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Image result for "angel reading" 19th century paintingThe last Pre-Reads post of the year is brought to you by a well-read angel.–No, not me, that lovely being on the left over there. S/he has guided the sixteen choices brought to you today; eight fiction and eight non-fiction titles that were published or reprinted this December. All items are highly reviewed from Amazon, Baker and Taylor, Kirkus Review, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. The summaries provided are straight from these sources as well. Since these titles are newly published, I have not had a chance to read them ahead of time, so I am unable to recommend one book over the other for you. However, I always encourage you to share your own reviews and comments.

This month proved to be more than challenging for the fiction section as 90% of Victorian-esque novels are Romance. Evidently there is not a large market for 1800s inspired Christmas books focusing on peace on Earth and good will toward men. . . Thus said, I managed to uncover other titles you might find interesting. There are a couple of Sagas, the closing of a Steampunk trilogy, time-travel!, a Western featuring good ol’ Arizona, and a fantasy to round out the offerings. The non-fiction section will be your best bet if you are looking for meat to your reading choices and less saccharine. The non-fiction also displays a couple of stories and notes from the Wild West, spirits in New Orleans, pioneering women in science and journalism, a new twist on the ascension story of our beloved Queen, a close view of a Victorian workhouse, and a detailed perspective of 19th century fashion! Which ones are you planning on picking up? Leave a note in the comment section.

Fiction

Image result for The Fairbairn FortunesThe Fairbairn Fortunes: An Edwardian country house romance by Una-Mary Parker

In this dazzling stand-alone sequel to The Fairbairn Girls, a new generation of the Fairbairn family must confront – and overcome – life’s difficulties as war looms. 1913: The aristocratic Fairbairns are reunited for Christmas when Lady Rothbury’s daughter Diana invites the whole family to her estate. Laura, now a successful dressmaker, is the first to arrive with her daughter, Caroline, followed by Lady Rothbury, her five other daughters and their families. But as the New Year approaches, the family’s happy reunion is about to be shattered. Affairs, war and tragedy are all on the horizon for the Fairbairn girls, who must negotiate new heartbreak and hardship. Will Caroline, who shows great talent as a ballet dancer, find her moment to shine? Are separations as irrevocable as they appear? Love, loss, forgiveness and joy thread through the lives of the Fairbairn family – but who will get their happy ending?

Image result for The Financier by Theodore DreiserThe Financier by Theodore Dreiser

The Financier is a nuanced portrait of one of the greatest characters in twentieth-century literature. Based on the life of railway tycoon Charles Tyson Yerkes, the epic narrative spans from the aftermath of the Civil War to the Great Chicago Fire and the Panic of 1873. Both a glimpse of a fascinating period in American history and a timeless portrait of the dark side of human nature, this is the compelling tale the Wall Street Journal hailed as “the greatest of all American business novels . . . [with] an amazingly intricate description of high-rolling 19th-century finance.”

Image result for For the Record by Regina JenningsFor the Record by Regina Jennings

Betsy Huckabee is a spirited, adventurous woman writing for her uncle’s newspaper in the little town of Pine Gap, Mo.—not the most common occurrence during the 19th century. She dreams of being published in a big-city newspaper, and her rejections seem to be over when handsome Joel Puckett arrives as the new town deputy and inspiration strikes for a fictionalized story. Although believing she is destined to be free from a man’s grip, Betsy is charmed by Joel’s rugged good looks and creates a tale featuring the handsome “Deputy Eduardo Pickett.” Eduardo, burned by his former mistress, has sworn off love and never expects to fall for the charms of a small-town reporter. While Joel tries to maintain the peace in Pine Gap, he is faced with conflict from the masked vigilantes who ride through the town at night. Unable to trust anyone, Joel struggles to cleanse the town of its corrupt leadership and prove that he is worthy of his badge, all while maintaining his swoon-inducing motto: “A hero always comes back for his lady.”

Image result for Good Time Coming by C.S. HarrisGood Time Coming by C.S. Harris

Harris tells a powerful story of war’s destruction of property, people, hopes, and morals during the Civil War in Louisiana. This is top-notch historical fiction, thoroughly researched and vividly presented, revealing the Civil War in all its brutality. Thirteen-year-old Amrie St. Pierre lives with her mother on a farm near the Mississippi port town of St. Francisville. Her father and most local men are in the Confederate army fighting up north near Vicksburg. The Union army comes upriver from New Orleans, burning, plundering, and pillaging—terrorizing citizens, punishing them for secession. Louisiana families suffer greatly from deprivation—little food, no medicine, sickness, and the constant threat of rape and murder. Amrie, her mother, and Mahalia, another citizen, are assaulted by two Yankee soldiers, but the women kill both men and hide their bodies. They know Yankee retribution will be swift and harsh. After the soldiers’ bodies are finally discovered, the whole town will be punished if the killers don’t step forward. Amrie and her mother learn the strength of women united against cruelty and oppression.

Image result for Lantern City 3Lantern City 3 by Matthew Daley, Mairghread Scott, Carlos Magno, Trevor Crafts, Bruce Boxleitner

No one said changing Lantern City would be easy. Sander Jorve gave up everything to change Lantern City: his family, his home, even his identity. Now, with a ruthless force of outlaws rising from the Underground, an emperor gone mad, and a desperate army from beyond the Wall converging on the city, Sander will have to choose a side . . . if he can remember what he’s fighting for. The epic saga of Lantern City concludes here. Created by Trevor Crafts and co-created by Bruce Boxleitner and Matthew Daley, written by Daley and Mairghread Scott, and illustrated by Carlos Magno, Lantern City explores what it takes to change a person’s place in the world, all set in an original, sprawling steampunk universe.

Image result for Last Year by Robert Charles WilsonLast Year by Robert Charles Wilson

The 21st-century time travelers who came to 1870s America didn’t just reveal themselves to be from the future; they also built the City of Futurity in the Midwest to give tourists—at least those willing to pay the extremely expensive ticket price—a vague look at the world to come. Jesse Cullum is a “native” City employee, born in the 19th century, who knows he’s got a good deal working security and means to keep it, especially while supporting his sister, Phoebe. Knowing the future people’s oddities well, he’s not surprised by the forthright and occasionally crude behavior (by 19th-century standards) of his new security partner, Elizabeth DePaul. But he is surprised when he falls in love with her, and shocked when someone arms the oppressed groups of the 19th century with future knowledge and weaponry.

Image result for The Lawman by Anna SchmidtThe Lawman by Anna Schmidt

After six months in the big city, Jess Porterfield has to find his place in his small hometown, so accepting the position of marshal seems like a good way to prove himself, especially when the woman he loves is threatened by a powerful enemy. Jess isn’t proud of the fact that he left his family just when they needed him most, right after the death of his father, when the town’s detested Tipton brothers, Jasper and Buck, were trying to take over their ranch. Restless and grieving, Jess made plans to leave for Kansas City and asked Addie Wilcox, the woman he wanted to marry, to come with him, but she refused. Six months away was enough to make Jess realize how much he missed his family and his girl, but in coming back, he’s stunned to learn that his sister has solved many of the crises that had overwhelmed him. Addie is angry and hurt, which isn’t completely surprising, but disturbingly, Buck Tipton has his sights on her. Plus there are rumors flying that his father was murdered by the Tiptons, even though another man has been charged with the crime—the former marshal. Since the position is open, Jess throws his hat in the ring and is hired, then begins to earn the town’s trust with his levelheaded problem-solving. However, things take a serious turn when Jasper Tipton’s wife, Pearl, turns up dead, and Buck accuses Addie of murdering her. Dragged to Tucson and thrown into a horrible jail, Addie champions better conditions for the prisoners even as Jess has to figure out how to save her from hanging and convince her he loves her.

Image result for A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo HunterA Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

In the latest novel from the author of Lady of Magick, Sophie and Gray Marshall must save the Kingdom of Britain from a tide of dark magic…Three years after taking up residence at the University of Din Edin, Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting the heiress of Alba to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Sparks fail to fly between the pragmatic Lucia of Alba and the romantic Prince Roland, and the marriage alliance is cast into further doubt when the men who tried to poison King Henry are discovered to have escaped from prison. Gray sets off to track the fugitives abroad, while Sophie tries to spark a connection between the bride and groom by enlisting them in her scheme to reopen a long-shuttered women’s college at Oxford. Though a vocal contingent believes that educating women spells ruin, what Sophie and her friends discover in the decaying college library may hold the key to protecting everything they hold dear—as well as a dark secret that could destroy it all.

Non-Fiction

Image result for 19th Century Fashion in Detail19th Century Fashion in Detail by Lucy Johnston, Marion Kite, Helen Persson, Leonie Davis

An up-close look at the defining features of exquisitely crafted nineteenth-century fashion in vivid detail. Lucy Johnston is an expert in historical dress and a former curator in the Department of Fashion, Textiles, and Furniture at the V&A. She is now a freelance curator and museum consultant. Her publications include Fashion in Detail: 1800-1900. Marion Kite is Emeritus Textile Conservator at the V&A, where she was formerly Head of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Conservation. Helen Persson, formerly a curator in the Asian Department of the V&A, is Senior Curator at the Swedish History Museum.

Image result for Across the Plains in 1884 by Catherine SagerAcross the Plains in 1884 by Catherine Sager

In April 1844 the Sager family took part in the great westward migration and started their journey along the Oregon Trail. During it, both Henry and Naomi lost their lives and left their seven children orphaned. Later adopted by Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, missionaries in what is now Washington, they were orphaned a second time, when both their new parents were killed during the Whitman massacre in November 1847. About 1860 Catherine, the oldest girl, wrote a first-hand account of their journey across the plains and their life with the Whitmans. Today it is regarded as one of the most authentic accounts of the American westward migration.

Image result for Adventures of an American Girl in Victorian LondonAdventures of an American Girl in Victorian London by Elizabeth L. Banks

Elizabeth Banks entered London at the height of the Victorian age. A young girl from New Jersey, her journalistic writings captured the spirit of England and those who lived there. Rather than simply observing how the people of London lived from afar she immersed herself in the world of the London poor, working side-by-side with them and speaking to them directly as they worked. At the other end of the social scale Banks also posed as an heiress seeking social advancement from established gentlemen in Britain. The received answers to her advertisements demonstrated the grasping nature of some men, clawing after this heiress’s American dollars. Elizabeth Banks was an American journalist, who moved to London in 1892, and became a pioneer in the field of immersion journalism for women. Although she never renounced her American citizenship, she remained in England throughout the last forty years of her life. She died in London in 1938. Adventures of an American Girl in London was originally published under the title Campaigns of Curiosity: Journalistic Adventures of an American Girl in London in 1894.

bookcoverBasingstoke Workhouse: And Poor Law Union by Barbara A. Large

This absorbing book explores all aspects of life in that feared institution, the workhouse. From the staff who lived and worked there to the poor souls kept in the medical wing, it reveals a side of Basingstoke that has long since been forgotten. It covers the problems of administration and oversight, the stresses and strains suffered by the new, untrained and inexperienced officers who had to make it work, and the sometimes excruciating difficulty of getting every detail sanctioned by London. It also details how caring for the destitute and unfortunate often depended on the personalities of the people in charge, and how the Poor Law Union became a whole new tier of local government, still operating today.

Image result for Becoming Queen Victoria: The unexpected rise of Britain's greatest monarchBecoming Queen Victoria: The unexpected rise of Britain’s greatest monarch by Kate Williams

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, monarchies across Europe found themselves in crisis. With mad King George III and his delinquent offspring tarnishing the realm, the English pinned their hopes on the only legitimate heir to the throne: the lovely and prudent Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince of Wales and granddaughter of the king. Sadly, those dreams faded when, at age twenty-one, she died after a complicated pregnancy and stillbirth. While a nation grieved, Charlotte’s power-hungry uncles plotted quickly to produce a new heir. Only the Duke of Kent proved successful in his endeavor, with the birth of a girl named Victoria. Writing with a combination of novelistic flair and historical precision, Williams reveals an energetic and vibrant woman in the prime of her life, while chronicling the byzantine machinations behind Victoria’s struggle to occupy the throne—scheming that continued even after the crown was placed on her head. Upon hearing of the death of her predecessor, King William IV, Victoria—in her bold first act as queen—banished her overambitious mother from the room, a simple yet resolute move that would set the tone for her reign. The queen clashed constantly not only with her mother and her mother’s adviser, the Irish adventurer John Conroy, but with her ministers and even her beloved Prince Albert, all of whom, in one way or another, attempted to seize control from her.  By connecting Charlotte’s sad fate to Victoria’s majestic rule, Kate Williams lays bare the passions that swirled around the throne—the court secrets, the sexual repression, and the endless intrigue. The result is a grand and satisfying tale of a woman whose destiny began long before she was born and whose legacy lives on.

