REVIEW: The Naturals

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Lately I’ve been binge watching Criminal Minds on Netflix. It’s probably my favorite crime drama to date (not including Lucifer, which is both a crime drama AND paranormal show that I absolutely adore to bits.) So, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine the giddy excitement I felt when I picked up The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. While I’ve made it a goal to forgo series and spend some time with well written stand-alone novels this past year, but I made an exception for this first novel in a growing series, and I wasn’t disappointed!

I’ve already completed the first three books of the series: The Naturals, Killer Instinct, and All In. Rather than reviewing one book, I’m going to review the series as a whole.

To start, the series follows the story of Cassie Hobbes, who finds herself naturally talented when it comes to profiling strangers. She is dragged into the world of the FBI and other naturals like herself to help solve cold cases. Alongside her is Michael, a natural emotion analyzer; Lia, a human lie-detector; Sloane, the statistic analyzer and human thesaurus; and Dean, another natural profiler like Cassie.

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REVIEW: Challenger Deep

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One of my favorite authors of all time is Neal Shusterman. I fell in love with his Unwind series, and have been influenced greatly by his writing style and story telling. However, his novel “Challenger Deep” moved me in ways I can barely describe. This was by far one of the best books I’ve read this year for so many different reasons.

First, I was instantly drawn to this book by it’s subject matter. As a person who deals with anxiety and has a strong interest in mental illness and psychology, I couldn’t wait to read this story, and I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the most important books of the year in my opinion. It takes a subject that affects so many people on the planet and fashions it into a medium where we can all safely step into the shoes of someone who is dealing with these challenges. It sheds a light on a serious medical condition that most people shun or abhor.

Second, the writing is perfection. Neal Shusterman is a master at writing compelling stories with gripping and realistic characters. I was able to sink myself into the book with ease, much like Caden does with his thoughts. The book is divided into small segments, almost like diary entries, and are titled with compelling sentences that peak your curiosity. And then there are the shifts in pov. When Caden is at his worst, at his most dissociative with himself, at his darkest, the perspective shifts from first person to third person. You really feel like you are disconnected with reality as you read Caden talk about himself like he was watching a movie or a play. This was a brilliant way to demonstrate the dissociation that happens with schizophrenia.

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REVIEW: The Girl From the Well

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I totally judge books by their covers. Which is why I was drawn to this book so quickly and had to read it despite the fact that I CAN’T STAND HORROR STUFF. But man, did I fall in love with Rin Chupeco’s book “The Girl From the Well.” There have been some mixed reviews for this book, but mine is obviously the only one that matters. (Please, don’t take that seriously, I’m being sarcastic. All the reviews are valid.)

As someone who is a total wimp when it comes to horror movies and hasn’t read many horror books, I really loved this story!

I feel like horror is a really difficult genre to write, because things that are scary on screen are hard to translate in words (like jump scares for example.) However, the visuals in it are really well written. I was trying to imagine what I was reading as a film, and it would definitely scare the crap out of me.

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REVIEW: Sihastrul

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Plantus said that she wrote “Sihastrul” on the premise that if someone found it in a cave somewhere in the future, and they treated like something that was ancient, what would they have to say about it?

“It’s cosmic,” she said with wonder.

Cosmic is the best way to describe her novella.

The meaning of the book changes each time it is read. It’s about the search for meaning in the very first word, a quest to discover identity, a tale about the beginning of the world. This small novella has big ideas, strong language, and mystical elements packed within it. She mixes prose and poetry to create several small books that are linked together to form the story of “Sihastrul, the Hermit.” The books are written by a variety of narrators, each an important character in the story. Some include the Hermit, his Mother, the Old Angel, God, and the Butterfly. Each one has a well-developed personality that brings them alive on the page.

The reader has the choice to read the books in any order if they’d like, because all of the books are interconnected and jump around in space and time. There is no right or wrong way to read. I read it from front to back, which I believe would be the best way to read it (it was organized in that way for a reason.) The clues, or breadcrumbs as I like to say, that lead you down the story’s path is much more rewarding that way.

One of the biggest mysteries of the novella is the identity of the Hermit. Do not expect an answer by the end. It is left entirely up to the reader to try and use the breadcrumbs, as I said earlier, to discover his identity. After all, not even the Hermit is entirely sure who he is either.

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REVIEW: Shattered Marbles

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I left the event with two signed copies of her novel and with an inspired desire to continue the revision process of my own manuscript.

That being said, I put my own work on hold to read Shattered Marbles.

Without giving too much away, it’s about a woman named Jai Blacksmith living in Detroit who is starting to become overwhelmed by the stresses of her job, her love life, and her personal health. She believes she is on the verge of a mental breakdown when she starts seeing marbles and ominous messages like “Do you miss me?” everywhere. She thinks it could be an ex-boyfriend stalking her, but she has no proof of it. On top of that, she starts seeing a homeless man following her, but no one else seems to see him. The story follows Jai as she tries to solve the mystery, or has a mental breakdown in the process.

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REVIEW: Think Again

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Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray’s collection of short stories, “Think Again” Kray’s first collection of short stories were wonderfully unique, mysterious, and playful. She mixed realism, magic, and mystery flawlessly to create a “Tim Burton” like collection of stories. Every story had me on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happened next.

“First Love” is a flash fiction piece tells the story of a woman’s love for the young man she meets at the coffee shop. However, the love she feels for this man is different from the average love story, and Kray uses this twist to amp up the emotion in the piece.

“The Ghost in the Walls” is the tale of a haunted house and the past events that lead to its ghostly fame. It’s easy to get absorbed in the tale, just as young James does. Kray blends the sense of lightheartedness with eerie suspense in this fantastic urban legend.

“Love is Blind” twists what you would expect completely on its head. A tale of infatuation and love that is not at all what it seems. Kray plays with your mind in this piece, and just when you think you have it figured out, she gives another twist!

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