Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Throwback Review: Madame Tussaud

Throwback review from April 2012!

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution is an adult historical fiction title by Michelle Moran.

Marie Tussaud has learned the art of wax sculpting from her uncle, whom she works alongside at the Salon de Cire, their wax museum. She has an impeccable eye for it, and their patrons often are amazed at how lifelike their models of popular heroes from the American Revolution like Thomas Jefferson are. Many also come to see the royal family in different moments of their luxe lives.

Yet, the Salon is also a place of gossip and news – so Marie soon begins to realize just how much people’s opinions of the royal family are changing. She knew already, of course, that there are many starving and having much financial difficulty – mostly due to famine and a heavy tax burden the lower classes must bear for the higher ones – but in December of 1788 she is starting to see the anger…

Still determined to keep the Salon open and active, creating new sculptures that reflect the days, news and desires, Marie is given a front view seat of the budding French Revolution all the way through the Reign of Terror.

Her skills may be her survival among the chaos – but how many others will perish?

Madame Tussaud spans five years and covers a ton of historical ground. Michelle Moran effortlessly weaves in numerous notable names like Robespierre, Lafayette, the Marquis de Sade (*shudder*), and the royal family. She manages to bring them all through the novel in an elegant, believable manner – mixing history and fact impeccably with a story that feels real and alive. Excellent!

I’ve always been fascinated by the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, etc. It’s such a terrifying piece of history, full of so much tragedy and madness. Michelle Moran gave us a unique perspective from Madame Tussaud’s point of view. I was truly floored.

First we have a prologue that is full of unspoken memories and a haunted past during one of history’s darkest periods. I was intrigued immediately. We are given an upfront look at the makings of a vengeful, violent revolution while following an ambitious, business-focused career woman in the successful Marie Tussaud.

Madame Tussaud is a riveting novel of the heartbreaking, horrifying fall of a monarchy from an achingly personal view, felt on a personal level. It’s suspenseful and frightening as tyranny rules, utterly disturbing, bloody, and chilling with few (but momentous) moments of hope, happiness, and love for Marie.

What we have here is a magnificent page turner that is, yes, oftentimes so nightmarish and horrifying it turns the stomach, with few happy endings. See, you feel like you are living it with Marie - which is not exactly fun, but truly absorbing and utterly memorable. Incredibly written. It highlights the ridiculousness, madness and danger of mob-rule and leaves you speechless.

As someone who usually reads YA, I do sometimes venture out – especially for historical fiction. I must say that I think readers of YA need to pick up Madame Tussaud. Though it is disquieting and sometimes graphic with the violence, so are many YA novels. This, however, also gives you history and an insanely good read – both of which any bibliophile can agree is an excellent combination.

No matter what you’re regular genre of choice is, Madame Tussaud is phenomenal, stunning, and absolutely unforgettable.

I will be more than ready to read Michelle Moran’s next novel, The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court, when it comes out!!!

In fact – I wish it was available right now! If she writes all her books with such passion, detail, and complete attention-grabbing anxiety, I want to read everything she’s written! How about you?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Throwback Review: The Thirteenth Tale

A throwback review from March 2014. This remains one of my FAVORITE books! Check it out: 

The Thirteenth Tale is an adult contemporary novel with a classic gothic mystery feel by Diane Setterfield.

Oh. My. Gosh. This book is fantastic!!!

Margaret Lea leads a quiet, book-loving life that all of us bibliophiles would adore – working in a book store and whiling away the hours reading.

Her passion for literature extends to a fascination with non-fiction. She loves letters, journals – anything that ties her to people who are now deceased. Margaret has even written a few minor biographies on lesser known figures.

When she receives a letter from one of the most famous contemporary authors of the day, Vida Winter, she’s floored to discover that Ms. Winter wants her to write her biography.

For years, Vida has given numerous, glittering stories when asked about her life.

Not one of them true.

Apparently now, old and ailing, she wants to finally tell her story.

Unable to deny her curiosity, Margaret joins Vida at her reclusive estate and starts a routine of hearing Vida’s life stories in the library.

The tale is full of madness, strangeness and a gothic mystery that Margaret is enthralled in.

And with the telling Vida and Margaret both find they must equally confront the ghosts of their pasts, and the deep pain lying there…

Oh, my description can’t even do The Thirteenth Tale justice!!! I might as well just give up!

This is now one of my favorite books. Just as the blurbs say on the inside and outside jacket cover – this novel harkens to novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca in its excellent gothic vibe, yet manages to be a contemporary novel.

Diane Setterfield writes with such a poetical, entrancing language that pulled me in and very quickly started to wrap me up in intrigue, mystery and book-loving wonderfulness.

I loved reading about a character who loved reading as much as I do!

My bibliophile heart was quickly being tugged with lovely, silkily-woven prose and disturbing, eerie tales of the past.

Book magnetism, indeed!!!

The Thirteenth Tale is effective, haunting, and stayed on my thoughts constantly. It’s undeniably addictive and absorbing.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED everything about it!!!

Twists, tingles, edge-of-your-seat mystery, emotional, shocking, amazing – PERFECT!

The Thirteenth Tale was stunning in every way – and I will recommend it to EVERYONE!!!

