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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Four Month Challenge Part 2 Complete

The Four Month Challenge Part Two is being held by Martina at She Read a Book

Round 2 is now over - and I put up a decent result - 140/250 points. I wasn't able to devote as much time to it this round as the first because of my reviewing committments - although I would have loved to. Round 3 is starting up tomorrow and I should be able to do a lot better with that one, as it is more open. So heres to Round 2 being over and Round 3 starting!

Here are the rules:

The challege runs from November 1, 2009 until February 28, 2010
Each book can only be used for 1 category (no double-dipping)
2 of the books can be audiobooks, but don't have to be
The books read for this challege can overlap with other challeges

The categories are:

5 Point Challenges
Read a book with a proper name in the title
Read a book about a queen or king - Complete - Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carrol
Read a book by or about/related to a Bronte
Read a book about Vampires
Read a book by V.C. Andrews

10 Point Challenges
Read a book by Canadian author
Read a book by or about/related to Charles Dickens
Read a book set in France - Complete - The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent
Read a book by Georgette Heyer
Read an ‘art’ themed book.

15 Point Challenges
Read a book with a Civil War theme (any country)
Read a book with characters inspired by King Arthur or about King Arthur/Camelot
Read a biography/autobiography - Complete - Going Rogue by Sarah Palin
Read a book related to or something by Shakespeare - Complete - O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell
Read a book by an author born in November, December, January or February - Complete- Thirsty by Kristin Bair-O'Keeffe (born in February)

20 Point Challenges
Read a book with a wintery theme (Christmas, snow, ice, freezing, star, camel, mistletoe, etc.) - Complete - A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (This book is set during a cold, snowy wintertime)
Read a book that was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Read a book that begins with A and one that begins with Z - Complete- The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks (Z Book) and The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox (A Book )
Read a book from The Modern Library Top 100 - Complete - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Audio Book
Read a book and then write a review - Complete - The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Laker

140/250 Points

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

New Book Alert - The Harlot's Progress: Yorkshire Molly

The Harlot’s Progress: Yorkshire Molly by Peter Mottley

Genre: Art Historical Fiction

Release Date: October 30, 2009 (UK)

Publisher: Carnevale Publishing

“Yorkshire Molly is the first in a gripping trilogy that breathes life into Hogarth’s captivating series “A Harlot’s Progress”.

Innocent virgin Molly Huckerby arrives in London from York hoping to marry her wealthy and respected cousin. But her innocence is stolen as she is lured into The Bell by the notorious bawd Mother Wickham. She is destined for a life as a kept whore, but in a breathtaking twist she finds an unlikely saviour...

Underlying this wicked tale is the story of a spirited woman’s struggle against overwhelming misfortune and the brutality of 18th Century London.” (from the back cover)
Here is the trailer for the book, with a selection read by the daughter of the late author:

It sounds like quite an exciting book!

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Hardcover, 371 pages
June 9, 2009
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Borrowed from my boyfriend’s mom – which I got signed so when I return it, it will be in better condition than I received it.

"Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie's grandmother's abandoned home near Salem, she can't refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest--to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.
 As the pieces of Deliverance's harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem's dark past then she could have ever imagined."
Connie is a graduate student working on finding a unique primary source for her dissertation. As large of a feat that is, she is at the same time trying to clean out her late grandmother’s house to prepare it to sell. When she finds a name hidden in a key in a Bible at the house, the wheels start to turn in the search for a physick book - her primary source. While staying down at her grandmother’s house, Connie meets Sam, a young man who is doing some restoration work in town. He helps her search for clues to finding this book and the search ultimately leads down a dangerous path and to some unique revelations about herself for Connie.

I absolutely couldn’t put this book down! The main subject of the book is about the Salem Witch Trials and the story bounces back and forth between the present of 1991 and the past of the 17th century. It was really interesting to see how these two periods intersected with each other. Howe weaved the two stories together seamlessly. Every time you thought maybe you had something figured out, you would get another glimpse of the past and it would make you rethink your prior idea. It definitely kept me glued to the book from beginning to end.

I could relate to Connie in many ways. I recently graduated from college and remember well all the time I spent researching for my thesis – although mine didn’t lead to great adventures, but was a little less harrowing! I also could connect with the idea of having to clean out the house of a deceased relative and all of the very interesting things you learn about them after they are gone.
I learned so much about the Salem Witch Trials and how witches were viewed at the time. I had never heard of a cunning woman before – and that is a huge part of the book. Living so close by I will just have to take a trip up to that area again and be able to look at it in a completely different way.

I would recommend this book 100 times over to anyone interested in the witch hysteria that took over during this early part of US history.
Read an excerpt from the book to get an idea of how good it is!

Here is the book trailer for a visual treat:
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia
Also by Katherine Howe:
house of velvet and glass
The House of Velvet and Glass
Penguin Book of Witches
The Penguin Book of Witches
The Appearance
The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen
Find Katherine Howe: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest | Instagram

Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Connecticut Witch Trials

Everyone has heard of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 where over 100 people were charged and imprisoned and 20 were executed for the crime of witchcraft. Fewer people know that these trials happened in other states and communities as well. One of these other communities was Hartford, Connecticut. I was reminded of this incident by Katherine Howe when I went to her author event last month.
Witch Trials in Connecticut took place between 1647 and 1697. At best count, at least 50 people were accused of witchcraft. At least a dozen were executed by hanging. Connecticut found the first 7 people it accused of witchcraft guilty and executed them. In the early years, Connecticut was the most aggressive as seeking out witches. The Connecticut Witch Trials began in 1662 when eight year old Elizabeth Kelly died uttering the last words of “Goody Ayres chokes me”. The last “witch” hanged in Connecticut was Mary Barnes in 1667. Several people were subjected to the water dunking test to gain confessions and supporting evidence. While Massachusetts and Virginia have given out posthumous pardons to some of the executed witches, Connecticut has not, nor is there any procedure for it to be done.

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mailbox Monday #17

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

I received two books for review this week and am excited about both of them!

• Notorious Royal Marriages – Leslie Carroll (from Leslie herself, thank you!)
• O, Juliet – Robin Maxwell (from publisher, have some exciting things planned for this one!)

I also bought some good books this weekend that I thought I would throw in:
• The Widow of the South – Robert Hicks
• The Tory Widow – Christine Blevins
• The Secret of Josephine – Carolley Erickson
• Sunflowers – Sheramy Bundrick

Anything interesting in your mailbox?

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
ARC, Paperback, 406 pages
September 29, 2009
★★★ ½☆☆
goodreads button

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Received for review from the publisher
"When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers--with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. 
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including--perhaps--their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind. 
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life--even after death."

Twins, Julia and Valentina, go to London to live in the flat left behind by their recently deceased Aunt Elspeth. Part of her will stipulated that they live there together for 1 year and their parents were not allowed to set foot in the flat. Their upstairs neighbor, Martin, suffers from OCD and agoraphobia which causes his wife to leave him. Their downstairs neighbor, Robert, is the lover of the deceased Elspeth who is supposed to watch out for these young girls. Elspeth remains in her flat as a ghost. The lives of these people (and ghosts) intermingle in various ways and have surprising effects of each other.

This story is very much a character driven work. Not too many big events take place, but a lot happens between these characters. The pivotal character is the deceased Elspeth. All of these people had a connection with her and they are trying to figure out how to move on, until they find out that she is a ghost that they can communicate with. This throws a huge wrench in the plan and causes a very surprising end to the story – one you will never see coming.  Another major character that cannot be overlooked in this story is Highgate Cemetery. The flat is located on the side of the cemetery, Elspeth’s tomb is in the cemetery, and Robert is a guide for the cemetery as well as is writing a book about it.

The beginning was a little slow going, but I really did enjoy delving into the lives of these characters – learning what made them tick. It was also interesting to see what happened to these twins who always did everything together. At the beginning they were one unit, but by the end you saw them as two different people. The ghost concept is handled very well, just like time-traveling was in her previous book.

For those who loved The Time Traveler’s Wife – you will probably enjoy this book, but it is very different from TTTW.
For a sample of the novel's style, check out this excerpt.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


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

Also By Audrey Niffenegger

time travelers wife
The Time Traveler's Wife
[My Review]
Find Audrey Niffenegger: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Special Offer: If you become a fan of Her Fearful Symmetry on Facebook and then send an email to hfs@regal-literary.com with the subject “Facebook Special Offer – I’m a fan!” by November 13th you will be entered in a giveaway they are hosting for:
  • A hardcover copy of Her Fearful Symmetry (there are 25 available)
  • A galley copy of Her Fearful Symmetry (like the one I received to review, I like the cover better - there are 10 available)
You can also increase you chance of winning by tweeting or blogging about this offer and then linking this to the above email address. Also if you become a follower of @regal_literary on twitter you will gain another entry too!  **THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**

Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Audiobook Review: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Unabridged, 11 hr. 31 min.
Highbridge Audio
David LeDoux, John Randolph Jones (narrators)
May 24, 2006
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction, Audiobook

Source: Borrowed paperback from boyfriend’s mom; audiobook from library

"As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival."
So great I read it twice – and am reviewing both versions at once!

