The Name of the Star

Now, before I start, there is one very very very important thing you should understand about this book: SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY DO NOT READ LATE AT NIGHT SERIOUSLY DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Phew. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now. . .

As you have probably noticed, this book is titled The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The main character of this story is Rory Deveaux, who is just arriving in London from Louisiana to attend a difficult boarding school there. And London is starting to become very exciting–violent, gory murders imitating those committed by Jack the Ripper are popping up around the city, and that has to be just a little noteworthy.

While at first Rory isn’t that interested, that changes soon enough, especially when one of the murders takes place just a bit too close to home. And here’s where it gets really strange. . .Rory saw a man lurking around that night. She talked to him, even. But even though her roommate was right there, Rory was the only one to see him.

And you have to admit, that’s just a bit suspicious.

As the murders continue, the people of London are alternately terrified and curious, or both, and Rory’s left to try to solve the mystery of the strange man she saw. Not to mention why she saw him and no one else did. Oh, and it’d be nice if she could stay alive, too. That would be rather nice.

I’ve already established that this book is definitely creepy, but it is also definitely good. The characters are unique, and the plot is nice and suspenseful. It’s well-written, and while it would occasionally take me a while to really get into things, it was pretty hard to get out once I did. I’m definitely going to check out the sequel soon!

ALSO, as I have mentioned before, this book is very scary, and it has descriptions of gore and violence as well. It’s still a really great book to read, and I liked it a lot, but you should probably keep those things in mind when deciding if you’re going to read it. Anyway, that’s about it! Have a great day everyone!

Literary Quote of the Day: “Fear can’t hurt you. When it washes over you, give it no power. It is a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.” —The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

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Venom

Okay, me continuously apologizing for insanely late posts is probably getting old by now, so I’m just going to jump right in for once. . .

Today’s post is on the book Venom, written by debut Young Adult author Fiona Paul. Cassandra Caravello lives near Renaissance-era Venice, on San Domenico Island, with her elderly Aunt Agnese and a number of servants. And boy, is she restless.

The rest of Cass’s life seems to consist mostly of an engagement and marriage to Luca da Peraga, a young man studying in France whom she hasn’t seen in years. The future looks bland and frightening indeed, and Cass honestly isn’t really looking forward to it. At the moment, she doesn’t really feel like she HAS much of a life, period. Until, that is, she discovers the body of a strangled girl in the graveyard near her home. Then things change. Just a bit.

Suddenly, Cass is on the trail of a crazed murderer, along with Falco, a young artist who Cass feels more and more attracted to, despite the fact that he’s obviously keeping secrets of his own. And when you catch a boy sneaking around graves late at night, can you really trust him?

One thing’s for sure: This story is bursting with detail. It throws you into the world of Venice, complete with masquerade balls, politicians, gossiping nobles, and murky canal waters. It’s original, and the plot is often gripping. The characters are pretty unique, and while I was sometimes annoyed by them (including Cass), overall they were entertaining and well-written. Cass’s character may not be as original as some of the others, but for me it doesn’t really hurt the story as a whole. Even if the writing itself is occasionally less than great, most of it was definitely good and enjoyable.

All in all, Venom is a pretty good read, and I would definitely recommend it to Young Adult and mystery lovers. So, what about that sequel? 🙂 Everyone have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “. . .evil flows silently among us like venom. We are at its mercy.” –The priest in Venom, by Fiona Paul

Eleanor & Park

GAH. THIS BOOK. THIS. BOOK. Ergasmergh. Just. . .just ergasmergh. Really.

OK, collecting my thoughts, collecting my thoughts, gimme a sec. . .JUST ONE SEC. . .OK. I think I’ve got it. Let’s do this.

So, just a little while ago I started hearing really good things about this book. It’s currently being featured on Figment (a writing site for teenagers), and has gotten a ton of good reviews. (Including one from John Green, might I add.) So I decided to get it from the library and read it. (Plus, look at the cover art. That is some EPIC cover art.)

Eleanor & Park, written by the talented Rainbow Rowell, is the story of two sixteen-year-olds that meet one day in 1986. Eleanor has just moved to Omaha and needs a seat on the bus. Park is the only one who lets her sit down, very reluctantly so. Eleanor, well, she’s weird. You can tell. And Park, as one of the very few Asian kids in his entire school, already doesn’t fit in. And some chubby, oddly dressed redhead isn’t really going to make life easier for him. So he plugs in his Walkman and drowns everything out. Eleanor doesn’t talk to him, and he doesn’t talk to her.

Gradually, though, they do start to interact a bit. It starts with comics. It gains speed with music. And before you know it, they’re in love.

The one thing that really stuck with me about this book was the characters. Not just Eleanor and Park, but the others as well. Eleanor’s only other friends at school, DeNice and Beebi, are funny and extremely likable. The other kids on the bus, as well as the schoolteachers, are striking and unique. But Eleanor herself was probably my favorite character. In the second chapter, when she’s deciding to brave the bus and the merciless kids who tease her, and thinks, “Oh, fine. The children of hell shan’t go hungry on my watch,” I immediately thought, “I love her.” Her sarcastic comments are some of my favorite moments throughout the whole book. The things she and Park go through together are also amazing, and some of the things they say to each other might have made me actually stop reading and go, “Squueeeee!” Because they were–and are–that fabulous. And squee-inducing.

And though the ending might make you cry, or at the very least make you want to eat a whole tub of ice cream, reading this book is just so incredibly worth it. The main characters, though imperfect and not your oh-so-conventional pretty-girl and pretty-boy couple (which is great, because I wouldn’t like them nearly as much), will have you cheering for them the whole time. And their story is one that is entirely worth your time. So read it. Excuse me, I need to go eat some ice cream now.

Literary Quote of the Day: “‘The least boring Batman story ever, huh? Does Batman raise both his eyebrows?'” –Eleanor in Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell

P.S. If you STILL aren’t totally convinced that you HAVE to read this book, take a look at John Green’s review in the New York Times.

Monster

Hello all. So I had been meaning to read a book by Walter Dean Myers for a while, but I really wanted to after I saw him at the National Book Festival last year. He was definitely interesting to listen to, and his book sounded equally intriguing. So I got one from the library. The book in question is Monster, the story of teenage Steve Harmon, whose life may be a tad different from yours. He’s in jail.

The book tells the story of how he ended up there, as well as what’s it like for Steve, being on trial for murder and all. For me, it was kind of like Night, by Elie Wiesel, in that it offered an up-close and personal look at what it’s like for a kid going through an awful and striking experience, the kind of look that sort of smacks you in the face and makes you think, “Wow.” Myers really succeeds in making his story seem real, which is one of the best things about it. The book is also written in a unique format. It’s a mash-up of Steve’s journal entries and the script for a movie he’s writing, to help him cope with what he’s going through. At first, I was worried that this would take away from the enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t; it was actually pretty interesting. The plot is gripping, especially since Myers continuously holds off on letting the reader know if Steve is actually guilty or not. The characters are just as well-written and interesting, and Myers definitely manages to make Steve, a suspected criminal, a human being, despite the prosecutor’s assessment of him–that he’s a monster. One of the other things I liked about the book was that it offered a look at life in and relating to the courtroom that was pretty new for me, which only makes the book better. All in all, I would definitely suggest you read Monster. It’s an important book, and it deserves it.

Literary Quote of the Day: “When you’re young, you make mistakes. The big thing that’s different now is that when I was a kid, you could survive your mistakes. We didn’t have guns. Today, kids have access to guns. The same kids that would have been in trouble and gotten a stern talking-to are now going to jail for fifteen or twenty years. Instead of bloody noses there are bodies lying in the street with chalk outlines around them. The values are basically the same, but it’s easier to mess up.” –Walter Dean Myers

It’s Ron Charles!

Okay, so for those of you who don’t know (and you should), Ron Charles is a fiction book reviewer for the Washington Post. But he is ALSO your Totally Hip Book Reviewer, helpfully swooping in to save you from the dastardly deeds of those books that would seek to bore you/irritate you/cause you to worry about the current state of the literary world. Well, okay, not exactly. Basically he tells you about ones that don’t do that, as well as just generally making fun of other literary happenings, which he excels at. Here’s his first video, I hope you like it!

Normally, this would be the end of a post, but I’ve been thinking of adding in something new: A Literary Quote of the Day. At the end of every post, I’ll add in a quote from a book, author, poem, or some such thing that I find particularly humorous, heartbreaking, or just plain cool. And, if you have a quote you’d like to suggest, just leave it in the comments and I’ll put it in. But absolutely no spoilers, because they’re ungodly if unbidden. So, anyway, because this book has so many awesome quotes, the first ever Literary Quote of the Day is: “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” –John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.

P.S. You can probably expect at least a couple more quotes from that book in the future. Because, you know, it’s awesome. Have a good Friday! (Because it’s Thursday night, and “Have a good day” would be pretty pointless.)

Summer and Bird

Hello again! Happy December! The topic of today’s post is Summer and Bird, written by debut author Katherine Catmull. At the center of the story are two young girls, sisters, named (can you guess?) Summer and Bird. At first glance, the girls seem to live a fairly carefree life in the country with their parents. But let’s face it, life is never carefree, especially in novels. As the girls soon discover when they wake up one morning to find that both their mom and dad have disappeared overnight. Surprisingly, they do not take this opportunity to throw a huge party and wreck the house (guess they’re not old enough yet?). Instead, they set off on a search through the forest, but end up in quite a different place–the world of Down. Where lots of weird things happen. This book is full to bursting with fantastical imagery, and the adventures the girls go on are certainly creative. My only problem was that it wasn’t particularly gripping for me, but as far as books go, it’s definitely above the bar. Not one that especially sticks out, but it’s a good choice for fantasy lovers.

This Is Not A Drill

First of all, I’d just like to say that this book had me from. . .actually, the summary. Yeah, I know, that’s technically not even part of the story, but come on, haven’t you ever read the summary of a book and the idea was just so dang good that you just had to read that book because in your mind it was already awesome? No? Oh, god, that’s awkward. . .ahem. Anyway, then it can be a heartbreaking letdown when the book is actually bad (like, stomping-around-and-punching-pillows letdown), right? But (and I am thanking my lucky stars for this) this book was not a letdown, not to me at least. But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? First of all, the book in question is This Is Not A Drill, by Beck McDowell. At the center of the story are Emery Austin and Jake Willoughby, two high schoolers who are currently tutoring a first grade class in French. Which, when you think about it, is not necessarily easy in light of their recent breakup. But they’re managing it, despite the awkwardness. So of course the world decides to send them a curveball one day in the form of Brian Stutts. Brian Stutts, who happens to be a former solder form Iraq and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. And he’s in a room teeming with adorably innocent (kind of) first graders. With a gun. Yikes. . .but it is an awesome idea for a plot, don’t you think? The problem and tension only escalates as the day goes on, building up to the climax. As I have already stated, the plot is awesome, and the writing isn’t half-bad either. So go check it out. Now.

(Please?)