Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

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Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly 

by Jennifer Donnelly 
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: October 12th 2010
Rating: Full review of Revolution
Times read: 4
Recommended by: I think I first saw it on Amazon in 2010

Warning: I have no objectivity when it comes to this book.  It is one of my favorites of all time, and I am going to be shrill about it. Not even a little sorry about it. Revolution is the story of seventeen-year-old Andi Alpers, a student at an elite prep school in Brooklyn who is struggling to go on after the death of her little brother.  Her father forces her to accompany him to Paris and the razor's edge that she has been walking on for the last year becomes even thinner.

Andi herself is a ball of unfocused and indiscriminate rage. She lashed out at people who try to help her, people who get in the way of the few things that she still has interest, and people who are just in her blast zone.  She isn't particularly stable, and she sure are hell isn't nice. She is a mess, but because we understand her anger and pain so well she remains a sympathetic character.  
I spent a large portion of the book just yearning for her to be in a better headspace. 

I play until my fingers are blue and stiff from the cold, and then I keep on playing. Until I’m lost in the music. Until I am the music—notes and chords, the melody and harmony. It hurts, but it’s okay because when I’m the music, I’m not me. Not sad. Not afraid. Not desperate. Not guilty.

Music plays a massive role in Revolution. Music is the tool of communication, a universal language and the shibboleth for Andi.  I can't think of another book where the passion and the unlying relentless drive of music are so well communicated.  I am not a musician but reading this book opened my eyes up to what being a musician can be.  It is his love of music more than anything that draws her to Virgil, her love interest.  It is that common connection that gives their relationship unexpected depth.

Paris is a character in this book.  The Paris that is not on the tourist's routes but the Paris where real people are living and going about their daily lives. Andi's mother is French, and so Andi speaks French which means that she can immerse herself much better in Paris that someone who is monolingual in English.  As someone who is in a dual nationality marriage and teaches a large percentage of multinational students, I am always happy to see this reality in books.

 Donnely is masterful with her use of exposition.  She tells the reader enough for them to understand what they need to but not so much that they are overwhelmed.  You could get several Ph.D.'s on the French revolution and still not wholly comprehend it. The seamlessness of the exposition is significant as well.  It naturally fits into the narrative instead that feeling forced because the plot needs it. The total immersion into the period when Andi finds the diary feels earned.

This book is heartbreaking.  It deals with grief, the realization that your parents aren't perfect or always able to help you, and the rage that comes from being helpless.  It is also a book of unexpected humor, beautiful writing, and hope.  I will read it again and again because every time that I do, I have found something new in it.

From Goodreads:

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.
Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present. 

Book Review: Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly  cover

Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book
by Jennifer Donnelly
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: January 31st 2017
Rating: pouting.

“Isn't that what a good story does? It pulls you in and never lets you go.”

OMG, you can buy prints! Source

OMG, you can buy prints! Source

I love Beauty and the Beast.  It has been my favorite Disney movie since it came out in 1991 (God, I am old).  Robin Mckinley’s Beauty has had a place on my favorites shelf for almost the same amount of time.  I have read it at least once a year since I was twelve years old.  There is also a Mercer Mayer picture book of Beauty and the Beast with illustrations that I am still obsessed with. Any version of Beauty and the Beast is going to get my attention.

I also love Jennifer Donnelly.  Revolution is one of my favorite books of all time and I am constantly recommending it. I have read everything that she has published (I am pretty confident about saying that) and have been consistently impressed with her writing.  It just works for me.

These two things together and the internal hype that they caused is probably what lead me to be disappointed with this book.  This is a retelling of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  Well, not really a retelling.  Same characters and setting but it takes a sharp turn in the narrative.

I didn’t think the in medias res aspect of the novel worked. The book starts the morning after Belle runs away after getting yelled at by the Beast for being in the West Wing.  The author assumes that everyone knows what is going on.  And maybe they do.  But I needed more time to get to know THIS Belle and starting in the middle of things made me feel as if 

Beast was almost completely overlooked.  While his plight was a lynchpin of the new plot, Beast himself was almost completely absent from the narrative.  Since the entire premise of Beauty and the Beast is that over a year of having dinner with the Beast Belle starts to see the inner person and fall in love with that.  Belle cannot fall in love convincingly is she is never with the Beast.  I don’t care how much the objects in the castle talk him up it is not going to happen

I never connected with any of the characters.  Maybe because this is a known story the author never felt the need to describe or develop them the way that they normally are.  I wanted more depth to this book. I wanted to come away from this book feeling as if I had a deeper appreciation of the characters and the story. Maybe it was the choice of the third person that caused some of the problems? I think that first person would have gotten us much closer to the heart of who Belle was and if it had been alternated with Beast’s POV the intimacy of that perspective would have helped with the distance that I felt from him.

This isn’t a terrible book.  Especially if you haven’t worked yourself up into a ball of excitement like I did.  The writing is still decent and it is a unique take on the story.  My biggest gripe is that I should have lost my mind over my love for this book and I didn’t.  Sad trombones.

From Goodreads:
An original addition to the beloved Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Lost in a Book follows the lonely, bookish Belle as she finds an enchanted book in the Beast’s library called Nevermore that carries her into a glittering new world. There, Belle is befriended by a mysterious countess who offers her the life she’s always dreamed of.

But Nevermore is not what it seems, and the more time Belle spends there, the harder it is to leave. Good stories take hold of us and never let us go, and once Belle becomes lost in this book, she may never find her way out again.

This deluxe hardcover novel expands upon the beautiful story and world seen in the new Walt Disney Studios' film, Beauty and the Beast.

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves cover

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.

From Goodreads:
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.

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