This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate

Whisper to Me by Nick Lake [ARC]

Whisper to MeCassie hears voices. Actually, it’s just one voice. And because of this voice, she ended up breaking a boy’s heart. As Cassie reconciles the events of one fateful summer, she will come to a better understanding of who she is. Even if he doesn’t forgive her, at least she’ll know that she tried.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this book when I started it but I ended up really liking it. It almost reads like an A.S. King novel, but without the magical realism. Our narrator, Cassie, is very frank and informal with the reader. The whole book is actually an email that she’s writing to this unnamed boy explaining why she did the things that she did. Because of that there’s a lot of, “But you already know this, I just wanted to give you my perspective.” There’s a lot of her talking to “you” which I didn’t find that I minded much, but I could see it being annoying for some people.

I don’t know much about mental illnesses in general, but especially those where the individual hears voices. I thought that the book did a really good job of being educational in that way, though I have no idea how accurate it is. The characters are interesting and flawed and I liked that they all felt like whole people–not just cardboard cut-outs.

The plot itself meanders a bit, but it’s not supposed to be the focus of the story so it was okay. I thought the romance proceeded at a natural pace and never felt like it was being rushed. Cassie’s other relationships throughout the book were equally as natural and genuine.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book but I would save it for more mature teens as it really deals with some heavy (and at times dark) stuff.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Moderate. The narrator usually uses asterisks instead of swear words, but occasionally a swear word would crop up though I’m not sure if that was just because I was reading an ARC instead of a finished copy or if it was intentional.
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The John Cleaver series by Dan Wells

Hello everyone! Today I have a very special guest review written by my husband. Before we get into it I just want to say that while my husband likes to read, I have never seen him devour books like he did with this series. I think that really says something.

John Wayne Cleaver is a teenage boy with homework, a learner’s permit and a crush on the girl next door. And self-imposed rules to keep himself from slaughtering everyone on his street.

The son of morticians, Dan Wells’ sociopathic protagonist is fascinated by dead bodies and serial killers. He meets with a therapist to discuss what to do when he gets an impulse to kill a classmate or neighbor. But when an apparent serial killer begins to ravage the tiny town of Clayton, only one person can out-think the killer, and give in to his impulses to end the slayings.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, Don’t Make Me Kill You and The Devil’s Only Friend, John Cleaver plays the role of reluctant hero, and tip-toes the line between exacting justice and hunting down killers for the sport of it. In the process, he learns of a secret link between the killers, and becomes involved in a war thousands of years in the making.

23168838My Thoughts

I didn’t imagine myself loving a series with graphic descriptions of embalming, and gruesome scenes of violence, but I did. I enjoyed looking through the window of a character who’s mind works differently than mine. I rooted for John as he felt fleeting feelings of happiness and friendship, and wrestled with who he wanted to be.

I most enjoyed the first two books of the series. The supernatural elements in I Am Not a Serial Killer become gradually more of an emphasis as the series continues, and by The Devil’s Only Friend, John and the FBI are waging war against mythological creatures, and only John remains from the original cast of characters. I was most riveted when John was facing off with a single killer in his own neighborhood in Clayton, while dodging his nagging mother.

Overall, the John Cleaver series had me excited about figuring out what would happen next, and getting my hands on the next book as soon as possible.I don’t usually get as hyped about books as my wife does, but I didn’t know what to do with myself while The Devil’s Only Friend was on hold at my library. John himself is one of my favorite protagonists ever.

Overall Rating: 4.5, 4.5, 4, 4
Language: Mild (all)
Violence: Book 1 – Moderate to heavy
Book 2 – Heavy, with a rather unpleasant villain’s torture lair
Book 3 – Moderate to heavy, with descriptions of suicide
Book 4 – Moderate to heavy
Sexual Content: None (all)
Smoking/Drinking: None (all)

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes [Audiobook]

Cassie’s mom was murdered. Ever since then, she’s been living with her Dad’s family and trying to fit in. When she receives an opportunity to work for the CIA as a profiler, she leaps at the chance. Almost as soon as she begins her work for the CIA, a serial killer in the DC area starts killing women that either look like Cassie’s mother or were in the same line of work as a psychic or medium. Cassie demands to be put on the case, but the CIA says it’s too dangerous.

This was the first audiobook that I listened to on our massive Disneyland road trip. The narrator was okay. Sometimes her voice was a little annoying, but overall it wasn’t so bad. The characters were all very interesting to me. All five had an interesting skill-set and distinct personalities. What I didn’t like was the forced love triangle between Michael, Dean, and Cassie. I liked Michael and Dean as characters, but I didn’t particularly like them as people and I ESPECIALLY didn’t like either of them as love interests. I feel that this book could have been greatly improved without the romance element. The romance made Cassie seem a lot weaker than I think she actually was. She’s working on some tough stuff as a profiler but there were still times when she just seemed like a wuss.

My other issue was that it’s never explained to us how “naturals” come to be. Cassie’s skill is explained and Dean’s is too somewhat, but how did Michael get so good at reading emotions? How did Leah get so good at lying and discerning the truth? How did Sloan get so good with statistics and remembering facts? What makes some people naturals and not others? And why do naturals peak during the teen years? These are questions that would seem important, but were never answered.

I felt that the plot was pretty suspenseful. It kept me wondering nearly the whole time. I started to figure things out in the last few chapters, but I still hadn’t put it all together when the reveal came. I don’t read a ton of mystery books, but I feel like a good mystery book has clues scattered throughout that the reader can put together as the characters are solving it. I wish this book had a little more of that, but that’s my only complaint in the plot area.

Overall, the book was pretty good. I just discovered that there are actually two additional books after this first one: Killer Instinct and All In which comes out November 3rd. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll read the other two. I think I would if someone just gave them to me, but it’s not a priority of mine at the moment.

Overall Rating: 3
Violence: Heavy. A lot of gore, but not explicit descriptions.
Language: None
Sexual Content: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: None