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Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie Review: San Francisco

San Francisco
115 mins.
June 26, 1936

San Francisco is one of the classic movies from the Golden Age of MGM that you have to see if you are a movie fan. It stars big name actors in its cast – Clark Gable as the bad boy Barbary Coast club owner Blackie, Spencer Tracy as Father Tim and long time friend of Blackie, and beautiful singer Jeanette MacDonald. It is also a beautiful early black and white disaster film.

Following in the tracks of other great films of the 30’s there is a heavy musical element to this film. While I love these types of films, the opera in this film became a little much at times. I know that opera is important to the history of San Francisco and appreciate it in the film, but I could have done with less of it. Apparently, when the film was originally release people loved the music and the opera aspect of the film – so maybe it is just a generational thing.

The plot of the film was well done. The film begins on New Year’s Day of 1906 and wraps up shortly after the earthquake disaster is over. The first 2/3rds of the film focuses on the lawless, corrupt, party atmosphere of the Barbary Coast in the very early 1900’s. You get the expected romance storyline and the girl new to the city storyline. It really sets you into the life so that you feel the impact of the earthquake disaster. The last third of the film is in relation to the earthquake and its damage. The disaster sequence is one of the best for its time. We see buildings shaking and crumbling, water in glasses shaking, people being crushed (in a blood and gore-less manner) and dying, resulting aftershocks, problem of putting out the fires, and people being shot for looting among other things. My one complaint is that they made it feel as if the time from the earthquake to the fires being put out is about 20 minutes as opposed to several days.

Overall this was a great film from the 1930’s that any fan of the period or of the great actors in it should see.

Check out this trailer:

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Moodus Noises - A Story from my Home Town

Since this is Earthquake Week I thought I would share an “earthquake” story close to my heart and something I have grown up with. I grew up and went to school in a little town called Moodus, Connecticut. It’s really a village within a town with a little over 1,000 people. Coming from a small town you grow up learning the legend and lore of your community and one of the things you learn from elementary school is about the Moodus Noises. Now, that is not only our school “mascot” (we don’t have a visual mascot) but it comes from one of our famous stories.

Moodus was settled in 1662 by the English. The name Moodus comes from the Algonquin word “Machimoodus” which can be roughly translated to “place of noises” or “place of bad noises”. One legend that the natives believed was that when the god Hobomock was angry you would hear the “noises”. Every now and again to this day you hear these noises, mostly centered around an area known as Cave Hill and Mt. Tom.

While at the time, these “noises” were believed to be caused by an angry god, they are now known to be caused by micro quakes. These quakes tend to register in the negative numbers on the Richter scale and are typically not felt, but you can hear the rumbling and grumbling. That is not to say that the people of Moodus never feel these quakes. The strongest quake on record in Connecticut registered at approximately a 4.4 and was centered in Moodus on May 16, 1791. You can read more about this record quake here. Much more recently, on March 23, 2011 a 1.3 magnitude quake hit Moodus and people reported hearing a sound like an explosion. You can read more about this most recent quake here if you would like. I can remember being in math class one day in middle school (which was in a basement classroom) and we could very faintly hear the window panes rattling, to which our teacher says, “that would be the Moodus Noises!”.

An interesting find while researching my own Moodus Noises in that there is a story that was written based off of our noises – The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft. You will find Nick at Lions and Men will be reviewing this in the future - I will post a link when it's up.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1906 Earthquake Pictures and Books

I never realized what a wealth of photo documentation there was out there on the 1906 earthquake.  I subconsciously knew that photography had been around for several decades but never really thought about it being portable and mobile enough to get some of the amazing pictures that they did.  I put together this photo montage of images that I found - some of the fire, destruction to the buildings, people, effects of dynamiting to create firebreaks, newspaper headlines, etc.  If you are unfamiliar to the area or even if you live there, you might not recognize the locations, so where I could, I tried to label the area.  Also, turn on your speakers because I added some great "disaster" music and you might want to make it full screen to read the captions..

Now, if the video has inspired you to want to read more about the 1906 earthquake, here are some great reads:

Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco, 1906 by Deborah Hopkinson (YA)

Earthquake at Dawn (Great Episodes) by Kristiana Gregory (YA)

The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 by Lawrence Yeps (YA)

1906 : A Novel by James Dalessandro

A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

Three Fearful Days: San Francisco Memoirs of the 1906 Earthquake & Fire by Malcolm E. Baker

The Great Earthquake and Firestorms of 1906: How San Francisco Nearly Destroyed Itself, With a New Preface by Philip L. Fradkin

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, 1906

The event that spurred this entire Earthquake Week was when I came across a book recently about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and subsequent fire. I had heard it mentioned before and seen some pictures and knew it was bad, but didn’t know really anything more than that. So I decided this was something I needed to know more about.

