The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games

By: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: 2020
# of pages: 376
Series: The Inheritance Games (#1)
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

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.

Goodreads

This was a fun read and the mystery was better than I was expecting! For some reason when I checked this out from the library I was thinking it was going to be a mixture of The Hunger Games (Suzanne Clark) and Legend (Marie Lu). Obviously I just skimmed the description and looked at the title! However, rather than taking place in the future and involving an organized and widespread competition, this book takes place in present day and the “game” is within a family.

I liked the character of Avery and the teenage angst and love interests didn’t bother me as much as some YA books do. It is the first in a series, but it could also work as a standalone because it wraps up at the end and doesn’t leave the reader too desperate to read the next. I will be reading the second book because of how much I enjoyed this book. Overall I recommend this to those who enjoy YA and/or these type of mystery/puzzle stories.

Tomorrow’s Bread

Tomorrow’s Bread

By: Anna Jean Mayhew
Published: 2019
# of pages: 352
Challenges: Alphabet Soup

Goodreads review:

In 1961 Charlotte, North Carolina, the predominantly black neighborhood of Brooklyn is a bustling city within a city. Self-contained and vibrant, it has its own restaurants, schools, theaters, churches, and night clubs. There are shotgun shacks and poverty, along with well-maintained houses like the one Loraylee Hawkins shares with her young son, Hawk, her Uncle Ray, and her grandmother, Bibi. Loraylee’s love for Archibald Griffin, Hawk’s white father and manager of the cafeteria where she works, must be kept secret in the segregated South.

Loraylee has heard rumors that the city plans to bulldoze her neighborhood, claiming it’s dilapidated and dangerous. The government promises to provide new housing and relocate businesses. But locals like Pastor Ebenezer Polk, who’s facing the demolition of his church, know the value of Brooklyn does not lie in bricks and mortar. Generations have lived, loved, and died here, supporting and strengthening each other. Yet street by street, longtime residents are being forced out. And Loraylee, searching for a way to keep her family together, will form new alliances—and find an unexpected path that may yet lead her home.

As a geography major at a university in this city, I learned about the gentrification of Second Ward in the city of Charlotte, so when I saw that this book was the local library’s book club choice I was eager to read this version of history!

The story follows Loraylee, a young woman who lives in the neighborhood of Brooklyn, a black community that happens to be close to uptown Charlotte. The neighborhood is segregated for decades until local developers, government, and wealthy citizens decide that it’s a “blight” (aka: prime real estate from which they can’t monetarily gain.) In their eyes the best way to handle the run down sections is to bull doze the entire ward and rebuild it as more upscale and worthy of the new image wanted to change “downtown” Charlotte into “uptown” Charlotte. Yes, around that time Charlotte was rebranded and one major way of doing that was referring to the main area as “uptown,” which it is still referred to as now.

Loraylee is an interesting character, mainly because of how progressive she is while still appreciating her family and neighbors and their traditions. Other characters whose POVs were included were a preacher in Brooklyn dealing with the destruction of his church and its graveyard and a white woman who doesn’t live in Brooklyn, but whose husband is a member of the board in charge of the Brooklyn redevelopment. Was it super realistic to have so many characters who were open minded during that time? Maybe, or maybe not. But obviously there were people living at that time who were progressive and taking risks by interacting with other people of different races. I’m grateful they did so and set the stage for where we are now and where we will hopefully continue as a country.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and was excited to read about the city and countryside (now suburbs!) of the area I call home. At the end of the book the author clarifies what was true and what was fiction in her story. I was disappointed to read that much of the preacher character’s story about the church and graveyard mystery was fiction. I wonder if there was another cemetery that really existed in Charlotte that was affected by the gentrification. I don’t know, but it would be cool if another author would tackle the same subject from different angles!

I know this is a controversial subject, but I always appreciate authors of any gender/race writing about minorities as long as they make a visible effort to do the characters/subject justice and respect. It’s totally fine for others to disagree because I understand feeling otherwise, but that’s my personal feeling about the matter. This was an original, important, and interesting subject to write about as a historical fiction book and I’d love to see others do the same… Either about the same subject, Second Ward in Charlotte, or about gentrification in other cities. And I’d love to see authors of color write about the subject, especially if they had ancestors affected by displacement.

So overall, I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, if only to add to knowledge and fuel the quest for other books about similar subjects.

The City of Brass

The City of Brass

By: S.A. Chakraborty
Published: 2017
# of pages: 533
Series: The Daevabad Triology (#1)
Challenge: Alphabet Soup
Quote:
“’You’re some kind of thief, then?’
‘That’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at it. I prefer to think of myself as a merchant of delicate tasks.'”

Goodreads description:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

Review:

I’m not going to lie, I chose to read this book based on the cover! I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and how well written and intricate it is!

Nahri considers herself a fairly normal human. Key word, human. Sure, she is all alone in the city of Cairo and steals and cons to survive, but she has to do what she has to do. Until one day when a djinn magically appears in front of her and changes her life forever. She can’t return to her normal life, she has to travel to a magic city called Daevabad. She isn’t who she thought she was, she has an entire history to consider that includes plenty of intrigue, conflict, and prejudice. On the flip side, it includes a lot of prestige and power.

This story is long and complicated. There were times I was a little confused, but I also appreciated that the author didn’t suddenly shovel an entire empire’s history on the reader all at once. So it took a while to start to figure things out and for it to come together. Sometimes I wondered if I missed something, but it would be explained a little later.

The synopsis sounds like a stereotypical fantasy series, but there were several original aspects and I really enjoyed the characters. This is an adult fantasy, but probably older teens would also enjoy the book. I’ve already read the second book in the trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper, and enjoyed it just as much. I recommend it to adults and young adults who enjoy fantasy.

Queens of the Wyrd

Queens of the Wyrd

By: Timandra Whitecastle
Published:
2019
# of pages:
414
Series: Shieldmothers Saga (#1)
Challenges: Alphabet Soup, Book Bingo (Love Typography)
Quote: “Never trust a silence around children. It is as unnatural as a sudden calm on the tempestuous sea, and as much a herald of unpleasant surprises to come.”

Goodreads description:

Raise your shield. Defend your sisters. Prepare for battle.

Half-giant Lovis and her Shieldmaiden warband were once among the fiercest warriors in Midgard. But those days are long past and now Lovis just wants to provide a safe home for herself and her daughter – that is, until her former shield-sister Solveig shows up on her doorstep with shattering news.

Solveig’s warrior daughter is trapped on the Plains of Vigrid in a siege gone ugly. Desperate to rescue her, Sol is trying to get the old warband back together again. But their glory days are a distant memory. The Shieldmaidens are Shieldmothers now, entangled in domestic obligations and ancient rivalries.

But family is everything, and Lovis was never more at home than at her shield-sisters’ side. Their road won’t be easy: old debts must be paid, wrongs must be righted, and the Nornir are always pulling on loose threads, leaving the Shieldmaidens facing the end of all Nine Realms. Ragnarok is coming, and if the Shieldmaidens can’t stop it, Lovis will lose everyone she loves…

Fate is inexorable. Wyrd bith ful araed.

God, I loved this book! I bought it on my Kindle when it was on sale just because I liked the cover, but it ended up being one of my favorites I read this year!

Lovis wakes up one morning to the same old, same old. Take care of her somewhat wild and willful daughter Birke and make some money at the job she works in the evening. Little does she know life is about to change…back to the way it used to be for her and her former band of shieldmaidens. Everything is familiar and yet different as she is reunified with her old friends with Birke in tow.

I loved that the protagonist is a mother. There were so many insightful quotes and observations made by Lovis and her mom friend Solveig about being a mother and balancing work/motherhood/social life, etc. I also enjoyed the characters and settings as well as the Norse mythology.

I also loved that each chapter was prefaced with a quote from modern sources cited as “The Wisdom of the Volur.” The writing style was so casual, but also descriptive. There’s a section at the end of the book that has a pronunciation guide that could be useful to read while or before reading the story, but of course I didn’t discover it until I was through. But I feel like I pronounced everything correctly inside my head and it didn’t matter.

I recommend this to lovers of fantasy and mythology. It’s geared towards adults with adult characters, but I think young adults would also enjoy the story.

Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

By: Kazuo Ishiguro
Published:
2021
# of pages:
303
Challenges: What’s in a Name? (outer space), Alphabet Soup

Goodreads description:

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Review:

Ishiguro is one of my favorite authors and I was happy this title could count for the What’s in a Name challenge for the outer space category!

The story is about an AI (artificial intelligence) named Klara who wants to be picked from dozens of other AIs in the store to be a human child’s friend so badly. She watches customers and people outside and muses about what it’s like to be human, how she compares to other AIs (both her own model, older models, and newer models), and emotions and interactions.

Klara ends up exactly where she and all her fellow AIs want to be, but nothing is perfect, right? Klara has a journey to take and a choice to make. She does everything correctly, but nothing is perfect, right?

Overall this story is about love, sacrifice, and humanity from a robotic memory point of view. What does it mean to be human and what does it mean to love? This would be a great book club read because it’s thought provoking and I imagine different readers would have different interpretations of what was happening throughout the novel.

I found it confusing at times and disconcerting in general. It would have been good to read it again after finishing, but ain’t nobody got time for that! I wish I could discuss more on here without spoilers. Hmm, maybe a secret post somehow that I can link from here? I will look into doing that!

House of Hollow

House of Hollow

By: Krystal Sutherland

Published: 2021

# of pages: 304

Challenge: Book Bingo (published in 2021)

Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.

Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.

As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.

The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years. 

Goodreads

Review:

Something rare happened to me, which is I just found a random book from my library on the Libby app. Since I’ve switched to mostly ebooks, I don’t usually browse shelves anymore. I find all my books from blogs, Goodreads, and recommendations. However, while searching for a completely different title, this book popped up in the search results and I was fascinated by the cover and checked it out.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a unique and interesting story that was also well-written! The book is about teenager Iris Hollow, who tries her hardest to live a boring life in spite of her traumatic past and spotlight searching older sisters. However, she spends a day with her next oldest sister, Vivi, and her structured life comes tumbling down. The oldest sister, Grey, is missing and the two younger sisters set out to find her.

I was impressed at how well the story ran together. There weren’t holes or things that didn’t make sense later in the timeline. If something was mentioned in passing it would very well come up again later. The dark, modern fairytale vibe isn’t usually my thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am adding it to my favorites list for this year.

Trigger warning: creepy crawly descriptions, rot/decay, bugs.

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Dragon’s Reach

Dragon’s Reach

By: J.A. Andrews
Published: 2020
# of pages: 614
Series: The Keeper Origins (#1)
Challenge: What’s in a Name? (Possessive Noun)
Quote: “’That is the curse of life. Judging your past actions in the light of what you know now.’ She tilted her head. ‘Give your past self grace, my child. She did the best she could.’”

Goodreads description:

Sable, a reluctant thief from the slums, can feel truth when people speak. For years she’s been using that skill to try to break free from the vicious gang boss she’s indebted to.

Escape comes in the form of an odd set of companions:
-a dwarf running from the past,
-an actor with a magical, glowing tree
-a too-helpful kobold,
-a playwright with a knack for getting stories out of people, and
-a man and woman with suspicious, magical powers.

But Sable’s freedom is short lived.

On the edges of civilization, they discover hidden, terrifying lies in the offers of peace from the brutal Kalesh Empire.

Now, she must return to the city she fled, and along with her companions, attempt an impossible task—convince everyone, including the powerful Dragon Prioress, of the truth.

Except the Kalesh web of lies has ensnared everyone.
With her land, her people, and everything she loves hanging in the balance, Sable is the only one standing between freedom, and certain death.

Review:

Don’t ask me how I found this book, but it’s been on my TBR list for a while. I was picking out a book to match the What’s in a Name possessive noun category and here we are: a possessive noun in the word “Dragon’s.”

I was very pleasantly surprised by this first book in a series! Yes, it’s a typical fantasy, but I still found it refreshing and interesting. I enjoyed the author’s take on “common” fantasy species like elves, dwarves, magicians, but I also liked the inclusion of a kobold (basically a house elf from the Harry Potter series!)

Sable is living a life of crime to protect her sister, but she’s been waiting for a way to remove herself from the crime boss she works for in her part of the city and move to another neighborhood to live an honest life. Soon her big chance arrives, but of course nothing can go the way she planned. Before she knows it, she’s on the road with a traveling troupe and soon discovers that nothing about her country and its religious and political structure is what she belives to be true.

The characters are likeable and relateable, the backstories and world building aren’t overwhelming or boring, and the plot is interesting. I recommend this to both young adults and adults who enjoy fantasy.

My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer

By: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Published: 2018
# of pages: 226

Goodreads description:

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

Review:

I bet there are a lot of us out there who have younger sisters who are so favored (and spoiled) they could “get away with murder.” So what if someone took that concept literally and wrote a novel about the subject? Then you would have My Sister, the Serial Killer.

I haven’t done so yet, but I’d like to see if there’s any blog posts or interviews by the author that discuss her inspiration for this story. I have to say, as someone who is at this moment having some sister drama, I was reading it I was thinking, huh. Yeah, I could see this. I mean, not REALLY, but you know.

The unconcerned, impulsive, act first think (maybe) later, expecting others to clean up after them… And no one would ever suspect after seeing the smile, the bubbly personality. Especially compared to the not so fun older sister’s all business personality.

There’s not much else to say without spoilers, so you should just check it out yourself if you know what I’m talking about! I thoroughly enjoyed this, I just wish it had been a little longer and perhaps moved a little slower towards the end.

I recommend this to lovers of crime fiction along with some family drama. Content warning: domestic abuse.

Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary

By: Andy Weir
Published: 2021
# of pages: 481
Quote: “I feel like Sherlock Holmes. All I saw was ‘nothing,’ and I drew a bunch of conclusions!”

Goodreads description:

A lone astronaut must save the earth from disaster.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crew mates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Review:

I shouldn’t have even picked this book to review because it’s hard to describe how much I enjoyed the story and characters! Was it the most amazingly well written book? No. Was it super realistic (in spite of the detailed scientific descriptions)? No. Usually these things will annoy me or hold me back from fully enjoying a book, but in this case it didn’t. It was a refreshing read and I must not be the only person who loved it based on its Goodreads rating of 4.57 stars.

If you’ve read (or watched the movie) The Martian, you’re familiar with the author, Andy Weir. He also wrote Artemis a few years ago, but I didn’t think that story was as good as his first and third novels. Similar to The Martian, this story follows a man alone in space who is struggling to survive a situation that has spiraled out of control.

Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a space ship but doesn’t know why he’s there or how he got there. Over the course of the story his memories slowly return. He realizes he has an important job to do fairly quickly, but how? He has no way to communicate with anyone to ask questions.

I recommend this book to all sci-fi fans. Similar to The Martian, there’s a lot of science details that I don’t truly understand, but Weir does a great job of dumbing it down and not overwhelming the reader.

Behind Her Eyes


Behind Her Eyes

By: Sarah Pinborough
Published: 2017
Pages:
318
Quote:
“Sharing a secret always feels great in the moment, but then becomes a burden in itself. That gnawing in the pit of your stomach that something has been set free and you can’t call it back and now someone else has that power over your future.”

Goodreads description:

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

Review:

I watched the Netflix mini series a couple of months ago and enjoyed it, so I decided to check out the book. I was pleasantly surprised by how true to the book the series ended up being.

Louise is a single mom who works part time and is slightly dissatisfied with her mundane life. Little does she know, her life won’t be mundane for long. On a rare night out, her friend doesn’t show up. Instead of heading back to her apartment, Louise decides to take advantage of having a babysitter and enjoy some time alone. But then she meets a man. It’s not like her to flirt and even kiss without even knowing his name, but that’s what she does.

A few days later she finds out her new boss is none other than the mystery man. She’s embarrassed, but this is something she will laugh about later, right? But then she meets his wife and before she knows it, she’s enmeshed in more secrets than she can handle.

This book is a little hard to classify. At first glance it seems like a phychological thriller, but it’s more than just that, so keep an open mind while reading. It’s very original and creative. Louise is an easy character to understand and sympathize with, although at times I wanted to slap some sense into her.

After you read the book check out the show! If you’ve read or watched Behind Her Eyes, what did you think?