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Forests for the tree? Trees into pages? Pages to books? I am stretching too much for the Pre-Reads title? Ah, you get my drift, Dear Readers. For those just joining us here at 19th Century Modern, on last Wednesday I reveal sixteen highly reviewed titles which are published this month. In the case of Non-Fiction some of the books are reprints. Using my Librarian sources; Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Amazon, Kirkus Review, and Baker and Taylor sites, I comb through all 19th century related tomes. I make a point to offer a variety of subgenres, so were not bogged down with Westerns or historical romance, but are exposed to Steampunk and books set in locales other than England and United States. There are eight fiction titles and eight non-fiction titles for you to peruse and jot down. The summaries and reviews are taken word for word from their source. As these books are hot off the press, I personally have not read any of them, thus cannot recommend one over the other. That is not to say, I haven’t added these to my own reading list! Which book are you most eager to get your hands on? Have you read any of these authors before? Let me know in the comment section.

Fiction

Image result for beloved poisonBeloved Poison by E.S. Thomson

In 1850s London, Jem Flockhart works as an apothecary at the crumbling St. Saviour’s Infirmary, built in 1135. Still, time marches on, and the hospital has been sold to be torn down to build a new railway bridge. Junior architect Will Quartermain is given the unpleasant responsibility of moving the bodies from the graveyard. Teaming up with Jem, with whom he is lodged, he finds six little coffins in the old chapel, each containing a wood puppet and dried flowers. As the two investigate, their discovery will unleash death and destruction and reveal some secrets (including Jem’s). –Short listed for the Saltire First Book Award and the Scottish Arts Council First Book Award.

Image result for The Fall of the House of CabalThe Fall of the House of Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard

The fifth adventure (after The Brothers Cabal) of Johannes Cabal, a “necromancer of some little infamy,” is the culmination of his quest to resurrect his deceased beloved, Berenice. Guided by a mysterious tome, he sets out in search of the fountain of youth, accompanied by an assortment of allies: his vampire brother, Horst; Madam Zarenyia, a cheerfully lascivious angora-clad woman-spider devil; well-armed criminologist Leonie Barrow; and not-quite-corporeal witch Miss Smith. Their journey takes them through constructed “splinters of reality” full of dangers and temptations, and Cabal must confront both old enemies and his own conscience (despite his denials that he has any such thing).

Image result for Fates and TraitorsFates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini

On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. But how did Booth come to such a point? And how did his loved ones miss the warning signs . . .  Beginning with Mary Ann Holmes’ whirlwind romance with Booth’s father, the renowned actor Junius Brutus Booth, expands the dimensions of Booth’s tragedy to classic proportions . . . Booth’s sister, Asia, adored him, but she found his increasing sympathies with the slaveholding states more and more difficult to explain away. Unlike his brothers, June and Edwin, Booth struggled to memorize lines, yet his good looks not only smoothed over many of his acting flaws, but also landed him in the good graces of many women, including Lucy, the impressionable second daughter of Sen. John Parker Hale of New Hampshire. Despite her family’s reservations, Lucy fell head over heels in love with the actor, offering the opportunity to cast shadows over Booth’s conspiring to kidnap (and later to assassinate) Lincoln . . . Lastly, Mary Surratt enters the tale. As the proprietress of the boardinghouse where Booth plotted with his accomplices, her perspective emphasizes the collateral damage of Booth’s act. [Actually ordered this book for the Library.]

Image result for This Road We TraveledThis Road We Traveled by Jane Kirkpatrick

Kirkpatrick takes readers back to the 1840s and the westward expansion of the United States. Tabby Brown, the matriarch of the Brown-Pringle clan, is excited when her son Orus returns with news that the family will be making the trip out west to Oregon. This announcement is immediately followed by the pronouncement that the journey will be too much for the aging and infirm Tabby. Defiantly, Tabby makes arrangements and attaches her own wagon to the family caravan. She is provided multiple opportunities to stay behind, especially as she finds that not all of her family is leaving, but she always chooses to continue on. Kirkpatrick does a fine job developing the many family members as they make their way to the Pacific, and the deliberate, halting pace of the story accurately recapitulates the same attributes of the arduous trek across the western frontier. Tabby is a formidable, intrepid force, certain that God still has a purpose for her despite her age and disability.

Image result for The Sheriff of Savage WellsThe Sheriff of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden

A spirited markswoman and a tough-as-nails lawman, each vying to be sheriff of the town of Savage Wells, in this chaste and tender historical set in the rugged Wyoming Territory of 1875. Acting sheriff Paisley Bell brought down a notorious gang in her normally peaceful town, but the mostly absentee sheriff got the credit. Now Paisley has to prove that a woman can be a full-time sheriff. She’s competing for the job against Cade O’Brien, a legendary lawman whose reputation sends criminals running. Paisley loves protecting her gossipy, quirky, and well-meaning neighbors, and she also needs the income to support her father, whose dementia is worsening every day. Complicating matters, there’s money missing from the bank, and Paisley’s ex-fiancé shows up.

