Review: Killer Instinct (The Naturals #2) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

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Book Title: Killer Instinct
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA Mystery Thriller
Series: Book Two in The Naturals series
Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads
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?

With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review
I loved the first book in this series and I could not wait to start in on the second book. I was a bit worried about the second book not being as good as the first one. Sophomore slump and all that. I was excited to see what was in store for Cassie, Dean, Lia, Sloane and Michael.

Especially Cassie and Dean. Cassie went through a rough patch at the end of The Naturals. After Locke, after the bombshells that were leveled on Cassie I was worried. I was worried that she would spiral out of control like so many others would do if they were in a similar situation.

But I was also curious about Dean. We had learned that his father was in prison as a serial killer. Serial killers fascinate me and Dean being the son of a serial killer was really interesting. I wanted to know where it went.

So Dean was definitely fascinating in this book. The way he pulled away from Cassie and the rest of the inhabitants of the house was hard to read because they just wanted to help him, but he wasn’t receptive to their help. The interactions with his father were so fascinating, the interview had me hanging on every word on the page.

“Because if you’re a part of Dean’s life, you’re a part of mine.”

That, right there, is so very creepy. It’s the kind of creepy that could bring nightmares.

I did enjoy this book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the first one. I adored the first one, but I only liked this one. I wasn’t as invested in this one as I was in the first one. I will be giving it 4 stars. I am still excited to see where this series goes next.

Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

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Book Title: Gracefully Grayson
Author: Ami Polonsky
Published Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: MG/Contemporary/LGBT
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Book Link: Goodreads
Purchase Links: AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads
Alone at home, twelve-year-old Grayson Sender glows, immersed in beautiful thoughts and dreams. But at school, Grayson grasps at shadows, determined to fly under the radar. Because Grayson has been holding onto a secret for what seems like forever: “he” is a girl on the inside, stuck in the wrong gender’s body.

The weight of this secret is crushing, but leaving it behind would mean facing ridicule, scorn, and rejection. Despite these dangers, Grayson’s true self itches to break free. Strengthened by an unexpected friendship and a caring teacher who gives her a chance to step into the spotlight, Grayson might finally have the tools to let her inner light shine.

Debut author Ami Polonsky’s moving, beautifully-written novel shines with the strength of a young person’s spirit and the enduring power of acceptance.

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review
Well first of all, I didn’t even realize this was a middle grade book. Whooops! Even after I found that out, I still wanted to give this book a shot. There are so few books about transgender kids, and there really should be a lot more.

I wasn’t really into the characters. Grayson was the best part of the book and for the most part, I did like him. I enjoyed watching his transformation. I just wished there had been more about his feelings about things. I mean, near the end we finally started to see some real change in how he represented himself, but it just took a long time to get there.

There was an element of secrets in there that I was not expecting and it was the only time I was truly shocked by the events in the book. The rest of the book was very predictable. Add that to the overall blandness of the book, and you’ll see why I couldn’t enjoy this book the way I wanted to.

Grayson’s been living with his aunt and uncle since he was little. His aunt did not take things well, and I went from liking her initially, to really hating her for how she handled the whole thing. His uncle was awesome and I loved his uncle for how he supported Grayson.

Unfortunately, this book let me down in a big way. I don’t know if it  was because it was a middle grade book or if the lackluster character development was really as weak as I thought it was. Unfortunately, I have to give this book 3 stars.

Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer (The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer #3) by Michelle Hodkin

Book Title: The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: YA Mystery
Series: Book Three in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

Disclaimer: Library book.

Review:
So I was told, right before I started this book, that it was much different than the first two. I went into it not knowing what I was about to experience. 

By the time the 2nd book ended, I no longer trusted Kells, who worked at Horizons Treatment Facility. She had proven to be untrustworthy and when book 3 starts, almost immediately, I remember why I don’t trust her.

“Pain is just a feeling and feelings aren’t real.”
That quote stands out to me big time now, since I finished the book. Given everything that happens in this final book, that quote is really more of a manipulative statement that borders on foreshadowing. When I first read it, though, I got angry. Angry that someone would imply essentially, that pain wasn’t real.

Kells further proves her jerkiness by telling Mara that she can’t be fixed, she can’t be helped. No matter what Kells does for her, she is helpless. Kells mentions that she has spent years trying to help patients like Mara, but the significance of that statement wasn’t clear to me until I kept reading and learned more about Kells’ past.

I don’t think I even mentioned Jamie in my review of the first two books, but I quickly grew to love him in this book. He was a great friend and super funny to boot. Jamie’s response to swimming to a boat was priceless.

“Not it. Sharks, first of all, and second of all, sharks.”

Perfect response, and it’s a response that I myself would have had in the same situation. I don’t do sharks. Neither does Jamie, apparently.

We get more Stella too, which excited me. I enjoyed getting to know her better throughout this book. We find out what exactly are Stella’s powers when she is held captive by a man who has made his intentions to rape & kill her very obvious. That scene was incredibly intense, and I found myself biting my nails while reading.

I loved watching Stella and Mara talk about girly things like periods and tampons in front of Jamie. He made it so clear that the conversation was not enjoyable to him. Poor guy wanted to put the kibosh on it ASAP.

As uncomfortable as Jamie was with the period talk, he was perfectly fine with discussing sex. I’m guessing that’s just a guy thing, but anyway, he wanted to know if Mara wanted to have sex with Noah, and if she did, why hadn’t she done it with him. This is where Mara confesses that she’s afraid of hurting him. Not emotionally, but physically.

As this book continues, we learn Kells has a connection to both Jude and Claire. A connection I never saw coming. This connection stopped me dead, and I had a minor freak-out for about 5 minutes before I calmed myself down enough to keep reading. We also learned the truth about what happened that night at the asylum. Did Mara actually kill them, or was it someone else?

While all this is going on, we’re also seeing flashbacks to what happened previously to make everything happen in the present time. We learn more and more about what happened to Mara’s grandmother, and we find out what her role in all this was.

In the present time, we learn who else was a part of this crazy scheme and I cannot say that I was surprised by who it was. I had suspected it for awhile, even before I grasped the full truth of what craziness was actually happening. Up until this point I wasn’t sure what was going on or who else was involved.

It was words from Noah’s mother that actually hit me the most. She had some glorious words of wisdom that practically knocked me off my feet. Words that I think are important to all of us.

“Do not find peace. Find passion. Find something you want to die for more than something you want to live for.”

Mara also had some very interesting quotes that I thought were important to remember.

“The choices you make will change you.”

She chose to love Noah. Love is a choice, and despite knowing what she was and what he was, she chose him anyway. Choosing Noah before had already changed her, and choosing him again, would change her again.

There really wasn’t enough Noah in this book which was definitely a disappointment. I had fallen in love with Noah in book one and I had never stopped rooting for him and for Mara to be able to work it out despite all the odds.

“I love you. Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever. If I were to live a thousand years, I’d belong to you for all of them. If I were to live a thousand lives, I’d want to make you mine for each one.”

I didn’t love this book as much as I loved the previous books. I wanted more with Mara’s family, particularly her mom. So much was made about the connection between Mara and her grandmother. I couldn’t imagine keeping such a secret from my own daughter. It was difficult for me to understand that part. I will give this book 4 stars, as it was enjoyable, and I did enjoy how everything unraveled.

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird #1) by Claudia Gray

Book Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Published Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA SciFi
Series: Book 1 in Firebird trilogy
Book Link: Goodreads
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Review:
“The Firebirds allow me to travel through dimensions, but not through time.”

That quote above is a very clear and concise description of the Firebird and reading that was very helpful to me. So many science fiction books don’t explain things well, or if they do explain them, the explanation is overly complex and makes it hard to follow. Gray was able to boil it down to the basics which was great to see and it helped me enjoy the book more because I understood what was going on.
I was worried that this book wouldn’t work for me. I love parallel universe stories, but the cover of this book was so stunning, I was afraid that the book wouldn’t match the gorgeous cover. I am so glad to say that I was wrong, and really wrong. 
A Thousand Pieces of You is slow in the beginning and normally that would bother me a lot, but I stuck with it because I wanted to give this book some time to really hook me. Right around page 60, it really began to pick up and from that point on I was fascinated by the world, or rather, worlds that Gray had created in this story.
I don’t know which boy to trust at this point. I don’t like Theo all that much and I do like Paul. I’m just not sure if I like him with Marguerite. Marguerite is a bad ass on her own and I do think she’s in love with Paul and that he is in love with her as well. I’m just not sure if the book really needed the romance or if it would have been stronger without it.
“I fell in love with one Paul. I fell in love with his unchanging soul. Does that mean I fell in love with every Paul, everywhere?”
I do think Paul has goodness in his heart, but I think Marguerite is conflicted due to the things that happen throughout the book. Things that she can’t answer. Questions that plague her mind every single day. She begins to question what actually happened to her father. She begins to second guess everything that everyone is telling her, in every dimension.
A Thousand Pieces of You is a wild ride that will take readers on an adventure through multiple universes. I really enjoyed this one and I cannot wait to see where it goes next. 4 stars to this captivating book with captivating characters. I would completely recommend this book to lovers of science fiction.