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review 2014-10-15 05:04
Blood of My Blood
Blood of My Blood - Barry Lyga

Jazz has been left bleeding out from a gunshot wound in a storage unit in New York City. Connie, his girlfriend, has just been captured by Billy, Jazz's serial killer father. Howie, Jazz's best friend, has just been shot in Jazz's house by Jazz's aunt. And then things get worse when Jazz is arrested. But Jazz doubts the cops will be able to capture Billy and is determined to hunt down Billy himself. But Billy isn't working alone. He's teamed up with the Crow King.

 

The last book in this trilogy is basically more of the same. It keeps repeating the same things we've been hearing from book one. Jazz knows a ton about serial killers and killing because he was raised by Billy, and he must constantly fight his dark urges to kill. He's great at understanding human nature and manipulating people. Howie is tall, horny, and has hemophilia. Connie is black and is Jazz's girlfriend. Jazz is dating Connie because she is black and Billy never killed a black woman. Cops don't know what they're doing when it comes to catching serial killers. Billy is smarter than everyone and only Jazz has a chance at stopping him. The book makes sure to hit you over the head with all of those things over and over again. Like it did in the previous books.

 

The aspect I liked most from the previous books was Jazz's relationship with his father. With Jazz finally learning that his mother is alive and her being thrown into the mix, their family dynamic remained the most interesting part of the series to me. Right until the end where it kind of lost my interest. That's probably due to the fact that the ending just felt wrong to me.

At no point was I ever truly worried that a main character would die. Despite all of them being seriously injured, they all recover pretty well by the end of it. All charges against Jazz are dropped despite the multiple crimes he committed, including assaulting police officers. He is able to stop his parents without killing. He makes a ton of money writing about the whole ordeal. And Connie is still with him, though they're long distance at the moment. It just seems strange to me that a series that held nothing back in terms of violence and darkness would suddenly pull its punches at the end. I mean, this book revealed that Jazz's mom forced him to have sex with her in her efforts to raise the perfect little serial killer. You would think a series that went that route wouldn't wrap everything up in a perfect bow. For a series that was so dark, the ending just doesn't fit for me.

(spoiler show)

 

I'm a bit torn on how I feel about the way Connie's character is presented. I like the fact that the book isn't vague about her being black, but rather explicitly states it so that there is no mistake. The book also explicitly states other characters' skin colors, like Jazz and Howie. Often skin color is only mentioned if the character isn't white, so seeing white characters have their skin color get a mention as well is nice. However, Connie's skin color gets brought up constantly, unlike the white characters, to the point where it feels like her being black is the only important thing you need to know about her. The only thing about her that gets close to as many mentions as her skin color is her being Jazz's girlfriend, and, as we are repeatedly reminded, the whole reason Jazz chose to date her is because she is black. It felt like Connie's defining trait was that she was black and that was the only thing that mattered about her.

 

I was hoping I'd like this book like I did the first in the series, but that sadly wasn't the case. The repetition of everything over the course of the entire series just started to drive me crazy. I don't like being told the same things again and again, and that's what happened here.

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review 2014-10-13 04:34
Bittersweet
Bittersweet - Sarah Ockler

Hudson used to be a promising figure skater. Now she bakes cupcakes at her mother's restaurant and helps to keep it running while dreaming over what could have been. When a chance to return to figure skating appears, Hudson is ready to try for it. But with figure skating training, baking, school, working at her mom's restaurant as a waitress, training the boy's hockey team (in return for use of their ice rink for her own training), and balancing relationships with her family and friends, Hudson's got a lot to do.

 

Throughout the book, I kept wondering when Hudson had the time to sleep or how the heck she was able to do all the things she did. When she baked for the restaurant, she had to start very early in the morning before anyone else got there to get the baking done for the day. She had to go to school five days a week and do all the homework for that. She had to set aside quite a bit of time to properly train for a figure skating competition. She was training her school's hockey team. When a waitress quit suddenly, Hudson had to take over all of her shifts, in addition to the time she already worked there. All cupcake orders that the restaurant got were completed by her, as far as I could tell. Plus she's found a love triangle to be the center of. There was a ridiculous amount of stuff going on for her. It's really no wonder her friendship with Dani, her best friend, didn't get as much of Hudson's attention as usual. She had no time.

 

Hudson's main love interest was Josh, a hockey player who first offered her the deal to train the team in exchange for rink time. She tells us how much she likes him and how great he is, but I never really saw it. Add in a ton of miscommunication (that could have very easily been fixed) that stalled any advance in their relationship, and I just didn't care about them as a couple. Now her other love interest, Will, actually got relationship development with Hudson, and I could see the attraction between the two of them. I was far more invested in the two of them.

 

The part I particularly enjoyed about this book was Hudson trying to achieve the dreams that she had been obsessing over for years, only to discover that things had changed since she first had those dreams. Hudson was so set on what her future should look like that she lost focus of most everything else. Not that that'd be difficult to do with how much she had on her shoulders.

 

While I enjoyed the book, I do wish it had included fewer problems for Hudson to deal with. There was so much going on in her life that it really just felt like overkill.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-07-31 18:21
The Forever Song
The Forever Song - Julie Kagawa

After Sarren murders Zeke, Allie is ready to get her revenge. Oh, and for the fact that Sarren is planning to unleash a virus on the world to destroy everyone. Joined by Kanin, her maker, and Jackal, her blood brother, they race to stop Sarren before it's too late. But Sarren knows they're after him and is ready with a few surprises of his own.

 

After really liking The Immortal Rules, but being incredibly disappointed by The Eternity Cure, I adjusted my expectations for The Forever Song so that I wouldn't be so disappointed again, although I did hope that I would end up liking it as much as the first. Sadly, that was not the case. Like the second book, The Forever Song started off well. Then Zeke returned, and it all went downhill from there for me.

 

There was a lot of time spent in both the second and third book hammering in the fact that Zeke would not be able to deal with being a vampire and would be the type to commit suicide. Well, we get Zeke the vampire in this book and after a bit of angsting about his new state and one suicide attempt, Zeke is perfectly fine with being a vampire since it means he can live forever with Allie. After so much time was spent telling us just the opposite, this reversal just annoyed me. I just wish Zeke had stayed gone the first time the series got rid of him.

 

I found myself no longer liking Allie. She was a compelling character at the start of the series with her drive to survive and the internal struggle between retaining her humanity and giving into her monster. Here we got repeated angsting about Zeke, which admittedly may not have bothered me if I actually liked him, and her continued struggle with humanity versus monster, which would have been more compelling if she didn't just keep repeating the same thing over and over again.

 

I continued to love Kanin, the voice of reason in all of this, and Jackal. Unfortunately, even Jackal got on my nerves occasionally with his and Allie's petty fighting. That being said, I still mostly loved him.

 

I didn't like the resolution to the plot either. The sacrifice I fully expected, but the sudden last minute reveal about Allie just let me wondering where that came from. Maybe it was hinted at in the first book, but I have no desire to read any of the books again, so I suppose I'll never know.

 

I'm sad to say that this was a disappointing conclusion to a book series that I thought had started off really well.

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review 2014-06-14 12:02
Game
Game - Barry Lyga

After the events of I Hunt Killers, Jazz's father, Billy Dent, one of the most well-known living serial killers, is free, thanks in part to Jazz. After helping to catch the serial killer known as the Impressionist, Jazz has gained a reputation as being an expert on serial killers. With the growing number of victims of a new serial killer in New York, the Hat-Dog Killer (yes, Hat, not Hot), the police and FBI are stumped and growing frustrated, leading one New York detective to contact Jazz for help. But there is far more at play than anyone realizes, and Jazz just might be getting in over his head.

 

Like the first book in the series, Game requires a suspense of disbelief. I was able to do it for the first, but quickly found it very difficult to do in this book. Jazz's involvement in the first case made sense. The serial killer in question was mimicking his father's kills, which Jazz was incredibly familiar with because he grew up with it. He's obsessed with anything having to do with his father, so it made sense for him to immediately latch onto the pattern and then determinedly investigate. Here we have Jazz being contacted by the police on a completely different case. More unbelievable, but I was willing to go with it. Until we got to his actual interactions with the police and FBI where he begins to tell them how to do their jobs and proceeds to do their jobs better than them. And I mean everything. He's profiling better than them. He's finding stuff at crime scenes that they totally missed. He's telling medical examiners what was done to the bodies by just looking at it. Everyone in the police department and FBI is being beaten by a 17 year old. I get that Jazz was raised by a really good serial killer, but I still find it hard to believe that he was taught how to do all of those things to the point where he is better than professionals. It just got ridiculous after a bit.

 

This book also had the POVs of Connie, Jazz's girlfriend, and Howie, Jazz's best friend. While I liked them in the first book, this book changed my opinions of them drastically. Connie spends the entirety of this book doing incredibly stupid things because she doesn't like the idea of being left out of things and obsessing over having sex with Jazz, despite the fact that he has made it very clear that he does not want to have sex. When Jazz is first contacted by the police, Connie insists that she's coming along, even though she has nothing to offer the police in terms of help. When Jazz says no, Connie lies to her parents and goes to New York anyways. And the police officer then just lets her tag along. And she's so scary that she intimidates the police officer. When she is

contacted by a serial killer, she doesn't tell the police or her parents, but instead decides to play a game with the unknown person, resulting in her knowingly walking into a trap alone without having told anyone exactly where she was going.

(spoiler show)

I get that she's a teenager and thinks that she knows better than everyone else, but she acted like such a brat and did so many stupid things that I just couldn't like her anymore. Especially when all the sex stuff gets factored in.

 

Because of Jazz's messed up childhood, he heavily associates sex with killing and does not feel comfortable with the idea of having sex. It's something that he's working on, but he's just not there yet, and he is very upfront with Connie on the fact that he doesn't want to have sex. Connie does though. Her solution to this dilemma is to try to stick her hand down his pants while they're making out. He freaks out and pushes her away and gets away from her as quickly as possible. When she starts thinking about this later, we first get the thought from her that there are only two good reasons for a guy not to want to have sex with her: he's gay or dead. I know I've been wishing there were more female leads with confidence about themselves, but I don't want it like this where a girl thinks that because she's hot, the only good reason to reject her advances is because the guy is gay. She then follows that up with:

 

Had she been unfair to Jazz the night before? Was she still being unfair to him? He'd made it pretty clear that he wasn't ready for the big step to Real Sex. What kind of girlfriend was she if she couldn't understand and respect that?

Then again...maybe he was the one being unfair to her. All kinds of people had traumas in their pasts. Not all of them were completely unable to connect with other people. And Jazz had proven many, many times in the past that he had no problem making out—they'd kissed, touched, probed, and groped each other in every way imaginable. He had drawn a line he refused to cross for no good reason and she was on the other side of that line, begging him to cross over.

 

The first paragraph, I liked. The second, not so much. She doesn't get to decide for Jazz when he should be over his trauma and ready to have sex. He drew that line because that was something he wasn't comfortable with doing. Just because she's ready for sex, it doesn't mean that he's ready. Connie trying to push him to do something he's not comfortable with doing is not okay. He was clear from the start where he stood on sex. If Connie's not okay with that, then she should break up with him and find someone else. There'd be nothing wrong with that. She needs to figure out what is important to her about a relationship. If sex is important to Connie, then Jazz is not the right person for her now. It's okay to like someone, but realize that you're just not on the same page and that it's not working. It's not okay to try to force your partner into having sex with you when they've made it clear that they don't want to. When talking with Jazz about it later, she says that she thinks "we" are ready. Not "I" am ready. "We" are ready. I think the fact that Jazz's reaction to your attempt at sex is to push you away and literally throw himself off the bed shows that he is not, in fact, ready to have sex. And Connie doesn't get to decide when he is. Now, Connie does eventually tell him that she's willing to wait, which is good, but after watching her try to have sex with him when he'd been clear on not being ready and hearing her thoughts on the matter, I just don't trust that she won't try again.

 

Then there's Howie. His ongoing plot involves him attempting to sleep with Jazz's aunt, despite her telling him from the start that it wasn't going to happen. And I mean she literally says "It's not going to happen" the very first time he tries to hit on her. Yet he persists.

 

And a more minor quibble: the use of the word 'graffito' got very grating very fast. It's the singular of graffiti, as explained in the book. But like the word 'datum' being the singular of data, no one uses the singular unless they want to be incredibly annoying. Graffito is used more commonly in archaeology, from what I've read. Using it in reference to everyday graffiti though? Not at all common. It's another one of those words where common use becomes the accepted proper use. I'm not sure how many times 'graffito' was used in the book, but it sure felt like a lot, and it felt awkward every single time I read it.

 

The serial killer case itself is interesting. There's more going on than anyone initially thinks, and Billy is, of course, wrapped up in things as well. I was more interested in the big serial killer game that is being hinted at throughout the book than anything that was going on with Connie or Howie. Jazz's story with Billy is what drew me into the series initially, and it was the big thing that helped me push through this book. I struggled getting through Game, which is really disappointing after enjoying the first book so much.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2014-05-31 06:37
What I Thought Was True
What I Thought Was True - Huntley Fitzpatrick

Gwen is a high school girl living on an island where she and her family mostly make their living working for the island's summer visitors. Unfortunately for her, Cass, a rich boy from her school, is working on the island this summer as the yard boy. Several months ago, Gwen made a huge mistake with him and has been avoiding Cass ever since. That goal has just gotten a lot harder. By the time the summer is over, things in Gwen's life will have changed.

 

As I wrote this, I found that I was bothered by more in this book than I had realized, resulting in my rating dropping from 3 to 2 stars. I had a hard time getting through this one. It started off well, but began to drag rather quickly for me. I just never liked Gwen and Cass as a couple. And with the story mostly focusing on their relationship, it makes liking the book a bit difficult. I just couldn't see why they liked one another so much. Lusting for one another, sure. But liking? Just didn't see it. They were really close when they were eight and then no contact for years until he transfers to her school, where they have some contact, but not very much, yet apparently like each other a lot because of that one summer as kids. And since we only saw tiny glimpses from that summer, I pretty much just had to take their word for it that their connection then was incredibly deep and explained why they liked one another so much.

 

I just didn't like Cass very much. He is presented as pretty much perfect, but I didn't agree with that assessment. The book starts off with Gwen wanting nothing to do with him, but Cass keeps inserting himself into her life in various ways. It makes the romance feel like he is just wearing her down until she agrees to be with him.

 

One of the obstacles in their relationship comes from them not understanding the problems in the other's life. But by the end of the story, it feels like only Gwen has to learn that Cass has problems. Cass doesn't seem to really learn the same. He doesn't truly seem to understand that while he has that summer job to build character, Gwen has to work to contribute to her family's expenses for things like paying bills. I'm not saying building character isn't a good thing, but it would have been nice to see Cass realize that other people have serious problems and don't have the luxury of being picky about which jobs to take. Early in the story, Cass expresses surprise at seeing Gwen take being treated like a criminal from an employee and says that no one needs a job that badly. Even when Gwen replies that some people do need jobs that badly, Cass doesn't seem to truly realize that. And when Gwen points out that Cass, who isn't really all that qualified to be yard boy, taking that job means someone else on the island who actually needs that money couldn't get the job, Cass gets mad saying that he has problems too. Seeing as how his problems are revealed to be entirely self-inflicted, I find it hard to feel super sorry for him.

 

Cass is one of three boys up for the position of swim team captain. The other two are his best friend, Spence, and Nic, Gwen's cousin who lives with her. Before Cass and Spence transferred in last year, Nic was a shoe-in for the spot. There's some resentment over this from him, but Nic also is shown from the start to recognize that they're important to the team if they want a chance to win. Nic works to convince Gwen to tutor Cass so that he can remain on the team, even though he knows Gwen doesn't want to because Nic knows it's best for the team. Nic is incredibly dedicated to the team and is often working out or practicing. Later in the book, however, we see him start to treat Cass and Spence more coldly. Why does this change in attitude happen? He overhears Spence talking trash about Gwen. By the end of the book, Cass and Spence make captain and co-captain rather than Nic because Nic is said to not be a team player. And just to make things better, Cass accuses Nic of being a cheater after the decision is made. We aren't shown any proof of Nic cheating though, and this gets dropped immediately. The only thing I could think of is a single race Cass and Nic hold when they are doing extra practice on their own and Nic jumps out a few seconds earlier than Cass because he is pissed at Cass for hurting Gwen (as far as he knows). So one time in extra practice that they didn’t have to be doing. That’s known as a false start in swimming and would get Nic disqualified in a real race. Meaning, he’s not actually going to be doing that in a real race. So that accusation of cheating is bull. And apparently Cass goes around telling other people about it too since we hear Spence bring it up. Even though that’s not something Nic could get away with in an official swim meet, so he wouldn’t actually do that for real. And our captain and co-captain who are apparently so worthy? Spence knowingly pursues the girlfriend of a fellow teammate (Nic) and talks shit about his cousin, causing some serious discord. And Cass, upon finding out about the girlfriend thing, keeps it a secret. But Nic isn’t the team player for not wanting to spend extra time around those two at practices and for being incredibly focused on improving himself. We see him being a team player at the start of the book with the tutoring thing. Maybe if we’d seen more of the swim team dynamics, I’d understand how Cass and Spence are better choices than Nic, but I just didn’t get that idea from what we are shown.

 

And that cheating plot line that happened with Nic's girlfriend, Vivian, and Spence came out of nowhere. Spence is shown to be a jerk and a player throughout the entire book. Right until the reveal that he's been seeing Nic's girlfriend and is suddenly completely loyal. It was another case of me completely not understanding what either one of them see in each other.

 

The big event that happened between Gwen and Cass gets skated around for half of the book. Most of the other characters know about what happened, but it gets hidden from the reader for entirely too long for no good reason other than making the book longer. Instead of making me intrigued about what went down between the two of them, I just grew bored with it. Especially when the whole thing was a giant misunderstanding that could have been easily resolved with one conversation. And ultimately is.

 

My favorite parts in the book were when Gwen is dealing with family stuff or dealing with her job. Gwen lives with her mother, Nic, little brother, and grandfather. Her father owns a restaurant on the island too, which she sometimes works at. Her job this summer is helping an older resident, Mrs. Ellington, of the island out during the day. Gwen's relationships with her family and Mrs. Ellington were far more interesting for me to read about than her romance with Cass or any of the drama with Spence and Vivian.

 

I thought the book had a lot of potential with its set-up, but it ultimately didn't work for me.

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