They were both great! Four stars. THE END.
Tempted as I am to stop there, I feel like I owe these books a bit more, so here I go.
I mentioned the first book in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series waaaay back in 2015 in this post. I didn’t really give it a proper review, but I did credit it with ending a mini reading slump! I don’t know what prompted me recently to pick up the second in the series , The Madness Underneath, other than to say that I was looking for some entertainment, a lighter read that also brought some thrills. It delivered on both counts. Paranormal YA isn’t really a genre I’ve typically read in the past, but I do enjoy this series very much. Maureen Johnson is very funny, both on Twitter and on paper. To catch you up, this is a series about an American teenager named Rory who, while a student at a London boarding school, almost chokes to death, and from then on has the ability to see ghosts. Oh, and there’s a Jack the Ripper copycat killer on the loose, and Rory meets a group of other young people who have similar abilities and work secretly for the British government (the Shades.) In this installment, Rory’s parents have taken her out of school (she almost died in the whole Ripper brouhaha) but there’s another mysterious murder nearby, and her therapist inexplicably recommends that she return to school. Rory thinks that the new killings are linked to the Ripper case, but she has to get the Shades to believe her. There’s quite a cliff-hanger to this book, and I gather that some fans of the series didn’t like where this was leading the third book, but I found it to be compelling. It definitely won’t be another two years before I read the third, The Shadow Cabinet!
I read Paulette Jiles’s News of the World for my book group this past month. I’m SO GLAD this one was chosen as our pick, because I probably wouldn’t have ever picked it up myself. I only read historical fiction every now and then, and typically haven’t read much Western fiction. But I ended up LOVING this. The writing (Laila clutches chest!) Oh my goodness, it was just elegant and moving but SO SPARE; not a word was wasted in this slim book (209 pages by my paperback edition.) It’s a story about an older man in Reconstruction era Texas, named Captain Kidd, who goes from town to town with a set of newspapers and reads the news of the world in town halls where the illiterate and those without access to news come to hear him speak and give him their dimes.
And then he had come to think that what people needed, at bottom, as not only information but tales of the remote, the mysterious, dressed up as hard information. And he, like a runner, immobile in his smeared printing apron bringing it to them. Then the listeners would for a small space of time drift away into a healing place like curative waters.
In Wichita Falls, a freighter friend of his offers him a $50 gold piece to deliver a young girl to her aunt and uncle near San Antonio. She’d been captured by the Kiowa tribe four years before (her parents were killed) and raised by them. She’d forgotten she knew any other way of life or language but theirs. This unlikely pair travels a long and dangerous path down through Texas. There’s an incredibly entertaining shootout scene along that way that thrilled with cinematic detail. The two bond over the miles, and the Captain, father to two grown daughters, is revealed to have a tender heart along with his obvious intelligence and righteous conscience. I fell in love with his character. (In my mind I kept seeing actor Jeff Bridges playing Kidd, but I hear that Tom Hanks will play him in the forthcoming movie version. He’s a favorite of mine so that’s okay.) Anyway, this is just a beautifully written, compelling read about a time I really found myself wanting to know more about. The friend who recommended it to our book group also loved Charles Portis’s True Grit. I’ve seen that movie (probably where my imagining Jeff Bridges came in) but not read it. I think I’m going to have to give the modern Western genre another look now.
Have you read either of these? Have you read anything else by Paulette Jiles? I’m very curious now about her other books. What about True Grit, the book – anyone have thoughts on that? Are there other Western books I should take a look at?