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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Reading Stats

I know that some people have said lately that they don’t feel the desire to do a year end summary.  I am not one of those people.  I actually like taking a look back to see how my reading stacked up against previous years and seeing what I can learn about myself from it.  So here are some raw reading stats from this year:



PAGES READ: 10,727


TYPE OF BOOK: (some may overlap)

  • Hardcover: 2
  • Paperback: 18
  • ARC: 32
  • Audio: 23
  • E-Book: 10

GENRE: (may overlap)

  • Historical Fiction: 39
  • Young Adult: 4
  • Contemporary Fiction: 4
  • Romance: 4
  • Non-fiction: 10
  • Mystery: 3
  • Fantasy: 2

SETTING: (may overlap)

  • England: 8
  • France: 3
  • Italy: 1
  • Scotland: 2
  • Ireland: 1
  • Spain: 1
  • Germany: 2
  • America: 28
  • Ancient Greece: 2
  • Ancient Egypt: 1
  • Fantasy: 1
  • Middle East/Africa: 2
  • China: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Russia: 1
  • Open Ocean: 2




Janet Evanovich (2)

Well, I read fewer books this year and fell dreadfully short of my goal of 70.  I don’t know what it is about 70 but I can’t hit it no matter what I do.  The closest I have come was 67 and 68 three years in a row.  This year I didn’t hit 60.  So I thought that even if I hadn’t read as many books, it was because I had read longer books, especially on audiobook.  But that was simply not true too.  I read on average 3,000 less pages than any year since I began keeping track, and my listening hours were virtually equivalent.  I will just have to chalk it up to taking a little more time for family and friends since getting engaged.

In terms of what I have actually read though – I read much more widely in terms of settings.  I finally crossed that invisible Asia barrier that has held me back previously and read a couple.  I also thought I read a lot more President/First Lady and non-fiction than I actually did.  I am guessing that because they were VERY long reads they felt like I read more of them.

And authors most read was sort of a wasted category this year.  There was only one author that I read more than one of their books, and that was Janet Evanovich (with two books), who has been on this list each year.

Ok, so what were my favorite reads this year?  Well I don’t have a top 10, but here are some of my favorites in no particular order:

  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  • Turncoat by Donna Thorland
  • Roses by Leila Meacham
  • The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
  • The Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle
  • Tatiana and Alexander by Paullina Simons

And here is what I am looking forward to most in 2014 – that I know of at least so far:

  • Somerset by Leila Meacham
  • The Rebel Pirate by Donna Thorland
  • The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki
  • The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott
  • Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton
  • The Girl on the Golden Coin by Marci Jefferson

I also have put together a Pinterest board with a complete list of books I’m looking forward to in 2014.

To change up the year-end summary a little bit this year, I found a few survey questions from The Perpetual Page Turner that I wanted to address to round out my reading experience.

Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

Well, the books I recommended most often this year, I didn’t read this year (that honor would go to The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak to any and every one that asks me for a recommendation). However, if pressed, I did recommend The Turncoat by Donna Thorland.

Best series you discovered in 2013?

The Northwest Passage series by John A. Heldt. So far the series comprises of: The Mine, The Journey, The Show, and The Fire (I have only read the first two books so far).

Favorite new-to-me author discovered in 2013?

Michelle Diener. I have read Banquet of Lies but have a couple more to read now!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?


The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton. This cover is SO atmospheric and fits the story perfectly!

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

A little bit of a toss-up. The book I read this year that I waited the longest to read was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I started to read the book over 10 years ago and I only got around to actually reading the whole book this year. I am surprised that I let it remain outstanding for so long. However, the book that I was most excited about reading and I can’t believe I put it off because it was so good – was Roses by Leila Meacham. The one good thing is I didn’t end up having to wait long for the prequel!

Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

The Tudor Conspiracy by C. W. Gortner! Hands down!  Love anything he writes!

Best 2013 debut you read?

Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle. Great book!

I’m looking forward to 2014.  Hoping for a little more on the reading front than 2013, however I have a feeling it might end up being very similar.  What was 2013 like for you in terms of reading?


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Challenge Wrap Up

Well, since I know I’m not going to have any more challenge updates this year, I feel safe in doing the wrap-up early.

First, lets look at the challenges I entered and what my success was:

2013 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge Hosted by Historical Tapestry.  No surprise here, I completed this one, way early.  I needed 25 for the Ancient History level and ended up with 36.

Nicholas Sparks 2013 Reading Challenge Hosted by The Book Vixen.  Well, I completed it, but just barely.  I entered the First Date level and needed to read 1-4 books.  I completed just one, and that was in January 2013.  I didn’t read any more after that.  So technically a success.

2013 Ebook Challenge Hosted by Workaday Reads.  I set myself a goal of 10 books (CD level) which I figured would be some amount of a challenge since I don’t read a whole lot on my Kindle yet.  However, I did read exactly 10 books this year on my Kindle, so success!

War Through the Generations: American Revolution Hosted by War Through the Generations.  The American Revolution is my favorite war to read about.  So I picked the Dip level to read 1-3 books.  I successfully read 3 books set during the American Revolution period.

2013 Audio Book Challenge Hosted by Teresa’s Reading Corner.  This one was the big surprise for me.  I only managed 23 (and a half) – the goal was 25.  I think this is the first year I haven’t finished this challenge.  I think the difference this year is that the books I chose to listen to on audiobook were much longer than previous years.

I also participated in The Four Month Challenges hosted by Book Drunkard.  I never anticipate finishing these, and I didn’t, so I’m not too concerned about that one.

Overall, I did MUCH better at the challenges than I had thought I did.  I have been really bad this year at updating anything related to challenges, whether on my own challenge pages or on the actual hosted websites.  I have just been SO busy at working on all the other aspects of my blog that I haven’t had the time to keep on top of it.  I think that 2014 is going to be the year of much fewer (or no) challenges.  I hesitate to eliminate challenges all together, but I might pick just one or two next year.  If there is a good topic for the War Through the Generations I might sign up for that one, we will see. 

2014 is going to be VERY busy for me.  We have my fiancé's veterinary school graduation is May and then starting a new job, we are getting married in June, and then moving etc.  So I need to keep the commitment level low in the challenge category.

What was your challenge success this year?  How do you handle reading challenges?



Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review: By Royal Command by Laura Navarre


By Royal Command by Laura Navarre
ARC, E-book, 274 pages
Carina Press
July 2, 2012

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received for review via Netgalley

“Two brothers. One woman. Three hearts at war.

Katrin of Courtenay's husband is dead--and she doesn't mourn him. He was cruel and controlling, and she doesn't need a husband to hold her northern keep. But her vengeful uncle, the King of England, has other ideas: intent on marrying her off, he's ordered his Viking-bred warrior to return her to court.

On the journey, the Viking captures her interest, and for the first time Katrin understands passion. But her guard is honor-bound to deliver her to the king, and so it is settled--she must wed the mysterious Rafael le Senay, the Baron of Belmaine.

A forced marriage to a stranger slowly becomes something more, and Katrin realizes she is in love with Rafael. But with the shadow of her former lover hanging over her, and Rafael's powerful brother making dangerous plans, can Katrin negotiate the delicate balance between survival and happiness?”

This was one of the few truly historical romances that I have read, and based on previous experiences I expected to find a lack of real character development, lots of sex/passionate embraces, and the historical aspect only as the setting. Well, I was truly surprised with this novel, even though the 274 pages felt like 500.

The novel is set prior to the Norman Conquest of England with the Vikings raiding the shores and the countryside in turmoil. Historical events were peppered throughout as well as historical personages. Beyond this, there is a true feel for the atmosphere and way of life.

The characters were well crafted and had defined personalities. Despite the opening line of the book blurb, it really wasn’t the stereotypical two brothers and the woman caught in the middle unable to choose between two equally great men. There was an issue between two brothers, and she was torn between two men, but that doesn’t exactly go together. I was actually happy with the way the story progressed and wasn’t the cookie cutter storyline. In terms of dialogue, some of the lines that the characters came out with were repetitive and annoying.

In reference to my above comment about how the short novel felt at least twice the length – it wasn’t that the plot dragged or that it was not exciting. I think it was more of the fact that there was really a lot going on that made it feel much longer in the reading of it.

The romance was well done – there were sex scenes and passionate chaste scenes. However, they didn’t just fall into each other’s arms every second; there was a build-up of drama and passion which felt very natural. Overall I was very happy with this read and I would consider reading her other novels – although, truthfully, the reason I chose this one was because it was set in Saxon England and I LOVE that time period.

Author Laura Navarre also has written a couple other historical romances including: The Devil’s Mistress, The Devil’s Temptress, Magick by Moonrise, and Midsummer Magick. You can visit Laura’s website or blog for additional information about the books. 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:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mailbox Monday #161


The second to last scheduled Mailbox Monday of 2013 – and I went a little Netgalley crazy this week (all 4 are from Netgalley).


This weeks selections are primarily set in the United States and evenly split between fiction and non-fiction.

  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jennifer Chiaverini – this is the sequel to Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker.  I’m very interested in this one, because I didn’t realize that she had a rival.
  • Revolutionary by Alex Myers – this is the one that I actually began my Netgalley search for (which resulted in all these books).  This novel focuses on Deborah Sampson, a woman who posed as a man to fight in the American Revolution.  I remember reading about her in school and when I heard about this book on Reading the Past, I had to get it.
  • War and Gold by Kwasi Kwarteng – This is a non-fiction.  War and gold have pretty much gone hand in hand throughout time.  I look forward to what this book puts forth.
  • Sex and the Founding Fathers by Thomas A. Foster – Another non-fiction, looking at the romantic and familial relationships of America’s Founding Fathers.

And now that is it for me, what about you?


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Very Belated Giveaway Winner Announcement!


First, my apologies for this very belated giveaway winner announcement.  I guess I just totally spaced it. 

Anyway, the winner of The Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift is …. Kim Cree!!!  Congrats!

