These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Review: Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

November 30, 2015 by Aila J. | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Review: Extra, Extra! Read All About It!These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Hot Key Books on October 27, 2015
Source: Borrowed
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson
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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.

Read about what? Why, only the murder of one of the richest men in New York, Charles Montfort! Or that’s what his daughter, Jo, believes. It was supposed to be an “accident,” but evidence proves otherwise… So what else can an aspiring journalist in the 1890’s do? Investigate it, of course!

Jo is such a delightful character to read about. Although society expects her to marry into a respectable family and live happily ever after, she’s dreaming of bigger things. Jo wants to become a newspaper reporter, and write about the things that don’t get coverage on. She’s headstrong, curious, and courageous – a mix that just leads to exciting adventures.

“I did it because I want to inform my readers. Because I wish to draw back the veil that hides the injustices that surround us,” Jo said, her voice rising. “We who have means and a voice must use them to help those who have neither. Yet how can we help them if we don’t even know about them? And how can we know about them if no one writes about them? Is it so wrong to want to know things?”

She’s definitely an innocent and naive starry-eyed girl in the beginning of the book, though. Jo is very sheltered and doesn’t understand about brothels and prostitutes and the like. This all changes shortly after her father’s death, when she hears a reporter exclaim how it couldn’t have been an accident. From there, Jo tackles the mystery of what happened to her father, and why.

The mystery aspect of the book was a mix between predictable and twist-y. I’ll know the general outcome, but the events that lead up to it would be full of surprises. I quite like the balance! In addition, there are some events near the end that just got me going, “Whoa!” and “For realll?!” the whole time. It was thrilling and had me engaged; you would’ve seen me eagerly flipping the pages to see what would happen next.

I really enjoy how the author writes the scenes like a movie. The transitions would sometimes jump forward a little, where you would be caught up in the next scene. I highly enjoyed reading it because it’s like a slight cliffhanger for each chapter that doesn’t get resolved until you read further into the next. I know it may not work with some books, but in this one it was absolutely perfect and worked with the atmosphere.

I think what really stood out the most for me was the growth that Jo goes through and the implications Donnelly raises about the women during the times. They’re expected to do their husband’s bidding and smile along, even if they don’t want to. Jo is in a constant struggle between being that kind of girl and not disappointing her family, or following her heart for the newspaper reporter Eddie, who she has no prospects with. But man, oh man, is that a tough choice.

I simply loved the romance, which never became a dominant part of the plot, nor was it underdeveloped and spontaneous. It had a steady pace that didn’t seem too fast or too slow, and compatible characters that work so well together in uncovering the mystery. Eddie’s character also had so many dimensions, and I loved exploring this flawed, striking character that worked hard to get to where he’s at. The romance was great, but I have to mention the unlikely (and beautiful) female companionship that developed in this book. It was with yet another character who had many secrets to unravel.

When starting this book, Jo is unaware of most of the negative aspects in her world yet still aspires to become an advocate for those whose voices aren’t heard. While finding out the purpose behind her father’s murder, she meets an eccentric cast of characters and goes through new, thrilling experiences that open her eyes to a new world – and creates an even stronger will to follow her dreams.

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With writing that will suck you in until the last pages, These Shallow Graves highlight the growth of a strong-willed girl in the 1890’s whose father’s murder acts as an impetus for her to discover new things about the world she’s lived in, and herself. This book gives a mystery full of twists and turns, a romance that pulls on your heartstrings, and characters that you just want to read more about – even when the final pages of the book have been read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Thank you to Hot Key Books/Five Mile Press for providing a review copy! 

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Aila is a young adult reader who loves to transport herself to new dimensions through reading. She's currently an undergraduate student at university in the US. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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46 responses to “These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Review: Extra, Extra! Read All About It!

    • Oh my gosh, it's an absolute pleasure! Thank YOU for writing such an amazing book – I can't wait to see what else you have in store for us readers!

  1. Olivia-Savannah

    Everyone seems to be reading this book and loving it! I want to do and experience the same, hence me having it on my TBR! I love the sound of this one having a main character who develops so much as she investigates this mystery, as well as the book being one that will stick with you for a while as well.
    My recent post G.I.Joe: The Rise of the Cobra (Movie Review)

    • I'm so glad it's on your TBR, Olivia! Quite honestly, I'd recommend this even for readers who don't normally read historical fiction. It's just too thrilling to miss out on!

  2. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    OHhhhhhhhhh I definitely want to read all about it! I thought this was something paranormal (gosh I really should stop judging books this way) but this sounds so much better! I like the sound of Jo wanting to be a reporter instead of a wife! I'm going to have to read this soon! 🙂

    • Hahaa no paranormal over here. 😛 Just historical and lots of dynamic characters! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :))

    • Yes Jade, I'd definitely recommend this one if you're looking for a well-written and exciting historical. :)) Hope I've convinced you to read it!

    • Thank you Kim <3 While some people saw the mystery as predictable, it certainly had twisty elements. And yesss, the character development was just on-fleek!

    • Yay, I'm so glad you liked it! 😀 I'm definitely hoping for a reread soon, because I cannot get enough of these characters!!

    • Aww I'm sorry you didn't like it as much! I found Jo's naivety quite endearing actually, and kind of highlights the sheltered lives of women during the time. :') Sorry this one wasn't for you!

  3. Bec

    4.5 stars?! I have this waiting for me to read and review and you've made me really excited for it. I can't wait for the writing to grab hold of me and experience the romance and mystery!
    My recent post November 2015 Wrap Up

  4. paperskiesya

    I agree COMPLETELY! With EVERYTHING you said, Aila! I think this was more of a historical fiction type of book that investigates Jo's character arc to the most minute detail, and how her external environment ended up shaping her after she was suddenly subjected to it.

    I ADORED the romance! It was a perfect slow burn read that I shipped till the end, and while you're right that it didn't take up the entire plot, it was definitely a strong milestone that helped in Jo's character development.

    I must say, though, the only disappointment I had with this was the mystery – it was very predictable, which is why i don't even CONSIDER this to be a mystery novel. The setting, the romance, the characters…they were enough to make the entire book stunning 😉 WONDERFUL review, Aila!
    My recent post Ode to the Shadowhunters + Freebies!

    • Oh yeah definitely, the mystery was prettttyyyy predictable, but I didn't care because the whole impact was amazing! I'm sooo glad you enjoyed this book as much as I did.
      Dang, that romance was just *fans self* I love how it covered social classes and highlights the oppression Jo and other women experience during the time period. It was just DI~VINE~!

  5. Josephine

    While I am not particularly a fan of mysteries and definitely not mirder mysteries at that, this review has me very intrigued to read his book! The development sound amazing and the themes surrounding the story interest me very much!
    Loved this post!
    My recent post Month In Review | November

    • Thank you Josie! It definitely covers many aspects other than the mystery around the murder – the oppression of women in society, social class, etc. I'm glad to have made you intrigued for this story!

  6. Lisa @ Lost in Lit

    OMG AILA!!!! Thank you for this review!!! I received a copy of this, book the audiobook and hardcopy… and I've been SO nervous to read it!! I don't really know why, I just wasn't sure I would like it. Well, now I know i HAVE to read it!!! 🙂 Your enthusiasm completely sold me on it. Fantastic review!
    My recent post November 2015 Wrap-Up!

    • I'M SO GLAD LISA!! 😀 I admit, I was hesitant when I started at first too but IT HOOKED ME FROM THE BEGINNING. The murder mystery will keep you captivated until the very end!! Ahh I really hope you enjoy~

  7. rlsharpe

    I thought this book sounded slightly interesting, but not enough for me to read it, until now! Great review! This sounds really good actually and I think I would really like it. I'm going to go add it to my TBR on Goodreads now.

    • Yay, I'm so glad I've convinced you! I was hesitant to start it at first too, but wowzas it is VERY thrilling from start to finish – especially the murder mystery aspect. Hope you enjoy it!

    • Hopefully you can pick this one up from the bookstore! I'm definitely adding the rest of her books to my TBR, because I am just in love with her writing.

  8. Woah, the mystery and the historical murder aspects here, and how you described the scenes happening like a movie sounds like it was done really well! The best thing are twists that are done well and you didn't see coming! I'm looking forward to reading this one, thanks for the review Aila!

    • Anytime Jeann! 😀 Seriously, I felt like I was watching a film the whole time – a really exciting one, at that. It was simply thrilling from start to end!

  9. This sounds absolutely amazing! I've read two other books by Jennifer and really liked both of them, so I am crossing my fingers that this one is just as good. But your review and seeing how much you liked it makes me want to get my hands on a copy ASAP. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Thanks Zoe! <3 I'm seriously thinking of picking up more of the author's works because I'm in love with her writing and characters! I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy this as much as I did. 🙂

    • I'd definitely recommend this if you're looking for a thrilling read with superb character development! 🙂 Plus, the setting was pretty fun to be immersed in too.

  10. I absolutely adored this one too Aila! I love how it showed how oppressed women were, especially seeing Jo was a society girl who's life was already mapped out for her. Seeing her explore the real word was so incredibly funny and her dry humour really added such likability. I would have loved to have seen this turned into a series with Jo really spreading her wings. I live in hope. Incredibly review poppet and so glad you enjoyed this one too <3
    My recent post The White Rose… I love this series!

    • Thanks so much Kelly! <3 I totally agree, Kelly was a spectacular character and I would LOVE to read more in this world. 😀

    • Oohhh yes Bieke, hopefully that's soon! Who doesn't like a nice murder mystery while cozying it up in the blankets of a chilly winter day? :))

    • Yesss Kara, I'm glad you've signed up for this one! I think even non-historical readers will appreciate this one. Seriously, the scene transitions were PERFECT for a movie! Reading it was just exhilarating, from start to finish.

  11. Ooh, I AM curious about this one!! I kind of have been hesitant though because I didn't like The Diviners and it sounded similar? But ahhh that romance sounds GREAT (I like it when they're just a minor sub-plot) and Jo sounds really epic and of course…muuuurder. I do love a good mystery. xD So glad you enjoyed this one Aila!!

    • Thanks Cait! And yesss, okay so I wasn't much of a fan of The Diviner's either, but These Shallow Graves was totalllyyyy up my alley. The romance was one of my favorite parts despite its subtleness, and the murder mystery was especially exciting! Definitely pick this one up when you're in the mood for a historical book.