Catherine's memoir (J.P. likes to do this a lot...it's not really my favourite writing technique). I knew very little about her life in Portugal as an Infanta, so that was really interesting to read about. Her Portuguese relatives were rather....um, eccentric. I think I want to learn more about her crazy brother Alfonso. Catherine comes to England as an old lady of 23 and marries Charles. As the years pass, she must deal with Charles's numerous mistresses and bastard children, and also threats against her for being Catholic. When Charles dies, we learn about how she deals with the disasters of the succession and the Monmouth rebellion, and also the mounting prejudice she faces when William and Mary came to the throne. Fed up with England, she spends her remaining years back in Portugal.

Charles's and Catherine's relationship is my favourite part of the story. Catherine never had any children, thus skewing the succession (in favour of the Catholic James II). Charles was pressed by his advisors to divorce Catherine; he refused this suggestion and kept her safe, even though it was at the risk of the country. Also, he always defended her against his mistresses, she would always take precedence in his eyes. How adorable is that? It's certainly different that what I've read about with other English monarchs (ahem, Henry VIII). 

Some interesting tidbits I found out about Catherine: she was the person who introduced the custom of drinking tea in England. The practice was virtually unheard of before she arrived. Can you imagine the country without its tea?! The English can also thank her for bringing the fork to tables. It is also speculated that Queens, the New York City borough, is named after her, though there is some debate about that.

This book just further reinforces the fact that I love Jean Plaidy! I recently bought The Loves of Charles II, which has another POV from Catherine (along with his mistresses, of whom you learn about in this book too). I'd even recommend this book to those who don't normal read historical fiction. It's a great book with plenty of action, culture, and a rather unconventional love story. 5 stars!

For those of you who have seen the Harry Potter films, remember Moaning Myrtle? Who can forget her whiny, simpering voice? Well, in The Last King, a British television series that chronicled Charles II’s life as King, Catherine of Braganza was played by the same actress who played Moaning Myrtle (I also saw her in Bridget Jones’s Diary....she sure has a wide range of characters). Surprisingly, she was AMAZING! Her portrayal of the queen is what truly made Catherine a favourite. (Speaking of Harry Potter nerdisms, Filch, Narcissa Malfoy, teenaged Tom Riddle and Oliver Wood are also in this series). Anyways, the entire mini-series about Charles II is wonderful, I highly recommend it.

I can't find a picture of her as Catherine of Braganza ANYWHERE, so Moaning Myrtle will have to do. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles" by Margaret George

Title: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles
Author: Margaret George
Published: St. Martin's Press, 1992
Where I Got It: Thrift store
First Line: "In the deepest part of the night, when all the candles save one had been put out and everyone lay quiet, the woman crossed silently to the desk and sat down."

*Be prepared for a slightly biased review. I've hated Mary Stuart ever since The Other Queen (which I didn't like anyways). I've never warmed to her even though I've surprisingly read a lot about her. Why then did I choose to read a 900 page about her life? ......I don't know.*

If you haven't read The Autobiography of Henry VIII, you need to. Right now. Seriously, it's one of the best books I've ever read, and unfortunately, those were the expectations in which I started this book with. Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles is a monster of a story relaying the life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, Queen Regent of France, and self-proclaimed Queen of England. The book covers her entire life and then some, from before her birth until after her death (which was horrifying to read about).

 Mary literally reached her peak by 22 years old. She became queen of Scotland when she was only a few days old and was Queen of France by 16. She was a beloved by all and destined for greatness. She was at her prime when she was 20 and married Henry Darnley and gave birth to James, the future King of both Scotland and England. There were several problems though. Her husband was a prick, and she was Catholic, and worst of all, a woman. Her gender played such a role in her downfall, yet it was interesting at the same time to read about Elizabeth, another female monarch who managed to use her gender effectively and wisely. After Mary was pushed off her own throne, she spent 20 years either in exile, captivity, or on the run. After a botched assassination attempt on Elizabeth, Mary was blamed and sentenced to death.

As a former psych major, I read into a lot of details in this book. A major theme is her country's perspective of their Queen. Like I said before, she was beloved by everyone as a child and teenager, but mainly because she lived in France and the nobles could run the country the way they wished. After a few bad decisions in her 20s, almost all of her allies turn against her. She is outed as a murderess, whore, and heretic. Towards the end of her life, she has almost no friends left. Her son is taught to hate her and she can find no sympathy anywhere. In fact, after her death, anything she ever touched is burned.

As for Mary herself....she barely had a voice, even though this is her story. Was she a misunderstood martyr or a spoiled, whining princess? I don't think Margaret George even knows the answer to that. My feelings are this: Mary Stuart did not deserve her throne, she botched a great opportunity for Scotland's future and can't accept that. Therefore, I don't like her. I still keep reading books about her though, just to find one where she isn't so annoying.

So...do I recommend it? Maybe. If you already like Mary, or want to learn more about her, definitely go for it. It's plenty detailed and very historically accurate. This book isn't for the faint of heart though! When I say it's big, I mean it. It's a monster. I find finishing a huge book to be rewarding though.

Overall, 3 stars.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top 10 Most Unfortunate Character Names

It's time for Top 10 Tuesday! This week's theme is:

Unfortunate Character Names

I admit that I've cheated a bit here. All of the names on my list are from the Harry Potter series. J.K. Rowling created hundreds of characters for her books, so instead of using the same names several times, she got a bit...creative. Also, they're wizards. Weird enough.

  1. Mundungus Fletcher - look for him in the upcoming HP7 movie. I'll be laughing at his name.
  2. Dedalus Diggle - heheh. Diggle.
  3. Wilhelmina Grubbly-Plank
  4. Andreyius Snicklepitch - I don't even know what that first name is, but Snicklepitch wins the best last name EVER.
  5. Winkus Oddpick  
  6. Lysander Scamander - just say it out loud. Of course, we are talking about Luna's kid, 'nuff said.
  7. Dempster Wiggleswade - sorry, you'll always be Dumpster PigglyWiggly to me.
  8. Galatea Merrythought - I'm always reminded of Merry from The Lord of the Rings (oh man, I could create a whole other list of weirdo names from those books....)
  9. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore - yes, THE Dumbledore. I just love Brian thrown in there.
  10. Crispin Cronk
My spell check went beserk in this post; red squiggly lines galore!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Crimson Petal & the White" by Michel Faber

Author: Michel Faber
Published: Canongate Books Ltd, 2002
Where I Got It: Bought it online

"Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them."

There has never been truer first lines in any other book I've read. The Crimson Petal and the White takes us on a journey through 1870s London. This isn't a place in the likeness of an Austen or Bronte novel; this is a dirty, corrupted city full of perverse men, poor children, and most abundantly, prostitutes. Our protagonist is Sugar, a nineteen year old veteran prostitute. She is infamous around London for doing anything and everything you please. Sugar is intelligent beyond her profession; she spends her free time writing a rather sadistic novel. Because of her brains and inability to say 'no,' she manages to become the secret mistress of a wealthy man. This man showers her with everything she's ever wanted, making her free of prostitution. Sugar's sugar-daddy is hiding some other secrets at his own house (namely, an insane wife). When these two worlds of his collide, many lives are changed forever, all leading to a rather shocking, yet spectacular ending.

While reading this book, there were times I felt I needed to get up and go take a shower. After copious amounts of descriptions of certain bodily functions, sickness, smells of back alleys, and the too-often sex scene, I seriously felt dirty. While that may have bothered me, the author certainly achieved his goal. Michel Faber did not set out to write a romance novel full of innocent virgins, dashing men, and days graced with sunshine and butterflies. He brought to life a story of less than perfect characters in the underbelly of society.

If you are willing to sit through 900 pages of what I described above, I promise you it'll all be worth it in the end. The characters are at times vile, heartless and mean spirited, yet you will fall in love with them in some twisted way.  My emotions were truly a part of this reading experience.

The Crimson Petal has been labeled a neo-Victorian novel, yet I don't think it is. Victorian novels are usually neatly tied up in the end, practically with an "and they all lived happily ever after" to boot. This one does not, which makes it so perfect. 4.5 stars.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 5 Blog Hop!

Hosted by Jen at Crazy for Books
This week's question is:
"What are your feelings on losing followers? 
Have you ever stopped following a blog?"

I've only lost one follower so far, but since I technically don't have that many followers, it was still disheartening. I quickly brushed it off, as I know I will in the future. The only time I think losing a follower will truly bother me is if I somehow offended them or did something stupid.

I had a blog several years ago that was basically just full of my young, idiotic ramblings. When I became and exclusive book blogger, I stopped following the random blogs that were there from before. As of now, it'll really take a lot to make me stop following your blog. I don't get offended very easy.

Thanks for stopping by! I'll try to visit some more blogs later this weekend.

P.S. To my old followers, sorry I've been such a sucky reviewer lately. School has hit me hard, but I should be in full swing again soon! :)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Top 10 Books That Made Me Cry

I initially was going to sit this one out, thinking, psh, I don't cry. However, looking over my goodread's shelf....yeah right. I'm such a wuss.

Top 10 Books That Make You Cry

*Number 3 is a Harry Potter spoiler, but if you haven't read it, it's your own fault :)*

  1. Escape by Carolyn Jessup - what a great book. This is a memoir of a woman living in a polygamist community. The terror and hardships she had to face at the hands of her husband and his other wives truly made me cry.
  2. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir - duh, I had to put this one. Sixteen year old girl is manipulated by her elders then eventually killed for it? Yeah, I cried.
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - so sad! The only family in the world Harry has left in the world, besides the lovely Dursleys, is killed by drapery (I swear I've never understood this). I think I cried more during the movie, that was truly a moving scene.
  4. P.S., I Love You by Cecelia Ahern - ughhhh. A woman finds notes left behind by her dead husband, always ending with "P.S., I love you." Though not a genre I usually read, I love this book.
  5. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - THE ENDING. Good God. This one I won't spoil, but I was seriously blubbering like a baby. I had no idea any book could ever do that to me.
  6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - when you read a book whose narrator is Death, you better be expecting a lot of death. 
  7. Night by Elie Weisel - this is rather embarrassing as I read this book in my 10th grade English class. I was sitting in class trying to hold tears in. It just so happens that Holocaust books are personally the hardest books for me to read about.
  8. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder - OK, I really don't know if this is the exact book I'm looking for, but I think this is the one where the faithful family dog dies. I could be wrong though. Anyways, Jack dies peacefully in his sleep, but come on....I was eight years old.

This is all I can think of! Will try to add more later :)


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