4 star, YA

Review: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Series: The Inheritance Games #1

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. 

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.



I approached the newest series by Jennifer Lynn Barnes with a sense of wary excitement. Having loved and felt let down by her past stories, I wasn’t sure which side of the fence this one would land in. I am happy to say that The Inheritance Games hooked me with its main plot line and reeled me in with the characters I fell for.

Avery Grambs was an ordinary girl by all standards, possibly even less known than the average high school student as she was practically orphaned and living with her half-sister. Good with puzzles and strategy, here’s a girl who wanted to do actuarial science in the future – but only because it was something she could excel in and pays well. After all, she knew exactly how much effort it took to do well in school (not much at all between her jobs), so what would it look like to actually try? What a practical and intriguing mind.

Then comes the out-of-nowhere inheritance and the four Hawthorne brothers. Or should I say, half brothers? This family dynamic was super interesting with all the boys, their mother that they share, and aunts/uncles and family staff all under one roof, albeit a super large mansion-sized roof. I loved that each brother was different, although they could technically be put into a stereotypical box.

Grayson: the serious responsible one who is secretly a sweetheart underneath those frigid cold outer layers

Jameson: the adventurous, rebellious one that gives off bad-boy (or at least bad influence) vibes

Nash: the laidback cowboy one (they are in Texas after all) who prefers not to take on the mantle of responsibility

Xander: the sweet, fun, innocent one that is instantly your friend

I felt for Avery as she came face to face with these formidable brothers and having to navigate the sudden windfall all at the same time. Having not grown up with much money, suddenly she had to learn what it meant to be a billionaire. Who can you trust? How do you invest the money wisely? Wait, is someone trying to kill you now for your money?

Honestly, the riddles took a back burner to the relational aspects in this book. That may be why I docked off one star. I had wanted more clues, more of a hunt for the answer to everyone’s big question: why did Avery inherit everything (important) from a guy she had never known?

The little bits of clues and riddle hunting were fun and enjoyable. I always appreciate authors who craft some good puzzles for us readers to also figure out. I just wish it was a bigger part of this story. It may be that the next book will provide more now that we have been introduced to the family.

This leads me to what the story focused a little too much about. At the heart of the Hawthorne relationships Avery finds herself navigating is a love triangle between Grayson and Jameson. Obviously, I expected that from the synopsis. What I didn’t expect was some more convoluted past history between the brothers over another girl. One that didn’t end well for all parties and now impact their potential new fight over Avery. I don’t necessarily mind the backstory set up for the current-day issues, but it took up SO MUCH of the emotional arc of all three characters and impacted even the riddle hunting portion of the book. I would’ve been happier if it was limited in some capacity.

Disclaimer: if it’s not obvious yet, I don’t particularly have a great track record with love triangles. I thought I got over that particular issue in recent years, but nope. I wanted to love Jameson, I really did, but my heart just couldn’t get into their interactions. He wasn’t considerate to Avery at times, so focused on his love for puzzle solving, that I’m not sure what he truly sees in her. Or her in him, for that matter. He doesn’t have that sense of maturity, which if you read the differences in the brothers above, Grayson has in spades. So of course, I’m now Team Grayson unwittingly and hope my heart won’t be shattered in book 2. We shall see (and hope fervently).

By the end, I did appreciate where the storyline took everything and the new questions revealed from the limited answers we got at its conclusion. The pacing was good enough, and I really enjoyed Avery as a protagonist. She didn’t trust easily (which is good because we don’t want some naive girl here) but had relatively good judgment to discern when and who to rely on. Her puzzle solving mind was interesting to observe, and for the most part, I agreed with the choices she made. Although I came for the puzzles in this book, I stayed for the characterizations I enjoyed and the less annoying relationships that were forming. Here’s to waiting for the sequel!

Overall Recommendation:

The Inheritance Games brings an excellent plot line that puzzles and intrigues. Following a protagonist that doesn’t make me want to shout at her choices, I thoroughly enjoyed and empathized with Avery as she navigates a billionaire’s life that suddenly dropped into her lap. With a mystery at its heart to unravel and some romantic tensions in the form of a budding love triangle (yay…), there’s definitely plenty here to keep me flipping through its pages to the end for the twisty reveal. As more questions pile on top of the ones we already had, the sequel is definitely something I’m invested in! The only issue I had was this book had less puzzle solving than romantic entanglements (past or present). I hope book 2 will give us more puzzles and less complications in romance, but otherwise, this Jennifer Lynn Barnes novel was a win in my heart.

recommendations

If You Loved A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder…

Hello friends! It’s been a super crazy week for me. I had a fever over the weekend, the day after I adopted our new puppy, and it’s just been a very trying week of craziness that I am still learning to adjust to.

I have thought about starting a new segment on the blog for a while now, and thought this would be a fun way to highlight books I loved and new books/upcoming books that make for great recommendations.

