Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

What makes Jack the Ripper one of the most famous serial killers in the world? There's basically nothing known about him - a lot of his legend is based around speculation and whispers. He was never caught, which is maybe why it's so intriguing, this idea that he could have lived a normal life. He could have walked dogs, gardened, talked about literature over tea, disemboweling people only in the dead of night.

But one thing is definite - Jack the Ripper is a legend. Because of his name.

The Name of the Star centers around the legend that is Jack the Ripper, told in a modern retelling. Right off the bat, you know there's some tone of paranormal to it. Rory is the only one who sees the suspect of the killings happening in London - killings that mimic almost exactly the deaths that Jack the Ripper had been accused of originally. There are "shocking powers" described in the summary. It all has a hint of mystery to it, and even though it's slightly predictable, once you hit the revealed storyline, things get interesting.

I'm always surprised by Maureen Johnson's writing. Reading her Twitter stream makes her seem slightly diabolical and insane, but that madness tones down into some semblance of sanity in her books, and it's almost disturbing because you know she can plot. So her writing took me aback because I expected it to be a little less organized and a little more Virginia Woolf.

I'm terrible at transitional sentences, but I'm a huge historical ficton lover. I love the idea of taking history - something that actually happened, or even just legend - and weaving it into a story. Taking cold facts and turning them into real people. This isn't technically historical fiction, but it has that kind of feel to it. The reweaving of history. A very fantastical reweaving of history, but all the same, it makes you think about other people's pasts, and that's something that really interests me.

Speaking of bad transitioning - the fact that there's a Doctor Who reference? Earned so many awesome points. Because, oh, that show is brilliant. Oddly, I've read three books in the last month with Doctor Who references. I do fear it's slightly taking over the world a bit, but it's great.

But let's get back to The Name of the Star. Specifically, the ending. Oh, the ending. I'm a big fan of cliffhangers. I love the way they just drop you and leave you stunned with an open book in your lap. Almost like it grew a paper hand out it's binding and smacked you in the face. The Name of the Star perfected the art of cliffhangerdom and booksmacking. It got ACES in it. If there were report cards for cliffhangers, Johnson would no doubt have hers hung on her fridge.

Very interesting book. I had high hopes for it and even though it wasn't what I initially expected, I found it pretty dang fascinating.


If you want to win a copy of The Name of the Star alongside the other three books I discuss this month, just leave a comment. If you've already read/own a copy of any of the books I talk about, don't let that stop you from entering because we can exchange it for another book I've discussed at any time.

Other books reviewed in September : The Scorpio Races.

I'll always give a discussion question to talk about, but you can say anything you'd like. Contest open to U.S. only right now, due to shipping costs. Ends September 30th, but I give away a book every week, so there are plenty of chances to win. If there isn't a way to contact you (on your profile, etc,) you'll have to check back at the start of next month to see if you win or you can subscribe by email in the sidebar.

So. If you were to write a book taking place at any period in history, what would it be? What fascinates you the most about our past?


  1. Okay, this may sound ridiculous, but I'd LOVE to write a book about ancient China...and ninjas. Historically accurate as possible, but still ninjas.

  2. I'd want to write about the age of piracy! I think it would be nice to write a book on that.

  3. Hmm, maybe ancient Egypt. All of their beliefs and practices fascinate me.
    travisp1026 (at) yahoo (dot) com

  4. Maureen Johnson is one of my FAVORITE writers and her twitterfeed makes me laugh. I love it.

    I'm thinking maybe when the Spanish came over and the Aztecs. I love that part of history; it's so fascinating!


  5. I'd probably have to say during the Nazi reign. I'm not a huge history fan, but that's the first thing that popped into mind because it's pretty interesting.

  6. I got to meet Maureen Johnson last spring and she was still working on this book (in the final stages, though). I was so excited about it. I wasn't able to snag an ARC, so I can't wait for its release. She's SOOO nice, by the way!

    If I could write a book at any historical time period, I think I'd either go with WWII, the Civil War, or during the Civil Rights movement.

  7. Ooh, I'd love a copy. I'm traditional, I guess, but I adore the Victorian era. The juxtaposition of filty and decay with manners and propriety is fascinating.

  8. Great review! Definitely have to check out The Name of the Star.

    I'd write a book set during the 1933 World's Fair Exhibition in Chicago. Super specific, but I'm obsessed with the time period and this specific expo because of the architecture, design, tech stuff, etc. Too neat.

  9. This sounds so interesting! Jack the Ripper is such a great topic to write about. I'll definitely be checking this out!

    And I love history so this is really hard to choose, but I would definitely go with the Tudor reign in England. I'm writing a speech on Anne Boleyn so it's on my mind right now.

  10. "...the art of cliffhangerdom and booksmacking."

    Love your imagery!

  11. Time period? Easy. Medieval times, so I could write about some kind of epic battle.

    On a completely unrelated note, I'm dying to read this book! Thanks for the review.

  12. I used to watch this show called "Road to Avonlea", it took place in the early 1900's. I know it was just a tv show, but the time period was so charming - everything from the dressed to the wallpaper to the quilts they made by hand. Thanks for hosting this giveaway. :) Bethany, youngbooklove at gmail dot com.

  13. This Johnson title is different from her other ones but looks really good. If I wrote a historical fiction book, it would have to be set in ancient Greece or Rome. The students are fascinated by that time period, and as a former Latin teacher I already have a little bit of the research done.

  14. I love Maureen Johnson!

    I've done most research on the first half of the Victorian era (1850s and 60s), soooo maybe that. :P

    penrynsdreams at gmail dot com

  15. Then try writing historical fiction! I'm attempting a novel myself now, and it's all simply fascinating because you feel equal parts psycophatic writer and psycopathic professor. And this book looks absolutely awesome....

  16. Although I liked this book from the start, I wasn't completely sucked in until after halfway through, I would say. The ending was suspenseful and it left off on a very intriguing discovery!! I ended up really liking these characters and therefore I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in this series.