Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review | These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Delacorte Press

Publish Date: October 27, 2015

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

My ThoughtsThis was such a fun story! And my first book by this author. At first, it seems like this is a simple tale of a girl solving the mystery of her father's death. The story reads easily but I found it to be layered with plenty of twists throughout. I made a guess at the whodunit early in the story, but I wasn't completely sure until close to the end. Throw in a great cast of characters (good guys and bad guys) and, really, I just want more from Jennifer Donnelly.


Jo Montfort is a great young girl - she's complicated and impulsive and she knows what she wants out of life vs. what she is supposed to be in life. She is interested in far more than her socialite status has to offer her. She wants to be a journalist like Nellie Bly. She cares nothing for the plans and the things that her family's fortune has afforded her, not that she doesn't appreciate them. When her father is found dead, Jo doesn't believe the police report indicating an accidental death. She believes that he was murdered. With the help of a local news journalist, she intends to seek the truth behind his death.

When Jo starts sleuthing, I'm not entirely sure she realizes what a big and dangerous job this will eventually turn out to be. Wrapped up in her father's death is a long trail of lies, betrayal, secrets, dishonesty, and even some illegal things. These truths shock Jo as more and more is revealed, and she eventually has to decide whether or not she wants to continue to pursue the whole truth. She is in danger, and so are people that she loves and cares for. Continued pursuit of the truth has the power to undo her family and change the lives of nearly everyone that she knows. And what she sets in motion, she cannot undo.


I love the setting of this story - NYC in 1890. It worked so well for this type of historical mystery, with the huge difference in the Fifth Avenue grandeur vs. the shady districts by the water and the docks. I love the way that Jo has familial social obligations, but she despises them - this creates a perfect tension between Jo and her family and friends. Doing the investigative work that Jo grows to love removes her from the path that her family has arranged for her, and threatens to completely destroy her future. Doing her investigative work in secret, gives Jo the chance to work with people that her family would consider "shady" - but Jo grows to adore them. These are people that work in less-than-ideal occupations down by the docks, coroners, and of course, Eddie Gallagher...the male journalists who would never be a proper romantic choice for Jo. I love this ragtag secondary cast so much, far much more than I liked anyone in Jo's family. Their personalities were so colorful and vivid that they leapt off of the pages and very easily became three-dimensional.

There is a romance, but it is slow-growing and subtle, kind of on the back side of the story. Jo wars with herself over obligation vs. love, but thankfully this does not overshadow the main story, which is the whodunit and also Jo fully realizing her own person.

The last one hundred pages or so are a nail-biting, page-turning feast. Perhaps the best part of this story, to me, is the way it all ended. I love what happened.

Jennifer Donnelly is an author that I've heard spoken about so many times in my circle of reading friends, and I'm excited that I finally picked up one of her books. I would love to move more of her work closer to the top of my to-read lists because this one impressed me so much. Historical mystery is not a type of book that I read very often, but I enjoyed the heck out of this one. It seems like a perfect fall read to me, but would fit in well at any time of the year.


These Shallow Graves will appeal to fans of:

YA Historical Fiction with Mystery
Romance: Slow-growing, subtle.
Setting: New York City, 1890
Strong female lead

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
is currently available for purchase.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Review | Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends

Publish Date: November 8, 2016

Source: Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

My Thoughts: Heartless by Marissa Meyer is SO GOOD. It's one of the very best kind of fairy tale retellings: the kind that takes familiar characters, gives a nod to the original story, and then weaves something entirely new for our minds to ponder and work over. I have to admit that I was a little bit terrified going into this book, fearful that I would love it just because Meyer wrote it. After reading it, I can say that I love it because the story earns the love on its own. 

Heartless is at times tender and at other times, it is funny. It's happy and heartbreaking. There are friend and family relationships between characters that had me cheering sometimes and at other times, holding my breath. This is a book that made me feel a myriad of things, and I loved that. And the fantasy aspect of this book made me so excited, with Meyer's twist on the odd characters and eccentricities of this world in the original tale.

Catherine as a main character? I loved reading her story. She is one of those characters that has so much in the way of material things and money, but isn't impressed by any of it. Her best friends are not aligned with her social class and neither is her plan for her life. Catherine's story unfolds as an interesting tale of what women want vs. what is right for women during the time period of this story, which was the time of bustles and bloomers and such. This was a time when social norms and class reigned supreme over dreams and desires, and marriage wasn't necessarily for love. 

And yet there is dreaming here, and there is also love. 

I just adored reading this story. I couldn't put it down. For me, the only thing missing was an audiobook accompaniment since I most often read both the print and audiobook formats together at the same time. (The audiobook was not yet released at the time that I read.) I want to do a reread soon so I can hear the audiobook; there are several parts of this story that I can only imagine being even better with the addition of vocal narration. 

I recommend Heartless by Marissa Meyer for fans of fairy tales and retellings, fans of fantasy and quirky characters, fans of strong female characters, and fans of subtle romance. 


In honor of today's Halloween holiday, I thought I would post my costume *if* I were to dress as Catherine. And if I were to dress as Catherine, I would absolutely have to dress as she did at the beginning of the story, when she shows up to the King's Black and White Ball in a Red Velvet Ballgown. Here, she stands out among the rest of the crowd and is noticed. 

I think Catherine would wear something like this: 


She mentions wearing very heavy ruby jewelry along with this heavy gown. If I wore this for Halloween, I might be the most overdressed trick-or-treater out there, but I would also be the most stylish! 


Heartless will appeal to fans of:

YA Fantasy
Retellings/Fairy Tales

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
will be available for purchase on November 8, 2016.


Marissa Meyer is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Lunar Chronicles. She lives in Tacoma, Washington. She’s a fan of most things geeky (Sailor Moon, Firefly, any occasion that requires a costume), and has been in love with fairy tales since she was a child. She may or may not be a cyborg.

Find Marissa Meyer:  Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads