The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett

The Children of the King by Sonya Harnett
Pub. Date: March 25, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Candlewick Press!)
Summary: Cecily and Jeremy have been sent to live with their uncle Peregrine in the English countryside, safe from the war, along with a young refugee named May. But when Cecily and May find two mysterious boys hiding in the ruins of a nearby castle, an extraordinary adventure begins.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal

I’m a little ashamed at waiting over a year to finally get around to reading this one, especially when the premise is SUCH a Leah book! In an attempt to bring up my pathetic netgalley stats, I decided to dive into this one recently when Baylor and I weren’t feeling so great (sick days = my excuse to laze about and read and not feel guilty!)

A WWII novel that features a Richard III retelling. The Children of the King should have been a novel I praised to the ends of the earth. While the writing was, at times, absolutely beautiful – essentially poetry – it was the characters, two in particular, who saw to the novel’s downfall.

With Hitler’s army ravaging France and moving ever closer to London, Mr. Lockwood made the decision to send his children and wife to the country to live in his brother’s grand manor. Jeremy, fourteen and feeling very put out that his father refuses to let him stay home to help with the war efforts; Cecily, a chubby twelve-year-old who has a nasty habit of speaking before she thinks; and their mother, Mrs. Lockwood, gather their luggage and board a train headed for Heron Hall.

At the train station they see a teeming mass of children. These, their mother explains, are evacuees. Children sent away to live with strangers until the war is over or the day comes when it’s safe for them to return home. Cecily sees these children as little more than playthings (and at one point, even describes their charge as a kitten) while Jem rationalizes that, since they have the means the Lockwoods should be caring for a dozen of these children. Eventually their mother gives in and Cecily chooses a little ten-year-old, May Bright, to stay at Heron Hall.

While at the manor, the girls come across crumbling ruins of an ancient castle, Snow Castle, Uncle Peregrine says and proceeds to tell them (and Jem) a legend of a king, a jealous duke, and two young boys locked away in a tower.

If I ignore Cecily and Jem and instead focus on the rest of the novel, The Children of the King was a total knock-out. The way Hartnett writes, I honestly believed that this book was actually written decades ago. She captures the atmosphere and tone perfectly. The two boys in the tower, Edward V and his younger brother Richard, were absolutely marvelous as well and I craved the moments when Peregrine would gather the children round to tell more of their story. In fact, I enjoyed this story-within-a-story so much that I put in a request at my library for Alison Weir’s The Princes in the Tower, a nonfiction account of the boys’ deaths and whether or not Richard III was involved.

UNFORTUNATELY – and I wish this wasn’t the case, because the rest of the book was so, so lovely – Cecily and Jem completely ruined the novel for me. Cecily more so than her brother, but Jem had his moments as well. To put it bluntly, Cecily is a spoiled brat who thinks she’s better than everyone. Like I said before, when she’s “browsing” through the children, she likens her new plaything to a newborn kitten. She makes fun of May for having a father who’s a teacher (and goes off to serve in the war) and a mother who not only had to find work, but found work making parachutes. Cecily’s rude and nasty comments toward this poor girl were so uncalled for. Jem wasn’t a perfect little angel either. I completely understand that, at fourteen he doesn’t want to be treated like a child. However, at one point he runs away from Heron Hall and doesn’t give a thought as to the chaos his leaving would cause. Keep in mind this was during air raids. In the end he turns around and comes home on his own after a few days and doesn’t think anything of it.

What does it say about a novel when I want to recommend it, but only if readers ignore the main characters? The Children of the King should have been a total no-brainer, top read, all-time favorite, but a selfish and arrogant main character completely took me out of the story. The World War II setting, Richard III retelling, and lyrical writing were superb, I just wish Cecily had been written out.

Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray

Whispers in the Reading Room (Chicago World’s Fair Mystery #3) by Shelley Gray
Pub. Date: November 10, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Zondervan!)

Lydia’s job at the library is her world—until a mysterious patron catches her eye . . . and perhaps her heart. Just months after the closure of the Chicago World’s Fair, librarian Lydia Bancroft finds herself fascinated by a mysterious dark-haired and dark-eyed patron. He has never given her his name; he actually never speaks to a single person. All she knows about him is that he loves books as much as she does. Only when he rescues her in the lobby of the Hartman Hotel does she discover that his name is Sebastian Marks. She also discovers that he lives at the top of the prestigious hotel and that most everyone in Chicago is intrigued by him.

Lydia and Sebastian form a fragile friendship, but when she discovers that Mr. Marks isn’t merely a very wealthy gentleman, but also the proprietor of an infamous saloon and gambling club, she is shocked.

Lydia insists on visiting the club one fateful night and suddenly is a suspect to a murder. She must determine who she can trust, who is innocent, and if Sebastian Marks—the man so many people fear—is actually everything her heart believes him to be.
Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Mystery

Back in February I devoured the second book in this series and mentioned in my review that, while the previous one wrapped up nicely (to where I wasn’t even sure if there would be a third book) if Gray were to write another I would definitely read it. And much to my delight Whispers in the Reading Room was announced. I was ecstatic, elated, beside myself with joy and couldn’t wait to settle in for what I was convinced would be a fantastic read. Unfortunately I was more than a little let down.

The Chicago World’s Fair has recently ended and the foul Society Slasher has been brought to justice. The city is slowly returning to its former self and for Lydia Bancroft, that means a nice, quiet library full of patrons. One patron in particular has captured her interest, though they have never exchanged a single word.

Sebastian Marks is not the kind of man to be leisurely whiling away an afternoon reading. As the owner of a popular gambling joint, he’s not exactly what one would consider respectable – many people actually fear him. He’s also not the kind of man who would find a quiet, bespectacled librarian so alluring.

When a luncheon reveals her fiance’s true colors, Lydia finds herself in the care of her mysterious patron and the two form a somewhat uneasy friendship, made all the more fragile after Lydia discovers what Sebastian hasn’t been telling her…

Oh how I wanted to love this one! To be honest, for a while I was on board: Lydia’s father recently passed and with his death came the family’s fall from grace. No longer able to support her mother’s high maintenance lifestyle, Lydia has procured a job and found a smaller, yet respectable home. Her engagement to a wealthy Mr. Avondale couldn’t have come at a better time. This was all great and well-written and I was enjoying the story. But then.

Jason quickly shows his true nature and immediately calls off their engagement. It just so happens that Sebastian was in the area and immediately came to Lydia’s rescue and the story went careening downhill from there. You see, Whispers in the Reading Room is supposed to be a mystery. Okay, so later (and I mean WAY later) in the book there’s a murder and a horrifically half-assed reveal at the end. But once Sebastian and Lydia finally talk to one another, the novel quickly becomes a romance. I wouldn’t have minded one bit had I not been expecting (it’s in the series name!) a mystery.

I was going to ignore the instalove and attempt to enjoy the story, but the more I read the more I noticed how manipulative and abusive Sebastian was. I think he was meant to be seen as protective and caring only for Lydia’s well-being, but his words and actions completely took me out of the story:

Obviously she had forgotten to breathe again, and he had forgotten to make sure she did.
He had failed her yet again.

“If you [moved away] I would lose my librarian, Miss Bancroft,” he said gently. “And we both know I would never allow that to happen.”

When Sebastian learns about Lydia’s financial situation, he immediately makes one of his employees move into the Bancroft’s home as a maid. He refuses to take no for an answer when Lydia insists she’s able to make do just fine without one. After a man is murdered in front of Sebastian’s club, Lydia faints in Sebastian’s office and he takes it upon himself to unbutton her dress and loosen her corset. When she awakes and is rightfully uncomfortable (and flustered) she asks him to leave while she fixes her clothing. He refuses, complaining that he might as well do it since he can’t summon a maid at the moment with the police still in the club. He went on:

When she groaned, he continued with a thinly veiled, exaggerated impatience. “Either let me help you or remain in your current state of dishabille. It’s all the same to me.”

The entire novel contained moments like this: Sebastian throwing a tantrum until he got his way, Sebastian insisting on “looking after” Lydia, he even went behind her back and arranged their marriage. Not romantic at all, buddy.

When the mystery element is (finally) introduced, it’s so hurried and lackluster that Gray shouldn’t have even bothered. It felt as though she was writing this romance only to realize that uh-oh, this is a mystery series and quickly tacked on a murder. The worst part though, was the Big Reveal. SPOILER, but the murderer wasn’t even in this book apart from a few brief mentions. Nice.

It’s so upsetting to me that this novel is connected in any way to Deception on Sable Hill. The only good thing is that the books follow different characters and have completely different plots. I still recommend the first two novels, but do yourself a favor and consider this series a duology.


>↠ Okay, confession time: for such a huge bookworm, I rarely purchase books. That’s not to say I never do (haha, one look at my house and you’ll see I have a ridiculous amount of them!) but I spend wisely. For years and years I would buy just about any book I came across…which led to some pretty awful, regrettable purchases. These days I take the time to really think about books before buying them. Is this an author I’ve enjoyed in the past? Have I heard good things about this book from people I trust? Is this simply a shiny new thing that I want in my life? ANYWAY, since the buzz for the upcoming Jungle Book movie has been massive, I’ve been wanting to read the book. Surprisingly I’ve never read it before! When I saw this beautiful Puffin Classics copy yesterday (and at such an awesome price!) I knew it was coming home with me.

↠ Yesterday was a total girls’ day. Two good friends and I spent the day browsing through the boutiques in town: Rosewood, Bellwether (a blogger-owned pop-up shop that turned into a permanent store in August!) of course my all-time favorite juice bar Salud, basically we spent the afternoon hanging out in town and we had such a great time ♥

NaNoWriMo anyone? I’m falling a bit behind and to make up for it, last night I decided to write a side story focusing on the villain. The supernaturaly, paranormaly, totally evil and vile villain. LOVE.

↠ ALSO, NaNo has severely cut into my reading time, which I knew would happen. So far this month I’ve finished two books: the so, so, so amazing Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams and Emma Trevayne’s The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden.

↠ Earlier this week we celebrated our three month adoptaversary! I grew up with dogs and have loved each and every one of them dearly, but Baylor is something special ♥ It honestly is a little surreal to think it’s only been three months since we brought her home with us. She instantly became our baby and it truly feels like she’s been with us forever.

↠ In addition to The Jungle Book I received a few ARCs recently. A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton (WWII historical fiction + family drama ♥!) The Charm Bracelet by Viola Shipman (dual era family saga!) and one of my most anticipated 2016 releases, Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase (dual era, English manor, SECRETS!)

GoodReads Recommends: based on…Jennifer McMahon!

It’s time for another round of GoodReads Recommends, a semi-regular feature where I highlight suggestions from the GoodReads recommendation page. Previous editions featured contemporary thrillers and took a closer look at a new favorite novel I discovered through the very first GoodReads Recs post!

Today I’m hoping to find some fantastic new books based on one of my favorite authors, Jennifer McMahon. If you want a novel that’ll suck you in and have you leaving the lights on all night, Jennifer’s your gal!

Don’t Breathe a Word | May 17, 2011
On a soft summer night in Vermont, twelve-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.

Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams—who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed—a promise that could destroy them all.

Don’t Breathe a Word was my very first McMahon novel – coincidentally it was also the first post on the blog, way back in August of 2011! I loved it then, still love it now, and it kickstarted a beautiful relationship with a fab author! So what does GoodReads say I might also enjoy?

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
When a teenager with a golden child reputation is sent to prison for a gruesome crime, her family’s world is turned upside down. Her parents want to forget she exists, her sister has to suffer through whispers in the school hallways. When the girl is released to a halfway house, her only thought is to contact her sister. At the center of it all is a little boy, his adoptive mother, and the secrets that bind the two sisters together. This one sounds interesting, though my initial reaction was that it reminded me of That Night by Chevy Stevens (which I did not like.) That said, I’ve seen Gudenkauf’s novels around quite a bit and have always been a little curious about them. This might be one worth looking into!

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta
Arlen Wagner can look into a person’s eyes and know they’re about to die. When he’s on a train and sees the sign in the passengers’ eyes, he attempts to warn them. With only one believer, the two flee the train and make their way to a boarding house…which is directly in the path of an oncoming hurricane. A bit supernatural, a bit edge-of-your-seat thriller, The Cypress House sounds crazy intense. It has the added bonus of being blurbed by Dean Koontz! It doesn’t say it (or even hint at it) in the blurb, but reviews have mentioned this book is a historical novel! It’s set in the 1930s!! Be still, my heart! Creepy historical fiction is so up my alley.

The Winter People | February 11, 2014
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

The Winter People was a novel that had me genuinely creeped out in the middle of the afternoon. I was jumping at every little sound! I’ve gone of to recommend this one to a ridiculous amount of people and every single one of them has loved it. This one also showed up again on my Top Reads of 2014 list!

