Fangirl Bookish Memories

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s topic is bookish memories. This can be anything from waiting in line for a book release to meeting an author to finding an out of print book. What are your memories?

10. Fairy tales!
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When I was little, they were my go to reading choices even though I couldn’t associate with wanting to live happily ever after. What drew me to them was Europe and for a little girl growing up outside El Paso, Texas, trust me Europe seemed amazing. I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could go see where Cinderella lived and company. :sigh: My four-year- old self still insists I didn’t try hard enough to find Snow White when I was living abroad.

09. Winning the golden ticket!
danbrownOkay not THE ticket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the Borders (:sob: I miss you!) golden ticket for a signed copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. In 2009, they ran a scavenger type contest and would tweet the location of the clue. No clue in my city, but the neighboring town had one and it was a 40 minute drive (in rush hour traffic) and I did question if it was worth the drive. On arrival, I thought someone beat me to the ticket because the location of the clue yielded nothing until, I removed all the books from the shelf and it was behind the last book. The manager laughed when he caught me dancing and I was very pleased with my win.

08. David Gandy!

Okay he’s not exactly a bookish moment, but during my chats with other bloggers he’s been mentioned so why not add him to the list?

07. Fictional Boyfriends
Um…let’s just say I have way too many and I don’t have enough room in bed for all of them. LOL! I just hope they all realize how much I adore them equally and don’t fight over me. Who’s on your list and how many do you have?

06. Book series!

He often envied people who hadn’t read his favorite books. They had such happiness before them. ― Charles Finch, A Stranger in Mayfair

I love this quote by Charles Finch that appears in his fourth Lenox novel. It’s very true! I love discovering new book series and going on a journey with the characters. It’s bittersweet when they end, but you can always revisit and get to know them all over again. Some of the magic is lost, but in my opinion, you experience that magical feeling when someone you know starts a beloved series and falls in love.

05. Getting books signed!
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I’ve mentioned before, if given the opportunity, I won’t pass up a signed book. 2012 was a great year for my bookcase! I do have to say the best inscription of a book to date, comes from Chelsea Cain and most of my friends know of my love for Archie Sheridan from her Archie/Gretchen series. When a former friend had the opportunity to attend a book festival with Cain present, she went and got me a book signed and I will always be thankful to her for that because I know Cain isn’t her type of author and she took time out of her busy schedule to attend. Thank you M!

04. Meeting Deborah Harkness.
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Deborah Harkness is the first author I’ve met at a book signing. Prior to that, I had no idea how these things were conducted despite everyone telling me what to expect. It was exciting and the line after her Q&A was long, but when the moment came to hand her my books, I didn’t want to say anything in case I interrupted her concentration while she signed them! She was lovely and happily answered a question I had.

03. Interviewing Charles Finch.
I had the opportunity to interview Charlie for another blog (see #1); it was exciting, but nerve wracking. Most of you probably know how it feels, taking the plunge to ask for an interview. He truly is an amazing and thoughtful person. Hopefully we’ll meet one day and I hope my fangirl letter to him didn’t scare him off.

02. Meeting George RR Martin.

Let me explain…a few years ago, I was helping out at the annual Medieval Spring Lecture series run by undergrad university and there were a few whispers among the History / English students that someone big might be attending. The first night of the series, the know-it-all in our group began to fangirl and I was about to ask him what was wrong, when I looked up to hand a program to an attendee and I almost passed out! It was Martin himself and we chatted a bit about the lecture series, etc. By the end of the week he knew my name and the following year, he remembered me. I don’t think he attends the lectures anymore since Game of Thrones has become popular, but it would be lovely to see him again.

01. Book blogging

Although Literary, etc was established in June when my friend Arlinda suggested it, I didn’t take it seriously. A few months later, I was asked to be part of a blog that was being created and the first 2 words in their name were my suggestion. I left in early December due to scheduling conflicts and different agendas. It wasn’t an easy decision to make and there are times I regret accepting the offer to join because I had really good friendships with some of the girls. Since my departure, the friendships have ended and it makes me incredibly sad. Most of my content was removed and no mention of my departure was announced (makes it seem as if I never existed). I wish them well and I have no hard feelings towards them. To: K, R, E, T, A, & M-thanks for the fangirl moments and wish things had turned out differently.

Book Review: Charles Finch’s A Death in the Small Hours

13538931Title: A Death in the Small Hours
Author: Charles Finch
Genre: Mystery / Detective
Series: Yes / Book 6 of 6 (as of review posting)
Rating: 5 out 5
My Copy: Purchased

A Death in the Small Hours is the sixth installment of the Lenox mystery series and his best one to date. If you’ve never read the Lenox series, don’t fret as each of his books can be read as a standalone. Although Finch isn’t one of those writers to drown you in a character’s back story, I do believe a reader new to the series will fail to appreciate the personal history of his characters. As the series progresses, the Lenox characters grow and I’m afraid a reader will miss key elements that would help further understand a character’s way of thinking or reaction to a situation. Therefore, I do recommend you start at the beginning with A Beautiful Blue Death and work your down the list, but it’s not necessary.

Set in 1874, A Death in the Small Hours picks up right where we left off at the end of A Burial at Sea. Our favorite Victorian gentleman, Charles Lenox, finds himself contemplating life. He has everything a man should want for: a loving wife, a daughter, and is a highly respected member of the House of Commons. There’s just one small problem…he misses being a detective. At times Lenox does question if he made the right decision leaving his now defunct career as a detective for that of a life in Parliament. Lenox loves politics, “but for all his pleasure in the long debates and the hushed hallway conversations of his present life, Lenox had never quite felt as viscerally engaged with Parliament as he had with crime.” Meeting with his protégé, Lord John Dallington, of course doesn’t help shake off the feeling that perhaps he made the wrong decision. In key scenes like these your heart aches for Lenox.

When the opportunity comes to deliver the opening speech, Lenox decides to spend a few quiet weeks in Somerset to work on his speech. He seeks refugee at Everley, his Uncle Frederick Ponsonby’s house in Plumbley. Uncle Freddie takes the opportunity to request Lenox’s assistance in a serious matter. Plumbley has been plagued by a series of vandalisms where baffling clues have left behind; that of a sketch of a man and a black dog along with roman numerals painted on a church door. The question: who is behind this and why. Lenox gets the chance to dip his toes in detection and when a murder occurs he knows time is of the essence. The mystery itself is satisfying and Finch isn’t one to make it easy on a reader regarding the suspect list. Be prepared to admit defeat.

For readers not familiar with nineteenth century England, Finch provides detailed descriptions in both political, social, and industrial. While Finch gives us history lessons, he does it in a subtle format. For example, Lenox arrives in London from Somerset and immediately stepping off the train platform his eyes sting from the London fog. He goes on to explain, “It was a worsening problem; on one day earlier that month the mixture of yellow fog and coal smoke—what residents called the London Particular—had been so bad that the police ordered the streetlamps lit during the daylight hours, not much after noon.” Coal was the primary fuel used in the nineteenth century as a source of heat and power. As the coal soot drifted down it mixed with smoke and fog causing a London Particular. The death of cattle mentioned in A Death in the Small Hours due to this London Particular did indeed happen. On December 10, 1873, cattle being exhibited at the Great Show at Islington suffocated; the smoke was so thick it was impossible to see across the street and many reported a choking sensation was felt while breathing. Finch also makes you contemplate little tidbits he weaves within the narrative. For example, “A funny quirk of the language, as the Times had pointed out recently, that in Britain the Royal Mail delivered the post, while in the United States, the Postal Service delivered the mail.” When I mentioned this particular piece to a friend her response was, “(long pause) I think my brain just exploded.” We spent the next several minutes discussing this in great detail.

