“The Diviners”—A Book Review/Sort-of-Rant

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The Diviners by Libba Bray received some pretty awesome reviews, so I decided to check it out. I gotta say, I just wasn’t feeling it. It appears the whole ghost-serial-killer thing is pretty popular right now, but this book just didn’t quite deliver as well as Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star (which I also didn’t find to be fantastic, but was definitely better than The Diviners).

Evie O’Neill has a gift: By holding someone’s personal possession, she can sort of enter a person’s mind and tell them anything having to do with the object—including any thoughts or emotions a person may have ever had while holding the object. When Evie was drunk at a party in her hometown in Ohio, she got pissed off at a big-to-do rich kid and held an object of his to discover that he had cheated on his fiancé and gotten a girl knocked up. Refusing to issue an official apology, her parents shipped her off to New York City to live with her uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. That’s the official name, anyway—Evie and her friends refer to it as The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. 

This story takes place during the flapper era, a time when bobbed hair, rhinestones, and feathers are the fashion. Evie is posi-toot-ly thrilled to be in the glamorous city of New York. She cannot wait to go to speak easies and drink large quantities of gin with her starlet friend.

During this time, though, a string of super strange killings are occurring in the area. Because of the bizarre nature in which the bodies are found, the police have called upon Evie’s uncle to help with the investigation, seeing as he specializes in the weird and paranormal.

That’s pretty much the whole premise of the book. Being completely honest with you, I couldn’t even finish it. The main character, Evie, got on my nerves like crazy. She is completely self-centered and spoiled. To her, life is just one big game and anyone that doesn’t go along with her childish whims is basically considered an asshole.

That’s basically all that has happened in the 335 pages that I did manage to stomach, nothing else happens except a small side story of a few other “diviners” (people with special abilities, such as healing and prophesying) a nerdy friend in Evie’s uncle’s apartment building having a crush on Evie’s Uncle’s assistant, and her uncle hiring a charming young thief that pick pocketed Evie upon her arrival in New York.

The only plus I would say this book had going for it was the song that the serial killer sang as he prepared to kill his victims: Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on, cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ‘em off for a coupla stones.”

I’m sad to say that, despite the great reviews others gave, I can only give this book two out of three stars.

I don’t even have any fabulous quotes to share with you…the creepy song was the only part I liked enough to note.

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“The Name of the Star”—A Book Review

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I have mixed feelings about The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, and its sequel, The Madness Underneath. I really enjoyed her book 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I guess I was comparing this series to that one.

Aurora “Rory” Deveaux is from a swampy town near New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of her parents take a job teaching American Law at the University of Bristol for one year in England. Rory decides to join her parents for the year in England and to attend a boarding school in London called Wexford.

Rory has kind of an awkward personality. She’s a little ditsy and talks ALL THE TIME. About nothing in particular, really. And she makes up stuff a lot just to have a story to tell. Now, I’m not going to lie, some of the shit that comes out of her mouth (or in her thoughts) is quite funny.

Shortly after Rory’s arrival at Wexford, killings start happening around London that mimic those of Jack the Ripper. The weird part: No images are ever caught of the killer on any CCTVs.

Then while at dinner one night, as Rory is rambling on about some dramatic tale, she chokes on a meat pie and nearly dies (yes, by choking on a meat pie…I know, right?!). This (ridiculous) near-death experience gives her “The Sight,” enabling her to see ghosts. She finds out about a team of Secret Ghost Police in London and starts hanging out with them to try to catch the killer ghost, because he keeps hanging around Rory at school and she starts seeing him everywhere—and no else can.

The story is well written and the narration is quite humorous, but the main character kind of got on my nerves. I had a hard time relating to her. The whole “ghost serial killer” thing was well told and pretty creepy…it had the desired effect of making me jumpy. I found the plot to be a bit slow moving, though. And I thought the ending to The Madness Underneath was a bit ludicrous, but I am still intrigued enough in the series to read the next installment when it comes out.

The Name of the Star is on the 2014 Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice Nominated Title List (LTRC), due to the main character originating from a fictional town in Louisiana (my home state).

All in all, I would give this book (and its sequel) three out of five stars.

 

Great quotes from the series:

 

“Where I come from, it’s too hot to run, and it’s generally not encouraged. The joke is, if you see someone running in Benouville, you run in the same direction, because there’s probably something really terrible right behind them.” –The Name of the Star

 

“Annoy a southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”—The Name of the Star

 

 “On the way here, I saw someone pissing on a wall,” I said. “It reminded me of you.”

“That was me,” he replied. “I was writing a poem about your beauty.” –The Madness Underneath