Saturday, June 14, 2014

Hannah Snell, The Female Warrior

Name of Birth:                           Hannah Snell

Place of Birth:                            Worcester, England

Date of Birth:                             April 23rd, 1723

Place of Death:                          Bedlam, England

Date of Death:                           February 8th, 1792

            Hannah Snell, AKA James Gray, was one of the most important mariners in England’s history. Disguised as a man for two years, this woman sailed to India through great storms and fought in mud-filled trenches at the siege of Pondicherry. What made her go to the Marine? After her baby died, her husband deserted her. She began dressing as a man, tracking down her husband who had been executed for murder.

            Born into a large Worcester family in 1723, she travelled to London to live with her half-sister, Susannah Gray. In 1744, at the age of twenty-one, Hannah married a Dutch sailor, James Summs, and soon fell pregnant. However, in mid-1745, Hannah's husband abandoned her while she was seven months pregnant. After the baby’s premature death, Hannah decided to pursue her deceitful lover, disguising herself in a suit belonging to her brother-in-law, James Gray. A victim of her success at masquerade, Hannah says she was pressed into the English army and forced to march in pursuit of the fleeing troops of Bonnie Prince Charlie. She then joined the marines and was sent to India, aboard the ship Swallow on 23rd October, 1747. It sailed to Lisbon and after India, where she fought against the French at Pondicherry. She claims to have been severely injured at Pondicherry, but managed to conceal her sex by treating her wounds in secret.

            When she revealed herself to a comrade – right after returning to London – he suggested that she presented a petition to the head of the British Army, the Duke of Cumberland, requesting financial recognition. After a time debating the veracity of her story, the Army accepted and granted a lifelong pension. In the meantime, she became the fuss of London – and in consequence, the whole of Britain – by appearing in her male clothes and telling her story. Her portrait appeared on every street corner.

            For over two centuries people have been fascinated by Hannah’s life, and her story has appeared in a great variety of forms, but her life remains a mystery, due to her lowly beginnings. In addition to these simple sources, however, is a document that has proved invaluable in recreating Hannah’s life. In June 1750, the printer and publisher Robert Walker made an agreement with Hannah to publish her biography, The Female Soldier; or The Surprising Life and Adventures of Hannah Snell.2 The book was a runaway success and Walker published a much longer serialised edition barely a fortnight later which was to ensure Hannah’s place in history. However, it is said that her story is filled with inaccuracies, but it is due to an era when biographies were little concerned with establishing a factually based "truth".

            After her “grand debut” and ascension to one of the biggest gossips of Britain, she opened a pub that had the same name as her biography, The Female Warrior (or The Widow in Masquerade, accounts disagree), but it didn’t last long. She remarried to Richard Eyles, in 1759, and had two children and lived another forty years. In 1772, she married Richard Habgood of Welford, also in Berkshire, and the two moved to the Midlands. In 1785, she was living with her son George Spence Eyles, a clerk, on Church Street, Stoke Newington. However, after a few years, in 1791, she was admitted to a lunatic asylum, with an unknown disease, in Bedlam, were she died six months after.

“Why gentlemen, James Gray will cast off his skin like a snake and become a new creature. In a word, gentlemen, I am as much a woman as my mother ever was, and my real name is Hannah Snell.” - The Female Soldier, 1750


Saturday, June 7, 2014

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

Synopsis: Sophie Beckett never dreamed she′d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton′s famed masquerade ball - or that "Prince Charming" would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.

Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other - except, perhaps, this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid′s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers her his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?

My thoughts: At first I fell in love. Hard. Benedict was the type of man every woman would like: tall, strong, so handsome it hurts, gentleman, rich. But near the end I kind of got uninterested. Not that the ending wasn’t good – it was rather cute – but the pattern of historical novels is starting to get on my nerves. Everytime is the same thing: a girl from a very different social scale falls head over heels for a wealthy man, but she keeps inside her head that “oh, I can’t love him because I’ll suffer if I do… blah blah blah…” I mean, it’s cute at the first time you read it, but after the 5th book it kinds of gets annoying. And more, instead of having such a negative behavior, why won’t she go and give it her best shot? The worst thing that could happen is she losing her job… and if she does, London – and England - is big enough to have other Manors looking for a chambermaid or something like that.

                Because of the fact that these novels are following a path, I kind of knew what was going to happen, so it wasn’t surprising that she would succumb to his seductive behavior.