I have already emailed the winner, if there is no response within 5 days, a new winner will be selected.

Thanks to everyone that entered the giveaway!


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review: Founding Rivals by Chris DeRose

founding rivals

Founding Rivals by Chris DeRose
Unabridged, 9 hr. 41 min.
Tantor Audio
Adam Verner (Narrator)
April 23, 2012

Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography

Source: Downloaded audiobook from Audible

“In 1789, James Madison and James Monroe ran against each other for Congress—the only time that two future presidents have contested a congressional seat.

But what was at stake, as author Chris DeRose reveals in Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, the Bill of Rights, and the Election That Saved a Nation, was more than personal ambition. This was a race that determined the future of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the very definition of the United States of America.

Friends and political allies for most of their lives, Madison was the Constitution’s principal author, Monroe one of its leading opponents. Monroe thought the Constitution gave the federal government too much power and failed to guarantee fundamental rights. Madison believed that without the Constitution, the United States would not survive.

It was the most important congressional race in American history, more important than all but a few presidential elections, and yet it is one that historians have virtually ignored. In Founding Rivals, DeRose, himself a political strategist who has fought campaigns in Madison and Monroe’s district, relives the campaign, retraces the candidates’ footsteps, and offers the first insightful, comprehensive history of this high-stakes political battle.”

While I know a lot about James Madison, I know comparatively virtually nothing about James Monroe prior to his presidency. In Founding Rivals, DeRose takes a look at these two figures in the lead up to their presidencies and how they truly became rivals in politics. These two men were Founding Fathers of the Constitution and the formation of the early government of the United States.

These men were not always rivals; early on they were colleagues until their political ideologies began to differ. This would ultimately lead to their competition with each other for the same Congressional seat. It was interesting to get into the mindset of politics of the time and see how different politicking is today.

This book just barely touches upon their presidencies – the primary focus is their early days in politics and military. It is designed to give you a build up to their Congressional competition and place these men in their respective situations. While not a presidential biography, read in association with a strict presidential biography this book lends a lot to the discussion and understanding of these men.



This wasn’t a poorly produced audio production, but it was a book that probably would have worked better in print. There were stretches that were a little boring to listen to, tedious details and such. There were two very interesting scenes that stood out in the audio – a stormy night when the Virginia delegates were hearing and discussing the Constitution as well as the campaigning for the Congressional seat.

Author Chris DeRose also has written two other presidential themed books: Congressman Lincoln and The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them. You can visit the author’s blog for additional information about the books.

It might be interesting to note, there was a little scandal surrounding the publishing of this book. Apparently the author failed to attribute some statistical data to another author who had previously published a similar book. Attributions have since been made, but it made for an interesting read, since we discuss plagiarism in the blog world all the time.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mailbox Monday #160


I have a long mailbox this week, mostly because I absolutely forgot about it last week!  Check out my haul!  Also, FYI, links in titles below go to the Goodreads pages – so you can see the book blurbs etc.


I told you there were a lot!

I purchased a few of these via various discounts over the last couple weeks:

  • Love at any Cost by Julie Lessman (picked up for free via Kindle).  This is the first book in Lessman’s The Heart of San Francisco series.  While I haven’t yet read any of her books, I have a few scattered throughout her 3 series – as they come up on sale I pick up a copy or enter giveaways.  Love the cover.
  • A Light in the Window by Julie Lessman (picked up for $0.99 via Kindle).  This a prequel, Christmas story related to the Daughters of Boston/Winds of Change series’. 
  • Roma by Steven Saylor (audiobook purchased from Audible).  This was technically purchased for my fiancé, but I will likely get a listen to it as well – so you might see two reviews of this one, or a dual review!  The way I perceive this book is this – take Edward Rutherfurd’s style in New York, however place it in Rome.  Looking forward to it.
  • 1812: The Navy’s War by George C. Daughan (audiobook purchased from Audible).  I have always found the War of 1812 to be intriguing, so when I saw this one, I had to get it – especially when it was only $4.99!  This is a non-fiction.

The other three books I received for review – and I’m super excited about one in particular!:

  • The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey (received for review from publisher).  I was excited by this one with the subtitle, A True Gothic Mystery.  Ok, I’m game!
  • The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith (received for review from author).  I have a thing for re-imaginings of fairy-tales.  This one has Snow White looking back on things following the death of her husband on the eve of her daughter’s wedding.
  • Somerset by Leila Meacham (received for review via Netgalley request).  OK, I’m super excited about this one!  It took a couple months for the publisher to get back to me regarding my request – and I had essentially given up on receiving it, but I got it and I’m SOOOO excited.  I loved Roses and from some of the other bloggers I have talked to and have similar tastes with, it is even better than Roses!!! Can’t wait to read it!

Ok, so that is it, but it was a pretty awesome haul! Don’t you say?  How was your book haul this week?


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: Pompeii by Robert Harris

Good morning everyone! I have a change from the norm for you today. My fiancé has finally found some time to read again now that he has taken his veterinary boards and has started reading some historical fiction - particularly set in Ancient Rome. Here is a guest review from him today - hope you enjoy it!

Pompeii by Robert Harris
Paperback, 304 pages
Random House
November 8 2005 
★★★★ ½☆

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Personal Collection

"Along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire's richest citizens are relaxing in their villas, enjoying the last days of summer.  But while the gorgeous weather belies impending doom, only one man is worried.  The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to the people around the Bay of Naples.  There is a crisis ib Augusta's main line - somewhere north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius - and Attilius must repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry.  His plan is to organize an expedition in Pompeii, then head to the place where he believes the fault lies.  But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt, violent town, and Attilius discovers that there are powerful forces at work - natural and otherwise - threatening to destroy him."

When I first picked up Pompeii, I was unsure if I would enjoy it.  I could imagine the plot already:  volcano erupts, everyone dies, the end.  I figured there wasn't much meat that Harris could put between the covers to hold my attention.  However, I was happily surprised.  Instead of focusing on the obviously impending volcanic eruption, Harris writes a first person account of a new aquarius.  As aquarius, Attilius is tasked with managing and maintaining Rome's expansive systems of aqueducts.  It is a respected profession and one that does not carry much danger, which is how Attilius likes it.  This changes, however, when he discovers a sulfurous smell to the water in the aqueduct.  No one really know what this means.  Most think it is an omen or cause to sacrifice to one god or the other.  In fact, not many people really realize what volcanoes are or why periodic earthquakes are so common in the region.  This is where the tragedy of the story ultimately lies and what serves to build up the tension until the eruption finally occurs.

With the exception of the protagonist, most of the characters in Pompeii don't seem to be completely fleshed out. There is the love interest, the antagonist, and the loyal friend.  Attilius, however, has more depth.  There are many different threads of the story that never seem completely connected until the very end.  Though the set up was interesting, the last forty-five pages or so (when the magma hits the fan) is really where the magic happens.  Harris's depiction of history and science is very exciting to read.

My biggest criticism of the novel was that it gave me an ever present feeling that I read it before.  It took me a little while to realize that it is because the plot seems almost identical to almost any two-star Hollywood disaster movie:

1.  Everyone is oblivious to an inescapable disaster that will destroy them
2.  One man (usually an expert in a related field) holds the key to the future
3.  The people in power do not believe the protagonist until it is too late
4.  The hero gets the girl in the end and everyone who doubted him is destroyed

If you've seen one, you've seen them all

Does this make Pompeii a bad book?  I don't think so.  I like it for all the same reasons I like movies like Volcano and Dante's Peak.  They aren't the cream of their respective crops, but they are a fast paced guilty pleasure that you don't need to think too much about.  For a serious literary masterpiece, you may want to look elsewhere.  However, if you want a fun diversion from the norm, I suggest giving Pompeii a try.

Author Robert Harris also has written Imperium and Conspirata among others. You can visit author’s website for additional information about the book. 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:

Here are some of my favorite options for purchasing this book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and R.J. Julia (my favorite Indy bookstore).

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Virtual Tour of Historic Wethersfield, Connecticut

historic wethersfield sign

It is always interesting when various parts of life come together. One of the things I had found interesting while reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond was discovering that it took place in Wethersfield, Connecticut, which has never been more than an hour from anywhere I have lived and is about 10 minutes from where I work. Every day on my way home I pass a small sign that says “Welcome to Historic Wethersfield” – and never thought anymore about it. I assumed it was just one of those historic districts that pepper New England where there are a few old houses that have a plaque on them and that are now privately owned. However, Historic Wethersfield is a little bit different – you can actually tour several of the historic houses, visit the historical society, and learn a thing or two. I learned all of this from one of my friends who actually toured the area around Halloween. So, while I haven’t been there yet, here is a little virtual tour of Historic Wethersfield.

Wethersfield is one of the oldest towns in Connecticut – hence the importance of the historic nature of this town. It was settled in 1632, just a few short years after the founding of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Visitor’s Center

If you plan on visiting Historic Wethersfield you probably should start out at the visitor’s center to gather your bearings. There is a free parking lot here and you can pick up some maps and information before setting out. There is also a gift shop – which might be worth checking out before heading back to your car after you are done with your day.

Historical Homes and Places

  • Open Spaces – Broad Street Green and Cove Park are public open spaces that you can visit at your leisure. The Broad Street Green used to be a grazing place for local animals and the Cove, which is now a public boat launch, used to house various shipyards. If it is a beautiful day you could consider picnicking on the Green or aboard your boat in the cove.
  • Cove Warehouse – this is the current site of the Wethersfield Historical Society maritime exhibit and how appropriate a location. The warehouse was one of likely many that participated in the West Indies trade. This trade is exactly what characters in The Witch of Blackbird Pond engaged in. $1.00 admission for adults and free for children.

cove warehouse

  • First Church – Built in 1764 this beautiful church still holds services every week. If you are interested in architecture, a look around might suffice. If you want the authentic church experience, you may want to sit it on a service. The church is a Congregational Church.


  • Burying Ground – One of the areas that I always find most interesting is burial grounds. The old tombstones can be so beautiful. Tours of this location are available, especially during the Halloween season. There is an online digitization project of the burial ground which you can check out even if you can’t visit the site. Among other things, there is an interactive map with index of burials.
  • Houses to Tour – The Hurlbut Dunham House, Buttolph-Williams House, Webb Deane Stevens Houses, and the Francis House are all open at various times for touring. Each have their own nominal fees. They are all stellar examples of colonial homes. However the one of most interest to literary fans is the Buttolph-Williams House, because this house was the home where Kit resided in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. They actually speak about the book during tours of the house. Many of these homes host events based on seasonal activities etc. – currently several are dressed for the Christmas season.

wethersfield houses

From L to R: Francis House, Hurlbut Dunham House, Buttolph-Williams House, Webb Deane and Stevens Houses

Don’t want to actually go to any of the museums? That’s ok – take a stroll down the main street and just “window shop” the old buildings and actually shop in some of the local stores (here is a list of some of the stores). Or take in a meal at a restaurant.

You can read more about Historic Wethersfield or plan your trip by visiting their website. If you want to set up a walking tour for your group/family or find one to join up with you can check out the various tours they offer. Yankee Magazine put together a visually beautiful photo collection of the historical district you might be interested in checking out.

This is one of those places that I have to visit, especially because it is so local. Have any of you been to this location?


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

witch of blackbird pond

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Unabridged, 6 hr. 24 min.
Listening Library
Mary Beth Hurt (Narrator)
November 7, 2003

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Downloaded the Audio from my Local Library

“Orphaned Kit Tyler knows, as she gazes for the first time at the cold, bleak shores of Connecticut Colony, that her new home will never be like the shimmering Caribbean island she left behind. In her relatives' stern Puritan community, she feels like a tropical bird that has flown to the wrong part of the world, a bird that is now caged and lonely. The only place where Kit feels completely free is in the meadows, where she enjoys the company of the old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond, and on occasion, her young sailor friend Nat. But when Kit's friendship with the "witch" is discovered, Kit is faced with suspicion, fear, and anger. She herself is accused of witchcraft!”

I remember starting to read this book several times when I was a kid; however I never made it very far because something else would come up and I would put it down and forget about it. The next time I picked it up I would start at the beginning again…you can see where this is going. So I finally decided I was going to actually read this book this time – and since I didn’t remember anything about the book, I’m glad that I started at the beginning again.

The other really cool thing, which, again, I didn’t realize the first times I tried to read it, is that the book is set literally less than 3 miles from where I work. Reading about historic Wethersfield, CT lead me to find out that there is actually a historic district that you can go visit and tour etc. More to come on that later. I never realized that this area I drive through almost daily was a historic area that people actually came to visit – a new outlook on life!

The plot of this book was very intriguing. It is set a few years prior to the witch trials of Salem that everyone thinks of, but you can certainly see how the panic could come to a head. I think that the novel is really, at its heart, about the fear of those who were different, and not necessarily because they performed witchcraft – although that was certainly the case in some instances. Kit was a very distinct example of how this fear of those who are different could escalate and become quite dangerous. Nowadays we realize (sometimes) that people from different places bring different ways with them. In Blackbird Pond, Kit comes to Connecticut from Barbados, and it is a starkly different life that the local Puritans do not understand. She gets herself into a lot of sticky situations by just trying to be herself.

The characters were ones that I could really like. No one was truly bad, everyone had their flaws. There were some times that I found Kit very idealistic and a little annoying, but I think that was just the overemphasis of how different she was from those around her.

The plot was fast paced, with something always happening. Like I said, Kit gets herself in a bunch of tight spots. The climax and resolution were well done. It was a fun read really showing the dynamic difference between life in Puritan New England and island Barbados.



The narration of this book was well done. The narrator provided distinctly different voice styles for the local Puritans of New England and Kit with her Barbados style. It was very easy to know who was speaking at any one time.

Author Elizabeth George Speare also has written The Sign of the Beaver, The Bronze Bow, and Calico Captive, among others. 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:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Book Review: The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel


The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
Book 2 in Earth’s Children series
Unabridged, 21 hr. 46 min.
Brilliance Audio
Sandra Burr (Narrator)
September 14, 2004

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded the audio from my local library

“This unforgettable odyssey into the distant past carries us back to the awesome mysteries of the exotic, primeval world of The Clan of the Cave Bear, and to Ayla, now grown into a beautiful and courageous young woman.

Cruelly cast out by the new leader of the ancient Clan that adopted her as a child, Ayla leaves those she loves behind and travels alone through a stark, open land filled with dangerous animals but few people, searching for the Others, tall and fair like herself. The short summer gives her little time to look, and when she finds a sheltered valley with a herd of hardy steppe horses, she decides to stay and prepare for the long glacial winter ahead. Living with the Clan has taught Ayla many skills but not real hunting. She finally knows she can survive when she traps a horse, which gives her meat and a warm pelt for the winter, but fate has bestowed a greater gift, an orphaned foal with whom she develops a unique kinship. One winter extends to more; she discovers a way to make fire more quickly and a wounded cave lion cub joins her unusual family, but her beloved animals don’t fulfill her restless need for human companionship. Then she hears the sound of a man screaming in pain. She saves tall, handsome Jondalar, who brings her a language to speak and an awakening of love and desire, but Ayla is torn between her fear of leaving her valley and her hope of living with her own kind.”

I loved Clan of the Cave Bear a lot and having read from a lot of people that many of the other books in the series were not as good, I waited a little while to pick this one up. And while I will admit that this was not as good as the first book, it wasn’t all that bad either.

I think I was the most disappointed in the fact that the entire book is not about Ayla’s adventures. That was one of the things that I loved about Cave Bear. Reading the book blurb it sounds like the focus is again going to be Ayla and that she will eventually meet a man at some point in the novel. However, early on the book is divided into Ayla’s story and Jondahlar’s story. Jondahlar is one of the “Others”. While it was interesting learning their ways in comparison to the ways of “The Clan” – I just did not find myself really all that interested in Jondahlar and his friends. I always wanted to get back to Ayla’s story.

I knew however, that these two storylines would eventually come together with Jondahlar and Ayla meeting. Knowing this, I was disappointed with how they actually met – it felt too rushed and contrived. Seeing them get to understand each other was entertaining, but I swear that if Jondahlar described Ayla as beautiful one more time I might have screamed.

Overall, the story was good. I think a little less Jondahlar and a little more Ayla would have made it better. Also, some scenes could have been abbreviated and more effective. I still will be reading the rest of the series but have lowered my expectations just a little bit.



The narration was fairly similar to how the narration was in book one (same narrator). I think that the production was improved upon, and I found the narrator’s voice easy to listen to.

Auel also has written 5 other books in the series: The Clan of the Cave Bear #1, The Mammoth Hunters #3. The Plains of Passage #4, The Shelters of Stone #5, and The Land of the Painted Caves #6. You can visit Auel’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this audio excerpt of the book?

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mailbox Monday #159


Another Monday, another mailbox.  This week all my books came in electronic form and were requested by me.  And interestingly, 3 of the 4 are set in ancient settings (to some extent).  The remaining book is my other favorite setting – the American Revolution!  Also, FYI, links in titles below go to the Goodreads pages – so you can see the book blurbs etc.


  • The Healer of Carthage by Lynne Gentry (kindle copy via Netgalley).  I haven’t read anything set in Carthage or dealing with Carthage, and this one sounds sort of like a time travel book too.
  • Pyramid of Secrets by Tracey L. Higley (kindle copy purchased from Amazon).  I have had my eye on Higley’s Seven Wonders series for awhile.  You may remember that I picked up Isle of Shadows recently also from this series.  This one is the second book in the series about the pyramids.  Note: This was previously released under City of the Dead. 
  • Marduk’s Tablet by Tracy L. Higley aka T.L. Higley (kindle copy purchased from Amazon).  Not from the Seven Wonders series, but partially set in the ancient Babylon, partially in modern day.
  • The Traitor’s Wife by Allison Pataki (kindle copy via Netgalley).  Earlier this year I enjoyed a book I read about Benedict Arnold and his wife, Peggy Shippen, was a smaller role in that novel.  Pataki gives Shippen the novel treatment here.  Plus I LOVE the American Revolution.

So what did you get this week?

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of November it is being hosted by I Totally Paused.


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

A divided inheritance

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift
Paperback, 544 pages
October 24, 2013 (UK Release)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Received from review from publisher

“London 1609…

Elspet Leviston’s greatest ambition is to continue the success of her father Nathaniel’s lace business. But her dreams are thrown into turmoil with the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane – who has his own designs on Leviston’s Lace.

Zachary is a dedicated swordsman with a secret past that seems to invite trouble. So Nathaniel sends him on a Grand Tour, away from the distractions of Jacobean London. Elspet believes herself to be free of her hot-headed relative but when Nathaniel dies her fortunes change dramatically. She is forced to leave her beloved home and go in search of Zachary – determined to claim back from him the inheritance that is rightfully hers.
Under the searing Spanish sun, Elspet and Zachary become locked in a battle of wills. But these are dangerous times and they are soon embroiled in the roar and sweep of something far more threatening, sending them both on an unexpected journey of discovery which finally unlocks the true meaning of family . . .”

This book took me a little longer to finish than I might have liked – It look me a lot time to get into the story. I really wasn’t into it until about two-thirds of the way through. I think what just didn’t work for me were the characters - I didn’t really like any of the characters through most of the novel. I think Elspet is supposed to be the sympathetic protagonist, but for the most part I found her wilting and boring. Zachary was more interesting – probably because he actually did something, his true nature was hidden for quite some time, and he had an intriguing personality. In the end they all evolved a little bit and I ended up liking both of them more than through most of the book. 

The setting is well done – I could feel the heat of the Spanish sun and the blacksmith shop. By comparison, England was dreary and sad. I think that maybe this mirrors the attitudes of events that occurred in the two places?

