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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!!!
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Book Review: A Home Again by Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

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Cover of "A Home Again" by Colleen Rowan Kosinski, Illustrated by Valeria Docampo

Image via Goodreads

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

ABOUT: After the last brick is laid, a family moves into a brand-new house. As the family grows, the house delights in the sound of laughter echoing in its halls and the pitter-patter of little feet traversing its floors and realizes it is no longer just a house. It has become a home—their home. One day, the family packs up, and with tears in their eyes, they say goodbye. The house doesn’t know if it can ever be happy again until two men appear. It begins to feel a sliver of hope about this new family…perhaps it can become a home once more.

Told from the perspective of a house, this story’s heartfelt text and beautiful illustrations convey a warmth of feeling as two families change and grow at different times within the same four walls.

 

REVIEW: A Home Again is a cozy story about how a house becomes a home that warmed my heart.

I love that this story is told from the perspective of the house. The people, the laughter, the smells, the sounds, the personal touches all work in concert to create a beautiful, loving home.

I felt every emotion the house was feeling: from happy to confused, from sad to joy and love again. The house’s journey is mesmerizing and well developed.

I really loved this book! The rich vocabulary and smooth, bright illustrations made the story come to life. Things ended so satisfyingly hopeful. I would certainly recommend A Home Again!


AS ALWAYS, HAPPY READING!!!
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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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Book Review: Restart by Gordon Korman

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Cover of "Restart" by Gordon Korman

Image via Goodreads

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

ABOUT: Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

 

REVIEW: Restart is a remarkable story and another reason why I practically devour and adore anything by Gordon Korman. Every book of his I’ve read has been 5 well-deserved stars and Restart is no exception.

Chase Ambrose is a football star, an all-around athlete, and a huge bully until one fall from a roof gives him amnesia, forgetting everything prior to waking up. Who he is now is a complete 180 on who he was, so it’s difficult for every character (kids and adults) to reconcile with. It’s a precarious fine line Chase walks, which hooked me into the story.

I was as fascinated as I was conflicted by Chase’s story because 1) he has a second chance to be a better person than he was (a precious gift) and 2) at times I wondered if the amnesia was …too convenient? But I think Korman did a great job presenting varying, realistic reactions towards Chase. While I had misgivings and worried about how Chase would cope with this divided, contrary existence, I was rooting for Chase to do better and be better and be happy.

Restart has a lot of exceptional character development and I loved the varying points of view in each chapter. I think that was crucial to the conundrum the story presents because other characters’ thoughts and feelings would provide the reader with necessary insight and influence how the story ended. There were good times, bad times, sad times, and surprisingly funny times that all balanced well together. I also loved the relationships that formed and the satisfying conclusion to the story.

Restart was amazing, thought-provoking, entertaining, and enjoyable.

CW: bullying (see resources below)


24/7 Support That’s Here For You

Stop Bullying
www.stopbullying.gov/

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

The Trevor Project
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
1-866-488-7386
TrevorChat available
Text START to 678678


More by Gordon Korman

Ungifted

The Unteachables

Unplugged


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Book Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

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DAY 25

Cover of "All Systems Red" by Martha Wells.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: “As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.”

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid — a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

 

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All Systems Red was an excellent, fast-paced, captivating story with perhaps one of the best/unique main characters I’ve ever read. I don’t read sci-fi often and it’s rare to find a gem like what Martha Wells has created.

Could you ever imagine a robot built for mass murder turn out to be a socially awkward turtle who just wants to watch serials (media) all day? I couldn’t. Murderbot’s clients can be a hit or miss on the quality scale (not that it cares).

Murderbot is currently working as a SecUnit for a group of scientists studying an uninhabited and mostly unexplored planet. It does it’s job (for the most part) but keeps itself separate from the humans unless needed. The scientists view Murderbot in varying degrees, from a person with thoughts and feelings to an object/tool to be used as directed. As unknown danger mounts, it’s interesting how far it is willing to go to protect it’s clients (a curious thing for Murderbot to feel towards humans).

Murderbot has a fascinating personality despite it’s indifference and frankness. It is independent and has wants and needs, but stays within the human expectations of a robot. It is courteous in different ways towards humans to make it’s life easier and keep clients satisfied.

The ending was surprisingly emotional. I did not expect – even though I should have – Murderbot to make the choices it did. But I’m really intrigued about where Murderbot’s journey takes it next as it continues to discover itself. All Systems Red lived up to the hype and I would highly recommend it as well.


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Book Review: Wildfire Griffin by Zoe Chant

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DAY 24

Cover of "Wildfire Griffin" by Zoe Chant.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Fire & Rescue Shifters: Wildfire Crew #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: It started with a wildfire.

Things went downhill from there.

When firefighter Rory lays eyes on fire watcher Edith, he instantly knows she’s the one. His fated mate.

Now, to win her heart, he just has to protect her from:

1. A raging wildfire (actually, she’s already got that covered, thanks)

2. The lightning-throwing invisible monster that started it (um, the what?)

3. Killer bunnies (don’t even ask)

4. The appalling matchmaking attempts from his crew of misfit shifters (not only is this guy scorching hot, his dog is adorable too. And… weirdly smart?)

5. His own animal need to claim her. Now. (if only she could look him in the eye…)

Good thing that as a powerful alpha griffin shifter, he can handle anything… right?

There’s only one problem.

The last thing this autistic woman wants — or needs — is to be protected…

 

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A really enjoyable paranormal romance with a lovable cast of characters, an interesting and mysterious antagonist, and a riveting plot.

Edith is a fire watcher who longs to be on the ground battling wildfires instead of watching from afar. But she’s never been given the chance due to her autism. It’s left her feeling alone without a place to belong. So when griffin shifter Rory arrives on the scene after a strange lightning occurrence that causes a fire and a demonic hare tries to kill her, Edith finds herself presented with an offer to make her dreams a reality or be rejected once again.

I like that though Rory wants Edith because she’s his mate he also values her skills that make her an ideal and valuable wildland firefighter. He takes the time to get to know Edith and understand her way of communicating when others just brushed her off as odd and incapable. This allows Edith to slowly come out of her shell and start to believe in herself as a highly trained firefighter. Edith is such a lovely character and really shines bright in this story.

I love that Rory’s crew is a mix of shifters because it makes things more interesting and different in all the best ways. They’re such a lovable bunch who see each other as family. My favorite of the team is Fenrir, a hellhound. He added a lot of comic relief to the story. One thing that perplexed me though was how Rory could be recognized as their Alpha when they’re all different species. Rory has all the makings of a good leader, but they don’t really say how this is possible but there are kind of hints that point to something more. I’m hoping that’s explained in the books to come. I also can’t wait to learn more about each crew member in their own respective books.

I love shifter romances and books with fighters, so I had a great time reading Wildfire Griffin. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.


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Book Review: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd

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DAY 23

Cover of "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Clement Hurd

Image via Goodreads

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

ABOUT: In a great green room, tucked away in bed, is a little bunny. “Goodnight room, goodnight moon.” And to all the familiar things in the softly lit room — to the picture of the three little bears sitting on chairs, to the clocks and his socks, to the mittens and the kittens, to everything one by one — the little bunny says goodnight.

 

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A classic that never gets old! Goodnight Moon is the ideal bedtime story to wind down the night with.

It’s a slow, gentle, peaceful descent, grounding the reader into the story. It’s incredibly engaging as the cute, little bunny says goodnight to various things and sounds. I like how the story pretty much gives a room tour to the reader and allows the reader to take in every detail of the illustrations. My favorite lines: “Goodnight stars/ Goodnight air/Goodnight noises everywhere.”

Goodnight Moon is a must-have for one’s personal library.


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Book Review: I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb, Illustrated by Suzie Mason

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DAY 22

Cover of "I’ve Loved You Since Forever" by Hoda Kotb, Illustrated by Suzie Mason

Image via Goodreads

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

ABOUT: I’ve Loved You Since Forever is a celebratory and poetic testament to the timeless love felt between parent and child. This beautiful picture book is inspired by Today show co-anchor Hoda Kotb’s heartwarming adoption of her baby girl, Haley Joy.

With Kotb’s lyrical text and stunning pictures by Suzie Mason, young ones and parents will want to snuggle up and read the pages of this book together, over and over again.

 

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This book was really well illustrated. I was blown away by the art and colors from the very first page. It’s a visually appealing and beautiful story about a parent/guardian/care-giver’s deep love for their child. The tone is relaxed, gentle, and peaceful. All the animals were so cute but I have a deep love for pictures of a starry night sky. Really enjoyable story!


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Book Review: Dragon’s Breath by Michael Gordon

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DAY 21

Cover of "Dragon's Breath" by Michael Gordon

Image via Goodreads

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

ABOUT: What happens when a Dragon doesn’t brush his teeth? Well…we all heard about the ”dragon’s breath’’. That’s why learning proper dental care is really important for a little boy and his friend Dragon Joe.

 

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A delightful story that teaches young readers the importance of dental hygiene in a fun and creative way. It’s a creative take on the idiom “dragon’s breath” by having a dragon as one of the main characters. Dragons are awesome so I found myself very interested in the story. The story is short and to the point, which I liked.

I wish George (the boy) was a little less blunt about Joe’s (the dragon) bad breath as teeth insecurity (such as braces, gaps, crooked alignment, etc.) impacts one’s self-esteem. So I personally connected with what Joe was feeling having felt the same growing up. But I do like George’s solution to help his friend Joe.

Dragon’s Breath was a good story. The illustrations were nice and I liked that it rhymed. I think it will encourage kids to build healthy habits in an accessible way.


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Book Review: Damaged Goods by Talia Hibbert

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DAY 20

Cover of "Damaged Goods" by Talia Hibbert.

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Ravenswood #1.5
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Second chances shouldn’t be this sinful.

Laura Burne‘s husband is a monster, her diamond ring is a trap, and her pregnancy is the push she needs to finally escape. She runs away seeking safety… and finds Samir Bianchi, her long-lost teenage sweetheart.

With his kind eyes and dirty smile, Samir’s still hot as hell—and he still treats Laura like a goddess, baby bump and all. The wild boy she spent one magical summer with is every inch a man, and he’s more than ready to care for her tiny family.

But Laura’s been keeping a secret Samir might never forgive. When she finally confesses, will he remain by her side? Or is this fairytale ending too good to be true?

 

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This is a heavy story indeed but the mood is balanced well with lighter and steamy moments. You should definitely read the trigger warnings before the story begins (see 24/7 resources below).

Some parts were slower paced than others, but I was still interested. When Laura and Samir reunite it’s like they nearly fall back into place where they left off well decades ago and they clearly still have strong feelings for one another.

So it was just a matter of when Laura would tell Samir about the abusive marriage she escaped and watching as she slowly rebuilds herself after all she’s been through. Samir’s character felt more like the rock of the story to anchor Laura and the reader.

I like how stalwart and patient Samir is with Laura, and enjoyed his happy-go-lucky demeanor. I loved the part where Laura was brainstorming baby names.

The story was alright to me. I like Laura and Samir as a couple and the easy way they interact with each other. Some parts were hard to read and it broke my heart learning about what Laura went through. The ending and epilogue were very sweet though.

I would read the other books in this series because of how well the author writes characters and romance.

CW: descriptions of domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, child abuse, gaslighting


24/7 Support That’s Here For You

Women’s Aid
https://www.womensaid.org.uk
0808 2000 247 (24/7 helpline)

National Domestic Violence Hotline
thehotline.org
espanol.thehotline.org
1-800-799-7233
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

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

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


More by Talia Hibbert

The Brown Sisters
Take A Hint, Dani Brown (#2)