Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

Rivals in the City: a deleted scene

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Hello, friends. This post starts with a quantity of self-promotion but I’ll make it up to you with a deleted scene from the final Agency novel, Rivals in the City. In just four weeks, Candlewick Press will publish Rivals in Canada and the USA, and some very nice things are happening as a result!

To begin with, you can pre-order Rivals from your local independent bookseller, or through IndieBound, or B&N, or Amazon USA, or Chapters/Indigo, or Amazon Canada, or anywhere at all, really. It will have this glorious cover.

Rivals in the City, by Y S Lee

A Kingston launch party is in the works, with date to be confirmed.

Kirkus likes it, wooo! The highlights: “Intrigue, romance and the rich details of Victorian life are the focus in the fourth installment of this mystery series featuring a complex female detective. … As with the previous volumes, the elements of Victorian life are well-drawn, adding rich texture to the storytelling. … Readers of the series will find this addition deeply satisfying as both a mystery and a historical romance.” Here’s a link to the full review at Kirkus.

Over at Bustle, they included A Spy in the House in a listicle called “If ‘Agent Carter’ Is Making Your Life Amazing Right Now, You Must Read These 12 Books”. It’s such a rush seeing my book mentioned in the same breath as those by Robin LaFevers, Elizabeth Wein, and Sebastian Faulks. Oh, I’m going to be insufferable.

Bookriot’s Amanda Nelson is reading The Body at the Tower and you can, too! E-Volt is currently offering a substantial free sample of Mary Quinn’s second outing.

If you didn’t already know, the first chapter of Rivals in the City is already up, right here.

And finally, here’s another taste of Rivals in the City – a deleted scene that didn’t make the cut, but I still wanted to share with you.

The Background

Rivals in the City went through a huge number of revisions, so I had a lot of deleted scenes to choose from. My favourite, though, might be this one. It’s a scene I wrote in order to take the emotional temperature between Mary and James, eight months after Mary achieves financial independence – an event that entirely transforms her understanding of life.

I was reading Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens, at the time, and was thrilled to learn that Dickens regularly dined with his mistress, the actress Nellie Ternan, in restaurants. Sometimes they had friends with them, but sometimes they appear to have been alone together. I’m not sure what they called it, but to me it sounds just like a date.

I couldn’t resist taking Mary and James on a date, too. I cut the scene – didn’t even finish it properly – because it contributes nothing to the actual plot. But the scraps remain. And because I spend so much time propelling Mary and James from one peril to another, sometimes it pleases me to imagine them doing something as mundane as going on a date. In Dickens’s favourite restaurant.

— The Deleted Scene —

When her bell rang that evening at a perfectly punctual five minutes before eight o’clock, Mary checked her appearance in the hall mirror one last time. It was quite a transformation from her usual minimal toilette. She was fragrant with her favourite soap and wearing, for the first time, her only evening gown. She’d taken care with her hair. She only half-recognized the young lady in the mirror: a thought would have amused her, had it not also made her uneasy.

After securing her cape over her shoulders, she carefully descended to the front door on a staircase suddenly made steep and narrow by her large crinoline. Anticipation and unease united to make her fingers stiff and awkward, and she fumbled with the doorlatch for a moment. At last, though, it opened to reveal James on the step, freshly shaven and wearing an evening dress coat.

“Good evening, Mr. Easton,” she said to James, in her most demure tones.

“Good evening, Miss Quinn.” After the briefest of hesitations, he bowed and kissed her hand. “I’m afraid our conveyance isn’t quite up to our gorgeous behaviour.”

Mary glanced past his shoulder and grinned at the sight of a hansom cab waiting at the curb. “I wondered how you’d escort me, under the new rules,” she confessed, slipping her hand into the crook of his arm. “A closed carriage is clearly indecent.”

“The streets are far too filthy for walking.”

“And I never learned to ride a horse,” she confessed.

“Plenty of time for that,” he said, offering a hand to help her into the cab. “I’ll teach you.”

She smiled at that. “By that time, we’ll be able to ride in all the closed carriages we want.”

“I can’t wait.” He stroked the inside of her wrist, finding the fraction of bare skin between her glove and sleeve, and she shivered.

Despite the hansom’s open design – they were clearly visible to anybody in the street who cared to look – it retained an air of privacy: a small space in which they fit together neatly, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip. James took both her hands and smiled when she interlaced her fingers with his. Even through two pairs of gloves, his and hers, this felt indescribably intimate.

The cab turned with a creaking of leather and springs, and set off at a leisurely pace. “How was your meeting with the new client?” she asked. The question itself made her smile slightly, with its overtones of wifely concern.

He squeezed her hand, clearly hearing the same domestic notes. “Quite long, in the end. There’s talk of building a second railway line, to allow a fast train directly from the ferry port in Gravesend to London. They wanted my opinion.”

