What’s better than one Bookanista Review? Two of course! I recently read two of Maureen Johnson’s newest and it only seemed natural to feature them together. I mean, they have a lot in common if you forgot the whole serial killer aspect of one of them. They both have her trademark humor, quirky yet extremely lovable characters, and they are both set in Europe. Also, both protagonists have nicknames than end in “Y” but real first names that end in “A.”
Honestly, I probably don’t even need to review these books for you to know how fabulous they are. Just take a peek at Maureen’s twitter account and you’ll see for yourself how funny and entertaining she is. I promise that same humor is on every page of her book. So if it seems like my review is a little, um, fangirly, that’s only because it is. Because Maureen is one of my favorite writers, she’s a huge influence on my own humorous writing voice, and every time I read one of her books I just want to hug it when I finish.
First I’ll discuss THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE, which is already out and waiting in a bookstore for your reading pleasure. Then I’ll tackle THE NAME OF THE STAR which comes out September 29th but if you preorder from my favorite bookstore BOOKS OF WONDER in NYC, Maureen will sign your copy. So, you should do that.
Ironically, I just received her newsletter in the mail where she announced a launch party at BOOKS OF WONDER. I know where I’ll be September 27th!
THE LAST LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPE
What It’s About:
Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.
What I Thought:
First, yay for a non-headless girl cover!
It’s rare when I like a sequel better than the original book, especially when I LOVED the original book as I did with THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES. But I loved this book more.
My favorite part of the book was Oliver. I kept turning pages not sure whether I should be wary of him or start to fall for him. He was the perfect balance of villain and ally. I did sway heavily to one side of my thoughts on him, but I won’t say which because figuring him out was one of my favorite parts of this book’s journey. Oliver is such a great character. He blackmails Ginny by holding the last envelope hostage. He has a penchant for memorizing things, like, oh say a large chunk of the Harry Potter series.
I also was extremely impressed how Maureen made Ginny’s crush Keith’s new girlfriend so LIKABLE. I adored her! And just like Ginny, I wanted to hate her but I couldn’t.
This book definitely had some quirky and memorable scenes, such as a scene involving an abundance of cats, and a breaking and entering scene that had me laughing as well as biting my nails. Aunt Peg’s vague clues also led to adventure and hilarity in equal parts. And of course, how could I not love that New Years scene?
Maureen did a great job making me switch allegiances several times in this book. It was the perfect sequel and resolution to Ginny’s story with and ending that still leaves room for more adventures.
THE NAME OF THE STAR
What It’s About:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in 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 Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
What I Thought:
I’ll admit, I was a little leery about this one. I waited in line for hours at BEA picked it up at BEA just to get it even though I didn’t know much about it. I probably would have waited in line for Maureen to hand out blank pieces of paper. It’s Maureen! Once I read the back of the book blurb, I got a little apprehensive. I hate violence. I hate gore. I love humor. Specifically, I love Maureen’s humor. Would this book be like her others? Could I even handle it?
Thankfully, I decided to be brave and give it a chance. And OMG, I AM SO GLAD I DID. I can honestly say that this is my FAVORITE book from BEA so far. That’s not an exaggeration. I devoured this book. Though it does have gore it also has HUMOR! And it turns out, that’s the exact formula my wimpy self needs to deal with the scary stuff. And oh, it was scary. I was on the edge of my seat but too entertained to care about clutching the book with white knuckles. The story fascinated me and the premise intrigued me. I LOVED the paranormal twist. We’ve all read stories where humans can see ghosts but this went to a fresh new level that I just adored. It’s hard not to squee when I talk about this book.
The setting was perfect for this book, not just because of the Ripper connection but because it was a fresh place to take paranormal. And Rory, as our American guide to life in London, provided us with many hilarious and unique observations. Rory is the perfect protagonist, strong yet vulnerable, willing to do whatever it takes to protect others, the kind of protagonist you definitely want to spend future books with. I just wanted to be her friend. Preferably while she’s kicking butt and saving my ass.
But the supporting cast also stands out, each stealing scenes they’re in. There’s Jerome, who is endearing with his blend of mischievous mixed with romantic aloofness. I also think his obsession with Ripper mania worked perfectly as a way to get some of the history in without bogging down the story. It was enough intrigue to send me reading up on Wikipedia pages about Jack the Ripper, something I never would have done otherwise. I also loved the trio of Stephen, Boo, and Callum, specifically upbeat Boo. And there are a few other great characters that I don’t want to spoil. A certain one in the library for example.
Though I love Maureen’s contemporaries, I’m really glad she tackled this new genre.
WE INTERRUPT THIS BOOKANISTA BROADCAST…
And, we know you MUST have your Thursday Bookanista reviews so here you go!
Veronica Rossi loves Legend
Shana Silver serves up a Maureen Johnson double feature of The Last Little Blue Envelope & The Name of the Star
Scott Tracey is awed by Anna Dressed in Blood
Bethany Wiggins howls over How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-Boyfriend
Carrie Harris is in a frenzy over Stupid Fast
Gretchen McNeil is spellbound by Witch Eyes
Carolina Valdez Miller and Shelli Johannes-Wells are passionate about Possess
Matt Blackstone blogs From Bedside