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Friday, February 5, 2016

Movie Review: Marie Antoinette (1938)

Marie Antoinette
157 mins.
August 26, 1938
★★★★ ½☆
I first encountered this film in the form of the below trailer when I was working on researching films for Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette. I love old classic films and of the options I found this was the film I was most excited about.

Let me start with the good things here. I LOVED Norma Scherer as Marie Antoinette. I found her performance a believable representation. She was bubbly and happy without coming off as frivolous. She was able to pull of exquisite sadness without over the top drama. There were two very powerful scenes that gave me chills: when she is presented with the gift of an empty cradle by Madame du Barry for her anniversary and following the execution of her husband. True, she was a little old to play the first scenes where Marie finds out she will be married to Louis of France, but I could ultimately get past that. I also really liked how they told the story. It covered all of the big moments – finding out she will marry France, awkwardness of her early relationship with Louis, the Diamond Necklace Affair, and the Revolution. And…above all, I certainly appreciated that they did not use the “let them eat cake” line!

There were a couple elements that I didn’t like however. The most glaring was Tyrone Power as Count Axel Fersen. I never felt any emotion from him. I could understand Marie being interested as he provided what she was looking for: companionship and someone who loved her for her. Honestly, his performance was lackluster. Their love story wasn’t the center of this film, which you would think it was based on the film posters. The other element that felt out of place was the ball scene – it felt more like a scene from one of Jay Gatsby’s parties from The Great Gatsby – felt nothing like what I would envision from a French ball.

Overall, this was one of those films that I thoroughly enjoyed! Even with an intermission.

Check out this trailer:


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Author/Blogger Relationship

I’ve seen some posts going around the last few days talking about some blogger pet peeves and some best strategies for strong author/blogger relationships. I thought I would tip-toe into this discussion with my two cents on these subjects.

Anne Chaconas wrote an excellent guest post on Molly Greene: Writer about pitfalls to avoid when contacting book bloggers. She hits on two things that I think are really important when initiating that relationship.

  • We are all pressed for time and sometimes we forget that there are real people on the other end of the line, but take the time to make a good impression. Individualizing an email is important. I have no problem being included in a mass email to all the bloggers on a list that I have signed up for with a publisher when they do their monthly book availability blasts – that’s to be expected – or when I already have a working relationship with an author and am on their reading team. However, if we don’t already have a relationship, I want to know that you are interested in me reviewing your book, not just because I am any blogger, but because you respect my site and my interest. 
  • If you are going to pitch your book for my blog, please have reviewed my policies; it’s right at the top of the page. Most bloggers have one. The reviewing policy is mutually beneficial to blogger and author. It tells you right up front what I accept for review and what you can expect from me. This should help you make an informed decision as to if my site might be right for your book. It saves you time from reaching out to me (or others) who you would immediately know are not interested and allows you to put that valuable time into other sites. It also saves me time too from wading through as many emails. It’s frustrating to read an email that starts with something akin to “we think you might be perfect for this science fiction novel” when that is listed as a genre I do not review under the category of my policy stating “What I Will Not Review”. It just tells me that you did not take the time to find out anything about me and usually those emails do not get a response from me.
Photo credit: davis.steve32 via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Additionally, Stephanie at Layered Pages wrote a great post on how to support your book bloggers – which is important because this relationship should be a two-way street.
  • For me the most important thing to remember is that almost all book bloggers do this on the side and have many other obligations in life as well. For me this means: full time job (which sometimes is more than full time when they enforce mandatory overtime), taking classes to work on my Masters degree, and family. My husband is pretty good about my blogging, but there are lines that get drawn from time to time! As much as I love reading and talking about books (and your book) all those other categories do come first. We do our best, but life can get in the way too.
  • It’s always good to share posts from bloggers who feature your work to your social media platforms. First, it makes sure that your book gets exposure from yet another group of people from those that see my posts to social media. Second, it might help drive followers to the bloggers website, which we will all be appreciate for. Finally, it more firmly establishes that two-way street I mentioned above. If an author takes the effort to even just share my posts (about their work or others) it sets them apart in my mind as someone who appreciates the effort that I have put forward.
Photo via Visual Hunt
While none of these things are certainly required, if you are looking to make the best impression for yourself and your work, at least consider the things highlighted in these articles. Maybe try to integrate one into your practice. Overall the experiences I have had with the majority of the authors/publicists I have worked with has been very successful. I want us both to have success in the things we do. Let’s help each other out to get there!