Bird Box by Josh Malerman
This is a novel I’ve heard nothing but AMAZING things about! Something has caused people to go on rampant killing sprees, commit suicide, or dive into the depths of madness. Five years later only a handful of survivors are left, including a mother and her two very young children. The entire time she’s been planning their escape, dreaming of the day when they’ll be safe. Finally she launches into action, sailing down the river in a tiny boat (blindfolded, for if you see it, you become one of them.) Apparently Bird Box is being adapted into a movie? I’m not a big fan of dystopian novels, but there have been a handful I’ve enjoyed, and this one sounds great!

The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
A woman receives an offer of a caretaker position and it’s only after she arrives at the enormous estate that she discovers just who she’ll be caring for: the famed horror novelist Amaris Sinclair…who the world believes is dead. Yes, yes, and YES. This one sounds like the perfect winter’s read when I’m curled up with a cozy blanket and a hot cup of cocoa. Earlier in the year I read the graphic novel Exquisite Corpse which also deals with a writer hidden away and presume dead, but The Vanishing sounds like a far creepier tale.

The Night Sister | August 4, 2015
Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.

The Night Sister is my third and most recent read and firmly solidified Jennifer’s spot as one of my auto-buy authors. Creepy and haunting – and, at times, downright terrifying – I really ought to know by now to ONLY read her books in the middle of the day when Matt is home with me!

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Pretty fitting last night for a thriller novelist, no? Centering on three sisters, this is another novel that brings to mind Chevy Stevens (Those Girls and a book I actually did enjoy!). Twenty years ago, one of the sisters disappeared. The remaining sisters grew up and couldn’t be more different: Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of a millionaire and Lydia is a single mother dating an ex-con. When Claire’s husband is murdered, the sisters set aside their differences and come together – could the murder and their sister’s disappearance somehow be related? Pretty Girls sounds more psychological thriller than anything paranormal, but I’m VERY interested in its premise! I’m also a bit curious to see what this author is all about – I’ve seen her name come up several times in my recommendations and she seems to be a pretty Big Deal.

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell
Nick sees a woman at the grocery store and time stops. You see, the woman is the splitting image of his college girlfriend…a young woman who died in a campus fire twenty years ago. When he tries to speak to her she runs and the next morning police arrive at his door: the woman had been murdered and Nick’s name was written on a piece of paper in her pocket. I had been asked to join the blog tour for this one earlier in the year but had declined. Now I wondering if I should see what I missed out on! Another David Bell novel was a recommendation for Don’t Breathe a Word: Cemetery Girl. Somebody I Used to Know sounds like a really fun and gritty ride – should Bell be an author I need to be reading??

TOP READ OF 2015: Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams + giveaway!

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams
Pub. Date: November 3, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!)

Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler’s problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she’s finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician.

But the car’s new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle’s life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts.

Genre: Historical Fiction

It’s 1966 and Pepper Schuyler is in trouble. Notorious within Washington’s inner circle for being breathtakingly beautiful – and a massive flirt – Pepper allowed her reputation to take on a life of its own. In actuality she would never destroy a marriage, never sleep with a married man. Until the night she did and later discovered she was carrying the senator’s baby. Deciding not to tell the man – and absolutely, definitely not heading home to her family – Pepper takes matters into her own hands, only Annabelle Dommerich is far more formidable than Pepper had expected.

For decades Annabelle has been keeping her secrets tucked safely inside. When she comes across the vintage car Pepper restored, she doesn’t think twice about paying the exorbitant amount ($300,000) because, to her, that car is worth far, far more. As she takes Pepper under her wing and invites her into her house, Pepper slowly unravels Annabelle’s past. A baby. A Jewish lover. A Nazi husband. One fateful night across European borders and a romance that spanned countries and years.

I’m the type of reader that loves sinking into a thick book and getting inside the characters’ minds (though, let’s be real – is there another type of reader?) When I come across a novel that so thoroughly captivates me, I typically finish it in a sitting. Two if I’m able to pace myself and savor it. Along the Infinite Sea was that read. It seeped into my bones, had me living and breathing these characters. At 452 pages, this isn’t a short novel by any means, but I could have easily (and happily) read another 500, 600 pages.

It’s funny how the world works sometimes. Months ago a friend gushed over a Beatriz Williams novel, heaping it with praise and – bam – onto my To Read list it went. Since then this friend has read another novel of hers and, again, I heard nothing but the highest of remarks. Right on cue I received an ARC of Along the Infinite Sea and I knew this was no coincidence. With four previous novels under her belt (and another due out next year as well as stories featured in two upcoming anthologies – be still, my heart!) I’m flabbergasted she’s avoided my radar for so long.

