Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Hunt Killers

by Barry Lyga

Grade: 3 1/2 stars
Story summary: Jasper ("Jazz") is the son of a notorious serial killer. So yeah. He's messed up a bit. And then a body is found in his small town (which has already seen one serial killer), and he's sure it's not simply an ordinary death.
Thoughts: This is what I was looking for with Ripper. A kid who's actually affected by his serial killer father, and obviously has an unusual and clever insight into what makes a murderer tick. And also an introspective mind with which he actually thinks about stuff.

Lots of angst, lots of blood, and a somewhat open-ended ending, leaving the awesome possibility for more angst! and more blood!

Edit: Now here is part of that possibility realized, with the sequel Game.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


by S. J. Kincaid

Grade: 3 1/2 stars
Story: A bunch of kids get computers stuck in their brains in order to fight the enemy's kids with computers stuck in their brains (it's WW III, actually). It's a little like a mix between Brain Jack and a much lighter version of Ender's Game (which is one of my favourite books, as you might be able to tell from the extremely succinct review).

Thoughts: There are computers in their brains. Simultaneously totally creepy and totally awesome. I love computers. I love brains. I love clever kids fighting battles of wits with other clever kids. So this was decidedly right up my alley.

The characters were fun. They went in slightly different directions than I expected. i.e. When I first met the possibly-Aspergers Wyatt, I immediately thought, "Why couldn't she be his girlfriend instead of that silly, beautiful whatever-her-name-is. Wyatt's actually cool." Then it turned out Wyatt was way more important than whatever-her-name-is. (I really do forget her name...she was boring, ok?) Maybe or maybe not his girlfriend, but that's a spoiler, isn't it?

Small, unimportant nitpick: There is a little bit of suspension of belief necessary. Actually, it did answer a surprising number of questions. I'd think, "Haha! But what about this!" and then a chapter later, it would explain it, at least to a certain extent. But still, a couple things bugged me. Like, they're supposed to be fighting as far away as Jupiter sometimes, right? But doesn't it take 11 minutes for signals to travel from Mars to Earth? So they'd get the "your ship's about to be blown up" signal 11 minutes after it was already disintegrated. And then it would take another 11 minutes for them to send their "maneuver away from imminent source of explosion" signal--22 minutes too late. It would be impossible to have this kind of high intensity battle. (NOTE: I feel like I'm missing something really obvious here. But this is simply one example. There are numerous small instances of disbelief, so my point still stands.)

I will wait impatiently for any further sequels (and there's gotta be some--he didn't even get to the highest security level yet!) for more computery-brain goodness.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Girl of Nightmares

by Kendare Blake

Grade: 3 stars
Story: Cas's crazy, ghostly, murderess girl-friend has had spoilery things happen to her from the previous book, Anna Dressed in Blood. Now Cas and his Scooby gang have to rescue her--a process involving many ghost fights, a deathly test in Suicide Forest, a feisty British chick, and lots of creepy nightmares.

Thoughts: Like the first book, very entertaining in a Buffy and Supernatural sort of way. Also like the first book, it sports a pretty, pretty cover and dried blood coloured text!!! that immediately lifts this book into a "Good" grade. And finally, again like the first book, I didn't mind the central Romance. Wow. Mostly because it was not between the main side-kick girl and the hero, but also because it was, in the words of author Holly Black:

"[T]he old boy-meets-girl story, if the boy is a wry, self-destructive ghost hunter bent on avenging his father and the girl is a homicidal ghost trapped in a house full of everyone she's ever murdered."

Most of the rest of my thoughts are very spoiler-y. I'm going to talk about them for the rest of the review, so do try not to look if you haven't read it yet.


I knew it could never work out with Anna, but I just wish Cas hadn't met Jestine right before he made his heroic sacrifice and let go of Anna. I suppose it's not definite that she becomes the new love interest, but it seemed so. And she annoyed me. She was too cocky. Not that I have anything against cocky heroines, it's just... Anna was so awesome and Jestine was too ordinary in character. It seems like I've seen dozens of her before.

Thomas and Carmel's relationship was a little better, but I wish it had gone into it a bit more. There was this abrupt "Oh no, they're breaking up!" twist, but then a short while later it was all better again, and it was never fully explained.

So all in all, it was slightly less enjoyable for me than the first, but still a satisfying sequel. I will read any further books Kendare Blake writes.

A Face Like Glass

by Frances Hardinge

Grade: 5 stars
Story: I have made a decision not to write a story summary for this. It's not that I would spoil too much, or anything. It's just that I like to go into Hardinge's books with no clue what's going to happen. Plus a summary of the first bit of the story isn't really going to give you any clue about what the rest of it is like. But here's a couple exclamation points, just to start you off (it's really only the beginning, though): Cheese-making! Revolution! Exodus! Court intrigue! Weird, creepy, kind-of-scientists!

Thoughts: Hardinge is one of the most original Middle Grade writers I've read, and one of the only authors I'll buy on sight, without reading a single review, description--anything. Her world building is utterly unique, not only from all the other authors, but from the rest of her own books as well. In this book, there are the Cartographers, the Facesmiths, the Cheeses and Wines and Perfumes... all of which you'd have no idea about unless you read this book.

The characters, plot, etc. are all great too, though it's the world-building which stands out the most here (unlike her some of her other books, Fly By Night and Twilight Robbery, where the characters of Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent dominate my memory). The plot is full of twists and lies and secrets. The short quote on the back of the books sums it up nicely:

"Child, thief, madman, spy – which speaks the truth and which one lies?"

P.S. I highly suspect I would cave even faster than most people to the lure of the Cartographers. Even though I had the safety-net of reading about them in a book and not being physically present, they almost got me. I half wished Neverfell would drop all her plans and become a Cartographer, just so I could find out more about them and hear them talk.