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Curious Toys

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  45 reviews
The year is 1915 and Pin, the fifteen year-old daughter of an amusement park fortune teller, disguises herself as a boy to run with the teenage boys who thrive in the dregs of Chicago's street scene.

Unbeknownst to the well-heeled city-dwellers and visitors who come to enjoy its attractions, Riverview Park is also host to a brutal serial killer, a perfumed pedop
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 15th 2019 by Mulholland Books
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Giveaway win!

An intrepid young woman who dresses like a boy, stalks a murderer through a turn of the century Chicago amusement park.

Curious Toys is my first Elizabeth Hand novel but it will not be my last. I would have finished this weeks ago had I not fallen into a deep reading slump. I didn't want to pick this book up until I was in the proper mood to enjoy it.

Curious Toys mixes fictional characters with real life people. One real "character's" reveal will make you want to read t
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 Stars. 5 BIG Stars!

Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand. Release day: October 15th, 2019

With this atmospheric historical thriller, Elizabeth Hand conquers another genre and makes it her own.
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, modern mystery… and now she proves to be a master at the historical.

The story is set in 1915 Chicago, taking place mostly at an amusement park (Riverview) and the Essanay movie studio and centers around Pin Maffuci (formerly Vivian Onofrio) a 14 yea
Oct 13, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I REALLY want to read this Bc what will I do without historical fiction murder investigations when i am finished with capturing the devil (stalking Jack the Ripper #4)?! Only issue is... it quite literally gave away the killer in said book in this blurb... I think. Unless... well why would they do THAT ?! Defeats the purpose. So confused. Slightly annoyed. Lol
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From the decadent, dystopian science fiction of her debut novel, Winterlong; to the immersive magic of her art world fantasies like Mortal Love; to the harsh, earthy, crystalline landscapes of her Cass Neary suspense novels; Elizabeth Hand’s ouevre is as dark, sensuous and edgy as anything out there.

I keep a copy of Hand’s short story collection, Errantry, beside my desk to give me something to aim for with my own fiction. It’s a bar so high that not many writers reach it more than a
Jess Tunstall
Jun 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was lucky enough to win an advanced reader copy of this book from the goodreads giveaways. Truthfully, it did take a little to get into but once I got past the first 50 pages it started getting MUCH better. After that, the further into it I got, the better the story got! I was confused at the length of the chapters at first (short chapters) but came to realize that every chapter was related to different characters. It’s a great story with crime, mystery, suspense and history (although fictiona ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Curious Toys brings you back into the progressive era of 1900s with a great atmosphere of carnivals, serial killer and a heart-skipping adventure of a kid.

✔The book was fun to read, the author gives the readers a fantastic and crafted narration. She instilled an almost real feeling that I’m taking part of the adventure with the characters and visualizing the setting of Chicago in the 1900s with elements of the past which is an edge from other historical mystery writers.

✔The mystery in the book
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Books that detail the kidnapping and murder of young girls can be gruesome and heartbreaking. While my heart ached for Pin, the main character, I was not put off by this telling of a criminal who stalks and kills girls. In Curious Toys, the story is about more than murder.

Pin is a 14-year-old girl who prefers to live as a boy—a decision supported by her mother since boys are safer than girls inside a 1915 Chicago amusement park. After witnessing the disappearance of one girl (and lat
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was excited to receive a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway, because I was very intrigued by the description. A mystery set in a 1915 Chicago amusement park with a female protagonist who dresses as a boy is right up my alley. Overall, I felt like it met my expectations.

Things I liked:
- Pin, the protagonist. She was tough, clever and a person who was definitely ahead of her time.
- The inclusion of real life historical figures Henry Darger (whom I had never heard o
Tammy V
Oct 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up from the library based on a review and the fact I remember reading Hand's "Waking the Moon" many years ago and very much enjoying it.

I was not disappointed.

This is a straight-forward mystery story that will keep you engaged until the end. A good beach or snow-bound cottage read. The summary has been done elsewhere so I'll give you my thought.

The book does an excellent job of showing (not telling) poverty -the real grittiness of it even though
Damien Angelica Walters
Dark, mysterious, and thrilling! Pin, a 14 year old girl who lives as a boy, begins investigating the deaths of young girls at an amusement park where her mother works as a fortune teller. The novel has an ecletic cast of fictional and historical characters and the details of 1915 Chicago are vivid and interesting.

Full disclosure: I won a copy on Goodreads but that didn't influence my feelings about the book.
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Enjoyed this - Chicago 1915 setting. Slightly annoyed in keeping up with the cast of characters.
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Splendid. Read it in one day.
Carol Monda
Sep 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is brimming with intrigue, horror, suspense, nostalgia and an amusement park of fascinating characters. Elizabeth Hand has done it again. Mystery & Thriller
Few may remember it now, but in the early 20th century, Chicago was a hub for the burgeoning motion picture industry. Stars, screenwriters and sundry hangers-on converged on Essanay Studios on the city’s north side, where new movies were churned out weekly. During their downtime, they may have hopped the streetcar to Riverview Park, where they could enjoy all manner of entertainments, from taking a wild ride on the Velvet Coaster to gawking at the babies in the Infant Incubators.

Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With Curious Toys, Elizabeth Hand delivers a novel that is unlike her other work in some distinct ways, but that nevertheless showcases her remarkable talents as a writer.

Everyone in Curious Toys has a secret. Everyone is presenting a intentional face to the world. In some of these characters, the face reflects their aspirations and deepest hopes. In others, it is a mask to hide something much darker within. Whether by choice or necessity, with good intentions of bad, the secrets interwoven w
Chris S.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ARC provided thanks to Mulholland Books

Curious Toys is a curious book, as its title would suggest. It has so much going for it as it relates to notions of gender, sexuality, poverty, and their consequences. Hand seems to have meticulously researched the topic (yes, Henry Darger was an actual person). Yet it was so difficult for me to care about the characters until about two-thirds through the book. Although I recommend this book for those affiliated with the time period and those who like expe
Dan Trefethen
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Hand is a master stylist. Sometimes she goes for an unsettling, atmospheric effect (see “Wylding Hall”). Here, she ventures into historical fiction.

It's 1915 Chicago, and our protagonist Pin is a 14-year-old girl masquerading as a boy because she's dirt poor and lives in an amusement park. Amusement parks in those days were pretty rough. They were also places where men preyed on women or girls (think of the non-fiction book “The Devil in the White City”). That book is evoke
Stacey Lunsford
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pin is as 14-year old girl, passing as a boy. Her mother is working at the Riverview Amusement Park for the summer as a fortune-teller and they live in a shack on the grounds. It is 1915, it is safer if people think Pin is a boy, and Pin prefers it anyway. Free to roam as she pleases, Pin observes a man take a young woman into the Hell Gate tunnel ride...but only he emerges. Pin reports what she has seen but the police latch onto the idea that Clyde, a black man who works on the ride, must be th ...more
Andy Weston
Set in Chicago in 1915 at an amusement park and the nearby the movie studio the story centres around 14 year old Pin Maffuci, a girl disguised as a boy in order to get work at the park. There is a
a pedophile serial killer on the loose, soon to be pursued by the 14 year old, helped by Henry Darger, an artist and writer. Darger is a real-life character, and Hand also incorporates Charlie Chaplin, Wallace Berry, and Gloria Swanson, amongst others.
Girls dressed as boys is not exactly ground-break
Donna Schoening
This was an advanced copy giveaway from Goodreads. I was attracted to the book because it was compared to Devil in the White City which I really enjoyed. While there were hints of that in the time period & gruesome murders, Curious Toys jumped around a bit for me. There were several characters and at times I really had to think about who this character was. The story really drew me in, though, and I was cheering for Pin, the main character, throughout the entire book. They mystery of who the ...more
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This a fascinating story set in an amusement park in Chicago in 1915. Pin is a young girl who is passing as a boy. Her mother dresses her as a boy after her sister disappears and is apparently killed to keep Pin safe. Her mother works as a fortune teller at the carnival. Pin sees a man enter a ride at the carnival with a young girl and complete the ride without her and realizes that a crime has been committed. She develops an alliance with a strange man to solve the crime but is unsure of who to ...more
Becky Plankenhorn
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. I liked the historical part of learning about the Riverview Carnival and that area of Chicago in the year 1915. The character, Pin, is a young teen that disguises herself as a boy to stay safe. Her mother is a fortune-teller at the carnival and they live in a shack made of cardboard and wood pieces they put together right behind the carnival grounds. What left me with disturbing thoughts after reading this is the murders of preteen girls—kidnapped and raped.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extremely well-researched and assembled work of historical fiction. Early 20th century Chicago, the ethnic neighborhoods and businesses (on the Northside I think?), the early days of motion pictures in Chicago, city politics, and most importantly how amusement parks operated at the time - all are brilliantly depicted here. This novel was a 10 year labor of love (and no doubt sweat, anguish, etc.) that the author worked to make perfect. She succeeded Well done !!!
Carol Carlson
I enjoyed the historical period and the details reminded me of how fragile children were during this era. I had hoped there would be more about Riverview, but with Riverview, the different characters, and the film aspects, there wasn't enough about Riverview. Too many characters prevented me from liking any of them. While I sympathized with their situations, I didn't find them compelling.
Jbrendan Shaw
A lovely premise - the 1910s in Chicago! an amusement part! a queer trans kid! Henry Darger! - and lots of beautiful prose. Ultimately though the reveal was a bit clumsy and unexciting. I was also disappointed that the central character's queer gender was raised but not as developed as it could be. The coda was a little silly to me. Still, the setting and the characters were engaging.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite a slightly confusing beginning, this historical thriller was a good read. The multiple povs definitely given the whole story a better flow while still making you wonder who done it. This book is a nice mix of thriller and historical fiction.
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for its plot and characters, but especially because I learned a couple of things. Did you know infant incubators started as an amusement park curiosity? I also want to read more about "outsider" artist Henry Darger, who was a character in the novel.
Alex Mora
Nov 04, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book over the weekend I so far read 10 pages of this book. So far what I have notice about these curious toys is that they are smart. This book takes place in the year 1915. Pin the 14 year old daughter of a carnival fortune teller. That's so far what I got out of this book.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I won an ARC of this book. Fun mystery with Chicago as the setting. The Riverview Amusement Park and Essanay Studios. Henry Darger,the outsider artist, has a part too. I liked how he was portrayed and it felt believable to me even though he is a bit of a mystery himself.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not my favorite Elizabeth Hand book (that's Waking the Moon). That said, it's a very engaging read, and I would recommend it. I loved Pin (she's plucky!) and the premise was certainly interesting.
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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North Londo ...more
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