I got a booklet about this duo (the next book is apparently coming out this month) at LeakyCon, and I wanted to read it because I'm one of those sickos that's fascinated by Jack the Ripper, but really I just grabbed this because every so often I cruise the YA section to see if there's anything by Maureen Johnson available. She's a female author, and there's a lot of myth around Jack the Ripper, so I think it fits both of my themes for the year.
Rory Deveaux is a teenager from Louisiana whose parents take a university fellowship in England, giving her the opportunity to spend a year at a boarding school in London. Things are going well until Rory chokes on a sausage and the near-death experience allows her to see ghosts. At the same time, a series of murders take place in Whitechapel, mirroring those of Jack the Ripper from 1888. Rory's gift, and those of some kindred spirit-seers, may lead to the murderer.
The story reminds me a lot of "13 Little Blue Envelopes," another Johnson book in which an American teenager just about to start her senior year goes to England and develops a crush on the first British boy she meets. Factoids about England and Jack the Ripper are doled out as Rory starts her school year. They would probably be more exciting to someone who doesn't already know a lot about living there (I know, you feel so bad for me...), but as it is, I found those parts a little forced. After the sausage incident, the whole thing gets a little Scooby-Doo, complete with rag-tag detective agency. So the story is a little cheesy, but still a thrilling mystery with a big cliff-hanger at the end that makes me want the next book SO BAD. A- for the target reader
"The Snow Child" by Eowyn Ivey
This book was a recommendation by someone on the Nerdfighter Ning group "Nerdfighters Who Like Talking About Books."
Mabel and Jack left their home in New England to be homesteaders in Alaska. After 10 years of hard work, they are barely getting by. Mabel wonders what she has done with her life, leaving the academic society she grew up in to be a farmer's wife, and suggesting the move to Alaska. She and Jack have settled into a dull routine, and the never-resolved emotional pain of a still-birth still hurts. Feeling empty, she even attempts suicide.
Then one day, a surprise snowstorm inspires the couple to make a little snow-girl, and soon a pale, skittish child appears to Jack and Mabel from the woods near their house. With much coaxing, she starts to develop a relationship with them, almost becoming the child they never had. However, when the spring comes, the child disappears, leaving them to tend to their farm without her. The girl reminds Mabel of a story her father once told. In it, a snow-child comes to a childless elderly couple, like Jack and Mabel, and she stays with them each winter and leaves in the spring. Mabel's sister says that the story ends in different ways, depending on which legend you hear, but always with the snow-child melting at the end.
The beginning of this story was really good, as magical as the legend it was based on, but I felt that it went on a bit too long. When I got to the middle of the book, I thought it should end a certain way, but there was still more book. The bits of magic started to fall away, and the story just became another sad story. It was definitely not the book to read right after a certain episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey. I am impressed with the author's commitment to stick to the "fairy-tale" ending of the story-within-a-story, but I was left wanting for those magical elements that drew me into the beginning of the book. B-