*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!

Search This Blog

Loading...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book Review: The Tempest by William Shakespeare

 
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Unabridged, 2 hr. 7 min.
Naxos Audiobooks
Full Cast feat. Sir Ian McKellan (Narrator)
November 2004
★★★½☆☆

Genre: Classic

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“Sir Ian McKellen, fresh from his performance as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings is Prospero, and heads a strong cast in Shakespeare’s last great play. The wronged duke raises a tempest to shipwreck his old opponents on his island so that he can ensure justice is done. With Emilia Fox as Miranda, Scott Handy in the pivotal role of the sprite Ariel and Ben Owukwe as Caliban, this new production directed by John Tydeman, balances the magic and the earthiness with music playing a key role.”
First I’m going to point out that I seem to enjoy Shakespeare’s tragedies the best – I don’t know, I feel like they are written better and more engaging to the audience. To follow that up, I didn’t LOVE The Tempest - this is one of his comedies with somewhat of a romance angle. I didn’t really feel like too much happened – a lot of it is Prospero being introspective or speaking with his crony Ariel. I have not seen a stage production of this play and I don’t know that I really want to after reading and listening to this one.


★★★☆☆

This was an okay audio production. Sir Ian McKellan was wonderful – as would be expected from him. His voice was booming and perfect for the role of Prospero. It should be noted that there were sound effects used in this production – a lot of thundering and storming during the tempest. These effects made it very difficult to hear what was being said much of the time. Because of these sound effects, which were very overpowering, I became lost and confused as to what was going on in the story. I had to re-read the play to know precisely what happened. It was also very difficult to tell most of the male characters apart from one another which made it difficult to follow as well. I think I would have preferred this better not on audio book or maybe a different production.

Here is a sample of the audio production to listen to.

My reviews of other books by this author:





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Review: Broken Promises by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman

 
Broken Promises by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
Previously published as: In the Lion’s Den
ARC, Paperback, 336 pages
Ballantine Books
March 29, 2011
★★★☆☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received for review from Amazon Vine program
1861: The war that’s been brewing for a decade has exploded, pitting North against South. Fearing that England will support the Confederate cause, President Lincoln sends Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, to London. But when Charles arrives, accompanied by his son Henry, he discovers that the English are already building warships for the South. As Charles embarks on a high-stakes game of espionage and diplomacy, Henry reconnects with his college friend Baxter Sams, a Southerner who has fallen in love with Englishwoman Julia Birch. Julia’s family reviles Americans, leaving Baxter torn between his love for Julia, his friendship with Henry, and his obligations to his own family, who entreat him to run medical supplies across the blockade to help the Confederacy. As tensions mount, irrevocable choices are made—igniting a moment when history could have changed forever.”

This was a very different sort of read for me. I hadn't yet read anything about the American Civil War and this book certainly took on an interesting angle of this historic event. The bulk of the novel takes place in England, so as a reader we have the interesting perspective of seeing what the British reaction was to the Civil War. I had honestly never really considered the British impact and reaction to this event. For those of you that are like me and did not know about this – they were helping out the Confederacy and hoping for the dissolution of the Union. This entirely makes sense to me now.

While I was excited to see a different angle of this iconic event, it did end up being a little bit of a letdown. I would say about 75% of the book was focused primarily on the political aspect of the Civil War and the impact of British involvement. This led to a sometimes very dry reading experience. I appreciated the research and new knowledge acquired, but it would make me have to put down the book after only short periods of reading. We are not taken to the scene of the battlefields or witness any of the blood and guts you would expect in a war novel. The remaining 25% of the novel kept me fascinated and that was mostly the events that took place in the United States – and this was not due to the setting. During these portions there was action and adventure and the characters actually expressing emotions.

I very much enjoyed the main characters of this book. We have representatives of all sides of the war: Baxter Sams is a Confederate, Henry and Charles Adams are Union, and Julia Birch is British. This allows you to see all sides and opinions of the war. Baxter was my favorite for his personality and willingness to help his family despite personal political feelings.

I usually don’t pay much attention to quotes from other authors or books that sometimes grace the beginning of a chapter or section, but those selected in this novel were superb. There were selections from the Adams Cycle of Letters which was very pertinent as the Adams were a huge force in this novel. Most interesting to me was the selections from A Diary from Dixie because these gave little snippets of life from the Confederate side of the war. I plan on reading this Diary in its entirety and come back with more on this topic later.

