*UPDATE*

I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

I am no longer an Amazon Associate. I am currently working on updating my posts with links to various locations to buy books. One of the links I am including is to RJ Julia - this is my favorite local independent book store. You can shop their store online and have access to pretty much anything you are looking for. I do not have any affiliation with any of these sites - just looking to support my local indie book store.

Anyone looking for a new feed reader? My recommendation is Bloglovin'. I made the switch and love the layout, plus there is now an app for my phone. If you use Bloglovin' or have made the switch to another feed reader, please make sure you are following me on it so you miss none of the content here!

Here is a quick sticky link to my Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge and Read-a-Thon.

Search This Blog

Loading...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

TV Show Review: Stonewall Uprising


Stonewall Uprising
American Experience Series

WGBH (PBS)
90 Mins
April 25, 2011
“In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. Such raids were not unusual in the late 1960s, an era when homosexual sex was illegal in every state but Illinois. That night, however, the street erupted into violent protests and demonstrations that lasted for the next six days. The Stonewall riots, as they came to be known, marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement in the United States and around the world.”
The Civil Rights Movement is something that I am sure most children are taught about in history classes, but the Gay Rights Movement is a struggle for equality that is glossed over if covered at all. In their newest episode in the American Experience series, Stonewall Uprising, they take on one of the pivotal events in this movement – something I had never heard of prior to this show. In the episode, this major event is described as “the Rosa Parks moment for the gay”.

The first thing that you will notice about this episode is the disclaimer at the beginning of the episode stating that very few images exist of this event and that what you will see is mostly recreated. I appreciated this statement and wish that they included it more often – it would help people keep the historic from the fictional. In order to get into the mindset of the time, this episode began by explaining the way society at the time viewed the gay community. Here they emphasized their point by showing various segments and commercials from the 1950’s and 60’s that were anti-homosexual. One of the segments that was featured was called Boys Beware and was a type of public service announcement. I included the segment below to help you get an idea of what they were showing. While watching I kept being shocked that people would actually believe what was being said in these segments – it just seemed so surreal to me.


They also had people talking about what it was like to be gay during that time and the opposition that they constantly came up against. They also went into some detail as to why the Stonewall Inn was such an important/iconic place for that community.

The riot itself was described by several people who were involved in some way – you had a former cop who had been inside the Stonewall Inn during the riot, as well as several people from the gay community who were inside the inn as well as those in the mass group outside. This allowed the viewer to get a well rounded idea of what was happening within and around the Stonewall.

This episode was handled with dignity for those who were featured in the episode. I thought that they did a very good job of highlighting an important event in another rights movement that is less frequently discussed. I learned quite a bit and would encourage you to watch this episode as well.

Here is a trailer of this show below and if you want to watch the entire episode online you can go to this link [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/stonewall/player/]






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 29, 2011

Circus Disaster Week Grand Giveaway!






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Movie Review: Water for Elephants


Water for Elephants
20th Century Fox
122 mins.
April 22, 2011
Rated: PG-13

Based on Sara Gruen’s best-selling novel of the same name, Water for Elephants is a beautiful film of a fated depression era circus and the people that live its life day to day. Despite all of the great coverage I have seen for this movie throughout the last year I was still slightly concerned that it wouldn’t live up to how much I loved the book. I tend to find that movies are sometimes a letdown in that manner and sometimes I get too hyped up and then am disappointed. I honestly think that this was the best book-to-movie adaptation that I have ever seen!

The look of this film was so gorgeous! The circus, train cars, and costumes were spot on for the time period – they were gritty, patched up, used, Depression era. Everything was filmed in such a way that every scene took in the beauty and fantasy of the time.

The casting was supurb – I don’t think I could put it any other way. Rob Pattinson (as Jacob) and Reese Witherspoon (as Marlena) were great, but for me the best characters for me were Christoph Waltz (as August) and Hal Holbrook (as old Jacob). Waltz was awesome scary! By combining the characters of Uncle Al and August into the more complex character of August, Waltz had more evil and twisted to work with, but when there were times for compassion and sincerity, Waltz hit those marks too. If the scenes from the nursing home with old Jacob were included in the film, Holbrook would have stolen the show. He was funny and sarcastic and just awesome. As it was, the scenes he was in, he was phenomenal. And of course there was Tai who played Rosie the elephant. She was so comical and well trained – it was just beautiful!
The plot of the film followed very closely to the novel. There were of course bits and pieces left out, but overall I didn’t really notice anything missing. The movie totally evoked the feeling of the book and gave so much that you didn’t notice what wasn’t there. The characters of August and Uncle Al were merged so well that you really didn’t feel the need for two characters. I did miss the scenes in the nursing home with old Jacob, but the story was told fine without them. The only scene that I think I preferred from the book over the movie is the major climatic scene. It was still very well done in the movie but the book gave a more ambiguous, intense, drama. I was worried about the abuse scenes between August and Rosie and how they would play out on camera. The minor stuff was on camera and the major event was entirely off camera, but you certainly felt everything that you were meant to – I remember people in the audience gasping.

You could tell that this film was handled with love from the cast and crew. I absolutely enjoyed this film and will certainly be picking it up when it comes out on dvd release. I would recommend you to go see it!

There were two trailers released, so I thought I would post both of them here!

Trailer 1

Trailer 2





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Hartford Circus Fire - An Audio/Visual Experience

The Hartford Circus fire is the last major circus disaster to happen in the United States. There isn’t much footage of the fire, or too many photos for that matter, because circus personnel smashed cameras during fire aftermath hoping to stop the images from getting publicized. Below I am going to post several videos for you to peruse through that all pertain to the Hartford fire in many different ways.

First up is some actual footage from the fire’s aftermath. There is no sound in this one but you can get a good idea of the extent of the destruction (there are no gruesome images).


Some of you may know who Charles Nelson Reilly was. He was an actor (he passed away a few years ago), but he grew up in Hartford and attended the fire on that fateful day. During one of his comedy tours, The Life of Reilly, he did a segment talking about the events that day – it made me laugh and made me sad too. Here is that segment.


The below video footage is quite possibly the news footage that first brought my attention to the Hartford Circus Fire. This was from 2004 when the 60th anniversary of this tragedy was being marked and the ground was being broken for the memorial.


In 2005 the memorial for the Hartford Circus Fire victims was dedicated. It is located on the exact spot where the big top was located. The trees around the memorial mark the exits to the tent and the main monument is located where the main tent pole was situated. I haven’t had the chance yet to make it there, but it is in my plans for this year – I only work like 5 miles from the site. The below video is a walkthrough of the memorial site.


The final clip isn’t a video, but a radio interview. It is with a survivor of the fire and includes some of the old radio broadcasts about the circus. I think it is always most poignant to hear from those who lived through an event.


Hope these A/V clips helped to give a more well rounded view of this particular event in circus history.




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Circus Disasters Throughout History in the US

There have been quite a few disasters in the history of the circus in the United States. Here I want to highlight a few of the most noteworthy and a few that are more obscure. There are many other disasters that have happened but I chose only a few of those that were the most disastrous (involving loss of life to animal or human but I won’t go into all the gory details).

Introduced in chronological order:

1916 – “The Day they Hanged an Elephant” – Erwin, TN

All the credit for finding out about this one goes to Librarypat as I had not come across this incident in my research. This event happened to the Sparks Brothers Circus – a small circus that was touring the southern US. A drifter, Red Eldridge, was hired by the circus that day to be an elephant handler (he had no prior experience of any kind, but apparently that didn’t matter). Claims as to what exactly happened on the evening of September 12, 1916 are confusing at best, but in some way while leading the elephant, Mary, down to get a drink from a pond, Eldridge ended up with his head smashed in by the elephant. Of course people were outraged and called for something to be done. Mr. Sparks decided that a public hanging of the offending Mary was necessary so that he would be able to carry on with his show. Over 2,000 people showed up. Mary was hanged by a railroad crane (twice actually because the first chain broke). This is one of the most prominent cases of animal cruelty in the circus. To read more about this incident, or to see the image which I won’t post here, you can visit the Blue Ridge Country website.

1918 – “Great Circus Train Wreck of 1918” – Hammond, IN

This circus disaster happened to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus – it toured the country and was the second largest circus, right behind Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. In the very early hours of June 22, 1918 the train carrying the cars of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus had pulled over to the rail side waiting for a track switch. Problem One: the Hagenbeck-Wallace train had not pulled completely off of the main track, leaving a few of its cars still on the track. Problem Two: the military troop train that was following behind the circus train did not see that the train was still on the tracks because the engineer had fallen asleep at the controls. The two trains collided – right into the sleeping cars of the performers. The circus train was quickly engulfed in flames – due to the kerosene lanterns used to light the cars. 86 performers were killed and another 127 were injured. In a great show of circus camaraderie – other competing circuses donated equipment and performers so that the show would go on, only missing their immediate next two engagements. You can read more about this disaster on the Hammond, Indiana website.

1942 – “Circus Animals Perish in Costly Fire” – Cleveland, OH

This is the first of two circus disasters that we will look at that happened to Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Occurring just 2 years before the Hartford Circus Fire this incident is looked upon as a great foreshadowing of events to come. The source of the fire is not known, but a fire started near the menagerie tent. All spectators were able to get out and circus workers fought against the flames to save as many of the caged animals as possible before it was too late. Even with all of the efforts approximately 100 animals died during this quick moving fire – the camels, zebras, and elephant groups taking the most damage. As you can imagine there was chaos – mostly from the animals that were unable to get to safety or just were so spooked that they would not cooperate with the handlers that were trying to save them. At least 26 animals had to be put down by police with machine guns because their injuries and burns were too extreme to be saved. Some of these very same animals would go on to survive the Hartford Circus Fire. You can read more about this disaster at the GenDisasters website.

1944 – “The Day the Clowns Cried” – Hartford, CT

This is the worst circus disaster in the history of the circus in the US – and the only one I know of where there was a loss of spectator life. As we have seen above there were losses to performers and circus animals, but during this one, not one single animal or performer was lost. This disaster happened to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus on July 6, 1944. During the matinee show a fire broke out along the side wall of the tent and within just a couple minutes had spread to the top of the big top. The aerialists were up on the high wire, the two circus performers with their cages of big cats had just finished their performances and were trying to get the cats out of the ring, and the band reacted and began to play the disaster march, Stars and Stripes Forever. Spectators panicked and fled for the only exit they knew of, others were too shocked to move. The whole tent burned to the ground in approximately 10 minutes. 168 spectators died – mostly women and children since it was a weekday matinee, over 700 people were treated for some sort of crush injury or burn. You can read more about this disaster at Circus Fire 1944. This website has lots of links to photos, videos, and additional historical content.


I thoroughly recommend the books below for additional reading about various circus disasters:

** The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan ** (I don't think I can recommend this book enough!)

A Matter of Degree by Don Massey and Rick Davey

Cleveland’s Greatest Disasters by John Stark Bellamy II

Worlds Afire by Paul Janeczko (YA)





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring's Serenity Read-A-Thon


Ok, so I am participating in my first read-a-thon!  Way to go me!  Although, it will be only to a small degree, but participating none the less.  I have a super busy work week but I am hoping to finish the book I am reading (which, let's all give a cheer, is actually a personally owned book and not a review copy!!!) Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn.  I am about halfway through it right now, so I think I should be able to finish it this week.  If I do accomplish that, I think I will start on Daughters of Rome also by Kate Quinn.  I'm also continuing the seemingly never-ending audiobook New York by Edward Rutherfurd - I should be finishing that up by the very end of the week.

You can find out more information about the Spring's Serenity Read-A-Thon (or sign up!) by visiting Michelle at The True Book Addict.  It will go all week, from April 25th to May 1st and there will be a couple mini-challenges and giveaways.  Go check it out.

*Updates*


Mini Challenge 1 "Pg 69 Challenge"- Hosted by My Book Retreat
My current read is Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn. Page 69 is essentially about the central gladiator character drowning himself in wine after a great battle and the main slave girl character coming in to deliver a message to him. I think this works well with what I have read so far because these types of scenes between the two characters seem to happen often and you get to see a little heart in the characters.

Mini Challenge 2 "Make a Short Paragraph" - Hosted by The True Book Addict
I was thinking, man, these books are never going to make a good sentence, and then - wow did it come together! Check this out!

"A hand. I opened my wrist with one firm stroke of the knife, watching with interest as the blood leaped out of the vein. So this was freedom."

Sentence 1 - Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn.

Sentence 2 - Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn.

Sentence 3 - New York by Edward Rutherfurd.

I'm pretty impressed!




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Book Review: The Circus Fire by Stewart O'Nan


The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy
by Stewart O’Nan
Unabridged, 11 hr. 17 min.
Brilliance Audio
Dick Hill (Narrator)
November 25, 2004
★★★★★

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Downloaded the Audio from my Library
“The acclaimed author of A Prayer for the Dying brings all his narrative gifts to bear on this gripping account of tragedy and heroism-the great Hartford circus fire of 1944. 
Halfway through a midsummer afternoon performance, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus's big top caught fire. The tent had been waterproofed with a mixture of paraffin and gasoline; in seconds it was burning out of control, and more than 8,000 people were trapped inside. Drawing on interviews with hundreds of survivors, O'Nan skillfully re-creates the horrific events and illuminates the psychological oddities of human behavior under stress: the mad scramble for the exits; the hero who tossed dozens of children to safety before being trampled to death.

Brilliantly constructed and exceptionally moving, The Circus Fire is history at its most compelling.”
Growing up in Connecticut I have been interested in the Hartford Circus Fire since I first found out about it. It was surprising to me that at the time I had first learned of this disaster there were no books published that were just about this incident. Stewart O’Nan, a well known novelist, took on the grueling task of writing this non-fiction account of the historic circus disaster and hit it out of the park!

The first thing that really catches the eye of the reader in this book is the forward by the author. He proceeds to explain exactly why he decided to write this book and what the story means to him. This instantly connected my experience to that of the author – being unable to find any books about this subject and living in the close vicinity of the disaster itself. It really helps the reader to understand how important it was for him to tell this story.

I also really liked the layout of the book. The author brings you through the history of previous circus disasters and uses this to really set the tone and in a way foreshadow the events that would take place in Hartford on June 6, 1944. It also opened a whole new world of historical information and events that I just had to go check out after. He then spends time really helping you get to know many of the people who would eventually become victims, survivors, and heroes of this tragic day. By spending time connecting the reader to these people their ultimate fate during the fire becomes important to you and makes you feel the event more than just reading some statistics. O’Nan then takes you through the events of the fire as seen from different perspectives and then moves into the aftermath at the hospitals, the morgue, police station, fairgrounds. He then continues the story up until the time the book was written following the mystery of Little Miss 1565. I really don’t think that the author missed any angles at which to look at this event – you get a completely well rounded view of the fire.

