MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET by H.P. Wood {Review}

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET is a peculiar book with a large cast of odd and colorful characters.

In 1904, Coney Island draws thousands of visitors to its spectacular new amusement park called Dreamland. Seventeen-year old Kitty arrives there with her mother from South Africa, only to end up alone and homeless when her mother falls ill, then mysteriously disappears. Kitty befriends the “Unusuals” working at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of the strange and unusual, and they agree to help her find her mother.

This book was quirky, but also rather dark and sad. My favorite parts were meeting the “Unusuals,” who at the time were society’s outcasts. They got by the best they could. Though I enjoyed the characters, there were too many, and at times they were hard to keep track of. Magruder’s museum sounds like a place I’d love to explore. So many exhibits – from fascinating and creepy to gross!

MAGRUDER’S was an ok read for me. I never felt fully invested in the story, but I thought the author did a wonderful job bringing Coney Island at the turn of the last century to life.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher thorough NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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THE PARTING GLASS by Gina Marie Guadagnino {Review}


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


Devoted maid Mary Ballard’s world is built on secrets, and it’s about to be ripped apart at the seams, in this lush and evocative debut set in 19th century New York, perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin.

By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…

But on her nights off, Mary sheds her persona as prim and proper lady’s maid to reveal her true self—Irish exile Maire O’Farren—and finds release from her frustration in New York’s gritty underworld—in the arms of a prostitute and as drinking companion to a decidedly motley crew consisting of a barkeeper and members of a dangerous secret society.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has a secret of her own—she’s having an affair with a stable groom, unaware that her lover is actually Mary’s own brother. When the truth of both women’s double lives begins to unravel, Mary is left to face the consequences. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother and loyalty to Charlotte, between society’s respect and true freedom, Mary finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

A captivating historical fiction of 19th century upstairs/downstairs New York City, The Parting Glass examines sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. A perfectly paced, romantically charged story of overlapping love triangles that builds to a white-knuckle climax, this is an irresistible debut that’s impossible to put down.


THE PARTING GLASS is a beautifully written and heartbreaking tale of Mary Ballard, an Irish maid who becomes the unfortunate side of a love triangle with her mistress and her brother. The book is gorgeously written and well-researched, and really brings to life New York City in the 1830s and the struggle of Irish immigrants at the time. This is a strong character-driven novel that wraps up with a surprising ending. A bit long in parts, but well worth taking the journey with these unique characters. Impressive debut!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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Thoughts on Books (#14): The Last Woman in the Forest / Séances Are For Suckers / The Witch of Willow Hall / Cross Her Heart


The Last Woman in the Forest
The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Marian is a conservationist who works with rescue dogs in research projects, often in very remote and dangerous locations. After her boyfriend Tate is killed on assignment, she begins to suspect that he was responsible for the unsolved murders of four young women. Marian enlists the aid of a retired criminal profiler in hopes of putting her mind to rest.

The cold, desolate, and quiet natural setting of this book added an eerie sense of dread to the story. The writing was beautiful, and the ending was not what I expected. The story jumps around quite a bit, before and after Tate’s death, and also snippets from the victims leading up to their encounter with the murderer. There was a big focus on descriptions of the natural world and conservation projects which were enjoyable, though I would have liked the characters to have been fleshed out more. It was a bit slow moving for a mystery/suspense, but it held my attention and kept me guessing until the end.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.


Séances are for Suckers (Eleanor Wilde Mystery #1)
Séances are for Suckers by Tamara Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eleanor (Ellie) Wilde doesn’t believe in the paranormal, but that doesn’t stop her from making a living as a medium. She doesn’t consider herself a fake, because she really can solve pesky ghost problems. The ghosts, however, are typically rats in the attic or rattling pipes — but her clients don’t need to know that.

Ellie is flown to England to the ancestral manor home of Nicholas Hartford III. His mother is convinced they’re being haunted by a spirit called Xavier, and Nicholas wants Ellie to put Xavier to rest. Before that happens though, Ellie stumbles across a dead body. Now she’s charged with solving the mystery of Xavier and that of the stranger’s corpse that disappeared in the blink of an eye.

I enjoyed this first book in the Eleanor Wilde Mystery series. Ellie was a great character — witty, astute, clever, and likable — even if she is a bit of a con-artist. There’s a touching side story with Ellie and her ailing sister, and you can see how much she cares about her family. SÉANCES ARE FOR SUCKERS is a charming cozy mystery mixed with romance and a touch of “real” paranormal, which I’m excited to see what happens next with that!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Witch of Willow Hall
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is a wonderful throwback to those beloved vintage gothic romances. Set in 1821, the story follows the Montrose family as a scandal in Boston sends them retreating to the small town of New Oldbury. Their fresh start in the country is anything but peaceful, as a malevolent force seems to be plaguing their home, Willow Hall. Will middle daughter Lydia’s inheritance of a powerful family legacy be able to save them? Unfortunately, I was in a rush to finish this book and get it back to the library in time, so I didn’t get to savor it like I wanted to!! Still, I thought WILLOW HALL was an enjoyable witchy read and an impressive debut from Hester Fox. Just the right about of spooky goodness and sweet romance. Borrowed from the library.


Cross Her Heart
Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately this book didn’t work for me. I found it slow and repetitive, and lacking any big surprises that made me want to keep reading. The twist at the end was so far-fetched, which sometimes can be entertaining (like in her previous book, Behind Her Eyes), but this time I was just shaking my head. I see lots of positive reviews for Cross Her Heart, so probably an “it’s me” situation here. Borrowed from the library.


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