Things You Save in a Fire

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! Sometimes the biggest life changes can turn out to be the very best.⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Katherine Center

(4.33 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: August 13, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 320 (Kindle version)


It’s a strange thing to know about yourself, but there it is: I’m at my very best when things are at their very worst.

For many, it’s a guilty pleasure. For me, I feel no guilt. I love them and I’m not ashamed. I sit for hours and just enjoy them back to back to back. No, I’m not talking about Thin Mints – although those are utterly delicious and addictive. I’m talking about – drumroll please – … Hallmark movies.

Yes! Hallmark movies! They are romantic; sometimes sickeningly so, but I love them. I love the general idea of them. The heartfelt optimism of them. The knowledge that no matter what goes wrong in the beginning and the middle, in the end, two very attractive people will end up together. That is the feeling I got while reading Things You Save in a Fire. Here’s the blurb:

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated. The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Choosing to love—despite all the ways that people let you down, and disappear, and break your heart. Knowing everything we know about how hard life is and choosing to love, anyway.. That’s not weakness, that’s courage.

This book combines everything recognizable and lovable about Hallmark movies and puts it in book form. A sudden upheaval (usually involving a change of career and/or location), an ailing or deceased close relative, an awkward or taboo relationship, and a life-altering choice that must be made within a limited amount of time. Add those tried and true ingredients to a serious crisis that threatens all newly discovered happiness and you have the formula for a truly engaging love story / story of strength, redemption, and forgiveness.

Many may read this and imagine that I am being facetious. Trust that I am not. In this current climate of gloom, doom, and general negativity, the positivity and uplifting messages found in Katherine Center’s writing are like breaths of fresh air. I felt that way while reading How to Walk Away and even more so with this new release.

It’s amazing how brave you can be when you feel safe.

More things to like about this novel: It has a strong female lead. I mean genuinely strong. Like still cries when she’s emotional, but is strong emotionally and physically. Cassie is realistic with flaws and judgment, but she grows and she is teachable. I appreciated characters who don’t automatically have everything all figured out, but they put the work in the make their lives work.

Yeah, there’s a bit of insta-love here (usually that’s a big deal-breaker for me), but here it’s kind of expected (“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”) and necessary to kick the story into second gear. All-in-all, this was a cozy summer read that left me feeling all the feels and genuinely happy that I read it. And, yes, I will gladly pick up Katherine Center’s next release.

Katherine Center

Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her fun husband, two sweet kids, and fluffy-but-fierce dog.


Trust Exercise

⇒A nostalgic re-entry into the world of teen angst, bad decisions, and sketchy friendships. Fun!⇐

Author: Susan Choi

(3.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Contemporary Adult / Literary Fiction

Published April 9, 2019by Henry Holt & Company

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 257 (Hardcover)


They were all children who had previously failed to fit in, or had failed, to the point of acute misery, to feel satisfied, and they had seized on creative impulse in the hope of salvation.

I remember high school very well. It was one of the best times of my life. The perceived freedom, the irresponsibility, the proximity to everything good and bad all at once – it was a great time! High school can be a very angst-filled time in a young person’s life. The personal battles of acceptance of self and of others in addition to simply trying to maintain every single day under new responsibilities and expectations can be a harrowing experience.

Reading Trust Exercise thrust me right back into that teenage mind-space where you haven’t quite got everything figured out, but you really think you know it all. It’s a confusing time. Could that be the brilliance of this book and of Susan Choi, or is it its downfall? Here’s the blurb:

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley. The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls—until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true—though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place—revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.

Before I get into how I felt about this book, I have to give a rousing standing ovation to Choi for doing something that woefully few other authors every successfully accomplish (though they desperately attempt it) – she masters the art of writing in different voices.

Trust Exercise is written in three parts, each narrated by a different character. While the POVs are consistent in parts one and three, part two fluctuates between first person, second person, and third person-limited points of view; a real round-robin collection of thoughts and perspectives. And while part two felt a lot like dissociative identity disorder, Choi crafted all of these voices in distinctive ways and with unique patterns. Many people can’t pull that off – the voices all end up, inevitably, sounding like the author; however, this book is a notable exception.

