I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Cover Reveal: The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

Hi everyone!  I love looking at book covers (even if we don’t tend to see them as often these days because of e-books); I even feature some of my favorite book covers in a Cover Crush series.  So, in that vein, I love helping to promote cover reveals.  Today I am featuring the reveal of The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack. 

So, let’s check out what this cover looks like!!

thumbnail_02_The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
eBook & Paperback, 320 pages
Picador USA
Genre: Fiction/Romantic Suspense

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While this is not a straight historical fiction novel, the mysterious nature does revolve around something that happened in the ancient past.

Book Blurb:

Semele Cohen appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, specializing in deciphering ancient texts. And when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.

The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the cards? As the mystery of her connection to the manuscript deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Brossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?

The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Brossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.

Pre-Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Copyright JennKL Photography

Originally from Houston, Texas, Gwendolyn Womack studied theater at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She holds an MFA in Directing Theatre, Video and Cinema from California Institute of the Arts. Her first novel, The Memory Painter, was an RWA PRISM award winner in the Time Travel/Steampunk category and a finalist for Best First Novel. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband and her son.

Find Gwendolyn Womack: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: A Song of War by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield, Stephanie Thornton, and S.J.A. Turney

02_A Song of War

A Song of War: A Novel of Troy
by Kate Quinn, Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Russell Whitfield, Stephanie Thornton, and S.J.A. Turney
ARC, e-book & paperback, 428 pages
Knight Media, LLC
October 18, 2016
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories

Source: Received for review with HF Virtual Book Tours

Troy: city of gold, gatekeeper of the east, haven of the god-born and the lucky, a city destined to last a thousand years. But the Fates have other plans—the Fates, and a woman named Helen. In the shadow of Troy's gates, all must be reborn in the greatest war of the ancient world: slaves and queens, heroes and cowards, seers and kings . . . and these are their stories.

A young princess and an embittered prince join forces to prevent a fatal elopement.

A tormented seeress challenges the gods themselves to save her city from the impending disaster.

A tragedy-haunted king battles private demons and envious rivals as the siege grinds on.

A captured slave girl seizes the reins of her future as two mighty heroes meet in an epic duel.

Grizzled archer and a desperate Amazon risk their lives to avenge their dead.

A trickster conceives the greatest trick of all.
A goddess' son battles to save the spirit of Troy even as the walls are breached in fire and blood.

Seven authors bring to life the epic tale of the Trojan War: its heroes, its villains, its survivors, its dead. Who will lie forgotten in the embers, and who will rise to shape the bloody dawn of a new age?

When I heard that the H Team was going to be coming out with a collection about the Trojan War as best known from The Illiad, I was ecstatic. The first two collections that they released, A Day of Fire and A Year of Ravens, were top reads for me in their respective years – so I knew this one would be good. Secondly, while I haven’t read The Illiad, I LOVE The Odyssey and looked forward to reading more related to this storyline. And finally, I loved seeing that Stephanie Thornton was taking part this time as I have enjoyed all of her novels set in the ancient world.

First I want to talk a little about each story before discussing the collection as a whole.

The Apple by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn had potentially one of the most difficult sections of this greater story arc; not only does her story set the scene and tone for the rest of the book, but there also isn’t a lot of action here as the whole thing is just beginning. For the most part, I think she did an admirable job. We meet the majority of the characters that will be fleshed out later in the book, particularly the significant sons of Priam, King of Troy. I quickly disliked Paris and found Hector to be among my favorite characters throughout. There was a complete story arc present here and there was a pretty great confrontation scene toward the end. I appreciated the dual narrators of Andromache and Hellenus because they gave us both the male and female insight into the wedding activities of Odysseus and Penelope and all of the behind the scenes drama that ensued. This story also takes place in the Achaean lands and we are introduced to the life in Sparta, which contrasts starkly with the life in Troy.

The Prophecy by Stephanie Thornton

Stephanie Thornton brings us into the world of Troy, however from a somewhat limited perspective of Cassandra. Seeing as she has visions of the future, you might wonder why I say she is limited – this is due to the fact that no one listens to her and she leads a very lonely existence within the palace at Troy. Cassandra is often viewed as a mad-woman, but her presentation here really makes you question whether she is mad or the world around her is. Cassandra is dark and tormented and such a different character than the majority that we will see in this book. This chapter, even more than the first, made me really dislike Helen; she is not some woman who just sits around and lets things happen to her, she causes havoc on her own.

The Sacrifice by Russell Whitfield

Russell Whitfield bounces the reader back to the Achaean camp and presents us with an Agamemnon that I felt a little sorry for. As we are seeing his life and this war through his own eyes it helps to humanize him a little bit as he makes sense of what he is doing. One of the things that helped me like him a little bit was how he was presented against Achilles. The two of them are very different people, present themselves in different ways, and approach war from entirely opposing perspectives. Whitfield makes us feel with Agamemnon for all the stress of being the high king in a war full of heroes. While I didn’t like him, I understood him better.

The Duel by Christian Cameron

This was a section of the story that made me quite sad as it is the duel between Achilles and Hector. This is so full of passion and action. I disliked Achilles, he is so full of pride, but he has been hurt to the core during this war too. On the other hand, I loved Hector; he was even-keeled, disliked Helen and Paris for bringing all this destruction with them, but is a powerful warrior. The battle between these two iconic men of their respective sides was a scene I couldn’t tear my eyes from. Despite this being a vastly masculine story element, it is seen from the eyes of a female perspective of Briseis – someone who was once a Trojan but has come to love Achilles, which gives her an interesting perspective. A powerful, powerful story.

The Bow by Libbie Hawker

This is another scene told from a dual perspective spanning the two camps: Penthesilea of the Amazons and Philoctetes. Philoctetes was another one of the characters that I loved in this novel, while Penthesilea was one that I wasn’t a huge fan of. With Penthesilea I didn’t feel like I really knew much about her at all. She wasn’t a character that I had been introduced to previously in this book and she just shows up full of grief. I think I would have liked to have known more about what her life was like prior to arriving at Troy; we see glimpses of it, but I felt a little cheated in getting to know her, unlike the other characters. I didn’t care about the choices she made or what would happen to her, but her battle with Achilles was powerful and a game changer for his character. Speaking of Achilles, Philoctetes influenced him in a different way and vice versa. He was a friend and fellow hero, and he loved Achilles even when it didn’t appear to have been reciprocated. He was extremely refreshing, especially contrasting with Penthesilea who I did not enjoy as much.

The Horse by Vicky Alvear Shecter

I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved the character of Odysseus as written here by Vicky Alvear Shecter! He showed up in several of the chapters in just small doses and I enjoyed each of those moments for the wit of his character and his wiles in the face of the other heroes who were all about direct battle. In his own chapter I was treated to even more of the fun of this man. His manner of speech was oftentimes hilarious and I loved his interactions with Diomedes. Based on her writing of this character I would LOVE to see her take on an interpretation of The Odyssey as I think I would really enjoy her presentation of him taking on all of his epic struggles to get home. In this story, Odysseus brings us closer to the ultimate fall of Troy, and while I found myself identifying with the Trojans more, I couldn’t help but cheer every time Odysseus succeeded where many expected him to fail. Best story of the collection in my opinion, hands down.

The Fall by S.J.A. Turney

As with the opener, Turney has one of the difficult sections in that everything needs to be tied together, and I think that was accomplished here. Aeneas is one of the last of the Trojans and he has been in and out of chapters since the first one so I was happy to have a face closing it out that I knew and actually liked. I think it had to be a truly likable character here because you needed to feel the pain of the fall of Troy. Aeneas exemplifies that not only in what he loses but also because he tries so hard to keep the inevitable from happening, even when he knows it will happen anyway. It leaves the reader with some hope, a slight positive note in a serious chapter. Many of the characters we have gotten to know throughout the novel (those still alive anyway) make some recurrences here and everything felt in place.


Most of these stories worked well and I loved seeing some fan favorites but also some characters that were new to me as well; it helped keep a very old story new and fresh. I had always identified with the Greeks in retellings of this story, but here I found myself favoring the Trojans – it’s amazing what a gifted writer can do with your emotions! I loved digging into some of the deeper history around this time too, much more than you get from Homer and I thought that leaning Troy more toward the way of the Near East was more realistic than toward the Greeks and it helped to create a little line of friction between the two sides. As I stated before, Odysseus in the hands of Shecter blew me away and I find it hard to believe that she struggled to write him as he appears flawless.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

Also by the H Team:

The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following books:

day of fire

A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
[My Review]

year of ravens

A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion
By Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
[My Review]

Find The H Team: Facebook

Follow the Tour!

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HFVBT Website
On Twitter: # ASongofWarBlogTour #HTeam

Tour Wide Giveaway!

To win a paperback copy of A Song of War: A Novel of Troy by the H Team, please enter via the Gleam form below.  Please note, if you have questions to contact the HFVBT coordinator as I am not involved with this giveaway.


  • Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
  • Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
  • Only one entry per household.
  • All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
  • Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

Good luck!

A Song of War

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wish List 5: Microhistories


Once a month I am planning on sharing with you all 5 of my biggest wish list books broken up by theme. I know that you all need more on your TBR!!! This month's theme focuses on microhistories.  If you don’t know what a microhistory is it is a non-fiction intensive focus on a singular event or person.  This idea came up based on my recent reading of Pox Americana, a microhistory focused on the smallpox epidemic during the American Revolution.  So, here are 5 more at the top of my list.

Extra-Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller

extravirginityThe sacred history and profane present of a substance long seen as the essence of health and civilization.
For millennia, fresh olive oil has been one of life's necessities-not just as food but also as medicine, a beauty aid, and a vital element of religious ritual. Today's researchers are continuing to confirm the remarkable, life-giving properties of true extra-virgin, and "extra-virgin Italian" has become the highest standard of quality.

But what if this symbol of purity has become deeply corrupt? Starting with an explosive article in The New Yorker, Tom Mueller has become the world's expert on olive oil and olive oil fraud-a story of globalization, deception, and crime in the food industry from ancient times to the present, and a powerful indictment of today's lax protections against fake and even toxic food products in the United States. A rich and deliciously readable narrative, Extra Virginity is also an inspiring account of the artisanal producers, chemical analysts, chefs, and food activists who are defending the extraordinary oils that truly deserve the name "extra-virgin."

Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky

paperFrom the New York Times best-selling author of Cod and Salt, a definitive history of paper and the astonishing ways it has shaped today’s world.

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce and art. It has created civilizations, fostering the fomenting of revolutions and the stabilizing of regimes. Witness history’s greatest press run, which produced 6.5 billion copies of Máo zhuˇ xí yuˇ lu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong), or the fact that Leonardo da Vinci left behind only 15 paintings but 4000 works on paper. Now, on the cusp of “going paperless”—and amid rampant speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society—we’ve come to a world-historic juncture to examine what paper means to civilization. Through tracing paper’s evolution, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the history that guides us forward in the twenty-first century and illuminates our times.

Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse by Eric Jay Dolin

brilliant beaconsSet against the backdrop of an expanding nation, Brilliant Beacons traces the evolution of America's lighthouse system from its earliest days, highlighting the political, military, and technological battles fought to illuminate the nation's hardscrabble coastlines.

Beginning with "Boston Light," America’s first lighthouse, Dolin shows how the story of America, from colony to regional backwater, to fledging nation, and eventually to global industrial power, can be illustrated through its lighthouses.

Even in the colonial era, the question of how best to solve the collective problem of lighting our ports, reefs, and coasts through a patchwork of private interests and independent localities telegraphed the great American debate over federalism and the role of a centralized government. As the nation expanded, throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so too did the coastlines in need of illumination, from New England to the Gulf of Mexico, the Great Lakes, the Pacific Coast all the way to Alaska. In Dolin's hands we see how each of these beacons tell its own story of political squabbling, technological advancement, engineering marvel, and individual derring-do.

In rollicking detail, Dolin treats readers to a memorable cast of characters, from the penny-pinching Treasury official Stephen Pleasonton, who hamstrung the country's efforts to adopt the revolutionary Fresnel lens, to the indomitable Katherine Walker, who presided so heroically over New York Harbor as keeper at Robbins Reef Lighthouse that she was hailed as a genuine New York City folk hero upon her death in 1931. He also animates American military history from the Revolution to the Civil War and presents tales both humorous and harrowing of soldiers, saboteurs, Civil War battles, ruthless egg collectors, and, most important, the lighthouse keepers themselves, men and women who often performed astonishing acts of heroism in carrying out their duties.

In the modern world of GPS and satellite-monitored shipping lanes, Brilliant Beacons forms a poignant elegy for the bygone days of the lighthouse, a symbol of American ingenuity that served as both a warning and a sign of hope for generations of mariners; and it also shows how these sentinels have endured, retaining their vibrancy to the present day. Containing over 150 photographs and illustrations, Brilliant Beacons vividly reframes America's history.

Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink that Conquered the World by Charles A. Coulombe

RumRum has never been more popular than it is today. There are more than 1500 rum labels bottled in more than forty countries around the world, and rum now gives vodka serous competition as the mixer of choice.- Following the model of Cod, each chapter ends with recipes for rum-based drinks and dishes that are historical in focus.- The final chapter explores the differences between the varieties of rum, with an emphasis on the historic reasons for them.



Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail by Stephen R. Bown

scurvyScurvy took a terrible toll in the Age of Sail, killing more sailors than were lost in all sea battles combined. The threat of the disease kept ships close to home and doomed those vessels that ventured too far from port. The willful ignorance of the royal medical elite, who endorsed ludicrous medical theories based on speculative research while ignoring the life-saving properties of citrus fruit, cost tens of thousands of lives and altered the course of many battles at sea. The cure for scurvy ranks among the greatest of human accomplishments, yet its impact on history has, until now, been largely ignored.

From the earliest recorded appearance of the disease in the sixteenth century, to the eighteenth century, where a man had only half a chance of surviving the scourge, to the early nineteenth century, when the British conquered scurvy and successfully blockaded the French and defeated Napoleon, Scurvyis a medical detective story for the ages, the fascinating true story of how James Lind (the surgeon), James Cook (the mariner), and Gilbert Blane (the gentleman) worked separately to eliminate the dreaded affliction.

Scurvy is an evocative journey back to the era of wooden ships and sails, when the disease infiltrated every aspect of seafaring life: press gangs "recruit" mariners on the way home from a late night at the pub; a terrible voyage in search of riches ends with a hobbled fleet and half the crew heaved overboard; Cook majestically travels the South Seas but suffers an unimaginable fate. Brimming with tales of ships, sailors, and baffling bureaucracy, Scurvy is a rare mix of compelling history and classic adventure story.

Looking for some other microhistories that I have read?  Give these a try!


                 Salt                   Pox Americana        A History of the World
             ★★★☆☆                ★★★½☆☆               in 6 Glasses

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

keep calm and support book bloggers


Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review: Cherished by Vivi Holt

Cherished by Vivi Holt
Book 9 in the Cutter’s Creek series
e-book, 149 pages
Black Lab Press
October 6, 2016

Heat Rating:

Genre: Historical Fiction, Western, Romance

Source: Received from the Author for Beta and Review
Camilla Brown always wanted a family of her own. But it seemed destiny had other plans. She’d begun to feel as though she'd always be in the background, helping others build their families, leaving her dreams to wilt and die. 

That is, until the handsome Winston Frank comes courting at the church picnic. But then, Sheriff Clifford Brentwood sweeps her off her feet, literally! Both men make her pulse race. Both are determined to claim her love. Only one can win her heart.

When an unexpected danger threatens her very life, Camilla will have to make a choice. Who will she choose?
Cherished is the continuation of the story of Camilla Brown that originated in her brother’s story, Betrothed. While this is technically the 9th book in the multi-author Cutter’s Creek series, you certainly do not need to have read all 8 preceding it to enjoy this book (I haven’t), but I would recommend reading Betrothed first to find out how Camilla got to Cutter’s Creek and get some backstory.

Camilla has always been the one that supports everyone else around her and hasn’t looked out for herself: her siblings back home and then later her brother and his wife and kids upon arriving in Cutter’s Creek. Once she finds that her brother is finally settled down she decides it’s time to focus on herself and finding her own man. But…then she attracts a little too much attention from the opposite sex and has to decide between two equally wonderful men.