Thank you, Universe. Thank you, Pam. Thank you, Putnam. Along the Infinite Sea is the kind of novel that emotionally wrecked me, tore me open and completely rearranged my insides, left me breathless and spellbound. And it managed to do it all with a smile. These are the reviews that make me feel so inadequate as a blogger. Those okay, decent, middle-of-the-road novels are easy to critique. Novels so horrendously awful are a cinch to rip apart. But these, these elite group of oh so very, very special books have a way of attaching to my heart and leave me unable to string together a coherent sentence.


That is the type of review I find myself gravitating toward with books like this one. The exclamation mark-laden, capslocked, starry-eyed run-ons. I’ve barely even discussed the book itself, only the effect it had on me. Is that the mark of a truly wonderful novel? Is that the kind of marketing and buzz this book deserves? I’m not sure (and, naturally even then I feel I haven’t done it justice.)

Along the Infinite Sea alternates between Pepper’s and Annabelle’s stories in 1966 and Annabelle’s in the 1930s. Dual eras are my absolute favorite kind of historical fiction and while I loved the way the chapters were handled, I noticed a distinct bent. There was far more ‘screentime’ devoted to Annabelle’s past rather than Pepper’s present. While I loved Annabelle’s story, I was curious about Pepper and wanted to know more. The novel simply ends and I feel this was very much Annabelle’s book.

This novel is part of a series, following each of the three Schuyler sisters. This is my first and easily worked as a standalone, though trust me, you’re going to want to read the others!

Along the Infinite Sea is hands-down a Top Read of 2015. Those 452 pages caused the real world to melt away, and instead became my world. The characters came alive, the cities were so richly detailed. My mind is a blank slate right now. I’m sad it’s over, but so thrilled I discovered this wonderful, wonderful author. Look out, Ms. Williams, we’re about to be spending a LOT of time together.

The wonderful people at Putnam want YOU to discover this fantastic book too! I have TWO copies available for giveaway, all you need to do is fill out this form!

The winners will be announced Sunday, November 8 and they will have 48 hours to respond before I pick new winners! US only.

Good luck!

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Pub. Date: October 27, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Delacorte!)

Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery

“If you’re going to bury the past, bury it deep, girl. Shallow graves always give up their dead.”

1890s New York. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Montfort is the socialite’s socialite. Born into a wealthy family and practically engaged to the city’s most eligible bachelor, Jo seems to have it all: once she marries Bram she’ll be set for life. She’ll start a family and spend her days entertaining guests. …only, Jo would rather be a daring reporter like Nellie Bly, eager to go to any length to get to the bottom of a story – and the truth. Unfortunately for Jo, ladies aren’t meant to have fanciful ideas about careers.

Everything changes the night she receives word her father has died. For all appearances, it’s a clear-cut suicide. However Jo refuses to believe that and makes a promise to dig deeper, to discover what happened to her beloved father. Could he really have taken his own life…or was it taken by someone else?

Let’s take a look at that cover. Spooky, yes? That’s certainly what I thought when I first heard about These Shallow Graves. I saw that cover and was convinced I found the perfect Halloween read! While I still enjoyed it, I can’t help but feel a little misguided – I imagined a dark, creepy tale with perhaps a little bit of the paranormal thrown in. Instead I got a story that’s 100% historical fiction where the only ‘spooky’ scenes come in the form of visits to the town morgue.

These Shallow Graves is my introduction to Jennifer Donnelly. While I’ve heard of and have come across several of her other novels (A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, and Deep Blue) it’s These Shallow Graves that I’ve started with and I’m a fan! She clearly does her research to the point where the city came alive: both uptown and downtown. Streets where the Who’s Who gather and alleys where you’d do best to avoid. Donnelly has a way of breathing life into her settings, so much so that they became characters themselves and that is truly the mark of a masterful author.

When Jo makes the decision to investigate her father’s death she enlists the help of a young reporter, Eddie. Word of caution: if you’re not a fan of instalove, you should probably avoid this book. The moment these two meet, the heavens move and the stars realign themselves. One of my all-time favorite guilty pleasure tropes is a relationship that involves a class/status difference, but Donnelly pulled all the stops here: every cliche you could think of finds its way into These Shallow Graves‘ pages, including a locked-inside-a-tiny-closet scene. I wanted to cheer them on, but I never really bought into their attraction for one another. Jo herself even questions his motives after her uncle mentions a conversation he overheard. Apparently Eddie told a fellow reporter he was only using a girl for his own personal gain and once I heard that, I completely believed it. Multiple times he asked Jo for money, knowing she had plenty to spare and would freely give it away. I’m still not entirely convinced he truly cared for her, his actions were just too suspicious for me.

