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Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner

The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner
ARC, Kindle, 400 pages
Astor + Blue Editions
May 10, 2012
goodreads button


Source: Received for review from Publisher

“It’s 1959. Sixteen year-old Alex Housman has just stolen his fourteenth car and frankly doesn’t know why. His divorced, working class father grinds out the night shift at the local Chevy Plant in Detroit, looking forward to the flask in his glove compartment, and the open bottles of booze in his Flint, Michigan home. Abandoned and alone, father and son struggle to express a deep love for each other, even as Alex fills his day juggling cheap thrills and a crushing depression. And then there’s Irene Shaeffer, the pretty girl in school whose admiration Alex needs like a drug in order to get by.

Broke and fighting to survive, Alex and his father face the realities of estrangement, incarceration, and even violence as their lives unfold toward the climactic episode that a New York Times reviewer called “one of the most profoundly powerful in American fiction.”

This was a very hard book for me to categorize. In trade descriptions it is touted as an undiscovered American classic. It is also definitively a coming of age novel. It also has elements of historical fiction – although it isn’t quite old enough to be firmly seated there.

While reading this novel I had flashbacks to my experience in high school reading A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; that in and of itself was a point of contention for me. Like Catcher it took me a long time to read this book because there were not many events to carry you along the plot. It was more of a soul searching, inner turmoil experience that made for not quite compelling reading. I kept thinking that it would get more exciting, but it didn’t until the small climactic blip before it slowed back down again.

This novel cannot be described as anything without being described as a coming of age novel. The main character, Alex Housman, is a teenager who, throughout the pages, grows from a young man who steals cars for no real reason to a man who is more sure about his direction in life and begins to make sound decisions. I often found myself very frustrated with the decisions of both Alex and his father.

The reading experience for me was a little split. If hard pressed, I would say that I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the novel. This was more of his troubled period and his stay at the detention home just did not make for compelling reading. As I reached the second half of the novel my experience improved because Alex became a less static character and he stopped being so hung up on himself and began to grow. I enjoyed the setting of this novel. You could feel Detroit and Flint, Michigan ooze from the pores of the pages. Alex’s father works at the Chevrolet car manufacturing plant and you can feel how the car culture embeds itself into the community.

A solid read but I wouldn’t describe it as vastly interesting.

You can read a sample from the book below to get a feel for the style.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by Theodore Weesner:

harbor lights
Harbor Lights

winning the city redux
Winning the City Redux


the true detective
The True Detective

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interview with Douglas Jacobson

I want to introduce you all to author Douglas Jacobson.  His new book The Katyn Order was released in May 2012 and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the interesting subject matter that he writes about.

The Katyn Order

The WWII era is one that is much written about.  How would you say your book stands out from the myriad options that readers have?  What should they know about your book to compel them to choose your novel?

The Katyn Order is a thriller/love story centered around one of WW2's most heinous, yet least known war crimes. The Katyn massacre, in which 20,000 Polish officers were murdered in secret by the Soviet NKVD, was initially covered up by the Americans and British when it was discovered, and remained shrouded in secrecy for more than fifty years. In addition to an exciting, fast-paced thriller, readers will gain an insight into this important part of WW2 history about which little has been written.

What inspired you to write your novel, The Katyn Order?  Do you have any personal connections to this period in history or is it just an area that you are interested in?

As with my first novel, Night of Flames, my inspiration springs from my European relatives who experienced first hand the brutal occupation of the Nazi oppressors. The Katyn Ordertells the story of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances who are forced to do things they never imagined they could do. It is a story of love and human courage.

I have to admit that I don’t really know much about this period and place in history.  What is the essential background information that a reader would need to know in regards to the subject matter?

None. This is a historical novel and the reader can enjoy the story - and learn about the history - through the eyes of the characters. They can enjoy the experience without any previous background.

What has been the most difficult part of the process of getting your books to print?  What has been the most enjoyable?  Was it any different this time around as opposed to the release of your previous novel Night of Flames?

The most difficult part was getting a publisher's attention to the original manuscript for Night of Flames. After many rejections (which all first-time authors experience) I found exactly the right publisher in McBooks Press. Then, because of the success of Night of Flames, the were eager to publish The Katyn Order. The most enjoyable part of this entire process is feedback from readers who tell me what they got out of these stories.

Are you the type of writer who has an extensive outline as you write or more of an on-the-fly writer?  Was there anything that surprised you as you were writing?

I work with an outline, although I have to admit that it is often a moving target. What always surprises me as I write is how the characters tend to evolve almost on their own. As I progress through the writing the characters keep "talking" to me and the story evolves along with the characters. I always know where the end-point is, but the path to get there keeps changing.

