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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Review: Great Maria by Cecelia Holland

Great Maria by Cecelia Holland
ARC, Paperback, 560 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
August 1, 2010
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: From publisher for review

“Daughter of a Norman robber baron, wife to an ambitious young knight, Maria is a courageous young woman struggling to find love, power, and her place in eleventh-century southern Italy. Bold as any of the knights in her husband’s castle, proud as a emperor, Maria pushes boundaries, she schemes, and she refuses to surrender in a world meant for men. Great Maria comes to life through the skillful storytelling of Cecelia Holland, a masterful writer whom the New York Times called ‘a literary phenomenon’” .

Great Maria is the story of a woman during a time when women were expected to be subservient to their husbands – but Maria is anything but that. Maria was strong, opinionated, and took part in many different plots that arose around her. The biggest dynamic of this story is between Maria and her husband Richard. This was a segment that I always looked forward to. That isn’t to say that it was always a positive relationship – but I think you have to look at it in terms of the appropriateness to the time period. They caused such problems for each other, and Maria was really the best challenge for Richard. Although the central characters are Maria and Richard, the character that I found the most captivating was Richard’s brother, Roger. I found him more likable than Roger and his relationship with Maria was fun.

The author really created a great sense of the period, the time, and the place. I don’t know anything about this era and I don’t even know if any of these characters were real, but through the descriptions, I could really feel that I was right there in the hillsides and mountains, interacting with Saracens and townspeople, going to war.

I did have a few qualms with novel though. The book was lacking a sense of how much time has elapsed in between chapters or even sections of the chapter. Characters would make slight references to events that had elapsed between chapters, but you would never really know what exactly happened. That was very frustrating. I also had an issue with the ending of the story – it clearly illustrated what drove the characters (and this was a character driven novel), but it still left me wanting…something. I’m not exactly sure what.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Cecelia Holland:

Cecelia Holland has written over 2 dozen novels spanning several genres.  You can find the list here.

the secret eleanor
The Secret Eleanor

the king's witch
The King’s Witch

blood on the tracks
Blood on the Tracks

Find Cecelia Holland: Website |

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, August 30, 2010

Winner of Heart of Lies

And now for the big announcement of who won Heart of Lies by M. L. Malcolm.

And the winner is - xxsquigglesxx!!! Congrats, I know you will love this book.

An email has been sent out to the winner. Thanks everyone for entering.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #47

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

This week I received one book - but it is quite a book.

I received Helen Hollick's book The Forever Queen. I haven't had the chance yet to read any of her books, but this one caught my eye. Sourcebooks is releasing this book in November and it will be part of their Fall Book Club.

I had completely forgotten about this book coming and was shocked when it showed up - and that it is huge!

Did you get anything great this week?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Suddenly Sunday - What I Read

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

Happy Sunday everyone! I already can't wait for next weekend and having Monday off - but it's so far away. I figured I would just do some quick updates today and then post a reading meme that I found at Hyaline Prosaic.

So yesterday officially ended Dracula week - you can check out the wrap up post if you missed any of the events.
Get ready for the next HFBRT event starting this Wednesday featuring Susan Holloway Scott's new book The Countess and the King! I will announce a schedule later this week.
Now that's out of the way, onto the meme!

1. Favorite childhood book?

If we go back to my under 10 days – it would have to be either The Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Mickey and the Phantom Blot (or something to that effect). I think I must have made my mom read them to me over and over. As I got a little older, I really enjoyed reading Ann Rinaldi – especially The Fifth of March. That was the early historical fiction lover in me!

2. What are you reading right now?

Well, I am kinda juggling several at the moment (so very unlike me). In paperback I’m reading, For the King's Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick (for review) and on audiobook, 8th Confession by James Patterson (for pleasure).

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

I don’t have any books on request at the moment, I actually learned today about how easy it is to request books at my new local library. At my old library I had to talk to the crazy librarian there (no offense to librarians, but this one was really crazy). My new library, I can request the book online and get emailed when it is available. I might take advantage of that now.

4. Bad book habit?

I think the bad habit is that I get WAY too many. And it’s not that I buy them all – I just get them and then they sit forever – especially now that I’m reviewing books, my own get put to the side for too long.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

I downloaded the above mentioned 8th Confession from the library audio download thingy – so I guess it could be considered checked out.

