*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.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Author Interview with B. N. Peacock & Giveaway

Today I would like to introduce you all to debut author, B. N. Peacock.  Her new book, A Tainted Dawn, is the first book in her Great War series, and will be released March 1st.  Stay tuned after the interview for a giveaway! 

A Tainted Dawn

When you were in the early idea/planning stages of your book, which came first, the time/place or the story you wanted to tell?

The time period set the stage for the story. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars have fascinated me since childhood. I’ve read many nautical and military historical novels dealing with this era, as well as histories and biographies. Most, particularly the novels had a single country viewpoint. I wanted to broaden the reader’s perspective, hence the three different characters from three different backgrounds and ultimately, three different nations.

What has been the most difficult part of the writing/publication process so far?  Has anything surprised you?

Each stage of the process had its own set of difficulties. During the writing process, I faced the twin challenges of wrestling the material down to a manageable level and finding the time to write. The publication process took longer, drawn out by inexperience and a certain amount of naiveté. As for my greatest surprise? Without doubt, the day I opened my emails and found that Fireship Press was interested in my book!

The historical Caribbean is not an area that gets a lot of treatment in novels – what drew you to this location?

It added the international perspective I wanted to portray. Everyone (hopefully) knows something about the upheaval in France beginning in 1789. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. But that same yearning for freedom, which had begun with the American Revolution, was spreading to other countries, not just France. The Caribbean was one such place, a place which was to become the scene of bloody uprisings and war, as men fought for their beliefs and England and France clashed across the globe.

If you could go back in time, but have to live in that time period, where would you go and why?

I recall reading a piece about going back in time some years ago. The author stressed that the reality would not match expectations. We picture ourselves in a manor house or plantation. The truth of the matter is that for most of history, the majority of people lived in poverty or close to it. As much as I love reading about the era I write about, I still wouldn’t want to live in it. I’ll stay with the devil I know.

Have you had the chance to visit any of the locations in your novel?  If so, what was your favorite place?  If not, where would you like to go?

I was fortunate to be able to visit most of the places mentioned in A Tainted Dawn, with the exception of France. This April, I will be going there also. My favorite place thus far is England, most especially the Surrey countryside. I also enjoyed Antigua and English Harbor, although next time I won’t visit during the hurricane season!

I know that this is the first book in a series – can you tell us anything about what we can expect from the rest of the series?

The outlook will broaden to include the fledgling United States, as Jemmy emigrates there. Expect war, international intrigue, land and sea battles, and the clash of personalities and ideals. Expect to see more of Edward, Louis, and Jemmy and some of the famous people of their day. But most of all, expect what I hope will prove to be a good read.

B N  Peacock

B. N. Peacock’s love of history started in childhood, hearing stories of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire from her immigrant grandparents.  They related accounts handed down from their grandparents about battlefields so drenched in blood that grass cut there afterwards oozed red liquid. Such tales entranced her. These references probably dated to the time of the Napoleonic Wars. No wonder she was drawn to this time period. 

In addition to history, she showed an equally early proclivity for writing, winning an honorable mention in a national READ magazine contest for short stories. The story was about history, of course, namely the battle of Bunker Hill as seen from the perspective of a British war correspondent.

The passion for writing and history continued throughout high school and undergraduate studies. She was active in her high school newspaper, eventually becoming its editor-in-chief. After graduation, she majored in Classical Studies (Greek and Latin) at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. In her junior year, life took one of those peculiar turns which sidetrack one.  A year abroad studying at Queen Mary College, University of London in England led to the discovery of another passion, travel. She returned and finished her degree at F&M, but now was lured from her previous interests in history and writing.

Her work continues on Book Two in The Great War series, tentatively to be called Army of Citizens, with new trips planned to England, France and Belgium.

You can follow more about her work on her website.

A Tainted Dawn Tour Banner

You can follow along with the rest of the Virtual Tour at the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #ATaintedDawnVirtualTour.


Now for the giveaway – I have a copy of A Tainted Dawn up for grabs and it is open internationally.  The giveaway ends on February 17th.  Just fill in the Rafflecopter below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review: Lincoln by David Herbert Donald

lincoln - Copy

Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
Unabridged, 30 hr. 27 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Dick Estell (Narrator)
November 7, 2012
★★★½☆☆

Genre: Non-Fiction, Presidential Biography

Source: Received from publisher for review

“David Herbert Donald's Lincoln is a stunningly original portrait of Lincoln's life and presidency. Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln's gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever- expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln's character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union -- in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.”

I have to admit that I wasn’t planning to read about Lincoln until much later in my challenge mostly because there are SO many books about him available. You have books that cover his entire life as well as those that are focused on a smaller segment of his life. I know some things about him (as most people do) – so where to start? As luck would have it, Simon and Schuster contacted me with the offer to review Lincoln by David Herbert Donald on audiobook, so I jumped at the chance and the decision was made.

I really appreciate the approach that Donald took when writing this book. In the introduction he lays out the following: “In tracing the life of Abraham Lincoln, I have asked at every stage of his career what he knew when he had to take critical actions, how he evaluated the evidence before him, and why he reached his decisions. It is, then, a biography written from Lincoln’s point of view, using the information and ideas that were available to him. It seeks to explain rather than judge” (preface). He really seeks to keep the focus on Lincoln himself and not get tied up in all of the turmoil that was going on around him – which is something that other books tend to do. You won’t really find tangents on the specific battle of the Civil War here, unless it was something important to what Lincoln did or where he went.

The bulk of the book (and it certainly is a chunkster, with a page count of 720 pages and over 30 hours of audio) focuses on the time prior to the presidency – particularly his time as a lawyer in Illinois. While I appreciated understanding where Lincoln came from and how he grew in popularity to even become president sometimes I thought this section was a little too in-depth. The author went on to talk about the specifics of almost every case that Lincoln tried. I didn’t need these details. I think it would have been more effective to choose a few of the cases that were most important to some aspect on Lincoln’s development and focus on those. It got to a point where it was an endless list.

