Book Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The naturalsTitle: The Naturals

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: Naturals #1 (of more, I hope!)

Genre: Teen Mystery

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: 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.

The naturals

 The Review:

I want to start out by saying that I loved this book. It was intense, fast-paced, fascinating, and totally absorbing. In short, it had everything I’d hoped to find in a novel but with that extra-special something that turned it from great to phenomenal! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and was definitely a “drop everything until you finish it” type of read. I plan on recommending it as often as I can, and here are a few reasons why:

Concept: this was such a cool book! In a market flooded with protagonists sporting supernatural abilities, we forget sometimes how strong people can be without them. These teens can solve crimes by using different elements of observation and analysis, and I found the process by which they did this entirely fascinating. What’s more, there were different types of analyzers – the main character could predict with great accuracy by observing people’s personalities and tendencies, while other characters did things like analyzing emotion, detect lies, and (my favorite) utilize statistics and probability. They fine-tune all their abilities at a miniature FBI boarding school through case studies and simulations. I’ll say it again, it was fascinating!

Story: The book was composed brilliantly. It was essentially a murder mystery that took place over the course of a particular serial killer’s series of crimes. Every so often, we’d get a glimpse into the killer’s mind which majorly creeped me out and made the whole story more intense. I often see writers struggle to convey a well-rounded villain, especially when they’re presented in short snippets before each chapter. Barnes is one of the few I’ve read to not only nailed the creepy, believable villain part but did it without losing any momentum for the story.

Writing: there’s so many elements about the novel that I found clever, even aside from the things and I talked about above. Even the way the story was composed was brilliant – there were so many elements you could tell it took a lot of time and thought, and it came together seamlessly. Every scene had a purpose and added to the snowballing journey to one heck of an ending. I got so involved that I held my breath in places. What’s more, although I had dozens of theories, I never really knew for sure “who did it” until the end.

Overall, this has become one of my favorite books ever and I can see myself reading it over and over again in the future (even though I already know who the murderer is). I’m also planning on reading everything this author has published, as she’s quickly become one of my new favorites!

Recommended Reading: I’m going to suggest this one to any customer looking for their next great read in the teen department (heck, I’ll probably bring it up to people browsing in mystery and fiction too because it’s one of those books that has potential for wide audience appeal). I’ll especially be on the lookout for anybody who loves mysteries and shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds (or to people like me who have always been fascinated by those shows but are too squeamish to watch them). I can’t wait to talk to other readers who loved it to!

Other books you might like:


IMG_4201Days after finishing this awesome book, I was lucky enough to meet the author at the Vegas Valley Book Festival. She was awesome – taking the time to talk to me without being freaked out by what I can only call my “fangirl” moment. It was truly a privilege to meet her and she even signed the pile of books I brought her –including a beautiful new hardcover of The Naturals. And guess what?

I got one for you!

 Just click the link below and enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win! Some rules apply:

  • The contest will run for two weeks (until November 21st) and I will be emailing the randomly picked winner shortly thereafter. If the winner doesn’t respond to my email within 48 hours, I’ll pick a new one.
  • Please be honest – I will disqualify all your entries if you mark something you haven’t done.
  • I will be shipping via UPS, and won’t be responsible for anything lost in the mail (although I will have tracking, so I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that).

I’m sorry to say that this is a US only giveaway. I recognize that a good portion of my readers are from other countries and want you to know I appreciate you just as much as my US readers… I simply cannot afford the shipping.

Click Here to Enter!



Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

13514612Title: All Our Yesterdays

Author: Cristin Terrill

Series: Cassandra Chronicles #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: “You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain. Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

13514612 2

 The Review:

All Our Yesterdays seems to garner mixed reactions from the amazing book bloggers I follow. Because it wasn’t getting across-the-board rave reviews, I decided to pass on it. I have to thank the marketing team at Netgalley for putting it back on my radar, because I absolutely loved it! It had me from the first page, and I set aside all my other books until I finished it (which is a rare thing for me, as I usually have about ten different books going at once).

One of my favorite things about this novel (there was a few) is how well the story was organized. Everything unfolded almost effortlessly, yet I know it must’ve taken a ton of work. It flowed so well that I forgot to take notes for this post (which, with really awesome titles, I don’t need the notes anyway because I’m so fired up about them).  In my eyes, it was brilliant.

While the concept and world building were amazing, the real strength of this novel is in character development. Each character was distinct, vibrant, and written well enough to make me feel personally invested in their struggles. The range of dynamics she was able to get surrounding each individuals’ personality blew my mind. They were incredibly profound characters, and I guarantee I won’t be forgetting about them anytime soon.

Time travel is difficult to do well – there always seems to be several frustrating plot holes. If there were inconsistencies in All Our Yesterdays, Terrill hid them well within her explanations of how time travel works. Her concepts mixed with the clear, beautiful writing has me convinced she is a truly brilliant author – you can tell this project took a lot of thought and planning. Even though I read this as a free digital copy, I liked it so much I bought the hardcover the day it came out. I will definitely be reading anything she publishes in the future!

Recommended Reading: this book is fighting for a place in my top five favorite dystopians! Because of that, I plan on recommending it to fans of that genre – especially to those in the mood for something slightly different. Also to anyone wanting an atypical love story.

Thank you NetGalley and Disney Book Group for the chance to read and review this title!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes


Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Framable Book Covers!


 Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish once a week where book bloggers can network and find out what everybody else is reading. It is super fun, so if you haven’t participated yet you might be missing out! Of all the TTTs, this is probably one of my absolute favorites because I LOVE beautiful book covers. Most on my list are adult novels, but I could easily do a YA list with nothing but girls in pretty dresses. Incidentally, the insides of these choices were, for the most part, just as awesome as the outsides! :)

Top Ten Framable Book Covers!

A one

I read the entire series based off of this cover alone, and you know what – I loved it! Luis Royo is by far my favorite artist and I will read anything he does the cover art for!

A two

This is the cover for the fourth book of one of my all time favorite series. Not a lot of people know that Dawn Cook is an alias of Kim Harrison- I didn’t catch on myself until after about five years of wondering “Is Dawn Cook ever going to come out with something new?” Each book got better and better, and so did the covers (the originals, anyway. The new ones they are marketing this series with are painfully ugly).

A three

Yup, I totally picked this up based solely on the beautiful cover. I am glad I did, too, because it was a breath of fresh air in the urban fantasy genre.


Speaking of urban fantasies, Patricia Briggs is one of the best out there and this happens to be (after some serious deliberation) my favorite cover art of the series – although they are each beautiful in their own way – I could have easily included her more than once.

A five

 The moment I saw this cover I went “Ooh! I definitely want to read this!” To this day it is still one of my favorite love stories. I consider it a must-read for fans of the teen genre.


This is yet another cover done by Luis Royo and is simultaneously my favorite series by Julie E. Czerneda. Gorgeous! And intriguing…


I’ve come to realize that everybody pictures dragons in a slightly different manner. Whoever did the artwork for this series captured perfectly the way I envision them – this one’s the best.

A seven to

I wasn’t a huge fan of the original covers, but when they started re-releasing them with new artwork I kick myself for not buying them in hardcover. Beautiful art that captures scenes in the books with excellent motion and perspective – Loves!

A nine

Michael Whelan did the artwork for this series and, as I mentioned in my “Dragon Obsession – The Visual Files” post it is still one of my favorite Dragon artwork. I have tried to re-create it through several mediums but it never turns out quite right. Although it’s only been within the last few years that I’ve noticed the Dragon kind of looks like the giant cockroach alien on Men in Black…

A 10

It’s funny, when I first was considering this topic I figured more than half of the books on my list would be from the teen genre. It surprised me how many fantasy books made the list. In any case, of all the teen books out there this is my favorite cover. It saddens me because it was later replaced by one I don’t like near as well.

 Honorable mentions:

Seeing these three covers in my school library when I was 10 years old inspired me to get good enough at readings so that I could one day pick them up. I couldn’t possibly have a favorite cover list without including them!

What books made your list?


Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 Obscure Series in My TBR Pile! (4/16/2013)


Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish that allows book lovers to geek out about their best reads. This week’s topic is known as a “rewind” which means we all get to pick our category. I’ve chosen:

Top 10 Obscure Series in My TBR Pile!

It’s important to note my definition of obscure, here: it’s any series that I’ve never had anybody request or refer to in my ten years of bookselling experience, nor have I ever seen them in my blog feed. Despite that, these books somehow found their way to my shelf anyway and have all managed to survive at least five library purges. Unheard of doesn’t mean not good. 6 out of my top 14 favorite fantasy books of all-time could have easily been in this list ten years ago.

Here’s some title overviews:

#1 Aurian: To the city of Nexis, where Magefolk rule uneasily over a race of mortals, a young girl named Aurian comes to learn the magic arts. Her dormant powers are coveted by the corrupt Archmage, who intends to possess her. When she rejects him for a mortal, the enraged Archmage plans his revenge.

#2 Orphans of Chaos: For Amelia and her friends, the strict English boarding school she lives in is all she has ever known.  The sprawling estate, bordered by unknown territory on all four sides, is both orphanage, academy, and prison.  The school has a large staff, but only five students, none of whom know what their real names are, or even how old they are. Precocious and rebellious, all five teenagers are more than just prodigies.  Amelia can see in four dimensions.  Victor can control the molecular arrangement of matter.  Vanity can find secret passageways where none existed before.  Colin is a psychic.  Quentin is a warlock. And, as time goes by, they’re starting to suspect that none of them are entirely human . . .

#3 The Glasswrights’ Apprentice: A mere glasswrights’ apprentice must uncover an elusive brotherhood whose deadly venom reaches out to stain the heart of her guild, the heart of her family — and the heart of her king….

#4 Path of Fate: In the land of Kodu Riik, it is an honor to be selected by the Lady to become an ahalad-kaaslane-to have your soul bonded with one of Her blessed animals, and roam the land serving Her will. But Riesil refuses to bow to fate-a decision that may have repercussions across the realm…

#5 Son of Avonar: Magic is forbidden throughout the Four Realms. For decades, sorcerers and those associating with them were hunted to near extinction. But Seri, a Leiran noblewoman living in exile, is no stranger to defying the unjust laws of her land. She is sheltering a wanted fugitive who possesses unusual abilities-a fugitive with the fate of the realms in his hands…

#6 Touched by Venom: Desperate to find Waivia, Zarq and her delirious mother flee through the underworld of their land – from the Zone of the Dead to a sanctuary for outcast dragons, through discovery and persecution. Consumed with the desire for revenge, Zarq develops a taste for the highly addictive venom drawn from the dragons she has been taught to revere, and sinks into a realm of bizarre magics. Here, influenced by the divine grace of dragon memories, Zarq glimpses possibilities of revenge and social revolution. But to achieve them, she must defy not just the sexual taboos and patriarchal conventions of her society, but the Emperor who rules her nation.

#7 The Sword: Two men. One is a prince of royal blood. The other is a half-breed, part human, part elf. But the part that is human is also royal.Two women. One is a princess, pampered and protected. The other lives in the forest, the leader of a band of rebels. She too has elven blood. This is their story — the tale of love and hate, courage and cowardliness, and magic both dark and light.

#8 Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe: Halcyon Blithe, being a young man of good breeding and lineage as well as endowed with those qualities and abilities of a sorcerous nature and wishing to fulfill his full potential, is ready to assume his proper place in the world. He aims to seek his fortune among those who tend and sail the awesome nautical juggernauts-the dragonships. With this in mind, Blithe gladly accepts his rank as Midshipwizard and becomes a member of the crew who man the dragonships-vessels which harness the bodies and strength of living dragons with seafaring technology. Combining elements of Hornblower with Harry Potter, and Robert Louis Stevenson with Robin Hobb, Midshipwizard Halcyon Blithe is a nautical tale rich in magic and intrigue. A tale set against a panorama of fantastic naval battle as we follow the career of a young midshipwizard as he moves up through the ranks of His Majesty’s Navy

#9 Swords of Riverside: Welcome to Riverside, where the aristocratic and the ambitious battle for power in the city’s ballroom, brothels and boudoirs. Into this alluring world walks Katherine, a well-bred country girl versed in the rules of conventional society. Her mistake is thinking that they apply. For Katherine’s host and uncle, Alec Campion, aka the Mad Duke Tremontaine, is in charge here—and to him, rules are made to be broken. When Alec decides it would be more amusing for his niece to learn swordplay than to follow the usual path to marriage, her world changes forever. Blade in hand, it’s up to Katherine to navigate a maze of secrets and scoundrels and to gain the self-discovery that comes to those who master: the privilege of the sword.

#10 Stardoc: Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil leaves Earth and accepts a position as a physician at Kevarzanga-2’s FreeClinic. Her surgical skills are desperately needed on a hostile frontier world with over 200 sentient species–and her understanding of alien physiology is nothing short of miraculous. But the truth behind her expertise is a secret which, if discovered, could have disastrous consequences between human and alien relations..


Top Ten Tuesday! (3/12/2013)

a111Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish book blog. Since I love lists and talking about my favorite books, I decided to join in the fun. This week’s topic:

Top Ten Books At The TOP Of My Spring 2013 TBR list!

(drumroll please)

#1 Pure: I came across this book by accident while researching upcoming releases (I found the second one, Fuse, and was intrigued). Now I can’t wait to read it, and am hoping it’s as good as it sounds.

#2 Frost Burned: for as long as I’ve been blogging about the release date for this one, I should dang well be reading it soon. I just have to finish Fair Game first….

#3 Fragments: Partials was one of my favorite reads last year, and I am stoked to pick up the next one. I have no excuse why I haven’t read it yet.

#4 Eve & Adam: K.A. Applegate is the reason why I am so passionate about books. I was so enthralled with her Animorphs series as a kid that its sparked the obsession that I’ve built a career off of. Grant is her husband and the author of the popular Gone series, so I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing book (I hope).

#5 Dragon Keeper: The ending of Fool’s Fate was so profound that I needed a few months to let it sink in. Now that I’m done reeling, I’m finally ready to begin Hobb’s latest series. This is going to be so, so good!

#6 The Way of Kings: No matter what circle I’m in of book lovers, they all seem to agree that this is by far Sanderson’s best novel. Having read everything else he’s got (and loving it all) I am super eager to see for myself what all the hype is about. I have been recommending this to people without having actually read it – that is a mark of my confidence in my peers’ reviews. 

#7 Kushiel’s Scion: Kushiel 1-3 knocked my socks off, and this second trilogy following Imriel is going to be just as good – I can feel it! I tend to pick these up only when I need that guaranteed good read fix (this is why I am so far behind).

#8 Beyonders: I admit I tried this one already and put it down. Although Fablehaven is my favorite young adult series (besides HP), I just couldn’t get past a hippopotamus’s mouth as a magical portal. I’ve resigned to overlooking that the second time around.

#9 Spirit War: I loved the first three books in this series, and remember every detail vividly over a year later. These characters, this magic system, and this author are amazing!

#10 Stardoc: I find the idea of intergalactic medical care oddly fascinating, and I’ve been trying to get this one picked for my monthly Your Pick for Nik! feature. Alas, it hasn’t received a single vote, and I’m pretty sure I’ve nominated it the most times (figures). Come on, people! It promises so much world-building awesomeness how can you resist?

Of course, making this list I remembered half a dozen other books I really want to read… oh, the hardship. What about all of you out there? What are your top TBR books?

Niki’s Best Book Bulletin – Best of 2012!

2012 was a great year for reading! I fell in love with so many new authors and titles this year that a few have even made some of my other Top 10 bulletins. Here’s the best of the best in no particular order:

41Title: The Name of the Wind

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Series: Kingkiller Chronicles #1

Genre: Fantasy

Here you have it, my favorite book of 2012! One of the best books I’ve ever read, it has everything I’ve come to expect in great fantasy. If you haven’t read it yet, you are sorely missing out! Read full review

42Title: Partials

Author: Dan Wells

Series: Partials #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Chosen for November’s Your Pick for Nik! feature, I was surprised by how much this story blew me away. All of you looking for the next best thing since Hunger Games, this is the novel for you! Read full review

43Title: Succubus Blues

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: Georgina Kincaid #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

I’ll say it yet one more time: Mead is one of my favorite authors of all-time, and the Succubus series is the one that helped solidify that status. I love everything about this series and recommend it to fans of Patricia Briggs and Kim Harrison.

44Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Series: N/A

Genre: Fiction

One of the most magical novels I’ve ever read, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I decided to branch out of my normal repertoire to pick this up. It is a beautiful piece of work and one that I’ve been recommending to book clubs and fantasy lovers everywhere – it’s excellent!

45Title: Mistborn

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Mistborn #1

Genre: Fantasy

I can’t believe I waited so long to read this trilogy – it was amazing! Everything from the magic systems to the slew of memorable characters sent it to the top. Aside from all that, my favorite part was the ending – I’m still reeling from it months later. It’s a must-read for every fantasy buff!

46Title: Frost Burned

Author: Jennifer Estep

Series: Mythos Academy #1

Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance

A bit under the radar, this is a great new series that combines everything I loved about the House of Night series with elements of Percy Jackson mixed in for kicks. I enjoyed ever moment of it! Read full review

47Title: The Legend of Eli Monpress

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: Eli Monpress #1-3

Genre: Fantasy

This series is incredibly witty and original, and I still remember every detail vividly even though I read this one back in January. I found it delightfully entertaining and a great read for those of you sick of  the same old stuff. Read full review

49Title: Grimspace

Author: Ann Aguirre

Series: Grimspace #1

Genre: Science Fiction / Urban Fantasy (Space Opera)

This first book may not have been out last year, but the conclusion was and you’d better bet that I dropped everything else I was reading to finish this series! Read full review

48Title: The Last Stormlord

Author: Glenda Larke

Series: Stormlords #1

Genre: Fantasy

Again, one of my favorite authors, and this series was her best yet! Great world-building and lovable characters that make up a trilogy that I think should be among the fantasy greats! Read full review

divergentTitle: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Series: Divergent #1

Genre: Teen Fantasy

Literally the last book I finished in 2012, I stayed up an extra couple of hours practically dying with a bad cold to finish this. My only regret is that I’m almost finished with Insurgent and book three is no where on the horizon. It was excellent! Read full review

40Title: Kushiel’s Dart

Author: Jacqueline Carey

Series: Kushiel’s #1

Genre: Fantasy

Okay, I’ll admit, this one was a little hard to get into at first. Don’t let that stop you, though. It is one of the most epic political love stories I’ve ever read and it was also completely unforgettable!

There you have it – all my favorites from 2012! What were some of yours?