Cover Image: The City Beautiful

The City Beautiful

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Member Reviews

Thank you for this opportunity to review this book! 

This is one of those books that makes you feel every single emotion while reading it. Every element is executed perfectly. I thought the pace was great, I was on the edge of my seat the entire book. The plot is so devastatingly good I just had to put the book down in intervals just so I could catch my breathe. I feel like I just watched an entire movie at the theater because I was so sucked into this world and couldn’t look away. SUCH a good read!
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I liked learning more about Jewish customs and traditions, and the treatment of many Jewish immigrants in the late 1800’s. The plot of this story was fabulous. It was fresh, and dark, and really well done. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of unnecessary things, not vital to the development of the story, that really slowed down the pace. I found myself skimming, a lot. I just wanted to get beyond a lot of parts and get to the meat of the story. Every time I really started to get into the plot, I was pulled back out with more unnecessary threads. I liked the fantasy/ Jewish folklore aspect of the dybbuk. I liked the characters and the character development. The author did a great job at painting the time and setting for you. It was a great concept for a story and very interesting. 

Thank you to Net Galley and Inkyard Press for a digital copy of this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

#NetGalley #TheCityBeautiful
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TW: anti-semitism, violent/graphic deaths, sexual assault, 
THE CITY BEAUTIFUL is a queer historical murder mystery that takes place in Chicago, 1893. We’re following Alter Rosen, who is trying to save up enough money to bring his family to America from their home in Romania. When Alters best friend and crush Yakov is murdered, Alter can no longer avoid facing the truth: someone is targeting Jewish boys. Alter is possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, and together they must hunt down the killer before he can kill again. 
This one was slow starting for me, I really only got hooked around 30% into it, then I couldn’t wait to get my answers! I really enjoyed the murder mystery plot; it was dark and more gruesome than I expected. I thought I would struggle more with the historical setting since I rarely ever read historical, but it was easy to fall into, I thought it made a great setting. The friendships and romance were also wonderful. There is a lot of intense anti-semitism in this book towards our Jewish main characters, so please keep that in mind if you decide to pick this one up! 
4/5 stars, THE CITY BEAUTIFUL by Aden Polydoros is available September 7, 2021!
Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for sending me an eARC to review.
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Imagine Chicago, 1893 with the World's Fair bringing people flooding into the city. This is where we find Alter, a young Jewish man who is working hard to bring his mother and sisters over from Romania. When one of Alter's roommates, Yakov, is found dead at the fair, Alter finds himself searching for the killer. As he starts to look into Yakov's murder, Alter learns of other young Jewish men who have been murdered. Alter soon finds himself having strange dreams and learns that he has been possessed by Yakov's dybbuk. Alter feels that he is running out of time and he finds himself being pulled into the darker side of life in Chicago. Alter finds help in rather unexpected places, but will he survive long enough to bring the killer to justice? Such a wonderful blend of historical fiction and fantasy!
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Solid 4 stars
Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, paedophilia, homophobia/internalized homophobia, xenophobia, Antisemitism, genocide, discrimination, poverty & classism. 

Following a young gay Jewish man named Alter, in the early 1890s, bodies begin showing up around the World Fair, all young men and all Jewish. With no one searching for justice until Alter must take matters into his own hands to avenge a loved one because more innocent lives are lost.

As the main character, Alter has such a stronghold that as a reader who will find something in him to relate to - my own being question of faith and internalized homophobia from being younger. However, he isn't the only character that offers strong reader connections. This is the real backbone of the story and carried it during its weaker points.
I will say that the weaker points were mostly in the first half and the 3 chapters after one of the villains were defeated. They just lacked lustre in those parts, but the last part kept me on the end of my seat!
This book successfully shows internalized homophobia, internal struggle and struggle with faith. It also exposed and explained a lot of Jewish cultures. I learned a little about history and words - glossary/index pages are a blessing!  Bonus I loved how the author pointed out how back in the 2010's we lacked diversity, and we are growing so much within fiction. This story is one I will be adding to my shelves, and I am glad I can!
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The City Beautiful takes place at the backdrop of The 1893 Chicago. The White City. Alter Rosen, a Romanian Jewish guy has lived in the US close to 3 years now working at a low paying job to have his mother and little sisters brought over to escaping oppression in Europe. This is an amazing book about Jewish immigrant life in the US with a gothic horror core. A friend found dead possesses him to act revenge. Yakov 's Dybbuk is angry, antagonistic and yet you feel sympathy for this lost soul. You get to experience horror filled imagery which is full of Jewish lore and mythology. But the real life horrors are more terrifying: the exploiting of workers, the reasoning of killer, how discrimination is systemic and chilling how individuals see others as filth. A warning , the anti-Semitism is intense 80% into the book, it is mentioned in the dialog of two chapters.

I loved how Jewish this book, the customs, the food , faith and everyday life. The City Beautiful is a part thriller and murder mystery with but seeing Jewish life is really special. WW2 novels are important but I'm glad that publishing pushed out more non WW Jewish fiction. The action scenes and character building moments were well paced. The plot has a medium paced and it will be a disservice to you and the story heading in for the action. The action is intense but the characters matter more. Every page was needed to tell this story.

I adored Alter, Frankie and Raizel so much. I'd would love to be in their company. Each had a great arch but Alter has to be my favorite, embracing himself fully as a person and being queer , dealing with survivors guilt and not losing his kindness after the much needed self defense. Alter and Frankie are have faults, have messy feelings, are angry, have violent moments and are not desexualized gay guys. I'm so happy that they don't fit in the squeaky clean mold that popular YA media portrays. They showed love, passion and lust as much possible in a YA novel. Frankie is the 'bad boy' from Alter's past. Frankie has a lot of trauma and it's respectfully written and mentioned. If I would label attach a trope to their romance it would be rekindled friends to lovers.

Aden Polydoros is 100% an autobuy author of mine after finishing The City Beautiful. Gah, I hope people read it. They are totally different but i had the same joy after finishing it I had with cemetery boys. I can't wait for the Bone Weaver next year, the MG the year after that and many others in years to come, I speak it into existence. READ THE CITY BEAUTIFUL for well researched historical life in Jewish ghettos, a well plotted story, a sweet romance that gradually builds , great rounded characters and a male lead that you want to hug immediately. 💖💖
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DNF at 35%. Best parts of this book are the cover and the title. 
I found the story disjointed and slow-paced, and the writing tedious. The description really sold me, but the book just didn't hold my attention. 
So disappointed.
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This is an LGBTQ historical fantasy novel that takes place at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with a Jewish MC, Alter Rosen, who has been possessed by the dybbuk of his friend. Alter must discover what became of his friend in order to rid himself of the spirit that has attached itself to him, or risk being overtaken by it. He will face anti-Semitism and anti-immigration from within and outside of his own community along the way.

This book is a joy to read. It deals with a lot of difficult themes and the pacing isn't always perfect, but the payoff is worthwhile. I loved learning more about Jewish traditions and lore in a historical setting without holding my hand. The plotting is complex and there is a lot of detail accurate to the time and place. The book is from Alter's point of view and his development is wonderful. His motivations are revealed slowly, as are the purposes of those around him.

All in all, this is a murder mystery, a fantasy, an adventure story and it has a little romance on the side. If you are okay with the occasional slow moment then this is a great read.
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This review was originally published: 

This book gives me Cemetery Boys meets Inglorious Basterds meets The Diviners vibes. You've got a group of Jewish youths who are faced with the kidnappings and murders of their friends and loved ones set against the backdrop of the Chicago World's Fair. The echoes of H.H. Holmes are on purpose here as you find out from the author's note at the end. Polydoros wanted to see more YA books with Jewish main characters so he did it himself and wrote this. He wanted to write about the Jewish immigrant experience in the 1890s and then the murder mystery plot just evolved from there. What he's succeeded at doing is creating a lush novel steeped in Jewish lore and Jewish immigrant culture that shows a group of younger (18ish) Jewish protagonists coming together to solve an Anti-Semitic crime spree and having to find justice for themselves and their community. The book starts off slow, but that's not a bad thing necessarily, especially if you're less familiar with Jewish lore and culture, it helps get you settled in. Once it gets going though it really takes off and the last third of the book is just action-packed sequence after action-packed sequence. There was a point at around 65% where I got very confused because he seemed to have tied everything up with a bow but that didn't last too long. </p>

You've got some trope usage, but it's not heavy-handed and it's done in a unique way. The whole spirit with unfinished business recruits a living person to help them plot was handled through the lens of Judaism in a way I've never seen before with the spirit of the deceased actually possessing the living person and guiding them. Alter is an interesting character, he's very naive, which lets Polydorous get away with a lot plot-wise, but in-universe to the book Alter is always getting called out on his naivety and it does get him into trouble a lot. Most of the discoveries that Alter makes aren't on purpose, it's almost like the novel itself doesn't happen because of him, but in spite of him, which is actually very clever when taken into account with the in-story backstory presented for him. There is a queer romantic sub-thread woven in throughout, but it's very tame and not necessarily a central aspect. Alter and Frankie are never harassed during the course of the story for being gay, they're only ever targeted for being Jewish. And honestly, that's okay too, we need queer representation in addition to Jewish representation, but we also need nuanced representation for both groups. It's refreshing to have queer characters who can be queer and not have that be the focus of the story. This particular story would have worked if the couple were not queer but it would not have been quite the same. Alter and Frankie, and Yakov's orientations do play a role in the shaping of the story. Particularly how they are all interconnected beyond just all being Jewish immigrants from different parts of Europe.

Overall it's a good book and I'd happily read more in the same universe of characters from Polydorus, he certainly left it open enough for that at the end. The only reason I'm not giving it a higher rating is for the slow start, it didn't pull me in quite as quickly as I had been hoping.
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This is the YA historical, queer, Jewish horror book of my dreams. Beautiful prose, and an interesting take on the Chicago's world fair really immersed me in this world. Other reviewers have mentioned that this would make a great movie, and I totally agree!
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I received an advanced reader copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. The City Beautiful is a Jewish, gay, YA horror mystery set around the Chicago World’s Fair. It was a bit of a slow novel at the beginning, but did eventually pick up speed. All of the characters were well developed and came from different but historically accurate perspectives. I’m personally not a fan of horror, so parts of this were a bit much for me, but that doesn’t make it any less of a great read. The Jewish representation was phenomenal and I hope it comes across well to nonJewish readers. My favorite thing about this book is that it was able to be a gay historical romance with absolutely no homophobia.
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The City Beautiful is a unique take of the events that happened during the World Fair in Chicago. This is perfect for any fan of the stories of Jack the Ripper or of H.H Holmes. But, what is really unique and is the star of the show of this book is the usage of Jewish culture and our Jewish protagonist. Aden Polydoros does such a good job at combining Jewish paranormal and the ominous aura that Chicago had at that time to create a gory read.

I also have to give credit to Polydoros to have used historical events that demonstrated hatred of Jews. There are so many people that presume that the racism that the Jews have faced is solely from the holocaust when it happened in so many other places.  So thank you for using your book to shed some light on it.

 For people that are intimidated about reading paranormal from a culture that you might not fully know. There is a glossary at the end of the book that gives a good explanation of Jewish terms. 

My only real critic for this novel is that the pacing isn't constant. There are a few times where you do get a little bored. But it does pick up a chapter or two later. It doesn't help that the book is on the longer side. 

Overall, wonderful representation, good use of historical events but the thrill wasn't constant. 

Thank you, NetGalley, Inkyard Press, and Aden Polydoros for the arc!

Ps, this book is delightfully queer.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

I'm convinced that Inkyard can't put out a book I don't like. Each one I've read has been from a refreshing voice telling a visceral yet beautiful story. The City Beautiful is no different. While at face value TCB is a murder mystery, what sets it apart is not only the queer angle (with Alter having to deal with guilt not only over his attraction to men, but also survivor's guilt from constant and prolonged trauma and guilt over feelings of insecurity and not being good enough), but the immersion into Jewish lore that blends seamlessly with the tale itself. While in real-world stories a dybbuk is a malevolent spirit, the one in TCB isn't evil, just lost. It's still very much an antagonist, don't get me wrong, but it's not so clear-cut as a simple villain.

The real villain in TCB is two-fold: generational trauma, and anti-Semitism. There are two distinct passages in the book that can be very disturbing for some readers as they're filled with anti-Semitic slurs and hate speech that unfortunately persists to this day. But that was reality for Jewish people pre-1900, and it's reality for many now. I think that if they weren't included the rest of the trauma and prejudice exhibited in the book wouldn't ring as believable. Just be aware that the slurs are there, and they're there for very pivotal moments for the characters. There is also talk of pedophilia, which isn't at all explicit, but it's definitely there, and definitely disturbing.

The real evil in this story isn't a spirit possessing a hapless host, it's the evil people do to others for no other reason than they can. With all the inherent darkness TCB explores and showcases, it's not a "downer" story. It may not be a "everyone ends up completely happy and every wrong thing in the world is fixed forever and ever the end", but it ends on a nice note with hope for the futures of Alter, Frankie, and those they care about.

One sidenote that didn't really fit with the rest of this review but I still feel is worth mentioning: I really love how Polydoros describes the juxtaposition of the illusion the World's Fair presents and the reality of it when you look beneath the surface. The US is centered, glitzy, the throne room of the metaphorical palace of the Fair. Other countries are pushed to the sides and even then aren't remotely authentic: they're the Americanized vision of what they *should* be rather than what they really are (the Javanese people working in their section are described as being bored with the whole production). I felt that that disconnect between reality and fantasy was very much worth putting in the book and still resonates with how we (the US) view the rest of the world.

(I also want to thank my years of The Nanny reruns and Fiddler on the Roof for allowing me to not need to use the glossary as much as I would have otherwise for the Yiddish terms ^_^)
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I loved this book for multiple reasons. It was a fantastic read—complex, fast-paced, and clearly well-researched. I loved the main character, watching his self develop over the course of the story, find his footing and trusting himself was lovely. The plot was well done; my Jewish grandparents immigrated around the time the book was set to the same area—and I’ve long been interested in the World Fair and HH Holmes. There was clear inspiration from that infamous serial killer and I loved every second of it. I felt like I was immersed in the story—standing beside Alter at every bump in the road, feeling the terror he felt. And, my most favorite bit—it was so refreshing reading a book with a Jewish main character that was not about the Holocaust. I definitely recommend. 

I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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Set during the Chicago world's fair of 1893, this book is about Alter, a Jewish immigrant from Romania working to save money for his mother and sisters to join him.  One of his roommates, Yakov, becomes the latest in a line of Jewish boys found murdered, and Alter's life is turned on its head when Yakov's dybbuk possesses him.  Driven by Yakov's desire for revenge and with only a few days before his dybuuk fully possesses him, Alter is thrown into the underworld of Chicago to try and hunt down Yakov's killer.  Along the way, he runs into Frankie, an old friend who offers to help if Alter can get over the way things ended between them.  There was a lot to love about this book, the setting was a great choice since there was actually a notorious serial killer that operated in the area at the time, and the gothic/paranormal vibe really played well with that.  The pacing was good, things moved quick and there were some good twists and surprises along the way.  The characters were great, the main three, Alter, Frankie, and Raizel (Alter's neighbor) were all interesting and likeable, and the chemistry Frankie and Alter have is very good.  I don't have anything but good things to say, this was a fun and engrossing book that was thrilling to read and had a satisfying ending.
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Definitely for fans of <i>Devil in the White City</i> and books about H.H. Holmes and Belle Guinness.  The overlay of the Jewish experience in Chicago, similar to that of those in NYC's Lower East Side, and how the community spanned the very religious to the anarchists to the integrated, adds a little something extra to the story.  It would be remiss of me to not mention that there is a gay theme that informs both the story and the mystery.

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.
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This would make one killer movie!! This horror/fantasy story about possession was epic!! I loved the characters and the feel of the story. I could not put it down. And I need more! With all the right elements all working together this one was just pretty perfect and unputdownable.
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The City Beautiful is a beautiful story about Alter Rosen. A boy who believes in the good of America and its people until he’s proven wrong. Full of mystery and heart attack, Aden Polydoros manages to combine the history of Chicago’s world fair with a heart wrenching LGBTQ twist
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As an LGBT Romanian with immigrant parents and Jewish ancestry, I was very excited to read this novel. I am definitely not disappointed. Aden Polydoros' "The City Beautiful" is a complex, dark story with gothic elements, suspense, magic, and a childhood friends --> enemies --> friends --> lovers dynamic, which is one of my favourite romance tropes, though romance is not the focal point of the book. 

The characters are well-developed and fleshed out, and the protagonist's relationships with the people around him are so complex. Moreover, I appreciate the seamless incorporation of social issues. Polydoros brings up relevant questions such as "Who has the privilege and power to be protected by police?" and discusses antisemitism in a very poignant way, while also focusing on the importance of community. 

I was not raised in the Jewish faith, so I can't really speak on the protagonist's struggle between his sexuality and religion. I thought this internal conflict was well-executed, and it's great that ultimately, Alter isn't forced to choose between these two parts of himself. I encourage anyone reading this review to listen to own-voices reviewers and seek out Jewish LGBT readers for an adequate analysis on this part of the book.

All in all, I am grateful that I got to read this book. I always felt wary of historical fiction due to its overwhelming heteronormativity, but "The City Beautiful" changed my outlook on the genre. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for granting me access to this advanced reader copy. 

TWs: sexual assault, internalized homophobia. antisemitism, violence, death of loved ones
There are probably more that I can't think of right away, so be sure to research before reading!
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I am absolutely floored by this book. I could not put it down!

What I loved; 
1) The detailed and rich Jewish world. As a Jew myself, I don't often read books with a Jewish main character and I loved that the author wrote things in a way that explained terms to those who were not familiar while also making Maxwell street of Chicago it's own sort of character in the book. 
2) I loved that the main character was gay without it being a major plot line. It was absolutely appropriate the way he struggled with his own identity given both his faith, upbringing and time era, and it came out at the right pace and in a beautiful way. 
3) I loved the tension and plot. I was absolutely rooting for the characters and involved in a way that I wanted my own revenge! 
4) I love how Chicago was shown - the ugly side of the world's fair, union life and factories - a developing America and immigrants coming for a better life and not always finding it. It was real, raw, and thought provoking. 

What I didn't love; 
1) It's hard to put anything here! I would say I was a bit thrown off when - how do I put this as un-spoilerific as possible - the first villian was addressed, thinking that surely this was about the end of the book. For a few minutes, I was frustrated that it continued on a different pathway, but as soon as the ball was rolling again I was really excited and loved how this was done. 

Do yourself a favor and GET THIS BOOK. It's unique and it takes you on a fantastic journey!
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