> One More Stamp: December 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Goodreads Amazon
Series: nope
Release date: October 27th 2015
I am so behind!
Rating: Iron Jawed Angel

“Why is it, she wondered now, that boys get to do things and be things and girls only get to watch?”

These Shallow Graves tells the story of Jo Montfort a rich young woman about to graduate from finishing school at the turn of the last century in New York City. Why didn’t I read this book sooner?  I am now kicking myself.  Sometimes, I am so weird about authors that I love.  I hoard their books and them have to gear myself up to read them.  It is as if I am afraid to be disappointed.  The internal hype can really let you down.

I LOVE the turn of the century setting.  It very much felt as if it was taking place in the same New York as Caleb Carr’s The Alienist which for me is a good thing.  I love Jennifer Donnelly writing.  There is such attention to detail.  She seems to be able to make the whole setting sharp and clear in the readers mind.  This is especially wonderful in historical novels.  I have never lived in turn of the century New York and aside from films and books set there I never will be able to see it.  Jennifer Donnelly writes as if she were sitting on a bench in the middle of the city in 1904.  You can see the grungy funk on the street urchins neck or be slightly overwhelmed by the opulence of the uptown mansions. 

Jo was an interesting character for me.  She was contradictory.  She is a budding journalist with some feminist ideas and yet there are many things about her life that she doesn’t question.  There is an arranged marriage in her future and she is just sliding along towards it as if there was no other choice.  “Why of course I should marry the nice, rich young man.  He is perfectly bland so of course that is what makes him awesome.”  Her growth throughout the novel is quite extraordinary.  She started off not really seeing the world that she wanted to report on.  She had some feminist ideas and wanted to shed light on the terrible things going on in the world but was blind to the injustices that surrounded her each day.  Jo learns to see in this novel. One of the best parts of this novel was Jo willingness to listen to those around her and learn.

I really liked Eddie.  He was occasionally a jerk.  However, Jo was so occasionally clueless or sheltered enough that I was okay with it.  He was overly protective of Jo in a way that was consistent with the times but also flexible enough to let her grow. I love the sparks that he and Jo set off of one another every time that they are together.

The examination of class in this novel was very well done.  No one was portrayed as a saint.  It showed that different social classes are free in different ways.  There is a whole discussion about marrying for position and prostitution that I found very interesting.

Plot wise, I found this a little predictable but I am super critical of anything even remotely mysterious if I am not shocked to the depths of my soul by it (no foreshadowing please, I pick up on that shit.) I did want the book to go on another couple of chapters because I want to know exactly how things turn out.

Who here has also read These Shallow Graves?  I have all the feeling and would like to discuss…

Friday, December 30, 2016

Book Review: A Madness So Discrete by Mindy McGinnis

A Madness So Discrete
by Mindy McGinnis
Series: no
Release date:
October 6th 2015

Rating: could have been better

A Madness So Discrete is the story of Grace Mae a teenage girl who has been put in an asylum at the turn of the century because she is pregnant and has responded with elective mutism.  This book starred out very well.  I mean, look at that cover!  And the opening scenes were harrowing and so full of tension that my hands were aching from holding my kindle so hard.  I think that it could have been a horrifying and eye opening examination of the way that we have treated the mentally historically.  And it was for a while. And then it turns into a murder mystery. Meh.

I could have done without the “mystery”.  Just figuring out how to function in a world that thinks you are insane would have been enough.  In fact I kind of question why they even bothered having Grace in the asylum at all.  It certainly wasn’t hard to get out. It didn’t help that I cared absolutely nothing about her detective work with the doctor.  It felt as if he was just selfishly trying to prove his cleverness and using Grace as this mindless pawn. 

I am not sure how I feel about Grace.  I started off really empathizing with her but as the book moved on I found her less and less likable.  There were many times that she was incredible selfish and callous towards others. It is as if when she is pushed to use her intellect by the doctor that she becomes less feeling.  I am not sure that I like the implication of that correlation. Even if it isn’t directly expressed. I am also not sure about her development as a character.  She never seems to change from the first time that she speaks. 

“Grace had learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.” 

One of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the fact that there was NO love interest.  The fact that she was pregnant for the first part of the book with her fathers baby makes this seem pretty likely.  I cannot imagine a scenario where any sort of romance would have been acceptable.

I also enjoyed her two roommates.  Nell was a girl with some kind of sexually transmitted disease (they call her syphilitic but I am not sure.  Generalized pox?) She is basically put in the asylum because she had sex with men.  And doesn’t feel bad about it.  The horror!  She was funny and sharp and her story was so much more painful because I liked her.  Lizzie the other roommate has an invisible string that floats by her head and tells her things.  Aside from that she is a typical straight-laced girl of her times.  Or so you think.  Lizzie shows a lot more flexibility, love and decency then I had thought she was capable of at first.

I finished this book but the last 50% was a hard slug and I found myself avoiding my kindle.  It is a shame because I really liked the writing style and use of mood so I think that there was such potential for this book to be better. I have heard good things about Not a Drop to Drink so I will give Mindy McGinnis another shot.
From Goodreads: