Jackaby Review

This is an old book! I’m not sure why no one has told me to read it, seeing as it has two sequels and it’s really good, but alas, I had to find it on my own and I’m glad I did.

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Jackaby by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on August 25th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Mystery
Pages: 304
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


The quote on the front of the book, by the Chicago Tribune, somewhat accurately sums up this book: “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”–I’m not sure I see the Buffy part, other than banishing demons, but certainly the Sherlock Holmes part. Particularly because Jackaby himself is quite quirky and odd, much like Sherlock or the eleventh Doctor.

The story follows immigrant Abigail Rook, who, coming from England, is searching for a job that can pay her enough so she can live, and seeing as it’s 1893, finding a place to sleep at night in the warmth is important. She stumbles upon an advertisement for Jackaby, an assistant in his investigative service, and the rest is the book. What really drives readers in is the mystery entwined with fantasy to the point that it seems real: there is some sort of demon on the loose, killing victims for their blood (oh here’s the vampire reference). Abigail, never having heard of any of this before, is of course bewildered but stays strong, thinking the murders are a mere sick joke.

What makes this book different however, which is important because the similarities to Sherlock Holmes are quite striking, is the charming demeanor of everyone but Jackaby. Of course he’s going to be odd, carrying around tons of random objects in his pockets, drinking potions that allow him to see through walls and what not–all of this is almost expected seeing as it is a piece of fantasy writing. However, having Abigail be a strong and smart woman–she wanted to be a paleontologist!–instead of necessarily a damsel in distress (she does have her few moments though, since we all do!) makes for an interesting pair. Ritter also could have made Abigail and Jackaby love interests to each other, and refreshingly so, he didn’t. Instead, there are certainly underlying backstory regarding Jackaby’s past, as well as Abigail’s, that keeps the reader turning the pages.

Furthermore, the non-lead characters, such as the ghost roommate, Jenny and the strange ghost-seer Hatun, are potentially more intriguing and just as influential as Jackaby. Women are important in Jackaby’s life, in fact all the female characters, save for a few classic strumpets who hate Abigail for not being more proper, are linked to the fantastical realm and are sought after by Jackaby. Hatun, for example, is described as:

see[ing] a different world than [Abigail] or [Jackaby], a far more frightening one, full of far more terrible dangers, and still she chooses to be the hero whom that world needs. She has saved this town and its people from countless monsters countless times. That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest battles always are (104).

Hatun may be called the crazy lady that takes care of an invisible troll to the towns folk, but to Jackaby, she is truly necessary in solving this case. Jenny, the ghost roommate, makes Abigail feel more at home, being the one to talk her down when the magical realm becomes too much her to handle, and allows her to steal the clothes Jenny can no longer wear (since she’s a ghost). Miss. O’Connor and Mrs. Morrigan are, as well, crucial to the murder investigation. And, of course, Abigail, being another set of eyes for Jackaby at all times. Ritter may unconsciously or consciously alerting the readers that no man can ever truly do anything on their own, and when they do, in the case of the bad guy (no spoilers here!), they will undoubtedly get caught by a woman.

At first, I was really hoping this story would be an historical, fantastical twist on the classic Jack the Ripper open case. Jack the Ripper being some sort of fantastical, demon-like creature, that instead of stealing organs to do god knows what with, is either eating them or using them for something else, much like the strange creature Abigail and Jackaby face here. Then, Jackaby, being able to see things that no one else can, would understand that he is simply a misunderstood demon and needs to be sent forth from our world–that’s how I would have wrote this story and maybe in one of the sequels, the story continues (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t looked at them yet).

Please give this book a chance, given its age, if you’re interested in something fun and quirky to read. Jackaby is laughable and the character relationships are deep. I haven’t decided if I’m going to pick up the next two books, more because I have so many books to read already and less because I don’t want to. Jackaby doesn’t necessarily end on a cliff hanger, but it certainly does end with the reader interested in learning more about the dynamic duo.

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Welcome to my Museum of Heartbreak

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leder’s book has inspired me to create my own mini museum of heartbreak for this review. you can see different pieces of me, scattered across a handful of years, countries, and cities. this gifts came from friends, relatives, mentors, and exes have given me, as well as gifts to myself.

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The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
Published by Simon Pulse  on June 7th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Teen Read
Pages: 288
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

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penelope marx thinks she knows about love thanks to the many romantic stories she’s read. she knows what loving best friends are like, as seen in her two best friends ephraim and audrey, and what loving the new, mega-cool boy at school must be like. she comes to realize, though, that those ideals of love are simply that: ideal and not reality. when she actually gets the chance to date the new boy, his lips are chapped and he is actually kind of rude to her. audrey starts picking the mean girl over penelope and eph is always out dating a different girl.

she begins to realize that heartbreak is in her future, but not just from the new boy. there will be fights on subway platforms of new york, in the hallways of their school, in the natural history museum where her father works, and other scattered places around new york city; fights that involve her parents, her friends, her boyfriend, and everyone in between.

follow penelope as she learns to overcome one of the hardest obstacles we must all face at some point or another: heartbreak.

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once again, i am pretty speechless about a book, same as i was with han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. i’m speechless for different reasons, of course, but speechless nonetheless.

first and foremost, leder’s writing is utterly and completely captivating. i, and i’m sure many other creative writers, have been told countless times to “show and not tell” when it comes to our writing. there is something so lame and pointless in simply saying “the rain fell” when you could be saying something more beautiful, more poetic such as “the sky gave way to thousands of dancing droplets that heated up my skin in their tiny splotches” or something to that affect. well now times that by ten and you have leder’s voice. there are endlessly highlighted sentences and dog-eared cornered pages of this book that i keep turning back because why can’t i write like this?

Keats invited me to his party.

I wanted to hug the acne-ridden freshman passing by; I wanted to dance with the football dude laughing at a dirty joke across the hall. I wanted to burst into a full musical number, complete with a choir of singing unicorns and my cat, Ford, tap-dancing across the hall with a top hat and cane. I wanted to kiss a baby on the cheek, draw chalk tulips on the sidewalk, and buy grape popsicles for everyone in the city of New York.

Keats invited me to his party (page 68).

the story is ever so slightly cliched, but you know what, who cares? i still give it my whole five out of five stars because of leder’s writing style, characters, and storyline, though cliched yes, still captivates. truly captivates. i found myself loving each character in a different way: whether i was loving to hate the new love-interest keats (i mean come on, who doesn’t use chapstick these days? and seriously your shit with cherisse??) but also love to hate and pity and love eph because ugh eph. in a way i didn’t want the book to end how it did, but also cherished the ending as well. siiigh. i want a dreamboat, skateboarder, with beanies and long hair, and smooth lips, but also a coy smile cause he know’s–i don’t know what, but he know’s it.

He kissed me, and I thought of tearing mint leaves, of licking salt water off my lips, of the mornings you wake up heart alive, no alarm (page 140).

i found myself relating more and more to penelope as the book continued. we’re both literary nerds, we both fall in love with the wrong people at the wrong times, we put our trust into the wrong people as well, but still have close-knit group of friends that no matter who or what happens, we’re still friends. leder creates penelope to be a little like all of us–so we can see ourselves through her and her journey. we’ve all had to deal with heartbreak before, it’s one of the worst pains in the world by far, and somewhere deep we know that our heartbreak, at the ripe age of 22, is only just beginning. there’s going to be rejection letters from schools, boys or girls that decide they don’t like us anymore, a death, a disappointing parent or friend or mentor, even the inevitable end to a fantastic, noteworthy time in our lives: these are all cases of heartbreak we all encounter on a daily basis. leder simply broke it down into tender, charming little pieces for us to swallow and take with us as we curate our own museums of heartbreak.

It was Sunday, and I had never felt so pretty, so noticed, so delirious, like every part of me was light and perfumed and lovely (page 160).

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Bitter Romance, Bitter Family: Review of Vinegar Girl

good morning friends! at least for those that it is still morning. trying to continue my adventures in posting a review every, single day (trust me i already almost forgot about that today!), here is another review!

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth Shakespeare on June 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Pages: 240
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 3.5 out of 5

 

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Kate Battista is the head of her house but not by choice. her younger, high-school aged sister, bunny, is more interested in boys than her family and their father is a hardwokring, but slightly crazed scientist. when he comes to his eldest daughter about a problem at work, he wants kate’s help in something she doesn’t think she could do: marriage.

mr. battista’s prized assistant is about to be booted out of the country because his visa is up. however, if he finds a woman to marry him, his green card will stay in tact and mr. battista can continue the scientific breakthrough he claims he’s having. kate, feeling like she is in a rut, contemplates the idea of helping her family, or herself.

taking on the infamous Taming of the Shrew by none other than shakespeare himself, tyler puts a modern spin on the classic play.

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alright so i really wanted to like this book. i really wanted to. The Taming of the Shrew is such a classic play and one really cannot grasp shakespeare’s portrayl of women without reading that play. there have been a few modern reconstructions of the performance, the first, and probably best that comes to mind is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late heath ledger and julia stiles. to say that i heart that movie would be an understatement. so i was very excited when i discovered this hogarth shakespeare and their modern adaptations of the centuries-old plays. however, tyler’s rendition left me slightly unsatisfied–but in a good way.

allow me to explain. [please note: this might be considered spoilers] if you haven’t read the original play, please do, you will not only understand me better as a person, but also better your life. that being said, the play has much controversy over what katherine does to herself. she willingly submits to a brute and marries him, seemingly silencing her forever. (thats the short version obviously). now, in tyler’s rendition, it seems that her kate does something similar.

in the age of third-wave feminism and everyone talking on facebook about women’s rights (the fact that we’re about to potentially have a female president) it’s only fitting that this modern retelling would have the opposite ending that the play portrays. however, it doesn’t. i was disappointed in kate’s decision to marry the lab assistant instead of doing what she wants–much like how the katherine in the play does. so perhaps i am upset because tyler did exactly what shakespeare did: allow us to question the role women play in families and marriages.

on the other hand, and the bright side, tyler’s writing style is elegant and soft. it wasn’t a difficult read, however it didn’t fully suck me in either. perhaps this is because of i wasn’t too enthralled with any of the characters. bunny is supposed to be annoying and tyler captures this well–she doesn’t care about her family at all until what seems like it’s too late. mr. battista is a groveling father who also doesn’t care about his family, just his research, leaving his young daughters to not only take care of themselves, but also him. pyotr, the foreign lab assistant, is just that: foreign. he doesn’t seem to understand the social graces and concepts of the battista’s home and village and america in general. he is forward and only slightly charming. when i have romantic characters, i want them to be charming and fire-y and yet neither pyotr nor kate are those things. finally kate is submissive and nonchalant. she doesn’t seem to care, not about her family, but about herself. she only aims to please her family and those around her, which is not necessarily an endearing quality.

She walked into work every day feeling starkly, conspicuously alone. It seemed that everyone else on the street had someone to keep them company. someone to laugh with and confide in and nudge in the ribs…Kate pretended not to hear. If she ducked her head low enough, her hair would swing forward so it completely hid her profile (page 71).

so i wasn’t that impressed with Vinegar Girl, but i did still enjoy the read while finding it challenging and true to the original. it was easy enough, short enough, that i could have finished it in a day if i felt that it suck me in, but it didn’t really so i did struggle with that. i would still recommend it of course, especially to those who are shakespeare lovers like myself. to read a modern interpretation is to allow oneself to remember and relive the first and original story. it’s a beautiful thing.

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Where have you been Morgan Matson? Review of Since You’ve Been Gone

now that i’m going to try cranking out one review a day, at least until i’m caught up on all the books i’ve read and completed before starting this website, it’s time for the next review!

today i’ll be talking about morgan matson’s contemporary young adult novel Since You’ve Been Gone.

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Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 5th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 5 out of 5

 

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emily and sloane have been best friends for the past two years. this is not in the traditional sense at all–sloane, being the upfront, approachable, and popular friend of the two, has always been emily’s lead. since emily is more timid, introverted, and shy when it comes to live, she follows sloane’s lead. the two are content with their lifestyle and couldn’t see their friendship going any other way. but what happens when sloane randomly disappears? emily is left with heartbreak, betrayal, and a list. a list of thirteen things sloane leaves for her best friend to accomplish.

emily sets out on a wild adventure covering the length of one summer, the summer sloane leaves her, to finish the list. it has simple tasks like “apple picking at night” which is easy enough with their nearby apple orchard. but what about “skinny-dipping” or “kiss a stranger”? what was sloane thinking giving her a list full of  impossible tasks? while emily figures out the means to complete her list, she unexpectedly befriends a classmate, frank, and his best friend, collins, along with a pizza-delivery girl, dawn. the four work on making emily’s summer unforgettable even though it seems like her once best friend has forgotten about her.

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Since Sloane had come to town, I’d happily existed by her side. People called out to her by name and waved at me, and I had a feeling that the majority of my class would, like the landscaping guy, identify me as “That girl who’s always with Sloane Williams” or something along those lines. And I never minded–even just being Sloane’s friend made me much more interesting than I ever would have been on my own (page 41).

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okay to start i just want to say how much i loooved this book. i was slightly skeptical at first, wondering if it was going to turn into a murder mystery right before my eyes but really, wholeheartedly, i loved this fun, easy-going yet emotional book! i was gasping at points, half-crying at others, and chuckling throughout. i have never read one of matson’s books before so it’s safe to say that i am now excited to read her other books like Unexpected Everything or Second Chance Summer. 

matson’s voice is classic when it comes to the genre she’s writing in, but that’s okay! i wouldn’t want a emily to be a deep, brooding narrator because that’s not how she is at all. what makes matson stand out, though, is her ability to write such benign scenes and make each and every one important. for example, the countless scenes were emily and frank run together, especially in the beginning when the audience hasn’t really seen any action yet. instead of these scenes dragging on, seeming to be useless, matson creatively puts something unique into each of these scenes, something vital if you will, that allows the reader to keep up with the pace without skipping ahead.

Frank looked straight ahead, and we didn’t speak for a few minutes, and I wondered if I’d overstepped, made things worse when I was trying to make them better (page 160).

i suppose really the only thing i didn’t like, which is answered in my copy of the book which has bonus content, is some of the plot lines but this is to be expected! to say that my disappointment in pieces of the plot isn’t really matson’s fault i mean that as a writer, i understand there is only so much we can put into a book. i felt that the storyline between dawn and collins alongside frank and emily could have been a little more well-rounded and tied up. perhaps, though, this would make the book too perfect, taking away some of its realistic qualities. the fact that emily loses friends is extremely realistic: we all have to move at some point, switch schools, face challenges in relationships that lead us to separate ways from our once long-time friends. this happens to everyone at some point, so the fact that emily faces it so boldly, unabashed by it, it gives us power to do the same. i recently had to say goodbye to many close friends i made while at college and it’s heartbreaking to know that instead of only two blocks away, i’m now 4,000 miles away. our relationship will never be the same and it takes courage to identify that and even more to cope with it and change it. it takes scheduling and fights to random texts and finally happiness once two friends can reunite after separation, whether physical or mentally.

the book didn’t take me long to read at all–just a few days–which i love so i can set out on a new adventure, in a new world, with new characters. but don’t get me wrong, i’m not going to forget emily and frank, or sloane any time soon. in fact, i’ve dogeared a few scenes that inspired my own scenes for my own novel. that’s how good i think matson is at creating relationships both romantically and simple friendship.

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Nostalgia at it’s finest: Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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what better way to start off my new website reviews than with the highly coveted Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? such a fitting way to profess my love of young adult literature and newfound talent in review-writing.

a bit of background if you don’t mind (and if you do, then place skip on ahead. this is a free country after all). brace yourself: i was never into harry potter as a child. GASP! UNFOLLOW! I HATE HER! i get it. i’m a horrible person and therefore have no right to review the next chapter in the series. however! i do think that this is my website–last time i checked–and have within the past five years read the seven book series multiple times. i enjoy the movies, owning the 8-bluray collection. i have even been to harry potter world in two different countries. the first, obviously the wonderful wizarding world of harry potter in orlando, florida BUT! also, the making of harry potter at the warner brothers studio in the united kingdom. so to say that i am a fan, though late, is an accurate statement.

i sought out this book the day it was released from my local barnes and nobles and was pleasantly surprised, but also fearful, at how “instock” they were. i didn’t have to bargain with the manager for the last copy, nor have to fight some fan-girl in glasses. instead, i walked right up to an overflowing display, plucked a copy off the shelf, handed one to my awaiting boyfriend, and we proceeded to the checkout. easy. perhaps the locals, mainly older folk, are just not that interested in this wonderful wizarding world? anyway, after completing the play in two days, i figured it was best to write a review of it.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

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[caution: slight spoilers below!]

being harry potter has never been easy, especially when he is an overworked, father of three Hogwarts-aged children. his middle child, albus severus, is giving him the most trouble and, since he is harry potter, he doesn’t necessarily know what to do about his tense relationship with his son. albus, on the other hand, does not feel at home at school, he befriends draco malfoy’s son, scorpius, and worries he’s a complete disappointment to the infamous harry potter.

deciding to pursue an illegal magical item and taking matters of death into his own hands, albus and scorpius in tow, sets out to make the past right in the eyes of his father. of course, nothing comes without a price in the wizarding world and a new, unexpected but extremely dangerous foe rises from the ashes completely under the noses of the ministry of magic and all our heroes and heroines.

instead of simply ron, hermione, and harry teaming up to battle at the end, the three sets of families must work together to right the past and the future.

