Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Palace Beautiful by Sarah deFord Williams (4.5 / 5 stars)

I picked up an ARC of this book at a book swapping site for the Debut Author reading challenge that I am doing this year and I am glad I did. This was a wonderful book. The writing style is what really sets this book apart from others I have read recently.

Sadie and her sister Zuzu have recently moved into an old house in Salt Lake City. Their step-mother is very pregnant and Sadie, who lost her mother during Zuzu's birth, is very concerned about what will happen to their new mother through this pregnancy. When they move in Sadie becomes friends with a girl named Bella, who is obsessed with ghosts. While they are watching the graveyard from the attic of Sadie's house they find a secret room in the attic labeled Palace Beautiful. In that room they find a journal written by a girl during the influenza epidemic of 1918. The three girls start on a mission to find out what happened to the writer of the journal and along the way they deal with some of their own fears.

I immediately loved the writing style of this book. Each chapter is named after a color such as "Far-far-away Blue" or "Cave-Dwelling White" that conveys the mood of the Chapter. Williams does a fabulous job of creating beautiful and interesting imagery with her writing style for example, "Outside the window swayed a large sycamore tree. Its peeling bark like a paint-by-number picture, and its branches stretched all the way to the window, tapping the old flowing glass panes." or "A breath of spicy air from the canyons drifted in and swirled around the rooms."

The other thing about this book that is exceptional is the telling of the creation stories at the beginning. Sadie explains how everyone is born a certain way and lives their lives like the Great Dog, Adam and Eve, the cabbages, or the red birds. These "creation stories" are referenced throughout the book in a very creative way.

The journal entries were interesting and give an intriguing peek into the life of a girl living in the early 1900's. The parallels the author draws between the thirteen year old Sadie and the thirteen year old girl from the journal are well-done; as is the overall message that no matter what happens to us, life goes on.

The only small complaint I have is that the language usage and patterns are kind of inconsistent as Williams switches between the journal entries from the early 1900's and the current story. I felt like sometimes the journal entries weren't as authentic sounding as they could have been.

The book is an easy read, has a wonderful sense of urgency and mystery, and I really enjoyed reading it. It was a beautiful read and would be appropriate for all ages; although younger kids may not understand exactly what is going on. I am happy I picked this book up and will be watching for William's future books.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Debut Author Challenge
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Palace Beautiful 


  1. I'm so glad you liked the book! Your review made my day! You seemed to get exactly what I was trying to do with this book.

    -Sarah DeFord Williams

  2. I really did enjoy it :-) I hope you plan on writing more books in the future!


  3. Good review. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my debut challenge list.

  4. Great review! This book looks really good!!