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The Caged Graves

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17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

329 pages, Hardcover

First published May 14, 2013

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About the author

Dianne K. Salerni

16 books378 followers
DIANNE K. SALERNI, a former fifth grade teacher, is the author of YA and MG novels.

Her upcoming dark MG fantasy, THE CARREFOUR CURSE, explores gothic themes in a story Publisher's Weekly calls "genre-bending" in a starred review.

The EIGHTH DAY fantasy series follows the adventures of Jax Aubrey, who discovers a secret day between Wednesday and Thursday. ELEANOR, ALICE, & THE ROOSEVELT GHOSTS portrays an alternate historical reality where ghosts are known to be real and threaten the future of a famous family. JADIE IN FIVE DIMENSIONS is an adventure in geometry, physics, and conspiracy theories.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 557 reviews
November 28, 2013
“In Catawissa sometimes the dead don’t stay where you put them.”
What a pleasant little surprise. This is the second book set in the 19th century I've read in as many days, but with drastically different results. You see, this book is good. The setting is authentic. The mystery is compelling (although a little bit of a far stretch at some points). The main character is so well written, Verity is strong without being obstinate, flawed without being intolerable. And the romance. THE ROMANCE. *swoon*

“I thought love was—big and loud and sudden, like a thunderbolt.” She looked back, meeting his eyes. “I didn’t know it was deep and quiet and grew upon a woman slowly, until one day she realizes it’s the very breath and smiles and tears of her life."
Come closer, let me whisper you a secret. I might never say these words again in my life. I loved the romance and I enjoyed the love triangle. There. I said it. It almost feels like a confessional, I feel so....dirty. I mean, a love triangle? Really, Khanh? Have you lost your bloody mind?

Well, I may well have lost my bloody mind (years ago, in fact), but I'll be damned if I didn't truly enjoy how well the romance and love triangle was written. I have proof it was well-written, I swear. I wouldn't dare declare something so controversial without a million footnotes and evidence to back it up. I'm not easily impressed when it comes to fictional male characters. It takes a hell of a lot for a guy to grace the hallowed halls that is my "book boyfriend" shelf. The main love interest in this book, Nathaniel, came pretty damn close, and I'll slap him there just to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Summary: The actual summary of the book is somewhat deceiving. Yes, Verity is going back home to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in order to enter an arranged marriage. But what it doesn't tell you that the arranged marriage is something in which Verity enters willingly. It is her choice.

It is 1867. Verity is 17 years old. She has spent the previous 14 years living with a relative's family instead of her own family because her mother passed away when she was 3 years old, and her father, in his grief, did not know how he would raise a little girl on his own. He was persuaded to give his little girl away to the care of some loving relatives in Massachusetts, where Verity spent a very happy childhood growing up in her aunt's boisterous, loving family.One day she received a correspondence from 18 year old Nathaniel McClure, a wealthy gentleman farmer who lives close by her father's farm. It was suggested that they form an arranged marriage for business purposes, and Verity would not have agreed to such an arrangement, but something about Nathaniel (Nate) and their exchange of letters feel right. She feels a bond with him, she appreciates his thoughtful gifts, his gentle letters, the book of poetry that he sent. Verity felt that it's time to move back home to Catawissa. She and Nathaniel are well-suited. They can make a successful marriage.

Verity is optimistic about her future. Until she moves back to Catawissa.

Instead of the gentle, suave young man she expected, Verity meets an awkward gentleman farmer who hardly knows what to say to her. His letters might have been manufactured with the aid of his pushy sisters. His gifts might have been selected by his sisters, too. Instead of a loving father, Verity meets a taciturn, silent stranger who hardly knows what to do with the young woman who is his daughter, whom he has not seen in years. She has to deal with a pushy housekeeper who clearly does not want her around. She has to deal with town gossip, because everyone is curious about the girl who has captured the "most eligible" bachelor in town without even having seen her. She has to get to know a suitor who is largely a stranger.

And to top it off, she has to find out why the hell her mother and late aunt's graves are buried in unhallowed grounds separate from everyone else, nestled and locked under a metal cage. Verity has to face small-town suspicions and rumors, malicious lies and gossip, in order to uncover the truth of her mother's death, in order to clear her reputation. And she has to figure it out largely alone, because nobody wants to tell Verity anything in this small, close-minded, distrustful town.
In spite of her father’s denial, her mother must have done something that made her an outcast, she and her brother’s wife between them—something that resulted in their burial outside a Christian cemetery.
Turning from the window and laying down her hairbrush, she tried not to think that returning to Catawissa had been a mistake.
The Setting & Plot: The setting is a small-rural farming town in Pennsylvania. It feels authentic, the speech does not stand out as being too modern, the details of life are similarly circumspect. The atmosphere in the town is very well developed, the Revolutionary War is long, long past, but it feels like it only happened yesterday, according to town alliances. People whose family fought on the wrong side (the British side) of the war are shunned, ostracized from village society. The American Civil War has also recently passed, but not gone, and we still feel the impact of it within the book. I really appreciate these small details that add to the authenticity of the setting.

The town and its suspicions, its wariness towards outsiders and racism towards those of mixed (American Indian) blood was well-portrayed and sensitively described. The tension and underlying sentiment were so well done. Overall, I have zero complaint for the setting. Some may complain about the age of the characters within the book, and some may take issue with the fact that 14-year old Liza was "setting her cap" for 18-year old Nate and intending to marry him one day. I do not. This is 19th century agricultural America. Young marriages were very common at the time, particularly in farming communities, and I have no problem with this matter in the book.

The plot was intriguing for most of the book, until it took a somewhat incredulous turn. What prevented me from giving this book a 5 is the rather strange and not quite believable plot twists surrounding one of several mysteries within this story.

The Characters: Really wonderfully done. There is so much detail given to every character in the book, and this is definitely not one of those books in which the main character is given so much focus as to sideline everyone else invovled. I had a clear idea of everyone's characters, every single person stood out to me. But of course, a book is made or broken by its main character, and I loved Verity. I expect certain things from my 19th century leading ladies, and verily, Verity is such a well-developed young woman.

She has inner strength. She does not give up. She is strong-willed, but never stupid, never, ever bitchy. Verity is never headstrong, she is a negotiator, she is persistent, but never pushy. She is not perfect, but she learns from her mistakes. She is brave, but she makes mistakes, and she is able to laugh at herself for her foolishness and rush to judgment.
Verity cringed with embarrassment. Yes, the man had startled her, but she’d run screaming from the sight of him like a half-witted female in one of those dime novels Polly Gaines liked so much. Verity had taken offense when her uncle belittled the Pooles, but she’d behaved no better today. She hung her head in shame.
The relationships between characters are wel well written in this book, and I particularly loved the growing development and love between Verity and her stranger of a father. Her father is such an awkward man, he grieves for his wife still, and hardly knows his daughter for most of her life. Still, he loves her, and he wants what's best for her, and it is just so nice to read about such a caring parent who tries so hard to be a good father despite not knowing how. He knows his daughter's trepidation towards her arranged marriage, and reassures her when he sees her hesitancy.
“You don’t have to marry him, Verity.” Ransloe Boone waved his hand. “Ring or no ring—promise or no promise."
“I’m content with the match,” she assured him.
He nodded slowly, but as he left the room to retire for the night, he muttered, “Rather see you happy than content.”
And I love Nate, oh, how I love Nate.

The Romance: Wonderful! Yes, I said it! It was so well done, I don't even mind the love triangle in the least. I actually felt like the love triangle added a dimension to Verity's character. She is ready to be an adult, she is mature for her age, but she is not ready for love. She is freaking seventeen, people, and about to enter a marriage to a man she has barely known. The love triangle serves to mature her character, to let her know that she has choices, to let her realize what love means, and whether or not she is ready for such an undertaking, such a commitment.
She didn’t know if she was in love with either one of them. Attracted to both of them in different ways, yes—but how, at seventeen, was she supposed to recognize love? Wasn’t it supposed to be obvious? Shouldn’t she feel it in every breath and heartbeat?
Verity KNOWS that it is wrong to feel such emotions towards both men, and even more so while she is engaged. She recognizes her fault, and she is confused, and I find that completely believable and understandable. She hates herself for her conflicting emotions, and feels that she is a "wanton girl." Yes, she is wishy-washy in more than one way, and sometimes I got frustrated with her internal conflict, but it is so understandable and the conflict was so well done that I really enjoyed it. And really, there was no question at all, since the very beginning, as to whom Verity would choose.

And Nate. Nate! Oh, how I loved their relationship. How I loved seeing their misunderstandings and their growing relationship. I loved seeing them get to know each other and learn about each other. I loved seeing their developing trust and their hurt emotions and miscommunications and even their jealousy. Their relationship was so, so immensely enjoyable, so realistic, so well done. I rave about the romance because I enjoyed it, because I feel praise should be given when warranted. Through him, Verity slowly comes to understand what it feels like to be in love. And I think I fell along right beside her.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
626 reviews177 followers
September 5, 2013
Originally reviewed on Books Take You Places

Verity is forced to leave the family she loves to marry a man she has never met, and live with a father she barely knows. What is a girl to do when she is the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons? Not only is she snatching up the most eligible bachelor in Catawissa, she is related to two women who were believed to partake in the devil’s work, and who were buried outside the graveyard, on unconsecrated ground. Bow her head and take it, I suppose? Not Verity Boone. Verity is determined to be in love with the man she marries, but she is even more determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her mother and aunt’s deaths, and Hell hath no fury like a woman who is told to “just let it go.”

The characters in The Caged Graves were wonderfully layered and personable, I found them all to be rather spirited and above all, believable. Verity is strong willed and brave, she has mastered that southern charm and when the ladies in town disrespect her she gives them an “oh bless your heart” right back. She’s not a fainter and it’s pointed out on quite a few occasions that she is “not a boy,” meaning, she doesn’t act properly all of the time and that means that she is a girl right after my own heart. Verity’s intended, Nate, is the man of the town, every lady had their sights set on him before Verity showed up, thus being the reason she needs to school quite a few of them in manners. In a nutshell, Nate is dark haired, devoted, sweet, and protective in a very tender manner. Where the ahem, other gentleman in Verity’s life, Hadley is a light eyed, ginger haired doctor who won’t hesitate to tell you what he wants and when he wants it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like Nate at first, but I don’t think we are meant to. In fact, the first few meetings of Nate in comparison to the first few meetings of Hadley really show their differences and I wasn’t sure where my heart was headed for a while.

You may have heard a little something about a love triangle going on in The Caged Graves and readers, I can’t lie to you, it’s there. I can’t tell you how incredibly scared I was while reading (no seriously, ask my friends, it’s all I kept talking about) because I was so worried that this possible love triangle would turn into a SERIOUS PROBLEM, and my feelings would become conflicted with Verity’s and then at the conclusion I would be completely messed up wondering if I she made the right choice. Let me tell you, there were a few close calls, a few times I was wavering in my loyalties, but in the end I am thrilled with my Verity’s decision. So yes, there is a love triangle of sorts, but no, I don’t think that it controls the story at all. In fact, I think the relationships in the novel sit side by side with the mystery and they weave together quite nicely.

“You’re beautiful,” he said bluntly, “and I didn’t expect you to be.”

Ms. Salerni definitely has a knack for writing relationships of all kinds. I enjoyed the way Verity got to know Nate’s sisters, and her relationship with Beulah was rather fun and endearing. One thing I have to say is that I love, love, LOVE the way the author portrays the relationship between Verity and her father. The best thing about it is how much it grows through the novel, though her father seems a bit awkward and standoffish at first, the reader is really able to glimpse how much he loves his daughter under his hard exterior. It honestly reminded me a bit of my own father and melted my heart quite a bit.

The setting and plot of The Caged Graves was completely enthralling. As we gain glimpses into the past through Verity’s mother’s diaries we are able to work out the mystery as Verity does, little by little. The action was continuous and intriguing and though I may have figured out small bits of the mystery as we’re meant to, the ending really caught me off guard. I love when that happens.

On the whole, this novel was just right. It had just enough history that I didn’t feel overwhelmed by incessant facts, just enough paranormal elements that made it still completely believable, just enough mystery that had my mind constantly working trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and most importantly, it contained the perfect amount of stolen glances, tender kisses, and undeniable swoons.

The Caged Graves is a different novel than I am used to reading, and it is hard to place it in one category as it encompasses so many wonderful elements. If you’re looking for an immensely atmospheric, mysterious, and romantic read, I highly recommend that you pick this one up immediately.
Profile Image for Karina Halle.
Author 116 books16.4k followers
November 26, 2012
4.5 stars - Full review closer to publication date next year

What an interesting little book. Reading this brought me back to a simpler time...say, being ten years old and indulging over and over again in the Little House series and Bronte and the Witch of Blackbird Pond. This is definitely NOT a children's book - some scenes are fairly heavy and gruesome - but there was something so refreshing and compelling about this 1800's mystery that it felt like it could have been assigned reading in school. It reads like a classic.

17-year old Verity was a spitfire of a girl, the love triangle was believable and well-done (and I'm happy she picked the right guy), there was a massive (maybe slightly over-the-top) twist at the end and the mystery unfolded at a steady pace. My only complaint (aside from some aspects of the twist) was the answer to the mystery itself...but that's just the horror/paranormal officianado in me :) To me, the more impossible and illogical, the better.

ARC received from the publisher for review. Just kidding! I found this ARC (my first paperback ARC) at a local thrift store, along with a ton of other ARCs. Woot woot!
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,102 reviews129 followers
January 20, 2013
Richie's Picks: THE CAGED GRAVES by Dianne K. Salerni, Clarion, May 2013, 336p., ISBN: 978-0-547-86853-0

"How will I know if he really loves me
I say a prayer with every heartbeat"
-- Whitney Houston

"'Sonnets from the Portugese?' Nate asked. It sounded as if he wasn't sure they were talking about the same book.
"She wanted to change the subject, but if she dropped it now, she might offend him more. 'She only pretended she was translating poems from another language,' Verity explained, 'because they were her love poems to Robert Browning and highly personal. I thought you knew.'
"Nate's blue eyes seemed a bit hunted now; he looked everywhere except at her face. 'No, I don't read poetry. I asked my sisters to pick out gifts you might like.'
"Verity caught her breath at the word gifts. Not just the one but all of them.
"He hadn't known he was sending her love poems. He'd let his sisters pick out the book -- and the gloves, and even the hair ribbons. Her temper flared. 'Did your sisters write your letters as well as choose your gifts?'
"They were now walking five or six feet apart, separated only by the breadth of the road, but it might as well have been a canyon. Nate's silence for the span of several paces was enough. Then he said: 'No, I wrote my own letters. That is, they gave me advice about what I should say...'
"Verity could picture it in her mind now: this awkward young farmer bent over a desk, writing under his sisters' instruction, while they composed the words that would win her heart. No doubt they'd stuffed him into formal clothes and combed down his hair for the photograph, too.
"She was walking -- no, running! -- down this horribly steep lane with a complete stranger. And here, to make matters worse, was the church in which she was expected to marry him! Mount Zion Methodist Church was nothing more than a plain log building on a country road. Verity had left a home with a beloved family in worldly Worcester to live in a backwards mountain town with a father she didn't know and to marry a man who'd let his sisters court her."

Verity Boone, now seventeen, was actually born in this town -- Catawissa, Pensylvania -- back in the early 1850s. She was sent to live in Worcester, Massachusetts with relatives of her father at the age of two after the death of her mother. She has literally just met Nate, the young man for whom -- in the wake of extended correspondence -- she has moved back to Catawissa, and this doozie of a first encounter continues on its rapid downward trajectory as they stumble past the church and come upon the adjoining graveyard. For, in approaching the graveyard, Verity is provided her first-ever sight of her late mother's resting place which, along with the grave of an aunt she didn't know of (and who died the very same day as her mother), is situated outside of the graveyard's stone wall. Furthermore, both her mother's and her aunt's burial plots are enveloped in sturdy cages.

What happened that day to Verity's mother and aunt? Why were they buried outside of the graveyard's consecrated grounds in those cages? And how does any of this relate to the opening chapter of THE CAGED GRAVES, set ninety years earlier, during the American Revolution, when an American private waist-deep in the swamp knifes his own Sergeant, and disappears with a heavy leather satchel the Sergeant had been entrusted with?

Given its cover, and being a guy, I might have passed right by this one. But, instead, that deadly first chapter sucked me right in. There is plenty of love story going on here, but this is first and foremost a well-crafted mystery. Set just after the end of the Civil War, it is a story that is built upon a wealth of interesting history, such as the common practice during the war of a financially-abled conscripted man hiring someone to serve in his place. There is a visible caste system in post-War Catawissa, and there are lots of men in this town -- of various means -- who are missing pieces, both literally and figuratively.

In returning to this town of her birth and the father she doesn't know, Verity stumbles into a thicket of loose ends, legend, superstition, duplicity, and greed. The manner in which she begins to make sense of it all is through reading the journals, written by her late mother, that she discovers in the attic of her father's house. Beyond that, it is so hard for her to know in whom to trust or confide. Particularly when there seems to be an abundance of now-bitter women who were hoping to marry their own daughters into the McClure fortune represented by Verity's intended husband and his productive lands.

"Verity set down the embroidered pillows and walked away before her tongue got the better of her. Arguing with those who'd renounced the use of reason, according to Thomas Paine, was like administering medicine to the dead."

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_... http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/facult...
Profile Image for Linda .
1,820 reviews266 followers
June 27, 2016
I read this young adult story expecting more.

More depth.

More engaging characters.

More excitement.

And if I was in the targeted age-bracket for this novel, I might have given it a higher rating. That said, I rarely feel my generation when I choose a book from this category. Hello. I even like to read good children's stories every now and then!

The caged or 'hooded graves' really existed in mid-nineteenth century Pennsylvania. Along with some of the characters from Ms. Salerni's mystery. The author embellished that piece of history with a 17-year-old young lady and gold.

The iron cage were called a mortsafe. It was invented in 1816 and designed to protect a gravesite from body snatchers. It was originally used in England and Scotland to keep riffraff from stealing deceased loved ones to be sold to medical schools. They were always in need of cadavers.

I was eager to see how the author was going to develop her version of this mystery.

Verity Boone was sent away to live with relatives as a young child when her mother died. She returned to her hometown for two reasons: to see her father and to marry. The betrothal was made by letter and Verity was in agreement.

I liked Verity's soon-to-be husband, Nate McClure. I respected Verity's father, Ransloe. I suspected they both had a story to tell. My issues were with Verity. One moment she was a typical 17 year old, the next time she sounded like a 13 year old and then she spoke with the maturity of a twenty-something woman. Needless-to-say, it was confusing.

I was almost halfway invested in the story when I realized I was reading the novel for its suspense; I no longer cared about Verity. Eventually, even the motive felt far-fetched. Sadly, I cannot recommend this book.
Profile Image for Jess.
225 reviews24 followers
February 9, 2017
Wow. This was a unique and enthralling novel if I've ever read one. There is so much to say about this novel that I can't possibly fit it all into this review, or even, necessarily, into words. I was actually taken aback by how much I truly enjoyed it.

One of the most captivating aspects of THE CAGED GRAVES is the atmosphere. There is something very unsettling about the graves from the first mention of them and Verity's mother, and this unsettling feeling is only amplified by the various reactions by everyone whenever they are brought up. This was not a fast-paced, plot driven novel, though it absolutely had its exciting scenes, but I really enjoyed how that allowed the setting and the atmosphere to take over, as well as putting character relationships center stage.

I absolutely loved the way the relationships overall were dealt with, but I want to touch specifically on a few. First, Verity almost expects her meeting with Nate, her betrothed, to bring love at first sight, as their only contact since Verity had moved away from Catawissa as a child was in the last year through romantic and endearing letters. It was interesting seeing a trope so commonly complained about in YA like "insta-love" turned right on its head, with the main character expecting it and it not turning out that way at all. The depth of the relationship that develops between them is genuine in its uncertainty and its rockiness, which made them a lovable couple even when they fought.

Another well-hated trope, the love triangle, is used exactly as it should be in this novel. When Verity feels distanced from Nate, she finds herself falling for Jones, an apprentice to the local doctor and completely unforgiving in his feelings for Verity, an engaged woman. The reason this was done so well is in the way Verity struggles not only to determine who she has true feelings for and who she simply enjoys flirting with, but also with the entire concept of love, which, at 17, is possibly the most realistic and honest way she could feel. Of all the relationships, though, Verity's awkward one with her father was probably the most touching. He has to adjust to having a teenage daughter thrust into his life after not having lived with her since she was a toddler. He clearly has no idea what to do with her, nor she with him, but the way they grow on and begin to understand each other is really heart-warming in its small but significant moments.

While the plot of the novel was not, as I mentioned above, fast-moving, because of the significant focus on characters and atmosphere, it was certainly not boring or underdeveloped. The mystery surrounding the graves, Verity's mother, and the circumstances of her death, along with the ongoing strange occurrences in Catawissa make for an extremely intriguing plot with a surprising conclusion (in more ways than one)!
I thought this was a really wonderful novel, in all., where each element mixed with the others perfectly to create a story I could not mentally pull myself away from.
5 stars!

*I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Clarion!*
260 reviews104 followers
February 21, 2016
It is 1867, and Verity Boone is excited to return to her hometown of Catawissa, Pennsylvania. Finally, after years of separation, she will be with her father again and, not only that, she will also meet her fiancé, the man she has thus far only known through letters. Yet her welcome is not as warm as she expected. Her father is as good as a stranger, and Nate, her fiancé, comes across as very different to how he did in his letters - more aloof and with apparently nothing in common with Verity. But even worse is the discovery that her mother and aunt's graves are within cages, and not even in the cemetery itself - they're buried just outside. Determined to find out why, Verity gets no answers, only rumours of witchcraft and buried treasure...and suddenly a situation in which her own life is at risk.

After such a promising premise, the plot for this unfortunately fell flat for me. Where I was hoping for mystery and intrigue, I instead got a storyline that was overly simplistic, so much so that I wondered how Verity could possibly be so blind to facts that were right in front of her. This was not a problem at first, Salerni's writing keeping me slightly curious and, if not completely eager to read on, still far from impatient. This soon wore off, however, and I reached the point where I was reading simply for the sake of finishing the book. The villains, such as they were, were not believable in the least. Truly, they were quite ridiculous, and I didn't understand how I was supposed to view them as a real threat. Partly because of this, what was meant to be the climax came across as messy. Its structure - or lack thereof - had me reading incredulously and with no particular attachment to anybody.

The characters were as much of a letdown. Verity was likeable enough, and I felt some sympathy towards her purely because of her situation, yet she was unremarkable. Nate was somewhat frustrating, although the romance between them did allow for some lighter, sweeter moments which made for a pleasant change and an easier read than it might otherwise have been. This was not significant enough to be a wholly redeeming factor, though, and to make matters worse, Nate was not the only love interest. Yes, another one. I confess, I sighed inwardly as soon as the love triangle made itself apparent. These things are becoming even more tiresome to me than I thought. The secondary characters, too, were as unexceptional as the protagonist.

I honestly did expect more of this, especially as the element of the caged graves is based on real ones that are still in Catawissa today. Witchcraft and buried treasure seemed like a basis for excitement and some action, but sadly this was not so. While this was not completely terrible - indeed, there are parts more well-written than others - this was ultimately a disappointment.

This review is also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
789 reviews163 followers
April 21, 2013
The Caged Graves was an excellent gothic, historical mystery that was beautifully written. Set in 1867 Pennsylvania, seventeen-year-old Verity Boone returns to home to Catawissa after being sent to live with her aunt following the death of her mother. Verity has returned home to marry her prosperous neighbour, Nate McClure, after a courtship based on letters. However, Verity’s homecoming is not all that she expected. Her father is a stranger to her, only visiting her in the city a few times over the years. Her first meeting with her suitor leaves much to be desired. And to complicate matter’s Verity learns some disturbing tales about her late mother and the reason her grave is covered by a cage.

I loved The Caged Graves! This one had everything a historical mystery should have: a great setting and characters, an intriguing death and missing gold, and a love triangle. I loved the rich, historical detail that was evident in the story and it’s characters, and the writing brought the landscape into vivid detail without overshadowing the mystery that was being unfolded. And the mystery! The gothic feeling surrounding Verity’s mother’s death was well done; we got hints of a greater conspiracy and the unraveling of the truth brought forth a truly satisfying conclusion to the chilling motivation that brought death to Catawissa.

Verity Boone was also a great character and I loved how conflicted she was about her return home, her impending marriage, her relationship with her father and the animosity she encountered from the other villagers. While Verity was a city girl, it didn’t stop her from stepping up to the challenge of living in the country and the danger she was confronted with due to the circumstances of her mother's death.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a highly atmospheric young adult historical mystery I would recommend The Caged Graves. I’m so glad to have discovered Salerni’s work and I can’t wait to read her other historical young adult book, We Hear the Dead.

Review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Similar Titles: The Sweetest Spell; Born Of Illusion; Folly; A Spy in the House.
Profile Image for The Twins Read.
277 reviews19 followers
May 9, 2013
This review can originally be found at The Twins Read.

As fans of historical fiction, it was imperative that we must read this one, thanks to the oh-so-intriguing summary and most importantly, the very idea of caged graves being used in a story! The thought of seeing iron cages around the cemetery is disturbing, but also very, very intriguing. In fact, we were so tickled by the idea that we featured this book before in one of our Waiting on Wednesday posts.

After fifteen years away from Catawissa, Verity Boone finally returns home to meet her estranged father and the fiance she corresponded letters with. It just so happens that her father is standoffish and unsure about how to act around his grown daughter and Nathaniel is not at all how he seemed like in the letters he sent. But then she comes across her mother's grave with an iron-wrought cage above it and rumor has it that those iron cages have something to do with witchcraft and buried treasure. Verity won't stand for those snide comments and nasty looks , and so she tries to get to the bottom of it all only to find out that her trust may very well lie with the wrong people after all.

Verity Boone is a very likable heroine, the likes of which Catawissa has never seen before. She's a right proper lady but she's no simpering damsel in distress. She's stubborn and determined and trying to get settled into her new life at Catawissa all the while juggling her growing attraction to the town doctor's apprentice, her feelings for her fiance and the whole mystery surrounding the caged graves. Nathaniel, Verity's fiance is an adorable boy. His awkwardness around Verity had us cooing at his preciousness! Verity is very much unlike the other girls in town so he has no idea how to deal with her and his jealous fits. Their romance was undeniably sweet and squeal-worthy, and ultimately had us begging for more scenes.

Admittedly, the love triangle detracted our attention from the actual mystery, but Salerni has managed to fuse the two elements together without either one coming off as too strong. The intrigue unraveling the caged graves was measured out in careful doses, so there was no information overload of sorts. Salerni's descriptions were enough, but not overly done as we are still given the freedom to let our imagination run wild.

Dianne Salerni's writing is impeccable and engrossing; from the probability of witchcraft and curses, to the sweet love story that creeps up, and the mystery that surrounds the caged graves, this is an engrossing read and we wouldn't mind picking up our own personal copies.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,376 reviews929 followers
November 15, 2015
"In Catawissa sometimes the dead don't stay where you put them."

Verity Boone is returning to her hometown in small town Catawissa after fifteen long years. When her mother became ill and died unexpectedly when Verity was just two years old, her father sent her away to relatives fearing he would not be able to care for her properly. She's returning home after agreeing to marry Nathaniel McClure, a man she's only met in letters. Upon arriving, she's shocked to discover that not only is her mothers grave buried on unconsecrated ground but there's a strange mystery cage on top of it. No one is forthcoming with information and Verity is determined to find out what her mother did in life to deserve such treatment in death.

I really loved the mysterious gothic-like element of the caged graves and was extremely eager to read more about them. I loved hearing that the author actually based this story off real-life caged graves that she discovered in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. You can read more (and see the actual pictures) here. It was quite mysterious and in the beginning reminded me a lot of Long Lankin but wasn't quite as paranormal as I had originally thought (and hoped) it would be.

In addition to the caged grave topic of the book, the romance took up an exceptionally large portion, or to be more specific the love-triangle. *cue groans of agony* Yes, unfortunately I wasn't a fan of that addition to the story considering it took up such a huge portion of the story. To me, it felt like she had a good idea going with the caged grave bit, but didn't have ENOUGH to make that the center of the entire story. So instead, a romance that caused much raging (from me) was inserted as filler.

"There was something seductive about his transparent feelings for her - feelings he scarcely tried to hide even in front of Nate. He was like a bright, flickering flame, and she was a brainless moth, wanting to fly closer and burn herself." - Verity

I get it. She's young, she's in an arranged marriage and barely knows the guy (although the more she learns about him the more there is to love), so I understand the normality behind her being torn between two guys. But the comment about it being seductive that he's flirting with her in front of her fiance? That's a bit uncouth don't you think? Or maybe just brainless, like she said.

It was really difficult to get a good grasp on whether or not I liked any of the love interests either. Her intended, Nate, was so wishy-washy and one moment he'd do something terribly cute like bring her a baby kitten he saved and next minute he's talking about their upcoming marriage like a business arrangement. It was very off-putting. I could have liked the other love interest, Hadley, a lot except for the fact that he was so obviously being disrespectful and trying to steal her away from Nate by flirting with her constantly, even in front of him. There are better ways to show you care and being an outright ass isn't one of them.

Bottom line, the caged grave story line had huge potential but fell flat when that became less the focus of the story. Regardless, this was a well-written historical fiction novel with an intriguing story line that just happened to be saddled with a bad romance.

Profile Image for Elizabeth Moreau Nicolai.
478 reviews16 followers
May 3, 2013
It's 1867 and Verity Boone (what a great name!) is coming home to Catawissa, Pennsylvania after spending most of her childhood back East being raised by relatives following the death of her mother. She is looking forward to reconnecting with her father and getting to know the fiance whose proposal she accepted after a courtship conducted entirely by mail. (Yes teenagers that is a thing that used to happen. It's the 19th century precursor to online dating.)

However when she gets there, all is not as expected. She finds it hard to reconnect to her father and even harder to reconcile the charming man in the letters with the somewhat stiff young farmer she meets. A handsome young doctor tries to claim her attention. Amidst all this relationship drama, she finds that the graves of her mother and aunt are outside the consecrated church yard and encased in iron cages. Trying to sort out rumor, malicious townsfolk, conflicting feelings, and hints of a long lost treasure will make her return more than a little problematic.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended for all libraries. Will appeal to teens who enjoyed last year's The Wicked and the Just or historical fiction/light romance in general.

This is one of those books that I stayed up late to finish. The caged graves aren't about what you think they're about. The rival suitors aren't what you think either though I am happy to say I got that one right. Salerni perfectly manages those hints that could lead you on multiple paths without so littering the ground with red herrings that you get disgusted with the entire effort. It's a beautifully crafted plot.

Post-Civil War life in America is richly portrayed here. The book is sprinkled with lovely little details (such as the lingering resentment of some townspeople over the richer citizens who were able to pay another to go to war in their place) that bring the time to life without drowning you in the author's research.

Sometimes in books, especially those aimed at teen girls, if there is a love triangle (and isn't there always?), the only characters that are fully developed are the triangular three. That is not the case here. There are complexities and surprising depth to many of the secondary characters. And that is what distinguishes this from being a good book into a great book.

I received a free ebook advanced copy of this title for the purposes of review. Review also published here
Profile Image for Danielle.
263 reviews24 followers
October 13, 2015
*Received ARC through the Amazon Vine Program*

"The Caged Graves" is about a seventeen year old girl named Verity Boone who returns to her hometown of Catawissa, Pennsylvania after being sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother died. She lives with her father, who she barely knows, and is engaged to a man that she only knows through letters. When Verity sees that her mother and aunt have cages over their graves and no one will tell her why, Verity makes it her mission to find out why the cages are there. The addition mystery about Revolutionary War gold and whether it factors into the cages makes it more of a mystery for Verity to figure out. The romance element is there when after a rocky start, Verity finds herself being attracted to her fiance Nate and Hadley Jones, a doctor's apprentice in town. Who will she choose and will she solve the mystery? Read the book to find out.

I really enjoyed the book, so much so that I spent a lazy Sunday reading it from cover to cover. At first I wasn't sure that I was going to like Verity because at the beginning, it seemed like her character was going to veer into being snobby at the smaller townsfolk. But she quickly turned into a character that I could root for. The mystery of the caged graves and the missing gold unraveled very nicely. There were twists and turns that I didn't really see coming. That's nice to read when sometimes authors don't know how to hide the culprits very well. Who Verity chose to be with was also a good mystery because I could see her ending up with both men. But the one that I was hoping that she would end up with was the one that she chose, so that made me happy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Reading about the caged graves was interesting and it made me want to go to the real Catawissa and see the caged graves that are really there and what the author based the story on. I'd definitely recommend reading this book.
Profile Image for Emma.
2,992 reviews354 followers
March 2, 2018
With the Civil War just recently ended and life returning to normal, Verity Boone leaves behind the only family she has ever known in Worcester, Pennsylvania to return to her birthplace of Catawissa in 1867. While she is leaving behind urban convenience and dear relatives, Verity is eager to see her father and her old family home.

She is also keen to meet Nate, the man who courted her and proposed through letters, for the first time face-to-face.

When Verity arrives in Catawissa nothing is quite what she expected. The Boone house is rundown and neglected. Her father is unsure how to reconcile the two-year-old daughter he sent away upon his wife's death with the seventeen-year-old woman who returned from Worcester. Even her father's housekeeper is distant.

Worse, Nate is not what Verity expected from his letters. Faced with the reality of agreeing to marry a practical stranger, Verity wonders if coming back to Catawissa was a terrible mistake.

Verity's misgivings multiply when she first visits the Catawissa cemetery. There she finds two graves encased in iron cages just outside the cemetery walls--buried in unconsecrated ground. Locals have any number of explanations: witchcraft, grave robbers, even rumors of hidden treasure. Verity knows these outlandish stories must be hiding a darker truth and she is determined to discover Catawissa's secrets. As Verity tries to unearth the truth about the caged graves and Catawissa's troubled past, she also begins to understand her own place in the town and among her own family in The Caged Graves (2013) by Dianne K. Salerni.

The Caged Graves was inspired by two real caged graves the author saw in Catawissa. Nothing is known about the purpose of the cages but their presence inspired this novel.

The Caged Graves is a spooky, gripping read. It does not, however, include any supernatural or paranormal elements despite what the jacket summary might suggest. This book is a straightforward historical mystery. And it's delightful.

