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Review: The Name of the Star

Happy Halloween! Today is the day of dead, and supposedly the day when beings from Otherworlds can gain entry into ours. When the veil that separates our realities is thinnest! So, a few tips to avoid being eaten or kidnapped:

1. If a man or woman with a strange pallor and rather large incisors approaches your doorstep, do not let them in, no matter how much they insist. (Note: It may be wise to ingest vervain, to be on the safe side.)

2. If your dogs begin exhibiting erratic behavior and start barking wildly, do not go outside to see what all the fuss is about, because, chances are, you're going to walk smack into a werewolf.

3. And if anyone has infant children at home, be sure to line the windows with salt and leave iron nearby. You don't want to wake up with monster faerie changelings in your children's cribs.

Remember to be safe, everyone! And make sure to haul in tons of candy, because, after all, this is the only day you'll get it for free ;). Please feel free to leave comments containing pictures or fun little anecdotes about the day!


The Name of the Star
by Maureen Johnson

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Release Date: September 29, 2011
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Age Group: Older YA
Source: Library Check-Out
Rating: Perfect Bed Partner
About the Book:
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.
The eyes of London were watching Claire Jenkins. She didn't notice them, of course...

As soon as the story opens up, readers are thrust right into the first found killing that parallels the early Jack the Ripper murders of the late 1800s, and Maureen Johnson does not pull her punches. It's graphic, it's gritty and chilling. Johnson immediately caught my attention with the gruesome  murder, especially coming into the book with the knowledge that this has to do with the Ripper. And poor Rory Deveaux, straight from Louisiana, arrives just as it all begins, swept up into the current of "Rippermania" that soon overtakes London.

Trying to solve the identity of the enigmatic killer behind the ensuing murders that send everyone into a panic, is what sets off the edginess that will grip readers. And even when a face can be put to the murderer, readers will still be left in the dark as to the person's true identity and how it pertains to the overall story. Any suspicions conjured will be swiftly dispelled over the course of the book. And although the book starts out light enough, the atmosphere quickly grows darker and darker with each turn of the pages, much like when the shadows creep closer as the sun sets - sort of without warning. And Rory herself soon becomes a source of fascination for the wanted killer, and a magnet for danger as a result.

Rory is one of the best kinds of heroines out there - a Serious Supergirl with an HoG (or Heart of Gold). She's funny, determined, and she hates sports and loves warm Cheez Whiz! You can party with this girl, have serious conversations with her, and she takes what seems boring and turns it into something interesting. She babbles incessantly and shares comedic anecdotes on her weird family members back home. And despite how fabulous she is for being brave and sticking up for herself when people try to shoot her down, she's a real teen girl. With genuine feelings and insecurities and crushes on cute boys. I can relate even as I sit there in awe of her stupendous courage.

And besides writing an awesome heroine, Johnson manages to incorporate fun side characters and NO instaluv! Jazza is Rory's first true friend in London, and an endearing one at that. She's quiet, serious, and very loyal, with a hidden rebellious streak that makes her a little unpredictable. She's exactly what Rory needs in a strange place with strange words and customs. But that's not the end of her list of new friends. There's Boo, who shows up later in the story, a colorful person that adds a little excitement in Rory's life. And then there's also Jerome, both friend and uncertain love interest, who has an odd obsession with the Ripper murders staining various places in London. My only problem with the sort-of romance between he and Rory is the uncertainty there, it's hard to tell who Rory's going to end up with. And the romance aspect of a book is extremely important to me, and for it not to be very clearly defined knocks down my interest a bit.

Despite the lack of romance, which wasn't an overpowering issue for me, the pacing is what bothered me. With such a thrilling story being told, the right pacing needs to be set. For me that means no slow-mos. In the beginning it started out kind of slow, but that was fine, because it's basically expected when you just open the book. But once the murders began cropping up, the mystery is being unraveled, and the meetings with Callum and Stephen - two dudes you so want to do, just saying - become frequent, I needed a boost in the pacing. I can't say that this is a fast-paced story, which would've suited the plot line much better.

Overall, though, if you're looking for a deeply disturbing murder-mystery accompanied by incredible characters to delve into, The Name of the Star is what you want to pick up, a gimme-now read, if you will. I'm so happy that this will be turning into a series and I am so freaking stoked for more!
In the most totally inappropriate way you can imagine, PBP books are the books you want to do, they're so bloody brilliant... (My Rating System In-Depth)

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. (24)
"The school was having a dance--" I said.
"I know," he cut in.
"You told me to tell you everything," I snapped. "So are you going to listen or are you going to tell me what you already know." (238) 
"...If you don't show me, I will stand here and stare at you. I will follow you. I will do everything you don't want me to do. I am giving giving you no choice."
The corner of Callum's mouth twitched slightly. "No choice?" he said.
"You have no idea how reckless I can be." (263)
"Let me put this another way," I said. "I'm coming. I'm not asking permission. I can't live like this. I can't live not knowing how this ends."
As soon as I said those word, I knew I had hit on the reason for my sudden burst of pure courage. I couldn't go on this way... I was either going to stop this, or I was going to die trying. (309) 


KTJ said...

Great Review!

I really really hated Jerome, I thought he was a jerk, no idea why I disliked him so much but the guy just got on my nerves! I hope that the love interest between them in book one dissolves in book two! And that Stephen gets to man up in center stage! (I was a bit disappointed that Callum was designated for Boo, but not by much)

It started out really slow for me too and I really was starting to get annoyed with some parts, but things started picking up near the end - which totally blew me away! I hope that in book two Maureen can keep up the pace all throughout.


A. Knight said...

KTJ- I guess what bothered me is that I'm used to actual romance and really all Jerome seemed to want to do is make-out with her. I think that's what turned me off. I really, really hope that Stephen turns out to be the guy for Rory, too! And I think Book and Callum make a perfect match ;)

Alison Can Read said...

I'm trying not to gag right now at the idea of warm Cheez Whiz. Ick. I suppose I can forgive Rory. Sounds like a great even if it's not perfect.
And btw, I loved your comment about Magnus on my FF post last Friday. :-)

A. Knight said...

Alison- I love Cheez Whiz, but when she gets all melty in the book, I do wanna gag as well. And Magnus is one of my fave characters so I couldn't help but make that comment ;)

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I love your blog! So cute!

I've been meaning to read this book for a while - I've heard it's very creepy (which I love!) and I also like the sound of no insta-love (which always drives me insane!). I probably would like a little bit more romance than there seems to be in this one, but it sounds like a good read nonetheless. :)

A. Knight said...

Oh, gosh, thank you so much! ♥

The Name of the Star chills you right down to the bones, and while there was negative instaluv there wasn't enough romance to sate me, so that's why it didn't achieve a Special Shelf rating. All around though, I'm glad I read the night before Halloween, gave me a good scare :)

- Asher (from Paranormal Indulgence)

Giselle said...

Wonderful review! I really enjoyed this as well. I was also glad for the lack of insta-love! Refreshing! I can't wait to see where Maureen goes with the rest of the series!

Xpresso Reads

A. Knight said...

Giselle- I know what you mean! Where do you go after writing for Jack the Ripper?

Jenny said...

No instalove you say?! That's more than enough reason for me to pick this one up! Besides that fact, it sounds amazing, so glad to see you enjoyed it despite the pacing issues you had. Really looking forward to this one!

A. Knight said...

Jenny- I always love turning someone else onto something excellent to read. I hope you enjoy it!

Liz. R said...

You've really made me want to read this one. Rory sounds brilliant! Definitely the kind of character I'd love. Plus, no insta-love means a happy Liz (seriously, insta-love tends to ruin so many books for me!). Great review, I'm definitely gonna look out for this one!

A. Knight said...

Liz- You're from England, right? I'd love it if you could tell me, after you read it of course, if life in England Johnson depicted is accurate. And Rory is brilliant, very likable.

And yes, instaluv is an insta-killer of likability in books, it's scary. No instaluv to dampen the fun, promise. Definitely check it out! I think you'll like it alot. :)

A Canadian Girl said...

I love the way you started off this review, and just the way you described Rory makes her seem like a girl I'd befriend. I haven't read this one yet but I'm looking forward to it, especially now that I know there's no insta-love. Relationships based on instant love are a pet peeve of mine.

A. Knight said...

A Canadian Girl- She's a girl you could go out with and have a good time, only to have a girly sleepover later on. Yes, and NEGATIVE INSTALUV. It's a pet peeve of mine, too, MAJORLY. :)