Friday, December 29, 2017

Book Review - Lauren Willig's The English Wife

The English Wife by Lauren Willig
Published by: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 9th, 2018
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Bayard Van Duyvil has the perfect life. The sole male heir of an old Knickerbocker family he has a beautiful English wife, for whom he's recreated her ancestral home on the banks of the Hudson, and two beautiful children, three-year-old fraternal twins Viola and Sebastian. But there are rumors that everything isn't as perfect as it seems. Why would Bayard and his wife Annabelle hide themselves away in Cold Springs? A beautiful house is no excuse to being a recluse when New York society thirsts for your lifeblood. Soon New York society will get exactly what it craves when during a lavish ball to celebrate Twelfth Night Bayard is found with a knife in his chest and the name Georgie on his lips while his wife has disappeared. Everyone believes that the rumors about Annabelle and the house's architect at true. She has murdered her husband and absconded with her lover! The only one who doesn't believe the salacious lies all the newspapers are printing is Bay's younger sister, Janie. She is expected to keep calm and wait for the scandal to die down. But it pains her to see Annabelle's name dragged through the mud, they didn't know her like she did. A chance encounter with a reporter from The News of the World, a Mr. Burke, leads Janie to form a tenuous alliance with a man who represents the scandal rags that are pulling her world apart. Before too long Janie realizes that perhaps she didn't know Annabelle or even Bay. But with the tenacious and increasingly devoted Mr. Burke helping her she will get to the bottom of her brother's death and perhaps solve the mysteries of his life.

Having first read Lauren back in 2007 a short time after her third Pink Carnation book, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, had hit bookshelves I don't want to claim I'm an expert on her writing, but I have been along for the ride for a decade now. She's even one of the reasons I decided to start my blog! While I have loved reading every single one of her books, finding characters to love and to hate, ones to root for and ones that I long to see fall flat on their faces, the greatest joy was seeing her mature as a writer. When she wrote her first standalone, The Ashford Affair, back in 2013 she tapped into something new. Her writing started to move beyond the dual timeline narrative where despite troubles everyone gets a happily ever after. While I am a fan of this wish fulfillment in writing sometimes I feel that it's unsatisfying. That it doesn't actually reflect the world around us. Sometimes I don't want everyone to get a happy ending. This was very much showcased with That Summer, Lauren's 2014 standalone which might just be my favorite book she's written. Here Lauren had matured to a point that she was willing to kill off characters that we, the readers, had very much fallen in love with. Thankfully after going a little darker Lauren didn't reign it in. She continued this exploration of the underbelly of humanity in The Other Daughter and now in The English Wife. Sometimes good intentions lead to death. Sometimes love can't conquer all. Sometimes there are secrets that will out no matter what. As for me, I loved every second of the seedier side, it's like Gossip Girl 1800s.   

If there is one linking thread through Lauren's work it would be her love of Shakespeare. Of course, seeing as he helped forge the very language we all use he could be considered important to every book ever written, but with Lauren it's special. I dare you to count the number of times her characters have had their mouth's stopped with a kiss as Benedick does to Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Here though we've reached a whole new level wherein Shakespeare seems another character in the story. Annabelle and Bay meet in London where she is working on stage in a musical evisceration of Twelfth Night at the Ali Baba Theater. If the play's the thing, Twelfth Night is the thing in The English Wife. Bay meets his death on Twelfth Night, their palatial recreation of Lacey Hall is renamed Illyria, and Bay and Annabelle's children are named after the hero and heroine of the play. But the references aren't just about infusing The English Wife with a bit of Annabelle's homeland via Shakespeare. The play itself is filled with confusion, merriment, love, gender, orientation, romance, and thankfully not a random lion like in As You Like It. These are themes that are all seen in Annabelle and Bay's story. Lauren has mined Shakespeare to help not only create a mirror to her story but to show the universality of it. I could quote Shakespeare here, but instead I feel like quoting Battlestar Galactica, "All of this has happened before and will happen again." Humanity has a basic universality to it. The building blocks are all the same. Shakespeare knew this and so does Lauren. Sure, everything is a tale as old as time, but it's how you go about telling it that makes it unique.

