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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AOF: 2015 Inkitt Reviews

Here is a collection of reviews from Inkitt for The Art of Falling from 2015.

I fell for this story ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“As someone who’s been entranced with the premise of this story since its inception, I’m so, so pleased to see it in in all its finished glory. The characterization is diverse, and the conflicts this inevitably begins is delicious to read. I couldn’t put it down when I first read it; I finished the whole book in one sitting!” – Kaylen Rayne (Aug 23, 2015)

A must read! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“I enjoyed this book very much. The characters are so well defined that you really get invested in them. I was switching sides throughout the book! The detailed descriptions of the locations give you a clear visual and make you feel like you’re actually there. The story keeps moving and throws in a couple of surprises. I couldn’t stop reading!” – Dee Purple (Aug 24, 2015)

An enjoyable ride from start to finish ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

“I really enjoyed reading this story. The protagonists are super fun to read and the author does a really good job of putting you in the moment with everything. For the entire time that I was reading, I felt like I really was in every location, with every moment, and feeling everything that the characters felt. The pacing was perfectly done and the amount of imagery and allusion to mythology and religion and just the fresh take on a lot of things was really fun. I would have liked to see just a bit more action and adventure in the story, but honestly, that comes down to my own personal preference. I would absolutely recommend giving this story the time to read, you definitely won’t be disappointed” – Hidden Cube (Aug 25, 2015)

Piqued My Interest ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“While the forbidden love concept is an old one, and while there have been variations involving angels and demons, I find this one to be quite refreshing. After all, it isn’t always about coming up with something that’s never been done before–that would be impossible, really. It’s about creating something that, while it holds familiar concepts, has a fresher perspective on those same concepts; a life of its own amidst the sea of other tales like it. 🙂 You have accomplished this, I believe. I am eager to read more, and as I do, more will be added to the review. Best of luck in the Wanderlust competition.

Edit: “Continuing on after reading fifteen chapters. 🙂 With other forms of Mythos being incorporated into this story of angels and demons, I find myself more and more intrigued with this world you’ve created–especially when it comes to Greek and Egyptian Mythology (two of my favourites). I look forward to reading more of this story, and seeing just what happens; will Regal succeed in making Keir fall, or will Keir succeed in making him ascend? Even as far into the story as I am, I can’t tell which way it will go–if either–and that’s excellent. It means you’re keeping your readership on their toes.”

Edit: “Now that I’ve officially finished reading the story, I can say with all certainty it is the kind of book I would love to see on my shelf. Now on to the critique: there are aspects that could be improved upon. One minor complaint I have is the repetition. There were points where you stated the same thing in almost the exact same way within a single paragraph. Other issues I came across were of the technical variety — mostly in the form of typos, though there was the odd misspelling and wrongly placed word, as well. There were some issues — in particular — where you jumped back and forth between present and past tense. In [the final chapters] there [were] continuity errors. Now, critique aside, I really did enjoy this story, and I really, really hope that there’s a sequel, because I cannot believe it ends, there. :)” – Shannon Rohrer (Aug 25, 2015)

Couldn’t put it down! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Excellent work, very intriguing, well thought out characters! I got caught up in it and time flew. Can’t wait for the next installment! Ms. Cojo has an excellent imagination and her timing of events is very fluid.” – Colleen Kidd Dyer (Sep 2, 2015)

Beauty in The Downfall (On-Going Review) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Though I’m only five chapters into this, it has absolutely captured my attention with its prowess. One parts classic love story and diverse, well-researched fantasy, this bad boy hooks you from the get-go and keeps you reading! The characters are all fantastic and organic, especially the two leads in Regal and Keir, whose perspectives are both used to great effect to guide the story. That dual-perspective is a difficult task for many authors, but adds a lot of character to this story. The rest of the world is populated with rich cast, drawing from mythology and religion in ways both creative and believable. Writing-wise, this is very solid and well-edited! I spotted a missing comma or two, but that’s to be expected with any manuscript. The scenes of romance and action were written in equally compelling measure, and held my attention without a problem, There are some places, particularly where backstory comes in, where the dialogue and narrative repeat itself, but this can easily be edited. A worthy piece for anyone to read, and come back to! I certainly know I’ll be returning for more. (P.S, really and honestly loved reading your review to yourself. That’s a really smart idea, and it was interesting to see your perspective on               your own process)” – Caitlin E. Jones (Sep 4, 2015)

Loved it and want more! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Right from the beginning, the story had me hooked. The beginning had me curious about what was going on, then hit with that love that was never meant to begin. That toppled with the flashback that came immediately after had me unable to put the book down. The character building, the flow, the drama, the twists! All of it had me on the edge of my seat, though I almost screamed at the end. Both from happiness and fury at being unable to devour the next book. Oh, almost forgot! When I saw that it was about an angel and demon. Hadn’t been expecting many other mythical creatures, thank you very much for not only disproving that! But, also breathing a life into the mythos you put in the story. As well as what you did with Gloria/God and religions, I lived it very much! I am not one for grammar or sentence structures, they are both things that are hard for me to do. Far as I could tell, except in a couple of sentences, it felt like it was already published. This story is something I will be recommending to everyone I can think to recommend too. I will also be buying the book to reread until the pages fall from the cover. When it gets published, not if but when this book gets published. I am that confident that this story deserves to get published” – Rosefirst (Sep 28, 2015)

Definitely Don’t Pass This One! ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“As someone who got to help proofread/edit the original “story”, I got to see all the characters and the plot in its raw form. What Dani was able to turn that raw form in to, is absolutely amazing. The plot line is different, the characters are dynamic, and the writing style is very comfortable to read. I definitely think this one deserves to be published, and for the world of Mythos to be exposed! <3<3″ – Nanchey (Oct 23, 2015)

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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