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August 9, 2012

"Secret Letters" by Leah Scheier

[Clickey the lovely cover for Goodreads!]

Title: Secret Letters
Author: Leah Scheier
Publication: 2012, Hyperion
Summary: Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin’s ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits—and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective—to save her cousin’s reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way....read more

 Review: This debut novel shows so much potential through its gorgeous and expert diction, animated characters, and overall great sense of pacing. Dora is seemingly so plain, but holds a fiery personality in side her that will make you smile in adoring amusement. Dora's surroundings hold only a couple more characters who present themselves convincingly, but it feels enough.

One major strong point for this debut work is definitely Ms. Scheier's elegant and vivid prose, executed like a pro, I must say! The writing itself served as a wonderful foundation and medium for the creation of Dora and the storyline, however in all its fluidity and grace, it missed out on presenting a couple of very important factors of a 4-star novel, and this was what I thought to have weighed this book down.

Firstly, main characters were memorable and agile but the entrance of Peter Cartwright was stiff and confusing. To bring a new character to light takes a smooth but definite transition in the writing (well, depending on the premise), and Peter's entrance was the opposite of that. He appeared too suddenly, with little explanation that made for a rocky entrance. 

Secondly, although the plot and pacing were steady and propelling for the most part, there were certain sections where the feeling of time and detailed, inner pacing was very uneven, resulting in the occasional back track read of that section for me as a reader. 

Thirdly, and very importantly, there lacked a bolstered feeling of connection throughout the entire novel. Vital scenes and smaller parts as well have a bit of a disconnected feel to it overall. Being majorly based on a mystery, the uncovering of evidence and the linking was done well technically, but beneath the thin surface, it did not feel supported and therefore did not, unfortunately, give a "punch". This resulted in a slow leak of momentum that finally proved to make a mediocre sense of unity by the end of the novel.

Nevertheless, this was not a disappointing read in the least. I really did like Dora and she grew on me, as did Peter, though not as much. Even though the romance was only very (veeeeery) slightly developed for a YA novel, the relationships between the two main characters were strong and the plot itself, all smaller holes and confusions aside, was enjoyable as well. If you like a Victorian historical, I think you'll find this to be a satisfying read. However, major mystery fans looking for a strong mystery as the major backdrop may not have it live up to expectations. 

Ratings: ✰✰✰ 3.5 Sleuthing Hoots

Final Notes: Ack, this came out rather harsh, didn't it? >_< I really did like this book. It wasn't amazing for me in terms of the mystery itself, but it definitely was a strong debut work, and the writing was absolutely lovely! I hope you guys might decide to give it a chance because it really is a pretty good read with all stronger aspects in consideration!

Thanks for reading!
Vivian

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for the honest review! I've been curious about this one so I'm happy to hear that it's decent overall. I love fiery MCs so that's a major selling point for me right there. That's too bad about Peter though. I always hate it when an author suddenly drops a new character into the story in a confusing way.

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  2. I appreciate your honest thoughts...it's always nice to see what did and did not work for people, but I also like the final note because it shows that you DID enjoy this overall. It sounds like a fun premise. I'm quite fascinated by Sherlock Holmes...need to read more. :)

    -Lauren

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  3. Oh, me adore gorgeous prose!! Don't worry, Vivi, you doesn't sound even teeny bit harsh! <3 I love your honest, thoughtful review! <3 I think this one would appeal more to fans of beautiful writing (like me!), although sadly the main character is a bit forgettable. This book sounds like worth a shot though!! Fantastic review, Vivi-doll! <3

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  4. Aw, I'm sorry this fell a tad flat for you! It has such a great concept... I quite enjoy mystery (if it's done to perfection of course ;D) so I don't think this one is for me really. I'm glad you found the main character likeable though! Brilliant review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :D

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  5. I absolutely adore books with gorgeous prose so I'm interested in reading this book even though I've never actually read a review on this book before so yours is the first ;)

    Thank you for the awesome and honest review, Vivian! ♥

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  6. Thanks for your honesty, Viv! I wasn't planning on reading this book, because I'm not really tempted by the blurb. After reading your review, I really think that this book isn't meant for me, so thanks for that! I just skip it, but I'm glad that you ended up liking it! :)

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  7. Goshdarnit Vivian! How do you manage to write such fabulous reviews?!?! Is there a secret formula out there that I don't know about?? O_O lol
    I've seen this book on goodreads before and passed it up, but I'm glad to hear that it has wonderful prose. Not sure if it's my kind of book but thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

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  8. @Lauren - thank you! yes, that really was too bad :( I was so confused when Peter was introduced...

    @Lauren, Hilda, Rachel, Celine, thank you and you're very welcome <3

    @Mel - that's too bad :( but thank you, I did enjoy it ^_^

    @Joie - Joie dear, there is no formula..O_O At least I don't use one XD but thank you very much, that means a lot, and honestly, I feel exactly the same way about your enthusiastic reviews, so we're even ^_~

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  9. Wonderful review, I've seen this one around goodreads but haven't really had the time to look into it. I'm glad you liked it even with some lacking connections and fell a little flat and such. I'll probably check this one out when I have the time :)

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  10. This sounds really good! I'll definitely check it out. Loved the review :)

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  11. When books lack the ability to create a connection with a reader, I often find that I have difficulty feeling invested. I can enjoy reading the book, but I never feel like I am relating to them in the way that I want.

    Oh! Paper Pages

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