Wednesday, September 30, 2020

#Review - Kingdom of Sea and Stone by Mara Rutherford #YA #Fantasy

Series: Crown of Coral and Pearl (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Source: Publisher
Genre: Young Adult / Epic Fantasy

The highly anticipated sequel to Mara Rutherford’s stunning YA fantasy debut, Crown of Coral and Pearl, in which a young woman from a village on the sea must impersonate her twin on land to save everyone she loves from a tyrannical prince. Perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi, Laura Sebastian, and Sarah Tolcser.

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

Mara Rutherford's Kingdom of Sea and Stone is the sequel to Crown of Coral and Pearl. The story picks up right after the aftermath of the events of Kingdom of Coral and Pearl. Nor has escaped Ilara leaving her love Prince Talin behind to escape to Varenia with her twin sister Zadie. But things aren't exactly smooth. Nor believes she killed Ceren, Samiel is still missing, but presumed to alive, Varenians aren't exactly happy about Nor's return which leads to bad trouble, and Nor can't see a way forward to whatever happens next which is where the story really begins.

Shortly after arriving home, Prince Talin arrives with Grig and Osius. He is wanted for conspiracy against Ceren with his mother Talia who is preparing her army to go to war to take back the throne for her daughter. In this world, the rightful ruler always comes from the female line. To make matters worse, Ceren is very much alive, and is now King thanks to what happen between him and Nor which gives them a connection which they can use to read each other’s memories. He has no intention of allowing Nor to escape his desire for revenge which puts Nor's people directly in the crossfire. 

Ceren ends up chasing Nor, Zadie, Talin and his loyal guards already into Galteth. Galteth means a new world to create, and new characters to meet including Roan and Adriel who will become one of the best sources for Nor to learn about her healing abilities. Nor and allies try to get the Galethians to ally with them against Ceren by joining with Talia who is conscripting anyone old enough to pick up a weapon. Nor is given a horse named Titania. The horse has a mind of its own and really takes to Nor quickly even though she's from the sea where no horses exist. Titania is an amazing creature as well as being smart and loyal.

Nor and Zaida’s relationship was so strong and empowering most of the time. The extent they would sacrifice for the other was beautiful. There were times when Zaida knew exactly what she wanted while Nor was struggling to choose what she was going to do next. I also appreciated that it appears her parents were more accepting of the daughter this time around. They basically decided she wasn't worth when she permanently scared her face when she was a child. I have to say that the author made Ceren seem sympathetic after revealing what happened to him under Talia. 

Throughout this book, Nor works way too hard to be accepted by those around her which gives Adriel an opening to teach her to accept who she is, what she is capable of, and not giving a damn about what others believe. I am surprised by the ending, but I guess I shouldn't be since this was supposed to be aimed at young women and what they, not others, decide to do with their lives. With means that Nor's adventures end on an open note. I've attempted to research whether this is a duology or a trilogy. It seems that the author has two books she's working on that have nothing to do with this series.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#Review - The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes #YA #Thrillers #Suspense

Series: The Inheritance Games #1
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Library
Genre:  Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

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 conwoman, 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.

The Inheritance Games is the first installment in author Jennifer Lynn Barnes The Inheritance Games series. This book has been compared to Knives Out, and One of Us is Lying. High School Junior Avery Grambs is a really good student who wants to attend the University of Connecticut upon graduation, if she can get enough scholarships. Avery has been living with her half-sister Libby since her mom died. But, after an argument with her sister’s boyfriend, Avery finds herself living in her car. Then the unexpected happens.

Avery is called to the principal's office where she receives the shock of her life. Thanks to her sister’s idiocy of tossing away mail, Avery discovers that she has been named in the will of a recently deceased Texas billionaire and philanthropist Tobias Hawthorne. She has no idea who the man is, or why he would have left anything to her, but she has no choice. Avery is flown to Texas where the reading of the will take place by Tobias's lawyers. Avery discovers that Tobias left much of his money to her. But there is a catch. She must move into Hawthorne manor and stay there an entire year or lose everything. 

She must share a home with Tobias's four grandsons; Grayson, Alexander, Jameson, and Nash who have no idea where this interloper came from. Could she be Cinderella or is she Marie Antoinette? She must deal with the angry Hawthorne women who are willing to be cutthroat if it means getting rid of Avery for good. She must figure out why any of this happened to her by playing a mysterious game while trying to survive the Hawthorne family who have all been disinherited. If she can survive for a year living with the boys, she will inherit a fortune. If she doesn't, things get really twisted as to whom will get the money.

Avery is not only likable, but someone you want to root for. While she isn't perfect, she cares about those around her and learns from her mistakes, which is an excellent example for readers of all ages. She finds herself attached to Jameson, as well as Grayson who seems to want to help. Then there is Xander who may be the most intelligent member of this cast as well as Nash who seems nonchalant about the whole charade. They all have  a game to play as well, and I don't think that we've uncovered the end of the games that Tobias left behind for Avery and his Grandsons. Then there's the mystery that her own mother took to the grave when she said, "I have a secret."

After living with her older sister and struggling to get by, she enters a strange world of money, power, danger, and family secrets where everyone seems to be carrying daggers ready to stab Avery in the back. The closer she gets to the truth as to why she was chosen to be the heir, her relationships with the boys, and her very survival are tested. Even though the boys and Avery have vastly different agendas, they end up working together to solve the games puzzles and clues. Just when you think you have solved the clues; each clue revealed another secret.

The Inheritance Games will captivate readers with not one, not two, but three mysteries--all interwoven in one masterful thriller. The puzzle-filled family estate, privileged and complicated family, and fish-out-of-water protagonist all make The Inheritance Games a must read. Avery not only lives the dream of inheriting billions from an unknown benefactor (not to mention a mansion and staff), but she also moves in with four gorgeous, intriguing guys who are all playing a game where Avery is either Cinderella or Marie Antoinette.

This was a fantastic mystery with a lot of twists and turns right up until the final page. Give this to fans of the high stakes teen mystery of One of Us is Lying, the clever puzzles and riddles of The Westing Game, the love triangle of Jenny Han's The Summer I Turned Pretty, and the clever, snarky, high stakes action of Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series.

Monday, September 28, 2020

#Review - Scammed by Kristen Simmons #YA #Thriller #Suspense

Series: Vale Hall (#2)
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Publisher: Tor Teen
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense

The stakes rise and the cons get even more unpredictable in this second installment of Kristen Simmons’ YA thriller series

The series that began with The Deceivers continues in this second twist-filled installment.

Brynn Hilder is living a life she never dreamed possible: She lives in a mansion, getting a top-rate education at Vale Hall. She has friends and an almost-boyfriend. Anything she wants, she can have.

The only catch? To stay in this life, she has to help the director of Vale Hall take down the bad guys of Sikawa City by collecting secrets and running cons.

Getting everything she wants and fighting evil doesn’t seem like such a bad deal. The thing is, she’s not so convinced anymore that Dr. Odin is really going after bad people after all. And the friends and almost-boyfriend that have made her life so different are all liars and con artists—so can she trust that any of it is real?

The stakes are higher. The cons are riskier. And nothing is what you think it is.


Scammed, by author Kristen Simmons, is the second installment in the authors Vale Hall series. Brynn Hilder is fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Vale Hall, an elite high school which is really a school for con artists, even if it comes with conditions. (Vale Hall is inspired by Valhalla in Norse mythology. This is something that should be pushed more.) After growing up in a bad section of Skawa City, she's determined to maintain her place there. But things aren't exactly smooth. Brynn is suspicious of the director of the school but knows that he holds both her future and her mother’s future in his hands. 

Odin has a tendency of getting what he wants by luring in those like Brynn's mother with offers that they never would have had otherwise. Brynn is sent on a mission to investigate the disappearance of an intern from Senator Sterling's campaign at the same time her last mission Greyson Sterling resurfaces. Brynn’s past choices return in this book creating conflicts with her friends, including Caleb Matsuki. She also runs into a girl who was destroyed by Odin and has more than an axe to grind against the school. When complications do arise, she finds herself unable to determine who she can or cannot trust. Picking the wrong allies could result in some serious consequences as we see by the ending.

Brynn doubts her boyfriend, her friends, and acquaintances, and even herself. She's always prided herself on being a good judge of character - but is she really? Everything comes with a cost, or a price. With several plot twists and blind sides, you won't know who or what to believe. Everything Brynn knows is changing and her loyalties are being tested. Should she trust Dr. Odin, the man who has given her amazing opportunities for a new life, or Caleb, the boy who is her maybe-almost-boyfriend, who may have his own agenda for revenge? The description of the story nails it - higher stakes, riskier cons, and nothing is at it seems.