Tag Archives: Period Fiction

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod
Book Reviews
August 21, 2010 posted by Christina

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher – Doug MacLeod

“Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plentitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a tattooed gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.”

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a black comedy set in England in 1828 and is the 12th book written by Doug MacLeod. We meet sixteen-year-old protagonist, Thomas Timewell, on the evening of his grandfather’s funeral. Thomas’ Grandfather’s dying wish was for his body to be donated to science to help in the advancement of the medical and scientific fields. Like in many cases, those wishes were ignored and he was buried anyway. So, as you do, Thomas takes matters into his own hands and digs up the grave to take the body where it rightfully belongs, as per his Grandfather’s wishes.

As he digs, we meet Plentitude – a body snatcher. An uneasy alliance is made between the two as Plentitude shows Thomas the tricks of the body snatching trade and delivers the body to the desired destination. From there Plentitude convinces Thomas to continue fulfilling the final wishes of the recently deceased.

Body snatching is not a simple game though – there’s competition. Disgruntled former partners of Plentitude’s want the bodies (and the payment that comes with their sale) for themselves. That, plus a gypsy with a taste for throwing meat cleavers, a teacher who ritually tortures his best friend and a mother in a constant opium daze, Thomas’s life gets really bizarre, really fast. Not to mention the lovely Victoria, who he can’t keep from offending every time their paths cross.

As some of you may know, I spend most of my day studying fashion and trends, but I’m picking up on a book trend here –  more stories being set during the Georgian and Victorian eras (18th and 19th century) – and I have to say I’m really liking it. Think Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Emily Bronte, but teen friendly. Now don’t get me wrong, these authors and many others of that period were very talented and have written some of the best loved classic literature of all time. I’ve read a fair few books from the period either for study or by choice but try as I might I just don’t know what they’re saying. Since times and social customs have changed you need to read between the lines, and understand the contextual history to know why it’s so scandalous for a girl to leave the house without a hat and gloves. This, plus the language itself means the message of those books are unfortunately lost on me, it just feels like a chore to read. I don’t doubt they’re still valuable and the themes and issues they express are important and still relevant today (and should still be read and studied)….but they’re just not fun for me.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that books such as The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher and others that are coming out recently, are quite faithful to the period and allow you to enjoy a story set in the age of gentlemen in top hats and ladies in corsets without getting lost in the writing of classic literature.

There was a great plot here, quite different to things I’ve read lately – very dark and gruesome at times but also with a sense of sarcasm and humor that kept it light. I loved the surprise ending, as well as the reference to Sweeney Todd, and to the issues of women who had to pose as males to be taken seriously as authors and the extend of opium use of the time.

The characters were a delight and I loved the witty interaction between them. Particularly between Thomas and his adopted younger brother John, who at fourteen has moved out into his deceased grandfather’s mansion and considers himself an important adult, high power business man. I also liked that body snatchers (or resurrectionists) never revealed their names; each one had a unique name chosen by them.

The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher is a great period novel that was witty and engaging, that gives a dark insight to an unusual occupation.

Publication Date: June 2010
Rating: : ★★★½☆

Teaser Quote: “You must think it strange that I’m digging up my grandfather.”
“Not at all. I’m sure many men dig up their grandfathers.”

Envy – Anna Godbersen
Book Reviews
May 2, 2009 posted by Nikki

Envy – Anna Godbersen

Envy is the third instalment in The Luxe series. It picks up right where Rumors left off, with enough scandal to drive even the calmest of readers’ crazy.

Mr Henry Schoonmaker – one of New York’s most eligible bachelors, and the love of Diana Holland’s life – has a new wife, and he’s not one bit happy about it, either. How could he be, when the love of his life is not the woman to whom he is now legally bound? Henry can’t even bring himself to look at Penelope with affection so how is he going to fulfil his physical requirements as a husband? As Henry drinks himself stupid night after night, hoping that the alcohol will numb his senses and dull the pain, Penelope’s scheming ways continue evermore.

Diana Holland – the real love of Henry’s life, and the reason he married Penelope in the first place – is hurting. Although Henry told her that he married Penelope to protect her, that Penelope had threatened to tarnish Diana’s wholesome reputation by telling all of New York that Henry had taken her virginity out of wedlock, seeing him with Penelope all the time is a painful matter indeed. Now that he is no longer in the market for a wife, Diana is doing everything she can to put her feelings for Henry behind her, but love is relentless and he haunts her everywhere she goes. Will she be able to stay away from him, especially when he is asking her not to?