6. Do you have an e-reader?

No...and I definitely don’t want one. First of all, I spend way too much time at work on the computer and I don’t want to come home to relax and stare at the screen more (I say this as I’m on the computer after work now…). Second of all, I really like the tactile quality of books and you don’t have that same sensation with a reader.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

Honestly, I like to read one at a time or one audio and one paperback at a time. Usually these will be on VERY different topics. But sometimes I get carried away…

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

I started a reading journal for one thing. Some of it is so that I can keep track of things I want to point out in reviews but other times its things I want to look up for myself or something I want to tell others. I also have become a much faster and committed reader and referring to question 7, now I read more than one at a time.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)

I guess I would have to say Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes, but it’s a close tie with Great Maria by Cecelia Holland.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?

Heart of Lies by M. L. Malcolm for sure! But I have read a lot of and enjoyed the Janet Evanovich books this year too.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

Not as much as I could. I read A LOT of historical fiction and sometimes an occasional book outside that genre here or there.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Well obviously historical fiction and some YA (which is usually not historical fiction but contemporary).

13. Can you read on the bus?

I used to read on the school bus all the time but since then there have been no busses for me. In regards to other methods of transportation, I have no problems reading on anything – car, train, boat, plane…

14. Favorite place to read?

In my bed, especially when the sheets are nice and cool and with the window open.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I don’t really lend out my books – I have had a few bad experiences in the past and books are too important to me.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?

Once in a blue moon if I’m in a really hard place with no other options of marking the page or writing a note.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

No! And in college when I was required to (meaning that they would look to make sure you had made notes based on what you read) I had a very, very hard time and would do so in light pencil so I could erase it later.

18. Not even with text books?

Oops, see the answer above!

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

English is about the only thing that I know well enough to read anything enjoyable in. I can read Spanish, but it takes a lot longer and usually is less fun for me.

20. What makes you love a book?

First of all, the cover. If the cover isn’t great, I probably won’t pick up the book (I know, snobbish of me). I also love fully developed characters and a great plot (basic book qualities I think).

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?

I recommend books to those who are close to me and I know what their tastes are like – if I love it, I am likely to talk about it a lot and then just blurt out, “you have to read this!”

22. Favorite genre?

Historical fiction, hands down.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Some science fiction – not the weird kind tho. I like it to be based in reality a little. I do like Ray
Bradbury and George R. R. Martin.

24. Favorite biography?

I read Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke. I had to read this for a school project and thought it was so well written and evocative of the time period. I would definitely recommend.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?

Not that I can really recall – I don’t really believe in them.

26. Favorite cookbook?

I don’t use a lot of cookbooks (usually look online), but I have enjoyed Rachel Ray’s Book of 10 and I like Taste of Home series cooking magazine.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

Umm, maybe By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan – I really learned a lot about the Jewish side of things during the Inquisition.

28. Favorite reading snack?

Usually just a glass of water – I tend to read right before bed after brushing my teeth.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen – but totally all my fault. I learned about the real life main character and spent a lot of time writing a huge project on her for my school project, so I expected a lot from the book and it didn’t live up to what I wanted - so it was really self hype.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?

I usually never agree with professional book critics (or movie critics for that matter). I don’t read a lot of professional reviews but I sometimes feel like they are not being truthful. On the other hand, the few bloggers whose reviews I read frequently I often agree with.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

I think that a real review should tell exactly what you thought of the book. I really try to make mine to discuss both the good things as well as the bad, because most books have some of both. But if it is truly a horrendous book, I would say so and support my decision with my reasons. I think that the reasons are just as important.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

I would love to be fluent in Arabic. I took 2 semesters in school, so I can vocalize what I see, but can’t really translate or read it (especially after a year off!).

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?

I don’t know that I can pinpoint an exact book – but long ones are the hardest for me to get into and stay interested in, especially if it is over 400 pages. I feel like I want to move on to something else, even if the story is riviting.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

I honestly would like to read the Old Testament of the Bible. I’m not very religious at all, but as a kid those were always the stories I loved to hear and I really would like to actually read it.

35. Favorite Poet?

I can’t stand poetry! I have no head for trying to figure out what they are saying. If you mean something, just say it straight out!

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

Usually just one, and it is almost always an audiobook.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?

Maybe once?! I usually go in with a specific book in mind and if they don’t have it I will get nothing instead.

38. Favorite fictional character?

William Marshall from The Greatest Knight (not so much in The Scarlet Lion). I know that he was real, but he was so handsome and awesome and I loved the way he was written!

39. Favorite fictional villain?

I can’t really recall the last time a book I read had a real villain - maybe Maleficient from Sleeping Beauty.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?

I usually will bring whatever book I had on my list next to read – I don’t really differentiate between vacation reads and regular reads.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading?

There was about 3 years (senior high school and first two years of college) that I don’t think I read anything. I had so much school work and I had really lost my love of reading. Then I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire in the end of my junior year that really got me back into reading.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.

I think the only book I have ever put down unread is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I am considering listening to it on audio book because everyone says such great things about it. I think it was just a bad time for me to try to get into it.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?

The tv and other people.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?

After my initial thoughts, I enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife – even though it wasn’t quite as good as the book, I still enjoyed it.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?

Probably The Lovely Bones – really didn’t even get the essence right.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?

I think about $200.00, but that was because I had gift cards to spend after graduation. With my own money, I think I hit $100.00 once.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?

I used to read the last page and I still would, but my boyfriend yells at me. I hate being surprised…

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?

Really I have this rule that if I start reading it, I will finish it – even if it isn’t great. I always keep thinking that it has to have some redeeming quality.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?

Yes. I try to keep all the books by one author together and then sort of by genre.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?

I usually keep all of my books, at least for awhile. If I start to run out of space then I will usually go thru and decide which ones I didn’t like as much and give those away or donate to my library.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?

The Harlot’s Progress by Peter Mottley. I have heard some bad reviews so I keep putting it off.

52. Name a book that made you angry.

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier after I read The Girl With a Pearl Earring.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?

The Crucible by Arthur Miller – and now I can’t get enough of it.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?

Again, The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?

Usually my YA (Gossip Girl series) and my audio books

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Women's Murder Club Challenge Complete

The Women's Murder Club Reading Challenge - hosted by Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews - has come to an end, and I didn't do as well as I had hoped. My goal was to finish the series, meaning I needed to read books 3 - 8 (I'm not counting 9 because it came out during the challenge) and I only finished through book 7 - and that was only because I rushed. Basically I lost track of the date that the challege ended and I thought I still had a few more months - oh well, I am going to start reading the 8th book tomorrow.

Anyway this was a great challenge and Yvonne is now hosting an Alex Cross Reading Challenge and a James Patterson Reading Challenge - at least one of which I am planning on joining as soon as I catch up on the above.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dracula Week Wrap Up

Happy Saturday Everyone!! I am here to announce that this is the end of Dracula Week. It is a little bittersweet because it has been an AWESOME week here at The Maiden’s Court and also over at Lions and Men. There was so much interaction between readers – which I loved to see, and between the blogs. There were also so new faces – welcome to you all and hope to see you around in the coming weeks and months ahead.

So now here comes the wrap-up - all of the events that have taken place this week at both blogs, and there were quite a few!

Here at The Maiden’s Court

Book Review of Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
Book Conversation – "In Which Nick and I Discuss Our Respective Draculas"
Caught on Tape: Dracula
Interview with Karen Essex – Part 2

Over at Lions and Men –

Book Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker
Origins of the Vampire
Know Thy Enemy! Anatomy of a Vampire
Interview with Karen Essex – Part 1
Vlad the Impaler: The Man Behind the Myth

I also want to give a special thank-you to author Karen Essex for her help and excitement with this week.

Hope you have enjoyed this week as much as I have and hope to see you around when we do something like this again!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review: Dracula in Love by Karen Essex

Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
ARC, Paperback, 400 pages
Doubleday Publishing
August 10, 2010
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

Source: Received from publisher for review
“London, 1890. Mina Murray, the rosy-cheeked, quintessentially pure Victorian heroine, becomes Count Dracula’s object of desire. To preserve her chastity, five male “defenders” rush in to rescue her from the vampire’s evil clutches. This is the version of the story we've been told. But now, from Mina’s own pen, we discover that the story is vastly different when told from the female point of view. 

In this captivating, bold act of storytelling, award-winning author Karen Essex breathes startling new life into the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula, transporting the reader into the erotic and bizarre underbelly of the original story. While loosely following the events of its classic predecessor, Dracula in Love deviates from the path at every turn”

In many ways Dracula in Love corresponds with the original Dracula by Bram Stoker – and then there are the amazing ways that it charts its own path. The general plot of the story follows the Stoker original, but the details in between are purely Essex’s.

The story is told in the form of a diary with our narrator being Mina Murray (later Harker). At times, the fourth wall is broken and the narrator speaks directly to the audience (this is a feature that I enjoy in many books. You feel like you are part of the story). I think that while the plot is superb, the characters are the essence of this novel.

This is definitely a 100% character driven story. I found it to be more of a story of Mina finding out who she really was. Early on, she seemed to be living the life that was expected of her by society and those around her. As the story progressed, and definitely by the ending, she figured out how to define herself without the constraints of society and seemed to be much happier for all of her experiences and really find her place in the world. I was absolutely surprised by the characterization of Dracula. Having never read the original novel or seen any movies, I didn’t really have a sense of who Dracula was. I expected him to be really creepy, scary. I also expected there to be much more blood and gore, as well as the expected huge “kill him” scene. But that was not the Dracula that Essex creates. Her Dracula was passionate, forever in love with Mina, and actually a pretty decent guy (except his anger).

