Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games (The Inheritance Games, #1)The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Avery Grambs has had a tough go at it since her mother passed away. Since that time, she has been living with her half-sister, working as much as she can and just trying to make it through high school.

She has plans for her future, but at this rate, she’s going to need to qualify for every scholarship she can in order to be able to attend college.

Making matters worse is the fact that her sister, Libby, as sweet as she is, has terrible taste in men. When her on-again-off-again boyfriend comes around, Avery goes as far as sleeping in her car to avoid him.

On a day that Avery is just about at the end of her rope, she receives an unbelievable invitation.

She is asked to attend the reading of the last will and testament of one, Tobias Hawthorne, an eccentric billionaire.

Without explanation, the recently deceased elder Hawthorne, decided to leave almost his entire fortune to Avery. The only catch is, she needs to move into the extravagant Hawthorne House for a full year.

Sure, that sounds easy enough, but also residing in the manse are the family members Tobias basically disinherited. As you can imagine, they’re not happy.

His four grandsons and their mother are understandably puzzled by the whole turn of events. Is Avery possibly a con-woman of some sort, come to steal their vast fortune?

Particularly intriguing to Avery, who is positive she’s not a con-woman and entirely innocent of conspiring in this strange twist of fate, are Grayson and Jameson Hawthorne.

Two handsome brothers, the closest to her age, keep her fairly well occupied during her time in Hawthorne House. There’s riddles, puzzles and games of all sorts as they try to get to the bottom of the mystery behind the infamous will.

I had a lot of fun with this story. It completely sucked me in. It was easy to sympathize with Avery and root for her once she started living at Hawthorne House.

The puzzles and riddles were super engaging. I loved that aspect; trying to figure it all out along with the characters. I also enjoyed the hint of danger threaded throughout. Who was angry enough to try to take Avery out?

Inheritance stories are always fun for me; it’s just a trope I tend to really enjoy. Family drama and secrets, backstabbing, plotting, revenge, confessions; it’s a good time. What else can I say?

If you are looking for a fun and fast-paced YA-Mystery, with twist and turns galore, as well as intriguing and suspicious characters, you should definitely give this one a shot!

I am really looking forward to continuing on with this trilogy. Oh, the places it could go!

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Review: Before They Are Hanged (The First Law #2) by Joe Abercrombie

Before They Are Hanged (The First Law, #2)Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so hooked on this series. The characters, the intrigue, the brutality, the world-building; it’s all exemplary.

Off the charts. Sensational!

Before They Are Hanged is the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s series, The First Law. If you are unaware, the first three books in the series are a connected trilogy, while books four, five and six, are all standalone novels that take place in the same world.

I have been intimidated for years by this series; by Abercrombie actually. Even though I had heard nothing but great things about his writing.

I’m not quite sure what all that was about, but now that I have completed the first three books, I would count this as one of my favorite series ever. Yeah, it’s that good.

In this second book, I was super pumped about the fact that we were going on a quest. Bayez, the First of the Magi, gathers a group of traveling companions and they head out across the world in search of a mysterious ancient object.

Quests are one of my favorite tropes. I love to go along for the danger and adventure of the road. This group, oh my goodness, they were ill-suited to one another at first, but as with many traveling groups before them, they eventually began to grow on one another.

The quest is just one of the many storylines going on in this installment, however, so there is plenty here for everyone. Even if you are a monster and a quest isn’t your most favorite thing.

Throughout I was continually impressed with the world creation. I was learning so much regarding the structure and functioning of this world, all while maintaining my high level of interest. It was in no way info-dumpy, or dull.

The characters, as well, particularly our mains, are totally fleshed out. I have never loved such a brutal group of utter bastards more. I am seriously so attached to them; it’s a wee bit concerning actually.

The stakes were raised so high over the course of this narrative. I knew by the time I turned the final page, I needed to get my hands on the third book as quickly as possible.

10 out of 10, recommend to all Epic Fantasy fans, Grimdark Fantasy fans and Heroic Fantasy fans. In short, Fantasy fans unite!!

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Review: Walking In Two Worlds by Wab Kinew

Walking in Two WorldsWalking in Two Worlds by Wab Kinew
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Walking in Two Worlds is Indigenous author, Wab Kinew’s, YA Fantasy debut.

Set in the near future, following two teenagers, Bugz and Feng, this narrative swerves between our world and a VR-gaming world both teens are involved in, known as the Floraverse.

Bugz, an Indigenous teen, who grew up on the Rez, is shy and self-conscious in our world, but in the Floraverse, she’s strong and confident. She’s also the most powerful and popular player in the ‘Verse.

Feng is a Chinese boy, recently sent to live on the Rez with his Aunt, the new family practicioner there. Feng was forced to flee China after his online activities suggested he was leaning towards extremist sympathies.

Feng plays in the same game that Bugz dominates and is actually part of a group called, ClanLESS, who is promoting her downfall. Violently.

When Bugz and Feng meet at school, they hit it off right away. He doesn’t recognize her from the ‘Verse, as her persona there looks a lot different than she does in real life. As they build their relationship, it is finally revealed to him who she is.

He’s impressed. Instalove ensues and Feng’s loyalties are put to the test. Can Bugz overcome the odds stacked against her?

Clearly, this is an over-simplification of the plot, but I think it is best to just go in knowing you will get great representation, exciting gaming elements, eye-opening commentary on some aspects of the Indigenous experience, as well as heartbreaking examinations of social anxiety, self-confidence and feelings of being powerless, voiceless or helpless.

Certain details of this story hit me hard, but it was a mixed bag. While I genuinely appreciate the level of creativity Kinew brought to this story, including some really great current social issues, I couldn’t help but feel that Bugz and Feng played second fiddle to all of that.

It felt like they weren’t built-out as much as they could have been. Maybe it was because the book was fairly short, but the insta-love was too heavy for my taste and their personalities felt very flat. I wanted to know them more and I don’t think Kinew had the chance to really allow them any growth.

The gaming elements were quite well done. I thought it was exciting and vividly-described. Even though I knew that was a virtual reality, it still hurt my heart when events happened in the game that had a negative impact on Bugz.

The game is so much a part of her life. It is where she feels the most strength; the most like her true self. That was impactful. Well done by Kinew.

Towards the end, there were a couple of plot points that didn’t sit quite right with me; for example, an event involving ClanLESS in real life. I believe I understand the symbolism behind that being included, but it just didn’t make practical sense.

Also, I was hoping for more personal growth from Bugz. I will admit to being a little unsatisfied with her trajectory.

With this being said, this is a very good story. It’s fast-paced and I really feel like I got a lot out of it.

My hope is that this makes it into a lot of school libraries in the United States and Canada. I think YA-Readers will really relate to a lot of the topics explored within this story and the representation is so needed.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Penguin Teen, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I had a lot of fun spending time with Bugz and shed a few tears along the way. I really hope that Wab Kinew continues to write in the YA-Fantasy space. I would love to read more from him!

Walking in Two Worlds releases tomorrow!!!

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Review: My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

My Heart Is a ChainsawMy Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

My Heart Is a Chainsaw is Stephen Graham Jones most recent, brilliant, love letter to the Slasher genre. It’s also one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint.

I actually finished this on September 2nd. Subsequently, I wrote a full review, which if I do say so myself, was pretty darn good.

Then due to major stupidity on my part, my laptop got inadvertently shutdown and all of my efforts were erased.

Normally, I would try to find another person within striking distance to blame, but unfortunately, there was just me, my dog and a potentially haunted ceiling fan.

But I digress…

Jade Daniels is a social outcast in her small, lakeside town of Proofrock, Idaho. A half-Indian girl, forced to live with her abusive father, Jade changes her hair color often and views the world through a prism of her vast knowledge of the Horror genre.

As her high school career comes to a close, there’s not much on the horizon for Jade. She works as a janitor for the local public school system, and it seems she may be doing so into the future. That in and of itself is fine. If she could just stay away from her Dad and his pervy friend, it would be okay.

When mysterious events around town start mirroring the plot structure of her favorite genre, however, Jade knows it’s finally happening. She’s excited by the prospect.

Proofrock has a slasher on their hands!

Therefore, she does what any logical Horror aficionado would do and tracks down the most logical choice for final girl, so she may teach her how to save herself and the town.

Sure, there will be a high body count, it’s almost time for the annual 4th of July celebration, after all. We all know Slashers cannot resist events like that, but the final girl should still be able to stop him. Eventually.

I’m always amazed by how much Jones can pack into a story. Each page feels like a Master Class in the Horror genre; full of references and rules that make my heart soar.

In addition to that though, he always doses us full of hard-hitting real world issues as well. There are many layers here, as there are in other novels of his that I have read.

This story was so much fun to read. It’s intricate, gritty, bloody, gory, smart, sarcastic, biting and fierce. The writing is top-notch and it’s going to remain in my mind for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Saga Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am sure there are a lot of things I am forgetting to mention about this, but what can I say? I’m silenced by greatness!

