The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

I absolutely loved this book! Ostensibly about an unsolved murder and disappearance that happened in 1862, this beautifully told book is really a commentary on time, and how events and people connect, despite seeming unrelated.

The book starts with an archivist, Elodie, finding a satchel with both a photograph of a beautiful woman and an artist’s rendition of a two-gabled house. The house sparks something in Elodie’s memory; something about a fairy tale she was told as a child. She’s drawn to the mystery of the house and the woman in the photograph.

Honestly, Elodie bothered me. She was incredibly naive and seemed to be fond of martyrdom. Thankfully, while the book begins with her, she’s not the main character and is actually in it very little. The main storyline is told from the point of view of Birdie, a clockmaker’s daughter. I can’t say much about her without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, she is an enthralling narrator.

The book follows several different characters living in Birchwood Manor over many years: there’s the widow with three young children; the girl from India; an artist with his muse, and several others. Despite not seeming to have anything in common, their narratives flow together like tributaries in a river, blending into one skillful tale.

The setting is as important as the events that unfold there and is used very skillfully. I was engrossed in this book, even though it’s not a genre I normally get excited over. I will be on the lookout for Kate Morton’s other books. She’s a wonderful weaver of narratives.

If you are able to get your hands on this book, you won’t be disappointed.

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Grave Expectations by Sherri Browning Erwin

Do you remember having to read Great Expectations in school? How you muddled through it, having already decided that you wouldn’t like it? Or maybe that was just me. Either way, I wish this book had existed then; to read it after reading Great Expectations would have made me appreciate the original more (I suggest going into Great Expectations with an open mind, unlike me. When I reread it later in life, I ended up really liking it).

This is a supernatural parody of Great Expectations, written around the same time as Pride and Prejudice And Zombies. One clever thing about this book is that, while there are werewolves, zombies, and vampires aplenty, you can plainly see the spirit of Great Expectations underneath. Sherri Browning Erwin somehow managed a fun twist on a classic that keeps the story fresh and acts almost as a guide through some of the slower-moving parts of the original book.

I actually enjoyed this much more than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, possibly because I like Great Expectations, while not being a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I think that reading Great Expectations for the first time, followed by Grave Expectations would make for a cool compare and contrast. In fact, I might have my oldest- whom I homeschool- do that next year.

It’s not the most amazing reworking of a classic that I’ve ever read, but it is a solid, fun book. It’s also a quick read, one that’s perfect when you only have time to read in bits and spurts.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Warning: this is going to be a rave. This book is fantastic! It’s different, fun, witty, and every single character is wonderful.

Greta Helsing is a doctor to a…um…special clientele. She treats banshees, ghouls, vampires, and other supernatural beings (she even helps a mummy regain the ability to lurch!). She also manages to get caught up in a rash of murders being committed by a very odd cult. Greta, and some unique friends, have to stop the murders before it’s too late.

I love that this book takes place in modern times, and not Victorian. It’s a great blend of adventure and plot development. I like all the characters, but Fass is my favorite. He’s so sweet, despite being a bit of hellish being.

I loved Strange Practice so much that I picked up the sequel, Dreadful Company, before even finishing the first, so that I could dive right into the next installment as soon as I finished it. Read this book. READ IT!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I may have a slight obsession with this book. Okay: I definitely do, and it’s well deserved. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to stop what you’re doing and read it right now. I’ll wait.

Gorgeous black and white tents, amazing illusions, mysterious nighttime arrivals, The Cirque de Reves is merely the setting for a battle between two magic users, who have been pitted against each other by their masters in a “game” to see whose magical style is better. Little do they know, in this game there can be only one survivor.

Reading this book is like entering a beautiful dream, the kind you don’t want to wake up from. Morgenstern is such a compelling writer that you’ll be able to hear the crackle of the bonfire, and taste the delicious sweets. You’ll see the black and white swirling paths taking you to new wonders, possibly the carousel that is more than it seems, or the Ice Garden.

The characters are just as well-written. My favorite is Chandresh, the eccentric mind who weaves the circus into a character all its own. I also love Herr Fredrik Thiessen, the gifted clockmaker.

The book builds to an amazing climax, with an unexpected but perfect ending. I’ve reread this book at least six times and I’m about to start it again. In fact, I dressed as a reveur for Halloween (that term will make perfect sense when you read the book). If I can only recommend one November read, this would be it.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

Welcome to The Circus of Dreams!

                             The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lamposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

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