Jacob is in the last weeks of veterinary school at Cornell when he is hit with a massive shock: the death of both of his beloved parents, and more importantly the loss of everything he owns to the bank. This is the throws of the Depression. He does what every man would do in his situation, hops a train to anywhere only to find out it is the circus train of The Benzini Bros. Greatest Show on Earth! As the show’s veterinarian he forms a close relationship with crazy August (the equestrian trainer), his wife Marlena (a performer), and Rosie (the elephant). As the days go on, life on the circus gets crazier and crazier, until one day all hell breaks loose. What will Jacob do next?

Gruen does an amazing job of researching the life of circus workers during the Depression. At no time did I feel that the details were out of place. You could feel the desperation of the roustabouts when they were continually not paid, resorted to drinking bootleg liquor, ran out of food. Reading this book was like stepping back in time.

I loved this book! It is easily very near the top of my favorite books list. According to the author's website Fox 2000 has purchased the rights to this book to make a movie and hear rumor that Reese Witherspoon might be cast as Marlena. I think it would make a fantastic movie.

Author Sara Gruen also has written several other novels including: Ape House, Riding Lessons, and Flying Changes.  You can visit Gruen's website for additional information about the book.  If you would like to preview the story before reading it, you can read the prologue here.


This book is narrated by two voices – that of the 90 something year old Jacob (retelling the events as he remembers them) and that of the 20 something year old Jacob (experiencing the events). The audiobook did an amazing job of casting two narrators and it made it one of the best books I have listened too. You were easily able to tell at what time you were by who was narrating and it made it feel so real.

You can listen to a short sample from the audiobook (links to Audible)

Play symbol 85x85

If you haven't read this book yet, you can check out an excerpt.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also By Sara Gruen:

sara gruen

Ape House

riding lessons

Riding Lessons

flying changes

Flying Changes

at the waters edge

At the Water's Edge

Find Sara Gruen: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2009 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Hartford Circus Fire – “The Day the Clowns Cried”

My previous read and upcoming review, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, climaxes with a terrible circus disaster. I thought it would be pertinent to look at a real circus disaster. This disaster is not only the worst disaster in the history of the circus, but one of the most dreadful disasters involving a fire in the United States.

This disaster took place on July 6, 1944 in Hartford, Connecticut (the town that I work in). Barnum and Bailey’s circus was hosting their matinee show with a packed house. Very shortly after the show began a small fire began on the side of the tent. As was tradition for the circus, the band launched into Stars and Stripes Forever, the disaster march.

Chaos ensued, people tried to pack out of the entrances that were not blocked by circus gear causing a bottleneck and for people to be crushed. While many of the people escaped, many ran back in looking for their children or others they thought were inside. Some poor souls stayed inside expecting this to be a minor problem and the show would go on.

168 people died in the fire. There was only about 8 minutes to escape the burning tent before it collapsed in on itself. The fire spread so quickly because the traditional method of waterproofing the tent was to coat it with paraffin and kerosene, some VERY flammable materials.

Ringling paid about $5,000,000 in damages to the families of those lost or hurt in the fire. Four officials were convicted on involuntary manslaughter – but were given pardons and were able to continue working on the show. A man named Robert Segee confessed to starting the fire, but he was not believed to be the real arsonist. This case has been reviewed as recently as 2005 to try to find the cause of the fire.

One famous person who was a witness to this disaster was the late actor, Charles Nelson Reilly. He was 13 at the time and he escaped from the crowed big top. As a result of this harrowing escape, he would never sit in an audience again.

There are some great books you can read about this event: Women and Children First:The Horrible Hartford Circus Fire by Donald H. Roy; The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy by Stewart O'Nan; A Matter of Degree: The Hartford Circus Fire & The Mystery of Little Miss 1565 by Don Massey and Rick Davey

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Stroll Through Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery is located in London, England and is one of the 7 cemeteries that were created in the early to mid 1800’s to ease the overcrowding of churchyard cemeteries. The other members of the “Magnificent Seven” are: Kensal Green Cemetery, West Norwood Cemetery, Abney Park Cemetery, Nunhead Cemetery, Brompton Cemetery, and Tower Hamlets Cemetery. They are private cemeteries that were positioned in a circle around the outskirts of London (at the time).

Highgate is divided into the Western Cemetery (the older part established in 1839) and across Swains Lane is the Eastern Cemetery (the newer part established in 1856). Originally 17 acres made up this cemetery – 15 acres were for those belonging to The Church of England and 2 acres were for the Dissenters. Once the newer cemetery was open, they had to find a way to transport the body from the church on the western side to the cemetery on the eastern side without leaving consecrated ground. This problem was solved by creating a tunnel under the ground in which the coffin was transported from one side to the other.

After the 1930’s Highgate fell into disrepair and eventually ran out of money to operate in 1975. Friends of Highgate Cemetery came together in 1975 and have worked ever since to restore and clean up the cemetery. Tours are required to visit the older portion of the cemetery but the newer portion can be toured freely.

Highgate is a very beautiful cemetery. There are many different architectural styles – from the Egyptian Avenue to Gothic monuments. It became of fashion for Victorian people to “tour” and saunter through the cemetery. After falling into disrepair, plantlife grew and took over - it is still that way today, only more of a controlled overrunning.

There are many famous people buried in Highgate, including: Michael Faraday, George Eliot, Karl Marx, John Singleton Copley and many more.

Highgate Cemetery features prominently in Audrey Niffenegger’s new novel, Her Fearful Symmetry. Keep an eye out this week for my review.

You can virtually visit Highgate by clicking here.

Has anyone been there?

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #16

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This week I just received 1 small, but really cool and unexpected thing in the mail.
Michelle Moran sent me a Roman coin (like the one I was giving away last week) and a nice little thank you note for everything I have done with reading and writing about her books. It was really awesome. Thanks Michelle, hope to get to work with you again!
Anything good arrive in your mailbox?

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the Winner of Cleopatra's Daughter is...

Good Afternoon everyone! I just wanted to announce the winner of Cleopatra's Daughter and the Roman Coin that Michelle Moran has graciously offered up for a giveaway. The winner is...


I am sending out an email now. Congratulations! You will really enjoy the book.

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Step Back in Time at King Richard's Faire!

I wanted to share with you all an awesome event that I went to last weekend. I went to King Richard's Faire (a Renaissance faire) located in Massachusetts. I have been there one time previously but my boyfriend hadn't and he had such a good time. It really was like stepping back in time. The town was made up of old looking houses.

There were shops where you could buy swords, leather work, outfits, and many other things. You could try your hand at throwing hatchets, knives, and using a bow and arrow. There were rides that you powered yourself by pulling on ropes (which I thought was a rip off since you had to pay for it and then power yourself! lol).

We also were able to watch a joust! I sat right in the front row (basically in the mud and uncomfortably close to horse droppings) but it was a great view and got some good pictures. Our champion was Sir James (although he was more of a rouge scoundrel).

He cheated in every event and was disqualified everytime. But he was the most exciting to watch and we gave him great cheers. In the end he challeged the other man to fight to the death (an outcome we didn't see because it was later in the day after we left).

It was so much fun to get to be a princess for a day and step back in time. Hope you enjoyed the photos!

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Book Alert - Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: October 13, 2009 (US), April 30, 2009 (UK)

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

“In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.” (from Book Jacket)

I have been hearing only phenomenal things about this book! I received this book from the publisher for review a little over a week ago but have yet had the chance to read it. Thomas Cromwell was a pivotal key figure in the court of Henry VIII, what a great character to write a book about. Mantel recently received the Booker Prize for this work – it is extremely exciting to see a historical fiction book be recognized on such a high level. I can’t wait to read this book and explore the character of Thomas Cromwell some more.

You can read an excerpt from the book here to pique your interest.

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Book Alert – The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle

The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda de Lisle

Genre: Non-Fiction; Biography

Release Date: October 13, 2009 (US), January 19, 2009 (UK)

Publisher: Ballantine Books

“Mary, Katherine, and Jane Grey–sisters whose mere existence nearly toppled a kingdom and altered a nation’s destiny–are the captivating subjects of Leanda de Lisle’s new book. The Sisters Who Would Be Queen breathes fresh life into these three young women, who were victimized in the notoriously vicious Tudor power struggle and whose heirs would otherwise probably be ruling England today…

Exploding the many myths of Lady Jane Grey’s life, unearthing the details of Katherine’s and Mary’s dramatic stories, and casting new light on Elizabeth’s reign, Leanda de Lisle gives voice and resonance to the lives of the Greys and offers perspective on their place in history and on a time when a royal marriage could gain a woman a kingdom or cost her everything.”
From the moment I saw this book, it quickly jumped to the top of my “must have now” list. I actually preordered it a few days ago and am eagerly awaiting its arrival at my door. The story of Lady Jane Grey has intrigued me since the day I first heard about her. She was truly a pawn that was used by everyone and paid for it with her life. I knew nothing about her two sisters until I read about them in my recent read Elizabeth’s Women by Tracy Borman. I also feel that they got the short end of the stick.

I cannot wait to read this one!

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court