I appreciated learning about the relationship between Abraham and Mary – it made her a real person. Typically we see Mary following Lincoln’s death as a grieving widow, but Donald makes her a complex creature. It was also eye-opening to learn that most of the other politicians of the time period thought that Lincoln was doing a terrible job as president and that he almost wasn’t re-nominated for a second term. He is typically viewed as the greatest of our presidents by the modern American public. It makes me wonder how more recent presidents will be viewed once we are further removed from their term of office. If this book does one thing, it really gets you into Lincoln’s head which is a great feat since he kept his own mind most of the time.

I would recommend this book for someone looking for a complete life of Lincoln. However, be aware that the book ends almost immediately following the assassination, so do not expect an analysis of that issue.

audiobookimpressions

★★★★☆

The audio narration was overall very well done. I thought that the narrator kept my attention throughout the book. My only complaint would be with regard to the production. There would be times where I was listening and the voice would seemingly change. I think, if this was done intentionally, it was to denote the reading of a footnote so as to help the listener differentiate from the text. Whatever the case, I found it to be a little jarring. I would have preferred if they were reading a footnote to say something like “footnote: blah, blah, blah”.

David Herbert Donald also has written several books about Lincoln and his times, including: We Are Lincoln’s Men: Abraham Lincoln and His Friends and Lincoln At Home: Two Glimpses of Abraham Lincoln’s Family Life. You can listen to an excerpt of the audiobook here.

Below is a segment from Book TV with David Herbert Donald discussing his book, Lincoln. This interview was a few months before his death in 2009.

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 © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mailbox Monday #132

MM

Welcome to Mailbox Monday!  I only have a small mailbox this week – just one book.

From Netgalley I received The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon by Stephanie Dalley.  I have been wanting to read something about the various Wonders of the World and this NF fascinates me.

Recognized in ancient times as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the legendary Hanging Garden of Babylon and its location remain to this day a mystery steeped in shadow and puzzling myths. Now offering a brilliant solution to a question that has challenged archeologists for centuries, The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon is an exciting story of detection as well as a lavishly illustrated and vividly written description of a little-known civilization.

In this remarkable volume, Stephanie Dalley, a world expert on ancient Babylonian language, gathers in one place for the first time all the material on this enigmatic wonder. Tracing the history of the Garden, Dalley describes how deciphering an ancient Assyrian text--and comparing it to sculpture in the British Museum--provided the clues that enabled her to pin down where the Garden was positioned (it was not the Babylon we know today) and to describe in detail what it may have looked like. The author also offers a groundbreaking description of the technology behind the Hanging Garden's water supply, highlighting a very early occurrence of the "water-raising screw." And through her dramatic and fascinating reconstruction of the Garden, Dalley is also able to follow its influence on later garden design.

Unscrambling the many legends that have built up around the Garden, including questions about the roles played by Semiramis and Nebuchadnezzar, this intriguing volume shows why this Garden, with its remarkable innovations, deserves its place alongside the Pyramids and the Colossus of Rhodes as one of the most astonishing technical achievements of the ancient world.

What goodies did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by Lori’s Reading Corner.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Suddenly Sunday–Jan 27

Suddenly Sunday

Hope everyone has been having a lovely weekend.  I have spent most of the weekend working and finishing up my research paper, however I have a little bit of free time today which will be nice.  Despite the cold (single digits), I might get outside just for a little bit to check out an old school ice cutting demonstration at Old Sturbridge Village.

This week I featured author John A. Heldt.  I hosted an interview with him on Tuesday to get an idea about what his books are about.  Wednesday was the first of two reviews I posted this week – The Mine, the first book in the Northwest Passage series.  Friday the review of The Journey, book 2 in the series, went live.  I very much enjoyed both of these books and encourage you to pick them up.

This week I have two book tour stops: on Wednesday I have an interview with B.N. Peacock, author of A Tainted Dawn and giveaway; Friday I have a review and giveaway of The Forgotten Queen by D.L. Bogdan.

And I also have a couple of winners to announce:

  • Carl is the winner of A Thing Done by Tinney Sue Heath!!
  • Meghan is the winner of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James!!

Congrats to you both!  Emails have been sent to both winners.  If responses are not received within 5 days with mailing info new winners will be selected.

Hope you all have a great Sunday and hope to see you around this week.

 

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Muse in the Fog.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Journey by John A. Heldt

the journey

The Journey by John A. Heldt
Book 2 in The Northwest Passage series
E-book, 242 pages
Self-Published by John A. Heldt
November 3, 2012
★★★★½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction (sort of), Time Travel

Source: Received from the author for review

“Seattle, 2010. When her entrepreneur husband dies in an accident, Michelle Preston Richardson, 48, finds herself childless and directionless. She yearns for the simpler days of her youth, before she followed her high school sweetheart down a road that led to limitless riches but little fulfillment, and jumps at a chance to reconnect with her past at a class reunion. But when Michelle returns to Unionville, Oregon, and joins three classmates on a spur-of-the-moment tour of an abandoned mansion, she gets more than she asked for. She enters a mysterious room and is thrown back to 1979.

Distraught and destitute, Michelle finds a job as a secretary at Unionville High, where she guides her spirited younger self, Shelly Preston, and childhood friends through their tumultuous senior year. Along the way, she meets widowed teacher Robert Land and finds the love and happiness she had always sought. But that happiness is threatened when history intervenes and Michelle must act quickly to save those she loves from deadly fates. Filled with humor and heartbreak, The Journey gives new meaning to friendship, courage, and commitment as it follows an unfulfilled soul through her second shot at life.”

I have to start by getting two things out of the way – 1st: I’m not a huge fan of time travel stories, but this one worked for me. 2nd: Don’t take the fact that it is self-published as a sign it is a lesser work. I know a lot of people shy away from self-published works, but John A. Heldt seems to have a solid hand at fiction writing.

