The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (book review)

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

The day that Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school is also the day a series of brutal murders breaks out over the city, killings mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper spree of more than a century ago. Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him—the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target.

384 pages | Published: September 29, 2011 | Penguin Group


For a story that revolves around Jack the Ripper, I expected there to be many more Ripper moments.

The first chunk of The Name of the Star consists of serious build-up and character building, specifically that of Rory and her new life at boarding school. It’s a typical fish-out-of-water scenario.  That said, the characters are all memorable and realistic – especially the boys.  For once, it was nice to not have boys banging down any doors, standing outside windows with boomboxes, or going out of their way to get the girl.  Consequently, the romance took a back seat.  And even when it was prevalent, it was spontaneous and … awkward.  Really, all it did was get my hopes up very early on.

I never expected this story to take the turn that it did.  It kept me hooked, but dissolved into a letdown.  I never felt the urgency or terror associated with the Ripper drama. Instead of increasing in action, it dwindles, becoming a long history lesson. Between long monologues and recounts of past events, I fought to finish. The latter half of The Name of the Star feels as if it’s a separate story, woven together out of thin air.  I felt tricked, no longer understanding the story’s progression.  Had there been more answers to Rory’s questions, maybe I’d be satisfied as well. But I’m just left wondering how the story gets from point A to point B.

This is a good one if you enjoy mysteries that pull you in multiple directions.  It’s not entirely unpredictable, but more teasing than anything.  Don’t expect to be scared. It’s rather tame. Ultimately, I’m unsure what The Name of the Star tries to achieve.

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6 Responses to “REVIEW! The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.”

  1. Have you read any of Maureen Johnson’s contemp books? I’m curious how they compare.

  2. We Heart YA says:

    Really good review. We only read part of NAME OF THE STAR (then the library book was due back, haha) but we agree that it wasn’t completely… even/coherent. Like, we enjoyed it well enough, but we were never totally absorbed or emotionally engaged. We might finish it, just to find out what happened, but… well, we might just enjoy Maureen Johnson’s Twitter stream instead. 😛

    • Alissa says:

      Yes, exactly: never fully engaged. I wanted to be, so badly. But the story never added up.

      I think it’s worth finding out what happens. But if there’s a sequel (which I’m betting there is one already planned), I probably wouldn’t attempt it.

Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz (book review)

Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Camelia’s junior year of high school is finally over…but her troubles aren’t. After she discovers a painful truth about her family, she escapes to a summer arts program in Rhode Island, determined to put family – and boyfriend – dramas behind her.

At the arts school, she gets caught up in the case of Sasha Beckerman, a local girl who’s gone missing. Even though all signs suggest that the teen ran away, Camelia senses otherwise. Eager to help the girl, she launches her own investigation. While reviewing the details online, she stumbles across a blog by someone named Neal Moche, a fellow psychometric. With Ben away, Camelia feels as if she’s found a kindred spirit in Neal. That sense of connection also makes Camelia realize how much she misses Ben, despite being committed to Adam.

But time is running out for Sasha, and Camelia will have to trust her powers more than ever. Will the lessons she has learned give her the strength to save Sasha before it’s too late?

336 pages | Published: December 18, 2012 | Hyperion Books for Children


I never really thought this would happen – giving anything in the Touch series less than four stars.  But, I digress.

If anything, read this for the romance.  It’s worth it, I promise.

Buuuuuuut, if you’re looking for more from Camelia, forget about it. This installment begins with a VERY CRUCIAL plot twist, which immediately takes you to the edge of your seat, but just as quickly pushes you back for the long haul.  Camelia doesn’t step up to the plate enough for me.  Again, I was left wishing for more character growth.  We’re given so many details and bits and pieces, but they don’t add up to anything.  She’s like a blank slate. And with the series being this late in the game, my expectations only become higher. And, needless to say, they weren’t fulfilled.

The mystery aspect is, as usual, enticing and invigorating.  It had me scouring each word for clues.  But, again, it takes center stage, rather than Camelia.  I went in hoping for a little bit more from our usual cast, and was sorely disappointed.  A lot of it is repetition, of Camelia trying to make sense of her powers and feelings.  While I understand that this is still a process for her, as the reader I needed more. Or some sort of change.  A different angle.

Just when the story starts getting good and showing signs of progression, it ends.  It’s as if the only real Camelia moments are saved for the beginning and ending.  For me, this is frustrating.  I needed to see the bigger picture, or the purpose of it all, throughout the story.  When everything hit me at the end, I still had unanswered questions and knew the characters no better than I did from when I started.

If these were meant to be purely stand-alone mystery novels, I’d be better able to forgo the lack of character development and interaction.  But they’re not.  Yes, they deal with stand-alone mysteries, but the overall arching plot revolves around Camelia.  And if she’s a dud, her story becomes a dud.

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2 Responses to “REVIEW! Deadly Little Lessons (Touch Series #5) by Laurie Faria Stolarz.”

  1. Liz. R says:

    Aw, it’s a shame you didn’t love this one as much as the others! The series does sound great overall though, and I’m really intrigued by the romance you mention. I might have to start this series soon – maybe in the summer when I have unlimited reading time! Fab review :).

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick (review)

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

304 pages | Published: June 14, 2012 | Penguin Group USA, Inc.


Can I just say that Sam and Jase may be my new favorite contemporary YA couple? Really. Jase is the fictional boyfriend I’ve been looking for all along.

Fitzpatrick makes these characters sing. They’re so real and dynamic, always working with each other. I’ve never before seen so many characters flow together.

That being said, I think this plot attempts to tackle a lot, and succeeds in tackling half of it. From politics, to drugs, to sex, to best friends, to boyfriends, to exes – there’s a lot to be said. And most of the time, Fitzpatrick gets the messages across. But the latter portion of the book nosedives so fiercely and suddenly, and doesn’t have enough time to recover. I just wanted more, more, more. It left me feeling like someone stomped on my heart and tried to put it back to normal…unsuccessfully. The resolution feels like a cop-out. When it says “the bottom drops out of her world,” Fitzpatrick wasn’t kidding. In the turn of a page the story goes from a super high to a super low. (Keep tissues handy. Just in case.)

Nevertheless, be prepared to be captivated very early on, even though it’s strange at first. The plot points (although whacky later), are spaced in a way that’s so seemingly seamless and fluid.  You get from Point A to Point B to Point C without ever feeling as if something’s been done just to create this new niche in the story.

If anything, read it for the romance. Really. It’s too darn perfect. Everybody will want a Garrett.

I know I do.

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5 Responses to “REVIEW! My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.”

  1. Alissa. I am INTRIGUED by this book. INTRIGUED. (Also, I like romance. Like, a lot.)

  2. We Heart YA says:

    Oh yeah, we definitely do. 😉

    We felt very similarly too you on pretty much all fronts, and are glad to know we’re not the only ones!

  3. […] Reviews: Goodreads Tar Heel Bibliobabe: 5 of 5 Stars (@theelbibliobabe) The Grammarian’s Reviews: 4 of 5 Stars […]

On falling behind on blogging.

On falling behind on blogging.


19 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion

As many of you already know, I’m a college student (tackling senior year!). This probably means nothing to you.

But it means everything to me. They tell you college is what you make of it, and well…I’m making the most of it. My schedule is jam-packed. Between classes, work, homework and thesis-writing, I have little spare time in which I feel like doing anything productive. Seriously. I’m all about putting aside the computer and just…not thinking or worrying about stuff.

Because of this, I severely slack on my personal reading and blogging.

But this isn’t one of my typical apologetic, I’ll Be Back Soon! posts.

I was inspired to write this after reading Amanda’s post on the entitlement mentality.

Every winter break and summer, I put a lot of my time into blogging and reading. Not because I have to, but because I want to. After going months estranged from the community, I begin to crave that normalcy and friendship again. In short: I miss you guys! So I throw myself out there. I participate in read-a-thons, try new projects, become a Twitter-holic. In return, I get visitors here. I meet new bloggers. I expand my blog reading list.

Every time I go back to school, I lose visitors. With no new content to draw them in, TGR sits abandoned. The best I can do is offer occasional posts and comments, which is enough to stay in touch with those I’ve grown closer to, but not nearly enough to build and maintain new blogging relationships. Even knowing this, I still, at times, get that nagging entitlement feeling – the one that says, “They know you’re busy. They don’t expect posts. Surely they’ll keep tweeting you as if you’re still around.” Or, “Don’t worry about it. You’ve established a small following of readers. They’ll be here when you return.”

But the truth of the matter is…they’re not. You’re not. You don’t keep visiting a blog that isn’t putting out new content, no matter how often you used to visit. What’s the point in visiting a somewhat-deserted blog?

It’s not that I enjoy feeling entitled. It’s not even like I truly feel entitled. For me, it’s more about knowing I’ve put in so much work, and the thought of it going to waste really bothers me. No one wants their blog or presence to be forgotten, do they?

I don’t know how to manage my time. I have calendar plugins and personal notes to get myself to read and post, but I can’t get myself to ever sit down and do it during the school year.

Is there a way to fix this? Is there something I could be doing to get back on track, to keep blogging while at school? Help!

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19 Responses to “On falling behind on blogging.”

  1. Definitely put college first; your formal education and all the fun stuff. Maybe you could post, short ones if need be, about your classes, the books you’re reading, heck even review books you read for classes. Your posts and reviews don’t have to be long, just substantial. Could you manage one post a week or every two weeks? If not, maybe monthly?

    You could do discussion posts, as you have time.

    While you want to keep your readership up, and I understand that, don’t stress over it. Even if you can’t post regularly, when you’re online visit and comment on other blogs so you keep up those relationships and keep your name visible.

    Have fun at school and good luck!

    • Alissa says:

      I’m definitely putting school first, of course. (I’d be worried if I wasn’t!)

      But once a week might be doable. I’ll have to look into planning something like that. :]

  2. First of it, it’s not “entitled” it’s “addicted.” You’re addicted to the feedback of an active community, to the little footprints that get left in your stats that tell you you’re not alone in the universe.

    Welcome to the club.

    I used to have a boss who messed endlessly with the schedule on a paper thin staff, trying to avoid having to admit he needed more people. I had to tell him, “you know, no matter how much you rearrange it, you’ll never turn a bikini in to a burka.”

    Your time is a bikini. You can only cover so much. Cover the necessaries (including sleep!) and then cover something that makes you happy, and the rest can go get sunburned.

    Remember this about blogging — blogging is forever. All that work you put in still counts for something in the blog-o-sphere, especially in terms of search engines. When you come back to it, you may not have your audience, but you will have an easier time building a new audience. (And they will be interested in your old posts. They won’t care how old they are.)

    • Alissa says:

      I really don’t think I’m “addicted.” That’s a bit harsh of a word and carries a lot of negative connotations.

      But I love the bikini analogy! It’s a great way to think of it. And it’s important to remember that blogging is forever.

      • Oh, I didn’t mean to be harsh, but I was speaking literally — there is something literally addictive about immediate feedback. It causes chemical reactions in your brain. And it affects everyone. It’s not like being a addict.

    • We Heart YA says:

      Completely agree with Camille here! (And haha love the bikini analogy.)

  3. I don’t think wanting to see return on our hard work is being entitled.

    But you’re right: you can’t expect people to treat you like always when you’re not around. That’s not to say that we don’t miss you, though. We do. Unfortunately, I don’t have any advice for dealing with blogging and school. That was the reason I waited so long to start my own book big.

  4. And that should say book BLOG but my phone is stupid.

  5. Liz. R says:

    I wish there were a way to keep blogging while at school, but it’s hard. I’m trying to get more organised but there really just aren’t enough hours in the day. I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’m already feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the work! And I get what you mean about putting in the work and it sort of going to waste. However, I do also feel like I let everyone down when I take a break and abandon the blog for a while. Sadly, though, it has to be done. Education must come first.

    • Alissa says:

      LIZ! <3

      Granted, there are times when the work isn’t overwhelming, and that’s when I’m able to put out posts like this. But they’re very few and far between. I also feel like I’m letting people down when I don’t consistently post. But like you said, education has to come first. I just wish there were some way to find balance.

  6. […] (The Grammarian’s Reviews) asked what we do when life gets in the way of blogging. I know I need to work on this […]

  7. Nikki Steele says:

    I’ll be a bit contrary to the other posters, but in the same supportive way that they all are too. Yes, you should put school first, but (and this is a major but), from everybody I’ve seen graduate around me for the last few years (myself included), life gets inordinately busier after school than we could have ever imagined during school. It’s not to bust your butt or even draw on the entitlement thing. What it more gets to is priorities. I imagine you will always feel busy, but making blogging a priority every day or every week that works for you is at the bottom of it.

    Again, trying not to assume that you don’t feel overstressed or out of time. When that happens, it’s just that realignment needs to happen as well and you have to pick and choose those things that you can fit into a normal 24 hour day. If you need your blog and the community to feel sane, make an hour a day for it or two hours on Sunday nights, something to make it into a habit.

    Sorry for my longer response! We all feel ya. I have you on my Reader so I’ll definitely check back in when you have time to put up new content. Good luck!

    • Alissa says:

      Aw, thank you, Nikki. You make an awesome point! Blogging (and the community) DOES make me feel more sane. Making time for it really is the issue. Maybe looking at it that way will be better instead of worrying about scheduling specific posts. Like, before I can do that, I need to first make the time.

    • We Heart YA says:

      Also love and agree with Nikki’s point too: life is always going to be busy, and probably only more so as you get older, start a career, maybe a family…

      A couple ideas:
      – Once a week might be a good, reasonable goal.
      – Partnering. Do you have any friends or fellow bloggers that you’d be interested in having join the Grammarian’s Reviews team? With 4 of us, it’s much easier to keep regular content going, because we have a schedule, and if something comes up with one of us, one of the others can cover.

      • Alissa says:

        I’ve actually looked into partnering in the past, but I’m not looking to do that right now. :/

        I am, however, looking into attempting once-a-week posts.

My Bookmas list: my book christmas list for 2012.

My Bookmas list: 2012.


10 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Discussion




  • Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  • Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder
  • The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
  • Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz
  • The Essence by Kimberly Derting
  • Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain by Jamie Oliver

Despite making progress in finishing my TBR pile, that’s going to change come the new year. I’m excited to get back into all of these stories! ..Except for the one stand-alone and cook book. Obviously. Speaking of which, cooking is something I also hope to do more of come the new year.

What about you?

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10 Responses to “My Bookmas list: 2012.”

  1. I have so many books waiting on my Kindle, it’s hard to wish for any more right now! 🙂

  2. Days of Blood and Starlight! Mara Dyer! YES!!!

  3. We Heart YA says:

    Ooo, we didn’t know PLEDGE was the first in a series! Gosh, those books have the best covers.

    DOBAS is really good, but really tough! Brace yourself emotionally.

    • Alissa says:

      Yes, it is! 😀 I love the fonts they use.

      Also, I will break out the tissues. Or cookies. Or anything to help get me through DOBAS.

  4. Anne says:

    You know, I think every single one of these books is on my wishlist too! I never get books though – for some reason people don’t like to buy them for me. It’s weird!



0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: •

Hello! I’m Alissa, the creator of The Grammarian’s Reviews.

Around the blog I’m known as the self-proclaimed Grammarian because of my love for all things grammar. I’m a book reviewer of typically YA (Young Adult) books, but an Adult fiction novel has been known to come along. When I’m not reviewing I’m waiting impatiently for upcoming releases, offering Grammar Bits and other related book discussions.

Aside from my affinity for grammar and editing, I’m an avid reader and writer looking to enter the publishing world.  When I’m neither reading nor writing you can find me in Starbucks, watching Food Network, or cooking.

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