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

DNF Review for We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

WellNeverBeApartWe’ll Never Be Apart
By: Emiko Jean
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher
Format: Print ARC

DNFed at page 50

Summary:
Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

My Thoughts:
I was initially drawn to the cover and typography of the title. Look how beautiful it is. After reading the summary I was positive I wanted to read this book. You have murder, revenge and the main character in a mental ward- all these things seemed like a winning combination for me.

Things started off very well- I really felt the writing was compelling and found myself loving the fast pacing. Sadly though, as I read on, I started to see where the story was headed. It seemed so obvious to me so I decided to flip to the end of the book and…yep…I was correct. I pondered if I should keep reading though I clearly saw the twist. I put it aside and haven’t picked it back up so I’m not sure I will.

I’ve read a few thrillers and so maybe that’s why the ending was so obvious to me? I’m not really sure. I think if you can read this one and not predict the outcome you’ll enjoy it and probably find it to be a very enjoyable read. It was just hard for me since it seemed so obvious and predictable.

Have you read this book? Did you find the ending to be completely obvious too?

Review of The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

TheCreepingThe Creeping
By: Alexandra Sirowy
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
Eleven years ago, Stella and Jeanie disappeared. Stella came back. Jeanie never did.

Now all she wants is a summer full of cove days, friends, and her gorgeous crush—until a fresh corpse leads Stella down a path of ancient evil and secrets.

Stella believes remembering what happened to Jeanie will save her. It won’t.

She used to know better than to believe in what slinks through the shadows. Not anymore.

My Thoughts:
First I must comment on that gorgeous cover. The picture doesn’t even give it credit to how absolutely lovely it is in person. I really knew nothing about this book other than the cover was beautiful and the title seemed, well, creepy. Sadly, I wasn’t blown away with this novel. The characters really were not a match for me, the mystery was a bit easy to solve though it was a highly readable book and I was inclined to finish it to verify I was right about my theory of who done it.

I’ll talk about the characters first since they were my biggest issue with this book. The main character, Stella, wasn’t very likeable but I didn’t really need her to be. She does progress and grow as the story proceeds and I did appreciate her self discovery and fearless endeavor to figure out what happened to her and Jeanie when they were kids. She was the least of my issues…my biggest problem was with her best friend Zoey.

I really, really disliked how Zoey treated Stella and I was downright IRRITATED any time she was in a scene. Her language, attitude, everything grated on me. I understand she wasn’t meant to be likeable or really relatable but she was the epitome of a mean girl. She refers to Stella as a ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ in what I’m thinking was intended as an endearment and her personal (I think supposedly feminist) stance on that language being thrown around. Regardless to why the author chose to use it I was bothered. I failed to see why anyone would want a ‘friend’ like Zoey around and why she’d be the most popular girl in school. I might be showing my age here but she seemed extreme in her meanness to what she called the peasants (all the ‘losers’ and kids that weren’t in her chosen circle).

There was a romance and I found it to be okay but no butterflies took off in my belly. There’s no love triangle so that’ll make some folks happy and there are some cute scenes between the couple. The romance was present but not overwhelming.

I never found this book to be overly creepy and though I read it at night it didn’t have me looking over my shoulder. It read more like a contemporary mystery/thriller (which I was thinking it would be more fairy-tale/myth/paranormal). So, perhaps my expectations were wrong and that’s why this one wasn’t as much a success as I’d hoped. I had a suspicion fairly early on how things would play out and though I hoped I’d be wrong I sadly wasn’t.

Even with these faults I did find the book to be intriguing and I did continue to read regardless of any problems I had. The writing was easy to read and the descriptions clear. And really…for an author to get me to loathe a character so very much (looking at you Zoey) that does take some intense writing skill. I will always prefer a book that gets under my skin than one I can easily forget or feel nothing towards.

Final Thoughts:
Though The Creeping didn’t work for me I could see how it would appeal to many readers because of the mystery, contemporary setting and fast pacing.

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 Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

SuspicionSuspicion
By: Alexandra Monir
Release Date: December 9th 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover
Source: Goldberg McDuffie Communications

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

My Rating:
star

Summary:
“There’s something hidden in the maze.”

Seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford has never forgotten the last words her father said to her, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

For seven years, images of her parents’ death have haunted Imogen’s dreams. In an effort to escape the past, she leaves Rockford Manor and moves to New York City with her new guardians. But some attachments prove impossible to shake—including her love for her handsome neighbor Sebastian Stanhope.

Then a life-altering letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor in England, where she quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind Rockford’s aristocratic exterior. At their center is Imogen herself—and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.

My Thoughts:
I have always loved Hitchcock’s 1940’s version of Rebecca. It had me at the edge of my seat and had such a great atmosphere and wonderful suspense. I’ve yet to read the book the movie was based on but it’s on that TBR wish-list I hope t0 get to. Anytime I see a YA that teases a ‘Rebecca feel’ I get really excited but thus far, none have been successful.

I had fairly high hopes for Suspicion though I saw some pretty meh early reviews. When I started reading I was surprised with how easily I was absorbed into the writing and story. I felt that I might just be the black sheep and come out loving this book. Or at least liking it more than others had.

This positive push lasted until midway through the novel. Once Imogen arrives at Rockford Manor I started to become bored. The entire pacing of the book slowed down though there was possibly more action and I believe it was trying to be creepy. Things were thrown in that I’m sure were supposed to have the reader feeling disturbed/creeped out or generally ill at ease but none of this happened for me. I didn’t really feel much of anything. The characters lost any semblance of personality and I had zero interest in the relationship between Imogen and Sebastian. Honestly, I didn’t care about any of the characters or feel that I cared about their outcome. This was such a disappointment since I felt the book started out pretty well.

As I kept reading things went more and more downhill. I will admit, I was tempted to DNF but there was something that kept me reading to the end. And ugh, that end. Let me just say–it was weak. Really, really weak. I felt the twist wasn’t all that twisty and I wasn’t blown away, riveted or feeling anything positive.

Suspicion had a supernatural twist that I felt was unexplored to the point that it could have been left out and not changed the course of the book that much. I wish Monir could have taken it deeper and darker. Sure, the author did give a tiny bit of back story and show a few instances of the power but it felt far too simplified for my taste. For me, when a characters source of information is derived from mysterious papers found or research in a book it needs to be handled with care and done extremely well. If not, it feels too convenient and like an easy (and not overly creative) way of moving the plot along.

Final Thoughts:
I felt that Suspicion had a strong start with immersive writing and plot but as the story progressed it lost its grip on me. The second half of the book felt disjointed, slow and any connection to the characters slipped away. Sadly, I can’t recommend this one.