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Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

So, last year at The Blogger's Convention, Maureen Johnson was the keynote speaker. I had seen her books on the shelf, I won't lie, but I never picked up one of her books. She opened up the festivities with probably one of the funniest speeches I had heard in quite a long while with her central theme being about coffee and the importance of good coffee.

Now I don't like coffee, but even though I could not identify with her quest for a good cup of morning coffee, I laughed like a fiend. I resolved at that moment to pick up her books, to at least read the jacket summary. As it turns out, I did more than that. I downloaded a sample of 13 Little Blue Envelopes and it was only a matter of days before I had ordered 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

Once I got the book, I think I read it in less than a week. I could not put it down. After that, I had to order The Last Little Blue Envelope, Devilish, Girl at Sea, Vacations from Hell, The Boy in the Smoke and later went on to purchase books 1 and 2 in her Shades of London series.

The really funny thing, while I've mentioned it before, is that the following week I went into NYC to see a live presentation of Welcome to Nightvale. For those of you who WTN, you already know and for those of you that don't, well, let's just say that information would be on a need to know basis. Never the less, I'm watching the show and a character comes out named Intern Maureen. Lo and behold! It was none other than Maureen Johnson!!!! A week earlier and I would never have known who she was or that her appearance was significant in any way! So our meeting was kismet. Well, when I say meeting, I mean me being in the same room with her and while I now know who she is, I was just one of a couple hundred faces if she even saw my face at all. I was kind of in the back of the room.

But I digress and have gotten off topic. I'm here to talk about 13 Little Blue Envelopes.

My thoughts:
I loved this book! But what's not to love? It had everything; tragedy, triumph, romance, crime, action, adventure, travel and it was down right fun.

Ginny is our main character. She is not a risk taker by any means. Her Aunt Peg has died and she has been given an envelope with some cash, a list of rules and a quest to fulfill. She has left for Ginny some envelopes. They are numbered sequentially and the number of the count is 13. Thou shall not count to 12, unless thereby thou proceed to 13. 14 is right out. Sorry. Coincidentally, the envelopes are also all blue...and on the small size, hence the title of the book.

Now Ginny could cheat and open all the envelopes and read them, but Aunt Peg's rules were very specific. She had a plan and the envelopes were not to be read except in order and at the ordained location or time frame. Ginny never having been anywhere, is understandably nervous about undertaking this trip.

She really has no idea what to expect not having seen her aunt in a long time, never even knowing she was sick and again, she's not a risk taker, but she undertakes the journey and follows her aunt's instructions. She is to take one backpack only and only what will fit in the backpack. She is to only take the money her aunt left her. She is to take no travel books and nothing to record her journey in. And she is not allowed to use phone, computer, camera, Internet or any other electronic devices or tools. And she cannot contact anyone back in the States. Oh yeah! She's going to England!!!

But alone is an intimidating prospect, especially for a 17 year old who has never been out of the country. I personally would have reveled in the experience, but I have family from the UK and became obsessed from an early age. I also did do just that. I went off to England by myself, but I was 29 at the time. Got off the plane, rented a car and just drove for 2 1/2 weeks. It was quite an adventure, but I have a travelling heart.

But back to our story. Aunt Peg has very explicit instructions for Ginny. She has to go find some strange man who is expecting her and she is going to stay with him while in England. But she has other things she has to do as well, like find an artistic stranger and support their artistic vision with 500 pounds. She also has to go find some artist in Scotland Aunt Peg was friends with.

If you didn't guess before, Aunt Peg was what we call a unique individual. Some might say flighty. She gave up the rat race and just went off to pursue her dreams and follow along wherever the wind would take her. Eccentric? Perhaps, probably. A hippie? Definitely, but she lived each day of her life to the fullest and she was trying to teach Ginny how to do the same.

So Ginny follows the instructions in the envelopes to the letter, ends up traveling all over Europe in some less than ideal circumstances at times and has the time of her life. Talk about life changing events. Well, this one is one of the big ones. Hello, life!

If you think you would enjoy a story about a girl who ends up finding herself on the back roads of Europe, this would probably be a good book for you. So, go out there and grab that book by the cover and don't stop reading until the end. You won't be sorry!

Book Description (From Amazon):
Publication Date: January 29, 2009

When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn't know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.


  1. Tragedy, triumph, romance, crime, action, adventure, travel - this sounds like a really busy book and yet at the same time one that is well written. Definitely one I'll keep a look out for, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. I like her style. I find Maureen Johnson to be very amusing. I haven't started The Shades of London series yet, but that looks like a bit more of a thriller type story.

  2. Loved your review! I think I have this one on my shelves somewhere, but haven't read it yet. I follow Maureen on Twitter and she's too funny!

    1. You know? I don't know that I do! I'll have to rectify that.