Marshall Field and the Gilded Age

MF Dome

Renee Rosen has written an interesting biographical novel: What the Lady Wants. Through the eyes of socialite Delia Caton, Marshall Field and his social set come alive. Though twenty years separate their ages, Delia and Marshall turn to each other for relief from their unhappy marriages and scandalize Chicago society. But as much as this is […]

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If It Weren’t for Shakespeare…Ten Book Titles That Quote Shakespeare

Cover of The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes. Portrait of Hamlet seen as a young renaissance artist/poet.

William Shakespeare had that certain type of genius. He could basically steal from disparate sources and make something brand new. He is said to have lifted from Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, The Danish History of Saxo Gramaticus' Gesta Danorum, Seneca, Plutarch, Giovanni Boccacio, Arthur Brooke (or Broke,) Thomas Kyd, and local folktales. But, it's as if he invented the […]

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Women of Terrible Virtue

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Sanger came by her beliefs honestly. After watching her mother suffer through nearly 20 pregnancies and listening to her ex-Catholic father's radical speeches (often at the neighborhood watering hole), she took up the cause of women controlling their own sexuality and fertility. Ellen Feldman's biographical novel, Terrible Virtue, captures her zeal. Told mostly in […]

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#TBT: The Godfather Film Released

Book cover of the Godfather by Mario Puzo.

When Francis Ford Coppola became the go-to director for Paramount's next big picture—the film version of a pulpy novel called The Godfather by Mario Puzo—he was apprehensive. He thought it glorified violence and the criminal lifestyle and made Italian-Americans look bad. After a second read, he saw and put into the film the subtexts of family, […]

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Medieval Mysteries

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Around this time of year, my thoughts turn to the Middle Ages. Not sure why, but they do. So, in that spirit, I offer these often overlooked medieval mysteries. The ones set earliest in history are the King's Hounds mysteries by Martin Jensen. In them, Winston, an ex-religious and illuminator, and his man Hafdan, a former nobleman, do […]

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Fencing Females

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You can look at most of my posts and deduce that I'm a big fan of historical novels and unconventional heroines. Some of the books I review are easier reads than others. In the spirit of the holidays, here are three books that are propulsive, fairly quick reads that ask, what if a woman acted more like a […]

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This Boy’s Life: 4 Books About Growing Up

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Poet and novelist James McManus has a new book of linked stories out, Education of A Poker Player. We follow Vince Killeen through adolescence as he grows away from his childhood desire to be a priest and thereby save his beloved grandmother from Purgatory. Nothing against his grandmother—girls and cards are just more fun. Set in Lisle […]

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Cheerful Ladies: Women Sleuths of the 1920s

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There are plenty of mysteries set in the 1920s and solved by women, of which Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is perhaps the most famous, but I've decided to focus on the humorous ones to celebrate a new addition to the field. Come Hell or Highball is the first of what promises to be a new series by Maia […]

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Chicago Noir 2: The 1970s

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Michael Raleigh, author of the Paul Whelan mysteries, has written what will hopefully be the start of a new series set in 1970s Chicago. Peerless Detective follows Billy Fox, a vet from small-town Michigan, to Chicago in search of an old girlfriend. In a series of events, he ends up apprenticing in a detective firm, […]

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Darkness and Light: The Marriage of Opposites

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I always relish a new Alice Hoffman book, and I am not disappointed with The Marriage of Opposites; far from it. This is a story of people who defy convention to be their true selves. Rachel always wants her own way, and her father usually lets her have it, until he arranges for her to marry an older man to […]

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