Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals (The Naturals, #1)

The Naturals is one of those books that I noticed on several Stacking the Shelves posts a couple of years ago.  I picked up a copy, but it wasn't really at the top of my TBR pile until now.  I'm participating in the COYER scavenger hunt and needed to read a book written by an author with three names.  I scanned all of my unread books and this one practically jumped out at me.

I can't believe I didn't start this series sooner.  I have been reading the Stephanie Plum, Women's Murder Club, King & Maxwell, and Kay Scarpetta murder mystery series for years, but this is the first time I have come across a YA version.

Cassie is a seventeen-year-old girl with a natural ability to read people.  Her mother was murdered five years ago and her father is overseas in the military.  When she is asked to join an FBI program for teens with various natural abilities, she jumped at the opportunity.  The program is supposed to sharpen their skills while helping the FBI solve cold cases.

Dean is the only member of the group who is a natural profiler like Cassie.  Michael is a natural at reading emotions, Leah is a walking lie detector, and Sloane is an encyclopedia who can spit out facts and statistics on just about anything.  One day, The Naturals stumble upon an active murder investigation their supervisors are working on.  Cassie is immediately drawn to it because of the similarities with her mother's case.  They begin working the case and are pulled further into the killer's world than any of them could have imagined was possible.  I was completely shocked when I discovered who the killer was and couldn't believe the lengths he/she went to.

Overall, this was an excellent start to the series.  I was completely captivated throughout the book and I loved the characters.  I gave the book 4 stars and I can't wait to see what happens next in Killer Instinct.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris

The Fine Art of Pretending (The Fine Art of Pretending, #1)

Aly is the one person Brandon connected with after his father died three years prior to the start of this book.  Since then, they have become best friends, but dating has been out of the question.  He is the star of the baseball team and is part of their school's A-list.  He isn't interested in a serious relationship and chooses to casually date a variety of girls.

Aly is friends with some of the elite, but doesn't consider herself part of that group.  With only her senior year remaining, she decides it is time to get noticed.  She buys all new clothes and makeup, gets a new hair style, and begins to step out of her comfort zone with one goal in mind.  She wants to land a date to homecoming with the hottest guy in the school, who is none other than Brandon's friend Justin.  What better way to get Justin's attention than to pretend to be dating Brandon...Right?  WRONG!!! Aly and Brandon's entire plan backfires when they begin to realize there may be more to their relationship than either of them is willing to admit.

This was a cute and entertaining story, but I felt like the drama dragged on a lot longer than it should have.  The reader, as well as all of Aly and Brandon's friends, could see what was going on, but Aly and Brandon were too stubborn or afraid to propel the story forward.  I felt like I was stuck in a rut for the longest time, but when I finally broke was over.  The ending was what I expected, but after all of the drama there should have been a few more chapters to cap things off.  Perhaps that is part of Rachel's plan with the companion novel that is scheduled to be released in 2016.  It will focus on Justin, but hopefully there will be some updates on Aly and Brandon to provide some sense of closure to their story.

I ended up giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Night of Slam Poetry at Kafe Kerouac

Kafe Kerouac is the home of slam poetry in Columbus, Ohio.  The Writers' Block Poetry group gathers at 8:00 pm every Wednesday for open mic night and hosts a slam on the last Wednesday of every month.  

I noticed on their Facebook page that they were hosting a slam last evening in preparation for the Individual World Poetry Slam being held in Washington D.C. this October.  I've never attended a slam before, but I was intrigued after reading Slammed and Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover.  

With my son out of town for the week it was the perfect opportunity for my husband and I to experience something new.  He was a little reluctant when I first shared my plans for a date night at a poetry slam, but he was pleasantly surprised.  The emcee was highly entertaining, the performers were extremely talented, and I don't think I have laughed so hard in a very long time. 

The venue is quaint and serves coffee, beer, and wine at reasonable prices.  Here is a picture of the bar and the adjacent room where the performances are held.  

The slam participants drawing numbers to determine the order.

While I have no interest in ever performing, I will definitely try to attend another show in the future.  I just wish the venue was a little closer to home and the performances weren't so late on a work night.  

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

Last Sacrifice (Vampire Academy, #6)

***If you haven't finished Spirit Bound (Book 5 in the Series) this review contains spoilers. I will not give any spoilers from this book.***

Last Sacrifice is the sixth and final book in the Vampire Academy series.  The story resumes with Rose locked in prison after being framed for a murder she did not commit.  The majority of the book is spent unraveling the mystery behind who committed the murder and why.  There were several surprise revelations as Lissa, Rose, Adrian, Dimitri, and Christian dig deeper into life at court and within Moroi politics.  I was completely shocked when the murderer was finally revealed.  The motivation behind the crime and why Rose was framed was equally as twisted, but it all made sense in retrospect.

In addition to solving the murder, Rose is determined to help Lissa carry on her family's Royal tradition.  She must find Lissa's only remaining relative in order for the Dragomir family to reclaim their spot on the council.  Sleep becomes an impossibility as spirit walkers constantly plague her dreams to help solve the mystery behind Queen Tatiana's note.

I was happy with how things ended for everyone except Adrian.  He is my favorite character in the series, so it hurt to see that he was the only character that didn't receive a happily ever after.  On a positive note, I have heard that he has an even larger role in the Bloodlines series.  I can't imagine what direction the spin off series will take, but I am excited to find out.  Hopefully things will turn around for him and we will get to check in on some of our other favorite characters along the way.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: The Heir by Kiera Cass

The Heir (The Selection, #4)

I was elated when Kiera announced The Selection series was going to continue beyond the initial trilogy.  Then she shared this beautiful cover and I was surprised to see that The Heir was a daughter.  I'm sure continuing the cover theme had something to do with this decision.  It also allows Illea to have their first ever female run selection. Thirty five men will be selected at random for a chance to win the heart of Princess Eadlyn.

Eadlyn grew up knowing she will eventually take over the throne.  She considers herself the most powerful woman in the country, which isn't perceived well by the public.  As a reader, I was very put off by her personality at the beginning of the book.  I couldn't figure out how the daughter of Maxon and America could turn out like this.  Her brothers appear to be very well adjusted and are loved by everyone, but they aren't next in line.  Apparently the added pressure has gotten the better of her over the years.

As the selection progressed, Eadlyn began to soften and we could see glimpses of her real personality.  The dates began to feel more spontaneous and energetic and didn't come across so much like work.  By the end of this book I definitely have a favorite, but I'm beginning to wonder if Eadlyn is leaning towards another character.

The last few chapters were a bit shocking.  Kiera left me sitting on the edge of my seat wanting more, which we all know will not happen for almost a year.  The selection is far from over and the additional drama that was inserted at the end was almost cruel and unusual.  The ending more than made up for Eadlyn's cold personality at the beginning.  I think she has a lot of potential and I'm hopeful she will be able to find a connection with someone that will rival the love her parents were able to find through this process.

If I were going to interview Kiera, the first question I would ask would have to do with the names she selected for the characters.  The majority of them have very unusual names or common names with unusual spellings.  Eadlyn, Ahren, Osten are a few examples.  I would love to know how she came up with all of the names.  Are these common names in another country that I'm just not familiar with, besides the fictional country of Illea?

Overall, this was an excellent addition to the series.  I gave it 4 stars and would recommend it to any YA fan.