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A Young Woman Reading by Alfred Emile Leopold Stevens

Codices, codex, tomes, books, that is what I am talking about today. It is the last Wednesday of September and if you have followed 19th Century Modern for a while, you will know it means the monthly prepublication round up! Sometimes, I refer to this as the Pre-Reads post, partially because a few of the titles are newly published or recently reprinted, so “pre-publication” is no longer an accurate description.

Every month here, I tap into “my roots” as a Librarian and select sixteen titles, eight fiction and eight non-fiction books that focus or take place in the 19th century through 1914. Why eight, you might ask? Why not seven? –I have a thing for 4s. It is my lucky number of sorts and every number derived by it is far more appealing than any other number.

All titles selected herein are highly reviewed as per Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Review, Amazon, and Baker and Taylor. I try to make sure there is a variety of subgenres represented from Christian to steampunk, biographies to academic treatises. I have not read any of these titles, so I cannot make a personal recommendation. However, if one of my Dear Readers reads one of these books, do return and tell us your sentiments. Seriously, I also want to know if the hype is real!

This time around I included cover art of each single title. A first! Should this be standard procedure??

Okie dokie, get your pens, plumes, and pencils ready . . . heeeeeeere we go!

Fiction

Clockwork Lives by Kevin J. Anderson

Life has passed Miranda Peake by, but she has never complained. Taking care of her ailing father and keeping to her regimented schedule keeps her occupied. Miranda’s father (former adventurer, alchemist, and clock keeper) is heartbroken at what she is missing. To rectify this, at his death Miranda is only bequeathed an alchemy-treated journal that she must fill with the stories of other lives—lives of adventure, love, pain, joy, and additional elements so lacking in her own. Miranda has no choice but to take the streamliner into the luscious Crown City, where clockwork angels are prophets, gangs roam the airships, the Watchmaker rules from his metal tower, and everyone’s story begins—including Miranda’s.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Determined to live an independent life, Veronica Speedwell is anything but a proper Victorian lady. So when her home is attacked during her aunt’s funeral, a rollicking adventure ensues. Certainly, lepidoptery should be a suitable hobby for a lady; chasing pretty things like butterflies can hold no dangers. But Veronica, a foundling raised from birth by her two late aunts, has taken things a little too far: by capturing and selling highly sought-after butterflies, she’s financed her own expeditions to exotic locations, where she’s indulged in emotionally careful yet physically torrid affairs. After rescuing Veronica from her attacker, Baron von Stauffenbach whisks her to London, depositing her in the care of the enigmatic Mr. Stoker, a brooding, Byronic hero of the natural history persuasion. Before the Baron can return to tell Veronica what he knows of her mother, he’s found dead, and the police like Stoker for a suspect. Stoker and Veronica partner up to find the real culprit, hurtling pell-mell into a captivatingly intricate plot, including a traveling circus, the fetid Thames, and the Tower of London, as they dodge villains with murky motives and hulking henchmen. Soon, they realize that Stauffer’s death may be connected to the mystery of Veronica’s birth parents, and Stoker himself has a few secrets to discover, including what really happened on his disastrous expedition to the Amazon, which left him scarred and disgraced.

The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

The Gilded Hour tells the story of female surgeons Anna and Sophie Savard in New York City in 1883. The two women repeatedly battle ignorance while pursuing their medical work. They face particular difficulties in light of Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock’s passionate crusade against all forms of birth control. Matters are further complicated by a possible killer targeting desperate pregnant women, a search for two missing orphans, and Anna’s blossoming romance with dashing detective Jack Mezzanotte.

Highlander Undone by Connie Brockway

The latest Regency romance, Jack Cameron, captain of Her Majesty’s Cormack Highlanders, learns that a traitorous member of the Royal Dragoons has been taking money to assist slave traders in the Sudan. While Jack is visiting his great-uncle, he encounters artist Adelaide Hoodless, a widow whose abusive husband was an officer in the Royal Dragoons. Addie’s brother, Ted, has been commissioned to paint portraits of the Royal Dragoon officers, so Jack devises a plan to infiltrate the studio and gather evidence against the traitor. But Ted will not allow him anywhere near the studio if he thinks it’ll upset his sister, who despises all men in uniform, so Jack immediately sets out to win her trust. Feeling guilty about his charade, Jack makes every attempt to restrain his feelings for Addie, but he falls hard, and slowly she grows fond of him.

Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins

If readers think about May Alcott Nieriker (1840–79) at all, they probably assume her life mirrored that of Amy March, the fictional character created by her older sister Louisa. In reality, May pursued her commitment to art, exhibited paintings in Paris, and married in her late 30s. At the heart of YA author Atkins’s first novel for adults are two conflicts. One is internal as May wrestles with her desires for both artistic achievement and a family of her own. The other is an external rivalry with Louisa, who consistently underestimates May’s talents and ambition and finds little happiness in her own success and fame. Yet, Louisa ultimately makes it possible for May to travel and study in Europe, where she encounters women such as Mary Cassatt, who edge into the male-dominated art world.

