Queen Elizabeth is better than this

The Marriage Game

What’s it about?
Queen Elizabeth has just taken the throne. Much has been made about her ability to play many suitors off each other, and about her ultimate “marriage to England”, as it were. But what was she thinking? Why did everything work out the way it did? The Marriage Game is a fictionalized version of the story of Elizabeth and not getting married.

Why should you read it?
Don’t. I read it, but I got really, really angry about halfway through. The politics and the power is the interesting bit here – who was she courting and who was courting her and why and how did that play into what was happening in England and Europe? That was what I wanted, not some schmoopy love story between her and Lord Robert Dudley. A love story, I might add, that doesn’t follow traditional narrative structure and so fails on the romance story level as well.

Basically: I should have either read a history or something totally made up. Not this weird in-between hybrid. Elizabeth was an incredible woman who was an amazing ruler. The Marriage Game made her so much less. Blech.

Second person is weird

the divers clothes lie empty

My apologies for the lack of posts. I’ve started working! It’s only a half-time job, but somehow I’ve fallen behind. Far, far behind.

What this means: it’s actually been an incredibly long time since I read The Divers Clothes Lie Empty. Well, what I actually read of it. I didn’t read much. It’s written in the second person (it’s not “I” or “the woman” but “you”). Honestly, I have a hard time getting past this because, back in the sixth grade when we were passing notes around, we were always telling stories in the second person voice. It signals immaturity to me. I’m aware that this is a Kate thing and not a universal thing. However, it set my teeth on edge from the beginning.

It’s also a very unsettling book. The unnamed woman at the center of the story is clearly running from something and has a series of terrible things happen to her. We’ve already established that I didn’t like Girl on the Train and had no desire to read Gone Girl. I got my required 50 pages into the book*, and then bailed.

I didn’t like it, but your milage may vary.

* My self-imposed rule is that I can put a book down that I don’t like as long as I’m 50 pages or more in. I figure 50 pages is a fighting chance for the book to win me over.

It’s never as black and white as you think it is

beautiful creatures

What’s it about?
Beautiful Creatures is about a very weird girl, Lena Duchannes, in a very conformist small town. It’s told from the perspective of Ethan Wate, a local boy who is instantly taken with her. Lena is magical and will be chosen to be either Light/Good or Dark/Evil on her sixteenth birthday. It’s all or nothing in this particular world. Lena and Ethan use their cunning and her powers to attempt to ensure that she will not go Dark.

Why should you read it?
Honestly, I wouldn’t. It wasn’t a do-not-finish for me, but it’s heavy-handed. Making your main character an instant outsider (like Lena) or an insider-who’s-hiding-his-outsiderness (like Ethan) is a great way to make your literary reader identify with them. It feels like a cliche. And then there’s the whole dark-light magical thing. The world only feels like it’s black and white; it’s really full of gray. The grayness is not as revolutionary as Beautiful Creatures wants it to be. It’s the first in a series I won’t be continuing.


extremely loud & incredibly close

What’s it about?
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is about a boy whose father is killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in NYC. He’s gifted and a little weird and has a mother who is seemingly completely uninterested in him. Or maybe he’s just uninterested in his mother. He was certainly closer to his father. He’s going on a quest to solve a mystery he thinks his father left him.

Why should you read it?
Don’t. At least, I couldn’t. I couldn’t get over the odd writing style – meant to convey the main character’s high intelligence and immaturity, but I found it distracting. I also couldn’t get over the mother’s seeming disinterest in her son. I get that she wanted to let him grieve in his own way, and I also get that he was pushing her away. But to be so completely disconnected? No.

Revisiting Austen

Death Comes to Pemberley

What’s it about?
Death Comes to Pemberley is about the Darcys from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie and Darcy are happily married; Jane and Bingley live nearby. Lydia and Wickham are traveling with Denny nearby, and coming through the Pemberley woods when Denny leaps out of the carriage, followed by Wickham. Denny’s body is found later, Wickham is, of course, covered in blood and is the main suspect. And every mystery reader knows that the first main suspect is almost never the person who actually did it. So Lizzie and Darcy must figure out who actually killed Denny.

Why should you read it?
Don’t. This was a did-not-finish for me. Pride and Prejudice is full of charm but Death Comes to Pemberley wasn’t. Austen was a great master of her characters, but that delicacy and complexity doesn’t come through in this book. PD James is a great mystery author, and the plot is, I’m sure, quite good. But I missed the familiar characters, so put it aside.

Lifestyles of the rich and famous

Wait for Me

What’s it about?
Wait for Me is an autobiography of the Duchess of Devonshire, aka Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the Mitford sisters. The Mitford sisters were, in some ways, the original Paris & Nikki Hilton – the six of them were famous  mostly for being rich and pretty in the 1930s. They also had some disturbing tendencies towards fascism (except for Jessica, who was a dyed-in-the-wool communist) (Unity was all the way into fascism; it was more than a disturbing tendency). Deborah was much more traditional than her sisters, not getting into extreme politics and marrying right before war rationing kicked in. She does kick a lot of butt – she claims to only have been a housewife, but she was a housewife to an alcoholic husband and she oversaw the rebuilding of Chatsworth House into a fully-fledged business that could not only pay for itself, but eventually turn a profit.

Why should you read it?
Sadly, I’m not sure you should. The Duchess was an amazing woman, but the book was forgettable. I checked it out of the library after she passed away a little over a month ago; when I went to enter it into Goodreads, it turns out that I’d read it two years ago and completely forgotten it. I decided to read it again anyway, but didn’t find it interesting enough to continue with. There are better biographies of the sisters.