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BOO! Pre-Reads are here! Perhaps it is more accurate to say that “recently published” books are in. When I started doing the now highly anticipated Pre-Reads post they were titles that were going to be published a month or so in the future. Those posts were just summaries but reviews were difficult to come by. Alas, I have landed a more methodical and well-reviewed way to obtain titles. Now, I can say these books are highly reviewed and worth your while. However, I have still not read any of these titles, so what some reviewers claim as the next great American novel, I may not actually agree (assuming I ever got the chance to read any of these). To my own credit, I have purchased some titles from the Pre-Reads for my library (that is, the library that employs me, not my home library–which currently sits in stacks all over the home office, whilst I still wait for my built-in book shelves). The fiction titles are by far, easier to access by publishing date and reviews. The non-fiction titles still retain the mystery of the un-reviewed summary format of the original Pre-Reads. Either way, add some of these to your growing To Read List. If you have read any of them already, do share your thoughts!

**All summaries/reviews are taken directly from Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review and Amazon.**

FICTION

The Lightkeeper’s Wife by Sarah Anne Johnson

After a childhood spent joyously working the boats with her father, Hannah had to leave the seashore to work along side her mother in her very successful store. Marriage to the beguiling John Snow promises freedom. He’s a kindhearted man who, after a stint in the Union Army, knows he’s unsuited for a military career, and he warns his beloved Hannah that he’ll never be ambitious or wealthy. But Hannah delights in the shared tasks of keeping the lights lit and rescuing shipwrecked souls, though John repeatedly cautions her against taking so many risks. One night, while John is away, Hannah plunges into stormy waters, determined to prove her worth. She saves William “Billy” Pike, a disappointing drunkard. Within days it’s evident that John will never return, and Hannah descends into dark grief. Billy stays on to help with chores, and his secrets may endanger not only Hannah’s reputation, but also her heart.

Buttermilk Sky by Jan Watson

Mazy Pelfrey, age 18, is struggling in secretarial school. The young sheriff from her hometown in the Kentucky mountains, Chanis Clay, is sweet on her, but Mazy is dazzled by a wealthy young man, Loyal Chambers, who begins to pay attention to her. Mazy must choose what, and who, she wants—a choice that tests her values.

Dreaming of Daisies by Miralee Ferrell

Leah Carlson is a young woman used to doing a man’s work on her father’s ranch. It’s just been the two of them since the loss of Leah’s mother and the desertion of her younger brother. Taking care of her alcoholic father has left little time for anything else, until fate intervenes in the form of young banker Steven Harding. Steven has spent his life taking care of his mother, only to feel adrift when his long-missing sister is reunited with them and his family is once again complete.

Cattle Kate: A novel by Jana Bommersbach

Real-life Ellen “Ella” Watson, who was lynched for allegedly rustling cattle in the Wyoming Territory on July 20, 1889. Watson was born out of wedlock in 1860 in Ontario, Canada, to a 15-year-old Irish mother, Frances, and her Scottish lover, Thomas. Her parents married, and produced 16 more children, many of whom died young. In 1877, the family trekked to Kansas to homestead a new farm. Ella married and later divorced an abusive man, then in 1885 boldly struck out on her own for the Wyoming Territory. Hard work earned Ella a measure of success, first as a boardinghouse cook and waitress, later as the secret wife of postmaster Jimmy Averell, and finally as a homesteader with her own claim. But Ella made enemies of several big cattlemen, including rancher Albert J. Bothwell, who will lead her lynching.

A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak

Nobleman Max Wilder is so determined to locate his estranged half-sister Madeline that he infiltrates a gang of body-snatching “resurrection men,” who rob London’s graves in order to supply its medical schools with fresh cadavers. Madeline’s last known association was with the gang’s leader, Big Jack Hurtsill, but no one’s seen her for months. When young Miss Abigail Hale puts herself in harm’s way as the self-appointed procurer of bodies for the Aldersgate School of Medicine, she runs afoul of Max, who tries to teach her a lesson by fleecing her of the school’s entire cash reserves.

An Unseemly Wife by E.B. Moore

The present is set in 1867, on an immigrant wagon train journey from Pennsylvania toward the wilds of Idaho. The not-so-distant past comprises the seasons before, when Amish wife and mother Ruth Holtz must choose to take that journey with her beloved husband, Aaron, and their four children, despite knowing that according to the community’s Ordnung, Plain People stay separate. But Aaron’s determination to give the “littles” a chance at wider horizons compels her to make the “unseemly” choice of going with him. Moore’s lyrical writing reveals Plain ways and sensitively depicts the Holtz family’s determined efforts to find their place among the diverse wagon train trekkers. Soulful letters back home to her brother further illuminate Ruth’s slow shifting away from separateness amid births, accidents, illness, healings, and death. When misunderstanding and tragedy threaten Aaron’s dreams, Ruth must make dramatic decisions the Plain community would disapprove of.

