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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Thoughts on Books (#15): Turn of the Screw / The Peacock Summer / The Little Stranger / Her Pretty Face [Audiobooks]


The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Another ambiguous ending in this gothic fiction classic…

When a governess is hired to care for two children at a British country estate, she begins to sense an otherworldly presence around the grounds. Are they really ghosts she’s seeing? Or is something far more sinister at work?

Has the governess succumbed to madness? (If so, why?) Or are there really malevolent spirits out to get her young charges? In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide. I understand why authors do this, but sometimes it feels like a cop-out. Are there ghosts or not??

The writing was beautiful and descriptive, and there was definitely a strong creepy vibe throughout the story. I listened to this on audiobook, and Emma Thompson’s performance was amazing. Very passionate and entertaining.


The Peacock Summer
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.

I listened to this lovely and heartbreaking novel on audio last summer, narrated by Elisabeth Hopper. It was just the right blend of mystery, historical and Gothic fiction. Dark family secrets are hidden in the walls of Cloudesley. Can Lillian save granddaughter Maggie from her same fate? Wraps up with a bittersweet ending. Enjoyable ♥


The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

I’ve had THE LITTLE STRANGER on my wish list for years, so I decided to use an Audible credit and listen to it in October. The audio was narrated by Simon Vance, and I enjoyed his performance very much. I love his voice – first heard him when I listened to BRING UP THE BODIES (which was wonderful!).

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a slow-burn, atmospheric novel of suspense. I thought it was beautifully written, quite absorbing, and downright creepy at times. It was a story that I looked forward to jumping back into. That said, I also thought it was a bit too long and drawn out, and the ending doesn’t wrap up with a tidy bow.

Set in the late 1940s, this book centers around an English physician’s relationship with a down-on-its-luck aristocratic family and their crumbling ancestral home called Hundreds Hall. Odd things are happening in the house, and family members suspect the cause is a malicious supernatural presence, but the doctor is not easily convinced.

Like I mentioned before, there’s no neat and tidy ending where everything is explained, which is a bit frustrating. I drew my own conclusions from the evidence given, and I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with that.


Her Pretty Face
Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Awkward Frances doesn’t fit in with the snobby moms of elite Forrester Academy, so she’s surprised when the beautiful and perfect Kate wants to be her friend. The two women become very close. However, neither one knows that the other is harboring a dark secret, and one of them is a murderer.

HER PRETTY FACE is very much a slow-burner; there’s not a big mystery to figure out or fast paced suspense. The story alternates between past and present, and between three characters’ points of view: Frances, Daisy (Kate’s teenage daughter), and DJ (the wild card). Can criminal sociopaths change, and if so, should they be forgiven after serving their sentences? Do they deserve anonymity, or does society have the right to know who and where they are?

The subject matter is dark and disturbing, and according to other reviewers, this book was inspired by true events. I was hoping for a stronger mystery element, though the identity of DJ revealed at the end threw me for a loop. I listened to this on audiobook, with performances by Rebekkah Ross, Cassandra Campbell, and Kirby Heyborne. I’m already a fan of Ross and Campbell, and all three voices fit well with their character.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher 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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