“Hopefully her eye pencil is waterproof.”

Official Summary: (from

     Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She’s been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon’s dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler’s lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn’t made even half the money she’d hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn’t react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon’s caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money’s this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

My thoughts:

I actually didn’t realize this was a book until I was meandering through goodreads one day. I really, really love the author, Lauren Barnholdt (at least the books I’ve read) so to find a book by her about poker (which is always a good time) was like a dream come true. And I really, really wanted to love this book just like all the others. But…I didn’t, not really.

Shannon, the main character, just annoyed me. Say what you will for a take-charge heroine, but she didn’t take charge very well. Everything she did resulted in a bad consequence, and not just when she was caught. It was immediate- and her horrific naivete just made me angry.

And the love triangle- what was that?! I hate them anyway, but holy cow, this one took the cake. I decided not to like Max, because Shannon didn’t like Max. And I like the bad boys sometimes, so Cole would do. But it was ALL. SO. RANDOM. At risk of this becoming a rant, I’ll try to stop myself. But there were no smooth transitions between Max and Cole- all of a sudden Shannon and Max were like BFF In Love a day after she had been to ‘third base territory’ with Cole the night before! Can you say indecisive and shallow and pathetic? What happened to my take-charge babe who was going to do what she wanted on her own terms, who didn’t need Max and wasn’t going to pine over him? Because that was all she did, and really all that I felt happened in the whole book.

I’m going to stop myself, fittingly, with the conclusion. I thought it would be epic. I wanted her to go on to win the poker tour and have the money and still be able to turn in Aces Up, but no. She didn’t even go out with a bang, and I think the tournament lasted about ten pages out of the entire book. Quite disappointing. But of course, this is my opinion.

What to Watch: (SPOILERS)

There was romance in this book, but no graphic descriptions of what happened- Shannon talks about being in ‘third base territory’ and she spends a lot of time on Cole’s hotel room bed making out with him. There is also talk of other ‘hookups’ which can mean anything from making out to having sex.

There was also gambling, which may be objectionable to some readers- Shannon gets very involved in the poker scene, as well as lying about her age, getting forged documents, and participating in an illegal collusion scheme with Aces Up.

As far as violence, there are a few minor fights, but nothing very serious.

There was some language in this book, but not too frequent.
Honestly, I didn’t really like this book. It was okay, but the plot structure was confusing, most of the characters were annoying and two-dimensional, and I just couldn’t get into it. Still, I look forward to Barnholdt’s next series, simply based on her last book, Through to You which I absolutely adored. Funny how that happens. Remember that these are all opinions, and I would love to hear yours!

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!


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