If I could take a moment to discuss Finch’s writing; I’m the first to admit that I love his writing. A Death in the Small Hours is his best to date; it’s beautifully written and evocative. Finch’s narrative of Lenox with Sophia left me spellbound. Lenox describing his visit in 1854 to Sophia had me smiling with tears in my eyes. In every Lenox and Sophia scene, you could feel the love Lenox has for his daughter. When I think about which scenes stand out, I’d say the cricket scene is at the top of the list along with the advice in speech writing, however; there were three particular scenes that had me in tears. I worry about spoilers and will keep quiet regarding what they are; however, I will say this, as I write this the emotions associated with those three scenes still leave me a bit emotional.

While A Death in the Small Hours does lag on occasion, it is by no means a snore. Some have questioned the need for the cricket scene, but upon reflection it is integral to the plot. Fans of the series may criticize the short appearance of several beloved characters. Dallington plays a vital, but small role; Graham and McConnell’s appearance was short and I longed for more. We are introduced to two new characters and I cannot wait to see their appearance in future books. Finch does a superb job with the narrative and you’ll walk away contemplating life and one’s decisions. The only outcome of course is to move forward and anticipate the future.

Interview: Charles Finch

charlieCharles Finch was kind enough to agree to an interview. He’s one of my favorite authors and his first novel, A Beautiful Blue Death, was nominated for an Agatha Award and was named one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2007, one of only five mystery novels on the list.


Q. You chose the Victorian Era as the foundational time frame to your novels because it serves as a reflection of contemporary issues in a literary framework. Notwithstanding the connection, given the opportunity, would you travel back in time to the Victorian Era? Would you want to live there, or just visit? Why or why not?

I would love to travel back in time to the Victoria period – briefly. One of the things I try to emphasize in my books is that no matter how civilized life was, it also had a brutal, unpleasant side, with widespread illness and poverty, early deaths, and every stripe of prejudice…and think of all the things you would miss from the modern era! Could I check Facebook? If not I think I’ll stick with our time and have fun daydreaming about theirs.

Q. At the end of The September Society, Charles Lenox agrees to run for Parliament with Lady Jane’s blessing as well as his brother, Edmund’s support. His dream of standing for Parliament finally comes true in book 3. Did you already know at the end of A Beautiful Blue Death that Lenox’s dream would come true? As for yourself are you politically inclined, and do you have any aspirations in that sphere?

From the start I really liked the idea of pulling Lenox away from his work as a detective, and I planted the seeds for him to enter politics in the first book, yes. But actually I wasn’t sure whether Lenox would win his election in Stirrington until the day when I wrote the chapter! I like to make big decisions like that one by feel.

I love politics, and I’ve worked in it before. But I’m happy writing.

Q. You’ve previously named Elizabeth Gaskell as a source of research for your work. Which of her novels did you rely on the most, and how do you feel about her writings? Did the underlying themes relating to the social and political strata of British society impact your writings?

Some time ago I read North and South, and I loved how astute it was about exactly the political and social calibrations you mention. She was much more sophisticated than Dickens, for instance, who wrote from a more emotional angle. Gaskell is definitely the writer I try to think of when I’m writing about class clashes…

Q. If the opportunity ever comes, would you sell the rights to the Lenox series for either television or film? How often have you “cast” it? Who’s your ultimate dream cast?

I would love to sell the Lenox rights, preferably for TV – I agree with the cliché that suspense novels work for film, mysteries for episodic TV. My friend and family love to cast the books, and on my Facebook fan page I think the fans ended up casting Jeremy Northam as Charles Lenox, Jennifer Ehle as Lady Jane, Andrew Lincoln as Graham, Matthew McFayden as McConnell, Aaron Johnson as Dallington, Imogen Poots as Toto, Kenneth Branagh as Edmund, and Stephen Fry as Shreve. Can’t argue with those picks!

Q. A couple of the books were written while you were a postgraduate student. How did you balance coursework and writing? Did your fellow course mates know? What was their reaction as well as that of the faculty?

I definitely tried to keep those two parts of my life segregated – the faculty didn’t know, and only my friends among the course people. I never found it hard to balance the two; in fact, if anything I’m happier when I have a couple of different projects to shift between.
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