Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Image

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

April 25, 2017 Image

Coming Soon: the Midnight Jewel by Richelle Mead

April 25, 2016

Title: Midnight Jewel

Author: Richelle Mead

Series: The Glittering Court #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Release Date: April 25, 2017

The Overview: A refugee of war, Mira was cast out of her home country and thrust into another, where the conditions were inhospitable at best. In a life-altering twist of fate, she is given the chance to escape once more, and she takes it, joining the Glittering Court. Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. There, Mira finds herself subjected to persecution, not only from her fellow Glittering Court jewels, but from her suitors, as well—men she would potentially be expected to give her life to… -Goodreads

Nik’s Notes:

Richelle Mead has long been one of my top authors. The Glittering Court was the perfect cure for my Selection (the series by Kiera Cass) hangover. It had smart writing, girls in pretty dresses, and a fun dynamic between all the characters. Even though the story took an odd turn (for my tastes, anyway), I’m still eager to see where things go in the Midnight Jewel. The release date is so far away that I hope I remember all the things ha ha.

What books are you waiting for?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Con Academy by Joe Schrieber

Con Academy by Joe Schreiber

Title: Con Academy

Author: Joe Schreiber

Series: N/A

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: Meet Will Shea, a con artist who has bluffed his way into one of the nation’s most exclusive private schools. But Will isn’t the only scammer at Connaughton Academy—Andrea Dufresne is there too, and the ivy-covered campus isn’t big enough for the both of them. So they make a bet—and the winner gets more than just a high school diploma. In this twisty tale of secrets, lies, and deception—it’s hard to figure out who’s double-crossing who. May the best con win!

The Review:

I’d been eyeballing Con Academy since it first came out a year ago. I’m a sucker for mastermind conspiracies like Ocean’s 11 and White Coller and thought the prep school premise sounded like loads of fun. I was nervous to read it, though, because it didn’t get a lot of hype when it came out, but I still had high hopes.

Did it live up to expectations? Not really… but it was still a good read.

Just the title “Con Academy” offers a few promises, and although they were delivered on, I felt it could have been executed a lot better. My issue was with the cons themselves. I wasn’t expecting all master plans to be totally foolproof, but I least wanted to see a bunch that would hold up to close scrutiny. But when the main con of the story was so thin that it would only work on a complete moron, I lost a little enthusiasm. It wasn’t stupid, it’s just failed to live up to most other conspiracy things I’ve read/watched. This issue is why I believe the book didn’t get more attention on the blogosphere.

Oddly enough though, I still enjoyed the book. It was written well, had interesting characters, and a slightly less than typical love story. The first half also threw me one surprise after another, and in a sense that unpredictability factor is just as important as the cons themselves. Basically, all elements aside from the cons were well done and entertaining. I’d still recommend it because, although it won’t knock your socks off, it’s a quick, enjoyable read. At this point I’d definitely consider reading other YA works from this author.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Image

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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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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Book Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

Title: The Crown

Author: Kiera Cass

Series: The Selection #5

Genre: Teen Fiction/Dystopian-ish

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone. Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined. –Goodreads

The Review:

As a whole, I’ve had a TON of fun reading this series. It has that magical “it” factor that made me love the awesome moments with unparalleled ferocity while conveniently ignoring its rather glaring shortcomings… up until The Crown, anyway. Despite my love/hate relationship with this final book, I am genuinely sad to see the saga come to an end.

Before picking up The Crown, I read a review from a fellow blogger who bluntly called the book “silly.” I found myself bristling immediately – how dare she call any part of my favorite series silly? I mean, it’s not perfect, but there are so many amazing moments that surely it deserves better than that!

And then I read The Crown, and… I agree. The book was a bit silly.

As with the first three Selection books, the brilliant bits came pretty loaded up front with each girl’s story. The Selection was easily the best of America’s stories, and The Heir was the best of Eadlyn’s. While The Heir focused primarily on the romance and Eadlyn’s relationship with the boys (which is the magic of the story), The Crown focused more on politics, world building, and broader conflicts – all elements I’ve never thought the author handled particularly well. The relationships and interpersonal interactions are what make her series so special, and I found myself constantly wishing for the focus to turn back to them throughout. It left me wanting. Hard.

I don’t usually rant in my reviews, preferring to be more professional and subjective, but I’m feeling sassy today, so here goes… Also: Spoiler Alert!

Before I dive into why I found the final book so eye-rolling, let’s have some boy talk! My vote was for Erik to win right from the start, mostly because the relationship was organic and unforced, but also because Kyle seemed too obvious a choice. So, needless to say I’m satisfied with that outcome, but did every other relationship have to get wrapped up so conveniently? Come on! Where’s the conflict? One of them was gay, one of them wanted to pursue other things, one of them was suddenly afraid to be king, and one of them bowed out nobly so his friend could have the girl – there seemed to be perfect little solutions for every relationship. Even in amped-up competitive relationships, that’s just not how things work. I mean, have you seen how many rejected people on the Bachelor bawl their eyes out on camera after being sent home? Rejection hurts, and in a competitive setting like the selection, people don’t usually volunteer to “lose.” I think the contestants’ exits could have been a bit more dramatic had the author made the relationships the primary focus of Eadlyn’s struggles. Instead, she focused on a conflict with a bogus wannabe king and her dreaded lack of positive public opinion (get over it already!). I think it’s clear that I feel The Crown focused on all the wrong things.

And maybe it would have been okay had those other things been done well… 

I have such a hard time buying into a king and queen (specifically, America and Maxom, whom I thought I knew pretty well) being totally okay passing the weight of the kingdom onto an adolescent’s shoulders just so they don’t have to worry about it anymore. First of all, I never got the impression they were that irresponsible or selfish throughout America’s story. Second of all, that’s just not how things work. There’s no way the infrastructure of a royal house would allow for the royals to decide they just don’t want to do it anymore. It would garner way too much instability. I’ve heard of royals dying prematurely, by nefarious means or otherwise, but I’ve never heard of them quitting. Sigh… Cass’s world, Cass’s rules, I guess. It just didn’t scream well-thought-out to me. And don’t even get me started on the citizen “meetings”… ugh. And, to beat the horse to death, she didn’t have to fill the pages with all of those senseless conflicts if she’d just kept the focus on the romance. This is one of those books I’m rewriting in my head for sanity’s sake.

Anyway, it’s clear I’m a mixed bag of feelings with this last book, leaning more towards negative than positive. In all of the past books, I overlooked the things that could have been bothersome because I was enjoying all the other bits so much. In regards to The Crown, there just wasn’t enough magic to keep me occupied, so I got annoyed. The only reason for the somewhat decent rating is that I liked Eadlyn’s relationship with Erik. Overall, I will look back on this series with a mixture of adoration and frustration, but I just might try to forget how some things ended in The Crown.

 Other books you might like:

 by Niki Hawkes