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ARC Review: Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Bend Toward the Sun releases August 9, 2022.

Cover of "Bend Toward the Sun" by Jen Devon

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Jen Devon’s Bend Toward the Sun is a gorgeous, emotional love story about taking unexpected paths, accepting loss, and finding strength in the transformative power of love.

Rowan McKinnon believes love isn’t real. Armed with a PhD in botany, two friends who accept her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she has everything she needs. What she doesn’t share is that she hides deep wounds from the past—by an emotionally negligent mother, and by a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. The only love she’s ever known came from her grandmother Edie, who taught her to care for all things that grow. After a chance encounter at a future winery, Rowan is captivated—by the beauty of the land, the challenge of the vineyards’ restoration, and by the warm and inviting family that plans to run it. They’ll offer her a job. She’ll eventually accept it.

And try not to think about Harrison Brady.

Harry Brady is a doctor. Was a doctor. An obstetrician profoundly struggling after the unexpected loss of a patient, Harry no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling from the loss and his crumbled four-year relationship, Harry leaves Los Angeles to spend time emotionally recuperating at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania. He’ll work to get the place ready to open, and try to pick up the pieces of his heart. Because if there’s one thing Harry Brady knows how to do, it is love deeply, fiercely, with his whole heart.

As soon as he meets Rowan McKinnon, sunlight begins to crack through the dark cloud smothering Harry’s soul. He wants to explore the compelling pull between them. Rowan just wants to keep things casual—she’s spent a lifetime protecting herself against feeling anything, for anyone.

But even Rowan can feel their extraordinary connection tilting the axis of the world they both thought they understood.

A moving, powerful novel about the ways love can irrevocably change your life, Bend Toward the Sun is a cinematic, unforgettable romance.

 

REVIEW: Bend Toward the Sun was an emotionally charged story with an electrifying romance that was painful, exhilarating, and deeply personal.

This story wears its heart on its sleeve as Rowan and Harry struggle to reconcile with their pasts in the wake of the instant attraction and affection they feel for one another.

The main characters had polar opposite upbringings. Rowan is socially awkward and understands plants far better than people. She had her beloved grandmother Edie who fostered Rowan’s love for nature – which led to Rowan becoming a botanist – until age 12 when she was then left in the uncare of her estranged mother. Meanwhile, Harry is one of six in a very close and loving family. This major difference is one of many roadblocks in Rowan and Harry’s relationship.

But I love how these two lost souls find their way again through love. It’s a painful journey and several times you’ll question in chest-tightening worry if their chance at true love and happiness will burn away.

Past intimate relationships have not gone well for either (an understatement). So to have such strong feelings feels right, wrong, and terrifying all at once. Plus, they both can be very, very, very stubborn.

I felt those months and months worth of time skips, which made their back and forth will-they won’t-they arguments seem redundant and a tad frustrating. Post-read, Rowan and Harry’s romance is really well fleshed out with all the necessary growth, drama and angst you’d want in an enthralling love story. Time just dragged some.

In the end (oh my goodness!), Rowan and Harry filled my heart with such joy and fondness. The chemistry between them was sizzling, the banter endearing and funny, and a satisfying conclusion worthy of a standing ovation.

I had a good feeling I would end up truly enjoying Bend Toward the Sun, and I did! I loved the story and all of the characters. Rowan was my favorite because I could relate with her and she’s unexpectedly hilarious. Jen Devon wrote a wonderful, heartfelt romance. I highly recommend this novel.


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
CONNECT WITH ME | Goodreads | Instagram


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ARC Review: Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich #newbookrelease

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Thank you to Crown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Operation Sisterhood is out now!

Cover of "Operation Sisterhood" by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Middle Grade
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Fans of the Netflix reboot of The Babysitters Club will delight as four new sisters band together in the heart of New York City. Discover this jubilant novel about the difficulties of change, the loyalty of sisters, and the love of family from a prolific award-winning author.

Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents…along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.

Set against the bursting energy of a New York City summer, award-winning author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich delivers a joyful novel about a new family that hits all the right notes!

 

REVIEW: Operation Sisterhood radiates the joy that can be found between sisters, in family, and in a community. It’s the kind of story I wish I had growing up.

The story takes place primarily in Harlem and the surrounding area. Bo is having a difficult time adjusting to her new family, living situation, and freeschooling without putting a damper on her mother’s happiness about their new life. She worries all these changes will cause her to lose her individuality.

It was interesting following the day-to-day of this new lifestyle Bo is now living in. It’s a warm, loving environment conducive to learning, responsibility, teamwork, self-reflection, and exploration. I love that they live with so many animals too, especially a bearded dragon who seems to enjoy wearing hats.

I love the sisterhood between Bo, Sunday, Lili and Lee. Each sister has a distinct personality and a passion. Bo is a drummer, super organized, and loves to cook. Sunday (Bo’s stepsister) loves to write, is quirky, and plays the keyboard. She tries so hard (sometimes too hard) to make Bo feel welcomed and a part of the family. I forget which twin (Lili and Lee) liked what but one is a huge animal lover while the other is a fashion designer. They also play an instrument (guitar and bass).

These new sisters are expressive, big-hearted, outgoing and enthusiastic. It was great seeing how they worked together to solve problems, make their parents happy, bring the community together, and support one another.

Operation Sisterhood was a good story with a vibrant cast of characters that I think readers will greatly enjoy. I also adore the cover art – I think it sums up the story perfectly.


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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ARC Review: The Garden We Share by Zoë Tucker, Illustrated by Swaney Julianna

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DAY 15

Thank you NorthSouth Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! The Garden We Share is set to be released March 22, 2022.

Cover of "The Garden We Share" by Zoë Tucker, Illustrated by Swaney Julianna.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: To everything there is a season in this beautiful story about gardening, seasons, and treasured memories.

This inspiring picture book written by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Julianna Swaney—the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines—celebrates the friendship between a young girl and an elderly woman as they plant seeds in a community garden alongside friends and neighbors, waiting for the seeds to flower. By mid-summer, the friends welcome a rainbow of color in the garden and picnics in the sun. At harvest, the young girl’s elderly friend is bed-ridden, but jubilant as they share baskets with red tomatoes and snap peas amid the sweet smell of lavender. When the last leaves fall, everything is different. But in the spring, hope arises anew.

 

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The Garden We Share is a touching story about a little girl and an elderly woman who have formed a close bond as they care for a community garden.

I like the quiet, peaceful atmosphere the story has. I like the illustrations and all of the pretty flowers and crops grown. You see how much love and care the people of this community give to the garden as the seasons change. There’s a strong connection with nature and what they’re growing. The book is rich in color, flowers, and crops galore.

When things changed it was a punch in the feels, but I think it shows kids one way they can cope with loss, honor those they love, and the comforting power of memory. The cover is so beautiful, the colors inviting – a total cover buy!

I enjoyed reading The Garden We Share. It’s the perfect story for springtime and would make a great addition to a child’s personal library.


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ARC Review: The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

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DAY 10

Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! The Suite Spot is set to be released March 8, 2022.

Cover of The Suite Spot by Trish Doller.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Beck Sisters #2
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: We stand there on the brink of something we both feel but neither of us is ready to identify, and the little half grin he shoots me is nearly as devastating as his full-blown smile…

One of the few bright lights in Rachel Beck’s life is her job at a Miami Beach luxury hotel—until she’s fired for something she didn’t do. As a single mom, Rachel knows she needs stability, and fast. On impulse, Rachel inquires about a position at a brewery hotel on a tiny island in Lake Erie called Kelleys Island. When she’s offered the job, not even the grumpy voice on the line can dissuade her from packing up her whole life and making the move.

What she finds on Kelleys Island is Mason, a handsome, reclusive man who knows everything about brewing beer and nothing about running a hotel. Especially one that’s barely more than foundation and studs. It’s not the job Rachel was looking for, but Mason offers her a chance to help build a hotel—and rebuild her life—from the ground up.

Trish Doller’s The Suite Spot is about taking a chance on a new life and a new love.

 

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The Suite Spot was so lovely and sweet! The slow development of the romance was perfect for the main characters who are afraid to risk their hearts again for love.

After Rachel loses her job at a fancy/wealthy hotel in the most infuriating and unfair of ways and her ex-boyfriend once again shows how unreliable he is when it comes to their daughter, Rachel packs up her life to take a chance on a job offer that seems too good to be true in order to finally live a fulfilling life.

Rachel is surprised to find not only an unfinished hotel/brewery but a rather good-looking, recluse of a boss named Mason. But this new venture soon becomes a chance for both Rachel and Mason to rebuild their lives from the ground up.

Mason loves beer and has excelled at brewing. I like when he gushes about fermentation – so adorkable! Yet it’s been a challenge to keep his family’s history/legacy alive and build a hotel/brewery on a remote island in Ohio after the devastating loss of his child and subsequent divorce. Love is too painful to consider. Enter Rachel whose kindness, understanding, and capabilities – not to mention her adorable daughter, Maisie – begins to undo the carefully constructed walls he’d placed around his heart.

I like that the romance is more in the background because we get to really focus on the small and big changes Rachel and Mason undergo and how far they’ve come towards reopening their hearts to love and family. Neither pushes the other into something they’re not emotionally ready for.

The Suite Spot is the quieter sister to book 1 but just as heartwarming and significant. I like how heartache turns into an opportunity to reclaim one’s sense of self in order to have a purposeful future that has meaning. There’s a lot to love about this book.

Maisie is so cute and I like how her character kind of breaks the ice (tension) between Rachel and Mason. Mason has a mean cat with the most perfect of names, Yōkai. I don’t know much about brewing but it was really interesting to learn. Rachel’s ideas for the hotel/brewery sound cool and unique. Their passions were infectious. And I like that the author headed each chapter with a word from different languages and definition to encompass the emotion of each chapter.

The Suite Spot was another great read from Trish Doller. Reading this and Float Plan (book 1) have been the highlight of 2021. I can’t wait to see what stunning new romance she delivers next.


More by Trish Doller

Beck Sisters
Float Plan (#1)


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ARC Review: Getting His Game Back by Gia de Cadenet

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DAY 1

Thank you to Dell and NetGalley for eARC to read and review! Getting His Game Back is set to be published January 25, 2022.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance, Mental Health
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Khalil Sarda went through a rough patch last year, but now he’s nearly back to his old self. All he has to do is keep his “stuff” in the past. Real men don’t have depression and go to therapy—or, at least they don’t admit it. He’s ready to focus on his growing chain of barbershops, take care of his beloved Detroit community, and get back to being the ladies’ man his family and friends tease him for being. It’ll be easy . . . until Vanessa throws him completely off his game.

Vanessa Noble is too busy building a multimillion-dollar tech career as a Black woman before age thirty to be distracted by a relationship. Not to mention, she’s been burned before, still dealing with the lingering hurt of a past breakup. Besides, as her friends often remind her, she’ll never find a man who checks all the boxes on her famous List. Yet when she desperately needs a shape-up and happens upon one of Khalil’s barbershops, the Fade, he makes her reconsider everything. Khalil is charming, intelligent, sexy, and definitely seems like he’d treat a woman right . . . but he’s not Black.

Vanessa may be willing to take a chance on Khalil, but a part of him is frustratingly closed off, just out of her reach. Will old patterns emerge to keep them apart? Or have they both finally found a connection worth throwing away the playbook for?

 

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My heart is so full of love for this story! Gia de Cadenet does a magnificent job weaving together the experiences of interracial relationships, men’s mental health, and women in STEM careers into a gripping, heartwarming story. Getting His Game Back is a must-read!

It took a while for me to get into the story. Lots of short scenes with huge time skips. I wasn’t sure if this story would be for me. But once things settled, I enjoyed every single page oh my goodness! A lot of that had to do with Khalil and Vanessa’s incredibly satisfying, slow burn romance.

Vanessa and Khalil are instantly drawn to each other when they first meet in Kahlil’s barber shop. They have such great chemistry and feel more at peace within each other’s company than in past relationships they’ve had. The past is an unshakable barrier that keeps them from taking chances on something that feels so right.

As a black woman in STEM, Vanessa faces adversity in her personal and professional life despite her many successes and equal capabilities (i.e., is CEO of her own business and known as the “App Goddess”). She’s reluctant to date white men because she and her grandma (adorable nicknamed Ma-Max, short for Maxine) have had bad experiences with interracial dating. Vanessa felt she’d been treated like an object, something to “try out” than as a real person because she was black. Dealing with the sting of backhanded, polite racism and sexism from colleagues and others who don’t take her seriously. Enter good-natured, big-hearted Khalil who she struggles to separate from those who’ve spurned her.

Khalil, who is half Algerian, has previously faced similar objectification but in a different way. Most notably during his college years. He attended an HBCU school (if I’m remembering correctly) where he was sometimes an outcast or other to experiment with because he was white. It took him a while to realize that and his mental health seeming to decline compounded those feelings of being less than a person and a man.

I appreciate the mental health rep in this book and how it deep dives into the stigma surrounding men’s mental health. The signs and symptoms of depression are depicted within raw, heartbreaking scenes where you can feel alongside Khalil his harsh self-loathing about not being good enough, not man enough. There’s no sugar-coating what Khalil is experiencing. And while some of these scenes may be to read (see content warning), it shines a bright light on the fact that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and the importance of asking for help and having a support system.

There’s so much to love about Vanessa and Khalil as individuals and together. They are down-to-earth, hard-working, good people. Vanessa helps out with small businesses. Khalil’s barber shops operate in black communities. They support each other’s career and life goals in encouraging ways. They click in a way that’s so beautiful and inspiring, seeing each other for who they truly are as a person.

Getting Back In the Game was evocative, sweet, well-written, and relatable. I highly recommend adding this book to the top of your tbr list!

CW: depression, thoughts of suicide (see below for 24/7 resources)


24/7 Support That’s Here For You

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or harm to others, please seek help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line
www.crisistextline.org
US and Canada – Text HOME to 741741
United Kingdom – Text HOME to 85258
Ireland – Text HOME to 50808

National Alliance On Mental Illness
https://nami.org/Home
NAMI Helpline – Call 800-950-NAMI
Or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741

To Write Love On Her Arms
https://twloha.com/


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ARC Review: A Swift and Savage Tide by Chloe Neill

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Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! A Swift and Savage Tide is out now!

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Series: Captain Kit Brightling #2
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Captain Kit Brightling is Aligned to the magic of the sea, which makes her an invaluable asset to the Saxon Isles and its monarch, Queen Charlotte. The Isles and its allies will need every advantage they can get: Gerard Rousseau, the former Gallic emperor and scourge of the Continent, has escaped his island prison to renew his quest for control of the Continent.

Gerard has no qualms about using dangerous magic to support his ambitions, so Kit and the crew of her ship, the Diana, are the natural choice to find him—and help stop him. But then Kit’s path unexpectedly crosses with that of the dashing and handsome Rian Grant, Viscount Queenscliffe, who’s working undercover on the Continent in his own efforts to stop Gerard. And he’s not the only person Kit is surprised to see. An old enemy has arisen, and the power he’ll wield on Gerard’s behalf is beautiful and terrible. Sparks will fly and sails will flutter as Kit and crew are cast into the seas of adventure to fight for queen and country.

 

My Review: Another great read from Chloe Neill! A Swift and Savage Tide is an excellent high seas adventure full of perilous battles at sea, romance that defies the status quo, a crew of charming, resilient characters, and one outstanding ship captain who I admire.

Book 2 ups the stakes, increases the risks. Once more, Kit proves how valiant and capable she is as a ship captain and leader. She’ll do whatever it takes to stop Gerard Rousseau from regaining power to take over the Continent. He continues to use dangerous magic and dangerous people to achieve his goals, his time in exile proving quite useful much to Kit’s frustration.

But in her pursuits and encounters with a deadly blast from the past, Kit comes to learn that there’s more to being aligned (having magic) than what people have always feared. The backstory behind that fear she a lot of light on some of the current strife. I like that Kit is open to exploring her magic further (though with a healthy amount of skepticism and wariness). I like the potential this aspect of the story could have in the future since magic has been a source of reluctance and contention.

I loved the progression of Kit and Grant’s relationship, rocky as it was for most of this book. Even though Grant has always treated her as an equal and that they work so well together, Kit is reluctant to fully embrace her feelings for him. To Kit, they are incompatible because they come from vastly different backgrounds and social status. She doesn’t want to lose herself, the sea to which she’s aligned to, and all that she’s accomplished.

As Kit tries to come to terms with the new possibilities of magic and her deep feelings for Grant, it’s clear that there is more to her than previously realized/known. This wonderfully thickens the plot. I can’t wait to see how all she’s learned unfolds in the next book.

Every conflict in book 2 was more suspenseful and dangerous than the last. The sea battles were exhilarating and tore at my emotions because Gerard always seemed one step ahead. The strength of the Diana (Kit’s ship) was considerably tested. The author does a great job making action scenes worthwhile.

In my review of book 1, one thing I had a problem with was that conflicts seemed to resolve too easily or were short-lived. That was thankfully not the case this time around, so I felt more invested in the journey and outcomes.

Book 2 was loads of fun for all its high volume of tension and angst. A small moment I liked a lot was when Kit and other characters were discussing their doubt that tiny, invisible (bacteria/germs, as we now know them) creatures made people sick or caused infections. It was just a light, humorous moment after a troubling battle.

I am truly enjoying this series and following along Captain Kit Brightling’s adventures. High seas stories are always entertaining. I can’t wait to read on!


More by Chloe Neill

Captain Kit Brightling
The Bright and Breaking Sea (#1)


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ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You’ve Reached Sam is out now!

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.

 

My Review: An astonishing story! I really enjoyed You’ve Reached Sam.

Julie is having a difficult time coping with the recent death of her boyfriend, Sam. Miraculously, when she calls Sam’s phone number, he answers. They have an envious second chance to reconnect and say goodbye, but now Julie struggles even more to let go and live.

Readers will easily be able to connect with this story and empathize with what the characters are experiencing. Not only are characters grieving over Sam but also dealing with the stress of their last year of high school.

There are a myriad of reactions to Sam’s death. Angry, guilty, sad, lost, barely staying afloat. Grief brings some together and tears others apart, as seen between Julie and Sam’s cousin, Mika, and his best friend, Oliver.

I like the fantasy element of the story, of Julie being able to talk to Sam through their phones. It’s what initially piqued my interest in this story. There’s lots of questions about how this is possible, and I like how that’s kept open ended. It also makes sense for them to reconnect by phone based on events prior to the story’s beginning. Julie has to keep this a secret because there are certain (sometimes vague) rules involved and telling someone else could end their connection for good.

I love Sam’s character and appreciated him more and more as the story progressed. In life, Sam was friendly, compassionate and outgoing. He and Julie had a really strong bond. How they met was so adorable; Sam is such a romantic. In death, Sam is still that same kind, caring, loving person, looking out for the ones he left behind but also trying to grapple with being dead. Knowing his hopes and dreams, it’s especially tragic Sam died so young.

The goodbye when it finally came was bittersweet, but really well done by the author. Thao built the story up to a satisfying climatic moment.

You’ve Reached Sam is beautiful, heartbreaking, and feelings. The title and cover art are perfect! Julie and Sam’s relationship was great. I’m glad there were chapters that took place in the past so we could really see the depth of their love.

I highly recommend You’ve Reached Sam. It’s an all around lovely and emotional read.


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[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You Can Go Your Own Way is out now.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

 

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You Can Go Your Own Way is a heartwarming story about growing up, moving on, community, and family.

Adam and Whitney used to be close friends until Adam’s father passed away, causing a rift forming in their relationship. Now, Adam struggles to hold on to his father’s memory by keeping Old City Pinball financially afloat and out of the hands of big tech business. Whitney is busy running the social media for her father’s chain of eSports cafes in the hopes of getting her father’s attention (to no avail). Now they’re sworn enemies.

I liked that the story alternates between Adam and Whitney’s pov, though this seemed more like Whitney’s story than Adam’s. Her journey seemed fuller and hectic, more in depth. Adam’s journey was good, kind of deep but in a smaller, quieter way. You really feel for both characters because it seems like they’re fighting a losing battle.

Their constant bickering over social media doesn’t help either of them. I didn’t like those exchanges because they were using business accounts to argue or talk about personal stuff. Their petty, immature, and unprofessional behavior was (for me) hard to get past. It wasn’t all bickering. There were some funny exchanges with other accounts.

I liked that the story takes place in Philadelphia and the strong sense of community between all the small businesses. It gave the story a homey, cozy atmosphere.

I also liked the excerpts from The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair by James Watts (fictional book) that Adam studies because of how it juxtaposes pinball machines and real life situations. Those quotes enhanced the community and family values depicted within the story.

You Can Go Your Own Way was so wholesome and I enjoyed how much Adam and Whitney grew together and along their personal journeys.


Photo of Eric Smith taken by Hannah Siddiqui

© Hannah Siddiqui

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ERIC SMTIH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks

YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55920774-you-can-go-your-own-way

ISBN: 978-1335405685
Inkyard Press
Teen & Young Adult; Romance
$18.99 / $23.99 CAN
336 Pages

BUY LINKS: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | IndieBound | BookShop.org | AppleBooks | Google Play


More by Eric Smith

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[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: Trashlands by Alison Stine

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Thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Trashlands is out now!

The cover of Trashlands in blue and purple showing a school bus on a road.

Genre: Speculative Cli-fi
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love.

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club’s violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent’s journey, a story of community and humanity in a changed world.

 

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Trashlands is an engaging novel reflecting a likely future of our world through haunting and lush details.

Through multiple POVs comes a story of love and sacrifice, estrangement and community, living and surviving, art and purpose. And plastic has become the currency that rules all.

I read this book in quiet fascination, riveted. Existing alongside the complex, deeply scarred residents of Trashlands as they worked and scavenged day in and day out in order to survive.

The setting has its own dismal magnetism. Trashlands is the name of the strip club and the surrounding area. It’s located in Scrappalachia (the Appalachians in North America), specifically the Ohio region for most of the story. Some cities (The Els) survived the floods, fire, storms and pollution. City life is a tenuous illusion of normalcy, vastly different from that of Trashlands where homes are made with garbage, bugs are a cuisine, and women and children are the most vulnerable. The proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” rings true in this forever-changed world. People have had to get creative in how to use and reuse plastic, clothing, medicine, and more.

As I got to know the characters, I grew to care deeply about them. For Coral, doing all she can (giving all she can) to one day buy back the son she lost. For Foxglove, a dance at the club, trying to exist (to cope) in a body not fully her own. For Trillium, distancing himself from the pain of the past through his work as a tattoo artist. To name a few. The author has constructed a cast of dynamic and likable characters with heartrending stories. I liked that we got a range of memories/perspectives of those who remember life before the floods and those born into this new life.

I have never read speculative fiction or climate fiction before, so I wasn’t sure if I would like the story. But I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I was with what was going on. Trashlands was a really good read. There’s a lot to say and think about. The falling action was particularly touching after going through so much with the characters, experiencing the struggles of their world, and reliving their darkest memories. I highly recommend this story!


Alison Stine's author photo.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALISON STINE is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been a storyteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author Website: https://www.alisonstine.com/
Twitter: @AlisonStine
Instagram: @alistinewrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/683318.Alison_Stine?from_search=true&from_srp=true

TRASHLANDS – https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/56383016-trashlands

ISBN: 9780778311270
Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Publisher: MIRA Books

BUY LINKS: BookShop.orgHarlequin | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s


A picture of the cover of Trashlands with a quote from Good Housekeeping.


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ARC Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant

Light blue text that says "Book Review" over a stem of while orchids.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Home for a Cowboy Christmas is set to be published October 26, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Tis the season—for everyone except Emmy Garrett. She’s on the run after witnessing a crime. But when it becomes clear that trouble will continue following her, the US Marshal in charge takes her somewhere no one will think to look–Montana. Not only is Emmy in a new place for her protection, but now, she’s stuck with a handsome cowboy as her bodyguard…and she wants to do more than kiss him under the mistletoe.

Dwight Reynolds left behind his old career, but it’s still in his blood. When an old friend calls in a favor, Dwight opens his home to a woman on the run. He tries to keep his distance, but there’s something about Emmy he can’t resist. She stokes his passion and turns his cold nights into warm ones. When danger shows up looking for Emmy, Dwight risks everything to keep her safe.

 

My Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas was an enjoyable, fast-paced, sugary-sweet, suspenseful, and thrilling contemporary romance.

After witnessing a murder and nearly being killed while in the witness protection program, Emmy Garrett now finds herself hiding and in the care of ranch owner Dwight Reynolds. On the one hand, someone wants her dead so she can’t testify. She isn’t trying to get her hopes up that she’ll live long enough to do so. Meanwhile, she’s also dealing with PTSD symptoms. On the other hand, both Emmy and Dwight find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other.

It’s brave of Emmy to want to testify at all despite how turbulent her experience has been so far in the witness protection program. She tries her best to keep calm and carry on, but every once in a while feels intense fear and anxiety. That is strength to admire. Luckily, Emmy is able to find safety and comfort in Dwight and his adorable and intelligent dog, Sam.

Having served in the military, the FBI, and Homeland Security, Dwight knows what he’s up against, is very capable of handling whoever after Emmy, and can empathize with the mental trauma she is going through. He’s so protective of and smitten with her from the start that I’m surprised with how long it took them to share their first kiss. Although Emmy too struggles not to get too close or attached since staying with Dwight is temporary, his kindness and patience allowed her to process things at her own pace, which was very helpful. I also like how close Dwight is with his sister, Victoria, and his ranch employees.

The story progressed quickly but not much so that it felt like something was missing or incomplete. Every moment counted and connected. There was an abundance of action, humor, and tenderness. The climax was absorbing, oh my goodness! I had no idea what to expect. Things tied up nicely in the end, but I was sad that the story was over.

Home for a Cowboy Christmas was a great romance read and just another reason why I love Donna Grant’s books.


More by Donna Grant

Heart of Texas
A Cowboy Like You (#4)
Looking For A Cowboy (#5)
A Cowboy Kind of Love (#6)

Reaper
Dark Alpha’s Awakening (#7)
Dark Alpha’s Redemption (#8)
Dark Alpha’s Temptation (#9)

A Dark Kings Novel
Fever (#16)
Flame (#17)