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!

fourbards

Top 14 of 2014: Day 5

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Due to me pushing Save instead of Schedule, this post is a day late. So sorry! Hope you like it!

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 Favorite Characters

1. Meadow from The Murder Complex

2. Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles
Cinder has a lot of self doubt and hatred left from her life as a cyborg, but over the course of the first novel (the only one I’ve read so far) she becomes much more self assured and learns her true worth.

3. Morpheus from Unhinged
Morpheus is temptation, he is chaos, he is sexy as hell.

4. David from Rebel Belle
Much like I’ve mentioned before, David is the delightfully nerdy love interest in the novel, and he loves Doctor Who. I cannot stress how important his love for Doctor Who is to his characterization (not really, but I love him for it).

5. Nova from Nova trilogy
Over the course of these novels, Sorenson did an excellent job of making Nova more and more relatable as she overcomes her emotional past relationship and becomes a much more solid character.

6. Cassie from The Naturals series
She is basically a criminal behavior profiler like on Criminal Minds.  She has had an interesting past, including a character that wanted to kill her. She’s pretty awesome.

7. Death from The Arcana Chronicles
Much like Morpheus, Death is temptation.  However, he is more rigid, but still sexy as hell.

8. Clara from Winterspell

9. Laurel from Love Letters to the Dead
Laurel has a lot of flaws, and she isn’t the strongest character or person at the beginning of this novel.  But she grows immensely and I think that is why she became one of my favorite characters–her journey is amazing.

10. Bree from Loop
She can be a bit demanding and a little bit sarcastic. What isn’t there to like?

11. Britt from Black Ice
To me, Britt’s journey in Black Ice is a bit similar to Laurel’s from Love Letters to the Dead.  While she starts off as a relatively weak character that is hard to relate to, her journey throughout the story really just allows her to grow and flourish.  Plus, she is doggedly stubborn and I love it.

12. Mrs. Q from Belzhar
Yes she is a secondary character, but she knowingly gives these journals to the students she knows needs it the most. I would have loved to have her as a teacher.

13. Linda from Lies We Tell Ourselves
Linda was an expertly crafted character.  She is not only an outsider because of her race during desegregation, but she also harbors feelings for women that also put her outside the norm during her time.  She becomes stronger and determined. I’d love to read more about her and where she ends up next.

14. Emi from Everything Leads to You

memelistWhat were some of your favorite characters of 2014?  Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be just from books that came out in 2014, it can include characters from books that you just now read in 2014! Join our Meme!

The next topic is: Top 14 2015 Books on your TBR

 

Top 14 of 2014: Day 1

top14of14

 

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

memelist

Top Ten Tuesday

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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

toptentuesday

 

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

fivebards

Top Ten Tuesday

toptentuesday

 

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 Wouldn’t Mind Santa Bringing Me

1. Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano

2. The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

3. Pawn by Aimee Carter

4. Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce

5. Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

6. Control by Lydia Kang

7. The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

8. After Eden by Helen Douglas

9. Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin

10. Eat, Brains, Love by Jeff Hart

 

What books do you want Santa to bring you?

 

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