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Book Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Little White Lies

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: Debutantes

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

The Overview: Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother’s “society” might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father’s identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn’t expect to find is friendship, but as she’s drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn’t the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother’s glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer’s search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning. Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off. -Goodreads

The Reviews:

Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my favorite writers for her intelligent, almost interactive writing style. She’s an author I trust to take me on a wild ride and keep me guessing the entire way. Little White Lies had all of those great components (even if it was a little more lighthearted than I’m used to reading from her) topped off with some good old southern charm… and snark.

I have to say, the story took a while to get going. I never read more than the first one or two sentences of an overview (mostly to avoid what I consider spoilers), relying on author familiarity and friends’ endorsements to choose titles. As a result, I leave it up to the book to provide an inciting moment to kick things off… however, it took reading almost 20% of Little White Lies before I felt I had a grasp on what the story was supposed to be working towards (which is passable, but still a tad to long for my tastes).

Aside from the slow beginning, most of the book provided that addictive, engaging plot full of twists and turns. The basic idea behind the story was perhaps not as compelling as that found in her Naturals series (it’s a bit easier to feel suspense when you’re dealing with a multiple homicide story as opposed to a reluctant debutant playing a game of “who’s your daddy”), but as always, she found a way to make it fun..

The characters in this book were wildly entertaining, but I never really felt a connection with any of them. Their profiles were animated enough that they almost came across as caricatures than actual people (which upped the fun but lowered the substance). The main character had a good inner story, but she never really let down her tough exterior front to let the reader in. The Naturals series had several instances of deep character explorations dealing with motive (frighteningly poignant at times), so I think my expectations were inflated by how wicked cool I’ve seen her present characters in the past. Overall, they were good, but I think me wanting a little more was the biggest factor against my rating.

Series status: the Debutantes series is currently slotted for two books, and I’ll definitely be picking up the second one when it comes out (fall 2019?).

Recommendations: Little White Lies is a fun (I’ve said that word a lot this review) YA story about debutants getting up to no good. The shenanigans will give you a few laughs and the mysteries will keep you turning pages. It’s not the most profound thing I’ve read from this author, but it’s still worth noting if you like these types of books. :)

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Mini Book Review: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

bad blood

Title: Bad Blood

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #4

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The OverviewWhen Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

The Mini Review:

This book. This series. Is perfection.

Need more convincing?

Niki Reviews The Naturals – in which I gush profusely.
Niki Reviews Killer Instinct – in which the gushing continues.
Niki Reviews All In – in which I completely lose my shit.

Seriously. It’s my all-time favorite series. Read it.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Fixer

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Fixer #1

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: 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. -Goodreads

The Review:

I can’t get enough of Jennifer Lynn Barnes! Her books are smart, engaging, and so well constructed that she’ll always have your brain reeling. I read The Fixer (The Fixer series #1) with the hope that it would help hold me over for when Bad Blood (The Naturals series #4) comes out November 1st. And you know what? The Fixer completely satisfied my crime novel craving!

While The Naturals series is a YA version of the show Criminal Minds, The Fixer series is very reminiscent of Scandal (which I love). Tess, the main character, is thrust into a world of intrigue when she’s forced to move in with her “fixer” sister in Washington DC. Her involvement starts out minimal, but soon grows into something of epic proportions. The book has excellent momentum and pacing, and I found it super difficult to put down!

Part of that addictiveness comes from how well it’s written. Barnes is one smart cookie. With advanced degrees in psychology from Yale University, her smarts really translate to her stories – they are written brilliantly! She weaves such a compelling mystery that I spend the entire book analyzing every character to try to figure out whodunit. Barnes is so good at misdirection that I haven’t been right yet, but the beauty is that in hindsight all the clues were there to figure it out. I’ve never casually read a Barnes book and am always totally engaged/engrossed/enamored the whole way through.

The mystery was the funnest element of The Fixer, but I also loved the characters. If I’m honest, they were slightly more animated than real people, but that only made me like them more. One character in particular, Asher, had me busting a gut left and right.

Overall Jennifer Lynn Barnes is one of my top authors and current favorite to recommend. The Fixer is just one more example why I think she’s so brilliant.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

all inTitle: All In

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days. After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes. Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Naturals Series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes might be my favorite YA series of all time. I devour each new book with a passion I don’t experience often with books, having read so many. Here are just a couple of the many reasons why I LOVE it:

The concept!! The series revolves around teens who are ridiculously talented in certain areas useful to crime solving (emotion-gadgers, statistical-analysists, lie-detectors, and so on). What I love is that these talents are totally feasible (albeit rare), so it feels like reading about real-world superheroes. It fascinated me to no end to see their analytical skills put to the test. My favorite was probably Sloane – the statistician. She’s really quirky and endearing, but also incredibly smart, using numbers and statistics to predict where the killer would strike next, deciphering commonalities for whom the killer might target, and analyzing things like security camera footage to pinpoint criminals based on trajectory and all sorts of other complicated math that I only half pretend understand (;P). All In gave Sloane more of a spotlight and it was awesome to get to know her even better.

Basically, take these cool characters with cool talents and add to that a complex mystery, and I’m in love.

As if it wasn’t fun enough reading about these super talents, the mystery within each novel is what I think really draws me in. It’s nothing like those old Nancy Drew novels where the criminal is always the nicest persona in the book. In the Naturals series, the killer could literally be anyone, and Barnes does a masterful job of incorporating a lot of plausible misdirection to keep you guessing. When I read these novels, I always have SO MANY THEORIES about who the killer could be. And each new chapter gets me that much closer to figuring it out. It’s seriously the most engaged I’ve ever been in a book, making it also one of the funnest books I’ve ever read. Additionally, each book gets more complex without also getting more convoluted. There’s a different mystery in each novel, but they are all tied together by one big story arc (that’s also a complex mystery) which has gained so much momentum that I’m absolutely DYING to read Bad Blood (the final book in the series) which comes out November 1, 2016.

In fact, I think the reason I loved All In in particular was that it did an excellent job advancing the overall story arc while still giving me a killer mystery to help solve (I say “help” ironically… I didn’t do shit). All In also delved into a bit more background of The Naturals (the characters, as that’s how they refer to themselves) and you start to see even more how they ended up with such honed talents. Ugh, I really can’t say much more than that without dipping into spoilers, so I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, for any of you Criminal Minds fans out there, this is the series for you! This is one of my favorite books to recommend because 1) I love geeking out about it 2) it’s one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read and 3) I think it appeals to a wide range of readers. I call a lot of things my favorite, but I really, really mean it this time, haha. :)

 Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

bad bloodTitle: Bad Blood

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #4

Genre: Teen Fiction

Release Date: November 1, 2016

The OverviewWhen Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock. New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

The Naturals series very quickly became my favorite teen fiction read, as I was hooked right from the very first chapter (and have completely devoured every one since)! It’s just such a smart series – involving teenagers naturally gifted with different skills that make them ideal candidates for solving crime. Cassie, the main character, can accurately predict things about people just by analyzing their appearance and mannerisms. Each book was absorbing, intense, and entirely fascinating, and I imagine the final book will be just as amazing. You’d better believe I’m dropping everything to read Bad Blood the day it comes out! :D

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

all inTitle: All In

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #3

Genre: Teen Fiction

Release Date: November 3, 2015

The Overview: Three casinos. Three bodies. Three days…. After a string of brutal murders in Las Vegas, Cassie Hobbes and the Naturals are called in to investigate. But even with the team’s unique profiling talents, these murders seem baffling: unlike many serial killers, this one uses different methods every time. All of the victims were killed in public, yet the killer does not show up on any tape. And each victim has a string of numbers tattooed on their wrist. Hidden in the numbers is a code—and the closer the Naturals come to unraveling the mystery, the more perilous the case becomes. Meanwhile, Cassie is dealing with an equally dangerous and much more painful mystery. For the first time in years, there’s been a break in her mother’s case. As personal issues and tensions between the team mount, Cassie and the Naturals will be faced with impossible odds—and impossible choices.

Waiting on Wednesday
Hosted by Breaking the Spine

 The Naturals landed itself in the #1 spot as my favorite book of 2013. Killer Instinct was just as good, and I am simply beside myself with excitement for All In. I love the premise, I love the characters, I love the mystery, and I love the psychology behind everything. I’ve always been fascinated with shows like Criminal Minds and CSI but have always been too squeamish to actually watch them. The Naturals series satisfies all of my morbid fascinations, but does so with a charming YA flair! I strongly recommend the series – read it… READ IT NOW!

What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes