The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

madnessI loved The Name of the Star so much when I read it last year that you’d think I would have been more on top of a sequel coming out. This came out months and months ago! That’s ok, I’m kind of at the point now where I don’t read things as they come out and get to them when I get to them. I gave this 5 stars, though I do have a couple of things that I didn’t love-namely that this felt more like part of a trilogy, whereas the first book felt very stand alone (except the last chapter which set it up as having subsequent novels), and that what I thought was being set up as the central mystery of the novel just sort of faded away. So either that all got a bigger part of the book than it deserved, or it will return in the next book. Also, I think with many books, and Johnson’s in particular, the main character is just more funny and witty than frankly anyone I’ve ever known in my life. But I feel that way about every character in books, tv, and movies, so no points off for that, and besides I like Rory.

Picking up not long after the first book finished Rory is trying to cope with the aftermath of her encounter with the Ripper, her knowledge of ghosts, and her separation from her new friends who know the truth about all of that.  A murder makes Rory think that perhaps during her encounter with the Ripper some conduit was opened to the spirit world, unleashing crazy ghosts. This book is very much about what happens next for Rory.  As I write that and think about it it makes the book sound not so great, but truly I was extremely caught up in it, read it very quickly, and found it exciting. Although any reader will catch on a million times faster than Rory did to the person who is not all she seems to be.

Small spoiler alert:



The ending was a dramatic surprise, and I think will set up a bit of a Pushing Daisies theme in the next book.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Hub Reading Challenge: PPYA

starI’ve known about this book for quite a long time and even attended the studio recording of the audiobook. And yet, I just wasn’t interested in reading it. I’ve had it checked out for a month and only somewhat unwillingly picked it up yesterday morning because I thought I should give it a try. Well. Apparently I just didn’t know what this book was all about because it was fantastic. I have an hour’s time this afternoon while I wait for my daughter in dance class and I couldn’t even save it for then. I had to just spend the morning reading it until it was done because I was so caught up in it.

The first thing that made this so compelling was the fact that it’s set in a boarding school! Present day, London. Rory has moved there from New Orleans and is going to spend a year there while her parents are on sabbatical.  Just as she arrives and is dealing with fitting in a murder occurs that mimics the first murder of Jack the Ripper. A second soon follows and the city is caught up in copycat Jack the Ripper panic. I’ll pause here to say that Rory becomes involved and it’s a great thriller and I totally recommend it. If you don’t mind spoilers scroll on down past picture and I’ll tell some details that might explain it better. Otherwise, just take my word for it, enjoy the photo, and go check this book out of the library (and p.s. the cover was one of the things that turned me off. I hope it’s better in the paperback version.)
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

OK, so what I didn’t know that made the book completely exciting was that due to a near death experience the first night at school Rory can see ghosts. And it turns out that she’s not the only one-that others who can are part of a super secret, denied by the government, but run by them, organization. Ghost police, if you will. And without realizing she was seeing a ghost, Rory saw the murderer who is terrorizing London and becomes involved with this ghost squad in trying to stop him before he kills his next target, who is Rory herself.
This was an exciting and suspenseful mystery. The supernatural element was not totally crazy. There’s some historical stuff in there, which was nice, and there were loads of the type of boarding school details that I just eat up.
Really great.

Poison Apples by Lily Archer

Great premise, hooray for a boarding school book! Unfortunately, I thought it was the first in a series/trilogy, or at least would have a sequel and it doesn’t appear to be. Normally I prefer that books not be set up for sequels, but I felt like this was just getting going and I couldn’t wait to see how the girls would get through school and seek further revenge on the fairy tale like horrible stepmothers responsible for them being there. I definitely feel like the stepmothers did not get what they deserve.

Quick summary: three girls end up with dreadful stepmothers and get packed off to an idyllic New England boarding school.  Not friends at first they discover what they have in common.  Although the girls make reference to how they are like the girls in fairy tales, there is no magic or fairy tale stuff in here (though it seems that the evil stepmothers must be casting spells over their silly fathers to make them act the way they do.)

I really enjoyed this.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Boarding school! Romance! Paris! What an absolute delight this novel was. Anna resents being sent to boarding school in Paris; she’d rather be at home in Atlanta with her best friend, younger brother and Mom, and the boy she is sure was about to become her boyfriend.  Instead, her pushy father (too much money, not enough class) sends her away.  Anna is fortunate enough to be quickly taken in by a super group of friends (the group was in a bit of flux because one of their members moved on to college and has essentially dumped them.) The school itself is so charming and French, the cafeteria is like a fancy restaurant (and it’s down the block), the classes are tiny and interesting, and they are in an actual city neighborhood.  Over the course of the year Anna grows to know and love the city (and its many small movie theaters) and to learn French.  But the real heart of the story is her friendship with one of the boys in her group, Etienne St. Clair.  She falls deeply in love with him, and thinks he loves her, too, but they have many obstacles. Remember the member of the group who had moved on to college? That’s St. Clair’s girlfriend.  Then of course there’s Anna’s potential guy back home (a storyline which will be familiar to anyone who’s ever watched a teen movie or read another ya book.)
I was fascinated by the responsibility given to the teens as boarding school students in a city.  They all seemed ridiculously mature-basically like college students instead of high school students.
I really liked this–a good solid entertaining book.  There was something about it that I thought elevated it above a typical romance.

