Read One, Skip Two: Shadow of the Lions, See What I Have Done, and Young Jane Young

I moved this week, so life has been crazy! Hence the round-up of August mini-reviews you’re getting today. Two of these books are already out and one is coming on August 22.

Shadow of the Lions by Christopher SwannShadow of the Lions by Christopher Swann
Fiction (
Released August 1, 2017)
368 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: After his life spirals out of control following the success of his first novel, Matthias returns to teach at his old boys’ boarding school, where his best friend (Fritz) vanished from campus during their senior year.

My Thoughts: Y’all know I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. But, I’ve had read some stinkers over the past few years. Shadow of the Lions is NOT one of the stinkers! It’s been described as a “literary thriller,” which I’m not sure I agree with. I’d say it’s more of a literary “mystery” than a “thriller” because it doesn’t have all the heart-pounding franticness that a thriller brings to mind.

The story begins with a wistful feeling as Matthias returns to campus and reminisces about his time there as a student and Fritz’s disappearance. And, it gradually picks up speed as Matthias decides he wants to find out what happened to Fritz once and for all. This is also a story about male friendship…the kind of bond that can only be developed in extremely close quarters with shared experiences (i.e. living together in dorms, in the military, etc). Shadow of the Lions is one of those books that you don’t have to think too hard about (I need these sometimes!), but that has enough depth to keep you interested…and is the final book I’m adding to this year’s Summer Reading Guide!

See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtSee What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
Historical Fiction – Debut (
Released August 1, 2017)
336 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Atlantic Monthly)

Plot Summary: A fictional telling of the famous, unsolved Lizzie Borden murders of 1892.

My Thoughts: I love books about crime. I love fiction based on real people and/or events. I love books about dysfunctional families. See What I Have Done is all of these things, but I didn’t love it. Most of the story centers around the Borden family dynamics (each family member has their own motives to have possibly killed Abby and Andrew Borden) and the days immediately following the murders. Oddly for a story involving crime and a dysfunctional family, it moved slowly and I got bored around the 40-50% mark. I kept expecting things to move along to Lizzie’s arrest and the subsequent trial (the part of the story I find most intriguing), but that didn’t happen until three quarters of the way through. And, when we finally did hear about it, it was covered only briefly and on a surface level (we never even got to hear about the evidence that led to Lizzie’s arrest). When I finished, I felt like I didn’t know much more about the murders than I did before I read the book.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle ZevinYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Fiction (
Release Date: August 22, 2017)
320 Pages
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Affiliate Link: Amazon
Source: Publisher (Algonquin)

Plot Summary: When intern Aviva Grossman’s affair with her much older, married Congressman boss becomes public, she must figure out how to get her life back in order.

My Thoughts: Zevin’s last book, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (my review), was my favorite book of 2014, so I had high expectations going into Young Jane Young. And, I did love the first half. Young Jane Young is an “issue” book without feeling too much like an “issue” book. The storyline closely mirrors the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, which I was fascinated with when it happened. But, Young Jane Young explores the reverberating impact of a public scandal like this on the female cheatee…and how different it is from the impact on the male cheater. It illuminates the gross double standard that exists in today’s society and how that can truly wreck lives. Zevin had me glued through this point.

But, a gimmicky second half sent things sailing downhill. First, the writing style and tone of the story completely changed during the section told from Ruby’s (Aviva’s daughter) perspective (which was written in a one-sided email exchange with her pen pal). I didn’t like that we never heard from the pen pal either. But, what really sent me over the edge was the final section told from Aviva’s perspective that was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure story (yes, you read that correctly). What?!! There was a point to it, but it still didn’t work for me…mainly because I thought I was reading an adult novel, not a kids’ comic book. To be fair, this was clearly mentioned in the book’s blurb, but I must have skimmed right over that part. I imagine Young Jane Young will be a somewhat controversial read, so it would make a great book club selection even though it didn’t work for me.

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  1. So sad you didn’t like the Lizzie Borden book. I just bought it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
  2. I look for Shadow of the Lions because I love boarding schools stories too.

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
  3. You and Catherine have left me in a quandary about See What I Have Done. For now at least, I think I’m going to skip it.

    Your thoughts on Young Jane Young are completely spot on for me. I may even have a few more complaints about that last section. I’m dying to see a few more reviews and what others will think of the gimmicks.

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
  4. renee wrote:

    I really like the sound of Shadow of the Lions, especially that it’s more mystery than thriller. I think Young Jane Young is going to be an interesting book to read all the reviews for…I just finished mine 2 days ago and will probably post on Monday or Tues and I totally agree with you about the gimmicks, they came out of nowhere and and I’m still not sure what the purpose was BUT I still really liked the book. I’m even mad about the ending but I still enjoyed reading it…it’s weird I know:) That Choose Your Own Adventure section though…stupid and pointless imo

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
  5. Madeline wrote:

    I was really looking forward to Young Jane Young after AJ Fickery, but I’ve so much on hold now, it may have to fall by the wayside.

    I’m not sure I want to relive boarding school, but I’ll keep Shadow of the Lions on the radar.

    Somehow the Lizzie Borden book never lit my fire, glad to have that reinforced.

    Great post. Thank you!

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
  6. Darlene @ Lost in Literature wrote:

    I’ll be seeing Zevin in September. Maybe I should skip the new one and see if I can get her to sign my AJ Fikry?

    Posted 8.17.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I mean – some people have really loved it, it just wasn’t for me.

      Posted 8.21.17 Reply
  7. I really liked AJ Fikry as well and so I’ll probably give Young Jane Young a try eventually, but the style choices do sound a bit strange and I’ve definitely seen some mixed reviews.

    Posted 8.20.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      It was so odd…didn’t fit with the first half of the book at all.

      Posted 8.21.17 Reply
  8. nancy s wrote:

    I was disappointed with the ending of Young Jane Young as well — so much just didn’t make sense. But….I loved the first chapter, narrated by her mother!

    Posted 8.22.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I loved that first chapter too! It was almost like someone else wrote the second half of the book…so odd.

      Posted 8.23.17 Reply
  9. The formatting of Young Jane Young did surprise me, but didn’t bother me as much as it did you as I still really enjoyed it. I need to go back and read her older books – have you done that? AJ Fikry was just so so good.

    Sad about See What I Have Done! If you walked away from the book feeling like you knew less I’m going to definitely let that one pass me by.

    Posted 8.31.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Fikry is the only other one of hers I’ve read…but did I hear something about her originally writing YA?

      Posted 9.2.17 Reply
  10. I felt the same about See What I Have Done- I think I was looking for more of a criminal/forensic files type of look at the crimes but I felt like the author was trying too hard to make a fictional story. I wanted more details of what the police really thought happened. It lost me when it started talking about the uncle…

    Posted 9.5.17 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      100% agree! That was my issue with it. And, agree it jumped the shark with the uncle and his random friend…

      Posted 9.9.17 Reply

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