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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle


Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle
Unabridged, 10 hr. 57 min.
Random House Audio
Barrett Whitener (Narrator)
June 21, 2011

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Audible - Personal Collection

"On March 25, 1911, as workers were getting ready to leave for the day, a fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York's Greenwich Village. Within minutes it spread to consume the building's upper three stories. Firemen who arrived at the scene were unable to rescue those trapped inside: their ladders simply weren't tall enough. People on the street watched in horror as desperate workers jumped to their deaths. It was the worst disaster in New York City history."

The Triangle Fire was the worst work-place disaster in New York City prior to 9/11, however, it is another one of those important events that is little know today, just over 100 years later.  One hundred forty six people, primarily women, died in less than 20 minutes from an inferno that started from a cigarette or match which was carelessly disposed of in the workplace.  This disaster was, unfortunately, the impetus that was needed to propel workplace safety reform.  

This non-fiction treatment by David von Drehle cohesively encapsulates all of the movements, strikes, and other events leading up to and culminating in the Triangle Fire.  Ample time was spent discussing various other work place disasters that came before Triangle and the social movements to attempt to prevent Triangle from happening.  This did tend to get a little long winded at times and I kept hoping that it would get back to the actual event from which the book took it's name.  

One aspect of the book that really helped cement the event in real life was the life stories of many of those who lost their lives in the fire.  Many were young immigrant women new to the country or those who had just found love but hadn't yet left the working life for the home of her husband.  It really made the reader feel for these people as we learned what their fates were.  The author handled their stories with respect and dignity.  

The retelling of the events that unfolded during the fire was page turning reading.  It was shocking, extremely tragic, and at times even heroic.   It was incredible how many things coincided to let this tragic event unfold - ladders from fire engines were not tall enough, no water pressure in the emergency hoses, locked exit doors.  In every disaster there are those everyday heroes that break down a door or drop down a ladder from the neighboring building and save groups of people that would likely have perished otherwise.  Those are the moments that shine through these tragic moments.  



The narration was excellent for all the dramatic moments, but it dragged a little bit during the moments that were purely recounting strikes and protests.  The section covering the actual fire was un-put-downable and engaging.

Author David von Drehle also has written Why They Fought: The Real Reason for the Civil War and Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America's Most Perilous Year

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 © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mailbox Monday #174


Happy hump day everyone! A little late on the mailbox reporting, I know!  This week I snagged up two books both for review!


Bitter Greens (249x377)The great abraham lincoln pocket watch conspiracy (251x375)

  • I picked up Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth as part of the HFVBT tours.  I have had my eye on this one for quite some time and was so excited to see it touring with HFVBT.  Can't wait to read it!
  • The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy by Jacopo Della Quercia was one that was a surprise grab from Netgalley.  I have to share this book blurb with you:

"Based on real life conspiracy theories, The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy follows a globetrotting President William Howard Taft and Robert Todd Lincoln as they try to unravel a mystery circa the era of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination."

What did you receive this week?

Mailbox Monday has returned to its home base blog. You can visit the site to see what everyone received this week!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Had you heard of this natural disaster before? If so, do you live outside the immediate region where this hurricane occurred? I hadn’t heard of this major disaster – the hurricane that has killed the most people in US history and was the second costliest (when inflation is taken into account).

The path of the Galveston Hurricane
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This hurricane struck Galveston on September 8, 1900 in the late afternoon and into the night and early hours of September 9th. The hurricane killed somewhere between 6,000 to 12,000 people – with the most generally accepted death toll being about 8,000. The majority died from outright drowning or being crushed by floating debris. If they survived the initial storm, many others died after being unable to escape the wreckage and not being found by rescuers.

Makeshift morgue
Photo Credit:
1900 Storm

One of the stories that was most strikingly awful was that with that number of dead they had problems burying all of them. They tried burying them at sea, but the bodies washed back up on shore with the waves later that day! Then they resorted to giant funeral pyres. Imagine just surviving the wreckage of the storm and then having to see all those fires! They ended up handing out all the whiskey men could drink for those who helped with the dead.

