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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Don’t Know Much About… Blog

I know that we are always looking for new blogs to add to our overflowing Reader and I thought that I had to share something about this one with you. 

Yesterday I reviewed Don’t Know Much About History here at The Maiden’s Court.  And although I thought I knew a thing or two about American history, I learned that there were a lot of things that I knew nothing about.  The author, Kenneth C. Davis has written several different books in the Don’t Know Much About series which I intend on pursuing in the future.  However in the meantime, Davis writes a blog with each posting featuring a different new fact.

Some of the recent posts have included such topics as:

  • Why a Vice President Matters
  • Herbert Hoover
  • Herman Melville
  • End of Discrimination in the Military

Davis also does a short video series on Youtube called Don’t Know Much About Minute on other history facts.  The playlist of these videos is below. 

So for you little dose of daily history facts you can check out Davis’ blog.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Audiobook Review: Don’t Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

don't know much about history
Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History But Never Learned 
Part of the Don’t Know Much About series
by Kenneth C. Davis
Unabridged, 29hr. 26min.
Random House Audio
Arthur Morey, Zach McLarty, and Cassandra Campbell (Narrators)
June 21, 2011
goodreads button

Non-Fiction, History

Source: Personal collection
“Here, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its debut as a New York Times bestseller, is the revised, updated, and expanded edition of the classic anti-textbook that changed the way we look at history. 
First published two decades ago, when the "closing of the American mind" was in the headlines, Don't Know Much About® History proved Americans don't hate history—just the dull version that was dished out in school. With wit and irreverence, in question-and-answer form, Don't Know Much About® History took readers on a rollicking ride through more than five hundred years of American history, from Columbus's voyages to recent events. The book became an instant classic and has sold more than 1.6 million copies. 
Now Davis has brought his groundbreaking work up to the present, including the history of an "Era of Broken Trust," from the end of the Clinton administration through the recent Great Recession. This additional material covers the horrific events of 9/11and the rise of conspiracy theorists, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the New Orleans levees, the global financial meltdown, the election of Barack Obama, and the national controversy of same-sex marriage. 
For history buffs and history-phobes alike, for longtime fans who need a refresher course, and for a new generation of Americans who are still in the dark about America's past, Davis shows once more why People magazine said, "Reading him is like returning to the classroom of the best teacher you ever had."”

Where to start with this review – there are so many things that I want to tell you about this book that they are all fighting to be first on the page. So I apologize if the structure is a bit off.

I always thought that I knew a lot about American history – certainly more than my peers in school, that much was obvious. But, reading this book certainly showed me the areas where I was weak, but also reinforced that I did indeed know a decent amount about history. The edition that I read was a revised edition which actually took events up through 2011 – so it was great to be able to read something that was very up to date and for once included some history that I have actually lived through (that was a first!). The topics that were chosen for selection were a mix of the commonly discussed (ie. Civil Rights Movement and American Revolution) and the not-so-often (ie. the Pumpkin Papers and the Mormons).

The structure of this book will be hit or miss for readers in my opinion. The author sets it up in a question and answer format – so each topic is opened with a question (as if someone was asking it in class) and then he provides a discussion. To give you an idea of the questions: Why did Aaron Burr shoot Alexander Hamilton? or Why was President Johnson impeached? I thought that the format worked really well because it made it easier as a reader to focus on a particular subject instead of it just reading as a continuous narrative. The book was broken down into chapters and then there would be approximately 20 questions or so in each chapter that related to the overall topic.

There are also two subsections peppered throughout most chapters – “American Voices” and “Must Read”. I appreciated both of these additions to the text. American Voices usually helped set the reader up for the next topic by providing an excerpt from a document, book, or speech that pertained to it. Must Read is just as it sounds, extended readings about the topic previously discussed. I can tell you that I added all of these to my reading list as his introductions have encouraged me to want to know more!

If all history texts were presented in this engaging of a manner, I don’t think we would have students trying to skip history period. I can’t wait for his newest book that comes out this fall which is right up my alley – Don’t Know Much About the American Presidents.


The narration was very well done – with non-fiction of this span of time it could have the potential to fall into bouts of boring, but that did not happen here. The questions were proposed by two different narrators alternating back and forth – sort of a simulation of a classroom. The explanations were provided by a third narrator – representing the teacher. The format worked well enough on audio, but I think it would have been better appreciated in print – it took me awhile to figure out if the American Voices was related to the previous topic or the upcoming. There is also a great appendix in the back of the book on the Amendments to the Constitution and the Presidents which would be great to have on hand.

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

Other bloggers who reviewed this book:

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

Also by Kenneth C. Davis:

don't know much about the bible
Don’t Know Much About the Bible

don't know much about the civil war
Don’t Know Much About the Civil War

don't know much about geography
Don’t Know Much About Geography

don't know much about mythology
Don’t Know Much About Mythology

don't know much about anything
Don’t Know Much About Anything

don't know much about anything else
Don’t Know Much About Anything Else

dont know much about the universe
Don’t Know Much About the Universe

don't know much about literaure
Don’t Know Much About Literature

america hidden history
America’s Hidden History

the hidden history of america at war
The Hidden History of America At War

in the shadow of libety
In the Shadow of Liberty

a nation rising
A Nation Rising

Find Kenneth C. Davis: Website | Twitter | Youtube 

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mailbox Monday #116


I received a few books this week – a couple digitally, an audiobook, and a traditional paper copy.

Through Netgalley I received the following for review:

  • A Barcelona Heiress by Sergio Vila-Sanjuán, and
  • Sacred Treason by James Forrester

From the publisher I received the following paperback for review:

  • The Second Empress by Michelle Moran (haven’t physically received this one yet as it went to my mom’s house – so I really didn’t receive anything in the mail this week)

From the publisher, on audiobook, as part of the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program I received the following:

  • The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

And that’s it!  What goodies arrived in your mailbox this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of August it is being hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

Ellis Island

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan
Book 1 in the Ellis Island series
ARC, Paperback, 368 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
June 28, 2011
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review

Sweethearts since childhood, Ellie Hogan and her husband, John, are content on their farm in Ireland—until John, a soldier for the Irish Republican Army, receives an injury that leaves him unable to work. Forced to take drastic measures in order to survive, Ellie does what so many Irish women in the 1920s have done and sails across a vast ocean to New York City to work as a maid for a wealthy socialite.

Once there, Ellie is introduced to a world of opulence and sophistication, tempted by the allure of grand parties and fine clothes, money and mansions . . . and by the attentions of a charming suitor who can give her everything. Yet her heart remains with her husband back home. And now she faces the most difficult choice she will ever have to make: a new life in a new country full of hope and promise, or return to a life of cruel poverty . . . and love.

Ellis Island was quite the enjoyable read, but for an entirely different reason than I anticipated when I set out to read it. Before I started reading I thought that the general focus of the book would be the time on Ellis Island for Ellie between leaving Ireland and arriving at New York City. I was looking forward to the Ellis Island immigrant experience; however I arrived as something entirely different. A story of love, torn desires, dreams of the future, and still the immigrant experience.

Kerrigan gives the reader a solid feel for both Ireland and America in the 1920’s. The contrast between the two is shocking – rural, extremely close, farming community vs. big, noisy, city life. I grew to enjoy Ellie’s life in both Ireland and New York – while extremely different, still the same in some ways. I myself was torn between which sections of the novel I enjoyed more, America or Ireland – but for different reasons.

The story was fast paced and the characters really suck you right into their lives and loves. The end of each chapter pulls you right into the start of the next – always needing to know what will happen on the next page.

The one thing that I would have liked to have more of was time at the titular Ellis Island. There were two small, very short scenes taking place on this island. I would have liked it to have been more central to the story. There was a moment when I thought it might have been a game changing moment, however that was not the case and I was left a little disappointed in the end.

