The Aviary Gate, The Last Queen, and Schooled

September 29, 2008 at 10:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

The Aviary Gate, The Last Queen, Schooled.

The Aviary Gate, by Katie Beckman, is a nice story about an English woman, Celia Lamprey, that is captured and brought into a Sultan’s harem in Constantinople. It’s also about her modern day counterpart, and her search to uncover what happens to Celia. I’ll admit, I picked this one up about 2-3 weeks earlier, then put it down for whatever reason, and when I picked it back up, I was momentarily confused as to who was who.

It was pretty interesting, but again, I have to admit I was confused. One day the modern girl (I’m sorry, I just can’t remember her name at the moment,) was at home, working on the Celia mystery, and lamenting her love woes to her friend. The next time the story focused in on her, she’s in present day Constantinople! That threw me in for a loop honestly. Even if it was rushed, you can’t just up and “oh, I’ll just hop on my plane now and hope things fall in place for me.” She has a bit of an obsession over her former love, Marius. Heck, if I was in an entirely new country, I don’t think I’d have as much time as she did, lamenting my woes. At least in the end, she has a happy ending.

Too bad that Celia didn’t get a happy ending as well. I guess you can call hers bittersweet. She never leaves the harem, but she manages to meet with her love one last time (sorry, that was a small spoiler.) She always stressed that if she could see him one last time, her live would be more bearable, she can be happier, so long as he knew she was still alive and not drowned at sea.
Celia was the more interesting of the two stories, and righteously so since she IS the main focus of the book. She gets entangled in a court plot, and she learns she has to navigate its treacherous waters by itself. Nobody is exactly as they proclaim they are, so there’s really no one she can trust 100% I just wish she had the happier ending, but court politics prevented that.

All in all, if I were to rate, I’d say about 3 1/2 out of 5. It’s good, except for the small things that threw me off.

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The Last Queen, by C.W. Gortner was more enjoyable. Set in the 1490’s, it’s about one of Queen Isabel and King Fernando’s daughter, Juana. Up until this book, I knew absolutely nothing about this woman, and even then, it’s not completely accurate, as Mr Gortner explains. Even though he did some fairly extensive research, she’s a woman (duh) and it looked like a pretty tumultuous time, so whatever records there was, isn’t anymore. Even so, I’d say he did a good job weaving a story out of the facts, and injecting it with what he thought may have happened.

Juana is the most spirited of the Queen and King’s children, but even she is not immune to an arranged marriage, to Prince Phillip of Habsburg. Though reluctant about the marriage, she falls in love with him soon after. I felt terrible for her after she realizes how terrible his true nature is. Power hungry and subtlety manipulated by his spiritual adviser, Besancon. She finds unwavering trust and faith in two of her women, and I think having their loyalty was one of the few things that kept her sane.

After a series of tragedies in her family, she quickly finds herself the Queen of Spain. Her husband however, plots and schemes against her, in a bid to become the actual King of Spain, and not Juana’s consort. He secretly arranges marriages for their children, among some of Spain’s enemies. He sows seeds of uncertainty about Juana’s sanity in the minds of Spain’s courts and nobles, creating unrest. Through it all, even her heart was probably breaking, and she’s angry enough to spit nails, she does what she can to get back at him. She attacks a mistress, retrieving her stolen jewels. She uses clever wordplay against the English rulers, humiliating her husband in the process. Through it all, she endures physical abuse and rape, with Phillip’s promise to beget her with child after child until she dies from its physical stresses. She gets locked up and treated horribly. It’s no wonder if she really did go insane after a while, with all she is forced to endure.

She endured a miserable adult life, and by the end, I felt so sad. No woman should ever have to endure that, but in those days, all the backstabbing and lies and deceit were the norm. It’s well written and researched. Good book to pick up.

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Schooled, by Anisha Lakhani. I usually had good luck getting books pretty quickly from the Early Reviewers program, but this one took 2 months to get, due to some oddball shipping mishap. I had a feeling, based on the books description, it would be a quick read, and I was right. It then promptly disappeared thanks to my husband going on a cleaning binge, so I have to dig it back up and get it to my bookshelf.

It’s a story of a woman, newly graduated from Columbia University, to be a teacher of all things. After a disagreement with her parents, she moves into the apartment of a sorority sister that’s in the financial field. Soon after, she nails a position as a 7th grade English teacher in one of Manhatten’s private schools. She’s filled with hopes and dreams that her fellow faculty will become friends, her students attentive and bright. It didn’t take long to find out it just wasn’t happening, lol. Presented with files on the kids, the things she learn isn’t good for her as a teacher. One girl gives a boy a blow job at his Bar Mitzvah. The mother of another is practically a stalker. Along with tidbits like this, she also learns which families she has to suck up to practically, based on their donations to the school.

The faculty basically snubbed the new girl. The students complain their new teacher isn’t giving them an easy ride, making the mom’s call and complain, and quickly try to get rid of her. She changes tact, the kids and moms enjoy it, but the other teachers don’t. It’s a no-win situation for her.

Soon enough, she learns of the secret world of tutoring students from other schools, and she gets quickly sucked in. Can practically see the $ signs in her eyes (like a cartoon’s.) A few hours of tutoring per week would allow her to get a nicer apartment, nicer clothes, nicer everything. She just has to sacrifice her morals for a little while. But at least with this newfound income, the students are taking notice and liking her more. She’s now the “cool” teacher.

In the end, her morals win out, and she up and quits all her tutoring jobs, and changes tact with her students again, after hearing what one teacher does while tutoring one of the kids. What she finds out about her students (reading and writing wise) shocks her, for bad and for good.

It reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada a bit, which I really got a kick out of. Meet nice girl. Nice girl scores job making good money, all she has to do is give up her friends, family, morals. Nice girl has an epiphany, sees the light, and all is well again. Even though the theme is the same (I’ve heard it compared to The Nanny Diaries as well,) I do enjoy them, so long as the writing isn’t shoddy.

It was finished in a few hours, so I’d recommend getting it from the library. It’s a nice light read, especially if you’ve just finished a meatier book.

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1 Comment

  1. Alea said,

    I really enjoyed Schooled! My Early Reviewer book from maybe a month or two before Schooled was also lost in the same way, Loose Girl. I just started it and it’s really engaging!

    PS Thanks for entering my giveaway!

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