Friday, 9 October 2015

I wandered outside my comfort zone by reading These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly and #noregrets

These Shallow GravesTitle: These Shallow Graves
Series: N/A
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Murder Mystery
Publication: October 27th 2015, Random House
Pages: 496 Pages, Kindle
Source: Thank you to Netgalley and Hot Key Books! 
Rating: 5/5 Cupcakes!
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. 

GUYS. I loved this book SO MUCH. I barely ever read thrillers/murder mysteries because I'm a total wuss but because I got this to review have a really brave soul I decided to wander outside the safety of my comfort zone and read a genre that I barely ever read. Did I enjoy it?! HECK YES. Will I be reading more in this genre?! HECK YES, AGAIN. Even though other books probably won't live up to my heightened expectations due to the perfection that is this book but WE SHALL SEE.

These Shallow Graves is set in New York during the nineteenth century and is centered around seventeen year old Jospehine Montfort, the daughter of one of New York's wealthiest families. When her father dies from accidentally shooting himself after his gun goes off, Jo is highly suspicious. She knows her father was a careful man and she knows it can't be a suicide, as he wasn't the kind of man to do that. After meeting a dashing young reporter, Eddie Gallagher, she decides to try to discover the truth and catch her father's killer once and for all. However, she has to try to unveil the secrets surrounding the murder quickly as more and more people are getting hurt and she knows that sooner or later she could be next.

I seriously loved every single thing about this book. The plot and the setting was perfect - I loved the setting. I could see this 19th century New York as if it were a picture before my eyes. It was fascinating learning about the customs of that time and the strict propriety that society imposed upon its people. I loved how I got to see the glitz and the glamour of the upper class but I also got to explore the darkness of New York filled with madness, danger and intrigue. I loved the plot and I was gripped the entire way through, my poor heart racing in my chest for most of the plot because SUSPENSE. It was literally constant action and terror and I loved every single minute of it. I did guess who the killer was around half-way through the book but there were a lot of  other twists and revelations that I wasn't expecting at all. Even though I did guess who the culprit was I wasn't upset or disappointed about that because there were so many other things about this novel that I enjoyed as I was actually focused on other things (mainly the adorable OTP that I ship ship ship to my heart's content. Ahem.) and I didn't expect the killer to do certain things towards the end so STILL READ THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT'S AMAZING 'KAY?!

Also, the last 100 pages or so are INTENSE. Things go down, stuff escalates quickly and HOLY COW I didn't want to put the book down and I just kept turning the pages because I HAD to know how everything was resolved. However, after mostly everything had been resolved I kept the last few pages for the morning to bide me time before having to say goodbye to the characters that had grown so close to my heart.


This book is 500 pages long which I thought was going to be quite tedious but it's so incredibly fast-paced and thrilling that I flew through the book, in fact, once I had finished I may have released my inner Ariel and sang I want moreeeee because we all know that it's perfectly acceptable to burst into a Disney song on any occasion. But seriously, why isn't this a series?? That ending was too open. I need more closure. 


I found the mystery factor of TSG very well executed and even though I guessed who the guilty culprit was (which I'm very proud of) it didn't reduce my enjoyment of the story. There were still many revelations that astounded me and which made me slap my forehead because DUH. And although I knew the killer was cruel (duh, again, he's hardly going to be similar to a fluffy bunny rabbit), I never expected him to be that calculating and twisted. Seriously, the last few chapters I had an inward struggle of whether or not I should fly through the pages or take a break because I was terrified of what was to become of my precious babies so I was like DO I READ MORE OR WAIT AND PREPARE MYSELF?? 

We all know the answer to that question. I finished it about half an hour later and HOLY COW. It was so fast-paced and addictive and it was not good for my anxiety okay.

THE CHARACTERS. Holy flip, these characters are my life. Especially Jo and Eddie because they're just the most adorable murder-solving, butt-kicking characters ever. You know you get those novels that by the end it feels like you've lost a friend?! That's how it felt with These Shallow Graves (now known as TSG because I'm too lazy to type three extra words. APOLOGIES.) I nearly cried because it honestly felt like I had literally accompanied these characters on an adventure and watched them uncover truths about themselves that tormented them and watched them fall in love and out of love and overcome their demons AND UGH MY EMOTIONS. Anyway, it felt like I knew them completely and it was AWFUL saying bye.

Let's talk about Jo. Umm, can we just be best friends already?? Jo is from one of the richest and popular families in New York and although she's one of the luckiest girls in the city and will be even more fortunate when she marries Bram Aldrich who is kind of a big deal, she doesn't feel lucky as it's not the life she wants to live. She doesn't want to marry for duty and not love, she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life at dances and looking after the children society expects her to have. She wants to marry someone who drives her crazy with love, she wants to wander the streets by herself without her circles gossiping about her scandalous behavior, she wants to become a journalist and bring awareness to the voices who are crying out for help but whose anguished screams fall on deaf ears. She wants to tell the stories of those who are shut down and ignored. I LOVED how determined and strong-willed Jo was, she knew society's expectations of her and their confining limits on women but she also knew what she wanted and despite it risking everything, she still pursued her dreams, justice and the truth and I highly admire her for that. Jo is definitely one of my new favorite heroines, she exudes confidence, determination, hard work and courage and a character we should all try to be slightly like. She wasn't perfect, she sometimes jumped too quickly to conclusions (mainly concerning Eddie) and she was quite naive, but her willingness to not become another puppet on a string and to live life according to herself was something I found highly admirable. 