While this doesn’t technically fit in the genre of historical fiction, as the bulk of the story takes place in 1979, it’s still before my time that I’m going to classify it as such.

The Journey is the 2nd book in The Northwest Passage series; however it has an entirely different cast of characters (a pint sized Joel from The Mine does appear for a brief scene). And while we again find a person from the new millennium transported back to the past via a strange portal we do not encounter a rehashing of the style of The Mine. Whereas in The Mine Joel is transported back to a time before he was born, Michelle is transported back into her own past, when she was a senior in high school. This brings on a whole new set of dilemmas for a time-traveler. I was glad to see that Michelle freaks out about learning she is in the past and honestly tries to return home (something I found Joel to lack). And whereas in The Mine Joel actively tried to avoid changing the past, Michelle tries to right some of the things that went wrong in her senior year. However we do see the time-travel-ism of how changing one event can lead to a different chain of events.

It was also extremely interesting to see how Michelle would interact with her younger self, Shelly, and vice versa. We do get to see things from both Michelle and Shelly’s perspective. Obviously, no one is going to expect that someone they meet has time traveled, but Shelly questions things as she gets to know Michelle because she seems very familiar to her.

I think that this could be a good novel for a YA audience as well as a general adult audience. For teens it would be an easy introduction to the historical genre because the time period isn’t that far removed from what they know but still before their time and several of the main characters are high-schoolers dealing with high-school problems that today’s teens still face. It also has the time-travel element which might catch the attention of those who are neck deep in the supernatural.

If I thought that The Mine tugged at my heartstrings, The Journey pulled them apart. This was such a tear-jerker and I couldn’t believe the ending. Not only did I not see the event coming, but I couldn’t believe what actually happened. Another highly recommended read for 2013.

Author John A. Heldt also has written The Mine (book 1) and is currently working on The Show (book 3). You can visit John’s blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, you can read a sample of chapter 1 on the Amazon page.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

the mine

The Mine by John A. Heldt
Book 1 of The Northwest Passage series
E-book, 290 pages
Self-Published by John A. Heldt
February 12, 2012
★★★★½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel

Source: Received from the author for review

In 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity. He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can't use, money he can't spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of Whirlaway, swing dancing, and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war. With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. The Mine follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.”

I have to start by getting two things out of the way – 1st: I’m not a huge fan of time travel stories, but this one worked for me. 2nd: Don’t take the fact that it is self-published as a sign it is a lesser work. I know a lot of people shy away from self-published works, however this one is well-polished and so well built that it made my list of favorite reads of 2012.

In terms of historical to time travel ratio, the historical aspects definitely win out. The time travel element is only heavily accentuated in the very beginning and end. I actually found myself wishing that Joel had reacted more to finding himself 60+ years in the past. He seems to quickly accept what has happened and starts to build a life for himself in 1941. I, on the other hand, would have been freaking out! I think that Heldt created a good balance of including what Joel knows will happen historically and investigating how he will react to that knowledge. Will he do anything to stop or change an event or let it happen? Joel takes the approach to time travel of, “I don’t want to do anything that will substantially mess up history especially because I haven’t been born yet” approach – which is one tried and true time travel belief.

The author also equally balances the historical events of significance with the historical events of Joel’s family. He is interacting with his grandmother and her friends in 1941 and things that happen to them can affect Joel’s life in 2000. It was interesting to see how Joel walks that line and learns a lot about his family and deeper meanings for things he only knew passing references about. I loved seeing how he reacted to meeting people in the past that he knew in the future. I have always thought it would be so interesting to see and know my grandmother when she was in her 20’s, her stories are always so fascinating, and I could sort of live that through the character of Joel.

The 1940’s world that the author builds just exudes the feel of this period – from the cars, manner of dress, attitudes, etc. The author definitely did his research to make the period jump from the pages.

I LOVED the characters in this book – the certainly stay with you even after finishing reading it. They felt so real. Each was different and carefully crafted. The emotions that they feel really pull at your heartstrings. There really weren’t any characters that I didn’t like, they all fell somewhere on a moving scale of likeability depending on what was happening at the time – which is how we perceive different people in our life anyway.

This book moves right along and at 290 pages you will be done with the book before you know it. The first half of the book builds a character for Joel in the 1940’s while the second half of the book really deals with what Joel is going to do. This was one of those books I just couldn’t put down. I went to bed with 10% left of the book (because I had to go to bed sometime and get up for work) and all the next day at work I couldn’t wait to get home to pick up the book and finish it – which is exactly what I did when I walked in the door. The story and the characters just wouldn’t leave. I highly recommend this book (and book 2, The Journey – review later this week!)

Author John A. Heldt also has written The Journey (book 2) and is currently working on The Show (book 3). You can visit John’s blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, you can read a sample of chapter 1 on the Amazon page.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Author Interview with John A. Heldt

This week I have the chance to introduce many of you to new author – and I figure what better way to kick off the week then with an interview with the author himself (stay tuned later in the week for two book reviews).  John A. Heldt released two books so far in his Northwest Passage series, The Mine and The Journey.  His books are historical fiction with the element of time travel mixed in – which adds to an interesting dynamic to the story.  I have immensely enjoyed both books so far and look forward to what he has coming out next.  Without further ado, please read on for the interview.  

John Heldt Books

You are currently writing a series called the Northwest Passage. Can you tell us why the series is titled this way?  Also, how many books are planned to be in the series?

I chose Northwest Passage as the title of the series because the term perfectly describes the location and theme of the books. In each work, the protagonist, a resident of the Pacific Northwest, passes through time or goes through various rites of passage – or both. Most people think of the Northwest Passage as the legendary Arctic sea route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but my Northwest Passage is both a place and a concept. All five novels in the series will be time-travel, coming-of-age stories set at least partly in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, or Montana.

What inspired you to writing this series?

The decision to create the series followed the decision to write The Mine. I decided to write The Mine after reading and watching The Time Traveler's Wife in the summer of 2011. I enjoyed both the book and the movie but was motivated more by the possibilities of 20th-century time travel than by that particular story. Within minutes of viewing the movie, I decided to write a novel about a modern man who travels back in time to 1941. I have always considered the attack on Pearl Harbor to be the defining event of the past century. But I decided at the start that I wanted to approach 1941 from a different angle. I wanted to cover the months leading up to December 7 from the perspective of a civilian time traveler who knew that war was coming and wasn't all that thrilled about jumping into it. My protagonist, Joel Smith, wrestles with difficult decisions, the kind that can only confront someone with knowledge of things to come. The protagonists in the later books will confront the same kind of challenges as they move through time.

What has been the most difficult part of the writing/publication process? If you could do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

The most difficult part of the writing process is achieving perfection. It is virtually impossible to write a 75,000- to 100,000-word book and not have a single typo or inconsistency or factual error. But with a capable editor and good beta readers you can come close. The only thing I would do differently a second time, and have done differently with my second and third books, is to pay more attention to marketing. It's one thing to write a decent novel. It's another to bring it to the attention of a large audience. I found the first task much easier than the second.

I read somewhere that you struggled with recognizing that The Mine is essentially a love story. Is that not how you intended the novel to turn out?

You read correctly. I had originally intended to write a coming-of-age story filled with humor, history, and adventure – or something along the lines of a Clive Cussler novel. That changed when Grace entered the picture. I quickly saw the possibilities of the romance between Joel and Grace and decided to make it the focus of the second half of the book. Even so, I strongly resisted the idea of actually marketing The Mine as a romance novel. I had it in my head that a romance was a different kind of book. Then my 17-year-old daughter read an early draft and brought me back to Earth. She said, "Get over it, Dad, it's a romance novel!" Needless to say, she was right.

You say that The Journey is not a direct sequel to The Mine - how would you say it fits into this series and what can we expect from this book?

The Journey is not the sequel, but it is linked to The Mine in Chapter 53. Joel Smith, the 22-year-old protagonist of The Mine, makes a cameo appearance in The Journey as a licorice-chomping two-year-old who runs around a convenience store. Joel will have the unique distinction of being the only character to appear in every book of the Northwest Passage series. The Journey features many of the elements found in The Mine, such as humor, romance, adventure, and serious themes. But it is a different kind of book. It's darker, deeper, and arguably more poignant. It's a novel that means more to me personally because it is the story of my generation, which came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Unlike with The Mine, I did very little research for The Journey. I didn't have to. I lived through that time. The novel was already etched in my mind.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently working on?

Please note that there are some spoilers in the response to this question regarding outcomes from The Mine (book 1 in the series)I have written the answers in white – if you want to read it, highlight the missing section, otherwise skip forward.

I am currently writing The Show, the third novel in the series and the much-anticipated sequel to The Mine. Told almost entirely from Grace Vandenberg's perspective, the book will follow Grace from her heartbreak in 1941 to her reunion with and marriage to Joel in 2000 to her shocking, spirit-crushing trip to 1918 Seattle. She will meet her parents and aunt as young adults, fall in love with another man, and make some gut-wrenching decisions that affect her future. I plan to publish it in March or April.

When you don't have your writing hat on, what do you like to do with your time?

I read a lot, of course, but I also brew my own beer and enjoy fishing, biking, and walking the dog. I get some of my best ideas on long walks.

John a heldt

John A. Heldt is a reference librarian who lives and works in Montana. The former award-winning sportswriter and newspaper editor has loved reading and writing since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of both the University of Oregon and University of Iowa, he is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction.

You can visit John A. Heldt and learn more about his book on his blog, Facebook, or Goodreads.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mailbox Monday #131

MM

Hope you all are enjoying this day off if you are lucky enough to have it off.  I do, but I’m going to be working on my most recent research paper today.  However, let’s start the day off by looking at the goodies that arrived in my inbox this week.

All the books I received this week were through Netgalley – I just couldn’t resist these!

  • Junius and Albert's Adventures in the Confederacy by Peter Carlson.  I couldn’t resist this book when it was described as a Odyssey in the south during the Civil War.

Albert Richardson and Junius Browne, two correspondents for the "New York Tribune," were captured at the Battle of Vicksburg and spent twenty months in horrific Confederate prisons before escaping and making their way to Union territory. Their amazing, long-forgotten odyssey is one of the great escape stories in American history, packed with drama, courage, horrors and heroics, plus many moments of antic comedy. They must endure the Confederacy s most notorious prison; rely on forged passes and the secret signals of a covert pro-Union organization in North Carolina; trust a legendary guerilla leader; be hidden by slaves during the day in plantation slave quarters; and ultimately depend on a mysterious, anonymous woman on a white horse to guide them to safety. They traveled for 340 miles, most of it on foot, much of it through snow, in twenty-six days.This is a marvelous, surreal voyage through the cold mountains, dark prisons, and mysterious bands of misfits living in the shadows of the Civil War.

  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.  I have been fascinated by Zelda forever and am excited that there are two novels about her coming out this year.

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who isZelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

  • The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin.  I haven’t had the chance to read any of Benjamin’s works yet, although they are on my shelf, but another thing that has fascinated me is the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.  So I am interested in seeing more about Anne Lindbergh.

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

  • Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell.  I didn’t realize at first that this book features Queen Emma and the Saxons before the Conquering.  This is one of my favorite time periods, so of course once I realized the above, this was a shoe in.

In 1002, fifteen­-year-old Emma of Normandy crosses the Narrow Sea to wed the much older King Athelred of England, whom she meets for the first time at the church door. Thrust into an unfamiliar and treacherous court, with a husband who mistrusts her, stepsons who resent her and a bewitching rival who covets her crown, Emma must defend herself against her enemies and secure her status as queen by bearing a son.