The Lost Heiress by Rosanna White

A letter owned by her deceased mother is about to change Brook Eden’s life. Believing herself to be a product of an illicit affair between her opera star mother and a prince who denied her existence, Brook has always felt like an outsider. Her childhood friend Justin investigates the missive’s allegations and returns with astonishing news. Brook is a baroness, heiress to an estate in Yorkshire. Her sudden reappearance unnerves those who know the secrets of her birth, and Brook is kidnapped because she may possess a treasure that was sent to her mother. Justin and Brook, whose friendship had developed into something deeper, may not have the chance to express their love.

The Memory Weaver by Jane Kirckpatrick

Kirkpatrick fictionalizes events surrounding the Whitman Massacre of 1847 in the Oregon territory through the voices of Eliza Spalding Warren and her mother Eliza Hart Spalding, wife of missionary Henry Spalding. The younger Eliza, at 10 years old, was among hostages held by members of the Cayuse Indian tribe—captured after a Cayuse raid on Marcus Whitman’s Waiilatpu mission. Told through journal entries, the mother’s story vividly depicts an arduous life on the western frontier. Pushed by her father’s demands, Eliza marries a man with his own dark past and gives birth to her first child before turning 19.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abul-Jabbar

Basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar makes his triumphant adult fiction debut with an action yarn that fills in the backstory of Sherlock Holmes’s older and smarter brother, Mycroft. In 1870, the 23-year-old Mycroft, who has a reputation as a daredevil, is serving as a secretary at the War Office when word reaches London of a series of unusual deaths in Trinidad. Someone, or some thing, has been killing children and draining their blood. The locals believe the culprits are supernatural beings known as lougarou, who drain children of their blood, and douen, who leave highly unusual footprints near their victims. The tragic news stuns Mycroft’s fiancée, Georgiana Sutton, who immediately sails home to Trinidad. Disobeying her request to stay behind, Mycroft follows Georgiana to Trinidad, where he must exercise his intellect and his innate diplomatic skills to solve the crimes and remain alive.

Non-Fiction

Building the Golden Gate Bridge: A workers’ oral history by Harvey Schwartz

Labor historian Harvey Schwartz has compiled oral histories of nine workers who helped build the celebrated bridge. Their powerful recollections chronicle the technical details of construction, the grueling physical conditions they endured, the small pleasures they enjoyed, and the gruesome accidents some workers suffered. The result is an evocation of working-class life and culture in a bygone era.

Most of the bridge builders were men of European descent, many of them the sons of immigrants. Schwartz also interviewed women: two nurses who cared for the injured and tolerated their antics, the wife of one 1930s builder, and an African American ironworker who toiled on the bridge in later years. These powerful stories are accompanied by stunning photographs of the bridge under construction.

Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The war for public opinion by Harold Holzer

From his earliest days, Lincoln devoured newspapers. As he started out in politics he wrote editorials and letters to argue his case. He spoke to the public directly through the press. He even bought a German-language newspaper to appeal to that growing electorate in his state. Lincoln alternately pampered, battled, and manipulated the three most powerful publishers of the day: Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald, and Henry Raymond of the New York Times.

When war broke out and the nation was tearing itself apart, Lincoln authorized the most widespread censorship in the nation’s history, closing down papers that were “disloyal” and even jailing or exiling editors who opposed enlistment or sympathized with secession. The telegraph, the new invention that made instant reporting possible, was moved to the office of Secretary of War Stanton to deny it to unfriendly newsmen.

The Life and Crimes of Railroad Bill: Legendary African American Desperado by Larry L. Massey

For over a year, Railroad Bill eluded sheriffs, private detectives hired by the L&N line, and bounty hunters who traveled across the country to match guns with the legendary desperado. The African American outlaw was wanted on multiple charges of robbery and murder, and rumor had it that he stole from the rich to give to the poor. He terrorized busy train lines from east of Mobile to the Florida Panhandle, but as soon as the lawmen got close, he disappeared into the bayous and pine forests—until one day his luck ran out, and he was gunned down inside a general store in Atmore, Alabama.

Little is known about Railroad Bill before his infamy—not his real name or his origins. His first recorded crime, carrying a repeating rifle without a license, led him into a gunfight with a deputy and made him a wanted man throughout Florida in 1894. His most celebrated escape—a five-day foot chase with scores of men and several bloodhounds—led to tales of Railroad’s supernatural ability to transmogrify into an animal or inanimate object at will. As his crimes progressed from robbing boxcars to wounding trainmen to murdering sheriffs, more and more reward money was offered for his capture—dead or alive.

