The Inheritance Games

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Growing up I was a major Nancy Drew fan. I read all the books, played all the video games, and generally tried to become an amateur sleuth. Now that I’m an adult, I still love tales of mystery and hijinks. So when The Inheritance Games began making the rounds on Bookstagram, I snapped it right up.

Avery Grambs is a 17 year old who is just hoping to finish high school. When she’s called to the principal’s office one day, she’s met by a man in a sharp silver suit who is the bearer of puzzling news. Billionaire Tobias Hawthorne has died and Avery has been named in the will. The only catch? Avery has never heard of Tobias Hawthorne.

So begins Avery’s entry into the world of the rich and famous. Hawthorne House is filled with secret passageways, one of a kind antiques, and enigmatic occupants. The four Hawthorne grandsons Nash, Grayson, Jameson, and Xander are just as curious to find out why Avery has been named in their grandfather’s will. They’re even more curious when it’s announced that Avery is primary beneficiary. As Avery tries to get used to life as a billionaire, she finds clues that old Tobias Hawthorne has one last game to play- and she’s at the center of it.

This book is great for fans of Knives Out, Clue, or The Westing Game.

Make sure to pick up the next books in the trilogy as well, you’ll want to know what happens next!

Book 2: The Hawthorne Legacy

Book 3: The Final Gambit

-Melinda

Book Club Picks

Are you in a book club? Then you’re one of the 5 million Americans that enjoy getting together with friends and talking books. That’s a lot of readers! Whether you read memoirs, bestsellers or saucy romances, picking a book for your group can be a challenge. Some groups vote on titles while others rotate monthly selectors. If your group is stuck in a reading rut here are recent books making the book club rounds. Or, if you’d rather revisit a perennial book club favorite, I’ve included a few recommendations of tried and true titles.

Recent Titles

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core. 

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

With humor and heart, Michelle Zauner tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

Tried and True Titles

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

As Dr. Marina Singh embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the insect-infested Amazon, she’s forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits within the jungle. Charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, she will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. With nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone.

Looking for further inspiration? Check out previous selections from celebrity book clubs, including the Good Morning America Book Club, Reese’s Book Club, Oprah’s Book Club, Today Show’s Read With Jenna, Book of the Month, or Belletrist BookClub.

Did you know that Rocky River Public Library has book club kits? Take the guess work out of your next title and borrow a book club kit. Each kit contains eight copies of your selected title as well as discussion questions. Call or stop by the library for more information.

-Melinda

Royal Reads for Fans of “The Empress”

If you’re a fan of The Empress on Netflix, chances are you’re also a fan of historical fiction. The splendor and drama of royal living is present in both the show and the following books. While all three of these women come from different time periods, they share one thing in common: the name Elizabeth. Continue exploring the world of Sisi, or travel to the courts of Russia or England with one of these royal reads.

Elisabeth “Sisi,” Empress of Austria

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young Emperor Franz Joseph. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead. Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world.

Elizabeth, Empress of Russia

The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten

When they took everything from her, they didn’t count on her fighting to get it back. Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire. Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions. However, when her mother dies; Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat. As times change like quicksand, Elizabeth must decide whether she is willing to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country.

Queen Elizabeth II

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

When Heather Mackenzie discovers that the embroidered flowers among her grandmother’s possessions are the same pattern from Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding gown, she sets out to discover why they were in her possession. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before?

-Melinda

Debut Fiction: The Cloisters

Today is publication day for The Cloisters by Katy Hays!

When Ann Stilwell is assigned to an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she’s expecting a ho-hum summer working with the curatorial staff. Instead, she ends up at The Cloisters, a renowned medieval museum filled with unique artifacts and eclectic staff members.

As Ann gets to know the staff, secrets come to light throughout the shadowy hallways of the museum. Curator Patrick shows a focused interest on a 15th-century deck of tarot cards as part of a special research project he seems to be conducting. Research assistant Rachel is everything Ann wants to be, and the two form a quick bond. The museum draws Ann into the world of under the table antique dealers, poisonous plants, and researchers willing to risk it all.

This book combines the mysterious world of 15th century spiritualism with 21st century intrigue. This debut academic thriller is bound to grab your interest if you liked The Secret History or Ninth House.

Photo credit: The Met Cloisters

If nothing else, reading this book serves as an introduction to The Met Cloisters. A spectacular setting for a novel, the real life museum is as intriguing and beautiful as described.

-Melinda

*I received a review copy from the publisher. This is my honest review. 

Great British Book Off

Idyllic countryside, sponge cakes, and coveted handshakes are the staple elements of the beloved Great British Bake Off. Netflix’s baking competition attracts millions of viewers who enjoy the light-hearted competition and camaraderie. The only drama in this show comes from food fails- cakes that haven’t risen, chocolate that hasn’t set, and of course the dreaded soggy bottom.

If you’d like to try your hand at your own signature bake, technical challenge, or showstopper, try one of these cookbooks from contestants and judges. While we anxiously wait to see who will be named the winner of series 13, I hope you find some baking inspiration in these titles.

On your marks, get set, bake!

