Thursday, December 18, 2014

Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct is the second entry in Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Naturals series. Cassie, a teenage FBI profiler, and her gifted companions are back with a new FBI handler and a case eerily similar to the murders committed by Dean’s father. The premise of these books is farfetched—teenagers with a greater, natural ability to catch criminals succeed when the traditional FBI has failed—but the books are fun, the mysteries intriguing, and the obligatory love triangle engaging. Because the books are ultimately mystery fluff, I had a hard time remembering what happened in The Naturals, but that did not prevent me from enjoying the book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Famous Last Words

Willa invites the supernatural into her life when she tries to contact her deceased father. The other -worldly visitations increase when she moves into the former home of a late Hollywood actress. At the same time, a serial killer is recreating death scenes from famous movies, and Willa’s lab partner is obsessed with the murders. Famous Last Words is a fun, fast, and entertaining read for anyone who is a fan of thrillers and Young Adult novels.

Seven Houses: A Novel

Seven Houses: A Novel was recommended to me as a must read for anyone with a love for or connection with Turkey. Seven Houses is a beautifully written, literary novel, and I agree with the recommendation. The premise of the novel is that the seven houses, located in Turkey throughout the 20th century, have a soul and a connection to the inhabitants and their stories. The idea of the houses speaking for the family is interesting but not necessary and sometimes a clunky tool. It should also be noted that the family featured in the story is representative of the Turkish secular ideal, so only portrays part of the population and does not address the reality of the much more conservative-leaning Turkish society of today. Even those that do not have a connection to Turkey, but enjoy well-written literary fiction, will enjoy this novel.


Jane is a modern-day retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. In this case, Jane is a college student that drops out of college when her parents die and she can no longer pay tuition. Instead, she takes a job as a nanny for a notoriously bad rock musician. Although Jane follows the plot of Jane Eyre, it is definitely no Jane Eyre. The book modernizes the relationship between Jane and “Rathburn” (i.e., sex) and, rightly, corrects the inhumane treatment of the Bertha Mason-inspired character. However, the story does not have the elegance, heart, or emotion of the original. Hopefully those that read Jane first will then want to read Jane Eyre and be treated to a real literary experience.

Sharp Objects

Gillian Flynn is a master at creating uncomfortable situations, and Sharp Objects is definitely uncomfortable. Camille Preaker is a reporter that is sent to cover the murder of a young girl in her hometown. Camille is alienated from her Southern Belle mother and younger half-sister but returns home to research the murders. Camille makes some very stupid decisions and the plot is rather predictable, but the writing and story are interesting, engrossing, and uncomfortable. If you can handle the discomfort and enjoyed Gone Girl, you will like this book.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Auggie has a cocktail of genetic disorders that affects his facial features. After years of homeschooling, his parents decide to send him to school with other children. Wonder shares Auggie’s story from multiple perspectives: Auggie, his older sister, and several classmates.

This young adult novel is engaging. However, I read the book as an adult and mother. I was moved by the experience of Via, Auggie’s sister. As the healthy child, she has had to sacrifice her parents’ time and attention to her younger brother. I felt emotional reading about Auggie’s genetic disorders since I also unknowingly passed on a genetic disease to my own children.

I wonder, though, how a child or teen would react to this book. Would they be as repulsed by Auggie as his classmates are? Would they develop empathy from reading the book? Would they relate to Via’s position? Or is this really a book for adults?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Naturals

Cassie is a natural profiler, learning to read people from her “psychic” mother. After her mother disappears and is presumed dead, Cassie moves in with her paternal grandmother but never feels like she belongs with the large Italian family. When she’s approached by another “natural” to join a small group of teens trained by the FBI to solve cold cases, she jumps at the change, hoping to solve her own mother’s cold case. The book introduces four naturals besides Cassie, prepping for a series of books featuring the agents-in-training.

The Naturals is a fast and enjoyable read. It is similar to watching a procedural drama on television and certainly does not tax the brain, but pleasure reading should be just that—pleasurable.

The Small Hand and Dolly

The best way to describe Susan Hill’s novellas The Small Hand and Dolly is moody. Hill does an excellent job of creating an unsettling mood in both stories. In one, a rare book seller is haunted by the feel of an invisible, small hand in his. In the second, two cousins are haunted by a childhood experience with a porcelain doll. As I read the stories, I could imagine them as chilling movies that would make the audience edgy with suspense.

 Unfortunately, mood is not enough. The stories tend to ramble and seem filled with unnecessary detail. Where the plots are going is often unclear, and the journey is more tedious than pleasurable. The novellas simply are not page turners, and I found myself plodding through them out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment.