#110 ~ The Other Queen

October 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, Philippa Gregory, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies | 8 Comments
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The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory

I had been awaiting the publication of The Other Queen since I finished reading The Virgin’s Lover in October of 2007.  As time progressed and got closer to its September 16th release, my anticipation kept growing.  Finding out that I would be seeing Philippa Gregory in person just a couple of short weeks added to my excitement.  When I finally held the book in my hands, it was a happy day indeed.  Although this novel did not displace The Other Boleyn Girl as my favorite of Gregory’s Tudor series, I enjoyed the time I spent with Mary, Queen of Scots, Lord Shrewsberry, and, most especially, Lady Bess of Hardwick.

When writing about Mary, Queen of Scots, Gregory chose to explore her first several years in British captivity.  In what at first seemed like a royal privilege bestowed upon them by Queen Elizabeth, the Lord Shrewsberry and his new wife, Lady Bess, were asked to house the Scots Queen the short time that she would be safeguarded in Great Britain.  What they found quite early on, however, was that holding court for the Queen of Scots was expensive and would quickly rely on them living beyond their means.  What they didn’t realize right away was all that this honor would cost them.

Lady Bess, the first in her kind in the way she accumulated wealth and managed the properties left to her by her husbands, was dreaming of the wealth and favor that would come with performing such a task.  She married her way up to the nobility and was proud of the way she orchestrated her life and was now able to make a place for her children.  She learned how to keep books and it had become her passion.  She took pride in knowing to the penny how much she was worth and what she had spent.  As I got to know her, it became apparent that when things were happening beyond her control that she had her own inner mantra about who she now is and how efficient she is as a landlord.  She is quite the Protestant, but when she’s under stress, all she needs are prayer beads to make this mantra into her own personal rosary.

For all their differences, Mary, Queen of Scots is much like Lady Bess.  She, too, handles stress by telling herself over and over who she is and what her station means.  When she is confident in what she is doing and the plans that are underway on the outside to free her and return her to her throne, her thoughts are fluid and she has a hard time containing her enthusiasm.  There is no need to remind herself that she is a queen of the royal blood.  She is prospering in that role.  When she is not, or when she feels defeated, her thoughts of freedom and who she is become excessive and obsessive.  It is then that she thinks of Bothwell.  When things become dark enough, she admits to what he did.  In her fear she reveals how vulnerable she is, which makes her no different from any other woman.

Philippa Gregory made a bold choice in choosing to tell Mary, Queen of Scots’ story of early imprisonment.  Despite the lack of physical action, it paid off for me.  I understood Mary and Bess both in their perceived triumphs and actual defeats.  I felt their impatience, resentment, and the immense weight of their boredom.  Whether it was intentional or not, Baron Burghley and Queen Elizabeth proved that all torture has to be physical to be effective.  If I were to change one thing about this novel, I might have chosen a different third voice.  Lord Shrewsberry’s last chapter didn’t work well for me.  I would have chosen someone from outside the house.  Thomas Howard or Queen Elizabeth would have added a third distinct layer to the story.

The Other Queen is a novel of internal drama.  As Mary, Queen of Scots is prisoner from start to finish, and her jailers could not be rid of her.  There was a constant battle between the Shrewberry’s and their other queen.  When Lady Bess is up, Mary is down.  When Mary is up, Lady Bess is down.  Lord Shrewsberry was beaten and battered by the storm erupting between the two women.  Still, this novel was not as compelling as The Other Boleyn Girl or The Boleyn Inheritance, but it kept my interest and my interest grew with the characters.  I look forward to reading more about Mary, Queen of Scots and Bess of Hardwick.

Now that my reading of Gregory’s Tudor series is complete, I would rank them in the following order:

1) The Other Boleyn Girl
2) The Boleyn Inheritance
3) The Queen’s Fool
4) The Other Queen
5) The Constant Princess
6) The Virgin’s Lover

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To buy this novel, click here.

Camping, My 6 Quirks, and Other Excuses Not to Write My Reviews

October 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Posted in LIfe, Reading | 15 Comments
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I had a great time camping with my family and co-workers over the weekend.  Our tent worked out great.  Emma got to spend nearly the entire time taking care of two puppies.  Allison became fast friends with Maya, my co-worker’s daughter.  We had s’mores, we took a paddle boat ride, Danny and the girls went on the Pipestem Tram, and we shared some great family bonding the first night as we all lost a few fingers and toes due to the cold.  🙂  I’ll post some pictures in my Sunday Salon post on Sunday. I didn’t get to do as much reading as I had wanted, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I did read.

Despite some lukewarm reviews I’ve read, I’m really enjoying The Other Queen.  In fact, for the first time in my memory, I’ve dreampt about this book – not just once, but twice!  What others have seen as repetitive, I’ve enjoyed as a look inside the heads of Bess and Queen Mary.  You can really tell when they are anxious.  Bess especially reminds me of the two years after Allison was born.  When I was anxious, I had a mantra of things I would think about over and over again.  I’ll write more about it during my review (Ha!  Write a review.  What’s that?), but I’m enjoying looking at these characters from a psychological perspective.

When I returned home from camping, there were 359 posts waiting for me in my Google Reader.  There were over 430 when I got home from work tonight.  I’ve gotten half way through the blogs and I’m hoping to completely catch up tomorrow night.  I missed a lot in a few short days, that’s for sure.

I was tagged by Amy at Passages to the Past to list 6 quirky things about me (just six? really?).  Here goes:

1) I am afraid of hay – most specifically the sort found in bales.
2) I will not knowingly eat a food stuff that has touched raisins.  I will never forgive someone who tries to trick me.
3) My toes play with each other all the time and I’m mostly unaware of it.  Nervous habit I suppose.  It drives my mother crazy and she is all the way in Michigan.
4) When I was four I loved Wonder Woman.  I would always pretend to turn into her.  Once I did that too close to the sliding glass doors and have a nice scar in the shape of a sickle on the side of my right hand from where it went through the glass.  I need to buy the series on DVD so I can watch them again with my girls.  BTW, the only Halloween costumes I remember were my Raggedy Anne and Wonder Woman costumes.  Those damn plastic masks were hot, but I loved dressing up in them.
5) I can pick out Ted Levine’s voice in just one note.  After making me vomit (literally) during The Silence of the Lambs (finding the YouTube video for the above link made my tummy hurt and I have the sound turned off on my laptop), I have become hyper sensitive to it.  I cannot watch Monk because of this.  My husband used to doubt this super power, but no longer.  If you found Joyride at all scary, it was because he was the one saying, “candy cane.”  Otherwise, it would have just been a silly, silly movie.
6) I enjoy watching Drake and Josh and iCarly with my family.  Spencer on iCarly cracks me up.

I have completely lost my book review mojo.  I don’t know if this is because work has been pretty darn intense over the past few weeks, but I like to blame it on that anyway.  I have some interesting books to write about, but every time I sit down to seriously write about them I hear the crickets in my head louder than the owl and bobcat that scared Emma to death during the first night we were camping.  Speaking of which, I seriously wonder if I could write a review to keep the owls and bobcats away.  What kind of a mother am I???  ACK!

Okay, I’ve spent the better part of three hours reading your posts (very enjoyable) and writing this post (complete and total procrastination).  I can write this quickly and easily to keep myself from writing a review – what is wrong with me?  Actually, after reading about my quirkiness, please don’t answer that question.

The Sunday Salon 09.21.08

September 21, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Books, LIfe | 12 Comments
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The Sunday Salon.comIt is such a gorgeous day today!  This is the first morning I woke up feeling chilly.  A few months from now I’ll no doubt be complaining about this, but it felt really, really good.  I’ll be wearing long pants and a long sleeve t-shirt today for sure.  And, since I’ve finally gotten my seasonal blahs to a manageable place, I can enjoy the cooler weather and the changing of the colors. 🙂

What a week!  Book Blogger Appreciation Week was an inspiration to me.  Jen at Devourer of Books made my week early on and it just stayed that way.  I enjoyed visiting new blogs and presenting four of the awards and two contests.   It culminated in a wonderful book blogger wide shout out to Amy at My Friend Amy that was really impressive.  It’s amazing what a group of people who don’t know each other can do in such a short period of time. I want to personally thank Trish at Hey Lady, Whatcha Readin’ for the gorgeous button she created for Amy.  It is absolutely lovely!

The Literate Housewives’ Book Club is also back up and running.  After 9 months, we’re giving it another try.  In addition to the blog, I’ve created a forum and will be creating a newsletter.  Our first book is Immortal by Traci Slatton.  A couple of the members have finished the book, but I’m about 10 chapters in myself.  We’re not actually describing the book until we’ve finished, which will probably be closer to the end of the month.  So, there’s still time to join if you’re interested.

In addition to the blogging, I got a good deal of reading done.  I finished Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelly Hall.  I read that novel to help out Andi at AndiLit.  It was really good and I just noticed that in the activity of BBAW that Amy hosted a guest post by the author.  I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to the sequel.  I also read and enjoyed The Torn Skirt by Rebecca Godfrey.  I’ll be writing and posting the reviews for these novels this week.

I have a question about young adult literature for those of you who regularly read and review it.  Sisters of Misery is listed in the YA Lit category.  It was about a group of high school aged girls, so that fits YA to me.  However, there were quite a few references to drugs, sex, rape, and gang rape.  Two characters, one of whom is a high school character, smoke.  What really stuck out to me as being inappropriate for a YA novel is my least favorite word, c*nt.  Are these topics and the use of that kind of language acceptable or common in the YA literature of today?  It’s been since the late 80s since I’ve read YA fiction and I know that a lot has changed…

I’m starting Bad Monkey by Matt Ruff and The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory in addition to Immortal for my reading this week.  A lot of great reading is heading my way.

Next weekend I’ll be heading to the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. and I cannot wait!  I’ll have pictures and a report back on those festivities in my next Sunday Salon.  In the meantime, have a great week everyone!

BBAW: Book Blog Awards & Philippa Gregory Scavenger Hunt

September 12, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Philippa Gregory, Reading | 7 Comments
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For updates on this Scavenger Hunt:

Please head over here.  I’ve added the number of prizes.

_____________

Next week will be a busy week here at The Literate Housewife Review:

  • I’ll be hosting the award for Book Blog Readers.  I announced this contest earlier this week.  Be sure to check this out and send me your entry before it’s too late!  I’ve gotten a huge response.  It’s going to be so difficult to narrow it down to 10!
  • I’ll be hosting some awards ceremonies for the following wonderful categories:  Community Builder, Author, Historical, and Fantasy.  I’ll be posting more about this later on tonight.
  • Visiting all of the other blogs and participating in the contests.  I am so excited about the whole thing and wish I could take the week off of work. 🙂

Still, that just doesn’t seem like quite enough.  I need to do one more thing, I just can’t help myself.  As my readers know, I’m a huge Philippa Gregory fan.  I’m anxiously awaiting the publication of The Other Queen on Tuesday the 16th.

On the 27th, my husband is taking me to DC to meet her in person (!!!!!) at the National Book Festival.  With Book Blogger Appreciation Week to top it all off, this is so my month!  So, to bring two of my passions together, I’m going to host a Philippa Gregory Scavenger Hunt beginning Sunday, September 15.  Here are the details:

Between now and midnight EST on Sunday, I will be adding a graphic of my favorite historical fiction author in 10 places on my blog.  The first person to email me and correctly identify each place I’ve added her photo will win.  If no one correctly identifies all of the posts by 5pm EST on Tuesday, September 16, the winner will be the person who has sent me an email with the most correct locations.  If there is a tie, I’ll use Randomizer to select the winner.  So, even if you can’t find all of her pictures, submit your entry!

So, what might you get for prowling around my blog looking for Philippa?  How about a copy of The Other Queen?  I won’t be able to send you the book until the 29th, though.  I hope you don’t mind.  You see, unless disaster strikes and I can’t make it to DC, I will be bringing this copy of the book with me to have it signed to you by Philippa!  What do you think?  You’re coming back on Sunday, aren’t you? 😉

A Love Letter to The Other Queen

August 8, 2008 at 10:25 am | Posted in Books, Historical Fiction, LIfe, Philippa Gregory, Reading | 14 Comments
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If ever there was a novel I have coveted and wanted in my hot little hands NOW, it is The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory. Ever since I finished her other books about the Tudor clan, I’ve been willing time to speed up time and make September 16, 2008 arrive. Thus far, it hasn’t worked. I even contemplated writing an open post to Simon and Schuster and Philippa Gregory begging for an ARC. In the end, I opted to retain my dignity and self-respect and wait patiently.

obvious choice

obvious choice

I won’t be reading any reviews of the book beforehand. While I don’t have patience for many other things, I have no problem avoiding reviews of books and movies beforehand. In fact, I haven’t even read anything else about Mary, Queen of Scots because I want my “first time” to be with Philippa. All that I will be bringing to this story is my deep respect and admiration for Gregory and my love for the Tudors. I know that this will end in tragedy, but that is where Gregory works her best magic. I cannot wait.

In some respects, my waiting has come to an end. This morning I pre-ordered my copy of the novel. September 16 is still 40 days away counting today, but knowing that there is a copy with my name written on it (but not, unfortunately, by Philippa Gregory herself), gives me some peace. I know that the moment it see that package on the front porch I will jump out of the car, run up to it, and hug it to my chest. When I have time alone (the girls tend to be all over me when I’m opening a box) – most probably locked in the bathroom – I will open the box and just look at it. I’ll run my fingers over the title and the author’s name and then pick it up. I’ll look at the back cover and run my hands over it. I’ll open the book and read the inside flaps. Finally, I’ll open the book somewhere in the middle, move my nose in close and breathe the book in. Sigh…

Until then, I will continue to eagerly anticipate what I hope will be my best reading experience of the year, not unlike Mary on the cover.

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