Marry, Date or Dump: Ladies from Maureen Johnson Novels

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I love Maureen Johnson. I love the humor in her writing. I like the way she structures her plots. But most of all, I love her quirky, relatable, female characters. So I thought it would be fun to see if you all feel the same way, and who you would marry, date, and dump between these characters. I picked three of my favorites, but feel free to make substitutes if you feel so inclined!  Continue reading “Marry, Date or Dump: Ladies from Maureen Johnson Novels”

The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson

book-bermudeztriangle220For about a year, I’ve been trying to work my way through all of Maureen Johnson’s novels. So when I found The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson at the library last week, I knew it would be a perfect book for my first 2014 LGBT Reading Challenge review. The story switches points of views between three female best friends as they approach the summer before their senior year. Nina Bermudez has always been the leader of their threesome, and pretty much everything else (straight A student, class president, etc.). To hone her leadership skills she leaves her two best friends, Mel and Avery, for the first time to go to a pre-college program for ten weeks. During the program she makes a whole new life for herself, with an “eco-warrior” boyfriend and a roommate who steals her underwear. She expects Mel and Avery to be the same when she returns, but they make a new life for themselves as well. A life where they are more than just friends. When Nina finds out her two best friends are in love, she knows their trio will never be the same, but she’s unsure if their friendship will survive senior year.  Continue reading “The Bermudez Triangle, by Maureen Johnson”

The Little Blue Envelope series, by Maureen Johnson: Snail Mail at its Best

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 1.37.13 PMTime for another double book review! Although to be honest this is going to be less of a review, and more of a rave/recommendations (which is kind of how most of my reviews have been going these days). One of the first books I reviewed for the blog was The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. I liked it a lot, but I still found a few things to criticize about the book. I don’t know if these books are more my style, or if now that I’m writing full-time I don’t feel like criticizing books anymore, or if now that I’ve read much more YA fiction I understand what a gem Maureen Johnson is to the genre … but I can’t really think of a single bad thing to say about her books, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope.  Continue reading “The Little Blue Envelope series, by Maureen Johnson: Snail Mail at its Best”

The Madness Underneath: A Strong Sequel

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*** This review contains no spoilers for The Madness Underneath, but does have spoilers for The Name of the Star (the first book in the series)

When I started The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson (Book 2 in the Shades of London series) I knew the book wouldn’t be bad … but I also didn’t expect much. Maureen Johnson is definitely a good writer, as well as being one of Alison Lee’s favorite young adult authors. Still, the first book in the series, The Name of the Star, left me feeling kind of mehh about continuing the series.

Where the Name of the Star seemed to be doing too much and contained abrupt shifts between contemporary YA romance to paranormal historical paranormal, The Madness Underneath seemed to be as consistent as the wit of main character Rory  Devereaux.

Continue reading “The Madness Underneath: A Strong Sequel”

The Name of the Star: A Blend of Genres

I have never been interested in Jack the Ripper, and am even less intrigued after reading The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. The book begins with main character Rory moving from Louisiana to a fancy London boarding school for her senior year when her parents get jobs in England, coinciding with a series of copycat murders based on the gruesome ripper killings.  As the murders begin to accumulate, the only person with a clue of what’s going in is Rory who thinks she saw a man on campus the night of one of the murders. Unfortunately, her friends did not see the form and many questions and adventures ensue.  Which is not unexpected, given that the book is, at heart, a mystery. Rory must find the identity of the killer.

While the entire book follows the conventions of a mystery, several other genres weave their way into the narrative. The first half of the novel feels like a traditional contemporary YA novel, complete with first romance, fast friends (and frienemies) and culture shock.  I loved the cleverness of Rory, the endearing, if slightly clichéd, British characters, and the culture clash between posh Britain and deep American south (both places I have briefly lived). The second half …  well I don’t want to spoil anything but it abruptly shifts in the fantasy direction.

I did enjoy this book, and it definitely made me want to read more Maureen Johnson, but there were a few things I had problems with. I thought the shift was too forced. I liked the first half, and wanted more of the real life to permeate the fantasy plot. The largest obstacle for me, were the gruesome descriptions of the murders, which would have (if you’ll excuse my pun) killed my interest in reading it. The first few pages were actually the scariest and it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

While I found the genre bending a little jarring, I do think Johnson included something for everyone in the novel. Overall the characters were believable and interesting, the plot was fast paced, and the anglophile in me couldn’t resist the explanations of British culture.

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