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

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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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

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Book Review: Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

killer instinct

Title: Killer Instinct

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Naturals #2

Genre: Teen Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: 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?

killer instincy 2

The Review:

Considering that The Naturals was my favorite YA book of 2013, you can understand why I was so concerned Killer Instinct wouldn’t live up to my expectations. After all, the first book BLEW ME AWAY and it seemed like two outstanding, well-crafted novels in a row might be just too much to ask. So imagine my delight when I settled in to binge read Killer Instinct and it was just as AMAZEBALLS as the first one!

Both books in the series have been consistent with these attributes: fantastic characters who I want to learn more about with every passing page, an excellent and perfectly creepy perspective that takes you into the mind of the killer, a cool concept for a plot that is complex without being convoluted, and really interesting applications for each of these teenagers’ talents (which is my favorite element – it’s really neat to see how an analyzer, a statistician, an emotion reader, and a lie detector pull together their skills to solve crimes).

Barnes puts together these complex mysteries that somehow make you feel like your part of the story. I learned from The Naturals that, as far as suspects go, every character is fair game. It made the story interactive in a way, because with every new character introduced or new situation unveiled, I immediately had to reevaluate what I knew up to that point to try to figure out “whodunit.” It was written so well that I was literally suspicious about everyone! It makes these books so much more fun to read because I felt involved in trying to figure out who the killer was throughout both entire novels. The difference for this book is, while last time I was a casual detective, this time I was in full-blown Sherlock Holmes mode! It was so much fun to read, I can hardly stand it.

Part of why I think I enjoyed it so much is that I don’t get to utilize my freakishly honed detective skills very often (I may be exaggerating a little bit). You see, I’ve always been fascinated with shows like Criminal Minds, and love learning how crimes are solved, but I am usually too squeamish to actually sit down and watch them… pathetic, I know. In any case, The Naturals series provided all the same crime solving awesomeness, but without the gore (the visual stuff, anyway. I can totally handle the written stuff).

Overall, I think I’m in love… These books are self-contained mysteries, but there’s an overall arc growing between them that makes me want to pee myself with excitement over what the next novel might bring. I can’t believe I have to wait a whole year to see what happens next – this is seriously the biggest woe us book-lovers have to deal with, isn’t it? I can tell you one thing though, it will be well worth the wait!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes