The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on August 2nd 2016
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Who will be left after lights out?
At Cate's isolated boarding school, Killer is more than a game- it's an elite secret society. Members must avoid being "Killed" during a series of thrilling pranks, and only the Game Master knows who the "Killer" is. When Cate's finally invited to join the Assassins' Guild, she know it's her ticket to finally feeling like she belongs.
But when the game becomes all too real, the school threatens to shut it down. Cate will do anything to keep playing and save the Guild. But can she find the real assassin before she's the next target?
With a title like this one, I had some pretty high hopes. The Assassin Game is my first time reading a book by Kirsty McKay and while it wasn’t all I had hoped for, it was enough to get me to check out some of her other books.
- Mystery: There were times when I totally thought about setting aside The Assassin Game and adding it to my short list of DNFs. I admit, there were times when I was just plain bored. Things moved at a slow pace with this one. However, I could not stop reading this one because there were so many things I still needed to know. Yes, there was a killer in the game but there was also someone attempting to kill people in real life too. And let me tell you, I didn’t have a clue who either killer was. These kids were pretty ruthless and they each wanted to be the last one standing at the end of the Game. They were willing to do a lot of stuff in the name of the Game and it looked like someone was taking the Game a little too far.
- Pacing: I already mentioned this briefly but the pace of this one was ridiculously slow. I honestly felt like nothing happened for the first half of the book. The synopsis tells you about someone taking the Game a bit literally and trying to kill people but the first attempt doesn’t even happen until halfway through the book. The first half just focuses on Cate and her many romantic entanglements as well as the progression of the Game. I was extremely bored with that. Which brings me to my next point.
- Characters: I was not impressed with any of these characters. Cate, for instance, was immature and obsessed with the Game. I think she saw it as a way of fitting in which was something she had always been trying to achieve. She was the kid that wasn’t really supposed to be at Umfraville but since her family owned the island she got to attend the school. Everyone there was snobby and rich and she didn’t feel like she belonged with any of them except maybe Marcia and Daniel. Also, she may have considered those two friends but they were anything but. Marcia was self-centered and totally not there for Cate at all. Daniel, on the other hand, was completely obsessed with her. He was creepy. As for Alex and Vaughn, Cate’s other possible love interests, I wasn’t really impressed with either of them. Alex was the popular guy who was a total player but for some reason, Cate never wanted him. They hooked up once and that was the end for her. Vaughn was her childhood friend who reappeared after years and they immediately fell for each other. I didn’t really have any problems with the two of them together but I didn’t feel any sort of investment in their relationship.
- Writing: I wasn’t terribly upset with the writing in The Assassin Game but I was far from impressed with it. It was very stilted and straightforward. I felt like I was being told everything outright rather than having things shown to me through descriptions. It was a really dull way of telling this story.
Overall, The Assassin Game may not have a lot of pros going for it but it was an entertaining enough story for me. It’s not something I’ll ever re-read but it was a good mystery for a rainy day.
What others are saying about The Assassin Game:
Flavia the Bibliophile’s review: “McKay did an exceptional job at keeping me guessing until the very end, and I commend her for that!”
The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh!’s review: “Overall, this is a case of a fun book that would NEVER happen in real life.”
Novelgossip’s review: “I had hoped that there would be some originality in this one, but alas I was left disappointed and irritated.”
Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
Published by Hyperion on May 3rd 2016
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John "Smoke" Conlan is serving time for two murders but he wasn't the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke's new home and the only one he believes he deserves.
But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they're asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn't care that the "threads" that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name.
Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink's help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he's willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.
Elle Cosimano became one of my favorite authors with her Nearly duology (possibly trilogy?) When I first heard about Holding Smoke, I was extremely excited and immediately added it to my TBR. I got my hands on an ARC and I read it immediately. While it was very different from her first books, I liked the new direction her writing took.
- Characters: Smoke stole my heart from the very start! He comes across as a bit of a bad boy but he has a heart of gold. His circumstances were beyond crappy. He was not a completely innocent man but he was not as guilty as you’d first think. He had quite a few layers to him and I never knew what side he was going to show next. I liked that he was able to keep me guessing. As for Pink, she was a bit of a mystery. She came across as this badass female but she also had quite a shy, scared side. She knew when she could handle herself and she knew when she needed help. She and Smoke weren’t always good for each other but they worked past that.
- Story: The story was both a pro and a con for me. It was so unique and so twisted that I was kept guessing until the very end. Not only could I not figure out who committed the crime Smoke was in jail for, I also couldn’t figure out the exact nature of the crime Smoke actually committed. He was good at hiding things and Elle Cosimano is good at twisting things so much, you’ll never see it coming.
- Romance: Smoke and Pink didn’t have a traditional romance. For one, Smoke wasn’t actually physically there for most of their interactions. With his ability, he came across as a ghost to Pink most of the time. Because of that, their relationship developed mentally way before it did physically and I really liked that. They weren’t exactly a cute couple (they got on each others nerves quite a bit) but they had their own charm.
- Story: Like I said, the story was both a pro and a con for me and it’s actually the only con I had with Holding Smoke. I felt a little confused at times. Smoke’s ability was very unique but also very odd. I didn’t understand it all the time and some of the scenes when he was separated from his body threw me off. I think it was how they were written and how Smoke looks at things when he’s like that. It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just took some getting used to.
