BOOK REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – by Maureen Johnson

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Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
(Little Blue Envelopes #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 23rd 2005
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: December 1st 2016
Pages: 322
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“Sometimes, life leaves you without directions, without guideposts or signs. When this happens, you just have to pick a direction and run like hell.”

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I decided to switch genres a bit and pick up a contemporary romance read. I know these kind of stories normally are not really my thing, but I remember I enjoyed Maureen Johnson‘s short Christmas story in Let It Snow and The Name Of The Star last year and the travel theme sounded great. I have to admit I had my doubts about 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I can see why contemporary romance fans would love this book. As I already feared, this book fell a little flat for me. Sure, the travel bits are quite interesting and it is without doubt a cute and easy-to-read story, but the whole plot just isn’t believable. I mean, why did her parents let Ginny travel to Europe like that in the first place? The things happening to the main character are not exactly credible either. I’ve had my share of travel experience myself and random things can happen during a trip, but 13 Little Blue Envelopes for me crossed the line. If you are looking for a sappy, fast-paced, easy and entertaining contemporary romance read, this is without doubt a good choice. It’s probably also a perfect summer/beach read if you can forget about the credibility details. That said, I’m not sure I’m going to read the sequel myself.

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After her eccentric aunt died half across the world, Ginny receives a package that will change her life. Inside she finds thirteen little blue envelopes with messages and instructions her aunt wrote before she passed away. In the first one, Ginny finds $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London. It also said she shouldn’t open the other ones until she completed each task, and that she couldn’t have contact with the people back home. Clearly her aunt wants to show Ginny the Europe as she knew it, and Ginny is about to do a whole lot of things she never dreamed to be doing that summer…

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I know, I know, I should have known 13 Little Blue Envelopes wouldn’t be for me. I thought the whole road trip/travel theme would distract from the cheesy romance, but in the end it was the low credibility of the plot that sort of ruined the story for me. Sure, a lot of random things can happen when you travel without a fixed destination, but this story just didn’t convince me. If you are looking for a quick and easy contemporary read and don’t mind the little details, this might still be a good choice though.

WWW Wednesdays #114 – December 7th

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m close to finishing Kill The Next One by Federico Axat. The story started out strong, but became a little weird later on… Fingers crossed the last part will make up for it. I’m also a few pages into The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, and I’m looking forward to continue this classic later today. Finally, I’m about to start my very first Reading Alley ARC: Tipping Point by Tomas Byrne.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first decided to switch genres a bit and pick up a contemporary romance read. I wasn’t too sure about 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, but I remember I liked her short Christmas story last year and the travel theme sounded great. YA contemporary romance fans will without doubt love this book, but I have to admit it fell a little flat for me. Sure, the travel bits are quite interesting, but the whole plot just isn’t believable. I mean, why did her parents let her travel to Europe like that in the first place? And the things happening to her weren’t all totally believable either. It is fast-paced though and can be entertaining if you forget about the credibility details.
* I picked up Another Day Gone by Eliza Graham afterwards, and I have to admit I had high hopes for this book. Historical fiction, set during various generations, interesting blurb… It had all the right signs, but unfortunately I had a hard time enjoying this story. I couldn’t get a proper feel for the story OR characters and it was all kind of confusing. It took a long while for it to become clear what the story exactly was about, and those plot twists and suspense around the past were actually annoying instead of entertaining. It seems like a well-researched story and it has a lot of potential, but I couldn’t warm up to the actual story. Most people seem to love it though, so this might just be another case of unpopular opinion review.
* I then finally picked up another classic: The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I was vaguely familiar with the story, but this is the first time I’ve actually read this classic. It took a while to get into the story, but the second half of the story was without doubt very entertaining. I don’t think it’s my favorite classic, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot better than his other story Treasure Island.
* Afterwards, I FINALLY picked up my copy of This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab. People kept telling me I should just read this one and that I would love it, and they were totally right. ADSOM is still my absolute Schwab favorite, but this one came a close second! Brilliant, just brilliant. The prose is just excellent and I love LOVE the worldbuilding. Like in Shades Of Magic, the worldbuilding isn’t all that complicated, but this simplicity just WORKS. The idea of Verity with its three types of monsters is intriguing, and I loved the main characters August and Kate. Both the dynamics between the characters and their development is very well done and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. V.E. Schwab has definitely proven to be worthy to be in my TOP 10 of all time favorite authors!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I’m trying to read more books published before 2000 for a challenge, so I might read Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown next. I also need to read both Netgalley ARCs Walk Into Silence by Susan McBride and From Sand And Ash by Amy Harmon soon…. And my newest TBR jar pick is still Little Women by Louise May Alcott., which I will probably pick up closer to Christmas.

WWW Wednesdays #109 – November 2nd

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WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I’m finally continuing with my last TBR jar pick The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson, and I’m definitely enjoying it a lot better than the first time I tried to start reading it. I’ve also picked up my Netgalley copy of No Excuses Detox by Megan Gilmore, which is turning out to be a really interesting read so far and I can’t wait to start trying out the recipes.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* I first finished The Good Sisters by Helen Phifer, which turned out to be such a great and creepy read! Definitely on the top of this year’s Halloween list; if you like a well written story with great descriptions and the right creepy atmosphere (complete with haunted convent), defiintely give this one a go. It’s brilliant!
* I then read The Scholl Case by Anja Reich-Osang, which is a true crime read about the Scholl Case where a former German mayor killed his wife. It wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, as it focused more on the history of both the mayor and his wife and the murder case was forced into the background. The whole thing read more like a historical fiction story, and I’m not sure to what level this story can actually be called ‘non fiction’. The pace was pretty slow as well…
* I then picked up Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender, mostly because I wanted to read more Halloween related books. And I really enjoyed this one! Fast-paced and just the right dose of creepy; the perfect and entertaining read for the October month. I will definitely be continuing this series soon.
* I also decided to read Sanctum by Madeleine Roux for the same reason. I had completely forgotten how good this series was! Almost no romance, a fast pace, lots of creepy scenes and the photos are a nice touch. I really enjoyed this one and I’ve moved the third book right to the top of my TBR pile as well.
* The last book I finished was Love You To Death by Caroline Mitchell, a Netgalley read that didn’t turn out to be as good as I hoped it would be. I had a hard time getting a proper feel for the story and I wasn’t really convinced by the characters in general… Lucy (killer) had a lot of potential, but Ruby (detective) felt weak as a main character and I didn’t appreciate the romance or love triangle either.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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Next up are two of my pending Netgalley ARCs: The Power by Naomi Alderman and Anything For Her by Jack Jordan. I’m especially excited about the first title after I read Claire‘s review not that long ago and I can’t wait to start reading it. I also want to read Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, but I need to reread Six Of Crows first so I might wait a little while longer. And my next TBR jar pick is still A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I’ve heard so many great things about this novel that I can’t wait to finally pick it up!

BOOK REVIEW: The Name Of The Star – by Maureen Johnson

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Title: The Name Of The Star
(Shades Of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA, Thriller, Paranormal
First published: September 1st 2011
Finished reading: May 2nd 2016
Pages: 372
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“Fear can’t hurt you,” she said. “When it washes over you, give it no power. It’s a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.”

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This series has actually been recommended to me various times in the past, but somehow I never actually managed to actually pick it up… Until my TBR jar thought it was about time I started reading it. And I’m glad I did, because I ended up really enjoying The Name Of The Star even though I wasn’t expecting the whole paranormal/ghost angle. Maureen Johnson sure knows how to write a story and create an atmosphere! It shows that this first book of the Shades Of London series is inspired by the original Jack The Ripper murders back in the 19th century, but this is by no means a historical fiction novel. The Name Of The Star only ‘borrows’ the facts of the original murders and is actually set in present day London… The historical references made when a series of brutal murders in the city mimick the original Jack The Ripper murders right to the date and time. The story has a fast pace and I really enjoyed the prose. Rory Deveaux is an interesting character and her experiences as an American teenager staying at an English boarding school are entertaining to read about and even hilarious at points. Those ‘light’ moments form the perfect contrast to the thriller and paranormal elements and made me really enjoy this read. To be honest, the whole paranormal/ghost twist kind of came as a surprise, but it did make the story a lot more original. And the ending… I will definitely try to read the sequel soon to find out what happens next. Recommended!

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Rory Deveaux grew up in Louisiana, but her parents gave her the choice where to spend her senior year. Rory decides to try her luck at an English boarding school in London while her parents work and live up north. Her new life at the boarding school is nothing like anything she experienced before, and she struggles to fit in and keep up with her school work… But luckily at least she really seems to get along with her roommate. School is not the only thing Rory has to worry about though. A series of brutal murders mimicking the horrible Jack The Ripper murders more than a century ago seem to have been taken place ever since she arrived in the city. The police doesn’t have any solid leads and no witnesses, and meanwhile the bodies seem to be piling up… And then somehow Rory turns out to be the first and only person to spot the man that is believed to be the prime suspect. The problem? Her roommate was right there and didn’t even see him… The police doesn’t know if they can believe Rory, but the fact that she seems to be the next target feels all too real.

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The Name Of The Star is without doubt an interesting read and has quite a few Jack The Ripper references for those who are interested in the famous 19th century murderer. The best part about this story is probably that Maureen Johnson actually made what could have been a simple historical fiction novel into an entertaining and fast-paced YA paranormal thriller. It might not have been exactly what I was expecting, but that doesn’t take away that I really enjoyed it and I will be trying to continue this series soon.

WWW Wednesdays #89 – May 4th

wwwwednesdaysWWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I started reading The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld on a whim and while the prose looks really promising, I’m not so sure about the story itself so far. I’ve put it on hold as long as I’m reading The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which is interesting so far even though a bit strange and I’m hoping the story will end up being just as good as the gorgeous cover.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first book I managed to finish is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It actually took me a lot of time to finish this book and while the story is really intriguing, I wasn’t so sure about the characters… Some of their actions and dialogues didn’t feel all that ‘natural’ (especially Vianne and Isabelle), although it did become a lot better later on in the story. That said, it is still a really good WWII historical fiction read and definitely worth reading.
* I’ve also finished The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson, which was my latest TBR jar pick. Although it wasn’t what I was expecting, it’s without doubt a very entertaining paranormal thriller with a Jack The Ripper twist… I will be trying to pick up the sequel soon.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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Basically my list of books I want to read next is the same as last week. Oops! My next read is going to be Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor; I know, I have been saying this for the last few weeks but this time I’m going to pick it up for real! I also want to read The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, although I should probably get a copy of the fourth book first… And I want to read See How They Run by Ally Carter as well. My newest TBR jar pick is Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira, although I’m not sure if I would actually like that one since I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about it.

WWW Wednesdays #88 – April 27th

wwwwednesdaysWWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I finally started The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah the other day and even though I didn’t have much free time to read, I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve also finally picked up my latest TBR jar pick The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson, but it’s too soon to say anything about it.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first title I managed to finish since last week was The Girl In The Ice by Robert Bryndza. The plot, plot twists and descriptions are really good, but the ‘bitchiness’ of the character did make me enjoy this mystery/thriller less than I thought I would… Still definitely worth reading though!
* I then decided to read Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover, which turned out to be an entertaining enough read. I actually loved the first part (up until about 55-60% I would have given it 5 stars), but things went downhill from there… Still, I really enjoyed most of it.
* I decided to pick up the novella Maybe Not by Colleen Hoover as well since it was short and I kind of wanted to read more about Warren… And I actually liked the novella better than the last part of Maybe Someday.
* The last book I finished is A Gathering Of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, and I have a feeling it is going to take some time to get my thoughts together… Such a good series and the wait for the third book is going to be a long one!

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I really should start reading Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor next since it was the winner of the which series to read next? poll last month… I will most likely do as soon as I finish one of the titles above; I just wanted to read my last TBR jar pick first. I also want to read The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, although I should probably get a copy of the fourth book first… And I honestly don’t know why I haven’t read See How They Run by Ally Carter yet, since I loved the first book last year and this sequel has been on my most anticipated 2015 releases list. Oops? My new TBR jar pick is Love Letters To The Dead by Ava Dellaira. I’ve heard mixed things about that one, so I will be keeping my fingers crossed.

WWW Wednesdays #87 – April 20th

wwwwednesdaysWWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

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I actually opened my copy of A Gathering Of Shadows by V.E. Schwab as soon as I finished the first book, because I simply LOVED A Darker Shade Of Magic. Since I haven’t been able to write a proper review yet though, I decided to put the sequel on hold until I do so I won’t be mixing up the plots… So I decided to start The Girl In The Ice by Robert Bryndza instead. The plot is really intriguing so far and I like the detailed descriptions, but unfortunately I’m not really a fan of the main characters. There’s too much ‘bitching’ and too little character development or other things that might make me like the characters better… Hopefully things will improve later on.

  • WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

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* The first title I managed to finish since last week was Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford. It’s not a bad read, but the plot is not really original and most of the humor felt either forced or was even slightly offensive…
* I then decided to read Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper and that turned out to be an excellent idea. Like Wonder, this middle grade book has a strong message that people shouldn’t discriminate or judge people by what they look like; it is what is on the inside that truly counts. A really fast read and definitely recommended even though some parts of the the plot are not completely plausible.
* I then finally started with A Darker Shade Of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and I’m still trying to finish a somewhat coherent review without it being just me fangirling all over the place. This book was BRILLIANT! I should have known after so many raving reviews and recommendations… Without doubt one of my all time favorite fantasy series.
* The last book I finished was The Beginning Of Everything by Robyn Schneider, which turned out to be a big disappointment. Such a shame, because I loved her other novel Extraordinary Means! Unfortunately, The Beginning Of Everything is basically full of cliches and annoying characters I really couldn’t care about… More in the full review.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

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I really should start reading Daughter Of Smoke And Bone by Laini Taylor next since it was the winner of the which series to read next? poll last month. I have been wanting to read it for ages, but decided to pick up Shades Of Magic first. I also want to try Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover… I’m keeping my fingers crossed this one will be as good as November 9 (unlike Ugly Love). The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is also still on my list… Hopefully some time soon; I just haven’t been in the mood to read historical fiction lately. My newest TBR jar pick is still The Name Of The Star by Maureen Johnson.