Sarah, in part one, presents as young, a little naïve but blanketing it with trumped up bravado, and sadly solitary even though she’s surrounded by people on a daily basis. Karen comes off instantly as bitter, vengeful, and egotistical (all the word definitions, really?!). And then there’s Claire – inquisitive, skeptical, and searching for answers that will help her to define her own existence. The voices are dissimilar and distinct in ways that almost, almost made me like this book more. Almost.

Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real.

For most, this is going to be a love it or hate it book. I’ve seen a lot of 5-star reviews and a lot of 1-stars too. Hey, either it works for you or it doesn’t. As usual, with my Libra sense of balance, I land somewhere squarely in the middle. 3 stars. Let me give you the high points: First, this is a really well-written book. Choi’s skill is undeniable. Think what you want about the story, she’s an excellent author. Period. Next, the characters are easily recognizable. You went to school with them. The other one taught your art class. And that other one was your best friend’s mom. These are people that could have easily been in your life circle, making the story immediately applicable and relevant. And finally, the breadth and expression of feeling in this story is masterful. Every emotion from anguish to acceptance jumps off the page. It is in those instances that we, as readers, are able to “see” the book in our heads, and that is priceless.

Love was some kind of chemical error.

With every hill, there is valley, and with every high a low. And with that poetic introduction, I begin the gripe-session portion of my review. I didn’t like this book as much as really, really, wanted to like it. The first part truly drew me in. I wanted to be submerged in that story, follow its development, and I would have been fine knowing that its characters and experiences were real. Its abbreviated ending disappointed me and left me feeling unglued from the rest of the book’s development.

Part two, Karen’s story, is extremely jarring. EVERYTHING changes. There is no easing into it, no subtle segue, no warm transfer. It’s as if you’re watching a movie on VHS that someone inexplicably started taping a new movie right on top of it during a critical scene. I felt uneasy and disturbed. Her whole section was uneasy and disturbing. I never settled into it. It was like an uncomfortable pair of shoes; it pinched the whole time.

The events of the story are exceedingly ambiguous and make excellent fodder for any book club meeting. You could go back and forth for many a week discussing the possibilities of what is true and what is conjecture from the perspective of each of these characters. Choi gets a lot of credit for making the book worth talking about, but could also take a lot of heat for shrouding the story in maybe a bit too much uncertainty. It is because of the elusive meaning behind Trust Exercise that I sat on this review for much longer than I usually do. I wanted to let it marinate a while, let it wash over me, and feel all the feels. Turns out, it didn’t change much about the way I rated it, but it left me with a deeper appreciation for the work as a whole. I still recommend it to others because the beauty of opinions is that everyone has one.

Susan Choi

Susan Choi was born in South Bend, Indiana and was raised there and in Houston, Texas. She studied literature at Yale and writing at Cornell, and worked for several years as a fact-checker for The New Yorker.


Because You’re Mine

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW! “The truth will set you free but the lies are what keep me safe.” –Because You’re Mine

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Rea Frey

(4.3 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: August 06, 2019, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 358 (Kindle version)


Sometimes I wonder if we ever really know the people in our lives: their hidden truths, their complexities, their lies.

The other day I learned that my best friend really enjoys getting lottery tickets as gifts. I have known her since we were in high school (let’s just say that we are well-removed from high school now), and I have never ever ever known that she loves lottery tickets.

How can that possibly be? Not only did that make me wonder what else I don’t know about her, but it also made me realize that surely there are things about me that she doesn’t know either.

And while lottery tickets and the fact that maybe – just maybe – I don my Halloween wig and use my hairbrush as a microphone to belt out Adele songs aren’t the darkest of secrets, they’re still examples of the things we don’t know about the ones we’re closest to.

Because You’re Mine is about the secrets that we keep. Here’s the blurb:

Single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything—anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to recharge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?
Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden.
As the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light, perhaps it’s no mystery someone is gone after all…

It was hard to avoid bumping into reviews of this book on social media. It was already very popular even before its release date.
And many of the reviewers exclaimed about the ultimate “twist”, but perhaps Rea Frey tricked us all in that there was more than one twisty plot point that redirected my perception about the entire book and its characters.

It is suspenseful and the surprises work to speed up the overall action of the story which seem to drag a bit up to that point. Just a humble non-writer’s opinion here, but would it have been more suspenseful if we didn’t start the book already knowing that someone dies? It may have made me care about the story’s progression a bit more.

Overall, a good addition to Frey’s body of work. My only gripe is that I really didn’t care about any of these people in the end because I trusted none of them from the beginning!

Because You’re Mine is available today at the following links:

Rea Frey

When she’s not exercising, mothering, adulting, wifing, eating, or writing about herself in the third person, you can find her hard at work on her next book and ghostwriting for other people


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

⇒ “It’s really a paradise on earth, if paradise for you smells of paper and paste.” –The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishers, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Abbi Waxman

(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Women’s Lit / Romance / Humor

Format: Kindle Edition

Publication Date: July 9, 2019, by Berkley

Pages: 352

#TheBookishLifeofNinaHill #BookishLife #NinaHill

…she thought of books as medication and sanctuary and the source of all good things.

What a smart, funny book! It’s a romance, but the “love stuff” is surprisingly detached from the principal story, not saturated into every chapter. The Bookish Life... is simply about a woman and her love of literature and trivia. Nina Hill seems like a fairly normal bookstore employee. She reads, a lot. She knows trivia, a lot. And she talks to her cat, the normal amount.

In public Nina was a quiet, reserved person; in private she was an all-singing, all-dancing cavalcade of light and motion.

Things start to get a little abnormal when single child Nina discovers that her estranged father has passed away and left her an inheritance and a large extended family as well. Add that discovery to an unexpected mutual attraction to a fellow trivia buff who always smells like sawdust (what? sawdust is sexy!), and you have the formula for a series of events that threatens to uproot Nina from her quiet, introverted existence.

Book nerds are daredevils, as you know.

This book has everything: rowdy relatives, a talking cat, flying cupcakes, and Mephistopheles. But if you’re thinking that it sounds like that makes it an utterly ridiculous story, you’d be utterly wrong! Bookish Life is a witty and well-rounded book that left me laughing, commiserating, and then, at the end, wishing that I knew Nina Hill irl. This book earned every one of the five stars I gave it.

Trust people with your truth, and bravely tell them you’re not brave at all.

Read the first chapter here: First Chapter

Buy it here:

Abbi Waxman

Hi there. I’m a chocolate loving, dog loving writer living in Los Angeles. I sit down if I can, and lie down whenever possible. If you enjoy my book and would like a personalized, signed bookplate to go in it, email me your name and address and I’ll send you one! abbi@amplecat.com

Waiting for Tom Hanks

⇒”… true love sometimes involved a little bit of light stalking and a lot of encouragement from Rosie O’Donnell.”⇐

My fourth #Julybrary book this month is Waiting for Tom Hanks. So far, my library picks have been excellent – well, three out of four ain’t bad. I hope my Julybrary challenge inspires other readers to use their public libraries more often. Using mine has certainly saved me both money and bookshelf space!

Author: Kerry Winfrey

(3.55 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Humor

Published June 11, 2019by Berkley

Format: Paperback

Pages: 288

#WaitingforTomHanks #Julybrary

My Tom Hanks is out there, and I’m not going to settle until I find him.

Before I got old(-ish) and cynical and jaded (yes, all of those), I was a hope-ful romantic. I just knew that fairy tales do come true and that relationships actually could have happily ever afters. Then I had my first boyfriend and realized that boys are jerks. I tell you, fourth grade is very traumatic.

But before that, believing in romance was fun. It was not unlike believing in Santa or the tooth fairy – there’s a certain magic to it. Waiting for Tom Hanks revives that magic in a perfectly-paced love story (set in snow) where the characters are totally sold-out on love.

Blurb: Annie is twenty-seven years old, single, and obsessed with romantic comedies (she and her mother watched them religiously, before her mom died). Her dating life is limited by the expectations she’s formed from these movies. She is not as open to new experiences as she might be, because she’s waiting for her Tom Hanks–i.e., a guy she’ll find in the perfect, meet-cute romantic comedy way. When Annie does finally meet her perfect match, it’s not quite in the way she expected, and she’s forced to reckon with the walls she’s built around herself over the years.

There’s a part of me that needs to see a world where everything works out for the best, where people are together forever, or where Tom Hanks can destroy someone’s business but they fall in love anyway.

Waiting… made me happy in so many ways. 1. It’s the perfect summer read for a quiet weekend or a lazy morning in the beach. 2. Its characters are instantly familiar and funny. 3. It’s a love story that isn’t set in New York (imagine that!) And 4. It’s both devoted to romance and charmingly irreverent of it all at the same time.

