‘Little’ by Edward Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The wry, macabre, unforgettable tale of an ambitious orphan in Revolutionary Paris, befriended by royalty and radicals, who transforms herself into Madame Tussaud.

In 1761, a tiny odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors the princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The Revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and…at the wax museum, heads are what they do.

In the tradition of Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, Edward Carey’s Little is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.

 

This breathtaking book reached into my soul and took up residence there. A magnificent work of historical fiction that I found all-consuming and enjoyed so much that I took my time reading so I could savour it for as long as possible.

When I started this book all I knew about Madame Tussaud was that that it’s the name of the wax museum in London and Blackpool. I had never thought that it was named after a real person or what that person’s life may have been, but the synopsis was intriguing and the cover was such a work of art that I couldn’t resist.

Although this is a fictionalised version of Marie’s life, there are many things in the story that did or were rumoured to have happened. I don’t know a lot about the time in history this was written but I have always loved history and learning more about the past. There were many amusing anecdotes woven into the story that I was surprised to find were facts and not things embellished for histrionic entertainment. I guess it’s like they say, there are some true facts that if you made them up would seem unbelievable. While entertaining us, thee author didn’t shy away from some of the more disturbing realities of the era and vividly described the true horror of the revolution, leaving me with some images I will never forget.

Though we were born over 200 years apart there are some similarities between us that helped me forge an immediate connection to Marie: I was born a similar tiny size, it was predicted I wouldn’t live and our heights are roughly the same. I also get called ‘little’, although for me it’s part of an affectionate nickname and isn’t used instead of my name like in the story. I thought she was feisty, determined, intelligent and compelling person who lived a fascinating life. She seemed to have an air of rebellion about her and often got into trouble for not abiding by society’s rules. Also she didn’t just dream of a life beyond what she was told was befitting of her, but strives to make it happen despite the many obstacles and disappointments.

The author takes this mesmerising book to another level with his remarkable storytelling and the phenomenal illustrations that illuminate the story. I haven’t read an illustrated book since I was a child and it was great to be able to visualise things exactly the way the author intended. I spent a long time just looking at the illustrations in awe.This really was a book you need to buy in print to fully experience its magic.

Filled with anguish, desperation, ambition and triumph, Little is a dark, sardonic and morbid comedy. It is one of those under-hyped books you will be glad you took a chance on. It was the first time I had read anything by this author and I became an instant fan. This is the best book I’ve read so far this year and has taken a place among my all-time favourites. Anytime this author has a new release I’ll be at the front of the queue impatiently waiting for sure. I can’t recommend this novel highly enough.

Out Now

Thank you to Gallic Books for my Little Tote bag.

March Wrap Up

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I can’t believe we’re a quarter of the way through the year already!

This month I have read 10 books. It is my lowest number since joining bookstagram but the quality is what is actually important and it’s been a month where almost every book I’ve read was amazing.

  1. ‘The Woman Inside’ by E.G Scott ⭐⭐⭐ – This debut thriller about a couple who have it all on the surface but are living a life built on lies and secrets  was sadly a let down for me. I had been highly anticipating this book but found it slow and underwhelming. Even the big twist couldn’t make me interested in how things turned out for the characters in this book.  Published August 8th
  2. ‘Only Daughter’ by Sarah A. Denzil ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This gripping tale of secrets, lies, betrayal and devastating revenge blew me away. It had me on the edge of my seat and reading well past bedtime as I found it impossible to put this book down. I’ve been a fan of this author’s work since I first discovered her last year, but this is her best book yet and one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year.
  3. ‘The Evidence Against You’ by Gillian McAllister ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book was a complex, multi layered story about love, grief, family, truth, lies, secrecy, pain and betrayal. It is also a story about living life in a prison, though not necessarily one made of bars with guards at the doors, institutionalisation and what happens to the family of victims of a crime and those who are convicted of a crime. It is intelligently written and thought provoking with flawed characters who are the key to the story being so compelling. It pulls you in so you’re completely immersed in Izzy’s search for the truth and I was so desperate to know what happened that I forced my eyelids open and stayed up until 4 am to finish it.  Published April 18th.
  4. ‘Beautiful Bad’ by Annie Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This absorbing psychological thriller begins with  a chilling 911 call in which a woman pleads for help to hurry as a child shrieks in the background… In dual timelines we are then told the story of Maddie and her husband Ian’s relationship while she undergoes therapy for anxiety and the clock counts down to The Day Of The Killing.  The eerie ending of this book is one I’m still thinking about.
  5. ‘The Dare’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – The third book in the Detective Natalie Ward series, The Dare is another unputdownable thriller. I devoured this book in one sitting, on the edge of my seat as the detective and her team raced to find the person who was kidnapping and killing teenage girls. It is so well written that there was no clear suspect and I was racing to the end to find out who had been terrorising the town. This is a must read for crime fiction and thriller lovers. Published April 25th.
  6. ‘Finding Dorothy’ by Elizabeth Letts ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – As a life long Oz fanatic I loved this magnificent fictional tale of the story behind the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  from the perspective of Maud Gage Baum, wife of author Frank L. Baum. In dual timelines we see her meet Judy Garland and watch the iconic movie being made while also learning of her life, how the couple met and the story of how Frank was inspired to write the story that is still beloved by millions.
  7. ‘And They You Were Gone’ by R. J. Jacobs ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – What a breathtaking roller-coaster ride! The author has written a compulsive, thrilling and addictive debut novel that is impossible to put down. It was filled with surprising twists and turns and had me on the edge of my seat until the end.
  8. ‘Things In Jars’ by Jessie Kidd  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Bridie Devine is a detective in Victorian London is charged with finding the kidnapped daughter of a baronet that isn’t supposed to exist. Bridie finds herself drawn deeper into the murky world of curiosities, abnormalities, greed and corruption. This mesmerising novel took me completely by surprise. Ms Kidd is a remarkable writer who has woven an emotive and sorrowful tale alongside one full of mystery, charm and suspense. One of the best books I’ve read this year.  Published April 4th
  9. ‘The Vanishing Season’ by Dot Hutchinson   ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – The fourth book in The Collector series did not disappoint. As the Crimes Against Children investigate the disappearance of eight-year-old Brooklyn Mercer they find evidence linking it to a string of missing young girls going back decades, including that of Agent Brandon Eddison’s sister Faith, who went missing 25 years ago. This was a compelling thriller that I didn’t want to put down, but also didn’t want to finish, as I was enjoying it so much. The tension never waned and surged as they learned their case was even more disturbing than they’d originally believed. A great end to a fantastic series. Published May 21st 
  10. ‘Betray Her’ by Caroline England  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Jo and Kate are two very different women who have been friends ever since their first day at bording school twenty years ago. Told in the present day and flashbacks to the friends’ time at St Lukes and the years since, we learn that all is not quite as it seems. From the start there are hints that their time at the all-girls boarding school was far from happy and that they never discuss it. Gradually, we learn the truth of those tumultuous years, along with other heart stopping revelations that unveil their closely guarded secrets and change their lives forever. From the moment I began reading I was hooked.  The author of this book has found herself a new fan and I would highly recommend this tantalising novel. Published September 24th.

So that is what I read in March. I had hoped to have finished ‘The Stranger Beside Me’, which is the book I’m reading as part of #MurderMonday , but unfortunately that looks like it will be my first book finished in April. Choosing a favourite this months is incredibly hard but I think the title has to go to ‘Finding Dorothy’ because it is not only a fantastic novel, but is about my favourite film.

What did you read in March? Have you read any of these books or are they on your tbr list? Comment below and tell me.

 

*Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture, Thomas & Mercer, Little, Brown Book Group UK, Crooked Lane Books, Quercus, Canongate Books and the authors for the ARCs.

**All books are available now unless otherwise stated. To read full reviews please see previous posts except for The Evidence Against Me and Finding Dorothy which haven’t yet been published.

‘Things In Jars’ by Jess Kidd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.

As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.

Things In Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.

Thank you to NetGalley, Canongate Books and Jess Kidd for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

This mesmerising novel took me completely by surprise. Ms Kidd is a remarkable writer who has woven an emotive and sorrowful tale alongside one full of mystery, charm and suspense.

It begins with a mysterious and chilling prologue that details Christabel Berwick’s abduction. A child who is beautiful yet repulsive. and who evokes strange feelings and fear in those who come into contact with her. All her short life she has been hidden away and constrained, seeing the stars for the first time as she’s taken from her Father’s house that night.

Bridie Devine, a renowned female detective in an era where it was still seen as a job for men. She is asked to take on an urgent case: the kidnapping of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick’s six-year-old daughter Christabel who was taken the night before. The baronet is thought to be childless and his representative reveals that Christabel was secretly kept in a wing in the house because of her “uniqueness”. Her nurse, who is one of only four people that know the child exists, is also missing. Did she have something to do with the kidnapping or is she another innocent victim in danger?

In an era where curiosities and abnormalities are collected there’s a high price to be found for a unique child and Bridie’s investigation draws her deeper into the murky world of curiosities, abnormalities, greed and corruption. But will she be able to find Christabel before she’s lost to the highest bidder?

Bridie Devine was a fantastic character and protagonist. She is a woman who refuses to conform to the rules and restrictions of the Victorian era and has carved out an independent life for herself doing something she seems to have been born to do. I loved her witt and no nonsense attitude, her love for those deemed unlovable and her determination to help those in need. Her conversations with the ghost of a dead boxer, Ruby, who claims to have known her when he was alive, gave the book some of it’s funniest and most emotional moments. This was a book filled with an array of colourful and interesting characters, along with some evil and despicable ones too. Christabel was a complex and cryptic character: an amalgamation of the beauty and sorrow of the mermaid yet also a terrifying and malevolent creature, and a mix of many opposing traits all inside one little girl. She was brilliantly written and genuinely scared me many times.

I’ve read some great book so far this year but this was by far one of the best. I loved that the language was raw and witty yet poetic and beguiling and the way folklore is combined with crime in a way you don’t hesitate to believe. This was my first book by this author but she’s become an instant favourite. I will definitely be reading what she writes next. Things In Jars is a magnificent, captivating and unforgettable novel that touches your soul. I can’t recommend it enough.

Out April 4th.