While Shakespeare is classic, there's another author to whom this moniker belongs that The English Wife shares some DNA with and that's Daphne Du Maurier. I'm going to say this right out, there is no one like Daphne Du Maurier. Therefore when any book that is mildly Gothic and has a house starts throwing around comparisons to this unparalleled author I just want them to shut it. Because whatever they have written will be a disappointment because comparisons are nothing more than a marketing ploy. The book won't deliver and you'll spend all your time wondering why you're just not re-reading Rebecca. When I read The English Wife back in August there were obviously no reviews yet. No one proclaiming that The English Wife is in the least like Du Maurier. Nothing to taint or sully my initial impressions. Therefore I was wonderfully surprised that the denouement of the book set during the inquest and a subsequent blizzard trapping our cast of characters at Illyria felt like a modern interpretation of Du Maurier. I'm not sure if Lauren purposefully set out to do this, because most attempts fail in the execution, and yet, here she is, bucking the odds. What I think helped is that instead of going for the big similarities, she started small, with Giles Lacey, Annabelle's cousin from England, who happens to share a name with Maxim de Winter's brother-in-law. Though THIS Giles would be mortified that I called him small! Instead of reminding me of Rebecca's former in-law, he reminded me of Rebecca's cousin Jack Favell, and in particular George Sanders's portrayal of him in the Hitchcock film. From there it snowballed into other similarities to the book and Hitchcock's adaptation, but always still being Lauren's voice. How Lauren has mastered this, I do not know, but she gets a tip of my hat.

Yet that isn't the only doffing of my hat that I must do in reviewing The English Wife! Now this isn't a brag, or even a faux humble brag, the fact is I'm just really good at figuring out plot lines. Be it a procedural show or a whodunit, I will solve it so fast that you won't know what hit you. A recent example of my weird "gift" was when I was watching Big Little Lies. Now I hadn't read the book but in a seven episode miniseries I was able to put ALL the pieces together and proclaim them as fact before the end credits rolled on the first episode. Six more wasted hours later and I was proven right. Sometimes to try to make things harder on myself I'll tune into a show halfway through and see if I can figure out what's going on without any exposition. Ironically Elementary has proven to be the easiest to crack. Now I think you can see why I like character driven stories that are quirky. Humor goes a long way to fill plot holes. So why am I going on about this bizarre quirk of my analytical brain? Because when someone actually pulls one over on me I feel this need to give them a standing ovation. In The English Wife I was so involved in two of the reveals that it's like Lauren smacked me upside the head with the biggest one and I didn't see it coming. At all. Bravo Lauren! It's like there were these shining motes of dust alighting on Bay and his wife and their marital woes and I was linking a to b to c and going ah yes, I see how it is, and yet I didn't see! It was there, looming right around the corner, and it pounced and got me. If Lauren were a lion I would be a goner.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: 1926
Format: Paperback, 4256 Pages
To Buy

"Okay, so this doesn’t really count as research, per se. The Blue Castle is the story of downtrodden Valency Stirling, the awkward cousin and perpetual poor relation, who finally kicks over the traces and blossoms into her own person, horrifying her family and delighting readers.

Yes, yes, all very well, but what, you may ask, does a novel set in rural Canada have to do with a murder suicide in Gilded Age New York? (Aside from Anne of Green Gables’s feelings about puffed sleeves.)

Here’s the answer: there are two female narrators in The English Wife: Georgie, an actress, and Janie Van Duyvil, younger sister of the murdered man. My little sister always gives me comments on the early chapters of my books. This time, she took one look at those Janie chapters and said, “You do realize that Janie is Valency Stirling, right?” Actually, I hadn’t realized. But, as always, my sister was right. (She has a habit of being right about these things.) Janie Van Duyvil and Valency Stirling are kindred spirits, quirky characters who have been cowed into conformity by overbearing mothers, both of whom are freed by the catalyst of a traumatic event: in Valency’s case, thinking she has only months to live; in Janie’s case, the death of her brother, disappearance of her sister-in-law, and savaging of her family’s reputation. So that’s why The Blue Castle is on this list. Also because it’s one of my favorite books of all time and everyone should read it, right away." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"An unforgettable story of courage and romance. Will Valancy Stirling ever escape her strict family and find true love?

All her life, Valancy Stirling lived on a quiet little street in an ugly little house and never dared to contradict her domineering mother and her unforgiving aunt. Then she gets a letter―and decides that very day things need to change. For the first time in her life, she does exactly what she wants to and says exactly what she feels.

At first her family thinks she's gone around the bend. But soon Valancy discovers more surprises and adventure than she ever thought possible. She also finds her one true love and the real-life version of the Blue Castle that she was sure only existed in her dreams..."

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

With what we've all gone through publicly and privately this year it's more important than ever to come together with those we love for a wonderful holiday season. I'm sending wishes for the best possible Christmas, or whatever holiday you celebrate because for all I know you think this is just the day we get new episode of Doctor Who, and yes, we're getting not only a new Doctor Who episode but a new Doctor this year! "Cthulhu bless us, everyone!" Wait... that doesn't sound right...

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture by Roger Panetta

Dutch New York: The Roots of Hudson Valley Culture by Roger Panetta
Published by: Fordham University Press
Publication Date: June 15th, 2009
Format: Paperback, 450 Pages
To Buy

"I grew up in a New York that was very aware of its Dutch roots. There was a vogue in Lower School for birthday parties at the Museum of the City of New York in which we would sit in a replica of the old fort and be shown Peg-Legged Pete (aka Governor Stuyvesant) telling off an apple thief, and then taken to a party room where we would be dressed as little Dutch girls, allowed to climb in and out of a Dutch bed, shown how to churn butter, and, eventually, fed very modern cake. I remember being fascinated, as a small child, at being told that the land our house in Cold Spring stood on had once belonged to a vast patroon estate, a semi-feudal arrangement unique to New York that had persisted so long that a quitclaim deed was necessary to make sure we owned the land outright.

What was this Dutch influence and how did it still shape the world in which I lived? This was a theme that popped back up when I was writing The English Wife, set in 1890s New York, at a moment in which the old Dutch values were clashing with the robber baron exuberance of the rapidly growing city. Bayard Van Duyvil and his sister Janie are rooted in the Hudson Valley culture of their paternal grandparents but also estranged from it due to their urban childhoods and socially conscious mother.

This book of essays looks at that Dutch legacy, at the ways in which the Dutch influence created a unique Hudson Valley culture." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"The 2009 quadricentennial celebrations commemorating the discovery of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson will also spotlight one of our deepest and most enduring national legacies―the Dutch presence that has shaped not just the Hudson Valley but four centuries of American life.

This lavishly illustrated book, a companion to the exhibition opening in June 2009 at the Hudson River Museum, takes needed stock of the remarkable past created by the settlers of New Netherlands. Although the Dutch controlled the Hudson Valley only until ceding it to the British in 1664, the Dutch established the towns and cities that today define the region―from New Amsterdam upriver to Fort Orange, today’s Albany. The Dutch heritage lives on, not only in historic estates or Dutch-named places like the Bronx or Yonkers but also in commerce, law, politics, religion, art, and culture.

In thirteen original essays, this book traverses those four centuries to enrich and expand our understanding of America’s origins. The essays, written by a superb team of distinguished scholars, are grouped into five chronological frames―1609, 1709, 1809, 1909, and 2009―each marking a key point in the history of the Dutch in the valley.

The topics range widely, from patterns of settlement and the Dutch encounter with slavery and Native America to Dutch influences in everything from architecture and religion to material culture, language, and literature.

Based on fresh research, this book is at once a fascinating introduction to a remarkable past and a much-needed new look at the Dutch role in the region, in the story of America’s origins, and in creating the habits, styles, and practices identified as quintessentially New York’s."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Gilded New York: Design, Fashion, and Society

Gilded New York: Design, Fashion, and Society by Phyllis Magidson,‎ Susan Johnson,‎ and Thomas Mellins
Published by: Applewood Books
Publication Date: November 5th, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

"Shiny! So much shiny! I’m not the world’s most visual person, but you can’t write a book about the Gilded Age without lots of glossy, full page photos. It’s an era that begs for physical description: the gowns, the jewels, the furniture, the art, and, of course, the gilding. It’s an era of opulence and show, and, oh boy, does it show. If Edith Wharton reminisced about the staid brownstones of her youth, this is the other side of the picture, the untrammeled conspicuous consumption of the robber barons that forced even the most staid old New York families to up their game to keep up, moving from their brownstones to luxe new mansions on the hitherto undeveloped hinterlands of the Upper East Side. My characters in The English Wife are caught in the middle of this transition, with Bay’s cousin Anne enthusiastically adopting the new opulence (this book provided much inspiration for her mansion), while Bay’s mother puts off building on the parcel of land she’s bought, not wanting to fall behind even as she deplores the vulgarity of the new people. Want more shiny? Also check out Richard Cheek’s Newport Mansions: the Gilded Age. Because if you thought those Manhattan homes were over the top...." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"The Gilded Years of the late nineteenth century were a vital and glamorous era in New York City as families of great fortune sought to demonstrate their new position by building vast Fifth Avenue mansions filled with precious objects and important painting collections and hosting elaborate fetes and balls. This is the moment of Mrs. Astor’s “Four Hundred,” the rise of the Vanderbilts and Morgans, Maison Worth, Tiffany and Co., Duveen, and Allard. Concurrently these families became New York’s first cultural philanthropists, supporting the fledgling Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Opera, among many institutions founded during this period. A collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York, Gilded New York examines the social and cultural history of these years, focusing on interior design and decorative arts, fashion and jewelry, and the publications that were the progenitors of today’s shelter magazines."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Misfit City by Kiwi Smith
Published by: BOOM! Box
Publication Date: December 19th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 112 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Nothing’s happened in Wilder’s hometown since they filmed that cult kids’ adventure movie there in the 80s...Until one day, she and her friends come upon a centuries-old pirate map!

Smothered by her backwater hometown and frustrated by its 1980s cult-movie fame (The Gloomies...have you seen it? It’s a real classic, y’know.), Wilder is pretty sure she’s seen everything Cannon Cove has to offer. She’s desperate to get away from home as soon as she can, and move on to bigger, better, and less annoying things…even if that might mean leaving her best friends behind.

But when Wilder discovers a centuries-old pirate map, she may find out that REAL adventure was in their tiny town all along...and they need each other to get to the bottom of it! It’s a rip-roaring adventure written by award-winning screenwriter Kiwi Smith (10 Things I Hate About You, Legally Blonde) and Kurt Lustgarten, and illustrated by Naomi Franquiz."

This week brought to you by comics and 80s nostalgia... 

Grumpy Cat and Garfield by Mark Evanier
Published by: Dynamite Entertainment
Publication Date: December 19th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 100 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"It's the inevitable meeting of the sourpusses! Garfield, the reigning cynical cat of newspapers and TV crosses paths with Grumpy Cat, the internet sensation whose scowl endeared herself to the world. Who's the most sarcastic? Well, he likes lasagna and not much else...and she doesn't even like lasagna. Can these two inhabit the same comic book mini-series, let alone the same planet? You'll find out in a trio of issues written by Mark Evanier and illustrated by Steve Uy. We'd say it's the cat's meow but neither of these cats meows."

Um, why didn't Jim Davis do this?

Friday, December 15, 2017

King Lehr and the Gilded Age by Lady Decies

King Lehr and the Gilded Age: With Extracts from the Locked Diary of Harry Lehr by Lady Decies and Elizabeth Drexel Lehr
Published by: Applewood Books
Publication Date: 1935
Format: Paperback, 330 Pages
To Buy

"Again, memoir, inherently suspect, blah blah. But I couldn’t resist Elizabeth Lehr’s gossipy account of her double life with the man who replaced Ward McAllister as the man about town, Mrs. Astor’s right hand man. The Lehrs were in the thick of the New York and Newport social whirl—and also just about the same age as my main characters. There are also other reasons that the Lehrs interested me, but we won’t get into those just now." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"Harry Symes Lehr was born in 1869 into a family that was neither wealthy nor socially prominent. His natural gift for entertaining and his penchant for hobnobbing with the very rich earned him entry to the powerful circle of the New York and Newport social elite, where Harry clowned his way to a position of prominence. One of his admirers and patrons, Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, introduced him to a young widow, Elizabeth Wharton Drexel. Elizabeth was smitten with young Harry, his elegant dress, and outrageous behavior. They were soon married. But King Lehr had a secret―he was not what he seemed. On their wedding night he cruelly dictated to his new bride the rules of their strange bedfellowship. For twenty-three years, Mrs. Lehr protected his secret and remained in a loveless and abusive marriage. After Harry’s death, Elizabeth remarried, to the Baron Decies. Lady Decies wrote down her secret story in 1938, incorporating Harry’s most intimate diaries, and told all in this scandalous tale of power, desire, and deception."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Backward Glance: An Autobiography by Edith Wharton

A Backward Glance: An Autobiography by Edith Wharton
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 1934
Format: Paperback, 424 Pages
To Buy

"Memoirs are always suspect. People tend to remember what they want to remember; images become blurred or combined; details are rearranged. BUT. This is Edith Wharton we’re talking about. Who can resist the chance to see the New York of her childhood through her eyes, even if it might be a bit tweaked about the edges? Especially when there are lines like these: The little girl and her father walked up Fifth Avenue: the old Fifth Avenue with its double line of low brown-stone houses, of a desperate uniformity of style, broken only -- and surprisingly -- by two equally unexpected features: the fenced-in plot of ground where the old Miss Kennedys' cows were pastured, and the truncated Egyptian pyramid which so strangely served as a reservoir for New York's water supply. The Fifth Avenue of that day was a placid and uneventful thoroughfare, along which genteel landaus, broughams and victorias, and more countrified vehicles of the "carryall" and "surrey" type, moved up and down at decent intervals and a decorous pace. Wharton’s very nostalgia for that vanished world, and the way she constructed it in contrast to what came later, provided a great deal of insight into the culture wars between old and new that are a major theme in the background of The English Wife. And now that we’ve had two Wharton-related books in a row, let’s just move right on past those fifteen other Wharton books on my shelves...." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"Edith Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize, vividly reflects on her public and private life in this stunning memoir.

With richness and delicacy, it describes the sophisticated New York society in which Wharton spent her youth, and chronicles her travels throughout Europe and her literary success as an adult. Beautifully depicted are her friendships with many of the most celebrated artists and writers of her day, including her close friend Henry James.

In his introduction to this edition, Louis Auchincloss calls the writing in A Backward Glance “as firm and crisp and lucid as in the best of her novels.” It is a memoir that will charm and fascinate all readers of Wharton’s fiction."

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Bloodstains with Bronte by Katherine Bolger Hyde
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: December 12th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Classic novels and crime solving intertwine in Katherine Bolger Hyde's charming series. Bloodstains with Bronte is the second in a series that will puzzle and please fans of mystery and masterpieces alike.

Windy Corner is being remodeled into a writers' retreat. Two of the young workers, Jake and Roman, are showing too much of the wrong kind of interest in Katie, Emily's young single-mother housekeeper.

It's a stormy autumn and Emily is reading Wuthering Heights. Roman, a dark and brooding type, reminds her of Heathcliff. At a Halloween murder mystery fundraiser at Windy Corner, someone is found stabbed to death. Windy Corner's very own detective, Luke, is reluctantly forced to investigate Katie.

Luke digs into the background of the contractor, Jeremiah Edwards, and Emily, now reading Jane Eyre, realizes Jeremiah resembles St. John Rivers in his obsessive, tormented piety. Will Luke figure out who the murderer is before Katie ends up in jail or someone else is killed?"

Because what says good cozy read other than Brontes and murder? Only me then?

Mad Hatters and March Hares edited by Ellen Datlow
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: December 12th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From master anthologist Ellen Datlow comes an all-original of weird tales inspired by the strangeness of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

Between the hallucinogenic, weird, imaginative wordplay and the brilliant mathematical puzzles and social satire, Alice has been read, enjoyed, and savored by every generation since its publication. Datlow asked eighteen of the most brilliant and acclaimed writers working today to dream up stories inspired by all the strange events and surreal characters found in Wonderland.

Featuring stories and poems from Seanan McGuire, Jane Yolen, Catherynne M. Valente, Delia Sherman, Genevieve Valentine, Priya Sharma, Stephen Graham Jones, Richard Bowes, Jeffrey Ford, Angela Slatter, Andy Duncan, C.S.E. Cooney, Matthew Kressel, Kris Dikeman, Jane Yolen, Kaaron Warren, Ysbeau Wilce, and Katherine Vaz."

So... I'm more interested in this to see if anyone can actually succeed, because all Alice inspired writing I've ever read has failed miserably, because seriously, there's no one like Carroll.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee

Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee
Published by: Vintage
Publication Date: April 10th, 2007
Format: Paperback, 912 Pages
To Buy

"Born in 1862, Wharton is just a little bit older (but functionally of the same generation) as two of my main characters in The English Wife: Bayard Van Duyvil and his younger sister, Janie. Both grow up in Wharton’s world, the world of old brownstones gradually ceding way to new opulence, and the cultural clashes that come with that shift. Like the young Wharton, Janie Van Duyvil is too bookish for her mother’s taste. I found Lee’s evocation of Wharton’s childhood world—the locations, the customs, the assumptions—incredibly useful in understanding both Janie and Bay." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"From Hermione Lee, the internationally acclaimed, award-winning biographer of Virginia Woolf and Willa Cather, comes a superb reexamination of one of the most famous American women of letters. Delving into heretofore untapped sources, Lee does away with the image of the snobbish bluestocking and gives us a new Edith Wharton-tough, startlingly modern, as brilliant and complex as her fiction. Born into a wealthy family, Wharton left America as an adult and eventually chose to create a life in France. Her renowned novels and stories have become classics of American literature, but as Lee shows, Wharton's own life, filled with success and scandal, was as intriguing as those of her heroines. Bridging two centuries and two very different sensibilities, Wharton here comes to life in the skillful hands of one of the great literary biographers of our time."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
Published by: Broadway Books
Publication Date: June 1st, 2011
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

"No one expects a headless torso. (Well, hardly anyone?) When pieces of a body started popping up around New York in the hot summer of 1897, both police and reporters swung into action, in a competition to see who could solve the crime first. Aside from being fascinating in its own right as a) a murder mystery, and b) a look at the less-traveled immigrant corners of Gilded Age Manhattan, this book provided me with a great deal of color about the workings of the tabloid press in late 19th century New York. Of course, the murder in The English Wife doesn’t involve dismembering (just saying, just in case you were wondering), and it’s set among New York’s Knickerbocker elite rather than the German immigrant community, but this book was part of what inspired me to make one of my main characters, James Burke, a reporter at The World, drawn into an uneasy alliance with the sister of the murdered man as they both search for the truth." - Lauren Willig

The official patter:
"On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio--a hard-luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor--all raced to solve the crime.

What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim whom the police couldn't identify with certainty, and who the defense claimed wasn't even dead. The Murder of the Century is a rollicking tale--a rich evocation of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re-creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day."

Monday, December 4, 2017

Tuesday Tomorrow

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini illuminates the fascinating life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace—Lord Byron’s daughter, the world’s first computer programmer, and a woman whose exceptional contributions to science and technology have been too long unsung.

The only legitimate child of Lord Byron, the most brilliant, revered, and scandalous of the Romantic poets, Ada was destined for fame long before her birth. Estranged from Ada’s father, who was infamously “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” Ada’s mathematician mother is determined to save her only child from her perilous Byron heritage. Banishing fairy tales and make-believe from the nursery, Ada’s mother provides her daughter with a rigorous education grounded in mathematics and science. Any troubling spark of imagination—or worse yet, passion or poetry—is promptly extinguished. Or so her mother believes.

When Ada is introduced into London society as a highly eligible young heiress, she at last discovers the intellectual and social circles she has craved all her life. Little does she realize that her delightful new friendship with inventor Charles Babbage—brilliant, charming, and occasionally curmudgeonly—will shape her destiny. Intrigued by the prototype of his first calculating machine, the Difference Engine, and enthralled by the plans for his even more advanced Analytical Engine, Ada resolves to help Babbage realize his extraordinary vision, unique in her understanding of how his invention could transform the world. All the while, she passionately studies mathematics—ignoring skeptics who consider it an unusual, even unhealthy pursuit for a woman—falls in love, discovers the shocking secrets behind her parents’ estrangement, and comes to terms with the unquenchable fire of her imagination.

In Enchantress of Numbers, New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini unveils the passions, dreams, and insatiable thirst for knowledge of a largely unheralded pioneer in computing—a young woman who stepped out of her father’s shadow to achieve her own laurels and champion the new technology that would shape the future."

Ada Lovelace is everywhere these days, even on this season of Victoria, so this is a must read, especially as the release day event is at my local Barnes and Noble!

Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C. Kasasian
Published by: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The latest mystery in the popular Victorian crime series featuring the ever-curmudgeonly private detective, Sidney Grice, and the charming March Middleton.

London, 1884.

125 Gower Street, the residence of Sidney Grice, London's foremost personal detective, and his ward March Middleton, is at peace.

Midnight discussions between the great man and his charge have led to a harmony unseen in these hallowed halls since the great frog disaster of 1878.

But harmony cannot last for long. A knock on the door brings mystery and murder once more to their home. A mystery that involves a Prussian Count, two damsels in distress, a Chinaman from Wales, a gangster looking for love, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House..."

I JUST recently found out about this series and I can not wait to dive fully in. 

Bryant and May: Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler
Published by: Bantam
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May are back on the case in this whip-smart and wildly twisting mystery, in which a killer in London’s parks is proving to be a most elusive quarry.

Helen Forester’s day starts like any other: Around seven in the morning, she takes her West Highland terrier for a walk in her street’s private garden. But by 7:20 she is dead, strangled yet peacefully laid out on the path, her dog nowhere to be found. The only other person in the locked space is the gardener, who finds the body and calls the police. He expects proper cops to arrive, but what he gets are Bryant, May, and the wily members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

Before the detectives can make any headway on the case, a second woman is discovered in a public park, murdered in nearly identical fashion. Bryant, recovering from a health scare, delves into the arcane history of London’s cherished green spaces, rife with class drama, violence, and illicit passions. But as a devious killer continues to strike, Bryant and May struggle to connect the clues, not quite seeing the forest for the trees. Now they have to think and act fast to save innocent lives, the fate of the city’s parks, and the very existence of the PCU.

An irresistibly witty, inventive blend of history and suspense, Bryant and May: Wild Chamber is Christopher Fowler in classic form."

Anyone else not liking the new cover look? The covers are what first drew me to this series, and if this had been the cover I would have NEVER picked them up.

Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon
Published by: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor―and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy―and whether she may still be alive―is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought."

For a more holiday themed read, with murder of course. 

No Time To Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From acclaimed author Ursula K. Le Guin, and with an introduction by Karen Joy Fowler, a collection of thoughts—always adroit, often acerbic—on aging, belief, the state of literature, and the state of the nation.

Ursula K. Le Guin has taken readers to imaginary worlds for decades. Now she’s in the last great frontier of life, old age, and exploring new literary territory: the blog, a forum where her voice—sharp, witty, as compassionate as it is critical—shines. No Time to Spare collects the best of Ursula’s blog, presenting perfectly crystallized dispatches on what matters to her now, her concerns with this world, and her wonder at it.

On the absurdity of denying your age, she says, “If I’m ninety and believe I’m forty-five, I’m headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.” On cultural perceptions of fantasy: “The direction of escape is toward freedom. So what is ‘escapism’ an accusation of?” On her new cat: “He still won’t sit on a lap…I don’t know if he ever will. He just doesn’t accept the lap hypothesis.” On breakfast: “Eating an egg from the shell takes not only practice, but resolution, even courage, possibly willingness to commit crime.” And on all that is unknown, all that we discover as we muddle through life: “How rich we are in knowledge, and in all that lies around us yet to learn. Billionaires, all of us.”"

I have read so much Le Guin this year that I just HAVE to get my hands on more!

Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: December 5th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 560 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The seventh novel in James S. A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series--now a major television series.


In the thousand-sun network of humanity's expansion, new colony worlds are struggling to find their way. Every new planet lives on a knife edge between collapse and wonder, and the crew of the aging gunship Rocinante have their hands more than full keeping the fragile peace.

In the vast space between Earth and Jupiter, the inner planets and belt have formed a tentative and uncertain alliance still haunted by a history of wars and prejudices. On the lost colony world of Laconia, a hidden enemy has a new vision for all of humanity and the power to enforce it.

New technologies clash with old as the history of human conflict returns to its ancient patterns of war and subjugation. But human nature is not the only enemy, and the forces being unleashed have their own price. A price that will change the shape of humanity -- and of the Rocinante -- unexpectedly and forever..."

Do you know what I plan to do this winter? Read ALL THE EXPANSE! ALL OF THEM!!!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Willig Winter

The second time I went to New York it was more than just a rushed trip tacked onto a family vacation to Washington. The second time was magical, going to all the museums and looking at all the art I'd spent years reading about. During that trip I discovered The Frick Collection, which is located right on fifth avenue and was the home of Henry Clay Frick. It's not just the art that is amazing, though seriously you will be shocked by the number of pieces you recognize from Ingres to Renoir to Vermeer to Rembrandt, but the house itself is a work of art preserved in time. It's like really cheap time travel! You feel as if Edith Wharton were about to hold court over high tea in the luxurious indoor garden. Years later when I went back to New York I discovered the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, which is located in the Andrew Carnegie Mansion. Again I was walking in another era. These homes were built by the New York upper crust as they slowly started moving to the Upper East Side. I was so pleasantly surprised when I picked up Lauren Willig's latest book, The English Wife, to slip back into this world again. A world of excess and elegance, fortunes lost and gained, and secrets, but all contained within this other time. So whether you knew about Lauren Willig's new book yet or not, I think you can feel the theme month coming on right? The English Wife is Lauren's fourth stand-alone and therefore a fourth theme month was not just necessary but vital. It's in another time and another world, but one I hope you've been wanting to explore as much as I have over the years. 

But enough from me, let's hear from Lauren as we welcome in Willig Winter!

"When Miss Eliza asked me if I would recommend six or seven books I’d used in writing The English Wife for a companion read, I thought, easy peasy!

Then I looked at my bookshelf.

I’d forgotten just how much went into The English Wife. My research pile included book-length accounts of infamous murder cases in turn of the century New York (of which there were more than you would expect), oversized coffee table books with pictures of mansions and marquetry and jewels and gowns, extensive histories of Dutch New York, biographies of robber barons, sociological studies of nineteenth century women’s charitable organizations, memoirs of nineteenth century authors and socialites, unpublished dissertations about specific towns in the Hudson Valley in the mid to late nineteenth century, and books on topics that I can’t go into without giving plot twists away.

And that’s just the New York end of things. We won’t even get into all the Newport research, the gossipy accounts of past residents and glossy pictures of “cottages”. A chunk of the book takes place in England and a smaller chunk in France, so I also have shelves and shelves of books on topics like theatre in Victorian England, monographs about Paris in the Belle Epoque, and biographies of Proust. I may have gotten just a little carried away while reading up for this book....

So, in the interest of brevity, I’m sticking to the New York-centric books for this particular list and keeping it to non-fiction. With one exception at the end. You’ll see why.

At some point, I’ll try to put up a more comprehensive list on my website. If I don’t get crushed beneath a giant pile of research books along the way." - Lauren Willig

Literally the seven books Lauren has selected look beyond tempting, but in the interest of full disclosure, unlike Ashford April (The Asford Affair), This Summer (That Summer), and Jazzy July (The Other Daughter), I have been unable to read them all and write reviews because this year has been a personal as well as a global dumpster fire. But my guilt is your reward, because this means I feel obliged to do a giveaway!  

Giveaway Prize:
A copy of The English Wife personalized TO YOU from Lauren's tour stop at Murder by the Book in Houston on January 17th, 2018

The Rules:
1. Open to EVERYONE (for clarification, this means international too).

2. Please make sure I have a way to contact you if your name is drawn, either your blogger profile or a link to your website/blog or you could even include your email address with your comment(s) or email me.

3. Giveaway ends Sunday, December 31st at 11:59PM CST (Yes, that's New Year's Eve folks!)

4. How to enter: Just comment on this post for a chance to win!

5. And for those addicted to getting extra entries:

  • +1 for answering the question: What is your favorite house turned museum?
  • +2 for becoming a follower
  • +10 if you are already a follower
  • +10 for each time you advertise this contest - blog post, instagram (@miss.eliza), twitter (@eliza_lefebvre), etc. (but you only get credit for the first post in each platform, so tweet all you like, and I thank you for it, but you'll only get the +10 once from twitter). Also please leave a link! 
  • +10 for each comment you leave on other Willig Winter posts with something other than "I hope I win!" 
Good luck!

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