The new Penelope Schoonmaker is watching Henry and Diana with hawke-like eyes. She is no fool and she can see the way the pair of them still look at each other. It makes her sick to the stomach to think of her husband’s eyes searching for someone else in the crowd, but honestly, what did she expect? She bribed him into marrying her in the first place. Penelope knows all too well that the only way she will keep her man is by bribing and manipulating him further. But will Henry put up with it for much longer? If the love of your life was slipping through your fingers, what would you do to be with them?

Elizabeth Holland finds herself in quite the predicament indeed. Mourning the loss of her husband, and former servant, Elizabeth finds herself attracting the attention of a one Mr Teddy Cutting – again. Elizabeth feels alone, in despair. Will she warm to Mr Cutting’s affections this time around? Only time will tell. Elizabeth is honest with Mr Cutting about her feelings for him – that the timing is all wrong and she’s still in mourning. But then something happens, something that will ruin the Holland’s forever if Elizabeth doesn’t find a way to fix it. Being with Mr Cutting suddenly seems like a magnificent idea…

And Carolina Broad is up to her usual tricks. I hate Lina so much that I can’t even bring myself to write anything about her.

Envy delivers the goods. After reading Rumors I wasn’t so sure that Anna Godbersen would be able to top her effort – but I was wrong. She writes brilliantly and reading her work is effortless. Henry’s character is developed further in this instalment and he steps of the pages of Envy like a radiant, shining light. I find myself wondering how much more of Anna Godbersen’s scandalous world I can take. I can’t wait for Splendour (the fourth novel) and I know I’ll re-read Envy obsessively until I get my hands on it.

Praise for Anna Godbersen, who has successfully reignited the 1900’s and made it totally cool to be all proper and old school. I love everything about this series – absolutely everything! This would make one hell of a killer television show.

Rating:: ★★★★★

Rumors: A Luxe Novel – Anna Godbersen
Book Reviews
March 10, 2009 posted by Nikki

Rumors: A Luxe Novel – Anna Godbersen

Rumors is the second installment in The Luxe novels and is every bit as scandalous, juicy, and naughty as the first.

Society in Manhattan, New York City is in mourning for they have just lost their darling girl, Elizabeth Holland. Lizzie’s body never was recovered from the Hudson River and no one seems capable of understanding how a girl drowns in a river without a body turning up. The gossip columns start printing murmurs about her death being a hoax and suddenly the whole city is questioning her whereabouts. Only a very few select people truly know what happened to Lizzie on that ill-fated day, however, and not one of them is breathing a word.

But Lizzie has been corresponding with Diana, her sister, to assure her that she is not dead but that she must keep this news a secret. In her letter, Lizzie gives Diana and Henry her blessing, wishing them well, and warns Diana to keep a keen eye out for Penelope. Unable to keep this glorious news to herself for long, Diana eventually shares her secret with Henry, who responds most excitedly. You see, Henry and Diana are unable to announce their relationship to anyone, as society deems it highly inappropriate for a man in Henry’s position to be cavorting with his supposed dead fiancés sister. But now that Henry knows Lizzie is actually alive, chasing a true love of her own, he wants nothing more than to announce his love for Diana to all of society. But doing so will mean that Elizabeth’s cover will be blown, and Diana isn’t having any of that…

What will become of their forbidden romance, and will Diana and Henry betray family confidences in the hope of finding happiness in each other? You’ll be surprised, my friends, very surprised indeed.

Meanwhile, Penelope catches wind of Henry and Diana’s secret affair and decides that she must put a stop to it before another Holland girl manages to snatch Henry from her greedy fingers. Penelope is more devious than any Gossip Girl character ever created and proves to readers that she is without a doubt, New York’s most evil creature alive. Blair Waldorf could learn a thing or two from this hellspawn. But it’s not Penelope’s devilish plan that floored me – it’s the fact that Henry agreed to go along with it, that he is so blinded by Penelope’s conniving ways that he can’t seem to see through her flawed plan to find an alternative solution. Those rooting for Henry’s happiness will be deeply disturbed by the events which unfold in this instalment. Is there a resolution for Henry, or is he doomed to live his life according to the wishes of others, forever?

If The Luxe was completely unputdownable (as I suggested it was), then Rumors is entirely infuriating – and it’s so, so good. Where The Luxe was a little slow on the uptake, Rumors gets straight into the action, right form the get go. All the passions, the feelings of love and hate that I experienced in the first installment increased threefold during this read. I yelled, I groaned loudly, and I harrumphed constantly as I read.

Godbersen’s words flow effortlessly across the page, allowing a clear and complete picture of each individual scene to play out in my mind. Rumors is an emotive, gripping read that left me with absolutely no fingernails at all.

This is pure teen chick lit in all its glory and I can see this series quickly becoming every teenage girl’s best friend. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third novel.

Rating:: ★★★★★