[Patchwork] Karsten Knight

Patchwork is said to be like several popular young adult novels, which is something that often bothers me. I feel that it can set up the book to be a failure if it doesn’t meet my expectations–made higher by people touting it as the next Game of Thrones or Gone Girl. It may perhaps be lucky that I haven’t read any of the books that this one is said to be similar to, because for once I don’t have that complaint. In Patchwork, Karsten Knight takes the myth of the Phoenix and puts it in a modern setting, blending past and present in a time-traveling book that sends Renata Lake into her memories for a chance to change a moment. Her power comes to the surface after an attack at prom kills all of her friends and classmates. Suddenly she has a new power that she doesn’t understand. What she doesn’t have is time–Renata must try to figure out how to use her powers to discover who is after her and her friends before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed the world of Patchwork. Knight created a world based on Renata’s memories of the past, knitting together her reality and the mythos of Patchwork. I hesitate to say more because I don’t want to have heavy spoilers in my review. Patchwork functioned as a way for Renata to time-travel, allowing her to walk through memories to find a point in her past that she could try to change, but she can never go back to the original point where her powers manifested: the attack at prom. She can continue going backward to try to save her friends and discover the assassin, but it erases her future. She has to make new memories from whatever point she stops at. Fortunately, she remembers everything. Unfortunately, no one else does. I think that everyone wishes at some point in their life that they could go back and change something, but they maybe don’t consider what would happen if they could change a moment but then they’re stuck and have to start over from there. I thought that Knight did a great job of portraying this by using Patchwork and Renata’s reaction to it. I’ve read a few time-traveling books before, but I thought that this was a unique way to portray it.

The one very slight problem I had with Patchwork was the blending of Greek and what I see as Egyptian mythology, namely the choice of Osiris. There’s an Amaranthine Society, the Minotaurs, and Daedalus, which are decidedly Greek. I love that Greek mythology was woven throughout the story because it’s always been something I’m interested in. The inclusion of Osiris, an Egyptian god of the afterlife, really confused me. I did some research (i.e. read the Osiris myth on wikipedia), and apparently the myth of Osiris traveled to Greece with the worship of another goddess, Isis. The Osiris myth was also written about, where Greek writers viewed the Osiris myth with a Greek philosophy lens. So it does technically fit with the Greek mythology aspect of Patchwork. Even still, I would argue that Osiris is well-known as an Egyptian god with most people being unaware of the connection to Greece. Ultimately, my only quibble is that I wish Knight had chosen another name.

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[I Hunt Killers: Jasper Dent I] Barry Lyga

I Hunt Killers is a book that really focuses on the nature vs nurture debate when it comes serial killers. Are killers born? Or are they made? Jasper Dent, Jazz to those in the know, has both boxes ticked: his father is the country’s most notorious serial killer and he made Jazz help–perhaps more–but some of Jazz’s memories are fuzzy. When a killer seems to be following in the footsteps of Jazz’s father, suspicion naturally falls on Jazz. He knows that he didn’t do it, so he decides to use his unique knowledge to try and bring the true killer into the light. It brings him closer to his past than he likes.

I Hunt Killers is narrated by Jazz, who is a likable-unlikable character. He’s really calculating, and I spent most of the book being unsettled with how he sees things, particularly people. His dad was a definite psychopath who manipulated Jasper throughout his life–to the point that Jazz isn’t one hundred percent sure that he hasn’t done anything–and he’s the one that Jasper spent his childhood with. So it’s perhaps natural, then, that Jasper also knows how to be charming and how to use that charm to get what he wants from people. Being well aware of this doesn’t help him. There are times when he uses this ability to his advantage, but the whole time he’s wondering if that’s the first step on the path to making him Killer Dent 2.0. Some would say that it’s inevitable that Jasper becomes the next serial killer out of Lobo’s Nod.

I really liked that he was really struggling throughout the whole book with this concept. I don’t think that Jazz is a bad person, but I think that if the other characters knew how he thought about certain things, they’d be a little concerned. This goes beyond jokingly asking if someone needs help to hide the body. Jazz knows. Jazz could. He is constantly battling the fear that he could become his dad.  However, it does put him in a unique position to help the cops catch the killer. There’s only one problem: he’s a teenager.

In a lot of novels, the adults don’t exist. It focuses on the protagonist teenager who solves the crime. I really appreciated that the adults existed in this book. Granted, Jazz is still extremely involved because he is the main character, but it doesn’t put everything on him. Barry Lyga takes some of it away from him because teenagers can’t always go sneaking around crime scenes or morgues. I thought that there was a nice balance between Jazz doing things and the adults doing their jobs. It was realistic but not in a boring way.

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[This Is Where It Ends] Marieke Nijkamp

I think this cover is really simplistically beautiful.

I think this cover is really simplistically beautiful.

This is the second book I’ve read with a school shooting at its center. They’re both out this year so it’s hard not to compare one against the other. This Is Where It Ends is told in the alternating perspectives of four characters on the day of a school shooting. They all know the shooter. None of them know why he’s there. Some are trapped inside. Some are trapped outside. Things can change in a minute when they’re out of your control. And sometimes you have no idea what kind of ripples your actions will make or the effect they’ll have on others.

Whenever I review books that have tense subjects I’m a little worried that I’m going to come off as a heartless reviewer. I’ve just found that when contemporary novels try to illustrate real world problems and events, I hold them more accountable than a mostly fictionalized contemporary novel or other genre. I expect them to be something more, especially when they’re trying to teach something. This Is Where It Ends is one of those novels. Its aim is to show us how people react in times of terror and become everyday heroes. It wants to show us how even when people have been harmed, they’re able to come to terms with what happened–and sometimes their own guilty feelings over surviving–in order to remember those who are lost. Because the novel is trying to show us that, I think that it becomes too much of a “this is how you’re meant to feel right now” sort of novel. It’s telling me what to feel instead of letting me figure it out from the writing alone. I only felt tense from the events when I couldn’t feel the author’s presence, which didn’t happen enough. What This Is Where It Ends does do well is to show how things can change in a matter of moments with no reason behind it that you can understand. There was never a moment where the shooter directly said “This is why,” which I feel was important. There were hints about the reasoning, but nothing concrete. I think that was an important distinction that the author made: We often don’t know why.

The main reason that the novel fell a little flat for me were the characters. It’s hard to have multiple characters in longer books and this novel is a short read. It didn’t have as much time for character building as other novels would have. Unfortunately, that meant that I didn’t feel that any of the characters were unique. Like The Light Fantastic, if the names weren’t at the head of each section, I’m not sure that I would have been able to tell the four apart. Something that would have worked had I cared about the characters was the fact that some where in the auditorium and others were out. I liked that they weren’t all inside. Having the four characters connected through bonds of family or relationships was also interesting, but again, I didn’t quite feel that emotional connection to them. For a book with such a heavy issue, it’s so important that the characters be done well.  I need to be connected to them. When I’m not, the novel begins to seem contrived.

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Break time! A review for [A Murder in Time] by Julie McElwain

While I primarily read and review young adult novels, I do occasionally take a break and read adult fiction novels. I’ve decided that I’ll sometimes post about them here, especially if they’re recently released like this one. A Murder in Time was released this past April.

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I absolutely adore this cover. So simplistic yet beautiful.

Kendra Donovan is a woman who has focused on her career at the FBI–rising through the ranks as one of the best profilers, she’s on track to being one of the most successful agents. When a mission goes all kinds of wrong, Kendra switches that focus to justice and goes after the man who orchestrated the events of that botched mission. Her private mission is cut short when she is threatened by an assassin herself. Her flight leads her into the secret passageways of the castle, and when she comes out, she finds herself in the same place–but not the same time.

The strengths of this novel lie in the chapters where Kendra is in the past. They’re more vivid and interesting as she navigates living–and keeping the fact that she’s a time-traveler a secret–in a world where women were considered the softer sex. For the gentry of the Regency era, a woman like Kendra is something they’re not used to. She’s brash, speaks her opinion, and doesn’t stick to the conventions of the time. At first it causes a little bit of tension in the house, but as she continues to prove herself, they gradually accept–to them–her eccentricities.

