I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent #1)

I hunt killers books cover I guess I’m in a creepy phase right now. Some of my colleagues were talking about books they didn’t like on the YALSA listerv and this was one of the titles that came up. I really didn’t have any interest in it before, but after several people agreed it was super creepy and gross I had already purchased five copies of it. Just kidding, I only have the one.

Guess what? It’s super creepy and gross! I loved it though and pre-ordered that sequel. Jasper Dent is the only child of the super serial killer Billy Dent. His father safely behind bars Jasper, Jazz, is trying to live the normal life of any 17-year-old boy. Trouble is that his dad so supremely messed with his head that Jazz is constantly having to remind himself to act like a human being, rather than the perfect sociopath his dad raised him up to be.

Trouble is brewing in Jazz’s little town of Lobo’s Nod, there’s a new killer on the loose. Jazz is frantically trying to get the local police department to listen to his insights regarding the case, but even though he is a super smart dude with an insider’s view into the world of sociopathy, he’s still a kid in the eyes of the law… a kid with a past that would make anyone wary. Jasper is caught between his own knowledge of the mindset of a killer, his burning need to crack the case, and the sometimes crushing worry that he’s not any better than his father.

Jazz’s struggle with his own morals and humanity make him an excellent character. He is so very aware of not just everyone around him, but of himself and his own actions, I think that his behaviors and analytical awareness will be familiar to anyone who has grown up in a destructive family environment and is working toward healing.

I Hunt Killers is a super fast paced and compelling novel for readers who enjoy the morbid or gruesome. Be warned that there are some very detailed descriptions of disembowelment and such, so this novel may not be for you if you’ve got a weak stomach!

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Hunger

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I got in a thing for a while where I was reading a lot of a certain type of book. I read a number of books about meth for a couple weeks, which was just charming, and then moved onto eating disorders. I’m totally not gruesome at all. Anyway Hunger, of course, was part  of the eating disorder stint.

Of the novels that I’ve read lately that feature anorexia or bulimia Hunger has got to be one of the better ones. Lisbeth Lewis, the main character, has been listening to her “thin voice” for sometime, and unsurprisingly it is causing her relationships to deteriorate. Things are rocky with her boyfriend, her parents, and she’s not even speaking with her best friend. She’s terrifically depressed and attempts to take her own life.

After a mysterious stranger hands hands her the scales of Famine she must travel to world depriving populations and crops of the sustenance to live. None of it sits right with Lisbeth though, and as she discovers her ability to help strangers and maintain the balance she also must look within herself and find the will to survive in the real world.

Hunger is a fast read that deals with the troubles that teens face in an amusing and poignant manner. Perfect for readers who don’t want to spend a dog’s age getting into a novel, this slim volume provides just the right amount of escape from the daily grind.

Clockwork Prince

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Oooohweeeee, I love these books. I have previously tried to read The Immortal Instruments series, but could barely make it through the first chapter. The Infernal Devices on the other hand, I find completely engrossing and delightful.

Clockwork Prince is the second in the series (see my review of Clockwork Angel here, in the assignment portion of this blog). Tessa Gray has taken up residence at the London Institute, a training facility and school for Shadowhunters (elite fighters who face down evil and protect humans or–mundanes, from things that go bump in the night). The London Institute is in trouble though, its director Charlotte Branwell, and her bumbling but genius husband Henry, are under intense scrutiny as their methods and results are being challenged by the stuffy and bullheaded Benedict Lightwood. In order to prove the Clave (the Institute’s governing body) that the Branwell’s are fit to run the Institute they are tasked with finding the mysterious and illusive Magister, who wants Tessa for his bride, and has previously frustrated all attempts at capture. Oh yeah, and they’ve got two weeks to recover him, nbd right?

Meanwhile Will is meeting in secret with the warlock Mangus Bane and visiting opium dens in-between bouts of maddening flirtation with Tessa. Jem has focused his affections upon Tessa and, in effort to fool the head of the Yorkshire Institute into thinking she is his fiance, has given her his family ring which he doesn’t want back after the ruse is up. Tessa is caught in a trap between Jem’s sweetness and light and Will’s brooding intensity, and feels her affections pull at her in unimaginable and sometimes unseemly ways.

This book is a fun read and is ideal for anyone who enjoyed the first book and will appeal to readers who are intrigued by the steampunk genre, historical or victorian fiction, and urban fantasy. Go on then, get to it! Read!

The Bermudez Triangle

The Bermudez Triangle book cover

**This review contains spoilers**

Originally I had hoped to include The Bermudez Triangle in the original set of fifty reviews, but I couldn’t quite pull it off. Here is the thing about Maureen Johnson’s book, I really wanted to like it. It’s about a trio of teenage girls, best friends since forever, and everything is copacetic until the overachiever of the bunch heads off to Stanford for the summer to attend a leadership camp and the other two are stuck at home and sort of fall into a romance with one another. I like that, I like books with strong female leads doing strong female lead type things.

I did not include this book in the original fifty though, because I couldn’t get through it. The first half of the book is so hard to read, it just drags on and on and on and I was continuously putting it down because nothing happened. Once things started to happen I was more interested, but ultimately bummed out because the characters are kind of assholes.

Nina, the overachiever, returns home from Stanford totally stuck on some guy who lives across the country, with no phone and no money, but who she plans on continuing to “date” from 3000 miles away until they can be reunited in the Fall of their freshman year at university. This is so unrealistic to me. This girl Nina is supposed to be some kind of genius, president of the student council and blah blah blah. It bothers me that someone so smart can lose herself in some guy so completely. I felt like she needed to listen to the entire back catalog of Savage Love and get a grip.

Her best friends aren’t much better. Mel and Avery stay home all summer and work at some generic bar and grill together with another kid in their class, Parker (a dude). The girls start fooling around and decide to be girlfriends, but they are stuck deep in the closet, which is whatever, but um, so dull. PLUS, Avery isn’t even sure she’s a lesbian, which is extra annoying because she and Mel, who knows she’s gay, don’t ever talk about their relationship. The whole thing is like an example of how to do everything wrong in a relationship. Once again I felt like I needed to set those girls down with Dan Savage and get their heads straight (heh).

Of course, everything wraps up nicely in the end, the girls repair their friendship just in time for Avery and Nina to start making their big future plans, but no word on what poor sweet Mel is going to do after her psycho mom flips out on her when she’s accidentally outed. Nina once again lets down a generation of smart, strong women when she messes with the head of sweet Parker and then drops him like hot coals in favor of the dumb dumb from Oregon who cheated on her three months into their long distance thing (no surprise there, frankly). No worries though! Another girl wanders past Parker just in the nick of time and he immediately begins to follow after her like a lost puppy. Because affections are totally interchangeable!

So yeah. This one was a disappointment. It could have been a really thoughtful piece about being a gay teen in highschool, but instead just furthered a bunch of backward type thinking about relationships and young people and did not really impress me. I think I got the recommendation for this book off of the 100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader list put out by Bitch Magazine, and I still can’t figure out why it’s on the list. Maybe for the same reason I thought it would be good? Because it’s a coming of age story about a teen lesbian? Speaking of, Mel is pretty much the only redeeming character in this book, the only one who stays true to herself and doesn’t screw anyone else over in the process. So, I guess there is that at least.

The Hobbit

hobbit cover

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1966). The hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Print.

Reader’s Annotation

Enter the magical world of Middle Earth where little people, Hobbits, are just as common was dwarves, elves, shape shifters and giant spiders in the deep dark woods. This story is sure to capture your imagination as you join Bilbo and the 13 dwarves of Thorin Oakenshield’s company to rescue a long lost treasure from the clutches of the evil and foul wyrm Smaug.

Plot Summary

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quite life in his home under the hill at Bag End in Hobbiton, he enjoys long walks, second breakfast, and tending to his poetry and garden. In short, he leads an ideal life for a Hobbit, full of good food and completely lacking in anything out of the ordinary. Until one day when Bilbo runs across a troublesome wizard, Gandalf, who introduces him to a group of even more troublesome fellows: thirteen dwarves bent on retrieving a pile of treasure buried in a mountain hundreds of miles away. What’s worse is that the treasure has been commandeered by a dragon and Gandalf has convinced the dwarves that Bilbo is just the fellow to get it back. In a very un-Hobbit like manner, Bilbo joins this company of dwarves on an adventure that changes his life forever.

Critical Evaluation

I’ve read this book more times than I can count and it never stops being excellent. The world that Tolkien created in The Hobbit, is a world that I would gladly live out my days in. From the rolling hills of the Shire, with its verdant farm lands and fields that produce the most excellent hops, as evident in the Hobbit’s fondness for beer. To the endless trails where countless adventures away. Elves are no more than a few days walk away with the stoicism and riddled way of speaking, languishing the days (or years) away in the company of Elrond in his beautiful home in the valley of Rivendell sounds like a fine pass time. If you prefer a bit of danger wander into the Misty Mountains or try adn treat with the sneaky elves in Mirkwood, just watch out for trolls and giant spiders.Yes, for me after all these years it’s really the world that Tolkien has created more than anything else.