Are you currently working on anything new or do you have any plans in the works that you can tell us about?

I am currently working on the third part of this WW2 trilogy. While it will not be a direct sequel to either of the first two books, several of the same characters will be involved.

Douglas Jacobson

Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War Two history enthusiast. Doug has traveled extensively in Europe researching stories of the courage of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His debut novel, Night of Flames: A Novel of World War Two was published in 2007 by McBooks Press, and was released in paperback in 2008. Night of Flames won the “2007 Outstanding Achievement Award” from the Wisconsin Library association. Doug writes a monthly column on Poland’s contribution during WW2, has published articles on Belgium’s WW2 escape organization, the Comet Line and other European resistance organizations. Doug’s second historical novel, The Katyn Order, which was released on May, 2011, focuses on one of history’s most notorious war crimes, the Katyn massacre.

You can find Douglas Jacobson at the following sites:


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mailbox Monday #113


Another mailbox, another…Tuesday…Sorry everyone I have been crazy busy with school.  Here is what I obtained over the last two weeks.

For review:

  • Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones (from publisher)
  • The Titanic Plan by Michael Bockman (from author)

Funny thing about The Titanic Plan was that I had entered to win it on Goodreads…and lost.  Then the author contacted me…to say I lost…but to also offer it for review.  So I accepted!  Sometimes losing really doesn’t suck!

Did you all get anything good to read this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of July it is being hosted by Ms. Q Book Addict.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, July 20, 2012

6 Degrees of Winner….

6 degrees

I am a little behind in posting the winner of the 6 Degress of The Queen’s Vow contest, but rest assured here it is!

Before I announce the winner, I wanted to post the three separate entries to share the different ways they connected The Queen’s Vow by C. W. Gortner and By Royal Command by Laura Navarre.

Entry 1:

The Queen's Vow by CW Gortner
The Virgin Queen's Daughter by Ella March Chase
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
The Broken Crown by Michelle Sagara West
Royal Betrayal: Capturing the Crown by Nina Bruhns
By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

Entry 2:

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner
The Virgin Queen’s Daughter by Ella March Chase
The King’s Daughter by Barbara Kyle
The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion
The Perfect Royal Mistress by Diane Haeger
By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

Entry 3:

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner
Queen’s Fool by Philippa Gregory
Philippa by Bertrice Small
Small Case of Murder by Lauren Carr
Murder Most Royal by Jean Plaidy
By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

Great entries everyone!  And now for the winner of the bookmark prize pack…Carolyn – Entry #3!  Congrats!  I will send out an email for your mailing info to get you prize out to you.  Please respond within the next 7 days or I will select another winner.  Thanks for playing!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: Rise of the New West by Frederick Jackson Turner

Rise of the New West: 1819-1829 by Frederick Jackson Turner
Kindle, 177 of pages
March 24, 2011

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Personal collection, read for my Master’s program

For my historiography class last semester we had to write a formal academic review - no problem for me! I wanted to share this review with you all since the book was actually rather enjoyable, however this isn’t my typical style review.  I learned a lot about westward expansion.

Frederick Jackson Turner’s, Rise of the New West: 1819-1829, is one volume of a larger 28 volume series, The American Nation: A History, which traces the developments of the United States from its inception right up through 1917. Turner’s volume targets the development and movement of the western frontier during the critical period of 1819 through 1829. This time period allows Turner to write on the topic which was his contribution to the New History movement: the frontier thesis and sectionalism.

The topics written about by New Historians tended to focus primarily on history of the recent past. Turner’s historical focus occurred roughly 80 years prior to the original publication of Rise of the New West. New History also featured a strong reliance on the intersection of history with the fields of social science and economics. The goal was to move away from the histories that primarily focused on the political history and main contributors. While Turner does focus, to some extent, on the political implications of the rise of the western frontier he draws significantly on economic factors such as prices of goods and gross domestic product and the social implications of sectionalism.

While Turner’s work does fit into the New History wave of historical writing, it did not have as significant of an impact on the field as the work of other historians. When he originally presented his frontier thesis in 1893 those that heard it were not impressed.[1] His work was also received less favorably than that of other, more prominent, New Historians of Europe, “Karl Lamprecht of Germany and Henri Berr in France have been much more appreciated than that by Frederick Jackson Turner in the United States.”[2] His work was appreciated by the Progressive Historians, an evolution of the New Historians, for his contribution to the economic aspect of history in his work.[3] His thesis, however, did inspire a few historians, such as Carl Becker, who would go on to become respected in the field, as he allowed the frontier thesis to influence some of his writing in his book The Beginnings of the American People.[4]

In 1893, Turner first promoted his frontier thesis in The Frontier in American History. In Rise of the New West: 1819-1829, Turner again returns to the frontier thesis as his main point. Prior to this time period, the focus of national attention had been the break with the British crown and the subsequent formation of the United States as its own country. The period of which Turner writes in this volume was a period of transition and growth, “from the close of the War of 1812 to the election of Andrew Jackson was particularly one of readjustment”[5] and “the rise of the new west was the most significant fact in American history in the years immediately following the war of 1812”.[6] The frontier and the challenges that taming it entailed were key factors in creating a uniquely American culture and fostered a strong sense of pride and hard work creating a distinctly different environment than that of the British.[7] Turner’s emphasis on the frontier experience illustrates how the ability of westward expansion in a previously “uncivilized” wilderness provided the backbone for the future of American history and development.

Turner subsequently spends a significant amount of time illustrating the development of distinctly sectional issues that came about due to the creation of the American west, “the clash of regional and sociological cultures and interest groups, which Turner alleged had complemented the frontier in providing an explanation for the track of American experience”.[8] Turner describes the differences in the economic structures of New England, the South, the Middle Region, and the West and shows how these differences led to issues rivalries and an even more entrenched feeling of sectionalism which would ultimately lead to the Civil War. During this period of history, the country transforms from one of nationalistic sentiment to a sectionalistic sentiment, from a period of unity to one of deep rivalry.[9]

While Turner endeavors to present the sectional differences of the United States, one cannot help but notice that the South is given the short end of the proverbial stick. The primary weakness of this volume is that the sectional descriptions are written from a decidedly northern perspective. It is as though Turner’s own underlying bias, as he was born Wisconsin, shows through his writing in places. The bibliographic information is both strength and weakness for the modern day reader of The Rise of the West. The format of this bibliography is not that which a modern reader is used to. Within each sectional breakdown there is a discussion of works, however the works are listed within the narrative paragraph and not in an alphabetical order requiring more time to be spent while wading through the sources.

While there are weaknesses to Turner’s work, there are more strengths in which to focus on. In this volume there are 4 pull out, full color, maps included which illustrating various major points including: the US in 1821, western Indian trading posts and routes of travel 1820-1835, highways and waterways in the United States 1826-1830, and cessions of Indian lands 1816-1820. There are also various other maps and charts throughout the text of the book. Turner’s style of writing is another strength; it is written with the everyman in mind and it is very easy to read while still providing deep discussion and evaluation of the United States during this period. The book is broken down into various chapters that are based on a specific topic. These are typically large events that illustrate his dual theses of sectionalism and the frontier. They are easy to navigate and are relatively self-contained. As stated previously, the bibliography is a strength as well as a weakness. Unlike most modern bibliographies, Turner’s is broken down by topics allowing the reader to easily find those supporting works of their area of interest without having to look though each to find out what it is about.

While Frederick Jackson Turner’s Rise of the West 1819-1829, and his other works as well, may not have had quite the influence he was looking for at the time of their publication, his frontier thesis is still very much discussed today.[10] His works The Frontier in American History and Significance of Sections in American History are required reading in many history classes. He helped bring the American west to the status of myth and is even featured in popular culture such as a segment of Schoolhouse Rock called, “Elbow Room”, “few other major historical works or historians reach so deep into popular culture. It is hard to imagine, say, a cartoon version of Charles Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.”[11] The theory of the frontier as an impetus for not only physical expansion but the growth of the American nation is still a valid theory in the historiographical debate today.

Frederick Jackson Turner also wrote The Frontier in American History.

You can get a Kindle copy of the book for free on Amazon or Google Play right now.

[1] Michael Bentley, Modern Historiography: An Introduction (London and New York: Routlage, 1999), 96.

[2] Ernst Breisach, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 313.

[3] Ibid., 315.

[4] Bentley, Modern Historiography, 97.

[5] Frederick Jackson Turner, Rise of the New West: 1819-1829, (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1961), 1.

[6] Ibid., 67.

[7] Bentley, Modern Historiography, 96

[8] Bentley, Modern Historiography, 97

[9] Turner, Rise of the New West, 330.

[10] John Mack Faragher, “The Frontier Trail: Rethinking Turner and Reimagining the American West,” American Historical Review 98, no 1 (1993), 108.

[11] Deborah Epstein Popper, Robert E. Lang, Frank J. Popper, “From Maps to Myth: The Census, Turner, and the Idea of the Frontier,” The Journal of American Culture 23, no 1 (2000), 91.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Mesopotamians

Sometimes when you are reading about something it brings to mind something very obscure. Well that happened this past weekend while doing my homework. I was reading the chapter on the Mesopotamian culture and the next thing I know I am singing a song from one of my boyfriend’s favorite bands which happens to be on the same subject – and then I needed to know more about it.

First here is the song for you and I am including the lyrics below as well. The song is, The Mesopotamians by They Might be Giants.

We've been driving around
From one end of this town to the other and back
But no one's ever seen us (No one's ever seen us)
Driving our Econoline van (And no one's ever heard of our band)
And no one's ever heard of our band

We're the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

Then they wouldn't understand a word we say
So we'll scratch it all down into the clay
Half believing there will sometime come a day
Someone gives a damn
Maybe when the concrete has crumbled to sand

We're the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

The Mesopotamish sun is beating down
And making cracks in the ground
But there's nowhere else to stand
In Mesopotamia (No one's ever seen us)
The kingdom where we secretly reign
(And no one's ever heard of our band)
The land where we invisibly rule

As the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

This is my last stick of gum
I'm going to cut it up so everybody else gets some
Except for Ashurbanipal, who says my haircut makes me look like a Mohenjo-daroan
Hey, Ashurbanipal

I'm a Mesopotamian
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

We're the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

"Hey, man, I thought that you were dead
I thought you crashed your car"
"No, man, I've been right here this whole time playing bass guitar
For the Mesopotamians"

We're the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

We're the Mesopotamians
Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh

Ok, so now for a little bit of information on the four stars: Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, and Gilgamesh.


Sargon was a king of the Semitic Akkadian’s who is remembered through history for his conquest of Sumeria. He reigned from 2270 to 2215 BC. He is commonly looked at as a model for Mesopotamian kings for that period.


Hammurabi is best known for his code of laws, including “an eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth”. Contrary to popular belief, Hammurabi did not create this code, but rather he was the one to put all of the current laws onto one code. Hammurabi was the 6th king of Babylon and ruled from 1792 to 1750 BC.


Ashurbanipal was an Assyrian king, and the last of the strong kings of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. He ruled from 668 to 627 BC. He was known for being cruel to the people he conquered but also was very popular with his people. He is also known for amassing a huge collection of cuneiform tablets which are now located at the British Museum.


Gilgamesh was the 5th king of Uruk – a Sumerian king. He is best known from the Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem and one of the earliest examples of literature which tells the tales of Gilgamesh. There is a chance that Gilgamesh was a historic figure or may be an amalgamation of a couple historic figures. He likely ruled around 2500 BC.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, July 16, 2012

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Today I would like to welcome author Jerome Charyn, author of many books, Back to Bataan his newest release.  So please help me in welcoming Mr. Charyn to The Maiden’s Court.


You are the master of writing across a realm of different genres, what excites you about connecting with different audiences?

I’m not so sure that these are different audiences, I think we all love stories, whether we’re children or great-grand fathers and when you move from genre to genre you are still telling a story like Scheherazade and the king is always waiting for the next tale.

How much of your life is in Back to Bataan? How did you personally experience New York during World War II?

I think so much of the source of my writing comes from my childhood, I grew up during the War - so many of the terrors and the magic of certain films have remained with me. And all of this appears in the character of Jack.

Why did you decide to include the fascination with the famous as a theme - Gary Cooper, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.?

These people were heroes to me as a child, particularly Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the most extraordinary women who ever lived, and of course as a child I fell in love with Gary Cooper’s face and with his very slow drawl, that seemed so exotic to me.

How important is the New York Times in your own life? Why did you decide to make it a form of connection between Jack and the Leader?

As a child, I didn’t even know that the Times existed – I grew up in a neighborhood without newspapers and books, so that when I first fell upon the New York Times, I was very very greedy, and wanted to include it in Jack’s middle-class life.

Being a published author for nearly 50 years, what do you think of eBooks?

I think that this is a kind of logical step as we move from the internet into eBooks.

Publishing is changing even as we speak. I think there now will be a more complicated dance between the eBook and the printed book, and as we’ve seen recently, successes in eBooks allow the author to move into print.


Jerome Charyn (born May 13, 1937) is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.”

New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,” and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.”

Since 1964, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture.
Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.

You can find Jerome Charyn and Back to Bataan in the following places:


Below you can read an excerpt from the book, Back to Bataan.  You can read more of the excerpts by following along on the tour.

“Mauricette told Harriet Godwin I was the pig of the class. I had treated her like garbage. Mauricette wouldn't answer my phone calls. She wouldn't read the notes I dropped inside her desk. But Arturo Fink kept reminding her who she was. “Fiancée,” he said. “Jack’s fiancée.”

I promised myself I wouldn't write anymore compositions, but how could I graduate from Dr. Franklin's class and join General MacArthur?

It felt lonely without a fiancée.

Mauricette began seeing Barnaby Rosenstock after school. They were holding hands and having chocolate malteds at the Sugar Bowl on Seventy-ninth Street. Fat Arturo was eating two ice-cream sodas. The Sugar Bowl is our hangout. It’s the official candy store of Dutch Masters Day School. I didn’t have money for ice-cream sodas. I didn’t have money for malteds. I'd buy a Hershey bar or some Chuckles once a week. I'd peek at the comic book rack and wonder what was happening to Captain Marvel or the Sub-Mariner. Marvel and the Sub-Mariner were already at war, fighting Japs. And when Mauricette was still my fiancée, I'd sit with her over a glass of water and treat her to some candy whenever I could. But now she was sucking malteds with Barnaby Rosenstock. I could hear her from my corner, next to the comic book rack.

“Oh, Jack Dalton,” she said. “He has a wild imagination. He likes to fling words around. He thinks half the school is going to marry him.”

She didn’t have to shame me in front of her friends. Arturo was laughing into his fat cheeks. Barnaby had a chocolate rainbow on his lips. I didn’t even bother with the comic books. Marvel would have to fight the Japs without me. I walked home.

Mama was at the factory. She makes parachutes. Sometimes she’d bring home a little piece of silk left over from one of the chutes. That's how I get my handkerchiefs. Not even Arturo with all his father’s money has a handkerchief of genuine silk. But handkerchiefs couldn’t make me feel good. Silk is only silk. I wondered about the American fliers who had their planes shot down and had to fall into the dark wearing some of that silk.

I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. It didn't seem important when you considered all the Japs and Germans out there. I hope General MacArthur takes me with him to Bataan. I’m not asking for a Purple Heart. I'm only asking to kill Japs. And if I have to die, I want to die near my dad...

Mama came home at seven. The streets from my window looked so dark, I thought the world had gone gray. I didn’t care. I wouldn’t mind going to school after midnight.

“Darling,” Mama said, “what’s wrong?”

I couldn't tell her how I lost a fiancée, because she would have figured I was insane.

“Mama, I’m blue...that's all.”

“You’re still dreaming of the Army, aren’t you? We'll have dinner and listen to the radio, my little blue boy.”

We had soup and bread and boiled potatoes and peas out of a can. It’s not Mama’s fault if meat is rationed and sugar is rationed. No one can inherit ration stamps, not even the President or Arturo’s dad.

We listened to Jack Benny. He played the violin and talked about the Japs. Mama laughed, because Jack Benny is the biggest miser in the world. He would never spend a nickel. But he told everybody to buy war bonds.

“What about you, Mr. Benny?”

Mama told me it was time for bed.

I put on my pajamas. But I didn't feel like sleeping. I dialed Mauricette’s number and let the telephone ring. Somebody picked up the phone.

“It’s me,” I said. “Jack Dalton. Your former fiancé. Coco, are you there? I wanted to—”

Mauricette hung up. And I wondered who was lonelier. The dead cowboys on Bataan, or young Jack Dalton.”


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Caught on Tape: Isabella of Castile

caught on tape

This was supposed to go live right around the time I featured C.W. Gortner and his new release, The Queen’s Vow, however I am a little delayed at getting this up and running. Isabella of Castille is one of those polarizing characters in history and one who could make quite the powerful presence on the screen. Since the start of the film industry she has been one of the royals featured on the silver screen. From 1910 in the silent black and white film, Isabelle of Arragon through 2001’s Mad Love, Isabella has been a presence portrayed in different angles. Check out some of the below films for a selection of Isabella films.

Christopher Columbus (1985)

Although this is a tv miniseries and one from the 1980’s, the reviews are staggeringly to the positive. While not trying to cash in on the hype of the 500th anniversary of the Columbus voyage (as the next two films below did) this miniseries took the type to get it right. The look of this film is beautiful. Faye Dunaway plays Isabella and I have seen her described as the perfect mix of authoritative and subdued. She however doesn’t look the part of what I have come to expect Isabella to look like.

1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

“Poised to benefit from wealth gained after the establishment of trade routes and colonies in far-flung lands, Spain's Queen Isabel (Sigourney Weaver) funds navigator Christopher Columbus's (Gérard Depardieu) historical voyage to the "New World." After traversing the sea with the Santa María, La Niña and La Pinta, Columbus initiates contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans.”

This movie was directed by Ridley Scott and Isabel is played by Sigourney Weaver. With these notable people you would expect great things; however it didn’t do that well in the box office. Again, the focal point of the film is not Isabel, but Columbus and his quest to explore the shorter route to the East by going west. All the video clips I could find didn’t feature Isabel for more than 30 seconds, so I can’t really gauge her ability to evoke Isabel. It is now on my Netflix list, but have any of you seen this movie and if so, what did you think of Weaver’s performance?