Image result for The Glass Universe: How the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the starsThe Glass Universe: How the ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the measure of the stars by Dava Sobel

If you took an astronomy course in college, you learned a still-current classification system for the stars whose origins stretch back to the 1880s as well as a geography in which a star such as HD 209458—which “made news when modern detection methods located a planet in orbit around it”—finds its place in the star charts. Though the Henry Draper Catalogue bears a man’s name, it was the work of the women he hired as “computers” who did most of the analysis that fueled it. Draper, an astronomer and technologist, funded that work, overseen by a Harvard scientist named Edward Charles Pickering, who thought it ungallant to have women scrambling about in the cold and dark with the telescopes but thought that “women with a knack for figures could be accommodated in the computing room, where they did credit for the profession.” So they did, and Sobel’s heroines, at 25 cents per hour, made signal contributions to observational astronomy. Henrietta Swan Leavitt, for instance, took on the Great Nebula in Orion, discovering hundreds of variables, while the indomitable Williamina Paton Stevens Fleming ran an efficient shop while making enough advances on her own that, largely overlooked in her own country, she was made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1906. Often, even as they made major discoveries, the “computers” of Harvard College Observatory left it to the males who ruled science to bask in their glory. More than recounting and celebrating the lives and work of these distinguished and decidedly unsung women, Sobel also provides insight into how basic science research is now supported, thanks to lessons learned in the military and commercial applications of once-arcane technologies—though, even after World War II and their contributions to it, women found it as difficult as ever to find scientific work.

Image result for Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The life and times of Henry Louis RaySpiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans: The life and times of Henry Louis Ray by Melissa Daggett

Focuses on Le Cercle Harmonique, the francophone séance circle of Henry Louis Rey (1831–1894), a Creole of color who was a key civil rights activist, author, and Civil War and Reconstruction leader. His life has so far remained largely in the shadows of New Orleans history, partly due to a language barrier. Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans focuses on the turbulent years between the late antebellum period and the end of Reconstruction. Translating and interpreting numerous primary sources and one of the only surviving registers of séance proceedings, Daggett has opened a window into a fascinating life as well as a period of tumult and change. She provides unparalleled insights into the history of the Creoles of color and renders a better understanding of New Orleans’s complex history. The author weaves an intriguing tale of the supernatural, of chaotic post-bellum politics, of transatlantic linkages, and of the personal triumphs and tragedies of Rey as a notable citizen and medium. Wonderful illustrations, reproductions of the original spiritual communications, and photographs, many of which have never before appeared in published form, accompany this study of Rey and his world.

Image result for The World of the American West: A daily life encyclopediaThe World of the American West: A daily life encyclopedia by Gordon Bakken

Addressing everything from the details of everyday life to recreation and warfare, this two-volume work examines the social, political, intellectual, and material culture of the American “Old West,” from the California Gold Rush of 1849 to the end of the 19th century. Offers insights based on social history and the daily experience of the average person to engage students’ interest and curiosity rather than focusing on the events, dates, and names of “traditional history.” 1) Presents information within a thematic organization that encourages a more in-depth study of specific aspects of daily life in the Old West. 2)Includes related primary documents that enable students to view history more directly and reach their own conclusions about past events. 3) Examines a wide range of topics such as work, family life, clothing and fashion, food and drink, housing and community, politics, social customs, spirituality, and technology. 4) Provides a general introduction per volume, individual topic introductions, numerous images and illustrations, a timeline of events, and a bibliography identifying print and nonprint resources.

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