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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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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Review: Soul of Cinder (Heart of Thorns #3) by Bree Barton

Soul of Cinder (Heart of Thorns, #3)Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Soul of Cinder is the final book in Bree Barton’s YA-Fantasy trilogy, Heart of Thorns.

Following the world-shattering events of the second book, Tears of Frost, we find most of our characters separated and unaware of who has survived.

After slightly bonding, Mia and Pilar, newfound allies, seem to be at one another’s throats once again. Together with the indefatigable, Nelladine, the girls are one their way, via sea voyage, to Pembuk in search of the Shadowess.

Prince Quin, unbeknowst to the ladies, has also survived and he is making his way home to reclaim his kingdom. He blames the lot of them for his current circumstances and is hellbent on revenge.

And what of Angelyne; Mia’s younger sister? Some would say she’s the impetus of these events, but where is she now?

I enjoyed this. I enjoyed this whole trilogy, although I won’t be memorializing it as a new favorite, I can appreciate it for what it did.

This entire trilogy is a beautiful examination of trauma, recovery and growth. Barton really did an exceptional job of exploring those topics and showing that everyone’s journey will be different. There is no one correct way to heal.

I also appreciate the feminist underpinnings woven throughout these three books. Autonomy, choice, the right to kick some butt, it’s all here. It was substantive; definitely well done.

I think this is a great series for Readers just starting out in the YA-Fantasy space. I sort of feel like, for me, I may have enjoyed this more had I read it three or four years ago.

I think as far as content goes, plot-wise, I have just moved past this point in my YA-Fantasy journey.

With that being said, this is a solid series, start-to-finish. Great characters, a lot of action and the examination of some fairly serious topics.

I will be donating my hard copies of this entire trilogy to my local high school library, where I know it will be enjoyed for years to come!

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Review: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Leave the World BehindLeave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

Leave the World Behind is essentially Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World written for people with a subscription to the New Yorker.

While I was reading this, I felt like I had read it before and frankly, for me, I enjoyed how Tremblay did it more.

Amanda and Clay, a married couple with two teenaged children, have a lovely family vacation planned in a remote area of Long Island.

Their goal is the same as many people going on vacation, to let loose and unplug from the stressors of life in the city. If they happen to reconnect as a family, all the better.

Arriving at the rental house, they’re quite pleased; it’s perfect. Everything they were hoping for. The kids can’t wait to get into the pool.

Over the course of the first evening, Amanda and Clay really begin to settle into vacation mode. All is going swimmingly, until quite late when there’s an unexpected knocking at the door.

Surprised at the interruption, they’re even more surprised when they open the door and find an older black couple standing on the porch.

They say their names are G.H. and Ruth and this is their house.

They’re quite apologetic, but explain that something is happening in the city. They aren’t exactly sure what, but something big. There’s a blackout.

They had been out at an event and didn’t feel safe returning to their apartment. They plead with Amanda and Clay to let them stay, which after a quick debate, the couple agrees to do.

The two couples stay up, having a few drinks, and speculating on the bizarre turn of events. In their minds, Amanda and Clay are questioning whether or not to believe these people at all. They have no cell service, no wifi, there’s no way to check their story.

The morning finds no new information, as the tension and uncertainty continues to build.

This is absolutely a tense and captivating story. You get a glimpse into all of the character’s inner thoughts and at times, it’s confusing AF.

Their reactions and musings, it’s all so potent. I needed to know what was happening!

I think if I hadn’t already read The Cabin at the End of the World, I would have enjoyed this more and given it a higher rating.

However, as mentioned earlier, there were just so many similarities between this book and that one, and I personally, enjoyed the Horror writing style of Tremblay’s version more. It was a better fit for my tastes.

With this being said, I appreciate what this story accomplished. The level of tension and sense of dread this author’s words were able to illicit; it’s powerful.

While I know this may leave some Readers underwhelmed, it’s smart, eerie and subtly terrifying. I would definitely be interested in picking up more from Rumaan Alam.

