My Notorious Life by Madame X | Kate Manning

My Notorious Life by Madame X by Kate Manning is the fictionalised account of the story of a midwife and abortionist in the Victorian era.

Notorious Life Manning‘In the end, they celebrated. They bragged.
They got me finally, was their feeling.
They said I would take my secrets to the grave.

They should be so lucky.’

Axie Muldoon, the headstrong daughter of Irish immigrants, forced to beg for pennies as a child on the brutal streets on New York City, grows up to become the most successful – and controversial – midwife of her time.

‘Saved’ from poverty by a well-meaning philanthropist, Axie is sent West with her brother Joe and her sister Dutch. But the kindness of strangers is short-lived and soon Axie returns to the city of her birth, separated from those she loves but determined to one day reunite her family.

When she is taken in by a Manhattan doctor Axie learns the craft that she will live by – and later fight for. As a purveyor of ‘lunar tonic for the relief of female complaints’ she rises from the gutter to the glitter of 5th Avenue high society, and discovers that the right way is not always the way of the church or the law, and that you should never trust a man who says ‘trust me.’ But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical Irish soul?

As Axie’s reputation grows she finds herself on a collision course with the crusading official who would be the righteous instrument of her downfall. It will take all of her power to outwit him and save both herself and those she loves from ruin.

This is a very powerful and often disturbing book.

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The Spinning Heart | Donal Ryan

SpinningHearth RyanThe Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a literary novel with the story told by several different characters.

“My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.”

 In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

 The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

 Donal Ryan’s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.

This was lovely, but somewhat thin.

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The Age of Ice | J.M. Sidorova

Ice SidorovaThe Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova is a literary fantasy novel and you should totally read it.

An epic debut novel about a lovelorn eighteenth-century Russian noble, cursed with longevity and an immunity to cold, whose quest for the truth behind his condition spans two thrilling centuries and a stunning array of historical events. The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor-all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command-for her entertainment-these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn-on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology-will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

Ooooooh this book give me the happys.

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(re)visions: Alice | Various

(re)Visions: Alice is a collection of retellings of the childrens classic.

(re)Visions: Alice is the first in a planned series in the (re)Visions line, which is devoted to exploring the lasting legacy of classic works of speculative fiction on our genres and on our lives. In each book in the series, four authors will tackle a classic work of imaginative fiction, and give it their own spin; along with each of these novellas will also be the original work. In this first entry, Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is presented, along with four modern pieces based on his work.

Here’s a summary of each of the novellas in Alice:

What Aelister Found Here
By Kaye Chazan

It is 1888, and Aelister has never felt at home, not even in his own skin. Now that he’s been expelled from school, he sees no reason to stick around his house in Warwickshire, so he runs away to another world altogether: London. The city is a maze of heat and rain, where a murderer stalks the streets of Whitechapel and a Crown Prince flouts his mother’s laws, and Aelister soon finds himself dealt into a series of deadly games—ones that put his life, and far more, on the line. And while London may not be the wonderland Aelister expected to find, he is far from the only person in the city looking for that very place.

House of Cards
By Amanda Ching

There’s Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole and had an adventure. Then there’s the Queen of Hearts, who loses her temper quite frequently. But before that, there was Mary Ann, a servant pressed past patience, past duty. As all three hurtle toward an inevitable meeting, a creature has broken from its coffin and is even now tunneling to meet them. When the deck is stacked like this, even the strongest foundation could crumble.

Knave
By Hilary Thomas

In the city they call Wonderland, the Queen calls the shots. If she doesn’t like the way you’re playing the game, she’ll give you the axe. Permanently. Jack Knave is an investigator, a man of many talents, an occasional blade for The Crown; and he’s the best at what he does. He knows every face in the city, every move they make, every connection.

Except one.

When a mysterious woman shows up in town, Jack is sure she’s not just here for the tourism. But the more he digs, the less he knows. Finding the answers means getting close to her, but she’s not the only one with secrets. Somebody’s been stealing from the Queen, and it looks like Jack’s taking the fall. Alice could seal his fate with a word—or not. With no options left, and the odds stacked against him, Jack must make a desperate gamble to survive. Whether his luck holds out or he’s left out to dry, one thing’s for certain: he can’t afford to lose his head.

The World in a Thimble
By C.A. Young

Toby Fitzsimmons hates the creepy sculpture of Alice on display in his gallery, but when it drops him into Wonderland for real, he’s not prepared for what he finds. From real living furniture to scoutmasters and cowboys to coyotes who really do go everywhere, Toby finds himself in a Wonderland that’s more deadly, and much more American, than the one he remembers reading about as a boy. At the heart of it all is the Catmistress, who rules over the city’s dark alleys and knows the secret of the Cheshire trick. In this strange new world, Toby will need all the help he can get to find his way home. Before that, though, he’ll have to find a way to keep from losing himself. Wonderland, it seems, changes everything it touches. And then there’s the thing in the sewers…

I really, really enjoyed this. Collections can be hard to review, but this was great.

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As She Left it | Catriona McPherson

As She Left It by Catriona McPherson is a novel about the secrets of childhood set in a Leeds council estate.

Untangling the shame and sorrow on Mote Street

At the age of twelve, Opal Jones escaped her mother’s endless drinking and her life in Leeds, England. Returning to the small cottage on Mote Street after her mum’s death is like going back in time. Nosey Mrs. Pickess is still polishing her windows to a sparkle (the better to spy) and Fishbo, Opal’s ancient music teacher, is still playing trumpet. Then, Opal learns about a tragedy the neighborhood has never recovered from: the disappearance of three-year-old Craig Southgate. The sweet, red-haired child Opal once knew was kidnapped — and never seen again.

At first, unraveling the decade-old mystery is a fine distraction from Opal’s own ugly past. But teasing out her neighbors’ dark secrets begins dredging up uncomfortable memories of her own childhood – and a growing suspicion about little Craig’s fate.

This is an astonishing work of fiction.

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Shifting Selves | Mia Marshall

Shifting Selves by Mia Marshall is book 2 of the Elements series.

Aidan Brook’s world was shattered when the actions of a brutal murderer revealed long-buried secrets about her past. A powerful elemental, Aidan discovered she possesses the wrong kind of magic. It’s a secret that could cost her sanity—or even her life.

What she needs is some peace and quiet. What she gets is a phone call from a division of the FBI so secret it doesn’t even have a name, asking for her help with a series of shifter disappearances.

Before Aidan can settle into a new routine of pancakes and evenings by the fire, the case develops claws. She quickly finds herself caught between uptight bears, deadly mountain lions, overprotective parents, and unhappy federal agents. Throw in a stalled romance with an enigmatic shifter and the slow dissolution of her chosen family, and it’s hard to say which will drive her mad first: her magic, or her chaotic life.

These are not great literature, but I’m still a fan of the series.

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The Blind Assassin | Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a story about love and regret told over a period of several years.

“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge”

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura’s mysterious death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth-century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal…

I can see how a book like this could be divisive. I can see how Margaret Atwood as a writer could cause a wild variety of opinions. But I can’t help it – I love her, and her writing.

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