Aced the Test

May 31, 2012

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Release Date: May 2006
Publisher: Random House | Knopf Books for Young Reads
Pages: 368 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover

Sum It Up
Ed Kennedy doesn't have a lot going for him. He's an underage cabdriver, a terrible cardplayer and absolutely useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his dog, the Doorman, and he's hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. He life is a routine... until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That's when the first Ace arrives. And Ed becomes the messenger...

Chosen to care, he becomes a man on a mission. He works his way through town helping (and occasionally hurting) as he is directed by the mysterious cards. Then he's left with only one question: Who's behind his mission?

By Its Cover 
I can understand why they chose this cover, but I'm not crazy about it. I read and loved The Book Thief, but I never felt strongly about picking this book up. The cover always kind of weirded me out. But I'm definitely glad I ended up reading it, and it helped to make more sense of the cover.

Amen, Sister Friend: An Everyday, Ordinary Guy
Ed is just a normal, everyday guy. He's not anything special. He isn't very talented, and he hasn't accomplished much with this life. I loved reading about a character like him! He's relatable because of the fact that he's just so ordinary. But he's also got a really unique voice. I loved his personality and way of looking at the world. That was one of the things that really sold me on this book!

I also loved his growth as a character as the book progressed. With each mission, he changes and gains confidence in himself. I really loved that part of this book!

Literary Love: Sweet & Lovely
Ed is smitten with Audrey, but she's just not interested. His desire for her and her rebuffs added a nice touch to the story. I loved that Ed knew why she wasn't interested in him, and it was sweet how he tries to show her his feelings.

For your sake, I'm not going to tell you what happens here because I honestly didn't know how it was all going to turn out. And I think it's better for you if you have the same experience.

Word Nerd: Writing is His Craft
I think I can call myself a Zusak fangirl now. This book is so different from The Book Thief, but at the same time it felt very him. Does that make sense? I love when an author can write something completely different, and yet you can still sense that they are the voice behind it all. I absolutely love how he writes - there were so many quotable moments. And I love when you can tell how much thought when into the way a sentence (and story) is crafted.

The thing I loved the most about this book was Zusak's message behind everything. I loved that the book was about doing good to others and looking beyond yourself to see how you could help someone else. It's such a good lesson - and I loved that it was communicated through the actions of an "ordinary" hero.

Extra, Extra: Cabbie
I  can honestly say that I've never read a book where the main character's occupation was as a cabdriver. I kind of loved that Ed did something so random and normal.

Extra, Extra: The Ending
There are a few twists in the end that I absolutely didn't see coming, and I'm still trying to figure it out completely. 

So Quotable
"Sometimes people are beautiful.
Not in looks.
Not in what they say.
Just in what they are."

"I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life."

Bottom Line: Can I Call Myself a Zusak Fangirl?
I really loved I Am the Messenger! I wasn't drawn to it by the cover, but I fell in love with the story inside. The bottom line is that I love Zusak, and you will, too. 

The Seamstress & The Shoemaker

May 30, 2012

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Release Date: April 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 496 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover

Sum It Up
Enza first meets Ciro as a teenager in the Italian Alps. They have grown up in villages only a few miles apart, but it is the first time their paths have crossed. It will not be the last.

Before they have a chance to meet again, Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, is banished from his village and sent to apprentice to a shoemaker in America.

Enza is disappointed to find him gone, but her life goes on. And then her family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to venture to America with her father.

Unbeknownst to one another, they both build lives in America until fate reunites them. But is it too late? Ciro is headed off to war and Enza begins an impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that thrusts her into some of New York's most glamourous circles.

Will these star-crossed lovers meet again?

By Its Cover: Gorgeous!
I don't know about you, but I absolutely love this cover. When I first saw this book in Target, I did a double take and immediately had to pick it up and read the summary. I love the vintage feel, the red dress is stunning and I love the wallpapered wall she's leaning against. Basically, the cover gave me very high hopes for what lay inside.

Amen, Sister Friend: Fell Flat
Personally, I felt that the characters were all a little flat. I didn't really care about them, and I wasn't engrossed by the outcome of their stories. I honestly struggled with this book, which I'll explain in the writing section, but I think that's what kept me from really connecting to the characters.

After spending 500 pages with the characters, I wanted to walk away from the book feeling like I really cared about what had happened to them... but I just didn't.

Literary Love: Undeveloped, Even With 500 Pages
I think the title of this book kind of gives everything away, which really bothered me because it took away some of the dramatic tension. The whole question of "will they or won't they end up together" is basically answered before you ever even open the book.

Not only that, but the love story kind of drove me crazy. Enza is basically in love with Ciro as soon as she meets him, and it doesn't really develop beyond that. It didn't bother me as much when she was a teenager, but it was on my last nerve when she was an adult. The author just tells you that they are madly in love. Their love story is supposed to be a big, sweeping saga. For me, it definitely wasn't.

Word Nerd: Stop Telling & Start Showing
You know how they say show, don't tell? This book is all about telling without very much showing. After 500 pages of being told things, I was getting tired of this book. I wanted to love it like everyone else. But my biggest complaint kept coming back to the same thing - I wanted there to be scenes where I learned things for myself instead of just being told that this was a character quality of someone, that this was how someone felt or that this was what happened.

The pacing is also a weakness. The book covers the characters' entire lives, which can be a really fun book to read. However, it's not good when it leads to problems with pacing. Some portions of their lives lasted a really long time, and others were rushed through. 

You know how the summary says Ciro goes off to war? Well, you'd expect that to be a pretty big portion of the book, right? It's not. He basically leaves and comes back within the span of a few paragraphs. Then, the author tells you how he's changed since the war but she just TELLS you. 

The setting was one of the very best parts of this book. I love reading about Italy and New York in the early 1900s. This story was inspired by the author's grandparents, which gave it a cool backstory and grounded it in history. I don't read many books about immigrants, so that was also a plus.

So Quotable
"Enza was so moved by his words, she couldn't speak. She knew that a woman can only know two things when she falls in love: what she sees in the man, and what she believes he will become in light of her care."

Bottom Line: Wasn't For Me
I've read several reviews that raved about this book. It has a really good rating on Goodreads. But I just didn't like it and was frustrated for much of the book. I was SO looking forward to a good historical fiction saga. Unfortunately, I struggled with The Shoemaker's Wife. I think that puts me in the minority for this book, so I'd still recommend looking into for yourself if you like historical fiction. I didn't love it, but I know so many people who did!

Future People Better Love These Books

May 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

Top Ten Books Written in the Last 10 Years
That I Hope are Still Being Read in 30 Years
1 - 7. The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling - I didn't read these books until recently... as in the end of last year and beginning of January. I fell in love with the characters, the world, and the adventures. I now completely understand why everyone is so crazy about these books. I have a feeling that they'll still be loved and cherished 30 years from now, but this is me putting that hope out there in the world.

8 - 10. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins - I have so much love for these books! I know they are crazy popular right now, but I hope people are still reading them in 30 years. I love Katniss and Peeta, but I also appreciate the social commentary underneath it all. I don't know where society will be in 30 years, but I think these books present an interesting commentary on the world today.

Okay, I know that I basically cheated by just picking two series. But I can't help it! It just worked out so perfectly, and I was having a hard time coming up with other books for my list. I can't wait to visit everyone's lists this week to see what other people have chosen. Do you agree with my choices?!

Decorate Me Happy

May 28, 2012

{book with a green cover}
hosted by chick loves lit

Domino: The Book of Decorating by Deborah Needleman, Sarah Ruffin Costello and Dara Caponigro

Release Date: October 2008
Pages: 272 pages
Amazon | Goodreads

If you like decorating, I'm going to guess you've heard about this book. In fact, you probably own it, love it, and never wish to part from it. But for those of you who aren't immersed in (or obsessed with) the world of decorating - I'd like to introduce you to a little book that packs a pretty big punch.

What made Domino magazine so popular was its approachability, its belief that it was possible to "demystify and democratize decorating." It gained a cult-like following, and people still pay high dollar on Ebay to get old issues. Fortunately, the book is affordable (only $32) and easy to acquire. Almost any major bookstore will have this classic, and you can always order it online.