Determined to outmaneuver her adversaries, Emma forges alliances with influential men at court and wins the affection of the English people. But her growing love for a man who is not her husband and the imminent threat of a Viking invasion jeopardize both her crown and her life.

Based on real events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Shadow on the Crown introduces readers to a fascinating, overlooked period of history and an unforgettable heroine whose quest to find her place in the world will resonate with modern readers

Most of these books haven’t been released yet, but are you planning on reading any of them or which ones sound interesting to you?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by Lori’s Reading Corner.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Stealing Rembrandts by Anthony M. Amore & Tom Mashberg

Stealing Rembrants

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
by Anthony M. Amore & Tom Mashberg
ARC, Hardcover, 272 pages
Palgrave Macmillan
July 5, 2011
★★★★☆

Genre: Non-Fiction, Art History

Source: Received a copy through the Amazon Vine Program

“Today, art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. And the masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn are some of the most frequently targeted.

In Stealing Rembrandts, art security expert Anthony M. Amore and award-winning investigative reporter Tom Mashberg reveal the actors behind the major Rembrandt heists in the last century. Through thefts around the world—from Stockholm to Boston, Worcester to Ohio—the authors track daring entries and escapes from the world’s most renowned museums. There are robbers who coolly walk off with multimillion dollar paintings; self-styled art experts who fall in love with the Dutch master and desire to own his art at all costs; and international criminal masterminds who don’t hesitate to resort to violence. They also show how museums are thwarted in their ability to pursue the thieves—even going so far as to conduct investigations on their own, far away from the maddening crowd of police intervention, sparing no expense to save the priceless masterpieces.

Stealing Rembrandts is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind look at the black market of art theft, and how it compromises some of the greatest treasures the world has ever known.”

I have been a fan of art and art history since taking an art history class in high school. I have enjoyed reading novels based on the life of artists or works that they created, however this is the first book I have read about art heists. Art theft is extremely common, much more so that I had thought – apparently enough art is stolen to warrant an FBI art crime team! Stealing Rembrandts looks at some of the major art heists that have involved at least one work by Rembrandt as one of the victims. Rembrandt was a prolific artist and engraver/printmaker thus there are a greater number of his works on the market just waiting for an enterprising thief.

Despite the short length of this book it was packed with information. I think the fact that the authors both have written for newspapers keep their writing concise and brimming with facts. Anthony Amore is the Director of Security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which was one of the sites of a notorious art theft that has yet to be solved. Tom Mashberg has written numerous articles about the Gardner Museum theft as well. The knowledge that they have between them regarding art crime is extensive. I cannot believe just how easy it can be for art to be stolen. When I think of art theft I think in the dead of night with all sorts of devices to get past – laser beams, alarms, guards etc. But the reality is that museums and private homes are notoriously under secure and many art thefts happen during the daylight hours. The statistics and methods of theft were absolutely shocking to me.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a different art heist – with a look at theft from private homes as well as galleries, both here in the USA and abroad. Some of the thefts are quite ridiculous and others are so well thought out. The authors even interviewed a man who has been involved in numerous art thefts, including one that is chronicled in this book – so you really get into the mind of the thief. Besides information on the actual thefts you get background on Rembrandt himself, his times, various of his works that were stolen, as well as other aspects of art history. It was a quick, entertaining, and enlightening peek into the world of art theft.

You can visit Anthony Amore’s website for additional information about one of the authors or the book’s website for more specifically about the book.

You can watch this interview with Anthony Amore for Harvard Magazine about art theft and the book:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Some links related to this topic you might find interesting:

  • The FBI Art Crime Team page – you can learn about their mission and even look through their database of reported stolen art. Working for this team would be one of my dream list jobs.
  • The FBI Art Theft page – similar to the above but with a list of Top Ten Art Crimes, news press releases regarding recent art thefts, and links to other agencies art theft teams (such as INTERPOL).
  • A Web Catalogue of Rembrandt Paintings – compiled by a member of the faculty at the University of Amsterdam featuring the works that have been conclusively associated with Rembrandt.

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

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mailbox Monday #130

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Another Monday…wait! it’s Wednesday!  Mailbox Monday got bumped around a little this week due to blog tour scheduling – however I did get some great books this past week.

From a giveaway win at Lost in BooksHow to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English.  I have enjoyed Christy’s historical fiction takes on Eleanor of Aquitaine and am interested in this romance turn of The Taming of the Shrew.

1. Forbid her from riding astride
2. Hide her dueling sword
3. Burn all her breeches and buy her silk drawers
4. Frisk her for hidden daggers
5. Don't get distracted while frisking her for hidden daggers...

Anthony Carrington, Earl of Ravensbrook, expects a biddable bride. A man of fiery passion tempered by the rigors of war into steely self-control, he demands obedience from his troops and his future wife. Regardless of how fetching she looks in breeches.

Promised to the Earl of Plump Pockets by her impoverished father, Caroline Montague is no simpering miss. She rides a war stallion named Hercules, fights with a blade, and can best most men with both bow and rifle. She finds Anthony autocratic, domineering, and...ridiculously gorgeous.

It's a duel of wit and wills in this charming retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. But the question is...who's taming whom?

For review I received:

  • Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick (from publisher through Netgalley – Kindle)

A medieval tale of pride and strife, of coming-of-age in a world where chivalry is a luxury seldom afforded, especially by men of power.

England, 1148---ten-year-old Brunin FitzWarin is an awkward misfit in his own family. A quiet child, he is tormented by his brothers and loathed by his powerful and autocratic grandmother. In an attempt to encourage Brunin's development, his father sends him to be fostered in the household of Joscelin de Dinan, Lord of Ludlow. Here Brunin will learn knightly arts, but before he can succeed, he must overcome the deep-seated doubts that hold him back.

