Friday, October 29, 2010

Fun Friday & Giveaway Winners! - Day #5

Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel by Michaela MacColl

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Released: October 13, 2010

I love doing the last post in the week as it's always full of fun times & I get to announce the winners!

I've included a few pictures of people or places you will find throughout the book Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl.

Princess Victoria by Henry Collen 1836

London's Great Fire Monument (I can't imagine jumping from this!)

Kensington Palace (though I got the impression it wasn't as nice looking as this back in 1836)

Windsor Castle (which I desperately want to visit one day!)

(drum roll please).....AND THE WINNERS ARE......

Carrie (book)
Vicky (bookmark)
Spav (bookmark)
Taylor (bookmark)
Myra (bookmark)

Check your email guys, and thanks to everyone for playing!

I hope you enjoyed the week & go check out Prisoners in the Palace this weekend :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet Liza from Prisoners in the Palace - Day #4

In Michaela MacColl's debut, Prisoners in the Palace, Liza's luxurious life came to a halt when her parents were killed in a carriage accident, leaving her an orphan. Now homeless and with debts to pay, she acquires a job as a maid to Pricess Victoria - but with a catch, she must also act as a spy! I hope you enjoy this interview with Liza!

Your luxurious lifestyle and expecting to join society must have made becoming a maid hard to swallow. What was the toughest part?

The sleeping arrangements were definitely my most difficult obstacle! I was used to feather beds and sheets of silk. My bed at Kensington Palace was lumpy and I was always cold. You never realize how much you take for granted just being warm! I wrapped myself in my mother’s Kashmir shawl just to keep the chills away. Even the lack of a private bath pales in comparison to my nightly struggle to find a comfortable spot to sleep.

Do you think you and the Princess would have become friends had you met up different circumstances (assuming she was allowed out of course!)

What an amusing question, as Victoria might say. I do think we would easily have been friends if our ranks were equal. We had very much in common. We both love fashion, music and the theater. We could dance the night away at balls and fall madly in love with tenors at the opera. So long as we did not discuss matters of social policy or anything too intellectual, we could be close confidantes. And as a lady should never be too political or intellectual, Victoria’s company would be excellent discipline for me not to get unladylike ideas!

Why do you think it took so long for Elizabeth to stand up for herself?

Many young women from my background never learn to stand up for themselves. It is actively discouraged by the adults who try to safeguard us. If my life had gone according to plan, I would have been handed from my father’s care into my husband’s. It was fate’s intervention that gave me the opportunity to learn what inner strength I might draw upon. It helped that I first learned to stand up for others before myself.

Do you plan to visit, the now Queen Victoria, in the future?

Of course I do! After all we went through together, how could I resist seeing her in all her royal glory? I hear that she will leave Kensington Palace, so I’ll have to visit her in the new palace at Buckminister. I must also confess to being wildly curious as to how Victoria will handle all that power! She’s not accustomed to making her own decisions. I hope she makes good ones, not just for her own sake but for the nation’s.

If you could say one thing to Simon now, what would be it be?

Hmmm. I think perhaps I would tell him to think twice before he is seduced again by the promise of wealth and rank. Just because the aristocrats seem to have everything in life they could ever want, the truth may be very different. It doesn’t pay to envy your betters.

Today is the last day to enter the giveaway...Click here to enter!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Interview with Michaela MacColl - Day #3

I hope you are enjoying learning more about Prisoners in the Palace! Today on the blog is an interview with the author, Michaela MacColl. If you haven't already, don't forget to click on the giveaway link at the end of this post.

You have a background in history. Was being an author something you always dreamed of?

I fell into history accidentally through literature. I was reading a fabulous edition of Russian fairy tales when I needed to declare a major. I ended up designing an independent program that looked at the end of the Russian Empire and the beginning of the Soviet one from many different disciplines. To the extent that I thought about the future, I saw myself as a professor. However, two years of graduate school killed that dream! I found that to get a PhD, you had to take all the fun out of the history. Happily, I found a way to put it back in!

One of the surprises I found in your author's note was the existence of Inside Boy Jones (although portrayed differently in your book). What fascinates you the most about Inside Boy?

The 1830’s in pre-industrial England were a grim time for the poor. The very limited social safety net, poor houses, had been dismantled by a thrifty government. Instead, they put the burden on the local parishes. If you were born in Surrey, it was Surrey’s job to take care of you if you were indigent. (Sound familiar?) Of course the parishes weren’t equipped to do this and a lot of people ended up desperate.

Inside Boy is a quintessential London Cockney, who lives by his wits, both in real life and in Prisoners in the Palace. He’s found an ingenious way to let the monarchy pick up his bed and board. I found the idea of a clever character who was intimately familiar with both the streets of London and the drawing rooms of the Royal family fascinating. He has a unique perspective and specialized skills that my heroine, Liza, is quick to make use of.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

It’s a tough question, because I like my creature comforts! However, if I had to choose, I would probably pick Elizabethan England. To see Shakespeare performed as it originally was or to see the Spanish Armada sink – that would be a blast! And if I could fast forward, I think I would love to visit Prince Albert’ s Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Crystal Palace.

My BFF and I plan to one day tour the castles in Europe. Have you ever been so lucky to visit?

I lived in France for almost four years with my husband, first in the south of France and then in Paris. We had just gotten married and we didn’t have kids yet. We traveled every weekend – Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany – we went everywhere and toured as many castles as I could bully my husband into visiting. My favorite isn’t a castle, it’s the Abbey at Mont St. Michel in Normandy – put it on your list! Twice a day, the sea sweeps in and cuts it off from the mainland. Very romantic and spooky!

For Prisoners in the Palace I went to London to visit Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle. It was so important to the final book’s credibility. Of course, I had to rewrite huge chunks that I had already written to reflect what I saw.

Are you working on anything new?

I’m putting the finishing touches to my next novel, tentatively titled “ Beryl Above Africa” (I’ m almost certain that this will not be the title!). It’s about Beryl Markham, who was one of the premier female aviators of the 1830’s. She grew up in Colonial Africa when it was just being settled. Beryl was raised by the African tribe who worked for her father and she learned to hunt lion and was mauled once. She grew up to be the first to fly the Atlantic from East to West. Although she crashed, she survived to write a wonderful memoir called West Into the Night.

Thanks so much for stopping by Michaela! Don't forget you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Click here to enter!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fact vs. Fiction - Day #2 Prisoners in the Palace

I'm excited to have Michaela on the blog today talking about the fact vs. fiction and how her debut, Prisoners in the Palace came to be. Please give a warm welcome to Michaela :)

When I began writing Prisoners in the Palace, I started with biographies. Victoria is one of the most heavily biographed women in the world (!!!) so there are a lot to choose from. But my task is easier because I concentrate on her childhood, usually only a chapter or two in most biographies. Within those chapters, I looked for nuggets to start me thinking… and that’s where the story comes from. The nuggets in this case were the restrictions on her childhood and the dreaded Kensington System which was what her education regimen was called. Since I’m a parent of teenage girls myself, I knew that the life Victoria led would be intolerable to my kids. But the everyday details of her life were fascinating too because they are at once so similar and so different to our lives today. The way I described her schooling, the music she studied, the tutors she had, what she ate, her daily toilette, etc. are all based on fact.

Another nugget was about broadsheets. It turns out in the 1830’s you could print anything you wanted on broad sheets of paper and sell them on the street. They were often used to promote political agendas. When Victoria was Queen, more than one was addressed to her and designed to influence her thinking – much like we might see a full page ad in the New York Times today. I began to think about how dangerous this kind of publicity could be… and my plot emerged.

The challenge writing about a public figure is that you cannot alter the known facts just because it would improve the story. I can’t make Victoria 20 just because I feel like it. Although one of my critique partners insisted it would be amazing if Victoria snuck out of Kensington Palace and had adventures in London, I had to (regretfully) hold my ground. There was no way that someone as protected as she was could ever have slipped away for any length of time. So I created a character, Liza, who could be close to Victoria but who had the freedom to leave the palace. Liza is a ladies’ maid, and I portrayed her life as accurately as I could, based on my research about servants to the aristocracy. The fate of poor Annie, the maid whose place Liza takes, was also based on research about the working poor of London at the time.

It’s ironic that some of the most useful research about this time in London can be found in literature. Dickens and Thackeray were great sources for language and social mores. One of my favorite research tools was a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool. Another amazing tool is a website called run by Lee Jackson (an author of Victorian mysteries). He has assembled a massive full-text indexed amount of literature and commentary about Victorian London.

Thanks so much Michaela! Don't forget you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Click here to enter!

About the book:
London, 1836. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery and treason above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on new interpretations of history, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.
Interested in reading the first chapter? That's easy, click here!

You can find out more about Michaela on her: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter

Monday, October 25, 2010

It's PRISONERS IN THE PALACE week on the blog! (Giveaway)

It is my pleasure to have a week of Prisoners in the Palace on the blog. I really enjoyed Michaela's story of Liza, a maid to Princess Victoria in London, 1838 especially since I have recently been sucked into the world of historical fiction. Each day this week we will have something devoted to the book: character interviews, an author interview and more!