The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century edited by Otto Penzler

From Penzler, editor of “The Best American Mystery Stories” series, comes a new anthology of 19th-century American mystery fiction. Classics by Edgar Allan Poe and Anna Katharine Green are presented alongside lesser-known works by well-known authors, including Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, L. Frank Baum, and Jack London, as well as several forgotten contributors to the genre. There’s a gem of a story by African American author Charles W. Chesnutt and a legal clunker by Abraham Lincoln that will make you grateful he didn’t quit his day job. Penzler heralds each story with a brief introduction to the author and a description of the work’s significance to the genre. VERDICT Penzler’s latest collection is the literary equivalent of a B-movie marathon. A guaranteed satisfying read for die-hard classical mystery enthusiasts and lovers of literary Americana, if not for everyone else.

The Lodger by Louisa Treger

A woman has an affair with H.G. Wells, observes the beginnings of women’s suffrage and comes into her own as a writer. Dorothy Richardson lives a quiet life of near solitude in a London boardinghouse. When she visits her old friend Jane for a weekend, she doesn’t expect to find Jane’s husband quite so interesting. Of course, Jane’s husband isn’t just anyone—he’s H.G. Wells, also known as Bertie. Although Bertie is no great looker, Dorothy discovers that he’s actually quite charming. So begins her agonizingly painful and passionate affair with him, one that leads her into some significant complications. But the affair with Bertie isn’t the only situation Dorothy deals with. There’s also her budding friendship (and possibly more) with fellow boarder Veronica, a suffragist.

NON-FICTION

Capturing Jack the Ripper: In the boots of a Bobby in Victorian England by Neil Bell

During the autumn of 1888 a serial killer stalked, brutally murdering his way through the East End of London. Some called him the ‘Whitechapel Monster’, while locals referred to him as ‘Leather Apron’, but to the world he was known as Jack the Ripper.

The responsibility of capturing this ‘murderous fiend’ fell upon the men of London’s Metropolitan and City police forces. Capturing Jack the Ripper will investigate the working lives of these men, and see what it takes to become one of Queen Victoria’s police constables, from recruitment to training and on to life as a bobby.

This book provides an insight into police life, as well as an in-depth view of the investigation at the height of the Ripper murders; it provides a rare look at the men who protected the streets, who faced very real dangers every night, who often suffered severe physical injury and who sometimes died; men who faced life in the raw in one of the worst parts of London and who were the first on the scene after a killer had struck.

Amusing the Victorians: Leisure, pleasure, and play in Victorian Britain by Pamela Horn

We recognize the Victorians as relentless, nose-to-the-grindstone workers: at one end of the scale there were great scientific discoveries being made, at the other there were child chimney sweeps and the workhouse. But how did the people of the Industrial Revolution amuse themselves in their spare time? What weird and wonderful activities were invented solely for the pursuit of pleasure? The years between 1837 and 1901 saw the greatest upsurge in leisure pursuits hitherto witnessed. Parks, libraries, art galleries and museums were created. Pamela Horn explores the various activities enjoyed by the Victorians, including sport, the music hall, fashion, fairs, drink and travel.

If you have ever wondered how that most serious society ever had fun, or how they idled away those precious non-working hours, this is the book for you. The Victorians had a wonderful capacity for humor, turning the woes of rent day and domestic disputes into sources of laughter at the theater. During this period the concept of spare time itself became much valued.

Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War by Jamie Malanowski

October 1864. The confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle had sunk two federal warships and damaged seven others, taking control of the Roanoke River and threatening the Union blockade. Twenty-one-year-old navy lieutenant William Barker Cushing hatched a daring plan: to attack the fearsome warship with a few dozen men in two small wooden boats. What followed, the close-range torpedoing of the Albemarle and Cushing’s harrowing two-day escape downriver from vengeful Rebel posses, is one of the most dramatic individual exploits in American military history.

Theodore Roosevelt said that Cushing “comes next to Farragut on the hero roll of American naval history,” but most have never heard of him today. Tossed out of the Naval Academy for “buffoonery,” Cushing proved himself a prodigy in behind-the-lines warfare. Given command of a small union ship, he performed daring, near-suicidal raids, “cutting out” confederate ships and thwarting blockade runners. With higher commands and larger ships, Cushing’s exploits grow bolder, culminating in the sinking of the Albemarle.

Dear Papa, Beloved Mama: Queen Victorian and Prince Albert as parents by Christina Croft

“What a joyous childhood we had!” wrote Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. These were no mere words and it was a sentiment shared by many of her siblings. Far from being the tyrannical or neglectful parents presented so often by the sensational press, Albert and Victoria devoted themselves to their children, doing their utmost to secure their happiness while preparing them for a future of personal fulfilment and service to their people in a rapidly-changing world. “Dear Papa, Beloved Mama” covers the period from 1840 to the death of Prince Albert in 1861, considering the far-reaching influence of the Queen and Prince in the lives of their children in wide-ranging areas from science and farming to music, art and marriage. Flying in the face of the current trend to condemn and criticise their parenting skills, this book penetrates the motives of Victoria and Albert and their sincere and loving efforts to create for their children a happy, constructive and memorable childhood.

Jumbo: The unauthorized biography of a Victorian sensation by John Sutherland

Born in 1861 in French Sudan, imported to Paris as a two year old calf, then later sold to the London Zoo at Regent’s Park, Jumbo the elephant delighted countless children (including Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt) with rides and treats gently taken from outstretched hands. Each night, after the children and their families had gone home, he was mistreated in an attempt to keep him docile. By the time he reached sexual maturity, the abused and isolated animal had become dangerously unstable. He was sold to showman P.T. Barnum in 1881 (despite letters from 100,000 British schoolchildren who wrote to Queen Victoria begging her to prevent the sale) and brought to America. There, in the company of other elephants and amid greater physical freedom, Jumbo stabilized and went on to become one of the most lucrative circus acts of all time – as well as the most beloved. The world mourned when his life ended in 1885, with a storied (and most likely embellished) act of animal heroism. Jumbo reportedly rushed in front of an oncoming train in an effort to save a smaller elephant â?? his companion “Tom Thumb” â?? then perished while reaching his trunk out toward his longtime handler Matthew Scott â?? whose intense connection with the pachyderm spawned legends of its own.

The History of Compacts and Cosmetics: From Victorian times to present day by Madeliene Marsh

Cosmetics have been used to increase attraction since Ancient times whilst Compacts have been a symbol of love for generations but especially since the 1920s. In this fascinating book, vintage accessories’ expert, Madeleine Marsh, discusses just what makes compacts so desirable and reveals their hidden secrets from cameras to cigarettes. Madeleine shows what to buy and where, what to spot when buying and how to make the most of your compacts, vintage cosmetics or beauty accessories.

Great Victorian Inventions: Contrivances and industrial revolutions by Caroline Rochford

Who invented the flying machine? Was the Titanic really the first ‘unsinkable’ ship? How would one use a phonoscope?

Using old Victorian documents, Caroline Rochford takes the reader on a guided tour of hundreds of fascinating nineteenth-century inventions from across the globe, some strange and some remarkably familiar.

Think solar power is a modern concept? Think again! Today everyone has a camera, but imagine the excitement of taking a snap of a giraffe hotel! This is a surprising journey, taking the reader on a trip from the clouds to the bottom of the ocean, with stops everywhere in between.

The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, law, and justice in the Reconstruction era by Michael A. Ross

In June 1870, the residents of the city of New Orleans were already on edge when two African American women kidnapped seventeen-month-old Mollie Digby from in front of her New Orleans home. It was the height of Radical Reconstruction, and the old racial order had been turned upside down: black men now voted, held office, sat on juries, and served as policemen. Nervous white residents, certain that the end of slavery and resulting “Africanization” of the city would bring chaos, pointed to the Digby abduction as proof that no white child was safe. Louisiana’s twenty-eight-year old Reconstruction governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, hoping to use the investigation of the kidnapping to validate his newly integrated police force to the highly suspicious white population of New Orleans, saw to it that the city’s best Afro-Creole detective, John Baptiste Jourdain, was put on the case, and offered a huge reward for the return of Mollie Digby and the capture of her kidnappers. When the Associated Press sent the story out on the wire, newspaper readers around the country began to follow the New Orleans mystery. Eventually, police and prosecutors put two strikingly beautiful Afro-Creole women on trial for the crime, and interest in the case exploded as a tense courtroom drama unfolded.

In The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case, Michael Ross offers the first full account of this event that electrified the South at one of the most critical moments in the history of American race relations. Tracing the crime from the moment it was committed through the highly publicized investigation and sensationalized trial that followed, all the while chronicling the public outcry and escalating hysteria as news and rumors surrounding the crime spread, Ross paints a vivid picture of the Reconstruction-era South and the complexities and possibilities that faced the newly integrated society. Leading readers into smoke-filled concert saloons, Garden District drawing rooms, sweltering courthouses, and squalid prisons, Ross brings this fascinating era back to life.

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