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Review: Ghost Wood Song by Erica Waters

Ghost Wood SongGhost Wood Song by Erica Waters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Mood. This book is a mood and I loved it!!

Shady Grove is a fiddle-playing high school girl, who has been struggling a bit since her father’s untimely death.

Her mother has since remarried and her step-dad, Jim, has a contentious relationship with Shady’s older brother, Jesse. This makes life at home far from peaceful.

Shady finds respite practicing her fiddle in the woods surrounding their trailer. At least for a while.

She’s also in a band with her best friends, Sarah and Orlando. While Shady enjoys playing with them, she really wants to play just bluegrass, the music she was raised on, but they have a different opinion; especially Sarah.

Making matters worse is the fact that Shady and Sarah were an almost couple. It never ended up happening and now it feels like there is a giant elephant in the room every time they are together.

When they compete in an open mic night and a boy in a rival band catches Shady’s eye, it seems like things may finally explode with Sarah.

Shady hardly has time to focus on that however, when something much more serious happens.

Her brother, Jesse, gets arrested; accused of murder.

Shady recognizes her brother has a temper and he admittedly, hasn’t been in the best place mentally as of late, but she also knows he could never do this.

Remembering the stories her father used to tell her, how he could channel spirits by playing his fiddle, Shady decides there’s only one thing for her to do.

She needs to find her Dad’s old fiddle and raise the spirit of the person Jesse is said to have killed. That way she can ask him what happened to him and use that knowledge to help free Jesse. Sounds fairly simple, right?

This novel has so many elements that I traditionally love.

There’s the storyline featuring music and musicians, a murder, a haunted old farmhouse, long-buried family secrets, a beautifully-constructed love triangle for our bi-girl protagonist and a haunting, gritty setting.

Tie all of this together with Erica Waters exceptional writing, how could I not absolutely love this story?

I was drawn in from the very start. Some of her descriptions of music, what it is like playing music, the way it can overtake your body; gahhhhhh, it was so well done.

The murder mystery was interesting and just added another level to an already intriguing tale.

Additionally, I loved how Waters weaved in the lore surrounding Shady’s family and their obviously haunted property. Shady’s Aunt Ena was one of my favorite characters.

Then there’s the overriding grief that permeates this entire story. It’s morose, it’s lyrical, it’s so many wonderful things.

I do recognize this story will not be for everyone, but for me and my tastes, it was close to perfection. I would respectfully and lovingly refer to this as a type of Hillbilly Noir. It’s enchanting and I can’t get enough of it.

I cannot wait to check out more of this author’s work! If I love any of it half as much as this one, I will be a happy girl.

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Review: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

Harrow LakeHarrow Lake by Kat Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes the truth is scarier than the nightmare.

When Lola Nox was just 5-years old, her Mom ran off, abandoning Lola to be raised by her famous, Horror movie director father, Nolan.

They have a strange, strained relationship. Lola often feels like a bird in a cage; a pet, for Nolan to trot out to impress industry people and the press.

As Lola becomes a teenager, she begins to battle more against Nolan’s strict control over her life.

Their relationship is contentious, but when Lola returns to their NYC apartment one evening and finds Nolan bleeding out after a brutal attack, she is devastated.

She needs him to be okay. He’s all she has. Adding to her stress, Larry, her Father’s long-time assistant tells her it would be best for her to go stay with her maternal grandmother while Nolan is in the hospital recovering.

Lola can’t believe it. She’s never even met her Grandmother; she doesn’t want to go stay with her, but Larry is insistent that it is what Nolan would want. And Nolan gets what he wants.

Thus, Lola is shipped off to Harrow Lake, her Mom, Lorelei’s, hometown.

It also happens to be the town where her parents met. The town where her father shot his most iconic slasher film, Nightjar, in which her Mom played the starring role of Littlebird.

Immediately upon arrival at her Grandmother’s, the story transforms in vibe into an atmospheric, suspenseful and eerie tale.

