The Friday 56: Bad Blood

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Maybe it wasn’t me…If I was terrified and fighting for my life, the first chance I got, I would go to the door.”

Unless I was looking for a weapon. Unless I had a reason to believe I could fight and win.

I finally got around to finishing Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s final installment in The Naturals series. Bad Blood pits an unconventional team of teens working for the FBI against a group of serial killers, resulting in a fast-paced thrill ride. In this excerpt, the protagonist is profiling a kidnapping victim in an attempt to understand the crime scene. Read my review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “When 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.
      The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.
      They’re being hunted themselves.

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Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Bad Blood
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals, #4
Pages: 384
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: November 1st 2016

      “When 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.
      The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.
      They’re being hunted themselves.

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“The smell of burning flesh never really leaves you. Ash scatters. Skin scars. Pain subsides. But the smell is always there.”

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Naturals series coalesces into a thrilling conclusion with Bad Blood. Cassie Hobbes’s world turned upside down with her mother’s gruesome murder. Years later, recruited by the FBI to be a part of a team of gifted teens that assist in the investigation of unsolved murders, Cassie has forged a new kind of family for herself. But the past refuses to let go and Cassie’s world is once again turned upside down when she discovers her mother is alive. Cassie will do anything to find the people who have kept her mother captive all these years including going toe to toe with a dangerous organization of serial killers who’ve be wreaking havoc across the country for decades. The hunt for answers will brings Cassie closer to her mother, but will also bring her and her team into the crosshairs of a group of killers who will do anything to keep their secrets buried.

What I’ve enjoyed most about Barnes’s series is how well she balances plot and character development. Hunting serial killers means the stakes are always high and sometimes they become personal. Much of Cassie’s motivation stems from guilt for having failed her mother in some way. These cases bring out the best in Cassie’s ability to profile the killer and sometimes even the victim, but they also have an emotional toll. In Bad Blood, Cassie is desperate to find her mother, but it may turn her into someone she no longer recognizes and cost her the people she’s found a home with. Of the five members of The Naturals, Dean Redding, son of an infamous serial killer, may be the most well-adjusted. The earlier novels focus more on his story and him having to constantly prove to everyone that he isn’t like his father. His relationship with Cassie is one my favorites in the series as the two of them play off each other so well. I missed seeing more of this dynamic and would have liked the author to show how both characters are learning to be vulnerable with the other despite their pasts.

Standout character for the second book in a row goes to Lia Zhang. Probably the most well-rounded character in the series, Lia isn’t always open to sharing who she is. In those rare moments of vulnerability, we see a girl whose been emotionally manipulated and who had to make tough choices at very young age. She’s adopted the art of lying as a means of survival, but this often means that even those closest to her don’t know her entire story. Michael comes from an abusive home and is more likely to hide behind a cocky smile than give any indication of what he might really be feeling. I wasn’t a big fan of the Lia and Michael dynamic, not because I didn’t think they were compatible, but because they quarreled more than they built each other up. I think it would have gone a long way to see these two take things slow (their history aside) and learn how to communicate in an open and honest way–not just for their relationship’s sake but also for their individual development. Sloane is used to being the odd one out and after the events of the last book, it becomes vitally important to her to feel like part of the team. Not just as someone who can crunch number or hack into an FBI secured laptop, but as a valuable member of this makeshift family. It is Sloane who I see as making the most strides when it comes to expressing her emotions in a group rapt with dark pasts.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s Bad Blood is just as compelling as its predecessors with dark twists that will keep the reader on their toes from start to finish.

4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: All In

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“Shall we role-play?” Lia asked. “I’ll be the actress. Dean can be the dishwasher from the wrong side of the tracks. Sloan is the mathematics professor, and Michael is the billionaire playboy.”

“Obviously,” Michael replied.

All In is the third installment in four part thriller series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I really like the ensemble of characters in this series and immediately bought the final book after finishing this one. Read my full review hereCover is linked to Goodreads. And Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

From the Goodreads Synopsis:

      “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.”

Special note: The Comment Challenge is back! If you’re looking for a fun challenge for the new year, consider joining us for January. Each month we’re pairing bloggers and encouraging them to comment on each other’s blogs throughout the month. Sign-ups for January will be open through December 26th. Click on the image to the left for all the info.

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

All In by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: All In
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals, #3
Pages: 378
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: November 3rd 2015

      “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.”

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      “You close your eyes and remember coming up behind her. You remember closing your hands around the chain. You remember her fighting.
      You remember the moment when she stopped.”

In All In, Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s third installment in her Naturals series, Cassie and the crew tackle another serial murder case, but the pasts of several teens come back to haunt them. Barnes writes very plot-driven novels that manage to be fast-paced and engaging, but also gives room for her characters to breathe. Sometimes a story focuses so much on interpersonal relationships that the plot takes a backseat, but Barnes’s ability to create a mystery that needs to be solved is what really stands out to me with this series.

Cassie, Dean, Lia, Michael, and Sloane are very different from one another, they all have individual hang-ups and there’s always that underlining conflict among some of them, but at the end of the day, they are willing to fight for one another. Cassie spent so many years growing up with only her mother to rely on that trusting other people and opening up to them is something she struggles with. Haunted by all the unanswered questions surrounding her mother’s murder, Cassie’s drive stems from the guilt she feels over her mother’s death and the belief that she can do something to make up for it. As the child of a serial killer, Dean’s whole identity is tied to what his father did. He constantly wrestles with himself over his ability to step into the mind of a serial killer and if this means that he’s capable of committing murder himself. If I have any criticism of this third installment, it’s that I wanted to see more of Dean’s character arc.

Of all the characters, I think Lia is the most puzzling. She’s less defined by her ability to spot a lie than her ability to tell a convincing one. She doesn’t give a lot away, is curt, and sometimes purposefully rude. I’m hoping the final installment introduces more of her past, which I believe will round-out her character more. Michael is a character that I find frustrating. In the first two books, I really found it hard to like him, but this novel really helped in resolving some of the issues I had with him. Sloane is the one character that I felt I knew very little about going into this one, but the plot hits really close to home for her and gives us a glimpse at this incredibly intelligent and vulnerable girl.

All In adds a lot of layers both to the characters and the overall plot of the series. The story is compelling and never suffers from unnecessary pauses. I’m really eager to see how the author resolves a really interesting storyline she introduces at the end of this one, but also a little afraid of where it might take these characters that I’ve grown rather fond of.

Rating: 4/5

★★★★

The Friday 56: The Long Game

The Friday 56The Friday 56 is a weekly blog meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. Join us every Friday and share an excerpt from a book you’ve been reading.

Rules:

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
*Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.
*Add your (url) post here in Linky. Add the post url, not your blog url. It’s that simple.

**Be sure to leave a link to your Friday 56 post in the comments!**

“We need the underclassmen,” Maya said. “They don’t know any of the candidates that well, so their votes are the most up for grabs.”

Emilia turned her attention from Maya to me. “You’re the freshman whisperer,” she said bluntly. “Any suggestions?”

First period didn’t start for another ten minutes. That was ten minutes too many.

“I’ll get back to you on that one,” I said. It was too early for this.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s The Long Game, the sequel to The Fixer, was utterly fantastic. This book ruined me emotionally, which I was not expecting at all. Though my heart broke a little, I have hope that Barnes will put me back together with the next book. (Is there a next book? I’m starting to panic because I think this might be a duology) In this excerpt the characters are discussing an upcoming class election. Read my full review here. Cover is linked to Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

      “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 firsthand that power always comes with a price.

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Long Game
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Fixer, #2
Pages: 360
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: June 7th 2016 

      “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 firsthand that power always comes with a price.

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“The closer you’d been to death, the easier it was to feel him breathing down your neck—and the necks of those you loved.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s political thriller, The Long Game, is jam-packed with action and plenty of mysteries that will keep you guessing throughout. The sequel to The Fixer, this novel follows Tess Kendrick as she continues to navigate the political landscape of her new school Hardwicke, while dealing with extremely complicated family relationships. In the first book, Tess was thrust into a world wholly unlike the one she grew up in. Her sister Ivy is a well-known political “fixer” and this coupled with Tess’s own drive, made her peers seek her out in order to fix their own problems. In The Long Game, Tess has come to terms with this role. She hasn’t gone so far as to offer her services to other students, but she won’t turn down someone in need. Tess is a character whose convictions motivate her to take on almost impossible tasks, but she’s smart and determined, making her a force to be reckoned with. Tess is also stubborn and unforgiving. Her need for answers sometimes makes her reckless and her defensive walls make it difficult for people to get close. After the revelation in the first book, Tess isn’t sure where she stands with Ivy. I enjoyed the progression of their relationship and look forward to seeing how it further evolves. Tess endures a lot in this novel and she comes to understand more about who she is and how much the people in her life mean to her.

Tess has inadvertently gathered a group of friends to help her in fixing the problems at Hardwicke. Vivvie Bharani went through terrible circumstances in the first book, but she’s finally settled in with her aunt and is never happier than when she is helping others. Asher Rhodes is the kind of fun-loving friend everyone should have. He’s loyal and funny and brings a lighter tone to the group. Henry Marquette is the most reluctant of the group. Defined largely by his unwavering principles and steady presence, Henry feels like the cornerstone of the group, the one that let’s everyone know when that their schemes might just be too crazy to work. Of Tess’s friends, Henry is the most developed and I think this is one of the reasons I like reading about him so much. He has a lot in common with Tess, both have been lied to and manipulated. They don’t easily trust, so the moments they open up to each other were some of my favorites.

The Long Game is filled with secrets and lies, unpredictable moments, and a twist that will have you screaming. I did not expect The Long Game to be an emotional roller coaster, but that’s just what it was. A thrill ride from start to finish, this sequel is sure to surprise readers and have them begging for more.

Rating: 5/5

★★★★★