                Lady Whistledown – a London gossiper that knows about everything that happens in the city – was a joy, and the only mystery I couldn’t solve in this novel, so I give that to the author. In my mind is one person, but it could be many others. The only hint that I could give is this: I’m almost sure that it’s from the Brigderton family. That’s all I’m going to say, if you want to debate go on and read the novel first and tell me what you think! ;)

                I liked Eloise and I think her novel is going to be the best of the whole family. She is sassy mouth, charming, a true gossiper, genius and devilish in a cute manner, all that I like in a Jane-Austen-period-based book.

                I hated Araminth - the stepmother - from the beginning. She was stupid, ridiculous, childish, greedy, false and many other adjectives that I would rather not use it here. Lady Brigderton won me when she bitchslaped Araminth on the face, but that only happens at the end. I felt pity of Posy, because she was indeed a good girl, but she never took a stand and faced her mother – until the end… AS WELL. Everyone revealed itself at the end, huh?  

                It’s a pastime book, something that won’t make you think much, so I recommend it for a vacation season, a trip or something like this. But TRUST me: if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, don’t bother that much about this book. The only reason why I won’t give 2 or even 1 star is because of two people: FIRST, Julia Quinn is still one of my favorite authors – together with Jane Austen, Erin Morgenstein, Lauren Kate, Melissa de La Cruz… – and SECOND, because of Benedict: he is perrrrrrfect!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Synopsis: Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. 

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

My thoughts: As an Austen fan, if I could die and choose a place to go to, I would definitely choose England around the XIXth century. Why? One answer: Jane Austen. Case closed.

                But relax, you don’t have to die to have an Austen experience: just get rich and go to Pembroke Park! LOL When Jane’s great-aunt dies and leaves her a 3-weeks trip to someplace called Pembroke Park, Jane doesn’t have many choices but to accept it and travel to Kent, England, to live an experience that maybe would cure her from her Pride and Prejudice’s Obsession, especially from Colin Firth’s role as Mr. Darcy in the BBC series. But when she is faced with the task to live – which includes no electronics devices – and behave like a XIXth century lady, things get a little bit more difficult than she expected, and perhaps she isn’t up to the challenge.

                What to say about this book? Well, it’s H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S from the beginning to the end! Every chapter began with a little talk about one of Jane’s boyfriend, each one a bigger asshole or mistake than the other. Jane – let’s not discuss the fact that the character has the same name as the famous author – is very funny and I laughed a lot! I’m in love with Mr. Nobley, one of the gentlemen that were in the experience, despite the fact that he behaved like a complete jerk/asshole and resembled A LOT Mr. Darcy – taciturn, reserved, seemed to be borrowed with every damn thing – so you can see why I love in – yes, I’m a Darcy fan/lover.

                My wish? That this book wasn’t so short and that this place actually existed! I hope that when I get reeeeally old and rich I’ll be able to built this place so that all the Austen’s fans – because let’s face it, no one will ever get tired of Miss Austen’s novels – could go there and have their experience.

                The writing wasn’t that complex like the original novels, but there were many references to Austen’s books, especially about P&P and Mansfield Park, the only novel that I haven’t read yet. Even though I really liked the novel, I think it lacked in the writing category, especially when this wasn’t the author’s first novel, since she wrote child books, but as an adult’s book, the text should be a little bit better done or better written, since the “mind’s demand” – let’s call it that – is bigger.

                This book was published in 2007 in the U.S., but where I am it only got here now! Yes, the press here is that slow. And worse: a movie was made in the meantime and no one ever knew about it! How did this happened?!  Here is the movie trailer so that you can see it for yourself:


Splintered by A.G. Howard

Synopsis: This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

My thoughts: Whenever I say Alice, what do I think? White Rabbit wearing a blazer and late for tea, flowers that talk, butterflies with wings made of bread with butter, Queen of Hearts. But what if you find out that in fact the white rabbit was Rapid, a half skeleton with bug antennas instead of rabbit’s fluffy ears, that the flowers could eat you alive and had arms and their roots could get released from the ground so that they could chase you? And what if the Caterpillar or “Absolen” became a moth? Or worse… What if Alice wasn’t the real Alice?

                In this novel all this questions get answered. Alyssa was always bullied because of her roots: well, being the great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll that was diagnosed as mad as the Mad Hatter isn’t something that she would be proud of. Because of the curse that the women descending from Alice have, they all end up in a hospice from real – and that’s what happened to Alyssa’s Mother. Now Alison is in great danger and Alyssa might be the only one able to find the rabbit’s hole and try to destroy the curse and save her mom. But it won’t be easy. Or most importantly… what if Alyssa actually belonged in Wonderland?

