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Zero to Hero Characters I Love

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

Today’s post is inspired by the songs ‘Zero to Hero’ and ‘Go the Distance’ from Disney’s Hercules – which is one of my favorite Disney animated films.

I love stories about interesting unlikely characters tasked with the “impossible.” or are the “chosen one.”

I love characters who start from humble beginnings and grow into something more complex. They are also sometimes the least expected person whom other within the story would never think could do great things or be more than what they already perceived to be.

Of course, epicness is guaranteed, but results vary.

So here are 10 of my favorite “Zero to Hero” characters (spoiler free). For series, I’ve only included the synopsis for the first book.

The List:

Keep scrolling for each story’s synopsis!

 

Arthur Penhaligon
The Keys to the Kingdom (series) – Garth Nix

[Book 1] Arthur Penhaligon’s first days at his new school don’t go too well, particularly when a fiendish Mister Monday appears, gives Arthur a magical clock hand, and then orders his gang of dog-faced goons to chase Arthur around and get it back. But when the confused and curious boy discovers that a mysterious virus is spreading through town, he decides to enter an otherworldly house to stop it. After meeting Suzy Blue and the first part of “the Will” (a frog-looking entity that knows everything about the House), Arthur learns that he’s been selected as Rightful Heir to the House and must get the other part of the clock hand in order to defeat Monday. That means getting past Monday’s henchmen and journeying to the Dayroom itself. Thankfully, Arthur is up to the challenge, but as he finds out, his fight seems to be only one-seventh over.

With a weapon-wielding hero and a villain who doesn’t make Mondays any nicer, Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom launch is imaginative and gripping. After an action-packed crescendo to the book’s middle — when Arthur finally learns his destiny — Nix keeps the drama going and doesn’t let it fall. By the end, you might be winded from all the fantastic explanation, but you’ll definitely be salivating for what’s to come.

 

Beka Cooper
Beka Cooper (series) – Tamora Pierce

[Book 1] Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, commonly known as “the Provost’s Dogs,” in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran “Dogs” and her fellow “puppies,” Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it’s also where Beka was born, and she’s comfortable there.

Beka gets her wish. She’s assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost’s Dogs. They’re tough, they’re capable, and they’re none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don’t know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could – information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather … murmurs that are the words of the dead.

In this way, Beka learns of someone in the Lower City who has overturned the power structure of the underworld and is terrorizing its citizens into submission and silence. Beka’s magical listening talent is the only way for the Provost’s Dogs to find out the identity of this brutal new underlord, for the dead are beyond fear. And the ranks of the dead will be growing if the Dogs can’t stop a crime wave the likes of which has never been seen. Luckily for the people of the Lower City, the new puppy is a true terrier!

 

Daine
The Immortals (series) – Tamora Pierce

[Book 1] Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.

 

Meira
Snow Like Ashes (series) – Sara Raasch

[Book 1] A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

 

Ness Clark
The Boulder Wolves (series) – Olivia Wildenstein

[Book 1] The primal rule of winning: don’t fall in love with the contender.

Three months shy of her eighteenth birthday, Ness is forced to return to Colorado. Even though it’s been six years, and the wolves of her all-male pack don’t recognize her, she recognizes them. People who shun others because of their gender are hard to forget.

Especially Liam Kolane—son of Heath, the crudest and cruelest Alpha to have ruled the Boulder Pack. Liam is as handsome as he is infuriating, as kind as he is punishing, and he makes Ness’s traitorous heart race, which isn’t good. After all, he’s a Kolane. Like father like son, right?

When Heath dies, Liam vies to become the new Alpha and no one dares challenge him.

Except Ness.

Thus begins a treacherous game.

The rules: winner takes all…including loser’s life.

*mature content warning*

 

Nick Bell
The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

 

Rho (Rhoma) Grace
Zodiac (series) – Romina Russell

[Book 1] At the dawn of time, there were 13 Houses in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now only 12 remain….

Rhoma Grace is a 16-year-old student from House Cancer with an unusual way of reading the stars. While her classmates use measurements to make accurate astrological predictions, Rho can’t solve for ‘x’ to save her life—so instead, she looks up at the night sky and makes up stories.

When a violent blast strikes the moons of Cancer, sending its ocean planet off-kilter and killing thousands of citizens—including its beloved Guardian—Rho is more surprised than anyone when she is named the House’s new leader. But, a true Cancerian who loves her home fiercely and will protect her people no matter what, Rho accepts.

Then, when more Houses fall victim to freak weather catastrophes, Rho starts seeing a pattern in the stars. She suspects Ophiuchus—the exiled 13th Guardian of Zodiac legend—has returned to exact his revenge across the Galaxy. Now Rho—along with Hysan Dax, a young envoy from House Libra, and Mathias, her guide and a member of her Royal Guard—must travel through the Zodiac to warn the other Guardians.

But who will believe anything this young novice says? Whom can Rho trust in a universe defined by differences? And how can she convince twelve worlds to unite as one Zodiac?

 

Sam of Wilds
Tales From Verania (series) – TJ Klune

[Book 1] Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City of Lockes, a young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam is fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-giant named Tiggy, earning the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at the castle. Sir Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell through the years when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

 

Tessa McCaide
Alpha Girl (series) – Aileen Erin

[Book 1] Tessa McCaide has a unique talent for getting into trouble. Then again, it isn’t easy for a girl with visions to ignore what she sees. Luckily Tessa and her family are leaving California and moving halfway across the country, giving her the perfect opportunity to leave her reputation as “Freaky Tessa” behind.

But Tessa doesn’t realize that kissing the wrong guy in her new Texas town could land her in far more trouble than she ever imagined. Like being forced to attend St. Ailbe’s Academy, a secret boarding school for werewolves.

Even if the wrong guy did accidentally turn her into one of “them” and doom her to attending the weirdest high school ever, Tessa can’t help her growing attraction to the mysterious Dastien Laurent.

When vampires attack St. Alibe’s and her visions pinpoint an enemy in their midst, Tessa realizes that boy drama and her newfound canine tendencies might just be the least of her problems.

 

Zoey Redbird
House of Night (series) – P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

[Book 1] After a Vampire Tracker Marks her with a crescent moon on her forehead, 16-year-old Zoey Redbird enters the House of Night and learns that she is no average fledgling. She has been Marked as special by the vampyre Goddess Nyx and has affinities for all five elements: Air, Fire Water, Earth and Spirit. But she is not the only fledgling at the House of Night with special powers. When she discovers that the leader of the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club, is mis-using her Goddess-given gifts, Zoey must look deep within herself for the courage to embrace her destiny – with a little help from her new vampyre friends (or Nerd Herd, as Aphrodite calls them).


As Always, Happy Reading!!!

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Book Review: “Big Nate Makes The Grade” by Lincoln Peirce

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Graphic Novel
Series: Big Nate: Comics
Rating: 2 out of 5 (DNF @ pg.114)
Recommend to Others?: No

 

ABOUT: Self-described comic genius Big Nate keeps parents and teaching on their toes in this hilarious……Nate Wright is known to his pals and teachers for many things, his penchant for mischief and his school record for detentions being the foremost. But beating out brainiac Gina’s grades is not one of those things! In Big Nate Makes the Grade, the school life goings-on of Nate, his pals, and his long-suffering teachers are recounted in hilarious detail……

 

My Review:
I wanted to read this book because it was a popular series for this age group and I wanted to know why. It looked like a good read. It’s a very character driven story. Nate’s character holds a lot of presence.

However, I couldn’t finish it because of Nate’s character. He’s very unlikable, oblivious, and too troublesome. He’s not the best academically (which is fine) but he doesn’t try out of sheer laziness it seems. He’s quick to blame everything and everyone else for his troubles. If this wasn’t a graphic novel, I’d say Nate was an unreliable narrator.

The comic art style is great and done in such a classically nostalgic way. The writing is really good. There were a few times here and there when I was actually liking the story because of the dialogue.

I just couldn’t care enough to finish and I don’t think Kid Me would have finished it either. The book has a few merits but not enough to keep me reading.


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Book Review: “Sunny Rolls The Dice” by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Watercolor by Lark Pien

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Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Series: Sunny #3
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Too cool for school . . . or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny’s just made it to middle school . . . and it’s making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny’s not against any of these things, but she also doesn’t understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She’s much more comfortable when she’s in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you’re sword fighting and spider-slaying, it’s hard to worry about whether you look cool or not. Especially when it’s your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool . . .

 

My Review:
Now this is what I have been waiting to read in this series: the middle school / middle grade aspect of Sunny’s life. She’s such a cute character that I really wanted to know more about her life in late 70s Pennsylvania. You definitely get a better sense of the kind of person Sunny is – she’s a pretty cool person.

Sunny faces two conflicts: growing up and staying true to herself. Sunny is who she is but she’s concerned that who she is and what she likes is not the way to go. Everyone young and old can relate to this universal internal conflict and peer pressure.

I liked seeing Sunny play Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve never played the game but learning about it was fun. It seems like a fun game to play.

Again I’m in love with the art and the cultural references. Sunny Rolls The Dice was definitely a step in the right direction. I hope there are more books about Sunny in the future.This is a great middle grade series and graphic novel.

 

More Sunny series:
Sunny Side Up – book 1
Swing It, Sunny – book 2


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Book Review: “Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous” by Keith Calabrese, Illustrated by Juana Medina

Full Title: Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma

Image via Goodreads

Genre: Picture Book
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: In the tradition of School’s First Day of School, debut author Keith Calabrese and Pura Belpré Award winner Juana Medina share a sweet, universal story about a clever little girl whose shoes are nervous about the first day of school.

Today is a big day! Today, Lena starts kindergarten. She is very excited. But there’s just one problem…

Lena’s shoes are nervous.

Lena doesn’t want to miss out on her first day of school, but she can’t go without her favorite shoes! How can she convince them to be brave?

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My Review:
What a neat story about first day of school anxiety for kids! What makes this story stand out from other books on this topic is that the author has personified Lena’s outfit. It presents a two-fold meaning: Lena’s shoes are nervous or Lena is acting out her nervousness through her shoes. A well-placed juxtaposition.

I loved the art style chosen. No perfect lines but swift hand-drawn-like illustrations perhaps to add to the nervous feel of the story. I liked that not every spread was full color. Some pages where black and white with the most important parts colored.

Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous is one creative, universal metaphor told in a unique way.


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Book Review: “The Doctor’s Family Reunion” by Mindy Obenhaus

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Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: His Instant Family

Family means everything to Dr. Trent Lockridge. Growing up without a father, he always yearned for a family of his own. One long-ago  summer in Ouray, Colorado, he thought  he might build a future with beautiful  Blakely Daniels. But when he abruptly fled town, he broke her heart and left behind more than memories. Years later, Trent is shocked—and overjoyed—to learn he’s a father. He’d like to earn back Blakely’s love and trust— but it won’t be easy. And the clock is ticking. He’s got only a few weeks to prove that, this time, he’s here to stay…forever.

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My Review:
The Doctor’s Family Reunion was a charmingly romantic story of second chances and the power of faith.

Blakely is a well rounded, likable character. She has spent the last decade as a single mother while running the family tour business. But she still struggles and stresses, even more so once Trent suddenly comes back into her life. She has a hard time letting go and allowing others to help her out so she can have a chance to breathe.

She has been let down before in the past so it’s stubbornly hard for her to trust Trent (which is understandable). Trent seems honest, loyal (to a fault) and honorable – a real man of his word. From an outside perspective he is the total package and not the type of person to “dine and dash.” I do think he could have tried a little harder with Blakely before shit hit the fan. I was getting impatient waiting for him to confess to her.

Ouray, Colorado seems like such beautiful place. The author described it in such a way that made me want to go see this place in real life – the perfect destination vacation!

Mindy Obenhaus is a talented romance writer and storyteller. I am so glad I found her books. I can’t wait to read more by her!


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[My 200th] Book Review: “Glow of the Fireflies” by Lindsey Duga

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Briony never planned to go back to the place she lost everything.

Firefly Valley, nestled deep within the Smoky Mountains, is better kept in her past. After an unexplained fire gave Briony amnesia, her mother disappeared and her dad moved them to Knoxville.

But now her grandmother needs a caretaker and Briony’s dad volunteers her to help. The moment she returns, her whole world shifts. She feels a magical connection to this valley, as if it’s literally part of her somehow.

And when she meets a hot guy who claims he was her childhood friend but now mysteriously keeps his distance, Briony starts piecing together her missing past…and discovers her mother didn’t leave to start a new life somewhere. She’s trapped in the hidden world within the valley.

Now, Briony will do whatever it takes to rescue her, even if it means standing up against dangerously powerful nature spirits. Even if it means giving up her first love.

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My Review:
Glow of the Fireflies is a must read, new young adult fantasy book. I adored the story, loved the characters, and thought the writing was captivating.

The cover is absolutely gorgeous and, I will admit, was what first piqued my interest. I love fireflies; they’re so pretty. Combined with the aesthetically pleasing artwork and you get one resplendent cover art.

It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen deeply in love with a story’s plot. Glow of the Fireflies was put together so well. I like how the book starts out so seamlessly innocent inciting incident and then quickly turns into chaos.

Briony thought she might get some answers to questions that have haunted her for years. Well she gets that and so much more than she (or the reader) could have ever guessed. Once Briony and Alder, her long-ago childhood friend, come to a major decision, it took too long to get to something new. Things got repetitive.

I shouldn’t have been surprised by all the plot twists but I was and pleasantly so. Glow of the Fireflies had the right amount of tension, the right amount of danger, and the right amount of romance. This was a good read that I wish there had been at least another 30-50 pages more of. The book is a magically perfect YA fantasy standalone novel. I want to read more books by Lindsey Duga.


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Book Review: “Not Quite Snow White” by Ashley Franklin, Illustrated by Ebony Glenn

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Genre: Picture Books
Rating: 3 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUTTameika is an African American girl who loves musical and dreams of starring in one as a princess one day. But she fears that having brown skin and a plump frame might keep her from her dreams.

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My Review:
A little girl dreams of being a princess and playing one on the big stage – and not just any princess but the classic royal, Snow White. Tameika is so cute and confident. But she loses that special spark when she overhears other kids making fun of her. I think subconsciously kids can relate to the feelings Tameika experiences. I thnk there could’ve been more to the resolution but, otherwise, this was a neat story to teach kids self-esteem and positive body image.


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Book Review: “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

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Genre: Picture Books
Series: Dragons Love Tacos #1
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You’re in red-hot trouble.

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My Review:
Who wouldn’t want to read a book about two totally amazing yet completely polar opposite things: dragons and tacos? Dragons are one of my favorite magical creatures and tacos are super yummy, so this book was a lot of fun to read.

I loved learning about why dragons love tacos of all things. The dragons vary in all sizes and shapes and colors and vibrant personalities. Dragons Love Tacos is so ridiculous and silly, the writing creative and detailed, that I’m sure it will become an instant favorite for children.


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Book Review: “Pumpkinheads” by Rainbow Rowell, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes

 

ABOUT: Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

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My Review:
I’d seen this book all over bookstagram and became curious about it, especially since it was a graphic novel written by Rainbow Rowell. I’d only read one book by her but I had  feeling this would be a good read. And it was.

Pumpkinheads follows the same format as your traditional summer romance story but instead takes place at a pumpkin patch. The setting right away set it apart from other stories. It’s Deja and Josiah’s last season at the pumpkin patch before they go off to college and Josiah’s last chance to confess to his crush. The adventure that ensues just to find this person is wild and funny. The night becomes a wonderful memory that’ll last forever.

The appeal is further enhanced by Hick’s stunning illustrations. I don’t think the story could’ve have been told any other way. Her art paired with Rowell’s exceptional storytelling brought the story to life.

While both characters are likable, I like Deja more than Josiah. I connected with her more because of her vibrant personality and she didn’t spend page after page moping.

If you haven’t yet, Pumpkinheads is a must read. You’ll be absorbed into the story instantly and have a grand time reading.


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Book Review: “Puppy Love” by Lucy Gilmore

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Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Forever Home #1
Rating: 2 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: No

 

ABOUT: Sophie Vasquez runs Puppy Promise, a service puppy training organization. Sophie’s always been treated as the frail baby of the family—a thing she hates but doesn’t know how to change. Until, that is, she meets her newest client.

Harrison Parks is a wildfire firefighter who isn’t allowed back in the field unless he finds a service dog. Reluctantly, he agrees, never expecting to be assigned a skittish Pomeranian and the equally skittish woman who’s supposed to wrangle them both into order. As it turns out, they all have something to prove…and more than enough room in their hearts for a little puppy love.

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My Review:
I picked this book up because it centered around service dogs – which I love, admire and respect – and the premise sounded like it’d be a really cute story.

Sophie, after surviving leukemia, wants to prove she’s not fragile; Harrison just wants to get back to work without damaging his image and protect his heart from everyone. Sophie and Harrison are two very different people but have a lot in common – making them perfect for each other based off their initial interactions.

However, I did not like how Sophie handled Harrison’s case from the very beginning. It was unprofessional, unethical, and borderline sexual harassment. I didn’t like how she used their mutual instant attraction to get him to open up and work with her and Bubble (like purposefully wearing certain clothing to show off her body). It was wrong – like a therapist taking advantage of their client’s vulnerabilities, knowing exactly how to manipulate them. And her sisters encouraged this. This went on for 3/4 of the book and I couldn’t shake my disapproval.

The only good part of this book was Bubbles. I loved her to bits and loved even more that she was a rescue dog. As much as I didn’t like Sophie, I was happy to see her push and advocate for Bubbles to be paired with Harrison.

I think I would’ve loved this story if not for the inappropriate conduct of business.