January Scaller has spent the majority of her life within the grounds of Locke House, her only glimpses of the outside world contained within cars, trains, and ships at the side of Mr. Locke on a rare field trip. Raised in her father’s absence to be good and obedient, intelligent and quiet, January has tried her best to fit the mold laid out before her. However, even Mr. Locke’s company cannot completely erase her obvious heritage, on full display in the shade of her skin and the unruliness of her hair. Nor can all of Mr. Locke’s nurturing completely block out her inherent nature – to wander, run wild, and dream as if her life depended upon it.
January’s journey is told in alternating chapters between her life and the stories she reads in a mysterious book, The Ten Thousand Doors. While eventually this story-weaving pays off, it does mean that the first 125 pages were all character introduction and world building, which was interesting intellectually, but not gripping. I actually flipped ahead to see if it got more interesting a couple times, despite many friends telling me the book was really great. There is a marked difference between the first 125 pages and the following 235 pages. Once the story gets going it moves well and everything weaves together beautifully. If I hadn’t flipped ahead, I definitely would’ve been at least a little surprised by the twists the story took, and even after I knew they were coming, they still made me tear up. Ultimately, that’s what pushed me to a higher rating. If I hadn’t gotten so bogged down in the beginning of the book, this would easily have been a five star read. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space when I started it – it was the middle of finals, after all – but by the end I was firmly invested in January’s journey and the 10,000 doors.
Shout out to my friend Taylor for lending me her copy, and also for making this her staff pick at our bookstore! I hope many, many readers get the chance to visit January and reignite their imaginations.
HHC Rating: 4 Stars
Notes: *Off-page animal cruelty, but the animal is ultimately fine* **This book alludes to physical intimacy, but doesn’t contain any explicit scenes, so it’s a great option for your teen who loves fantasy but isn’t ready for those scenes yet.**
Lucy and Oliver Tinker live with their father at his clock repair shop, scraping by selling antiques ever since their mother passed away. When the rich Mr. Quigley walks in at closing one day and offers Mr. Tinker a fortune to fix a giant clock at his home in Rhode Island, they can’t say no. Blackford house is situated in the middle of nowhere, falling apart at the seams and without electricity. The forest around the house is barren and quiet despite it being the height of summer, but Lucy is determined to make Blackford house home. Then the wooden animal statues she finds around the house start talking, and Oliver meets a mysterious boy who lives in the dark woods. Before long the Tinkers are drawn into a centuries old war between light and dark, and the fate of Blackford house hangs in the balance.
I received an ARC of Watch Hollow from the author in exchange for an honest review, but this is something I would have eventually picked up anyway. The characters are lovable and yet complex for a middle-grade book, and I love how the world itself is alive. The plot moved well and I was quickly swept up in the Tinker’s adventures. Funaro plans a sequel, making this a duology, and The Maze of Shadows is sure to be just as good when it comes out next year.
My favorite part of this book was definitely the clock animals. The whole idea of light and dark being incarnate in them, balancing the powers and powering the clock and providing electricity for the house, not to mention the naming conventions – Torsten Six, Fennish Seven, Tempest Crow – Everything about them is just fantastic. My second favorite part was obviously the shadowood vs. sunstone debate, and the ash-acorns. At ~250 pages, this book was the perfect length to get wrapped up in. I would have loved to read this as a child, and it’s still great as an adult! I will definitely be picking up the sequel next year.
Available from January 12th wherever books are sold!
HHC Rating: 5 Stars.
Other reviews in this series: The Maze of Shadows(Available 2020)
The Collector’s Apprentice takes readers into the whirling world of art collecting in the 1920s. Paulien Mertens is only nineteen when she meets the dashing George Everard, but when things mysteriously fall to pieces she finds herself exiled to Paris alone and nearly penniless. Drawing on her education and previous work in the art world, Paulien pieces together a new life as the assistant to Edwin Bradley, an up and coming American art collector who seeks to open a museum near Philadelphia. As she weaves her way through Parisian society, Paulien meets wonderful people like Gertrude Stein, Henri Matisse, and Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. When George finally turns up, things are not as they seem, and Paulien is sent into a tailspin that nearly ruins everything she has built.
Shapiro’s new work tells the story of how one girl came back from the brink stronger, smarter, and braver than ever. It is part coming-of-age, part mystery, part heist novel. Paulien and George provide intriguing lenses through which we discover the events of the story. Indeed, all of the characters’s colorful descriptions paint a picture of Europe and America in the 1920s that is lush and many-layered. The plot thickens gradually, and the shocking finish does not disappoint.
I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into the art world and adored returning to 1920’s Paris, which, if you’ve read my reviews for Therese Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald or Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, you’ll know I have a bit of an obsession with. While it did not always grip me the way Z and The Paris Wife did, I simultaneously identified and sympathized with Shapiro’s characters, and her storytelling is top notch. The nuggets of information are there for you to guess the ending, though I must confess that I did not, which a refreshing turn of events! I would recommend The Collector’s Apprentice to anyone who enjoys a good historical coming-of-age story or enjoys con artists as main characters.
HHC Rating: 4.75 Stars
The Collector’s Apprentice hits shelves today, and Shapiro will be on tour through December promoting it. You can find the local stops on her tour schedule below, and find the book on Goodreads as well. A huge thanks to Brittani at Algonquin books for thinking of me when it came time for reviews and provided me with an e-ARC to read in exchange for my honest opinions. I loved it! But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some of the advanced praises for The Collector’s Apprentice:
“Shapiro delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. [Her] portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel.”
“Dazzling and seductive, The Collector’s Apprentice is a tour de force—an exhilarating tale of shifting identities, desire, and intrigue set between 1920s Paris and Philadelphia. Shapiro is a master at melding historical and fictional characters to bring the past alive on the page, and in The Collector’s Apprentice she has forged an exquisite, multilayered story that maps the cogent and singular fire of a young woman’s ambition and the risks she will take for the sake of art.”
—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia
“I was engrossed in every twist and turn in this compulsively captivating page-turner, all the way until its astonishing denouement. Shapiro has done it again!”
—Thrity Umrigar, bestselling author of The Space Between Us
B. A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger, which won the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Boston Authors Society Award for Fiction, among other honors. Her books have been selected as Community Reads in numerous cities and have been translated into over ten languages. Shapiro has taught sociology at Tufts University and creative writing at Northeastern University. She divides her time between Boston and Florida along with her husband, Dan, and their dog, Sagan. Her website is www.bashapirobooks.com.
The Collector’s Apprentice Press Tour
Stops in New England
Tuesday, October 16 — 7:00pm
279 Harvard St.
Brookline, MA 02446
Wednesday, October 17 — 7:00pm
9 College St.
South Hadley, MA 01075
Thursday, October 18 — 6:00pm
4869 Main Street
Manchester Center, VT 05255
Friday, October 19 — 7:00pm
82 Central St
Wellesley, MA 02482
Wednesday, November 7 — 7:00pm
RJ Julia Booksellers
768 Boston Post Rd
Madison, CT 06443
Thursday, November 8 — 7:00pm
273 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101
Tuesday, November 20 — 7:00pm
Point Street Reading Series
71 Richmond St, 2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02903
Monday, November 26 — 3:00pm
432 Route 6A
East Sandwich, MA 02537
Tuesday, November 27 — 7:00pm
An Unlikely Story
111 South Street
Plainville, MA 02762
Wednesday, November 28 — 7:00pm
Savoy Bookshop & Café
10 Canal St.
Westerly, RI 02891
Thursday, November 29 — 7:00pm
79 Leonard St
Belmont, MA 02478
–Author Bio, Advanced Blurbs, and tour dates courtesy of Michael McKenzie and Brittani Hilles at Algonquin Books.
Weylyn Grey was raised by wolves. Ever since, he’s been a little bit different. He’s never sure why, but mysterious things tend to happen around him and his horned pig, Merlin. Through his friends Roarke, Mary, Meg, Lydia, and Duane, we learn about Weylyn’s life and its challenges.
I was granted an ARC of this book from NetGalley, and I purchased a finished copy as part of my Book of the Month box for October 2017.
This book was marketed as an American fairytale meets magical realism. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it either of those, it does have the same sort of feeling as Big Fish. Weylyn’s presence is often associated with strange occurrences in nature, but he assigns all of the magical talent to his horned rescue pig, Merlin, not realizing that it has been him all along.
It was especially interesting to see how Weylyn adjusted to his strange life as he grew up in midwestern America in the 70s and 80s. I didn’t know how far into his life the story would take us, and it brought a surprising amount of closure to the end of the story. It’s rare that we get to see someone’s adventures through more than a single stage of life, and Lang’s take was refreshing. The characters are all original, flawed, and wonderfully human. Weylyn’s talents in no way detract from who he is a regular person – they just present extra challenges he must face as he grows up.
I enjoyed the story, and I hope they make a film version someday because I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoy other multi-part stories such as Big Fish and Forrest Gump.
Waldo Baron’s parents are amazing scientists who invent things like super speed horseshoes and contraptions that pull people out of wells. W.B. is a little overweight, clumsy, and completely friendless. The friendless part is because his parents are so strange. The overweight part is because he loves food. Rather than getting involved with his parents’ experiments, none of which he actually understands, W.B. would rather sit in his room and read his Sheriff Hoyt Graham novels, living vicariously through the stories about his real life hero. On the day when W.B. is finally going to see Sheriff Graham in person, he wakes up to find his house floating 1,000 feet in the air, about to be whisked out of Arizona territory on a race around the country.
This charming middle-grade adventure set in the historic wild west was just released on May 16th, and I was lucky enough to get an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. W.B., who goes by his initials because he thinks Waldo is a horrible name, is a slightly overweight kid who just wants to read his books and daydream about going on daring adventures with his hero, Sheriff Graham. He is blessed with two parents who somehow are able to create amazing inventions and withstand being stuck by lighting multiple times a year without dying. He calls them M and P. W.B. has no interest in science, mostly because it doesn’t make any sense to his 10-year-old brain.
The plot follows the Baron family on their around-the-country adventure, fueled by the appearance of Rose Blackwood, the younger sister of the notorious enemy of Sheriff Graham: Ben Blackwood. Rose needs the prize money from the race to hire some thugs to break her brother out of jail, but the Rose and Barons quickly develop much bigger problems.
A lighthearted and fun read, I would recommend this to every 10-year-old I know. The quirky characters help fuel the needed suspension of disbelief, and the H.E.A. ending sets up the family for even more entertaining adventures across the world in the 1800’s.
Chuck and Teddy Monroe have lived in the spotlight ever since they took over their parents business. Their little sister, however, has always avoided it. Elizabeth has her heart set on working at the Library of Congress. That’s why she’s going to college in DC after all, instead of back in New York. She craves the quiet happiness that only books can give her, and she has it until two men enter her life and turn it upside down. Soon Elizabeth’s heart is torn between them, a well-known playboy and a quiet photographer. The media are closing in fast and Elizabeth doesn’t know who to trust. There are some pretty big decisions to make, and no one can make them but her.
M. E. Gordon’s premiere work goes all out. Elizabeth is a delightful character, who embodies exactly how the average woman would react when faced with this situation. No stone is left unturned as Miss Monroe tries to figure out who she wants, and who she can’t live without. The character development is excellent. I felt like I had a good idea of who everyone was in Beth’s life before everything hit the fan, and that definitely helped me make sense of the chaos that was going on due to the dual suitors. As this is a romance, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the more ‘heated’ moments, and I think they were done wonderfully. Not too long and not too short, and they added to the storyline and the character building. The mystery element is done very well. After every twist, I thought I had it figured out when BAM! something new would crop up that would totally change my mind. When I finally reached the end, I was exhausted (in a good way!), and begging for more.
Based on how it ended, I really hope Gordon writes a sequel (or two, or three). The characters are so rich and layered that I can imagine each of them having their own story to tell, and I would love to read them. My rating is definitely a full five stars.
This book was just released at the end of August, and Gordon was nice enough to send me an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) so I could review it. I do not accept payment of any kind for any of my reviews. If you are an author and you’d love for me to read & review something, send me an e-mail at amanda-at-highlightsandhotchocolate-dot-com, or send me a tweet @Amanda_HHC and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.