The damage was extensive – to put it mildly. In 2010 US dollars, the damage was approximately 104.3 billion dollars. (And guess what, Galveston was hit by another hurricane 15 years later which racked up 71.3 billion dollars in damage – ranking it 4th behind the 1900 hurricane!).

panorama-largeA panorama of the Galveston damage
Photo Credit: 1900 Storm

It is interesting to think of hurricanes prior to these extensive meteorological predictions that we have today. To have had virtually no warning and then to find oneself in the middle of a Category 4 hurricane must have been extremely scary. Not only were there sustained winds of over 120 mph (the actual wind speed is estimated because the anemometer was blown off the building after topping out at 100 mph), but there was massive flooding from the storm surge.

But they did have some amount of warning – or at least the fledgling Weather Bureau did. They had received reports from incoming ships that had passed through a significant storm, as well as from the weather station in Cuba. However, the philosophy of the time was to mitigate the extremity of weather, to not really forecast (because they were primarily wrong even one day out), and also, believed that Galveston wouldn’t really be hit by a catastrophic hurricane. Isaac Cline and associates were not allowed to give a forecast of a major storm, even though their equipment began to show signs of incoming danger.

Meteorologist Isaac Cline
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Many people that day learned the hard way that Galveston was not immune to a hurricane.

You can watch this video from BookTV which features a meteorologist discussing the weather pattern of the hurricane as well as the author talking about the book. A very good segment!


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson


Isaac’s Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson
Abridged, 5 hr. 11 min.
Random House Audio
Edward Herrmann (Narrator)
September 15, 2005

Genre: Non-fiction

Source: Downloaded from Audible – Personal Collection

“September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy.

Using Cline's own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Riveting, powerful, and unbearably suspenseful, Isaac's Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature.”

I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about an event that was just barely referenced in a novel that I had recently read. I am drawn to non-fiction books about disasters – not only for the dramatic factor, but because the best and worst of humanity comes out during these times and it is interesting to read and think about. This book focused on 3 aspects – the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (of course), the life of Isaac Cline (a weatherman for the National Weather Service in Galveston), and the evolution of the National Weather Service.

Even if you do not typically enjoy non-fiction, I would encourage you to consider Isaac’s Storm. It reads like a novel – full of excitement and drama and great characters. The narrative is interspersed with traditional reading portions – such as when the author discusses how a hurricane forms. Overall, the book is an exciting read – you really feel the storm.

It is really crazy to think about how little they knew about hurricanes back then compared to what we know now about them. They were so unprepared for the storm – despite the various warnings. It was another instance of false security (like the Titanic) that a major storm wouldn’t hit them.



I could tell within the first couple of sentences from this narrator that I was going to love this production. I also knew that I recognized the voice. Herrmann had narrated The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which I listened to a few months ago, and loved his narration of that book. I would probably be able to listen to him read the dictionary and find it vastly interesting! He made the storm even more exciting that it would have naturally been and it was such a passionate reading. I can’t wait to read some of the other books that he has narrated.

Author Erik Larson also has written Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, and Thunderstruck among others. You can visit Larson’s website or blog for additional information about 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 © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Somerset by Leila Meacham


Somerset by Leila Meacham
ARC, e-Book, 625 pages
Grand Central Publishing
February 4, 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction, Family Saga

Source: Received for review via Netgalley request

“One hundred fifty years of Roses' Tolivers, Warwicks, and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph-all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love Roses so much-are here in abundance.”

I LOVED Roses and was supremely excited when I heard that Somerset, the prequel to Roses, was coming out in 2014. The story of the Warwicks, Tolivers, and DuMonts was just calling for more to the story. I was thrilled when my request for the book was accepted by the publisher, and then…it sat in my Kindle bookshelf and aged. I was so excited to read it, but I think I also held back because I didn’t want it to ruin how I had felt about Roses. When trying to select the book I would read while on my honeymoon, I knew it had to be Somerset – it was the right time.

I LOVED Somerset just as much as Roses, but in a different way. The characters and writing were the same level of awesome, but while Roses was more of a romance story, Somerset was a story of westward expansion and the foundation of 3 Texas dynasties. Of course there were romantic elements, but the story had a different feel for sure. The novel just oozes southern cultural history – of both the plantation owners as well as the slaves/emancipated servants who worked on the plantations. There is a clear passion for the cotton industry which is palpable on every page.