I was constantly on edge, waiting for the truth of Harrow Lake and Lorelei to be revealed.

This felt like a classic-80s Horror flick. It had one of my favorite tropes, with the main character ending up in a small town where everyone is acting strangely and they are stuck there.

The town lore and traditions were super messed up, but nobody but Lola seemed to notice. Even the friends she made there seemed untrustworthy.

But is Lola trustworthy? I was scratching my head the entire way, definitely anxious for the conclusion.

I liked this a lot. It was fun and had some pulse-pounding, creepy as heck moments. I can see that this story won’t be for everyone, but I think die hard fans of this genre will have a good time with it.

I definitely plan to pick up more books by Kat Ellis! Well done.

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Review: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hot dang!!! That’s how you write a Fantasy!

Believe the hype. Legendborn is next level. I am so impressed with Tracy Deonn and cannot wait for the second book.

Go into this knowing as little as possible, just let the story wash over you. It’s complex and layered. The characters are wonderful and the magic system is incredibly creative.

It’s everything I look for in a modern urban fantasy!!!

The mystery of it kept me completely engaged. I couldn’t put Legendborn down once I started.

With the heavy fangirling out of the way, let’s get to the most serious question…

WHEN DOES THE SECOND BOOK RELEASE!?

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Review: Love & Olives (Love & Gelato #3) by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Olives (Love & Gelato, #3)Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jenna Evans Welch has done it again. I absolutely loved my time spent reading Love & Olives.

This brought back the tone, humor, heart and gut-punching familial relationships of Love & Gelato. I’m so happy.

Liv Varanakis is surprised when she receives a postcard from her father asking her to travel to Greece to stay with him. He needs her help with a mystery project; something involving the lost city of Atlantis.

Honestly, Liv has been trying to forget her Dad. She has had little, to no, contact with him since he left when she was only 8-years old.

He returned to his native-country, Greece, and her and her mom were forced to make ends meet without him. It wasn’t always easy, but her mom has since remarried and she even has a half-brother now, who she adores.

She has to go though. Her Mom is making her go. It’ll be fine. Even though she has to miss her boyfriend’s Senior Trip; it’ll be fine.

Arriving on the beautiful island of Santorini, Liv’s nerves begin to get the best of her. She has no idea what to expect. Will she and her Dad even get along?

Things get off to a bit of a rocky start when a strange boy shows up in her Dad’s place to pick her up from the airport. Should she even trust this person?

He claims his name is Theo and that he works for her father. It’s like something out of a movie. She’s pretty sure she shouldn’t just go with him. She’s seen, Taken.

This story is an absolute delight. The Reader gets to follow along as Liv and her father try to repair their broken relationship. She gets to live in his book shop, with Theo, and their relationship blossoms as well.

Central to the story is the mystery of the lost city of Atlantis and the documentary film her father is making on the subject. Liv, an artist, is put in charge filming, a task she excels at.

The story is told through Liv’s perspective and it is full of humor. She has such a sarcastic, honest view of the events; it’s hilarious to read.

I loved the interactions between characters and how Welch incorporated some heavier topics throughout. Liv really grows over the course of the story. Watching her relationship with her father change, as she learns more about him, and about herself, was really lovely.

I have read some reviews where people commented on the length of the story; that it is too long. It is long, over 500-pages for a YA Contemporary, but looking back on it, I cannot think of one scene that I would have removed.

For me, every detail was needed in order to become as attached to Liv and her story as I did. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ultimately, I am so glad I picked this up. I didn’t have the greatest experience with Love & Luck, but I knew what Welch was capable of because of Love & Gelato.

I actually think this story is my favorite out of the three. Liv is my favorite protagonist, combined with the Atlantis lore and the documentary aspect, makes this a near perfect book for me.

As one of my favorite BookTubers always says, 10 out of 10, recommend! Let Greece sweep you away!

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Review: Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan

Ten Rules for Faking ItTen Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Everly Dean is a producer of a radio show, working alongside her best friend, Stacey, the DJ.

