Ramona Blue

Some books are just extremely timely.

Warning: emotional post ahead. That doesn’t happen on this blog a whole lot unless that emotion is the equivalent of “!!!!!!!!!”. You’ve been warned.


Ramona Blue

  • Author: Julie Murphy
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Southern contemporary, romance
  • At a glance: Ramona is six feet too tall for anything in the town of Eulogy, where she’s scraping to keep her whole family afloat and also work out her feelings when it comes to Grace, her not-quite-girlfriend, and Freddie, her longtime best friend and potential soulmate. But everything is a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

I am not the person that Ramona Blue was written for. In a sense, I know this is incorrect, because I’m of the belief that whatever you get out of a book you were meant to get, and that if you’re willing, any book can have been written for anyone. But insofar as things go, I don’t think I’m really the kind of person that was really “meant” to be this deeply touched by Ramona’s story. I picked Ramona up because I heard a lot about it, and hot damn that cover design. What I didn’t anticipate is the amount of things inside her story that I’d…well, relate to, I guess.

The thing I got the most from this book was the fact that Julie Murphy is a superb storyteller, and also an incredibly truthful one. Because some of the things in this book are things that I’ve not come across put into words before, and when I found them I hadn’t even realized I’d been looking for them. Ramona Blue is full of lines and pieces that make your heart stop for a second because…oh, right, that emotion. I know that. “I ignore the way my body sings with affection for him“. It’s beautiful, all the way through.

Ramona’s story is complicated and has a lot of facets. A lot of them are facets that reflect huge, important topics, like race and sexuality. Family and loyalty and breakups and love.

But a lot of them are smaller, too. A lot of them are things you may only see if they’re something you deal with, too, and things that may not even be intentional. There are so many pieces of Ramona’s story.

What stuck out to me the most was this: Ramona’s story is not about what you are and what you aren’t. Ramona’s story is about how every single piece of you is a part of who you are. It’s not about what you call yourself; it’s about how you call the shots.

It’s kind of like–

You know how “you are what you eat”? It’s kind of like if that was your life. Not that “you are what you consume”, but “you are what you choose to imbibe”, “you are what fuels you”, you are both what you enjoy and what you hate you are what you have a taste for and you are how your tastes change as you grow and as you experience. You are in a constant state of regeneration as a person. Because your story is as much your pattern of events as how you choose to handle them, and your story is also made up of a thousand different moving parts and changes. You’re not one thing. You don’t have to be.

Ramona Blue was an extremely timely book for me to read. I hadn’t expected to find such kinship in Ramona, or to…not feel like an impostor in her story. Reading Ramona and finding the amount of truth in her pages that I did was startling. I picked up my copy at one of my favorite bookstores in the world, and reading it was kind of like going home there, because I always learn something new about myself when I visit it.

Ramona taught me that I don’t have to be my own standard to be myself. She taught me that I don’t have to own my label if it’s not the right one. She also taught me that more than one label is perfectly okay, and she taught me that at the end of the day, you take all your labels off when you fall in love anyways. Even if what you’re falling in love with isn’t a person; even if maybe it’s books or it’s music or it’s whatever your thing is, do you go into it thinking about all of the things you tell yourself you are all the time?

Of course not.

Do the things that make you up lose their value when you shuck them off for a while?

Of course not. Difficult things are difficult. You carry the things you carry for a reason. They are armor or scars or color or sparkle and shine and they are parts of you. Because you are made up of so, so many parts, and all of them are valid.

Ramona Blue was just what I needed. I won’t let her go for a very, very long time. Because some books are…

  • infinity / 5 stars
  • weightlessness underwater, and magnetism, and lunch rush and the gritty gravel road that takes you home
  • Angela by The Lumineers
  • for people who maybe feel like a contradiction. and maybe they need a little courage, too.

A Good Idea

Some books are kind of like if you swallowed a piece of gum and thought about it sticking to your rib cage long enough you’ve convinced yourself that that’s what happened.


A Good Idea

  • Author: Cristina Moracho
  • Publisher: Viking
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Small town americana where weird sh*t goes down.
  • At a glance: Finley’s best friend Betty Flynn was murdered by her ex boyfriend, and nobody in the town of Williston wants to admit it. So when Finley returns home for the summer, she gets caught up in a whirlwind of sex, drugs, and violence in order to try and get Williston to solve the mystery of Betty’s disappearance, and force them to remember her in the process.


So this book is arguably one of the most morally gray/grittiest books I’ve yet read, and it was awesome. It’s no secret to readers of this blog that my favorite characters are often the most terrible people, and when it comes to A Good Idea, hardly anyone has a golden heart to save them from themselves. This book is kind of about corruption, and to what depths it can go inside a person. And that’s part of what made it so good.

A Good Idea is a small-town-weird-shit-oh-by-the-way-MURDER book, which is arguably one of my most favorite genres ever. I was drawn to it because I listened to Moracho’s Althea & Oliver as an audiobook last year, and I loved that book for its dark humor and gritty feel and raw characters, so when I saw Idea I was immediately excited, and I definitely was not let down. One of the best parts about both of those books is the atmosphere–it’s the late nineties, the main characters have issues, and things are pretty screwed up. It’s poignant and at times relatable and at other times kind of horrifying, and it works.

This book was a hell of a ride and I enjoyed it, partially because it’s been a while since I got to read a book with this kind of vibe, and partially because it didn’t end up being anything like I expected it to be. I devoured it in an edge-of-your-seat, I-actually-care-what-the-answers-to-these-questions-are kind of way, rather than in my usual, I’m-emotionally-invested way. Because with this book, I wasn’t terribly invested when it came to emotions. But I was engrossed, and enthralled, and a little bit scared, and that was more than enough to keep me going.

This book is not clean, or easy, or shiny in very many ways. It’s difficult, and messy, and dark, and I honestly loved that about it. The lack of apology stuck with me, and I appreciated it.

So overall, this book is…

  • 5/5 stars
  • for people who are not afraid of the dark, and maybe those who are a little curious about it too
  • wet dirt, wet sand, wet eyes, wet palms, wet hair, and fear that rattles your teeth
  • Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea by Missio


The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt, Clue #: 2

I know what you’re here for: your next clue. Because you’re a detective, right? And detectives look for answers.

Well, I have some for you. But! Patience is a virtue. So read on.


  • Author: Stephanie Morrill
  • Publisher: Blink YA Books
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Jazz age society mystery!
  • At a glance: Piper’s best friend has gone missing. Mysteries just don’t get solved fast enough, so Piper takes matters into her own hands, looking for answers in a lot of the wrong places.

So the One Year Adventure Novel program is a thing that I did, and their Summer Workshops are a thing that I have attended. This is where I met Stephanie and heard her speak–and then I met Piper.

This is a book that just feels very nice to hold onto. You know the sort. Just the right heft and weight and amount of pages. And to top it all off: she matches my outfit.

lostgirlFast forward a few months of somehow managing to ignore the ARC I was so lucky to acquire, and here we are nearing the launch date, and I’m given the honor to join in and help send Piper out into the world. Enter Linnea, stage right, furiously reading. But this was by no means a difficult task.

This book is amazing. Jazz age YA fic is kind of my gig, and there’s not a lot of it out there, and even less of it that’s a mystery. So this book was like an answer to my little bookish prayer.

This will come as a surprise only to newcomers: It’s super hard for me to fall in love with Strong Willed Female Characters. This is generally perceived as a shortcoming of mine. And, true to form: Detective Cassano is my favorite thing about this book…HOWEVER.

Piper Sail is a glorious creature. Sometimes, characters with her type of situation and even her temperament make me want to pull some hair out along the way, but I can’t remember a moment I was annoyed with her. I enjoyed her position as a narrator, I believed her decisions and emotions, didn’t ever hate her for looking for answers, and I didn’t feel cheated out of a poignant story moment because she was being “~driven~”, and that ends up not being her only character trait, as well, which is a bonus.

That being said: Detective Cassano. If miss Piper is a standout lady detective, Cassano is her perfect match in a multidimensional, easily-fallen-for supporting role. The twisting roles he plays in getting Piper her answers thicken the plot quite nicely–and just make him all the more fantastic.

It’s difficult to review the plot of a mystery without screwing it up for everybody, so let’s just skip to the end, shall we? Stephanie was amazing and allowed me to have her fill in my wrap-up points for this post, so before you get your clues, have some authorly insight!

The Graces

Some books are treacherous. Very treacherous indeed.


  • Author: Laure Eve
  • Publisher: Amulet Books
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre vibe: Small town witches, basically.
  • At a glance: Everyone is in love with the Graces. River is, too, but in a different way than most of the rest of the school. River knows they’re witches; and she’ll give anything to join them. Guess who makes a lot of bad decisions? Everyone. Literally everyone in this book.

Alright. Feast your eyes on that gorgeous American cover. Then go look up the rest of them. Admire this stupidly beautiful book. Go find a bookstore and give it a good, long petting. It deserves it. Go on.


Good. Now you can read it. Just be careful when you do.

Know me well and you’ll know that this is the kind of book that I just can’t resist. I live for these kinds of books, though they’re few and far between. They sound a bit like this: enchanting, a little intoxicating, vaguely confusing or unsettling, and very very witchy. Two of my favorite “genres” are rich kids and sunshine and there’s some weird magicky shit going on in this small American town. Combine the two and I’ll give you my heart.

In the vein of April Tucholke, Laure Eve spins something unsettling and a little bit whimsical with the greater part of THE GRACES. The Grace family themselves are as untouchable and delectable-looking as anything could be, and River’s quest and determination to be close to them is just all consuming and strange as their presence.

One of the most impressive parts of this book is Eve’s insightful musings on the difference between being involved with people, and being an outsider. The phenomenon of being the moon-person orbiting the established planets of any given social circle or setup is one that’s hard to get across, and Eve accomplishes it with a kind of raw brilliance that speaks to the little part of me that knows very well what it’s like to look in from outside.

And add to that River’s sheer determination to surpass merely being known and become a true piece of what she sees from the outside so clearly, and what you then have is a situation that’s pretty much impossible to leave unfinished. Because the most dangerous part about this book?

You can’t simply put it down.

There are times in life when you have to take a break from reading (shocking, I know, I’m sorry). And this is a book that seeps out of reading time and into other-time. “How are things going?” you’ll wonder, as you’re driving to work. “What’s going to come of all this?” and you’re not satisfied until you’re reading again.

Dangerous, isn’t it?

So, overall, this book is…

  • 4/5 stars
  • for people who like magic, emotional dissonance, and untouchable people
  • wet sand between fingers, not toes. looking at the water and wondering if there are sharks underneath.
  • Setting Fires (feat. XYLØ) by The Chainsmokers

Be Good Be Real Be Crazy

Some books are exceptions to even the strictest of rules.

  • Author: Chelsey Philpot
  • Publisher: HarperTeen
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre vibe: Road trip + complicated romance
  • At a glance: Mia is Homer’s Anywhere Girl, and now she’s leaving. He offers to drive her to her new home, and his genius little brother gets included in the deal. Mishaps ensue and lots of quality moments are had.

Okay, here’s the deal: It’s gonna be super hard to talk about this book and not sound dry, and it’s gonna be super hard to give you a full-on review because of it. Here’s why.

Chelsey Philpot is a voice for the ages. The way she writes is like poetry. It’s the kind of wordsmith skill that you can’t even be inspired by; you’re too busy drowning in it. It’s storytelling bliss.

So, in light of knowing how lovely she is, none of this will suffice to talk truly about this book until you read it, because Chelsey’s are the only words that are right.

I participated in a self-imposed #5Books7Days challenge again this year, and though I weighed in just under 5 actual books, I’m pretty pleased with myself. BE GOOD BE REAL BE CRAZY was the first full book I finished. The journey of this book was a short one.

Begin: The week before Christmas, browsing my local B&N and realizing, “Holy shit, that’s Chelsey Philpot!

Middle: Christmas giftcard purchase #1.

End: #5Books7Days day 2, and the book has been thusly devoured.

This book is an exception to quite a few of my strictest book rules. There are certain things that are automatic turn offs to specific people–every reader has one or two, or a few. Some are more prominent than others, based upon just about anything. Mine usually just so happen to be teenaged pregnancy, and the end of the world. 

Things this book has? Teenaged pregnancy, and the end of the world. Come chapter five, I was asking myself, “are you going to be able to finish this? Will you end up hating it? Will it do something you just can’t excuse?” and I asked myself whether I wanted to quit while I was ahead or not. 

I kept reading. And I’m so, so glad that I did.  Because this book damn well blew me away, and while it may not have changed my mind about some of my least favorite tropes, it definitely proved to me that some books truly are exceptions. 

BE GOOD BE REAL BE CRAZY is a sprawling sort of novel that is also quite contained in its set of goals. A focused set of issues for each character is expanded upon, rather than a lot of issues being thrown at just a couple of people in a short amount of time. 

Because in the end, this book is really about just that: the people inside of it. Homer, Mia, Einstein, and the entirety of the supporting cast are all given full marks for fullness of character and all-around awesomeness. 

This book as kind of a whirlwind. I loved reading it and I love having it on my shelf, and that, I think, is the highest mark I can give a book, really. This is something you want in your brain. Philpot’s words are some ou want to carry around with you all the time. Guarantee it. 

So this book is: 

  • 5/5 stars
  • The smell of gasoline in the heat, the knowledge that you’re going somewhere, even if you’re not sure where it is, and it’s simple kinds of joys. Like a good book. 
  • For people that want a roadtrip and some deep thoughts and a beautiful, beautiful set of words. 
  • Name by the Goo Goo Dolls


The Poisoned House

I told twitter how excited I was about this ghost story I found on my shelf a week or so ago. I remember buying it: it was the great reading slump of 2012, and I was a slowly blooming bud who had just been transplanted into the teen section and was unsure of why these terrifying covers seemed to be drawing her closer.

I ended up with it somehow. I remember thinking it was just so beautiful, as books sometimes are. But I never made it past the first few chapters.

Now, at long last, I have conquered.

…Only to be somewhat disappointed, if entertained.

the+poisoned+house+2The Poisoned House

  • Author: Michael Ford
  • Publisher: AW Teen
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre vibe: Historical fiction/mystery/ghost story. Though I hesitate to actually give it that last one.
  • At a glance: Life is hard for young Abi, a scullery maid plagued by a hateful mistress and the loss of her mother and–soon–what appears to be her ghost, not to mention all this mystery of murder…and that really, really hateful mistress.

I’m not gonna lie–I devoured this book. Granted, it’s pretty short, about two hundred fifty pages, and small ones at that. But I ate it up and finished in about a day and a half. What’s funny to me is how engaging I found it. There’s nothing particularly interesting about Abi’s character, or her situation, or Ford’s writing. But it was…interesting. Plain and simple, I was interested in what was going on.

The writing was simple, it didn’t feel overly His-Fic-y, nobody was particularly annoying. The ghost was even pretty well done, if not as scary as I’d been hoping.

Then the mystery kicked in.

Now. I love a good mystery. And often, ghost stories and mysteries are one in the same. But what’s not okay is when I’m sold a ghost story, and then once the mystery starts to unravel…my ghost goes away.

Abi gets her closure at the end of this book–she lives to the ripe old age of ninety-three and founds a charity. But the ghost? The whole point–supposedly–of this book? Vanished.

Which, as one can understand, was vaguely upsetting for me. Since I really really wanted a good ghost.

So that kind of killed it, for me. Not ruined it, per se, because I very much did enjoy myself. But it disappointed me, and that made me sad.

So, overall:

  • Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars or so
  • Recommended to: Anyone looking for a quick, entertaining, decent read and willing to let not-spectacular things slide.
  • Lasting impression: Cold, slimy stone steps, an upended velvet chair, the muted colors of looking out a second- or third-floor window in the five minutes before the sun goes down and thinking that something’s off.


There are things that are my thing, and things that aren’t. Things that are my thing include romance, neat characters, spontaneous book decisions, and amazing aesthetics. Things that aren’t include…well, things that say “a novel” and then have almost no words in them.

But somehow this book surpassed that.


  • Author: Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Year: 2012
  • Genre vibe: I’m gonna go with just pure aesthetic here, although it is a romance and a bit of a slice-of-life story.
  • At a glance: Glory is a piano prodigy, young and troubled after her mother’s death. Frank moves in next door and both of them are swept up into love like the poems tell it. But the pressure Glory’s father puts on her leads to her slow unraveling and neither her nor Frank–who just can’t seem to keep it together in school–know what to do.

What to say about this book…first of all, it’s told through pictures, which is normally not something I’m drawn to. It’s not that I don’t like it or think it’s not “a real book” or anything like that. But visuals can never quite impact me the way traditional words do, so I just don’t pick up many. But today I’m at the library, and on the staff picks stand was this book.

I remember flipping through it at a bookstore awhile back, not really internalizing it, and going on my way. Now I wish I’d bought it that day.

The first thing that struck me were how beautiful the pictures were. I’m not a photographer or a visual artist of any kind, but all of the pictures in this book were just amazing. They all give the story a specific feeling, kind of dreamy and unreal and a funny sort of intimate. The kind where you’re seeing someone’s cluttered kitchen and the things on their dresser before really knowing them.

The dialogue pieces and documents are what really drove the story in though. Glory had such a voice, for someone who was more face than name, and that’s what kind of amazed me. I just finished reading Persepolis for my English class, my first graphic novel, and even that was a little lacking in specific character voice in the way we usually mean it when we talk writing.But this was a story told as much through the simple fact of Glory’s existence as it was through her eyes and her mouth. All of it ended up blending together so beautifully that I got choked up a couple of times.

The librarian that recommended it apparently thought the ending was really ambiguous, but I thought it was pretty clear. I’d be interested to know what other people think.

All in all I seriously, seriously enjoyed this book. I’m so glad I picked it up and actually sat down to read it rather than letting the thought that I’d have to try too hard to get anything out of it get in my way.

  • Rating: 5/5 stars, even though it’s not quite a book that you…rate
  • Recommended to: Fans of artistic ways to get across story, fans of aesthetic and photography and romance.
  • Lasting impression: Glory’s voice. I want this book on my shelf so I can curl up with a knit blanket and a cup of hot chocolate on a frigid, rainy afternoon and escape for awhile.

Book Review: Unspoken

My library set up the Blind Date with a Book stand again this year. To my slight dismay, I was able to identify five books by their dating site profile blurb. But I eventually found one that interested me.

Paranormal, Gothic urban fantasy seeks romantic reader to join teen girl uncover the mystery behind a secretive family and bloody deeds in the depths of the woods. When her imaginary boyfriend gains a physical body, can she still love him? Can she trust him?”

Pretty great right? Sounds like my kind of thing. I opened it up and found Unspoken, a book I’ve looked at a couple times and dismissed, and only recently had recommended to me by my book soul sister.

Figured it was time to take the plunge.


  • Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 2012
  • Shelved in: Teen paranormal romance
  • Genre vibe: Definitely not urban fantasy, I’m not sure who thought that. More southern Gothic paranormal than anything.
  • At a glance: Kami Glass likes journalism. She has an imaginary boyfriend. Turns out he’s not so imaginary. Old family returns to small town and things start to happen. Magical things.

This book is so aesthetically pleasing. The cover is beautiful, the inside flaps are probably the prettiest I’ve seen in a while, and the heading pages for the different parts of the book were incredibly stunning.

It’s just, really beautiful.

But aside from that, there’s really only one other thing that I really enjoyed about it, and that’s the magic setup.

The way things were explained was really cool (if not exactly eloquent) and the Lynburn magic and their ties to the town was super interesting. I loved the feeling through the whole book that there was more going on than met the eye. The revelation that it wasn’t something paranormal so much as something vaguely fairytale-like was an interesting one and probably one of the most engaging things that happened throughout the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about the characters. I’ve said before and I’ll probably say every single time, I’m not really a middle-grade person. I like my characters to be fifteen or over, preferably over. It’s just personal preference.

But Kami read like she was fourteen, and I couldn’t get into it. She said some things that were so funny I couldn’t take the rest of her seriously. I’m not a fan of books that consist mostly of snark and witticisms, because while those things are great and some characters exist on a core of them, they take away from the story and more importantly, the atmosphere.

This was supposed to be a paranormal romance, right? Certain things go along with being told that. At least a little bit of darkness, and, you know…romance. The amount of laugh-worthy banter stole away whatever darkness could have been there given Kami and Jared’s situation and mental connection. And while the banter and sarcasm was well-written, not stupid, and in character, it just didn’t seem necessary, and it made Kami seem…really immature.

This book suffered from something like atmosphere schizophrenia or something. I was never sure if I was supposed to be laughing or taking this all seriously. And that kind of frustrated me a little at times.

And so I was disappointed. Not completely, because there were good parts. But as far as actual enjoyment goes, there wasn’t much.

So, overall.

  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who would enjoy something along the lines of “Nancy Drew plus magic”, people who like paranormal but like laughing better.
  • Lasting impression: That look you give your friend when they say something really strange, and the taste of dust.

The Darkest Part of the Forest


Last month I read Holly Black’s new book, and well. Holly Black.

d92ff30cffe83c0148d6f996fd147019The Darkest Part of the Forest

  • Author: Holly Black
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Year: 2015
  • Shelved In: Teen Fantasy and Adventure
  • Genre vibe: Fae fantasy, adventure stories
  • At a glance: Hazel is a reckless thing with a thirst for an adventure and no qualms about kissing any boy that’ll let her. After all, there’s not much else to do in her little town by the forest. Except maybe hunting for faeries. But she and her brother don’t do that anymore, because of Backstory and Secrets. Then things happen, like Hazel waking up covered in dirt and the glass coffin that houses their town’s main attraction (a beautiful fae boy that has been there for ages).

The Good Stuff

My feelings on this book are so…mixed. I think, in all honesty, I ought to read it again. I feel like I missed things. I feel like I didn’t get enough out of it. But I felt that same way the first time I read Coldest Girl in Coldtown the first time I read it.

There’s so many great things in this book. Hazel and Jack, for instance. Hazel and Ben, Ben in general, Severin, the magic system, the creepy as heck monsters. It’s all so good and so very, very, very Holly. But it hasn’t really stuck with me the way I thought it would, like Curse Workers did.

But I haven’t exactly forgotten it either. Which implies that I read it wrong and thus it is my fault for not completely taking it in. So I’m going to read it again eventually.

But I do know enough about it to say good things, so away we go.

Jack. Jack Jack Jack Jack. I probably have a soft spot for attractive changelings, but Jack was seriously an incredible character. It seemed like he had some of the best inner struggles out of everybody, even Ben. I’m enchanted by his character arc and his character in general.

And also by the Jack/Hazel ship. Liking this ship with a vengeance seems to put me in the minority among the fans, as far as I can tell. I think Jack and Hazel are a really great pairing and I honestly just think they work really well together.

And then Severin. Lovely Severin. What can I even say about Severin? I mean, what’s not to like? He’s…Severin. There really isn’t much to say. Fairy prince galore.

Which brings me to the magic, which was the absolute most memorable part of this book by far. Holly has always had come of the absolute coolest magic systems ever, and this book is no exception. The monsters are incredible, the fae are a suitably mixed bunch of slightly scary and merely faelike. Definitely my favorite part of the book.

Questions, Comments, Complaints?

spoilers following

Hazel…didn’t really seem like the main character. She seemed like a pair of eyes to see through. Ben’s voice was a lot more vibrant, and it’s possible that it’s because he doesn’t have secrets to keep from the reader. But what with Hazel’s whole night-and-day selves and her being the primary medium for backstory to be revealed, she seemed a little less like a person and a little more like just a story prop.


  • Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended to: People who don’t mind a book you have to think about, Holly Black fans (obviously), people who like the coolest magic ever
  • Lasting Impression: a forest monster slowly eating away the hallway of a highschool, bright green eyes looking into inhuman ones, and Hazel’s green earrings.

Book Review: Jackaby

So my beautiful friend Mariesa over at 2 AM sent me this book for Christmas. What can I say? I was overjoyed. BOOKS.

I’m going to note before we start that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I really loved it. There were just things that I didn’t like and I happen to actually be able to form words about them for once. So don’t go getting the wrong impression when it comes to questions and comments.




  • Author: William Ritter
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • Year: 2014
  • Shelved in: Teen Fiction
  • Genre vibe: Historical fiction, alternate reality, paranormal
  • At a glance: Hmm…Jackaby is Not Sherlock, but he is, and he can see ghouls and fae folk and the other world for what it really is. Miss Rook becomes his assistant by accident. Something is killing people, and Jackaby is certain it’s not a person. Adventure ensues.

The Good Stuff

 Atmosphere! I’m not usually a huge fan of anything historical that doesn’t have to do with the 20’s, the Revolutionary period, or that has a major this-isn’t-historical-fiction-I-promise vibe, but I liked this. I think I actually ended up liking it because it felt so historical, when everything else was not. Which leads me to my favorite part:

The magic.

The magic. Basically, from the vibe I got, if it’s a magical/supernatural creature of any kind, it exists, and Jackaby can see it. A lot of times systems like this can feel kind of cluttered with an over abundance of Magical Beings from too many different places. But not this time. The main focus was on a small enough amount, and there were just enough hints about others that I got a feel for the scope of it without being overwhelmed. And that was just really cool.

Also, my favorite thing ever exists in this book. My favorite thing ever is benevolent ghosts. There is one. Her name is Jenny. She’s my favorite character and I love her to death. (ha. ha ha. ha.)

Another thing I liked was the simplicity of it. It was, basically, an eccentric detective story. Which I…don’t really like. At least, not with the nostalgic feeling a lot of people do. But it was such a prominent aspect of the story, and it was done really well, and I enjoyed it well enough.

Questions, Comments, Concerns?

Question: It’s a series. Why?

No, no, I get it, I do, but…I’m not sure if I’ll continue reading or not. It was a lovely ending, promising adventures to come, and I might prefer to leave it that way. I like knowing that the adventures happened without having to…go on them, sometimes.

My comments mainly have to do with the writing. I think I skipped just about every single description in the entire book, because there were just so many of them for so long every time Miss Rook saw something of note. It was distracting and those always kind of hurt my brain because I see them and think “Oh, no, I have to force myself to picture something now. For more than a paragraph, too. Oh my.”

Not generally a great thing to think while you’re supposed to be asking questions that keep you reading.

Other than it was just a little less than exciting. Which is probably my “I really like poetic surreal prose” preference talking, but still. It wasn’t anything to praise. I like being able to praise writing style.

(Though I will say the dialogue was spot on, if a little too reminiscent of Doctor Who for me)

As for concerns…Miss Rook, I don’t even remember your name. I don’t remember where you came from, or your backstory. I remember your unnecessary and quite near-sighted comments about girls being just as good as boys, and I remember some of your more clever quips…and how you never, ever got emotional over anything Mr. Jackaby said to you except for when you both thought you were dying.

I don’t. I don’t remember her name. She was the picture of a character who tried too hard. Her feminist existence made me cringe a lot, and though I know we needed someone else’s eyes to see Jackaby through, I wish they weren’t hers. She was flat as the page she was written on and I think she’s probably the biggest reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much at face value as I could have without her.

I really didn’t like her. But at least, I think, it’s that I felt some emotion for her rather than not caring about her at all. If I have to ask a character “who are you?” then I have a really hard time reading. But if it’s “what are you doing here?” things are a little more bearable.

And, in the end, I felt for Jackaby. I really did.



  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Fans of a good old eccentric detective story, fans of a really neat magic system
  • Lasting impression: And oh how sad his eyes must look sometimes. How much he must have to hide.