Highlights in the Charts
The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Review by Madeleine McManus
When Avery Grambs finds herself the sole beneficiary of a large inheritance, her life is irreversibly changed as she goes from sleeping in her car to living in a mansion with too many rooms to count. The problem? She has no clue who Tobias Hawthorne is or why he would leave most of his fortune to her.
The Inheritance Games was a BookTok-recommended read that promised twists, mystery and plenty of swoon-worthy tropes. The twists and puzzle solving aspects lived up to the hype and the story proved to be an overall compelling read. I would have loved to learn more about he Hawthorne brothers, who are the grandsons of Tobias Hawthorne and live in the mansion that Avery inherits. It was at times difficult to get to know them as characters past what they were good at and how their relationships with Tobias played out.
There are four Hawthorne brothers in The Inheritance Games and, whilst we see glimpses of each of their personalities, there are two brothers who are focused on the most – Grayson and Jameson. Jennifer Lynn Barnes attempts to make a competition out of who will gain the most support from the reader, to solve the mystery whilst winning Avery’s heart. Each of the four brothers had a different aspect of their talents or character that helped solve the mysteries that Tobias Hawthorne set for them. The race to solve the puzzles, combined with the swinging pendulum of how the brothers and Avery would at times work together and at other times work against each other, was the highlight of the book.
As the story progresses, it is clear that the brothers have experienced heartbreak and grief from a person in their past. This is yet another mystery for Avery to solve. Throughout the book, she is determined to discover who this mystery person is and find out why they are so important to everyone she meets in this new world of wealth and privilege.
This book is part of a trilogy and there is definitely more to be expanded on after book one. There are more characters, more mysteries and more rooms in the Hawthorne Manner to be explored. The appeal for solving the initial mystery of why Avery was chosen is one that many readers are sure to find compelling.
The Bookstore Sisters by Alice Hoffman
Review by Lauren Fardoe
The Bookstore Sisters follows two estranged sisters who have grown apart over family tragedy: Isabel left home to pursue a new life in New York, running from her problems at home and choosing to forget. Sophie is left at home, struggling with the bookstore left to them after the death of their parents.
The short text follows Isabel’s reconnection with her past, despite her active attempts to forget it. The narrative follows an almost episodic structure, the short story format allowing only brief glimpses into the indeterminate between larger events, lending the story a soft focus and emphasising the sentiment throughout. Because of this, Hoffman’s characters lack true depth and I believe potentially would have been better suited to a longer novel format to allow for each of their individual backgrounds to be explored. Character’s such as Isabel’s love interest, Johnny Lennox, evidently has a true caring nature, yet the backstory of their relationship is almost skimmed over, where it could have certainly been explored in more depth to do it justice and flesh the characters out.
Isabel begins as an unlikeable, cold character who appears to have abandoned her familial roots, but the close third person narrative gives the reader an enlightened perspective on her inner turmoil and reasonings. Her character experiences a simultaneous redemption arc and regression into her past joys, which she purposefully repressed in favour of a new life. Aspects of her redemption and shift from a cold person would have been interesting to explore further but, owing to the short story format, this was not possible. The juxtaposition of the two sisters is somewhat archetypal, verging on a cliche, yet the writing shines through to make it enjoyable.
The recurring motif and ultimately the moral of forgetting and forgiving provides a surprising sentimentality to this short story, allowing the characters recognisability. The strong parental influence, prominent even after their death, demonstrates the power of familial love and evidently contributes to the strong connections between the characters within the novel.
An ode to rediscovering the love of books while recognizing the importance of family and community, this is a heartfelt story of two sisters who find their way back to each other. But perhaps more importantly, through forgiveness and remembering feelings from the past that may have seemed better forgotten, they find themselves in the end.