My current jaded nature makes me appreciate that last point the most. Author Kerry Winfrey has penned an entirely clichéd romance novel, made fun of it, doubled down on it, and then made me love it. It’s perfect. You know what you’re going to get, but the way Winfrey delivers it is so satisfying and fun. It almost made me forget my misanthropic tendencies. Almost.

Read the first chapter of Waiting for Tom Hanks.

Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey is the author of Love and Other Alien Experiences and Things Jolie Needs to Do Before She Bites It. She’s written for many websites, including HelloGiggles. She lives with her husband, baby, and dog in the middle of Ohio.

Blog Tour | The Catnapped Lover

⇒Blog Tour: A woman, a man, and a cat. What could possibly go wrong? ⇐

Author: Rue Allyn

(3.63 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance

Format: Kindle Edition

Publish Date: July 15, 2019 by Prowl Publishing

Pages: 172

#TheCatnappedLover #CatnappedLover

Many thanks to the author and Prowl Publishing for providing a free copy of this book for my review. I received no monetary compensation and my thoughts are my own.

Trouble always came wrapped in attractive packages.

Seems like my summer is full of romance – in my bookish life at least. I rarely read as much romance in a month as I have this month, and it’s definitely not a bad thing!

I’m so glad I got invited to participate in the blog tour for The Catnapped Lover by Rue Allyn. It was a delightful, quick, and quirky romance novel that is perfect for light summer reading whether you’re on vacation or, like me, stuck at my desk working instead of being on a sandy beach somewhere.

Here’s a quick summary for you: What does a bet between best friends have to do with a kidnapped cat and a tumbled-down animal shelter? Nothing, unless you are Adam Talcott and you want to prove to your best-buddy that you can survive without access to your wealth and family connections. Adam would have succeeded too, if it hadn’t been for Dierdre Clancy and that blasted cat.

A cynical young woman is looking for a new start. A wealthy businessman looking to win a lucrative bet. These ingredients make for a quick, cute romantic story with lots of misunderstandings and offbeat circumstances. And oh, there’s a big, pesky cat in the middle of everything (just in case you hadn’t gleaned that from the title).

I enjoyed reading The Catnapped Lover – and I could have enjoyed reading a bit more of it. Was the ending a bit rushed?- or maybe it was just me being greedy for a bit more romance!

Either way, if you want a nice, light, not-too-serious story to round out your summer reading, this is a perfect book to grab! Happy Romantic Reading!

Rue Allyn

Hi, I’m Rue Allyn, I write heart melting romance novel. books about character and adventures in which love triumphs at the darkest moment. The kind of hopeful, steal-your-breath romance that melts a reader’s heart. The type of book I like to read. Hope you will too.

Buy The Catnapped Lover here: books2read.com/u/ba2KBx

Lock Every Door

⇒A thrilling illustration of the age-old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”⇐

Lock Every Door is my third #Julybrary book this month. I’m celebrating libraries by challenging myself to only read books either checked out or purchased from the library for a full month. I appreciate my local libraries, so I want to show a little library love in July by supporting them and reading some really good books while doing it!

Author: Riley Sager

(4.15 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery

Published July 2, 2019by Dutton Books

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 371

#LockEveryDoor #Julybrary

This place is haunted. By its past. So many bad things have happened there. So much dark history. It fills the place.

When you think of scary stories, one classic image usually comes to mind: a haunted house. Dark, solitary, two elongated windows in the front with eerie candles glowing inside. You know the one.

But in Lock Every Door, Riley Sager introduces us to a building not haunted by spectral malevolence, but by bad memories and living nightmares.

Here’s the synopsis: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story . . . until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s sordid past and into the secrets kept within its walls. What she discovers pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.


There’s not a lot that most of us wouldn’t do for $12,000 – especially if it’s something as seemingly benign as apartment-sitting for a few weeks. Sign me up! I mean, it’s better than eating bugs, or hosting a backyard cockfight, or selling a kidney. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Back to my point, the lure of making easy money would have put me in the same vulnerable position as Jules finds herself within the walls of the luxurious Bartholomew.

This place isn’t kind to gentle souls. It chews them up and shoots then out.

