Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Title: Name of the Star (First in Shades of London Trilogy)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Imprint of Penguin)
First Published: September 2011
Format and Number of Pages: Hardcover, 372

On the day that Rory Deveaux moves from her small Louisiana town to London a person is murdered in the exact same fashion as Jack the Ripper's first victim all the way back in 1888.  Rory's new boarding school happens to be at the centre of Jack's old hunting grounds and Rory finds herself caught up in the Rippermania that quickly takes over the entire country. All Rory wants is to fit in at her new school in a new country but this seems to become impossible when she becomes the only witness to the possible Ripper copy-cat.  No one else has seen him, not even her roommate who was right next to Rory when she did.

Maureen Johnson's writing is awesome. Rory is the main character and narrator of the story and she is absolutely perfect.  She is funny and witty in an easy, conversational way.  Her narration allows the reader to understand her and to get a good sense of her character without it seeming forced.  Rory's comments and little stories had me laughing out loud at times.  Her struggles with fitting in at a new school and culture made her easy to relate to as well.  I also loved Rory's roommate Jazza and their relationship.  Jazza is a well developed character with her own background and problems that we get a sense of throughout the book.  It was great to watch Rory and Jazza together and to see them grow closer as the story progressed.  I liked Boo as well, she offered a nice contrast to Jazza's character and it was interesting to see Rory's relationship with her and how her opinion of Boo changed throughout the book.  There were numerous side characters I liked as well and I hope to see more of them in the next book.

There is a romance that develops but it never felt like the main part of the story.  It could have been taken out of the story all together and I don't think I would have missed it much.  The romance wasn't too developed and it never seemed to be that serious.  Though I got the sense that Rory didn't take the relationship that seriously either as it was never her first priority for very long.  I found it refreshing to see a romance in a young adult book that was just a fun, light relationship rather than something ultra-romantic and melodramatic that seems to be more commonplace.

Maureen Johnson did an excellent job in describing London and Rory's boarding school.  I was able to get a really good sense of what the city is like and how London's old history and Rippermania effected the nature and atmosphere of the city.  I have a very strong urge to visit London now thanks to this book.  I think a lot of my enjoyment while reading this book came from the setting of London as Johnson described it.

The book was fairly fast paced and there was a nice balance between Rory trying to cope with her new life and the Rippermania aspect.  The mystery of who the Ripper was and why they were committing these murders kept me intrigued and I read through the book pretty quickly because I wanted to know what was going on.  I was never really surprised by any of the twists that happen in the book, so it was a bit predictable for me.  Overall I highly enjoyed this book.  The ending left me wanting to pick up the next book ASAP and I can't wait to finish the series.  I would highly recommend this for anyone who loves mysteries, urban fantasy or paranormal or anyone who just loves to read about London and Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 4/5

If you've read The Name of the Star and loved it, the second book in the Shades of London Trilogy, The Madness Underneath, is already available.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Title: Paranormalcy (first book in Paranormalcy Trilogy)
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: Harper Collins 
First Published: August 2010
Format and Number of Pages: ebook (Kobo), 242

Plot Summary: 
Evie considers herself to be a typical teen girl; she loves shopping, cute boys and watching TV dramas. All Evie wants to do is lead a normal teenage life.   But she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency (IPCA) as a sort of special agent who hunts down and captures paranormal creatures.  Her best friend is a mermaid.  IPCA's Center is also her home and her life before IPCA is a collection of jumbled childhood memories.  Life gets even weirder for Evie (if that's possible) when a mysterious, young shape shifter breaks into the Center and paranormals start dying at alarming rates.  To make it worse, Evie's creepy faerie ex-boyfriend refuses to leave her alone and she may have something to do with an ancient faerie prophecy.  Evie's life is far from normal. 

Evie as the main character and narrator was a lot of fun.  She has a bright, funny and quirky way of speaking that had me laughing at times.  Her actions were also quite funny and random which made her narrative interesting.  She is someone a lot of people will easily relate to.  She wants to be, and describes herself as a normal teenager and despite her circumstances she really is an average teenager.  Everything from her obsession with the show "Easton Heights" to her struggles with fitting in and loneliness to her relationships made her seem like an ordinary teenage girl.  I found it easy to like her and I wanted to see how she would deal with the problems she faced.  At times she frustrated me but I always understood her.

The side characters were also fairly well developed.  I liked Evey's relationship with Raquel and found their dynamic of boss-employee and adopted mother-daughter very interesting.  I also loved Reth.  White did a great job in showing both his allure and creepiness in his dealings with Evie.  I also liked Lend and his interactions with Evie felt very natural.  I did feel that some other characters, especially Lish and the main antagonist were a bit underdeveloped and I would have liked to see more of them and more interactions between them and Evie.  

The story primarily takes place at the Center and while it sounded interesting - especially as a home for a teenager - I felt it could have been developed a bit more.  I would have liked to see more of the Center and what Evie's life was like there and how she interacted with the people/creatures who worked there.  

The plot is fairly steady throughout and from the beginning there is quite a bit of action.  I did find the ending was a bit rushed.  After the amount of buildup that occurred prior to the ending, I was a bit surprised by how fast it was all over.  It felt a bit anti-climatic and I would have liked to have seen more from the ending. 

Overall it was an entertaining read and I would like to eventually check out the other books in the trilogy.  Evie was funny and I enjoyed a lot of the relationships she made with other side characters.  I would recommend Paranormalcy for readers who enjoy paranormal or urban fantasy.

 Rating: 3/5