Review of The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

theLongGameThe Long Game
By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Published: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Tess Kendrick, teen fixer extraordinaire, returns in a pulse-pounding thriller about a deadly conspiracy at the heart of Washington.

For Tess Kendrick, a junior at the elite Hardwicke School in Washington D.C., fixing runs in the family. But Tess has another legacy, too, one that involves power and the making of political dynasties. When Tess is asked to run a classmate’s campaign for student council, she agrees. But when the candidates are children of politicians, even a high school election can involve life-shattering secrets.

Meanwhile, Tess’s guardian has also taken on an impossible case, as a terrorist attack calls into doubt who can–and cannot–be trusted on Capitol Hill. Tess knows better than most that power is currency in D.C., but she’s about to discover first-hand that power always comes with a price.

My Thoughts:
There’s something about Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ writing that just pulls me in. I’ve read most of her published books and each of them has been a hit for me. The pacing is usually fast and they are exciting and often quick reads. The Long Game was no different. It picks up from The Fixer last year and though I did really like this book I think I liked the other a tiny bit more.

I wasn’t as invested in the characters this round and I think some of that was the absence of Tess’ grandfather. I loved him so, so much in the first book and her struggles with his illness really pulled at my heart. Once again the setting is mostly in the posh Hardwicke School and mysteries and backstabbing abound. It’s really fascinating how many twists and turns are in these books and really it makes reading them so much fun. I caught a couple of the twists but others totally blind-sided me.

Most of the same characters are back for this sequel and we do learn more about some of them (like Henry) and get a better sense of what makes them who they are. I love Asher and his sense of humor. His lightness and flippant attitude really helped to relieve a good amount of the tension for me.

Once again the novel plays on the political schemes within Hardwicke and also in the political realm in Washington. I love how it Barnes focused on both and often they are interwoven. Tess was still a champion for those that need are under-voiced or afraid to stand up for themselves. I felt that the plot was a bit more refined this time and that the major mysteries were more focused in on.

With all the twists this book was very much a thriller and will have readers curious as to what could possibly happen next. The stakes are high- which I loved. You are never sure if everyone will make it out okay or not. This novel was very light on the romantic aspect which also might have pulled from the emotional bit some.

I really had trouble feeling any connections between the characters. I knew Ivy and Tess were working through things but I couldn’t feel it. That was my only real issue with this novel- I really wish I could have been deeply emotionally involved. Regardless, I still found myself eager to pick it up and surprised with how everything played out.

Final Thoughts:
Though I struggled feeling an emotional attachment to the characters I still found The Long Game to be a riveting, thrilling novel that kept my attention. The fast pacing and twists kept me guessing and eager to read more.

TLGPic

Review of The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

THeFixerThe Fixer
By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: July 7th 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

My Thoughts:
I have been a fan of Barnes’ books from before I blogged so anytime I see her name I know I’ll want to read whatever her book is regardless of subject matter. Her books aren’t generally my typical genre but I think she has such a fun, fast paced writing style that always has the ability to addict me.

For me, the main draw to this particular book were the characters. I thought that on a whole the main cast was so complex and well rounded. I will say that I had an emotional response to this story and to the main character especially. Tess’ grandfather was dealing with memory loss. My grandfather passed away recently and he was suffering from frontal lobe memory loss. It was so hard to watch (even from a distance) as he forgot how to speak so I could totally relate and empathize to Tess and her desire to stick with him and hide the truth. I think that this similarity between my life and Tess’ really got me off to a great start with relating and connecting to the main character. I immediately liked her and felt for her.

I of course adored Tess’ grandfather and each scene he was in broke my heart. I was incredibly moved at times and I think enough time had passed since my own loss that it was therapeutic in a way. We also get to know Tess’ sister Ivy fairly well as the story progressed. I found it incredibly interesting watching the two sisters work out their relationship problems. Ivy was a very interesting character because of her political clout and ability to get things done.

As you can tell a good portion of this book focused on family relationships. I really loved that and found that the growth between the sisters was really a highlight for me. I have an older sister so I can relate to Tess here as well. Granted, my sister and I aren’t estranged but it wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine what it might feel like.

There’s something about posh academy life that has always been appealing to read about so Hardwicke Academy and all the students captured my interest. Barnes played into some of the common stereo-types but I felt it was done quite well. Tess won me over yet again by standing up to bullies and being such a loyal friend.

Notice I’m not highlighting much about a romance- that’s because there really wasn’t one to speak of. This novel focused on those other relationships and the mystery and action side of things. Barne’s knows how to write an intense scene. Sections of the book flew by since I couldn’t stop reading. I was also unable to really predict exactly what would happen so that’s always a plus.

Final Thoughts:
I’m honestly not huge into political thrillers (I don’t think) but this book completely captured my interest…that says a lot about Barnes’ writing and characters. The Fixer had wonderful action, intrigue, relationship development and heart.

Review of Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Killer Instinct (The Naturals, #2)Killer Instinct
By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: November 4th 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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?

My Thoughts:
I was a big fan of the first in this series, The Naturals. As with the first, Barnes has written another compelling mystery that kept me intrigued once I got back into the world and characters. Barnes’ knowledge of cognitive thought and psychology was evident in her characters motivations and behavior.

I chose not to reread the first book and this caused me a tad bit of struggle in the beginning because I had trouble recalling the characters and their dynamics with one another. It didn’t take long though and I was back into the story. The last book focused on Cassie and the mystery surrounding her mother’s death and the journey to find the person responsible for the killings that were similar to how her mother was murdered. Killer Instinct focused this time on a copycat of Dean’s father.

Dean was an easy favorite for me in both books because I can’t help but be fascinated with his character. The idea that his father was a convicted serial killer was as sad as it was intriguing. In this novel we get much more depth about Dean and his father’s interactions. I thought this was the most fascinating aspect of this book and am so happy that Barnes explored this element.

Though the story focused a good deal on Dean’s past it was told again from Cassie’s view point. Like the first book, Killer Instinct had a significant focus on a love triangle with Cassie struggling between her two interests. This element did detract from the story for me but I’m glad to see that it looks to be coming to a close sooner than later. Though the triangle wasn’t my favorite aspect I could see Cassie’s draw to both Dean and Michael.

Each of the secondary characters were true to their character from the first book. Michael was the welcomed humor in a story focused so much on death. It’s hard not to love him solely for his witty dialog. The reader was given more insight into each of these characters and I felt that as the series continues we’ll continue to get to know them even more.

As with the first book we get small chapters told from the killer’s point of view. I love that these are included since we get to witness the psychological make-up of the killer. It helps to give hints into who it is and kept me invested and intrigued in the mystery.

Final Thoughts:
Killer Instinct was a fast paced mystery that was unpredictable and intriguing. I love Barnes’ use of profiling basics and her ability to keep me guessing who the killer might be. Though there was a love triangle I felt that the story was done well enough to cancel out that aspect and keep me loving this series.

Review of The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The NaturalsThe Naturals
By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Purchase:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

A copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
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.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

The Story:
The Naturals was a wonderful break from the science fiction and dystopians I’ve been reading lately. I loved the idea behind The Naturals, a group of talented/gifted teens are brought into a special division of the FBI to help profile serial killers. This idea is pretty far fetched…I don’t see the FBI utilizing teens in the near future (hey but what do I know?) but I loved suspending disbelief and imagining the possibility.

I went through a phase back in junior high (after watching Silence of the Lambs-entirely too young) where I wanted to know everything possible about serial killers. Less about the gore and crime scenes and more about the why behind it. What type of home life did they have? Was there anything someone could have done to prevent them from becoming a monster? I was fascinated and terrified to read as much as I could. It was a pretty macabre interest that spanned into high school and I even considered studying criminology in college. I knew though that I didn’t have the guts or mental capacity to immerse myself into their brain spaces for a career so that idea died out.

Needless to say, I’ve read many profiling books and accounts of serial killers. I found Barnes approach to profiling and the grooming her main character was given to mesh beautifully with the things I had learned. I loved spending time in Cassie’s brain space as she walked through the whys and hows.

We follow the story through dual point of views, one from the main character, Cassie and the other through the eyes of the killer. This alternating pov helped to lead the reader in the direction of figuring out who the killer was along with Cassie. I’ve seen some readers finding it incredibly easy to pick who the killer is early on but I honestly did not.

I found the book to be fast paced and thoroughly entertaining (minus a couple of small issues that I’ll get to in the character section). Since this was the first in the series and Cassie was just being introduced to life as a profiler she was tasked with looking over cold cases which eliminated (for the most part) any details into active cases and crime scenes. Because of this the book is on the light side regarding gore.

As the series progresses I hope we get to see a much deeper look into the phycology behind the killer’s thoughts. Of course, this is targeted to a young adult audience so Barnes writes appropriately.

The Characters:
Warning to all of those readers that can’t stand a love triangle…there is one in this book. It was done fairly well and didn’t annoy me to be honest. Sadly, Barnes does fall into a few clichés with her cast of characters but they still felt genuine to me and I was able to connect with them.

As I’m trying to figure out what to write about the characters I realize I really don’t have a whole lot to say about them. The two boys Cassie can’t decide between are both likeable and Barnes does a good job giving the reader reasons why she would be attracted to both of them. Cassie was easy for me to understand and see the motivations behind her actions. I enjoyed watching her grow into her potential and following the story through her view point.

I think that the areas the characters were lacking, (such as-more history behind each of them and a fuller understanding of their gifts and how they came to be part of The Naturals) will all be addressed in future books. I felt that this first in the series set the stage nicely. though I do wish less time had been spent on a romantic plot and more on each of the characters back story and motivations.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I found The Naturals to be a really entertaining and fast paced book. I could have done without the love triangle but it wasn’t so bad as to detract from the main story arc. I am excited to see where Barnes takes this series and I hope she dives deeper into the science behind profiling and psychology in her future books.