★★★★★
 
Reading this on audiobook ended up making this such a surreal experience for me. I work just a couple of miles from the site of this disaster and as I would be driving along to or from work it would happen that the narrator would be talking about sites that I was driving past (various hospitals, the armory, various streets) and it made it so easy to connect with the world of this book. And if I thought it was surreal seeing the places that I was hearing about, imagine my shock when my place of employment ended up in this book! I also seemed to have a physical reaction every time the narrator said the words “Stars and Stripes Forever” – I would just get a shiver. This certainly speaks to the power of the narrator. Dick Hill put a lot of emotion into the words he was reading and at times it felt like I was listening to a well written news account. I could see the world vividly in front of me. The only thing that I think would have made this audiobook better would have been if they could have included the song “Stars and Stripes Forever” – it would have completed the experience.

I whole-heartedly recommended this book or audiobook to all (I have both copies myself)!

Author Stewart O’Nan also has written several works of fiction. You can visit O’Nan’s website for additional information about his books.  You can listen to a sample of the audiobook here thanks to Brilliance Audio.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 
 




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - Circus Disaster Week is Here!


Ladies and gentlemen! I am excited to kick off Circus Disaster Week today! I have been working on putting together this event for roughly the past month, so I hope you enjoy the content that I bring and can engage with this discussion. I have only been to the circus twice myself, but there has always been a mystique surrounding it for me. Back in 2004 I learned about the Hartford Circus Fire on the news when they were reporting on the ground breaking of the memorial site. I was shocked to have never heard about this as I lived in Connecticut, not all that far from where it happened. I wrote a post about this event back in 2009 (you can find my post “The Hartford Circus Fire - The Day the Clowns Cried” here) and in my book recommendations I noted the non-fiction title The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan – and promptly forgot about the book. This event was brought back to my attention this year when I stumbled across this book again (this time in audio book form) at my library. This was a wonderfully well written and narrated work and I knew while reading it that I had to feature this book on my site in a grand way – and Circus Disaster Week is the result!
This week will be a mixed bag of reviews, informational posts, video footage and a giveaway that you won’t want to miss. I am going to see the brand new Water for Elephants film tonight – and I don’t think I could possibly be more excited! – and of course there will be a review. There will also be a review of The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan. There will be a post on some of the most infamous circus disasters (from several different companies) as well as video footage of the aftermath of the Hartford disaster and some of the memorial. The giveaway you will just have to wait and see…

I previously reviewed the novel Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and here is a segment from that review. You can read my entire review here.
 “Jacob is in the last weeks of veterinary school at Cornell when he is hit with a massive shock: the death of both of his beloved parents, and more importantly the loss of everything he owns to the bank. This is the throws of the Depression. He does what every man would do in his situation, hops a train to anywhere only to find out it is the circus train of The Benzini Bros. Greatest Show on Earth! As the show’s veterinarian he forms a close relationship with crazy August (the equestrian trainer), his wife Marlena (a performer), and Rosie (the elephant). As the days go on, life on the circus gets crazier and crazier, until one day all hell breaks loose. What will Jacob do next? 
Gruen does an amazing job of researching the life of circus workers during the Depression. At no time did I feel that the details were out of place. You could feel the desperation of the roustabouts when they were continually not paid, resorted to drinking bootleg liquor, ran out of food. Reading this book was like stepping back in time. 
I loved this book! It is easily very near the top of my favorite books list.”
Oh, and what do you think of the circus announcement flyer on the right hand sidebar?

Hope to see you all around this week!

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, April 23, 2011

British Babes Book Brigade Celebration and Giveaway!

If you haven't been caught up in the whirlwind that is to be the Royal Wedding you have to have been under a rock - and we are going to bring you some more action right here at The Maiden's Court.  Sourcebooks has a Facebook Page called British Babes Book Brigade and they are going to be kicking up their heels and celebrating the Royal Wedding all next week.  Read what they have going on below:

"If you haven’t already checked out the Sourcebooks British Babes Book Brigade Facebook Page (where you can participate in giveaways and interact with authors like Elizabeth Chadwick, Jill Mansell, Helen Hollick, Sarah Bower and Phillipa Ashley and more…) then you should before next week because the page is about to go royally mad!!


The royal wedding is only a week away and we are going to be celebrating all next week. Starting Monday we will be doing a giveaway every day until the big celebration on Friday. But these are no ordinary giveaways – these are royal wedding prize packs!


3 winners will be randomly picked each day:


- The 1st place winner will get a William & Kate wedding memento (it is top secret for now (just like Kate’s dress) but check the page out on Monday to find out – oh and they are all different so there will be a different memento each day). Along with that they also get their choice of three books from any of our British Book Babes.


- The 2nd place winner will have their choice of any two books from any of our British Book Babes.


