Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Jazz Dent knows serial killers - his father was one of the most notorious ones out there, after all. And dear old dad raised his son to follow in his footsteps, something Jazz fears to no end. But Jazz's knowledge about how a serial killer thinks and works could come in handy. When it appears a new killer has set his eye on Lobo's Nod, Jazz's own hometown, the teen is determined to put his knowledge to work in tracking - and hopefully stopping - the killer before it's too late. 

This first book in the Jasper Dent series introduces readers to a teen character with some real issues: Jasper - Jazz - suffers nightmares thanks to his dad's particular type of parenting and spends much of his time worrying over whether he will end up a sociopath. Most of his time, in fact. It's why he's so interested in serial killers - so that he can constantly monitor his own thoughts and behavior in comparison.

The discovery of a body in Lobo's Nod is shocking and yet Jazz is the only one to immediately come to the conclusion that it's a serial killer. Along with his friend, Howie, Jazz combs the crime scene and even breaks into the morgue to find more evidence to support his theory. It helps that the sheriff is set up as a character particularly sympathetic to Jazz's situation because our lead does have more than one run-in with the law that obviously would get him in pretty deep trouble were that not the case.

I can say that Lyga does a great job getting me to suspend my disbelief here. G. William helps sell the case that Jazz could and would be involved in the investigation to the extent that he is - and have his other deeds excused the way they are. It's almost a bit over the top, but honestly I liked it so I went with it.

Obviously a book like this is going to draw comparison to Dexter. How could it not? The main difference - in this first outing at least - is that Jazz isn't a killer and doesn't have any killer tendencies. He's driven by proving this fact and by doing something good. I can't promise this won't remain the case in the two later books as I've not yet read them..

I feel I should warn those who might be a bit faint of heart that while this is a teen thriller, it's still pretty dark and graphic.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Reads of 2014

I've decided to jump on board with Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the topic is: top ten reads of 2014.

Believe it or not, I'm finding this really hard! I've got over 20 titles tagged as favorites this year and anticipate running into at least one or two more in the coming weeks before the year is truly out. My biggest issue, though, is that there's been so much overlap so far with other TTT posts, particularly last week's. Oh, well. Here goes!

Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin

Good morning, readers! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Phillip Margolin's latest, Woman With a Gun.

Stacey Kim is floundering. A recent MFA grad, she's taken a job as a receptionist in a New York City law firm. She's supposed to be working on a novel but hasn't even been able to start. 

When she stumbles on a photography exhibit featuring a captivating image of a woman holding a gun behind her back, Stacey knows she's finally found the inspiration she needs. As she begins to plot and outline, she researches the image in question and discovers that it's tied to a ten-year-old homicide that's never been solved. As Stacey digs into the case further, she realizes that the pieces of the original investigation don't quite fit. Could she be onto something? But as Stacey grows closer to solving the cold case, someone else begins to take notice of her. 

The Woman With a Gun is essentially told in three parts: first, Stacey's story. Stacey's part is set in 2015, ten years after the infamous and unsolved Cahill murder. Flash back to 2005 when the case actually took place. Jack Booth has been asked to assist in investigating and potentially prosecuting the Cahill murder. While on the case, Jack meets the crime's only witness - Kathy Moran. But Jack and Kathy actually know each other from a prior case. Flash back once more to 2000 and the Kilbride case. Jack, an up an comer in the DA's office thinks he has an open and shut case against a notorious drug runner. But the perp's young lawyer, Kathy Moran, is more clever than Jack gives her credit for.

There's a lot of great backstory here and a lot of excellent build in the various facets of the plot. Unfortunately the characters themselves are a bit shaky. I got a good feel for Jack and something of a good feel for Stacey, but the others are very wooden and thin: they felt like stand ins meant to flesh out the story. Stacey's relationship, for example, builds pretty predictably but never feels truly convincing. To that end, Jack's womanizing and his feelings for Kathy felt pretty thrown in there as well.

The Woman With the Gun wasn't bad but it didn't blow me away. I thought it had great potential but fell somewhat short.

Rating: 3/5

To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.

For more on Phillip Margolin and his work, you can visit his website here. You can also like him on Facebook.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

When the outbreak hits, Malorie is able to escape to a safe haven that's opened its arms to strangers. Four years later, she and her two children are still there. But Malorie knows they have to move on. They may be able to continue to survive as they have, but it's an existence that's both unfair and unsustainable. In order to leave, though, she and her young children will have to brave the outside and that means braving the thing that caused all of this in the first place.