So let’s check off all the things that make this book a great mystery/ thriller: 1. A creepy setting – check. The Bart is old and has a lot of bad juju associated with it. It’s also dark and creaky at night. 2. Creepy characters – check. Everyone at the Bart has secrets, and they aren’t telling. Old or young, all the inhabitants have something to hide and secrets make for a truly seductive mystery. 3. Tragic backstory – check. From Jules to the rest of the apartment-sitters, to the Bart itself, there’s enough tragedy to rival Shakespeare. And 4. Monsters! – check. Not kidding. There are gargoyles in this story. Big, scary, winged ones. Oh, and there are some smaller, more sinister monsters too.

It is indeed a strange, alternate universe I’ve stumbled into.

Sager has a knack for taking you to the brink, flipping everything around, and then yanking you back out to the brink all over again. (What exactly is a brick anyway?) Anyway, he takes you all the way there and you’ll be glad you went.

Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED.

After the End

⇒What is your life’s crossroad and which new beginning will you choose?⇐

After the End is my second #Julybrary book. I’m celebrating libraries in July by checking out all of this month’s reads from my local library shelves!

Author: Clare Mackintosh

(4.31 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Published June 25, 2019by G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 390

#Aftertheend. #Julybrary

Over the last few months we have learned that hope is one side of a seesaw balanced by despair; too quickly tipped from one to the other.

Before I begin this review, I have to warn that it may inadvertently contain spoilers. I’ll definitely try my best to keep them out, but in case I miss something, just know that you’ve been warned.

Like 90% of other reviewers of After the End, I found it incredibly hard to make it through this book. It isn’t a happy story. Period. But I’m sure it also wasn’t an easy story to tell – especially by an author who had to make this terrible decision irl.

Here’s the book blurb: “Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re the best friends lovers– unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. What if they could have both?”

Sometimes you only know for certain if you’ve made the right decision once you’ve made it.

Within a few pages of the very first chapter of this book, I knew it was going to be a rough read for me. Riddled with personal triggers which acted as emotional landmines throughout nearly all 400 pages, it both started and ended in uncertainty. This story has some serious triggers for sensitive readers: cancer, kids with terminal illnesses, and other triggers that I can’t even mention without spoiling some parts of the plot.

There were many times when I considered not finishing this book. It was, at times, difficult to turn the next page. Dylan’s condition was heartrending, and his parents’ predicament was one no parent should ever have to face. But my difficult decision was to keep reading, and I managed to do it, but not without being deeply affected.

Turns out you can hate what someone’s doing, yet still love them so much it hurts.

Once I was able to separate myself from the story (cancer is a strong trigger for me), I was able to better appreciate the flow and artistry of this difficult story. And then, when the court decision is made and the author introduces two alternate realities along two different timelines, the complications only intensify.

If you’ve read anything by Clare Mackintosh before, I can tell you that this book is not like any of those. I don’t understand why Goodreads lists it as a thriller– it is more like a slow burning emotional suspense novel. The decision of life and death hovers over the entire first half of the book, and little or nothing can be more suspenseful than that.

In the second half, the suspense comes in with Max and Pip making decisions that will take them into the next phases of their lives. Neither portions of the book are comfortable to read and at times I felt my inner reader screaming at both of them. But, here again, is a decision that no one can say is the right one unless you’re living it.

But when you stand at a crossroad you cannot see each destination, only the beginnings of the paths that will lead you there. All you can do is choose one, and walk, and hope that someone will walk with you.

OK, so let’s address the elephant in the room– why only 3.5 stars? It is, by no means, a bad book. It’s beautifully and sensitively written. Even in the midst of horrible circumstances, Mackintosh gives all her characters meaningful and unique personalities and perspectives.

But the hard parts of the book never let up and the ending doesn’t bring the relief or closure that I felt I needed as I closed the back cover. Not every reader feels this way, and I think it’s definitely proof that this book affects everyone very differently.

It’s possible to look without seeing. To act without feeling. You just have to close your heart for a while.

Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant now writes full time. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

#Julybrary Challenge & The Furious Hours

I’m celebrating libraries this month with 31 days of #Julybrary reads!

One of my favorite days in elementary school was the day our class went to the library! The promise of a new adventure and new characters inside the pages of a borrowed book was such an exciting prospect.

Even now, just entering the library gives me flutters of excitement. And not just because of all the books. Libraries offer so many programs these days, community outreaches, group games, STEM projects, crafting lessons, and more. Plus, never forget the amazing library book sales!

