My First Book Mail in Over a Year

A New Secretary

Let me begin today’s post by bragging, just a little bit. It’s not something done often on this website, but I finally got something that I have always wanted: a secretary. It stems from my maternal grandmother, Grandma Redman. She had a secretary when I was younger, and it now sits proudly in my mother’s dining room. Grandma’s secretary has a taller, glass-doored cabinet, and I think she used to keep collectibles in it. My mother, on the other hand, now keeps some of her collection of Candlewick pieces. Many of which once belonged to her mother.

So imaging my surprise when I get a text from my dad one Sunday afternoon. He says my cousins, who just bought a house with all this old furniture left behind, are looking to unload a, you guessed it, secretary. Now these pieces of furniture today can go for $400 plus, and they were offering it to me for free?! WHAT?! After all these years of pining over secretaries and roll top desks, I can actually score one completely for free?!

I tried offering them something for it, but they refused. They were just happy to be rid of it. I’m still shocked because I know exactly how much these items of furniture are worth. While the one pictured above doesn’t have a glass-door cabinet section, I am more than perfectly fine with that. I absolutely love all its little hidden spaces, the multiple drawers AND the fact that I now have more storage space without having to use a rolling cart from IKEA.

The secretary is in near mint condition, with only two scratches on the bottom drawer. It even still has the old school paper sales tags – that were created using a typewriter – and the sales price scrawled on the back: a whopping $99.00. Whomever owned this magnificent piece of history from old school downtown Kaufmann’s took really good care of it. And I intend to do so as well.

On to the Books

When I was a child I spent most, if not all, of my allowance on books. The family’s band, which still plays to this day (they do a mix of Irish, Celtic and Appalachian tunes), would often play weekends at Barnes N’ Nobles or Borders. My mother and grandmother would let me wander off, knowing they’d find me later in the science fiction or history sections. They never questioned my favorite genres, because they knew exactly where I’d be!

Not only did I grow my own love for books over the years, but I have an author uncle who fed my love for the written word with books on my birthday. He was, in fact, the one who introduced me to German author Cornelia Funke and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter right when the story was making its first waves among American teenagers. However, I cannot recollect if he gave me the British Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone over the Sorcerer’s Stone, but that’s not really that important for today’s post.

Ever since my love for reading was recognized by the family, I preferred having a curated collection rather than all the books I could possibly fit into my room at home. This practice has carried on to this day, and I am now very picky about the stories I choose to include on my shelves. If it’s floor to ceiling books, then that is definitely way too overwhelming a collection to choose from.

For a time I stopped buying books online, and I all but stopped buying them in stores as well. But I kept an ever growing list of titles that looked interesting, and I’d weed them out from there. So this post is a rather special one, because it will feature two books I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time and one that was purchased on a complete whim (I’m looking at you, Historical Novel Society. I blame you for this purchase…lol!). I kid, of course! Here are the first three books I’ve purchased in over a year, with more definitely to come!

Carnegie’s Maid

Clara Kelley is not who they think she is. She’s not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She’s a poor farmer’s daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the woman who shares her name has vanished, and assuming her identity just might get Clara some money to send back home.

Clara must rely on resolve as strong as the steel Pittsburgh is becoming famous for and an uncanny understanding of business, attributes that quickly gain her Carnegie’s trust. But she still can’t let her guard down, not even when Andrew becomes something more than an employer. Revealing her past might ruin her future—and her family’s.

With captivating insight and heart, Carnegie’s Maid is a book of fascinating 19th century historical fiction. Discover the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist to the world’s first true philanthropist.

The Lost Girls of Willowbrook

Sage Winters always knew her sister was a little different even though they were identical twins. They loved the same things and shared a deep understanding, but Rosemary—awake to every emotion, easily moved to joy or tears—seemed to need more protection from the world.
Six years after Rosemary’s death from pneumonia, Sage, now sixteen, still misses her deeply. Their mother perished in a car crash, and Sage’s stepfather, Alan, resents being burdened by a responsibility he never wanted. Yet despite living as near strangers in their Staten Island apartment, Sage is stunned to discover that Alan has kept a shocking secret: Rosemary didn’t die. She was committed to Willowbrook State School and has lingered there until just a few days ago, when she went missing.
Sage knows little about Willowbrook. It’s always been a place shrouded by rumor and mystery. A place local parents threaten to send misbehaving kids. With no idea what to expect, Sage secretly sets out for Willowbrook, determined to find Rosemary. What she learns, once she steps through its doors and is mistakenly believed to be her sister, will change her life in ways she never could imagined . . .

The Thread Collectors

1863: In a small Creole cottage in New Orleans, an ingenious young Black woman named Stella embroiders intricate maps on repurposed cloth to help enslaved men flee and join the Union Army. Bound to a man who would kill her if he knew of her clandestine activities, Stella has to hide not only her efforts but her love for William, a Black soldier and a brilliant musician.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a Jewish woman stitches a quilt for her husband, who is stationed in Louisiana with the Union Army. Between abolitionist meetings, Lily rolls bandages and crafts quilts with her sewing circle for other soldiers, too, hoping for their safe return home. But when months go by without word from her husband, Lily resolves to make the perilous journey South to search for him.

As these two women risk everything for love and freedom during the brutal Civil War, their paths converge in New Orleans, where an unexpected encounter leads them to discover that even the most delicate threads have the capacity to save us. Loosely inspired by the authors’ family histories, this stunning novel will stay with readers for a long time.

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Budding #historian. Writer of #adventures and #sciencefantasy. Lover of mushrooms and libraries. Fan of #chocolate, #books and Pennsylvania history.

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