Overall, Holding Smoke isn’t my favorite from Elle Cosimano but it held up to my expectations pretty well. Elle Cosimano is a name to know if you are a fan of YA suspense. If you were a fan of her Nearly books, check out Holding Smoke. I think you’ll find you enjoy it.
3 winners will receive copies of Holding Smoke. US only.
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Zero Day by Jan Gangsei
on January 12th 2016
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Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping case of the decade. Addie vanished—and her high-profile parents were forced to move on.
Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a tumultuous first term. Then, the unthinkable happens: the president’s daughter resurfaces. Addie is brought back into her family’s fold, but who is this sixteen-year-old girl with a quiet, burning intelligence now living in the White House? There are those in the president’s political circle who find her timely return suspicious.
When the NSA approaches Darrow Fergusson, Addie’s childhood best friend and the son of the president’s chief of staff, he doesn't know what to think. How could this slip of a girl be a threat to national security? But at the risk of having his own secrets exposed by the powerful government agency, Darrow agrees to spy on Addie.
It soon becomes apparent that Addie is much more than the traumatized victim of a sick political fringe group. Addie has come with a mission. Will she choose to complete it? And what will happen if she does?
Zero Day is one of those books that automatically got added to my TBR when I read the synopsis. I didn’t care about other reviews, that the author was a debut, none of that. Suspense featuring the daughter of the President of the United States who also happens to be a kidnapping victim? I was sold. Jan Gangsei’s debut novel surprised me in many ways and was definitely worth the read.
- Suspense: The suspense in Zero Day was strong. I grew up reading James Patterson, Harlan Coben, and many other adult crime writers that were fabulous at suspense. I’ve only found that same caliber in a few young adult authors so I was a bit skeptical going into this one. While I did manage to guess a few things, it was usually only right before they were about to be revealed anyway so it didn’t take away from my enjoyment.
- Romance: I was iffy about this romance for a while. Darrow and Addie grew up together and Darrow pretty much held himself responsible for Addie’s kidnapping. He was also 9-years-old at the time so there really wasn’t anything he could have done but try telling him that. When Addie is returned, he pretty much automatically has feelings for her. I couldn’t tell if it was because of what they went through or not but he grew on me and I liked seeing him with Addie. As for Addie’s side of the relationship, it was really hard to judge. If you read the book you’ll understand what I mean but her personality was so odd that I had a hard time telling if she meant things or if she was attempting to play someone. I wanted her to like Darrow and at times I felt that she did but other times I was a bit hesitant. It was odd.
- Characters: Where do I even begin with these characters? I have some really mixed feelings about some of them but overall I loved the development of them and the complexities to all of them. Just look at Addie. She was all over the place with her feelings and thoughts. I couldn’t tell from page to page what was coming next with her. She obviously went through a ton of crazy stuff in the eight years that she was held captive but that wasn’t really what fascinated me about her. I wanted to know more about what motivated her when she got home. You will understand what I mean if you read the book. Her parents were both good parents and bad ones. They cared so much about public opinion and they couldn’t see how that was affecting their daughters. Then again, they would spend private time with them and be completely wonderful. I guess that’s how politics works. And I won’t spoil anything about Addie’s captors but I will say that they were seriously messed up. Very twisted.
- Setting: I don’t know if it’s so much the setting that I loved but what comes along with the setting. A lot of the story takes place in and around the White House and also at Addie and Darrow’s very classy high school. Taking a peek inside the world of the offspring of high up government officials was really interesting. I can’t tell you how accurate it is but I enjoyed it. I love reading about the lifestyles of the rich and famous so that definitely appealed to me.
- Story: The story had good and bad things going for it. I loved the idea of the story but the execution left some things to be desired. I read a majority of the book before I even realized what exactly Cerberus was hoping to gain from their terrorist attacks. Also, once I figured it out, I couldn’t really see how what they were doing was going to achieve that goal. It confused me. However, the idea of someone on the inside of the White House working with terrorists really appealed to me and kept me very intrigued. Things tied up pretty nicely at the end but I could see how there might be room for a sequel and I wouldn’t say no to reading that.
- Writing: The writing was a bit heavy. I honestly can’t put my finger on what exactly about it caused the book to drag more than it should have but there was just something about it. I was hoping that as I read more of the book, I would get used to the style and the pace would pick up but that didn’t happen. It’s also weird because the book features short chapters which tend to speed things along for me but that didn’t happen with Zero Day. The story was interesting enough though that I didn’t every feel like giving up on it.
Overall, Zero Day had it’s flaws but it’s good parts far outweighed those. It’s a great read for fans of suspense with hints of hacking and politics as well as a peek at the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I will be keeping an eye out to see what Jan Gangsei does next.
What others are saying about Zero Day:
Bookish Babes’ review: “Zero Day by Jan Gangsei is a pulse pounding YA thriller that kept me guessing until the end.”
Kovescence of the Mind’s review: ” The strong female lead provides a refreshing addition to the realm of technology and mystery in young-adult fiction.”
Looking for something similar? Check out Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano!
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