I have to warn you, this wouldn’t be a complete review if I didn’t, there is quite a lot of sex in this novel – but it is very well done. I feel that it was appropriate to tell her story – repressed Victorian ideals on the surface, sexuality underneath.

I really loved the ending of the book – it is funny, ironic, and appropriate. It brings the novel full circle and absolutely addresses Stoker’s novel. I think you will love it.

You can read an excerpt of the prologue and chapter 1 to get excited about this book.

Here is the trailer:

Also today, during Dracula week, you can check out history and mythology of Dracula over at Lions and Men.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Karen Essex:

leonardo's swans
Leonardo’s Swans



stealing athena
Stealing Athena

Find Karen Essex: Website | Pinterest | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter


Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Caught on Tape: Dracula

The story of Dracula is a classic tale that has been adapted time and time again for the movie and television screen. Some of these versions attempt to follow the novel, while others take great liberties and change it up. Here are a few of the best and some of the others. Please tell me what you think of these if you have seen them.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

“When Dracula leaves the captive Jonathan Harker and Transylvania for London in search of Mina Harker -- the spitting image of Dracula's long-dead wife, Elisabeta -- obsessed vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing sets out to end the madness. Francis Ford Coppola's resurrection of Bram Stoker's novel won three Academy Awards for its eye-popping makeup and production design” (from Netflix)

This movie has a very well known cast – Winona Ryder is Mina Harker, Keanu Reeves is Jonathan Harker, Anthony Hopkins is Van Helsing, and Gary Oldman is Dracula and is directed by the famous Francis Ford Coppola. I watched this one after finishing reading Dracula in Love by Karen Essex to try and get a sense of what the original story is like. This story sticks to the Bram Stoker novel pretty well (from what I understand), although it opens with the story of Dracula being Vlad the Impaler, and has some essence of the love story from Essex’ novel.

Dracula (1931)

“Bela Lugosi turns in a landmark horror performance in this 1931 adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel. Revisit Transylvania for the eerie mood created by spectacular cinematography and Lugosi's oft-copied take on the infamous Dracula. Dwight Frye as Renfield also helps define the grotesque and sniveling sidekick role” (from Netflix).

I think that this is the earliest Dracula movie out there and possibly one of the best known. I think that this is a must see for any Dracula fan out there. Bela Lugosi plays his defining role of Dracula and is how most people envision the Count, thanks to his portrayal.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary (2002)

“Director Guy Maddin exquisitely captures the sound and the fury (not to mention the grace) of this classic story about a count with a thirst for blood, as told through ballet. This black-and-white, silent-movie rendering of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Bram Stoker adaptation stars dancers Zhang Wei-Qiang, Tara Birtwhistle, David Moroni, Cindy Marie Small and Johnny A. Wright” (from Netflix).

I have not seen this one, but it is an interesting take on this novel and has gotten decent viewer reviews. This is the tale of Dracula based on Stoker’s novel as seen through the art of ballet. Could certainly make for an interesting adaptation.

Dracula 2000 (2000)

“Wes Craven produces this reinvention of Bram Stoker's classic horror story. After breaking into a high-security vault, a team of thieves discovers an ancient crypt that holds none other than the corpse of Dracula. Freed from a century of confinement, the fanged count travels to New Orleans so he can quench his thirst for blood -- and find the woman who holds the key to world domination and eternal life. Gerard Butler and Jeri Ryan star” (from Netflix).

This is a new telling of Stoker’s novel – in a much more modern sense – though I don’t think that it sticks to Stoker’s tale very well. Directed by Wes Craven and starring Gerard Butler as Dracula.

Nosferatu (1922)

“Many horror-film fanatics call F.W. Murnau's silent German classic starring Max Schreck -- who sports grotesque makeup that transforms him into a symbol of pestilence and decay -- the scariest Dracula adaptation ever. The chilling tale kicks off when a real estate agent (Gustav von Wangenheim) begins conducting business with eerie Count Orlok (Schreck), who goes on a rampage when he becomes obsessed with the man's comely wife (Greta Schröder)” (from Netflix).

Karen Essex mentioned this movie in her interview so I thought I would want to check out this one. This is a silent movie (which I always find to be so interesting) and is based on Dracula without being exactly like Dracula. Oh, I forgot to mention it’s in German and I have no idea about subtitles – but being as it is a silent movie, hopefully not a lot to be translated.

The first three movies are currently available on Netflix Instant play. Check them out if they pique your interest. There are many, many other Dracula movies out there that I did not consider for this piece. Any others that you have seen and would recommend?