- The 3rd place winner will have their choice of one book from any of our British Book Babes."

Sourcebooks has extended their celebration to The Maiden's Court followers by offering up another great giveaway - two titles by Georgette Heyer (which titles remain a mystery).  Just fill out the simple form below to be entered for the Heyer giveaway.  Make sure you pop by the British Babes Book Brigade site all this coming week!






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 22, 2011

Giveaway - Blood and Silk by Carol McKay


Today I bring you a giveaway of my gently read copy of Blood and Silk by Carol McKay. Just fill out the simple form below to enter.  Open only to US and Canada.






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Review: Blood and Silk by Carol McKay


Blood and Silk: The Hidden Love Story of Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth
by Carol McKay
Paperback, 328 pages
BookSurge Publishing
January 19, 2010
★★½☆☆☆

Genre: Biblical Fiction; Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publicist for review
“Blood and Silk: The Hidden Love Story of Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth is author Carol McKay’s gift to everyone fascinated by the life of Mary of Magdala-Mary Magdalene-and her often misunderstood relationship to Jesus of Nazareth. In this beautifully crafted historical novel, the reader is guided through a time rich with art and architecture, and fraught with change and controversy. Mary’s narration introduces us to first-century Judea, when the atmosphere crackled with fear, and determination of friend or foe was often difficult, if not impossible. As much as theologians paint the story about Mary and Jesus as straightforward and even simple in nature, the author reminds us that theirs was a love weighed down and complicated by the politics of the day. The story of Mary, and then Mary and Jesus, is intricate and often as perilous as the times in which they lived. Founded on historical accuracy and an eye for a well-told story, this is a novel that will fascinate and delight.”

Since I discovered the Biblical fiction sub-genre of historical fiction I have been intrigued at reading more expanded accounts of some of the popular stories from the Bible. Prior to this book, I had read and very much enjoyed Eve by Elissa Elliott and The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy (links to reviews). I was interested in taking on this book because I am not extremely familiar with the content of the New Testament as I have always tended to lean toward the Old Testament. I wanted to take the opportunity to stretch my reading horizons and try something different.

I hate to say this, but I didn’t absolutely love this book. It was hard to get into what was happening and to follow the flow in some sections. At times I felt like there was a complete passage being retold word for word and it didn’t add to anything. I also have to question the editing of this book – it was a finished copy yet there were many instances where there were problems with singular and plural nouns and many grammatical errors – when added to my struggle to get into the story it just made it more of a turn off. I also didn’t really feel that much of a love story between Mary and Jesus. They would interact with each other here and there but I feel that the author left too much unsaid and to the imagination. For a book whose subtitle is The Hidden Love Story of Mary of Magdala and Jesus of Nazareth, I just didn’t feel the connection.

There is a positive side to this review though – I loved the way the setting, culture, and people were portrayed. Settings in this book include Jerusalem, Alexandria, and areas of Greece and France. You really got the feel for how the people lived day to day and how they celebrated their special occasions. There was also a lot of discussion of the politics of the period and how that had an impact on the life of the people. This is one of my favorite periods to read about and it was rendered beautifully.

My recommendation would be that this is certainly a book for those who are interested in the New Testament particularly. Those who have a casual interest in Biblical fiction might want to skip this one.

This is the author’s first novel.  You can visit Carol McKay’s website for additional information about the book or you can visit the fan page on Facebook.  You can also read an excerpt of the book if you are interested.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Review: Prima Donna by Megan Chance


Prima Donna by Megan Chance
Paperback, 432 pages
Broadway
December 29, 2009
★★★★½☆

Genre: Historical fiction

Source: Received from Inkwell Management for review
“In the glittering world of nineteenth century opera, Sabine Conrad is a beloved star feted by New York’s high society, showered with adulation from her audiences, and courted by wealthy patrons. Ensnared by a man who both loves and controls her, Sabine risks everything—including her lustrous career—to break free from her lover. But her plan backfires; by the end of the night, she is a criminal on the run from a grisly murder.
Changing her appearance and her name, she flees as far from society as she can, to the rough and gritty town of Seattle. There, hidden among the prostitutes, drunks, and miners, she must put aside the prima donna she once was and learn how to survive on her own.
Until her past returns to offer a terrifying proposition…”
I was excited to read this book for a couple of reasons – particularly the choice of setting and unique character occupation – and I really don’t know what took me so long to get to it. The story itself moves between the present with Marguerite in Seattle and the Journal of Sabine Conrad. I liked how the author used his technique to reveal certain information to the reader from the journal that helped to piece together some of what was happening in the present. The aspect of the story that I found most interesting was the choice of Seattle as the setting for most of the current-set plotline. I don’t know of too many hist-fic novel that have taken advantage of this locale. I think that it is a unique choice and it was so interesting to see it juxtaposed with the bigger, more established cities like New York and Philadelphia at that time. It was almost like another character that you got to know – a seedy, dirty, up-and-comer!

In another unique move, Sabine Conrad (as in “The Journal of”) is an opera singer. I haven’t read any books about opera singers and it was certainly interesting to be immersed in that world of music. I learned many things about music, opera, and the stories that they tell. What was interesting to me is that at this time, during the 1800’s, opera appeared to be a very popular entertainment. Everyone seemed to at least know something about the opera, even if they couldn’t afford to attend – they were the celebrity singers of the day. I couldn’t name one opera singer for you if I tried!

Just a quick word of warning – there is some violence and sex scenes and much of the story takes place in a “box house” which is like a bar with private rooms. Certainly not terribly graphic but there are some mildly disturbing descriptions (particularly toward the end of the book).

I really enjoyed this story. The writing was fast-paced and kept the story barreling ahead. At the end of each chapter I didn’t want to put it down because there was always a little something to keep you coming back – especially the Journal chapters. You really don’t find out for certain what happened until right at the very end – and you will find it very hard to guess accurately! I highly recommend this book and can’t wait to have the chance to look into some of this author’s other novels.

Megan Chance has also has written several historical books including The Spiritualist, An Inconvenient Wife, and Susannah Morrow. She also has a new book being released in June 2011 City of Ash. You can visit the author’s website or blog for additional information about the books. You can also find the author on her Facebook page. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

The video below is the author reading the prologue of the novel and answering a few questions at an event:

 

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).

 



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mailbox Monday #71


Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page but is now on a monthly blog tour.  For the month of April it is hosted by Amy at Passages to the Past.

I received two books this week - one for a review and one that I won on a giveaway.

For part of the HF Virtual Book Tours May/June tour I received a copy of Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith.  I enjoyed her previous book Daughter of York so I am excited to read this one, although a little intimidated by the size!

From Goodreads I won a copy of Springtime of the Spirit by Maureen Lang.  This is book 3 in The Great War Series (and I don't have books 1 - Look to the East or 2 - Whisper on the Wind) but I look forward to reading this series.  I haven't really read anything set during WWI.  I believe that this is a Christian series, which isn't my usual reading genre, but the reviews look so good!

Here are the blurbs:

Look to the East
A village under siege. A love under fire.

France, 1914

At the dawn of the First World War, the small village of Briecourt is isolated from the early battles while a century-old feud between the Toussaints and the de Colvilles still rages in the streets. But when the German army sweeps in to occupy the town, families on both sides of the feud are forced to work together to hide stragglers caught behind enemy lines.

Juliette Toussaint may have been adopted from a faraway island, but she feels the scorn of the de Colvilles as much as anyone born a Toussaint. So when she falls in love with one of the men in hiding—a wealthy and handsome Belgian entrepreneur—she knows she’s flirting with danger.


Charles Lassone has been waiting in the church cellar, safe from the Germans for the moment. But if he’s discovered, it will threaten the entire village—including Julitte—and could cost Charles his life.

In Brussels at the height of WWI, a small, underground newspaper is the only thing offering the occupied city hope—and real news of the war. The paper may be a small whisper amid the shouts of the German army, but Edward Kirkland will do anything to keep it in print. Meanwhile, Isa Lassone, a Belgian-American socialite whose parents whisked her to safety at the start of the war, sneaks back into the country to rescue those dearest to her: Edward and his mother. But Edward refuses to go, and soon Isa is drawn into his secret life printing the newspaper . . . And into his heart.

Springtime of the Spirit
By the fall of 1918, the Great War has ended and the world is at peace, but there is little to celebrate in Germany. After four years of fighting for his homeland, Christophe Brecht returns to find there is little left of what he once called home. So when family friends ask him to travel to Munich to bring back their runaway daughter, Christophe agrees. When he finally locates Annaliese Duray, he discovers she is far different from the girl he once knew. Headstrong, idealistic, and beautiful, she is on the front lines of the city’s political scene, fighting to give women and working-class citizens a voice in Germany’s new government. As the political upheaval ignites in Munich, so does the attraction between Annaliese and Christophe. With an army from Berlin threatening to squash everything Annaliese has worked for, both she and Christophe are forced to choose between love and loyalty.

Did you receive any goodies this week?




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - Winner(s) and Event Announcement


Happy Sunday everyone!  I have been MIA on Suddenly Sunday's for awhile - I have had so much going on in my life lately, I apologize for the neglect.

First I want to announce the winners of the To Be Queen giveaway.  Yes, I did say winner(s)!  This was originally slated as a one book giveaway offered up by the author, but I have received an extra copy of the book and I certainly don't need two, so I am throwing the copy in as a surprise second book for this giveaway.  So the winners are...

Linda B and Joanne!!!

Congrats to you both!  I will be sending out emails for your addresses.


Last week I hinted at an upcoming event here at The Maiden's Court that I am very excited about - and now I'm going to officially unveil it.  April 24th through April 30th will be Circus Disaster Week!  I think that this poster should do a pretty good job at getting you excited.  I have to give major thanks to my boyfriend, Nick, for the poster and the banner that will be unveiled during the event.  I certainly could never do anything like this myself!



Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Exploring the Wreck

Efforts to locate and the desire to raise the wreck of the Titanic have been an ongoing concept since right after the ship crashed into the sea floor. Dr. Robert Ballard was among the team to rediscover the ship in 1985. It took this long to locate the ship because prior searchers were looking in the wrong place. The shipwreck is approximately 13 miles from where most were looking – their search locations were based off of the last reported positioning call of Titanic before she sank. Later, a small submarine named "Alvin" went down and took some of the first images of the Titanic wreck. By locating the wreck, investigators were able to piece together information about the disaster as well as correct some misconceptions – the most glaring being that the ship actually broke into two separate pieces before sinking.
Bow of Titanic
The bow section of the ship is in MUCH better condition than the stern – this is the portion that you always see in videos and pictures, and which you will see in the video clip below. This is believed to be because the bow had already mostly filled with water before it sank to the bottom, whereas the stern did not and the air pockets exploded as it sank into the deep water pressure. The bow is still in really good shape for being underwater for almost 100 years – most of the wood has deteriorated, the crow’s nest and grand staircase have collapsed. There is a lot of concern though because tourists hire subs to go down and tour the wreck and they are damaging the fragile and stressed structure – they are also taking souvenirs.

Stern of Titanic
In this video below you will see that there are all kinds of debris still visible on board and in the area surrounding the ship. You can see shoes and jewelry, dishes still in their cases, furniture, lamps etc. It is amazing that things like dishes didn't break when it crashed to the bottom or even move out of their cases.


There is a wonderful website you can check out to find more information and pictures of the Titanic called Titanic Universe.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 15, 2011

Guest Post by Kate Quinn & Giveaway

In celebration of her newest release, Daughter's of Rome, Kate Quinn has written an awesome post about Roman hygiene and fashion for us.  I hope you will enjoy this post as much as I did - I love reading what Kate writes!  At the bottom of this post is a giveaway for a copy of Daughters of Rome.

Did They Have "Vogue" in Ancient Rome?

Guest post by Kate Quinn, author of
Daughters of Rome



Frankly, if the next issue of Vogue or Glamour announced the return of ancient Roman fashion, I would be overjoyed. Imperial Rome might have been a tad behind the curve on issues like slavery, foreign policy, and the whole concept of death-as-mass-entertainment, but in fashion, hygiene, and the beauty trade they were far ahead of their time. Roman women, provided they had enough leisure to devote some time to their appearance rather than sweat out their lives in a vineyard for two sesterces a day, had it pretty good.

In some ways they had it better than us 21st century girls: the Roman ideal of female beauty is another thing I wouldn't mind seeing brought back on modern magazine covers. Thin, tan, and toned? You'd be told to eat some more stuffed dormice, stay out of the sun, and for Jupiter's sake get rid of those leg muscles before people mistake you for a slave girl. Soft, tan-free, and voluptuous was the ideal Roman look – and speaking as a girl who's always looked more Joan from Mad Men than Blair from Gossip Girl, the Roman way is a look I can get behind.
Joan meet Blair

Roman fashion is something else to envy – those draped goddess gowns aren't just chic, they're comfortable. Underwear consisted of a simple laced-up leather version of a bra, and a linen tunic for a slip – no more thongs to avoid VPLs, no more of those boy shorts Victoria's Secret insists are wedgie-proof, but aren't. Add a sleeveless dress on top and drape, pleat, pin, belt, and tuck the folds to suit your figure – and don't worry about your dress going out of style next year, because the layered look stayed in for hundreds of years through the Roman Empire. Slip on a pair of comfortable strappy flats – no more four-inch stilettos, no more clunky platforms, no more of those spiky ankle boots that give even the slimmest girl cankles. Finish off your look with a huge assortment of jewelry: rings, brooches, necklaces, earrings, anklets, bracelets, whatever your heart desires.

Roman men groused a lot about women wearing makeup – some things never change – but the women of Rome paid no attention to them. Rich women imported expensive cosmetics from places like Egypt and Greece; poor women bought cheap knockoffs from the ancient-world equivalent of Rite-Aid. Skin creams were popular to whiten the face (stick to your LancĂ´me foundation, though; those Roman skin creams sometimes had lead in them). Vermilion, red chalk, or poppy petals were used for blush; soot-based kohl or charred rose petals for eyeliner. Colored eyeshadows came from powdered malachite or azurite (I wonder if Roman women cringed to be reminded of their blue eyeshadow days as much as I do when I look at my high school pictures). Perfumes were doused liberally, and nails could be colored with red dyes. As for hair, curls were popular (no more torturing my ringlets out with a flat-iron!) and so were elaborate pinned-and-piled updos. Wigs were popular too: sport a short Audrey Hepburn pixie cut at home when it's too hot to mess with your hair, and then go blond, redhead, or brunette with an assortment of pre-styled wigs for when company drops by. (Take a look at Lucy Lawless's array of do's from Spartacus: Blood and Sand.)

If there was anything else the Romans understood very well, it was cleanliness. Their goddess of health was called Hygeia; people bathed in ancient Rome, and they bathed often. Elaborately too – most modern women only treat themselves to the spa as an occasional treat but Roman women tripped out to the bathhouse as a near-daily social occasion. You met your friends at the local bathhouse and caught up on the day's news while first basking in a hot steam room, then cooling down with a splash in a refreshing cold pool, then wandering to a social area where you might get a toning massage or choose a facial or a bikini wax from the list of spa treatments while sipping wine and gossiping. Some of these beauty treatments might seem a bit odd today – one anti-wrinkle cream included swan fat and bean meal, and an early-version chemical peel recommended by Nero's Empress involved a liberal application of ass's milk. But there's no doubt Roman women believed in pampering themselves.

So perhaps we can combine the best of both worlds. I'll pass on lead-based skin creams and anything with swan fat. But no tanning, no flat-irons, and the phrase “She's a size 16; put her on the magazine cover”? Sign me up now.

Heather, thanks so much for having me! I've long been an avid reader of The Maiden’s Court, so it was a treat to be a guest blogger.

You can find Kate on her website or blog.  You can pick up her previous release Mistress of Rome or her newest release Daughters of Rome (links go to Amazon.com).






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Remembering the Titanic

Today is the 99th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Although it didn’t actually sink until the very early hours of April 15th, it struck the iceberg that started the whole mess in the waning hours of April 14th 1912.

Most of you probably know the story – or have at least seen the 1997 movie Titanic. The ship sideswiped an iceberg in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean. While from the deck the damage didn’t look to bad, upon further inspection they found that water was leaking into the pump rooms below and was not going to be able to be abetted (despite all of the new technology installed to prevent such a sinking). After this was determined the crew set about sending out distress signals and deploying the lifeboats (which of course there were not enough of).



Many lifeboats were under loaded and people were less concerned at the beginning of the disaster because it didn’t seem so bad. Mostly first class and women and children were loaded into the boats. There were some men that were loaded if they needed manpower and some of the other classes as well – but there were only enough boats for 1,178 people if loaded properly, and that was more than was required.



By 2:10 AM the ship had taken on so much water toward the front of the ship that the stern lifted up out of the water. Eventually the weight broke the ship in two with the bow gently falling to the bottom. The stern again tipped up out of the water, became vertical, and then fell to the ocean floor below.

All but two lifeboats were launched, only two went back to pick up survivors. Many people were afraid of their boat being pulled down by the sinking ship and others didn’t want to have their boats swamped by those trying to get in it. Of those that went back, only 9 survivors were plucked from the water. The lifeboats would wait for the RMS Carpathia to arrive around 4 in the morning to rescue them and take them back to New York.

Take a minute today or tomorrow to remember those who were lost in this disaster. In all, 1,517 people were lost. This is one of the deadliest peacetime disasters to happen on the water. There are no longer any survivors of the Titanic disaster – the last survivor, Millvina Dean, who was only 2 months old at the time of the accident, passed away in 2009.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to Celebrate the Titanic's 100th Anniversary?

2012 marks the 100th Anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Titanic and you just know that there are going to be some big events planned to celebrate in both the US and UK. One thing that I just recently read about is the Titanic Memorial Cruises – and there are three to choose from. Now just FYI, they are mostly all booked, so if you feel compelled to take part in one of these experiences, you had better book it NOW!

The Memorial Cruise from Southampton follows the itinerary of the fated voyage of the Titanic. This 12 night cruise departs Southampton, England on April 8, 2012 – the ship will pass by Cherbourg, France and will stop in Cobh, Ireland (both were ports of call for Titanic). Time will be spent on the 14th and 15th of April at the site where Titanic sank – including a 2:20 AM Memorial Service at the time the ship sank. There will then be a stop at Halifax, Canada where you can visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery where many victims of the disaster were buried. The final stop will be in New York City on the 20th of April – Titanic’s intended destination. Throughout the trip you will be treated to lectures about various aspects of Titanic, as well as dine on many of the same dishes and listen to the same music. Prices begin at £3,650 (about $5,967 US) per person.

The Mini Cruise from Southampton is a 5 night cruise from April 3rd to April 8th. Departing from Southampton, where Titanic began its voyage, you will travel to Liverpool, England (where the White Star Line is based and many of the crew members were from) and then on to Belfast, Ireland (where the ship was built). This tour does not visit the Titanic site. Prices begin at £449 (about $734 US) per person.

The Anniversary Cruise from New York is an 8 night cruise. You set sail from New York City, where Titanic was intended to land, travel to Halifax, Canada to visit the Titanic Memorial in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, travel to the Titanic site where on the 14th and 15th of April there will be a memorial service, before finally heading back to New York City. Prices begin at $4,800 US.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not too sure that I would want to follow the exact path of Titanic on the dates that she did and eat the same food and listen to the same music. It just sounds like too much tempting fate. Even though I am sure it would be a wonderful experience for the Titanic and history lover.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court