I Hunt Killers: A Review

I Hunt Killers by Barry LygaJasper “Jazz” Dent is used to being an outsider in the small town of Lobo’s Nod. It’s kind of the only choice when your dad is arrested after a committing a string of horrific murders that number in the triple digits.

It’s kind of the only choice when Jazz isn’t entirely convinced he can be anything but what “Dear Old Dad” trained Jazz to be right up until his arrest.

Jazz might not know much about how to act like a regular human being most of the time. But he definitely knows serial killers. When a dead body is found in an isolated field, Jazz is certain that Lobo’s Nod has another killer in the town’s midst.

The problem is that no one believes Jazz. Even when more bodies show up. Even when they may or may not start wondering if Jazz might know more than he’s letting on in I Hunt Killers (2012) by Barry Lyga.

Find it on Bookshop.

I Hunt Killers is the first in Lyga’s Jasper Dent Series which continues in Game.

Lyga, in any genre or capacity, is an excellent writer. His debut The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl is fantastic and Boy Toy is as heartbreaking as it is stunning. Lyga always brings a lot of skill and enthusiasm to his subjects which comes through in the writing and his (well-researched) expertise with each subject.

The problem with I Hunt Killers is that it involves a very narrow subject: serial killers.

Readers who enjoy being scared or horrified will love this book. It is gory and gritty and there are tons of dead bodies as would be expected in any quality thriller. Jazz’s desperate efforts to be a better person than his father add another dimension to the plot and help elevate I Hunt Killers above a cheap thrill with lots of blood. It has the same substance that I would imagine draws fans to both Dexter (in book or TV form) and The Following.

That said, this book is clearly not for everyone. Most of the story focuses on Jazz but there are brief chapters from a killer’s perspective and fragmented flashbacks to Jazz’s childhood “lessons” from his father. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Jazz is a very well-realized character. He is flawed and broken as well as being very multi-faceted. Despite–or maybe because of–his past, readers can’t help identifying with Jazz and cheering him on. Will he become exactly who his father groomer him to be? Will he transcend that and become something better? It’s not always clear. But Jazz’s internal struggle with those very questions is what makes him so very interesting.

Unfortunately, none of the other characters in I Hunt Killers are quite as exciting. Howie is a goofy but likeable sidekick who often comes across as cartoonish (as intended it seems but still a caricature). Meanwhile all of the female characters, such as they are, come across as shockingly one-dimensional. There is a possibility that this has to do with Jazz’s warped upbringing and his father’s brainwashing, although the fact remains that it’s disappointing when an otherwise strong book has weak characters.

The plotting is admirable and will keep most readers guessing (not to mention on the edge of their seats). While this book is an excellent mystery, there is a decided lack of closure. I Hunt Killers is an entertaining read but it is very gory and extremely serialized with a lack of closure that is largely unsatisfying. Make of that what you will.

Possible Pairings: Breaker by Kat Ellis, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, Legend by Marie Lu, Proxy by Alex London, Acceleration by Graham McNamee, Black City by Elizabeth Richards, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Dexter, The Following

Week in Review: March 30

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This week on the blog you can check out:

Off the blog this week has been a little hectic. Because of  the signings last weekend I didn’t really have a weekend to do errand stuff and I’m starting to feel it.

I worked on some stuff with Mom (moving furniture and other things). Then I saw my college friends that I briefly mentioned in my situational friends post last week. It was, of course, great to see them. I always dread meeting people and hanging out with people but it ‘s always fun so I don’t know why I just can’t be happy about it before the fact too. Whatever.

We met near the Flatiron building so I also took some awesome pictures. I might try to set up some kind of page on my personal website to share them so I can link to them on the blog without taking up file space. I need to think about it and see if anyone would be that interested.

I slept really badly all week. I’ve been trying to train myself to sleep on my back but it’s proving to be way more difficult than I thought. I’m such a restless sleeper that using a bazillion pillows doesn’t even help. But I’m determined so there is that.

