Cover Image: Nocturne


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Member Reviews

Okay, this is not completely terrible, but it's definitely not what I was hoping for. It was classified as a retelling, but I didn't know what it was supposed to be a retelling of. I started reading and at first, I thought of the Black Swan. With the mysterious patron and the main character not being completely stable, I was wondering if that was the inspiration. But then I started thinking of Phantom of the Opera since it does take place in a theater, at least to begin with. Then as she moved over to live with the Master and his name being La Rosa--well, I thought that maybe it was a retelling of one of my favorite fairy tales, Beauty and the Beast (except Grace is not at all as awesome as Belle). But the story doesn't head for the same kind of ending as Beauty and the Beast (hopefully that's not a spoiler), so then I started thinking of other dark fairy tales or myths that might be part of it. With Death and his brother Dream, I was thinking of Hades or Morpheus. I feel like the author drew inspiration from a number of sources and just cobbled them together in a story of her own. This is cool, but her execution left me with more questions than answers. If I had to summarize this story, which I won't for those of you who want to read it, I would have a hard time putting it all into words. Alyssa Wees writes beautiful prose, but I think she would have a better time with poetry, where things are all metaphors and imagery because there were more than a few instances where I became lost about where she was going in a particular scene. 

As for the characters, I didn't really love Grace. Despite all the things she had gone through, she still felt immature to me. I didn't agree with all the choices she made, and during the time I thought this was a beauty and the beast retelling, I didn't like how she treated La Rosa. My favorite character was probably her best friend, but honestly, I didn't feel like we really got to know any of the characters to any complex level, except for maybe Grace. I prefer books where characterization is one of the main elements, especially in fantasy books.

I loved the general idea of this story, and admittedly, the cover drew me in, but the story left me scratching my head quite a bit. I ended up listening to and reading along with this story, but as short as the book is (240 pages), it felt more like a 400-page book. However, some reviewers seem to have loved this book, so you may have to check this out for yourself. Would I recommend it? Yes, with reservations, and mainly to people who enjoy beautiful prose and don't care all that much about plot or characterization.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publishers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Grace Dragotta is the newly named Prima Ballerina in a Chicago-based ballet company. A mystery patron inserts himself into her life, leaving unsettling gifts while keeping his identity hidden. Grace finds herself dragged into a world beyond her wildest imagination. As noted by other reviewers, this book is reminiscent of stories like Hades & Persephone, Beauty & The Beast, etc. Not quite a retelling, but clearly heavily influenced the writing. 

Parts of this story were beautifully written but ultimately the writing came across as long-winded. I really enjoyed the story being set in Great Depression-era Chicago, it felt like an appropriately dark and gritty background for this plot. 

Thank you to the publisher and author for the advanced review copy!
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Thank you to #Netgalley for the ARC! This  was a highly anticipated read, and while I did enjoy it, it did fall a bit short. I love beautiful writing, prose, and imagery, but this was often complicated in descriptions. Don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous, but it made me tired at times. I enjoyed the dark, fantastical elements. Overall, I really enjoyed it, just not a favorite like I had hoped!
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This story had interesting elements from several fairy tales. Mainly it felt like it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with one key and significant difference. It felt like the author created a new fairy tale and it was lovely to read. Grace Dragotta is portrayed as a character who has been through difficult times but is stronger than most people believe. A violinist, fierce ballerina and a protagonist in what seems to be an odd fairy tale world, she demonstrates that she is more than meets the eye.
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With mixed reviews for this novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I did go into this fully aware of the slower pace.

Most reviewers compare this story to Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, and Hades and Persephone. I agree with those comparisons. It’s dark and atmospheric, and 1930s Chicago is a perfect setting. Grace is no stranger to loss after her brother is gunned down in the streets and her mother passes away, leaving Grace an orphan when she’s barely a teenager. After raising enough money for ballet shoes by playing violin on the streets, she shows up unannounced at a ballet company. With help from fellow ballerina Emilia (their friendship is a strong point), Grace works hard and pushes herself to catch up with her peers. Years later she finally achieves her dream after landing the prima spot.

Soon after Grace moves into the home of her mysterious patron, Master La Rosa, things became muddled for me. The lyrical and haunting prose is beautiful, and many lines are meant to be savored. But when I closed the book, I still wasn’t exactly sure what happened. Looking at other reviews, most fell into three camps – some readers were enchanted by the story, others didn’t get it at all, and then there are the rest of us who appreciated the writing, but were left confused. A few reviewers used the term “fever dream”, and I’d say that’s an apt description.

If you’re a fan of any of the comp titles, appreciate a slower pace, and savor lyrical writing, this may be the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Nocturne begins in post-WWII Chicago. Grace Dragotta, a young, poor orphan is plucked up into the exciting, dramatic world of professional ballet. Just as she finally realizes her dream of becoming the prima ballerina of her company, Grace learns she has been "sold" to the wealthy patron her company relies on for its financial survival. The book takes on a fairy tale quality as Grace learns more and more about her mysterious new patron, Master La Rosa and his servant / driver, Mr. Russo. Master La Rosa, who we learn is the human embodiment of Death, seeks to isolate Grace and keep her locked away in his empire as his Queen. As Grace is an orphan and her brother Lorenzo are dead and presumably within Master La Rosa's realm, only her best friend Emilia remains in the here and now to help her since Company Mistress was the closest thing Grace had to a mother left and she was the one who sold her. Mr. Russo too seems to aid Grace, but he cannot be trusted since he seems to act for motives of his own. Will Grace manage to live, or will she be seduced by Death and dance herself to death for Master La Rosa?

This book started pretty slow, but once got about halfway through it, the story became a quicker read. At times, the descriptions are lyrical, beautiful, and highly evocative; however, in other places, the author's style is frankly overblown and verbose. The characters are a bit flat and one-dimensional. The use of the ballet in the conception of the structure and motif of the story is solid. I think in this case, the idea was just better than the execution. 

Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC of this book. All opinions are my own.
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Slow start, but I found myself very engaged around half way through. Vibe heavy and beautiful prose-like narration.
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great book and such great characters. I enjoyed the mystery and some romance. I also enjoyed the journey of the characters. I didn't know what to expect with this book but I enjoyed it .
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I was excited to read this “gothic fantasy” about ballet and 1930s Chicago, but the first quarter of the book DRAGGED. Thankfully I kept going, because it did get slightly better once the mysterious fantasy element showed up. Unfortunately not even Death personified could save this story that felt predictable and slow and yet, still a little confusing. The heroine was flat and only relied on her tragic backstory to make her even a little interesting. Everything just happened to her and she never tried to find her way out of a situation she didn’t like until the very end of the book which wrapped up a very complex and confusing climax VERY quickly. Too quickly. I’m still a little confused about what exactly happened at the very end. Not my favorite YA fantasy.
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Thank you for the ARC and author. I really like this book it was different. I love ballet so that was what brought me to this. There's a little bit of a mystery in it but overall I thought it was a beautiful story.
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**Many thanks to Del Rey/Penguin Random House LLC and Netgalley for an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of this book**

This story is nothing like I thought it would be. And after finishing it, I, too, feel as if I've awakened from a dark and surreal dream...

1. The imagery and atmosphere in this book is second to none. Even though most of this book occurs in Winter, it was absolutely perfect for October- haunting, strange, chills down your spine. The author does a very nice job giving us a fun little world to live in. I'm also a sucker for a Beauty and the Beast story, especially the actual French fairy tale versions, and I've never seen one told in this manner before, not with mortals anyway...

2. The author was trained as a ballerina, and her knowledge of the art is superb. Although I don't know that world, and I'm not sure what some of the words of some of the positions mean, I didn't care. I was invested in the story. Not knowing everything about being a ballerina was fine. It made the story accessible to someone who does not know that information.

3. Emilia. Perfectly written. 


1. Although the ethereal, flowery language was needed for the plot to set the mood, there were several times where it stumbled on top of itself, leaning too much into the metaphorical that it forgot there was a physical world to interact with too. That makes it hard to understand what's actually going on, instead of what we think is going on.

2. I found Emilia to be a more compelling and well-rounded character than our main heroine, Grace. Much of the time, Grace acts as a typical damsel in distress, and she makes some really stupid choices. I also feel like she finds her teeth way too late in the story. I would have liked a bit more of that earlier.

3. I'm not exactly certain what the main conflict of the story is. Looking at both sides of the conflict, one side seems inevitable and truly lopsided that THAT side will win out. Not sure it was much of a fight to begin with.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a lyrical, atmospheric spooky book that others would really enjoy!
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Beautiful cover and intriguing premise.
I liked the early Phantom of the Opera/Beauty and the Beast vibes. For some reason, I just didn’t connect with the main character. I think that’s why I didn’t love this. They all felt a bit too one-dimensional to me.
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A beautiful cover to be sure.  But unless you like Danielle Steel-like writing, the cover won't be enough to keep your interest.

This one is heavily ladened with so much detail, it's a huge turn off for me.  So many words. An intentional writing style to use 20 words when 1 will do.  I don't enjoy this style. At all.

I finally just put it down because I couldn't take anymore.
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A bit over the top on the dramatics for me.  I get that it's a fairytale and feelings typically run high for less than apparent reasons, but this girl's emotions were like a pendulum. 
I started out enjoying some of the very poetic prose, but even that went over the top as the story progressed. The similes turned into things that didn't actually make sense.  
I think to enjoy this one you really have to think of it as a fairytale - you can't read too much into it and can't ask too many questions.
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This book is a cross between Beauty and the Beast and Phantom of the Opera.  I found this story confusing.  I really wanted to like it, but I found Grace to be a weak character in a somewhat heavy story. The imagery was decently written, but overall, I did not love this book.  I didn't hate it, but I would not re-read it.
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An interesting premise but the first part feels way too much like the Phantom of the Opera morphing into Beauty and the Beast. The prose is overdone and overwrought, hard to read at points. And the actual climax happened so quickly I had to reread it as I kinda missed it the first time. Pacing was just off.
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Nocturne initially caught my attention based off the description. Dark romantic fantasy, gothic, and set in 1930s Chicago sounds like my type of book. What made this such a hard book to read is not too far off from what other have said. I am a fan of lyrical writing but there's a big difference between lyrical writing (Naomi Novik, Ava Reid, Katherine Arden) and overly sweet purple prose without substance. Lyrical writing allows you to breathe, to understand the world, the tone, and the emotional complexity of the characters. But purple prose is so sweetly dense that it's hard to ground yourself. I could not understand what the author was saying most of the time. This is why lyrical writing has balance and books like this do not. It's too hard to understand their feelings and the beauty of the world when there's no way to tell what room I was in or what was happening one thing from the next. There is some very serious editing issues in this book. I think the publisher could have thought a little harder about the editorial process and considering this book, as I'm usually very impressed with Del Rey's books. This was disappointing to read from their list.
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A Novel

By: Alyssa Wees

Publish Date: 21 February 2023

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group-Ballantine, Del Rey

Sci-Fi, Fantasy

100 Book ReviewsProfessional Reader

I would like to thank both NetGalley and Random House for allowing me to read and review this book.

Good Reads Synopsis:

In this haunting, lyrical fantasy set in 1930s Chicago, a talented ballerina finds herself torn between her dreams and her desires when she’s pursued by a secretive patron who may be more than he seems.

Growing up in Chicago’s Little Sicily in the years following the Great War, Grace Dragotta has always wanted to be a ballerina, ever since she first peered through the windows of the Near North Ballet Company. So when Grace is orphaned, she chooses the ballet as her home, imagining herself forever ensconced in a transcendent world of light and beauty so different from her poor, immigrant upbringing.

Years later, with the Great Depression in full swing, Grace has become the company’s new prima ballerina—though achieving her long-held dream is not the triumph she once envisioned. Time and familiarity have tarnished that shining vision, and her new position means the loss of her best friend in the world. Then she attracts the attention of the enigmatic Master La Rosa as her personal patron, and realizes the world is not as small or constricted as she had come to fear.

Who is her mysterious patron, and what does he want from her? As Grace begins to unlock the Master’s secrets, she discovers that there is beauty in darkness as well as light, finds that true friendship cannot be broken by time or distance, and realizes there may be another way entirely to achieve the transcendence she has always sought.

Book Review:

I wish I could say that I loved this book but I only barely gave it 3 stars. I t started out great with her back story and how to overcame a lot to get where she is now. Then the story turned into something I just had a hard time wrapping my mind around. I’m not saying it was bad but it wasn’t for me.

She has a lot of talent not only for dancing but for the violin. She plays the violin to earn money to get her first pair of ballet slippers and then she gives up the violin. When she joins the Ballet Scholl she has never taken classes and the mistress takes her under her wing and teaches her not only with the class but alone.
She has one friend who also teaches her after hours to help her. She has come a long way and she has earned her spot of prima ballerina when her friend leaves to get married. Then the story starts to turn weird in my mind.

I won’t go into too much detail because it will ruin the story. If you like weird and maybe unbelievable stuff you will like this story.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC & PRH Audio for the audiobook of Nocturne!

So, the idea of Nocturne sounded great; it's a Beauty and the Beast retelling that takes place in '30s Chicago. This is all I need to hear to know that I needed the book.

.. Unfortunately, it didn't work out as well as I thought it would & I just couldn't wait to get it over with. The writing is too much & it's the writing that kinda drowned out the entire plot, leaving me to not care at all about what was happening.
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thank you Netgalley for this arc. 

I was drawn to this book because of the ballet aspect and also because there are also musical instruments?!?! This screams a book just for me! 
This also has the making of a gothic type of novel which is really again, something that is just for me. 
But the book got kind of messy and then there became too many tropes and things happening. I got distracted and confused. 
I liked it but I think a little finessing would be good.
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