The real heft of the plot is the “curse” on the Tolivers. We are introduced to it in Roses, however we get to the origin of the curse in Somerset. The pages flew by due to the author’s writing style and the fact that the dialogue always feels natural. The novel ends just after the birth of Mary, the main character in Roses, and I felt that it was the perfect breaking point. I highly recommend reading Roses first – not because it would be confusing to read Somerset first – but because I think that the revelations in Somerset are more rewarding if you already know what happened in Roses.

And isn’t the cover just divine!

Author Leila Meacham also has written Roses and Tumbleweeds.

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 © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Sunday, July 13, 2014

And Suddenly It’s Sunday!

I’ve been a little while since I have been actively here in the blogging world – my apologies – but I was a little crazy busy. 


I got married on June 21st – it was beautiful and a long time coming (we have been together for 8 years!).  We then were on honeymoon in the Dominican Republic and then came back, my husband started a new job the next day, and have started packing because we are moving in 2 weeks!  Could I pack any more in to the last 3 weeks?!


So I’m working on trying to get back into reading/blogging mode.  I can tell you one thing – I’m going to get no where close to my reading goal for this year (I’m 11 books behind schedule according to Goodreads)!

For a little bit of blogging business – I owe you all a winner of the giveaway for The Queen’s Exiles by Barbara Kyle.  And that winner is…Martina C!!

Congrats Martina!  I have sent the winner an email requesting mailing information and if no information is received within 5 days I will select a new winner.

Stay tuned this week – I have a review of Somerset by Leila Meacham as well as a mini theme series of posts about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (which was I cued into by a passing sentence in Somerset).  I will also have a review of Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.



Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Russka by Edward Rutherfurd


Russka by Edward Rutherfurd
Unabridged, 39 hr. 57 min.
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Wanda McCaddon (Narrator)
September 13, 2012

Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction

Source: Downloaded from Audible for Personal Collection

“Russka is the story of four families who are divided by ethnicity but united in shaping the destiny of Russia. From a single riverside village situated at one of the country's geographic crossroads, Russia's Slav peasant origins are influenced by the Greco-Iranian, Khazar, Jewish, and Mongol invasions. Unified by this one place, the many cultures blend to form a rich and varied tapestry.

Rutherfurd's grand saga is as multifaceted as Russia itself: harsh yet exotic, proud yet fearful of enemies, steeped in ancient superstitions but always seeking to shape the emerging world. Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, and Lenin all play their roles in creating and destroying the land and its people.

In Russka, Edward Rutherfurd has transformed the epic history of a great civilization into a human story of flesh and blood.”

Russia is a land with a history that is vast, varied, and lengthy – and Rutherfurd admirably conquers that history in his 960 page, (almost) 40 hour long book. As is the style of Rutherfurd novels, the reader is taken on a historical tour that follows the lives of a few choice families from a cross-section of society. From the early days traveling across Russia’s plains to the post WWII era, the country comes to vivid life. Russia has been a country that has been closed off from much of the world for much of its history – through actions of its own and those of others – making it a land that is rather mysterious to many. Rutherfurd’s writing style makes this region accessible to readers and evokes a feeling of the times.

1,800 years is a lot to cover in a novel, but Rutherfurd hits what appear to be all of the biggest events. There were events that I knew (from history class) as well as those that I did not. Somehow in my listening I seem to have missed the entire section on Catherine the Great, which is a period I am particularly interested in, but rest assured, it is covered!

This novel was everything that I was hoping it would be – making the vague history of Russia accessible and interesting.



When you are spending just shy of 40 hours listening to a novel – the narration becomes excessively important. A 12 hour novel I can deal with a so-so narrator, 40 hours, it’s A LOT harder. The narration wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t compelling. The narrator’s voice had a jarring accent that frequently pulled me out of the flow of the story. It also wasn’t the type of accent that fit with the context of the story – which would have made a little easier to accept, even if it wasn’t pleasing to the ear.

I can’t help but compare the experience of listening to Russka to the experience listening to the other Rutherfurd book I have read, New York. In that case, the narrator was marvelous and I even experienced tears and goosebumps from the combination of great narrative and amazing narration. I was hoping for that experience here and that didn’t quite happen.

Edward Rutherfurd has also written several other historical fiction books: The Princes of Ireland, Rebels of Ireland, The Forest, London, New York, Paris, and Sarum. You can visit Rutherfurd’s website for additional information about these 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, B&N, RJ Julia (my fav indie bookstore).


Copyright © 2014 by The Maiden’s Court