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.