Please be advised – this book was previously released under the title In the Lion’s Den – so if you have read that one, this is essentially the same book. You can visit Elizabeth’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?



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, August 29, 2011

Mailbox Monday #83


Just a small mailbox this week.  I received one review copy of an intriguing American hist-fic.

From Penguin I received The Little Bride by Anna Solomon.  I love to read historical fiction set in the United States.  They are few and far between these days so when I saw this one, I jumped on it.

Here is the blurb:
When 16-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband, a handsome townhouse, and freedom from physical labor and pogroms. But her husband Max turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons. The country is desolate, the work treacherous. Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson. As a brutal winter closes in, the family’s limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.
So I can't wait to read this one.  Sounds interesting.

Did you receive any books that are super exciting for you this week?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of August it is being held at Life in the Thumb.



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - Hunkering Down for Irene


Morning everyone!  I'm writing this post late Saturday night, as I'm not really sure that we will have power come morning.  Hurricane Irene is supposed to come in sometime on Sunday morning and we are already getting some of the rain from in now.  We are all set- we have food, flashlights, lots of candles, everything outside has been brought in - and all we can do is wait it out now.  I think we will be ok - shouldn't have any flooding problems as we live on top of a hill and most of our trees are gone from the tornado a few months ago - but due to the tornadoes they are warning us about mudslides because the trees are not there to hold the soil in place.  I think our worst issue will be power outages from trees falling on wires and wind.  So keep us in your thoughts!

I spent all day on Saturday getting my posts pre-scheduled for the week in case we lose power, so we should be up and running around here, but I may not be able to respond for awhile.

I did want to announce the winner of the Becoming Marie Antoinette giveaway before I sign off.  And the winner is Historical Fiction Notebook!


I have already emailed the winner in a preemptive move.

Wishing everyone the best during this hurricane!


Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at Muse in the Fog Book Review.



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, August 26, 2011

Six Degrees of The Captive of Kensington Palace


It's time for another edition of your favorite game...Six Degrees of...The Captive of Kensington Palace!

To reiterate the rules - in case you did not play last round.

1. I will give you two book titles and you have to come up with 4 more that fall in between those two that ultimately connect the first with the last (example will be provided below).

2. You can connect one word in the title to one word in the next title; one word in the title with a name of the author; name of the author with name of the author. You cannot, for example, connect Margaret George with Margaret George, but can connect Margaret George with Margaret Campbell Barnes.

3. The same word can only be used twice in a row.

Below (in red) is an example of a 6 degrees that works - connecting Helen of Troy by Margaret George to Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott:

Helen of Troy by Margaret George
My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
To Be Queen by Christy English
Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott

You can post your answers in the form below by next Friday - September 2nd , I will post answers from those submitted and using Random.com select a winner from correct answers for a bookmark prize pack.

This weeks challenge - connect The Captive of Kensington Palace by Jean Plaidy to The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent by Six Degrees!






Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Interview with Michaela MacColl

Today I want to take the opportunity to welcome author Michaela MacColl, author of The Prisoners in the Palace to The Maiden's Court.  I immensely enjoyed her book and hope you have/will too!  So I will stop this idle chit chat and get right to the heart of the matter - the interview!

What was it about the year before Victoria became queen that drew you to tell the story of Prisoners in the Palace?

I enjoy writing about famous people when they are young. It seems to me that the teenage years are so full of possibility. Princess Victoria has a life that should be so wonderful. She lives in a palace and has a fabulous destiny of wealth and pomp. The contradiction between what we think her life should be like and what it was is where I found my story. And anyway, who doesn’t want to read about a real life princess?

Any plans on writing about Victoria’s years as queen?

Originally I planned to take my story as far as Victoria’s marriage to Albert. Fortunately, I have a critique partner who makes me stop (and since Prisoners came to 368 pp – you really are happy she made me stop!) She convinced me that Victoria’s part of the story ends when she becomes Queen. I wouldn’t mind writing about Queen Victoria – she makes a lot of questionable decisions – but I don’t know if Liza would still be the best point of view character.

Why did you choose Victoria’s maid as your main character over the princess herself?

I started with Victoria. But her life is so constrained – there was only so much I could have her do and still be consistent with the historical record. Let’s face it, as much fun as it would be to have Victoria wandering in the East End of London it just could not have happened. So I thought about what Victoria the girl (not the Princess) really needed. And that was a friend. But a Princess can’t make friends with just anyone. Liza needed a reason to be in contact with the Princess and most importantly a plausible reason for being alone with her. The spying stuff came later, but it cemented their friendship in a way that gossiping and confidences never could.

Have you seen the movie The Young Victoria? Your book covers some of the same time period and events as the movie. Did you know anything about this film while you were writing your book?

I knew the film was coming… and it took forever to come to the USA. The filmmakers worked from the same facts I did – so watching the film was like seeing all my research come to life. (And the beautiful costumes!)

One of the parts of your novel that I found most interesting was the character of Inside Boy. I know he was based on a real person, what can you tell us about him and why you included him in your novel?

Inside Boy was my favorite character. He could be described as the “Queen’s Stalker.” He broke into Buckingham Palace several times to be near Queen Victoria. Security at the palace was so lax that he was able to get into the Crown Princess’s nursery. I loved the idea of him and even though he shows up in history a few years later, I took the liberty of having him start his career as a Palace-squatter a little earlier. Liza needed a friend and an ally and Inside Boy was perfect.

What was one of the most interesting tidbits that you discovered while researching for this novel?

I was probably most interested in how constrictive Victoria’s life was. My own children are always complaining that I’m too protective, but they can walk down stairs by themselves. They can choose their own friends and go out alone. Poor Victoria couldn’t. My favorite detail was probably that she couldn’t write her journal in ink until her mother had reviewed the entry. I had a great time in my story playing with what Victoria’s mom-approved description of a scene was and what might have happened in my imagination.

Are you currently working on anything new? Anything you can share with us?

My second book comes out in November, 2011. It’s called Promise the Night and it’s about Beryl Markham. Beryl grew up in colonial East Africa and was raised by the tribe who worked for her father. Beryl was addicted to risk and danger. She was mauled by a lion and went on hunts with the tribe. When she grew up, she became a bush pilot at a time when flying was the ultimate adventure. She set the record for being the first person to cross the Atlantic east to west. Promise the Night is about her childhood crossed with the story of her flight across the Atlantic.

Thank you so much Michaela for taking time to answer these questions for us.  I can't wait for Promise the Night!

Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University. She earned degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. What happened that helped them to be great? Michaela has two daughters so she's hoping to identify those moments firsthand. She and her family live in Connecticut, but she will travel at the drop of hat to do local research. So far her travels have taken her to London and Florence and Amherst, Massachussetts. A trip to Shanghai, China is in the works. Prisoners in the Palace (Chronicle, October 2010) is her first book.  You can visit Michaela at her website.









Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

 
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
ARC, Paperback, 368 pages
Chronicle Books
October 13, 2010
★★★★½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Source: Picked up a copy at BEA
“Young Elizabeth Hastings knows about suffering. At seventeen, she has lost her family, her home and her future. In desperation, she takes a position at Kensington Palace working for the sixteen year old Princess Victoria. But nothing is as it seems at the palace. The heir to the throne is practically a prisoner. A mother schemes against her daughter. Sir John Conroy, a man with no power or connections, is playing for the ultimate prize. And the servants - they know everything of course!

Liza's journey will take her through the bowels of the Palace and to the deepest slums of London. She'll learn about the power of the press and the attractions of one particular newspaperman. How far will Liza have to go to restore her fortune and put the Princess Victoria on the throne? Will she find independence and romance or find herself a prisoner in the palace, too?”

This book was my first read on the Princess Victoria. I had seen the movie The Young Victoria a few months prior to reading this, so I was slightly familiar with many of the events in her early years but this book brought so many more details of her life into the forefront. I can’t help but compare the two a little bit as they both cover very much the same period in Victoria’s life. The most notable difference between the two was the movie relied heavily of the character of Albert, while the book only has him in two scenes (and by the way, he is not as likeable in the book as the movie).

I loved the characters in this novel. You have the non-historical character of Liza who really brings adventure into the very stoic world of Princess Victoria. The interactions between Liza and Victoria are so fun. At times they forget they are royal and subject and at other times those lines are carefully drawn. I also can’t say enough about how evil the character of Sir John is. He really was an awesome villain with simply no redeeming qualities. And I LOVE him that way! My other favorite character was Inside Boy – a stowaway in Kensington Palace – you will absolutely love him!

The research for this book was phenomenal - you get some unique little tidbits. I also loved the inclusion of some of the entries from Victoria’s diaries. It really helped to connect the character to the historical world she lived in. There was an extensive author’s note at the end which I really appreciated.

This is also not your typical YA novel where these days you expect to find romance and the seemingly mandatory love triangle. This story does have a romance thread to it but it is very minor. The focus is instead on intrigue and adventure and is very fast paced. This novel is perfect for a teen reader or an adult – both will find it to be enjoyable.

This is author Michaela MacColl’s first novel. You can visit her website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?



My reviews of other books by this author:

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, August 23, 2011

Caught on Tape: Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria is such an iconic woman who reigned for a lengthy time on the throne of England. I would have imagined that there were many movies about Queen Victoria – but I was only able to find a couple.    Please let me know if you have seen any others.

The Young Victoria (2009)
“Eighteen-year-old British royal Victoria (Emily Blunt) ascends to the throne and is romanced by future husband Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) in this lush period film that chronicles the early years of the British monarch's larger-than-life reign. Produced by Martin Scorsese and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, the Oscar-nominated film also stars Miranda Richardson as the Duchess of Kent, Jim Broadbent as King William, and Paul Bettany as Lord Melbourne.”
I can’t say enough things about this movie. It was beautiful, had wonderful music, and had amazing acting. This film focuses on the younger years of Victoria’s life and some of the early years of her marriage. Emily Blunt plays Princess Victoria and while at first I thought she might not be the best for the role, I loved her! The movie also stars Rupert Friend as Prince Albert and Miranda Richardson as her mother, The Duchess of Kent. You can read my entire review of this movie here.


Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown (1997)
“Grieving widow Queen Victoria (Oscar nominee Judi Dench) withdraws into sadness for years until plainspoken manservant John Brown (Billy Connolly) disrupts her mourning. But as their friendship grows, it results in personal and political ramifications for both of them. Exquisitely filmed and fueled by sparkling performances, director John Madden's period drama brilliantly portrays the woman behind an empire and the man who helped her live again.”
This film stars the indomitable Judi Dench as the widowed Queen Victoria – and boy does she ever look the part! This is a completely different film than the one listed above as the years after the death of her husband, Victoria was a very different person. She was more hermit like and was no longer the light of Windsor. Gerard Butler (whom I love in so many films) plays Archie Brown. This movie has won several awards.


The Story of Vickie (1954)
“Romy Schneider stars as a young Queen Victoria who flees London, and an arranged marriage to a German prince, to spend a few anonymous days in France. But when she falls in love with a mysterious stranger, she's in for the surprise of her life. Directed by Ernst Marischka, this charming love story also stars Adrian Hoven, Karl Ludwig Diehl, Magda Schneider and Christl Mardayn.”
The above listed plot sounds incredibly unbelievable – knowing what I do about Victoria – but could be an interesting adventure romance story. This film is in German and seems to have gotten very good viewer reviews on Netflix. I cannot find a trailer for this film but felt that this one should be included as it is a foreign film.


Have you seen any other Princess/Queen Victoria movies?





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mailbox Monday #82


I received two books in my mailbox this week and one of them was completely unexpected.

I was very excited to receive Incognito by Gregory Maguire!  I absolutely love the cover and had been unable to accept it for review due to time constraints but I was thrilled to win it from a giveaway at Burton Book Review - thanks Marie!

I unexpectedly received a bound galley of The September Queen by Gillian Bagwell.  The cover is gorgeous and sounds interesting - I had not really herd of Jane Lane before.  Here is the blurb:
Charles II is running for his life-and into the arms of a woman who will risk all for king and country. 
Jane Lane is of marrying age, but she longs for adventure. She has pushed every potential suitor away-even those who could provide everything for her. Then one day, adventure makes its way to her doorstep, and with it comes mortal danger... 
Royalists fighting to restore the crown to King Charles II implore Jane to help. Jane must transport him to safety, disguised as a manservant. As she places herself in harm's way, she finds herself falling in love with the gallant young Charles. And despite his reputation as a breaker of hearts, Jane finds herself surrendering to a passion that will change her life forever.


What goodies came in your mailbox?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour.  For the month of August it is being hosted by Life in the Thumb.




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - A Tiny Bit Late

Good morning everyone!  I hope you are well.  As you are reading this I am most likely off doing something that I will be telling you about next Sunday!  I'm pretty excited.


But I wanted to direct your attention to a feature at the Lions & Men blog which I probably should have announced last Sunday, before the event happened, but I didn't get the chance.  It was time travel week and if you are interested in time travel books you should check it out.  There are several reviews and some cool features - I even got one of my reviews in there too.  Here are the links to the posts -

Review of Map of Time by Felix Palma
Feature on Time Travel in Music
Review double feature - Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Feature on Time Travel in Games
Review of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

I hope you enjoy checking out Time Travel Week!


Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at The Muse in the Fog Book Review.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Two Sides to Every Story: William Shakespeare v. Alternate Authors


William Shakespeare v. Alternate Authors

When a discussion of Shakespeare arises, at some point the theory that someone else wrote some (or all) of his works will surface. While the majority of Shakespeare academics discount the theory that it was someone other than Shakespeare, that fact that it is still pervasive indicates it should be addressed. Below we will explore some of the different possibilities of who might have written his works – as well as some of the evidence to support that it was none other than the Bard himself.

William Shakespeare

Of course the majority of people believe that William Shakespeare did indeed write his novels. Other people in Shakespeare’s time also believed in the identity of William Shakespeare. He was cited several times by other poets within their writings as a person of note in the genre. Even in his death he looked out for several of the other actors from the King’s Men – who starred in many plays with him. There is also evidence in the way he wrote his plays that support him as the true author – he wasn’t a highly educated man and his plays were not written for the highly educated. His writing avoids many of the stylistic methods that noble writers used and he frequently made errors when referring to classical events.

Interestingly enough, a study, The Claremont Shakespeare Clinic, was conducted from 1987 to 2010 by a person who was sympathetic to the idea that someone other than the Bard wrote his plays. This study used a computer model to compare Shakespeare’s writing style to the styles of numerous possible Shakespeare writers. The ultimate result of these tests suggests the plays were written by one person and eliminated all of the other possible authors. The stylistic evidence that they used included: he used fewer relative clauses and more hyphens, feminine endings, and run-on lines than most of the writers with whom he was compared.

Alternate Authors

Since the idea that some or all of his works were not written by 1 person, over 70 alternatives have been brought up. Some of these potential authors are ridiculous while 4 others are considered in more depth. These 4 are: Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere, Christopher Marlowe, and William Stanley.

Sir Francis Bacon – Bacon was brought up as a potential Shakespeare in 1856 – more than 200 years after Shakespeare’s death. The biggest evidence in support of Bacon is that there are many similar sentences and phrases in both Shakespeare’s and Bacon’s works. They also suggest that there are many legal references in the plays and supports the theory of Bacon because he was a lawyer. They also suggested that ciphers hidden within the plays support Bacon as the author – the word honorificabilitudinitatibus supposedly translates to the Latin phrase meaning – “These plays, the offering of F. Bacon, are preserved for the world”.

Edward de Vere – This theory came to popularity in the 1920’s. Those that support de Vere’s claim suggest that events that occur in Shakespeare’s plays are indicative of events in de Vere’s life – particularly in Hamlet. They also state that there are over 1,500 anagrams of the name E. Vere within Shakespeare’s works. The biggest downfall to this theory is that 10 of the Shakespeare works came out after de Vere died and supporters say that these works were really written at a different date that usually attributed to them.

Christopher Marlowe – The idea of Marlowe being the author or a co author was suggested in 1884. He came from the same social background and was very close in age to Shakespeare. To support this theory it must be believed that Marlowe faked his death in 1593. He then wrote under the name of Shakespeare to avoid being collared for atheism. There are stylistic similarities between the two authors and hidden meanings in his works. Shakespeare’s first play, Venus and Adonis went on sale just shortly after Marlowes death.

William Stanley – Stanley was raised as a potential author in 1891. Derby was known to pen some plays and his initials were also W.S. Several of the people that he was known to associate with and events in his life are believed to alluded to in plays – William Cecil (Hamlet), events in Navarre (Love’s Labour’s Lost), and William Herbert and Philip Herbert (who First Folio was dedicated to).


Have you heard any of these theories? What do you think of them – do they hold water for you? For me, Shakespeare is Shakespeare.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson


The Gentleman Poet by Kathryn Johnson
ARC, Paperback, 336 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
September 7, 2010
★★★★★

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the author for review
“Many scholars believe one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, The Tempest, was inspired by a shipwreck and true tale of survival that captured the imagination of 17th-century London. But what if the greatest playwright of all time didn’t simply read about the wreck of the Sea Venture off the Bermuda coast? What if Will was on board, fleeing powerful enemies, daring one last great adventure near the troubled end of his career?”
This novel has it all: adventure, Shakespeare, romance, survival, sadness. The story of the shipwreck of the Sea Venture and the subsequent survival of its crew is fascinating and told in engrossing detail. You will certainly be hard-pressed to put this book down. It is a fast read that can be finished in one day and leaves you wanting to know more.

The story is told from the first person of Elizabeth and you feel all of her fear, frustrations and sadness. We get to experience through her the terror of a ship being tossed like a toy in a raging storm, we learn what it is like to be one of a handful of women on an island dominated by men, and we learn what it is like to come into our own as a woman. The other characters of the novel were well developed and I very much enjoyed the character who we later discover is Shakespeare. I loved how the author used this experience as the fodder behind Shakespeare’s later play. It gave you a sort of behind-the-scenes access.

I had never read anything before that takes place in the very start of colony life. These survivors really had to start from the ground up and figure out how to survive. One of the things that Elizabeth does is discover what plants are good to eat and brings them back to the camp. These foraging experiences brought to mind the experiences I had in the my primary school days playing the game Oregon Trail where you have to do the same thing. Also, as this colony is on Bermuda you really get the sense of fear and mysticism that surrounds this island - you learn a lot of this from the superstitious sailors.

The only issue I had with the book was with the ending. The whole novel builds up to this ultimate event and then in just a few short pages things change and the story ends. I felt a little let down because what you had been hoping for all along finally happens and then something happens which basically makes you feel like everything leading up to it was for naught and then it ends. I think if there had been maybe 20 more pages to frame out the ending I would have been more satisfied.

However, I truly did love this book and would encourage all to read it if you enjoy a good adventure story. You really don’t have to know anything about The Tempest to enjoy it - I didn’t read the play until after the novel - which encouraged me to seek out the original work.

You can visit Johnson’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it you can use the Browse Inside feature below:

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, August 15, 2011

Mailbox Monday #81


Well, this week there was a HUGE influx of books at my house - but only 1 actually came in the mail - but I just have to share all of them with you!

Ok, let's start off with something that did actually arrive in the mail -

As a giveaway win I received Madame Bovary's Daughter by Linda Urbach.  I have been excited to read this one and was even more excited to win it!

Now that the requisite mailbox portion is done, I went to my local library sale this weekend and scored a boatload of books for just $11 (and most of them are hard cover)!  Here is what we got:

Roses by Leila Meacham - have heard so many wonderful things about this book and when I saw it I knew I needed to get it
• The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt - a Holt goes without saying.  I found a couple of hers at this sale last year too.
• The Queen’s Confession by Victoria Holt - ditto to the above
King’s Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes - one of the two books of hers that I didn't have - in mint condition.  Now all I need is the Tudor Rose.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - after listening to this on audiobook I have wanted to actually acquire this one - and now my boyfriend can read it too!
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck - I was surprised when I found this one - I had mentioned this on my recommended reads for King Arthur listing and of course had to pick this up when I found it.
Byzantium by Stephen Lawhead - we have several Lawhead books here, although I haven't finished my first  yet.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville - the next few books were my boyfriend's choosing, but worth having on my classics shelf.  I don't know if I will ever physically read this book - it feels more like an audio to me.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Vol 1 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - On the other hand, I have been dying to get into some Sherlock Holmes and this is the perfect start!
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe - another for the classics shelf
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne - I never knew this book was so short!
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - A great addition to our collection
The House at Riverton by Kate Morton - I already have a copy on my shelf - but a beautiful hard cover makes a great giveaway!
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory - ditto to the above!
War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells - the boyfriend jumped right into this one upon getting home.  I'm hoping to pick up the audiobook version of the original radio production - hear it just as many first heard it!

I think this is one of my best hauls in a long time.

What arrived in your mailbox?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of August it is being held at Life in the Thumb.





Copyright  2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview with Juliet Grey

I have the wonderful opportunity to introduce all of you readers to a new novelist in the historical fiction genre.  Juliet Grey's new book, Becoming Marie Antoinette, was released on August 9th and has already made quite the impression.  As the first book in a trilogy about the life of Marie Antoinette we get to see what made Marie who she would later be.  I had the chance to ask Juliet some of my most pressing questions about this book, the trilogy, and what it was like to take on someone who has been frequently written about.  So without further ado...

What is it about Marie Antoinette that brought you to her story?

I researched the lives of Marie Antoinette and her husband Louis Auguste, the dauphin of France for a nonfiction book; and the more I learned about the pair of them the more I realized how maligned they were. In essence, they became scapegoats for all the ills in France. Up until about 15 years before their marriage, their respective countries had been enemies for 950 years. Always perceived as the outsider, Marie Antoinette was blamed for everything from bad harvests and crop failure to the national deficit when France’s treasury was already bankrupted by Louis XV’s government by the time Marie Antoinette arrived. In fact, the biggest reason for France’s empty coffers during her husband’s reign was the enormous amount of money spent on military aid to the American colonists during our revolution.

There have been many books written about Marie Antoinette and this period in French history. What would you say sets your book (and the rest of the upcoming trilogy) apart from what is already out there?

Becoming Marie Antoinette is devoted completely to her early years (from age 10-18), a period that many novelists gloss over or rush through in order to get to (or spend more time at) Versailles. I didn’t have to rush because have two more novels to develop all of that. In Becoming Marie Antoinette I show the events and years that shaped the girl who became the woman, the queen, of the later years and explode many of the stereotypes depicted in some of those novels. No other portrayals show in detail, if at all, the extensive makeover she had to undergo as a preteen. That information was even hard to find in her biographies. I hunted for the names of each of the men responsible for transforming the archduchess Maria Antonia and where possible tried to find portraits of them because it was really important to me to be as accurate as possible, even though I was writing a novel. It was a matter of pride with me to see how much I could find without having to make it up. Another thing that sets my personal depiction of Marie Antoinette apart is that she did not go from heedless to headless, as some of her portrayers would lead people to believe. She was not a bubbleheaded spendthrift. Nothing exists in a vacuum. I was convinced that there was a rationale behind everything she did and in my novel when she behaves a certain way I make sure to justify it.

Another thing that sets Becoming Marie Antoinette and the rest of the trilogy apart is that while most of the events of the books are grounded in historical fact, in addition to the “greatest hits,” which people will expect to see, and which deserve to be there (things like births, deaths, her husband’s coronation), what intrigued me most as I did my research were the little things, or snatches of actual conversations or diary entries; and I tried to incorporate them as often as possible. My research materials are peppered with post notes saying “use this!” stuck to them.

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing this novel?

Managing the scope of the era’s history—politically and socially, because I wasn’t just dealing with France, but the Western European and North American colonial stage at the time. I had to be sure to keep it centered on Marie Antoinette’s story, but because it’s told from her point of view and she’s only a girl during Becoming Marie Antoinette (spanning the age from about 10 to 18), she only has a limited view of this vast world and there’s also only so much she would know. But I had to let my readers know what else was going on at the time and why her marriage to the dauphin of France was so vital to world politics. I kept thinking about that Zen-like image of the beat of the butterfly’s wing that eventually causes a tsunami. Actually, I lie. I just thought of that as I wrote this. But it’s just as apt.

Was there anything that you learned about Marie Antoinette during the research process that surprised you?

I had to omit some of the references to her numerous charitable and philanthropic gifts because they weren’t organic to the narrative, but she was tremendously compassionate and wore her heart on her sleeve. Marie Antoinette has been wildly misrepresented by textbook writers as insensitive to the suffering of her people—the woman who supposedly exclaimed “Let them eat cake!” when she heard the poor had no bread, although that characterization couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone who knew anything about Marie Antoinette’s character would know she never could have said it, or anything remotely like it. For the record, the actual phrase is qu’ils mangent de la brioche and if it was said at all, it predates Marie Antoinette by several generations, possibly uttered by the Spanish-born Maria Theresa, wife of Louis Quatorze, the Sun King.) In any case, during my research I repeatedly came across references to Marie Antoinette’s charity.

Can you give us an idea of what we will be seeing in the rest of the trilogy?

The middle novel, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow, covers the glamorous, if turbulent, years of her reign (including all the events of the notorious affair of the diamond necklace), picking up with the death of Louis XV in 1774 and the ascension of her husband Louis XVI to the throne, and ending in July, 1789 with the fall of the Bastille and the immediate events of its aftermath. The final book in the trilogy takes us from 1789 right up to the scaffold with Marie Antoinette on October 16, 1793. And . . . did she consummate her passion for Count Axel von Fersen? You’ll have to wait for the next two books to see how I develop this most controversial and disputed of historical love stories.

Thank-you Juliet for taking time from your crazy writing schedule to enlighten us!

Juliet Grey has extensively researched European Royal History and is a particular devotee of Marie Antoinette.  She and her husband divide their time between New York City and southern Vermont.  You can visit her website for more information about the book.



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Giveaway: Becoming Marie Antoinette





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review: Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey


Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey
ARC, Paperback, 480 pages
Ballantine Books
August 9, 2011
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher as part of TLC Book Tour
"This enthralling confection of a novel, the first in a new trilogy, follows the transformation of a coddled Austrian archduchess into the reckless, powerful, beautiful queen Marie Antoinette.
Why must it be me? I wondered. When I am so clearly inadequate to my destiny? 
Raised alongside her numerous brothers and sisters by the formidable empress of Austria, ten-year-old Maria Antonia knew that her idyllic existence would one day be sacrificed to her mother’s political ambitions. What she never anticipated was that the day in question would come so soon. 
Before she can journey from sunlit picnics with her sisters in Vienna to the glitter, glamour, and gossip of Versailles, Antonia must change everything about herself in order to be accepted as dauphine of France and the wife of the awkward teenage boy who will one day be Louis XVI. Yet nothing can prepare her for the ingenuity and influence it will take to become queen. 
Filled with smart history, treacherous rivalries, lavish clothes, and sparkling jewels, Becoming Marie Antoinette will utterly captivate fiction and history lovers alike."
Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first book in a planned trilogy about the life of this notoriously well know Queen of France. In this first outing, author Juliet Grey takes us on a journey from the Austrian court at Schonbrunn where Maria Antonia spent many of her younger days to the glistening palace at Versailles where Marie Antoinette emerges. For me, this was my first real foray into a novel about this queen and I was not at all disappointed with the details of her growing up that were included.

Most books on Marie Antoinette skim over the details of her younger life to get to “the good stuff” - her downfall courtesy of Madame Guillotine. One of my favorite aspects of this book was that the first half of the book really focuses on her formative years growing up under the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. You really get a feel for that court - which also does not usually get much of a novel treatment - and Marie’s family. Her sisters, especially Charlotte and Josepha, were her closest companions. We also learn a lot about their mother, Empress Maria Theresa and oldest brother, Emperor Joseph. It was refreshing to get to know a court that is not usually represented in fiction.

One of the most vivid scenes for me was during the time Marie had to go through improvements to become acceptable to marry the dauphin of France. I did not realize that they had braces back then and the process that was described sounded very familiar to my own experience with braces at age 10. This scene was probably the one thing that really endeared Marie to me - although I have to imagine that her experience with them was probably worse then mine!

I had a love/hate relationship with the writing style of this novel. First the good - I really loved the French and German that were peppered throughout the narrative. Even without know hardly any of either of those languages it was easy enough to derive the meaning from the context. During her years at the Austrian court this switch between languages served to show which state of mind Marie was in - slipping easily back into German when excited or upset. I did, however, have issues with some of the word choices used. There were times when it felt like I needed to have a dictionary constantly at the ready because every fourth or fifth word I didn’t know - and I tend to consider that I have a decent vocabulary. There was an overuse of “Thesaurus words” which really left me frustrated because they were either an unnecessary choice or frequently over used. It just made for much slower reading. Here is an example:
“Immediately I felt inadequate and wished that my own bosom was as pulchritudinous and had been molded to such perfection” (ARC pg 223).

Overall, I really enjoyed this take on the teenage years of Marie Antoinette’s life. We leave her on the verge of just becoming queen. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is a fan of Marie Antoinette and wants to see a more personable side of her. The second book Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow will pick up where we left our newly minted king and queen.

This is author Juliet Grey’s first novel in a planned trilogy. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

My review of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by others:

You can also watch the book trailer below:
 
 
Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).
 
 


Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court