Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

This book was an unexpected pick up at Book Expo America this year, and I did major fangirl flailing when I got my hands on a copy of it, because The Naturals was one of my favorite reads from early 2014 (click on the title to see my review!).

It was absolutely wonderful to get back into the lives of the kids in the special FBI program, and it was a little bit harrowing as well (I wouldn’t have it any other way).  Cassie is still reeling from the betrayal of their previous FBI handler, when a new character is introduced and is going to be taking over the training and responsibility of these talented teens.  Now, when this happens, it irritated not only the characters, but also me as a reader.  Why? Well, she basically limits any of the cool story aspects for the characters to do in the first few chapters before the narrative really picks up.  While I do appreciate that she is determined that the kids need to finish high school, is there really any way that these characters WOULDN’T immediately get a job at the FBI once they are 18?  I mean they already have clearance, work experience, natural talent…. but anyway.

Once the story really gets going the novel is hard to put down.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was better than the first installment, but it is definitely close.  There is a large amount of suspense and misdirection that happens when the teens get too caught up in the case, and there is definitely some scary moments where some lives are held in the balance. I can’t imagine how painful this novel would have been had the narrator been Dean instead of Cassie, but again, he isn’t a character who would really provide a lot of clarity in narration, as he tends to be a little hard to crack.

The love triangle, of course, makes an appearance–but I honestly don’t know who I would want Cassie to choose between Dean and Mike.  They both have a lot of flaws and emotional baggage, not to mention Cassie’s own issues with what happened to her in the first novel and how she was raised.  I think this is one of the reasons I love these characters and their story so much, because they are flawed and realistic.  Also: that twist! (I can’t say anymore!)

4 Bards!


Top 14 of 2014: Day 1



Instead of taking a week off after the Christmas holiday like I have every year since A Midsummer Night’s Read opened, I am joining forces with Krista from Krista’s Dust Jacket and Kim from Kimberly Faye Reads to host a Top 14 of 2014 meme!

 Not only are you able to participate in this meme, but we will each be hosting giveaways on our blogs including extra entries if you participate and add to our links! Feel free to use the graphic above in your posts.

Today’s topic is:

Top 14 New-to-You Authors

1. Cheryl Strayed: Author of Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, and the non-fiction book, Wild, which has been adapted to a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

2. Meg Wolitzer: Author of Belzhar, her first Young Adult novel. Wolitzer has written a lot of Fiction but I fell in love with her first foray into the YA genre, and hope she keeps bringing her talent to teens!

3. Morgan Matson/Katie Finn: My praise is definitely a double edged sword here, because I absolutely adored Matson’s novel Since You’ve Been Gone, but I really wasn’t happy with her pseudonym’s novel, Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend.

4. Rachel Hawkins: Evidently I’ve missed out on some good novels by not reading Hawkins’ work until this year, but I read Rebel Belle and fell in love.

5. Jennifer Lynn Barnes: Another author that I had never read before this year, but I fell in love with The Naturals (which I read in 2014) and managed to get my hands on the sequel. I don’t know if I’ll check out her supernatural series, but I really do love her Criminal Minds-eque series and hope it keeps going!

6. Jennifer Armentrout: I should just label the middle of this list as the authors I regret ignoring until 2014.  I still have only read one of her novels, Don’t Look Back, but I went ahead and bought a few more of her novels to read for 2015!

7. Amy Ewing: Ewing’s debut, The Jewel, was definitely one of the best novels I read this year. It was also her debut novel, so she really should be on everyone’s New-to-Me author list!

8. Ava Dellaira: Another debut author for 2014, whose novel Love Letters to the Dead, really exemplified how the grieving process can effect a teen.

9. Lindsay Cummings: So proud of this former book reviewer and now successful author! I’m not much for middle grade books, so I haven’t read The Balance Keepers, but I adored The Murder Complex!

10. E. Lockhart: I’m starting to get concerned for myself for not hearing about some of the authors on this list prior to 2014, but man, We Were Liars is now one of my favorite books of all time.

What are some of your favorite New-to-You Authors for 2014?  Be sure to join our meme!

 Tomorrow’s topic: Top 14 Moments or Quotes from Books


Top Ten Tuesday



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books on my Fall TBR List

1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

2. Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

3. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

4. Talon by Julie Kagawa

5. Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

6. Inland by Kat Rosenfield

7. Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

8. Blackbird by Anna Carey

9. Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

10. Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Authors I’ve only read one book from but NEED to read more

1. Jennifer Echols
Such a Rush is on my favorites bookshelf and I own a few more of her books, but I always get distracted reading other books. I need to get on this!

2. Ava Dellaira
-It will be a little hard for me to read another book by Dellaira when she hasn’t published any more than Love Letters to the Dead. But believe that I will be stalking the shelves for another book by her.

