*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...

Friday, December 30, 2011

The 4 Month Challenge Part 8


The Four Month Challenge Part 8
January 1, 2012 - April 30, 2012
Hosted by Book Drunkard

I have been a fan of this challenge since Martina started hosting this 2 years ago now!  I love how there are so many different categories.  I have only completed the challenge once, the first one, but I still have fun doing it anyway.

The goal is to read one book for each category.

The categories are:

5 Point Challenges
Read a book by an author who’s first or last name starts with J - Complete - His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
Read a book set in ancient Rome
Read a book that is a retelling of a fairy tale - Complete - Half Upon a Time by James Riley
Read a book by an author writing under another name
Read a book you’ve been meaning to read for ages - Complete - Winter of the Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory

10 Point Challenges
Read a book by an author who’s first or last name starts with F - Complete - Rise of the West: 1819-1829 by Frederick Jackson Turner
Read a book with the word ‘love’ in the title - Complete - The House that I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
Read a book with a flower in the title or on the cover
Read a book with a book on the cover - Complete - Look to the East by Maureen Lang
Read a book set in the wild west

15 Point Challenges
Read a book by an author who’s first or last name starts with M - Complete - To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin
Read a book set in ancient Egypt
Read a book about pirates or that is set on a boat
Read the 100th book on your shelf
Read a book you’ve read before - Complete - Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie by Kristiana Gregory

20 Point Challenges
Read a book by an author who’s first or last name starts with A
Read a Dystopian novel - Complete - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Read a book by an author with 12 letters in their name (Combined) - Complete - The Far Side of the Loch by Melissa Wiley
Read a book about a royal (fiction or non-fiction) - Complete - The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot
Read a book with an animal in the title or on the cover

135 / 250 points total





Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

2012 Audio Book Challenge


2012 Audio Book Challenge
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012

Audio books and me are like best friends (except when my Ipod refuses to cooperate!). So it was a given that I would be participating in an audiobook challenge. This challenge had previously been hosted by Alaine – Queen of Happy Endings.

The general goal is to read audio books – and the more the better.

I’m going to go for the Married – Read +++ Audiobooks. I’m guessing this level is anything more than 25 since the level just below it says to read 25 audiobooks.

I will show my progress below:

1. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel
2. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
3. Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie by Kristiana Gregory
4. Winter of the Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
5. Alcestis by Katherine Beutner
6. Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
7. Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
8. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly by Kristiana Gregory
9. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
10. The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
11. His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
12. The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason
13. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
14. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
15. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
16. My Secret War by Mary Pope Osborn
17. A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth
18. Rothstein by David Pietrusza
19. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
20. Jefferson's War by Joseph Wheelan
21. Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth Davis
22. The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
23. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
24. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
25. The Beach House by James Patterson
26. Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara

Completed: 10/23/12





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Non Fiction (Non Memoir) 2012 Reading Challenge


Non Fiction (Non Memoir) 2012 Reading Challenge
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Hosted by My Book Retreat

I thought this would be the perfect challenge for me this year as I recently set my own goal to read more non-fiction focusing on Presidents and First Ladies.

The general goal is to read books that are non-fiction and they cannot be memoirs. They can be from any genre and in print, audio, ebook etc.

I’m going to go for the Diploma – 10 Non Fiction Books. I think this should be do-able as I read 9 in 2011.

I will show my progress below:

1. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel
2. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
3. His Excellency, George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis
4. Rise of the West: 1819-1829 by Frederick Jackson Turner
5. Rothstein by David Pietrusza
6. Jefferson's War by Joseph Wheelan
7. Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth Davis
8. The Royals by Leslie Carroll
9. The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
10. Marie Therese: Child of Terror by Susan Nagel

**Update** Completed 11/22/12





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

2012 Mammoth Book Challenge


2012 Mammoth Book Challenge
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012

I am not the sort of person who loves to read long books – I typically avoid them! I do have a few on my shelf though to read and I loved that this challenge also includes a way to participate with audiobooks (which is how I read many of my mammoth reads).

The general goal is to read books that are longer than 450 pages. If you read audiobooks or large print books these can still count as long as the standard print version is more than 450 pages.

I’m going to go small on this one (since you can go up in level but not down and like I said I’m not a long book reader) and go with Level 1 – Read 2 Mammoth Sized Books.  Maybe I will increase my goal as the year progresses.

I will show my progress below:

1. Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth Davis
2. A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick

Complete: 9/28/12





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Truth in Fiction Challenge 2012


Truth in Fiction Challenge 2012
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Hosted by Fig and Thistle

Fig and Thistle is a new blog to me but I like the sound of this challenge – it will be truly challenging and that’s the fun of it! I encourage you to try this one too.

