Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (196)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

So I was surprised when I woke up this morning to find snow outside my window. We are supposed to get 3-5 inches. I'm not sure how much we already have. Ugh. I was really really hoping that we wouldn't see this much white stuff till December. Oh well. Looks like I lost the snow contest at work :)

I haven't been motivated to read lately. I've finished about a book a week which is slow for me. I was busy with stuff for work so maybe that will change this week. The library's first holiday open house was a big success. I had fun teaching little kids and adults how to fold napkins and make nail polish ornaments.  I hope to have some pictures to share next week. We are definitely going to do it again next year. 

Books reviewed:

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Books read:

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

I liked this one but I didn't care for the strange dream segments in between chapters. It tied in with the story later on but I could have done without it because I found it confusing.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

I am glad I finally read this book. It takes awhile to get to the mystery so you have to be patient and enjoy getting to know Georgie and her friends.

Currently reading:

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

So far I like The Rosie Effect but maybe not as much as The Rosie Project. I reserve final judgment till I've actually finished the book :)

What I might read next:

The White City by Alex Michod

This is the book I drew from my evening book group's book exchange. I think it sounds interesting. It is a historical mystery set at the 1893 World's Fair.  I haven't read The Devil in the White City yet so I won't be able to compare the two. 

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham (reread)

I read this book years ago when it first came out and I have since watched the movie several times so I thought it might be fun to revisit the book and see how it compares to the film.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Review: Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: November 4, 2014

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.

My review:

It is no secret that I am a big fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's teen novels. I loved her Raised by Wolves series but I am enjoying her new contemporary suspense novels even more. Killer Instinct is a sequel to The Naturals, a novel about teens with unusual gifts like being able to profile people, read emotions from facial expressions, or tell when someone is lying. 

In the first book, Cassie joins the Naturals program and the teens help to catch a serial killer with ties to the murder of Cassie's mom. In Killer Instinct, Cassie is dealing with the aftermath of that case and the emotional trauma. Now it looks like someone is copying the murders committed by Dean's dad, the serial killer Daniel Redding. The teens are supposed to stay behind the scenes but they end up involved as things escalate and murders occur on a college campus. 

Killer Instinct is a fast-paced and suspenseful book. The serial killer storyline is well done. A lot of times I can figure out who the bad guy is well before the protagonist does but that was not the case here. There are so many twists and turns that took me by surprise. 

Even though this is a thriller, there are also moments of character growth. Cassie is still reeling from loss and learning how to relate to the other teens in the program. She also has to work through her feelings regarding Michael and Dean and her complicated relationships with her roommate Sloane and prickly Lia. Cassie wants to help Dean without causing him further pain. The author does a good job of looking at what emotional turmoil is involved when you have experienced such darkness. Dean grew up as the son of a serial killer and that haunts him. Cassie is haunted by what happened to her mom and the killings in the previous book. Michael, Sloane and Lia also have their own dark issues to face. Cassie may be the main character but the other teen characters are also well developed. 

I think fans of suspense would love this series. If you haven't already read The Naturals, pick that one up first since there are spoilers in this book. This series is not as gory as suspense novels written for adults can be but there are some dark themes (serial killers, descriptions of crime scenes and victims, etc.) so keep that in mind.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (195)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I can't believe it is already November and Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks. I've started listening to Christmas music too (though it isn't on the radio yet). This weekend was so cold and my parents even had snow at their house. Thankfully I didn't have snow where I live. We have a contest at work to guess the first day of measurable snow fall (on a day the library is open). The prize is a gift card to a local coffee house and I hope I win this year! I picked December 6th but I don't know if the snow will hold out that long.

We have our Holiday Open House at the library in two weeks and I am going to be trying to make various homemade ornaments this week in preparation for the program. I like to make crafts ahead of time to see if the instructions work. I also spotted a tutorial for nail polish ornaments which involves filling clear ornaments with old nail polish. I have lots of unused nail polish that I could put to use! I am also going to try filling some with acrylic paint.

Books reviewed:

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
Boomerang by Noelle August

Books read:

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I liked this suspenseful sequel to The Naturals. There were lots of twists and turns. My review will be up later this week.

Long Man by Amy Greene

This was a book I drew in my afternoon book group's book exchange. It was interesting but not as suspenseful as I had expected. 

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

I loved this book. I don't know much about Indian history but I found the Rani of Jhansi to be a fascinating person.

Positive by Paige Rawl

Positive is the inspiring true story of a young woman with HIV who was bullied when her classmates found out and how she overcame her painful circumstances to became a role model and spokesperson.

Currently reading:

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: Boomerang

By Noelle August
Published: July 8, 2014

Welcome to, the dating site for the millennial gen with its no-fuss, no-commitments matchups, and where work is steamier than any random hook-up

Mia Galliano is an aspiring filmmaker. Ethan Vance has just played his last game as a collegiate soccer star. They’re sharp, hungry for success, and they share a secret.

Last night, Ethan and Mia met at a bar, and, well . . . one thing led to another, which led to them waking up the next morning—together. Things turned awkward in a hurry when they found themselves sharing a post hookup taxi . . . to the same place: Boomerang headquarters.

What began as a powerful connection between them is treated to a cold shower courtesy of two major complications. First, Boomerang has a strict policy against co-worker dating. And second, they’re now competitors for only one job at the end of summer.

As their internships come to an end, will they manage to keep their eyes on the future and their hands off each other, or will the pull of attraction put them right back where they started?

My review:

Boomerang is marketed as a "New Adult" novel and I have tried other novels from the genre that I didn't like because they were so filled with drama. Boomerang is much lighter novel and I would say it is more similar to the romance novels of Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins but without the small town setting or strong secondary characters. The one thing that gives it that "New Adult" vibe is that Ethan and Mia are both in their early 20s and just starting out in their careers.

I enjoyed Boomerang because I liked the humor and I liked Ethan and Mia. They do have major chemistry. They also have issues to work through before then can move forward as a couple as well as dealing with the internship and the "no dating" policy. Ethan seems like a decent guy. He loves to teach kids how to play soccer and to encourage them. Mia comes from a weird but artistically talented family. She herself has a dream of making a documentary film about her grandmother, whom she is close to and who has dementia. These moments with family and with the soccer kids give the reader a chance to see that there is more to Ethan and Mia than the internship and their mutual attraction.

However I thought the internship scenes were kind of unbelievable. The CEO does not come across as a good businessman or anything other than the guy who sometimes puts obstacles in the path of the hero and heroine (no dating between coworkers, etc.) and he happens to look like Ryan Gosling. Then there is evil Candy who is portrayed as a cardboard villain until the end where she suddenly seems a little nicer. The secondary characters are not well developed at all but thankfully the novel makes up for it by making Ethan and Mia more likable.

I think that readers who like steamy contemporary romance and humor will find much to like in Boomerang so if the whole "New Adult" label makes you pause, ignore it and give Boomerang a try.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of Amazon Vine

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Top Ten Halloween Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top Ten Books to Get Into the Halloween Spirit"

Books to read for Halloween if you want something with more humor than horror:

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

This book has plenty of humor and snarkiness and I think fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would really like it. I love the tagline: "He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian."

Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins has a humorous and sarcastic writing style that works well in Hex Hall and School Spirits.

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins

I really liked Hex Hall but I loved School Spirits even more. The main character is smart and brave and funny.

House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

This reminded me of both Hex Hall and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. A young witch works on developing her powers while also trying to find a way to break a curse that killed her mom and other witches in her family. 

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Halloween is a big deal in the Harry Potter books and who could forget Nearly Headless Nick's Death Day Party?

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Vampires, werewolves, mystery and a smart heroine with a dry British wit. What more could you ask for? This book is great with a cup of tea :)

Books to read for Halloween if you want something a little scary/suspenseful:

Made for You by Melissa Marr

Someone tries to kill the main character in a hit and run but she wakes up in the hospital with the ability to experience the moment of a person's death when she touches them. Also there is a serial killer targeting the teens at her school and it is someone she knows...

The Naturals series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Nothing remotely paranormal about these books but they feature teens trying to solve crimes committed by serial killers. Some really chilling scenes especially when you get inside the mind of a killer.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

There may be some humor in this book and a fantastic Jazz Age setting but this is not one I could read in the dark. The killer is truly evil...and there is a creepy but cool book trailer

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

Another historical book with a serial killer and hint of the paranormal. I also wouldn't read this one in the dark...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell
By Ashley Weaver
Published: October 14, 2014

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim. 

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.

My review:

Murder at the Brightwell appealed to me because of the setting (1930s) and the way it reminded me of a country house murder mystery (where one of the guests is a killer) only set in a hotel. I also liked the main character although sometimes she came across as naive. 

Amory is brave and cultured and a little devil-may-care. She is the kind of young woman who attracts male attention easily and indeed both her husband and Gil as well as other hotel guests are drawn to her charm and beauty. While Amory is intelligent she does jump to some wrong conclusions and take unnecessary risks. In that way she reminded me of the heroines of Deanna Raybourn's novels and her impetuousness just adds to the suspenseful feel of the story.

There is some romance as Amory deals with her old feelings and "what ifs" for Gil as well as her feelings about her husband and marriage. This worked well with the story since Gil is a suspect anyway and I thought Amory's interactions with Milo were fun and added a touch of humor. If the romance subplot was fairly obvious and predictable, the mystery was not.

I enjoy historical mysteries and I particularly enjoy mysteries when I can't figure out who the killer is. The murder was not easy for me to solve because we see everything through Amory's eyes and the author does a good job of making multiple suspects look very suspicious. I didn't know who the killer was till Amory did and that was kind of fun for a change.

Overall I really liked this historical mystery and I hope the author will write more. I would suggest this novel to fans of Deanna Raybourn's books, the Miss Fisher mysteries (I've watched the show but not read the Phryne Fisher novels), and Rhys Bowen.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (144)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes
Release date: October 28, 2014

It's 1924 and there have been many changes at Downton Abbey since the family and their servants first welcomed us there twelve years ago. A generation of men has been tragically lost at the front; children are once again breathing new life into the great house; a chauffeur now sits at the Grantham dinner table; and skirt hems continue to rise.
Still, in the midst of all this upheaval, many things at Downton remain largely unchanged. Nanny still holds sway in the nursery, and there are still summer fetes to be organized, menus to be planned, and farms to be run.
This gorgeous book explores the seasonal events and celebrations of the great estate—including house parties, debutantes, the London Season, yearly trips to Scotland, the sporting season, and, of course, the cherished rituals of Christmas. Jessica Fellowes and the creative team behind Downton Abbey invite us to peer through the prism of the house as we learn more about the lives of our favorite characters, the actors who play them, and those who bring this exquisite world to real life.
A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey is packed full of exclusive new photographs, with a delicious array of traditional British recipes adapted for modern kitchens: kedgeree, orange marmalade, asparagus tarts, cream of watercress soup, Irish stew, lemon barley water, meringues with red berries, parmesan straws, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and more. From the moment when the servants light the fires against the chill of January, through the last family game of charades and the servants' Christmas ball, this magnificent book invites us to take part in twelve months in the life of Downton Abbey.
I think this sounds like an entertaining book and going by the description and past Downton Abbey books by the author it should have loads of beautiful pictures from the set. I suspect there will be some very minor spoilers for season 5 as well (mention of new characters, etc.). I am also intrigued by the recipes.

Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff
by Charles Carson, Butler at Downton Abbey (introduction)
Release date: November 25, 2014

The household staff of Downton Abbey carries out their duties with effortless dignity, finesse and pride. Yet how do they know how exactly to lay the table, when to leave the room to give Lord and Lady Grantham their privacy, how to care for Lady Mary's furs and which uniform to wear when? This recently recovered and fascinating staff handbook answers all of these questions and more.
Covering all the main positions of the Downton household—footman, lady's maid, housekeeper, groundsman and more—and with a general introduction for new members of staff from Carson the Butler, this book tells you everything you need to know about working below stairs in the grand estate of Downton Abbey.
I think this book sounds even more fascinating! I wish it was written by Mrs. Hughes though. She is one of my favorite characters from the show and I love her sense of humor.