Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by Maureen Johnson, John Green, & Lauren Myracle

snowMost years I like to treat myself to buying a holiday romance collection. Somehow I missed this when it originally came out and was thrilled to discover it on a table at BJ’s this season.  Unfortunately, despite the promise of three superstar YA authors combined with holiday romance, this was nowhere near as good as this year’s current YA holiday collection, My True Love Gave to Me.

The first story, by Maureen Johnson, I liked the best. It sets up the premise for the interconnected stories (which, by the way I didn’t realize were interconnected because when I bought the book I literally didn’t even bother to read the back description! )It’s Christmas Eve and through a hilarious and bizarre circumstance Jubilee has to get on a train to go to her grandmother’s. A big snowstorm stalls the train on the track stranding everyone in a small town. Other characters on the train-a cheerleading team, a handsome boy-aren’t prominent in the story, but are in the other two stories.  Story #2 by John Green is mostly about two boys and a girl, all best pals, on a quest to go meet those cheerleaders by making their way through the snow to the shining oasis of the Waffle House. Story #3, well, I don’t even know how to describe. It seemed to involve a teacup pig and regret over cheating on a boy. Honestly, I was skimming by that point. I did like how it wrapped up with all the characters from the different stories coming together.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing.

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.

Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson

I really liked the first book, Suite Scarlett, but I have to say this follow up not so much. You know how I know it didn’t make a big impression on me? Because I finished it right before bed and in the morning I picked it up to continue-I had forgotten that the story ended. I just had such a flat ending to me and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be the middle book of a trilogy or what.  (Whereas Empire Strikes Back is the middle of a trilogy without a big happy ending, but it is awesome and fantastic and crucial to the trilogy)

In this one Scarlett tries to get over Eric, her brother’s gorgeous friend, she continues to work for demanding Mrs. Amberson, and her brother’s career seems to be on the rise. Sorry to say that’s really all I can say about this.

Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

scarlettScarlett and her family live in a hotel in Manhattan. And while that is not exactly a boarding school, it’s another setting I consider wonderful right from the get go. (In the marvelous children’s book, Family Sabbatical, sequel to the wonderful Family Grandstand, the family lives in a hotel in France for a while, a situation that I found, as a third or fourth grader, to be totally magical.)  Scarlett has a beautiful older sister, Lola, a talented and funny older brother, Spencer, and a somewhat mean younger sister, Marlene.  The family is on hard times.  Despite the fact that the hotel has a long and distinguished history hardly anyone ever stays there anymore. Scarlett and her siblings are worried about their futures when in comes the guest who will change everything–Mrs. Amberson.  Continue reading