Author Information

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa, and moved to England at age 2 after his father died. His mother passed on when he was 12, leaving Tolkien and his brother orphans. The boys lived with their aunt, Beatrice Suffield, and later with another unrelated woman, Mrs Faulkner, and were provided for by their family priest Father Francis Morgan, until Tolkien entered Exeter College at Oxford in 1911.By the time he entered Oxford he had already mastered Greek and Latin, and went onto to study the Classics, Old English, Gothic and other Germanic Languages, as well as Welsh and Finnish. Around 1913 Tolkien dropped his study of the Classics turned his focus onto English Literature and Language.

In 1925 Tolkien returned to the college as a professor and there he befriended C.S. Lewis, who shared Tolkien’s love of myths, language and folklore. Lewis and Tolkien founded the Inklings in the 1930s where they gathered with several friends to share and critique their work. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and the prequel to them both The Silmarillion. He also authored The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book; Smith of Wootton Major; Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth; The Book of Lost Tales, Part I and Part II, as well as several translations of ancient myths.

Genre

Adult, Young Adult, Juvenile, Cross Over, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Booktalk Ideas

Reading Level/Interest Age 

12+

Challenge Issues

The Hobbit has portions with violence and magic. This may offend some readers. As always the library urges readers to choose material that is right for them. We are supporters of the ALA Library Bill of Rights and thus do not support censorship of material. The library will reconsider items and reserves the right to make the finals decision after review by the board.

Reason for Inclusion

I included The Hobbit in this project because it is the book that made me the nerd I am today. I read it for the first time in the 6th grade, and hundreds of times since, and never looked back. It should be required reading for any fan of fantasy fiction ought to be in every young adult library.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

a tree grows in brooklyn cover art

Smith, B. (1943). A tree grows in Brooklyn. New York: Harper Collins. Audiobook.

Reader’s Annotation

A classic coming of age story at the turn of the century in Brooklyn. This is the story of Francie Nolan, a girl made up of all of the good and bad parts of her parents, Katie and Johnny Nolan, plus something that is all her own, that which makes her Francie. The smooth pace and rhythm of this novel transport the reader into Brooklyn’s immigrant slums, with all of the joy, sorrow and hope that first and second generation immigrants carried with them as they made their way in their new home.

Plot Summary

This story is broken into five parts, telling the story of the Rommely-Nolan family, with Francie Nolan, who is 11 at the start of the novel, as the main protagonist. Francie and her brother, Neely, collect scraps and bits of metal from the neighborhood in exchange for some pennies from the junk man, have the pennies go into the tin can bank in the closet and the other half are divided between the two children.

Francie and Neely’s parents are Johnny and Katie Nolan. Johnny is of Irish heritage and Katie German, and Francie is incredibly proud of the fact that her parents are some of the few that were born in the county. Johnny makes a living as a singing-waiter and Katie cleans the building that they live in exchange for rent, the family is incredibly poor and the neighbors whisper that Johnny is a good for nothing and a drunk, forcing his beautiful wife to work so hard to support his habit.

In the second part of the novel we are acquainted with the story of Katie and Johnny’s courtship. When Katie was 17 and Johnny was 19 Katie worked in a factory with her best friend whose beau was Johnny. After a disastrous double-date in which Katie’s date was a slobbering oaf, Katie decides to steal Johnny away from her friend and makes a habit of getting out of work just a few minutes early to talk to Johnny alone before her friend Hildy can meet him. Eventually Johnny tells Hildy that Katie is his girl now and that they should go their separate ways. Hildy is heart broken, but four months later Katie and Johnny are married and little Francie soon follows. Neely is born a mere fourteen months after his sister, and Johnny turns to the bottle, feeling so young and trapped with his wife and two children.

Throughout the novel it is clear that Francie worships her father, making his discent into alcoholism especially painful to witness. The two share a special bond though, as demonstrated by his effort to get Francie into a better elementary school. When Francie start school she goes to the neighborhood school near her flat, but it’s a miserable place packed full of children, where the teachers play favorites and Francie has to share a desk in the back corner of the room. On a walk one day she discovered a beautiful school in an area of Brooklyn she’s never been to before. She takes her father to the school and he tells Francie that they can pick out a nice house to take down the street address of so that she can transfer to the new school, but that she must work very hard and always be a good girl so that she never gets any mail sent home and draws attention to their deceit.

As Francie grows older she becomes more and more aware of her father’s problem with alcohol. She keep a journal in which she refers to “papa coming home sick” for a several month strand, later sharing that Katie found her journal and made her cross out drunk and replace with it with sick. This is the begin of the end of Francie’s innocence. Awareness of her father’s drunkenness, combined with a terrifying assault in the stairwell of her flat usher Frannie firmly into adulthood. It is not too much longer before Francie and Neely have to obtain work to help Katie Nolan make ends meet. The family is so poor that one of the children has to work through the school year and Francie has to give up her dream of high school in order to help support the family.

Despite the rough times the Nolan’s have faced throughout, the book ends on a happy note. True love is found and dreams come true. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tells the story of one immigrant family that worked themselves near to death, saw more misfortune and hungry nights than anyone ought to, but never stopped trying to work toward a better future, which is exactly what they got. 

Critical Evaluation

It was really hard for me to get into this novel. I’m ashamed, because A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is everyone’s favorite book, it’s a fine example of The Great American Novel and anyone who cares anything about literature ought to love it. The thing about that is that I know it’s good, I appreciate it for all that it’s done for the genre and love the Betty Smith, a woman, was able to publish this book, which handles some very difficult topics, in 1943. In fact that A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was published by a woman in 1943 to critical acclaim kind of blows my mind. All that said though, I do not think I could have made it through this book if I hadn’t been listening to it on audio book. There is something about the cadence of the language in the novel that I find incredibly boring, so much so that it was even really hard for me to write a plot summary, because even though a ton of stuff happened and some of it was even laugh out loud funny, I just couldn’t bear to go through all that dull stuff all over again. So beware! I’m a huge fan of classic literature, I loved Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Chrome Yellow and The House of Mirth, but I could barely make it through this beloved story.

Author Information

Betty Smith was a playwright and novelist from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the location of her first novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Smith was born to German immigrant parents and only educated through elementary school. She was married, but left her husband and raised their two children. When her kids were old enough Smith returned to school herself and studied at the University of Michigan where she began her career as a playwright. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was first published in 1943 to wild, country-wide, acclaim.

Genre

Young Adult Fiction, Coming of Age, Immigrant Families, Historical Fiction, New York

Curriculum Ties

Grades 11 and 12 literary response and analysis curriculum:

Analyze recognized works of American literature representing a variety of genres and traditions

Booktalk Ideas

How does A Tree Grows in Brooklyn compare to other great American novels? What are some of the similarities between Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Francie?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

13+

Challenge Issues

This novel is American classic. The life that the Nolan’s live is hard one, and it’s undeniable that Johnny Nolan’s demise is from the result of alcoholism, nor could you argue that Sissy didn’t work in factory making sex toys (or condoms, I’m not sure which). That doesn’t take away from this novel’s value though, this is a rare picture of what life looked like for so many of the Americans who immigrated through Ellis Island, and it’s value as a piece of American history far outweighs any arguements one may against it.

Reason for inclusion

I included this novel because it’s an important part of American heritage.

References

Smith, Betty (Wehner) (1904-1972). Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature. George B. Perkins, Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 986. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.

Betty (Wehner) Smith. Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 Dec. 2012.

Robbers & Cowards

robbers and cowards

Cold War Kids. (2006). Robbers and liars. New York: Downtown Records.

Annotation

Robbers and Liars is the first full length album by the indie rock band Cold War Kids. Their soulful tunes are incredibly catchy, and are obviously influenced by artists like Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground and Jeff Buckley. Hang Me Up to Dry, the album’s single, charted at #57 in the UK and is an track that truly encompasses the full range of musical stylings.

Genre

Indie Rock

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age 

15+

 

Reason for inclusion

This album is full of earworms. I included it because I really like it and think any indie rock kid who listens to Death Cab, Spoon, or Modest Mouse would also enjoy this band.

 

The Avengers

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Marvel’s The Avengers. Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. Walt Disney Pictures, 2012. Amazon Instant Video.

Annotation

This action packed movie is based upon the comic book series of the same name. Team up with The Hulk, Capitan America, Iron Man, the Black Widow, Hawk Eye, and Thor as they fight to save the planet from Loki’s plan of chaos and destruction.

Plot Summary

When Loki makes a deal with the Other: an army that will help him conquer the planet for the exchange of the Tesseract, a mysterious energy source that no one really seems to understand, all hell is about to break lose. After Loki steals the Tesseract, Nick Fury (head of S.H.I.E.L.D., the CIA like group that was responsible for the Tesseract), calls in the Avengers to reclaim the device from Loki and save the planet. Nothing is as simple as it seems on paper though, and the Avengers find themselves fighting their own battles as they prepare for war against an unknown enemy.

Critical Evaluation

This is an excellent super hero movie. When you watch it you can tell that Joss Whedon had a ton of fun making it. All of the special effects are amazing, not even the CGI Hulk looks bad, in fact he kinda even looks like Bruce Banner after he changes, which I thought was a really nice touch. Anyone who enjoys super heros or is a Whedon fan is going to have a blast watching this movie. My only complaint was that when I was viewing the film in HD the dark scenes were really dark, the color contrast was way hard to pick up, when I switched the stream over to SD it was much better though, so that’s probably just a problem with my television more than a production issue.

Author Information

Joss Whedon is a demi-god when it comes to science fiction and fantasy television and film. Making a name for himself with the teenage cult classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer (move and television series), he hasn’t done anything halfway since. Whedon is well known for his witty dialogue, dorky humor and writing a directing a series of excellent, if not misunderstood by networks, television programs such as Firefly, Angel, and most recently Dollhouse. He he also directed the major motion picture Cabin in the Woods, which came out in early 2012.

Genre

super heros, comics

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age 

13+

Challenge Issues

This movie is rated PG-13, there is a fair amount of violence and lots of explosions. We urge our patrons to choose material that is appropriate for them to watch.

Reason for Inclusion

This is a really great movie that I think will appeal to young men and women equally.

Something About Airplanes

something about airplanes album art

Death Cab for Cutie. (1998). Something about airplanes. Seattle: Barsuk Records.

Annotation

Something About Airplanes was Death Cab for Cutie’s first studio album, released in 1998. It is quintessential of Pacific Northwest indie-rock, the melodic tunes and perfect harmonies echoing the romantic loneliness so often felt living after nine-months of rain. The album is obviously influenced by other PNW indie-bands such as Built to Spill. The opening track, Bend to Squares, is particularly magnificent, as well as my personal favorite, track three, Champagne from a Paper Cup.

Information

Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard has been a stalwart in the pacific northwest indie music  scene from its early days. He well known not only for Death Cab, but also his side projects The Postal Service, All Time Quarterback, and his first band Pinwheel. The band released 7 full length albums and numerous EPs and singles. Barsuk Records is releasing the band’s entire early discography on 180-gram vinyl in January 2013.

Genre

Indie Rock, 90s Slowcore

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Reading Level/Interest Age 

14+

Reason for inclusion

A seminal band of the 1990s, no emotional teenager’s musical identity is complete without having heard DCFC at least once.

References

Cohen, I. (2008). Death cab for cutie: Something about airplanes. Pitchfork. Retrieved from: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/12466-something-about-airplanes/?utm_campaign=search&utm_medium=site&utm_source=search-ac

Y the Last Man

ythelastman

Vaughn, B.K. (2002). Y the last man. New York: DC Comics. Print.

Note: Y the Last Man is part of a series. The entire series is included in the collection.

Reader’s Annotation

When Yorick Brown woke up this morning he was one of millions of men on the planet. By noon he’s the only one. Follow along with Yorick, Amperstand and Agent 355 and they seek out the one woman who may be able to solve this mystery while everyone works to protect (or procreate with) the one man left on the planet.

Plot Summary

What would happen if tomorrow morning you woke up and you were the only male left on the earth? Say that tomorrow a mysterious disease has wiped out all y-chromosone carriers on the planet, and you were the only one left, what would you do? You might find that like Yorick Brown, and his pet monkey Ampersand that you’d be disguising yourself as a woman, defending yourself from your own gun toting sister and on a mad quest to find your girlfriend and figure out what the hell happened to the other half of the world’s population. Good luck with that.

Evaluation

Y the Last Man is a great comic. The main character, Yorick, is a total dork who fumbles his way into all kinds of troublesome situations. The story is good too, you’re sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to find out if Yorick is going to find Beth; if 355 is going to have to save is ass again; and most importantly of what the hell wiped out all the y-chromosome carrying mammals on the planet.

Author Information

Brain K. Vaughn is critically acclaimed author of graphic novels. He did his undergraduate work at New York University and received his big break participating in Marvel’s Stanhattan Project, a workshop for comic book writers.

Vaugh’s first graphic novel, Pride of Baghdad, was released in 2006 and follows the story of four lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo after the so called “shock and awe” bombing during the war. He has also authored the graphic novels Runaways, and Ex Machina. Vaughn currrently lives in LA with his wife while working the film adaptations of some of his novels.

Genre

post apocalyptic, biological adventure, graphic novel

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Booktalk Ideas

In the first book when Yorick proposes to Beth over the phone, do you think she says yes? Why or why not?

Why does Hero join the Amazons?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

Challenge Issues

Reason for inclusion

References