Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet #BookReview #JuneReleases

magruderTitle: Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet
Author: H.P Wood
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: June 7th 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

 

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May 1904. Coney Island’s newest amusement park, Dreamland, has just opened. Its many spectacles are expected to attract crowds by the thousands, paying back investors many times over.

Kitty Hayward and her mother arrive by steamer from South Africa. When Kitty’s mother takes ill, the hotel doctor sends Kitty to Manhattan to fetch some special medicine. But when she returns, Kitty’s mother has vanished. The desk clerk tells Kitty she is at the wrong hotel. The doctor says he’s never seen her although, she notices, he is unable to look her in the eye.

Alone in a strange country, Kitty meets the denizens of Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. A relic of a darker, dirtier era, Magruder’s is home to a forlorn flea circus, a handful of disgruntled Unusuals, and a mad Uzbek scientist. Magruder’s Unusuals take Kitty under their wing and resolve to find out what happened to her mother.

But as a plague spreads, Coney Island is placed under quarantine. The gang at Magruder’s finds that a missing mother is the least of their problems, as the once-glamorous resort town is abandoned to the freaks, anarchists, and madmen.

Review

Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is a nicely written, interesting romp through the early 20th century Coney Island – a place where anything can happen!

Young Brit Kitty Hayward has lost her mother. Sent from their hotel to pick up some medicine when her mum is taken ill, Kitty returns to find that her mother has vanished, and the hotel are pretending they’ve never seen her before. How curious. 

Kitty ends up on Coney Island, with no money or belongings, but is fed and taken in by a family of ‘unusuals’ – the members of a freakshow who all live at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet. 

I loved the setting of this book. I found the descriptions of the fun, freaky, and often fake entertainers who inhabit the resort and how Kitty quickly became a valued addition to their gang really interesting. I thought it was going to be a simple mystery, but as the story develops we realise that it’s more about a plague that is sweeping through the island than it is about a girl trying to find her mother. 

I wasn’t expecting it to be such a dark, and often depressing story, and while I initially enjoyed that surprise I felt like the middle of the book could have been more exciting – something was lacking for me. 

The star of the show was definitely the characterisation. Each character was unique (as you’d expect from Freakshow performers), and they interacted beautifully with each other. I especially fell in love with Rosalind -who today you would describe as Gender-Fluid, but back then he was seen as an abomination –  and his relationship with lovely Enzo, the ‘half-burned man’. 

It’s quite clear that the author had done her research, and I found the portrayal of side-shows, circuses and freak-shows of the time realistic and intriguing. I also enjoyed that the book makes you look at prejudice and discrimination and made me eternally thankful for how much society has changed since the 1900s.

Overall, I feel like Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet was definitely worth a read, even if it left me a little deflated. 

unicorn rating 3

Favourites Friday #15 (Horror October Edition): The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott

Now, I don’t know about you, but clowns freak me the hell out. Whether it’s Pennywise or Ronald McDonald..they are just not right. So naturally, I seem to think it’s a good idea to read books about evil clowns, because I’m weird like that.

I don’t think this book is very well known, but whenever I think of freaky books it always stands out for me. If you want a creepy but fun Halloween read I definitely recommend it.

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You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got?” Delivered by a trio of psychotic clowns, this ultimatum plunges Jamie into the horrific alternate universe that is the centuries-old Pilo Family Circus, a borderline world between Hell and Earth from which humankind’s greatest tragedies have been perpetrated. Yet in this place—peopled by the gruesome, grotesque, and monstrous—where violence and savagery are the norm, Jamie finds that his worst enemy is himself. When he applies the white face paint, he is transformed into JJ, the most vicious clown of all. And JJ wants Jamie dead! Echoes of Lovecraft, Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, and early Stephen King resound through the pages of this magical, gleefully macabre work nominated as Best Novel by the International Horror Guild.

What People Are Saying About The Pilo Family Circus:

What a wicked, intoxicating combination of weird, creepy, horrific and funny; the last thing I expected when I picked up this book was to laugh my ass off in parts, doing so was such a bonus.

– Trudi (Gooodreads)

Will Elliot’s debut novel is a horror story that will make you wary of carnivals and the nefarious creatures who lurk within.

– Sarah (Goodreads)

Will Elliott’s first novel taps into an established tradition born out of coulrophobia, or fear of clowns. From the murderous jester of commedia dell’ arte to the sadistic Pennywise in Stephen King’s It, the masked man with the false grin is both a reliable bogey man and a subversive social critic. Elliott’s clowns are as unnerving as they come, but their weirdness is more than just an act: this particular circus has pitched its tent in the underworld.

The Guardian

Just beware of the Northampton Clown!

An Explosion, a Dwarf and a Missing Person: The Black Dragon (The Mysterium #1) by Julian Sedgwick

Click to view on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon

East meets West; past meets present; criminal minds meet skilled artists – welcome to the Mysterium, a circus with dark and thrilling secrets at its heart.

Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny’s school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background.

But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her – which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

I felt the same way about The Black Dragon on the whole as I felt about its protagonist, Danny. I liked him enough, and thought he was funny enough, but he just didn’t give me enough to keep me interested. I felt like his past was more interesting than his present which probably isn’t a good thing.

Danny grew up in a travelling Circus, The Mysterium, where his Dad was an escapologist and his mum a high wire acrobat. Prior to the events in The Black Dragon Danny’s dad dies in an under-water trick that he’d performed hundred times over, and shortly after their trailer is set on fire and his mum is killed too.

Under the care of his aunt Laura, Danny is just settling into a more traditional life and trying to get through the boredom of high school when an explosion goes off and Laura whisks him away to Hong Kong.

It’s not long before Laura is kidnapped leaving Danny and Zamora, an Italian Dwarf – a friend from The Mysterium days – to find Laura and find out how all of these things are connected.

As fun as this was, the whole way through I just wanted it to be about The Mysterium and didn’t really care about finding Laura. By the looks of it, the next book in the series might do just that, so I’ll definitely check it out when the time comes.

I enjoyed the characters here, especially Zamora, and the fast pace of the adventure was welcome but it didn’t have enough strings to its bow to really hook me. I do feel like this could improve in later books though.

Disclosure: I received a copy from Hodder Children’s Books via World Book Day
Details: Paperback, 340 pages, Published 2013 by Hodder Children’s Books
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Although I will check out the next book I’ve already added this to My Swapping List.
If you liked this try: Charlie’s Monsters by Dean Lorey. Similar in style…swap magic for monsters and viola!

WWW Wednesday!

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To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy According to Goodreads it’s an exhilarating reinvention of the gothic novel, inspired by the iconic characters of our greatest myths and nightmares, according to my friend Di, it is so terrible I will love it.

Recently Finished:
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The Mysterium: The Black Dragon by Julian Sedgwick
This was a fun read but it didn’t have a lot to it.

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I also finished Water By Terra Harmony which gave me a lot of ranting material even though I liked it a lot. My Review is here.

Up Next: I kinda just want to read The Selection and The Elite again. Send help!