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.

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  • 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 May Queen Murders

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The May Queen Murders

  • Author: Sarah Jude
  • Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Genre vibe: Cult horror, Southern gothic
  • At a glance: First animals, and then girls. Terrifying murders are once again cropping up all over Rowan’s Glen, and sweet Ivy might be next.

 

Some books just kind of…happen. You see a lovely cover at first and say to yourself, “I’ll read that soon,” and then all of a sudden you find yourself in an indie bookstore the day your writer’s conference ends and well…

So I pick up THE MAY QUEEN MURDERS, a book that houses a delightfully textured cover, the perfect shade of pink, and the promise of something best read with the lights out.

I got all of those things in my two-day reading-binge in attempt to keep up with my reading schedule. This book is the perfect quick read. Just under 300 pages, fast-paced and interesting, decent characters and only slightly awkward intimate relations. Murder, romance, atmosphere et cetera. I enjoyed the ride quite a bit.

The problem happened when the climax started to climb. Reveal after reveal happened within pages and sometimes paragraphs, huge-seeming subplots that got little-to-no pagetime. Which, for the sake of shock and ohmygodohmygodohmygod WHO IS THE MURDEROUS PSYCHO, worked pretty well. But outside of that, it just wasn’t…enough.

MAY QUEEN MURDERS is a slightly-less-than-300 page book with a story that could easily have filled just-under-500, with just a little bit of extra air added to each of the little plot points along the way. So while I enjoyed my quick ride through murder and mayhem, and it filled a need in my reading life that’s been lacking for quite some time, the part of me that devours scary things kept wishing there was more more more.

But overall:

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: People looking for a brutal, quick scare, and also people that like freaking gorgeous covers.
  • Lasting impression: Butterfly kisses, creek water lapping over your ankles. Blood spilling through the cracks in the hardwood.

 

 

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.

Murder on the Orient Express

The things you read for book club aren’t always bad, okay guys? Okay.

That said, I don’t have much to say about this book because…well, that’s why the review.

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  • Author: Agatha Christie
  • Publisher: Harper Mystery
  • Year: 1934
  • Shelved in: Mystery
  • At a glance: A murder has occurred on the Orient Express. M. Hercule Poirot is going to solve it through extensive investigation. The catch is that everyone is snowed into the train.

I’m a fan of Christie. I loved And Then There Were None like no other, although Endless Night remains one of my favorite books of all time and I think about Murder is Easy all the time.

But if you know anything about those particular books you’ll notice that all of them are standalones. Which brings me to my major point of this review: I’m not a fan of Poirot. Granted, this is the first of his books that I’ve really seriously read, but I couldn’t get into any of the others I’ve picked up over the past couple years either.

This book…it was good, it was interesting, the crime was great. But it was…dull. There was interrogation after interrogation and that was just about it. I skimmed, found the evidence that was given, and moved on. There were maybe one or two characters that interested me, and Poirot just wasn’t one of them.

(And also M. Bouc just really annoyed me for some reason. I don’t get annoyed by characters often but I just didn’t like that guy.)

All in all, I just ended up wanting an Ocean’s Eleven-esque story from the criminals’ perspectives. Because that would’ve been awesome and a little less boring.

(And all that being said, I still can’t wait to read another Christie novel. Because I really do love her.)

Overall

  • Rating: 3/5 stars or so
  • Recommended to: If you’re one of those people who really likes to figure out the mystery–this one’s for you
  • Lasting impression: A very, very stuffy dining car and the undying smile of a young blond American.

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.

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Jackaby

 

  • 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.

So.

Overall

  • 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.