I recently finished A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (review coming soon!). And in anticipation of the third book in the series, As Good as Dead, coming next month (omg I can’t wait!), I thought I would highlight similar books you will love if you enjoyed this book.


About the book

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can’t shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn’t want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

This is the story of an investigation turned obsession, full of twists and turns and with an ending you’ll never expect.


If you love old cases that were reopened by a high schooler…

…Then you will love To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough. With a similar premise where a high school girl explores a murder case that was left untouched for years, this act ultimately draws out the killer as she gets closer to the truth.

If you love intrigue and suspicion thrown on different people…

…Then you will like the plot pacing and twists found in Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus. Her mysteries similarly go through different suspects that could have committed the crime, but maybe it’s the one you didn’t imagine it would be.

If you love mysteries where the caught “killer” was just a patsy for the real culprit…

…Then you will find similar interest in They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman. In both stories, the case was thought to have been solved, normally thinking it’s the significant other who had committed such a crime of passion. But is it? Maybe somewhere out there the real killer is laughing at getting away so easily.


Let me know if you have read any of these, or would want to if you enjoyed A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. And let me know if you want to see more “If You Loved This” recs from me! I have other ideas I’d love to highlight for you all!

3.5 star, adult

Review: The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse

You won’t want to leave. . . until you can’t.

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel.

An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept.

Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.

Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .



This was another one of those books I just randomly picked off the (library) shelf based on the cover and synopsis alone. Ironically, neither of which I find incredible – I almost just returned it without reading it, since I didn’t feel the strong urge to read it. However, just before it was due, I decided to just race through it, and honestly I’m fairly satisfied that I did.

The Sanatorium takes place at a newly constructed building located in the Swiss Alps, once a sanatorium turned into a fancy hotel. Elin, our protagonist, is there to celebrate the engagement of her estranged brother. However, quickly things start taking a dark turn. People start going missing, the weather gets worse and worse, all poetically coming up to a big climax as the tensions continually increase.

Although the story revolves around our protagonist, the first portion of the novel actually takes us through a series of different perspectives. This I found to be a little bit distracting, as the novel quickly introduces us to more and more characters, making it a bit hard to focus on the main story. I think I remember maybe 3-4 storylines? I suppose part of the suspense is sometimes not being able to remember every part clearly, but it also takes away some of the tension and suspense that is built when it is too diverging.

The characters in this story were quite good and well-developed. People were consistent in their character and actions, and suspicions were easily cast around as new information came to light. This really helped captivate me in the story, as each character seemed like a reasonable suspect, and each had their secrets to hide. Being a little bit invested in each character is an important aspect of a novel to me, as it really helps bind the story together (e.g. not skipping parts about characters you don’t like), and I felt that that was pretty well done here.

The suspense in this story was well done, but nothing too dramatic. There was kind of an underlying tension and suspense that was growing throughout the story, but over all, each little arc of tension and resolution weren’t too heightened. Even at some of the most tense moments, I found that the resolution came fairly quickly, and perhaps I was let off the hook almost too easily. This is obviously just personal opinion, as to how much suspense “should” take place, but for me personally, I was expecting more from the resolution of the tension. I was often left thinking: oh that’s it?

Now for my biggest gripe: the ending. Yes, it was fairly unexpected and I didn’t totally see it coming. However, that didn’t mean it was quite satisfying either. Similar to our buddy review for Don’t Look For Me, where the ending was completely unexpected but also seemingly a little bit out of nowhere, I found the ending in this novel to not give me the satisfying “aha” moment. The best moments in these kinds of suspenses and mysteries are when you finally come to the realization of how everything has panned and played out, and how everything has come to lead up to this exact moment. Let’s just say that in this novel, there is an explanation yes, but it just all seemed like explanations for explanations, and covering up loopholes, as if everything was explained in hindsight, rather than being planned from the beginning. Does this make sense at all? All in all, this ending just really didn’t do it for me.

I would say overall I did enjoy the story though. The suspense was good, the characters were good, and there was good tension in general. The story and history woven in were good, and the general intrigue was well-executed – I enjoyed all the little details of how everything was put together. Perhaps I’m just a little bit too much of a stickler for the ending, if anyone else has read this, what did you think?

Overall Recommendations

The Sanatorium takes places in a beautifully constructed new 5-star hotel (once a sanatorium) in the Swiss Alps, where our protagonist, Elin, is visiting with her boyfriend to celebrate her estranged brother’s new engagement. While seemingly luxurious in its minimalistic design, more and more strange events begin to happen at the hotel: starting with the bride-to-be going missing. What exactly is going on here at this new hotel and who is behind it all? With the heavy storm incoming, how much danger exactly has Elin walked into? This novel had good characters and decent suspense throughout the whole novel, and I would recommend it to any mystery/thriller reader who likes to focus on those elements.