“That sounds promising.”

James made a non-committal face. “Possibly.” He was always guarded, pessimistic, about new business. “How was your day?”

Mary considered this invitation to change the subject. Anne Treleaven’s visit weighed heavily on her mind but she shied away from introducing threat and tension so early in the evening. Why shouldn’t she and James enjoy the novelty of dining together for once, free of threat and tension? They could discuss the case after dinner. “Varied,” she said, eventually.

A half-smile. “Sounds exciting.”

“It never quite seems to be a simple case of ooh-I-ordered-a-new-hat-and-had-luncheon-with-Miss-Smith.”

“If you ever said that, my first instinct would be to call a physician.”

“You have very strange taste in young ladies.”

He squeezed her hand again. “Someone’s got to.”

Verrey’s shone like a beacon in the fog, a miracle of gleaming plate-glass, burnished brass, and gaslight. A doorman in gold-braid opened the door with an obsequious bow, and Mary and James entered the building arm-in-arm. To all outward observers, they were just another rich young couple going to dinner. Privately, Mary hoped the shaking of her knees wasn’t also making her skirts tremble.

An attendant showed her to the cloakroom, relieved her of her cape, and indicated a small table at which she could make any last-minute adjustments to her hair and gown. Mary stared at her reflection, rendered unfamiliar by the blazing lights and plush furnishings. She didn’t look like an interloper; she was entirely plausible here, in this elegant setting. A good detective ought to be a chameleon, but the realization was startling nonetheless.

When she rejoined James in the dining-room, escorted to her table by yet another lackey, he was already seated. He glanced in her direction, looked away, then did a sudden and distinctly comic double-take at the sight of Mary in an evening gown, neck and shoulders on rare display. His eyes flashed with surprise and he half-stumbled to his feet. A sudden smile curved his lips. He pivoted slightly, until he stood between her and the attendant, and murmured, “Stunning.” Though his voice was nearly inaudible, his admiration rang in her ears, making her giddy.

It was a relief to sink bonelessly into the drawn-out dining chair. As James slid her chair towards the table, he stroked her spine with the gentlest of fingers, sending a powerful shiver down the length of her body. Speech was impossible. After a few moments, she remembered to breathe.

He sat down across the table and gazed upon her for a long minute. “Well,” he finally murmured, “if there are rumours flying about town tomorrow about my involvement with a young actress or dancer, you’ll know who she is.”

She smiled. “Outrageous flattery. I think, however, that I see a genuine celebrity in the far corner. Over your left shoulder, is that not Mr. Dickens?”

James craned his neck and was met with a frown of reproof from the eminent gentleman. He turned back to Mary with a small smile. “Indeed. Dining with a genuine actress, Miss Ternan.”

Mary met his gaze with a wicked smile. “Tell me again why you’re so set on perfect propriety when all the world knows about Mr. Dickens’s highly irregular domestic life?”

James swallowed his riposte as a waiter glided up to their table. Their meal was a beautifully cooked affair, accompanied by good wine and capped with French cheeses. As they dined and talked, Mary thought she would always remember this evening with perfect clarity. There was something about the exquisite staging of the restaurant, the dazzle of lights and elegantly pitched conversation. Perhaps it was knowing that this artful serenity existed within a dark, fog-choked, raucous city. For the first time that she could recall, Mary gave herself up to decadence. She felt nearly at home amidst such luxury.

— End of Deleted Scene –

And that’s my week, friends. What are you all up to?

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Anita Brookner

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Another week, another missed blog post. I’m so sorry, friends. I’ve been wrestling with my sluggish internet connection for far too long, and am hoping to get it sorted out this week. I had no idea that upgrading my connection could be so complicated.

However, I have not spent the entire week on hold or talking to technical support. I have also been reading, of course. Last week, we did a little day-trip to Prince Edward County to pick local blueberries (it’s the tail end of the season; we’ll go during the first week of August, next year) and ended up at Miss Lily’s Café in Picton.

Miss Lily’s serves pretentiously packaged but absolutely delectable coffee from Toronto. And it’s connected to Books and Company, an airy and beautiful independent bookseller with a resident cat. It was hot outside, I felt weary, and the children were industriously painting themselves with ice cream. Nick said to me, “Why don’t you slip in for a browse?”

I was only waiting to be asked. I shot inside and, two minutes later, was perusing Books and Company’s small used-book section and asking myself, in genuine astonishment, Why haven’t I ever read Anita Brookner? They were offering a used copy of Hotel du Lac for $3.50. Ridiculous! How could I not?

So. Hotel du Lac.

This is the edition I bought, although someone's attempted to peel off the Booker McConnell sticker.

