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My Love Just Keeps Increasing: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Hello everyone!

Recently I was able to receive an advanced reader e-galley of Maureen Johnson’s The Madness Underneath. I was so excited to read this one because I really, really enjoyed the first book The Name of the Star. If you’re interested in my review of The Name of the Star check it out here. But for now, let’s talk The Madness Underneath!!

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory The Madness Underneath by Maureen JohnsonDevereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

I really need to say that I am in love with this series. They are my absolute favorite Maureen Johnson books. Boarding school?! Mystery?! AND London?! SCORE!

The main character, Rory is engaging and witty despite dealing with some emotional issues following her previous Ripper encounter. Actually, it’s because of this humor despite hardship that she is slowly becoming one of my favorite characters in teen lit. She reminds me of myself a little mostly because she just talks when she feels awkward, which is something I have been known to do as well! In fact there were numerous times where I had to stop and chuckle at something Rory said – especially her conversations with Jerome and Stephen. Johnson’s dialogue is just so smart and hilarious.

I was wondering where Johnson was going to go with Rory’s story after the first book and I totally didn’t expect her to go the way she did in book two. This isn’t bad though, as I was super into the twist(s!) that were thrown in! OH! THESE TWISTS! These twists were so sudden and intense that I had to click back a few pages (on my kindle) to reread because I found myself stopping and asking, “WAIT?! What the heck just happened?!” I had to reread it to believe it.

What I appreciate about this sequel is that it’s not just a continuation of the first book. Of course it does continue the story, you can’t not do that in a follow-up, but not in a way where you just feel like it could have been the same book. All of Rory’s relationships have changed forever and she now has to learn how they work, or in some cases don’t work. The story widens from simply being a supernatural thriller into something more complex. It’s not just another murderous ghost on a rampage, which although fun would get old after a while!  And of course, there is a MASSIVE unbelievable cliffhanger that makes you want to tear your hair out!

I need to say that I do wish we could have seen a little bit more of some of the supporting characters though. I definitely wanted more Jazza and Boo and even more ghosts! But…there is a supporting character that we do get to see more of! I can’t say anything because that would be spoilery and that’s not how we do things at BookTasty…but EEEK! I like what I see! *wink wink* *giggle*  Hopefully we’ll get even more when book three releases in 2014 (so far away!).

So, I can strongly report that I was pleased with The Madness Underneath and my love for this series just keeps increasing! If you’re a middle school aged reader and up and you enjoyed The Name of the Star you’re really going to like this one too. If you haven’t read The Name of the Star….then stop what you’re doing and go read it so you can get to this one!

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (February 26, 2013)

Format: e-galley (ARC)

Length: 290 pages

Series: Second book in the Shades of London series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:  The Madness Underneath: Book 2 (The Shades of London)

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For Historical Fiction Fans: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Hello!

I listened to another audiobook! I recently finished A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly and I think it was my eighth audiobook of 2013.

Sixteen-year-old Mattie Gokey has big dreams but little hope of seeing them come true. Desperate for money, she takes a job

This isn't the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

This isn’t the cover for the audiobook, but I like this one better.

at the Glenmore, where hotel guest Grace Brown entrusts her with the task of burning a secret bundle of letters. But when Grace’s drowned body is fished from the lake, Mattie discovers that the letters could reveal the grim truth behind a murder.

Set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, Jennifer Donnelly’s astonishing debut novel effortlessly weaves romance, history, and a murder mystery into something moving, and real, and wholly original.

Historical fiction…why are you so good?! I love you! Seriously, I’m picky about my historical fiction, but when I do read one I like….I REALLY LIKE IT! Jennifer Donnelly’s books have this gritty realistic quality to them that I don’t always see in a lot of YA. Last year I listened to Donnelly’s Revolution, which I really enjoyed (read my review here) so I thought I should give another of her books a try. I’m glad I did because I think I prefer A Northern Light to Revolution.

First I think the main character, Mattie, is what made A Northern Light that much more enjoyable for me. Mattie, an intelligent farm girl with dreams of college and the big city was an engaging character. She is sharp and observant while also sarcastically witty. Mattie is under a lot of pressure and struggles to keep her head afloat amidst the contradictions of her dreams and her reality.

Both Mattie and Grace’s stories are told through flashbacks and both girls are fleshed out really well. Mattie begins to see something of herself in Grace’s letters which ultimately scares her. Although the story is mostly about Mattie and Grace, the supporting characters are written well. Sometimes minor characters get the two-dimensional treatment, but I really felt each character’s voice from the beginning.  They were all complex and had their own struggles which sometimes even mirrored Mattie’s. Each one was flawed in ways that make you want to love them more. Also, the mystery surrounding Grace Brown’s death is gripping. As the reader you just know something is not right and you can’t wait to figure out what it is. I’d say this was a page turner, but I was listening to it so that doesn’t apply!

Now, I did get a little frustrated at times because Donnelly’s overarching theme is pretty heavy-handed. It was incredibly clear that the main message was that women will be nothing but prisoners if they allow men into their lives. Not one woman in Mattie’s story lived a life that was happy and fulfilled, unless they made the choice to be manless. I was bothered by this not simply because I disagree with this idea, but because Donnelly doesn’t give us any room to see other possibilities. I know this story is set in a different era, but I cannot believe that EVERY woman throughout history who chose to have a man in their life was less fulfilled than those who chose to be alone. I find it frustrating that the reader is left with only one possibility.

OKAY…I’m getting off my soapbox now.

Despite the above mentioned frustrations, I still really, really enjoyed listening to A Northern Light. The narrator’s voices were all well performed (although one character’s southern accent shifted here and there) and I enjoyed her narration. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, Donnelly’s books probably aren’t for you, and I do believe A Northern Light will be best enjoyed by older high school students (and those of us who find ourselves a tad bit older) who love historical fiction.

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Random House Audio (March 1, 2003)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours and 49 minutes

Narrator(s): Hope Davis

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: A Northern Light

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A Classic Fairy Tale Whodunit: A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine

Well hello there!

It’s been a while since I posted a review, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading! Work and life just got so busy that I had time to read, but not blog about what I was reading!  But I’m back!

Recently I listened to the audiobook of A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, and I highly recommend it!

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carsen LevineMysteries abound, especially in Two Castles. A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre’s castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre’s feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

Gail Cars0n Levine never lets me down! I adored this book! Fairy tales are one of my favorite genre and this one is so unique because it is a fairy tale murder mystery. Seriously there is so much fun medieval fairy tale stuff in this book, mixed in with intrigue and is a classic “whodunit”.

Teenage Elodie is our enchanting main character who travels to a new city in search of the chance to become an actress. I really fell for Elodie right away with all her naivety, intelligence, creativity and boldness. She is funny, sweet and strong main character. In fact, she is the only character who is exactly as she seems.

All in all this is a middle grades murder mystery set in a fabulous fairy tale setting, where Elodie must figure out who is truly deserving of her trust. Fans of Levine’s previous titles (especially Ella Enchanted) will really enjoy A Tale of Two Castles. Also, if you’re looking for a well narrated audiobook, definitely pick up this one! The narrator, Sarah Coomes, had some great voices, especially the one for the dragon Meenore!

Author: Gail Carson Levine

Publisher: HarperTeen (May 10, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hrs and 27 mins

Narrator(s): Sarah Coomes

Series: standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: A Tale of Two Castles

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Seductive Sirens: Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Southern Book Bloggers ARC ToursHello!

I was lucky enough to read Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama as part of the Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tour. (THANK YOU!)

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth FamaFierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

I have to start by clarifying that Monstrous Beauty was my second venture into mermaid fiction and I found it absolutely mesmerizing!  It was so incredibly different from the first mermaid book I’ve read (Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs).  Where as Forgive My Fins was a light-hearted teen romance, Monstrous Beauty was a dark and foreboding mystery.

Fama weaves together a story rich in historical fiction and fantasy.  The story is set in both historical and modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.  The town is almost a character in and of itself and acts as a means of connecting Hester and Syrenka’s narratives to one another. Siren mythology isn’t one you hear much about, so I think the historical setting of Monstrous Beauty works well with the story of mythical sea creatures.

Let’s talk about these mermaids for a second.  They’re not fun frolicking Ariel type mermaids. No.  They’re actually dangerous beauties with fins sharp as knives and razor teeth. I like this more traditional approach to the siren mythology which details seductive sirens luring unsuspecting men to their watery deaths. It’s just so intriguing and yet Fama makes you question the truth behind the myths.

Each chapter switches from Hester to Ezra and Syrenka’s perspective which I loved because both stories were so intriguing. I really felt connected to Hester (despite her unfortunate name) because of her love for history. I was a history major in college and I’ve always wanted to work as a historical interpreter at a historical site like she does! My husband knows he’s taking a gamble if we ever visit Colonial Williamsburg…I might end up in costume and he’ll never get me home!

Now, I will say that I did guess the truth to the mystery surrounding Hester’s family way before I think I was supposed to, but this didn’t hinder my interest in the story in any way. There is one pretty graphic scene, that would make me hesitate to recommend Monstrous Beauty to middle grades readers. All in all, I think readers who are high school aged and older will really enjoy this magical mix of fantasy and history.

Author: Elizabeth Fama

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 4, 2012)

Format: ARC, paperback

Length: 295 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Monstrous Beauty