The general goal is to read book pairs – one fiction and one non-fiction about a related topic. An idea could be Dear Companion: The Inner Life of Martha Jefferson by Kelly Joyce Neff (Fiction) and The Women Jefferson Loved by Virginia Scharff (Non-Fiction). The challenge says to think outside the box. You should then create a post connecting the two books in some way.

I’m going to shoot for the Sophmore (2 Pairs). This could get interesting...

I will show my progress below:

Pair 1
a. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey (Fiction - the life of Marie Antoinette)
b. Marie Therese: Child of Terror by Susan Nagel (Non-Fiction - the life of Marie Therese, child of Marie Antoinette)

Pair 2
a. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy L. O'Brien (Fiction)
b. Lincoln by David Herbert Donald (Non-Fiction)

**Complete: 12/31/12**



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Historical Fiction Challenge 2012


Historical Fiction Challenge 2012
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012

I didn’t participate in the Historical Fiction Challenge last year because it felt like a shoe in – but I missed participating in it, so I’m back in it for 2012!

The general goal is to read any sort of historical fiction – subgenres count too!

I’m going to shoot for the Severe Bookaholism (20 Books). I probably will easily meet this and exceed it.

I will show my progress below:

1. Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead
2. Look to the East by Maureen Lang
3. Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie by Kristiana Gregory
4. The Winter of Red Snow by Kristiana Gregory
5. Alcestis by Katherine Beutner
6. The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot
7. The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin
8. I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly by Kristiana Gregory
9. The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
10. The Far Side of the Loch (Martha Years Book 2) by Melissa Wiley
11. The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason
12. Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan van Zandt
13. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
14. The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner
15. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
16. My Secret War by Mary Pope Osborne
17. Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
18. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan
19. The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
20. The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

Completed 9/12/12





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 ARC Reading Challenge


2012 ARC Reading Challenge
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012

The ARC Reading Challenge is a favorite of mine (although I am really bad with updating the challenge page regularly). This will be my third year participating in it.

The general goal is to read the books you receive from publishers for review – whether they are E-books, audiobooks, manuscripts, galleys, finished copies, etc – as long as you received it with the intention of a review.

I’m going to shoot for the Silver Level (24 ARCs). I probably will surpass this, I did in 2011 but I would like to keep my options open.

I will show my progress below:

Left Over from 2011:
1. To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin
2. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt
3. Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
4. The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
5. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan
6. The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons
7. Stealing Rembrants’ by Anthony M. Amore
8. Next to Love by Ellen Feldman
9. The Little Bride by Anna Solomon
10. Half Upon a Time by James Riley
11. Asenath by Anna Patricio
12. Guinevere, Legend in Autumn by Persia Wooley
13. Promise the Night by Michaela MacColl

For 2012:
14. The President Vol 1 - Radio Production
15. The Glass Harmonica by Dorothee Kocks
16. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
17. The King’s Design by Christine Trent
18. The Legacy of Eden by Nelle Davy
19. The Turning of Anne Merrick by Christine Blevins
20. The King’s Agent by Donna Russo Morin
21. Light on the Veranda by Ciji Ware
22. The Sister Queens by Sophie Perinot
23. The Golden Hour by Margaret Wurtele
24. The Queen's Vow by C. W. Gortner
25. The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau
26. Iago by David Snodin
27. Alcestis by Katherine Beutner
28. Abby Finds Her Calling by Naomi King
29. The White Pearl by Kate Furnival
30. Courtesan's Lover by Gabrielle Kimm
31. Her Highness, the Traitor by Susan Higginbotham
32. The House I Loved by Tatiana de Rosnay
33. Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan van Zandt
34. Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn
35. Shakespeare's Lady by Alexa Schnee
36. City of Darkness by Kim Wright
37. Sins of the Empress by Paula Paul
38. The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner
39. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
40. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
41. An American Family by Peter Lefcourt
42. Into the Valley of Death by A. L. Berridge
43. Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey
44. Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones
45. War Memorial by Elisabeth Grace Foley
46. The Sister and the Daughter by Ciel Dexter
47. By Royal Command by Laura Navarre
48. A Barcelona Heiress by Sergio Vila-Sanjuan
49. The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
50. The Titanic Plan by Michael Bockman
51. The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
52. The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
53. Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer
54. A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
55. Jane by Robin Maxwell
56. Becoming Clementine by Jenniver Niven
57. Sacred Treason by James Forrester
58. In Need of a Good Wife by Kelly O'Connor McNees
59. The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony
60. Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara
61. The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy J. O'Brien
62. Heretic: The Life and Death of Akhenaten by Brijit Reed
63. Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman
64. Royal Romances by Leslie Carroll
65. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
66. The Gilded Lily by Deborah Swift
67. The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn
68. Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly
69. Aztec Revenge by Gary Jennings
70. Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
71. The Mine by John Heldt
72. The Journey by Jon Heldt
73. At Drake's Command by David Wesley Hill


**Closed Out: 12/31/12**





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

European Reading Challenge 2012


European Reading Challenge 2012
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Hosted by Rose City Reader

I have decided for this year’s challenges I’m going to try a few new ones to stretch my reading a little bit as well as stick with a few of my favorites. The European Reading Challenge hosted by Rose City Reader is a new one for me this year but I think with all of my historical reading it should be do-able.

The general goal is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (a list of qualifying countries is provided at Rose City Reader). The books can be from any genre. There are going to be prizes given out for certain accomplishments.

I’m going to try to give it my all and go for the 5 Star (Deluxe Entourage) level and read 5 books set in different European countries or authors from different countries.

I will show my progress below:

1. To Serve a King by Donna Russo Morin (France)
2. Alcestis by Katherine Beutner (Greece)
3. The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin (Italy)
4. The Far Side of the Loch by Melissa Wiley (Scotland)
5. The Queen's Vow by C.W. Gortner (Spain)

**Update** Completed 6/12/12




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fairy Tales Retold Challenge


Fairy Tales Retold Challenge
January 1, 2012 – December 31, 2012
Hosted by Debz Bookshelf

I have always enjoyed reading fairy tale retellings and they seem to be becoming more and more popular these days.

The general goal is to read retellings of fairy tales or books that are new fairy tales (I’m not quite sure I get the latter part of that sentence, but check out Debz Bookshelf for more info on it).

I’m going to go for the Peasant – 3 Books. I don’t have many of these books on my shelf so I’m going to start small and see what happens.

I will show my progress below:

1. Half Upon a Time by James Riley
2.
3.

**Closed out: 12/31/12** Epic Fail



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #93


A slow mailbox for me this week - and I didn't even get any books for Christmas, which is fine as I have way more than enough!

But I did get...

Provisions and Politics: Recipes Honoring First Lady Sarah Polk to use for my Weekend Cooking posts.  I think I'm making a recipe from it this week!  Lots of great southern cooking in this one.

Midwife of the Blue Ridge from author Christine Blevins as part of the blog tour for her new book The Turning of Anne Merrick.  I also got some cute soap, tea, and candles that go along with each of her books.

From Sourcebooks I received A Light on the Veranda by Ciji Ware for review.  I loved A Race to Splendor by the same author and am excited to read this one!

Hope you all have great Christmases and received some awesome books!

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and is being hosted for the month of December at Let Them Read Books




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weekend Cooking: Peppermint Brittle/Chocolate Kahlua Truffles


When I first saw Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads I thought that this was a very cool idea but how would I fit it into the theme of my blog? Then as I thought about it I realized that I have several historical themed cookbooks – from the Newport Mansions, Old Sturbridge Village, and one that features recipes honoring First Lady Sarah Polk! A fun twist on the traditional historical blogging.

So here is my first post in this series – this should have technically been the second, however I was sick last weekend so that didn’t happen.

So as this is the first post, I want to introduce you to this awesome cookbook from the Newport Mansion – it’s called Entertaining Newport Style. The recipes in here require moderate skill but some are extremely simple. It is broken up into 8 sections – one for each of the major mansions and features 13 themes such as Wicker Picnic on a Boat, French Inspired Formal Dinner Party etc. The recipes are things representative of items/menus that may have been served at the Mansions. There are also some great tidbits like how to fold napkins and select wines. Useful recipes for basically all occasions.

The theme that I pulled these two recipes from is Holiday Open House at the Elms - very timely.
The entryway of The Elms
The first is very easy and didn’t take too much skill on my part. This was super easy. I made my own double boiler from the mixing bowl of my Kitchenaid over a pot of water and that worked great.  I'm not a fan of peppermint so I haven't tried these but they will go out on Christmas at my family's house!

Peppermint Brittle
States 6 servings but I think it is more like 20!

Ingredients:
25 small peppermint candies or 12 candy canes
32 oz good quality white chocolate, finely chopped (I used Ghirardelli)

Directions:
1) Line a 10x15 inch pan with foil
2) Place the peppermint candy in a plastic bag and pound gently with a mallet until crushed.
3) Place the white chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Cook over low heat until the white chocolate is melted, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Stir in the peppermint candies.
4) Pour the mixture into the pan, spreading evenly with a spatula. Chill 1 hour or until set. Break brittle into pieces and serve.

Now how about something a little more challenging?!

Chocolate Kahlua Truffles
States makes 24 truffles, I would say closer to 16 if you make the size they say

Ingredients:
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoon (T) Kahlua (I used Mocha flavored)
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate pieces (I used Ghirardelli)
4 T butter, softened
½ cup powdered unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons (t) ground cinnamon
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:
1) Bring cream to a boil in a small pan and reduce to 2 Tablespoons (constantly stir or it will burn!) Remove from heat and stir in Kahlua and chocolate. Stir over low heat until chocolate melts.
2) Whisk in softened butter until smooth (and shiny). Transfer to a shallow bowl and refrigerate until firm, about 45 mins to 1 hour.
3) Separately, combine cocoa and cinnamon in shallow bowl
4) Using a melonballer or teaspoon, scoop up chocolate and shape into 1-inch balls. Roll truffle balls in cocoa-cinnamon mixture and dust with powdered sugar.
5) Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve

This was a little more challenging. The key to step 1 is to constantly stir the cream and give it the time to thicken down to the 2 Tablespoons. It takes about 5 minutes. I didn’t find the dusting aspect easy – it didn’t stick to the cinnamon/cocoa mixture, so it looks splotchy and they are not perfectly round. But they taste SO good!! I’m not sure they had Kahlua back then, but I’m sure they had something like this!

Hope you all enjoyed this tasty treat and have a great Christmas tomorrow!





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Movie Review: King Arthur


King Arthur
Touchstone Pictures
126 mins.
July 7, 2004
Rated: PG-13/R

The untold true story that inspired the legend…

I enjoyed this retelling of the mythology of King Arthur and his knights. This movie really made efforts to set the film firmly within the end of the Roman occupation of Briton. Unlike many King Arthur tales, Arthur is not a medieval knight – he is instead a Roman officer – but it was a change that I could still find believable. Guinevere I had a mixed reaction to. I liked that she was a strong woman and was warrior like – however I didn’t believe some of the details of her family (without giving anything away). Merlin, I didn’t really love. He was the leader of the “pagan” people but he really didn’t have too much of a role in this movie. I thought that Clive Owen was a great choice for King Arthur – brooding, strong and in conflict with his internal emotions. Keira Knightly plays a warrior woman as well as she plays debutantes.

The battle scenes were awesome. There are two big battles, one on the ice and one near the Wall, and both were well shot and well acted. They were not that brutal or gruesome appearing but alluded to. There is also one sex scene but again it is not explicit.

This was another film from the great Jerry Bruckheimer and it very much feels like his films. The cinematography and setting is beautiful. Although they moved the setting of the film to Roman occupied England from the traditional medieval England, they created a world that totally worked for it. Not being all that familiar with the time period, I can’t speak to historical accuracy – I’m going to assume some creative license was taken – but it was good enough to convince me!

Although this isn’t my favorite retelling of King Arthur, it was good entertainment in my opinion and my boyfriend enjoyed it too.

Check out this trailer:








Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Blogger Holiday Swap 2011


For the second year in a row I took part in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. For those of you have never heard of this before basically it is like Secret Santa with bloggers! You can check out more on their blog.  I have always had a great time participating in the swap and it runs so smoothly.  Thanks!

I received my package during the first week in December and couldn’t wait to dive in. Inside I found some awesome loot. In terms of books (which there is required to be at least one) I received 3! I received two hardcover copies of Lisa Klein’s books, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth’s Daughter. I have been dying to read both of these. I also received a copy of The Belly Dancer by Deanna Cameron – another book I have been dying to read and have been using the promotional bookmark for it for months! There was also some caramel filled Ghirardelli chocolate (which my boyfriend and I ate in less than a day!), some hazelnut coffee (I have only smelled it thus far as I don’t have a coffee maker, but I’m considering getting one of those small 1-2 cup ones), a bookmark, and a naughty/nice coffee mug.

I wish I had thought to take a picture of everything before it either got eaten or spread to the four winds! I want to graciously thank my Holiday Swap Partner – Jodie at Uniquely Moi Books.  The gifts were wonderful!  Stop by and check out her blog if you are interested in YA books!

I certainly can’t wait to do it again next year!





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons


The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Book 1 in The Bronze Horseman Trilogy
Paperback, 832 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
September 8, 2009
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: From my personal collection
“Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose beautiful palaces and stately avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg. 
Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents. It is a hard, impoverished life, yet the Metanovs know many who are not as fortunate as they. 
The family routine is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanovs, for Leningrad and for Tatiana, life will never be the same again. On the fateful day, Tatiana meets a brash young officer named Alexander.”
This was such a wonderful read that I am so glad I was able to squeeze it in this year. I hadn’t read any books set in Russia previously and I really haven’t read very much at all about WWII so this was a great combination on time and place for me. I also don’t typically read a lot of historical romance novels – which I didn’t realize this was until I saw the words “a love story” – but there was so much historical detail and a world brought to vivid life that I didn’t even care…that much.

Russia and particularly Leningrad became characters unto themselves. We walk the streets with Tatiana and Alexander and learn all about the monuments and buildings. You get a vivid picture of what it was like to live in Soviet style apartment type houses. When there are bombings, gun fights, building destructions you feel it all.

In my opinion the characters were well built and grow over time – Tatiana certainly does. I was actually quite frustrated by her in the beginning of the book. It is sort of slow moving and she is so na├»ve and it is frustrating her feeling of futility – she gives in to everyone too often. I LOVED Alexander. He was just the right amount of hero, dashing, daring, handsome, and brave. He did all the right things and you always cheered for him. On the other hand I could feel my hate for Dimitri grow over time – he is such a worm!

This is certainly a historical romance. While there is great detail of the attack on Leningrad, how people lived, and the battles that ensued – the focus of the story are the relationships between Tatiana and her sister Dasha and Alexander and Dimitri. There is a lot of sexual discussion, somewhat explicit, but it wasn’t like a bodice ripper by any means. There did come a point when I was like, “OK, I get it, could we please just move on with the story”.

For a lengthy book it pulls you right along by emotionally attaching you to the characters and making you care what happens to them as they encounter each new insufferable event. There are times of deep sadness and great passion. The ending of this book I thought was awesome and leads well into Book 2 – Tatiana and Alexander, which I can’t wait to read!

Author Paullina Simons also has written the two follow up books in the series Tatiana & Alexander (Book 2) and The Summer Garden (Book 3) as well as the companion Tatiana’s Table. You can visit Simons' website or blog for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below (created by a fan).
 
 

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, December 19, 2011

Mailbox Monday #92


This week was a slow mailbox for me, but we still received a few things.

For review I received The King's Agent by Donna Russo Morin - from the author.  I loved the previous books of hers that I have read so I can't wait to read this one.  However you will have to wait until April 5th for the review as it is a part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour.

In my email box I received a digital copy of Mr. President Vol 1 from Radio Archives. Radio Archives is very cool as they have recordings of all sort of old time radio shows etc.  In Mr. President you get recordings from 1949-1950 of dramatizations of events in the lives of some of our presidents.  As I was not around to hear any of these old style radio shows, this is awesome.  Check out their website.  I received this for review as part of the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program.

That was all the books that I received for myself, however the books I order my boyfriend for Christmas came - and I gave them to him early and they are also historicals (he is dipping his feet in the water!).  We got, I, Claudius by Robert Graves, Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, and Pompeii and Imperium by Robert Harris.

What wonderful things arrived in your mailbox this week?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of December it is being hosted by Jenny Q at Let Them Read Books.




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New in Paperback – Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King & Giveaway!

In December 2010 I reviewed and loved Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King. The book has been released in paperback on December 6, 2011! In honor of the release I am re-featuring my review of the book and have a giveaway of the book up for grabs.

Also, below you will find a beautiful book trailer for Queen Hereafter.

Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Broadway
ISBN: 978-0307452801
December 6, 2011
"Margaret, a young Saxon princess, is shipwrecked with her family on the coast of Scotland and forced to accept sanctuary from the recently widowed warrior-king Malcolm Canmore of Scotland. Malcolm sees a political prize in Margaret, and promises to help her brother, the outlawed rebel Edgar of England, in return for his sister’s hand in marriage.

When Malcolm brings a female bard, Eva, to court as a hostage to ensure good behavior of her kinswoman, his conniving enemy Lady Macbeth, Margaret, and Eva expect to resent one another. Instead, they discover an unlikely bond as outcasts of a sort–Eva a wild Celtic spirit captive among her enemies, Margaret suppressing her passions as she endures increasing pressure as a queen and a mother of princes.

Torn between loyalties, Eva must betray the king and the new queen in order to honor her devotion to the former queen. Thrown into Malcolm’s dungeon, charged with witchcraft and treason, Eva soon learns that Queen Margaret–counseled by the furious king and his powerful priests–will decide the fate of the young bard and her mentor, the troublesome Lady Macbeth."
The story of Margaret of Scotland is told through the eyes of fictional female bard Eva. It can sometimes be a challenge to place a fictional main character into a world in which all other essential characters are historically based but Fraser King seamlessly moves Eva through the Scottish court life without ever hinting that she doesn’t truly belong there. You could really believe the struggles that Eva faced being torn between the court in the North and the true royal court of Scotland. Another strength of the author was the ease of explanation and integration of the “wild” Scottish court’s ways and the Scottish traditions.