Separated into nine chapters based on type of room, I love everything about it. The first chapter has great advice for getting started - from finding inspiration to making a decorating schedule. Don't know where to start? Domino will point you in the right direction.

Chapters follow the same basic format. First, a few pages of their favorite rooms (for that category) from the magazine, along with notes on what makes the room work. Then, a few pages dedicated to "the big piece" for that room (like the sofa in the living room). Pages on "how to mix and match" in that room will help you achieve that eclectic and effortless Domino look.

A few "very important tips" are then followed by pages of images that highlight specific "decorating tricks" to help you make the most of that space. "Small-space solutions" are perfect for those of us who have to make the most of what we've got, and the "finishing touches" section focus on the tiny details that can make a difference. Finally, they make "the domino effect" look easy by showing you the elements before you turn the page to see the result.

LOVE this book. The cover looks gorgeous on display, but I promise this is the kind of book you'll turn to for reference whenever you're decorating. The style is decidedly eclectic - with lots of color and modern touches - but it's helpful no matter what your style.

Be sure to check out Shanyn's blog Chick Loves Lit to learn more about Recommend A. There are topics for every Monday, as well as a cute button you can grab (I just created my own version to fit my blog but included Shanyn's blog info). I love this new feature and am excited to participate!

So Quotable: Sarah Dessen

May 27, 2012

found via
"Maybe the truth was, it shouldn't be easy to be amazing. Then everything would be. It's the things you fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth. When something's difficult to come by, you'll do that much more to make sure it's even harder - if not impossible - to lose."
          ― Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride

Just Get Back On the Bike

May 26, 2012

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Release Date: June 2009
Publisher: Penguin | Viking Juvenile
Pages: 383 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book

Sum It Up
Auden doesn't sleep at night. Her parents started fighting, and then they just didn't stop. Now, they're divorced and she's trying to decide what to do with her summer. Should she stay with her mom or go visit her dad, stepmom and new baby?

As much as she doesn't want to see her stepmom and new baby, she isn't looking forward to being stuck at home with her mom. She decides to spend the summer with her dad and his new family in the charming beach town where they live.

The only problem? Everything with them isn't so charming. Auden decides to help her stepmom with her clothing boutique to get out of the house. She's then introduced to the world of girls: their talk, their friendship, and their crushes. She's missed out on all that trying to be the perfect daughter to her demanding mother.

When she meets Eli, she doesn't know what to think. He's a loner, and he definitely qualifies as mysterious. When he finds out she has trouble sleeping, he becomes her guide to the nocturnal world of the town. They embark on parallel quests: for Auden to experience the carefree teenage life she's missed and for Eli to come to terms with his grief and guilt over the death of his best friend.

By Its Cover: Don't Judge Dessen by Her Covers
I'm not a huge fan of most of Sarah Dessen's covers. I know she doesn't have a say in them, so I'm not holding it against her. However, this was actually my first Sarah Dessen book, and I blame that on the covers. I have avoided reading any of her books because I always thought they were cheesy and juvenile. GUESS WHAT? They're not!! This book was so good, and I'm mad that I let a cover keep my away from this author.

Amen, Sister Friend: I Can Totally Relate
 One of my absolute favorite things about Along for the Ride is the main character, Auden. She's the perfect daughter. She follows the rules, she studies hard, and she doesn't really have time for anyone else. Her social skills are lacking, but all she really wants is her mom's approval. She's incredibly smart, but she can also be kind of judgmental. She doesn't have time for people like her stepmom, Heidi, or the girls who work at Heidi's store.

Here's the thing. I loved Auden. I loved her a lot. She's a perfectionist, and she doesn't do failure. She might not admit it, but she's afraid to fail. And that fear made me love her because it reminded me of myself. While I didn't relate to everything about her, I totally understood Auden's struggle to be perfect and her fear. One of the big things I realized about myself in high school was that I avoided things I didn't know how to do because I was afraid to fail. If I didn't know I would be good at it, I didn't want to try it. Recognizing that about myself was the first step towards making myself conquering that fear, but reading about Auden brought it all back (in a good way). I loved seeing a character who struggled with something I recognized, and I was cheering her on as her quest helped her break out of the box fear had kept her in.

Literary Love: No Insta-Love Here
Another thing I loved about this book? The romance! Auden and Eli get to know each other really well during their midnight hangouts. They get to know each other. There is build up. This isn't insta-love, and I was eating it up.

Eli is a mysterious loner, but he opens up to Auden. I understood her attraction to him, and I also felt like Dessen helped you see why he was interested in her. I absolutely adored how Eli wanted to take Auden on a quest to give her back the childhood she'd missed.

Word Nerd: Had Me Hooked
I wasn't really expecting much from this book, and I'm sure you're starting to realize that I was more than pleasantly surprised. I'm now making it my mission to read all of her books. I feel like I've missed so much!

I loved that all of the characters, even the minor ones, are well developed. Heidi annoyed me at first because I saw her through Auden's eyes. Then, as I started to pay closer attention, I saw how she wasn't a flat character. She had her own history, her own journey, and she was a real person. That ended up being true about all of the secondary characters. They were realistic and enjoyable. I wanted to know even more about them!

I also loved the setting. I could imagine the cute beach town, and I really wanted to go visit! I could imagine myself exploring the town at night, shopping at Heidi's boutique, eating at the local joints and riding around on a beach cruiser.

Don't forget to throw in lessons about growing up, falling in loving, standing by your commitments and facing your fears. Needless to say at this point, but I was hooked.

Extra, Extra: Insomnia
I loved Auden and Eli's nighttime adventures. Seriously, this was one of my favorite aspects of the book. I thought it was adorable how they'd stay up late and explore the town. It was such an effective way for them to get to know each other!

Extra, Extra: Quest
Quests play a pretty big role in Along for the Ride, and I loved it because it was unexpected. I tend to associate quests with historical fiction or fantasy - so it was really nice to see the "everyday life" version of a quest.

So Quotable
"Life is full of screwups," he said, chucking another paper at a split-level before taking the corner. "You're supposed to fail sometimes. It's a required part of the human existence."

"It was so easy to disown what you couldn't recognize, to keep yourself apart from things that were foreign and unsettling. The only person you can be sure to control, always, is yourself. Which is a lot to be sure of, but at the same time, not enough."

"You couldn't just pick and choose at will when someone depended on you, or loved you. It wasn't like a light switch, easy to shut on or off. If you were in, you were in. Out, you were out. To me, it didn't seem complicated at all. In fact, it was the simplest thing in the world."

Bottom Line: Why Didn't I Read Dessen Sooner?
I don't think I need to say anything more about Along for the Ride. If you've read any part of this review, you should be able to tell that I loved this book. I adored the realistic characters, flawed family, swoony loner, and adorable beach town. This was such a great Dessen book for me to start with, and I can't wait to read more!

Daily Reads: Non-Book Blog Edition

May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

Top Ten Blogs That Aren't About Books

1. Elements of Style - Erin is an interior designer, and she primarily writes about all things home decor. I love everything about this blog - from the branding to the content, Erin's fabulous. I've gotten great decorating ideas from her blog, and I love just browsing through all the lovely images she has collected on her blog. I could spend hours on this one!

2. Young House Love - I'm in awe of this couple, and their DIY skills. I mean, they've turned fixing up their house (and writing about it) into a full-time job. They make the coolest projects (see this play kitchen for their daughter), and have awesome renovation tips. For someone who isn't very crafty and is slightly nervous about using tools, this blog makes me think I can tackle anything. The best thing about their blog is they show you how they do everything yourself!
3. Atlantic-Pacific - In my dream world, I would be as stylish as Blair. This girl takes fashion risks, mixes patterns, layers like no one else... and makes it look so easy. I know I'll never be able to dress like this, but I'm this fashionable in my imagination. At least Blair gives me ideas for what I could do to dress better, even if I never act on them.

4. A Piece of Toast - This blog is runs by two sister, Sally Ann & Molly Bernadette, and I wish I knew them in real life. They are absolutely adorable! They blog about products and things they love, and I cannot tell you how many things I've added to wish lists because they featured it on their blog.

I also love the meaning behind the name of their blog:

"What’s in a name? A Piece of Toast spiraled from many ideas, but to make the long story short - we thought that “A Piece of Cake” would have signified a charmed life. Please know, the writers love their lives dearly and thank their lucky stars for all that they have – but, cake is not an everyday something you get a piece of. Toast. Toast is simple, but beautiful. It’s versatile – you can pair it with other foods or top it with an endless list of delicious things. But, no matter what, toast is warm and yummy and makes you feel good. 

And that is what this blog is all about. It is a place where the simple things in life are just as grand as the finer things. The content is for fun and inspiration. The blog authors vow to post with honesty, humor, and a true sense of self in hopes to hold your attention and keep you coming back for more."

5. Cupcakes and Cashmere - Emily writes about style, decorating and entertaining. She shares the things that inspire her, and I love all the new things I've discovered through her blog! Even better? She has a new book coming out in August all about a lifestyle that's both chic and within reach.
6. Kendi Everyday - If Blair from Atlantic-Pacific owns my dream closet, Kendi owns the closet that's actually within my reach. Her style is adorable and affordable. I love how she mixes high-end pieces with more affordable options, but she makes it look so stylish! When I found her blog, I basically went on a pinning spree saving all her outfits for future reference. Plus, she's all about remixing - using one piece of clothing in a variety of ways. I love that! 
7. The Love List - Jessica runs this lifestyle blog, and I'm addicted to it. She writes about style, life, art, decor, people, music.... basically, things that are on her "Love List." She's awesome at highlighting trends and mixing resort style with big city chic.

8. Miss Magnolia - Ashlyn mostly writes about her life, but it's the way she writes about it that makes me love her. She's down-to-earth and is so relatable. I've loved following her post-college journey, and I love that she's now an Atlanta girl. She hasn't updated as frequently recently, but I still love this blog. Follow her for a good helping of Southern sass and charm!

9. Lilies & Sparrows - I met Mary Catherine through her blog before I ever realized that we went to college together... and were next door neighbors! Yep, that's right folks. I lived next to this sweet girl in Athens, and it was a joy getting to know her. She writes about life, love and grand adventures. This girl has got a way with words that will captivate you.

10. Without Melissa / Dear Baby - I have absolutely fallen in love with this family. I first came across Melissa's blog in college, and I was smitten with her writing style, her adorable love story and her fun life in San Francisco. When she got pregnant with her daughter, Everly, and then later her son, Arlo, I was even more enchanted. Following her journey as a mother and the family's return to North Carolina has been delightful! Melissa's voice is authentic, warm and grabs you in. I'm not a mother yet, but this is one "baby blog" I can't resist!
BONUS: Suri's Burn Book - If you love celebrities and pop culture, you need to be following this blog. The about page reads: "A study in Suri and the celebrities who disappoint her." And that's basically what it is boiled down into one sentence.Written from the perspective of Suri Cruise, the daughter of Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, this blog never fails to make me laugh hysterically. Suri's snarky judgment of other celebrity children is spot-on and hilarious. LOVE LOVE LOVE. I'm definitely so obsessed with this blog.

So Quotable: E. Lockhart

May 20, 2012

“It is better to be alone, she figures, than to be with someone who can't see who you are. It is better to lead than to follow. It is better to speak up than stay silent. It is better to open doors than to shut them on people."
          ― E. Lockhart, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Look at My Pretty!

May 19, 2012

Guess what I'm doing today? Moving in to this gorgeous house! Buying a home has made me officially feel like an adult. I've scheduled some posts so it shouldn't even seem like I'm gone, but I might be moving a little slow this week. I forgot what a pain it is to get packed and THEN unpack, not to mention getting things like the Internet set up. Hopefully you won't even notice my slight absence over the next few days, but if you do, just cut me some slack!

Victorians, Pirates & Espionage!

The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

Release Date: March 2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 335 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Series: The Agency #1

Sum It Up (from Goodreads)
Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners - and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw's Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test.

Assuming the guise of a lady's companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant's home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust - or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets - including those of her own past.

By Its Cover: Simple & Straightforward
I like this cover better online than in person. For some reason, it looks like a computer illustration (rather than a real model) in person. Otherwise, it's just fine. Mary, our heroine, is fleeing a lit building. While it looks a bit juvenile, I like the key "hidden" in the word agency.

Amen, Sister Friend
Mary Quinn is my kind of heroine. She's smart, independent and stands up for herself. As an orphan on the streets, she's able to survive on her own. As a young woman, she's courageous and thinks for herself. I loved that she desired more for herself than to just get married and have no occupation. She wants to work and put her mind to the test. I really liked that about her! While I enjoyed her, I didn't feel entirely connected to her. I think the writing is a little bit to blame for that, and I'm hoping that will improve with the second book.

I will note that Mary isn't exactly the most believable character. Based on the time period in which the novel is set, she takes certain actions and does things that make her more "modern" than she probably should. As a lover of historical fiction, you can spot characters that don't really belong. However, I still loved her and it didn't bother me too much once I just decided to get over it and go along for the ride.

Literary Love
There is banter. Y'all, I love me some banter. While the book isn't overly romantic, I think it's definitely setting the stage for more romance to come. And I didn't want it to stop! There were moments when I was enjoying the romantic tension so much that I didn't want the plot to go on. I just wanted to hang out and let Mary and James chat longer.

I loved the chemistry going on this book. Seriously. I was smiling every time James came around because I knew I was in for a few smiles. Plus, since it's set in England, I imagined his British accent and fell more in love with him. Mary wants to resist him, but how are you supposed to resist a charming, handsome fellow? The answer is: you don't.

Word Nerd
This is the area where I think the book was a little lacking. The writing is very straightforward, and it's almost a little boring at times. Lee doesn't spend a lot of time on world building, and I really wished there had been more time spent on that. I didn't have a good sense of how or why the Agency was created. I didn't really learn anything about Victorian England, especially since the characters felt modern in many respects.

Also, the mystery didn't really move the plot along. It's a thinly veiled mystery, and I certainly didn't find the culprit's identity very shocking. A lot of the "clues" were pretty obvious, and they were delivered in the dialogue. You aren't really "discovering" anything for yourself, and neither was Mary.

Now, I still enjoyed the book, but it wasn't really the mystery that had me hooked. As you can probably tell, it was the love story. I wanted to love the mystery aspect more, but I think it needed more work. I will definitely be checking out book two because I have high hopes that the writing will improve and the mystery will be more thrilling. It's a book with lots of potential, and I'm willing to give it another chance to make me fall in love.

So Quotable
Amusement gleamed in his eyes. "Do I look the type to ruin my life by falling in love and getting married?"
"Well, if that's your attitude, you'll certainly end up a lonely, embittered old man."
"Oh, I'll marry eventually," he said calmly. "But when I do, it'll be for the right reasons."
"Which are?"
He waved his hand vaguely. "Money. Business contacts. Political connections."

"One day you'll appreciate the finer points of my character."
"Finer points? Plural?"
"So many you'll grow dizzy trying to count them."

Bottom Line
Check this book out from the library if you're looking for a fun, cute historical mystery. While there is room for improvement, it offers a fun escape with an admirable heroine. I'll definitely be continuing on to the second book in hopes that it offers a more complex mystery. And, you know, more James. Because I'm a sucker for banter.

Succumb to Rippermania

May 17, 2012

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Release Date: September 2011
Publisher: Penguin | Speak
Pages: 372 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book
Series: Shades of London #1
Amazon | Goodreads

Sum It Up
Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux is headed to a boarding school in London. Her main concern? Whether or not she'll fit in!

Little does she know, she's headed into a city suffering from "Rippermania." A killer is running around the city mimicking the Jack the Ripper murders of more than a century ago.

By Its Cover: Too Busy
I'm not a fan of this cover. First of all, the book takes place in London but the image in the background evokes more of an English manor in the country in my mind. I'm totally fine with the ghosty Ripper character, but don't really like the redhead just laying there. I think the girl is supposed to represent one of the people murdered in the book, but at first I thought it was supposed to be Rory. I don't think the three images blend together very well - it's just too busy!

Amen, Sister Friend: Southern Girl
As a Southern myself, I really liked some of Rory's musings on what it means to be a Southern and how she responds in a new city. I also really enjoyed her interactions with her roommate. However, writing this review a week after reading it, I'm realizing I can't remember any defining characteristics about Rory. She was sweet, but she hasn't really stuck in my head.

This book isn't really a character-driven novel - it's all about the plot. That doesn't mean the characters are flat, just that they weren't entirely memorable. But I loved the plot so the slightly bland characters didn't really bother me!

Literary Love: More about Kissing Than Relationship
There's a little romance in this book, but it's basically just the "sometimes we make out" variety. This book didn't really focus on the romantic relationship, even though Rory does have a love interest in it. This kind of goes back to what I said about the characters. It's all about plot in this one.

Word Nerd: The Plot Won Me Over
Finally, let's talk about the plot! Oh my goodness, I devoured this book. I also read it late at night and completely freaked myself out. In modern-day London, a killer is re-creating the Jack the Ripper murders. And, guys, it was totally scary. I know a little bit about Jack the Ripper, but not a lot. I feel much more knowledgeable about him now though because Johnson included so many interesting facts throughout the book. I loved getting a mini-history lesson without it being dry and boring.

The suspense in this book, at least for me, was palpable. I was so nervous for Rory! It took a while for it to really build up, but once it did I wasn't able to put the book down.

Details about Rory's life at Wexford Academy were interwoven with this whole murder mystery aspect, and I really enjoyed it. I was also surprised by the paranormal element to this book. I wasn't expecting it, but I found it really interesting. I'm not usually a huge fan of paranormal, but I was totally into the whole ghost story aspect of the book.

It's suspenseful, but it's also funny. It's not all dark and eerie, and I was thankful for the times when the mood was lightened a little bit. I also appreciated all the detail that went into the setting. Johnson takes the time to familiarize you with the world around Rory, which made the crime spree all the more thrilling.

Extra, Extra: Jack the Ripper
Okay, I have a confession: I really love documentary-type shows about murder investigations. Even though they make me super paranoid, I just can't turn them off. This book was kind of like one of those TV shows for me. The story of Jack the Ripper and the details about the gruesome murders he committed were scary but made for a really interesting read.

So Quotable
"I decided to deflect her attitude by giving a long, Southern answer. I come from people who know how to draw things out. Annoy a Southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death."

"Fear can't hurt you," she said. "When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you."

Bottom Line: Great Rainy Day Read
I don't think I've ever read another book quite like this, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. I was totally swept up by the Rippermania, and I loved the suspense leading up to the revelation about the killer.  This is a book that almost defies genre: it's a modern-day book with lots of history thrown in, a thrilling mystery and a ghost story to boot. I really enjoyed it, despite a few flaws, and think it would make a great rainy day read!

Wednesday Wish: Ombre Chevron Bookmarks

May 16, 2012

Source: Piper's Place
Let me begin by telling you that credit for this Wednesday find goes to Magan from Rather Be Reading (side note: LOVE both of those ladies!). She posted on Twitter about these little lovelies, and I immediately fell in love. That was also the first conversation I had with her - we discussed using receipts as bookmarks and my desire to have cool ombre hair like her. Basically, I liked her right away.

So, anyway, aren't these bookmarks just beyond fabulous? They're available from Piper's Place on etsy and are just $5 for the downloadable and printable file! In case you don't realize how great this is, let me explain. Downloadable & printable = unlimited supply of super awesome chevron bookmarks. That's great for someone like me because I misplace cute bookmarks all the time and end up just using receipts. Receipts may do the job, but they certainly aren't cute.

But these are cute. They're chevron, which basically means they're adorable. And they're ombre, which means they're totally in style. And you get to write your name on them. I kind of love anything that allows me to write my name on it and claim it as my own. 

What do you typically use as a bookmark? Have any favorites?
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