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Review: A Soldier and A Liar by Caitlin Lochner

A Soldier and A LiarA Soldier and A Liar by Caitlin Lochner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Soldier and A Liar is a YA-Dystopian novel set in a world where supernaturally-gifted teenagers, known as Nytes, are feared and shunned by the rest of society.

The set-up of this world is similar to that of The Hunger Games, with different sectors living independently of one another. There’s also dangerous beings on the outside that make travel outside the sectors dangerous.

The entire society is quite fractured, with the ungifted wanting to suppress, or eradicate the Nytes; rebel forces willing to fight back against the ungifted and a smaller faction wanting everyone to just get along.

Unsurprisingly, the government certainly doesn’t mind using the Nytes when it works to their own advantage.

Lai Cathwell is a Nyte and a talented soldier, who in the beginning of the story is in prison, but not for the reasons people think.

When the military wants to rerecruit her to aid in a special mission against rebel forces, they send in a fellow soldier and Nyte, Jay, to try to convince her to join up.

Lai is initally unimpressed, but there’s something about Jay that has her intrigued.

Ultimately, she decides to help and agrees to commit to the team, not just with Jay, but with two other fellow Nytes, Al and Erik. Together the four are set the task of eliminating the rebel threat and saving the sector from a long and brutal war.

I’ve had a copy of this book since it was initially released at the beginning of 2019. I love a good Dystopian story and the color scheme of this cover had me sold. I decided to pick it up recently as a backlist bump; my way of actually reading some of the books on my shelves.

I’m so happy that I did. I really enjoyed this story. From the very first chapter I was intrigued by the set-up of the world and the characters.

Lai, in particular, is the character I connect with the most. She’s a bit of a wildcard and I enjoy that about her. You never really know what she is going to do. She’s smart, strong and used to standing on her own, away from the maddening crowd.

I also really like Jay. He has a difficult relationship with his overbearing father and feels like he always has to be perfect. Even though he has excelled in his military career, is smart and capable, he still struggles a bit with self-consciousness.

Jay is selected to function as the team leader, which works quite well as the team members train together and learn to trust one another.

I loved the team training aspect. That’s a trope I tend to enjoy, so I was happy to find it here. The missions were dangerous and full of action. I also like the layers of this world that keep being revealed; like peeling back the layers of an onion.

This ended on a great cliffhanger and I have already started the second book, which is equally as compelling.

Overall, I had such a fun time reading this. I am always so happy when I randomly pluck a book off the shelf and it turns out to be a winner. Another successful backlist bump. Let this be a lesson to us all, don’t neglect your backlist!!!

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Review: The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass

The Taking of Jake LivingstonThe Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Jake Livingston seems like an average teen. He struggles with many of the same issues that his peers do, however, Jake’s life is made a little more complicated by the fact that he can see dead people.

For the most part, the unsettled spirits are harmless, stuck in their death loops, repeating the same actions over and over again.

Then there is Sawyer. A troubled local teen, who a year prior, shot and killed six kids at a nearby high school and then subsequently took his own life. His spirit is still so angry and he’s not done. Sawyer has plans and intends to use Jake in order to execute them.

Suddenly, everything Jake thought he knew about navigating the world with this gift is flipped on its head. He’s in unchartered waters.

When bodies start turning up in his neighborhood, Jake knows he needs to learn the new rules, no matter what it takes. His life and all he loves depends on it.

The Taking of Jake Livingston was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I preordered it months ago and was so excited to get to it.

I decided to listen to the audiobook on my annual Labor Day Weekend road trip. One of my favorite things to do is pick out which audiobooks I will listen to on the journey. I travel alone and can be in the car, depending on traffic, anywhere from 4-to-6 hours, each way.

So, there and back, listening on 1.8 to 2x speed, I can get a lot of precious reading done.

While I enjoyed many aspects of this story, I will admit, it wasn’t quite gripping enough to keep my mind from wandering. The beginning, as I was meeting Jake and learning about his life and gift, I was completely focused. After that, it sort of wavered in and out for me.

Now thinking back, I don’t remember much. I’m not blaming the book entirely. I am sure a lot of the blame lies within myself. I had a lot on my mind and wasn’t giving it the attention it deserved.

There was some good humor and I felt the premise was unique. I actually would like to read it again someday, at which time I will read my hard copy. I certainly enjoyed it enough not to unhaul it and would recommend it as a Teen Scream for the Spooky Season!

I think the bottom line is, I didn’t read this under the best circumstances and my reading experience suffered because of it. With this being said, DO NOT let my experience stop you from giving this one a shot.

This is a good book. It’s well written with interesting characters and fun Horror elements. I will definitely be picking it up again at some point and giving it another try!

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless StreetThe Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

In a quiet town, at the end of a typical neighborhood street sits a well-worn home with boarded-up windows. In the house lives an eccentric man named, Ted.

Ted has a daughter named, Lauren, who sometimes visits. Although never seen playing outside, the neighbors can hear her sounds of joy and sometimes discontent, well enough, ringing through the walls. Also, residing in the home, is Ted’s little furry companion, Olivia the cat.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Ted, Olivia and a neighborhood woman who just moved to the street, their intertwining tales of horror begin to unfold and their connections are laid bare.

It’s clear Ted’s musings may be unreliable. Can you trust what he is thinking? The way he wants you to see the story? What about Olivia? She’s just a cat. Could she possibly understand the intricacies of the human mind?

And what of the neighbor woman? She seems to have an unhealthy obsession with Ted, but is she correct about what he is?

Y’all, this is definitely one of those books that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. I listened to the audiobook and feel it’s an excellent way to take in this story. I was pulled in from the very start.

The writing style is quirky and a perfect fit for this story. In my experience, it added to the overall sense of unease, because it took my mind a couple of seconds after each sentence, or statement, to string it all together.

That sounds like a negative, but it’s not. It’s like my mind was clicking through all it had heard, trying to figure out the truth, but couldn’t.

You know intensely from the start that all is not as it appears to be. It’s not cut and dry.

It’s a headscratcher and beyond compelling. There are clever misdirections, shocking revelations and soul crushing snaps back to reality. It’s a dark and heavy tale that breaths sinister unknown out of every pore.

Overall, I found this to be a satisfyingly unique and stirring Horror novel. It’s 100% memorable and will stick with me for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Macmillan Audio, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was an ideal way to kick off my Spooky Season reading!!!

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Review: Pahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee

Pahua and the Soul StealerPahua and the Soul Stealer by Lori M. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

11-year old, Pahua Moua, is a bit of an outcast amongst her peers. Because of this, she spends her summer days babysitting her little brother, Matt, and hanging out with Miv, a cat spirit no one else can see.

That’s fine with Pahua though. Matt and Miv are her best friends, who else would she want to hang out with.

Pahua’s Dad left them, so her Mom has to work a lot, leaving Pahua and Matt home alone quite a bit. That makes Pahua sad and she frequently wonders why her Dad went away. Her Mom has never really offered up an explanation.

As a Hmong-girl, living in a mostly white town in Wisconsin, Pahua also has that setting her apart from those around her; making her feel isolated at school and in her neighborhood.

Pahua also carries a secret. She can see spirits!

One day, exploring near the local haunted bridge, she notices a little ghost girl. Pahua tries to be friendly to her, but this is no innocent appariation and before she knows it, her brother’s life hangs in the balance.

Matt has fallen into some sort of deep sleep and cannot be awoken. Pahua must risk it all and travel into the spirit realm, battling all sorts of unknown dangers, in order to try to save him.

Surprising no one, I absolutely adored this story. The Rick Riordan Presents imprint is such a gift. Giving Readers the opportunity to learn about myths, legends and cultures from around the world through engaging, action-packed, heart-warming stories is so special.

Lori M. Lee’s Middle Grade debut, Pahua and the Soul Stealer, is actually one of my favorite releases thus far and I have read almost all of them.

Pahua is an incredible character. Her spirit, determination and strength, in the face of terrifying odds, never faltered. Her love for her brother kept her going, pushing through some really difficult obstacles.

The entire story was full of the perfect mix of humor, heart and action. From the very first chapter, I was laughing and grew so attached to Pahua as her narrative played out. I listened to the audiobook and it was so well done; highly recommend that format!

I feel like I am forgetting a ton of things that I wanted to say about this, but in the end, that’s probably for the best. Everyone should go into this knowing as little as possible.

Let the fun and adventure wash over you. It’s a heck of an entertaining, soul-warming, nail-biting ride!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Audio and Rick Riordan Presents, for providing me with a copy to read and review. It was so much fun!

I am looking forward to more releases in this world with Pahua and friends!!!

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Review: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

Rock Paper ScissorsRock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Rock Paper Scissors, Feeney examines the age-old question, how well do you know the one you love?

After Amelia wins a mystery weekend away at a historic chapel in the Scottish Highlands, she thinks it may be just what she and her husband, Adam, need to spice up their marriage. Amelia feels like they need some time, and distance from his work, to reconnect.

Surprisingly, Adam agrees and the two set off. The weather isn’t great and rapid snowfall makes the travel difficult.

By the time they, and their sweet dog, Bob, have made the very long journey, everyone is going stir crazy in the car. Arriving at the chapel, they’re taken aback by how isolated it is. There’s literally nothing around as far as the eye can see.

It’s at this point, the couple begin to recognize just how peculiar this entire holiday actually is. Who did she win this trip from again?

The lodgings are strange, eerie and ominous. With the weather getting worse, tension among the couple continues to rise. This is definitely not going as they expected. The power source is questionable and at the rate the snow continues to fall, they may not be able to get out.

Told between alternating perspectives, as well as through annual anniversary letters, the truth of their frightening holiday in the Highlands, as well as their marriage, begins to come to light.

Y’all, Feeney dropped the mic on writing a suspenseful Thriller with this one!

I enjoyed this so much. From the very first chapter I was hooked. Feeney’s clever plotting and magnificent twists kept me glued to the pages. I had to know the truth; who was lying and why?

There was a dark tone glistening just along the surface. I knew it went deeper than what I was getting. The reveals were perfectly paced; what a treat!

This did have quite a few tropes I tend to enjoy, but they came as surprises to me. I don’t even think I read the synopsis prior to picking this up. I saw, Alice Feeney, printed on the cover and that was enough.

If you are fan of things such as isolated locations, creepy houses, hidden secrets, marital strife, jaw-dropping plot twists, characters who are authors and people being stranded places, you should absolutely check this one out!!!

Also, I was impressed with the character work. All of the main characters were just so interesting and besides some lightly-sprinkled craziness, were all quite unique.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I have already bought a finished copy for my shelves.

One of the best Thrillers of the year!!!

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Horrid by Katrina Leno

HorridHorrid by Katrina Leno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After her Father’s unexpected death, Jane and her Mother, Ruth, are forced to leave California behind and move to the distant state of Maine.

Due to money troubles, Ruth wouldn’t be able to keep them in their family home, however, she fairly recently inherited the home she grew up in. Problem solved, off they go.

While it’s not ideal, Jane seems to be handling it all fairly well. Maybe it is due to the numbness she feels about her Dad’s passing. It’s like she’s seeing the world through a haze; it’s surreal.

Arriving at North Manor, they find it in quite a state of disrepair. Add it to the list of unpleasant circumstances lately, but regardless, they know they can make it work.

As Fall, the most perfect season of the year arrives, Jane begins to settle into life in their new town. While she makes a couple of good friends, she also seems to draw the attention of the local bully, Melanie.

Melanie seems to have a particular distaste for Jane; it’s a little strange considering they only just met. It’s like Melanie’s holding a grudge against her, but why?

It’s not just Melanie though. There’s something about the house itself that’s off. Jane feels unsettled there and she’s experiencing things she can’t explain.

Her Mother also seems to be spiraling back in her childhood home. Jane suddenly feels the need to learn why Ruth left all those years ago, and why did she never choose to return?

Horrid is an another fabulous example of Katrina Leno’s unique style. Leno’s writing is beautiful, introspective and always seems to tackle fairly heavy topics with grace.

In this one, as the truth behind North Manor, and all that occurred there, was slowly revealed, I was completely drawn in. I could picture it all playing out extremely vividly.

The Horror imagery was well done in my opinion and I enjoyed how Leno structured the reveals. It kept me engaged throughout. I needed answers!

As always, I appreciated how much substance Leno brought to the table with this. Jane is a character struggling with grief, loss and self-doubt; all while outwardly projecting that she is okay. I think masking one’s negative emotions behind a cloak of, I’m fine, is something a lot of Readers will be able to relate to.

Additionally, Jane finds comfort in books and there was quite a few references to Dame Agatha Christie and her works. It’s hard not to find that endearing.

I will mention a trigger warning for self-soothing via (view spoiler)

Overall, I felt this was really well done and I enjoyed my time with it. It included a lot of tropes I tend to enjoy, such as long-buried family secrets, returning to a hometown and haunted houses.

I am also a big fan of Leno’s writing and this only served to reinforce that fact.

Now that we are in the midst of Spooky Season, y’all know it starts September 1st, I encourage you to give this one a go. It’s wickedly entertaining!!

**Please note, I picked this up as part of Bookoplathon ((my favorite Readathon ever)) as a Poll Pick. This was the winner of a poll I ran on Twitter. I am so happy with it. Thank you to all on Twitter who voted!!

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