The two women that Eva’s loyalties are torn between are Margaret and Gruadh (Lady Macbeth). These two women were absolute foils of each other. Margaret was very, very pious (almost to the point of the unbelievable) while Gruadh was more out for her people and loyalty to Scottish traditions. As a reader, you are able to respect what both of these women are trying to do without pitting one against the other.

This was a quick read that introduced me to a new court and a new country and historical setting. I think that this is a great companion novel to Helen Hollick’s The Forever Queen and  I Am the Chosen King. Hollick’s books are set one generation prior to the events of Queen Hereafter. Events are referenced in Fraser King’s book that took place in Hollick’s book. It was great to already be set into the time and have a knowledge base from which to build off of. I can’t wait to read Lady Macbeth, also by Susan Fraser King, which is set during the events just prior to Queen Hereafter. I also can put some of my Shakespearean knowledge of my favorite play to use for something.

4 out of 5 stars


And now for the giveaway - I have one copy of the newly release trade paperback up for grabs to US residents. Just fill out the form below to enter. The book will be shipped out by the publisher. The last day to enter is December 31, 2011.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley


Little House in the Highlands by Melissa Wiley
Little House: The Martha Years Book 1
Paperback, 271 pages, Unabridged
HarperTrophy
February 1999
★★★★½

Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Source: Personal collection
“In Little House in the Highlands, we meet Martha Morse, a spirited six-year-old Scottish girl who will grow to be the great-grandmother of American pioneer and writer, Laura Ingalls Wilder. But, as a child, Martha’s main concern is how to cope with her life as a laird’s daughter. Martha has a restless spirit and would rather be running barefoot through the fields of heather and listening to magical tales about fairies and other Wee Folk than learning to sew like a proper young lady. 
Sprinkled with 18th-century Scottish vocabulary and filled with details of everyday life, Martha’s story will transport you to a time and place when fairies were rumored to roam the hills of Scotland and ever-curious little girls hoped to catch glimpses of them..”
This companion series to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series is perfect for young girls or those who are still young at heart. The Marta Years is a four book series covering the young years of Martha Morse, Laura’s great grandmother, in her home in Scotland. I would style this as an introduction into the series. We really get to meet Martha, her family, and are introduced to the way of life in Scotland in the 1770’s.

Martha is a spirited young girl. She would rather play outside with the boys and get dirty than stay inside practicing sewing, embroidering etc. She wants to go to school and grow up faster so that she can be like her 15 year old sister. Martha’s character is something that many young children, especially today, can relate to at least to some extent. I loved seeing the world from her point of view.

Wiley also does a fantastic job of interweaving the culture and customs of the Scots into this YA novel. We learn about tales children were told, hear mythology about fairies, brownies and magic. The book leads up to the big celebration of Hogmanay and we get involved in all of the details from how food is prepared to the games and gifts given. The language used when the characters speak to each other evokes the feel of Scottish while still being words that a young reader would be able to grasp and understand. She also includes traditional Scottish terms, for example, haggis, and is always careful to explain these terms.

For a young reader this book has just enough excitement and adventure to keep them entertained while still teaching them about the Scottish culture and building up to the traditional Little House series. For an adult reader the pages will fly by and you will be done before you know it – but it is still quite an enjoyable read!
Melissa Wiley also has written the continuation of Martha’s story in The Far Side of the Loch (book 2), Down to the Bonny Glen (book 3) and Beyond the Heather Hills (book 4) as well as the entire Charlotte Years series. You can visit Wiley’s website or blog for additional information about the book.

Please be aware that this series is currently out of print but can often be found on Ebay or Half.com - but you have to look often because they can be exorbitantly priced.  There was also an abridged version of many of these books released.  I would advise trying to check your local libraries for these books.

My other review of books by this author:


Other reviews of this book by other bloggers:





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Introducing The Martha Years of the Little House Saga

I’m sure many of you have read at least one book from the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is almost a rite of passage or required reading for a young girl. I haven’t read all of the books, maybe 3, but I always enjoyed reading them. Did you know that there are several companion series to the Laura Years based on the other women in her family? There are the Martha Years (about her great-grandmother Martha Morse), the Charlotte Years (about her grandmother Charlotte Tucker), the Caroline Years (about her mother Caroline Quinner) and the Rose Years (about her daughter Rose Wilder). I have read a couple of these as well and have heartily enjoyed them and am now making it my mission to finish reading/reviewing the whole collection – now that I own them all. I wanted to take this time to introduce you to the Martha Years – as this will be the first series I will be reading.
The Martha Years cover the childhood (age 6-10) of Martha Morse in Scotland and is written by Melissa Wiley (pen name for author Melissa Peterson, will go into that a little later). Martha is the youngest daughter of the Laird and we get to explore all different aspects of life in Scotland in the late 1770’s to early 1780’s. She is quite the little spitfire.

