Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Thoughts - Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory

Three Sisters, Three Queens

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
published 2016
556 pages

Synopsis -

As sisters they share an everlasting bond; As queens they can break each other’s hearts.

“There is only one bond that I trust: between a woman and her sisters. We never take our eyes off each other. In love and in rivalry, we always think of each other.”

When Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a sisterhood unique in all the world. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.

United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. Katherine commands an army against Margaret and kills her husband James IV of Scotland. But Margaret’s boy becomes heir to the Tudor throne when Katherine loses her son. Mary steals the widowed Margaret’s proposed husband, but when Mary is widowed it is her secret marriage for love that is the envy of the others. As they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.

My thoughts -

This novel definitely tested my love of all things Tudor. I sense that Margaret of Scotland has less source material about her life available than the rest of the rowdy clan, because the author seemed to give her the same thoughts over and over again, and unfortunately for the reader, those thoughts tended to the whiny and self-absorbed. Gregory really wanted her readers to believe that Margaret was highly beloved, by her two sister-queens, and by the procession of handsome, accomplished men she called husband. Unfortunately, she didn't give us much reason to believe that, instead portraying a women whose obsession with place and precedence was nearly all she ever thought about.

I have noticed something about myself as a reader lately, however. I'm well past the point in my reading experience where I have to actually LIKE a character to sympathize with them. It's probably what makes me the only Game of Thrones fan in the entire world who doesn't despise Cersei - she's awful. I'd never deny that. She does horrible things to everyone with little remorse. But I GET why she does those things. I understand her motivation, however misplaced, and so I sympathize with her even while I recognize that her actions are unforgiveable. I had much the same reaction to many of Margaret's actions. (Not the whining. The whining was just annoying.) Margaret makes some REALLY dumb decisions. But honestly, in her place, I'm not sure I would have been any wiser than she was. So while I am able to see how misguided were some of her efforts, I can still sympathize with the actions she takes. I don't LIKE her, but I GET her.

I also felt a little mislead by the title of this book. I really thought this would be a story about three women - instead, this is totally Margaret's story, from Margaret's point of view. Katharine and Mary are players, but never in the forefront. I think a bit of time spent in their heads might have been a nice change from Margaret's incessant complaining about who got to proceed whom when entering a room.

All that said, while this is certainly not my favorite of Gregory's Tudor novels, it did have all the juicy, gossipy pseudo-soap opera-y relationship shenanigans that make Gregory one of my main comfort read authors. Don't read this thinking you will fall in love with the main character - do read it for the insanity of the royal life that you just can't get enough of. It wasn't my favorite, but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever read either.

Finished - 9/28/16
Source - South side library
MPAA rating - PG-13, like all Gregory novels, for period danger & romance
My rating - 3/5

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

What's Making Me Happy This Week - 9/28/16

Yes, I will listen to ALL of the Hamilton medleys. Just keep suggesting them, YouTube.

And some more really good acappella....

And because county music is really bringing it this week....

What's making YOU happy this week?

Monday, September 26, 2016

The State of the Stacks - 9/26/16

Love Does by Bob Goff -

I am having a really hard time getting on board with this one. It's not poorly written, and I fully agree with the basic idea - love should be shown with actions, not just words - but something about it is just hitting me wrong. Trying to figure out why I'm in the huge minority on this one.....

Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory -

Some day I will, once and for all and forever, have my fill of fictionalized accounts of the Tudor dynasty. Today is clearly not that day.

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss -

Because we have two SIX-year-olds in the house today!!! SIX. How did that even happen???

What's on YOUR nightstand?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What's Making Me Happy This Week - 9/21/16

Andi, the fabulous blogger behind Estella's Revenge, is one of the first people I ever "met" in the internet book world. We were part of a Yahoo group together - anyone else remember when those were a thing? I remember when she started her blog. I watched her take over and rock the leadership of Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon. She's one of those people I feel like I know, even though we've never met in real life.

A couple of weeks ago, Andi started a new adventure - Wrecking Ball Designs. It's an Etsy shop with hand-drawn stickers, book plates, washi strips, and lots of fun. At about the same time, I realized I was out of my supply of personalized book plates, and I contacted her. Less than 48 hours later, she'd sent me the designs for two book plates I loved, and they were in my hands within a week.

She took my partially-formed ideas and created me the exact thing I was hoping for but couldn't really express. I absolutely love them.

So what's making me happy this week - new, fun bookish goodies, and watching a friend launch a new chapter.

Visit Andi's Etsy shop at Wrecking Ball Designs - she's been teasing a sticker pack based on one of my FAVORITE books, The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. I cannot wait to get my hands on it!!!