I don’t mind the choosing between two men trope that was actually relatively well-handled, but I did feel like she had chosen the wrong man in the end, which is unusual in a romance novel as you are typically pretty sure who will be the victor in the end. Don’t get me wrong, I think that both men were worthy individuals for her heart, however, I felt that more time was spent establishing the relationship between Camilla and Bachelor #1, than her and Bachelor #2 (not trying to give away any spoilers here hence no names) so it felt a little out of left field when she didn’t choose Bachelor #1. She certainly spends a lot of time waffling between the two men, but she never actually comes up with a good reason that she decides on Bachelor #2.

I really enjoyed following the story of Sheriff Clifford and his quest to transfer a wanted criminal to another jurisdiction. That provided some interesting action sequences and I was cheering him on to succeed. Winston is a swine rancher with a successful farm, we didn’t get any action events from him, but he was very kind and caring. Camilla gets herself into quite a situation where she physically needs rescuing and both men come to her rescue making her choice all the more difficult in the end. I did however enjoy that Camilla got her own action storyline and it wasn’t just left to the men.

I would rank Cherished at an equivalent level with Betrothed, having some issues with both, but ultimately enjoying both. I love how this story fits into the larger Cutter’s Creek world and some prior characters make a return, such as Camilla’s aunt and uncle and Charlotte’s parents make a reappearance too for a mysterious reason, which I’m sure we will see more about in a subsequent book.

Buy the Book: Amazon

Also by Vivi Holt:
Mail Order Bride: Christy
[My Review]

Mail Order Bride: Ramona

Mail Order Bride: Katie
[My Review]

peaks and prairies
Of Peaks and Prairies (Book 1 of Paradise Valley)
[My Review]

Other Books in the Cutter’s Creek Series:
The Cutter’s Creek series is a loosely interconnected series of novellas that all take place in Cutter’s Creek, Montana, each written by a different author.

the healing touch
The Healing Touch by Kit Morgan (Book 1)

strong one
The Strong One by Vivi Holt (Book 2)
[My Review]

new beginning
New Beginnings by Annie Boone (Book 3)

a lily blooms
A Lily Blooms by Kari Trumbo (Book 4)

a penny shines
A Penny Shines by Kari Trumbo (Book 5)

becoming a family
Becoming a Family by Annie Boone (Book 6)

Betrothed by Vivi Holt (Book 7)
[My Review]

love is blind
Love is Blind by Kit Morgan (Book 8)

Find Vivi Holt: Amazon Page | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cover Crush: The Women in the Castle

Cover Crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

women in the castle

I saw this one pop up on a friends Goodreads feed and the cover caught my eye.  Every time I look at it I notice something else – like the airplane in the sky, which intrigues me in combination with the title because I don’t tend to think of airplanes and castles in the same sentence.  I seem to be drawn to the covers with lots of blue tones as I have noticed that I have selected several covers over the last few weeks that are blue shades. 

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week?  2 Kids and Tired Books, Bookahaulic Swede, and Layered Pages.  

keep calm and support book bloggers 

Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Pox Americana by Elizabeth Fenn

pox americana

Pox Americana by Elizabeth Fenn
e-book, 384 pages
Hill and Wang
October 2, 2002

goodreads button

Genre: History, Non-Fiction

Source: Personal purchase for my Masters class

The astonishing, hitherto unknown truths about a disease that transformed the United States at its birth

A horrifying epidemic of smallpox was sweeping across the Americas when the American Revolution began, and yet we know almost nothing about it. Elizabeth A. Fenn is the first historian to reveal how deeply variola affected the outcome of the war in every colony and the lives of everyone in North America.

By 1776, when military action and political ferment increased the movement of people and microbes, the epidemic worsened. Fenn's remarkable research shows us how smallpox devastated the American troops at Québec and kept them at bay during the British occupation of Boston. Soon the disease affected the war in Virginia, where it ravaged slaves who had escaped to join the British forces. During the terrible winter at Valley Forge, General Washington had to decide if and when to attempt the risky inoculation of his troops. In 1779, while Creeks and Cherokees were dying in Georgia, smallpox broke out in Mexico City, whence it followed travelers going north, striking Santa Fe and outlying pueblos in January 1781. Simultaneously it moved up the Pacific coast and east across the plains as far as Hudson's Bay.
The destructive, desolating power of smallpox made for a cascade of public-health crises and heartbreaking human drama. Fenn's innovative work shows how this mega-tragedy was met and what its consequences were for America.