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Book Review: A Concise History of Nazi Germany by Joseph W. Bendersky

A Concise History of Nazi Germany by Joseph W. Bendersky
Kindle, e-Book, 228 pages
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
September 11, 2006

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased for my Masters class
This balanced history offers a concise, readable introduction to Nazi Germany. Combining compelling narrative storytelling with analysis, Joseph Bendersky presents an authoritative survey of the major political, economic, and social factors that powered the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Now in its third edition, the book incorporates the significant research of recent years. Delving into the complexity of social life within the Nazi state, it also reemphasizes the crucial role played by racial ideology in determining the policies and practices of the Third Reich. Bendersky paints a fascinating picture of how average citizens negotiated their way through both the threatening power behind certain Nazi policies and the strong enticements to acquiesce or collaborate. His classic treatment provides an invaluable overview of a subject that retains its historical significance and contemporary importance.
Bendersky’s A Concise History of Nazi Germany offers an excellent short introduction to Germany as it existed under Nazi control. It covers the elements that contributed to the Nazis attaining power and the downfall of the Weimar Republic, the peak of power, and lastly the collapse of Nazi power following the Second World War. I especially appreciated the last two chapters with a look at the propaganda and the Nuremburg trials. It didn’t just abruptly end with the end of the war as some other books on the subject do, but looked at the extended legacy. This account read as balanced and not incendiary or with an agenda.

Bendersky includes a lot of information into this short book, however it does not feel dense or fact-packed as can tend to happen in short tomes. This is an excellent starting point or refresher for anyone wanting to understand the developments of Nazi Germany and it was an excellent text for class. It does not have the space to dig deeply into the individual elements, but gives enough information on a wide variety of elements to be a sound starting point. For more depth it would benefit to be paired with another work as well.

I would have appreciated the inclusion of footnotes throughout this work, or even endnotes. Instead it was structured where at the end of the text sources were presented in paragraph form based on subject. This makes it difficult if you are to use the work for any sort of research, but helpful if you just want to find further reading.

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Joseph W. Bendersky:

The Jewish Threat: Anti-Semitic Politics of the American Army


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: Masters of Death by Richard Rhodes

Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust by Richard Rhodes
E-book, 368 pages
December 18, 2007

Genre: Non-Fiction, History

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters program

In Masters of Death, Richard Rhodes gives full weight, for the first time, to the part played by the Einsatzgruppen - the professional killing squads deployed in Poland and the Soviet Union, early in World War II, by Himmler's SS. And he shows how these squads were utilized as the Nazis made two separate plans for dealing with the civilian populations they wanted to destroy. Drawing on Nuremberg Tribunal documents largely ignored until now, and on newly available material from eyewitnesses and survivors, Richard Rhodes has given us a book that is essential reading on the Holocaust the World War II.
Masters of Death digs in to one specific group that contributed to the Holocaust, the Einsatzgruppen. These were the men that were deployed out into the field and were the first to go into the cities and clean them out. They didn’t work in the concentration camps, but instead carried their work out on the scene. This was read for my Masters level class on the Nazis and introduced me to a whole new element of the Holocaust that I was previously ignorant to.

That being said, this was not a quick read. It was brutal and difficult to read, but necessary. The author is very detailed regarding the horrors of this group and the actions they carried out. I think is extremely valuable to understand how these men operated. The author spends a lot of time discussing a theory of criminology put forth by Lonnie Athens that is to explain how people are acclimated to violence and performing violence. While I do not buy into this theory, some might try to say that this is the author trying to show some of the men involved in these atrocities as not culpable of in a more sympathetic light; however, I feel that it presents them in more of a realistic light. I get the feeling that commitment to, participation in, and the incorporation of violence into their personality existed on a scale; some were sadistic and pure evil, while some may have been less committed to the cause and felt sick by what they saw or did.

This wasn’t something I would have picked up to read on my own volition, but it was a valuable experience and helps me to understand more of what transpired during this time period.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Richard Rhodes:

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

Hedy’s Folly

John James Audubon

Arsenals of Folly

Hell and Good Company

Find Richard Rhodes: Website


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 29, 2016

Caught on Tape: Marie Antoinette

As you might well imagine, Marie Antoinette is one of the favorite subjects of historical films because the story is both dramatic and tragic (similar to how there is a plethora of Tudor films). Oh, and don’t forget those glittering beautiful gowns!! Today’s segment of Caught on Tape looks at the portrayal of Marie Antoinette in film from 1938 to the present. Who portrayed her best? Let’s find out!

Farewell, My Queen (2012)
“In July 1789, the French Revolution is rumbling. Far from the turmoil, at the Château de Versailles, King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and their courtiers keep on living their usual carefree lives. But when the news of the storming of the Bastille reaches them, panic sets in and most of the aristocrats and their servants desert the sinking ship, leaving the Royal Family practically alone. Which is not the case of Sidonie Laborde, the Queen's reader, a young woman, entirely devoted to her mistress; she will not give her up under any circumstances. What Sidonie does not know yet is that these are the last three days she will spend in the company of her beloved Queen...” 
Farewell, My Queen focuses on a few short days during the French Revolution as things start looking bad for the royals. The story is told through the eyes of one of the Queen’s servants, so you get an insider, but outsider view of the drama unfolding. A lesbian storyline was included in the relationship between the Queen and the Duchess de Polignac, which probably didn’t happen but was added based on scandal sheets of the time. Farewell, My Queen has received many prestigious recognitions. Diane Kruger plays Queen Marie Antoinette. It is a French film and is based on the award winning novel, Les Adieux à la reine, by Chantal Thomas and is absolutely visually stunning. It is available for streaming on Amazon Prime. This scene below is an excellent representation of the relationship between the two women as portrayed in this film.

Marie Antoinette (2006)
“The retelling of France's iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen and ultimately the fall of Versailles.”
Portrayed by Kristin Dunst, this is the Marie Antoinette film I feel that the majority know (notably for its semi-recent release and star stature (both in the acting and the director, Sofia Coppola). It won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design which I whole-heartedly agree with, they are gorgeous costumes. I watched this film a while ago as part of a college women’s art class (as well as the rest of Coppola’s films) and wasn’t really impressed with any of this director’s works. I felt that the film lacked depth and was very surface and frilly. I also didn’t really like the integration of very modern, punk type music, with the historical drama – very jarring. It has been criticized by historians for hardly featuring any information on the political situation of the time and a far from accurate portrayal of the Queen. Not a favorite of mine and not my favorite portrayal of Marie Antoinette. The clip below fairly represents my thoughts on the whole film.

The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
“In pre-Revolutionary France, a young aristocratic woman left penniless by the political unrest in the country, must avenge her family's fall from grace by scheming to steal a priceless necklace.”
The Affair of the Diamond Necklace was one of the elements that contributed to the downfall of the Queen. Although everything that had happened had transpired without her knowledge, the spin was that the Queen was spending precious money on frippery while the populace was going hungry. A great concept for a film. The film primarily focuses on the story of Jeanne de Saint-Remy de Valois (played by Hilary Swank) who is party of the rouse to steal the necklace. The Queen is but a secondary character here, played by Joely Richardson. Inspired by the events the film does take many historical liberties and the negative reviews of the film are mostly focused on the performance of Swank. I quite like the scene I chose below because it entirely focuses on the Queen and the arrival of the necklace (I’m not a fan of Swank either).

L'Autrichienne (1990)
“A French film focusing on the last days of Marie Antoinette, primarily his imprisonment, trial, and its aftermath.”
This film was produced as part of the celebrations of the French Revolution’s bicentenary and based primarily on the transcripts of the trial of the Queen. Marie is not beautiful here as in the 3 previous films, but rather dressed down in the simpler gowns for prison. It has a sad feel to it, none of the breaks of gaiety. I found the entire film available on Youtube, but I haven’t yet found English subtitles. The scene below shows Marie in prison.

Marie Antoinette (1938)
“The tragic life of Marie Antoinette, who became queen of France in her late teens.”
The 1930’s loved to make historical dramas. The film was based on the non-fiction book, Marie Antoinette: The Portrait of an Average Woman, which was published in 1932. It was one of the most expensive films of the year, but did quite well for itself. Norma Shearer plays Marie Antoinette and Tyrone Power plays Count Axel Fersen (both big Hollywood names of the time).  Norma Shearer was pretty excellent as Marie - maybe too old for some of the early scenes, but was able to walk the delicate line between frivolous/dramatic/lonely.  The costumes are said to be very accurate, and should be since they are said to have the highest cost for a films costumes ever! While it might not be the most accurate in its storytelling, I love these old films! The scene below is Marie’s arrival at Versailles.

Here is my entire review of this film.

Have you seen any of these films? Or any others I didn’t mention? There are MANY more films and television representations than I chose to highlight here. I like the look of Farewell, My Queen the best, but enjoy the story from Marie Antoinette (1938) the most. The trend seems to be to make a film on her whole life, the last couple of days of her life, or The Affair of the Necklace. I would love to hear what you think!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Book Review: 12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection 2 by Mary Connealy, Amanda Cabot, and Maureen Lang

A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy
The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot
The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang
In Novella Collection 2 of the 12 Brides of Summer series

ARC, E-Book, 149 pages
Shiloh Run Studios
July 1, 2015
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Christian Historical Romance, Western, Short Stories

Source: Received for review via Netgalley request
Love Is Buzzing in the Good Old Summertime!  Spend the sunny days of summer relaxing with an ice cold glass of lemonade and revel in the dreams of twelve brides who are a bit surprised by how the men of their dreams come into their lives.  Journey to the Old West, stay on the prairie, and visit quaint small towns. . .without leaving the comfort of your own front porch! 
Fireworks start to fly as love finds its way into open hearts in Novella Collection #2:
A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy
Matt Reeves arrives at his brother’s ranch to find Betsy Harden alone with the little girls during a cattle drive. Will the ladies be too much to handle when Matt steps in for the missing ranch hand?
The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot
Cattle baron Gideon Carlisle offers to pay for surgery that Naomi Towson’s mother needs, if Naomi will enter a faux courtship with him while his mother is visiting over the fourth of July. It’s a business arrangement, nothing more.
The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang
Sally Hobson is practically engaged to the mayor’s son when Lukas Daughton and his family come to town to build a gristmill. She can’t deny an unusual feeling growing for Lukas, but is he trustworthy?
These novella/short story collections are prefect for me when I’m not ready for a long-term commitment with a new book. We all have those days, for me, it especially after finishing a lengthy book. Here you get three complete little romances, about a 3 hour commitment of your time for the whole book, and they are complete with great characters, simple love, and some fun plot twists.

A Bride Rides Herd by Mary Connealy was the perfect way to kick off this collection. From the first lines there is non-stop action until the very end. It grabs you and sucks you in. The male lead, Matt, stumbles upon Betsey who is caring for his brother’s children. Neither of them know too much about taking care of kids and quite the adventure unfolds. The way it is written it would be the perfect western rom-com movie! Mary Connealy is known for her incorporation of humor in her works and that is on display here to great effect. I loved all the characters and it was well paced – I didn’t want this one to end!

The Fourth of July Bride by Amanda Cabot is your classic tale of two people who need each other to solve a problem that they have; their relationship is a business deal and nothing more. Until they start to fall for each other. It felt something like an old school She’s All That, which I loved (minus the bet). Something always gets in the way and in this novel that is religion. It is a tried and true trope but I found the religious angle to be believable for the time period. It was fun to read that a few of the secondary characters in this story were featured in their own works, The Christmas Star Bride (from the 12 Brides of Christmas novella series) and Waiting for Spring.

The Summer Harvest Bride by Maureen Lang is a tale of unexpected love. Sally is comfortable with her life and there is an expectation from everyone in town that she will be marrying the mayor’s son, it’s just a matter of when. When these new visitors show up with a startling plan to build a mill in the town, which throws a wall up between Sally and her intended as they end up on opposite sides of this debate. And that leave some room for Lukas to try to wiggle his way into Sally’s heart. But what does she want, the life that is expected or something that she can’t see yet what the future will bring? I thought all of the characters were very full for a short story and I appreciated that they received the same treatment as those in a novel. The choices the characters made felt true to their core. I also enjoyed the details included about the building and operations of a grist mill. I have had some experience with these during my MANY trips to Old Sturbridge Village so I can attest to it simulating the real experience. This novella included the least of the inspirational/Christian elements.

Overall, this was another wonderful collection; none of the stories were a letdown at all. I have one collection left in this series and I can’t wait to have the chance to read it!

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Also Part of the 12 Brides of Summer Series:

12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #1
[My Review]
12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #3

12 Brides of Summer Novella Collection #4
[My Review]


Find the 12 Brides Series (Including the Christmas Series): Website | Facebook

Find Mary Connealy: Website | Blog

Find Amanda Cabot: Website | Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Find Maureen Lang: Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Blog


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

TV Historical Dramas Preview - Part 4

The final segment of the Historical Dramas Preview sort of is a catch-all category covering all the remaining standard cable channels. Mostly I have focused on shows that come of various specialty cable channels, but they come on others too!

On History Channel

Vikings – Premiered March 2013 – 3 seasons with a 4th starting in February 2016
Vikings is inspired by the sagas of Viking Ragnar Lothbrok, one of the best-known legendary Norse heroes and notorious as the scourge of England and France. The show portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England, and eventually becomes king of Denmark, with the support of his family and fellow warriors: his brother Rollo, his son Bjorn Ironside, and his wives—the shieldmaiden Lagertha and the princess Aslaug.
Somehow I haven’t had the chance to watch this one yet! I guess there is only so much time in the day. I love that they took a chance with an era of history that hadn’t been over exposed and that it has been such a hit with fans and critics alike. It’s such an intriguing and different culture from many of the other historical dramas we have discussed over the last few weeks. The showrunner has indicated that some liberties were taken with the show based on elements that are unknown and to appeal to a wider audience.

War and Peace – Premiered January 2016 (current) - 6 episode mini-series
A television presentation of the classic Leo Tolstoy novel. A story that revolves around five aristocratic families, set during the reign of Alexander I, and centered on the love triangle between Natasha Rostova, Pierre Bezukhov, and Andrei Bolkonsky.
I have never tackled War and Peace because it is just too long for me, so a tv version might just be perfect! It does appeal to me the setting of Russia which you don’t see all that often in historical novels or dramas. I have been told that it is a don’t miss show!


Of Kings and Prophets – Premiering in March 2016
An upcoming American television drama based on the Biblical Books of Samuel. The series follows an ensemble of characters including Saul and David, the successive Kings of Israel, their families, and their political rivals. Of Kings and Prophets is set in the Kingdom of Israel.
This has been described as the world’s first soap opera and they intend to push the envelope with regard to violence and sex on broadcast television – which might turn off some, but appeal to others who have appreciated that in some of the cable channels. Again, not a subject that has been done that I can even remember so I am intrigued as to how this one goes.


The Bastard Executioner – Premiered September 2015 - 1 season (ended)
The Bastard Executioner tells the story of Wilkin Brattle, a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny. Guided by Annora, a mystical healer whose seeming omniscience keeps Wilkin under her sway; manipulated by Milus Corbett, a devious Chamberlain with grand political aspirations; and driven by a deepening connection with the Baroness Lady Love, Wilkin struggles to navigate political, emotional and supernal pitfalls in his quest to understand his greater purpose.
I had heard a lot about this show in its lead up. I was intrigued by the concept of an executioner being the main character because it is a very interesting historical role to consider. Apparently it focuses on blood and gore over storyline and has primarily negative reviews. I would love to hear from anyone who might have watched this!

On ITV (Britain)/Esquire (USA)

Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands – Premiered January 2016
Epic fantasy drama that is a re-imagining of themes and characters from the Old English poem Beowulf, but with new characters and storylines added.
I struggled to comprehend Beowulf in high school (probably because I had to read it), but I love the action drama idea behind it. This only just premiered in the USA yesterday, so obviously I haven’t watched it yet.

Alright, with this being the final installment, are there any historical dramas that I left out that you loved? I would love to hear!

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court