(Disclaimer - I purchased these goodies with my own money, and they are worth every penny.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The State of the Stacks - 9/19/16

Lots of work-related business to tend to at home this week, so not much movement on the stacks.....

Still just starting to dig into these two....they are both beautiful, so I simultaneously want to read as fast as I can, and slow down and savor the experience. 

What's on your nightstand??

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Thoughts - A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker

A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker
published 9/13/2016
199 pages

Synopsis -

As a host and guest judge for HGTV and DIY Network (My Big Family Renovation, Brother v.s. Brother, Tiny House Arrest), Brandon Hatmaker understands what it takes to rehab a home. But after twenty-plus years of working with the local church (and as husband to bestselling author Jen Hatmaker), he has an even greater understanding of what it takes to rehab an everyday faith. In A Mile Wide, he helps readers see more clearly how the gospel works in us and eventually through us to transform an anemic spiritual life into a deeper, fuller, and more effective faith.

My thoughts -

I don't remember the last time I read a work of Christian nonfiction by a male author.

Scratch that - I do. I remember getting so mad at John Piper in college that I swore I would never read another straight, white dude's ideas about God ever. EVER.

So fast-forward a whole bunch of years, and I discover and fall in love with Jen Hatmaker. So when I hear her husband has a new book coming out, I am - despite my best intentions - curious. I decide to give it a shot.

And it was good. And honestly, that's saying something, because I've read some pretty amazing books in this genre this year, so he had a fairly high standard to live up to. His book was a nice mixture of big dreams - as Christians, we are called to step out and meet the needs of the world - as well as practical steps - start by slowing down, and identifying what actually needs to be done where you live. Hatmaker introduces a new way of living and relating to the world, but doesn't stop at the ideas - he gives individual people the tools to make change, in their own house, neighborhood, and community. His words are challenging, and I found myself nodding with agreement on one page, and feeling convicted on the next.

For example -

"We like people to share our theology, skin color, practices, politics, health, views, and interpretations, but what about when folks fall way outside those lines? Answer: that is not our responsibility. It's Jesus'. It's not ours to determine how God extends salvation on planet Earth. We don't have one clue how Jesus makes insiders from outsiders. He's been doing it for centuries, redeeming humanity, and not in the safe little evangelical way we understand it in America. Our job is simply to love."

And I'm cheering, YES! YES! YES! And then literally on the next page -

"'s a great reminder to me personally to see that Jesus still loves the insider just as well. Because sometimes I don't.....I've deflected, accused, and pointed the finger. And I realized I still do that from the outside. It's just that now my arrows are pointed in."

Oh, yeah that. Ouch.

 For me, what I appreciate most about Brandon Hatmaker is that he seems to truly do the best he can to live what he preaches. His church is built on the principle of serving the homeless and needy in it's community. He founded The Legacy Collective, a giving community that focuses on funding sustainable solutions to social issues around the world. He's not just a dude standing at a pulpit spouting words. He's a guy who truly believes what he says, and puts it into action. That's what makes me want to listen to what he has to say.

There are a couple of tiny, stylistic things that kept me from falling completely in love, but overall I found it to be excellent. I'm so glad I put my misconceptions aside and gave this one a try. Definitely recommended!

Finished - 5/30/16
Source - ARC from the publisher (thank you!!)
MPAA rating - G
My rating - 4/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What's Making Me Happy This Week - 9/14/16

Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling in talks to join A Wrinkle In Time??? (Mostly this just makes me happy because it means the project is still moving forward....)

A new Anne of Green Gables miniseries is coming to Netflix????  (I know people are on the fence about this. I don't honestly think it will be anywhere close to as good as the original, beloved Megan Follows Anne. But any time this story makes it into the mainstream again, it gets me excited.)

I've been a fan of Tori Amos for a long time. While her new song isn't my favorite of her work, I love this video of just the piano part - it reminds me why I appreciate her music so much. Girls with pianos will always be near to my heart.

What's making YOU happy this week??

Monday, September 12, 2016

The State of the Stacks - 9/12/16

The Best American Essays, 1990 - edited by Justin Kaplan

Still working my way through this one - most of the essays have just been okay, but I've read one or two that have been quite interesting, so that keeps me chugging along.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I pre-ordered the signed edition of this book months ago, and it just arrived last week. I love Glennon's words, and I know this book will bring tears and joy.

Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice

For our anniversary Jeremy got me signed editions of some of my favorite books. I love this novel, and reading it again has been so satisfying.

Hopeless Savages, vol. 3 - Too Much Hopeless by Jen Van Meter

Pretty sure I heard about this series from Book Riot, since that's where I get most of my graphic novel recommendations from. This series is mostly just fun, but the characters are really starting to flesh out and become people I am starting to care about. I'm always interested to see what these crazy kids will be up to next.

What's on your nightstand??