Poisoned: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Poisoned by Jennifer DonnellyYou think you know this tale, but you only know what you’ve been told. You may have heard about the girl named Sophie with lips the color of ripe cherries, skin as soft as new-fallen snow, and hair as dark as midnight. You may have heard about her step-mother and the huntsman.

That doesn’t mean you know the real villain of this tale or anything that happened after the huntsman cut out Sophie’s heart.

In a world where power means safety and, for a young girl destined to rule, there is no greater danger than mercy, Sophie will soon learn that surviving–much like hiding–isn’t enough if she wants to reclaim her kingdom in Poisoned (2020) by Jennifer Donnelly.

Find it on Bookshop.

Poisoned is a feminist retelling of the fairy tale of Snow White that is every bit as bloody and gory as the original version transcribed by the Brothers Grimm. Although the story is stepped in violence from the very first chapter, the narrative itself often reads younger hewing closer to middle grade in tone.

Eerie, fast-paced chapters and an unconventional choice in both narrator and antagonist make this story unexpected even as Donnelly stays true to her source material. Sophie is an admirable heroine struggling to reconcile her ruthless upbringing with the kindness she has managed to nurture in her heart.

Poisoned is an ideal choice for anyone who prefers the classic fairy tales to modern, more sanitized versions–a fast-paced story that is both engaging and fierce.

Possible Pairings: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, Stain by A. G. Howard, The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Everland by Wendy Spinale, Hunted by Meagan Spooner, Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

These Shallow Graves: A Review

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer DonnellyNew York. 1890. Jo Montfort wants her education and her life to mean something. She doesn’t want to finish out her time at school only to get married. Jo dreams of following in the footsteps of Nellie Bly to become a famous reporter who can write articles to help make the world better.

Jo’s dreams, and her more prosaic future, become uncertain in the wake of her father’s accidental death while cleaning his revolver. The only problem: Jo knows her father would never have been reckless enough to clean a loaded gun.

With the help of an ambitious young reporter, Jo sets out to find the truth. In her search for the truth, Jo will dig up old secrets and shocking truths in These Shallows Graves (2015) by Jennifer Donnelly.

Find it on Bookshop.

These Shallow Graves is a standalone historical fiction novel.

Donnelly’s novel is well-researched and thorough bringing the world of 1890s New York to life around Jo’s story with thoughtful details and historically accurate settings.

The characters pale in comparison to these rich settings. Although Jo grows throughout These Shallow Graves, she remains painfully naive and idealistic to a fault. Her sensibilities are also decidedly (frustratingly) modern despite her upbringing in New York’s Gilded Age. Jo remains a fun, very feminist, heroine in this story about a girl making her own way but it’s impossible to wonder how likely such a story would be in the time period of the novel.

Jo never quite operates comfortably within her time period and the story suffers a loss of credibility as a result. As a mystery (and a romance) These Shallow Graves works well but not, perhaps, as well as it could while certain motivations and events bear the scrutiny of a close reading better than others.

These Shallow Graves is another fine historical mystery from Donnelly with the requisite doses of romance and suspense. Readers looking for an immersive read and a strong heroine will find much to recommend here.

Possible Pairings: Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman, Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George, The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman, Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman, The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray, A Breath of Frost by Alyxandra Harvey, A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee,  Nobody’s Secret by Michaela MacColl, These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

*A copy of this book was acquired from the publisher at BEA 2015 for review consideration*

Revolution: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Revolution by Jennifer DonnellyAndi Alpers is on the edge and looking down. Her life in Brooklyn Heights is falling apart around her. Her father left. Her mother can’t cope. And all Andi keeps coming back to is that it’s all her fault.

Consumed by grief and crushing guilt, school doesn’t seem like a high priority. Nothing seems like a high priority. At least until her father intervenes and takes her to Paris where she has the duration of winter break to work on her senior thesis and possibly salvage her academic standing at her prestigious private school.

In Paris Andi discovers a lot of things: a cute boy who loves music almost as much as she does, a mysterious heart, the most beautiful guitar she’s ever seen and, most surprising, a diary from the French Revolution.

Through the diary Andi meets Alexandrine Paradis, a girl much like Andi who had her own dreams of a life on the Paris stage. At least until a chance encounter with a doomed prince changed Alexandrine’s life forever.

The more Andi reads about France’s bloody past and Alexandrine’s tragic role the more desperate she is to find some shred of hope, maybe even redemption, in the pages of the diary. Instead, the closer Andi comes to the end of Alexandrine’s story, the more it seems that Andi herself might have a role to play in the journal’s disastrous chronicle in Revolution (2010) by Jennifer Donnelly.

Find it on Bookshop.

To call Revolution ambitious is a gross understatement. In this one book Donnelly integrates music theory, historical figures, and the political motivations behind the revolution all while telling a truly beautiful story. And, amazingly, it all works.

There is truly little to fault here and almost too much to praise. Donnelly masterfully weaves together fact and fiction to create a dynamic story sure to dazzle readers. Revolution is an evocative, often raw, book that will leave readers wondering where history ends and story begins.

To learn more about the music featured in Revolution (and its inpiration and the story) be sure to visit Jennifer Donnelly’s website to view her playlist for the book.

Possible Pairings: The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Tamar by Mal Peet, The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin