Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous (2021)

by Suzanne Park
ASIN/ISBN: 9781728209424
Publication: June 1, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Sunny Song spends an inordinate amount of time on social media and her phone. With nearly 100K followers, content creation is high on her list of things to do this summer. However, her plans go astray when a cooking video goes viral. Sunny must either attend a digital detox camp or face expulsion from school so she’s shipped off to a farm camp in Iowa. 

Suzanne Park proves once again why I immediately add her books onto my TBR as soon as they’re announced. She’s able to create relatable characters and provide insight into current problems related to the digital age all while making me laugh along the way.

Sunny Song is the average tech-savvy teenager and generally doesn’t seem to cause her parents much grief except she’s always on her phone, often leading her to tune out those around her. I think many of us can relate to paying too much attention to our phones that we unintentionally shut out those around us. She’s also a social media influencer with a relatively large following. Smart and driven, she’s determined to increase her online influence even though she’s prohibited from having electronics at camp. This leads me to one of my favorite relationships in the book, Sunny and Maya. Although we don’t get to see much of Sunny’s best friend Maya, I absolutely loved their relationship. Maya is such an amazing friend and helps manage Sunny’s accounts and content while she’s away at camp. Only a true friend would be willing to do that and go the extra mile to mail you care packages with your crush’s picture. The other relationship I enjoyed was with Sunny and Theo. It was cute how sweet on each other they were. It wasn’t instant love but a month-long attraction and I liked it. It played out somewhat realistically. She definitely received extra special attention from Theo.

As much as I liked Sunny, I was more invested in the problem addressed in the book. The focus on social media and reliance on digital devices is especially poignant as social media is now an integral part of our lives. Many kids grow up wanting to become the next social media star as opposed to more traditional occupations. Of course, this growing dependency on electronics and social media isn’t just particular to kids and teens. Adults also face similar struggles. Park never comes off preachy even though she uses the characters to question the extent to which our lives revolve around electronics and social media. It even made me question how often I’m on social media and this blog! Gah! While Sunny is initially resistant when she arrives at the detox camp, she eventually begins to recognize how social media has influenced her behavior, both positively and negatively. Rather than completely writing off social media, Sunny’s experience at the camp suggests that a balance must be sought with a focus on understanding or remembering who we are outside of our social media persona. The focus on our identity beyond the one we present on social media was especially thought-provoking.

While the book touches on a complex subject, the novel remains relatively light as Sunny struggles with trying to get online and mainly focuses on the romance. I adored the book. I enjoy Park’s storytelling and her humor is always welcomed. I can always expect to laugh when I have one of her books is in my hands. As much as I liked the book, the ending felt rushed. Things were just getting good and then it has already going to be over. I was looking at the 75% mark wondering if there would be enough time for the story to wrap up. Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous is a solid read, and I greatly enjoyed it; however, I could have used another 50 pages to flesh out the events that happen at the end.

Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag

When Etta at Chonky Books tagged me, I was really excited because the tag looked like a fun one. Chonky Books is a blog I regularly hop onto. Several of the books from my TBR come by way of the fantastic reviews from the website. Please check out the blog when you have a chance to! Also, I crave donuts every time I go there. (You’ll know what I mean once you head on over there.)


Rules:

  • Make sure you give credit to the original creators of this tag – this tag was originally created by Bree Hill.
  • If you want to, pingback to the post you first saw this tag
  • Have fun!

DealingWithDragons_cover

What is your fantasy origin story? (The first fantasy you read)

The very first fantasy book I can recall is Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. This solidified my love of dragons and smart heroines who refuse to succumb to societal pressures about appropriate behavior. Cimorene can live with a dragon rather than want to be rescued if she wants!

If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

Stacey Lee mainly writes YA historical fiction novels. She creates these compelling, strong female leads, and I need her to make me both compelling and strong. My novel would be Lee’s foray into romantic medieval fantasy with a rivals-to-lovers trope about two individuals (me and my love interest) who have to figure out how to not butt heads long enough to combine their strengths to overcome a plot they stumble upon to replace the newly crowned king’s betrothed with an imposter. The one bed problem is welcomed. Spoiler Alert: The imposter is the real betrothed and she’s just trying to get her rightful place back as the true heir to the throne. The imposter was there along put there by the newly crown king so he could take the throne. It’s still a work in progress. Heh…

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What is a fantasy series you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

Anela Deen’s In the Jaded Grove (my review)is the first book in the Kindred Realm series, and it deserves more love! It’s a beautifully written fantasy that is fast-paced. The two main characters Jessa, a woman who has suffered great tragedy, and Simith, a pixie who is tired of his realm’s on-going war, have great chemistry together. I enjoyed Deen’s writing, which is full of vivid descriptions. I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series!

What is your favourite fantasy subgenre?

Medieval fantasies have always been my favorite with magic, dragons, and swords. I do, however, prefer damsels who may be in distress but are actively working to get out of the distress themselves instead of waiting for a knight in shining armor. Kick-ass female protagonists are my favorite!

What subgenre have you not read much from?

I consulted with the list of subgenres linked from Etta’s tag responses for this question to find subgenres. There are so many!! I don’t think I’ve ever read a weird west fantasy. I certainly was not aware this was a subgenre.

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Who is one of your auto-buy fantasy authors?

I don’t think I’ve found an auto-buy fantasy author yet. I plan to get the rest of Andrea Stewart’s The Drowning Empire trilogy and Lori M. Lee’s Shamanborn trilogy. Does that count?

How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram..)

I’m a regular blog hopper. Blogger reviews have contributed to more than half of the books on my TBR and it just keeps growing by the week. For instance, I have Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King on my reading app because I came across the reviews on Chonky Books. I might have skipped it otherwise. Bloggers are awesome! (Not that I’m biased of course…heh)

What is an upcoming fantasy release you’re excited for?

I’ve repeatedly gushed about it on posts here and there but I’m eagerly awaiting Hannah Whitten’s For the Wolf (June 1) and Lori M. Lee’s Broken Web (June 15). Of course, I need more Mephi from Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Emperor (November 11). I’m super excited!

What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

Fantasy is all dwarves, elves, and an all-seeing eye. Sure, Tolkien can be a starting point but the perception that fantasy is a single subgenre undervalues the richness of a genre that is nearly limitless in possibilities. The list of subgenres is fairly long and the books I’ve mentioned in the post range from elves to witches to magical scissors to magical books. It’s not just Tolkien. There’s more out there.

If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Fantasy novels have always been diverse in the beings or creatures (e.g. humans, elves, fairies, trolls, etc.) that exist, but I would like to highlight how characters have become diverse in other important ways. We have BIPOC representation, and I hardly ever got to see characters that looked like me in fantasy novels. Leads having social anxiety were less likely as well. Inclusion is slowly but surely happening!

Who is the most recent fantasy reading content creator you came across that you’d like to shoutout?

I’d really love to give a shoutout to authors for providing me with magic and adventure in what otherwise be a mundane life. Bloggers are awesome for the love and time they devote to creating content and subsequently fueling my ever growing TBR.


I TAG: Alienor @Fox’sWanderings, Andrea @Andrea’sBookCorner, Julie @OneBookMore, and if your name or the name of your blog has the letter “O” in it. If I didn’t tag you, you should still do it. It was fun.

This is a great tag! Thank you again, Etta, for tagging me! I had fun figuring out my novel and who would write it. I hope you choose to partake in it. I look forward to reading your responses!

Luck of the Titanic (2021)

by Stacey Lee
ASIN/ISBN: 9781524740986
Publication: May 4, 2021

Valora Luck has dreamt of reuniting with her twin Jamie since he ventured off on his own, leaving her to take care of their father. After finding out Jamie will be on board the Titanic, she stowaways on it, intent on convincing him that it’s time they pursue their lifelong dreams of becoming acrobats.

The fate of the Titanic is well known but not all survivors’ stories are. Lee centers the story around the relatively unknown fact there were Chinese passengers also on board the Titanic. She sets the tone of the novel with a simple line: “Of the eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic, six survived.” I went into the book with a wall built around my heart but cracks still formed to topple it down. Lee carves out a piece of history and makes it her own with a bittersweet tale.

With Lee at the helm, I should have known it was a lost cause to protect myself from the fates of the characters. Who was going to live? Who was going to die? I tried to stay as disconnected as I could, but still found myself drawn into Valora’s story as she tried to convince her brother to pursue their dreams while trying to escape notice of the crew as well as other passengers. I was still able to laugh and I cheer all the while knowing tragedy was only pages away. Then, I cried.

Valora is a dreamer like her father, chasing down her dream of becoming an acrobat. Smart and determined, she’s always prepared to make her own luck, refusing to allow fate to stand in her way. While I liked Valora and appreciated her daring nature, I was slightly irritated with her constantly pushing her brother to see things her way, insistent he drop everything for their childhood dreams too. Her unwillingness to see beyond her own desires and to to try to understand who Jamie is now prevented me from fully supporting her efforts. It’s always difficult when the person you remember is both the same and different from who they have become, and throughout the novel Valora struggles with this.

Like Lee’s other novels, there is a bit of romance sprinkled in but it doesn’t overpower the central story. It left a lasting impression that hit me harder than many romance novels I’ve read. I don’t know how Lee does it because I felt this way about most of the romances that appeared in her other books too. In this particular novel, it’s likely I felt this way because it only just scratches the surface of the potential relationship so the promise of what’s to come left me wanting more. There are additional subplots included that make the story interesting, each weaving well into the other and supporting the overall story rather than feeling disjointed.

As the Titanic’s demise neared, it was difficult to keep my anxiety at bay. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the characters. It was never a matter of whether Lee would stick close to history and allow only six Chinese passengers to survive even as I tried to convince myself she would find some way around it. I knew it was always going to be who would be part of the six. Luck of the Titanic demonstrates once again Lee’s ability to give faces and names to the past, connecting me with people and stories across time. She took me down a journey that only lasted a few hours but left me heartsick for days.

The Summer of Broken Rules (2021)

by K.L. Walther
ASIN/ISBN: 9781728210292
Publication: May 4, 2021

Although still grieving her older sister’s death, Meredith and her parents finally return to Martha’s Vineyard for her cousin’s wedding. When the family’s summer tradition of playing Assassin commences, she’s determined to win for her sister. The summer brings with it an added surprise when she finds herself bonding with a groomsman and can’t help spending more time with him throughout the week.

The Summer of Broken Rules was a lovely escape not only for Meredith but for me as well. For a few hours, I was at Martha’s Vineyard enjoying a week-long game of assassin with a close-knit family while celebrating a wedding and on the edge of a meaningful relationship. While the book isn’t perfect, it provided an unexpected but welcomed distraction from reality.

Assassin as a family tradition was the initial draw for me, and the game did not disappoint. Not only was it hilarious to see the lengths players would go to “kill” each other, the things individuals did to avoid their assassin were just as amusing. One scene in particular made me laugh out loud as a standoff took place and then a chase ensued. This was the perfect setting to demonstrate how close the families were to each other and how Claire’s death affected everyone, not just Meredith. It pushed the book to more light-hearted territory even though Meredith was still trying to navigate life without her sister. Walther realistically portrays what grief is like, not as something that can be overcome, but something we learn to live with daily. It’s a constant ache, often hidden away, but can hit at any moment as it does to Meredith repeatedly throughout the week as her happy moments on the island are often interspersed with bouts of grief.

I was thankful Walther didn’t give me instant love nor was the romance packaged as true love but only suggests the possibility of it. Not only is Wit good looking with a playful demeanor but he is attuned to Meredith, more so than her ex had ever been. Without the expectation of a relationship, Wit and Meredith are honest in their interactions with each other. Sometimes it’s the people you’ve just met that you can tell nearly anything to, without the fear of judgment precisely because they don’t know much about you. I enjoyed their banter and the positive changes Wit appeared to have incited in her, helping her recognize what she’d been missing in her previous relationship as well as offering her a peek at what it means to effortlessly click with someone. The evolution of their relationship, even though it was only a week, felt genuine, as though it could lead to something long-lasting. (I’m a total romantic so I’m always hoping for that forever after.)

With Meredith’s path to romance the focus of the book, there left little room for her to mend her relationships with the friends she pushed away. They felt more like props that appeared only when needed, but were nonexistent most of the time. I had hoped her friends would be given a larger role. In addition to her friends (when they were present), there are also many side characters that contributed to a fun read. Be forewarned though, there are a lot of them, and it was difficult to keep them all straight. But, it’s a wedding, so it’s reasonable that there would be so many people. Also, assassin is just a lot more fun with more people.

I enjoyed the book immensely, smiling after it was over. The Summer of Broken Rules is probably one of my favorite May reads. It’s one I can see myself reading again just to enjoy the crazy antics to win the game. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a light read, something that will provide a momentary escape from life’s obligations.

Oddbird (2021)

by Derek Desierto
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250765314
Publication: May 25, 2021

Oddbird_page

Desierto is the illustrator of multiple books but Oddbird is his debut. The story follows a bird who isn’t like the rest of the other birds, who just wants to swim in the pool. Because he is different, not nearly as colorful as the other birds are, he is singled out. He finds a way to blend himself in with them, but ultimately finds that just being himself is best.

The book highlights being unique and accepting yourself the way you are even if other’s won’t necessarily do so at first. Apart from the positive storyline, the simple illustrations and the vibrant colors are some of the most memorable things about the book. I enjoyed the book. The nieces and I will be drawing some of our own birds after they finish with their online classes.

I had a chance to participate in a virtual meet with the author, and it was a complete joy to hear him speak about the book and the thought went into creating the different birds. He mentioned wanting to create birds that were simple enough for children to draw, and I appreciate that he took that into consideration. Not only does Oddbird offer a compelling story of being true to yourself, it also gives children an opportunity to create their own unique bird–any shape and any size, all sorts of colors and even different types of eyes. I’ll stop while I’m ahead, otherwise I might continue to rhyme.

Heart & Seoul (2021)

by Jen Frederick
ASN/ISBN: 9780593100141
Publication: May 25, 2021
Series: Seoul Series #1

**I received a copy of the book from the author and publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Growing up and wishing she looked like those around her, Korean adoptee Hara Wilson is very much removed from her Korean culture despite her mother Ellen often trying to engage her with it when she was younger. After the death of her adoptive father, she surprises even herself when she decides she wants to visit Korea. On the search for her biological parents, Hara also finds an unexpected romance along with messier than expected familial ties.

I like Frederick’s novels for tugging at my emotions and for the most part, the book does this. The beginning especially struck a chord with me as Hara related her relationship with her adoptive father and lacking a sense of belonging in a place she says likely “doubled the Asian population when her mom adopted her.” I cannot identify with Hara’s experience as an adoptee, I can only try to understand her story and this ended up often being through the lenses of being perceived as “other” while growing up Asian in a predominantly white community. In some ways, I could empathize with wishing to look more like those around her and pushing aside her culture. This aspect of the book was particularly well done, making the impetus for Hara’s trip to Korea a believable one when her search for identity is a greater pull than she realizes.

Like in her other novels, Frederick gives us a smart and strong protagonist in Hara Wilson. Her introspection throughout the novel displays growth, from being someone who particularly keeps to herself to becoming more vocal about who she is and what she wants. The question of her “Koreanness” was particularly thought provoking, although it left me unsettled at the amount of times her identity was questioned. It was interesting to see the answer evolve and the answer Hara chooses to accept as her own.

The heart and soul (heh…) of the book is Hara’s search for her identity. I wish the book had kept to this theme. Surprisingly, I could have done without the romance subplot–this is coming from someone who loves romance in just about everything. I could have also done without the additional drama that overpowers Hara’s overall journey toward the end of the novel. When the book took a turn for the dramatic and started to feel more like a Korean drama, my interest in it wavered and I enjoyed it less–this is also coming from someone who adores her Korean dramas.

The author’s acknowledgment was especially poignant to me, explaining that this story is just one narrative and not necessarily representative of every adoptee’s story. I hope that when reading this, and other books as well, readers take this into consideration. While there may be overlapping themes, remember that we each also have our own narratives.

Heart & Seoul is a good book, but those expecting a full blown romance might be disappointed as well as those who are expecting more soul searching. On the other hand, readers who like Korean dramas in their books may enjoy Heart & Seoul.

**I was excited to see the mention of Korean drama Signal (2016). It’s one of my favorite Korean dramas. It’s a mash of the movie Frequency and the television series Cold Case. It’s on Netflix but you can also find recaps at Dramabeans. It’s such a good drama and I needed to mention it.**

Before I Saw You (2021)

by Emily Houghton
ASIN/ISBN: 9781982149505
Publication: May 4, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own. **

Alfie and Alice share a ward in St. Francis’s Hospital, both recovering from traumatic accidents. While Alfie is sociable and can hardly prevent himself from talking to anyone he meets, Alice prefers to remain silent and hidden by her curtains. Although she is initially annoyed with Alfie’s attempts at conversation, little by little he draws her out enough that she begins to look forward to conversations with him. From disgruntled roommates (at least on the part of Alice) and then to becoming friends, their relationship begins to feel like something more all without ever seeing each other.

The experience of reading Before I Saw You for the first time is one that I will be unable to replicate. Even if I reread it somewhere down the line, it’s unlikely that the first time Alice speaks to Alfie will be as exciting. And that ending, that damned ending, will not hit me the same way. I mean, I don’t know if I will ever feel about it the way I do right this moment because for some books, there’s nothing like the first time. I’m currently basking in the loveliness of this novel. If I could, I’d like to bottle up what I’m feeling so that I can feel this way whenever I wanted. My one regret is that I waited so long to read it. It’s an absolute gem.

If you’re looking for something exciting, this isn’t going to be the book that will satisfy that search. The book is slow and might even be perceived as repetitive, but oh how I savored the inner dialogue and the connection between Alfie and Alice. This is a moving, character driven story that follows two people in need of healing and unexpectedly finding solace in each other, all the while separated by a curtain and never laying eyes on one other. It’s an uplifting story of the power of the human spirit and the connections we make that can help us thrive even in trauma.

Alfie, with his generally cheery attitude and talkative nature, is like the sun with its gravitational pull, grabbing hold of the people around him and pulling them into his orbit. No one can really help it because he’s affable and genuinely enjoys making human connections. Even I wasn’t immune from it. I have to commend Houghton for capturing his personality so well, for making his excitement so infectious that he immediately brightened my mood as well. I was so happy at how happy he was when Alice spoke to him for the first time.

Alice, on the other hand, is his opposite with her dislike of socializing, preferring instead to keep to herself and having just her best friend. The accident adds to her insecurities. Although Alfie is immediately likeable, Alice is the one that spoke to me, shattering me in several places throughout the book. Although she tries to resist, eventually she is also pulled into Alfie’s orbit. They become friends, but more than that they become confidantes, sharing things they would rarely, if at all, tell anyone else. I loved how their relationship developed and the eventual change they inspire in each other.

Houghton had me chuckling one moment and near tears the next. Alfie and Alice would share these significant pieces of themselves that ripped my heart out, and then the most sarcastic thing would come out of their mouths. These are my kind of characters, and if they were real, they’d be my kind of people. Having been inside their heads so long, it felt like I was saying goodbye to friends. The book is a slow read that requires immersing yourself in this difficult period in Alfie’s and Alice’s lives, to connect with them as they connect with each other. I adored the book.

The Firebird Song (2021)

by Arnée Flores
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547605125
Publication: June 1, 2021


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DESCRIPTiON

Debut author Arnée Flores spins an exciting and original tale about hope in even the darkest of places, perfect for fans of Shannon Hale.

The Kingdom of Lyrica was once warm and thriving, kept safe by the Firebird, whose feather and song was a blessing of peace and prosperity. But the Firebird disappeared, and Lyrica is now terrorized by the evil Spectress who wields her powers from within a volcano. All that remains is a mysterious message scrawled on the castle wall in the Queen’s own hand: Wind. Woman. Thief.

Young Prewitt has only known time without the Firebird, a life of constant cold, as his village is afraid to tempt the volcano monsters with even the feeblest fire. But he has heard whispers that the kingdom’s princess survived the attack . . . and he is certain that if he can find her, together they can save Lyrica.

Princess Calliope has no memories beyond living on her barge on the underground lake. But as she nears her twelfth birthday, she is certain there is more to life than the walls of a cave. When Prewitt finds her, he realizes that she is the missing princess: the only hope for Lyrica. Determined to decipher the meaning of her mother’s strange message and find the Firebird, Calliope and Prewitt set off on a quest that puts them in more danger than either of them ever anticipated.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Arnée Flores author picArnée Flores spent her childhood shifting across rural Washington towns, lugging along boxes of books, and switching schools nine times before her family finally settled down on a wheat farm in the tiny town of Reardan, Washington.​

Arnée identifies as Vietnamese American, but as a transracial adoptee raised by a Caucasian family in small-town America, she grew up feeling displaced.

It took a long while and a winding path for her to find herself. She spent a few nomadic years exploring, working odd jobs, and studying subjects from Piano Performance at Washington State University to Pre-Law and Political Science at Gonzaga before she finally understood that all she really wanted was to stay in one place and write the kinds of stories that had helped her feel safe during her chaotic childhood. 

Today, she can be found collecting rocks, shells, and other curiosities on the beach near her Seattle apartment, all the while dreaming up wild and magical tales, her little white dog splashing along behind her through the tide pools.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book through TBR and Beyond as a Tour Participant . I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

I was immediately hooked as soon as I started reading because the book begins with the legend of the Firebird and hope so true that sprang forth from a small girl to save the world. The story revolves around the legend as Calliope, the Lost Princess is no longer lost but trying to bring back the Firebird to defeat the Demon that has taken all the light from the world. Prewitt, the Bargeboy, accompanies her so they can restore the world to what it once was. The Firebird Song is a wondrous adventure, filled with courage but most of all hope. There is so much packed into the story and so many elements to enjoy about the book but I liked the sense of hope it inspires all because a boy and a girl believed anything was possible.

Prewitt is stubborn, but it works in his favor because his stubbornness leads him to the Princess. It also helps him find the courage to do something about the present situation he is in and to not accept defeat. Had he been less determined, things might have turned out differently. Calliope, despite not having much experience on the outside, takes on her duty in strides and is intent on fulfilling her destiny. At times she seems naive, Prewitt as well, but it’s this belief and this sense of wanting to do what is right that allows her to do what adults may have deemed impossible. Where the adults had so many fears and doubts, Prewitt and Calliope are still able to see beyond their present, they are at the age of hope where anything is still possible.

The story moved at a fast pace, and there were times I wished it would slow down just a bit so I could enjoy the magic of the adventure. A lot is going on but I enjoyed it immensely. With one of its themes that being “just a girl” actually means being able to do anything, I know my nieces will enjoy it as much as I did.

The One and Only Sparkella (2021)

by Channing Tatum
Illustrated by Kim Barnes
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250750754
Publication: May 4, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Sparkella_sparkle

Ella, or Sparkella as she likes to be called, isn’t nervous at all about her first day at a new school. She is unapologetically herself with her glitter, her shimmers, and her sparkles. A rough first day leads Sparkella to revert to being “normal,” but she feels even worse. After helping her dad out with his own rough day, Sparkella decides she’d rather continue to be herself.

The One and Only Sparkella is an endearing book about embracing your individuality. It’s especially sweet because her dad plays an active role in encouraging her to be herself. He not only supports her individuality and sense of fashion, he sparkles right along with her. The illustrations are as whimsical and enchanting as Sparkella. I read this with my niece and she adored the book. We both recommend it!

The Awakening (2021)

by Nora Roberts
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250272614
Publication: November 24, 2020
Series: The Dragon Heart Legacy #1

Breen Kelly is riddled with student debt and working in a job she doesn’t like. After discovering her mother has been keeping an investment account in her name with money sent from her dad that she never knew about, Breen decides to take charge and use some of it to change her current situation. She sets off to Ireland with her best friend in search of herself, to understand her past, and possibly to find her dad. She finds more than she expects: a portal to another world, a grandmother she didn’t know she had, and more weight placed on her shoulders.

This is my first Nora Roberts novel. I’ve been itching to get my hands on it after reading many positive blogger reviews. When the library finally alerted me it was available, I quickly jumped at the chance to explore Ireland and Talamh with Breen. While it’s not the amazing read I expected, it’s also better than average.

The Awakening is a slow build-up to what’s to come in the next books of the trilogy. When I say slow, I really mean it because nothing particularly “exciting” happens in this book. There are minor skirmishes here and there but they are nowhere near the scale I was hoping for. As the title suggests, it’s an awakening of sorts: the beginning of a trilogy, an introduction to a whole other realm, and, most importantly, the beginning of Breen’s journey toward self-discovery.

Raised to believe that her father abandoned her and that she is less than, the Breen first introduced is insecure, has low self-esteem, and is more than a bit miserable. By the end of the book, although remnants of who she used to be are still present, she carries herself with more confidence. Breen is a dynamic character with her transformation a powerful one as she learns to take charge of her life rather than allow someone else to dictate her worth.

I enjoyed the beginning of the novel because it starts quickly with Breen finding the financial documents that set off her adventure to Ireland. However, it slows immensely once Breen arrives in Ireland. While I appreciated the lush landscape of Ireland and the fun Breen was having with best friend Marco, I was ready to jump or dive or whatever I needed to do to find Talamh and its inhabitants. The book doesn’t get there until a third of the way through. Talamh is where things get interesting; however, it also becomes repetitive with the constant training and Breen’s back and forth between her cottage and Talamh.

The relationship she has with her best friend Marco is a highlight with the amount of love and support they provide for each other. Another highlight is her relationship with her grandmother, Marg. The opposite of Breen’s mother, Marg is loving, compassionate, and supportive. Then there is Keegan, the ruler or protector of the realm. Because of a promise to protect Breen, he’s bound to her, and he’s also set on ensuring she can protect herself.  Where Marg has a soft and reassuring touch when teaching Breen, Keegan has no qualms about making sure Breen knows what she is up against. Their training often leaves her with bruises.

The romantic pairing between Breen and Keegan is also being established, scratching the surface of their potential as romantic partners. Their pairing is both expected and unexpected. It was obvious they are being set up to be a couple, but there is no hint of an attraction. Their majority of their interactions with each other seemed non-romantic at best, with limited introspection about their feelings–no heated glance, no slight touch, nothing much to make my heart beat for their pairing. They spend a lot of time training, a prime time for building the attraction through descriptions and angst, but neither was present. When Keegan suddenly declares his attraction to Breen, it felt unnecessary and not quite believable. I like their pairing but hope more is in store to further develop the relationship in the next book.

In its entirety, The Awakening is solely an introduction. The world is being built here, establishing an understanding of why Talamh is in the state that it is, the rules, who comes and goes, why they’re still tilling with horses, and why Breen is important. While it’s an amusing and often entertaining experience as Breen learns about her heritage, it also became repetitive in parts. Overall, I found it was a good book. While I’m not quite invested in the characters, I am interested in where the story will lead.