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)

“Dreaming of finding a new route to the Indies, Christopher Columbus (George Corraface) asks for backing from Queen Isabella (Rachel Ward) and King Ferdinand (Tom Selleck) -- who agree to fund him after subjecting him to a grueling interrogation by the head of the Spanish Inquisition (Marlon Brando). Once Columbus sets sail, he faces sabotage and mutiny as he journeys to discover a new world in this bracing historical saga.”

This film features some big named actors: Tom Selleck as King Ferdinand, Rachel Ward as Queen Isabella, and Marlon Brando as Tomas de Torquemada. Catherine Zeta Jones and Benicio de Toro also have roles in the film as well. This was another film that was released on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ expedition, and the market must not have been ready for it as this one didn’t do well either. However, I have known these actors to put on great performances so I’m willing to give this one a chance. Rachel Ward makes a convincing looking Isabella. The character was originally to be played by Isabella Rossilini who I think would have been great.

I am unable to embed the video here, but you can watch the trailer featuring Rachel Ward here.

The Royal Diaries: Isabel – Jewel of Castille (2000)

“Isabel, Jewel of Castilla” dramatizes the turbulent teen years of the future queen of Spain (Lisa Jakub), whose brothers were at war against each other and whose desire to have a say in choosing her marriage partner caused further unrest.”

This episode of the HBO Mini Series is based on the book of the same name from the Royal Diaries series. Aimed at a young adult audience, this episode focuses on a short period of time in the life of Infanta Isabel while her brother Enrique is on the throne. Lisa Jakub who plays Isabel looks like what I would envision Isabel to look like and she plays the feisty, inquisitive young woman who is portrayed in the recently released novel, The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. If you have the chance to check this out or to share it with you children, I would recommend it. Review is forthcoming at a future date.

I unfortunately don’t have a clip for this one – I had previously watched this on Youtube however the videos have been taken down since then. However, this is available on a DVD collection with the stories of Elizabeth I and Cleopatra.

Royal Diaries Isabel

Juana la Loca (AKA Mad Love) (2001)

“The true story of Juana de Castilla (Pilar Lopez de Ayala), daughter of Queen Isabella of Spain, who married (and fell passionately in love with) Archduke Fernando of Austria. When Juana's mother and older brothers die in 1504, Juana becomes queen, but her discovery of her husband's many lovers leads to erratic behavior. It's the perfect opportunity for her cheating husband to declare Juana insane and himself king.”

The heart of this film is about the life of Isabella’s daughter, Juana, and her relationship with her husband. I highly recommend this film; it was very well acted and an enjoyable representation of Juana’s life. You can read my full review here. However, at the beginning of this film we do get to see some of Queen Isabella – although at first glance you might not know it is her. If you start watching this clip at around the 6 minute mark you will see a woman clad in a white cap and veil – this is Isabella. In the short scene she is in she evokes caring for her daughter as she sets off on her new life. She is portrayed by Susi Sanchez.

Have you seen any of the above films or any others? What did you think?


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, July 9, 2012

Interview with Kathy Czepiel

I am so excited to welcome author Kathy Czepiel to The Maiden’s Court today!  I had the chance to ask her a few questions about her debut release A Violet Season and found out that we have something in common!  Read on, oh do read on !

A Violet Season

I have to say that my attention was immediately caught by the mention of the violet industry – I didn’t even know there was such a thing! How did you come to writing about this subject?

I didn’t know there was such a thing either until I returned to my hometown after college to work for the local newspaper. My editor was a local history buff, and she told me that the area where I grew up—New York’s mid-Hudson Valley—had once been known as The Violet Capital of the World. Many years later, when I was ready to write a novel, a violet farm was the obvious choice of setting. It was something I knew I would be interested in researching.

Mother-Daughter themes can be such powerful reading. Did you draw on any of your own experiences with your mother or with your daughter?

Not directly. But I think there is always some emotional truth behind the fiction, whether it’s our own or something we’ve observed. My mother and I have a great relationship, though it took the usual bumpy road through my adolescence. My daughters are 10 and 13, so we’re just entering that phase together. The “truth” behind the fiction for me, in this case, is probably the fear we have as mothers that we will let our children down or hurt them without even realizing or understanding that we’re doing it, that we will make mistakes that can’t entirely be repaired. I say “we” because I know I’m not the only mother who thinks about this.

What has been the most difficult part of the process for your debut novel? What has been the most surprising or interesting?

The most difficult part was writing it without knowing whether anyone but my writing friends would ever read it. For fiction, you have to have a complete, polished manuscript before you can begin pitching it to agents. Some of my short stories had been published in various literary journals, so I knew it was possible that I could sell a novel. But there is never a guarantee. The most interesting part has been learning how the publishing process works. There’s a steep learning curve in terms of marketing and publicity.

How do you find time to write? Do you have a certain schedule you like to follow or squeeze it in around work and your kids’ activities?

I have a somewhat unusual writing schedule. I wrote the novel over the course of four summers because I teach during the school year, and I don’t have time then to do much writing. I spent a fifth year pitching it before my agent picked it up and sold it to Simon & Schuster. Now I’ve received a wonderful grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and another from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, which have supplemented my income so I can teach less and write more. I would never want to give up teaching altogether, though, so I have a really nice balance now in my professional life.

I noticed on your website that you currently teach at Quinnipiac University and have since 2004. I attended QU from 2005-2009 (and actually started my blog while a student there) – we might have crossed paths at some point, it being the small school that it is! What do you enjoy most about teaching there?

What a great coincidence! I love teaching at Quinnipiac. I teach only the freshman writing classes, 101 in the fall and 102 in the spring. Our students come in eager and willing to try new things, and it’s exciting to see the transformation they undergo as readers and writers over the course of the year. It’s very hard work for them, but rewarding to see what comes of it! I also have fantastic colleagues in the First-Year Writing Program. They’re brilliant and talented, and they continue to challenge me to think about my own teaching and writing in new ways.

Also on your website I saw that you and your daughter are part of a mother-daughter reading group. Could you tell us a little more about how this works? I think this is such a fascinating idea as my mother and I have begun to read similar books.

My 13-year-old daughter and I go to a book group at a local library once a month. The girls choose the books, and every month a different mother-daughter pair plans and leads the discussion. I really enjoy reading books that I normally wouldn’t read and comparing notes with my daughter. A couple of favorites that we’ve read together include First Light by Rebecca Stead and Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang.

I always comment on book covers, and the cover of A Violet Season is beautiful. Did you get to have any creative input in the cover?

I’m glad you like it—it was our sixth cover attempt! I’ll be blogging more about that at Beyond the Margins this week. I did have some input, but I didn’t have the last word; the sales department did. Covers are seen as marketing tools, so the sales force has to like the cover. What was most important to me was that the cover be historically accurate and true to the story, and I think this cover accomplishes that, in addition to using that beautiful purple that really pops!


Kathy Leonard Czepiel is the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and teaches writing at Quinnipiac University. Her short fiction has been published in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Indiana Review, Calyx, Confrontation, and The Pinch. A native of New York State’s mid-Hudson Valley, she now lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

Violet Season Banner

Here is a video of Kathy talking more about the inspiration behind the novel:

You can visit Kathy on the following sites:

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Winner of Queen's Vow Prizepack

Just a quick note announcing the winner of The Queen's Vow giveaway prize pack.  And the winner is...

Terri C!  

Congrats and thanks to everyone for entering!

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Audiobook Review: A Night to Remember by Walter Lord

a night to rememeber

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord
Unabridged, 5 hr. 19 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Fred Williams (Narrator)
August 17, 2010
goodreads button

Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical

Source: Downloaded audio from my local library

“First published in 1955, A Night to Remember remains a completely riveting account of the Titanic's fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. Some sacrificed their lives, while others fought like animals for their own survival. Wives beseeched husbands to join them in lifeboats; gentlemen went taut-lipped to their deaths in full evening dress; and hundreds of steerage passengers, trapped below decks, sought help in vain.

Available for the first time in trade paperback and with a new introduction for the 50th anniversary edition by Nathaniel Phil-brick, author of In the Heart of the Sea and Sea of Glory, Walter Lord's classic minute-by-minute re-creation is as vivid now as it was upon first publication fifty years ago. From the initial distress flares to the struggles of those left adrift for hours in freezing waters, this semicentennial edition brings that moonlit night in 1912 to life for a new generation of readers.”

This is the second non-fiction that I have read which chronicles the sinking of the Titanic. Lord’s book starts mere hours before the sinking. This book jumps from person to person and gives the reader a well-rounded perspective of the events as they occurred across the ship. I think I would have preferred a select few characters as it didn’t allow me to really concentrate on who was doing what. The events on the ship are really par for the course and what you would expect in a non-fiction account.

The interesting aspects of this book are that we get to see what happened on the Carpathia as it came to rescue the survivors and on the California as it stood by confused as to what those lights in the distance were all about. Those on-board the Carpathia were quite heroic as they rushed to the site of the disaster and prepped their ship to receive the survivors and keep them in comfort back to New York. On the opposite end, I was extremely angry with the actions of those on board the California. They see mysterious lights and flares in the distance and never thought that a ship might be signaling for some reason and that they should turn on their radios to see what was happening. The addition of these two aspects was unique for me and really set this apart from the other book I had read on the subject.

It was also interesting that the author frequently mentioned what was happening with Titanic passenger Colonel Archibald Gracie. He is the author of the previous book I had read on Titanic and several of the stories that he told were also chronicled here.



This narrator kept the story interesting and made the events feel new all over again, which can be difficult with an event that everyone knows so well.

You can listen to a sample of the audiobook below:

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Reviews of this book by others: 

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

Also by Walter Lord:

day of infamy
Day of Infamy

the night lives on
The Night Lives On

the miracle of dunkirk
The Miracle of Dunkirk

Incredible Victory
Incredible Victory

Lonely Vigil
Lonely Vigil

a time to stand
A Time to Stand

The Dawns Early Light
The Dawns Early Light


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Round of Six Degrees!

6 degrees

It's been a long time since we had a fun game around here, so therefore it is a perfect time for another round of Six Degrees!  This time you need to connect The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner and By Royal Command by Laura Navarre by 6 degrees.

To refresh your memories of the rules:

1. I will give you two book titles and you have to come up with 4 more that fall in between those two that ultimately connect the first with the last (example will be provided below).

2. You can connect one word in the title to one word in the next title; one word in the title with a name of the author; name of the author with name of the author. You cannot, for example, connect Margaret George with Margaret George, but can connect Margaret George with Margaret Campbell Barnes.

3. The same word can only be used twice in a row.

4. Your answers do not all have to be from the historical fiction genre (but you can if you want to challenge yourself!)

Below (in red) is an EXAMPLE of a 6 degrees that works - connecting Helen of Troy by Margaret George to Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott:

Helen of Troy by Margaret George
My Lady of Cleves by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick
To Be Queen by Christy English
Queen of Last Hopes by Susan Higginbotham
Royal Harlot by Susan Holloway Scott

You can post your answers in the form below by Saturday - July 14th, I will then post a selection of answers from those submitted and using Random.com select a winner from correct answers for a bookmark prize pack.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Visit to Colonial Williamsburg

During our trip to Virginia the central stop was Colonial Williamsburg. We stayed in a bed and breakfast just 4 blocks from the Colonial center and were able to visit the colonial houses during the day and take a ghost tour in the evening. The day we visited was the hottest day during our whole vacation so we didn’t see as much as we might have liked to. I wanted to share a couple of the interesting historical things I learned while there.


While we were on the ghost tour we stopped at the cemetery in Colonial Williamsburg at the Bruton Parish Church. Among other things, the tour guide made a side mention that the first husband of Martha Washington and two of her children had been buried there. So of course I had to stop by in daylight to seek out the gravesite. They don’t look like much in the pictures because the inscriptions were so worn down by time and weather but I found the graves of both Frances Custis and Daniel Parke Custis Jr. (Martha’s two children that didn’t survive childhood). I am pretty sure that the grave beyond the children’s belongs to her husband, Daniel Park Custis. The Custis family spent a lot of time in Williamsburg as their home was nearby and Martha’s family lived there.


To speak of another prominent name, upon the entrance to the area there is a bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson writing a draft of the Declaration of Independence. Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia for many years and Jefferson was the Governor for a period of time. He spent much time here prior to becoming Governor and a year at Williamsburg after becoming governor before he moved the capitol to Richmond. We were able to take a tour of the Governor’s mansion and there is quite the impressive display of guns and arms. Check it out!!!

marching band

We visited Williamsburg on Memorial Day and were treated to a show by the Colonial Marching Band. I’m sure if you were to visit for the Fourth of July you would be able to see a show like this as well! Happy Fourth of July!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Winner of Laura Navarre Entry Giveaway

I just wanted to take a quick minute to announce the winner selected from the entries in the Laura Navarre giveaway.  It is Griperang!  Congrats!  Your name will now be forwarded to the publisher to be entered into the final step of the giveaway.  Good luck!

Just in case you were wondering - the winner of The Queen's Vow giveaway will be announced tonight or tomorrow - I'm still checking the entries!

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mailbox Monday #112


Well this was another week of fill my Kindle instead of my mailbox.  Not a bad thing, but the fact that the books are not as visible to me makes it harder to keep track of how many books I’m to be reviewing.

So this keep I received:

  • A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick (from netgalley)
  • By Royal Command by Laura Navarre (from netgalley)
  • War Memorial by Elizabeth Grace Foley (short story)

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of July it is being hosted by Mrs. Q Book Addict.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court