Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

"I kill on order. I am everyone's assassin. I belong to no one but the grim reaper herself."

It's something of an urban legend. If you have a person who you would like to be killed, write a letter and leave it in a hole in the women's washroom of a particular cafe. Don't forget to include payment. The more you pay, the more likely that the Perfect Killer will answer your request. The murder scene is always spotless, no fingerprints. The letter is left behind as a calling card. There are dozens of murders attributed to the Perfect Killer, and the police have no leads to the killer's identity.

The Perfect Killer is actually a high school girl named Kit. She has been trained to kill by her mother, who committed a good number of murders herself before passing the "tradition" on to Kit. Kit works hard to blend into the crowd, as you never suspect someone that you don't notice. It seems like a major misstep when her mother invites the young detective working on the Perfect Killer case over for dinner. It's even worse when Kit befriends Alex, actually giving him hints to her identity.

Kit receives a letter that has ramifications on her whole world. It is a request to kill a classmate, Maggie. Maggie used to hang out with a popular group, but has lately been on her own. The rumors are that she rejected one of the boys, Michael. He wrote the letter. In order to get close to Maggie, Kit befriends her. The girls are inseparable for months. Kit actually starts to like Maggie. She learns about the Michael situation. He is a horrible sociopath, and Kit can see the anger in his eyes. Before this, her world had been easy, black and white. Now there is so much gray.

I really liked the premise of Dear Killer. However, a lot of the forensic and judicial aspects seem suspicious. It seems unlikely that Kit wouldn't have been caught. There was some explanation for why the letter writers wouldn't be prosecuted, but I think that police could find something to charge them with. Then, a simple deal to find the "mailbox," a sting operation, and the Perfect Killer is off the streets. I'm not as familiar with British law (The book's set in London), so this all may be perfectly fine across the pond. I'll give the benefit of a doubt.

I felt bad for Alex. He just wanted to solve his case! Although, it was weird that he discussed classified information with a high school student. And, he let her examine a crime scene! Kit was a scary, scary girl, and the more you read, the scarier she gets. I'm talking split personality scary. You can't really root for her character. There is a little room for sympathy, because she is who her mother made her. However, Kit's actions condemn her. When she starts to question her life during the Maggie situation, the solution is to keep killing. You actually want her to get caught. Thankfully, there is a satisfying ending to the book. You just have to get through all the blood and moral ambiguity first.

I received my copy of Dear Killer from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It will be available for purchase April 1, 2014.

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

"The universe was a terrible, fucked-up place, but he didn't make it that way. He just had to live with it..."

Avalon is ultimately a story about freedom. The main character, Jeth, wants to be able to fly away from Hammer, the mob boss who owns him, his ship, and his crew. He wants to take Avalon and escape to some far off galaxy and be free. His parents were executed as traitors, leaving Jeth and his sister Lizzie in the care of their uncle. Uncle Milton promptly gambled and lost Avalon, which is also their home, to Hammer.

Hammer is the big boss, owner of a great big space station and casino. He runs a gang of soldiers, most of whom are mindless slaves thanks to an implant in their brains. One of his organizations is the Malleus Shades, Jeth's crew. They are a bunch of teenagers who pull heists to steal ships and metadrives. The metadrive is the technology that allows them to travel light years through space. This technology is highly in demand, so the Shades are busy. Jeth is working for Hammer in hopes of buying his ship back. His profits all go towards Avalon, but he still has years left before he'll be free.

At the beginning of the book, the Shades are running a heist. Everything is going according to plan when they get an unexpected visit from an ITA agent (Like space FBI). He wants them to venture into the Belgraves, the space wasteland where weird stuff happens, in order to retrieve a wrecked ship, the Donerail. In return, Jeth will regain full ownership of Avalon.

Jeth is obviously suspicious of the man, as the ITA killed his parents. He refuses the deal. Soon after, Hammer offers them the same job. After some negotiation, Hammer is willing to give them half the money beforehand...and he will sign the Avalon over to Jeth. The only condition is that they are not supposed to set foot on the abandoned ship.

That seems easy enough. The Donerail has been stranded for two months. There's no way that anyone could have survived. When they reach the ship, however, there are signs of life. Once on board, they notice how it is covered in mysterious holes, some through walls or equipment, even through the crew. They meet the survivors, a teenaged girl and boy, and a younger girl. Jeth takes the trio back on the Avalon. Once there, the mysterious holes start appearing in Avalon's walls and equipment. Soon enough, they are stranded in the Belgraves. They have two choices: call Hammer for help, or call the ITA. The only question is which is the better risk.

I really loved Avalon. A lot of it had to do with how much I loved Jeth. He was such a nice guy, always sacrificing himself to protect his crew. There were times when he brought tears to my eyes, when he was broken down and believed that he would never regain Avalon, would be stuck with Hammer, and worst of all would become one of those brainless soldier. So, I may as well say that Jeth is the best and almost single-handedly made this book great. I'm really looking forward to further adventures from the Malleus Shades, which should be interesting given the plot twists and spoiler action at the end of the book, which I cannot talk about here. I'll just say that it should be interesting and leave it at that.

I received my copy of Avalon from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer & Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen

"No matter how small I felt, how infinitesimal my feeble gestures seemed, I was part of a larger chain, a larger system, and so help me, I would bring order to this chaos..."

This dystopian story had a background story very similar to The Hunger Games. There was a war hundreds of years ago. What once was the United States was attacked by the East (Asia). Afterwards, they were left in ruins. The West Coast fell. As a result of the war, the United States were no longer allowed to use fossil fuels. Jacob Landry saved the country by introducing his Cherenkov lantern, which paved the way for personal nuclear reactors in every home. Of course, only the upper classes, the Gentry, are able to take advantage of nuclear power. As punishment for not fighting hard enough during the war, the lowest class, Rootless, must perform the deadly task of handling the radioactive cores. The Gentry make sure that the Rootless receive lots of medical care for their breedin' parts so that they can make more Rootless to handle the reactors. They pay no attention to them dying painful, early deaths from radiation poisoning.

Now let's go from the poor down-trodden masses to a poor little rich girl. Madeline Landry is unhappy with her life. She wants nothing more than to attend university. As the first (And only) heir to Landry Park, their sprawling estate, her job is to marry rich and produce an heir. Unfortunately, Madeline has no interest in the parties and usual bunch of eligible bachelors. That is, until David Dana comes to town.

David is the son of her father's old girlfriend. The two hit it off, but their relationship is complicated. He acts affectionately towards her when they are alone, but ignores her when they are in public. It just gets weirder when he asks her frenemy, Cara, to debut with him. This means that David and Cara are practically engaged. David definitely puts out a lot of mixed signals, and Madeline has no idea what to think.

Back to class warfare! After Cara is attacked at a party, she blames a member of the Rootless. Soon, Mr. Landry and the Gentry government are severely punishing all of the Rootless. Madeline can tell that Cara is lying about the attack. She takes it upon herself to find out the real culprit, whom she suspects is one of the Gentry.

One day, she follows David into the Rootless side of town. While there, she learns of the suffering of their people so that the Gentry can live in comfort. She also learns that the Rootless are planning a revolution, and they have the East on their side to fight. Madeline eventually learns that the history of the country is a lie, and she must turn her back on her family and Landry Park in order to help the people who need her most.

The background of the book really interested me. I'm a big fan of Downton Abbey and Jane Austen, and the Gentry system of courtship was similar. When the regency drama is combined with the dystopian, I am very excited. I wasn't disappointed with the actual contents. It was a great story. Madeline could be annoying at times, but I'll forgive her as her entire world ends up falling apart. I won't forgive her for the love triangle, especially since I thought she'd stop whining about David once she starts a relationship with Jude(David's friend, doesn't matter that much). But, no, she still goes on and on about David Dana. I appreciated that they didn't make Jude be evil incarnate just to make Madeline and David seem inevitable. Cara amused me greatly, because she was bitchy in an amusing, Cordelia Chase way.

I thought that Landry Park was a really good start to the series. It ends cleanly, while leaving space for the next installment in the series. I'd like to read more, but I'm not freaking out because of a horrible cliffhanger.

I received my copy of Landry Park from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial and Penguin. It's available for purchase now.