I know several of you have asked it the past about how historical these books are and if they are really about members of Laura’s family. I was able to ferret out some information at Melissa Wiley’s website about this. Here is a Q&A answer from Wiley’s site about the historical information:
“Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker were real people. We don't know much about the real Martha; what little we do know is from a letter written by Laura's sister, Grace Ingalls Dow. Grace wrote that her great-grandmother, Martha Morse, was the daughter of a Scottish laird who married someone the family considered beneath her station. We know that Martha and Lew married in Boston on Jan. 1, 1799. 
For Martha's childhood I had to do even more imagining! That's why these books are historical fiction, not biography. We didn't know much about her family except that bit about her father being a laird. I had a wonderful researcher in Edinburgh who helped me look up the details big and small that would bring Martha's story to life. I worked hard to present an accurate picture of what life in that time, place, and situation might have been like for her. 
Loch Caraid and Glencaraid are fictional places. I could show you on a map exactly where I imagine them to be! Look for the town of Crieff: that's a real village I mention several times in Martha's stories.” (from Melissa Wiley’s website).
There are four books in the Martha Years series – it sounds like there were supposed to be more but the publisher “decided to go a different way”. The books are: Little House in the Highlands Book 1, On the Far Side of the Loch Book 2, Down to the Bonny Glen Book 3, and Beyond the Heather Hills Book 4.

A bit of trivia for you – the Martha, Charlotte, and Caroline Years are all written under pen names whose last names begin with “Wil” – Wiley, Wilkins, and Wilkes. This was done so that they would be shelved right near the Wilder authored books and the rest of the Little House girls. The Rose Years were authored by Macbride so I’m not sure what happed to the trend.

It is unfortunately difficult to get your hands on any of these companion series books for a reasonable price. They are currently out of print, so none of the booksellers (big name or indie that I contacted) can get them. If you keep your eye out on Ebay, Half.com, Alibris, etc you can find them – sometimes reasonably priced. I just finished acquiring all my own. I hope they will be put back in print at some future date. But if you can get your hands on them they are a real treat.




Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mailbox Monday #91


I had a huge mailbox load this week and most of them came on the same day!  I went out to the mailbox to find it packed to the top with 5 packages.  Most of what I received was to complete my Little House series.  Here is what I hauled in:

  • The Road from Roxbury by Melissa Wiley (Charlotte Years #3) - Ebay
  • A Little House of Their Own by Celia Wilkins (Caroline Years #7) - Ebay
  • Beyond the Heather Hills by Melissa Wiley (Martha Years #4) - Ebay
  • Little City by the Lake by Celia Wilkins (Caroline Years #6) - Ebay
  • Across the Puddingstone Dam by Melissa Wiley (Charlotte Years #4) - Ebay
  • One O'Clock Jump by Lise McClendon (audiobook received through the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program)

Did you receive any great books this week?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of December it is hosted by Let Them Read Books.



Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel


The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Book 1 in Earth’s Children series
Unabridged, 19 hr. 36 min.
Brilliance Audio
Sandra Burr (Narrator)
September 14, 2004
★★★★★

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly--she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.”
I had only first heard about this book relatively recently, although it has been out for over 20 years. I wasn’t sure how I would like this book as there isn't a whole lot known about Neanderthals and Cro-magnon peoples in terms of their daily lives. Let me tell you, this book hits it out of the park! All my concerns were for nothing and this will be one of my favorite reads of 2011.

Auel makes the very distant to us Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon come to vivid life. We get a very believable description of how they may have lived life – from the clothing they wore, to the spirits they could have believed in, the food they ate, how they hunted, and what they may have thought about each other. A vast amount of details would have to have been supplied by the author as aspects such as their belief system will likely never be known – but they felt seemless and believable.

As strong as the writing is regarding the culture and setting, the characters are where the writing shines. There is quite a large cast of main characters and even more supporting characters, however Auel constructs all into well rounded characters that you can identify and connect to. Even the supporting cast does not get pushed into the background. One way that you know you have great characters is when their actions or things that happen to them can bring you to tears – and at several points in this novel that happened to me. You can get so emotionally connected to these characters. One of the characters that I loved the most is Brun, the leader of the clan. I really enjoyed how he would weigh all of the options and really tried to do what was best for everyone.

This book has been on several Banned Books lists for one of two reasons. The first is due to its support of the idea of evolution. The second is for the sex/rape scene that occurs – and this is the one that I want to address. Auel essentially builds the idea of sex as a part of their culture into the novel from very near the beginning. She explains how it is a “normal” way of life for men to exercise their needs with women. The scene itself wasn’t very graphic and certainly not the worst I have read. It just felt natural to the way the book was written and not out of character for the setting of the story. Now I would certainly understand not wanting it to be available in say a middle school library, since the book is written for an adult audience. But I wouldn’t let the fact it might be banned stop you from reading it.

I didn’t want to put this book down and eagerly anticipated getting back in the car to listen to it – I didn’t love that it usually meant I had to be on my way to work though! Although I want to jump right into the rest of the series, I have heard mixed reviews of the other books, so I am waiting until my love for this book dies down a little bit.

★★★★☆

The narration of the book met expectations. There was differentiation between characters and it was read at a good pace. However the voices used for the characters were a little weird, but I did get used to them. The only complaint that I have would be with the production/direction of the reading. It seemed like there were places where a pause should have been inserted, such as between sections/chapters. Sometimes it would flow right together like it was just the next paragraph but the content was so different it felt choppy. It is likely that there was a section break in the print version, but that didn’t translate to the audio version.

Auel also has written 5 other books in the series: The Valley of the Horses #2, The Mammoth Hunters #3. The Plains of Passage #4, The Shelters of Stone #5, and The Land of the Painted Caves #6. You can visit Auel’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?



You can also listen to an audio 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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Horrible Histories: Cavemen

I love the Horrible Histories videos - even if some of them are bad - so I had to look at what they had about the Stone Age, prehistoric people, cavemen etc - and they had quite a few. So I am posting some of my favorites.

Video 1 - Cro-Magnon couple invites Neanderthal couple over for dinner. I thought this was funny and would go along with yesterday's post:


Video 2 - Caveman sets the record straight about the Stone Age - in song!:


Video 3 - A cavewoman sings about finding a mate:





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Neanderthal vs. Cro-Magnon

If you have read Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel (review coming later this week) you will be constantly interacting with Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon, now commonly referred to in the scientific community as Early Modern Humans (or EMH). It can help to have a little bit of a visual aid and some additional information nearby while reading – or if you are just interested in learning something new! Read on!

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has an awesome website about early humans. Among other things there are visuals and explanations of the different fossils they have found, genetics information, timelines, and interactive features. There is a pretty awesome exploration game where you get to compare “unknown” skull fossils against “known” species to determine which species they belong to.

Neanderthals were our most recent ancestors - they lived alongside Cro-Magnon for a period of almost 10,000 years (really just a blink of the eye in evolutionary time). They lived about 200,000 to 28,000 years ago. Common to Europe and parts of Asia. Neanderthals have a distinct look that would prevent you from misidentifying them as Cro-Magnon. On the face they have a defined, protruding brow ridge and larger nose. The size of the head is very similar to Cro-Magnon, but in comparison to the size of their bodies it is larger in proportion. The body is more compact, stocky, and strong. Females averaged 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighed around 119 pounds. Men were approximately 5 feet 5 inches and weighed around 143 pounds. The body adaptations were designed to help them weather the cold temperatures better. They are also believed to have been one of the first to use burial rites – which is why we have found so many fossils of Neanderthals. In terms of sustenance they ate both plants and hunted game. In the long winter periods plants would be difficult to find. New research shows that they hunted using thrusting spears and the multitude of fractures to their bodies suggest they may have rode on top of some of their prey. They also were the first to create a type of clothing.

Cro-Magnons are very similar to humans today, but compared to Neanderthals they are very different. Cro-Magnon’s have a very defined chin, little to no brow ridges, a taller skull (rather than the more elongated of the Neanderthal), less defined nose and straight sloping face. They stood taller (due to their straightened legs) and had straighter, longer arms. The average height was between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches. The Cro-Magnon started out in the East Africa/Middle Eastern area and spread east and westward bringing them into contact with the Neanderthals. There was likely an exchange of culture and possible interbreeding between the two groups.

There has been news made lately about the Neanderthal Genome Project. With the high volume of fossils found they have been able to extract a usable amount of Neanderthal DNA. With these findings they are better able to compare Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon and even modern humans. One of these findings shows that 1-4% of the European population has some amount of Neanderthal DNA. These findings may also help shed light on why they became extinct. Various theories abound about inability to adapt to a changing environment, competition for resources with Cro-Magnon, conflicts and fighting with Cro-Magnon, and also that their genetic material became diluted when they intermixed and bred with Cro-Magnon populations.

There is still a lot to be learned about the early people that came before us and science is finding new information every day. Keep a listen out for more on the Neanderthal Genome Project in the news as that is the big thing right now.





Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court