Chetna’s Easy Baking: With a Twist of Spice by Chetna Makan

Nadiya’s Everyday Baking by Nadiya Hussain

Celebrate with Kim-Joy: Cute Cakes and Bakes to Make Every Occasion Joyful by Kim-Joy

Crumb: A Baking Book by Ruby Tandoh

Super Sourdough by James Morton

The Great British Bake Off: How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers by Linda Collister

-Melinda

Spooky Reads for a Scaredy-Cat

Every October I get the itch to pick up a book for spooky season. The only problem is that I’m a lifelong scaredy-cat. When it comes to horror movies or tv series, I can only handle small doses. But against all odds, I do enjoy reading an occasional spooky story. It all started when I picked up the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Somehow those tales of horror and things that go bump in the night were less creepy if they were just words on a page.

If you’re looking for some spooky reads, here are a few recommendations. Just remember to read them with the lights on.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The only thing keeping Patricia Campbell sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind–and Patricia has already invited him in. 

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a ‘haunting’; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The Outsider by Stephen King

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens–Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?

The Shadows by Alex North

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree committed a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat. Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Paul learns that Detective Amanda Beck is investigating another copycat that has struck in the nearby town of Featherbank.

Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in the house, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.

-Melinda

Bookstagram Made Me Do It

Too many books, too little time has always been the predicament for avid readers. With the introduction of book-specific social media, your TBR (to be read) list is probably a mile long. #BookTok and #Bookstagram are full of recommendations for every reader, but some books come up every time you log on. These trending titles have staying power on social media, so give them a try!

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (YA)

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.

All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers

Everyone from Wakarusa, Indiana, remembers the infamous case of January Jacobs, who was discovered in a ditch hours after her family awoke to find her gone. Margot Davies was six at the time, the same age as January–and they were next-door neighbors. In the twenty years since, Margot has grown up, moved away, and become a big-city journalist. But she’s always been haunted by the feeling that it could’ve been her. And the worst part is, January’s killer has never been brought to justice.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project–a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia–Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (YA)

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?

-Melinda

Five Readalikes for Fans of Colleen Hoover

Are you on the holds list waiting for your next Colleen Hoover (aka CoHo) read? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are hundreds of other readers discovering the queen of Booktok. While you’re waiting, try one of the following authors with similar writing style and feel.

If You Stay by Courtney Cole

Twenty-four-year-old Pax Tate is a tattooed, rock-hard bad boy with a tough attitude to match. His mother died when Pax was seven, leaving a hole in his heart that he pretends isn’t there . . . until he meets Mila.

Sweet, beautiful Mila Hill is the fresh air that Pax has never known in his life. He doesn’t know how to not hurt her-but he quickly realizes that he’d better figure it out because he needs her to breathe. But is that enough to make her stay?

Twisted Love by Ana Huang

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world. Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape. But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest: A crack. A melt. A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember. But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want. Her brother’s best friend.

Most of All You by Mia Sheridan

Crystal learned long ago that love brings only pain. Feeling nothing at all is far better than being hurt again. Then Gabriel Dalton walks into her life. Despite the terrible darkness of his past, there’s an undeniable goodness in him. And even though she knows the cost, Crystal finds herself drawn to Gabriel. Except fate will only take them so far, and now the choice is theirs: Harden their hearts once again or find the courage to shed their painful pasts.

After by Anna Todd

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way. But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to. But he’s also rude–to the point of cruelty, even.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Four years ago Kacey Cleary’s life imploded when her car was hit by a drunk driver, killing her parents, boyfriend, and best friend. Still haunted by memories of being trapped inside, holding her boyfriend’s lifeless hand and listening to her mother take her last breath, Kacey wants to leave her past behind. Armed with two bus tickets, twenty-year-old Kacey and her fifteen-year-old sister, Livie, escape Grand Rapids, Michigan, to start over in Miami.

If your heart is set on a Colleen Hoover, make sure you’ve read It Ends With Us before the sequel It Starts With Us comes out on October 18.

-Melinda

From Page to Screen: Fall Releases

The storylines of this season’s blockbusters may seem vaguely familiar. Hollywood is drawing inspiration from the book world once again with a slew of streaming shows and movies based on books. From war epics to vampires, fall into the plot of a great book before you see it on the big screen. Here are a few highlights from this season’s upcoming releases.

September

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

The legend of Marilyn Monroe–aka Norma Jeane Baker–comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of Hollywood myth and heartbreaking reality. Marilyn Monroe lives–reborn to tell her untold history; her story of a star created to shine brightest in the Hollywood firmament before her fall to earth. Blonde is a dazzling fictional portrait of the intricate inner life of the idolized and desired movie star as only the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates could paint it.

Coming to Netflix on September 28.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been BFFs since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different.

And as the strange coincidences and bizarre occurrences begin to pile up, Abby realizes there is only one possible explanation- Her best friend Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not going to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend.

Coming to Amazon Prime Video on September 30.

October

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last–revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door–a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

Coming to Showtime on October 7.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . . This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

Coming to Netflix on October 28.

November

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both.

A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
 Coming to Amazon Prime Video on November 4.

She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power.

During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed.

Coming to theaters on November 18.

-Melinda