Hawise, the youngest daughter of Lord Joscelin, soon forms a strong friendship with Brunin. Family loyalties mean that her father, with the young Brunin as his squire, must aid Prince Henry of Anjou in his battle with King Stephen for the English crown. Meanwhile, Ludlow itself comes under threat from Joscelin's rival, Gilbert de Lacy. As the war for the crown rages, and de Lacy becomes more assertive in his claims for Ludlow, Brunin and Hawise are drawn into each other's arms.

Now Brunin must defeat the shadows of his childhood and put to use all that he has learned. As the pressure on Ludlow intensifies and a new Welsh threat emerges against his own family's lands, Brunin must confront the future head on, or fail on all counts....

 

  •  The Ambassador’s Daughter by Pam Jenoff (from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations for a blog tour)

Paris, 1919.The world's leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.

Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.

Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job—and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.

Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.

What goodies came in your mailbox this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by Lori’s Reading Corner.

 

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Writer’s Inspiration: A Guest Post by Syrie James

Syrie James has written a guest post for us here at The Maiden’s Court where she discusses her inspiration for writing her novels, and specifically her newest, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, which released on December 31, 2012.  Follow along to the end of the post for a giveaway opportunity. 

A Writer’s Inspiration

Guest Post by Syrie James, Author of
The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen

The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

Syrie James, author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, discusses the authors that have inspired her work blending the contemporary with the historical.

What authors have inspired your work?

Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë have both served as great inspirations to me. Both women lived in an era when it was almost unthinkable for a woman to become a writer. Both were clergymen’s daughters who lived in relative obscurity with no connections to the publishing world. Yet they had a dream to write, to create stories—and they pursued that dream with a passion. Both (except for brief stints at school) were educated primarily at home, at a time when very few women received any kind of formal education; yet both were self-motivated and went far beyond the basics of language, deportment, music, and needlework that comprised most ladies' curriculum. They both took advantage of their fathers' libraries to become incredibly well-read. Both wrote beautiful prose, developed unforgettable characters, and were brilliant story-tellers. I greatly admire Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, and love their work with all my heart. Their journeys, passion, and devotion to their craft inspire me every single day.

You like to blend the contemporary with the historical? Why is that?

Actually this book was something new for me. I’ve written three historical fiction novels (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë; and Dracula, My Love) and two contemporary novels (Nocturne and Forbidden.) When I first conceived of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, I thought I would just write Austen’s "lost manuscript," which would therefore be entirely historical. And I do love writing a historical! But as I considered the idea more and more, I decided it could be even more fun if I included a contemporary story to frame and add context to the Austen novel.

Including the modern day story with the historical sets up a mystery: is there a lost manuscript? If so, what is it? Where is it? And why did it go missing in the first place? The modern day characters—and therefore the reader—have the fun of solving those mysteries. Blending the two time frames also allowed me to have those characters comment on what they were reading, which I hoped would add an interesting dimension to the book. I knew, going in, that this structure would prove very challenging, and was I ever right—I was obliged to write two books instead of one, and had to make sure they both meshed. I hope readers enjoy the result.

You can learn more about Syrie James and her works at her website or on her Facebook.

Syrie JamesAuthorPhoto2011 - Credit William James
Photo Credit: William James

I have one copy of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen to offer to one lucky reader from the US.  Giveaway ends January 27th.  Fill out the Rafflecopter below to enter.

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Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 14, 2013

Interview with Tinney Sue Heath and Giveaway!

Today I have the opportunity to host new author Tinney Sue Heath whose novel, A Thing Done, was released October 30, 2012.  Please join me in welcoming her – and don’t forget to stay tuned at the end for a giveaway!

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Your novel, A Thing Done, is set in 1216 in Florence. What was it about this time/place that inspired you to write about it?

I wish I could tell you why Florence, but I honestly don't know - it's just always been Florence for me. I started with the Renaissance, then I worked my way back to Dante, and with this book I've arrived at a time before the poet, and well before the rise of the Medici and the great works of Michelangelo and Fra Angelico. Saint Francis was still alive, the merchant guilds were not yet powerful, the Black Death lay in the future, and knights engaged in urban warfare from their formidable stone towers. Someday I may go earlier still, because each period contains the seeds of the next. Perhaps it's all really a search for the origins of the Florentine Renaissance.

When you were in the early idea/planning stages of your book, which came first, the time/place or the story you wanted to tell?

At the time this idea hijacked my attention, I was immersed in a slightly later Florence, though still 13th century. But the historic events underlying this story raised so many interesting questions in my mind - Why did they do that? What did it mean? How could such a thing have happened? What made them think that particular course of action could be anything other than a disaster? - that I just had to explore further. So I'd say the story came first, but luckily I was already in the right zone with my research. (The early 13th century differs significantly from the later 13th century, so I did have more research to do, but not nearly as much as if I'd been working on, say, Vikings or Victorians).

Have you ever had the chance to visit any of the locations that you have written about? If so, what was your favorite place?

Yes, I've been lucky enough to visit Florence several times. There is so much to see there – museums, historic palaces and churches, the city herself – that I know I'll never get tired of visiting. I did find, though, that since much of the medieval city has been replaced by Renaissance and later structures, I get a better feeling for my time period in some of the smaller towns in Tuscany and Umbria. Towns like Todi, Spello, Montepulciano, Assisi, and Poppi retain a more medieval character, and especially at night it's easy to imagine that the centuries have slipped away and you're back in Dante's Italy. If I had to pick one favorite, I think I'd choose Gubbio, a rather isolated hill town in Umbria. It's so beautiful!

What has been the most difficult part of the writing/publication process so far? Has anything surprised you?

The most difficult part, without a doubt, was trying to get an agent. I can't count how many agents told me I was a strong writer, but... they couldn't sell anything without a well-known historical character, or without a female protagonist, or both. I worked hard at it. I carefully tailored each query letter according to the preferences on the agent's website, but with no luck. Finally I gave up on that. I'd formed a good opinion of Fireship Press, so I decided to write to them directly. This time I didn't tailor my letter. I wrote about my book in my own way, describing it the way I saw it, and I figured if they didn't like it, they weren't the right publisher for me. After all, I didn't have much to lose. And they sent me a contract! After all those unsuccessful agent queries, that's what surprised me.

You mention on your website that you have always been a reader – have you always wanted to write a novel or was this a more recent idea?

I've always wanted to write – in fact, I've always written. I have a background in journalism, but the idea that I could actually get my fiction published occurred to me only after a bout with illness woke me up and convinced me that it was time to get serious about what I was doing. There's nothing quite like a brush with mortality to help a person focus. And I must say, getting serious has proved to be a lot of fun!

Do you have any writing plans for the future you could tell us about?

I've returned to the project I was working on when this idea sidetracked me. It's also set in Florence, but this time in the late 13th century, and it is based on the life of Gemma Donati, the woman Dante married. Gemma's father betrothed her to the poet when Dante was only twelve, and she probably younger. They were neighbors. Also living in the neighborhood, just a few doors away, was the young Beatrice, who was to become Dante's inspiration and love. Gemma almost certainly knew Beatrice, quite possibly better than Dante did. In addition, Gemma's kinsman Corso Donati was the leader of the political party that later forced Dante into exile. The great poet left his wife and children behind, and he never returned to Florence. It was from exile that he wrote his masterwork, The Divine Comedy. And Corso's brother Forese was Dante's close friend. There's so much dramatic potential in all of those complex relationships that it may take me more than one book to do it justice.

I'd like to thank Heather for hosting me here, and for asking such thought-provoking questions. I think I understand my own writing process and motivation better for having searched for the answers.

Tinney Sue Heath

Tinney Sue Heath has loved music and history all her life.  Born near Chicago, she started college in Boston at the New England Conservatory with the intention of becoming a professional flutist, but after a rather abrupt change of direction she wound up with a degree in journalism from Antioch College.  She worked as a staff reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education and later provided editorial assistance to University of Wisconsin-based editors of two professional journals.

Her musical and historical interests eventually merged, and she discovered the pleasures of playing late medieval and early Renaissance music on a great variety of instruments.  Her historical focus is currently on Dante's Florence, so she and her husband spend a lot of time in Florence and elsewhere in Tuscany.  They live in Madison, Wisconsin, where they enjoy playing music and surrounding themselves with native wild plants. 

You can visit her website to learn more about her work.

A Thing Done Tour Button

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the HFVBT website or on Twitter using the following event hashtag: #AThingDoneVirtualTour.


Now for the giveaway opportunity.  I have 1 copy of A Thing Done up for grabs to a US resident.  The giveaway is open until January 27, 2013.  Please complete the Rafflecopter below to enter. 

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Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

the lady and the poet

The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Paperback, 384 pages
St. Martin’s Griffin
March 15, 2011
★★★★☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review

“Ann More and her four sisters have been brought up in the beautiful country house of Loseley, near Guildford in Surrey, by their grandparents, Sir William and the Lady Margaret More. Their only brother, Robert, lives with his pompous father and shrewish step-mother nearby. But though the sisters are close, it is Ann who is the most unusual in character. Willful, argumentative, challenging and fiery, she is handsome rather than beautiful, and has an indomitable spirit. It is this that endears her to her grandfather, who encourages her learning and lets her loose in his well-stocked library to browse the volumes of Latin and Greek.

Once her favorite sister Bett is married, Ann is sent to live in York House in London, where her uncle is Lord Keeper of the Seal. Ann knows her father is endeavoring to find her a match in marriage, and she is to be presented at the Court of Queen Elizabeth yet the journey past Nonsuch Palace, through Southwark, the city gates spiked with the heads of recent traitors and across the shining river proves unimaginably exciting. Soon, Ann is quite at home at York House, and there, in the company of her young cousin, she meets the poet John Donne, a man older and wiser than her, whose verse and character she just cannot resist.

Rich in period detail, vivid in description and character, THE LADY AND THE POET is an utterly irresistible, compelling historical novel. It is, above all, the passionate story of the love match between one of the most famous poets of all time, and his young bride.”

For some reason, something that I cannot really put my finger on, it took me a long time to decide I was in the mood to read this book. I think that part of it was the fact that I truly had no idea who John Dunne was, besides the fact that he was a poet. Secondly, because I knew he was a poet, and I really don’t like reading poetry, I likely steered away from this because I was intimidated by the possibly of needing to read poetry. If you are like I was, I want to reassure you that you don’t really need to know anything about John Dunne to enjoy this novel, although an appreciation of poetry wouldn’t hurt. There are poems, or portions of poems, sprinkled throughout the novel and if you know any of Dunne’s poetry you will likely find more enjoyment in being able to place the poem historically.

One thing that this novel does very well is evoke the time period and place. Through Haran’s writing, London comes to life where you can almost see, feel, and smell the world around you. You see a little bit of everything from the seedier, back streets of London to the Queen’s chambers of the palace. At no point does the descriptions bog down the writing – the pages fly by!

The characters were well written. Ann More has several sisters and none of the women really felt stereotypical or cookie cutter. There were all a little different and unique, however at the same time they fit the most of women from that time period. One of my favorite scenes was when Ann had her introduction to Queen Elizabeth – and the Queen is in one of her jealous rages. This isn’t a side of Elizabeth that I have seen novelized much – mostly because the Elizabeth that I read of is often in the earlier years of her reign. I very much enjoyed the character of John Dunne – he was a little bit scandalous, sexy, and the man you wouldn’t want your daughter with – but at the same time he really cares so much for Ann. The two of them go to great extents to be able to love and marry and it made for great drama. Quite a touching love story.

Author Maeve Haran also has written another historical fiction novel The Painted Lady. You can visit Haran’s website for additional information about 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 © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

6 Glasses

The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
Paperback, 311 pages
Walker Publishing Company
May 16, 2006
★★★½☆☆

Genre: Non-Fiction, Food & Beverage

Source: Purchased for my Seminar on World History Masters class

“As the tides of history have ebbed and flowed, different drinks have come to prominence in different times, places and cultures, from stone-age villages to Ancient Greek dining rooms or Enlightenment coffeehouses. Each one became popular when it met a particular need or aligned with a historical trend: in some cases, it then went on to influence the course of history in unexpected ways. Just as archaeologists divide history into different periods based on the use of different materials — the stone age, the bronze age, the iron age, and so on — it is also possible divide world history into periods dominated by different drinks. Six drinks in particular — beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola — chart the flow of world history. Three contain alcohol and three contain caffeine, but what they all have in common is that each drink was the defining drink during a pivotal historical period, from antiquity to the present day.”

This was a very interesting approach to looking at world history. Being a person that loves cooking and food – I somehow had not thought about food history or how beverages affected world choices. I was also excited to read this book for my Seminar in World History class because, to be honest, the 3 other texts were relative dry and boring compared to this one.

This book traces how 6 drinks have influenced world history – beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Each drink has two chapters dedicated to it – the first typically showing the evolution of the drink itself and the second spends time exploring the historical effects of the drink. When looking at the effects of the drinks the author typically explores medical, commercial/consumer, governmental, and religious implications. Some of the drinks have significant world implications – tea was significant in the forward movement of the American Revolution; cola was significant in the globalization economy; coffee was important at providing locations for the Enlightenment to grow from. I’m glad that the epilogue took a look at the impact of water – since water is the most important beverage in the world.

This book would certainly be a great companion work to go along with a standard world history text. It not only supports the standard history, but it gives a new perspective which makes a more well-rounded historical reading experience. A lot of history texts do not necessarily look at the daily human experience aspect of history, but rather focus on the big picture. While this does look at big picture, it also gets you a little closer to the human experience.

There were really only one or two complaints that I have with this book. The most significant is that it focuses primarily on the experience in Europe and the Ancient Egyptian/Mesopotamian cultures. There was brief mention of the Chinese with regard to tea, but I think that it would have better benefitted from some discussion of Africa (beyond Egypt) and Latin/South America. Alcohol was used significantly in ceremonies in Latin American cultures and it would have been interesting to explore the influence there. There was certainly relevance in other parts of the world – especially regarding alcohol and (I would imagine) coffee. The other smaller issue that I had with this book is that some of the conclusions that the author draws seems to be a little stretching it – however, possibly plausible. I would have liked to have a little more discussion regarding some of these conclusions before I would believe them.

Author Tom Standage also has similarly written An Edible History of Humanity as well as other books such as The Victorian Internet, The Turk, and The Neptune File. You can visit Standage’s blog for additional information about the books. If you would like to preview the book before reading it, why not try out this preview from Google books?

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 © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mailbox Monday #129

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My book collection got a little larger this week, although more than half came as e-books to my Kindle (I can’t get yelled at too much about that! haha)

I received one Kindle book for review – part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book tour – The Forgotten Queen by D. L. Bogdan.  This is the first of her books that I will be reading but I have heard so many good things about her books I’m excited to check this one out.

From her earliest days, Margaret Tudor knows she will not have the luxury of choosing a husband. Her duty is to gain alliances for England. Barely out of girlhood, Margaret is married by proxy to James IV and travels to Edinburgh to become Queen of Scotland.

Despite her doubts, Margaret falls under the spell of her adopted home. But while Jamie is an affectionate husband, he is not a faithful one. And nothing can guarantee Margaret’s safety when Jamie leads an army against her own brother, Henry VIII. In the wake of loss she falls prey to an ambitious earl and brings Scotland to the brink of anarchy. Beset by betrayal and secret alliances, Margaret has one aim—to preserve the crown of Scotland for her son, no matter what the cost…

I purchased 3 other Kindle books – all at a great sale price of $2.99 or less!  These I am going to use if I decided to actually sign up again for a fairytales retold challenge – but they also looked interesting as it.  Two are even HF retellings of fairytales.

  • Ember by Bettie Sharpe – a retelling of Cinderella in novella format – written for adults – not children.

Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to—he’s cursed. Every man must respect him. Every woman must desire him. One look, and all is lost.

Ember would rather carve out a piece of her soul than be enslaved by passions not her own. She turns to the dark arts to save her heart and becomes the one woman in the kingdom able to resist the Prince’s Charm.

Poor girl. If Ember had spent less time studying magic and more time studying human nature, she might have guessed that a man who gets everything and everyone he wants will come to want the one woman he cannot have.

  • The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson – HF retelling of Beauty and the Beast

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

  • The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson – HF retelling of Sleeping  Beauty

Two Hearts. One Hope.

Rose has been appointed as a healer's apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter's daughter like her. While she often feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable. Failure will mean returning home to marry the aging bachelor her mother has chosen for her—a bloated, disgusting merchant who makes Rose feel ill.

When Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, it is Rose who must tend to him. As she works to heal his wound, she begins to understand emotions she's never felt before and wonders if he feels the same. But falling in love is forbidden, as Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a mysterious young woman in hiding. As Rose's life spins toward confusion, she must take the first steps on a journey to discover her own destiny.

Also for review, however this time in paperback – I received a copy of Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent from the author for review as part of the HF Virtual Book Tour.  I have always enjoyed reading her books and I’m excited because this is the start of a HF mystery trilogy! 

In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.

Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…

Finally, my final purchase was a splurge and so not like the rest of the above books, but I’m very excited about it.  I purchased The Crockin’ Girls cookbook – from QVC.  It is a recipe book of all crock pot recipes that look simple and yummy.  I’m planning on making two recipes from it this week.  If you have a crockpot that spends most of its time in the closet – like mine has – this might just be the book that gets it to spend more time on the counter with something awesome cooking.

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of January it is being hosted by Lori’s Reading Corner.

 

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