Monday, July 21, 2014

CURIOSITY by Gary Blackwood for MMGM





Curiosity by Gary Blackwood (April 2014, Dial, for ages 9 to 13)

Source: library

Synopsis (from the publisher): Philadelphia, PA, 1835. Rufus, a twelve-year-old chess prodigy, is recruited by a shady showman named Maelzel to secretly operate a mechanical chess player called the Turk. The Turk wows ticket-paying audience members and players, who do not realize that Rufus, the true chess master, is hidden inside the contraption. But Rufus’s job working the automaton must be kept secret, and he fears he may never be able to escape his unscrupulous master. And what has happened to the previous operators of the Turk, who seem to disappear as soon as Maelzel no longer needs them? 

Why I recommend it: The Philadelphia connection drew me in (I was born in Philadelphia, as was my father and, in fact, both of his parents), but then I kept reading because, hey, it's Gary Blackwood (The Shakespeare Stealer) and he's a master of historical fiction filled with intrigue and atmosphere. What the synopsis doesn't tell you: first, Rufus is handicapped (but never makes a big deal out of it), and second, this novel is loosely based on true events. Johann Nepomuk Maelzel was a real person, the Turk was an actual invention in the age of steam, and Edgar Allan Poe (who plays a cameo here) really did write an essay about Maelzel's chess-playing automaton.

For links to other MMGM posts, visit Shannon's blog.


24 comments:

  1. Ooh, this sound ps so interesting! I love books with a mystery and this one seems unique.

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  2. Loved the cover and what a great premise. It's always enjoyable to read a story unlike any others. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

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    1. You're welcome, Greg. Hope you get a chance to read it.

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  3. What an awesome premise! This is going on my to-read list. Thanks, Joanne!

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    1. Anytime, Barbara. Hope you get a chance to read it.

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  4. Ahhhhh! Joanne!
    You've done it again. :) This book sounds fantastic and I've never, ever, heard of it before.
    It's going on my list. I wonder if they have a copy at my library. Hmmm...

    ~Akoss

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    1. :) Hope your library has a copy, Akoss!

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  5. Oh boy...I want to read this one...now! Thanks for sharing. And yeah, it's Gary Blackwood!

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  6. This sounds fascinating! Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Joanne.

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    1. You're quite welcome, Michael. Hope you find time to read it.

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  7. This sounds really intriguing! I love the chess, the automaton, and the fact that it's based on real history. I'll be checking this out!

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  8. Really cool premise! And I've been amazed in traveling around how many schools have a chess club. Even some very low income schools have them. It could be a great tie in. In fact maybe I'll do a chess club meets book club blog post.

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    1. Hi, Rosanne! Chess club meets book club sounds great.

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  9. Wow, I hadn't heard of this one, and now I'm bumping it up my list pronto. It might fit in nicely with a presentation I'm making in the fall (if the proposal gets accepted ...)

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    1. Sounds intriguing, Dianne. Good luck with your proposal.

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  10. This sounds like a really different story. Not anything like I've seen around. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. It certainly is different, Natalie, and even different from Gary Blackwood's other historicals.

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  11. Love this cover and the book sounds awesome. I love MG HF and I have a feeling I am going to love this one. I so enjoyed the tidbits about the book/history you shared, along with your thoughts on the book. Thanks for sharing.
    ~Jess

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Jess! Thanks.

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  12. Great, great cover. The book sounds terrific. Thanks for telling me about this one.

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