Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Shadow Cabinet
Author: Maureen Johnson
Year Published: 2015

Genre: YA fiction (mystery and paranormal)
Pages: 376
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)UK

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how d you find a ghost? Also, Rory's classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte's in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggle to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the enter city. In the process, they'll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself--and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

Review: I have now read all three of the Shades of London series right in a row. Whew!
What I liked about this book
  • I like Rory and the other characters and have throughout the series. I do wish Rory wouldn't take the risks she takes, but then there wouldn't be a story. I even like to hate the meanies (Jane, Sid, and Sadie). They are creepy!
  • I like the concept of the sight: being able to see ghosts, talk to them, etc.
  • I like that it takes place in London.

What I didn't like as much about this book:
  • It got a little too paranormal for me. I can't really go into this because I don't want to give anything away, but it just got a little too magic/paranormal/conspiracy laden. I am glad that I read book 3 though!

Book three of the series definitely ends with the possibility of a book four.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Year Published: 2013

Genre: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 290
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)UK

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): After her near fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps a the chance to get back to her friends.

But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades--the city's secret ghost-fighting police--are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that he deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

Review: Ah, book two of the series! I am so excited that I read this and that I have number three sitting next to me already to read. These books keep taking twists and turns that I don't see coming and I love it.

Rory is a great combination of a totally normal girl and someone with extraordinary powers. I am not normally into paranormal books, but this series has me hooked. I like that Rory is in boarding school and we get to read about the friends, classes she is taking, her boyfriend, and her "regular" life as well as the ghost stuff. I like the three people that she hangs out with in the Shades (Callum, Stephen, and Boo).

I also like that it takes place in London. There is so much history that it fits really well with the storyline: little alley ways, a mental hospital, and more.

If you are in the mood for a fun, quick, and entertaining mystery/paranormal book, I recommend this series!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Review: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
Year Published: 2011

Genre: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 372
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)UK

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the back of the book): The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city--gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific work of Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted a man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, what is he planning to do about her?

Review: My office mate, Linda, recommended this book to me and I LOVED it! I think there is another one in the series so I am going to get it from my school library tomorrow and read it right away.

I loved the part about the American girl going to a British boarding school and settling in. When I was a kid I read Enid Blyton's Malory Towers series and wanted to go to a British boarding school (ironically, my niece now attends the school where Enid Blyton went). And now my daughter wants to attend a British boarding school for part of high school. I am making her read this book.

Once Rory is settled in at Wexton College, the Jack the Ripper portion of the book kicks into high gear. There are some gruesome points in the book, describing the original Jack the Ripper murders and the modern-day murders that take place. But, the surrounding story is so good! I can't really say anything about it without giving away the plot, but suffice it to say that I spent most of Mother's Day reading this book.

So, if you want a good mystery, check out this book and series.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Title: Marcelo in the Real World
Author: Francisco X. Stork
Year Published: 2009

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 312
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (MA)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the back of the book): Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear--part of an autism-like condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never fully believed in the music or Marcelo's differences, and he challenges Marcelo to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer... to join "the real world."

There Marcelo meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger and desire. But it's a picture he finds in a file--a picture of a girl with half a face--that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its injustice, and what he can do to fight.

Review: I have had this book on my to read list for years and am glad that I finally got around to reading it. My daughter was reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which triggered me to think of Marcelo and pick up this book. The books are similar in the way they capture the voice of the main character, but Marcelo is more high functioning, saying he has Asperger's.

Marcelo's story is so interesting, but its his voice that captured me. Stork did a wonderful job of getting inside Marcelo's head and showing the reader how someone "on the spectrum" might see the world. At the end of the book the author describes his years of working and living with autistic young adults in a half-way house. He says this book "acknowledges the gifts of these young people and the gift of love he received" from them. What a perfect way to describe Marcelo. He is caring, thoughtful, and interested to figure out what he doesn't "get" about people. He is forthright and talks about what is going on, and in turn gets the other characters to do the same.

There were moments when I wanted to shout at Wendell for being cruel to Marcelo, to shield Marcelo from people's deceit, but that's the mark of a good book; I was completely sucked in. I also smiled as I read when Marcelo made real connections with other characters or stood up for himself. This book takes the reader on a journey that is so good!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: The Columnist by David Auburn

Title: The Columnist
Author: David Auburn
Year Published: 2012

Genre: Adult fictionalized non-fiction (play)
Pages: 99
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2015 Google Reading map)USA (DC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): In mid-century America, newspaper columnists are kings--and Joseph Alsop wears the biggest crown. Joe sits at the nexus of Washington life: beloved, feared, and courted in equal measure. But as the sixties dawn and America undergoes dizzying change, the intense political dramas Joe is embroiled in come to claim a profound personal cost.

Inspired by the real-life story of Joseph Alsop, David Auburn has penned a vital letter from a radically changing decade to our own turbulent era. The Columnist is a deft blend of history and fiction: a hilarious, searing portrait of the glorious rewards and devastating losses that accompany ego, ambition, and the pursuit of power.

Review: My fourteen-year-old daughter bought this yesterday in a used bookstore. I thought it was an odd choice, but didn't want to dissuade her from book buying so I didn't say anything. She started reading it in the car on the way home, then began to ask me questions: What's the best way to read a play? Who is David Halberstam? What is Dien Bien Phu? What year did the Vietnam War begin? As I began answering the questions, she said she would just start reading aloud.

This is a play and the characters are all from history. They are the movers and shakers of politics when JFK was President. We ended up having a great conversation about plays, about history, and about journalists. This slim volume of only 99 pages covers 1963 to 1969 and through the conversations of the main characters the reader gets a fascinating glimpse into history.