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.

4 star, YA

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…



Equal parts tension-filled chemistry and terrifying mystery, Kingdom of the Wicked proves that Kerri Maniscalco is amazing at writing stories that have me on the edge of my seat! I loved her Stalking Jack the Ripper series and I knew whatever she wrote next would have big shoes to fill. But this has impressed me more than I had anticipated.

Set in a Sicilian landscape of an older time period, Emilia and her family run a restaurant together while secretly being witches among ordinary humans. She and her twin were always warned of dark magic and evil beings who’d try to lure their souls, but at some point, was there any grain of truth in these warnings or just childish stories meant to scare? Things change drastically when Vittoria, the wilder twin, is found dead by Emilia which sets her on this dangerous and reckless path of vengeance.

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4 star, YA

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Series: Deathless #1

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.



This one has been floating around the YA sphere even before it published recently and I can see where all the hype is coming from for it is very well deserved. The Gilded Ones is a female-empowering story that show girls are not only worth more than a subservient role in a patriarchal society, but they are strong and will fight until another day to survive.

Deka was raised in the Northern area of the kingdom although her appearance resembles that of her mother, a Southerner. Already deemed different in this way alone, she’d always wanted to fit in. The Ritual of Purity for every girl come of age would determine if they were pure or impure based on the colour of their blood. Deka was determined to fit in and finally be approved by her village. Of course, nothing goes as planned right?

Continue reading “Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna”