Picture
Cassandra “Cass” Caravello is a fifteen-year-old contessa living in Renaissance Venice whose elite life is suffocating. Outwardly, she benefits from wealth, prestige, and an arranged marriage. Inwardly, she recoils from her life being meticulously planned out for her. She wants to escape the social mores that plague society. She wants to choose her own destiny. She wants…freedom.

 When Cass accidentally discovers the mutilated body of a young courtesan, she is forced to find the killer before he finds her. With the aid of Falco, a handsome artist who seems to mysteriously appear whenever she needs help, they plunge into the darkness of elite society. As more girls turn up dead, they begin to unlock the mystery of who might be friend and who might be foe.  


**Note: For people who love this book, love the author, or find great pleasure in commonplace romances where they know exactly what will happen before they read a word, you probably want to stop reading.**

 Characterization: Cass is a shallow, dislikeable character. She spends most of the book whining about her life being planned for her. When she isn’t obsessing about how unfair life is, she’s obsessing about Falco – a character that we know nothing about, even after 431 pages. Probably the most disturbing part of Cass’s character is that the author attempts to use her to convey a strong female character bucking Renaissance conventions towards women; however, all she seems to think about is making out with Falco - or her fiancé Luca (another character that’s never developed), which undermines the whole “strong female” thing.

 Cass’s constant need for male companionship wears on the reader. Scene after scene she suspects Falco is the real killer (or at least an accomplice), but within a paragraph, he will smile at her, and she will change her mind because of his kissable lips or taunt muscles.  

Cass is supposed to be fifteen years old. There is no way. Her language, actions, and the basic context of this novel make the fact that she’s fifteen completely unbelievable. In fact, as I read, it seemed more plausible that she was at least seventeen or eighteen while Falco should have been in his early twenties. This leads me to believe that this novel might be geared more towards adult readers rather than young adult.

 Plot/Context: The book jacket promised a romantic suspense thriller. By definition, this book meets those guidelines; however, there was no originality to the plot at all. On more than one occasion, I felt as though I was reading a Harlequin romance novel that my grandmother had snuck to me while I was in high school. Just like Harlequin novels follow formulaic character and plot outlines, this novel did, too. There was little suspense, and the romance was really lust disguised as “love.” In fact, “lust” WAS the plot.

 Love Triangle: There was indeed a love triangle, but I could care less who won Cass. In fact, I was hoping that she would be killed off so that both men could find someone with some substance. 
 
I gave this novel two stars because the author managed to keep the identity of the killer a secret until the very end. Of course, the killer was so random that I almost forgot that that person was in the book. Which leads to another frustration. This book is 431 pages of cliché and predictable  storyline. To quote my student, “Someone needed to grab a scalpel and carve a plot out of all of those pages.”


 
Picture
Danny Lopez's family has relocated to a quiet Colorado town where he gets to attend an experimental school centered on teaching discipline to children who need "guidance." Some of the rules include school uniforms, including white gloves for sanitation, a rigid teaching script that's read to students and repeated daily, and no socialization among faculty and students- ever. As if this wasn't weird enough, Danny finds himself recruited by secret student organizations determined to find the serial cat killer. As the clues mount up, and the killer becomes more bold, will he make it out alive?

I rarely give one star, but this middle grade novel was...not good. In fact, I made myself finish it even though I wanted to put it away less than halfway through.
The book opens with a very eerie and cryptic cat killer in the process of sacrificing a cat, which grabbed my attention right away. Unfortunately, there was nothing after that scene that prompted tension or suspense because the characters and plot became very mundane. I think that part of this is because the author tried to have too many subplots (romance, conspiracy, teenage angst)in an effort to distract the reader from being able to identify the killer; however, it simply caused the story to go on meaningless tangents rather than weaving a tale of suspense.  

Another problem with this novel was that the characters were extremely shallow. The plot would allude to struggles in characters' pasts without really using those to let the reader get to know them on a deeper level. To use a teacher phrase, the author did a lot of "telling" and not "showing," which is pretty boring. Most readers don't want to have an event summarized for them; they want to experience it with the characters so that they can build a connection. These characters were two-deminsional at best.
 
The ending had a lot of action in it, but by that point, most readers can already figure out who the killer is, so the climax falls flat. Even when there was a twist at the end, if readers pay attention to contextual details, it's not too difficult to see it coming. 

Overall, this novel had an interesting concept but poor execution. 




 
Picture
Jasper "Jazz" Dent is the son of the most notorious serial killer of all time. While growing up, Dear Old Dad taught his son valuable lessons, such as how to clean blood stains, how to slice through skin, and how to think like a serial killer. Now, several years after his father's apprehension and conviction, Jazz is trying to lead a normal, teenage life in the same small,
close-knit community that his father committed his final two murders. But, when women start getting murdered, and the killer is copying Billy Dent’s gruesome MO, Jazz is the only one schooled enough in the mind of a sociopath to help the police. The only problem is that Jazz isn’t sure that being around the victims won’t trigger his own need to kill. 

For people who enjoy TV shows like Criminal Minds or CSI, this is an exceptional read. The novel doesn’t go into detail about the killings. Instead, the plotline focuses on the inner workings of the mind of a killer. I know that several people were disappointed that there wasn’t more action and scenes with the murders taking place – they were always described after the fact – but with this type of story, it really would have taken away from the psychological aspect. 

There were a few times that Jazz’s constant whimpering about being destined to kill got old, but Lyga did a good job of using his spunky girlfriend Connie to call him out and voice what the reader was thinking: “Either put up, or shut up.” From that moment forward, Jazz became a stronger character for me. 

This novel alludes to multiple brutal killings and gives details about nailing bodies to a ceiling, vaginal and anal rape, and other forms of brutality. Because of this information, readers need to be mature; however, leaving it out would have taken away vital details from the story. Lyga wanted to show the cruelty to Billy Dent's murders without shifting the focus away from Jazz. Part of Billy's cruelty was making his child watch, and participate, in a number of killings. 
 
I know that Mr. Lyga conducted research to add authenticity to his novel, and his painstaking efforts show. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel because I’m intrigued with how the mind works, and the mind of a sociopath is probably one of the most mysterious to explore. I will definitely check out the sequel. 

*ARC was provided at 2011 NCTE Conference     
Book comes out in April 2012


 
Picture








 



 



 


 





This book was a pretty big let-down for me. I really enjoyed HUSH, HUSH with its suspense and spunky heroine, Nora Grey. I thought that I had finally found a series that broke away from authors trying to mimick TWIGHLIGHT'S version of "romance" by having a strong plot, in-depth characters, and a heroine who can hold her own - with or without a boyfriend. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The book was "supposed" to be about Nephilim's (half human, half angels) gathering recruits to fight fallen angels. Of course, Nora is a Nephilim, and the danger is always lurking that a fallen angel wants to kill her to become human, but Patch is her guardian angel, which means that probably won't happen. That was SUPPOSED to be the plot. Instead, the author spent 327 pages chronicling Nora's angst about breaking up with Patch, and his going out with Marcie, her slutty arch-enemy. Fitzpatrick tried to create a double-love triangle by having Nora run into her childhood friend, Scott, and develop a romance, but the whole thing was weak and contrived. In fact, the whole novel was one big, awful romance novel depicting three weak and pathetic girls who strove for male attention. Some might argue that all of this angst is based in reality, and I admit that I knew one or two girls in high school like this, but I wouldn't call them the norm, and I wouldn't want them to be the norm. Nora even contemplates suicide at one point, which I thought was totally irresponsible of the author. We want females to be empowered, not constantly fed the idea that they can't function without a boyfriend. And, definitely not that their lives aren't worth living without one!

The novel finally focused on the REAL plot around page 357 but not before Fitzpatrick exhausted the whole "Can we trust Patch" thing. Honestly, that was beaten to death in Book One, it was simply annoying in Book Two and detracted from the plot. Also, the reader heard a lot about Rixon throughout the novel, but never even met him until she was 300 pages in. Then, all of a sudden, the whole plot revolved around him. The whole novel was like this. All of the characters were shallow and underdeveloped, and their functions throughout were disjointed.

I won't read Book Three. In fact, regardless of the overall ratings on Goodreads, most people (I'm referring to my friends) despised this novel, and were too nice to give it the rating it deserves. Every author deserves a "dud," and I hope that this is simply the case with this one. Like I said, I really loved HUSH, HUSH, so I know Fitzpatrick is talented. I just don't know why she sold out on this one.


 
Picture
I can't really write a review about this novel without giving away some part of the plot, but I will say that it is a well-crafted suspense thriller with a little romance sprinkled in. This story involves fallen angels and a legend that demands a human sacrifice. Caught in the middle of this spiritual warfare is Nora Grey, and she knows that someone wants her dead. But, why?

 
Picture
Evan Barrett and his older brother, Emmett, grew up listening to tales of sea monsters and superstitions from their sea captain father. Therefore, when his parents went out for a simple voyage, and their cries of Mayday mix with the terrifying shriek of an unnatural being, Evan is convinced that the The She has claimed another set of victims.

Blocking out the events of that horrible night, Evan's memories flood back as he interacts with Grey Sheiley, a classmate who watched The She claim another victim. As they try to discover the fine line between fact and fiction, they develop a growing respect as well as the understanding of each other's personal demons. And, Evan finds out that with Grey, still waters run deep.

I had to work to read this novel. The cover was so cool that I figured it had to get better, but the reality is that it never did - "don't judge a book by its cover." The author took nearly 300 pages to get to any kind of action, and the love story was too contrived and predictable. In fact, the entire story was cliche and boring. Very disappointing.   flag