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson

Boarding school + Eva Ibbotson=book basically written for me.  The first Ibbotson book I read was A Song for Summer, and I adored it. Really loved it.  When I picked up this and started reading it I thought “hmm…this is so much like Song for Summer”, then I read the author’s info and I realized that they are similar because they are similar to the author’s own story: growing up in Austria, fleeing the Nazis, attending a bizarre progressive boarding school.

In this story Tally leaves her adoring father and aunts in London to attend Delderton, a strange boarding school.  She doesn’t want to leave but her father fears that bombing is not far off and he wants her safe in the country.  The scholarship offer is too good to pass up.  What Tally and her father don’t know is that Delderton is not a traditional British boarding school.  Instead it is a place where children discover their own talents and interests, swim in the nude, attend classes only if they feel like it, wake up at 4am to experience nature, and more.  Tally soon realizes that this is the perfect place for her.

One day she sees a short film about the country Bergania, and its king’s opposition to Hitler.  She admires the king tremendously and when Delderton is invited to attend a folk dance festival in Bergania, she lobbies for the students to travel there and participate.  And so begins an incredible adventure involving the prince, Nazis, subterfuge, compassion, and loyalty.  Oh, it is wonderful. Really satisfying and terrific. The only quibble I have is with the cover.  Ibbotson writes these gorgeous thoughtful historical novels and she also writes these wonderful whimsical fantasy type books (Secret of Platform 13, Island of the Aunts). Some of those have illustrations by Kevin Hawke (a super illustrator, don’t get me wrong) and I feel that the two types of book are so different that there should be a totally different picture style on the cover.  This cover does not at all convey what is between the covers.

Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani

violaBoarding school! Author (of adult books)  I like! I was so excited when I saw this and I’m pleased to report it did not disappoint.  Maybe not knock your socks off, but it was a good story, rich with contemporary boarding school details, and what’s more, I thought it was a great book appropriate for younger YAs.  As I’ve mentioned before I think it can sometimes be difficult to find stuff like that. Not every kid is going to be a hit with the boys, or act like a Gossip Girl, and although there is a romance in here, it is a very beginner type realistic romance.  I would certainly recommend this along with My Life in Pink and Green for those who don’t want a whole lot of sex/drama (though this is for a slightly older age group, I think.)  The quirky/smart factor in here is great-Viola makes movies.  Her parents are documentary film makers and she herself loves to film things. In fact, her filmmaker parents are what got her stuck in boarding school in the first place.  Continue reading

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Bates by E. Lockhard

frankieThis is a 2009 Printz Honor recipient AND it is set in a boarding school, and yet it took me this long to get around to reading it.  I had actually started it way last year and didn’t get into it and stopped.  Happily this time I got into it more easily (which just goes to show that sometimes it’s not the book, it’s you and your circumstances) and was able to enjoy all the boarding school shenanigans I expected:

Sneaking out to meet a boy? Check

Sneaking out to drink in an unusual location? Check

Scenes set in the dining hall? Check

Details of chapel and unusual electives not offered at normal schools? Check

Details of weird school traditions, often involving statues/portraits? Check

Pranks? Check, check, and check! Continue reading

The Explosionist

explosionistI am fresh off finishing this book just an hour ago and the main thought still in my head is, “Why can’t anyone just write a single book anymore? Is 400 pages really not enough to tell your story in?” I was so caught up in this but suddenly it hit me two pages from the end–“huh, there’s no way everything is getting wrapped up in 2 pages, dammit! this is being set up as a the first in a series/trilogy”  It’s just maddening. I felt the same way about Hunger Games. OK, enough of the rant, because this was a super and imaginative novel.  A words about how I acquired this book–the other day I found myself with nothing to read (which is foolish I realized because I have stacks of “to be read” books in the house and I literally just forgot about them) and I asked Paul to go ahead and surprise me and just bring something home.  He brought me this and Shift (which I’m about 2/3 of the way through and it’s also awesome.)  I looked at the cover of The Explosionist and said “Is this set in a boarding school?” and sure enough it was. Continue reading

I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

I’m on a boarding school role here. I had a great past three days of reading a lot and quickly and getting two absolutely delightful YA books polished off. I’ll attribut it in part to teh awesomeness of the books, but it’s also because I’ve been watching teh Olympics and it’s easy to read at the same time. So, the first book was this great boarding school book. Why so great? Because it’s not just boarding school…it’s SPY BOARDING SCHOOL! Continue reading

Boarding Schools Core Collection

Check out this article in Booklist:  A whole collection of boarding school books! Let’s see how many I’ve read…

Wow, of this list of 19  I’ve only read 5! I can see that I’ve got some new things to add to my list of books to read.  Someone gave me a heads up to Jellicoe Rd, which I’m looking forward to. It’s by the author of Looking for Alibrandi, which is a nice Australian read.