Saturday, June 17, 2017

Barry Lyga's Jasper Dent Trilogy

I Hunt Killers (Jasper Dent... Game (Jasper Dent, #2) Blood of My Blood (Jasper D...
I Hunt Killers, Game, and Blood of My Blood make up Barry Lyga's trilogy centered around Jasper Dent, the son a serial killer. Let me start of with a warning and that is there are mild spoilers ahead so stop now if spoilers are something that bother you.

Jasper Dent is the son of the country's most notorious serial killer, William "Billy" Dent. At the beginning of I Hunt Killers, the first in Barry Lyga's trilogy, Jasper is seventeen and Billy has been in prison for the past four or five years. Billy got away with murder for literally years, with 123 confirmed kills until he got sloppy and killed two local girls. Jasper believes Billy's number is 124, certain that his mother was one of Billy's victims.

You would think Jasper would be an outcast given his lineage and the fact that Billy's last two victims were locals in the small town in which Jasper lives. Surprisingly, he leads a fairly normal life. Howie, Jasper's childhood best friend, remained his best friend even after Billy's crimes were revealed. Jasper is dating a girl named Connie. He's even in the school play. Jasper's biggest problem is figuring out who he is and what to do about it. Does nature or nurture turn in a person into a sociopath? Doesn't matter because Jasper got a lot of both. Jasper is the biological son of a serial killer who trained him in the ways of killing. Jasper was thirteen when his father was arrested. Growing up he knew about his father's extracurricular activities and knew they were wrong, but did nothing to stop him, not even calling the police. Billy wants his son to follow in his footsteps. So far Jasper hasn't killed anyone and doesn't want to but he is aware of how to do it. He constantly reminds himself that people matter, contrary to what Billy taught and told him repeatedly.

Jasper feels the need to prove that he is not like his father, though no one else seems to be asking for such proof. When a dead body is found in a field, Jasper is sure it is the work of a serial killer. He attempts to nose his way into the police investigation, arguing that with his upbringing he has insight into how serial killers think. The police initially scoff at Jasper's offer to help. Aside from the fact that he is a minor, they are skeptical that there could be a second serial killer in such a small town. Of course Jasper turns out to be right. In fact, he is more right than he imagined for not only is the body the handiwork of a serial killer, but the new series of murders ties back to Jasper's father Billy. I Hunt Killers ends on both a positive and negative note. On the upside, Jasper and the police have caught the killer. On the downside, Billy has escaped from prison.

Game begins a few months after the events of I Hunt Killers. A New York police detective show up on Jasper's doorstep asking for his help with a serial killer case in New York. Game was the longest book in the trilogy and frankly, the most exasperating. Jasper, Howie, and Connie are teenagers who make stupid teenage decisions repeatedly. They all believe, Jasper and Connie in particular, that they are smarter than the police and FBI. While the teens do figure out many clues, the police and FBI agents were not stupid people. I couldn't help but think of the show Criminal Minds and kept hoping a profiling team would show up and show the kids how it's done. But that doesn't happen. By the end of Game Connie has purposely and stupidly walked into a trap and finds herself at the mercy of her boyfriend's murderous father. Jasper has been shot and left for dead. And Howie, oh Howie - Howie decides to confront a suspected serial killer with a shotgun he knows doesn't work. Incidentally Howie is a hemophiliac so physical confrontations, even mild ones, never end well for him.

In Blood of My Blood everything comes to a head. I couldn't help but think if only the teens went to the police there would have been less carnage but of course the teens don't go to the cops right away. They think they can handle everything on their own. Jasper believes that he is the only one who can stop his father and takes off after him, assaulting innocent people along the way. Connie and Howie always follow of Jasper's lead. Howie at least has doubts.

I can't remember why I picked up the trilogy - serial killers aren't usually my thing. I have read one of Barry Lyga's other books, so maybe that's why I decided to pick up this series. One thing I appreciated is that although Jasper aims to do good by stopping his father, all the criminal crap he does along the way is acknowledged. Overall I, don't know if "enjoy" is the right word, "like" will have to suffice, so I'll say I liked the series. The series did give me nightmares and for that reason this set of books will not be staying in my home.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle

Easy Motion Tourist  The publisher's description of Easy Motion Tourist grabbed me straight away. British journalist Guy Collins is at a nightclub, enjoying his first drink in Lagos, Nigeria when suddenly people come rushing into the club. They are clearly running from something. Collins goes outside to see what all the commotion is about and stumbles upon the mutilated body of a woman. Collins quickly learns that the reason people were running into the bar is because standard police protocol in Lagos is apparently to arrest everyone at the scene of the crime, regardless of whether they have done anything wrong or not. That is how Collins finds himself inside a Lagos jail cell. He isn't there for long. A mysterious women he has never met arrives and convinces the police to let the journalist go.

Amaka is that mysterious woman. The publisher described her as a Pam Grier-esque heroine. I'm not sure if I would agree with that but I will say she is pretty impressive. Author Leye Adenle depicts Lagos as a city of prostitutes, corrupt police officers, and a select group of wealthy residents who take advantage of both. Amaka is one of the few people who is trying to do something about it, running a charity for prostitutes, and punishing the men who like to take things too far. In Collins Amaka believes she has found a journalist who can broadcast the plight of women forced into prostitution. Whoa, things just got serious. Easy Motion Tourist isn't serious. It does tackle a serious a topic but mostly it is a fast paced thriller.

It wasn't a perfect book. The multiple perspectives got confusing at times. There is a completely unnecessary and unbelievable romance that makes no sense on either side. The casual way women are treated and talked about bothered me. Most of the female characters in this story are described as prostitutes. I don't think prostitute is the right word to describe these women since many of the women were forced into selling their bodies one way or another. Further, many of the women aren't women at all, but young girls. So that bugged me, but at least there is Amaka, fighting the good fight against the odds.

I couldn't find much information about the author Leye Adenle. I think this might be his debut novel, but am not a 100% sure. If it is then Easy Motion Tourist was a pretty good first book. The last line left me wanting more. If there is a sequel, I will read it.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Giving It Up by Audra North

Giving It Up Everything about Audra North's Giving It Up suggests a sexy, erotica, romantic read. From the image on the cover, to the name of the series (Pushing Boundaries), to the tongue-in-cheek warning on the back cover that reads "Contains an out-of-her element, wannabe Domme who has no idea the power she wields, and a SWAT officer who can't wait to show her just how deeply he needs her command. Buckle up and keep your safeword handy." Unfortunately the story wasn't all that sexy or erotic, and worst of all, it wasn't that romantic.

Beatrice, or Bea for short, is the out-of-her element, wannabe Domme and Warren is a police officer on the SWAT team. The story opens at a wedding. Warren is one of the groomsmen. Bea is the photographer and a friend of the bride. Bea and Warren have met loads of times before the wedding at get-togethers hosted by their friends. They are both already infatuated with each other but have never pursued it. At the wedding Bea overhears Warren attempting to make an appointment with a professional dominatrix. On an impulse Bea suggests he hire her instead. So these two adults who secretly like each other but refuse to say so enter into a contractual arrangement where Warren agrees to pay Bea to engage in intimate behavior with him for an hour a week (but no actual sex because prostitution is illegal and Warren is a cop) and no feelings will be involved. What could go wrong?

My biggest problem with Giving It Up was that I never quite bought into the Bea and Warren romance. From page one they both kind of liked each other already but it was never clear why. Then they start their arrangement and to no one's surprise feelings are instantly involved. This is a romance so I expected a happily-ever-after (HEA) moment but some steps were missed on the way to the HEA. It all happened too quickly, too instantly.

Bea was the most interesting character in this book. I wanted to know more about her. All we get is that she came from a family that was very conservative and controlling. She was raised to be nice and docile, to do what she is told, and to be somebody's wife. She broke away from her family, put herself through college, and pursued a career as a photojournalist. Given her background one might reasonable to assume that sex was not something that was discussed in her home growing up and now here she is trying to be a dominatrix to a guy who isn't exactly a stranger but isn't someone she knows that well either. How did Bea got from A to Z? That's what I want to know. I'd read a book about that.

Warren is less interesting. He's a good guy who takes care of parents, his little sister, and her kid. Warren tells anyone who will listen that he can't possibly be in a relationship because he is super busy and a girlfriend would mean taking care of another person and he doesn't have the energy for that. In support of this theory he cites his ex-girlfriend who balked at having to share so much of him with his family. His insistence that all women are the same and want the same thing grew annoying very quickly. And anyway, everyone is busy and everyone has been hurt so Warren at least needed to come up with better excuses. Also, it was pretty clear to everyone except Warren that Bea was not only not looking for someone to take care of her, but was ready and willing to help him out with his complicated life.

So there's not much in terms of romance but at least there's a sexy story with a dominatrix right? Not quite. Neither Warren nor Bea are that knowledgeable or even into the domination and submissive scene. Bea is intrigued by it. (Again, would have loved to know more about her personal journey.) What Warren really wants is to relax and let someone else make decisions for a while. It wouldn't hurt if he had someone to talk to as well. Bea is totally willing to take control in the bedroom and she's a good listener. All that is cool but that doesn't live up to the warning on the book's back cover.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

Product DetailsWhat Belongs to You is a novel of lust and longing. An American teacher in Bulgaria goes into a public bathroom with a man named Mitko. So begins the on and off relationship between the American and the hustler. I'm calling Mitko a hustler because one way or another he always manage to get something out of his American friend.

I can't remember how this novel first came to my attention but all the sudden it was everywhere and I had to read it right away. Somehow my urgent need to read this book seems appropriate. Speaking of reading, at times it was a little difficult to get through this. This books is maybe ten long paragraphs. Okay I'm kidding, sort of. Whole chunks of the book, pages and pages, are one long paragraph. With the lack of paragraphs I sometimes got lost. Still the sentences were beautiful and got me through.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon

It's that time of year again - time for the semi-annual Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon! The Readathon will take place on Saturday, April 28th. Start times vary depending on where you'll live. For me the start time is 5 am, though time will tell if I actually get up that early.

This year I hope to get through three to five books, including a few comics, hopefully leaving my unread pile just that much smaller. Follow along on Twitter.

1:30 pm - Not surprisingly, I didn't exactly make it out of bed at 5 am. But immediately when I did wake up I did my usual morning reading - one page from the The Bedside Baccalaureate. Started reading in earnest around 11:30. Now on the last 100 pages of The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston (which a started well before the Readathon began).

Books Read as of 2 AM
1. The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston
2. Home by Nnedi Okorafor
3. Black Panther, Volume 2: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Product Details"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." That is how Everything I Never Told You begins. Lydia is the 16-year-old daughter of James and Marilyn Lee. Of their three children, Lydia is the favorite, a fact that her older brother Nath and younger sister Hannah are reminded of constantly. For her part Lydia would gladly share the spotlight with her siblings. Being the favored child means carrying all her parents hopes and dreams on her shoulders: her mother Marilyn's burning desire to become a doctor and her father's wish to fit in.

In a mere 292 pages, Celeste Ng manages to tackle multiple issues including race, gender, family dynamics, loneliness, loss, and especially thwarted ambition and unfulfilled dreams. Somehow it all works. And the writing, oh the writing! It is exquisite and haunting. Marilyn and James want the best for their children. The things they say and do to Lydia are said and done with the best of intentions but eventually all their hopes and dream begun to crush Lydia and the reader feels it. Ng perfectly conveys the suffocating love Lydia is desperate to escape, her siblings' yearning to be noticed, and everyone's desperation. Long after the details of the story have faded from memory I'll still remember the writing and the way it felt.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins

Ever come across an author and know that even though you have yet to read a single word he or she has written, that author is destined to become one of your favorites, or least one that you will read again and again? That was what happened when I first heard about Beverly Jenkins. I am mildly embarrassed to admit that up until last year (2016) I had never heard of this African-American woman who writes African-American historical and contemporary romances. The more I learned about her books, the more I thought not only do I need to read these books, I need to own them!

I am a member of a book club called Mocha Girls Read. Every month our club founder announces the theme for the month. Members submit book suggestions based on theme and then we vote and choose a book from the list of suggestions. In February the theme was Beverly Jenkins. (Usually the theme is a genre like mystery, or an area of the world like South America. Having one person be the theme is unusual.) The Beverly Jenkins book that won the most votes was Bring on the Blessings. For various reasons I didn't get around to reading it until late March. (Luckily my book club welcomes you if you didn't read the book.) Now that I've read my first Beverly Jenkins I can say I was right - this will be an author I return to again and again.

Bring on the Blessings starts with multiple threads and eventually weaves them together. First there is Bernadine Brown. She catches her husband cheating, divorces him, and leaves the courthouse with a bank account somewhere north of $200 million. At first she is content to travel and enjoy her money but knows she knows she was meant to do something more with her life. The second thread follows the plight of Henry Adams, a small town in rural Kansas founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. The town is so broke it put itself up for sale on eBay.

Interspersed between Bernadine's millions and Henry Adams' money problems are five children from across the country who are either homeless or in foster care. Bernadine reads about the town and about a woman who started an intergenerational community that brought foster children and elderly people together. With that Bernadine finds her purpose and starts her own intergenerational community in Henry Adams. The residents in Henry Adams are skeptical at first but few can resist being swept up in her hopeful vision for the future of the town and the children.

When you're in a book club there are a lot of hits and misses in terms of what you end up reading. Bring on the Blessings was definitely on the hit side of the ledger for me. It wasn't a perfect book by any means. For one thing it is not terribly realistic. Almost every problem is solved with Bernadine pulling out her checkbook and everything happens way too quickly. New houses are immediately constructed without any delays or setbacks. Foster children and the foster parents needed to take care of them are quickly found and they all agree to move to middle of nowhere Kansas. Nevertheless, I am glad my book club picked Bring on the Blessings. It was heartwarming and sweet in a Hallmark movie sort of way. I love Hallmark movies so this largely worked for me.

What I am really interested in are Ms. Jenkins historical romances. From what I understand she mostly writes African-American romances set in the 19th century. This is something I haven't seen too often and am eagerly looking forward to.