ARC Review: The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

ARC

Written by: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Pages: 368, hardcover
Series: The Fixer, #2
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Book

The Kendricks help make the problems of the Washington elite disappear…but some secrets won’t stay buried.

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.

LetsTalk

What. Even. I don’t even really know what to talk about with this book because I felt like I was strapped into a roller coaster without my permission and just shot into space because Lynn though it would be fun. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t. I mean it was an amazing book, I’m so entranced with how realistic Lynn is able to make her characters react to things. But overall I’m just sitting here with this book in my lap and staring at the pages like I expected there to be a whole lot more words. More pages.

Like, dear lord, let me at least breathe while I’m trying to read. I’m really quite sure I didn’t breathe for a very good long portion of this stupid book.

Didn'tWork

Well there was that one plot twist I’m really angry over, but I really understood why the character chose what they did, so I’ll let it slide.

The biggest thing I want to talk about in this review is the ending. While I would’ve been okay with the ending had this been a trilogy, as of right now, it’s not. This series is a duology, which means this is the final book. But the ending of the book sets up for more books, it doesn’t tie things up. Is this because there’s no tying things up in a world like The Fixer? I don’t know. I don’t know if Lynn expects to get a third book or what exactly her thought process was. But I will say this, I wasn’t happy with that being the ending to the series. Not at all. So many amazing ideas went into this book and I just feel so unfulfilled that this is the end to the series.

 

DidWork


I touched on the characters, but I want to talk about it more, I’ve been told that Lynn has a psychology degree, and while I don’t know personally if it’s true or not, I do know that she has an amazing way with characters. The characters react, and interact so realistically that I sometimes forget I’m reading someone’s fiction rather than an account of real life. I’m just so thrilled with everything in this novel.

I loved how we have a plot for the book, but it’s also a large amount of over arcing plot from the first book. We have dynamics and shifting allegiances and Holy Plot Twist, Batman! I don’t know how one mind can come up with so many amazing wonderful things. But I do know I’m gonna be picking up more of Lynn’s books.

Pickup


If you’ve not yet read the Fixer series then I do recommend it. But I also caution you that if you aren’t okay with very open endings, you might want to hold off until we see if we get a book three.

That all being said if you want to help try and get a book 3 then I say we band together and let the world know #WeWantTheFixer3

Sondra

ARC Review: Run by Kody Keplinger

BookReview

Written by: Kody Keplinger
Release Date: June 28th 2016
Pages: 288, hardcover
Series: standalone
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BookBo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who’s not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents’ overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter — protect her from what, Agnes isn’t quite sure.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it’s the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn’t hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo’s dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and — worst of all — confronting some ugly secrets.

LetsTalk

As anyone who knows me can probably tell you, I live for books focusing on friendship, especially female friendship. While the book world has given me more of these stories lately (thank you, book world) there still aren’t nearly enough. So when I read this book’s summary, I basically whispered “thank god” to myself. And when I read the book itself, my heart basically turned into a pile of jelly and I cried a lot because the story was so beautiful.

Run is up there with Code Name Verity for me as one of the loveliest friendship love stories in YA. The POV is split between Agnes, a legally blind girl heavily sheltered by her parents, and Bo, who has a troubled home life and a bad reputation. Agnes narrates the past, telling the story of how the girls met, while Bo’s POV’s show their escape months later. Both Bo and Agnes have authentic and distinct voices, and I loved the ways they helped each other grow. Both Bo and Agnes feel trapped in their small town, and both know what it’s like to be boxed in by others, seen as a stereotype rather than a full person. By the end of the book they’re each other’s home and I cry a lot.

I can’t talk enough about how gorgeous this book is. Kody Keplinger builds this vivid rural setting and makes it feel so vivid and so suffocating. Bo and Agnes’s friendship is sincere and gutwrenching, as is their amazing development throughout the book. In addition, Kody Keplinger, like Agnes, is blind, making this a really important portrayal of disability in YA. Run is gorgeous, and a must-read if you’re interested in contemporaries that focus on girl friendship or accurately portray disability.

Didn'tWork

I’m starting to understand why Sondra has so much trouble with this section. I did rate this book 4.5 rather than 5, but that has less to do with any concrete issues I had and more with the fact that I save my 5’s for books I want to shout to everyone I ever met about, and this book isn’t quite that, although now that I’m writing the review I’m thinking it might be. I maybe would have liked more fall-out after the end (but I’m also fine with the way it was).

DidWork

Bo and Agnes are just 100% solid characters. They may seem like archetypes at first, and maybe they are, a little, but Keplinger’s writing fills out the lines and makes them so heart-achingly believable, and they don’t always make the decisions you would expect them to make based on their descriptions. And the character development! Agnes standing up for herself and actively pursuing her independence, Bo learning to run to people instead of just running away…it all felt so beautiful and nuanced and real. And I’ve already talked about how much I love the friendship, so I’ll just leave this here.

The pacing is excellent, and I love the format with alternating POVs. Agnes shows us a beautifully developing friendship and the frustration of growing up with such a limited future, and Bo’s chapter’s are basically a combination of tension and excitement and PAIN. I always felt like we spent just the right amount of time in one POV before switching over to the other. The book kept me waiting for the reveal of why the girls ran away, and when I got there it was worth the wait.

As noted before: Agnes is a blind character written by a blind author, and even though I don’t know enough to comment on specific details, I could absolutely tell the author understood what she was talking about.

Other things I loved: Bo’s bisexuality. The fact that Agnes has to grapple with her religious beliefs when she finds out that Bo is bisexual (because that kind of thing is rarely ever included, and even more rarely given the nuanced treatment it has here). Believable secondary characters. Poetry.

PickupPick up. It will make you feel things.

Sondra

ARC Review: Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh

BookReview

Written by: Julie Eshbaugh
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Pages: 384, hardcover
Series: Ivory and Bone, #1
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Book

A prehistoric fantasy—with allusions to Pride and Prejudice.

Hunting, gathering, and keeping his family safe—that’s the life seventeen-year-old Kol knows. Then bold, enigmatic Mya arrives from the south with her family, and Kol is captivated. He wants her to like and trust him, but any hopes of impressing her are ruined when he makes a careless—and nearly grave—mistake. However, there’s something more to Mya’s cool disdain…a history wrought with loss that comes to light when another clan arrives. With them is Lo, an enemy from Mya’s past who Mya swears has ulterior motives.

As Kol gets to know Lo, tensions between Mya and Lo escalate until violence erupts. Faced with shattering losses, Kol is forced to question every person he’s trusted. One thing is for sure: this was a war that Mya or Lo—Kol doesn’t know which—had been planning all along.

 

LetsTalkTo be honest, if I hadn’t read this book as an ARC, I wouldn’t be reviewing it at all.

There wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with it. The writing was solid, the setting was interesting, the characters were…characters. But I remember about an hour after trying to finish the book, I tried to find something that stood out to me, and I couldn’t. It all just felt very one-note, predictable, and generally meh.

Ivory and Bone is, as the summary says, basically a prehistoric Pride and Prejudice, featuring two clans with a dark history between them and the love story between two young people who begin with conflict but learn to understand each other. Everything about the summary sounds great, and there were some lovely moments in the writing, but something was just missing for me.

Didn'tWork

There were so many secondary characters, many of whom were only barely developed and whose voices sounded pretty much the same. There were so many times when I would see a name and have to flip back to remind myself who that person was. The secondary characters just did not make an impression at all.

I also found the connection to Pride and Prejudice very thinly sketched out and not all that necessary. There were some similarities–a new family coming into town, misunderstandings, the lovers not getting along at first–but honestly, most of those are present in pretty much every romance. Other times, it seemed as though the author was forcing certain scenes in just because they resembled Pride and Prejudice scenes.