Image result for the underground railroad by colson whiteheadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora and Caesar on what is literally an underground railroad, using such brief magical realist touches to enhance our understanding of the African American experience. Cora, an outsider among her fellow slaves since her mother’s escape from a brutal Georgia plantation, is asked by new slave Caesar to join his own escape effort. He knows a white abolitionist shopkeeper named Fletcher with connections to the Underground Railroad, and as they flee to Fletcher’s house, Cora saves them from capture with an act of violence that puts them in graver danger. “Who built it?” asks Caesar wonderingly of the endless tunnel meant to carry them to freedom. “Who builds anything in this country?” replies the stationmaster, clarifying how much of America rests on work by black hands. The train delivers Cora and Caesar to a seemingly benevolent South Carolina, where they linger until learning of programs that recall the controlled sterilization and Tuskegee experiments of later years. Then it’s onward, as Whitehead continues ratcheting up both imagery and tension.– [Actually ordered this book for the Library.]

Image result for What Gold BuysWhat Gold Buys by Ann Parker

Autumn 1880 in the Rocky Mountains brings frost, snow, and the return of Silver Queen Saloon owner Inez Stannert to Leadville, Colorado. In this silver rush boomtown, those who are hungry for material riches seek their fortunes in precious metals. Others, hungry for spiritual relief, seek to pierce the veil between life and death with the help of fortunetellers, mediums, and occultists. Deep in the twisted byways of Leadville’s Stillborn Alley, soothsayer Drina Gizzi awaits the promised arrival of her benefactor, the mysterious Mr. Brown. When she is found murdered, strangled with a set of silver and gold corset laces, no one seems to care except the three who find her body—Inez, her lover Reverend Sands, and Drina’s young daughter, Antonia. The mystery surrounding Drina’s death deepens when her body vanishes without a trace. As Inez and Antonia band together to seek out Drina’s killer, they unearth disturbing evidence of underground resurrectionists, long-held grievances, and white-hot revenge. Meanwhile, Inez’s husband, Mark Stannert, true to his word that he only “plays to win,” contrives to drive Inez and Sands apart, gambling that he can convince her to abandon her plans for divorce. But what can gold buy, after all? A new life? Freedom from the past? Truth and justice for those murdered and unmourned? Or a final passage for Inez and Antonia into an unmarked grave and the world of the dead? And what of Mr. Brown, whose missing presence hovers over all, like a spirit from beyond?

Image result for The WonderThe Wonder by Emma Donoghue

A small village in 1850s rural Ireland is baffled by Anna O’Donnell’s fast, which began as a self-inflicted and earnest expression of faith. After weeks of subsisting only on what she calls “manna from heaven,” the story of the “miracle” has reached a fever pitch. Tourists flock in droves to the O’Donnell family’s modest cabin hoping to witness, and an international journalist is sent to cover the sensational story. Enter Lib, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale who is hired to keep watch for two weeks and determine whether or not Anna is a fraud. As Anna deteriorates, Lib finds herself responsible not just for the care of a child, but for getting to the root of why the child may actually be the victim of murder in slow motion. [Author of the bestseller, Room; now a major motion picture.]

Non-Fiction

Image result for The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. NortonThe Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton: Victorian England’s “Scandal of the Century” and the fallen socialite who changed women’s lives forever by Diane Atkinson

A heroine of the women’s rights movement is rescued from obscurity in this biography of Caroline Norton, a respected poet, songwriter, and socialite whose 1836 adultery trial rocked Victorian England. George Norton accused his wife of having an affair with the British prime minister, sparking “the scandal of the century.” Though she was declared innocent, the humiliated George locked Caroline out of their home, seized her manuscripts, letters, clothes, jewels, and every penny of her earnings, and refused to let her see their three sons. This account of the “criminal conversation” trial sheds light on the desperate position of women in Victorian society and chronicles Caroline’s lifelong campaign to establish legal rights for married and divorced women, in effect establishing them for the first time as full-fledged human beings before the law.

Image result for Dividing the ReservationDividing the Reservation: Alice C. Fletcher’s Nez Perce Allotment diaries and letters, 1880-1892 by Nicole Tonokovich

Ethnologist Alice C. Fletcher helped write the Dawes General Allotment Act of 1887 and became one of the first women to serve as a federal Indian agent. A commanding presence, she spent four summers with the Nez Perce, completing close to 2,000 allotments. Charged with supervising the daunting task of resurveying, verifying, and assigning nearly 757,000 acres, Fletcher also had to preserve land for transportation routes and restrain white settlers claiming prime properties. She sought to “give the best lands to the best Indians,” but faced numerous other challenges, including the terrain, complex ancestries, and her own misperceptions about native life. Fletcher wrote daily–letters, reports, petitions, scholarly documents, articles, diaries. The collection reproduced here illuminates her relations with the key players and offers insight into how federal policy was applied, resisted, and amended, as well as her internal conflicts over dividing the reservation.