So, in July, I thought I would celebrate my local county libraries and libraries in general by picking out all of my July books from their stacks. And I used a great library tool to line up books for my whole month – the library hold! In June, I added some new release titles to my request list and waited patiently. By July 1st, I was getting notifications to pick up some excellent reads.

Following are the titles I requested, received, and have already started enjoying for my Julybrary challenge:

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Waiting for Tom Hanks

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

My first #Julybrary book is the audiobook version of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

Author: Casey Cep

(3.89 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Nonfiction / True Crime / Biography

Published May 7, 2019by Random House Audio Publishing Group

Format: Audiobook

Pages: 336 (Hardcover)


…the people of Coosa County kept wondering and worrying—not just about what Willie Maxwell had done, but about whether he was done doing it.

Unpopular opinion alert! This did not live up to my expectations.
It was well researched, layered, and fact-heavy. But it wasn’t the true crime-focused thriller I felt was represented in the blurb. The crimes of Willie Maxwell served as more of a long-winded introduction to a biography of Harper Lee, which the author was obviously more interested in sharing.

If you’re into bios, you’ll really enjoy this brazen peek behind the curtains of this famous author’s life. But, if you’re like me, and picked this book up because of the lure of a gritty Alabama true crime story, you’ll only have the length of the front portion of the book to enjoy it.

Casey Cep

Casey Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her first book Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee was an instant New York Times bestseller, and comes recommended by David Grann, Helen Macdonald, and Michael Lewis. Cep graduated from Harvard College, then earned an M.Phil. at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York Times, and The New Republic, among many other publications.

Save the Date

How good are you at finding the best little beach read? I found mine, but it turns out I could read this little gem anywhere!⇐

Author: Morgan Matson

(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / YA / Romance

Published June 5, 2018by Simon Schuster

Format: Paperback

Pages: 432 (Paperback)


It seemed like the second you tried to tell someone why you loved someone else, it took the luster off it, like pinning a butterfly down in a case—it never quite captured it.

Every year my family goes to the beach. We look forward to it all year long and we often start packing long before the week of the trip. This year was no exception. The clothes, the swim gear, the travel-sized toiletries – all that is important, but the most vital thing is Which Books Should I Bring! 

This is a really hard decision on any regular day, let alone on a day when you will be spending time near surf and sand with nothing but lazy hours in front of you. This is prime reading time people! And the last thing you want to do is waste those hours with a book you don’t really enjoy.   

Thankfully, I made an excellent choice in this perfectly paced little romance that also shared some spicy little family drama and more than one (OK a lot!) of truly comedic slip-ups. Save the Date couldn’t have been a more perfect vacation read. It was an easy read with fun (and funny) characters that were easily introduced and remain unforgettable. Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

Charlie Grant’s older sister is getting married this weekend at their family home, and Charlie can’t wait for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. Charlie is desperate for one last perfect weekend, before the house is sold and everything changes. The house will be filled with jokes and games and laughs again. Making decisions about things like what college to attend and reuniting with longstanding crush Jesse Foster all that can wait. She wants to focus on making the weekend perfect. … Over the course of three ridiculously chaotic days, Charlie will learn more than she ever expected about the family she thought she knew by heart. And she’ll realize that sometimes, trying to keep everything like it was in the past means missing out on the future.

You don’t get to freeze the picture when you want it. It would have been living in the past and eventually, you just start doing the same jokes over and over again.

If you’re anything like me, it may take you quite a long time to decide on a book to read while you’re on vacation. I made a special trip to the bookstore to pick this one up specifically for this trip. I wanted something light and funny with just enough depth to hold my attention without being frivolous and silly. Save the Date hit the nail on the head on every point.

And, no, it’s not a new release, so I felt that I could choose it on its own merits instead of feeling led along by the masses all grappling for the next new and shiny shelf bauble.  And although I didn’t finish my book while actually sitting on the beach (it ended up raining for most of the time) I found that it really didn’t matter. Save the Date became a book that is good on or off of the sand. I got totally sucked into the Grant family drama and my only regret is that it ended a little too quickly!

Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson grew up in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. She attended Occidental College in Los Angeles but halfway though a theater degree, she started working in the children’s department of Vroman’s Bookstore and fell in love with YA literature.