Real Native Genius: How an ex-slave and a white Mormon became famous Indians by Angela Pulley Hudson

In the mid-1840s, Warner McCary, an ex-slave from Mississippi, claimed a new identity for himself, traveling around the nation as Choctaw performer “Okah Tubbee.” He soon married Lucy Stanton, a divorced white Mormon woman from New York, who likewise claimed to be an Indian and used the name “Laah Ceil.” Together, they embarked on an astounding, sometimes scandalous journey across the United States and Canada, performing as American Indians for sectarian worshippers, theater audiences, and patent medicine seekers. Along the way, they used widespread notions of “Indianness” to disguise their backgrounds, justify their marriage, and make a living. In doing so, they reflected and shaped popular ideas about what it meant to be an American Indian in the mid-nineteenth century.

Weaving together histories of slavery, Mormonism, popular culture, and American medicine, Angela Pulley Hudson offers a fascinating tale of ingenuity, imposture, and identity. While illuminating the complex relationship between race, religion, and gender in nineteenth-century North America, Hudson reveals how the idea of the “Indian” influenced many of the era’s social movements. Through the remarkable lives of Tubbee and Ceil, Hudson uncovers both the complex and fluid nature of antebellum identities and the place of “Indianness” at the very heart of American culture.

Steampunk: An illustrated history of fantastical fiction, fanciful film, and other Victorin visions by Brian J. Robb

Steampunk is the hottest science fiction counterculture, alive in fantasy novels, films, arts and crafts, fashion, comic books, music, computer games, even architecture. Enter a world of Victorian technology, where steam power meets space travel. From Jules Verne and H. G. Wells to Alan Moore, Hayao Miyazaki, and Philip Pullman, the genre has captured imaginations around the globe. Here’s the first grand, illustrated history of the counterculture movement in a book fittingly stylish in its design, package, and artwork. From the fastest dirigible and steam-powered ray guns to fashionistas Lady Gaga and Alexander McQueen, the whole story of the gaslight romance is here.

The Transformation of the World: The global history of the nineteenth century by Jurgen Osterhammel and Patrick Camiller

A monumental history of the nineteenth century, The Transformation of the World offers a panoramic and multifaceted portrait of a world in transition. Jürgen Osterhammel, an eminent scholar who has been called the Braudel of the nineteenth century, moves beyond conventional Eurocentric and chronological accounts of the era, presenting instead a truly global history of breathtaking scope and towering erudition. He examines the powerful and complex forces that drove global change during the “long nineteenth century,” taking readers from New York to New Delhi, from the Latin American revolutions to the Taiping Rebellion, from the perils and promise of Europe’s transatlantic labor markets to the hardships endured by nomadic, tribal peoples across the planet. Osterhammel describes a world increasingly networked by the telegraph, the steamship, and the railways. He explores the changing relationship between human beings and nature, looks at the importance of cities, explains the role slavery and its abolition played in the emergence of new nations, challenges the widely held belief that the nineteenth century witnessed the triumph of the nation-state, and much more.

A Way Across the Mountain: Joseph Walker’s 1833 Transierran Passage and the myth of Yosemite’s discovery by Scott Stine

From July to November 1833, Joseph R. Walker led a brigade of fifty-eight fur trappers, with two hundred horses and a year’s provisions, from the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming to the Pacific coast of central California. Toward the end of their journey the Walker brigade crossed the Sierra Nevada, becoming the first non-Native people to traverse the range from east to west. That crossing, made long and brutal by bewildering terrain and deep snow, is widely and rightly considered a milestone in the exploration of intermontane North America.

Following Walker’s death in 1876, an alluring tale arose concerning his trans-Sierran route. In the course of the crossing, goes the story, Walker found himself on the northern rim of Yosemite Valley at the plungepoint of North America’s tallest waterfall, staring into the most awesome mountain chasm on the continent. Over the decades since then, this time-honored tale has hardened to folklore. Dozens of historical works have construed it as a towering moment in the opening of the West.

The World the Railways Made by Nicholas Faith and Christian Wolmar

The modern world began with the arrival of the railway. The shock was both sudden and universal: between 1825, when the first passenger service linked Stockton and Darlington, and the outbreak of World War I, railways redefined, transformed, and expanded the limits of the civilized world. With railways came the development of modern capitalism, of modern nations, and the opening-up of new regions. The “Iron Road” transformed all aspects of society. For some the railway represented the horrors of industrial development; for others the way toward a brighter future; for all it meant deep and lasting change. From the financiers who provided unprecedented amounts of capital, to the immigrant laborers who built them, Nicholas Faith explores the mechanical revolution that turned the world upside down.

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