Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway: Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara

Book Synopsis
Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair—the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light, with her husband and their children.

My Review
I have always been fascinated by World's Fairs and Expositions, so I was particularly interested in reading Death at the Paris Exposition. 

Emily Cabot is a university lecturer from Chicago who also solves crimes.  She travels to the Paris Exposition of 1900 with socialite Bertha Palmer.  She takes her husband and three young children along, and while in Paris, she works as Mrs. Palmer's secretary.  A couple of valuable jewels go missing, and then a body is discovered in a wax figure tableau.  That is when the mystery really deepens, and the search for the killer - and jewel thief - is on.  

The historical details in this book are absolutely fascinating.  Readers will visit the Paris Exposition, meet artist Mary Cassatt, encounter Art Nouveau, couturiere gowns by M. Worth, and learn about life in Paris, 1900.  I loved many of the small details in this book, like Emily's visit to a marionette show with her children, and les bouquinistes, book stalls by the Seine.

The mystery is well paced and complex, and it kept me guessing.  I really liked the character descriptions as well, and particularly liked Emily as protagonist.     

Death at the Paris Exposition is part of a series, the Emily Cabot mysteries.  It is the first novel I've read in the series.  It worked fine as a standalone, but now I really want to read the rest of the books as well!

I recommend Death at the Paris Exposition enthusiastically to fans of historical fiction, World's Fairs, French culture, or just readers who enjoy a particularly well written mystery. 

Author Bio
Frances McNamara grew up in Boston, where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years.  She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.  She is the author of five other titles in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series, which is set in the 1890s and takes place primarily in Chicago: Death at the Fair, Death at Hull House, Death at Pullman, Death at Woods Hole, and Death at Chinatown.

Author Links
Visit her website
Follow her on Facebook
Sign up to receive her newsletter

Follow Allium Press of Chicago on Twitter | on Facebook
Buy the book:  on Amazon 


I received a copy of this book from France Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dear Abby - A Bed of My Own

Dear Friends,

Happy Friday to you!  I hope you have had a good week.  

I was wondering where your dogs and cats like to sleep?   I am a very big fan of the bed.  When I first came to live here, I was happy in the living room and then I suddenly disappeared.  I dashed up the stairs (don't worry - Momma knows about baby gates, and they are up now ALL the time).  My human Grandma came up after me and she found me in the center of the bed, looking very happy.  A bed is very important to me.  When I found a soft comfy bed here, I knew it would be a good place.  I sleep in the bed with my Momma at night.

I also am very fond of my dog bed in Momma's study.  She works here long hours, and our television is here for evening viewing ... so it is important that I have a very comfy place to rest.   My dog bed in the study has some fleece blankets and lots of cuddly soft toys.  (I am more interested in snuggling with toys than playing with them.)

One of my friends sent me a very cute link about a Chihuahua named Pancho has his own room.  Yes, you read that correctly:  not just a dog bed or crate, but his own room.  It is so cute that I thought you would enjoy it too!

Momma also found a few fun links about old fashioned console TV sets that have been converted to a dog bed, almost like a mini bedroom.  Momma said she sees these console televisions all the time at yard sales and thrift stores.  Here are a few examples with "do it yourself" directions:

Dachshunds in a console TV bed (Furniture Flippin')
Pug in a console TV bed (Artfire)

Yorkie in a console TV bed (Endorsed by Igor) 

Where do your pets like to sleep?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Wishing you a great weekend.


Abby xoxoxo

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review - Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Book Synopsis

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.
Add to Goodreads badge

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 


My Review

I have been excited about Hidden Figures (and the movie adaptation) since I first heard of it.  I have long been interested in the early days of NASA, as well as women's history.

This nonfiction book is a fascinating look at the lives of the African American women who helped pioneer NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), which later became NASA, through their work in mathematics.  

Hidden Figures tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, mathematicians who come to the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in Hamden, Virginia as "computers" (mathematicians).  Their stories are covered both separately and interwoven.  I found these brilliant women to be so inspiring.  Their personal stories were very moving.  Their work, and the work of other African American mathematicians, space scientists, and physicists, was so crucial to the space program.  This is an important book, and I really hope it reaches a large readership.

One incident in the book really encapsulates what these brilliant women, the "West Computers," faced working at Langley early on.  They worked long hours with very detailed assignments.  In the employee cafeteria, they were assigned a table labeled "Colored Computers."  One of the women started removing the sign, but it kept reappearing.  Eventually over time the sign no longer appeared, and integration within the Langley workforce moved forward.

The historical details of Hidden Figures are fascinating.  I especially was interested in life at Langley during the 1940's, in the early days of the program.  Langley played a crucial role in World War II aviation.  The same attention to detail is seen as the book moves into the 1950's and 1960's.  It is truly such an interesting read for anyone who loves history.

The book is beautifully written.  Margot Lee Shetterly's research and passion for the subject shines through.  The descriptions are vivid and they make history come to life.

I give Hidden Figures five stars and my highest recommendation.  This is nonfiction for all readers (not just nonfiction fans).  It tells a fascinating story about women you will admire and care about.  Hidden Figures is so inspiring, and it brilliantly illuminates part of history that has not been covered enough in the past.
Author Bio
Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Find out more about Margot at her website and connect with her on Twitter.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Murder at Rough Point by Alyssa Maxwell

Book Synopsis
In glittering Newport, Rhode Island, status is everything. But despite being a poorer relation to the venerable Vanderbilts, Emma Cross has shaped her own identity—as a reporter and a sleuth.

As the nineteenth century draws to a close, Fancies and Fashion reporter Emma Cross is sent by the Newport Observer to cover an elite house party at Rough Point, a “cottage” owned by her distant cousin Frederick Vanderbilt that has been rented as an artist retreat. To her surprise, the illustrious guests include her estranged Bohemian parents—recently returned from Europe—as well as a variety of notable artists, including author Edith Wharton.

But when one of the artists is discovered dead at the bottom of a cliff, Rough Point becomes anything but a house of mirth. After a second murder, no one is above suspicion—including Emma’s parents. As Newport police detective Jesse Whyte searches for a killer, Emma tries to draw her own conclusions—with the help of Mrs. Wharton. But with so many sketchy suspects, she’ll need to canvas the crime scenes carefully, before the cunning culprit takes her out of the picture next . . .

Purchase Links

Author Bio
Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer, but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons. 

Author Links
Twitter –
Facebook –
Webpage –
GoodReads –

2 lucky winners will receive a print copy of Murder at Rough Point - U.S. ONLY
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 19, 2016

Music Monday - "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by The Eurythmics (1983)

If I ever make a list of favorite 1980's songs, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics will certainly be high on the list.  First, Annie Lennox has the most amazing voice!  Her voice is multitracked in harmony on this song.  Second, this song just captures a time in the 1980's so perfectly for me.

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was released in 1983 as the title track of The Eurythmics' second album.  I had this album and played it again and again - it's a great one!

Here's the original video - it's very 1980's!
Do you remember this song? Do you have other favorites by The Eurythmics? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.