Tag Archives: Historical Fiction

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

The Miniaturist

Yes, I am a librarian/media specialist. And yes, I buy books for the media center all the time (you can read about that process in this post). And yes, I LOVE to read but very rarely do I have the time to read at work. I am usually helping students with computer issues, teaching kids and adults how to use computers to do exactly what they want (sounds strange for high school students and teachers to need that help, but you’d be surprised), helping students find the right book to read and a myriad of other tasks.

So if I ever take out a book during the day and take the time to stop and read, it is a REALLY good book and it has bewitched me, body and soul as Mr. Darcy so eloquently put it.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is one of those books. I could not get enough of it. I could not put it down. I read every spare minute. So what had my attention, you ask?

When Petronella “Nella” Oortman turns 18, her mother arranges for her to marry Johannes Brandt of Amsterdam, who is in his late 30s, to save their family after Nella’s father drank away most of their money and then died, leaving them nearly destitute. Nella met Johannes a couple of times before the marriage but basically knows very little about him.

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

When she arrives in Amsterdam, she is met at the house by his sister Marin, who in most aspects is the head of the house, Otto, a former slave from Surinam who was freed by Johannes and Cornelia, the maid. The fact that Marin takes the lead of the house is damaging to Nella’s already low self-esteem. Add to this a husband who is rarely home and does not interact with his wife when he is there and Nella cannot figure our where she belongs in this new life she is supposed to forge.

When Johannes presents her with a miniature replica of their home as a wedding gift, she is not only confused by the gift that she sees as a toy but also angry that he would think so little of her as to believe she would be interested in such an expensive waste of time and money.

However, when Marin gives her the name of a miniaturist in Amsterdam and money of her own to pay for the items, she decides to hire out pieces for the house. When she receives the items that she ordered, she also receives pieces that she did not order and that seem to mock her life and her situation. Nella, furious, sends word to the miniaturist not to send anything else.

But as Nella’s life becomes more complicated, the miniatures keep coming and seem to not just mock her life, but to foretell it. While terrified of what the miniaturist will send next and yet terrified that no more will arrive, Nella sets out to get her life, her marriage, and her house in order, just as the walls seem to be falling down around her.

Detailed and intriguing, this novel deposits you smack in the middle of a macabre world of 1860s Amsterdam where the citizens are encouraged or maybe somewhat commanded by the Church to spy on their neighbors and to turn them in for anything that the Church deems impure, even the “idol worship” of gingerbread men and dolls, not to mention the “wickedness” of money, though no Priest would ever turn down a quickly palmed bribe.

This beautiful work is a rich tapestry of history, intrigue, love, hatred and family and exactly to what lengths people will go to protect those they love and seek vengeance against those believed to have inflicted harm or wrongdoing against them.

The Miniaturist. A Propensity to Discuss review.

Burton first saw the dollhouse owned by Petronella Oortman (above) which does actually exist in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and decided to tell a fictional story about its owner. And I am so very happy that she did.

5 Stars. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

This post contains affiliate links. I would never include an affiliate link on any product that I would not completely endorse. So if you choose to purchase through this link, I get a small payment that does not affect your price at all. And I whole-heartedly recommend these linked products!

Check out all the books I have reviewed on the blog by clicking this link.

The audio version of The Miniaturist read by Davina Porter is also available. 

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night

By now you know exactly how much I love to read. Anything and everything, but if I had to pick, my favorite genre has to be mysteries. (Or maybe my favorite genre right now.) I love trying to figure out the “whodunit” of a good mystery. But what I really like are the warped minds of the people involved. I know I probably shouldn’t admit this because now you are probably thinking that I am a crazy person.

And you are probably right. I think I may have a warped mind myself when it comes to these books. I am not really sure that I like them more for the resolution of the problem or for getting into the minds of the bad guys. I promise I am not harboring a secret desire to be one of these people. I am just intrigued by the idea that there are people in the world who actually have this type of depraved minds.

On that note, there are a few that I have read that have actually left me a little freaked and made me check over my shoulder a time or two. These are the books that make you lose a little bit of sleep listening to the things that go bump in the night. If you are faint of heart and very easily scared, you may want to bypass these!

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Big Little Lies – Lianne Moriarty

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night ended with one parent dead and the community in an uproar of he said/she said. Told from alternating points of view, at times humorous, at times very sad, Big Little Lies* (click for my full review) is amazing. While it isn’t very scary, it will keep you up because you fall in love with the characters, the writing style and you will find that you must know what happens next.

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in what came to be called “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas”. Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing snow and later testified that her 15-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben is still in prison, and Libby is living off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long since forgotten her. Dark Places,* from Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, is just as macabre as it’s predecessor and the ending almost as twisted.

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Devil in the White City – Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Moving between the building of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cold and calculating serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death, The Devil in the White City tells a true story. The research into the history, along with suspenseful storytelling, Erik Larson has written this tale that reads like fiction and leaves you at times terrified as well as educated about things that we have and use to this day because of that event. The things that will keep you up, however, are the gruesome acts of the serial killer who found himself with hundreds of victims at the same time in the same place.

The Grant County Series by Karin Slaughter

Set in the fictional town of Heartsdale, Georgia, (in the fictional Grant County) This series, which consists of 7 books, including BlindsightedKisscut*A Faint Cold Fear, Indelible, Faithless , and Beyond Reach. The seventh book in the series is Broken, which is the 4th book in the Will Trent series (discussed below). There are 3 main characters: Sara Linton, the town’s pediatrician and part-time coroner; her ex-husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, who is chief of police; and detective Lena Adams.

All of these books keep you on the edge of your seat hoping that you never run into anyone as atrocious as the villains portrayed here!

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Just What Kind of Mother Are You – Paula Daly

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? by Paula Daly

Lisa Kallisto is not-so-perfect, and an absolutely realistic model of the modern woman. In Just What Kind of Mother Are You?* one chaotic day Lisa takes her eye off the ball for a slight moment and her world caves into a living nightmare. Not only is her best friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter missing, but it’s Lisa’s fault. In a world where we all sometimes find ourselves with too much on our plates, this book sends chills down your spine as you think, “This could be me.” Trust me, it is one of those things that will keep you awake worrying about all of the people involved.

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby by  Mary Kubica

What begins as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated. When Heidi Wood, a woman who works for a nonprofit and takes in stray cats catches sight of a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old Pretty Baby* stranded in the rain, she cannot resist the need to take them in, as well. What comes after will rip your heart out and stomp on it a few times. Your lack of sleep, however, is well worth the read.

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Claire, the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. Julia, the sister who disappeared. In Pretty Girls* Julia, the sister of Claire and Lydia, is the only tie that Claire and Lydia still share. But when horrific events bring Claire and Lydia face-to-face, they very well may have to bury the issues that separate them in order to stay alive. Just when you are ready to put this book down and go to sleep, everything you thought you knew is thrown upside down and rendering you unable to put it down.

The Will Trent Series by Karin Slaughter

The Will Trent series takes place in Atlanta and with Will Trent as the lead character. Trent is a GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) special agent. The series also features his partner Faith Mitchell and Angie Polaski. The first two books in the series are Triptych and FracturedIn the third book of the series Sara Linton (from the Grant County Series) joins the series that also includes Undone, BrokenFallen, Criminal, Snatched, a novella that is included with Criminal, Busted, a novella included with Unseen. Broken can also be categorized as the 7th book in the Grant County series.

You by Carolyn Kepnes

7 Books And 2 Series That Will Keep You Up At Night. A Propensity to Discuss Post.

You – Caroline Kepnes

For Joe Goldberg and Guinevere Beck, it is love at first sight. Only “Beck,” as she is known to her friends, doesn’t know it yet.

in this amazing book, You*, Joe inconspicuously and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he succeeds in bringing Beck into his waiting arms. Transforming from stalker to boyfriend, Joe morphs himself into becoming Beck’s perfect man, even though sometimes he must remove the obstacles that stand in their way. You’ll be awake long after you finish this one checking all of your social media and examining your online status to make sure no one like Joe has found you the least bit attractive.

If you are looking for really good books with a bit of spine-chilling suspense, any of these books should do the trick. By way of murder and mystery, these are some of my absolute favorites. I hope you enjoy them!

*Denotes original book reviews previously published on Propensity to Discuss

Do you have a favorite I need to read? Let me know. I am ready for another scary night!

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure. A Propensity to Discuss Review.

What she left behind. A Propensity to Discuss Post

What she left behind

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman and performed by Tavia Gilbert left me crying.

Not crying, really. Sobbing.

I admit it. I am a sucker for a good story. And I am a sap when it comes to sad stories. And if those sad stories have happy endings, I’m done for!

That being said, let me fully recommend this book!

There are two story lines: One beginning in 1929 with Clara Cartwright and the other in the early 1990’s with Izzy Stone.

Circa 1990: The stint Izzy’s mother spent in an asylum after fatally shooting Izzy’s father while he slept haunts Izzy possibly more than the murder itself. She is terrified that her mother’s insanity has somehow been passed down to her.

So when her new stepmother, Peg, requests her help with cataloging the items from the now-closed Willard Asylum, Izzy is mortified. Not wanting to disappoint Peg, however, she agrees.

Circa 1929: Clara Elizabeth Cartwright is in love. Albeit with a man her “high-standing in the community” father will never allow her to marry. Standing up to her father to assert her refusal to marry an abusive man whom she does not love gets her sent to a home for “nervous invalids.”

With the stock market crash, her father can no longer afford her care and Clara is transferred to the Willard Asylum, her steamer trunk in tow.

When Izzy opens Clara’s trunk decades later and finds Clara’s journal, she is determined to find out what happened to her.

Tavia Gilbert‘s portrayal of the many characters is spot on. The voices of the characters are represented in rich and smooth intonations that are often soothing and velvety and at others charged and ravaging. The characters are immediately recognizable by their cadence and their accents. All together lending a wonderful performance of a heart-wrenching novel.