3. Markus Zusak
– I think part of my reason for not reading more of Zusak’s work is due to the fact that I love The Book Thief so much, I just don’t want that reading experience and my idea of this author to be tainted if his other work doesn’t measure up.  I need to suck it up and read them anyway.

4. Laini Taylor
– Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of my favorite books the year it came out, and I own the other two books (such is the case for a lot of authors on this list) but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet!

5. Morgan Rhodes
-Oh, Falling Kingdoms, what an excellent example of high fantasy you are in the young adult genre.  I own the second book and already have the third on pre-order. So what am I waiting on?

6. Jeffrey Eugenides
The Virgin Suicides is an amazing novel and it really was the first book I read that showcased what depression and isolation can do.  After TVS Eugenides won a Pulitzer, so I definitely need to read more of his work.

7. Lucy Christopher
Stolen was an amazing book, and Christopher hasn’t put out a whole lot of work since then, but I need to read her other novels ASAP.  I can only hope they live up to the wonderful story and writing that comprised Stolen.

8. Alexandra Bracken
– I read and enjoyed The Darkest Minds, and I’ve had an ARC of Neverfade since BEA 2013, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading it. I need to do that since the third one is coming out soon!

9. Jennifer L. Armentrout
– Armentrout is a big deal.  I mean at Book Expo America she had about 4 different signing opportunities, and they were all for different books.  Everyone and their Mom was in line to see her.  So after LOVING Don’t Look Back, I’ve taken it upon myself to purchase more of her books, and I can’t wait to see what all the fuss is about.

10. Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Naturals was by far one of my favorite books of 2013, and I already have a copy of the sequel that comes out in November.  So I will read a second book by her, which I suppose is cheating, but I NEED to read it. Loved this story.


What are some of your authors you ABSOLUTELY have to read more of?

Vlog 2: BEA Wrap Up!

Sure, it’s a month later, but we still wanted to share our stories!

Top Ten Tuesday


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

1. Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele
I mean, didn’t you see this one coming?

2. Unhinged by A.G. Howard
I met A.G. at BEA and I may have fangirled a little bit. I want to get my hands on an ARC of the final book, or I might cry. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but still!

3. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
This book was super fun to read and I just cannot wait until more of the story comes out.

4. Uganda be Kidding Me by Chelsea Handler
Heck yeah, Chelsea. Always on my best lists.

5. My Best Friend, Maybe by Caela Carter
Beautiful story with LGBT and Religion storylines.

6. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Serial killers and super smart profiling teens? Yes. All it is missing is Matthew Gray Gubler…

7. Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
My first Armentrout novel, and it was freaking awesome.

8. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
I’m an Alice girl, but Paige has me almost on the Wizard train!

9. Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule
Beautiful story that reminds me of Phantom of the Opera. Pick it up!

10. A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Historical fiction, women’s rights, and a decent love story? Yes, please!


What were some of your favorite reads this year?!



Top Ten Tuesday



Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted for us book blogger types by the Broke and the Bookish. They provide a topic, and all of us participants post our answers on our blogs and we hop around checking out one another’s answers! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books to read if you like Criminal Minds

1. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

2. How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

3. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

4. The Game by Barry Lyga

5. I am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

6. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi

7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


8. The Girls of Murder City by Perry Douglas

9. Ten by Gretchen McNeil

10. Uninvited by Sophie Jordan



Book Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

I bought this book almost immediately when it came out, not necessarily based on the synopsis, but definitely for the recommendation on the cover from Ally Carter.  I’ve never read anything by Ally Carter, but she compared The Naturals to Criminal Minds.  With that comparison, I was sold.

So immediately when I started reading, I began to think of the characters in terms of their Criminal Minds counterparts, but this was a disservice to Barnes’ character creations.  Cassie, while a little bit clinical due to her natural ability, is still a very deep character with some painful memories that serve as her motivation.  I adored her character.

As for the other characters, I really hope we get to learn more backstory on the other members of this exclusive team.  Michael and Dean are especially intriguing.  Dean because of his family and Michael because he is legitimately the hardest character to read for Cassie and for a reader.  Lia mostly pissed me off because she was ridiculously full of herself.  Sloane was the source of a ton of laughs from me, and I really enjoyed learning all of her facts.  Sloane was definitely the female version of Dr. Spencer Reid.

Random side note: look at him: 

Anyhoo, back to the book, I definitely didn’t see the twist coming, which makes me love Barnes even more!  Because I actually tend to figure out a number of the Criminal Minds episodes before the end, and I really enjoyed being stumped.

I adored this book and I will be waiting on the edge of my seat until the sequel is released!

5 Bards


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