ARC Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

a title here(3)


To earn a secret so profound, I would need to tell momentous lies, and make as many people as possible believe them…

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.


**** Thank you to Amulet Books and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review****

Overall this is a decent read but not anything that really impressed me. I don’t normally read a lot of historical fiction but I still enjoyed “The Lie Tree” enough to give it 3 stars. I also enjoyed Hardinge’s style and will probably read more of her work.


My biggest problem with the story was how slow it was and how long it took to set itself up. It has a very, very slow start and we spend a lot of time learning about Faith (our MC), her family, and the mystery surrounding their sudden move to the island of Vane. I found my attention and interest floundering a few times but I pushed on simply for the answers to the murder mystery and the appearance of The Lie Tree itself. Which I will let you know now doesn’t show up until about halfway through the book and let’s be honest the tree’s a big lure.

Hardinge does a fantastic job setting the atmosphere for this book, it’s eerie and intriguing which couples well with the mystery theme. Her writing style also flows very well and was easy to read through.

Overall the book is one giant mystery because it’s a few mysteries all tangled into one, we have the mystery of the family’s move, the mystery of Faith’s father’s death, and the general mystery of the “lie tree”.  All of these things definitely pique interest and Hardinge does a great job of keeping you guessing. However, the mysteries are slow and subtle; this is not a thriller.

Really though my craving for answers was one of the only things that kept me reading since a lot of the time the story dragged.


They’re all very complex and…gray; no black and white, good and bad characters here. I liked Faith and her brother Howard but every other person on the island including Faith’s family? Not so much. I don’t think there was a single kind-hearted person there, everyone is kind of out for themselves which I liked because it made things interesting and realistic but at the same time they made me very mad. Which was probably the point.

Faith is very headstrong and clever she wants to be a natural scientist and since it’s set in the 1800’s, it isn’t exactly a woman’s profession. She’s faced with ridicule by men through out the duration of the book and she isn’t taken seriously. I loved how she didn’t take any of that shit from anyone and was determined to go out and prove them all wrong. Girl power. Although at times being inside her head-space could get tedious just because she spent a lot of time…monologuing.

None of the other characters were particularity memorable and while I appreciated some of their complexity (and moral gray areas) I didn’t enjoy the characters much themselves. Faith’s parents are pretty selfish and wrapped up in protecting themselves versus their children and that’s something I couldn’t really look past.

in conclusion

As I said earlier it’s a decent read, I liked the mysteries that are all tangled up in the story and the “lie tree” is quite interesting. Faith’s character was enjoyable and the other characters are very developed. However, I thought the story dragged a lot at times and got slow to the point of boredom. So mixed feelings overall and I’m in the minority on this book since a lot of other people loved it and gave it 4-5 star reviews. I just don’t think this book was for me in the end.


Not really, unfortunately. However if you’re a big fan of historical fiction and the old fashioned sort of murder mystery you may enjoy this book. Plenty of other people loved this book a lot more than I did so you may be one of them!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy

ARC Review: The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

a title here(68)


A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.


***Thank You To Netgalley & ABRAMS Kids Amulet Books For Giving Me This ARC In Exchange For An Honest Review***

 This is my first Cat Winters book and color me VERY impressed. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read one of her books!

I don’t think a review will do the book justice! I’m also going to go ahead and let you all know that I had a hard time writing this review, it was such a different and unique book I didn’t quite know where my thoughts were. I apologize if the review’s kind of all over the place.

Let’s just jump right into the review then, shall we?


I’m just going to start and off and remind all of you that this book is retelling of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and I’ve never read “Hamlet”. I know, I know but that’s the truth. Therefore I won’t be making any comparisons between this book and that play.

I will tell you that while I read I did make some comparisons between this book and “The Lion King” though….since that’s also based off of “Hamlet”. That counts right?

Moving on!

Cat Winters really immerses you into the time period, reading this book was like being thrown back into the 1920’s. She pays attention to every detail and shows us the world through the eyes of a young colored girl living during a time where the Ku Klux Klan ran rampant. Winters also explores the prohibition briefly as well as the eugenics movement.

This book had such a powerful atmosphere to it and there was a lot of hate in that atmosphere as well as fear and sadness. I felt every emotion while I read “The Steep & Thorny Way”. Hate at the bigots who tried to empower themselves through terrorizing innocent people and fear for the characters becoming victims of such hate.

It gets VERY emotional, I choked up more than a couple of times while reading.

I also really loved how Cat weaved a paranormal element into the story, apparently this is a theme with her writings but since this is my first book by her I cannot really go into detail on that. There was just the right amount of paranormal added that worked well with the mystery of what actually happened to Hanalee’s father.

The story does take some turns for the better and the worse, it managed to keep me on edge as well as keep me guessing. It wasn’t as predictable as most YA books these days, there was no insta-love, no love triangle, no romance at all to speak of. I loved it for that too.

Cat’s writing is probably my favorite part though, it’s quite simply beautiful. I don’t think anything I write will do it justice, but it really pulls you into everything that’s happening. You feel what the characters are feeling and that signifies to me a book that was written fantastically.

I did enjoy the overall story/plot of “The Steep & Thorny Way”, it was very engaging and moved along at a decent pacing. But I had some minor issues with it.

One being that I felt the central mystery of the plot was a little lacking, there wasn’t enough searching and trying to figure it out on Hanalee’s part. Her father’s ghost pretty much provided her with all of the answers, Hanalee didn’t have to do much figuring on her own. That’s a little to convenient for me but not anything that bugged me immensely while reading.

Another problem I had was that the ending came a little bit too soon for me. I had to double check just to make sure I’d read it right, it just felt a bit too rushed. It was a good ending though, just felt a tish bit off.


Hanalee Denney is our main protagonist and she’s probably the best part about reading this book. She’s strong and determined, but she’s also very believable as a character. She isn’t perfect, she has her flaws. Hanalee also makes some very rushed decisions throughout her journey, but else do you expect of a 16 year old girl? She simply is reacting to what the world has thrown at her.

Hanalee is simply everything I love in a main character, especially a female one.

There’s also Joe Adder who is pretty much the secondary main character and I absolutely loved him. I loved him just as much as I loved Hanalee. He’s also a victim of hate and hate crimes. I won’t spoil why for you though. Joe is a very strong  to overcome the obstacles that were put in his path and he’s quite a sympathetic character.

There was also a slew of secondary characters as well such as Hanalee’s mother and stepfather, and her best friend Fleur. They were good characters but they didn’t really add a whole lot to the story for me.

in conclusion

Overall this is a fantastic piece of historical fiction and even though the mystery in the plot didn’t really work for me, the setting more than made up for it. I also loved that this book contained none of the usual YA tropes I’m used to seeing in other books.


Most definitely, if you’re a lover of unique books that don’t have your usual YA tropes then this is for you! Also if you love historical fiction books, this is probably one of the best around!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy

Book Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

a title here(27)


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.



“If you’re going to bury the past, bury it deep, girl. Shallow graves always give up their dead.”

Let me start off by saying that this is NOT a bad book by any means, it’s actually quite good but definitely not my cup of tea. My relationship with “These Shallow Graves” has a serious case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.  My low opinion on this book seems to be in the minority, it’s an unpopular opinion. Most people LOVED this book, it’s just not for me.

Things I Did Not Like:

  • Most of the characters were completely clueless about a lot of things.
  • How predictable a lot of the twists and reveals were.
  • This book was way longer than it should and needed to be.
  • I found the cover and the title to be pretty misleading about what the book is REALLY about.

Things I Liked:

  • The setting was very well presented and researched.
  • Jo was a pretty great protagonist.
  • The secondary characters were awesome.
  • I really enjoyed the ending of the book, seriously that was a great ending.

**** Prepare for a lot of ranting and raving****


First off this book is WAY too long for its content, seriously, it’s probably my biggest complaint about the whole thing! There is no way this thing needed to be 500 pages, the plot was majorly stretched out to make it fit. I could rant and rave all day about how unnecessarily long this book is!

When you make a plot longer than it should be it starts to get very repetitive, I felt like Jo was saying and doing the same thing for half the book. Sneaking out, doing things she shouldn’t, and sneaking back in. Over and over and over and over. And for what? An inch of progress in her mystery, that’s what.

Secondly, a mystery is pretty hard to get into if you can guess over half of the twists and reveals chapters before they happen. For some people you might read this and not see it coming and for some other people you might be like me and see most of it coming. Everyone’s different and I respect that. For me though personally, I didn’t think the mystery was all that mysterious.

Reading a 500 page book is pretty damn hard when you guess “whodunnit” within the first several chapters. Did I have proof? No. Did I strongly suspect throughout the entire, excruciating length of the book? Yes.

I didn’t guess every single twist though, therefore keeping it at least somewhat entertaining.

Another thing, the pacing got on the slow side. When I said the story gets repetitive I meant it and thus makes the plot drag on in some parts.

As mentioned earlier, I also found the cover and even the title of this book to be pretty misleading. I makes it look like a very creepy or dark book which it’s not. It’s the polar opposite. There wasn’t a single creepy or scary thing that happened in this story at all, sure there were scenes where you were WORRIED about the characters but never creeped out or honestly scared. Disappointing. We’ve all heard “don’t judge a book by its cover” and with this one it rings more true than usual.

Now on to more positive comments!

I really liked the overall setting of the book, 1890’s New York City is pretty exciting. It was very well executed and Donnelly definitely did her homework on this one.

Everything had a very authentic feel to it, the slang, the language, and the items and places. You have carriages, corsets, newsboys, brothels, and newspapers galore. I loved it and it’s probably my most loved aspect of the entire book. It also showed a lot of the nitty, gritty about poverty as well. Kind of depressing but like I said: authentic.

I also really enjoyed the ending, I didn’t really expect to at all but I was pleasantly surprised. It ended well and with Jo doing what she wants and it did not involve around the romance whatsoever. I loved that the most, I was DREADING some sort of running off into the sunset with the love interest. It’s an ending that I think will please every reader.


Josephine Montfort is our main character, and I have a ton of mixed feelings about her. On one hand I thought she was clueless and kind of annoying, on the other I really liked her strong will and caring personality.

Yes, I understand that her being an upper class girl she wasn’t taught or exposed to certain things. But I thought she was more clueless than normal. If you’re going to go traipsing around New York City at night then you should know some things.

I was on page 110 and it was the 4th time she’d been referred to as a prostitute, at least. Now I don’t like that everyone assumes that just because she’s walking around town at night, but what I really didn’t like was how Jo had zero idea they thought she was a prostitute. Come on, girl! You can’t be that naive!

Then Eddie Gallagher is our other main character and the love interest. Honestly I don’t even really have much to say about him at all. He’s a pretty meh character, to me. Not all that interesting and especially not swoon-worthy.

Actually though my favorite characters were the secondary ones such as Oscar and Fay. I kind of liked them more than Jo or Eddie. Oscar was hilarious and Fay was a badass. They had a lot more personality and were just more likable for me.


I’m pretty sure you all know by now that I am not a romance fan, at all. It takes a lot to thaw this cold heart of mine and after reading 500 pages you would think it would have. Sadly, not the case.

The insta-love is there but not overwhelming and there is no love triangle so I suppose I’ll settle for that.

One major thing I didn’t like about Jo’s romance was how easily swayed she was. She’d see or hear something and instantly it was, “OH NO HOW COULD I HAVE EVER LOVED HIM WHEN HE HAS USED ME SO?”.

It was the most annoying thing ever. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes, because she’d take him back and then think he betrayed her AGAIN and decide she was through with him and take him back AGAIN.

The romance was a little too….fluffy for me.

in conclusion

I said it once already and I’ll say it again, it was me and not the book. I just didn’t like it. I had a lot of my own issues with it. I really don’t have any interest in reading anything like “These Shallow Graves” again or really even reading anything else by Jennifer Donnelly. Lots of other people loved this one, I’m just not one of them.


I’d recommend this to anybody who likes the historical fiction and romance genres. I definitely don’t recommend this to anybody looking for a good mystery just because I felt it was too predictable and honestly the mystery was second to the romance.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy