Book: The Lost Tudor Princess- The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas

*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

(I am SO late in writing up this review).

I requested The Lost Tudor Princess thinking I was requesting a historical fiction of Lady Margaret Douglas. I was wrong. Very, very wrong. It was non-fiction. I was surprised as I don’t have any non fiction in my categories, but I decided to read it. Honestly, I probably should read more non-fiction.

lost-tudor-princessThis is a true biography of the life of Margaret Douglas, niece to Henry VIII and cousin to Queen Elizabeth I. It describes Margaret’s life in detail, to the circumstances surrounding her birth, her long life, and to the lives of her children as well. Margaret was an interesting woman, and walked a very fine line between a tumultuous political time.

I’m fairly familiar with the history of Henry VIII and Elizabeth’s long road to power, through the brief reign of her brother and bloody reign of her sister. Despite my knowledge of the history and familiarity with some of the more famous figures of the time, I had never heard about Margaret Douglas. I was really intrigued by her life and impressed by her. She lived through a lot, including imprisonment (multiple times), the death of her parents and uncle, the death of her cousins (Edward and Mary), the death of her son, and then the death of her husband.

The problem I had with the book is how very dry it was. I understand it was non fiction and a biography. It almost read like an academic biography with how extremely detailed it was. But it’s extreme detail also made it very difficult for me to get through. It would give names of the various people involved in Margaret’s life, and then refer to them as their title rather than their name. This ended up being very confusing as titles were often changing. I wish there had been a guide to the key people mentioned in the book. Between all the political ties and servants, especially with all the people Margaret Douglas corresponded with through letters, it was difficult to keep track of everyone. I often had to refer to the family time line or the annotated notes in the back, but my ebook links were off and didn’t take me to the specific page. Halfway through I decided to give up reading the notes.

Despite Margaret being a fascinating person in history, I have to give this a 2 out of 5 stars. Between the cumbersome ebook format, lack of of who’s who section, and the incredibly dry writing, it was a difficult read for me.However, I felt like I learned a lot.

On another note, I learned something about myself. I always tend to romanticize the Elizabethan era time. I blame Shakespeare. But I think this book helped me realize how terrible of a Lady I would be. Margaret was incredibly cunning and very ambitious. I am not the least bit ambitious or competitive, so I probably would not have fared well. I would have ended up like poor Lady Jane and got myself beheaded.

 

 

Book: Lumiere

lumiere cover*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

The world has plunged into darkness after the Night of the Great Illumination which has changed the landscape of the world. Eyelet is on the search for her father’s machine, the Illuminator, which is supposed to help cure her affliction. She discovers the machine only to find someone has stolen it, the mysterious Urlick.

I fell in love with the gorgeous cover of this book and it was easily available to review. It started off with a really great beginning in a steampunk world with a smart, strong heroine in Eyelet.

Then the rest of the book followed.

After Eyelet met Urlick, she suddenly seemed to become a needy, whiny idiot who couldn’t do anything for herself. She jumped to the craziest conclusions about the mysterious things happening around her, with no evidence what so ever. The mysterious events in the house were really mild but Eyelet’s imagination went crazy and resulted with her running out of house into poison fog. Where did the smart, strong heroine go?

I liked Urlick’s chapters and I wished they happened more often as I got more and more annoyed with Eyelet. Urlick initially has feelings for Eyelet right away, but Eyelet’s feelings seemed to come out of no where. At one point in the book, she even tried to jump his bones which seemed really out of character for her very protected upbringing.

The world building became very muddled as more and more different kinds of beings were created; ghosts that act like zombies, witchcraft, shapeshifters, and criminals that acted like cannibals. It was all very confusing. At first, none of them could be defeated and then somehow they were immune to certain things once the characters faced them.

That was a big problem with the plot. A lot of quick fixes that didn’t make sense. A talking raven can’t talk, and then suddenly is able to talk again when it was most convenient to help Eyelet. There is no proper explanation for this. Similar plot holes happened A LOT.  It was as if the writer couldn’t figure out how to fix her own issues, so magically made them go away.

I will admit there was some great moments when characters explained the steampunk machinery of their world. I also really liked Urlick and Eyelet together, as they had some cute moments.

Unfortunately, the world building was all over the place and the plot was a mess. It honestly read like a rough draft of a novel that needed more fine tuning. Not sure how I am going to get through the second book. What a disappointment. I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.

Nicholas Sparks-Part I

How much do I love Nicholas Sparks? Let me count the ways.

I randomly picked up my first Nicolas Sparks novel while I was bored at a family friend’s house. It looked intriguing. It was called The Rescue and to this day it is still one of my favorite Nicolas Sparks novels. (Fact: I have read all of Sparks’ novels including his Autobiography ‘Three Weeks with my Brother’).

Many of his books have been turned into movies, because his novels translate extremely well into movies. They’re heartfelt, chick flick, tear jerkers that readers and viewers can appreciate. A lot of people accuse him for being too sad and always having his characters die, which can be the case. However, tragedy can strike at any time and dying is a part of life. I think that’s what Sparks’ illustrates in his books, love and loss.

I thought of reviewing his most popular book/movie releases such as The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, but I actually watched those movies before reading the books so I have very different opinions about them. I decided to go with the books I had read first before seeing their movie counterparts. The ones I will be reviewing are Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Dear John.

One of the things I like about Nicholas Sparks is that not all of his books are about young, summer love. He depicts romance across all ages, including those who might be past their prime and get a second chance at romance. Nights in Rodanthe is one of those. Adrienne has been abandoned by her husband and takes the opportunity to get away and tend to her friend’s bed and breakfast. Paul is a successful surgeon, also divorced, and the B&B’s only guest. In preparation of a storm about to hit, the two fall in love.

It’s really a story about two people who have broken down and find each other amidst a storm. When I read it, it wasn’t one of my favorites. Maybe I was too young to appreciate the older and divorced pain that the two have gone through. One of the big differences in the movie was Adrienne’s husband asking her if they can get back together, which becomes a theme through the movie as she ponders the question.

Richard Gere is getting old but I still think he’s super sexy in the movie. Diane Lane was brilliant as well. I liked their chemistry together. I would say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I would give the book a 3 out of 5 and the movie a 3.5 out of 5.

The Last Song is about Ronnie (Veronica) and her younger brother living with her estranged dad for the summer, finding first love, and saving the sea turtles. The book was well written, seamlessly plotted, and poignantly told. All the characters were fully developed and evolved throughout the novel. It’s one of my favorites by Nicholas Sparks. (Fact: Most of Nicholas Sparks’ books are my favorite).

I was really hesitant about the movie because Miley Cyrus was playing Ronnie. I didn’t think she could pull off the depth of Ronnie’s character and growth that she goes through in the novel. Much to my delight, the basic storyline was very similar to the book and I felt myself drawn into the story. Greg Kinnear, who played her dad, was fantastic. Although I still think Ronnie should have been recast, Miley Cyrus was not as terrible as I imagined. I enjoyed Liam Hemsworth as the leading man as well. They obviously have great chemistry together.

The movie was a very decent adaptation of the book, despite some minor plot changes. I think the book though was much more enjoyable and included less Miley Cyrus. I would give the book a 4 out of 5 and the movie a 3 out of 5.

Dear John

Dear John is another one of my favorites of Nicholas Sparks. It follows the story of John Tyree who falls in love with Savannah while he’s on leave from the Army. They continue their love through letters as John finishes his assignment. Until 9/11 happens and John has to decide to fight for his country or return to his true love. The book is heartfelt and well written. Nicholas Sparks wrote this as a tribute to the people enlisted in the US military, and I felt it was portrayed well (especially with the aftermath of 9/11).

I initially had not heard very good reviews of the movie, but I had to decide for myself. I actually thought the movie was a decent interpretation of the book. I like that it still involved John’s relationship with his father, as that is a large part of the book. It also of course touched on how 9/11 changed the military, which resulted in John’s relationship changing with Savannah. However, I had two issues with the movie. The biggest problem was the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried falls very flat. That factor alone affects the whole movie. The other problem is that the ending is different. I don’t mind a different ending if it works. In this case, it did not.

The book is extremely good and I cried through most of the last chapter. (Fact: I cry often when reading Nicholas Sparks). The adaptation of the book to the movie was decent, but the lack of chemistry between the actors made it unbelievable. I was a bit disappointed. I would give the book a 4 out of 5, but the movie gets a 2 out of 5.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2007). 224 pages. OUP. $12.99

During my brief stint with working at Border’s, I was in charge of the displays of the newest bestsellers. My manager made me in charge of the kid and Young Adult shelves. His reasoning was that I seemed to care about them most (out of the other employees, which was sadly true). This book was considered as a Young Adult novel, and all I knew was it dealt with the Holocaust. I decided to check it out.

The book started off promising. It begins with very innocent 9 year old Bruno who only cares about hanging out with his best friends, until his dad receives a promotion in the military and they have to move to a place Bruno calls “Out-with” (a not-so-clever name for Auschwitz). The novel continues as the Bruno family move into their new home. The Bruno family is composed of an emotionally distant, domineering father, an alcoholic mother (who presumably has an affair with a German officer), and an older sister who only plays with her dolls. A very bored Bruno explores his new home, and meets a boy with striped pajamas, Shmuel, who lives on the opposite side of the wire fence. They become fast friends in their unique situation as Bruno goes out to meet Shmuel every day.

Bruno begins questioning about all the people living on the other side of the fence in his new home, and questioning what his dad does in his new position. However, he doesn’t question enough. Bruno is very naive which works for the beginning of the novel, and then begins to fall flat. He never develops, never grows, and never seems to understand how Shmuel really lives. He continues to be a selfish brat after a whole year of living in his home, still not pronouncing the name Auschwitz correctly after being told multiple times (he also refers to Hitler as The Fury).

For example, Shmuel asks Bruno to bring food on his daily visits. Pampered Bruno gets hungry on his trips to visit his friend, and most of the food never makes it to Shmuel. Bruno seems to be entirely ignorant of what being a Jew is and even asks his sister if he himself is a Jew. I find this a little hard to believe since Nazi Germany would have certainly educated Bruno on the Jews. Bruno continues to not realize what Shmuel’s life is like and that people die daily on the other side of the fence. Even when Bruno eventually visits his friend by going to the other side of the fence to help Shmuel find his father, (Bruno for some reason thinks he is a detective and can find clues of where Shmuel’s father could be), Bruno STILL doesn’t seem to understand the death, devastation, and despair of Auschwitz.

More depressing is that the book is actually meant for kids (ages 9-12) and some teachers use it as a way to teach children about the Holocaust. There were moments in the book where Bruno’s character should have developed, and instead he stayed static. I don’t feel like he’s a reliable narrator for the devastation of the Holocaust, and there are plenty of better books to teach children with. A book that had a lot of promise fell terribly short of my expectations. I give it a rating of 2/5.

Then I heard there was an indie film released based on the book. And, of course, I had to see how they compare, hoping that the screenwriters might have made Bruno a little more conscientious and little less self absorbed.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008). PG-13. Starring Asa Butterfield and David Thewlis. Directed by Mark Herman. 94 min. $29.99.

The movie begins with a happy family, excited about the father’s new promotion and their move to the country. I was a little thrown off by the movie being entirely cast with English actors, but I got over it and tried to focus on the film. I did not want to like the movie because the book upset me so much. However, I tried to keep an open mind and am happy to report that the movie was marginally better.

The movie initially shows Bruno’s content family, and as the movie progresses the family unit slowly begins to unravel as they continue to stay in Auschwitz. This works much better than the book beginning with a very discordant family, one that has issues from the very start. It helps the viewer have a lot more sympathy for the characters. I cared a great deal more for Bruno’s family in the movie than I did for them in the book. This might not seem a big deal, but it greatly affects the outcome of the ending.

Bruno is still self absorbed, but he does not remain naive. He is taught about who the Jews are and what the camp is for, from his tutor, his sister, and partly by his father. He begins questioning his father’s job and what is done to the people in the camp. After a very key event in the plot, Bruno also begins to doubt if his father is a good man. He changes his mind when he secretly watches a propaganda film on Jewish camps, which makes him think the best of his father.  This worked a lot better than the book because it kept his character naive, not stupid. Of course a young boy is going to want to think the best of his father, even if evidence suggests otherwise.

The liberties they took with the movie actually worked a lot better than the book itself, and a lot of the good parts of the book remained in the movie. The only big difference was that the timeline seemed very different. In the book Bruno lives in Auschwitz for a whole year, while the movie only seemed like a few months. This also worked better for the movie though, because his character did not age nearly as much as he did in the book. A definite improvement over the book, I would rate the movie 3/5.