Make sure you stop by at Lions and Men for the first part of a two part interview with Karen Essex, author of Dracula in Love.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Interview with Karen Essex Part 2

This is part 2 of the Interview with Karen Essex - author of Dracula in Love. You can check out part 1 (posted yesterday) featuring questions about the inspiration behind her newest book at Lions and Men.

4. Dracula in Love has a sexual edge to it – what is the significance behind this?

I wanted the novel to be lush and erotic. In the late Victorian era, female sexuality could not be expressed. In fact, as the reader will see in Dracula in Love, women were often diagnosed as being sexual hysterics or nymphomaniacs for expressing what we today consider normal sexual desires. Stoker’s Dracula is seething with unexpressed sensuality. I wanted to hit that head on and speak what could not be uttered back in Mina Harker’s time. It is my privilege as a 21st century woman to be able to be sexually free and to express it on the page. That privilege was not allowed to my ancestresses. Besides the fact that I like writing about sex, which I believe I do well without being crass or graphic, I wanted to make a point about female sexual expression. We don’t see enough of it expressed joyously.

5. What sort of resources and research did you do while writing Dracula in Love?

I am a research freak. I moved to London and took a flat in a neighborhood that was developed in 1890, the year the book takes place. I wanted to breathe in the atmosphere as I wrote. I made my usual substantive study of the era, reading as many documents from the period and studying the art, culture, design, sexual and social mores, religious beliefs, customs, and laws concerning the rights, or lack thereof, of women. I scoured the archives of late 19th century insane asylums so I could make those scenes in the book vivid. I also studied the Victorian fascination with the metaphysical. Victorian culture is very complex; it’s lush, extravagant, and technologically advanced, and, restrained, contained, and superstitious, all at once.

As for travel, I went to southern Austria, which was Bram Stoker’s first choice for Dracula’s home before he settled on Transylvania. I went to Whitby where so much of the original was set, and to the west coast of Ireland, the birthplace of Stoker’s mother. Strangely, I had set Sligo as Mina’s birthplace before I learned that Stoker’s mother was born there, and that he grew up hearing tales of ghost stories and Irish folklore.

6. What can we look forward to from you in the future? Do you have any other plans for literature based novels?

Ideas are reeling and churning. I cannot say exactly what is next but I can assure you that I am not done with the supernatural. Someday I hope to write a sequel to Dracula in Love. I have loads and loads of ideas. I will never live long enough to write all of them unless (as I hope) I get lucky enough to meet a certain Count.

Essex was born and raised in New Orleans. She was graduated from Tulane University, attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and received an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. She’s appeared on The Today Show and A Word on Words hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. She’s lectured at the Chicago Museum of Art, and extensively at universities. Her books are taught in many college courses from creative writing to history to women’s studies. You can visit Karen's website to learn more about her and her books.

At Lions and Men today you can also check out Nick's discussion regarding the strengths and weaknesses of vampires, as presented by Bram Stoker.

Also - check out this video!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, August 23, 2010

In Which Nick and I Have A Discussion About Our Respective Draculas

With Nick and I both reading Dracula based novels, we thought it would be an excellent idea if we did a compare and contrast type discussion. In doing so we learned quite a bit about each other’s books and I came away with a better understanding of some of the things that happened in Dracula in Love because of it. Without further adieu – we hope you come away with a better appreciation of both novels.

How does your novel reflect the expectations of women in Victorian England?

Heather: At this time in England, society expected women to be sexually repressed creatures, while women themselves seemed to secretly want to explore something more. To have any sexual interest on the part of women was seen as a mental disease. In Dracula in Love, Mina really embodies the expectations of society in the beginning, but you can really see her grow into a different, more aware of herself, type of person as the novel progresses. There is a lot of sexual desire and sexual encounters that take place in this book, and I think that it really tries to show this new Victorian woman emerging.

Nick: I would say that the portrayals of women and the culture of Victorian England in Dracula are very different from your book. Sex is almost never mentioned or alluded to in Dracula, and Mina seems to be a very different person. For example, the group of men decide to not tell Mina about the specifics of vampires, and Mina, in her OWN diary, writes things to the effect of “I am so glad that the men have decided to not tell me everything, as I am a woman and it might weigh heavy on my heart.”

Heather: In my opinion, the more repressed viewpoint of Dracula represents the male perspective of the time, while the more sexually explicit viewpoint of Dracula in Love possibly represents the female viewpoint. I think the fact that the author of Dracula is a man and Dracula in Love is a woman, really strengthens that as well.

How is your story told, and how does that contribute to the overall feeling of the novel?

