Month: July 2014

The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

18518711208 pages
Published August 1, 2014 by Switch Press
Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: This quirky, narrative scrapbook gives readers a witty, honest look at what it means to be a teenager.Using mini-graphic novels, photos, sketches, and captions, The Isobel Journal offers a unique glimpse into the creative life of eighteen-year-old Isobel, just a northern girl from where nothing really happens.”

Review: I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I read another review that described it as “random” and I would have to agree. Yes, Isobel’s scrapbook is divided into three sections, but it is full of random drawings, photos and musings about her life. It was a quick read and was fine, but there wasn’t much of a plot, though I was able to piece together what Isobel’s life must be like based on the things she drew and wrote. The drawings were unique and quirky, definitely not what I would call beautiful drawings, but I still liked them.

I also liked Isobel’s musings about her identity and boys. I felt this is the part of the book that teenagers reading this book would most identify with and they were the most poignant, because I know I’ve had all those feelings at one point or another. The voice and drawings definitely seem to come from a teenage girl. I just quickly looked up the author and she is definitely a teenage girl! That explains the authenticity and while it wasn’t really a book for me, I do appreciate her honesty and I think a lot of teens will relate to her journal.


I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

7766027359 pages
Published April 3, 2012
Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

Review: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a while now, but have never gotten around to reading it. Until I got an email from Netgalley that they had a copy available, even though the book came out over two years ago.

I actually could not put this book down and read it in one day. I was so intrigued by the mystery and the characters and needed some sort of resolution, so I stayed up late to finish it. I have always been into true crime and the working of the criminal mind, so I liked reading the perspective of Jazz, who has a serial killer for a father. This creates a conflict for Jazz, with him thinking he could be a serial killer just like his father, as his father bred him to be a serial killer. But Jazz also fights against this legacy and tries to be a normal teenage boy, while wrestling with his horrible memories and his own personal demons. His personal demons play out well in regards to the other characters, especially in Jazz’s relationships with them. He sometimes imagines killing or hurting people he cares about, but then at the same time, he wants to take care of them and protect them. The argument of nature versus nurture in regards to serial killers is a fascinating one and I think Jazz is a good embodiment of this argument. How can someone be a normal person when they were raised by a sadistic serial killer? I think the book did a good job of raising these questions, especially for readers that are into true crime.

The book was a little more violent than I was expecting, but I guess if you look at the subject matter, it’s not that surprising, but it caught me off guard, as I’m not used to many young adult books being so gritty and full of blood. It was not a bad thing, of course! The murders and the crime scenes described in the book are exactly what fuels the fascination with true crime and serial killers. Some of the scenes were so ghoulish, but I couldn’t look away or stop reading. Also, Jazz’s father and the relationship that Jazz has with him was so disturbing, that my skin was crawling a bit when Jazz went to visit his father in prison.

The mystery kept me on the edge of my seat and while I read another review where the reader figured it out pretty quickly, I kept changing my mind about who the culprit could be. And while the book didn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, I was both a little shocked and somehow expecting how it would end. Definitely want to get my hands on the next two books!

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket

18295854259 pages
Published April 1, 2014
Source: Borrowed from Library

Synopsis: Match wits with Lemony Snicket to solve thirteen mini-mysteries.
Paintings have been falling off of walls, a loud and loyal dog has gone missing, a specter has been seen walking the pier at midnight — strange things are happening all over the town of Stain’d-By-The-Sea. Called upon to investigate thirteen suspicious incidents, young Lemony Snicket collects clues, questions witnesses, and cracks every case. Join the investigation and tackle the mysteries alongside Snicket, then turn to the back of the book to see the solution revealed.

A delicious read that welcomes readers into Lemony Snicket’s world of deep mystery, mysterious depth, deductive reasoning, and reasonable deductions.

Review: A few years ago, I tried to read the first book of the series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I was in somewhat of a bad place at that time in my life, and I found the book really depressing and gave up after a few hours. I don’t know what it was about the book, but I could see that something bad was happening to the children, but they couldn’t see it and I couldn’t stomach it for whatever reason. Anyway, I was looking up books recently and came across this new series by Lemony Snicket and this book in particular intrigued me. I remember reading similar books as a child (meant for adults, though) with short mysteries with the solution at the end. I liked the idea of this being updated and for children, so I thought I would give Lemony Snicket another chance.

I was pretty disappointed, though. I think the book, though a children’s book, is written in such a way that I don’t think children would be interested in it. It seems like a book an adult would write who doesn’t really understand what interests children and it seems more like a book an adult nostalgic for childhood would want to read. It uses very flowery language, plus many words that might be above children and then has the gall to explain what they mean. While I think adding some unfamiliar words that help children t0 improve their vocabulary, the way this book goes about it feels really condescending. There are also lots of cutesy, twee names that annoyed me. I can’t think of any examples, but I was frustrated by the writing. Which I felt was trying to hard to be funny and clever.

As for the mysteries, maybe I am just an idiot, but I didn’t understand some of the solutions. About half of the mysteries didn’t make sense to me. I’m not sure if this was just me, though! Some of them, I did have to go back and quickly scan the story again to try to see where the clues were. But some of them I just flat out didn’t understand.

Finally, the one good thing that I liked about the book were the illustrations. I wish more had been included, because I thought they were very well done and went with the overall mood of the book. Overall, I was generally disappointed by this book and will be steering clear of Lemony Snicket from now on.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Phantomtollbooth256 pages
First Published in 1961
Source: Borrowed from Library

Synopsis: Milo mopes in black ink sketches, until he assembles a tollbooth and drives through. He jumps to the island of Conclusions. But brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis war over words and numbers. Joined by ticking watchdog Tock and adult-size Humbug, Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to enjoy life.

Review: Full disclosure: I never read this book when I was a child. I remember buying it when I was maybe 11 or 12, but never got around to reading it, because I found it dull at the time. I’m glad I did finally get around to reading the book, however.

The wordplay and puns in this book are fantastic. I like the idea of taking common idioms and expression and turning them on their heads and making a crazy and nonsensical world out of them. I am also curious as to how this book was translated into other languages. It makes me want to find the German version to see how the idioms compare, because English is a very punny language, in comparison to a language like German. I also liked many of the characters in the book, especially the dog. Based on the cover, I would have thought that Tock, the dog, would have been an enemy rather than an ally, but I liked him as an animal companion. I also liked the symphony of colors and the idea that sounds, words and numbers can be collected, hoarded and given away.

However, I felt that the story was rushed and I wish the world could have been filled out and illustrated a little better. I felt like Milo and his companions just raced from place to place and there was a moral in each place, but I felt it needed some fleshing out. That was my biggest complaint about the book. Great idea with an interesting world, but everything felt a little rushed. Also, I borrowed this as an e-book from the library and the map was not included! Not the fault of the author, but I had to go online to look at the map. I also thought the illustrations perfectly fit the story. They are rough pencil drawings, but they perfectly fit the world that Juster has imagined.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, but I think because I never read it as a child, I don’t love it in the same way that someone who read it as a child would.