Series Spotlight: A Gilded Newport Mystery by Alyssa Maxwell

For me, vacations as a child were spent on Cape Cod. Every year we would pile in to our old Ford Explorer and take the 5 hour-long trek from New Jersey to Cape Cod. For small children, 5 hours in the car can be an obscenely long time. Tired of listening to my sister and I moaning, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” my mother decided that stopping in Newport, RI would be a great half-way point to stretch our legs. It was during these stops in Newport that we began exploring Bellevue Avenue and discovered the Newport Mansions. They are large, enormous summer homes built during the Gilded Age by the Vanderbilts, Astors, Berwinds, Oelrichs, etc. They are BEAUTIFUL. In the 22 years since my first visit I’ve been to the mansions more times than I can count. I’ve introduced my husband, brother-in-law, and friends to these amazing feats of architecture and grandeur. Alyssa Maxwell is now introducing a whole new set of people to these museums with her A Gilded Newport Mystery series.

agnmam

So why am I telling you guys about this series? First, because the murders are solved by a super awesome heroine, Emma Cross. She’s smart, fiercely independent, creative, gutsy, strongly supportive of everyone around her, and one of the most generous women ever. But above all that? She’s a woman who refuses to be what the society of the time dictates. She’s a newspaper reporter – in the 1890s!!! She’s a distant Vanderbilt relative but doesn’t let that stop her from letting her house become a haven for societal outcasts. Regardless of her lower financial status, she always puts others first. She’s truly an incredible heroine.

Second, the locations and time period! I’ve been to these mansions. They are transporters to another place and time. The Gilded Age was one riddled with extravagance and extreme poverty, while also shepherding many changes on the social front. Women’s suffrage was rapidly increasing among the classes, as well as the abolition of child labor and introduction of many new industrial technologies. The amount of social, political, and economic upheval during this time period really helps drive the subplots of the mysteries.

And about those mysteries? They unfold for the reader and Emma at the same time. Nothing is kept from you that Emma herself hasn’t discovered or thought up. Mysteries told in first-person narrative are my favorite, because I think they offer the reader the ability to solve the crimes at the same time as the heroine/hero. Maxwell does a great job at letting you think you’ve figured it all out early on, then throwing a wrench in your (and Emma’s) hypothesis by adding in a new element to the crime. She really does a spectacular job.

Can I lastly just mention how beautiful the artwork on the covers is?

I highly recommend you pick up these fast-paced mysteries to take with you to the beach this summer. You’ll have a great time helping Emma solve the mysteries that just seem to keep happening in Newport!

In (story) chronological order (with my ratings) the series is:

  1. Murder at The Breakers – 4 out of 5 Stars
  2. Murder at Marble House – 4 out of 5 Stars
  3. Murder at Beechwood– 4 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Kensington Books for my copy of Murder at Beechwood via Netgalley!

2014 – A Year in Review

fireworksHere we are again, at the end of another year! As today is the last day of 2014, it’s time for my annual “Year in Review” post.

As of the writing of this post I’ve finished reading 182 books. 13 of those books were ones I read with my 7 month-old niece, so for argument’s sake let’s say 169. My starting goal was to read 130 books, so I’m counting 2014’s reading challenge as a completed success! That means adding another ten books to next year’s challenge for a total of 140 books! (Here’s to hoping I make it!)

And now the difficult part…picking my top ten reads of 2014!

  1. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay
  3. Laugh by Mary Ann Rivers
  4. Romancing the Duke/Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
  5. Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid (Really, the entire Knitting in the City series)
  6. The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
  7. Cinder/Scarlet/Cress by Marissa Meyer
  8. The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
  9. Before I Go by Colleen Oakley
  10. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell

With the amount of books I read in a year, choosing a top 10 seems stupid. With that said, here are all my runners-up (in no particular order)!

Ok readers, I’m passing the torch to you. What did you read this year? Any books or authors that stand out? Share them below! Enjoy the rest of your New Year’s Eve! See you in 2015!

Where You Been!?

Hello dear blog friends! (If there are any of you still reading this.)

I owe you all a serious apology for the dismal amount of posting that has (not) been occurring on the blog. Since I’ve become a bookseller with a non-traditional work schedule I seem to be trying to spend as much time (as this odd schedule allows) as I can with my darling hubby, friends, and family. Having your working hours occur while everyone else is free leads to missing everyone. And the free time I have while everyone else is working? Well I’ve been spending it on my deck, reading.

So let me give you a quick synopsis of what I’ve been reading/doing, what you should be reading, and what you can expect from the blog going forward.

IMG_20140501_195225

Charlotte, Four hours old

First and foremost I have to share my news! On May 1st I finally became an aunt! My niece Charlotte is the darling of my world. I love her to pieces. And having story time with her every time I babysit? The highlight of my life. She is super alert and listens to all the stories I share with her. What are we reading? Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans, LOADS of Dr. Seuss, Jane Austen primer books, and Bill Martin Jr’s Brown Bear & Friends series among other things. I like to believe that I’ll be solely responsible for turning her into a bookworm as she continues to grow.

IMG_20140709_173605

Charlotte, 10 Weeks Old

Speaking of growing – holy crap has she grown a lot in two months. The picture to the left is Charlotte at four hours old. The picture on the right was taken during story time this past Wednesday.

I barely got any reading done in May, but I can happily say that I ROCKED it out of the park in June. My YTD total (as of today) is 80 out of 130 reads for the year. I am way behind on writing reviews for all of you, but want to give you a quick synopsis of some of my recommendations.

In the “should read” column:

  1. LANDLINE BY RAINBOW ROWELL – holy crap read it read it read it read it read it. Staffer Sam and I are working on a joint review for this one. Let’s just say there was lots of texting back and forth about how fabulous this book was (as if it could ever have been bad.)
  2. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 3 out of the 4 books in the series have been published. They are fairy tales retold with a science fiction/fantasy flare. Book one, Cinder, is Cinderella. Book two, Scarlet, is Little Red Riding Hood. Book three, Cress, is Rapunzel. And book four, Winter, is about Snow White. The series is fantastic, especially for fans of fairy tales. Sam and I are working on a series spotlight post for the Chronicles, so keep an eye out.
  3. Summer Rain – An anthology featuring authors Ruthie Knox, Mary Ann Rivers, Charlotte Stein, Molly O’Keefe, and more! All of the proceeds for the book go to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). It’s filled with (mostly) fantastic contemporary romances.
  4. Murder at the Breakers by Alyssa Maxwell – If you’re in the mood for a mystery, look no further! Maxwell’s got a brand new series that takes place during the Gilded Age, set at the beautiful Newport Mansions.  As a kid my family would vacation for a week each summer in Cape Cod. Halfway between my childhood home and the Cape were the Newport Mansions. Reading a mystery series that revolves around said mansions is brilliant!!!
  5. And on the historical fiction front, I highly recommend The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway! It’s a great time traveling story that weaves in an epic romance. Ridgway’s debut novel is proof she’ll be around in the literary world for a while.

Though I haven’t written posts for my blog, I’ve written some posts that appear elsewhere! Reading BFF Kelly from Reading With Analysis and I reviewed the first book in Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series, The Chocolate Thief. I also did some more reviews over at Austenprose  – the first was for a fabulous paranormal what-if version of Pride and Prejudice by KaraLynne Mackrory. In Haunting Mr. Darcy an accident places Elizabeth in a coma, with her ghost appearing (and haunting) Darcy in his  London home. He has to figure out how to join her mind and body together again. It really was a great book. You can read my review here. The other review was for a contemporary/new adult version of P&P entitled Pride’s Prejudice by Misty Dawn Pulsipher. There were a bunch of editing issues with the book that threw me off for a bit, but ultimately something about the story captured me. My review for that is here.

Keep an eye out for posts from me in the near future. I’m hoping that in the next two weeks I can get finish the plethora of reviews I’ve started. In closing, let me know what you’ve been reading. Have you read anything I mentioned above? What do you think I should be reading? I hope you have all been enjoying your summers and getting in lots of reading time.

As always, happy reading!