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perhaps my least favorite part of the play, and i think the main reason i didn’t give it a five-star rating, is because of the stage direction. majoring in literature during my four-year stint in college, i made my rounds through literature and i homed in on the most famous playwright of all time (not J.K. Rowling) but Shakespeare. soon, the early modern period of england and europe became my livelihood and my lit courses revolved around those subjects. so to say i have a little experience in reading plays that are meant to be performed is an understatement. however, in Shakespeare’s plays there is hardly an stage direction and that’s okay because at least it is consistent. in this new installment to the series, there is inconsistent stage directions. at first, it seemed fine and started out alright. but then the stage direction began to sound more like omnipotent narrator and less like the director controlling the cast. a play cannot have it both ways. one is able to find the tone simply in the words a character uses, even if we cannot hear him speak them out loud. the context helps provide the tone, and the context can be found in the conversation. no where does the stage direction really provide context expect to clue the audience in on where the characters are and with whom. other than that, the stage directions should be silent. and in this play, they are not. for an example: The room transforms around them, becoming darker and more desperate (page 241). how exactly is a room supposed to become more desperate and even if i were watching this scene performed, how would i see a room become desperate? this is a classic case of what i was told to never do while writing: telling and not showing. the play teeters the line between wanting to be a novel but sticking to what it originally calls itself.

now, that is not to say that i didn’t enjoy every crafted word, every beautiful scene, every bit of dialogue. i loved the play just as much as the next gal holding her own copy. it stayed true to many of the notions that rose out of the first seven books. for example, i could hear harry’s and ginny’s, hermione’s and ron’s voice all while reading; both as i imagined them while reading the books on my own and how their expertly casted actors played them. each, now older, classic character that shows up is exactly their same as their younger counterpart, just now with some gray hair and other signs of aging. harry is still in the middle of things, unaware of what to do; ron is still hilarious but endearing; hermione is still quick-witted, smart, and the only one with her head on straight. now there are a few character changes, too. draco and harry have an unexpected, but totally perfect relationship but this is not the main point of course. the main plot revolves around harry’s son, albus.

HARRY (failing to contain his anger): If you were trying to do as I did, you went the wrong way about it. I didn’t volunteer for adventure, I was forced into it (page 203).

the two boys, albus and scorpius, the sons of harry and draco respectively, are excellent as the main leads.  Rowling’s original voice in the first seven books is channeled here by having the world revolve around a confused, emotional, and scared young boy who has a troubled family, is unsure of who he is and who he’s supposed to become.

SCORPIUS: You’re Albus Potter. She’s Rose Granger-Weasley. And I am Scorpius Malfoy. My parents are Astoria and Draco Malfoy. Our parents–they didn’t get on (page 16).

i think people should read this eighth book because it reminds the reader of why they enjoyed the first seven to begin with. it’s been a little less than ten years since the last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was released, and not that any of us have forgotten why we love the characters and this world, but The Cursed Child gives the reader an opportunity to look into harry’s and all our favorite characters lives nineteen years later. so if you’re wondering if harry and ginny are still married after the short epilogue Rowling gave us in the The Deathly Hallows [spoiler: yes] or if draco is still a mess [spoiler: maybe]. the harry potter generation, which i am proud to be a part of, is all grown up now as well, with their own lives, children, and other adulthood things so it only makes sense that harry potter would have to deal with those things too. and not to mention how comforting this is–our childhood, though ages ago now, is still with us thanks to The Cursed Child.

i cannot even imagine what it must be like to watch the performance live, which is how this eighth book is supposed to be perceived as: seen, not read. when visually experiencing it, the problems i have with the stage direction will (most likely?) be irrelevant because, well, one is actually watching the actors instead of trying to envision it. so, if anyone wants to score me some tickets, that would be super cool.

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First Book Haul

 

welcome to the new edition to shelbylueders.com! A place for me to put my talent to the test and see if how quickly i can read new books as well as how well i can review it.

here is the first haul for my new site.

during the month of july (and a tiny part of august) i purchased 18.5 books (i’ll get to that half in a second). that is quite a haul! normally i would peruse the shelves of barns and nobles and write some titles down and then see how much they cost on amazon kindle (usually much cheaper!), but recently i decided to just forgo that whole step and if i saw something interesting, i would just buy it. you only live once right?

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so here’s a list of the books:

this haul, as you can see, ranges over many different genres, with the most being in the young adult category. even though i just got my degree in literature, young adult books, though mostly left out of schooling, is one of my favorite genres to read and write. they entertain me to no end, satisfy my romantic relationship needs, and generally don’t require much thought.

here’s the young adult books all together:

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stay tuned for some reviews of a few of these books, and for more blog posts to come.

have you read any of these yet? what is your favorite genre to splurge in?