Marshmallow reviews The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Almost a year ago, Marshmallow reviewed The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, the first of a mystery trilogy about a high school student, Avery Kylie Grambs, who inherits a large sum of money unexpectedly and has to deal with the consequences. This week, Marshmallow has finally read the second book, The Hawthorne Legacy (2021), and shares her thoughts on it here, before diving into the third and final book of the series, which was just published at the end of this past August.

Marshmallow reviews The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow reviews The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about mystery, family secrets, and / or romance, then this might be the book for you. 

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Avery Kylie Grambs used to live in her car, but after one of the richest men in America (Tobias Hawthorne) left her his fortune, she is now practically America’s richest teenager. However, she legally doesn’t receive the fortune until she lives in the Hawthorne Mansion for a year. Unfortunately, several people would be very happy if she didn’t get the fortune or “expired” before the year ended.

The main question is why Tobias Hawthorne left his fortune to Avery who seems to be completely unrelated to him, when he has two daughters and four grandsons, to whom he left very little. At the end of the first book, The Inheritance Games, Avery had found enough clues to believe that Tobias’ son Toby, who supposedly died in a fire, is still alive and that she had to find him. In this book however, we learn, along with Avery, that the truth is a lot more complicated. To find out why she was left the money, Avery needs to find out who Toby was, what he did, and where he is now. And to do this, she must first learn who she really is. 

Marshmallow is reading The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Marshmallow is reading The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Marshmallow’s Review: I found this to be a fascinating book. I really wanted to find out why the money was left to Avery, but apparently we will all need to wait until the next book, The Last Gambit, to find out. Still The Hawthorne Legacy was a fun and exciting read, and I enjoyed it a lot. I really liked all of the twists and turns in the plot. This is one of the best mysteries I’ve read, and I still have no idea why the fortune was left to Avery. I look forward to reading the next book of the series. 

The main character Avery, like many young adult novel characters, struggles with her love life and feelings, which causes issues for her. Relatedly, I felt that The Hawthorne Legacy had much more adult details than the first book in the series. This book, like the School for Good and Evil series, is written for older (teen?) audiences. I would say that this is probably best for 14 and up. And I would suggest that parents of younger bunnies might want to read it first to gauge whether they think the book is suitable for them.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 95%.

Caramel reviews Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland

Caramel is a big fan of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series and has already read and reviewed all fifteen books in the series. [In fact, he reviewed some of them twice! See his review of the very first book of the series, The Dragonet Prophecy, and then its graphic novel version, The Dragonet Prophecy.] Today he reviews Darkstalker, a book in Sutherland’s Wings of Fire: Legends series, that was published in 2016, in between books eight (Escaping Peril, 2015) and nine (Talons of Power, 2016). As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking questions.

Caramel reviews Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland.
Caramel reviews Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland.

Sprinkles: So here we are again, back with the dragons of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series. Please tell us a bit about this book, Caramel.

Caramel: This book is about Darkstalker and his friends Fathom and Clearsight. He is a half-NightWing, half-IceWing hybrid.

S: I did not know there were hybrids in this world That’s cool.

C: Well, he is one of the very few that we saw so far.

S: I see.

C: Fathom is a SeaWing and was born in the Sea Kingdom. Clearsight is a full NightWing, born in the Night Kingdom, and she has the ability to see the future. Actually she does not see one future, but every single possible timeline in the future.

S: Well, does she know which will come to happen?

C: No, because a tiny tweak in an event today can change the future.

S: So the future is not determined yet.

C: True. What I say today, say I like pizza, maybe that will change someone’s view and that will change the future, because that person will decide to go out for pizza one day instead of something else. And see, I just changed the world.

S: Hmm, I see. It is cool. But so she does not quite have the sight, but can see all possible consequences. Like a really good chess master.

C: Kind of. Back to Darkstalker though. He also has a sister, named Whiteout. She is a hybrid too but looks a lot more like an IceWing. And she plays a big role in turning Darkstalker evil.

S: Yes, I seem to recall this Darkstalker, and he was bad.

C: Yes, he was mentioned in the fifth book, The Brightest Night, and showed up for real in the books of the second arc. He is only mentioned in Moon Rising, but rises from the ground in Winter Turning, and then he is present in the rest of the books of that story arc. And he is evil.

S: So the main character of this particular book is not a nice character.

C: Well, his friends Fathom and Clearsight are also main characters, and they are much better.

S: But the book is named after Darkstalker, so we learn a lot about him in it, right?

C: Yes, we see his rise and fall, how he becomes very powerful and then loses it all. He can’t die, he makes himself unhurtable, and then makes himself immortal. But the good dragons figure out a way to neutralize him and it involves Jade Mountain. But I won’t say more.

S: Maybe it is good because you are already giving away a lot of plot clues and spoilers!

C: Okay, so I will stop talking then.

S: No, don’t stop talking. Let us just move away from the plot and onto other things.

C: Sure.

Caramel is reading Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland.
Caramel is reading Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland.

S: Remember this book got out in between books eight and nine. Is the story happening in the time between those two books?

C: No, it is more like a backstory. The events in Darkstalker happened two thousand years ago and they explain his origins.

S: That is interesting. So is he at all a likeable character?

C: Well, he is evil, and he kills his own father, so I don’t think so. But we do learn his part of the story, and you can see how he slowly gets worse and worse as he becomes more and more powerful.

S: I see. Then if you had read this before reading Moon Rising, too much would be spoilt, because there, at least in the beginning, Moon does not yet know Darkstalker is evil.

C: Well, actually he makes himself look like he became good.

S: I can see how readers of the regular series might like to learn more about this ancient evil character. So did you enjoy the book?

C: Yes. Without a doubt. These legends books are neat. You get to learn a lot more about the world of the dragons.

S: So maybe you will tell us about the other legends book some time.

C: Yes, I had to read it as soon as I finished this one. So maybe we can talk about it next week.

S: We will see. But now it is time to finish this review. Can you give me three words to describe the book?

C: Handy-dandy. That means convenient and useful. It tells you how Darkstalker became evil so it is informative. And very interesting.

S: Okay, those are good words to summarize your thoughts and feelings about this book. Thank you. What do you want to tell our readers as we wrap things up?

C: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland and learning some more of the backstory of the characters of his beloved Wings of Fire series. He's clearly not done with this series!
Caramel enjoyed reading Darkstalker by Tui Sutherland and learning some more of the backstory of the characters of his beloved Wings of Fire series. He’s clearly not done with this series!

Marshmallow reviews The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz

Today Marshmallow reviews The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz, published just this past week.

The book bunnies received this book as a review copy.

Marshmallow reviews The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz.
Marshmallow reviews The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz.

Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like realistic fiction books about family and growing up into one’s own, then this might be the book for you.

Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): The year is 1975. Thirteen-year-old Joey Goodman is staying at his grandparents’ hotel, the St. Bonaventure, for the summer. The hotel, located by an Atlantic City boardwalk, is struggling to keep business.

Joey has a very large and busy Jewish family, and he feels often ignored or not taken seriously by them. He goes to the boardwalk sometimes to pass the time, and one of these times, he runs into some mobsters. Unfortunately, Joey doesn’t know or want to know that they are mobsters because he quickly becomes “one of the guys”.

The mobsters are led by a man named Artie Bishop, who Joey begins to view almost as a father. Becoming “one of the guys” makes Joey feel strong and valued, because at the hotel he feels that everyone thinks he is weak and scared. Additionally, they pay him well, first for being able to play Skee-Ball very well, and then later for chaperoning Artie Bishop’s almost sixteen year old daughter (Melanie) around the boardwalk. (Joey falls in love with her, despite their age difference and the fact that Melanie probably doesn’t view him in that way.)

Eventually, however, Artie learns that Joey’s family runs the St. Bonaventura, and he asks for a favor. Even in the beginning, hanging out with the “guys” meant that Joey had to conceal the truth from his family. Now Artie asks him to put a package in the hotel in a room no one ever looks at. But when the package disappears, Joey starts to see how bad the mobsters can get. He must find out what true strength means to him and whether might would triumph over right. 

Marshmallow is reading The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz.
Marshmallow is reading The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz.

Marshmallow’s Review: I thought that The Prince of Steel Pier was an interesting book because it was set in a different time period from our own and the author made it feel believable. 1975 is a long time ago for little bunnies today, but when you read The Prince of Steel Pier, you see that growing up is always the same. You want to feel important and respected, but you also are still young and you can make a lot of mistakes and you need your family.

The story is narrated from Joey’s point of view, in first person and mostly in the present tense. The present tense made the story feel like it was happening just now and I was reading along. And the first person narration made me feel like I could understand Joey a lot better. I found it very interesting to read about his problems inside and out. Joey has a queasy stomach when he gets nervous or anxious, and that was a unique aspect of the character, but it also reminded me a bit of Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, which I have recently reviewed.

While reading, I kept wondering how the author would wrap things up; without spoiling things too much, I can say that, at the end, I was very happy about how she did it.

Marshmallow’s Rating: 95%. 

Marshmallow rates The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz 95%.
Marshmallow rates The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz 95%.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Caramel is a big fan of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series. After some cajoling, a couple weeks ago, he finally dove into Sutherland’s Menagerie series, cowritten with Kari Sutherland. And he has already read and reviewed the first book (The Menagerie) and the second book (Dragon on Trial). Today he wraps up the series with a review of the third book: Kraken and Lies. As usual, Sprinkles is taking notes and asking followup questions.

Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel reviews The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

Sprinkles: So this was book three of the Menagerie series. What did you think?

Caramel: It’s a good book!

S: I thought so too. Actually I liked this third book the most.

C: I didn’t. I think they were all good.

S: Yes, I do, too, but I kind of liked this one most because I thought it was so rich, and the authors tied up all the loose ends really well.

C: I agree. They did tie up a lot of loose ends. We even learned how and why the dragon was framed in Dragon on Trial.

S: You are very close to giving away a little too much Caramel. But yes, the unresolved issues from the earlier books all got cleared away in this one. But it was not only about resolving old issues, was it?

C: No, you are right. There is of course a new problem, a big one. Zoe’s ex-best-friend Jasmine’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Sterling, apparently know about the Menagerie and are scheming some evil plot to expose and exploit it.

S: Yes, that is a big existential threat for the Menagerie, right? Nobody is supposed to know about it, and the Sterlings were supposed to have drunk kraken ink and forgotten all they had seen and learned about the Menagerie.

C: Well, Mr. and Mrs. Sterling were supposed to not know about the Menagerie. But apparently Jonathan, Jasmine’s brother, dated Zoe’s sister Ruby, and Ruby told him about it. And then Jonathan tried to steal a jackalope. And a jackalope is kind of like a jackrabbit, but it is not a regular one. Its body looks like a rabbit but it has antlers! But also they are magical creatures, and their milk can cure any illness. And they can imitate human voice and fool humans!

S: Yes, they are cool! But back to Jonathan and Ruby.

C: Oh yes. So they have to break up and Jonathan has to drink the kraken ink to forget everything about her and the Menagerie, but the family all has to drink the kraken ink so they can all forget about Ruby as well. So it is very strange that they now know about the Menagerie. And they are only interested in money so they will want to exploit it. And in the middle of all this, Logan’s mom is still missing and the Sterlings seem to have something to do with it…

Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.
Caramel is reading The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland.

S: Yes, that is correct. I think you described the central conflicts and plot problems of this book well, Caramel. So tell me, were there any new mythical creatures other than the jackalope that showed up?

C: There is Sapphire, a relative of Blue. She is a merperson.

S: Yes we saw merpeople before, though, no?

C: Well, here we see them a lot better because they go on a strike.

S: That is true; that part was very interesting.

C: And then we get to see the kraken a lot more up close.

S: That is true too.

C: And there is a Chinese dragon!

S: Yes! And the Chinese dragon has a pearl, a special pearl that holds its magic powers.

C: Yeah, that is true.

S: Did you know that Marshmallow has read and reviewed a book titled Dragon Pearl? You might actually like the book. It has all kinds of things you like: mythology, dragons, space ships!

C: Yes, that book sounds like just the kind of thing I would like to read. Maybe I will ask her to lend it to me.

S: I think she would be happy to share. But there were other magical mythical creatures in this book, no?

C: Yes, there was a selkie! A seal person!

S: Yes, that was a nice surprise, wasn’t it?

C: Yes, but now you are the one doing all the spoiling, Sprinkles!

S: Okay, okay, I’ll stop. So let us wrap things up then. Overall, did you like the Menagerie books?

C: Yes I liked them a lot. They are very different from the Wings of Fire books, but they are just as funny! And they are really cool, and I still think Squorp, the griffin cub, is the best ever!

S: Yes, I know. Okay, give me three words to describe the books and we are done.

C: Funny. And breath-taking, because I had to hold my breath a lot of the time, trying to see what would happen next.

S: And your third word?

C: Well-written. I thought the story flowed really well and always kept me on my toes.

S: True. I agree with that. So I think it is time to close this chapter of our lives and say good bye to the Menagerie and our friends Logan, Zoe, and Blue. How do you want to end this review Caramel!

C: By saying my usual words: Stay tuned for more book bunny reviews!

Caramel enjoyed reading The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland and recommends the whole series to all the little bunnies who like magical and mythical creatures.
Caramel enjoyed reading The Menagerie: Kraken and Lies by Tui Sutherland and Kari Sutherland and recommends the whole series to all the little bunnies who like magical and mythical creatures.