Thursday, December 26, 2013

Katia: Wife Before God

Katia: Wife Before God is a 1970 book, written by Alexander Tarsaidze, on Alexander II of Russia's love affair with Catherine "Katia" Dolgoruky.

I give this book 2.5/5. While the book is fairly interesting, it leaves a little to be desired. Although I greatly enjoyed reading the letters exchanged between the two lovers, it felt as though the latter half of the book was carried entirely by letters of the past without any form of analysis. If the reader only wanted to read their letters, why would you need to write an entire book. While the little footnotes at the bottom of the page sure are interesting to read, it does get incredibly distracting and takes away from the main story (Often times, the footnotes would take up 3/4 of the page). What I really would have liked was to have read more about how Alexander's family felt about his relationship with Katya or more on Maria Alexandrovna's perspective of the whole romance. In the end, I feel like I would learn more about Sasha and Katya from their respective wikipedia pages than reading this book.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Reign (Episode 8)

Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. 

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Alan Van Sprang as King Henry II of France
Anna Walton as Diane de Poitier

Mary and Francis have now consummated their love for one another so all that's left is for them to marry. But they are set to marry sooner than they thought because the following day, Henry announces that the wedding is to be the following night. Mary I of England is about to die and Henry wishes to lay claim on Mary's claim to the English throne. 

Nostradamus has another vision at this announcement; he sees Mary covered in blood and her ladies surrounding a dead body. His other vision is still ringing in Queen Catherine's ears as this marriage will seal her son's fate. Catherine tries to convince Mary to break off the marriage by telling her of Nostradamus's prediction but Mary in unphased, believing it to be just hogwash. Mary confronts Nostradamus, who adds that one of her ladies will die. May leaves, clearly shaken.

Henry decides to end his relationship with Kenna and instead remain with Diane de Poitier. Kenna discovers Diane's plot to place Sebastian on the throne and seeks her revenge by informing Catherine. The Queen uses this information to threaten Diane. She wants the mistress to poison Kenna and leave Henry for good. Diane refuses and leaves the castle.

Mary and her ladies reflect on Nostradamus's skills of prediction. He was correct about predicting Tomas's death afterall. They then remember his predictions about their fate. Aylee is particularly disturbed because Nostradamus had said that she would never return home. She takes a sip out of the cup that was originally given to Kenna and begins to act very queasy afterwards. As she is walking to her rooms, she is pushed down the stairs by Clarissa. Aylee dies in Mary's arms, thus proving Nostradamus's prediction to be true.

For fear of the future, Mary breaks off her engagement to Francis and France and rides off with Basch.

I give this episode 2/5. This episode was rather bland despite the show's attempt to raise the stakes. The high point of this episode is when Henry breaks things off with Kenna. All of Kenna's point were perfectly valid and while you feel a little sorry for her, you have to keep in mind that she sorta brought this on herself.

Let's talk about Aylee's death scene. The death scene -shudders- the death scene! The death scene was definitely off. So Aylee was pushed down the stairs and there is a pool of blood around her head, and yet she is still conscious and able to talk. Also, she's just lying Jenessa Grant, you get a ZERO from me on your acting skills. Aylee was probably the most marginalized of Mary's ladies so her death didn't have the same impact on the audience as it did for Mary.

AGAIN with this will they, won't they! The whole plot point of Catherine telling Mary of the prophecy is negated by the fact that we've been through this so many times, that I don't care anymore. The ending scene was executed so badly. It's so cheesy and comes off as comical rather than depressing. When Francis falls to his knees and calls out to Mary, she's not even that far off so it looks like he's not event trying. Toby Regbo, you get a ZERO from me in facial expression. Francis, I know you can't catch up to her but she's still on your property, you could technically just tell the gatekeeper to shut them in - or at least Basch because at this point, he is still beneath you in position. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Secret Princes Season 2 (TV Series)

Secret Princes is an American reality TV series, broadcasted on TLC. The premise of the show is four members of international nobility come to American in order to find there Princess. The catch is that they must go undercover to ensure that the girl they find loves them only for themselves and not their title. The second season of Secret Princes premiered on October 25, 2013 and features regular guests appearances by Lord Robert Walter from the previous season. This season takes place in Austin, Texas. The second season of Secret Princes features.....