Now, this is a novel with adult, disquieting themes at times – but at its heart is a human mystery, a beautifully written, powerful gothic novel to be adored, relished, and re-read!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Throwback Reviw: Crocodile on the Sandbank


A throwback review from May 2013! Enjoy!

Crocodile on the Sandbank is the first in the humorous historical Amelia Peabody Mystery series by Elizabeth Peters.

Independently wealthy and ready for an adventure, Amelia Peabody, Victorian spinster of thirty-two, embarks on a trip to Egypt.

Armed with all the necessities – unwavering self-confidence, sharp intelligence, and a pointy parasol – Amelia embarks and finds herself utterly enthralled with the landscape and history.

As she is ready to travel to Cairo, though, she ends up rescuing the young and lovely Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a fellow Englishwoman left disgraced and alone – abandoned by the lover that estranged her from her grandfather, ready to end it all.

Well, Amelia certainly can’t have that. Especially when the lady has been so wronged! So, instead of letting the girl go off herself she employs her as a companion and sets off to sail the Nile with her by her side.

The trip is turning decidedly enjoyable.

When they reach an archeological site ran by the Emerson brothers – one sweet and gentlemanly, the other an ogre of a man with a wit to match Amelia’s – their party is halted as a rather absorbing mystery takes place.

It appears that a mummy is haunting the dig.

Amelia is certainly going to stick around to figure that one out.

Crocodile on the Sandbank was originally released back in 1975. If it weren’t for a bookish friend that told me about it, I may have missed this delightful novel! So, I definitely wanted to make sure all of you knew about it! It’s never too late to grab up a copy, after all.

Whenever I hear of a Victorian mystery, I’m there! But when you add a headstrong, clever, unpredictable and hilarious heroine like our Amelia here? Why, you can’t keep me away!!!

The first person narration is just SO fun as we sop up Amelia’s consistently droll, amusing tone. We get enough background and history of the character to very much appreciate her and feel that it’s not too much of a stretch for this woman to be a result of this exhilarating era.

Plus, Evelyn and the Emerson brothers get enough dialogue and story to become fully lively, likable characters themselves! The exotic locales sparkle with just enough detail, the fascination with antiquities buzzes, and the mystery slowly but surely come into light with a mix of curiosity, minor creepiness, and hilarity. I’ll say it again: FUN!!!

I was happily surprised by all the twists and truly pleased with the excellent chemistry that sneaks up and sizzles between Amelia and… Are you kidding?! I’m not gonna give it away!

There are a gazillion books in this series at this point – to be more accurate, about nineteen.

I will enthusiastically be obtaining as many more as I can, as quickly as I can! How about you?

Read Crocodile on the Sandbank, you fool! :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Throwback Review: Extraordinary*

A throwback review from July 2012! I hope you all had a wonderful July 4th!!!

Extraordinary* the true story of my fairy godparent, who almost killed me and certainly never made me a princess is a YA urban fantasy humor novel by Adam Selzer.

Straight-A, Shakespeare-lover Jennifer just wants to chill out during her senior year. She’s already been accepted to a college that is of high-standing in Iowa and she’s ready to relax after all the hard work.

Also, she wants to start taking steps toward being the eccentric, cool woman she aspires to be. First step? Color her hair purple. She loves purple. Second step? Finally go to a school dance by getting the relatively cute guy in her Human/Post-Human Alliance group to ask her – and hope that helps her get over her absurdly long crush on Mutual Scrivener whom she hasn’t seen since sixth grade when he mysteriously disappeared with his parent’s overnight.

Pathetic? Yeah.

The next events in Jennifer’s story have been sorely misrepresented by Eileen Codlin’s horrifically inaccurate Born to Be Extraordinary. This is supposedly a portrayal of Jennifer’s soon-to-arrive fairy godmother and how she became a princess.

Princess? Ha ha.

It did not happen like that. First of all, there was no sparkly, kind, frou-frou fairy godmother. He was a sloppy, unkempt, odious little man named Gregory Grue – and he preferred to be called a fairy godmofo.

And he almost killed her. This is the TRUE story of Jennifer’s “magical” senior year…

Extraordinary is truly a hilarious novel, and a breath of fresh air!

This is a wacky, inventive, unpredictable fairy-tale taking place in an alternative, contemporary Iowa setting where vampires are an accepted truth – the principal is one! – and zombies attacked the prom. Then we have Jennifer with her chubby, intellectual, clever, relatable ordinary-ness.

Sadly, the cover of Extraordinary really misrepresents Jennifer. It gives off a more little-kid, Disney movie poster feel with a thin girl with brown hair! Not the case at all! Not only does Jennifer look totally different, but the tone is far more older-teen oriented – and funnier than it looks.

We get hysterical snippets of Born to Be Extraordinary, the false book based on Jennifer’s experiences, which is a satirical, laugh-out-loud terrible idea of a “typical” teen book.

Extraordinary was unique, fast-paced and very, very fun – providing chuckles, hee-haws, giggles, and snorts! It’s imaginative, entertaining, and surprisingly morbid. I really, really liked it!

Adam Selzer creates a story that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a story that plays with the clichés and tired plotlines that have been recycled over and over. Plus, the cast of secondary characters are vibrant and amusing as well!

I recommend it for sure!