There are some FANTASTIC resources on line to learn about this disaster and believe me I took advantage of many of them – and I think I didn’t go to Wikipedia once! First let me give you some facts about this disaster – in case you are as clueless as I was about 2 weeks ago!

The earthquake struck on 5:13 AM on April 18, 1906. It is believed to have been close to an 8.7 on the Richter scale. This quake lasted for approximately 1 minute but was enough to shift the land about 20 feet in some places and knock many buildings down. The worst of the destruction was still to come from the fires that followed and ravaged the town for three days. In the end over 400 city blocks were destroyed – that’s roughly 25,000 buildings – and over 200,000 were homeless. The number that is harder to pin down is the number of deaths. The official report said somewhere around 400 dead – but this number is up for A LOT of speculation. The city officials wanted to play down the number of deaths in order to make the disaster not look so bad to the nation. And let’s not forget the thousand or so Chinese who lived in China Town that they didn’t count who lost the lives. They also wanted to destruction to look like it came from the fire rather than the earthquake – for insurance reasons.

There are many reasons for the extent of the damage and destruction. There was a very corrupt political machine government at the time. A shoot to kill order was put out to the army and police for anyone looting buildings – but some of those killed were just trying to save their own possessions. Many buildings were destroyed by dynamiting – supposedly to create firebreaks that would stop the fire, but they really created more fires from the flying debris. There were many problems with the water mains and they couldn’t pump a lot of water. Plus – we are talking a major lack of building codes and safety features that are common today.

Pictures of the destruction are impressive – I will be having a photo montage coming up later this week. Some of the best photos to show the widespread damage are the panoramic shots.

One historian, Gladys Hansen, has worked hard to try and put together a much more comprehensive list of those who perished in the fire. Through correspondence with families and other reports she has compiled a list of over 3,000 who died due to this disaster and is still working on the project.

If you are interested in learning more about this disaster let me recommend some great sites to you.

The Encyclopedia of Earth provides a wealth of information on the actual earthquake – seismograph information, where the fault was, scientific lessons, will it happen again?, etc.

The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco provided the most information about the disaster. I spent hours searching around this site. They have segments of the website dedicated to the Earthquake, Gold Rush, and Golden Gate Bridge, among other topics. In the Earthquake section there are links to the register of who died, photos, newspaper clippings, eyewitness accounts, and various reports from police, fire department, and Army and Navy.

EyeWitness to History focuses on firsthand accounts of disasters. They have three separate accounts of what it was like to live through the earthquake and fire.

Exploratorium has a feature that walks you through the disaster. It integrates images, firsthand accounts, and historical details as you click through it.

I also wanted to share this video clip that I have found:

This one is in my opinion the most interesting. It is a side by side comparison of two films – the one on the left was filmed 4 days before the earthquake and the one on the right was filmed after the disaster. Both of these films are traveling down the same stretch of Market Street and are synced up pretty good.

Hope this adventure has taught you something and made you interested in checking out some of these great resources!

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, September 26, 2011

Audiobook Review: 1906 by James Dalessandro

1906 by James Dalessandro
Unabridged, 11 hr. 28 min.
Books in Motion
Stephanie Brush (Narrator)
May 15, 2005
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded audiobook from my local library
“Every disaster has a backstory, none more thrilling than this one. Set during the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, this page-turning tale of political corruption, vendettas, romance, rescue – and murder – is based on recently uncovered facts that forever change our understanding of what really happened. Told by a feisty young reporter, Annalisa Passarelli, the novel paints a vivid picture of the Victorian-era city, from the mansions of Nob Hill to the underbelly of the Barbary Coast to the arrival of tenor Enrico Caruso and the Metropolitan Opera. Central to the story is the ongoing battle – fought even as the city burns – that pits incompetent and unscrupulous politicians against a coalition of honest police officers, newspaper editors, citizens and a lone federal prosecutor.”
This novel has a little bit of everything – early police procedural, action sequences, drama, shoot outs, natural disasters, love story – in essence, the whole nine yards. There is a little something for everyone here. The first half of the novel is significantly character driven. We come to know and love the men of the Brotherhood – some of San Francisco’s finest cops who are working to help take down the graft and corruption visible everywhere you turn. There is a core group of individuals who are putting all of the pieces into place for a final takedown of the members of the political machine. The second half of the novel is very much about the city of San Francisco and what happens to it and its people during the earthquake and subsequent fires. The whole novel covers a roughly 7 day period – 3 days leading up to the earthquake and the 3 days after it. The best way to compare the layout of the novel is to compare it to the movie Titanic. Here you have a disaster film – but the first portion is very character driven (so that you feel something for the characters when the worst comes), then you have the height of the disaster, and the subsequent wrap up and resolution of the disaster. It is very similar.

The characters were written in such a way that you were unable to pinpoint who was fictional and who was likely based on a real character or amalgamation of characters. This goes to show that the author had a great sense of his characters and how to set them into the world that they would inhabit. The city itself is also formed into a character. The author presents a fantastic visual layout of the city – complete with all of the areas of local character – Nob Hill, the Barbary Coast, China Town etc.

I am very confident that this book would appeal to a wide audience – the disaster junkie, the romance reader, the historical fan, San Franciscans, those who enjoy a little murder mystery/police procedural – men and women alike.

And did I mention…this is being made into a film? It was actually first written as a screenplay before he wrote the novel – can’t wait to see it!


The narrator did a fantastic job with this novel. She had a character for everyone – and there were a wide variety of types of characters presented – Italians, Chinese, Mid-Westerners etc. She sang a little bit in Latin when covering aspects of the Opera – particularly Carmen and La Boehme. It took a little while for me to get used to her voice and I can’t exactly pinpoint why. There were not any sound effects in this novel but I wish there were some. As I was seeing this play out in my head as a movie, a little dramatic music at the height of the disaster wouldn’t have hurt or some crackling fire flames.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?  Or check out this audio sample below (links to audible)

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You can also watch a short video about this book too.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by James Dalessandro

citizen jane
Citizen Jane

bohemian heart
Bohemian Heart

Find James Dalessandro: Website 

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - It's Earthquake Week!

Goooood morning everyone!  Hope you are holding on to something, because it is Earthquake Week around here and we are going to be rocking and rolling all week!  What do you think of the graphics?  They're another of my boyfriend's creations for me.

Ok, so here is the listing of events this week -

Monday 9/26 - Book review of 1906 by James Dalessandro
Tuesday 9/27 - Exploring the Great San Francisco Quake of 1906
Wednesday 9/28 - Montage of SF Quake photos and Reading List
Thursday 9/29 - What are the Moodus Noises?
Friday 9/30 - Review of the movie San Francisco
Saturday 10/1 - Book review of A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

Hope you will drop by this week - I have had fun reading/watching/and researching for this week.  Now I have to get to writing that last post!

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

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Book Review: Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
ARC, Paperback, 544 pages
Sourcebooks Landmark
September 1, 2011
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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review
Matilda, daughter of Henry I, knows that there are those who will not accept her as England’s queen when her father dies. But the men who support her rival Stephen do not know the iron will that drives her. 

Adeliza, Henry’s widowed queen and Matilda’s stepmother, is now married to a warrior who fights to keep Matilda off the throne. But Adeliza, born with a strength that can sustain her through heartrending pain, knows that the crown belongs to a woman this time.

In the anarchy, in a world where a man’s word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda? How long can Matilda fight for the throne that she has struggled so bitterly to win?

Lady of the English might be more aptly named Ladies of the English as this story is just as much about the widowed queen Adeliza as it is about the rightful queen Matilda. We are privy to their respective worlds as Matilda struggles to fight for that which should be hers by right. We see Adeliza struggle between how she wants to help Matilda and how she must do as her husband wants. Matilda must fight against her cousin Stephen and his supporters to take back England for her and her heirs.

A shocker for me about this book by Elizabeth Chadwick is that it didn’t immediately suck me right into the lives of the characters. I felt that the beginning of the novel was more slow and wading – you didn’t just jump right in. As the novel progressed I began to connect with Adeliza and very much enjoyed her story. Toward the end I even cried as her story came to a close – Chadwick was at her best in pulling the heartstrings and manipulating the reader’s emotions. But, while I liked Adeliza, I just could not get into Matilda. I felt like she was cold and distant to the reader – and even though that was sort of how she presented herself to the world, I just couldn’t connect with her enough to care if she won back her crown or not. I kept looking forward to the next Adeliza passage.

This was my first book by this author that wasn’t in some way related to the Bigod or Marshall families – and I didn’t love it quite as much as those.

I have to say that Chadwick excels in the details. Every moment in the world felt real, as if you were breathing in the same air as the characters. You get it all – sights, sounds, tastes, smells. The minor or sideline characters were very well developed and I came to care for many of them as well. You really get to see the young Henry II and can believe how he grew up to become the great king who would eventually marry Eleanor of Aquitaine.

So overall this book was sort of hit and miss for me. Not my favorite Chadwick read by a long shot, but still a very good book overall.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?

You can also watch the book trailer below.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia 

Also by Elizabeth Chadwick

Elizabeth Chadwick has written many novels, a selection of those include:

a place beyond courage
A Place Beyond Courage
[My Review]

the greatest knight
The Greatest Knight
[My Review]

scarlet lion
The Scarlet Lion
[My Review]

for the kings favor
For the King’s Favor
AKA: A Time For Singing
[My Review]

to defy a king
To Defy A King
[My Review]

shadows and strongholds
Shadows and Strongholds
[My Review]

the summer queen
The Summer Queen
[My Review]

You can find a complete list of Chadwick novels here.

Find Elizabeth Chadwick: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Caught on Tape: Joan of Arc

After reading Queen by Right by Anne Easter Smith and exploring a little bit of the story of Joan of Arc, I decided that I wanted to check out portrayals of this woman in film.  She was seen as a heretic, a valiant warrior, leader, messenger, and many other things.  There is certainly a lot of room for various portrayals of the character.  Here is a look at the three films I found.

Joan of Arc (1999)

She died at 19.  500 years later her legend lives on!
“Leelee Sobieski shines as the legendary 15th-century warrior, who, at age 17, led one of the world's greatest campaigns for freedom in this miniseries that blends inspiration, triumph and tears for a compelling look at the martyred heroine. Inspired by divine voices, the French peasant was determined to unify her nation against the British, and later put on trial for heresy.”
This was a made for tv movie/miniseries with quite the stellar cast. Leelee Sobieski (who I have never heard of) stars as Joan, Neil Patrick Harris is the future King Charles VII, Shirley MacLaine is Madame Beauroevoir, and Peter O’Toole is Bishop Cauchon. O’Toole would win an Emmy for this role. I have only see the preview for this but it looks pretty well done. Various reviews suggest that it suffers from being too long but that the performances were amazing. Another interesting angle taken in this film is that it doesn’t directly make a statement as to whether Joan is really hearing voices or if she is imagining them.

Joan of Arc (1948)

Greatest of all spectacles!
“Ingrid Bergman scored a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her powerful portrayal of the brave 15th century French girl who leads soldiers against the Brits. Instead of being lauded by the newly crowned king (José Ferrer), Joan becomes the object of his suspicions. Making his big-screen debut in this historical epic, Ferrer received a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor nod for his performance as the treacherous royal.”
Another classic from the Golden Age of movies – which I still need to see! Ingrid Bergman stars as Joan in this film. This film was directed by the celebrated director, Victor Flemming, who a decade before directed the epic Gone with the Wind. The movie was based on the Broadway play Joan of Lorraine. While the movie came out to mixed reviews at the time, amid controversy in the private lives of some of the stars, it seems to be receiving better reviews today. My only outward complaint is that Bergman is way too old to be playing a teenage Joan (while this was a very common practice at the time and is still somewhat true today).

I couldn’t find a trailer for this film, so here is a scene, from what I imagine is early in the film.

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999)

I’m just the Messenger!
“Director Luc Besson's visceral historical drama captures the life, moral convictions and death of the young French girl who came to be known as Joan of Arc. Battling the enemies of France while propelled by heavenly visions, the teen who would become a saint is betrayed by King Charles of France, who, after taking advantage of her military prowess, consigns her to be burned at the stake as a heretic.”
Alright, if I said there was a stellar cast in the movies above, this one has some big names too! Milla Jovovich stars as Joan, Dustin Hoffman is her conscience/voices in her head/God, Faye Dunaway is Yolande of Aragon, and John Malkovich is King Charles VII. This was a French and American film. From what I have seen of this trailer below, this looks like the best of those we have discussed thus far – action packed, well acted, intelligent, beautiful to look at, and has some great music. Although reviews are mixed, I have added this to my must see list.

Have you seen any of these films? I would love to know what you think as I haven’t seen any myself yet. Any others?

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - My Birthday Weekend

Happy Sunday everyone.  Hope you all have been having a great weekend.  It has been a beautiful New England autumn weekend here.  Very mild weather and some wonderful sunshine.  I've been just enjoying this weekend.  My birthday was on Friday so I got out of work a little early and of course guess what happens...there is a major accident that shuts down the highway.  So an hours drive home turned into two hours driving down back roads.  Fun fun.  But anyway, I got home and my boyfriend and I went out to dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse and boy was it good!  I was so full I didn't have any cake.  We then stopped over at Barnes and Nobel and I picked up some cool books about Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Then we went home and watched some movies.  Yesterday was rather mellow.  This afternoon my parents are coming up and bringing pizza from my favorite local pizza place...another hour and a half...can't wait!

I also have two winners to announce - the winner of The Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz is...Faith Hough! and the winner of The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey is...Maureen!  Congrats to you both.  I will be sending out emails for your mailing address to pass on to the publishers.  Thanks to everyone that entered!

This upcoming week is going to be a little slow, but that is because I have been putting all of my creative energy into the posts for the last week in September.  It is going to be an Earthquake themed week with lots of creative content and book and movie reviews.  Stay tuned.

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

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Audiobook Review: Titanic: A Survivor’s Story by Colonel Archibald Gracie

Titanic: A Survivor’s Story by Colonel Archibald Gracie
Unabridged, 7 hr. 1 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc
Frederick Davidson (Narrator)
December 1, 2006
goodreads button

Genre: Memoir, Historical Non-Fiction

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library
“Here is a survivor's vivid account of the greatest maritime disaster in history. The information contained in Gracie's account is available from no other source. He provides details of those final moments, including names of passengers pulled from the ocean and of those men who, in a panic, jumped into lifeboats as they were being lowered, causing injury and further danger to life. Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, comments that Gracie's book—written shortly before he died from the exposure he suffered on that night—is "invaluable for chasing down who went in what boat," and calls Gracie "an indefatigable detective."”
We all know the story of what happened to Titanic – the unsinkable ship that happened to strike an iceberg on her maiden voyage and would ultimately sink – but do you know what happened to many of the actual people on board the ship? What they were doing when it struck the iceberg, how they got off (or didn’t), how they were saved? This account by Colonel Archibald Gracie, a passenger on the ship, gives us a look into the details in ways that you don’t get in other accounts.

Colonel Gracie was not just a passive participant in the disaster and, being a man, was not one of those put into the lifeboats. He was one of the first few passengers to know that the ship had struck the iceberg and he put a lot of energy into helping the crew load and deploy the lifeboats. He survived by jumping into the water and clinging to the top of an overturned, unsuccessfully deployed, lifeboat until they were ultimately rescued by the Carapathia. Colonel Gracie succumbed to ailments sustained from exposure to the cold ocean water 8 months following the rescue – so a lot of work was put in by him in those short months to get this story complete.

This book is split into two parts – the first portion is the survivor story. Gracie recounts what he went through from the time he boarded the boat, through the disaster itself, survival in the cold water, and the rescue. The descriptions were very vivid and you got insider details that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. He mentions people he interacted with – and not just the big names – he discusses members of Titanic’s crew, from his gym instructor to the porter who was helping him pack. Some of these people have not been commemorated anywhere else.

The second part focused on what happened to each individual lifeboat – from the loading of the boat, who was on it, and what they did once they were lowered right up to when the boat was rescued. Each account was filled with quotes from the American and British inquiries into the disaster. You get firsthand accounts from Titanic crew members as well as respected passengers. You also get some newspaper accounts and excerpts from private letters. While this section was chock full of information and details it was much more dry that the first section, which read like a disaster movie. I appreciated the information but it required more breaks in my reading and concentration. This could have been improved by tying the accounts of the lifeboats together with some narrative – not just point by point.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book for me was that it was written so close to the disaster itself – within the same year – that the only information they had about the accident was firsthand accounts. Some of the information he relates we know happened differently based on the exploration of the wreck and investigation with technology that didn’t exist at that time. The two areas where this was most blatant was with the analysis of did the boilers explode and did the boat split into two parts. Most people at that time believed that the boilers did explode and the boat did not split into two parts. We now know that the ship did indeed split in two. It was interesting to see how knowledge differs with time.

Overall this was a very informative read and is a must for anyone who is interested in the disaster and really wants to read a well researched firsthand account. Just keep in mind when it was written while you read.


There isn’t too much to say about the narration of this one. The narrator wasn’t required to voice any characters other than that of the narrator. He kept the narrative of the survivor’s story interesting, while the second portion sounded like listening to an encyclopedia – I’m not sure any different narration would have improved this section.

You can listen to a sample to see how you feel about the narration (links to Audible).
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Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court