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Book Review: Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth

Young Adult Book Review

Take The Fall by Emily HainsworthTake The Fall by Emily Hainsworth
Published: February 16th 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Format: Paper Book
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery, Crime
Rating: 2.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

WHO KILLED GRETCHEN MEYER?

Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?

At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?

With a friend like Gretchen Meyer, who needs enemies?

We have another murder mystery with Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth. We start the story off with our heroine running for her life from some unseen attacker and it goes kind of downhill from there. The beginning is exciting and interesting but the rest of the plot is repetitive and monotonous. It was frustrating and annoying. I was not impressed with Sonia’s lackluster Nancy Drew impression. The more we learned of Gretchen, the less I cared about her death. It seemed she’d fucked her way through every male in town and had blackmail material on everyone else. As more of Gretchen’s horrid personality was revealed, I was wondering why everybody was bothering to investigate her murder. The whole town was probably thinking “good riddance”.

So many freaking characters. Several times, somebody would pop up and I’d be like “Wait? Who was that again?” I had a theory about who the killer was before the half way point and was disappointed to find I was right. Hainsworth was trying for shock factor and originality but fell short. I had no sympathy for Gretchen and thus had no problem figuring out the killer. If Gretchen had not been so universally horrid to everybody in Hidden Falls, including her own sister and best friend, I might have been more mislead.

The first half of Take The Fall was enjoyable to read but as the book progressed, the plot became too circular and I became bored. An unsympathetic murder victim left me uncaring about finding the perpetrator. I did like the use of POC characters, including a Latina main character and a Middle Eastern supporting character. Take The Fall was dark and twisted, showcasing the worst of teenage humanity. Some may find the open-ended conclusion disappointing. I was fine with it but others disliked it. I didn’t love Take The Fall by Emily Hainsworth, it lacked a spark to really make it fantastic, but it was an entertaining read. If you really like murder mysteries, you should give it a try.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick NessThe Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Published: October 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 317 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, GLBT, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

I seem to be stuck in a string of books where I have great expectations but end up with lackluster results. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness has an awesome premise. What are the ordinary kids, the kids who aren’t ‘The Chosen One’, doing during those end-of-the-world adventures? It’s kind of like checking up on the rest of Sunnydale High School while Buffy and her crew were off stopping the hell-mouth from opening. They are just trying to pass math and not get eaten by a vampire. It focuses on the average, rather boring kids on the sidelines. These are the kids not in the spotlight but having to deal with the consequences of the big throw-down between the heroes and whatever evil that they are fighting this time. The problem with this is you end up with a story that is average and rather boring.

It is a clever and fascinating concept but the execution falls flat for me. For one thing, even if they are the average kids that the big, epic story is not happening to, there should still be a story. There is no plot in this. Just a meandering slice-of-life narrative that is pretty bland. Don’t get me wrong; I feel for the characters. The only saving grace of The Rest of Us Just Live Here is its characters. It’s painful to read about Mike’s OCD and hate for himself. That takes skill to write and I found myself most invested in the emotions of the characters. The cast is a diverse set of characters and they are the most interesting thing about this book. Too bad nothing interesting is done with them. I guess that may be the point; The Rest of Us Just Live Here is about the uninteresting lives that ordinary people live, as messed up as they are. But it doesn’t make for a very entertaining book.

I’m probably not the right person for a book like this. I like my books a bit more thrilling. Contemporary novels aren’t really my favorite but I was hoping for something special from this concept. I would have been happier with the clichéd and incredible campy book we see in the blurbs at the beginning of each chapter. The chapter pages was where Ness gave us an update on where the epic showdown between good and evil was progressing so we’d know where the events of our ordinary joes ran parallel. Like narrowly missing the gym being blown up during prom and then not so narrowly missing the whole high school being blown up during graduation. Epic showdowns between good and evil are very hard on schools.

My point is, that you have to enjoy character driven stories to enjoy The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I don’t. These characters are some of the best I’ve ever seen written. They are having a tough time with life, evil trying to take over the world notwithstanding. They are real and true and evoke strong emotional responses in the reader with their problems and anxieties. It hurt to read Mike. It hurt to read Mel. It called to my own anxieties and messed-up-ness. I applaud Ness on his characters. It was the plot that was lacking and made for an overall unexciting novel.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: 45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson

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45pounds45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson
Published July 11th 2013 by Viking Juvenile
Format: Paper Books
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Contemporary, Chick Lit, Humor, Coming of Age, Body Acceptance
Goodreads | Amazon

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 8 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in two months.

Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, terrifying wedding dance lessons, endless run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin — no matter how you add it up!

I had only one reason for reading 45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson. There was a fat girl in it and that fat girl was the main character. She wasn’t the quirky friend who has a great personality, never mind what she looks like. She wasn’t the wallflower, background character that everyone teased and was the butt of jokes but only appears for a little while. Ann, age 16 and size 17, is the main character. I’ll come right out and say it; I am fat. By official measurements, I am in fact morbidly obese. I have been overweight all my life. That includes my teen years. 45 Pounds (and it kills me to start a sentence with a numeral like that) hit me hard and kept hitting me until the very end.

Ann was an awesome character. Barson encapsulated how overweight people think and feel in Ann. We do want to change, we want to be thin and healthy, and we’re frankly disgusted by ourselves sometimes. We make all the plans in the world to diet and workout but it’s hard and that end result is a nebulous, unclear idea somewhere in the future and the ice cream is immediate and delicious and right in front of us. We eat the ice cream and then immediately feel horrible for eating it. We’re hyper aware of the world and what other people might be thinking of us. Connecting with people gets harder because we are constantly wondering what they are thinking, how they are seeing us and our excess fat rolls, and sometimes it’s better to just not deal with it and hide. Ann’s thoughts and feelings were spot on and things I’ve thought and felt myself.

I liked how Barson dealt with all matters of weight issues, from being overweight to being underweight and even how our weight and looks obsessed society is affecting young children. It’s just as unhealthy to be underweight and yet it doesn’t attract the same negative attention as being overweight does. I thought showing both extremes was a nice touch. My favorite part is when Ann realizes what her family’s obsession with weight is doing to her little sister and how ridiculous both she and her mother are being about it. All the adults in this family have emotional problems and that’s reflected on how they see and treat food. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction or chick lit books but I made it a point to check out 45 Pounds because of the main character. Nothing annoys me faster than some pretty female YA character whining about their hair or skin or mildly fluctuating weight. Our society’s body expectations are ridiculous but I liked seeing an actual realistic girl dealing with a real weight issue.

Ann is hilarious and so real that it’s easy to relate to her. Readers will be reminded how awkward being a teenager was, even if they themselves didn’t have weight issues. Barson writes Ann’s emotions and thoughts so well that anybody will be able to empathize with her. There are a lot of subtle subplots and some excellent secondary characters that add richness and depth to the story. The little romance between Ann and the cutie-pie from the mall was nicely done. Ann’s aunt getting married to her girlfriend was awesome. Ann learns some tough lessons about family, true friendship, and about accepting yourself. I recommend 45 Pounds (more or less) by K.A. Barson to everyone.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: Game by Barry Lyga

youngadult

GameGame by Barry Lyga
Published April 16th 2013 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 517 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Crime, Murder Mystery, Horror
Goodreads | Amazon

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer.

When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz’s dad Billy is watching…and waiting.

Have you ever read a book where it feels like the book attacked you, mauled you, and left you sitting stunned at the end wondering what the hell just happened? Game by Barry Lyga is that book. It chewed me up and spat me out. Its predecessor, I Hunt Killers, was one of my favorite books of 2012 and I was so excited when the sequel came out in mid-April. I was a bit daunted when I got my copy of Game and saw the book was huge at over 500 pages. I thought for sure Game couldn’t merit such length and that I would get bored or annoyed with it eventually. That was not to be. I couldn’t put it down.

I’m trying to make my reviews more interesting, so bear with me while I try a few things. (Lists!)

Things I Liked

blackdot Jazz Dent – Jazz makes the whole series. He’s crazy and disturbing and probably the most interesting teen character I’ve ever read. His powers of observation rival Sherlock Holmes, both in behavioral analysis and crime scene investigation. Jazz is the bomb, as they say. (Or time bomb, as the case may be.)

blackdot Connie and Howie – Game has awesome secondary characters and it was awesome to see Jazz’s girlfriend and best friend bust a move and really drive the plot along with their own actions rather than just being swept up along in Jazz’s wake.

blackdot Creepy to the max! – I’ve read a few murder mysteries in my time but Game has managed to make my skin crawl in a way that hasn’t happened in a while. I think this is mostly due to Jazz’s unique insight into serial killers and his often deadpan way of delivering those details as if it’s nothing special. It shows that Jazz himself is cracked in a very special way. We’re getting to see into the motives and minds of the killers in a way I haven’t read before. There is also a new sexual aspect to Game that wasn’t focused on in I Hunt Killers. As a female, this focus is both frightening and fascinating.

blackdot Never slowed down! – When I saw Game was over 500 pages long, I was sure it would lag and bog down. But the novel maintained a swift pace that hurries a reader along to the next big event and those 500 pages just flew by. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough!

Things I Didn’t Like

blackdot Repetitive – After a certain point, Jazz can get repetitive. Look, I get that Jazz’s big thing is trying to keep himself from turning into his Dad, king of the killers. Jazz struggles with two parts of himself, the part that was created by Billy Dent and the part that society tells him he is supposed to act and think like. He’s worried that having sex with Connie will trigger him into violence and he’s constantly analyzing his every action against the sliding scale of crazy. But after a while, you just kind of want to slap him.

blackdot Jazz is a genius/Everyone else is dumb as a rock – I said before that Jazz’s powers of observation are impressive. Unfortunately, Jazz’s powers are shown by making everyone else, the NYPD and the FBI, look like idiots. This is a common flaw with teen characters in adult situations. But the men and women of the NYPD and the FBI are trained professionals and having Jazz constantly one up them is ridiculous. Jazz may have an unique insight into serial killers growing up under Billy Dent’s tutelage but he has not been trained and it’s really quite annoying when he does that continually, like the whole of the police force are idiots and couldn’t catch fish in a bucket.

blackdot Believability – The NYPD and the FBI seek a teenage kid for help with a murder investigation. Yep. Uh huh. I believe that. Not. While I could believe Jazz getting mixed up with G. William and everything in small town Lobo’s Nob because it honestly fell into his lap, I can’t accept that people from New York would seek Jazz out for help in the same situation, no matter who his father was.

blackdot Stupid Girl Syndrome – Connie, what the hell do you think you are doing? Are you nuts? You seem like a smart cookie, so I can’t understand why you are suddenly acting like the dumb blond in the classic horror movie. What the hell?

Game by Barry Lyga is my first 5 star rating of this year. It has problems but the amount of awesome in this book makes up for any flaws. My biggest beef is the ending, in which we are left completely hanging with no resolution at all and all the characters in dire situations. I think I may die of frustration before the next book becomes available. I rarely enjoy a sequel as much as I liked Game. There is no second book slump for this series. I Hunt Killers was great but Game bumped it up to a whole new level of intense. I have to advise readers to read cautiously if you have triggers for violence or gore. It’s a little gross in some places. Game is also more sexualized than I Hunt Killers was and that might put some readers off. Mature readers only, people.

Thank you for reading!

Book Review: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson

youngadult

uglystepsisterThe Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson
Published August 15th 2012 by Fire & Ice Books
Format: Kindle ebook: freebie
Length: 194 pages (or 224 pages?) / 330 KB
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Fairytale
Reading Level: All Ages
Goodreads | Amazon

Everyone knows how all those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince, falls instantly in love, lives happily ever after and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.   But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect — read pretty, smart, and, worst of all, sickeningly nice — stepsister is dating the charming, tall, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine years old?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her on Skype. Mercedes, the school mean girl, has made it her personal mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister Ella is the most beautiful, popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret longtime crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own stupid fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against wildly popular Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

I first saw The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson during its blog tour and when I saw it was available as an ebook freebie, I snapped it up.  I adore fairytale rewrites. A fairytale mash up is pretty much guaranteed to make me happy. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back was fun and light and a nice, quick read. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It…ignited a fiery ball of rage in my chest that burned with the heat of a thousand suns. Let me explain my epic rage to you. (I’m about to be harsh. Sorry.)

Wilson used the biggest, baddest ugly stepsister/duckling cliché of them all. The world is being tricked, everybody! The ugly stepsister isn’t really ugly at all and with a little bit of effort, some hair styling, and a touch of makeup she can be utterly beautiful. The underdog is only some eyeliner and lip gloss away from being the pretty princess. Mattie’s style is punkish and funky, she’s got an attitude and a problem with stupid people, but none of that matters because she apparently has great boobs. In fact, we’re told that one of the first real meetings between Mattie and her object of obsession Jake is between lover boy, a skimpy robe, and her awesome boobs. It’s one of those ridiculous situations where if the nerd takes their glasses off they are suddenly pretty or handsome and as a certified ugly person, I am deeply insulted. Ella is just misunderstood and Mattie really isn’t ugly. The only problems these girls have are the ones manufactured in their heads. They are rich, beautiful, and hormonal and I want to gag.

[deep breath] Sorry if some of my indignation got on your clothing. I think I was the completely wrong person to read this book. Yes, it has a basis in the fairytale Cinderella. But it is also a teenage drama and teenage drama makes me want to scream. I have zero interest in teenagers’ petty problems. I would have dropped Jake like a hot potato after he asked me to do the school project on my own and then add his name to it. No excuses; I don’t care how much pressure your parents are putting on you. Instead, Mattie continues to chase after the ass. I think my eye started to twitch at this point.

Despite my displeasure with many things, I did finish the book. The Stepsister Strikes Back has some charming points and watching Mattie make a real connection with Ella and then stand up for herself against her mother was nice. It’s predictable but that’s just the nature of the creature when dealing with a fairytale rewrite. It would have been nice to see some sort of twist but the plot remains fairly straight forward. It would help if the book followed the blurb it has but it’s less about Mattie taking charge and coming into her own and more about everyone around Mattie teaming up to get her and Jake together. It’s a disappointing fake out, really. The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back by Sariah Wilson was just ok in my opinion. I’m mostly just glad I didn’t pay for it.

Rating: 2.5 stars : Meh

Thank you for reading!

Book Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig
Published March 13th 2012 by Katherine Tegen Books
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, YA, Chick Lit
Reading Level: 13 & Up
ISBN 0062066064 (ISBN 13: 9780062066060)
Goodreads | Amazon

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan.

But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

Ah, high school; the classes, the lunches, the cliques of snobby girls and self-absorbed boys. The pickpocketing and housebreaking? High school was never like that for me! But Valley Prep is no ordinary school in Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig. Let me just get one thing straight. The main character, Willa, is insane. Not because she starts a crime spree and has delusions of being Robin Hood. Oh no. Willa is insane because she is riding a bike through the deserts of Arizona. In the first few chapters we establish that her bike is her only way of getting around and she rides it to school and everywhere else. Even to other towns. This is clearly a mark of a crazy person. I don’t care how young or fit you are, nobody rides their bike through the heat of Arizona in summer and not keel over dead.

I enjoyed Pretty Crooked. It was cute. I thought there was just enough introspection on Willa’s part to make her decision to steal from the rich girls believable but not drawn out. She’s a teenager, so impulse control is sort of nonexistent. But she’s also one smart cookie. So there was just enough soul-searching to create a balance. My biggest grip is, once again, the romance. Willa and Adian fall into that old cliché where Willa doesn’t really like Adian because he’s kind of a jerk but never mind that because he’s hot and makes Willa all tingly. (sigh) Maybe I’m expecting too much from teenage characters or there is a decided lack of originality in YA books when it comes to love-interests. It seems to be a cruel pattern. I was rather hoping Willa would drift to Tre but it looks like he’s just a friend. I rather thought they’d make a better match.

But the best parts didn’t happen until the end of the book. I cannot wait for the sequel. I’m more interested in what Willa’s mother was up to and who that man she was sneaking off to see was. Was it really Willa’s father? Does the calling card Willa found belong to him? Was that man that ransacked Willa’s house really sent by the Glitterati or perhaps someone more sinister? I can see this turning into a type of super-secret agent girl. If Willa’s father is really the FBI agent who left his card, why did her mother choose to keep them apart? The suggested mountain of secrets is just delicious.

Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig was good but the hints for the sequel were even better. I liked the characters, even with the irritating structure of the romance. It was a fun read. You find yourself rooting for Willa even as you know her actions are going to eventually bite her in the ass. Pretty Crooked also has a good example of cyber-bullying and just why we need better laws against it and why parents need to be more proactive in their teenagers’ social and internet activity. (I could do a whole rant about the cyber-bullying but I’ll spare you my rage.) I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Book Review: The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman

The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman
Published December 6th 2011 by Tor Books
Length: 349 pages
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Horror, Contemporary Fiction
Reading Level: Adult
ISBN 0765328526 (ISBN 13: 9780765328526)
Goodreads | Amazon

From book jacket: The Hallows. Ancient artifacts imbued with a primal and deadly power. But are they protectors of this world, or the keys to its destruction? A gruesome murder in London reveals a sinister plot to uncover a two-thousand-year-old secret. For decades, the Keepers guarded these Hallows, keeping them safe, hidden, and apart from one another. But now the Keepers are being brutally murdered, their prizes stolen, the ancient objects bathed in their blood. Now, only a few remain. With her dying breath, one of the Keepers convinces Sarah Miller, a virtual stranger, to deliver her Hallow – a broken sword with devastating powers – to her nephew, Owen. The duo quickly become suspects in a series of murders as they are chased by both the police and the sadistic Dark Man and his nubile mistress. As Sarah and Owen search for the surviving Keepers, they unravel a deadly secret the Keepers were charged to protect. The mystery leads Sarah and Owen on a cat-and-mouse chase through England and Wales – and history itself – as they discover that the sword may be the only things standing between the world… and a horror beyond imagining.

It’s strange going from a middle grade book to a young adult book to an adult book. I feel like I have whiplash. The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman is the first adult book I’ve read in some time and, wow, could I tell the difference. Blood, gore, and sex and more than a few places where I crinkled up my nose and went “ew”. A plethora of violent characters and a rather harsh view of humanity as a whole are present in The Thirteen Hallows. I obviously need to read more adult books if I’m that unused to bloody violence in my thriller slash fantasy books. Michael Scott and Colette Freedman blend the modern world and ancient legend together seamlessly in The Thirteen Hallows as we follow a story thousands of years in the making.

The Thirteen Hallows is a dark ride through the mists of time. England is a land of legend and there is more than one superstition holding the kingdom up. (Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave The Tower of London, that England would fall. Several ravens have had their wings clipped and are taken care of by the Yeomen Warders because of this.) We’re treated to the same amount of myth and legend in this book, everything from King Arthur to the hunting horn of the Horned God. Don’t get attached to anyone in this book, chances are they are doing to die. It will probably be a violent, bloody death too. Things get chopped off. Torture happens. Thus we have the moments that made me say “ew’. It’s not terribly graphic but I’d say if it were a movie it would rate an ‘R’ just for the violence and definitely for the amount of sex. Again, nothing graphic but it is there.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of in this book, all of them awesome in some way. Most of them meet bloody ends in various painful ways. Each chapter is another character’s point of view and chapters are short. The story is actually quite a bit shorter than the number of pages suggest because some of those pages only have a few sentences on them. Chapters are only a couple pages long. This makes for a fast paced read and a rush of events. (Well, you have to hurry when you are trying to save the world!) Normally, this type of choppiness would annoy the crap out of me, but for some reason the bouncing narrative works for The Thirteen Hallows.

I have nothing but praise for The Thirteen Hallows. It hit all the points. The characters were all great and the plot is fascinating. I was never irritated or annoyed with anyone or anything. If you’re looking for some modern fantasy with a bit of bite and something outside of the usual young adult formula, then The Thirteen Hallows by Michael Scott and Colette Freedman might be just what you are looking for.

Book Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Published April 3rd 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 361 pages; hardcover
Genre: Mystery, Horror, Contemporary fiction
Reading Level: Teen
ISBN 0316125849 (ISBN 13: 9780316125840)
Goodreads | Amazon

Jazz, Jasper Dent, is a normal enough teenager in the small town of Lobo’s Nod. He has his girlfriend Connie and his best friend Howie. He even has a part in the next high school play. But Jazz is also the only son of an accomplished serial killer and Dear Old Dad Billy Dent taught his son everything he knew. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops only wish they could – from the killer’s point of view. Now people are turning up dead once more and Jazz must track the new killer down in an effort to prove that murder does not run in the family, especially as the new killer is doing everything just like Billy Dent did all those years ago.

I occasionally read mysteries but they have to have something unique to pull my interest in. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga definitely fit the bill and is probably the most interesting mystery I’ve ever read. It all centers around the very different main character. I was blown away by Jazz. First of all, I always seem to enjoy books with male main characters more than I do their female counterparts. Perhaps it is that male characters tend to avoid several stereotypical behaviors that even a well-written female character might display. (My kingdom for a female character not obsessed with some hot guy.) Then we have Jazz’s unique connection to serial killers and his very chilling reactions to the world around him. People fascinate me. Well, they also annoy the crap out of me, but the ‘why’ of their behaviors fascinates me. Jazz stands on the cusp of two worlds, his motivation to be good and that part of him still under the sway of what his father taught him; the killer inside that Jazz does not want to get out (or thinks he should not want to get out). Jazz is the most complex character I’ve read about in a long time. The boy gave me goose-bumps several times in this story.

I Hunt Killers kept me guessing. Lyga keeps throwing Deputy Erikson in our faces as the killer but as a reader we know that because Erikson is so visible in the story that he can’t be the killer. It’s a kneejerk reaction of “that’s too easy”. At one point I was convinced that Jazz was having some sort of split personality and really was killing those people himself. We even suspect Sheriff G. William and the journalist Doug Weathers because Jazz himself suspects him. We are perfectly strung along. In the end, the killer is plainly visible but was the one person Jazz never suspected. Surprised the hell out of me too! I can’t wait for the sequel. I hope Jazz is a few years older in the next book, out of high school and considered an adult. It would be interesting to see what Jazz does as an official profiler.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is going on my list of favorite books for 2012. I adored all the characters, even the greatly disturbing Billy Dent, and was captivated at every turn. I couldn’t put it down! It has the best of the mystery and horror genres, with a complex plot and creepy, deeply unsettling thought processes. Here there be demons, folks. Check your squeamishness at the door. That said, I Hunt Killers is also an enthralling, wild ride with many twists and turns and I recommend it to anyone looking for a unique murder mystery that will make you check the door is locked multiple times.

Memorable Quote: “Sometimes his programming simulated human emotions pretty well. And sometimes he convinced himself that it wasn’t programming at all.”

Warning! If you disturb easily, I might give this book a pass. (Or at least make sure all the lights are on when you read it.) There are, of course, descriptions of murder and blood in this book but there are also mentions of rape, possible matricide, animal cruelty and death, grief, and a whole host of other unnerving behaviors and events. Do not read before bedtime, that’s all I’m saying.

Book Review: The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer
Sujean Rim (Illustrator)
Published December 22nd 2009 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Length: 250 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Reading Level: Ages 9 & up
ISBN 141696794X (ISBN 13: 9781416967941)
Goodreads | Amazon

Annie loves her grandmother’s teashop, the Steeping Leaf. She and her two friends, Genna and Zoe, spent their childhoods at the teashop and now Annie is excited to be working there. But she finds out that the Leaf is having financial troubles. Now Annie is faced with losing a beloved part of her past while her two friends seem to drift further and further away from her. Annie will do everything in her power to help her grandmother and keep the Steeping Leaf open but with developers sniffing around, a painful crush on her co-worker, and time running out, Annie doesn’t know what is going to happen.

I bought a copy of The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer during my trip down to Main Street Books about two months ago. The blurb sounded cute and I was already dropping a stupid amount of money during that trip, so I thought one more book couldn’t hurt. It was a bit of fluff and cuteness is pretty much the only thing it has going for it. I have a thing for tea and a nostalgia streak a mile wide, so Annie’s pain over the possible loss of her grandmother’s teashop hit a cord with me. I’d rather be sitting in a locally owned coffeehouse than a big old noisy Starbucks any day. In fact, during November I can be found in a little hole in the wall place called The Crooked Tree Coffeehouse every Saturday morning having breakfast, drinking a bottomless cup from the coffee bar, and pounding out a few thousand words on my laptop with some good friends. I adore the place. (It’s called NaNoWriMo. Solid proof of my insanity.)

Nostalgia and cuteness was able to draw me in and The Teashop Girls is a sweet but predictable story. Everything turns out well in the end. The most interesting parts of the book were the interaction between the three girls, who come from very different backgrounds. I don’t really see how the three girls end up as friends in the first place, they are so different. Annie is middle class but her two friends Genna and Zoe are upper-class. Annie’s normality is at odds with Genna’s absent parents and obsession with dramatics and Zoe’s micromanaging parents and preoccupation with tennis. They’re moving onto high school and the teashop is pretty much the only thing they have in common anymore. But the past is not quite strong enough to hold them together. Annie seems to be the only one wanting to hold onto the bright memory. Annie’s frustrations with her friends are very real and I think we’ve all had those friends who just drift away from us through no fault of our own. The only odd thing about the book I could note was that Annie called her grandmother by her first name, Louisa. For a relationship that was portrayed as so close, this seemed very distancing. I don’t understand why the author would choose to do that.

The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer is a fun read and would be perfect to read to a little girl. Perhaps you could create your own teashop girls club? There are several recipes and activities includes throughout the book. I can image having a lot of fun in somebody’s backyard, reading this book and having a tea party with some little girls. (I’ve already decided to give this book to my friend, whose little girl is 16 months old. I’m sure they would both get a kick out of it. I’m thinking it would make an awesome birthday party in a few years.) It was a nice read, something to pull out during a quiet moment and have a spot of tea with.

(P.S. I’m trying something a little different with the format of my review posts. Let me know what you think.)

Book Review: Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan

I’ll be honest right off the bat (this is a pun, you just don’t know it yet), I read Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan because it had the search keywords “gay literature” and “vampires” and I was looking for another LGBT gem after reading Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey a few weeks ago. (And now you know the pun! Yes, I’m horrible.) I almost put it back after seeing the cover but decided I liked the blurb enough to chance it and I had a vague memory of possibly, maybe seeing another blog review it and wanted to give Gemini Bites a fair chance if that was the case. (I was right! The Book Smugglers did review it last autumn. My brain is not faulty.) The book ended up not being what I expected but was still an enjoyable read.

Judy and Kyle Renneker are sixteen-year-old fraternal twins in a rambling family of nine. When their parents separate for a while when they are young kids, Judy comes back with a changed personality. She comes back mean and suddenly everything is a competition. Kyle has recently come out of the closet and feels as if he will never know love while Judy pretends to be a born-again Christian in order to land the boy she has a crush on. When their parents announce that they will be having a house guest for the next month, the twins are intrigued. Mostly because that house guest is Garret Johnson, a mysterious loner who moved into town less than a year ago and claims to be… a vampire.

The big question in Gemini Bites is if Garret really is a vampire like he claims or if he’s just putting on an act. There is a lot of acting in this book; Judy acts like a religious devotee to get close to her crush and Garret is acting like a vampire in order to keep people an arm’s length away. Self-worth and personal image are big themes in this book but we’re spared any indecision on the gay aspect of characters. Kyle and the other gay characters in this book are solidly gay and no time is wasted on the question of uncertain sexuality. In the end, both Judy and Garret are faced with the consequence of acting like another person and how pretending to be something they are not will gain them nothing but trouble.

I was a little disappointed to find the paranormal aspect of this book to be fake, mostly just because I think having Garret be a real vampire would make for a much more interesting story. However, that would have changed the book into something else entirely. As is, Gemini Bites is a slice-of-life and coming-of-age story that shows just how real life can get a little messy. The characters’ problems felt real and their coping mechanisms could have been used by any person. The reasons behind the way Judy and Garret act are predictable. The most entertaining part of the book is Coover’s insanity and various attempts to kill the “vampire”. I was very surprised by Sasha, Judy’s best friend, who eventually stands up to Judy and her BS. Sasha shows some real depth and backbone that I wish more people would display.

Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan was not what I was expecting. It’s a good book but if you looking for something exciting, then I’d look elsewhere. If you’re into books that can give you flashbacks to your own high school horror show, then Gemini Bites is a good choice. The characters were relatable and easy to sympathize with and the whole “vampire” situation was just amusing. It’s a short read with only 229 pages and is perfect for a lazy spring evening.

Gemini Bites by Patrick Ryan
Published March 1st 2011 by Scholastic Inc.
229 pages
Stand alone; not part of a series

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