Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Secret Bride

I finished The Secret Bride today. This was about Henry VIII's sister Mary, who was married off to the aging King of France by her brother. At the time that it was negotiated, Mary bargained with Henry that she would make this first marriage without complaint, if after she was widowed she was allowed to choose her second husband herself. Henry agreed, but never really meant for her to able to do that, I guess.

Mary was married to the King of France for only 3 months before he died, and shortly after his death she married the Duke of Suffolk, Henry's best friend, Charles Brandon.

Coincidentally, it's Charles' and Mary's granddaughter, Jane, that is put on the throne by the protestants after Henry's only legitimate son, Edward, dies.

So, what did I think of the book? I liked it. But at this point I've read so much about Henry VIII that I kind of take issue with different representations of him. This one was fairly in line with what I thought about him, though it proposes that Henry did love Katherine when they were getting married, after Arthur's death. Haegar sort of skims over Mary's (Henry's daughter) birth, which I found odd. But she explains it away in the authors note at the end of the novel.

Also, being such a fan of The Other Boleyn Girl, I get irritated when no one talks about Mary (Bolyen, so many of these people had the same names!). She gets one mention in the novel as being among Mary's attendants when she is Queen of France (as was Anne).

I have several other books to read now, but mostly what this book made me want to do was watch the episode of the Tudors when Mary announces to the King that she's married to Brandon. The Tudors skips over Mary except for maybe 2 episodes, and has her die very early on. In reality, she died several years into the Anne Boleyn episode, and was married to Brandon before Mary was born. But whatever.

Final verdict ... if you're interested in the Tudors it's worth a read. If not, it's a good love story, even if I think that while Mary may have been in love with Brandon, I still think marrying the King's sister was more an act of ambition than love.

But hey that's just me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lit Flicks Challenge

As you recall from this post earlier this week, I found a bunch of book blogs the other day. One such blog, thebluestockings, is hosting a Lit Flicks challenge from September 1 through February 28, 2009.

The rules and details are all available at the link, but essentially between now and February 28th you read 5 books that have been or will be made into movies, and watch at least 2 of the adaptations.

It sounded like a good time to me, so my list of the 5 books is below:
1. Nights in Rodanthe, Nicholas Sparks
2. Harry Potter 6, JK Rowling
3. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
4. The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd
5. and either Jumper, Steven Gould, or Bringing Down the House, Ben Mezrich (movie title: "21")

That's not really iron clad. I might also through a Jason Bourne book in there, as I've wanted to read those too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Other Queen

Ooohhh ... I love when I forget delicious things that make me happy! Here I was lamenting that my exciting books are all over and done (Breaking Dawn) and now I'm back on the what to read merry-go-round when I come across a historical fiction challenge (how fun!) that has a contest that ended August 9th (boo hiss) to which the prize is an advanced copy of Phillippa Gregory's The Other Queen! A novel, I admit, that I completely had forgotten about!

The book is due to be released on September 16th. Which means I have a little less than a month to read the two books I just bought ... okay so what that really means is I have to find some more books to read while I wait for September 16th.

But ... in keeping with this historical fiction challenge (linked above) the book I'm reading now totally counts, and I'm pretty sure if I go back far enough some of the other stuff I've read lately would count too ... I just have to remember everything I've read ... I only have like, 5 weeks left. So I've got quite a bit to read between now and then. I'll consider it a success if I complete 4. I'll just have to keep my eyes open for more challenges.

There is a whole world of book bloggers out there! I'm so excited to have found a place to potentially belong!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Time Travelers Wife

My next door neighbor said I should read this book and let her know what I thought about it. I've been on a bit of a kick lately where I'll read pretty much anything anyone says is good ... so I picked it up.

I just finished it a few minutes ago and I just got done crying. Lewis made the comment that I don't see scary movies so why do I read sad books? I don't really have an intelligent response to that.

My first reaction to this book is the author uses foul language kind of roughly. Every time she does it was kind of shocking. I kept jerking my head going "now why is that there?" but that's small potatoes maybe.

The story itself was very good. At the age of 26 Henry (present Henry) meets 20 year old Clare (who is always in the present and doesn't time travel). Henry has never seen Clare before, but Clare has known Henry her entire life.

Confused? I can only imagine how confused the author was when writing it. Henry has a disease that in the future will be called Chrono-Displacement disorder. He phases in and out of time. At any moment he will disappear and travel to a different time, usually to a place that had some impact on him. For instance, he travels over and over again to the scene of his mother's death.

And after he meet Clare at 26, he time travels to her childhood home, and sees her first at 6, and then several other times through her childhood until she is 18. In this way, Clare has known and loved him her whole life. It's this relationship, this love that keeps Henry safe. Appearing and disappearing throughout time is dangerous, and he often is beat up, abused and put in harms way. Knowing Clare gives his life some focus, and he can travel safely with her assistance. Though some things even she can not prevent.

It's being made into a movie which comes out in December staring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. She's a perfect Clare ... I think Bana will be okay.

SPOILERS BELOW. Please don't go any further if you don't want the ending ruined for you.

The thing that gets me that made this just so emotional ... Clare spends her entire life waiting for Henry. From her early childhood when she mets him ... she's always waiting for him to come back. When she does meet him as a grownup, and they do get married, she waits for him to come home every time he disappears.

Henry dies at 43, when Clare is 37. Henry time travels to the future (when he is younger) and visits with their daughter several times throughout her childhood, but never visits with his wife. She spends the remainder of her life waiting for him, because in a letter he leaves for her, he visits her one more time when she is in her 80s. The book ends on that scene ... but I just could not, do not want to, even imagine such a loss.

Definitely was a good book. Something I'll read again and again? No, probably not unless it for a book club or something. I'd be interested in anyone else's thoughts if they'd read it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fairytales don't have to be realistic

So the 4th book in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga came out on Friday night (Saturday morning). I finished it yesterday. I was reading online today to see what other folks thought, and it's pretty much (according to Amazon reviews) split down the middle. A lot of people loved it. And a lot of people hated it.

First ... none of these novels are winning a Pulitzer. They are childish, written for a young audience, and very, very melodramatic. They have two things going for them ... an interesting love triangle, and Edward. Which, I don't really even know why his character is so fascinating, I just think that he is. I think it's part of that forbidden love bit, or ill-fated love.

The 4th book is not as good as the earlier ones in the series. But it is still worth reading. I think most of the negative reviews are occurring because of two things: 1 - they are feminist crazies who think Meyer is going to brainwash girls into thinking getting married and having babies young is the way to go and 2 - because they didn't like the change in Bella.

Let's start with 1.

Bella is married at 18. So what? It's a novel? It's a fictional book that doesn't even pretend to tell anyone else what to do. Obviously this situation is special to this particular girl. I don't think young teenagers are going to go to excessive lengths to marry at 18 and have children so they can be like Bella. They can't be like Bella. Bella marries a vampire and has a 1/2 vampire child.

And ... well what's wrong with wanting children? One of the reviewers at Amazon said that if she felt a baby kick inside her she would be horrified and definitely would not feel the joy that Bella claims to feel. That just makes me feel sorry for that reviewer.

There is nothing anti-feminist about these books. Feminism was/is about choice. You could choose to be what you wanted to be and not what society forced on you. Bella wanted to get married. And when it happened, she wanted to have a baby. No one forced that on her. It was her choice.

The reason her couple got married, is Stephenie Meyer was not writing a love story that involved cohabitation or sex or planning for the future, that did not include monogamy. That is her preference, and the lesson she wanted to push from that, was that sex outside of marriage is not good. I read another review that was put off by the fact that Bella enjoyed sex so much after she was married. I squinted at that one, and felt sorry for that author too. Clearly, something is missing there.

On to 2 - Bella changed in the middle of this book. She was no longer bookish, 17 and in high school. She was married, a mother, and an impossibly beautiful vampire. I don't think her original fan base enjoyed the change. Part of Bella's charm is that she has none. She's clumsy, not athletic, not the most beautiful, not the most eloquent. She's just Bella, an average girl from a broken family who is trying to fit in. Which she never felt like she did.

When she changes ... that all changes. I think she becomes harder for girls to relate to, because they aren't married, they aren't mothers and they aren't impossibly beautiful. At least, they don't think they are.

I had no issue with that change, as I am married, I could very easily be a mother, and well ... my husband makes me feel beautiful. Which is another message that is brought here. Bella was always beautiful to Edward. Just as wives are (should) always be beautiful to their husbands.

I think the reviewers had a harder time relating to this book, because it was outside their scope of reality. They could take teenage vampires, werewolves and danger. But they can't understand marriage, children and that very real need to defend and protect your children through any method available. They haven't had that experience, so it's hard for them to relate.

That's my two cents on that.

I've also heard that they didn't find it realistic. Ummm ... which part of any of this saga was realistic? I think that's code for "It didn't go like I wanted it to."

As with Harry Potter 7, this book left me a little wanting. Not that it was bad, (and parts of it were) but that it was rushing toward an ending. This book at least didn't have a ridiculous Epilogue.

In the end, all of our characters get what they want. Everyone lives happily ever after. And if you didn't know it was a fairy tale, than the title of the last chapter "The Happily Ever After" really ought to have given it away. Meyer always said she wrote these books for herself, and that other people were enjoying them was a huge bonus. I believe this was a fairy tale she told herself, and this (4th book) is how everyone turned out. Good on her for being able to write something that she loves, and profiting from it in more ways than one.