The plot was sort of a plodding pace for most of the book. Again, once the two-thirds point came around the various plotlines began coming together and it was a more cohesive story and the pages just moved by. The ending was satisfying, although not what I would have ultimately wanted.

I liked the book, but wouldn’t say that I loved it. I enjoyed The Gilded Lily MUCH more.

Author Deborah Swift has written these additional books: The Lady’s Slipper and The Gilded Lily. You can also visit Deborah Swift’s website or one of her blogs for additional information about the books.

My reviews of other books by this author:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon UK.

A Divided Inheritance Tour Banner FINAL

You can follow along with the rest of the blog tour by visiting the HFVBT website or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #DividedInheritanceTour.

This is a re-post of the giveaway I originally posted on the In-Process Review.  The giveaway is for one paperback copy of A Divided Inheritance and it is open INTERNATIONALLY!  Make your entries through the Rafflecopter below.  Last day to enter is November 24th.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Interview with Kerryn Reid

Good morning everyone!  Hope you are having a wonderful week thus far.  Today I have the wonderful opportunity to share with you an interview with author Kerryn Reid.  And…this is her first interview as a new author!  So help me welcome Kerryn and read on!


Learning to Waltz is your debut novel – what has the writing process been like for you?  Anything that has surprised you or differed from your expectations?

I had no expectations, so it’s all been a surprise. Dialogue was surprisingly easy, structure surprisingly difficult. My biggest mistake? I completed my first draft before I ever started learning how to write a novel.

Is writing something that you always had plans to do or something that arose more recently?

When I was in high school, I helped my dad proofread the galleys for one of his books. I was fascinated by that process, and thought how much fun it would be proofread a book of my own. And it would NOT be some boring treatise on the history of the Constitution! But I didn’t think again about writing until my own kids were in high school. I won’t tell you how long ago that was! 

Your novel is set in the Regency period – what about this period drew you to selecting it as your setting?

I think I could enjoy writing about nearly any period in history. But I grew up reading Regencies and felt I had a good handle on the tropes, the language, the social conventions – and maybe I did, in a general sense. But it’s amazing how much I did not know! Since Regency readers are all experts, I look forward to hearing about the mistakes I made.

When writing Learning to Waltz, did you work from an planned outline or was it more of an as you went sort of thing?

I like the word “organic”. It started with one image, and an opening sentence that doesn’t exist anymore. (In fact, the first three chapters are gone!) And I knew it would have a happy ending, even before I knew it had to if it wanted to be a romance. I learned later on how helpful an outline might be, when my timeline got all messed up. So I’m approaching my next book differently. There’s no outline per se, but several pages of notes on characters and plot points. And yes, a fairly detailed timeline. I’m also intrigued by the idea of writing a synopsis early on to serve as a road map. But I haven’t done it yet, because I hate writing synopses!

I know you just got your first novel under your belt, but do you have any other plans to write more in the future?

I do! I’ve made a good start on #2, a tale of brotherly hatred. And there are several other ideas percolating. Unfortunately I’m not a fast writer, but patience will be rewarded. I hope to give you many more opportunities to host me on your wonderful blog, Heather! ;-)

Kerryn Reid

Kerryn grew up the daughter of a professor in a New England college town. But her mother was a devotee of ‘Olde’ England – its antiques, mystery novels and vacation opportunities. As a girl, Kerryn spent a year in England and another in Ireland, with several shorter trips for good measure. While on a hitchhiking tour around Ireland at seventeen, she roamed the Rock of Cashel in the dark with her first love, a local Irish lad. Totally illicit, totally romantic!

She’s lived in Florida long enough to feel like a native. That’s where she wrote the first sentence of Learning to Waltz in 1999, when her sons were in high school. Years later she joined two local writing groups and realized how much she had to learn. That first sentence? It’s not there anymore.

As her literary skills have evolved, so has Kerryn’s life. Her boys have left the nest, and come home, and flown away again. She lost her parents, and acquired an awesome daughter-in-law. Her dogs are different, but they’re still dogs. And the love of her life is still right there, trimming the hedges and thinking up tag lines. He’s not Irish, but he’s amazing!

You can find Kerryn at the following sites:

Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, November 18, 2013

Mailbox Monday #158


Welcome to another edition of Mailbox Monday!  What did you get in your mailbox this week?

I pretty much have the rest of November and December open for free reading/catching up on overdue reviews/etc. and that of course is a wonderfully freeing feeling!  I always try to give myself a little breathing room toward the end of the year because there are always all kinds of things that come up etc.  I picked up a couple books over the last few weeks anyway (couldn’t resist!).


  • Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir (NF – downloaded through Netgalley).  I haven’t yet had the chance to read any of Weir’s NF, although I have a few.  This one is on a subject I don’t know too much about.
  • Dear Abigail by Diane Jacobs (NF – downloaded through Netgalley).  Thanks Amy for pointing this one out to me.  This is the first biography to focus on Abigail Adams and her sisters and the relationships therein. 
  • Blood of Tyrants by Logan Bierne (NF – downloaded through Netgalley).  A book about George Washington and how the position of president came to be.
  • Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (NF – audio downloaded from publisher).  I really enjoyed the previous book from Goodwin about Lincoln and company (which the movie was made from) and I am interested to see her take on TR.
  • Becoming Josephine by Heather Webb (downloaded from Netgalley as part of HFBRT tour).  Finally some fiction!  I met Heather Webb when we were both panelists at the HNS conference this summer and am excited to read her first novel about Josephine, Napoleon’s wife.

And that’s it!

Mailbox Monday is on a monthly blog tour and for the month of November it is being hosted by I Totally Paused.

Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Few Giveaway Winners


I know I am WAY WAY behind at posting up some of these giveaway winners.  My apologies for the delay, things just kept coming up that got in the way.  So here they are without further delay:

  • Anvil of God by J. Boyce Gleason goes to…Lisa H!
  • Banquet of Lies by Michelle Diener goes to…Amy C!
  • Illuminations by Mary Sharratt goes to…Laura K!
  • **Update** – I have to announce a new winner having been selected for Illuminations.  Laura K already won a copy of the book elsewhere, so the new winner is Maureen C!

  • The Confessions of Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey goes to…Svea!

    Congrats to everyone!  I hope you all enjoy your books. 

    I have sent emails out to everyone requesting addresses.  If I don’t receive the information I will select new winners as appropriate.

    Thanks for the great participation everyone!


    Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

  • Weekend Cooking: New England Clam Chowder

    Weekend Cooking

    It is that time of year now when soups are the thing to make, and nothing screams Massachusetts in the fall/winter like New England Clam Chowder.  It seems everyone around here knows this as when I was at the seafood counter buying my clams, the man asked “are you making a chowda?” – yes, we are somewhat near Boston! 

    I have made many versions of New England Clam Chowder (and as yet to try my hand at the Rhode Island or Manhattan varieties), but this one comes from a new cookbook I picked up a month or so ago.  It is from Mystic Seaport, the New England museum of the sea and maritime exploits.  The book is called Mystic Seafood, and it is chock full of great sounding recipes and lots of history of the area, photographs, and fishing, etc.

    So here are a couple historical tidbits about clams:

    • Did you know it took until around the 1800’s for clams to become a popular food in New England? This was because they were perceived as food only for the Native Peoples and the colonists would only eat them if there was nothing else!
    • The quintessential New England summertime activity of a clam-bake was given a history of being a peaceful gathering that occurred between Natives and colonists.  This is purely romanticism – see previous bullet point. 

    mystic seafood

    New England Clam Chower
    Makes 5 servings, 1 cup each

    2 pounds cherrystone or littleneck clams
    2 cups water
    2 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
    2 tablespoons butter, divided
    1 cup yellow onion, chopped
    2 cups potato diced into ½ inch cubes
    1 12-oz can evaporated skim milk
    1 cup half-and-half or light cream
    1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
    1 teaspoon white pepper
    ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

    1) Rinse the clams thoroughly to remove dirt/grit.  Bring water to a boil and add the clams.  Steam until they open, approximately 7-9 minutes.  Drain the clams into a bowl through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.  Reserve the broth.  When clams are cooled, remove from shells and chop coarsely.

    2) In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium until the fat is rendered and bacon is crisp.  Remove from pot and drain on paper towels.  Crumble, chop, and drain pot.

    3) Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pot and add onion.  Sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add potatoes and stir to coat.  Cook for another 2 minutes.

    4) Add 1 ½ cups of the reserved broth and simmer until potatoes are soft, 10-12 minutes.  Add the clams and bacon and simmer another 3 minutes.

    5) Add the evaporated milk and half-and-half or light cream.  Add the salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.  Heat thoroughly, but do not boil.  Float the remaining 1 tablespoon button on top.  Serve hot.

    FYI – I forgot to photograph my soup.  This photo, from Food Network, most closely resembles my soup.

    This wasn’t necessarily my favorite version of this soup.  It wasn’t as creamy as I am used to.  The broth had the consistency of a Rhode Island chowder, except made with milk.  I think if I make this version again I would want to try to thicken the broth using a roux of flour and butter. 

    The cookbook notes that condensed milk was most commonly used in older chowder recipes because fresh milk wasn’t frequently available.  That could also be the different with this recipe than from others I have made.  I have never made it with a condensed milk before – always with cream and milk. 

    It was by no means a bad soup, it just wasn’t my favorite version.  It was chock full of potatoes and clams though and did have a nice flavor.  My fiancé wasn’t a fan of the fact you use whole clams, he has an aversion to clam bellies, and there were a couple pieces that I did pick out that looked gross.

    Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Any post remotely related to cooking can participate.


    Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    New Book Alert: Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat


    by Liza Perrat
    Paperback, 324 pages
    Perrat Publishing
    ISBN: 2954168129
    October 17, 2013

    Book Blurb:

    “Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.

    1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.

    When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.

    As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.

    Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.

    A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.”

    You can read a sample of the book or listen to a podcast about the book.

    You can visit the author’s website for additional information.

    Here are some choices for purchasing the book: Amazon, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


    Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court