Nick: Dracula is written in first person perspective in the form of diary entries. Almost all of the main characters contribute diary entries, and there are also clippings from the local newspapers of the time. This method gives the reader a feeling of the book being one big “scrapbook”, a conglomeration of individual smaller voices into a larger and more visible reality. It makes one feel as though they know more than any one character at a given time, because they know all of the character’s secrets and feelings.

Heather: My story couldn’t be more different! Dracula in Love is told entirely from the perspective of Mina, but still in diary format. This serves to delve deeply into one character;s understanding of the events and really get to know the heart of the character. How well did you get to know your characters?

Nick: Now that you mention it, I must say that the characters of Dracula felt like the weakest part of the novel to me. They were very two-dimensional, and it almost seemed as though they were simply going through the motions.

Besides Mina Harker, which character in Dracula in Love was your most favorite to read about, and why?

Heather: I really enjoyed reading about Lucy Westenra, Mina’s friend. She got into all kinds of trouble and dragged Mina around with her. She was the epitome of the best friend. She was quite a hoot! How about you?

Nick: I think my favorite character overall of Dracula was Jonathan Seward, the doctor of the mental institute and the best friend of Professor Van Helsing. There were many times when Seward showed some great emotion and his relationships with the inmates of the institution were a lot of fun to read about.

How did the representation of Dracula in your novel compare to what you expected from the character?

Heather: Dracula in Dracula in Love was not nearly at all what I expected him to be. The buildup of movies and popular media led me to expect a more sinister creature, a lot of blood and gore, and to just be scary. What I got was a more humanized version – there were feelings behind actions and you could understand where he was coming from – don’t get me wrong, he could still be scary.

Nick: When it comes to Dracula, the king of the vampires was depicted in two very different ways. In the beginning, Dracula seemed like a very kind and wise gentleman. Throughout the novel, however, he became more and more vicious. However, neither of these were what I was expecting. The recent culture of vampires suggests that they are suave and sophisticated individuals, and this was not the case.

I hope that you have all enjoyed this discussion and can’t wait to read these two novels. You can also check out Nick’s post about Vlad the Impaler today over at Lions and Men.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Dracula Week Kick-Off - Dracula Review

Hey Everyone! I wanted to let you all know that the first event of Dracula Week has arrived! Nick's book review of Dracula by Bram Stoker is live over at Lions and Men. Stop by, check it out, and let him know what you think. And while you are there, why not enter his giveaway for a copy of the book?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Mailbox Monday #46

This week PaperBackSwap showered me with love. I have had several books go out and now I have had a few come in and still can get 5 more! This is bound to be a good week!

This week I received – The Firemaster’s Mistress by Christine Dickason and a beautiful hardcover of Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (thank you to whomever at BEA reccomended this book to me).

These both look like great reads.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Suddenly Sunday - Dracula

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog. Stop by and check it out!

Hello everyone! I haven’t posted a Suddenly Sunday in awhile. A mix between I have been busy catching up on posts and not having the desire to. Work has been crazy, as we are getting toward the end of the fiscal year, and I have been trying to keep some of my time open after I get home, so I have been utilizing the preschedule function.

I want to first thank all of you for your frequent lovely comments. It really does break up the monotony at work to read them. Also, I’m very excited to have crossed the 200 follower mark. Thank you everyone!

Earlier this week I posted my review of The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. I did enjoy this book, but it really wasn’t quite what I expected. To remedy that, I posted Sofonisba Anguissola, Who? to give those unfamiliar with her life a little background. She honestly had one of those lives that could make a beautiful book or movie without changing a thing!

Don’t forget that there is a giveaway still going on right now for my favorite book yet this year – Heart of Lies by M. L. Malcolm. It will end on the 29th.

Starting tomorrow there is going to be an exciting event going on between Lions and Men and this blog. As you might have noticed from the banner above we are co-hosting a Dracula Week! The graphics are courtesy of my boyfriend – I don’t have a hand for those things.

Nick, from Lions and Men and my boyfriend, read Dracula by Bram Stoker while I read Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. I thought that it would be perfect to have a little crossover event featuring the two books. Here is a small summary of what will be taking place this week, but be sure to check out both blogs throughout the week.

Monday 8/23 – Nick’s review of Dracula at Lions and Men
Tuesday 8/24 – There will be a discussion between Nick and me about Dracula and Dracula In Love at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday 8/25 – Part I of an interview with Karen Essex will be posted at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday 8/26 – Part II of an interview with Karen Essex will be posted at Lions and Men
Friday 8/27 – My review of Dracula In Love at The Maiden’s Court

There will also be several other posts but the exact dates have not been decided at this time – these include: Vlad the Impaler, traits of Dracula, an installment of Caught on Tape, and vampire mythology

There is currently a giveaway going on at Lion’s and Men for a copy of Dracula – check it out!