So as I mentioned last week in my review of Anne Knows Books, their first recommended title for me was Josh Malerman's Bird Box. Holy crap it was a great recommendation! It totally suited my reading preferences. Not only that, it totally suited what I was in the mood for: it's dark and a bit bleak. It's horror, but the kind that's heavily focused on atmosphere and characters.

The story alternates between Malorie's travel upriver and her experiences from the beginning of the outbreak through to this point. The children, simply called Boy and Girl, are only four but Malorie has spent all of their lives teaching them how to survive in this new world. And she well knows that in order for them to reach their goal she will need their help as much as they will need hers.

Oh, this world! The outbreak begins with reports of violence from around the globe. Neighbors turning on neighbors, family members turning on one another, all preceding the perpetrator's suicide. And all the reports can surmise is that the person afflicted saw something that caused them to lose their minds. So in order to survive, Malorie has lived for four years in a world where literally opening your eyes can mean certain death. As the story progresses and the reader is exposed to the various ways Malorie and others have tried to outwit this strange epidemic shows how strong a character she truly is.

By the end there really isn't much of an answer as to what's caused this new reality and that makes the book that much more terrifying. Bird Box is by far one of the best horror reads I've had the pleasure of diving into for quite some time. As it's Malerman's first, I do hope it means much, much more to come!

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New releases 12/16/14

Some of the new titles hitting shelves this week are:

The Doll's House by Tania Carver

Memory of Flames by Armand Cabasson

The Devil in Montmartre by Gary Inbinder

Thief by Mark Sullivan

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

The Voices by F. R. Tallis

The Lost by James Patterson & Emily Raymond

New on DVD:
This Is Where I Leave You
The Maze Runner
Stonehearst Asylum
At the Devil's Door
Skeleton Twins
Magic in the Moonlight

New reviews at Bookbitch.com:
The Vault by Emily McKay
The Lair by Emily McKay
The Farm by Emily McKay

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Pre Pub Book Buzz: Little Black Lies by Sandra Block

My latest Pre Pub title isn't due out until February but the publisher has put out a free five chapter preview to whet your whistle!

Here's a bit about the book from the press release:

She helps people conquer their demons. But she has a few of her own...

In the halls of the psychiatric ward, Dr. Zoe Goldman is a resident in training, dedicated to helping troubled patients. However, she has plenty of baggage of her own. When her newest patient arrives—a beautiful sociopath who murdered her mother—Zoe becomes obsessed with questions about her own mother's death. But the truth remains tauntingly out of reach, locked away within her nightmares of an uncontrollable fire. And as her adoptive mother loses her memory to dementia, the time to find the answers is running out. 

As Zoe digs deeper, she realizes that the danger is not just in her dreams but is now close at hand. And she has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most. Because what she can't remember just might kill her. 

Little Black Lies is about madness and memory - and the dangerous, little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

I do so love discovering new authors and Sandra Block's debut is right up my alley. Little Black Lies is due out February 17 from Grand Central. The free preview is available now through all major book etailers (here's the BN link.)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Short Fiction Friday: Haunted Holidays

I'm a bit of a grinch when it comes to holiday-themed reads. I don't particularly like feeling as though it's only appropriate to read something at one specific time of year. Plus, they tend to be (in my experience) kind of writes offs. Little cutesy extras that are fine if you're into that kind of thing. But hey, me = grinch, remember?

But this doesn't apply to horror and when one of my favorite authors announced she was taking part in a holiday horror collection, I couldn't resist.

First off, it's seriously awesome that telling ghost stories used to be a Victorian Christmas tradition. Why did this go away?! This should totally still be a thing! And that's exactly the spirit authors Carolyn Haines (aka R.B. Chesterton), Laura Benedict, and Lisa Morton have adopted in putting together this little collection.

Haines kicks things off with "The Christmas Ornament," a chilling piece wherein a handful of grad students gather 'round the fire as one of their peers regales them with his own family ghost story. A story centered around an ornament that's said to curse anyone who looks at it.

Then Benedict gifts us with a tale of a Christmas Nisse in "The Christmas Gnome." Here Venus Hansen receives the latest in a string of odd Christmas gifts from her mother-in-law. This one - a dirty little gnome statue - should have come with a warning!

Finally, in "The Christmas Spirit" Lisa Morton spins a truly disturbing tale about a couple with a rocky marriage, a creepy family cottage, and an old ghost story that may be more than just a story.

Not only was this the perfect little collection to suit my current mood, it was a fabulous set of creepy stories! As a little bonus, because I was definitely left wanting more, the collection does include excerpts from each of the authors' latest releases.

Rating: 5/5