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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Game, Firstborn, and The Dream Thieves Mini-Reviews

Game (Jasper Dent #2) by Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.

In an effort to prove murder didn't run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Released: April 16th 2013   
Pages: 520
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers  
Source: Library

After finishing I Hunt Killers, I was eager to keep going with this series and read more about Jazz.  I wanted more of his fascinatingly creepy inner conflict, and all the psychological aspects that come with it.  One of the biggest changes from the first book to this sequel is the addition of some chapters from Connie's point of view.  While I like Connie, her chapters never seemed as strong as Jazz's.  It's probably because her voice just isn't as compelling, since she's not, well, Jazz.

This book made me lose respect for Connie, more than anything.  I admired her courage in the first book, but in this one she makes some dumb decisions.  At one point, she essentially tells her parents, "I'm going to New York City to chase after my boyfriend (who just happens to have a serial killer after him).  If you say no and call the police, I will no longer be part of this family."  What?  No.  This is not strong or admirable.  It's gutsy, but it's hard for me to respect a person who does this to her family.  

Something about Game just isn't quite up to par with I Hunt Killers.  I felt like the psychological aspect was stronger in the first book, and that's what really drew me to it.  The first book had more of Jazz's am-I-a-sociopath angst, while the second book had more relationship angst than I would have liked.  Game is still awesome, but I didn't love it in the way that I loved the first book.

Similar Books: This series is everything I wished Project Cain would have been--they both have similar protagonists dealing with the nature vs. nurture issue as it relates to serial killers. It also reminded me of Boy Nobody and BZRK (though I'm not sure why that comes to mind).

Firstborn by Lorie Ann Grover
Where does a firstborn girl fit in a world dominated by men?

When Tiadone was born, her parents had two choices: raise their daughter as male and force her to suppress all feminine traits, or leave her outside the community to die in the wilds. Now, as the first female living as male in her village, Tiadone must prove her father didn't make a mistake by letting her live. As her time of male initiation approaches, Tiadone desperately wishes to belong, and be accepted in her world---though at every step it appears the Creator allows traditional feminine gifts and traits to emerge, as well as cursing her with a singing bird the ruling culture sees as a sign of the devil.

Worse, as Tiadone completes her initiation rites, she finds she is drawn to her male best friend and patrol mate in ways that are very much in line with the female gender.

Confused and desperate, Tiadone tries to become what she must be while dealing with what she indeed has become: a young woman who may be able to free her people from despotic rule and allow the Creator's name to be sung once more.

Released: January 28th 2014   Pages: 304
Publisher: Blink                     Source: ARC received from publisher

I went into this one blind--I hadn't heard anything about it, but it looked interesting, so I thought, "Why not?"  The premise is unique, and the setting was, too, but it never felt fully fleshed-out.  The "declared male" aspect doesn't make any sense.  This society has no place for firstborn girls, so if your first baby is female, she's abandoned.  In the main character Tiadone's case, her father basically said, "Well, this baby is a girl, but I'm going to raise her as a boy even though we all know she's not."  It would make sense if nobody knew her true gender, but they did.  In that case, what's the point?

Tiadone's relationship with her best male friend, Ratho, made no sense.  First Ratho liked her, then hated her, then liked her again.  Then they had a brief, intense making-out session where they talked about marriage.  Then they never spoke again.  This is one of the most confusing and spontaneous cases of insta-love I've ever seen.

I wish this book had a plot.  At the beginning, it seemed like it was there, but after Tiadone started her patrol duty, there was no overarching conflict.  It was just descriptions of Tiadone's various struggles with her gender identity.  Spoiler: The description is misleading.  What's this about Tiadone freeing her people from the despotic ruler?  That never happened.  The book literally ends with Tiadone running into the forest with her stepmother's female baby, which accomplishes nothing.

Overall, this had so much potential, but it just wasn't there.  The writing was awkward and weirdly phrases.  The dialogue felt off.  Tiadone wasn't a particularly interesting character, despite her situation.  I didn't hate this book, but I didn't like it, either.

Similar Books: It's a fantasy novel with a unique desert setting like Vessel or Daughter of the Centaurs.  It also reminded me of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

Released: September 17th 2013    Pages: 439
Publisher: Scholastic Press         Source: Library

Well, what happened here?  Why wasn't The Raven Boys this good?  While it earned a 4-star rating for me, it was more of a 3.5.  I was underwhelmed.  I'm not sure what Maggie Stiefvater did differently in The Dream Thieves, but whatever it was, it worked.

I'm still not a huge fan of Blue, though I've gained a bit more respect for her.  The reason I kept reading this series in the first place was the Raven Boys themselves.  I love them.  This book increased the stakes for all of them, showing new and interesting sides to their personalities.  They're all three-dimensional, and feel achingly real.

I'm usually a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater's writing.  She manages to capture the voice of each character well, and I love some of her turns of phrase.  But then, occasionally, she comes out with something like this: "Blue was a fanciful but sensible thing, like a platypus..."  And then, all I can do is laugh.  Am I the only one who can't take that seriously?

Overall, though, this was a big improvement, for me, on its predecessor.  The stakes were higher, the conflict was more engaging, and I grew even more attached to the characters.  I'm excited for the next book. 

Similar Books:  It's a paranormal novel with characters that remind me of those from Midnighters: The Secret Hour.  It also reminds me of Through Her Eyes and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer.

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