About the book:
London, 1836. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery and treason above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?

Meticulously based on new interpretations of history, this riveting novel is as rich in historical detail as Catherine, Called Birdy, and as sizzling with intrigue as The Luxe.
Interested in reading the first chapter? That's easy, click here!

About the author:

Michaela attended Vassar College and Yale University. She earned degrees in multi-disciplinary history. Unfortunately, it took her 20 years before she realized she was learning how to write historical fiction. Her favorite stories are the ones she finds about the childhood experiences of famous people. What happened that helped them to be great? Michaela has two daughters so she's hoping to identify those moments firsthand. She and her family live in Connecticut, but she will travel at the drop of hat to do local research. So far her travels have taken her to London and Florence and Amherst, Massachussetts. A trip to Shanghai, China is in the works. Prisoners in the Palace (Chronicle, October 2010) is her first book.

You can find out more about Michaela on her: website, blog, Facebook, Twitter

...and thanks to Michaela & her publisher, Chronicle, you have a chance to win a copy of Prisoners in the Palace or one of 5 bookmarks:) Please leave a comment and fill out the form below!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hardcover, 427 pages

Released: October 19th 2010

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described as anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away, and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch, or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?
My Rating: 3.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Crescendo was my top "must read, can't wait for book of 2010" so you may want to take my review with a grain of salt...I had super high expectations, last year I fell in love with Hush, Hush (click for review).

In Crescendo, Nora and Patch are together, and her crazy side-kick Vee is dating...Patch's best bud Rixon. Sounds great right? Wrong. This book is filled with new characters & many twists and turns as Nora comes closer to understanding who she is and what happened the night her dad was murdered.

Nora's character is much stronger in this book, she is not as dependant on Vee to do everything for her. Vee, whose fun/silly/crazy antics in Hush, Hush had me wishing I had a friend like that, just came off as annoying and way too anti-Patch in Crescendo. Add to this, the connection between Patch & Nora being strained for most of the book. I must say I really missed the Patch I loved in Hush, Hush!

Crescendo gives us insight into Nora's background, why her dad was murdered and we are told of a trouble that is brewing. Besides the introduction to a secret society, it was really only the last 50 or so pages that finally sucked me in. I'm not sure of the correct way to put this, but it seems to suffer the Curse of the Trilogy...I would suggest reading this book knowing you will get some answers, be left with more questions (a cliff hanger ending, of course!) & consider it a bridge book to get us to the guts of the story in the next book.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Hardcover, 528 pages

Publisher: Atheneum

Published: August 31st 2010
Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.
My Rating: 4.5 / 5

My Thoughts:

Who would have thought weaving Poe into a story about a goth and a cheerleader would work & not be cheesy! I came into reading this book with high expectations; ratings have been great & reviews keep calling this a favorite read. I, however, didn't read the reviews & had no idea what I was getting myself into - other than thinking this was going to rock! I would suggest that you read some Poe prior to jumping into the book (The Raven and The Masque of the Red Death) so that you can see just how brilliant Kelly is at executing a story that parallels Poe's dark, twisted & eerie style.

This is not paranormal fluff! It is dark & gloomy paranormal, I may even go as far to say it verges on a fantasy read as world's collide, the lines between reality & dream blur, even Shadows and Noc's attack! Although to me the pace was slow, the originality won me over big time. Isobel is a great lead character, a cheerleader but not snobby & not one to follow the crowd. Varen (sexy name and... Raven word play!), there is so much to learn about him, you really can't help but feel for this guy. I must add another great feature is that the main characters were not stereotypical (her overbearing ex, the football player was a tad bit). The secondary characters were a nice addition. I can't wait to learn more about her quirky locker buddy and new found friend, Gwen, and Nikky, well I hope to see a change in her & see more support for Isobel.

A fascinating debut by Kelly that really raises the bar on YA fiction. Loved this for it's originality and can't wait for more in the trilogy.

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading? October 4, 2010

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week. Feel free to join in this weekly event if you'd like as well as use the picture above. Thanks Sheila for hosting!

Last week:
I finished & reviewed Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and Zombies vs. Unicorns. I also reviewed The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
which still puts a smile on face just thinking about it :)

I started Nevermore by Kelly Creagh (click for the goodreads link)

This week:
Finish up Nevermore & write a few reviews of books that are way overdue!

What are you reading?


Thanks to everyone who entered the Ook & Gluk giveaway!

*drum roll please* the winner is.....


I've emailed you, please reply in the next 48 hrs.

Happy Monday everyone :)