DidWork

I liked the writing. It was lovely and descriptive, and made a very different world come alive to me. The second-person POV also helped to draw me in, even if the reason Kol is using it requires suspension of disbelief.

The tension and build-up of the story led to something very significant and not underwhelming, which I was worried about. The fallout from Lo’s actions made the ending of the story very interesting. This goes for the romantic tension as well, actually–even though I wasn’t too invested in the romance, I could appreciate how well it was built up. The first half of the book, at least, was pretty compulsively readable for me.

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It fell pretty flat for me, but I can understand why it might appeal to others. Your call, I guess.

Sondra

ARC Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

ARC

Written by: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
Release Date: June 7th 2016
Pages: 512, hardcover
Series: Standalone
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Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC!

Book
For fans of The Princess Bride comes the comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey.

Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger—and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong.

LetsTalk

Oh lord what to say about a book that you finished and almost flipped to the front to just instantly restart? What to say about a book that you instantly told your mother she had to drop everything to read? What to say about a book that you told your best friend to just preorder it and tell you thanks later? What to say about a book that you pre-ordered without even finishing half of it?

To say that I loved My Lady Jane is such an understatement I don’t know how to even properly put it into words. This book was everything. I laughed my head off, I freaked out and panicked, I fell in love with these dumb characters. I rooted for them to be happy, I strove to see the best in all of them. I shipped and cried and just everything was packed into this standalone book that held my ideal book.

My only real letdown for this entire book is that it ended. That there isn’t more in this world, that the authors aren’t writing more of these wonderful books in this wonderful style.

Didn'tWork

Prologue

“Hey Sondra,” I said to myself, over a year ago, “How about you include a what didn’t work section in your reviews so you’re forced to talk about bad things in books?”

“Jolly good idea, I do say!” I answered. Not yet thinking of the ramifications of those absolutely perfect books the ones that make you want to run out and buy fifteen copies to shove into friends hands.

Chapter One – Nearly Two Years Later

“Wow that book was basically the best book I’ve ever read,” I said closing my Kindle after finishing My Lady Jane, “Wait, how am I going to REVIEW THIS?”

I sat at my computer staring at the screen hoping that words would come to me, that I would be able to see past the gorgeous eyes of this book that undid my soul. That I would be able to find that one flaw, that one chink in the armor that proved this book wasn’t perfect.

“Well, hell,” I muttered, “It might as well be Brooding Ya Hero. It’s so perfect. How can I do anything but love this book forever?” I slowly took my Kindle back out of my bag, settling in with my blankets and tea, “Perhaps a second time I’ll find a problem. Yes. Rereading will help.”

And so the bookworm fell in love with the book.

THE END

DidWork

The writing in this book is probably the one thing that I talk about more than anything else. The authors often break into the story itself and bring up points, or just their own opinions, sometimes it’s things that just freak you out, often times it’s just to make you laugh. It was such a great way of writing this book that I couldn’t get enough of it. Then there was just the quite simple way the facts of the story was presented to the reader. It was brought with wit and humor and a lightness that perfectly balanced the harsh and often scary moments of this book.

The characters are the second thing, even though the narration around them is super light and humorous, the characters feel so real. They have actual problems, and they have actual ways of dealing with them. I loved seeing the romance between Jane and G. I wasn’t sure I would ship them at all at the start of the book, but by the end oh lord was I rooting for them.

I feel like I could go on forever with this book, but because it was just so vast and wonderful and amazing and beautiful I feel like you need to experience this book for yourself. I just cannot get over it. I don’t know that I’ll ever get over it. I want so much more from these three ladies together, and I’m so glad that I was told to pick it up, and that I threw out my entire TBR to read it as soon as I got it.

Pickup

As if this entire review wasn’t basically me answering this question: YES. YES DO IT.

Sondra