“Savage Girl” by Jean Zimmerman – A Review

17987214 Jean Zimmerman’s “Savage Girl” has so much going for it, right from the get-go:

1) It’s set in New York City during the Gilded Age, my absolute favorite setting for novels in NYC.
2) The cover art is FIERCE. I mean look at Savage Girl.
3) Our narrator is delightfully unreliable, incredibly wealthy, and has a family that can only be kindly described as eccentric.

Weighing in at a solid 400+ pages, Savage Girl is a little slow to start, but soon you’ll be flying through it. From the silver mines of the west, to the debutante dance halls of the east, what sounds like a re-telling of the “Pygmalion” story quickly turns into a fast-paced mystery. While on a cross-country trip with his “old money” family, Hugo Delegate, Harvard student and current drop out, encounters Savage Girl—a teenaged girl, “raised by wolves” and barely domesticated. The Delegate Family, with intentions that cannot necessarily be described as selfless, bring Savage Girl into their world of luxury and excess. But far from being the docile pet  they expect, it soon becomes clear that Savage Girl, whose name is Bronwyn, actually may have her own agenda. In addition, it appears she seems to leave a trail of bodies wherever she goes… As Hugo finds himself becoming more involved, dare I say, obsessed, with his “sister” Bronwyn, it also becomes clear that he may also not be what he seems.

The highlight of this novel has to be Zimmerman’s characters. They are beautifully fleshed out and vividly fill the pages. Hugo is self-interested, a little bit whiny, and makes for a fun narrator as the reader is never quite sure what to believe. Bronwyn is surprising, strong, and quite believable, despite her outlandish origin story.

My only complaint is that I felt like the ending was a bit rushed- we spend roughly 350 pages on a wonderful adventure, only to have everything be wrapped up and tied with a bow in the last 50. Don’t get me wrong- the ending is satisfying, but it did not feel like it had the same depth and richness as the rest of the novel. I’m sure people will be of divided opinion re: the epilogue, and I’m eager to hear the discussion.

Available for pre-order on Amazon, and on shelves March 6th.

xo The Book Bird 

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book via the publisher for review.

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen, A Review

16130398Two stars, one because I found the premise interesting, and another because as I couldn’t finish the last 2/3rds of the book, I’d like to give it the benefit of the doubt that it gets better. 

The story of a poetess who encounters and strikes up a complex relationship with Edgar Allen Poe and his wife, Virginia, I couldn’t tell you whether this is actually accurate or not. Why? Because after hitting 27% I still didn’t have any more information than I had started with by reading the book blurb, and I had lost all motivation to persevere onwards. Perhaps, to quote The Raven, “Nevermore…” 

Oh, where to start on my disappointment– this was one of the books that I was indeed most excited about for fall. In fact, when I first got my hands on a copy, I may have let out a little squee. Alas, that excitement dissipated rather quickly. The writing is bland, uninspired and drags. I also found that Cullen uses several pieces of dialogue that in my mind do not fit in with the period.  Considering all of the wonderful personalities at her disposal, I struggled with the fact that the whole plotline felt so flat. 

Available online from Amazon.com for pre-order. 

xo

The Book Bird

*DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book via NetGallery for advance review from the publisher.*

Historical Fiction Must-Reads for Fall 2013

There’s something about the first hints of fall in the air that make me drive into book hoarding mode like a squirrel preparing for winter. Thus, I’m already finalizing my “hit-list” by genre for the next few weeks. What’s on it? Check out my current historical fiction to-reads below and make sure to add The Book Bird to your RSS feed or follow us on Twitter (@thebookbird) for updates.

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Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
Available October 1st.
Edgar Allen Poe, an affair, a plotting wife… what more could you ask for? I am obsessed with 19th century New York (see my other pick below, Seven for a Secret if this is your thing as well), and was fortunate enough to get my book hungry hands on an advance copy of this one. Stay tuned for a review!

 

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Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye
Available September 17th.
The sequel to the well-received Gods of GothamSeven is already getting rave reviews. Detective Timothy Wilde is back, patrolling the lawless neighborhood of Five Points in 1840’s New York City. Wilde and his brother Valentine are incredibly well-fleshed out characters, and I am so excited about where their adventures will take them next. (Also, I found it incredibly amusing to imagine the bustling neighborhood of Chelsea as farmland, hehe.) A must for NYC historians and those who love a good detective novel.

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Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Freemantle
Available now.
This one made our “Six Tales of Tudor England” list — Queen’s Gambit follows Catherine Parr as she navigates the plots and intrigues of Henry VIII’s court.

 

What’s on your fall reading agenda?

xo The Book Bird

Night Film: A Review

Oh. My. Gosh.

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Where to start? Night Film was one of the novels I was most excited about for 2013, and boy, did it deliver.

A VAST improvement over Special Topics, of which I was not a huge fan, Pessl hits her stride in Night Film– expertly mixing media like websites, magazine articles, etc. with a story that is guaranteed to give you the creeps. I have to admit, I’m kind of disappointed that this was released in summer as it is the perfect rainy, fall weekend kind of book. Just thinking about reading it on a dark, wintry night gives me the shivers.

This is not a novel focused on character study, but I think that’s what makes it a great book. Instead, Pessl focuses on creating a rigid atmosphere that is wrought with tension and darkness. Just like the protagonist, you will find yourself slowly sleeping deep and deeper into a world that should seemingly not make sense, but yet does. It made me think of those horror-film-esque thoughts that sometimes come after dark, which you know are totally irrational, but yet make you pull the covers up higher.

Ideally I would give this book 4.5 stars: the middle lags a little bit and lacks the urgency that book ends it on either side. I should note though, that while the pace slows, I still pulled three late-nighters in a row to finish this over the weekend. The ending also tied things up a little too nicely, though you have to give Pessl snaps for the way she is able to sprinkle hints/clues through a 500+ novel consistently. It is truly impressive!

Available from Amazon.com (where you can also find this review) and the New York Public Library.

xo The Book Bird