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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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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!!!
CONNECT WITH ME | Goodreads | Instagram


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ARC Review: The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

25 Days of Book Reviews logo.

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.

 

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

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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[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

Trashlands by Alison Stine MIRA blog tour banner.

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: How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! How to Love Your Neighbor is set to be released January 18, 2022.

Image via NetGalley

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

ABOUT: Interior Design School? Check. Cute little house to fix up? Also check.

Sexy, grumpy neighbor who is going to get in the way of all your plans? Check. Unfortunately.

Grace Travis definitely has it all figured out. In between finishing interior design school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree. She’ll have her dream job. And most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her cold, manipulative mother could never make for her. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—an adorable little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door.

Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. A real estate developer with a knack for betting and winning big, he’s not one to let a good opportunity slip away. So when a beachside house with great bones is ripe for a remodel and flip, Noah doesn’t hesitate. Except in order to spruce it up properly (is it even a beach house if it doesn’t have a pool?), he’ll need to take over the house next door. The house with the willful and combative and way-too-intriguing woman living in it.

With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can turn out to be the person who shows you that home is always where the heart is.

 

My Review: How to Love Your Neighbor is a hilarious and sweet enemies to lovers story! The competitive side of Grace and Noah and their mutual attraction really made things pleasantly interesting.

Grace has worked hard to create a life for herself as a future interior designer. She has had a rough childhood with a mom who wasn’t there for her and liked to play the victim, sometimes blaming Grace for why her (the mom) life turned out badly. This resentment heats up after Grace inherits her mother’s childhood home. But Grace is a go-getter and very resourceful. She truly has an eye for design. I love how she surprises and impresses Noah at every turn.

Noah grew up financially privileged. After working under his micromanaging father, Noah wants to plant roots and make a name for himself without his father’s influence and say. Part of that plan includes buying the house next door, which Grace now lives in. Noah is capable and has good instincts. He’s also easy-going and always on the move, which is possibly why he thinks people underestimate him or don’t think he’s serious enough.

Grace and Noah are very likable. There were plenty of cute moments that made the story fun to read. I like how they made bets to either get an advantage or prove the other wrong. Those scenes plus Grace’s not-so-graceful, clumsy moments were enjoyable.

The two neighbors have a lot in common that help bridge their relationship. They’re both goal-oriented, have a rocky relationship with a parent, and want to find a place to settle. But Grace and Noah also faced challenges as they continued to get to know one another because falling in love wasn’t a part of either of their plans.

I love all the side characters and their respective story-lines. My favorite was Morty, an old man who Grace had been living with and was taking care of for a few years before moving out at the start of the novel. I love that they’d formed familial bonds, Morty being the father Grace never had and Grace being like a daughter to Morty. They became each other’s family when they had no one else. I also liked Tilly (Morty’s girlfriend), Josh (Noah’s assistant), and Rosie (Grace’s best friend and classmate). It was nice to see characters from Sullivan’s previous novel, Ten Rules for Faking It.

How to Love Your Neighbor was a wonderful read that kept a smile on my face throughout much of the story. I loved the plot, the characters, and the romance. I can’t wait to read whatever book the author decides to write next!


More by Sophie Sullivan

Ten Rules For Faking It


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Book Review: The Squire by Duncan M. Hamilton

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Image via Goodreads

Genre: Fantasy
Series: Blood of Kings #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/4
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: When creatures that lurk in the dark dare to venture out into the world, lives are changed forever.

Conrad lives a quiet rural life with his parents in the Northlands. During one fated night, his world is turned on its head, as nightmares become reality. While his Northlands blood cries out for revenge, Conrad’s head tells him surviving is the best he can do.

Rescued by a motley band of mercenaries, Conrad embarks on a life he could barely have imagined. As new challenges, friends, and enemies present themselves, Conrad knows that one day he will have to face the evil that so altered his life, and when that day comes, he must be ready.

 

My Review: The Squire was a great read! The stunning cover is just the start of this new, stirring adventure by Duncan M. Hamilton!

A few familiar names and places from past trilogies are mentioned, which was fun to finally be able to start recognizing even if I don’t know the significance yet. It makes me wonder if at some point everything will come together for a big showdown to save the world.

I sympathize with Conrad’s struggles. His whole world is turned upside down in one night. After being rescued by a very likable, good-natured group of people, he’s quickly forced to grow up and adapt in order to survive. Their travels eventually take them to southern lands where Conrad’s world view expands further than he ever could have imagined. The society and culture are significantly different from where he came from.

Between assimilating, proving his worth, becoming stronger, and dealing with a bully, this 12 year old farmer’s son has a daunting, challenging journey ahead of him. I like his drive to learn even if it is equal parts willingness and reluctance.

Conrad is a mystery but his actions and reactions felt authentic for someone like him. His age and inexperience showed a lot – sometimes in worrisome, anxiety inducing ways – so I wondered about his true purpose within the story and as the main character. I do think that every obstacle faced and hard truth he learned were huge learning experiences that will serve him well in the next book. That he’ll be one step closer towards his desire to be useful, to be able to defend himself, and collect on his blood debt.

The pacing of the story is slow going, at times dull but way more often exciting and suspenseful. Everyone is on edge by the possible threat of centuries old myths actually turning out to be real. The last 40ish pages had me on the edge of my seat! I was so wowed and mad by the way it ended because I wanted book 2 right then and there. The Squire was a successful start to a new series.


More by Duncan M. Hamilton

Dragonslayer
Dragonslayer (#1)
Knight of the Silver Circle (#2)

The Wolf of the North
The Wolf of the North (#1)


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Book Review: The Wolf of the North by Duncan M. Hamilton

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Wolf of the North #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: It has been generations since the Northlands have seen a hero worthy of the title. Many have made the claim, but few have lived to defend it. Timid, weak, and bullied, Wulfric is as unlikely a candidate as there could be.

A chance encounter with an ancient and mysterious object awakens a latent gift, and Wulfric’s life changes course. Against a backdrop of war, tragedy, and an enemy whose hatred for him knows no bounds, Wulfric will be forged from a young boy, into the Wolf of the North. This is his tale.

 

My Review: Duncan M. Hamilton never fails to impress me with his storytelling skills that make you feel. The Wolf of the North is a well-woven story.

Wulfric’s story and how he eventually becomes known as Ulfyr, The Wolf of the North, is being told to an audience of townspeople by someone, called The Maisterspeaker, who seems closely familiar with Wulfric. I like that Wulfric’s story is set up in this way. There are varying perspectives and lots of character names to write down, but not in a way that feels overwhelming.

I liked the world-building a great deal. The way of the warrior and life in the Northlands is tough, harsh, deadly, and at times unforgiving. Everything gets worse and worse for Wulfric, the people of Leondorf, and more. I wanted to cry at the loss of innocents and a way of life.

Hamilton really knows how to craft wicked and devious villains who will make your blood boil. I mostly rooted for Wulfric because it seemed obvious who caused a copious amount of death and destruction. Yet there was too much frustrating inaction and lack of problem solving on Wulfric’s part.

I did like Wulfric’s beginning romance with his childhood (and only) friend, Adalhaid. That too was also sometimes frustrating and sad because they are clearly meant to be, but fate tragically has other plans.

That ending, though! Wow! It left me wanting to know more. Wulfric’s future remains uncertain and his journey has only just begun.


More by Duncan M. Hamilton

Dragonslayer
Dragonslayer (#1)
Knight of the Silver Circle (#2)


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Book Review: Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Loresmith #1
Rating: ⭐⭐☆☆☆
Recommend to Others?: No

ABOUT: Ara has always known about the legend of the Loresmith: the blacksmith who served alongside the kings and queens of every generation to protect the kingdom. It was her fate to inherit the title–though she never truly believed it would come to pass since the monarchy’s downfall years before.

But when the lost Princess Nimhea and Prince Eamon steal Ara from her quiet life with a mission to retake the throne–and take her place as the Loresmith–her whole world turns upside down. Their journey will take Ara on a dangerous adventure to discover new truths about her family’s legacy, and even to face the gods themselves. And with a mysterious thief as an unexpected companion, Ara must use all her skills to figure out just who she can trust, and forge the right path forward–for herself, her kingdom, and her heart.

 

My Review: Forged In Fire and Stars was not what I expected. Maybe I hyped it up too much in my head. I liked that the main character was a blacksmith and the plot sounded super interesting. Yet, in the end, I was left feeling disappointed.

The main character, Ara, takes on a passive role in the story. She’s committed to her destiny of becoming the next Loresmith and helping her conquered kingdom reclaim its independence. A nice romance begins to blossom between her and another character that could develop into something really good. There were just too many moments where I found it difficult to care about what was going on. As if both Ara and the reader were learning things and just along for the ride.

The backstory about the Loresmith is unique (albeit a tad crippling to Ara’s agency throughout) and I like the other characters she’s with along the journey. But I wasn’t invested in Ara’s journey as much as I wanted to be. The book has a lot of potential but for me it’s missing the wow factor. I had an indifferent reading experience. Most likely I won’t continue this series due to an underwhelming plot and main character.


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ARC Review: Usha and the Big Digger by Amitha Jagannath Knight, Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat

Thank you to Charlesbridge Publishing and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Usha and the Big Digger goes on sale August 13, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Picture Book, #OwnVoices
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
Recommend to Others?: Maybe

ABOUT: Celebrate diversity, math, and the power of storytelling!

When sisters Usha and Aarti look up at the stars, they see different things. Aarti sees the Big Dipper, but Usha sees the Big DIGGER. And cousin Gloria sees the Big Kite! Could they all be right? A playful introduction to geometry and spatial relationships, featuring Indian American characters and a note about cultures and constellations.

Storytelling Math celebrates children using math in their daily adventures as they play, build, and discover the world around them. Joyful stories and hands-on activities make it easy for kids and their grown-ups to explore everyday math together. Developed in collaboration with math experts at STEM education nonprofit TERC, under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

 

My Review: A cute story with really beautiful illustrations. I like how Usha, her sister, and their cousin each saw something different in the stars. You can’t help but also try to see if other things can be made out of those seven stars. I like how the author includes some information about how other cultures view the Big Dipper.