Tag Archives: London

Maureen Johnson’s ‘The Name Of The Star’

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888. 

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 now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Aside from some slightly jarring scenes at the beginning involving the school (for one thing the school seems massively out-of-place and oddly run from the perspective of a Londoner who went to a similarly posh London school) this was a fantastic book that I ripped (sorry) through in ONE EVENING. It is great stuff. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good supernatural-tinged romp – though the central character feels oddly vague and insubstantial at times she is a marvellous vehicle for the reader and really comes into her own by the rather tense climax. I respected her and enjoyed her company by the end, and there’s no higher praise than that for a first person narrative.

I won’t rehash the plot, but suffice to say it isn’t a simple Jack the Ripper retelling, nor is it trying to give us a new view of the historical murders – it’s an original plot and concept using very popular tropes (the Ripper murders, the “otherness” of London, young adult genre, secret groups operating with the government) that still feels fresh, even to the point of freaking me out about the murders even after reading much more gory and bloody (and excellent) books like Alan Moore‘s From Hell and Kim Newman‘s Anno Dracula. A true testament to how, sometimes, less can be more. (Also I read this at night, when all of this is 200% freakier than during daylight hours, I know this through SCIENCE.)

I’d recommend this book to people who enjoy London in fiction, tense YA crime/thrillers, who enjoy Torchwood-like groups waging secret wars against the nasty unknown, or who simply want a solid, swift read that though it begins slowly and a bit oddly warms up tremendously once the (gory and unsettling (I feel a lack of sleep looming tonight)) murders begin. I’ve seen a few comments complaining about the ending, but I thought it was very well done and wrapped up a crackling, entertaining and at times spine-tingling read with a tantalizing suggestion of what Johnson has in her clearly devious and brilliant mind.

Can’t wait to read more.

MCM Expo May 2011

My phone’s camera settings have gone weird so before I begin, I apologize for the quality of the photos.

queuing like it's going out of fashion

I had a whale of a time at MCM Expo. A hulking great blue whale of a time. It was the sort of event where even the queue to get in felt a bit like a carnival – everyone in costume, loads of good feeling, and I was behind Pedo Bear and his box of sweets which was great. It had a brilliant atmosphere.

Pedo Bear and his sweeties.

There was a spate of high-fiving everyone in sight as we filed in and to top it off I high-fived a Stormtrooper – that set the tone for the day, because seriously, the only thing better than high-fiving a Stormtrooper is getting a hug from Darth Vader.*

By the way, the cosplayers were fantastic. Massive congratulations to everyone who dressed up, there was some astonishing work with the costumes, the props and everything – it really paid off. You were all amazing, well done!

The tumblr generation has happened

To be honest, MCM Expo wasn’t the event it could have been. If it’s trying to be the UK’s response to Comic Con then there could have had more and better content; not enough special guests, not enough events, not enough exclusive previews or suchlike (although the games area was thriving), it was so very difficult to find out what was scheduled for when or which day (I think it wasn’t on the Expo site but the Buzz site) – I’m not entirely sure that it was worth the £15 early ticket for your average geeky person although, let’s face it, anime and manga fans were happy as clams. A few people interested in going decided not to because they couldn’t afford spending money on something that, at best, seemed set up partly as a big geeky shopping event. I regretted not getting to Kapow! earlier in the year but for sheer spirit, I loved MCM. I’m definitely going back in October, not only for the cosplay and the atmosphere but because the only way to make events like this bigger and better is to support them, and I’m willing to do that. I had fun, simple as, though it needs to improve.

However, I was only really interested in one area outside all the X-Men, Doctor Who, Green Lantern-type big name stuff – the Comics Village. How good was the Comic Village? Excellent, that’s how good it was – I spent all my money in that one section. It’s a completely different game when you can stand over a table of brilliant artwork and talk to the artists and, best of all, hear stories about how William Shatner approved a cartoon version of himself. Jess Bradley and friend, you guys were great! Not only that but the talks I got to see were pretty informative and enlightening (the Amulet of Samarkand panel talking about the trials of turning a book trilogy into graphic novels was especially good) and it was, as a whole, the best area of the Expo.

I spoke to loads of lovely people and bought a lot of stuff (so much I caused myself a mischief carrying it around all day) because it’s excellent work decently priced (£1 for an A5 print?! £4 for a booklet?! Bargains!). I found several new names as well as artists I’ve admired and enjoyed for ages. I bought a poster with zeppelins and tea and ninjas on it, books, badges, posters and booklets, and I would have bought more. I still have Adam Cadwell’s Blood Blokes and Self Made Hero‘s Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft books which I meant to go back for. In fact, here’s a photo without my brilliant duck jumper (you can see it on my Flickr if the spirit takes you) or posters, because I am a terribly lazy person and I’m not apologetic in the least.

Featuring (in a slightly wonky) clockwise from top left: Timothy Winchester, Jess Bradley, Liz Lunney (and the depressed cat), Joe List, John Allison, Josceline Fenton, Paper Science and Adam Cadwell, all of whom are clearly awesome. Not seen: Marc Ellerby‘s Chloe Noonan (in my bag cuz I’m reading them) a Geof Banyard zeppelin silhouette poster and my duck jumper.

If I had gone for any other reason than for the comics I wouldn’t have been very impressed. I do think it’ll get better; the events in San Diego always look so huge and fun but this just wasn’t on the same scale. It’ll get better, but I bet there are loads of small-to-medium British or European projects that could have used an event with 60,000 members of the public attending as a springboard as well as getting publicity for the larger releases – The Thrill Electric is a great example, but there could have been more. It felt like a missed opportunity on several fronts.

On the other hand everyone clearly enjoyed themselves and lots of money was made, so maybe in a sense it doesn’t matter. I still plan on going in October, and might even dress up myself this time!

*It’s very high on my To Do list.