This originated as an opinion essay for class and I have adapted it for a review, but because of this it is a little different in tone than my regular reviews.

The experience of reading Pox Americana was a very different one for me as I was not all that sure how this epidemic would relate to American history during the Revolution. I soon found myself thoroughly engrossed in the material and actually interested in learning more. Disease is always a common factor in war, but for me, the association of smallpox with history had always been regarding the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the effect of its arrival on their way of life; I had not previously considered how it might have affected the colonists and almost changed the outcome of history as we know it.

I have never read a microhistory on disease, or for that matter any type of book on disease. That has always been my husband’s area of interest and I was happy to leave that study to him; so I was more than a little hesitant about approaching a history on smallpox (remember that this wasn’t originally by choice). One thing that I appreciated early on, rather surprisingly, was the author’s fairly detailed discussion of the effects of smallpox. While disturbing, especially when reading these passages while eating lunch, it gave me a much deeper understanding of just how devastating the disease would have been to those suffering from its effects during any time period. I have never even had the chicken pox and therefore did not even have that terrible comparison to draw upon when considering smallpox previously in the limited experience I have had with the subject. It also is not a disease that exists in nature today, only in a secured laboratory, which means that I have not heard anything about the disease even in passing. While that portion of the book might have been a little bit gruesome, I found it necessary to my understanding of how devastating the disease would have been to an already hard-pressed army.

I can understand why a subject like the smallpox epidemic might not be covered in American history survey classes in high school or college. In their grand scheme of imparting the most important information on the American Revolution, it is not absolutely necessary to understand the effects of this disease on the troops. At that stage, the big names and events will serve their purpose and there is usually some general discussion of camp diseases that will vaguely touch on the effects of health on army readiness. However, for a Masters level class or for those who are deeply interested in American history, where we should already have a solid understanding of the basic points of the history, I think that Pox Americana provided another level of valuable analysis to dig deeper into why events transpired how they did and allow us to consider, even tangentially, how history might have been different if not for General Washington’s decision to inoculate the troops at Valley Forge. That decision is just as significant a turning point in the American Revolution as the outcome of the Battle of Saratoga. The rate at which smallpox was devastating the American army was placing it in a dire situation, especially when compared to the relative health of the British regulars; you could almost see the crush of the American troops coming. Knowing this, my opinion of General Washington has thus improved after having considered just how difficult of a decision it was to decide to take the chance with inoculation when so many at the time were against it and his troops so badly needed it. It is a great leader who can justify taking an immense risk as that given all the marks against it. If his great leap of faith had gone wrong, the Americans might have lost the war, but they might have lost even if he did not.

We were only required to read a couple of chapters of this book for class, but I was interested enough to pick it back up and finish the book. It explored all areas of the North American continent and it was interesting to see how the disease effected the regions differently; although I will admit that the chapters assigned were the most interesting.  Some of the later chapters became much more dry resulting in the lower rating. 

While this book was a history of a devastating disease in a localized area, it served an even greater purpose: to bring to light a chronically overlooked, but critical element in the history of the Revolutionary War. The author tells us in her introduction to the book that the outbreak of smallpox killed more people during the war years than resulted from combat with the enemy and that just as much as the war, this epidemic was a defining characteristic for many who lived through that time. Phrases like this do not suggest that the effect of smallpox on the history of the United States should be taken lightly. Disease often kills more people during wartime than the battles do, but it is often the result of many different camp diseases, not just one disease, showing just how powerful smallpox was. Additionally, for something to be a defining characteristic in someone’s life, especially during a time when there was so much change happening in the country to begin with, that means it was perceived to be of vital importance. For these reasons I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the topic and further my understanding of the myriad of elements that comprised the American Revolution years. For me, the most eye-opening aspect was the discussion on the differences between how smallpox effected the British troops versus the American troops. Not only did it help me to understand to a greater extent the uphill battle that Washington and his men were facing, but it also helped draw another distinction showing how far the Americans had come from the way of life of the Old World. Other texts have illustrated how their manner of speech had changed and customs began to differ, but nothing is as striking as their susceptibility to a common disease in their former motherland. It is even more interesting when you consider that so many of the indigenous peoples of the Americas died after first contact because of the introduction of this disease by explorers who were not affected by it and that not so many years later, the descendants of these settlers were now being attacked by that very same disease, while again the “invaders” were immune. It makes a very interesting point for further consideration.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

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

You can check out more from this author about this book on this Book TV segment.

Also by Elizabeth Fenn:

Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People

natives and newcomers
Natives & Newcomers: The Way We Lived in North Carolina before 1770



Friday, October 14, 2016

DNF Discussion: The Valley by Helen Bryan

the valley helen bryan

The Valley by Helen Bryan
Book 1 in The Valley trilogy
e-book, paperback, and audio, 607 pages
Lake Union Publishing
July 19, 2016

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Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from the publisher for review for tour

Book Blurb:

Left suddenly penniless, the Honorable Sophia Grafton, a viscount’s orphaned daughter, sails to the New World to claim the only property left to her name: a tobacco plantation in the remote wilds of colonial Virginia. Enlisting the reluctant assistance of a handsome young French spy—at gunpoint— she gathers an unlikely group of escaped slaves and indentured servants, each seeking their own safe haven in the untamed New World.

What follows will test her courage and that of her companions as they struggle to survive a journey deep into a hostile wilderness and eventually forge a community of homesteads and deep bonds that will unite them for generations.

The first installment in an epic historical trilogy by Helen Bryan, the bestselling author of War Brides and The Sisterhood, The Valley is a sweeping, unforgettable tale of hardship, tenacity, love, and heartache.

I want to first start off by saying that this is NOT a review – I did not read enough of this book to feel comfortable enough to call this a review.  I completed just about 100 pages of this 600 page book before ultimately calling it quits – and for those of you that have been with me for awhile now you know how rare that is.  In fact, it has only happened once before and that was with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which I did ultimately finish with the help of the audio version.  I did not make the decision lightly as I am one of those from the camp that intends to finish every book I begin, but this one was just a mess from the start.  Before ultimately making the decision to put the book down I was conflicted, but talking with several other bloggers who were reading it, were at a further page count than I was, and were still also struggling, I made the decision to quit while I was ahead.  So, I wanted to share some thoughts and encourage you to leave comments on your thoughts on the book if you have read it. 

My first issue was with the writing – it could use a serious editing job – and not just for small grammatical things either.  There were entire sections of the novel (even just within those first 100 pages) that could have been purged and the story would have been better for it.  There were even sentences that appeared almost word for word a couple paragraphs after they first appeared on the page, and this happened over and over.  This book quite likely had no reason to be 600+ pages.  The writing was weighed down and clunky and sentence structures were difficult on the ears, such as:

“Sophia felt herself happily in looks tonight and, observing the other girls and the fashionable ladies, saw that her own dress was much the prettiest.”

There are areas where there is a lot of detail – which would be great if it was something that mattered, rather than just superfluous  comments about how the clothing appeared. 

Quite frankly, those first 100 pages didn’t seem to matter to me at all and made no positive impression on me to keep reading.  Considering that this is a sixth of the book, I would think that by that point there should have been something in the book that mattered to the plot and I should have been made to care about what was happening.  I simply had no drive to pick up the book again.  Additionally, if I hadn’t taken notes on this while reading I would have had no recollection of what happened in these 100 pages, which tells you how much it stood out to me.  From what I gather from other reviewers, the story that was promised in the book blurb, which made me want to pick up the book to begin with, didn’t even begin to get moving for almost another 150 pages after the point in which I stopped!  So that means it was almost a third of the way through the book before it really got anywhere – which makes me glad I put it down when I did.

I still find the premise intriguing and if it went through a much more rigorous editing process I might have had a chance of enjoying it.



Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cover Crush: The Confectioner’s Tale

Cover Crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

the confectioners tale

While I haven’t read this book, my first glance at the cover makes me think that it at least serves the title well, can’t judge it about the story.  I love the soft pastel colors that make me think of iced cakes in a bakery. And I love that those same pastels are in the pastry, the atmosphere, the title, and in the decoration in the woman’s hair.  I can tell that it is likely set in France from the Eiffel Tower in the background.  A beautiful cover.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what covers my friends are crushing on today?  2 Kids and Tired Books | Flashlight Commentary | A Bookaholic Swede

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Copyright © 2016 by The Maiden’s Court