Hope you are all having a awesome weekend so far and hope to see you around this week!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sofonisba Anguissola...Who?

About a year ago I was taking an Italian Renaissance Art class and at the time I thought I had come to the greatest misfortune of having to do my term project on an artist I had never heard of: Sofonisba Anguissola. Good sources were few and far between and I had to use a lot of interlibrary loan to get the books and articles that I wanted/needed. It turned out to be one of the best and most enjoyable projects that I have ever worked on because the topic was so fresh and actually quite romantic.

Then earlier this year, I had heard that a book called The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen was coming out featuring none other than Sofonisba! I knew that I just had to read this book and see if it turned out to be everything that I wanted. You can check my review for further discussion of the book. There is much information that was not included in the book that I really wanted to share with everyone here who would appreciate it – I never knew this information would come in handy again.

• As you will see in her self-portraits – Sofonisba suffered from an eye condition, possibly blepharitis (an inflammation of the eyelid). This caused the eye to become pink, puffy, and for the eyelashes to occasionally fall out

• She was trained by artist Bernardino Campi and worked with Michelangelo for 2 years (a great honor as he was quite old at this time and didn’t work with too many people).

• Sofonisba had some stylistic innovations that she employed in her work – smiling characters, or outright laughing, were most uncommon. Her portraits often showed people at their leisure activities. Her textiles and fabrics were unrivaled – as she came from an area where fabric was produced.

• Many of her early painting were signed with, Sofonisba Anguissola, virgin.

• Sofonisba painted her family constantly – she often combined portraiture with genre style.

• Sofonisba was a court painter for the Spanish court of Phillip II. She was given the post of lady-in-waiting to the Queen (Elizabeth of Valois) to match her noble status. She taught the Queen how to draw and became a confidante to the Queen.

• Eventually, after 20 years at the Spanish court – the King agreed to marry her to Don Fabrizio de Mancada and they promptly set off for Sicily.

• A year after her marriage to Fabrizio – after arriving in Sicily – her husband died (possibly from the plague). On her way from Sicily to her hometown of Cremona, Sofonisba fell in love with the ship’s captain, Orazio Lomellino, they were married and happily so for 40 years.

• Sofonisba lived to be 96 years old. At the age of 68, she had to sign a document attesting that despite her advanced age, she was still alive, and could cash the pension given to her by Phillip II. She painted her last painting, a self portrait, at the age of 89.

Below you will find a slide show of as many of Sofonisba’s paintings as I could find. The trouble is, many of her works were attributed to Alonso Sanchez Coello, the official court painter of the time – so there may be many more works that we don’t know of yet. Sofonisba’s story is such an awe-inspiring one that just was crying out to be told.

If you are interested in further reading about Sofonisba, try:

Fulmer, Betsey. "Sofonisba Anguissola: Marvel of Nature." Academic Forum 23. Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio, 2005-2006. 20-34.

Krull, Kathleen. "Sofonisba Anguissola." Lives of the Artists: Masterpieces, Messes (and what the Neighbors Thought). San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1995. 25-27.

Mansfield University Art Department. Sofonisba Anguissola the "Miracolo di Natura". 4 February 2009.

Perlingieri, Illya Sandra. Sofonisba Anguissola: First Great Woman Artist of the Renaissance. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
ARC, Paperback, 400 pages
Putnam Adult
March 23, 2010

goodreads button

Genre: Art Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review
“A lush and compelling tale of royal intrigue and artistic longing, set in the sixteenth–century Spanish court. 

The Creation of Eve is based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female portraitist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofonisba flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II to be a lady-in-waiting to his young bride. Sofonisba befriends the queen, only to become embroiled in a love triangle involving the queen, the king, and the king’s illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance, and history from the golden age in Spain in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?”

When I heard about this book, months before it was to be released, I knew that I just had to read it. See, I had to do a senior project on Sofonisba Anguissola about a year ago and fell in love with her story. I just had to see if it turned out to be everything that I loved about her story.

One of the things that I loved about the style of this book was the way that each segment of the story started with an “item”. These items related to what was going to happen in the chapter and were related to social commentary, art tips, quotes from famous people, etc. These were always enlightening to me about the period and the people. I also really loved the relationship between Sofie and Queen Elizabeth. It was known that they were very close and I could believe that this was how their relationship was.

On the other side of things, I was a little disappointed with the lack of descriptions of her paintings or her even painting at all. She is most known for the fabulous paintings of the Spanish court members, and the only paintings that were described were at the very beginning of the story – before she ever went to the Spanish court! She spent most of her time talking about how she would “like” to paint or how she was “going to” teach the Queen how to draw – but it was much more talk than action. I was also a little disappointed in Sofie’s demeanor. Right from the start when she meets Tiberio, she longs for him, and wishes for him, and all she thinks about is him. I just found her to be too whiny (to be realistic or believable).

