Funny...I thought I already read this book way back when, but such was not the case. This book was more about Spain, the essence of it, its nobles, peFunny...I thought I already read this book way back when, but such was not the case. This book was more about Spain, the essence of it, its nobles, people and artists during the Golden Age: Philip II, Cervantes, Quevedo, El Greco, more than just about that Monster of Nature, Lope de Vega. It was written in such beautiful prose, so redolent and filled with that forever-dreaming, quixotic, passionate yet pious Spanish spirit.
When I FINALLY get my computer running I will give this and many other books the reviews they deserve. I've been without it for 2 months and typing on my phone stinks! But at long last I'm out of my reading slump. Mixed up non-fiction with historical fiction and romances that I know I will enjoy, rather than trying new stuff just because it's new. I stopped reading the same genre over and over and I've found JOY in books again! This was an A- read!
Hope for more good reads for the rest of this year....more
While Julia Fox's attention to little details is meticulous, her book "Sister Queens…" is mis-titled. It's a lopsided historical account of KatherineWhile Julia Fox's attention to little details is meticulous, her book "Sister Queens…" is mis-titled. It's a lopsided historical account of Katherine of Aragon, with scant attention placed on her older sister, Juana of Castile.
It read to me like Fox intended to write a biography on Katherine and maybe came up a few pages short, so she crammed in some facts about Juana. They were sisters, both queens, treated cruelly by their husbands and then cast aside in vicious games of politics.
I figure 2/3 of the book pertains to Katherine, 1/6 to notes and pictures and the other 1/6 to Juana's life. It’s understandable to an extent, as Fox is an accredited expert on Tudor history, and there is so much known about Katherine and her marriage to Henry VII of England, a marriage that ended up fragmenting the Catholic Church and changing the face of Europe forever.
Sections pertaining to Juana's childhood and her marriage to Philp Hapsburg are frustratingly truncated. It’s understandable as Juana spent most of her life—well over 40 years—locked away at Tordesillas, kept prisoner by her beloved Father, then later her son. Not much happens when a person is shut off from the rest of the world.
Fox maintains the now commonly held position that Juana was never insane, and backs this up with accounts from respectable people who came in contact with the supposed Mad Queen.
While I agree that Juana would not be considered legally insane by modern standards, she did exhibit such emotional mood swings which could be diagnosed as bipolar or manic depression. Juana’s documented strange, erratic behavior is downplayed by Fox. Certainly Juana’s treatment was unjust and callous, but there is evidence that, for a while, at least after Philip’s death and then giving birth to her sixth child, Juana was not mentally capable or willing to fulfill her functions as Sovereign Queen. Worse, Fox speculates so often about what Juana felt or did and how we will never know certain truths as hard proof is lacking, that she rarely comes to any definitive conclusion about Juana. We’ll never know anything for sure, Fox frequently states, so then why write about it?
In contrast, the parts on Katherine were painstakingly detailed. From Katherine's grand entrance into London, her marriage to Arthur, then to his younger brother, Henry, each of her pregnancies and miscarriages, the death of her son, how she prudently ruled England while Henry was away at war with France, and then how valiantly she fought to save her marriage from divorce, these facts are all described in a well-annotated, scholarly manner, so replete with minute details of clothing, food and castles that G.R.R. Martin and Bertrice Small would be proud.
Katherine’s letters and actions are documented facts. Her character is fully analyzed, so Katherine becomes a fleshed-out human being before our eyes. There may be a few mysteries about her motives, but there is never a doubt about who she is.
Were this a book just about Katherine, I would have appreciated it much more, rating this at least a 4. I'd like to consider myself an amateur historian when it comes to the Trastamaras & Hapsburg Spaniards and I found the sections on Juana disappointingly sparse in comparison to Katherine’s. The only information new to me about Juana was the number of visits her grandchildren made to her while she was imprisoned (18 in 20 years).
It's unfortunate that this book is so uneven with much more written about Katherine than Juana. The parallel themes Fox attempts to draw about the sister queens' fates are not thoroughly convincing. If she had framed her book on a point by point basis, rather than writing this chronologically, perhaps she would have made a more definitive case. As it was, I’m not sure what her ultimate thesis was besides pointing out the obvious tragedies.
4 stars for the Katharine sections + 1.5 stars for Juana’s = 2.75
This isn't really a book about Einstein, or any other great thinker of the ages, (heck, it's not really a book; at 70 pages it shouldn't take more thaThis isn't really a book about Einstein, or any other great thinker of the ages, (heck, it's not really a book; at 70 pages it shouldn't take more than 30-60 minutes max to read). But it is a decent self-help book if you already know these facts and just need to see them in printed form to reinforce them to yourself.
It's really a collection of simple, sound statements like:
"Assume you are responsible for your own destiny. No one, I repeat, no one will take care of you."
"Fear or stupidity has always been the basis for the most common human actions."
"If A=success, then A=x+y+z, where x=work, y=play and z=keeping your mouth shut."
If you're a die-hard Randian objectivist, this might not be your cup of tea, as advice includes:
"The most important endeavor is to strive for morality in our actions."
"Try not to be a man of success, but a man of value."
"It is a a high time the ideal of success be replaced with the ideal of service; only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."
Not that this a promotion of socialism--or capitalism--or any "ism," for that matter. It's not a politically-left or politically-right book. However, I'd say it IS quasi-spiritual, with comments such as:
"The first step to take control of your mind is actually to accept that you're not your mind. You're something higher. You're who's in charge."
Many of the truisms found here are line with most of the world's religions (Secular-Humanism included).
It's a straightforward, compact book, but if you're looking for a more profound--though still short--read about elementary universal truths that make human-beings "better," one must read C. S. Lewis' "The Abolition of Man."
Short version of my review of "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks:...And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy":
Adam CaShort version of my review of "In Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks:...And Other Complaints from an Angry Middle-Aged White Guy":
Adam Carolla's never been one of my most favorite comedians, but he's got a bit of that Archie Bunker-common-man, accidentally-insightful perspective that I find amusing. I listened to this audio-version hoping to hear him rant on the uber-metro men of today, you know, guys who wax their chests, legs and arms, pubes, pluck their eyebrows and use more make-up and exfoliants than some women did thirty years ago.
What I found was a mix of unfocused essays and rants. Adam admits he can't read very well, so he goes on riffs rather than reading directly from his book.
The first third of the audio is Adam's life-story, beginning with his lower-class family upbringing in California where they lived off welfare. As a child, he slept on a cot in a room where the washing machine and electric meter were located. He was bullied in school for his height and got into physical fights to defend himself. Carolla worked low-paying jobs for years before finding his calling in comedy. But that biographical section just went on and on and meandered.
Nevertheless, I can totally relate to Adam. Even though I'm a woman of Hispanic heritage from Long Island, I, too, was piss-poor growing up and it sucked. At one point there were thirteen people living in our three-bedroom- one-bathroom house, and the garage and basement were converted into living spaces for non-nuclear family members. My mom worked cleaning houses, but didn't make much money so we lived on government assistance. There is nothing more than embarrassing being a child and translating for your mom at the welfare office and filling out complicated forms when you're ten years old because your mother can't read very well. And living on handouts was demoralizing. I remember many Christmases where we didn't even have a tree and the church was kind enough to donate toys and food (usually musty-smelling boxes of Yahtzee and Mork & Mindy boardgames, and more cans of creamed corn than we could ever eat), but the thought was nice.
The happiest day in my life (up until that time) was when I was 12 years old and got my first job earning two bucks an hour working during the Halloween season at a costume store dressed up as Gumby and waving to the passersby on the street. Once, I almost got beaten up by a high school junior who ragged on my costume and when I got into her face and refused to back down, her friends had to drag her away before it got physical. So I can totally identify with Adam and his hard-luck youth, even though his story-telling abilities need work.
Eventually Carolla goes on semi-populist political rants that zig-zag all over the place, from left to right. (I don't consider populism as synonymous with conservative. Ariana Huffington, Bill O'Reilly and John Stewart are all self-styled populists, so they come in all political flavors.) Other than that, I will avoid talking about Carolla's political opinions as I made myself a promise to never discuss religion or politics on Goodreads. My beliefs also zig-zag all over the place. Sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don't. I appreciate his passion, but he's a little uninformed about the facts and history of certain issues, so even if we share opinions, I wince at his total lack of self-awareness.
There's a section where Carolla rants on how the world is filled with "assholes" and uses an example of a mean neighbor who'd call the town on him for not trimming his hedges. Adam then goes on to say he's had troubles with every single neighbor he's ever had. Not saying that Adam's wrong about his neighbors being jerks, but there seems to be a common denominator in all of his problems that he's blissfully unaware of (himself!)
Then there's his diatribe on how the all-80's satellite radio station plays "crap" like one-hit-wonders from A Flock of Seagulls, Men Without Hats and Dead or Alive, or cheesy songs like Depeche Mode's "People are People." OK, as a hard-core DM fan I have to agree that "People are People" has to be one of suckiest DM hits, but Carolla's livid outrage that the 80's stations should be playing obscure 80's bands is silly. Dude, turn to stations like Classic Rewind, Classic Vinyl, The Spectrum and First Wave. Because when people think of mainstream 80's hits, they're thinking of Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, etc., not Elvis Costello and The Pretenders.
I do appreciate his common sense advice, like men having a bright wallet. Carolla spray painted his black wallet bright red and has had it for years. Just like Adam, my husband would always lose his in the car or house. We decorate with a lot of dark colors, so we could never find his black wallets (and black remote controls). One day, he got one with a bright orange racing stripe on it and had it for years until it wore out. Now he has a silver-gray one he's had for five years. I took Adam's advice and "bedazzled" my remotes with bright sparkles and now they're much easier to find!
Then there's Adam's suggestions to sloths like me on how to save a few seconds of your life, like setting the microwave to 55 or 66 seconds instead of 60 seconds or 1 minute. I was nodding, yup, yup, yup, until I realized modern microwaves come with all kinds of express keys, like express minute buttons. But still, that advice comes in handy when you have to microwave tea for 90 seconds, just press 88. Those are two seconds you can use getting the sugar! :)
This book was so-so, but it made me laugh a few times and other times roll my eyes. It reminded me of my 73 year-old father-in-law's meandering tirades about the same stuff he's been complaining about for some 20 years, but more coherent.