Size Doesn’t Matter (35): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (35): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThese Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Delacorte BFYR on October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery
Pages: 488
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

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.

Jennifer Donnelly’s books, even the critically acclaimed ones, never quite hit me in the right spot. I think These Shallow Graves, my third, may be the one I’ve had the most fun reading, but it’s definitely not the best quality-wise, which, for my money, would be Revolution.

Though not voicey, I really enjoy historical fiction with women who want more than what society deemed acceptable for them. Jo wants to be an intrepid reporter like Nellie Bly, and she’s willing to risk her social status to chase a story. I really like that she’s torn between the comfort of her high class lifestyle and her desire for freedom and her passion. Yes, she flouts convention wantonly, but it’s not easy. As is usual, this decision is given human face in the form a love triangle, though it’s a hugely half-hearted one; in this case, it’s love or money, and she knows that, but also money’s pretty tempting lbr.

The ship was pretty cute. Kissing is especially titillating in historical fiction because there’s that additional frisson added by the fact that it’s totally illicit. Eddie and Jo engage in constant, needless misunderstandings that felt less like a realistic stumbling block and more like a trope thrown in because that’s what you do, but I was there for every kiss scene so whatever.

Where These Shallow Graves is weak is the plotting. I’m not a big mystery reader and I really don’t try very hard to figure out whodunnit when I’m reading, but I figured out the guilty party at the very start. Sometimes that’s fine and doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, but I spent the whole book groaning at Jo for not seeing the obvious.

These Shallow Graves is a fun historical read but it’s shallow in plot and bloated in length.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (35): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerA Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls by Jessica Spotswood
Published by Candlewick on March 8, 2016
Genres: Historical, Paranormal, Romance, Short Stories, Western, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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three-stars

From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.

Criss-cross America — on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains — from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own course. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They're making their own way in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

Every single time I read an anthology, I remember why I don’t read them very often. Each story I either dislike or think would have been better if it had been turned into a full length novel, and characterization seems to be the first thing to go in most short stories.

TBH, I struggled massively with A Tyranny of Petticoats at the beginning, because I disliked four of the first five stories. I mean, they mostly weren’t terrible, but Marie Lu’s bored me and Leslye Walton’s was just strange. Then story five was Andrea Cremer’s, which made me seriously consider quitting the anthology, because I found the content massively problematic.

Major spoilers for Cremer’s story: View Spoiler »

However, that mess aside, I enjoyed, to varying degrees, the rest of the stories in A Tyranny of Petticoats. My favorites were The Legendary Garrett Girls by Y.S. Lee, Bonnie and Clyde by Saundra Mitchell, and City of Angels by Lindsay Smith. What’s fun about that is that all three are authors I’ve either never read (Lee) or read once (Mitchell) or twice (Smith) but not liked. Smith’s was the biggest surprise of the anthology because I’ve always loved her ideas but her writing style didn’t work for me, but this one was an f/f delight.

Clunky stories aside, I thought the anthology did a great job putting focus on people regularly ignored by history: women and people of color. Well over half of the stories are about women of color. I love the concept of the anthology so much, and, while short stories aren’t my preferred form of prose, more of the stories were fun than weren’t, which I would call a successful anthology. Plus, THAT COVER. I’m somewhat tempted to keep the book around just because it looks so good.

Size Doesn’t Matter (35): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerLooking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Published by Knopf BFYR on May 9, 2006
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

For as long as Josephine Alibrandi can remember, it’s just been her, her mom, and her grandmother. Now it’s her final year at a wealthy Catholic high school. The nuns couldn’t be any stricter—but that doesn’t seem to stop all kinds of men from coming into her life.

Caught between the old-world values of her Italian grandmother, the nononsense wisdom of her mom, and the boys who continue to mystify her, Josephine is on the ride of her life. This will be the year she falls in love, the year she discovers the secrets of her family’s past—and the year she sets herself free.

Told with unmatched depth and humor, this novel—which swept the pool of Australian literary awards and became a major motion picture—is one to laugh through and cry with, to cherish and remember.

No reviews do I hate writing more than for books I super expected to love but then totally did not. Looking for Alibrandi is frustrating because a) it’s Marchetta and I know what she can do and b) there’s a lot of great stuff in here and I know it’s good on a lot of levels but it was done in a way that makes it hard for me to appreciate.

The strongest elements of Looking for Alibrandi are the familial relationships by far. I particularly liked the way that Josephine interacted with her mother and father, that combination of sheer brat and smartass and loving daughter. It made me realize how rarely authors really pull off the dynamic of teens and parents. Like, yes, even when you’re seventeen or eighteen, you still yell stupid shit at your parents about how they’re ruining your life when they tell you that you can’t do something you want to do. Very accurate.

Jose has voice for sure, but it’s one that came across as somewhat grating. Maybe that’s a sign that I see a bit too much of myself in her and there’s a weird self-loathing thing happening idk. BUT I do know that it’s less bantery and more bratty. She’s like she is with her parents when they’re telling her what not to do with everyone all the time, and it gets old.

The biggest disappointment, which was partly my expectations from Lumatere, was the romance. It could have been good but it really just wasn’t. It’s basically the intersection of Jessica Darling and Dance Academy but with nary a feel or shippy moment. There COULD have been feels and shippy moments but you don’t get to see them happy almost ever; all the moments the reader sees are incredibly stupid fights. It’s more realistic maybe but very frustrating and not very pleasant to read.

Here’s proof that no matter how talented you are, your debut might be kind of rough. Then again, all of my GR friends who have read it loved it so what do I know.

2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (35): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger”

  1. Dahlia Adler says:

    I too am not a Looking for Alibrandi fan, honestly. I literally don’t even remember there being a romance. BUT I love her other stuff so much I just pretend this one didn’t happen. (Though I kind of suspect I’d like it better if I read it now, maybe.) Also it makes me so happy that you liked Lindsay’s story. YAY. #ffFTW
    Dahlia Adler recently posted…Dahlia’s Book Club: March 2016My Profile

  2. Hannah says:

    Alibrandi was the first of Melina’s books that I read, and it’s definitely my least favourite of hers.
    Hannah recently posted…Review: Down With the Shine – Kate Karyus QuinnMy Profile

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