Without going into detail about the ending, I will say that it was action packed right up until the very end. It was very enjoyable and exciting – and to anyone who doesn’t know about her, they would probably very much like this ending. I on the other hand, having studied her and her work in depth, found it a little too farfetched and fictional to be believable at all.

I’m going to say that overall I was more disappointed with this book than I was excited. I think if more of her artwork was included and had went a little more into her life after the Spanish court (which was where all of her real romance and love of her life occurred) I would have enjoyed it SO much more. While I enjoyed the story, it just didn’t hit it out of the park for me – but I will say that it could partially because I have researched a lot about her life.

Take this opportunity to read the first chapter and get a taste as to whether this book is for you.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Lynn Cullen:

reign of madness
Reign of Madness

mrs poe
Mrs. Poe
[My Review]

rembrandts daughter
I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter

twains end
Twain’s End

Find Lynn Cullen: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest 


Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Sturbridge Village - Redcoats & Rebels

I recently went to my second event at Old Sturbridge Village a couple weekends ago and had a blast at their annual Redcoats and Rebels event. Here is the event description from the OSV website:

“The largest military re-enactment in New England -- more than 800 soldiers portraying British, Hessian, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, French and Colonial troops. Mock battles, cannon demonstrations, fife and drums and more. The Village is transformed into a military camp focusing this year on the period of the War for Independence, as it was known in early New England. Come see what it was really like for those who fought to win America's freedoms.”

This was an awesome event – from the moment you walk into the Village there were tents EVERYWHERE. You were able to visit the Colonial and British encampments, surgeons, apothecaries, laundresses, fife and drum corps, and watch dances. We were able to take a tour of the British encampment and learn some interesting things:

• Officers lived in large tents with all of their amenities from home, while the enlisted men slept in small tents with 5 other men and basically only what was provided to them by the military.
• In a cavalry or dragoon unit, all of the horses in the unit had to have legs of the same length so that they would all move together at the same pace, get tired at the same time, etc.
• Generally, tougher punishment was meted out in the army, while the sailors were generally the smartest of the enlisted men.
• For British soldiers, the American Revolution was like a police action and they had nothing to show for the war afterward – no acquisition of land, money or resources.

The main event of the day was a re-enacted battle – man, are those cannons loud! It was a lot of fun to see the fight go on and people “die”. Though I got a little too much sun, it was worth it. Can’t wait for my next event.

I put some of the video and photos into a slideshow for your viewing pleasure. I have to give almost all of the credit to my boyfriends photography skills, not mine. All the music included was recorded by me of the fife and drum corps present.

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mailbox Monday #45

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page and has caused my bookshelves to overflow!

Another 1 book week for me here -

Received from Paperback Swap - When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman.

I have not yet had the chance to read any of Penman's books, but I am working on adding them to my collection.

"Henry I is dead, and even as the bells toll, his barons confer edgily. Bound by oath, they must now deal with the King's only surviving legitimate issue: the handsome, intelligent, and commanding Maude, Henry's daughter and heir. Just as Maude reaches for the crown, her trusted cousin Stephen moves with treacherous speed to set himself up as king. Bound and determined, Maude sets sail for England—and for war. In this novel, Sharon Kay Penman brings to life a dark period in English history, painting a canvas rich in the color and textures of the era."

Anything good in your mailboxes?

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2010 Complete

My first major challenge completed this year! I finished this challenge at about the rate I figured I would – 20 books is just about 8 months, not bad, especially since I read other books too. Below you will find the books that I read and links to all of those that I reviewed (I still have a couple left to review, but I will update the links later).
Obsessed Level – 20 books - Complete

This challenge is hosted by the wonderful ladies at Royal Reviews and you can still get in on the action as it runs until December 31, 2010.

1. The Queen's Dollmaker by Christine Trent
2. The Secret of the Glass by Donna Russo Morin
3. The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
4. The Scarlet Lion by Elizabeth Chadwick
5. Roeing Oaks by Kristina Emmons
6. Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
7. Within the Hollow Crown by Margaret Campbell Barnes
8. Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C. W. Gortner
9. Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
10. Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott
11. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
12. By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan
13. For The King by Catherine Delors
14. Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner
15. Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell
16. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
17. The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
18. The Countess and the King by Susan Holloway Scott
19. Heart of Lies by M. L. Malcolm
20. The Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots by Carolly Erickson

Thank you ladies for an awesome challenge!

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court