                This book gives you a very different view – as you can see from the top – of the original novel from Lewis Carroll. In this one, the descendent has challenges to defeat with her friend Jeb, who end up falling inside the rabbit’s hole with Alyssa, and with Morpheus, the Caterpillar – actually a moth now with human body, rock ‘n’ roll style with blue hair and a plan for Alyssa.

                I really liked this one! So much that if gave me a crave to read the original novel from Lewis Carroll – please don’t kill me I haven’t found time yet to read it. There were a few unnecessary part – (SPOILER) Like the fact that Alyssa has wings… I mean WHAT? (SPOILER) – but all-in-all it was very interesting and fun.

                Since this is the debut of the Author, I’ll say that I’m quite pleased with the results: good written novel, pleasant reading, with just a few parts over-the-top but nothing that would actually make me dislike the book.

                I really liked Jeb, and for a moment I thought that he had a relation with Wonderland as well as Alyssa because he really looked like the army from the White Queen – actually Ivory Queen in this novel – but he was human. He’s a sweet, loving, romantic and overprotective guy who has a crush for Alyssa but never told her because both of them are wrecked and filled with issues and he was afraid to pour it on her! *--*

                The other character that I liked was Morpheus, despite the fact of him being an asshole/cute/annoying/seductive bastard who also has a deep story with the main character. I was “Team Jeb” the whole time, but I gotta tell you that it wasn’t easy at all.

                The cover of the book is B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L and one of the main reason that I picked it in the first place – yes I judge a book by its cover. The mad way the girl looks at you is very mysterious and makes you think “curiouser and curiouser”.


"The Unfinished Waltz" (translated from the portuguese title) by Catherine Clément

Synopsis (translated): They met in 1874. Sixty years later, in 1934, he had eighty-six years and only then knew the truth. Sixty years for a love that didn’t exist, but lasted an entire life.

                Nothing more than three dances, letters and a poem. He kissed her. She ran away. Sixty years of mystery and of daily basis, crossed by a winning capitalism and the first Bosnian War. The syphilis attacks Vienna, the refugees are everywhere, scandals too, suicides multiplies… E, during all this time, Elizabeth of Austria writes to Franz Taschnik, worker from the Ministery of International Affairs.

                Behind the Habsburg’s Europe, the Balkan’s War and The Vienna from Strauss, with an epidemic in the background, beyond the myth that is Elizabeth, the “Unfinished Waltz”, inspired by an authentic episode from Sissi’s life, shows in a magnificent way the painful happiness from forbidden loves.

My thoughts: Beautifully written! The romance was extremely delicate filled with real historical facts that made this book a joy to read. Empress Elizabeth was a misunderstood woman, ahead of her time that lost most of her life being a regent for a country that wasn’t your homeland and that never really liked her. One fateful night, she escapes from the palace, disguised in a costume for a ball and with her chaperone with her, and meet Franz Taschinik, who worked in the international bureau. He suspects that she might be the Empress, but if she was he would go to jail or worse, die, because of their dance, their flirting and their one kiss. Yes, one kiss, and they were in love for the rest of their life! Is there something more beautiful than this?

                Because of their encounter, they exchange a few letters, but they would never be able to be together because he was a nobody and she… well, she was the Empress! She couldn’t leave the Emperor… never, until death took them apart. So as time goes by, Franz continues with his life: marries, has kids, but never forgot about that one night with a girl named Gabriela, but that was actually the Regent Elizabeth.

                                Only when Franz is reeeally old and with a title – given to him as a wish of Who? Let’s see if you get correct – he finds out that the woman he has been looking all those years, that exchanged letters with her and everything else was IN FACT the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Even though he got married, had kids and lived with his granddaughter, he never forgot her, in fact he kept the fan that he took from her at the ball.

                I really liked this book. Sometimes it was a little bit of a drag because things happened slowly than a usual historical book nowadays happens. But I really liked it nonetheless. Catherine Clément showed not only the romance, but what was happening in Europe: the prelude of a Great War, the suffering of many nations, especially the Jews, the decay of the Austrian-Hungary Empire. Her writing was pleasant and classic, at least for those who like romances filled with History.

                It’s not a tiring book, and it will never be. Despite all the odds, their love grew and was cherished by both of them, making this novel a joy and shock in a few scenes. One thing that I really liked was the search for the strange words in the book -  the Author was faithful until the end, using even native words from Hungary and Austria itself, giving me a hard time looking them up! ;P

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