Eddie, oh, Eddie. Be still my heart! I am wholly and completely in love with him. Is he a potential new book boyfriend, you may ask? YASSS. Firstly, he is so very polite. Even if Jo has infuriated him to no end and is near well driving him crazy, he still holds doors open for her, lets her go first, offers her his arm. Chivalry is extremely attractive. Secondly, he's one of the only men in the story who takes Jo seriously, includes her in conversations, who doesn't expect her to behave how society demands her to behave and doesn't treat her like a delicate china doll who might fracture and faint at the slightest hint of distress. He let her speak her mind, he let himself speak his mind to her, he let her accompany her on dangerous missions (even though it kills himself because DANGER). He treats her as an equal, and that's all Jo wants. Is to be an equal.

Thirdly, he's completely in love with her and it makes my shippy heart squeeze with joy. Fourthly, he's clever and insightful and brave. Fifthly, he's had a tragic past that just makes you want to cuddle him (not that you wanted to before finding that out pfft) and sixthly (I know it's not a word but we'll just pretend it is for now) he's FUNNY. Which is basically the icing on the cake! Am I right?!


The cast of secondary characters were just as complex and wonderfully written as the main characters. We have Fay, the pickpocket girl who steals to stay alive, whose past is tragic and filled with loneliness and her future which is consumed with fear and despair. I found Fay's friendship with Jo remarkable, how a suburban princess of sorts befriends a girl who lives among the seedy danger of New York's shadows and how despite their stark differences they still have the same wish in life that consumes them: freedom. I loved Fay. I loved how feisty she was and yet also so kind, despite all the hardships she had faced. 

We also had Oscar who was so charismatic and clever - the amount of medical knowledge he could spout on any occasion was incredible. I loved his and Eddie's banter and his roll in solving the mystery of Jo's father's murder. 

There was also so many other intriguing characters that added to the many depths and levels TSG contained. Each character had a role to play and they all performed impeccably to create a spectacular display of complex relationships and suspenseful intrigue.

Now to talk about one of my favorite things in this book: the romance. The romance was written so beautifully. It was vibrant, passionate, burning flames and dying embers. My heart was an explosion of shippy feels. This relationship had me in tears of sadness, frustration and hopelessness as well as smiles and laughter as I witnessed the banter, the love and the passion for words and adventure Jo and Eddie shared. I shipped the feisty Jo and determined Eddie but I also knew this book was going to completely have no consideration of my fragile feelings UGH because it was a forbidden love. Jo and the reader knows the sickening certainty that her family will never allow her to marry anyone other than a wealthy, well-to-do man and Eddie knew that too. But jghlsg, I got so mad with Jo and Eddie sometimes. COMMUNICATION, people. I swear, so many of the quarrels my OTPs have could be solved by actually talking about the problem but NO. Anyway. The romance was done flawlessly. It was a slow-burn that begun as a friendship based on ink stains and the desire for adventure that progressed to a passionate love that was all-consuming, filled with ups and downs, decisions that tears one in two, misunderstandings, fury and despair, but despite all that - love. Constant love. Jo and Eddie were perfect for each other and they just made me so very happy BUT THAT ENDING. It was extremely bittersweet and I NEED MORE.

Another thing that I found highly interesting but very saddening simultaneously, was how unfairly women were treated in that era. How the only person you were allowed to amount to was a housewife. A pretty face hanging on a man's arm, only speaking pretty words and having pretty words said to you, otherwise our "fragile minds" wouldn't be able to handle it. Treated as an inanimate object, to have our entire lives plotted and planned without a say, to be compared to dogs in relation to breeding. It sickened me how belittled women were. That's why I admired Jo so much, for breaking away. She knew what her future was going to consist of - comfort, accompanied with boredom and unhappiness - and I loved how brave Jo was to free herself from that despite knowing the scandal it would cause among her social circle. Reading this book really enlightened me on the inequality and inferior way women were treated and anger seared through me several times at the unfairness and it made me so thankful that I live in the age I do, as women have so many more rights and opportunities and I'm so grateful for my freedom.

These Shallow Graves is a new favorite. It was thrilling and suspenseful with villains whose inhumane acts chilled me to the bone, with wonderfully complex characters that I fell in love with from the first page and a romance that was filled with love, adventure and the desire to fill the world with words - painting the universe in ink, hand in hand. These Shallow Graves was a divine read, it was an electrifying experience to explore the prettiness and the glamour of the aristocrats and discovering that even the most glitzy of lives hides deception and trickery, as well being able to explore the heart-stopping danger and intrigue of the dark underbelly of New York City. This book was breath-taking and I highly suggest you pick it up as soon as possible.

I give it: 5/5 CUPCAKES!

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