I’m also in the process of taking down all of the Amazon Associate links from my blog posts. I tried the program and it just isn’t worth the time and apparently sending posts to readers via RSS emails violates Amazon’s terms of service so it just didn’t seem worth the trouble anymore. The problem is my blog is almost seven and that is A LOT of book reviews to update. However, I am also updating possible pairings as I go. (Finished the process earlier this week. Glad it’s done!)

It’s been fascinating to go back and see how little I knew about readalikes for some titles–a lot of posts I can tell now only featured pairings because I read them around the same time. So it’s been great to go back and updated all of that with my new wealth of knowledge even if it is tedious. I’m also setting up a new “best practice” for myself to update as I think of them (or write new reviews) instead of letting the posts just sit for ages.

I got a beautiful new case for my iphone and changed my wallpapers to spring-y things as I anxiously wait for better weather.

Work is going well.

Really, everything is good right now.

;

Synchronized Reading Roundup: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

This month Nicole and I read Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Here’s a rundown of all the posts I wrote up for the Synchronized Reading:

You can also head over to Nicole’s blog to see her posts:

In which I talk about seeing Divergent (with photos!)

Last Friday a very cool thing happened. A coworker at Shiny Job transferred her RSVP over to me for a screening of Divergent on opening night hosted by Veronica Roth’s agent/agency the New Leaf Agency. (Another coworker transferred her RSVP to workfriend so I didn’t even have to go alone.)

My invite felt a bit like a golden ticket.

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Finding the building with the screening was much harder than it should have been because I got turned around and lost and the building entrance was on a corner.

Along the way I discovered that 6 1/2 Avenue is a thing.

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But once I got there the screening room was pretty swank.

There were snacks and swag bags and other goodies (like a signed book plate–yay) that made the whole night feel festive. I also got to see some of the posters for the movie.

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After enjoying some faction specific cake pops (Erudite and Abnegation–I didn’t get a chance to photograph the others, alas).

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It was time for the movie!

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Now I enjoyed Divergent when I read it. But my excitement about the series diminished over time and I was less and less inclined to read the other books after seeing how the trilogy ended when I came upon some spoilers. I also wasn’t prepared to re-read Divergent just so I could catch up on the backstory to book two (which starts really close to the end of book one).

But guess what?

The movie was really good.

I remembered why I loved the characters. I remembered how cinematic the story felt and how kickass Tris is.

The costumes were amazing. The actors were excellent. (I’ve been a fan of Theo James since his one-season series “Golden Boy” and he was great here too. It was a little strange that he looked so much older than Shailene Woodley but, you know what, they were great together and I’ll let it slide. And everyone else in the movie was really great too. It was a talented, diverse cast and really well done.) The factions and the world building were so well-realized. And I’m really excited about this series again.

Some things were cut from the book but it was all of the things that kept me on the fence about the book in the first place. Workfriend hadn’t read the book but she also enjoyed and followed the movie, so it’s a win in every sense.

I urge all of you to get to the theater to see Divergent as soon as you can and to get on board for reading the book if you haven’t already.

(I have Insurgent and Allegiant on hold so hopefully they’ll come in soon!)

 

Roomies Synchronized Reading Post #2: Vacation Destination Memories

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Roomies is written with emails between Elizabeth and Lauren with Lauren in San Francisco and Elizabeth in a beach town in New Jersey. So for our second Synchronized Reading post on the book, Nicole and I decided to talk about a memorable vacation. Be sure to stop at her blog to see what she has to say as well.

I have not taken a lot of vacations that involve actually going places. I have been to visit family in New Jersey a couple of times. I have been to Disney World (which was glorious and fabulous and I want to go back right now). I went to Boston twice but don’t remember much of the first trip and the biggest memories of the second trip are going to the supermarket with my aunt and being shocked at how enormous it was.

In college I went on one spring break trip with my honors college to Montreal (this was before you needed a passport to get into Canada) where we saw the Notre Dame cathedral (church-like with a gift shop), went to the Musee de Beaux Art (amazing on every level and I wish I could have stayed longer), and ate poutine (*shudders*). Other things happened but aside from being cold all the time those were the highlights. Oh and I bought earrings shaped like Maple leaves.

I could talk about any of those vacations.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the trip I took to Los Angeles in 2006.

In 2006 I was a Senior Staff Writer for my college newspaper. I did not yet have my own column for book reviews but I did have a few articles I was really proud of among my clippings or whatever you call them.

That year through a series of weird luck, I was invited to attend a college newspaper conference with the editorial staff and a couple of other writers and photographers. It was totally bananas to be asked to go and totally cheap (I only paid airfare).

Now, as you all might have guessed, I tend to stay close to home. So I wasn’t sure about this whole flying cross-country thing. It was a weird time in the middle of a semester (which led to my having to redo a midterm for the first and only time in my live) and I had lost a lot of weight so none of my clothes fit particularly well (one of my souvenirs from this trip was a belt–no lie). But then my Aunt Linda and my mom and I were talking about it. And Linda said this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was something I’d be talking about for the rest of my life. And you know what? She was right.

I’m not even going to talk about the flights because they were miserable. Frankly, LA is a terrible city for people who don’t drive. It’s not a place I’d ever want to live. I’m not even sure I’d visit it again. But the trip was a lot of fun. (I recently reconnected with one of my roomies from this trip on Facebook and it was kind of nice seeing her photos of the trip were still online and still knowing there was proof out there that I was on it with her and everyone else.)

Somewhere I have an essay I wrote in my college memoir class about the saga that getting the Getty became. I have photos of the artwork and even brochures about the Courbet exhibit we went to see. It took hours but it was worth it. I would even brave LA again to visit that museum. I still have a keychain from there that I never use because I don’t want to break it.

I have pictures of the Hollywood sign and the walk of fame (there is so much walk of fame to walk) as well as pressed pennies somewhere from Universal Studio’s studio walk which probably has a different name in real life. Either way our hotel was near there and this walk would blast Nickelback’s “Photograph” all the time which has made it a song synonymous with that trip (in addition to being a personal favorite).

I don’t have a lot of the souvenirs I bought on that trip anymore. No crazy rhinestone baseball cap or fuzzy dice. No college newspaper t-shirt (it wore out). I’m not even in touch with a lot of people I went on the trip with although at the time we were all pals and had great fun (I did, anyway. I hope everyone else did too.) whether it was just me and my two roomies getting lost on our way to the Getty or the whole staff discussing favorite punctuation marks at the farewell dinner. All I really have left are some silly touristy keychains from the trip, photos of varying quality from my non-smartphone and the disposable cameras I had at the time and lots of memories which, it turns out, is more than enough.

Roomies: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara AltebrandoElizabeth is counting the days until her freshman year of college starts. She is more than ready to leave her small life in New Jersey behind and start fresh and new in California even if her friends don’t quite understand her need for distance. After years and years as an only child with a single mother, Elizabeth is thrilled at the prospect of meeting–or more accurately emailing–her new roommate Lauren.

San Francisco native Lauren is much less excited to be sharing yet another room after years and years of sharing a room and a too-small house with her too many siblings. She wanted a single and she is counting days for a very different reason as she tries to imagine life when she is no longer a daily fixture in her own family.

What starts as an innocuous email about whether to buy a microwave or a mini-fridge turns into a series of emails that might lead to friendship and a few other insights during a summer filled with possibility in Roomies (2013) by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Find it on Bookshop.

Altebrando and Zarr wrote this novel together, emailing each other chapters without any discussion of an overarching plot. Altebrando wrote Elizabeth’s chapters while Zarr wrote Lauren’s.

I commuted through college and I’ve never had a roommate. This book was very low on my radar despite the high profile authors. I hate to admit but I wouldn’t have even read it except Nicole needed a wingman for a signing. Then it become our second Synchronized Read. And I kind of loved it.

Roomies is a very alien world me–a story of people with siblings and plans to move away and lots of other things I did not do as a high school senior looking toward college. That said, it’s still totally evocative with a perfect balance of fun and depth.

Lauren and Elizabeth are two very different girls with different priorities yet their friendship that evolves through a series of emails is organic and ultimately completely believable. Although much of the novel involves emails it is also worth noting that this is not an epistolary novel. Each girl narrates a chapter where they happen to write an email (and read an email at some point).

The plot here isn’t action-packed or overly shocking. Roomies is very much grounded in the themes you would expect: moving forward, end-of-something-nostalgia, family. Happily instead of moving into the territory of melodrama or superficiality, Roomies remains a very down to earth read and a story with heart.

What really sets Roomies apart is the writing. Altebrando and Zarr’s styles mesh perfectly to create a seamless narrative with two unique but complementary stories. Both Elizabeth and Lauren are refreshingly frank and honest with themselves as much as with each other. While Lauren and Elizabeth aren’t always certain they want to be friends (or even roommates), they are definitely two heroines that readers are sure to love.

Possible Pairings: Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, City Love by Susane Colasanti, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith, Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon, Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Bucket List

Top Ten Tuesdays img by Miss Print

Things I really want to do as a reader/blogger:

  1. Start a meme/feature/whatever it’s called. Okay so Nicole and I already have a plan for this but we’re still ironing out details. I think it’s going to be awesome and I’m hoping for an April debut.
  2. More Synchronized Reading with Nicole. We already know our next book is Imaginary Girls. We just, again, have to figure out details.
  3. Flashback Posts: I want to start highlighting some older posts I wrote. I haven’t figured out a cute name yet but I’m thinking something like “This week in 2007” and then just talk briefly about the posts that . . . posted. This is set up and ready to go in August!
  4. Blogging every day in April. This is something I do sporadically when I have the time. But this year I am definitely doing it. Since April is National Poetry Month there will be  some regularly scheduled programming but also lots of poem related posts too. I’m excited!
  5. More cute buttons: Can this count as a thing? I want to make more cute buttons like my TTT one for different features. I like making the graphics and I think they add a nice something to the posts.
  6. Get rid of more books. I’m in the continuing (forever) process of reading back list books and getting rid of ones I don’t want. So I already got rid of a bunch and I’m getting more out. I spent a gift card I got from my aunt on my birthday (*waves because she reads this sometimes*) so no more book buying now.
  7. Blog birthday stuff: I am doing my annual birthday giveaway again in August, of course, and it’s going to be awesome because the blog is turning SEVEN! I’ve already been squirreling away books and there’s lots of fun stuff I’ll be giving away. LOTS.
  8. That’s actually it right now. I’m planning for BEA (yes already) and other things but really. Things are pretty under control.

What are some goals you want to knock off that list?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

(Image made by me.)

Roomies Synchronized Reading Post #1: Last Summers and First Steps

Synchronized Readings are a semi-regular feature The Book Bandit and I will be running together every few months.

Our current Synchronized Reading is Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Meditations on change and the last summer of high school are big parts of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando. So for our first Synchronized Reading post on the book, Nicole and I decided to talk about our own summers before college. Be sure to stop at her blog to see what she has to say as well.

I commuted to college. My high school was four blocks away and my university of choice was only a half hour on the subway (except that one time I had to WALK there during the transit strike to take an Art History final but whatever).

I had been working since I was 17 and I kept the same job through college and grad school. Later when I was underemployed in a place of employ that wasn’t even close to my area of expertise, I would question that choice as I would question many others. At the time all I knew was work study jobs did not pay as well and did not involve working fun YA books every shift.

I don’t remember much from that summer.

I can probably tell you I did things with my high school friends in addition to the expected undying declarations of friendship. But, like the declarations of friendship, the memories didn’t stick.

I definitely spent time with my mom because I always do that (she’s excellent company). There would have been street fairs and other summer-y things. Mom and I definitely watched Big Brother that year because I never, ever miss a season. I might even have some movie ticket stubs from that summer.

But none of those memories are ones that jump out.

I can go on goodreads and tell you what books I read (which seems to have included several formative titles like Emma, The Eyre Affair, Alice I Think and Sender Unknown). That year was the first year I read a lot of YA. Previously I had read a combination of childrens/middle grade titles (some of which were YA crossovers), mysteries, and classics.

That all changed when I started working with the YA librarian at my first place of employ. At the time I didn’t think of her that way, but she was a formative influence for me as well–not just a coworker or a librarian but that rare amalgam of those things and whatever else makes someone a lasting influence. I don’t know if the seed was planted right that summer but I can say with certainty that working with Karyn in the YA section (and Susan Pope–a children’s librarian who literally gave me a foot in the door) started me on the path to becoming a librarian myself.

I attended that year’s summer reading party to “help” (and have fun) and I still have a couple of giveaway books I took that day as well as some really solid memories of decorating a pencil case that would come with me to my first day of college classes. (A miserable day where I was trapped in the wrong wing of the university building for a solid thirty minutes, knew absolutely no one and had not yet fine-tuned the commute to that easy-to-manage half hour.)

What I also have from that summer reading party are the gifts Karyn gave me as she moved to a new position and I moved in a less drastic way to college.

She gave me this magnet:

It still hangs on a shelf near my desk and it is a sentiment that I have tried to listen to more and more as I get older.

Karyn also gave me a spiral notebook with a beautiful inscription from her wishing me great things. And I still have it because nothing has seemed quite special enough to use it. I have a hard time filling notebooks but that’s a whole other story.

(I already emailed Karyn a few weeks ago to thank her for giving me that start and to tell her how much it meant to me then and still means to me now. If you have someone in your life who filled a similar capacity, tell them. Gratitude should never be a secret.)

I guess what I really took from that summer even if I didn’t know it quite as specifically then comes back to Karyn’s gift: Be Yourself.

New beginnings are always scary. I’ve had some bad ones and some extremely scary ones. But I’ve always done what I know makes sense for me. I’ve always tried to be true to who I want to be. And now, with things coming together in various ways, I’m finally able to say that all of those beginnings and endings are starting to make sense.

Week in Review: March 23

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This week on the blog you can check out:

In other news this week: I am on a reading tear–averaging a book every two days. There is no way this pace is sustainable but I’ll take it.

On Friday I also was lucky enough to go to a screening of Divergent with one of my work friends–which was especially nice because we got to be friendly instead of just co-workery (technical term). Before the movie I also got to see some friends from SLJ which was a nice bonus. The whole night was super fun! I’m going to write up a post about it (hopefully next week) but suffice to say I quite enjoyed the movie. So much so, in fact, that I might even read the rest of the series.

(Coming home from the screening I had a rather stunning social failure. I was returning to the building when a guy was coming in and held the door for me and he was being friendly asking what floor I was on and how long I’d lived in the building. He also introduced himself as Mike who lives on the fifth floor–where he has been for the last four years. But I am on a lower floor and it was only after I told him to have a good night that I realized I missed a fairly obvious chance to make an actual live neighbor friend. Alas! The failure–it stings.)

This week is also the NYC Teen Author Fest so on Saturday Nicole and I went to an event at McNally Jackson and as this publishes on Sunday I’ll be getting ready to go to the gigantic teen author signing at my previous place of employ. I’m most excited about this because I’ll finally be able to disperse the stack of books I had set aside in anticipation of the event weeks ago.

I’m trying to send postcards to people but have been thwarted in my efforts because it is quite difficult to get to the post office, as it turns out. Hopefully soon I can get international stamps (the post office vending machines unhelpfully ask what country you need the stamps for while not offering “all” as an option).

Synchronized Reading: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Synchronized Reading is back! This time Nicole and I will be reading Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando.

Be sure to check here this week and also check out Nicole’s blog to get the full reading picture!

I was Nicole’s wing-person for a Roomies event at McNally Jackson a few months ago. We both had a great time and really enjoyed exploring the bookstore (it was our first time seeing it). The craziest thing is (spoiler!) I really enjoyed Roomies but I had no plans to read it (or own it) before this even because I commuted to college and therefore had relatively little interest in the whole roomie experience.

Roomies has a lovely cover and I obviously had a manicure to match (this was also my birthday party confetti manicure–but what good is a manicure if it can’t multitask?)

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In summary: Nicole and I will be reading Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando together. We will be blogging about it. It will be awesome. You, too, can read Roomies as it is already released.