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on 23 August 2012
I was sent a email about this book from the publishers over at Bloomsbury which I am very grateful of. I had another one of Mary Hooper book so I thought I would give this one a try which I am glad I did as it's something different to what I usually read and I actually liked it.

The cover in a picture it doesn't look anything special but when I received a copy I loved it. I loved the colours as they really stand out and I also loved the flowers around the edges as it gave the book a more elegant look. What I loved the most was the texture of the book as it actually felt like velvet.

I may already have a Mary Hooper book but this is the first one that I have read which I did find an enjoyable read. This is also my first YA historical book which I thought Hooper did a great job of making me actually feel like I was in this time period which not a lot of books can do very successfully. What I also love is the way in which Hooper backs up her story with facts about the time which is found at the back.

What I did find a bit annoying was that in the blurb it stated that this book was 'A romantic and thrilling exciting' but I didn't find it to be any of these. There was some romance but not enough and none of it was believable. There was parts that had me guessing but most of it I guessed what would happen before it did. I did like a different take on the paranormal but that's all I will say on that as it will give too much of the story away. Even though at times I felt bored I still enjoyed it in most parts.

With the character Velvet I found she was a bit gullible and very naive. There was times I just wanted to shake her so she can actually open her eyes to what was going on around her. I am very gullible myself but even I knew what everyone was up to Velvet however didn't. Charlie was a sweet enough character but I thought he should have been in it a lot more than what he was.

Overall an enjoyable read but I just didn't find it grabbed my attention for too long.
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on 26 September 2011
A stunning work of historical fiction with a fascinating subject matter, Velvet by Mary Hooper is a thrilling exploration of the spiritualist craze that swept through Victorian and Edwardian society. This is the first book by I've read by Mary Hooper, but it certainly won't be the last as I was entranced by the world and the characters that Hooper created here . A true page turner from start to finish, Velvet is filled with shocking revelations that will keep you reading late into the night as you uncover the secrets of the mysterious Madame Natasha Savoya.

Velvet has not had an easy life. An orphan, she's had to make her own way in the world and works day after day in a stuffy steam laundry where conditions are harsh and pay is paltry. That's until she catches the attention of Madame Savoya, a celebrated medium who lives in a world of splendour and séances and who invites Velvet to become part of her household where she will tend to Madame's every need along with Madame's trusty companion, a handsome valet called George. Velvet soon settles in to her comfortable new life where she lusts after George, greets Madame's wealthy clients with champagne and makes small talk with them as they wait for Madame to reach their lost loved ones on the `Other Side'. To Velvet, Madame is an inspiration, putting her gifts to good use to bring comfort to those in mourning, and if they want to pay extravagant sums of money for the service, then who is she to say no. As readers we are privy to Madame's private sessions with these wealthy clients, while Velvet is not, and so we see the inner workings of Madame's profitable business, as little by little Velvet begins to suspect that things are not all that the seem in the house of Madame Savoya.

The most fascinating element of this book for me was the world and workings of the mediums who took society by storm in the late nineteenth century. With competition fierce amongst rival mediums and with mediums all over London being exposed as fakes and money grabbers, Velvet inhabits a dangerously exciting world. Hooper goes into detail about mediums and their methods throughout the story and in her historical notes, most of which are downright cruel, but nonetheless fascinating to read about. In featuring real mediums from the era as well as prominent members of society such as Arthur Conan Doyle who visits Madame's house, Hooper has created an addictive story which paints a thrilling and disturbing portrait of life during the spiritualist craze. More disturbing still is the depiction of the horrendous Baby Farms of the time, something which I knew nothing about, and which make me shudder to think about.

A born storyteller, Hooper's skills are such that even though I read this without knowing all that much about the spiritualist craze, I found myself immediately invested in the story. So engaging is Hooper's writing and so evocative her characters that I felt as though I was right there with Velvet uncovering the secrets of the mysterious Madame Savoya. A beautifully written and researched historical fiction, this one comes highly recommended from me.
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Velvet is one of those books which I love to read: Historical fiction which isn't weighty or dry with awesome characters I can relate to and an engaging storyline.

The thing I liked most about this book was the main character Velvet. She is a really interesting character and I enjoyed following her story from being an orphaned washer woman to become lady servant to one of the most prestigious mediums in the city. I loved how she was both quite streetwise in how she had had to look after herself and in the way she had lived since she had been on her own but also quite naive as well especially when it came to the the world of mediums. There were so many things in front of her eyes that just were quite right but she was so innocent in believing that she had been told that she didn't question the obvious things that were right in front of her for a long while.

The main focus of the story is the world of spiritualists and mediums and looks at how they made their business in the Victorian Era by conning people out of their money by playing on their weaknesses whilst they were grieving. I found it really fascinating and enjoyed finding out more about this world.

Another reason why I really liked this book was because it gave you a real sense of the history and was well researched. I am a big fan of historical fiction that gives the reader a real sense of period whilst not overburdening them with minor irrelevant details that do nothing more than make the story too weight and therefore a bit dry. This novel found that right balance and included some really interesting insights to Victorian society, using Old Bailey Records no less, which I did not really know anything about. The part I found most chilling was the bit where Velvet visits a baby farm which was absolutely horrific.

The storyline for this book was really compelling for all the reasons I have already mentioned but also because it was nice and pacey meaning I didn't have a moment to get bored. Definitely one of the books out of the massive pile I have read this summer which I will be recommending regularly to others and certainly an author I am keen to read more of.
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on 23 July 2012
I loved the whole idea of this book and Hooper writes about the laundry, mediums and London in 1900 with a good amount of detail and knowledge. I have never read a book about mediums in that era before and it was actually really interesting. We meet Velvet who has escaped her drunken, gambling father and is now working for a laundry, it's through this job that she washes the laundry of Madame Savoya. A famous medium the beautiful, young Savoya takes Velvet into her household and Velvet goes from washing her clothes to helping with the medium's mysterious candle lit seances. However, it doesn't take long for Velvet to start questioning the Madame's talents and that's where the real fun starts!
Velvet was a good character and rather likeable but her naivety is very annoying at times, you'd think after growing up in such poverty and working in a laundry for months she would be a little less innocent and gullible. Other characters, like George, are too good to be true from the beginning, and as much as I liked Charlie I felt he could have been fleshed out a bit more because I never felt like we got to know him.
Overall a decent book with interesting ideas, the plot was suspenseful but I felt the characterisation could have been deeper. Still a recommeneded read from me if you want something fun and light!
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on 23 January 2013
It has been a while since I have read historical fiction aimed at young adults, when I was a bit younger I preferred thrillers and fantasy, only really getting into historical fiction once I really started exploring the adult market. That said I really enjoyed this book.

It is immediately accessible which made it very easy to get in to. Velvet is a great main character, very real and very practical which appealed to me. Yes she has crushes on handsome bad boys and is taken in by the life and charm of Madame Savoya, but right from the start you also see her rational mind question what she is seeing. I also liked that for most of the book you do wonder if mediums are real....

That brings me on to the other thing I loved about this book, the attention to detail. Mary Hooper has done her research and she depicts mediums of that time in a very real and believable way. At the end of the book she gives a quick description of real cases she has read that she included in the story and I have to say that it definitely came across.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book. It is easy to read and great escapism with enough reality to really pull you in. Fantastic!
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on 22 March 2013
Velvet continues to provide all the things that I love about historical fiction by Mary Hooper; excellent writing, interesting characters and to chance to learn history in such a mesmerising and entertaining way.

The main focus of Velvet is on mediums that were so popular in the Victorian Era. Madame Savoya rescues Velvet by giving her work as an assistant, a great promotion considering where Velvet is at the beginning of the book. She moves into Madame Savoya house where she has a warm bed, good food and new clothes.

As Velvet learns more about mediums and Madame Savoya `art' it becomes clear that her saviour is not all she seems. For the first time I didn't love Mary Hooper protagonist, Velvet is an intelligent and capable young woman and I liked her but didn't care as much about her as I wanted.

I would have happily read Velvet in one sitting (unfortunately I couldn't), the story is well paced and really really interesting so it's very hard to put the book down before the end. Enjoy!
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Having enjoyed Mary Hooper's Falling Grace, I was wondering where she would take the reader on her next excursion. Whilst we stay in the same time frame, we get the opportunity to explore the world of the Victorian/Edwardian Medium.

As with her other books, Velvet relies on the principle female character to draw the reader in. She's brave, she knows her own mind and she is more than confortable to struggle to achieve her goals.

Add to this a sense of doing what's right with Mary's identifiable writing styel, solid prose that draws you in and a plot that bring the ruthlessness as well as manipulations of the Confidence Trickster to the fore in a world of silks, satins and the genteel upper classes of the period. Great stuff.
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on 14 March 2014
A brilliant read! This author has a lovely writing style and keeps things moving nicely along! Love the background info about clairvoyants of the time! Highly recommended for an entertaining read!
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on 23 March 2012
Having read Mary Hooper's books before, I knew I'd probably love this but find a lot of faults with it. I eagerly read it anyway, as all of Mary's books are amazingly researched and the environments rich and easy to imagine. Mary's characters are very vivid too, I had no problem deciding on which actor each character looked like!

This particular novel is about the spiritualism craze between 1900 - 1901 and is of course, fantastically researched. I learnt some great things about the different tricks that mediums used to fool their audience into believing that there really was a spirit, formed out of ectoplasm, standing right in front of them.

The story takes a darker turn when Velvet visits a baby farm and learns of the true horrors of those farms. Velvet is quite an innocent character, despite being quite headstrong too. She falls in love too easily and is quick to believe explanations that anyone else be suspicious of, or see fault in. Things seemed too easy for Velvet, right at the beginning she's moved up in the world, then even further when she happens to get Madame Savoya's laundry. I highly doubt it would happen that easily and would have preferred Velvet to experience more hardship than the couple of nights on the streets, as this seemed very unrealistic, especially as there was a line of girls outside the laundry waiting for a job for days and days. I suppose that's a bit cruel of me!
In between Velvet's chapters, we see sessions between Madame Savoya and 'Mrs Lilac', 'Lady Blue' etc, and it quickly becomes clear that she's not as nice as she's making Velvet believe she is.

All the way through this book, I could see exactly what was going to happen at the end, and in a way I was surprised - but not in a good way. I guessed right but when I got to the ending, it cut off. I felt as if there could at least be another chapter, as the writing is quite big. Just as I was finally starting to love the story and I wanted to find out what would happen to Velvet afterwards, it just stopped. It's a real shame because I felt that the story was just starting to pick up. In a way it was almost like the story wasn't Velvet's but about Mediums and as soon as that part was over, there was no need to write anymore!
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When we first meet Velvet she is working in the squalid surroundings of a Victorian laundry, and then when her work, and fine attention to detail brings her to the notice of practising medium, Madame Savoya, Velvet's life takes a completely new turn.
Abandoning her faithful friends, Velvet quickly becomes immersed in the mysterious and exciting world of the Victorian medium...but, all is not as it seems, and soon Velvet is forced to make some difficult decisions about her future.

Mary Hooper is one of those YA writers who has managed the enviable crossover into the adult market. Her easy style of writing is elegantly appealing, and she has such a gift for storytelling that every book she produces is a joy to read.
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