Image result for Eureka Stockade by gregory blakeEureka Stockade: A ferocious and bloody battle by Gregory Blake

Eureka Stockade: A ferocious and bloody battle, is the epic account of the battle for the Eureka Stockade, an iconic moment in Australian history. On the chilly dawn morning of 3 December 1854 British soldiers and police of the Victorian colonial government attacked and stormed a crudely-built fortification erected by insurgent gold miners at the Eureka lead on the Ballarat Gold Diggings. The fighting was intense, the carnage appalling and the political consequences of the affair profound.

This book, for the first time, examines in great detail the actual military events that unfolded during the twenty minutes of deadly fighting at Eureka

Image result for Frontier Grit: The unlikely true stories of daring pioneer womenFrontier Grit: The unlikely true stories of daring pioneer women by Marianne Monson

A fascinating and rare look at women pioneers and their tales of courage and hardship in the untamed American West. These are the stories of twelve women who heard the call to settle the West and who came from all points of the globe to begin their journey: the East Coast, Europe, and as far away as New Zealand. They endured unimaginable hardships just to get to their destination, and then the next phase of their story began. These are gripping miniature dramas of good-hearted women, selfless providers, courageous immigrants and migrants, and women with skills too numerable to list. All the women in this book did extraordinary things: One became a stagecoach driver, disguised as a man. One became a frontier doctor. One was a Gold Rush hotel and restaurant entrepreneur. Many were crusaders for social justice and women’s rights. All endured hardships, overcame obstacles, broke barriers, and changed the world—inspiring examples for the modern woman.

Image result for The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910 by Esther CraineThe Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910 by Esther Crain

Mark Twain coined the term the “Gilded Age” for this period of growth and extravagance, experienced most dramatically in New York City from the 1870s to 1910. More than half of America’s millionaires lived in the city. Previously unimaginable sums of money were made and spent, while poor immigrants toiled away in tenements. Author Esther Crain writes, “There was an incredible energy, a sense of greatness and destiny. Things were literally going up-skyscrapers, elevated train tracks, new neighborhoods and parks. Accompanying all of that was an equal amount of greed and lust. Crime, vice, political scandals-the Gilded Age produced an abundance of depravity.”

 
The Gilded Age in New York City covers daily life for the rich, poor, and the burgeoning middle class; the influx of immigrants which caused the city’s population to quadruple in 40 years; how new-found leisure time was spent in places such as Coney Island and Central Park; crimes that shocked the city and altered the police force; the rise of social services; and the city’s physical growth both skyward and outward toward the five boroughs. Through words and amazing, rarely seen images, Crain captures between covers the metamorphic story of city at the center of the world.

Image result for Rivals of the RipperRivals of the Ripper: Unsolved murders of women in Late Victorian London by Jan Bondeson

Bondeson does a workmanlike job of chronicling a dozen unsolved cases of murder in London from 1861 to 1897 that have been greatly overshadowed by the Whitechapel murderer. Not all of the individual cases—which include some prostitute killings, two where shopkeepers were probably killed by robbers, and cases where the elderly victims were targeted by burglars—are compelling, but even the more prosaic ones offer insights into the state of policing at the time. The most unsettling chapter deals with a series of tragedies that few readers will have even heard of: the West Ham Disappearances of the 1880s and 1890s, which culminated in the sexual assault and murder of a 15-year-old girl.

Image result for The Thousand Dollar DinnerThe Thousand Dollar Dinner: America’s first great cookery challenge by Becky Libourel Diamond

Diamond, a journalist and research historian specializes in reconstructing 18th- and 19th-century American recipes. This richly detailed chronicle showcases the fantastic dining experience concocted in 1851 by Philadelphia chef James W. Parkinson in response to a challenge from 15 wealthy New Yorkers who claimed their city produced the best meals. Parkinson, an early advocate of American foods, devised a 17-course banquet (including wines) that took more than 11 hours to consume. Diamond dishes out more than the menu of this remarkable meal, deconstructing each course with details of the class mores, cultural habits, and food preferences of elite 19th-century Americans. Diamond adds another layer of richness to her account by weaving in the history of the various foods and the array of utensils, touching on soup’s 5,000-year-old history and heralding “the invention of leak-free containers which could withstand boiling over an open fire.”

Image result for The Winchester: The gun that built an American dynastyThe Winchester: The gun that built an American dynasty by Laura Trevelyan

Arguably the world’s most famous firearm, the Winchester Repeating Rifle was sought after by a cast of characters ranging from the settlers of the American West to the Ottoman Empire’s Army. Laura Trevelyan, a descendant of the Winchester family, offers an engrossing personal history of the colorful New England clan responsible for the creation and manufacture of the “Gun that Won the West.” Trevelyan chronicles the rise and fortunes of a great American arms dynasty, from Oliver Winchester’s involvement with the Volcanic Arms Company in 1855 through the turbulent decades of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She explores the evolution of an iconic, paradigm-changing weapon that has become a part of American culture; a longtime favorite of collectors and gun enthusiasts that has been celebrated in fiction, glorified in Hollywood, and applauded in endorsements from the likes of Annie Oakley, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, and Native American tribesmen who called it “the spirit gun.”

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