Eventually Kendra believes that her slip into the past was not random; when a young girl is found murdered on the estate, she suddenly finds that she has a reason to be in 1815. Kendra has to go back to the basics of solving a crime because she’s far ahead of the time when DNA and fingerprinting has become the norm. She realizes that she needs to depend on the people around her to help her solve the crime–and that even though they may not have the technology, they certainly have the skills.

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[Beware that Girl] Teresa Toten

 

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This is one of those books that takes you along on a ride and at the end, you’re not really sure where you’ve ended up. Although it did remind me of We Were Liars, there was something different about Beware that Girl. Teresa Toten did a really good job of giving us just enough information to follow along, but the secrets that these two girls were holding made a lot of their actions really ambiguous. Kate and Olivia are two girls who meet (almost) by chance and who feed off of one another. They need each other–Kate, the Have-Not, believes that Olivia is her ticket to Yale. Olivia, the Rich Girl Who Wants for Nothing, needs someone who actually supports her and isn’t waiting around for her to crumble. They establish a relationship that deals with a lot of tiptoeing around their sensitive subjects, and occasionally throwing out a secret. Not the big one, though. They’re too afraid it will break everything apart.

At first, I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy Beware that Girl. It was slow to start, and matters were complicated by the varying points of view: Kate, in first person; Olivia, in third person; and Kate and Olivia in third person. I can handle multiple narrators, but please pick one point of view. The narration, despite the annoying first/third person switching,  gradually gripped me as a read to find out the conclusion of this thriller. Like We Were Liars, I hesitate to say more for fear of accidentally ruining the story. I was surprised at how much I needed to see the end of this story once I got into it.

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[The Darkest Corners] Kara Thomas

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The Darkest Corners is a young adult thriller/mystery novel about how returning to the places you’ve been running from can drudge up memories you’d rather forget. Tessa comes back to her hometown, the place she left when she was a child, in order to say goodbye to her father. A father that had been convicted for murder and has been out of her life ever since. One day. That’s all it will take. Then she can get the hell back out of Fayette, Pennsylvania. When something from her past becomes a present problem, Tessa knows that she can’t disappear from Fayette this time. She needs answers. And this time, she won’t be so easily manipulated.

Tessa is an unreliable narrator. She hides things from the people around her and the reader and only reveals them when she absolutely has to. Coming from a bad family makes it really hard for her to trust and rely on anyone but herself, and after the events of that summer when she and Callie were eight, it only got worse. It was a definitive part of growing up and affected her accordingly. Although when I started reading the novel I liked her voice, there was some point in the novel where she became kind of blah. I think it coincided with the point when I felt the novel became more telling than showing, and that reflected badly back on her.

Something that The Darkest Corners does well is the issue of identity. Tessa lost her father to prison at a young age, so her memories of him are slightly different than his rosy ones of her. Escaping to Florida and her grandmother meant that she didn’t have to grow up with this hanging over her head. What’s even better for her is that she can escape the knowledge that she and Callie testified at the trial of a killer, which was key to putting him away when they were only eight. She’s been able to shape herself into someone who isn’t the white-trash girl with a criminal daddy that Fayette knows her as.

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[Reasons why my bookshelves are overflowing] Upcoming Fall and Winter titles to curl up with

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I decided to check out Buzz Books 2015: Young Adult Fall/Winter, a publication that has excerpts of up and coming releases from new authors and established authors. When I’m looking for a new book to read (or in this case an advance reading copy or read-to-review copy) I often struggle with deciding if it’s going to be something I enjoy. When I’m deciding on an ARC to request from NetGalley, the synopsis is obviously a huge part of my decision. Sometimes, however, the synopsis teases just enough to get me curious, but it may not be something I’d normally be keen on. This Buzz Books publication is a nice middle ground. I’m able to read a short excerpt and decide how I feel about the writing style and story without having the pressure of a full book to read. When you write, you need a hook to grab the reader. It’s what keeps them reading. These excerpts are one quick shot to show readers what kind of book it will be and if it’s worth their time. It’s only the hook.  I hated the short length of some of these (because I really wanted to finish it!) and my book list got significantly longer.

The only excerpts I skipped were those of sequels. Here are some of the novels that I want to check out on a scale of desperate-to-read-where-is-my-wallet to this-sounds-interesting/cute:

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