On Everly’s 30th-birthday, she catches her boyfriend, Simon, with another woman. Not a great way to start a day.

Arriving at work, she proceeds to rant to Stacey about it. Unfortunately, the microphone was on and now all of their listeners know of the problems with Everly’s love life.

Trying to spin a negative into a positive, Everly agrees to participate in a Bachelorette-style dating show hosted by the station. Their numbers have been struggling and it may boost their ratings just enough to keep them going.

This is a really tough sell for Everly. She suffers from severe social anxiety, so even the thought of going out on a series of random dates with a bunch of strangers causes her to hyperventilate.

Her cute boss, Chris, the one who doesn’t seem to like her at all, thinks it is a great idea though; as does Stacey. She’ll give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, the dates aren’t too bad, but Everly can’t stop thinking about her boss.

Alternating between Chris and Everly’s perspective, the Reader gets a front row seat to all of their pinings, doubts and insecurities, as an adorable friendship develops.

The first half of this book, I was pretty into it. I liked the characters and although not super romance heavy, I enjoyed reading about their friendships and issues.

Everly’s anxieties were relatable and I thought she was doing a great job getting outside of her comfort zone and working at lowering her walls.

I really liked Chris as well. He was in a difficult position. His father owns the radio station, but he didn’t want any of the employees to know. He wanted to be judged on his own merit, not because of the fact that his father is super rich.

Chis has a huge crush on Everly, but doesn’t feel like he is in a position to make a move considering he is her boss. That makes sense. I get that.

Everything was going along nicely, but then somewhere around the 80% mark, it just went off the rails for me.

It got beyond frustrating. I actually started to get angry with the characters and the way things were going. I was yelling at them. Literally exclaiming things randomly while reading.

Everly ended up turning into one of my least favorite characters ever. She was so rigid. Holding everyone to these impossibly high standards. It was so freaking aggravating.

It was like she had never made a mistake before. She’s a 30-year old woman, judging people based upon decisions they made when they were 20-freaking years old.

I don’t know, something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t get over that distaste once it was in my head and the rest of the story suffered for it.

I rounded up to 3-stars, because I feel like this has the workings to be a good story, and if you don’t have the same issues with Everly that I did, this could work for you. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a great fit for me.

I did adore Chris though. He deserves better, in my opinion, than the end of this book.

Also, although this didn’t have an impact on my rating, I know for a lot of Romance Readers it might, there is zero steam in this story. There is more steam in a Hallmark movie than in this book, so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I do appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

While this didn’t knock it out of the park for me, I would definitely try more from Sophie Sullivan.

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Review: Fable (Fable #1) by Adrienne Young

Fable (Fable, #1)Fable by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Four years ago, 17-year old, Fable, was abandoned by her Father on a notorious island full of dangers and thieves. Her mother had just died, the victim of a terrible storm, and Fable was truly alone.

All her Father left her with were the parting words, you’re not cut out for a life on the sea. Fable disagrees, however, and has spent her time in the proceeding years trying to figure out a way back to him and into her rightful place on his crew.

She finally secures her means of escape with a companion she has met through trading, a young man named, West.

Him and his crew allow Fable to come aboard their ship, the Marigold, for the journey across The Narrows. As we all expect with a sea-faring tale, dangers lurk around every corner and the crew must band together in order to survive.

Fable is definitely a slow burn. It’s quite character-driven, but I did enjoy my time learning about Fable, West and the other characters on the Marigold. There’s a nice found-family element to it that I liked quite a bit as well.

This reminded me a lot of Daughter of the Pirate King. There’s actually more than a few similarities, although I do feel this story feels a bit more mature than that one. I do think if you enjoyed that book, you’ll enjoy this one too.

There are some light magical elements to this that I hope are built out a bit more in the second book. Fable’s ability at reading gems is unique and I want to know more.

This left off on such a great cliffhanger. I have already picked up the second book, Namesake and am excited to see how Fable’s story concludes. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys an adventure on the high seas!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it very much!

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