Verity is a determined, likable heroine in a thoroughly engrossing story. Salerni's writing is evocative of the period and well-paced as tension builds throughout the story. All of the characters in the story are well-developed and add to the story in their own way. Verity and Nate's uneasy courtship was a particularly nice story element. I was also thrilled to see Verity's reconnecting with her father become such a large part of the story.

With so many (lovely) historical fantasies hitting the market it was nice to find The Caged Graves was a purer historical read. The mystery element sneaks into the story as the focus shifts from Verity adjusting to Catawissa life to Verity investigating the graves. Although the resolution was a bit rushed, the ending the of the story came together logically with a very gratifying twist. The Caged Graves is a pleasant read sure to leave readers happy and eager to research the era (and the real caged graves) as soon as the story is finished.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

You can find this review and more on my blog Miss Print
Profile Image for Book Preview Review.
77 reviews79 followers
May 14, 2013
Book Description:

“The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters. Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets. “

The cover of the book is a little creepy if not disturbing. A large ornate and elaborate yet beautiful framework resembling a conservatory without the glass. Placed oddly enough in the middle of a cemetery. A closer look reveals a headstone or possibly more within this “iron cage”. This image alone is enough to question, “why”? What is the mystery surrounding these graves?

Set almost 150 years ago, Salerni constructs a well written historical fiction mystery. She transports the reader to a different time and place by crafting a suspenseful plot with mysterious and complex characters. Based on the cover and lack of willingness and acknowledgement from the townspeople, you get the sense that these graves are very unsettling.

The authors note at the end of the book was very intriguing. There really are caged graves in Catawissa and in her research Salerni found no explanation for the cages thus her inspiration for the story. Due to the sometimes adult subject matter and storyline being a bit dark and gruesome at times, I personally feel this book would be a bit heavy and challenging for younger readers and therefore would recommend this book to teens - 7th/8th grade and older.
Profile Image for Tammie.
1,353 reviews160 followers
July 15, 2017
17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery...Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in...

The Caged Graves really grabbed me from the very beginning. It was not as creepy as the description made it sound, but that was ok with me. There was a mystery to figure out and while I figured most of it out pretty early on I still enjoyed reading this. The book is meticulously researched. The time period felt authentic and the characters felt well developed. There is a love triangle in this book, but I actually liked it. It was well done and didn't feel just thrown in for no good reason. It was actually an important part in the development of the main character. In the beginning liked things about both love interests, but the one she ends up choosing in the end was definitely the best choice. I won't spoil it by saying why though.

The mystery surrounding the graves is what drew me to this, and the fact that there really are caged graves near the town in this book. No one knows why the real graves have cages around them. I liked the fact that the author actually used the names on the real headstones in the book and created a history and a reason for the cages.

Review also posted at Writings of a Reader
Profile Image for April.
2,101 reviews950 followers
April 21, 2013
Set in Catawissa, Pennsylvania during the post Civil War era, The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni is an intense historical fiction young adult read. With a spitfire main character, dark secrets, and a slow to develop romance, The Caged Graves hearkens back to the historical fiction of my childhood, similar in feel to The Witch Of Blackbird Pond, if not in eras. Salerni’s latest is utterly engrossing and exactly what I want to read in historical book. Mainly, it has a strong plot and fantastic characterization to recommend it. The book opens with murder and a man on the run during the Revolutionary War. This event doesn’t make sense at first, but will for the larger context of the story.
Read the rest of my review here
42 reviews
May 8, 2013
What an amazing book. Atmospheric, gripping, gothic, creepy, spooky, haunting, and lovely in its mysteriousness. There is so much to say, but I do not want to give anything away. This is not a paranormal or fantasy novel. It is pure historical mystery- and achieves all it set out to be. If the description intrigues you at all, just pick it up and read it. You are sure to fall in love.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,642 reviews1,511 followers
December 2, 2013
4.5 Surprising Stars.
This book wasn’t anywhere close to on my radar and I don’t think I would have given it a second look if a friend of mine Khanh hadn’t given it high marks it would have passed me by. That would have been a shame as it was a great YA historical mystery and romance.

Verity has lived with extended family for the last fifteen years ever since her mother died. Now at seventeen she has agreed to an arranged marriage and is coming back to the home and the father she left so many years ago. Verity has only corresponded in letters to the man she agreed to marry. She is so excited by the idea of Nate from the letters he sent and the gifts that came along with him that the actual man might not live up to the idea of the man.

“I’m not always a bumbling idiot,” he told her. “You make me nervous.”
Verity sucked in her breath, partly indignant, partly hurt, “I realize people may consider me outspoken and some may take offense. But I was taught that a woman has a right to express her opinions, and---“
“You’re beautiful,” he said bluntly, “and I didn’t expect you to be.”

Verity is seventeen and once meeting Nate she is having second thoughts about marrying him. He doesn’t seem like the same person she felt she knew in the letters. It seems as though Nate’s sisters and mother have had their hands in it and perhaps she has no idea who the man she is supposed to marry is. Her second thoughts are tested even further when the assistant to the town Doctor makes it clear that he also has an interesting in her.

“I think it is. It’s a land deal.”
Her breath caught in her throat. “That’s an unkind thing to say.”
He frowned. “Seeing this ring on your finger makes me feel unkind, Verity.”

Verity has notions of what love is but she struggles with the way each man makes her feel, uncertain what to do and feeling as though she has no one to confide in. Should she marry a man that might be interested in her father’s land and not as interested in her?

I normally despise love triangles, I hate them with a passion because quite simply they are normally wishy washy and I get mad at all parties involved. Sometimes I think it is a cop out by the author to not have a stronger plot for the story or they don’t know how to slowly build romantic tension without the addition of a third party. This is not the case in instance. This seemed like genuine concerns a girl in the early Nineteenth Century would face. Verity explores her feelings, she is honest and true with everyone in question and yes there are some speed bumps along the way but in the end she truly is able to discover what ‘love’ really is. As love triangles go it is minor and necessary to the development of the story.

You might think from my review that the romance is the majority of the story but actually there is so much more going on. Verity’s mother died of a strange sickness some considered a curse and is buried outside the cemetery with a cage around the grave. There is a stigma that follows Verity around and no one will give her a straight answer as to why the grave has been treated like that, all she knows is that it has something to do with her aunt who also died and possibly witchcraft or a lost revolutionary war treasure. The more she searches for answers the more weird events take placing including a someone messing with her mother’s diary and the pages right before her untimely death. I was engulfed in the mystery of the graves and the treasure. The ending of the mystery held enough surprises for me that I held on until that last second trying to work it out for myself before the big reveal.

Your enjoyment of the book will undoubtedly hinge on if you like Verity. I found her great as a heroine, she wasn’t perfect she made mistakes and owned them when they happened. She was incredibly likable for me as she struggled through trying to reconnect with the father she barely knows and town that she left behind so long ago. She was strong willed but still very real to the people around her.

Great if you like Historical Fiction, Mysteries, YA and a little bit of Romance.
Profile Image for Susan Swiderski.
Author 3 books37 followers
April 17, 2013
Verity leaves the safety and comfort of life in a modern (by mid-1800 standards, anyway) city to move to a podunk town to live with a father she barely knows and marry a man she's never met. There, she discovers the graves of her mother and aunt, inexplicably covered by metal cages, and placed beyond the boundaries of the church's consecrated burial grounds. She wants answers.

In a skillfully woven tale, Salerni delivers those answers. Verity encounters ugly rumors, malice, and danger, but she also finds her mother's stash of diaries, and eventually, the truth.

Not only is this book well-written, with believable characters and realistic dialogue, but there's a healthy dose of intrigue and romance. What's not to love? Based on her research and imagination, Salerni delivers a satisfying tale. Yep, she did it again. She puts flesh on those old bones, and tells their story as only she can.
Profile Image for Kathylill .
162 reviews176 followers
February 20, 2014
My father was Western-Fanboy. When I was a baby he would read to me stories about the conquest of the wilderness and a society organized around codes of honor and personal, direct or private justice. When all my kindergarden friends went to watch the latest Disney movie my father took me to watch old black and white Western films with John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and even those Karl May Western with Pierre Brice. You have to think about it: A German-Yugoslavian production with a French actor impersonating a Native Indian! Yihaa! When I finally grew up and could tell my father that I would rather play Princess all day than shooting with fake revolvers in the wilderness of our living room he just ignored me and quoted: “Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much.” Of course that’s a quote by John Wayne.

Much, much later I found old Western books in a box in our basement. Zane Grey (1872-1939)! An American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that presented an idealized image of the American frontier. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book. I’ve read them all. Loved them to pieces and I remember reading those stories like it was yesterday. There is one book, where every time that I pick it up, I just start crying and crying because it’s so damn sad.

What I wanted to say with all this: I was born to love; I was drilled, trained & cultivated by my father to adore the 19th century and the stories about the American frontier. The Caged Graves is not a Western but the historical setting of Catawissa, a small-rural farming town in Pennsylvania in 1867 is approximate enough for my childhood memories to surface. The Revolutionary War and the American Civil War both have had far-reaching ramifications for the small-town community and thus vast influence on the plot. The setting has a very authentic feel to it. For all those who love to read a well written and researched historical novel set in the late 19th century in North-America this book will not disappoint! Dianne K. Salerni has done a great job depicting life in a rural surrounding in 1867: the landed gentry, a life that’s shaped by farming and hard work, the social aspects of village life in the late 19th century, the superstitiousness and small-mindedness of its people. As the story is inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, it adds even more authenticity to this historical YA novel. Whoever is interested in learning more about those graves may follow this link: http://colcohist-gensoc.org/wp-conten...

Apart from the Western feel there are also some gothic elements to the story. The combination of both was very well implemented into the plot. I love Jane Eyre; I love the elements of social criticism and spiritual sensibility, its gothic feel, the dark corners, the eerie mystery, the almost supernatural of voices in the wind and ghostly laughter in the night. The eerie mystery surrounding the caged graves combined with the realism of farming and the villager’s small-mindedness fit really well together. There is a lot of social criticism in this book. For one, strong-willed Verity Boone is determined to solve the mystery surrounding the cages on the graves of her mother and aunt as well as finding out why they had to die at such a young age. She is especially resolute on putting them on sacred ground by appealing to the reverend to enlarge the cemetery. Verity also criticizes the town’s bigotry towards the Pooles, the offspring of those Native Americans who fought on the wrong side of the war. As an outsider Verity is prone to notice the backwards ways in Catawissa and tries to change it for the better.

Dark Romantics emphasized human fallibility and proneness to sin and self-destruction, as well as the difficulties inherent in attempts at social reform. You could say the love triangle is adding a self-destructive, sinful element to the story. Verity is being seduced (kind of) by the young and charming Doctor while at the same time she starts to develop a deep and strong affection to her intended, the gentleman farmer with whom a marriage has been arranged. The element of an arranged marriage and the complex pro/contra arguments were extraordinarily well integrated into the story. I feel no shame to admit that that was one of the best love triangles I have read so far and I enjoyed every moment of the romance.

The gloomy swamp called “The Shades of Death”, the forbidding cemetery, the suspicious behavior of the Claytons and other village people complement the gothic feel. The paranormal aspects inherent to gothic fiction are well done in the Caged Graves: there is suspicion of witchcraft, the walking dead, even vampirism. There are open diaries lying on the table that should have been somewhere else and eerie lights in the dark. Verity is truly caught in an unfamiliar and terrifying situation and has to deal with the strangeness on her own because others don’t want to see it.

The Caged Graves weaves gothic mystery, historical novel and a charming romance into a suspenseful story that captivated me till the end.
Profile Image for Carol.
Author 10 books15 followers
April 9, 2013
Picked this one up because it takes place pretty close to the northeastern PA town where I grew up. I was pleasantly surprised. Nicely written, good historical story, engaging characters.
Profile Image for Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews).
1,700 reviews874 followers
June 16, 2013
Read This Review & More Like It On Ageless Pages Reviews!

Inspired by real-life caged-in graves found across the country, Dianne K. Salerni weaves a tale of lust, desperation, and hidden motives set during the 1860's Pennsylvania. The Caged Graves is an evocative and atmospheric young adult historical fiction read, but it's also one that sadly fails to execute the plot with complete satisfaction for the audience. The suspense and mystery that is built up over the course of the novel's three hundred thirty pages is enveloping and interesting, but the reveal and final twist fail to live up to the standard set by the rest of the book.

Verity Boone is the main character for The Caged Graves, and she is a good one. One of the strongest aspects of the novel is this main character. She's likeable, smart, fallible, and complicated. Away from home for the fifteen years since her mother died, Verity comes home to an engagement, an unknown place, and her mother and aunt's caged graves. Unsatisfied with the answers the town offers, kept apart from their secrets and history, Verity begins to dig into what happened to Sarah and Asenath's deaths. Amid whispers of witchcraft and unnatural happenings, Verity begins to understand the horrible truth that lead up to the loss of two young mothers so long ago.

The romance(s) is where The Caged Graves really began to falter from me. Before the introduction of a second love interest and an obvious (and very unnecessary love triangle), this had been coasting along; an engrossing and dense read based on Revolutionary lore. However, once the two boys Hadley and Nate emerge as rivals for Verity's affections, it became much less fun to read. Far too much time and too many pages are devoted to Verity trying to decide between the two love interests. The book is far more original when concerned with unraveling the caged graves mystery and far too reminiscent of so many other YA novels when it comes to the tepid romances. Uneven courtship and confusion aside, Nate is a more rounded character than his counterpart, but there is still not a lot to recommend either.

A fictional story inspired from minor historical facts, Salerni's debut has some originality, a three-dimensional lead character, and some suspense to recommend it. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with how the author chose to conclude her story. The mystery that had been so carefully laid out ended up being rather ordinary (and even slightly laughable) when all is said and done. The Caged Graves moves along nicely, and is well plotted and paced but I felt very ambivalent upon finishing it. I wouldn't go so far to not recommend it to a friend, but I would suggest that they would borrow from a library rather than buy it outright.
Profile Image for Donna Gambale.
52 reviews13 followers
June 3, 2013
THE CAGED GRAVES is part suspenseful drama, part historical mystery, and it was a refreshing change from the modern setting, epic scope, and breakneck pace of the books I've been reading lately. (To be clear, it's not a fast-moving plot, but it developed steadily and had me totally intrigued.)

THE CAGED GRAVES is the classic story of an outsider coming into a small rural town, meeting its citizens, and uncovering its dark secrets. Verity Boone returns home to Catawissa, PA after years of living with relatives in the city and is shocked to discover that her mother's and aunt's graves are located outside the cemetery walls (on unconsecrated ground) and caged with iron bars.

She begins digging into the mystery of her mom's sudden death and why the cage was erected in the first place. Throw in a deliciously gothic atmosphere, some suspicious and vindictive townspeople, and rumors of witchcraft and a long-lost treasure, and Salerni has woven together one engrossing tale.

I loved the romantic elements, as well: The purpose of Verity's return home is to meet her betrothed, Nate, with whom she's only exchanged letters. Their attempts to reconcile their romantic ideals of one another with the actual person before them are all-too-relatable for a generation of people who often meet and interact online. (And hooray no insta-love!!)

However, (well-written love triangle alert!) Verity finds herself drawn to and flirting with Hadley, a charming doctor's apprentice from the town. I loved the realism of the situation because she's completely unsure of how true/deep her feelings are for Nate (and his for her!), and the attention that Hadley's showering upon her, coupled with his bold advances, makes Verity (and the reader) swoony and confused.

The best part is, by the end, both the mystery of the caged graves and the love triangle weave together to wrap up nicely. Ah, satisfying endings, how I love thee.

With an intriguing, multi-layered plot, complex characters (plus a setting that's a character in its own right), and quality writing, THE CAGED GRAVES is highly recommended for anyone in the mood for a historical mystery. Best of all, it's available now from Clarion Books.

This review was posted initially at http://www.firstnovelsclub.com
Profile Image for Natalie.
1,919 reviews
June 11, 2013
An atmospheric historical mystery. After living with relatives for several years after her mother's death, Verity returns to her father's home and her future husband Nate. She and Nate have courted through letters. She looks forward to meeting him in person; however, their initial meetings do not live up to her expectations. Verity soon discovers that there is a cage over her mother's grave, and her mother is not buried in hallowed ground. The reason for this unusual burial nags at her as she also deals with an intriguing doctor's apprentice who is not her intended.

I wish the cover was a little different, so I could more easily entice teen readers to pick it up. I usually do not like love triangles, but I understood why Verity would be attracted to both men.
Profile Image for Nance.
289 reviews
May 6, 2013
Mystery, love story, historical fiction....

This YA novel explores themes of morality, love and trust. Each turn of the page brings with it anticipation to see what comes next!
Profile Image for Marcy S. Hatch.
Author 1 book6 followers
May 7, 2013
I very much enjoyed The Caged Graves and thought Verity was a fun character from the moment I met her on the train. The historical details read true as did the entire mystery, which I didn't figure out until i read it! Can't wait for Dianne's next book :)
Profile Image for OwlBeReading.
329 reviews9 followers
June 12, 2017
Wow. This was phenomenal. I thought I knew what was going to happen and then I get hit with a major plot twist which happened to be the most shocking to me out of every book I have ever read. Speaking of plot twists let me discuss my thoughts. Aunt Clara being the murderer of Sarah Ann and Asenath over jealously? Then trying to kill Verity too and luckily didn't succeed because Beulah knew the whole time but didn't say anything! Beulah was a bit of an underrated character but she had a big influence in Verity's life and I'm glad that at the end of the book Verity and Beulah are able to reach an agreement of respect and love towards each other. Okay back to Aunt Clara I feel like I should have recognized the signs because there were some ominous mentions and the fact that she married John right after Asenath died but I thought that John was just grieving and out of his mind and needed support. She tried to get the Boone land by having Verity marry Nate then she was going to kill Verity just like she killed Asenath and Sarah Ann. She went a long way for something that shouldn't matter that much because it's just land. And I feel like Liza knew something was wrong because whenever they were in the same room together, Verity, Liza, and Clara, Liza seemed uncomfortable and Clara seemed agitated to the point of being over hospitable. Like when she gave Verity that medicine intended to poison and kill her and when Verity clearly didn't take it she succeeded in poisoning her but didn't kill her which seemed pointless but I'm glad Clara didn't actually succeed in the murder. Now I want to go over how Clara actually killed Sarah Ann and Asenath. They both got stomach aches after Clara gave them the honey that killed Rebecca Clayton along with the rest of the Clayton's. Then she gave Asenath mountain laurel and Sarah Ann took it too because she was such good friends with Asenath. That is awful and they were both pregnant too! Okay now to the romance. I knew Hadley Jones wasn't going to last but I didn't think Nate would last either but I'm happy that they ended up together because they balance each other out very well.
This one line sums up the cause of the whole story, "Clara Piper Thomas had murdered two women-two pregnant women-to marry the man she wanted. And she'd gotten away with it." A pretty messed up plot twist which I can see happening in any town like Catawissa.
Overall this was one of the best standalone novels I have ever read and because of that I'm giving it five out of five stars and highly recommend to historical fiction lovers.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Michael Di Gesu.
11 reviews5 followers
June 11, 2013
As not to spoil the complete story for all who wish to read this fascinating novel, I'd like to review it a bit differently.

For me The Caged Graves sends the reader back in time. The author, Dianne Salerni, transports us back to rural nineteenth century Pennsylvania. A simpler, gentler, yet naive and superstitious era of young America. A time where woman are submissive, and were raised to marry young, bear children, and listen to their husbands. But Verity Boone is different. She is opinionated, stubborn, and passionate. Very much like Jo March in Little Woman.

The author's prose flows beautifully, mirroring Alcott's own days. The struggles, the desires, and innocence of Verity. The dialogue is effortless, as if the author herself conversed with Alcott over afternoon tea.

It seriously blew my mind. If I didn't know better, I would have believed this novel was written in the nineteenth century.

But our author does something more intriguing than just penning a story of a young woman on the verge of marrying. She ever so subtly introduces a mystery. And it was this mystery that our heroin pursues, even jeopardizing her future, to find the answers. WHY? What was this obsession that drove her to find out the truth. Who were the unfortunate souls buried in these graves, and WHY were they entombed in cages outside the cemetery?

One must read the full novel until the end to find out. It's a slow and steady build up with lots of interesting subplots, mysterious and chilling characters, as well as more that one love interest to keep the reader turning the page.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Caged Graves. Not your typical historical novel by any means. What really fascinates me the most is that Ms. Salerni wrote this novel after discovering the original Caged Graves on a trip to Pennsylvania. Now imagine going to a cemetery, picking a few names off headstones, and creating a whole scenario with the spirits from the past. It takes a great deal of imagination to do this successfully and I am happy to say that Ms. Salerni pulls it off amazingly well.

Thank you Dianne, for creating such a memorable story for us to step back in time.

In closing I would like to clarify that I have never given a five star rating BUT ... THE CAGED GRAVES does deserve at least a four and a half star rating.
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