Nothing much happens in the first half, and the “scandal” constantly, mysteriously mentioned in that first half is thoroughly foolish and predictable. This is the point. The novel is a window into the acerbic, curious, slightly depressive, and uncompromising mind of its protagonist, Edith Hope (“a writer of romantic fiction under a more thrusting name”), who spends a week or so at a Swiss hotel in the off-season.

The novel is beautifully written, with a clarity and precision that’s quite startling to read. And it’s a quiet but steady – intransigent, even – tract about the importance of respecting and holding to one’s own standards and beliefs, even when they offend and inconvenience everybody else.

I’m afraid that sounds like faint praise, but it’s an old-fashioned book in the best sense of the word. It is a success on its own terms, which is precisely what it set out to be.

Have you discovered or rediscovered any authors recently? What are you reading? Also, did you get your fill of local berries this year? I feel a deficiency!

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We are all Jane Austen

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Hello, friends! This week, I saw an interesting conversation develop about Jane Austen, race, and feminism. It started at Reading in Color, when Ari asked, “Is Jane Austen only for white people?” Sayantani at Stories are Good Medicine picked up the conversation and posed the logical follow-up question: “Can feminists dig Darcy?” There were loads of interesting observations in the comments at Reading in Color, and my intention here isn’t to rehearse those dialogues or respond to each one. But I was struck by the questions and want to talk a bit about how they sound to me.

To my ear, at least, each question can be flipped around and made more general:

Should everything I read as a woman of colour include characters of colour?

Should everything I read as a feminist be overtly progressive?

In sum, should we create a world of books that reflects our own world views and positions?

It’s certainly important to see ourselves – our own kind of people, whether we’re talking race or creed – reflected in our literature. It creates a sense of community, assists us in defining ourselves more clearly, helps us to look critically at our own strengths and shortcomings.

But at the same time, what a wilfully small world that would be. Can you imagine how limited our interests, imaginations, interests, and conversations would be, if that were the case? How unable we’d be to imagine another point of view, or follow an argument that didn’t relate directly to our own interests? How would we learn new things? How could we admire – and borrow – streaks of brilliance that we didn’t create?

We must read widely, read deeply, and read well outside our comfort zones if we’re to learn and grow. And if we enjoy what we read – if we absolutely adore what we discover – so much the better.

I’d also argue that when we make assumptions about the homogeneity or reactionary nature of Jane Austen’s (or anyone else’s) world, we’re limiting ourselves as much as we are them. People assume all the time that Victorian London was lily-white, with a clear-cut and never-changing social order. The reality is much more complex, as I try to show in the Agency novels.

Finally, isn’t it interesting that we don’t have to give our beloved Jane Austen a special get-out-of-jail-free card? Think about the lesson at the heart of her most-adapted novel, Pride and Prejudice. It is, at core, a novel about humility: 1) not presuming yourself superior to another group of people (in Darcy’s case, the Bennet family), and 2) being able to retract your hasty judgement of someone based on hearsay (in Elizabeth’s case, Darcy). That’s a fine message for any progressive book to carry – whoever the author.

Are you an Austenite? What have you learned from Jane Austen – or another favourite author?

Other bits from this past week:

On the same day I received my finished copies of Traitor, I heard on Twitter that They Are About – as in, already on sale in some places! One reader in Texas and another in Kentucky have already read the real deal. This is so exciting.

This review from Forever YA is the funniest review I’ve ever read about one of my own books.

And here’s a terrific podcast about the Plimsoll line, which has a small but important role in the plot of A Spy in the House. Thank you, MrsFridayNext, for sharing it with me!

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The Traitor in the Tunnel!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Hello, friends! I’m so thrilled today to share with you the North American cover for The Traitor in the Tunnel:

Those of you with an editorial eye will now be wondering, “The Traitor and the Tunnel” or ” The Traitor in the Tunnel”? Why are you so inconsistent, Ying? Don’t you know the title of your own book? In fact, there are two slightly different titles. I originally chose “and” because I wanted the title to allude to different traitors and different tunnels, and that’s what we did at Walker Books for the UK edition. But the fine editors at Candlewick Press felt that “in” sounded better – faster, snappier, cleaner. And once it was pointed out to me, I agreed. So the North American edition is The Traitor in the Tunnel. Did you think it was possible to agonize this much over a simple conjunction or preposition? ;)

I also wanted to share with you an absolutely lovely review of Traitor by Niranjana Iyer of Brown Paper. Iyer says, “The richness of detail, the intelligent writing, the intricate plots, and superbly-drawn characters elevate this series miles above most YA offerings on the shelves today; I’m delighted to hear this trilogy now has a fourth installment in store for its many devotees.” Thank you so much, Nina!

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A Walk in the Void & Kat, Incorrigible

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Hello friends! This month, Mondadori publishes the Italian edition of the second Agency novel. It’s called La Detective. Passeggiata nel vuoto, which translates to The Detective: A Walk in the Void. I really, really, really wish I could read Italian.

Here’s the cover:

And the full dustjacket:

What do you think?

I also have a few lovely announcements. Some French readers have asked when the third Mary Quinn novel (The Traitor and the Tunnel in English; I don’t know what the French title will be), will be published by Nathan. There’s no firm date yet, but it’ll be early in 2012. Hurray! I’ll update this as soon as I have a date for you.

This month, The Body at the Tower is the Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children‘s Book of the Month! Their review is here.

Deborah Sloan just told me that A Spy in the House is on the Bank St College of Education’s 2011 Best Books List! If you’re curious, their picks are here (as downloadable PDFs), grouped by age. Spy is on the 14 and up list.

And finally, a truly fantastic announcement that’s not about me or my books: Stephanie Burgis‘s debut novel, Kat, Incorrigible, is published this week in North America! Huzzah!

I’ve raved about Steph’s novel before. If you love Jane Austen, magick, sly wit, and sibling solidarity, you will adore Kat’s adventures. But don’t just take my word for it – read the first three chapters here! Congratulations, Steph!

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Notorious Victorians, farewell

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

This is it, the last post in the Body at the Tower blog tour, and it features the Edinburgh Seven. Sound like a group of revolutionaries of some sort, doesn’t it? And they were. They were rich, educated young ladies who had the nerve to decide that they wanted to study medicine. Obviously, trouble ensued. You can read more about their story at Booksmugglers.

Then, Booksmuggler Thea reviews Body, calling it “another winning, impeccably well-written historical mystery”. Huzzah!

Thanks so much for joining me on this blog tour. Regularly scheduled blogging returns on Thursday, when I continue my English adventures. See you then!

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The whole Mary & James thing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Okay, so the #1 question I get from readers – and this is by a long shot – is, “Will Mary and James get together?” Naturally, I don’t have a simple yes-or-no answer for you. James is back in The Body at the Tower but the path of true love is never entirely smooth, know what I mean? I go into a bit more detail in an interview with Cecilia at the Epic Rat, but it contains some spoilers for both Spy and Body. If you can’t stand spoilers, feel free to email/tweet me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in a discreet and tantalizing manner.

Cecilia also reviews Body. It’s a great review but it, too, contains spoilers for Spy. It’s a cruel world out there for innocent readers.

I’ll see you tomorrow for more Notorious Victorians!

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Happy bookday, Body!

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I will refrain from gag-inducing metaphors of birth & infancy. Suffice it to say that today, the second Agency novel, The Body at the Tower, is published by Candlewick Press. I’m one-third disbelief, one-third out of my mind with excitement, and one-third “Stop it, Ying, you’re such a nerd”.

Fortunately, it’s not all about me. The Body at the Tower blog tour is at Steph Su Reads today, where I guest-post about Notorious Victorian Joseph Merrick – aka the Elephant Man – and the way he used celebrity as a survival strategy. His is a tragic but also smart and fascinating story.

Steph then reviews Body: “damn if the pages didn’t nearly catch on fire…” *evil cackle from smug author*

There is no real-world launch party today, but stay in touch: I’m planning an online launch party in September. Details to follow.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate.

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Notorious Victorians, celebrity edition

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Welcome to the second week of The Body at the Tower blog tour. My theme for the next 2 days is the idea of celebrity and today I’m guest-blogging at A Reader’s Adventure about one of the most notorious of Victorians: writer, dandy, aesthete, and scandal-magnet Oscar Wilde. Once again, the Victorians seem oddly contemporary in their adoration and hatred of the limelight.

Mariah also reviews Body. As she warns, you’re in for “slight spoilers for first book. And possibly some fangirling.”

I’ll see you tomorrow – which is, by the way, the OFFICIAL PUB DATE for Body! – at Steph Su Reads with part 2 of Victorian Celebrities.

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Notorious Victorians, days 2-5

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Hello, friends. On Tuesday, the Body at the Tower blog tour stops at Bookworming in the 21st Century. There, I talk favourite books and writing challenges in an interview with Kristen. And Body gets a 5-star review!

I’m going to have patchy internet access for the next few days, but the blog tour rolls on. Do check in at GreenBeanTeenQueen on Wednesday for my essay on Notorious Victorian activist Annie Besant and Sarah’s review of Body.

On Thursday, I’ll be talking about Charles Darwin as a Reluctant Revolutionary at Cornucopia of Reviews. There, Lizzy also gives Body a glowing review. Yay!

Friday’s guest post is about women’s rights campaigner Lady Caroline Norton, over at Reading in Color. Ari’s review is a beautiful one, but beware – it contains minor spoilers for Spy.

I’ll post next week from Vancouver, when the blog tour continues with four more Notorious Victorians and an interview. Can’t wait!

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