Alexander Francis Mathews, a relation of the Romanov House through his maternal grandfather, Prince Andrei Alexandrovich, son of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia. He originally used the name "Clint" for his alias but changed it to Tom later in the series. Alexander had very bad luck with women. They were all either engaged or were going away. In the end, he met a yoga instructor, who he took with him to the cotillion where he revealed his secret identity.

Lorenzo Maria Raimondo de' Medici in Campitelli di Calabria, claims to have descent from the Medici family. He called himself "Dean" or "Dino" throughout the series. Because of his lack of funds brought about by his disguise, Lorenzo does not have much luck with women. He meets Rosemary, the daughter of a Caucasian man and his Korean wife, who is supposedly descended  from Korean royalty back in the day. He invites her to the cotillion where he informs her of his true identity and gives her a pearl necklace originally worn by Eleanor de Toledo.

The Right Honourable James Rodd, Lord Renell, the fourth Baron Renell. He went by "Sam" during his stay in Austin although he has slipped up a few times and introduced himself as "James". He is presented as close friends to Lord Robert Walters. Early on in the series, he met a pink haired girl named Kitty. She introduced him to soft ball and Cajun food. She was his date to the cotillion where he told her that he was lying to her the whole time and that he was actually a Peer in the United Kingdom.

The Honourable Oliver Plunkett, the second son of the late Edward Plunkett, 20th Baron of Dunsany in the Peerage of Ireland. His pseudonym was "Luke", after the Star Wars' character. He was the first of the four to obtain the fair hand of a maiden. He met Deena at a poetry slam and his feelings slowly grew for this rebellious feminist. He also met Christie, who fit the classical description of a beauty. Luke ultimately chose Deena, with whom he had far more in common.

I give this series 3.5/5. This season has some of the same problems as last season, namely that the Princes are not actually Princes (and I'm not exactly sure about Lorenzo's heritage because I thought that the male line of the Medici family died out centuries ago), but in a sense it was rather different from the first season. I labelled Lorenzo as this season's Sal, Jame's as Robert, Oliver as Waldo and Alexander as Francesco. Unlike the first season, this season was definitely focused on the "rejects". The addition of Robert in the group turned the tables in the house and it was like Atlanta 2.0, where Robert dominated and everyone was subject to his will. I would have to say my favorite was James (why oh why, did he not call himself Jake because he looks exactly like Jake Gyllenhaal). The problem with the show is that some of the men didn't find the right girl at the beginning so then we had to go through episodes where a girl comes in and leaves the next second. It doesn't make well for continuity and you don't get emotionally invested in their relationships. I wish they had that episode where the girls come over to see how the "Princes" really live because it would have been a breath of fresh air considering the poor conditions they lived in while in Texas.

This season was a lot more chaotic than last season but I think it had a lot more laughs. Will there be a third season? Fingers crossed!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Reign (Episode 7)

Reign is a 2013 TV series, broadcasting on the CW network, on Mary, Queen of Scots stay at the French court during the 1550s. This episode was able to garner an audience of 1.66 million people.

Adelaide Kane as Mary, Queen of Scots
Torrance Coombs as Sebastian "Basch"

While Henry is away putting down a rebellion in Lorraine, Count Vincent of Naples takes the castle hostage. He has come to seek revenge for his son, Roberto, who was taken hostage by King Henry and returned at the price of 1500 ducats. Roberto died of dysentery on the return home and now Vincent wants the Valois to suffer like he has. Francis offers himself up as a hostage in lieu of Mary.

Catherine and Mary join forces because of their love for Frances. At first, Mary and her ladies are suspicious of Catherine but she wins them over with the story of her youth during the Florentine Revolt. With the help of Clarissa, Mary devises a plan to sneak everyone out of the palace through the underground tunnels. While Mary and her ladies attend a dinner with Vincent and his men, Francis leads the others to safety. Olivia is left behind to allow Mary and her ladies-in-waiting into the secret passageway.

Basch is detained by the Italians yet he is well treated by them. It turns out Diane de Poitier has bribed the men into making sure her son is comfortable. She is desirous that Sebastian be legitimized and made king in Francis's place.

When Mary, Kenna, Aylee and Lola make their way to the wall, they discover that they are locked out. Olivia has abandoned her post, getting herself lost in the tunnels. They are forced to return to the feast where Vincent and his men attempt to rape them. Catherine saves their virtue by poisoning the men. Vincent is killed when Mary stabs him in the throat.

Mary and Francis reconcile and they consummate their love for one another.

I give this episode 3/5. Megan Follows as Queen Catherine was definitely the best part of the episode. I thought she played to the strengths and weaknesses of her character extremely well. In fact, I think she is the best part of the show. Oh my stars, was the show actually historically accurate for once?! Sweet Lordy! Maybe it's because I'm a little conservative but I always get the feeling that Francis is a bit of a jerk to his mother - the woman from whose womb he sprang forth! Francis's sudden change of heart with Olivia was too sudden (like much in this series) although I did like what happened to her in the episode. So finally, Francis comes to terms with his feelings for Mary - finally. While I get that their emotional distress facilitated their coming together, I thought it was a little unnecessary. They're getting married soon...why not wait?

On a lighter note, I absolutely adored Mary's dresses in this episode. While not clothes I would ever wear in 16th century France, I might consider purchasing one of her dresses for Winter Formal.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Secret Princes Season 1 (TV Series)

Secret Princes is an American reality TV series, broadcasted on TLC, which premiered on September 21, 2012.The premise of the show is four members of international nobility come to American in order to find there Princess. The catch is that they must go undercover to ensure that the girl they find loves them only for themselves and not their title. The first season of Secret Princes features.....

Robert Walters, Lord of the Manor of Fullwood. Under the pseudonym of "Tate", Rob met a pharmaceutical sales rep, named Jasmine Bishop, after he had been stood up. They bonded over a series of dates, one had them off to the largest indoor aquarium where they swam with whale sharks. Rob also became attached to a dolphin trainer named Molly but ultimately chose Jasmine to take to the ball. There he revealed his identity to Jasmine and they took a trip to his family home in Marabella, Spain. The two decided they wanted to pursue a relationship but later broke up.

Salauddin Babi of Balasinor, Nawabzada of Balasinor. He used the nickname "Sal" when in America. After having a tough time getting a date, he goes to a matchmaker who finds him a lawyer named Alison Langley. At the ball, he reveals his true identity to Alison and the two go off to India together. Due to their cultural difference, Alison decides that she does not want to pursue a relationship with Sal. Salauddin's parents have since begun the arrange marriage process.

Francisco de Bourbon y Hardenburg, future Duke of Seville. Known as "Cisco" in America, Francisco met a single mother named Camille Monroe. Sal had already had eyes for Camille but she ultimately chose Cisco. They went to the zoo together and had a romantic dinner before he invited her to the ball. She joined him in Spain, where she met his half brother. They still want to see each other.

The Honourable Ludovic Watson, son of The Right Honourable Miles Watson, 4th Baron Manton. He called "Waldo". He met Melissa Braden at a nail salon and took her to the ball. She visited him in England but in the end, she decided to part ways with Waldo because she felt uncomfortable living his lifestyle.

I give this series a 3/5. Let us start off with the fact that our lovely gents aren't actually Princes. They're just nobility...except for maybe, Sal. We are presented with four handsome "princes" and my personal favorite was Ludovic "Ludo"/"Waldo". He was just so quirky, I couldn't help but "fall for him". I felt most sorry for Sal, who seemed like the most serious minded in the group, because it was rather apparent from the get go that he was the black sheep. The show primarily focuses on Robert and Cisco, both of whom come off as playboys which I didn't like. It definitely felt like a month wasn't enough time for them to get to know the girls. I didn't feel much of a connection between Waldo and Melissa seeing as they meet late into the season. Just from watching the show, you really get a sense that these people were rather spoiled so it was nice seeing them do things for themselves for once. All in all, it's something you can watch to pass the time. Just mindless fun.

Will I watch season 2? Probably.