A brief adventure in adult historical fiction

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Phillipa Gregory

Despite Gregory being a rather prolific writer, and my generally enjoyment of historical fiction, it’s maybe a bit surprising that I haven’t read anything else by Phillipa Gregory, not even the Other Boleyn Girl. But I was in an airport and it was on sale, so there you have it.

I actually really enjoyed it. Many people I talked to said her more recent stuff isn’t as good as the older ones, and who can blame her? She must be running out of Tudor women to give a twist to and write about. But without anything to compare it to, I really liked Three Sisters, Three Queens.

It’s the story of Henry VIII’s older sister Margret, who was married to the King of Scotland as a young teen and acted as regent for her son by him when her husband was killed. The center of the story is the dynamic of Catherine of Aragon, Margret and her younger sister Mary, three Tudor princesses who all marry kings but ultimately lead tragic lives.

What I liked most about the story was Margret’s rather annoying, petty, bratty personality. She saw her whole life as a competition against her sisters. When she is succeeding and they are not, she is smug and filled with false generosity and when they are outdoing her she resents the same behaviour. It sounds like a weird thing to really enjoy about a main character but I really liked the fact that she was filled with personality, even if it was an often dis-likable personality, and not a Mary Sue kind of princess. Also, I was ablw to read her as a very sympathetic character despite this because it seemed to me that someone so young, naive and out of touch with reality should be pitied. She was raised without any real understanding of the world – she was a symbol of Tudor power, but never a person so it’s not surprising that she mishandles every challenge she ever faces. How would she know better?

The most interesting thing about historical fiction of course is never about the history but what interests us know and what that says about who we are. I’m glad I had a bit of a reminder of that.

Last movie I watched:

Valentine’s Day. Not as good as Love Actually.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Musketeers. Such a wonderful, swashbuckling show

Tiny Owly

Owly: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton

This is basically a baby chapter book (seriously, I watched a baby try to read it this morning). I’ve previously reviewed Owly and I don’t have a lot more to add to it. Owly is great for earlier readers because it’s basically a graphic novel but instead of text it’s got pictographs of sorts – mostly punctuation and the occasional picture image so it really helps teach early literacy skills to children with very little letter knowledge. There’s lots of opportunity for decoding, literacy skills like page orientation and narrative understanding without getting the frustration of letter knowledge and phonetics. Obviously it’s a stepping stone book, and your kid should grow out of it, but particularly for struggling readers, Owly is a great place to gain confidence and prepare for their future of prolific reading when at present, things are a little challenging.

Last movie I watched: Home I think. Very sweet although apparently no one’s favourite Pixar. I loved it though.

Last TV episode I watched:

Smallville. One of the things I love most about this show is how many women are on it (no tokenism here) and that they are friends with each other, not rivals (or even if they are, they’re still friends), not enemies but friends.

Ninja Turtles aren’t as fun as I remember

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: New Animated Adventures: Vol 3 by Justin Eisnger and Alonzo Simon plus 23 other artists

It’s not that the Ninja Turtles aren’t awesome, they are, but this book wasn’t a great example. For  book that’s no more than 150 pages, 8 short stories in there means that the quality of the stories isn’t great. Some of them are cute and fun, and they all do a great job of displaying the Ninja Turtles different personalities, but there’s no time to build a story or a villain or really any readers investment

Having said that, this book really is targeted at young readers. I don’t like dumbed down stories to make them more appealing to kids because kids are smart and shouldn’t be talked down to. But particularly for kids who are having trouble with comprehension reading really short stories is a good way to practice developing that skill.

Final report: As an adult looking for a fun, kid’s graphic novel experience, it kind of failed. But as a story for kids who love Ninja Turtles and could use a little light reading, it’s probably great.

Last movie I watched:

Probably still Victor Frankenstein. As previously mentioned, it didn’t do a lot for me.

Last TV episode I watched:

Touch, which I love in all possible ways. But I wonder why they never say “autism” to describe Jake and whether this is part of a failure to recognize autistic people or not and what an autistic viewer would think.


Not getting swept off my feet

Fallen In Love by Lauren Kate

Right off the bat, I’m going to say this was a pretty unimpressive book. But it’s also a novella that slips in somewhere in the middle of the Fallen series, which I have not read, so maybe it’s much better if you have a bit of context.

I picked it up by mistake when I was working in a very small library that basically only had adult audiobooks and I needed it that day for a long drive.Lots of pressure, not a lot of time to think. This is how accidents happen to me.

This story is four short stories about love, told from the perspective of the major characters in the Fallen trilogy. The first one was Shelley and Miles, two friends of the protagonist Lucinda, who have followed her through time to a Valentines Day festival in medieval England. Perhaps snobbishly, I didn’t find their love story particularly enchanting. The two of them just kinda realized they loved each other. Maybe I’m being too hard on it, since that’s my own experience falling in love (just kinda realizing I’m in it) but overall they weren’t that interesting as characters and the story wasn’t particularly driven.

The next one was much better. The story of Roland, an angel or possibly a fallen angel, I’m not sure, I’m missing a lot of background here, and his one true love. This story is much more interesting because it’s about the forces that drive people apart, bring them back together and the cost of truly loving someone. All in all, Roland and his beloved were much more interesting lovers and their actions and motivations much more real, and moving. My favourite part (spoiler!) was the end, when Roland realized that although he was still in love, she wasn’t and that the only thing he could do to ever prove his love, even if she never knew it, was to save the life of her husband.

The next story was my favourite. The story of Arianne and her lover Tess. An angel and a demon, so obviously in love, but unable to be together forever because of the forces that draw them apart. Besides how nice it is to see lesbians represented, and as more then just token lesbians, and the genuine love and affection between the two characters, I appreciated that it was the gay characters who faced such extreme outside pressure to not be together and eventually that struggle broke them apart. Because sometimes that happens.  Arianne’s struggle to be true to herself and with her love was also very real and moving. Also the end of their relationship left me in tears. It was awful.

And then, by comparison, Lucinda and Daniel’s only Valentine’s Day together was pretty unspectacular. Compared to the two stories that came before it, which were about the struggles of love, it wasn’t that interesting to read about a nice romantic surprise for two characters with very little actual character (Again, this might be totally different to someone who’d read the in the order they were supposed to). It was satisfying in the last one to see the way all the stories came together, but overall, it wasn’t really my favourite.

My advice, which I obviously didn’t take, is read them in the right order. If you’re not going to do that, maybe don’t bother.

Last movie I watched:

Love Actually. I actually love it.

Last TV episode I watched:

Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t actually watch the show, just pick up an episode here and there. It was fine I guess. I don’t know.