Review: The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Naturals

This was one of those books that just screamed, “Finish me, finish me!” And you’re like, “YESSS!” But then after you revive from book-hangover, you’re confused about what exactly happened and why you were so obsessed with it. The Naturals had such a captivating premise, but somewhere along the line, the plot went in a very weird direction, and I’m not sure if it was for the story’s best interests or if it was done solely for the shock factor. Also, LOVE TRIANGLE ALERT UGH.
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Mini Reviews: The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern & Turned On and Off

It’s December… which means time for some comfort reads, oh yeah! The great thing about the¬†Cat Who… series is that it’s like a neverending adventure that I can start and pick up whenever. And interesting fact: I started to collect cat-related things after starting this series – I even have metallic cat bookends, a motivational cat poster, glass cat figurines, and those cat-in-a-basket dolls! ūüźĪ

The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

Qwilleran is back in this second book in the Cat Who… series with a new assignment at The Daily Fluxion. This time it’s interior decorating, and obviously Qwill is just as outraged this time as he was when he got stuck with the art scene reporting last time. I think the plot in this one was slightly more complicated than that of The Cat Who Could Read Backwards because of the number of characters and conspiracies, but it never felt overwhelming. But again, the lack of explicitness of the action and the murder scenes is actually a bit off-putting for me, and the POW WHAM CRASH sound effects got a little boring. (I also read this soon after reading The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, so next time I’ll probably space these “cozy” mysteries out a bit more.) Yum Yum makes her first appearance in this one, so I’m very excited for the next book!

The Cat Who Turned On and Off

Qwill is doing a Christmas piece for Junktown, a rundown part of the city where antique dealers and collectors gather. He manages to find a new home in Junktown for him, Koko, and Yum Yum, but when he discovers that a prominent Junktown citizen had fallen to his death recently, Qwill had a suspicion that it might’ve not been an accident. This third book in the series also introduces Mrs. Cobb, Qwill’s new flirtatious and food-making landlady, who also shows up in later books. I didn’t like the plot of this book as much as some of the others, and I think it was because there were so many suspects and unpleasant personalities. However, Qwill – once again – is very fun to watch, and Koko and Yum Yum are quite the pair.

Review: The Summons by John Grisham

The Summons

Just-okay books are the hardest to review – I can’t muster up the anger or the excitement to talk about them, haha. The Summons is definitely not Grisham’s best work. It’s ridiculously slow-paced, and the plot and the characters seem half-hearted and distracted. This was a bus read though, so I might have had a lower opinion of it had I read it all in one go – but I ended up just thinking that it was an okay book.
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Review: Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Bellweather Rhapsody
I can’t really handle horror and scary stuff, but I don’t regret reading Bellweather Rhapsody at all. Racculia did an amazing job creating an all-star cast that is both witty and dynamic, and the interwoven plot lines are simply captivating. There’s so much going on in this book, but each story holds its own weight. This is a story that gave me chills and goosebumps, and I’m thankful everyday that I didn’t get nightmares after reading it. (And now I have to relive the story again to write this… eek!)Read More »

Review: Fever by Robin Cook

FeverThe characters in Fever ruined this book. Fever had an interesting premise that tied in medical and environmental issues, but all the characters were selfish and impulsive (maybe Cook was going for “realistic”? I don’t even know), and I felt like a helpless bystander who couldn’t do anything to rectify the many things that went wrong. It also didn’t help that Cook exposed the characters’ every single thought, since that just made me hate them even more. And even though the ending made me like the characters a teeny weeny bit more, it also felt rushed and unrealistic.Read More »

Review: Gemini by Carol Cassella


Gemini is a bittersweet blend of mystery and realistic fiction. Cassella deftly delves into two poignant tales that converge in the end to a truth that salvages both stories as well as both protagonists. Although I question parts of the plot and feel a bit unsatisfied with the ending, Gemini effectively evokes memories of childhood and the troubles of adulthood, tying together the past and present in a neat little package.

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Review: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Westing Game
How many characters can you fall in love with in a single book? SIXTEEN, The Westing Game says! The Westing Game is timeless and charming; Raskin has written a brilliant whodunit mystery that features a myriad of memorable characters and an exciting plot. This is my first re-read of The Westing Game in over ten years, and I still feel the same wonder and suspense as I did then.

Title: The Westing Game
Author: Ellen Raskin
Publication Date: June 1, 1978
Category: (Middle Grade) Mystery



Six families have been selected to live in Sunset Towers, a luxurious apartment complex situated at the very edge of Westingtown near Lake Michigan. With the death of Samuel W. Westing, the founder of Westing Paper Products, sixteen people among the families in Sunset Towers are named heirs. Dear Uncle Sam, through his will, urges the heirs to find his murderer; the winner of the game gets Westing Paper Products and Sam Westing’s $200 million fortune. In the frantic competition to find the murderer among them, the drastically different heirs also have to deal with their own personal conflicts. Things are not as they seem… Who will win the Westing game?


The characters in The Westing Game are captivating and dimensional, and Raskin brings out each of their personalities and quirks splendidly. The heirs include Jake and Grace Wexler and their daughters Angela and Turtle; Flora Baumbach, a dressmaker; Sydelle Pulaski, a secretary; James Shin Hoo, his wife Madame Hoo, and their son Doug Hoo; Dr. Denton Deere, Angela’s fianc√©; brothers Theo and Chris Theodorakis (but not their parents); Judge J. J. Ford, a female African-American judge; Crow, Sunset Towers’ cleaning lady; Otis Amber, a delivery boy; and Sandy McSouthers, Sunset Towers’ door man.

With this many characters to navigate through the story, it wouldn’t be surprising if some characters get bumped into the background. But that’s not the case here; all the characters grew on me, and I could sympathize with every one of them. They also grew on each other; characters who clashed at the beginning of the story slowly resolved their differences, and the relationship dynamics of unlikely pairs is an aspect that I looked forward to, a kind of happily-ever-after in its own way.

Raskin also spun a brilliant tale of mystery and deception. Although the mystery seems simple now because it’s a re-read for me, I can still appreciate how each stage of the plot is calculated and necessary to drive both the characters and the story. From the very beginning, Raskin is very forthright in revealing many of the secrets in The Westing Game, but because I didn’t know enough about the plot or the characters, her foreshadowing sparks a sense of anticipation and excitement.

Who were these people, these specially selected tenants? They were mothers and fathers and children. A dressmaker, a secretary, an inventor, a doctor, a judge. And, oh yes, one was a bookie, one was a burglar, one was a bomber, and one was a mistake.

In addition to creating endearing characters and an intricate plot, Raskin’s witty and occasionally droll narrative instills even more life into the story. The Westing Game brings together many contrasting elements of light and dark, young and old, and good and bad – a subtle sense of discord that is unexpectedly satisfying.


Re-reading The Westing Game was truly a win-win-win: I fell in love with the characters again, immersed myself in the intricate plot, and enjoyed the nuances in Raskin’s work that I didn’t pick up when I read it over ten years ago. And it’s really saying something about this book when I haven’t read or listened to The Westing Game in YEARS, but can still remember Turtle’s braid, the fourth of July fireworks, and Madame Hoo shouting “Boom!” If you’re looking for a quick mystery read with humor, suspense, and delightful characters, I wholeheartedly recommend The Westing Game.


Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie 
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a fun, stimulating, and intricate mystery with brief spouts of violent and aggressive tendencies, sibling warfare, and British postal history. This story has a surprisingly young protagonist for what seems like an adult murder mystery book, and that’s what made me pick up the book in the first place (AND the fact that Alan Bradley is Canadian, haha). I can’t wait to read more about Flavia de Luce’s adventures in the next few books.

Eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce is happiest when she’s reciting various chemical poisons, working in her own chemistry lab in her Buckshaw home, tormenting her two older sisters, or riding her bike (whom she christened “Gladys”). When Flavia overhears a peculiar conversation in the middle of the night and finds a dying man in the garden the next day, she has a suspicion that the two events are somehow related to the dead jack snipe – with a postage stamp on its beak, of all things – that the housekeeper found at their doorstep. Flavia’s stamp-collecting father is being accused of murder, and it’s up to Flavia, with her knowledge of arsenic, carbon tetrachloride, and other poisons and her penchant for snooping around, to prove her father’s innocence and solve the mystery.

I can’t help but compare Flavia, with her brilliance in chemistry and failure to understand familial relationships, to Sherlock Holmes. (This story is also set in 1950, so the sort-of similar time periods also make me want to compare the two!) Flavia is wise beyond her years yet filled with naivet√© at times, and this contradiction makes her unpredictable and fascinating as a protagonist; sometimes, I expect her to be an adult and understand everything, and then she reverts back to an eleven-year-old again with eleven-year-old thoughts. I can see why Alan Bradley chose an adult audience for this book though, because there are complex facts and nuances that younger readers probably wouldn’t pick up. And if I were reading this book as a kid, I’d be scared out of my wits at certain scenes – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie surprisingly incorporates some dark and malicious elements for a book with such a young protagonist.

The relationship between Flavia and her family is one that interests me a lot, because Flavia’s sisters seem to be unreasonably antagonistic towards her. This isn’t really explained in the story, maybe because from Flavia’s point of view, this kind of interaction is “normal.” Another interesting character in the story is Dogger, the de Luce’s butler-gardener-handyman-person, whose actions are just as unpredictable as Flavia’s, but whom evokes more sympathy due to his mental instability. There’s a unidirectional quality about the other supporting characters in that those whom have helped Flavia with parts of the mystery disappear into the background once they’ve completed their purpose, but at least these characters are dynamic and memorable during their time in the spotlight.

The mystery came together nicely, and was intricate enough to keep me reading. I especially liked the depth that Bradley went into with the plot, as this is a story that spans generations and time. And for the history nerds out there, there’s quite a bit of history about the British postal system, which also moved the story along. Oh, and speaking of British things: I usually get distracted by the accents (particularly the British ones!) in a book, so I appreciate how Bradley has kept the accents to a minimum in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie so that I could focus on the story instead of trying to narrate everything in a British accent in my head. (Which I have done for some books, shame on me...)

Overall, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie comprises of a young-but-old protagonist with a love of poisons, an intricately woven mystery, and a lot of stamps. If you like murder mysteries with a unique protagonist, or if you’re looking for something slightly Sherlock-esque, give The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a try!