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

Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

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

Also by Kate Kerrigan:

city of hope
City of Hope (Ellis Island #2)
[My Review]

land of dreams
Land of Dreams (Ellis Island #3)

fall of poppies
Fall of Poppies
[My Review]

the dress
The Dress

it was only ever you
It Was Only Ever You

the miracle of grace
The Miracle of Grace

the lost garden
The Lost Garden

Find Kate Kerrigan: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Giveaway Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer

Have you heard of The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer yet?  If you haven't, you must read on - if you have you know what sort of an exciting story I'm talking about.  First of all, isn't this a beautiful cover?  It would draw me in even if I had no idea what it was about.  See below the cover for the blurb:

Before she became the nineteenth century’s heroine, before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert traveled up the Nile at the same time. They never met, but in The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, these two wanderers ignite a friendship marked by intelligence, humor, and ravishing tenderness that will alter both their destinies.
On the surface, Nightingale and Flaubert couldn’t be more different. She is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. He is a notorious womanizer, involved with innumerable prostitutes. But both are at painful crossroads in their lives and burn with unfulfilled ambition. In Enid Shomer’s deft hands, the two unlikely soul mates come together to share their darkest torments and most fervent hopes. Brimming with adventure and the sparkling sensibilities of the two travelers, this mesmerizing debut offers a luminous combination of gorgeous prose and wild imagination, all of it colored by the opulent tapestry of mid-nineteenth century Egypt.

Interested yet?  No?  Try out this excerpt then.  Convinced?  Want to enter to win one of two copies of the book?  Simply fill out the rafflecopter below to enter.  Open to US residents only.  Last day to enter is September 8, 2012.  Good luck everyone!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Black Sox Scandal in Song

After reading Rothstein by Joseph Pietrusza and learning the in depth story of the Black Sox scandal of 1919 I had to share an interesting song (another one of my boyfriend’s) about just this subject.

Jonathan Coulton performs this song, Kennisaw Mountain Landis, which is a very tongue-in-cheek story of the Black Sox scandal – some historical truth, some pure fiction, but very entertaining. Pass a listen to the song before I set fact from fiction – fyi, there is one foul word I think.


Ok, now the facts:

  • The Black Sox scandal involves the 1919 World Series game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds
  • 8 players accepted bribes, or were in some way party to, the White Sox throwing the games to the Reds
  • The players involved – who were banned for life – Eddie Cicotte, Oscar Felsch, Arnold Gandil, Joe Jackson, Fred McMullin, Charles Risberg, George Weaver, Claude Williams
  • Joe Jackson in the song is described as going into pop music – this is most certainly not true
  • Arnold Rothstein was most assuredly the big bankroll behind the job
  • Kennisaw Mountain Landis was the commissioner of baseball who sorted all of this out and banned the players from baseball

Hope you enjoyed this little foray into sports and gangster history.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winner of Georgette Heyer Birthday Giveaway

Good evening everyone!  Hope this has been a fun/productive/exciting/relaxing weekend for you all.  I managed to get a decent amount done despite having to work on Saturday.  Anyway, we are all here to see who won the Georgette Heyer birthday giveaway. 

Out of the 100 entries one stands as the winner.  And that winner is….


Congrats!!!  I hope you enjoy the books!  I have sent an email out to the winner, and if I don’t have a response within 5 days a new winner will be selected.  Thanks to everyone who entered!


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Audiobook Review: Rothstein by David Pietrusza


Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza
Unabridged, 13 hr. 47 min.
Blackstone Audio Inc.
Grover Gardner (Narrator)
May 27, 2004
goodreads button

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library

History remembers Arnold Rothstein as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series, an underworld genius. The real-life model for The Great Gatsby's Meyer Wolfsheim and Nathan Detroit from Guys and Dolls, Rothstein was much more—and less—than a fixer of baseball games. He was everything that made 1920s Manhattan roar. Featuring Jazz Age Broadway with its thugs, speakeasies, showgirls, political movers and shakers, and stars of the Golden Age of Sports, this is a biography of the man who dominated an age. Arnold Rothstein was a loan shark, pool shark, bookmaker, thief, fence of stolen property, political fixer, Wall Street swindler, labor racketeer, rumrunner, and mastermind of the modern drug trade. Among his monikers were "The Big Bankroll," "The Brain," and "The Man Uptown." This vivid account of Rothstein's life is also the story of con artists, crooked cops, politicians, gang lords, newsmen, speakeasy owners, gamblers and the like. Finally unraveling the mystery of Rothstein's November 1928 murder in a Times Square hotel room, David Pietrusza has cemented The Big Bankroll's place among the most influential and fascinating legendary American criminals.

I have always been fascinated with the notorious gangsters of the early 1900’s America – it probably stems from my criminal justice degree background. I also have always loved reading about the period of the 1920s and 30s – all the glitz and glamor. This book has both of those qualities and was absolutely packed with random tidbits and facts.

Rothstein is one of the most fascinating characters of this period – he had his hands in every piece of the pie from gambling, to rum running, fixing sports events, and much more. All of these aspects are covered in detail in individual chapters of this book. We get into the mind of Rothstein and understand how he saw the world. He lived the high life of 1920’s New York and we are privy to all of that. And just because of Rothstein died in 1928 does not mean his story ends there – Pietrusza takes us on a wild ride of the investigation into his murder.

There is an extensive epilogue which follows the life stories of every character, even the minor ones. I appreciated this information for the major characters that were very instrumental in Rothstein’s life; however the passing characters I could have done without their eventual life stories. I began to lose interest as the epilogue ran on. I spent more time wondering who the people were that he had talked about. Additionally, throughout the book when we would encounter new and important figures, the author would frequently take a tangent to tell us the story of this other characters – which sometimes took me away from my interest in Rothstein. However, it was helpful at times to flesh out the world that Rothstein moved in. So it was a love-hate relationship for me.

Overall I learned a great deal about this man, and while I can’t admire him for obvious reasons, I’m blown away by his mind and how he was able to accomplish all of these things without ever being caught for any of it. It also has given me the inspiration to read more on other notorious gangsters.



The narration and audio presentation of this book was well done, but relatively standard. There isn’t really anything that I can complain about for it, but was not totally memorable either.

If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out listening to this excerpt of the book? Or take a listen to this sample (links to Audible):

Play symbol 85x85 

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by David Pietrusza:

1920: The Year of the Six Presidents

1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon

1948: Truman’s Improbably Victory and the Year that Transformed America

silent cals almanak
Silent Cal’s Almanack

1932: The Rise of Hitler & FDR

Judge and Jury
Judge & Jury

Calvin Coolidge

Find David Pietrusza: Website | Twitter  

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mailbox Monday #115


Just another quick and belated Mailbox Monday this week (I apologize for the lack of quality posts lately, school is keeping me exceedingly busy!).

I received 1 book this week – a beautiful hardcover copy of Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shulmer from the publisher.  I am excited about this book.  Here is the blurb:

A captivating debut that imagines a passionate friendship between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, when they were young and exploring the Nile in 1850.

Before she became the nineteenth-century’s heroine, before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert traveled up the Nile at the same time. In reality, they never met. But in award-winning author Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, they ignite a friendship marked by intelligence, humor, and a ravishing tenderness that will alter both their destinies.

On the surface, Nightingale and Flaubert have little in common. She is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. He is a notorious womanizer, involved with innumerable prostitutes. But both are at painful crossroads in their lives and burn with unfulfilled ambition. In Enid Shomer’s deft hands, the two unlikely soulmates come together to share their darkest torments and fervent hopes. Brimming with adventure and the sparkling sensibilities of the two travelers, this mesmerizing debut novel offers a luminous combination of gorgeous prose and wild imagination, all of it colored by the opulent tapestry of mid-nineteenth century Egypt.


Did anything awesome arrive in your mailbox this week?


Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of August it is being hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Winner of America's Favorite Historical Couple Contest

Hi everyone,

Before I announce the winner of the America's Favorite Historical Couple contest, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you all the wonderful answers posted to the question - Who is your favorite historical couple?

The couple gaining the most votes - as I expected - was John and Jacqueline Kennedy.  They seem to be the  darlings of historical couples.  The runner up was John and Abigail Adams - of all the Presidential couples they seem to get the most coverage.  Other notable couples were: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, George and Martha Washington, and Jefferson and Varena Davis.  All very good, and very interesting choices.  My personal choice would be James and Dolley Madison.

And the winner of the copy of Marrying Up is...Rhonda!  Her nomination was Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Congrats Rhonda and thanks everyone for entering!  I have sent out an email to the winner - please respond with your mailing information within 5 days or another winner will be selected.

Don't forget the contest for a grab bag of 3 books by Georgette Heyer is still on until August 18th.

Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, August 10, 2012

Audiobook Review: Jefferson’s War by Joseph Wheelan

jeffersons war

Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror 1801-1805 
by Joseph Wheelan
Unabridged, 12 hr. 10 min.
Blackstone Audio Inc.
Patrick Cullen (Narrator)
June 17, 2005
goodreads button

Genre: Historical Non-fiction

Source: Downloaded audiobook from my local library

“Author Joseph Wheelan has marvelously captured the story of America’s war against the Barbary pirates, our first war against terror and the nations that support it. The Barbary pirates, a Muslim enemy from Tripoli, attacked European and American merchant shipping with impunity. Jefferson ordered the U.S. Navy to Tripoli in 1801 to repel "force with force." The Barbary War was also a proving ground for such young officers as William Bainbridge, Stephen Decatur, Isaac Hull, and David Porter, key players in the impending War of 1812 against Great Britain.”

The title of this book caught my attention – did anyone else know that the United States had a war on terror prior to the current one? I sure didn’t. I also knew a scant amount about the Barbary pirates, and what I did know was certainly much more current than the early 1800’s. While I was initially concerned that the title might just be drawing on current events, this book was quite interesting and informative.

This is a war that I was never taught about in school, and I think I can safely assume that many others haven’t either. The United States and many other ocean-faring countries of Europe faced the real threat that the Barbary pirates would attack their ships, take their cargoes, and potentially kill members of their crew or take slaves/prisoners. The United States was the first country to really flex its military muscle when it had enough of paying bribes to these pirate nations. Many of the great military naval heroes of the War of 1812 earned their stripes during these Barbary wars.

This book also read very much like a novel. It felt like an adventure story – you have exotic locales, daring acts of heroism, and anticipation. It was also something where I didn’t know what the outcomes would be – something I don’t usually get too often. The main focus was not so much on Jefferson, but we do learn about his feelings toward the pirates and his policy actions. I certainly think that this is an event that more people should know about and this book provides great information on the subject while still being an enjoyable read.



The narration of this book was very well done. The narrator was able to incite excitement and anticipation in the listener and led to an enjoyable listening experience.

You can listen to a sample from the book below (links to Audible):

Play symbol 85x85

Reviews of this book by other bloggers: 

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

Also by Joseph Wheelan:

mr adams last crusade
Mr. Adams’s Last Crusade

bloody spring
Bloody Spring

terrible swift sword
Terrible Swift Sword

libby prison breakout
Libby Prison Breakout

jeffersons vendetta
Jefferson’s Vendetta

their last full measure
Their Last Full Measure

invading mexico
Invading Mexico

midnight in the pacific
Midnight in the Pacific

Find Joseph Wheelan: Website 


Copyright © 2012 by The Maiden’s Court