When I review an early copy of a novel, I try to avoid reading other reviews in an attempt to keep other opinions from influencing my own. However, once I finished this book, I was curious about what other readers thought. Many people called out the naivety of Jo and her friends. That Jo in particular is only street smart when the story calls for it. While I didn’t notice it during the book, thinking back I certainly see it – one of Jo’s friends (another 17-year-old girl) was adamant about storks delivering babies to married couples! I’m aware that there were certain topics young ladies didn’t discuss back then, but these girls were extremely sheltered. Jo needed to be told about madams and prostitutes, yet she knew the ins and outs of revolvers. These Shallow Graves fluttered back and forth with this throughout the entire novel.

I’m afraid I’ve done too much complaining and nitpicking, but please don’t think I hated this one! In fact I really enjoyed it and raced through its (overly long) 500 pages in a day. The mystery itself was intriguing, though I quickly guessed Who Did It, hoping I was wrong, but it was glaringly obvious. That said, the ride was an enjoyable one. There were a few characterization elements that bothered me, but These Shallow Graves was so richly detailed that I felt as through I really was in New York in the 1890s. Although the cover led me to believe there was a creepier story within its pages, I am thrilled that I can finally say I’ve read a Jennifer Donnelly novel and look forward to reading more!

lately: Rainbow Rowell, Buffy, recent reads, + more

↠ The oh so lovely Rainbow Rowell came to Pittsburgh earlier this month and a big group of my friends decided that WE NEED TO BE THERE. She was an absolute doll, needs to take me shopping, and went on about her love of fanfiction. She also told us about a time when she made a fool out of herself in front of one of her favorite authors – ha, it’s comforting to know she has those moments too! The signing was the craziest: by the time we got our chance to go up, she had already been signing and talking to fans for three hours. I told her she smelled nice.

I started watching Buffy! I took a few weeks off work and for about a week or so it was yucky and cold and rainy. The perfect kind of weather for snuggling with a pup and watching teen dramas. I honestly don’t know why I didn’t watch this while it was originally airing: Buffy is a total Leah show! I’m kind of obsessed now.

↠ Matt and I recently celebrated our anniversary and I celebrated by…hanging out at a farm. Can you blame me? Last year I shared our instalove story. You know, for as much as I gripe about it in books, it works out pretty well in real life ♥ This summer we purchased our first home and Baylor came soon after.

RECENT READS: I’m going back to Hogwarts, this time with Goblet of Fire. If you haven’t been following my posts, I recently decided to binge on the books in a series I’m calling Operation Return to Hogwarts. Tomorrow my review of the new Jennifer Donnelly, These Shallow Graves will be up: though I enjoyed this one it wasn’t without a few flaws and I’m a little disappointed by the cover. I think it’s fab, but it also feels like more of a Horror-type cover which this book is most definitely not. I read my first 2016 novel: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. A little girl falls through a hole and lands on a gigantic hand. Seventeen years later she’s the head of a team sent to discover the rest of the body. This one is told through reports and interviews and is seriously fantastic! Unfortunately, I’ve been picking up a lot of duds lately: Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands was one of my most anticipated releases of the year (um, hello, Lewis & Clark reimagining?!) but I only managed to get 56% of the way through the audio before calling it quits. This is definitely an it’s not you, it’s me deal: I was under the impression that this book was about THE Lewis & Clark…and that’s not the case. The characters simply share the names. Also, I knew going in that this was an apocalyptic/dystopian novel and I do NOT like that genre, but I was still looking forward to it. Despite getting halfway through the book I honestly couldn’t tell you what happened. There were gigantic vampire bats and a flu..and that’s about it. Very disappointed with this one. I’m hoping my current read will get me back on track: The Diabolical Miss Hyde (one of my Tackling the TBR picks) is a steampunk reimagining of Jekyll and Hyde. So far I’m loving it!

↠ Did you miss Lynn Carthage’s guest post last week? She talked about a VERY interesting ancestor. Lynn was one of the lovely authors we invited to chat with us in our #HistoricalFix chat. And, like always, if you happened to miss out on the recommendations mentioned throughout the chat, I’ve compiled a GoodReads list.