The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

First of all: MERRY CHRISTMAS (and/or Happy Holidays, if you don’t celebrate!). Whether you’re taking a break from crowding around the Christmas tree or doing something else entirely, I hope you’re cozy and warm and maybe enjoying a steaming mug of tea (or hot beverage of your choice) :)

at xmas

Now on to the review:

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson

13595639Jack the Ripper is back, and he’s coming for Rory next….

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

I’ve heard a lot about Maureen Johnson but have never actually read any of her books. My sister actually read this one (and the sequel, The Madness Underneath), and told me I would probably enjoy them. So while we were in London, I decided to read a London-based book (all the better to imagine the setting!).

The first thing I noticed was how long it took to start. I realize that, as the first book in a trilogy, it was setting up the broader story, and I completely respect that. However, as someone who’s been criticized for taking too long to get the story started, I’ve come to expect books – especially YA books – to start a little faster.

Once stuff actually began to happen, the momentum picked up and hurtled along nicely. Of course, if you a) read the back of the book and b) have read any book ever in the history of the world, you should be able to guess who the Ripper is, even if you don’t know his motivation. Part of what dragged the beginning of the book down was waiting for Rory to clue into the same thing as you: that she can see ghosts and that that one particular dude is maybe a bit suspicious.

Otherwise, I have to give Maureen Johnson props for spinning an interesting story. There’s a healthy dose of diversity (Boo and Callum), boarding school politics, lots of details about daily life in London (which is one of my favourite cities), plus, of course, ghosts (personally, I’m hoping for more Alistair in the next books). It’s obvious that she put a lot of effort and research into making the story as true-to-life as a ghost story about a Ripper copycat can be, and that’s impressive.

My only other issue was the narrative voice. It sometimes felt stilted or lacking in enthusiasm. I can’t help but compare it to the other ghosts-in-London series I’ve read (and adored), Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co, where the writing is energetic and bursts off the page (and also has a much better ship that this one…I mean, I liked Jerome at the beginning, but he turns into quite the dullard as the story progresses). Unless it’s Johnson’s intention, at times it feels like even Rory has no belief or passion in what she’s talking about, and it’s hard to connect with a character who’s so disinterested in her own story.

I was waffling between 3 and 3.5 interrobangs on this one; given that it’s the beginning of a promising series with a great concept, I’ll round it up and give it a 3.5 (it is Christmas, after all!).


3 interrobangs

3.5 interrobangs

Fiction Friday Round-Up – February 27th, 2015

I’ve done something different this week!

Instead of smooshing together every book I’ve read over the past week and a half into one very long post, I’ve created this master list/round-up.

  • The Bane Chronicles – Cassandra Clare (with Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan): “Basically, it felt like I was reading fanfiction. Mediocre fanfiction that you find on some sketchy site because you miss the characters so much that you’re willing to read anything, as long as they’re doing something again.”
  • Going Rogue – Robin Benway: “…there may have been some plot holes and I was a smidge confused about the mystery at first, plus the characters haven’t changed much since my initial impression of them, but it was a very quick, fun read.”
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “For one, I totally related to The Little Prince: grown-ups are strange.”
  • Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom – Susin Nielsen: “This has a bit of The Parent Trap-feel to it, but it wasn’t the old “get Mom and Dad back together” trope. The fact that Violet thinks GEORGE CLOONEY is the perfect option is hilarious and amazing and I totally believe she met him.”

Thanks for reading! Don’t know how many books I’ll get through this upcoming week, but maybe I’ll make this a regular thing? (Sidenote: apologies to anyone who receives email notifications when I post stuff…I didn’t mean to takeover your inboxes!).

The Bane Chronicles – Cassandra Clare

The Bane Chronicles – Cassandra Clare (with Maureen Johnson and Sarah Rees Brennan)
This collection of eleven short stories illuminates the life of the enigmatic Magnus Bane, whose alluring personality, flamboyant style, and sharp wit populate the pages of the #1 New York Times bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.

Originally released one-by-one as e-only short stories by Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Rees Brennan, this compilation presents all ten together in print for the first time and includes a never-before-seen eleventh tale, as well as new illustrated material.

I know when I read City of Heavenly Fire in August, I said it was probably the last Cassandra Clare book I’ll read. I lied. But this is ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY, WITHOUT A DOUBT the last Cassandra Clare book I’ll ever read. For realz, this time.

I like Magnus Bane – he’s always been my favourite character in CC’s multiple series (even after I stopped actually enjoying the books and only read them for the sake of knowing what happened next and apparently because I’m a glutton for punishment), so I was sort of excited to read this.

If you haven’t read it yet and you’re hoping to learn something new or interesting, don’t bother. Literally nothing happens.

The stories are “fun” anecdotes, but they barely tell you anything you don’t already know. To be fair, I’ve forgotten most of the minor characters from The Mortal Instruments/The Infernal Devices, so sometimes it felt like I was being introduced to new characters. Maybe if you’ve read them recently/have a better memory than me, some of these stories will hold deeper meanings for you. But I’m not re-reading all nine of them anytime soon, so I guess I’ll never know (I’ll just Wikipedia them).

There were stories about the vampires and I was all “woo, ‘sup Camille”, who I vaguely remember as being pretty badass. And there was a weird one about Marie Antoinette that was trying to be funny but was just sort of “lol, what?” because I didn’t understand the point of it (also super annoyed that we never do find out why Magnus was banned from entering Peru).

And then there was the one story with Will and Tessa and Jem-as-a-Silent-Brother shows up and I was reminded of how much I hated the epilogue in The Clockwork Princess, which made me mad all over again (now that I think about it, it was sort of similar to the trainwreck that was the last two minutes of the How I Met Your Mother series finale). It was a story that was clearly just written for the sake of getting the three of them into a room together again. (P.S. Will’s son already sounds like a combination of his father and Jace, which is not at all surprising because CC really likes lead male characters who are tortured-yet-sensitive).

Basically, it felt like I was reading fanfiction. Mediocre fanfiction that you find on some sketchy site because you miss the characters so much that you’re willing to read anything, as long as they’re doing something again. The stories with Alec – while cute – reminded me of the Harry/Ginny fanfiction I used to read while waiting for Harry Potter to finish (once I read the last book, I stopped reading fanfiction because, as far as I was concerned, the series was done and I didn’t need anything else unless it was coming from JKR herself).

I get wanting to revisit characters, I do. You connect with a character and you feel sad when you no longer have new stories about them. I’m a writer, I understand wanting to write more about these people/creatures/things that have been living in your head. But I also feel like revisiting characters requires you to actually write a story where stuff happens otherwise, if there’s no plot, what’s the point?

I don’t think these stories were edited. Sure, they were originally put out as epubs (I think you had to pay for them, which is why I waited for the physical book?) so I don’t know if they had to go through the whole editorial process first (probably just copyediting). But if they did, then her editor was clearly all “quantity over quality i.e. do whatever the frick-frack you want, Cassie, you’ll make us money from now until the end of time”…and didn’t worry too much about content.

Because literally nothing happened.

This review has more plot than The Bane Chronicles, and I’m just repeating the same idea using slightly different words.

Not unlike the majority of The Bane Chronicles.

Yes, sometimes there were funny moments. Yes, sometimes there were sweet or cute moments. Yes, Magnus is still my favourite character (granted, I barely remember half the characters, and I hate the other half, so is that really a compliment?).