Musical Chairs

“Life is a perfect combination of chance and choreography.” —Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books/Emily Bestler Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Amy Poeppel

(4.07 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit.

Format: E-Book

Publication Date: July 21, 2020, by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

416 Pages (Hardcover)

#MusicalChairs #AmyPoeppel

She was at the edge of something new, in that space before you begin.

If 2020 has taught us nothing, it has taught us about canceled plans. Graduations, weddings, parties, concerts — so many events in the past six months have been canceled or modified. One may cry about missing out on a prom, another may be angry over not being able to celebrate a 40th birthday, and yet another may take it all in stride, postponing events for a year (or so) and looking forward to better days. It all depends on the type of person you are.

As for my family, we had to cancel a highly anticipated cruise, modify my daughter’s 12th birthday, and we, sadly, won’t be able to attend the funeral of my 94-year-old grandmother who lived out of state. I had three very different reactions to each of those events because I had plans for the first two and would have made plans for the last. Making plans and having those plans thwarted is a big deal.

What does any of this have to do with Musical Chairs? Bridget, the main character, makes plans to spend a romantic summer with her boyfriend. And in catastrophic pandemic-style, things don’t quite go her way — on any front. Let’s check out the blurb…

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.
Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.
Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With music as a guide for the synchronized movement of the group, knots untangle and the dancers glide. Such is life.

Let’s start by saying that this book is aptly named. There are so many moving parts, so many pieces of the plot-puzzle to fit together, and so many players trying to create this picture. What am I saying? There are like a thousand characters in this book. OK, OK, I’m exaggerating, but there really are quite a lot. Who is Frank again? And is James the caretaker or is it John? Or was it Paul (or another one of the Beatles’ names – although definitely not Ringo)? And the boyfriend’s name is “Sterling”. Seriously. It is NOT a spoiler alert to tell you now that this dude does not last long. I rue the day I have to read an entire book where one of the main character’s names is Sterling. Hard pass. (Plus, it doesn’t pass the When Harry Met Sally “Rock me big [insert guy’s name here]” test. According to Harry, if your guy’s name sounds good in that sentence, he’s a keeper. If not, no big loss.

Once you get used to the masses of people popping in and out of every chapter, you will enjoy the chaotic action and summery atmosphere of this charming book. With plenty of quirky circumstances and a cornucopia of relatives, friends, friends of relatives, and animals occupying every paragraph, you can almost hear the manic notes of a high-speed game of musical chairs as you read. There were guinea hens and goats. A flock of each.

What is life but a series of inspired follies? Never lose a chance: it doesn’t come every day.

It’s like being invited to a friend’s family reunion where you’re immediately introduced to three dozen people and you have to keep them all straight or you will be denied punch and chocolate cake at the end. It’s a daunting task, but hey, what else have you got to do?

Musical Chairs strikes a comfortable balance between uncomfortable reality and folly-filled humor that made it a joy to read over a few idle summer evenings. It is a welcome escape into someone else’s chaos for a while that did my heart and mind good.

Here is Amy Poeppel guaranteeing that this novel is NOT autobiographical!

Want even more? Listen to an excerpt of Musical Chairs here
(Courtesy Simon & Schuster)

Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is the author of the novels MUSICAL CHAIRS, LIMELIGHT, and SMALL ADMISSIONS. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she lives with her husband and three sons in New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. Her writing has appeared on The Rumpus, The Belladonna Comedy, Mock Mom, and Working Mother. -bio from

Cottage By the Sea

=> My next book for Shelf-Discipline month! I’m clearing my bookshelves one book at a time, and this perfect romance fit nicely into my September reading list. <=

Author: Debbie Macomber

(3.97 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Romance / Women’s Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Publication Date: July 17, 2018, Ballantine Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover)


Annie was certain her parents had sent her to Oceanside, knowing that this was the one place where her wounded heart would heal.

I guess since this is my blog, it’s OK to admit that romance isn’t exactly my go-to genre. It’s nothing personal, I just find myself eye-rolling too many times while reading about “love at first sight” and “happily ever after”. It’s not that I don’t believe in love, it’s just the cheesy stuff that makes me want to wretch. But occasionally, a little gem comes along with the ability to melt even my icy heart.

Here’s the blurb: “Annie Marlow has been through the worst. Rocked by tragedy, she heads to the one place that makes her happy: Oceanside in the Pacific Northwest, the destination of many family vacations when Annie was a teenager. Once there, Annie begins to restore her broken spirit, thanks in part to the folks she meets: a local painter, Keaton whose large frame is equal to his big heart – and who helps Annie fix up her rental cottage by the sea; Mellie, the reclusive, prickly landlord Annie is determined to befriend; and Britt, a teenager with a terrible secret. But it is Keaton to whom Annie feels most drawn. His quiet, peaceful nature offers her both comfort and reprieve from her grief, and the two begin to grow closer. Then events threaten to undo the idyll Annie has come to enjoy. And when the opportunity of a lifetime lands in her lap, she is torn between the excitement of a new journey toward success and the safe and secure arms of the haven – and the man – she’s come to call home.

This was where she wanted to live, where she hoped to recapture the memories of those carefree days of her youth, the happy times with her parents and brother.

What do you look for in a great romance? Credibility? Attractive couples? Hot sex scenes? (Come on, you know you were thinking it!) Most of the things I love about a good romance novel are right here in Cottage by the Sea, and it’s not a hot sex scene, believe it or not.

Macomber doesn’t give us a dark haired musclebound he-hulk with rippling abs and smoldering eyes. She also doesn’t give us a satin-haired sex goddess with the perfect wardrobe. Her characters are, instead, a little flawed and a lot lovable. Keaton is abnormally tall and unusually quiet. Annie has tragic baggage that is forcing her to start her life over again. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters; the perfect kind for a more credible romance.

And I love the idea of a love building over time through care, nurturing, and a mutual need for the other person. Macomber’s story delivers all the feels that romance fans clamor for. And if they are disappointed by the lack of steamy bedroom scenes, then maybe it’s not romance they’re actually looking for…

Debbie Macomber

Debbie Macomber is a leading voice in women’s fiction. Thirteen of her novels have reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller lists. She has more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. –adapted from author bio

The Bookshop on the Shore

” ‘When you look at things the same way you’ve always done, nothing changes. When you change perspective, everything changes.’ From Up on the Rooftops” -The Bookshop on the Corner

Author: Jenny Colgan

(4.03 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Women’s Fiction

Format: Paperback

Publication Date: June 4, 2019, William Morrow Paperbacks

Pages: 416 (Paperback)


Moods for books changed like the weather. Sometimes you wanted something profound to lose yourself in; a completely different world.

I cannot start another series, folks. Nope. Not gonna do it. I refuse! You hear me? I won’t do it! But I do love the mood of this book, and the setting, and the fact that it’s a subtle love story – one that creeps up on you like the haar (evening fog). And I was, in fact, sucked into the story more than a little bit…

Blast you, Jenny Colgan for making me like this book, your characters, and foggy old Scotland! And blast you for teaching me cool weather words to add to my vocabulary like “haar” and “gloaming”. Here’s the blurb:

Desperate to escape from London, single mother Zoe wants to build a new life for herself and her four year old son Hari. She can barely afford the crammed studio apartment on a busy street where shouting football fans keep them awake all night. Hari’s dad, Jaz, a charismatic but perpetually broke DJ, is no help at all. But his sister Surinder comes to Zoe’s aid, hooking her up with a job as far away from the urban crush as possible: a bookshop on the banks of Loch Ness. And there’s a second job to cover housing: Zoe will be an au pair for three children at a genuine castle in the Scottish Highlands. But while Scotland is everything Zoe dreamed of—clear skies, brisk fresh air, blessed quiet—everything else is a bit of a mess. The Urquart family castle is grand, but crumbling, the childrens’ single dad is a wreck, and the kids have been kicked out of school and left to their own devices. Zoe has her work cut out for her, and is determined to rise to the challenge, especially when she sees how happily Hari has taken to their new home. With the help of Nina, the friendly local bookseller, Zoe begins to put down roots in the community. Are books, fresh air, and kindness enough to heal this broken family—and her own…?

…come on, aren’t books – whisper it – quite a lot better in real life?

OK, so let’s get real with each other for a minute – this book sounds familiar, right? An uprooting to a remote location, a fresh start in a new location, and a lot of messes of every size to clean up along the way. But Colgan has added in something else… books! Ahhh, all it takes is the tempting carrot of “bookspeak” to lure us into loving every aspect of this comfortably familiar story.

Colgan’s characters are familiar and interesting. Their quirky nuances drew me into their stories and held me there until the end. Why does Hari not speak? Why is Mr. Urquart really gone all the time? And why is Zoe’s ex-boyfriend such a jerk? The answers to all these questions (well, most of them anyway) are steadily revealed in this well-paced and patient novel about taking chances and hitting the reset button on your life.

And don’t worry, the romance isn’t sappy, and this isn’t one of those insta-love situations either. The relationships are well-crafted and earned. When I first picked it up, it felt long, but it actually moves along really quickly – even for me, a relatively slow reader. Colgan’s descriptions of the Highlands landscape makes me want to visit Loch Ness immediately. All that being said, I still absolutely cannot start another series!!! <dang-it!>

Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Bookshop on the Corner, Little Beach Street Bakery, and Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way

⇒What do you do when your neighbors are dropping dead and the police are closing in on you? Well, you Cha-Cha, of course! ⇐

**Many thanks to Andrea at Smith Publicity and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Frances Metzman


(3.25 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: June 21, 2018, by Wild River Consulting & Publishing LLC

Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 451 pages


The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican WayWe’re the amazing cha-cha babes who live on Pelican Way. We dance till we drop or they haul us off to jail. Do they dance in prison?

Celia found new life with her retirement community in Florida, and in particular with her two friends Marcy and Deb. They all Cha-Cha together and Celia has found the greatest freedom just from dancing and being with her new best friends. But when other residents start dying inexplicably, suddenly Celia and her friends find themselves in danger and the targets of a police investigation.

The Cha-Cha Babes of Pelican Way was initially engaging and seemed to be a kooky, off-beat mystery with characters that aren’t the usual mystery book personalities. But as the book went on, I found it a little repetitive and slow. Plus, I couldn’t shake the Golden Girl references that kept popping into my head. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like these characters deserved to have their own personalities and didn’t deserve my constant comparisons to Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia (Rose was kind of mixed up in there too).

Another negative for me was that these women were only in their sixties, but the impression from the story is that their age group is slow, decrepit, and basically at death’s doorstep (until they randomly broke out into the Cha-Cha or playing doubles tennis). That bothered me. I have plenty of relatives and friends in that age group who are very active and healthy and who aren’t on 1000 different medications for all kinds of ailments.

The ultimate mystery, however, was well thought out and clever, but by the end, I think my interest in the story had waned too much for me to get excited over the ultimate resolution. (Plus the daughter in the story, Allison, totally put me off and I couldn’t stand reading her chapters!) Errrggghhhh even now her disrespectful attitude makes me want to spit!

Three stars because, although it wasn’t the book for me, a certain audience might identify more with these characters and find it an enjoyable read; however, there are things about it that might keep me from recommending it to everyone.

About the Author

Frances MetzmanFrances Metzman



Award-winning author Fran Metzman is a graduate of the Moore College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to publishing numerous short stories and co-authoring her first novel Ugly Cookies with Joy E. Stocke, she also teaches writing at various local colleges and universities. Her blog “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” can be found at Wild River Review, and deals with the mature (and sometimes immature) dating/ relationships and aspects of society that influence all relationships. Her short story “My Inheritance” was nominated for a Dzanc Books Award for Best of the Web. On February 1st 2012, a short story collection, The Hungry Heart Stories, was published. The stories feature tales of people in crisis, yearning for emotional sustenance, and where food occasionally intersects the empty spaces in their hearts.

(Bio taken from her website)



Ace of Shades

by Amanda Foody
(3.87 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published April 10, 2018, by Harlequin Teen (Owlcrate Exclusive Edition)

Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 408 pages

Triggers: Drug use, mild sexual references, altered profanity, pedophilia, and violence

#Ace of Shades  #Owlcrate

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)Some say the City of Sin is a game, so before you arrive – ask yourself, dear reader, how much are you prepared to lose?

-The City of Sin, a Guidebook:
Where to Go and Where Not To

Tropps is the game of choice in New Reynes, otherwise known as the City of Sin. The players begin with 3 cards. Here are yours: A gangster, a schoolgirl, and a mystery? That’s a questionable hand, for sure. If this were a typical round of Tropps, I’d advise you to fold. However, the game you are playing is far grander and deadlier than your standard casino offerings. To win is to become a legend. To lose is to die.  -Amanda Foody

Ace of Shades is the story of Enne Salta, a proper, disciplined young school-girl whose virtue is tested in New Reynes, the City of Sin when her mother, Lourdes, goes missing for months. Enne meets Levi Glaisyer, one of New Reynes’ resident gang leaders, and together they try to solve the mystery of Lourdes’ disappearance.

Image result for ace of spadesTo be frank, reader, you’d be better off not visiting the city at all.

Hey, nice quote. Maybe that was good advice because Ace of Shades did not wow me. Sorry! (Not sorry.)

New Reynes is a bad place. It’s deceitful, dangerous, and everyone inside of it is evil. We are reminded of this over and over again. Maybe if we had been introduced to a kinder, gentler city first – like Bellamy, Enne’s hometown – for contrast, we’d be able to tell the difference for ourselves instead of being reminded of it over and over again.

Enne only enters New Reynes to find her missing mother, Lourdes. She does not intend to stay because she needs to return to Bellamy in order to graduate and finally become a true and proper lady. But once New Reynes has its grip on you, corruption is inevitable (or so we keep getting told).

Image result for ace of spadesIn the City of Sin, secrets are their own sort of currency, and reputation holds more power than fortune.

This is going to read like a non-sequitur, but you know what I like best about Star Wars and The Hunger Games? You win the hand if you said, “Not the politics!

Although politics is central to each story, keeping track of affairs of state becomes tedious in the middle of an otherwise great action tale. However, just like in those blockbusters, politics is an essential part of this story too and it’s part of the world-building strategy Amanda Foody uses to furnish all the characters with motivations for surviving in the City of Sin. With several different street gangs, Mafia families, and blood-thirsty ruling governments – each with their own powerful leader, there are a lot of moving parts in this story and you’re not sure who Enne and Levi should fear the most.

The inclusion of politics did, however, give AoS the perfect vehicle to introduce some pretty important themes: The Dangers of Classism, How Power Corrupts, and The Individual vs. Society. Important? Yes. Interesting? Marginally.

Avarice, pride and lust — these are all modest desires. What the City of Sin truly Image result for ace of spadescraves is destruction.

Foody drops us into the City of Sin in this dual-perspective (Enne’s and Levi’s) YA fantasy laced with gang wars, dark magic, and a deadly card game that won’t be denied a soul or two. 

There’s a lot of backstory vital to Enne’s self-discovery that doesn’t become clear. Ever. (Like, what made Lourdes leave Bellamy in the first place? What made the Mizers so hated? How did Enne escape the House of Shadows as a baby? Etc.) And while there is a good amount of world-building, a lot of it feels initially like a big info-dump with several strings that are left hanging even after the epilogue’s last period.

Three stars because the book wasn’t un-enjoyable, but I was left with questions that shouldn’t require a series to resolve.

But for people that rated this one higher than I did, the epilogue was good enough to yank them right into the next book of the series, King of Fools, due April 30, 2019.

Not sure if I will be interested in traveling back to the City of Sin. Ask me again in April next year (if my TBR hasn’t stretched into infinity by then!)

Check out the first chapter of Ace of Shades for yourself courtesy of Amanda Foody HERE.

About the Author

Amanda FoodyWebsite




Amanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

ACE OF SHADES is the first novel of THE SHADOW GAME series. Her debut, DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, released in July 2017.



The Getaway Girls

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Bookouture, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a free ARC of this book.

by Dee MacDonald


(4.8 stars – Goodreads rating)

To be published July 30, 2018, by Bookouture

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Humor

Format: Kindle Edition

#TheGetawayGirls  #NetGalley

Getaway[Connie] should never have set off on this trip with two women she scarcely knew. She must have taken leave of her senses.

Connie McColl isn’t new to spontaneous road trips. Dee MacDonald documented Connie’s first impulsive journey from England to Scotland in her book The Runaway Wife. Now Connie is on the road again, but this time she has two more passengers, a bulky motorhome, and dreams of possibly locating extended family in a little town in Italy. What starts out as a leisurely sight-seeing trip from London to Amalfi, Italy, becomes a grand getaway as seventy-year-old Connie and her equally mature friends evade a dangerous criminal who is dead set on pursuing them along their route!

It could have been a disaster, it should have been a disaster, and it could still be a disaster. But at least they were having fun.

The Getaway Girls is a satisfying departure from my usual heavier book fare, yet it does not lack any thrills or drama. Connie, Gill, and Maggie are definitely forces to be reckoned with: resourceful, strong, and determined to live their lives to the fullest regardless of the cost.

This book has a nice, easy flow and features instantly likable characters who are full of… well, character! It is a light-hearted, enjoyable, and humorous summer read. It will make you long for the sights, sounds, (and food) of France and Italy, and may put a little wanderlust in your own heart!

About the Author

Image result for author dee macdonaldGoodreads Page


Dee wrote – and illustrated – her first book somewhere around the age of six (and then sewed the pages together neatly down the side), but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up that pen again until retirement and, after having some short stuff published, decided she had to write The Book.

(Bio courtesy of LBA)



The Water Cure

by Sophie Mackintosh


(3.9 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Re-Published January 8, 2019, by Doubleday

Genre: Fiction / Dystopian Science-Fiction

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 256

#TheWaterCure  #NetGalley

The Water CureEven if it is a failed utopia, at least we tried.

Grace, Lia, and Sky live with their parents in a house beside a sandy beach. That sounds like the beginning of a wonderful story, doesn’t it? Who would have thought that such a benign beginning could result in such a tangled web of disappearances, deceit, and danger?

King believes he has rescued his family by secluding them in a home by the bay. He and their mother taught them to protect themselves from the toxicity of the world by performing rituals and ceremonies of cleansing. The three girls had to prove themselves strong, loyal, and loving – to their parents, to each other, to themselves. But not to men.

There were men who naturally caused great harm. It is built into them. You had warned us. You are one, though you would never admit it.

Men weren’t present in their lives. Only King. This was for their protection because men were the cause of all the harm and poison in the world. Being hidden away from them was the only way to survive.

But when King disappears during a routine supply run and is presumed dead, and Mother also does not return from her trip beyond the sea border, the sisters are stuck on their beach with three castaways. Men. And this changes everything.

… loss is a thing that build around you… what feels like safety is often just absence of current harm, and those two things are not the same.

Told through the POVs of the sisters, Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel, The Water Cure is a palpably tense look through a dystopian window at a family’s search for a unique utopia, and what they end up finding instead.

This is The First Book of Calamity Leek meets The Handmaid’s Tale meets My Absolute Darling in all of each of their weird wackiness and horrifyingly resolute honesty about what makes society (and separation) so imperfect.

This is a stunning debut novel with writing that behaves like watercolors, painting each new page with dynamic emotion: angst, elation, peace, dread. It was unusual, confusing, and eerie in all the best ways. And I could easily see this playing out on the big screen, although it would take a master director to get it entirely right.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a copy of this book.

About the Author

Image result for sophie mackintoshWebsite




SOPHIE MACKINTOSH won the 2016 White Review Short Story Prize and the 2016 Virago/Stylist Short Story competition and has been published in Granta magazine and Tank magazine, among others. The Water Cure is her first novel.

(Bio courtesy of Google)



Select Few

by Marit Weisenberg


(3.95 stars – Goodreads rating)

To-Be Published October 9, 2018, by Charlesbridge Teen

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy/ Sci-Fi

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 368 (Hardcover)

#SelectFew  #NetGalley

Select Few (Select, #2)I couldn’t shake the feeling of something pulling me down from this sunny world into a dark place waiting just beneath.

Select Few, Marit Wiesenberg’s 2nd book in the Select series, begins with Julia Jaynes essentially hiding from the world. She’s avoiding the FBI, avoiding the paparazzi, avoiding nosy neighbors, and – most of all – avoiding being discovered by her dangerous and powerful father, Novak. She’s also desperately trying to keep her boyfriend, John, and his newly discovered powers off of Novak’s radar. Julia’s doing a lot of hiding and all the while hoping to someday be able to live a normal life.

One of Julia’s problems is that she doesn’t have a clear idea of what “normal” looks like for her. Does it mean college and a future with John, or does it mean constantly running and staying undercover with Angus in order to keep John safe? These are the decisions that Julia waffles through keeping her conflicted throughout most of the story.

John’s point of view added depth to the narrative and helped cement the romantic undercurrent between Julia and John despite their intense conflicts and separation throughout the book.

Although the resolution was fast-paced, the action of the main story was very slow. It seemed like most of the excitement came while reading the characters’ flashbacks to activities performed in the first book. And for a fantasy/sci-fi story, I expected a tad more fantasy and sci-fi.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Charlesbridge Teen, and the author for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book.

About the Author

Marit WiesenbergWebsite




Marit Weisenberg has a master’s degree from UCLA in Cinema and Media Studies and worked as a film and television executive for a number of years in Los Angeles. She currently lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two daughters. SELECT is Marit’s debut novel for young adult readers.

(Bio courtesy of



Fahrenheit 451

by Ray Bradbury
(3.98 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Paperbacks (my version)

Genre: Fiction / Classics / Science Fiction

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 159 pages

Fahrenheit 451Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land? I loved to smell them when I was a boy…

No, this isn’t a new book or even a nearly-new book. It is, in fact, fairly old having first been published in 1950. But it’s eerily even more relevant today than it was when it was written.

Guy Montag lives in our future, in a place that only seems dystopian to those of us judging from the safety and normalcy of Guy’s past. Guy’s government has set him and all of their citizenry up to enjoy leisurely days and nights unhampered by the worries of deep thought, introspection, and empathy. How did they do it? They destroyed literature, of course. They burned it from the planet and instead left inane room-sized reality TV and speeding race cars in its place. Their escape – their Utopia.

‘Kerosene,’ he said, because the silence had lengthened, ‘is nothing but perfume to me.’

At first, Guy revels in this system. He even operates within it working as a fireman – one who burns books and the houses that hide them. Books have become illegal and the people who own them are criminals subject to arrest and the loss of all they possess. He knows his job and does it well. He glories in the dance of the fire as it burns away the last vestiges of Earth’s ancient wisdom and imagination. But then Guy meets someone who changes his perspective and what once made perfect sense to him is suddenly the cause of his complete metamorphosis.

Isn’t that how it always is? You’re going along just like normal and then, BAM! one thing happens that uproots almost everything you were comfortable doing and thinking previously. It’s amazing how profound a little chink in the chain can be.

… We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

Speaking of dystopian societies, F451 reminds me in many ways of The Handmaid’s Tale. In both, subtle decisions made “on high” resulted in extreme changes to civilization as a whole – which then conformed to “someone’s” version of a perfect society. And in both of those societies, reading books was banned. Also in both, certain factions of humanity readily contributed to these modifications and even welcomed them without looking back at what they lost. Seriously, burning books? BOOKS? No more Shakespeare or Austen or the Bible or Qur’an. No more YA or autobiographies, Greek tragedies, or sappy romance novels? No more poetry or prose of any kind, except what is hidden in our heads or our hearts?

The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine percent of them is in a book.

Thinking of that makes me sad for our future because the reality of that world could so easily happen even now with the agreement of a few like-minded heavy-hitters and a few backroom signatures. Then where would be we be? I tell you where I’d be: I’d be Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls hiding Lee Child and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle beneath my floorboards. I’d sneak Janet Evanovich and Tomi Adeyemi paperbacks from the ceiling in my closet to read by the light of a single candle at 2 AM. And I’d tremble through Stephen King and Dean Koontz by the glow of the moon every night. Books would be my Anne Franks hidden in my attic from the fire-happy Nazis who would seek to rip them from me.

I would be like Bradbury’s F451 character, Beatty, the fire chief – living a double life as a conformist during the day and a ravenous consumer of all my pilfered prose at night. And maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to make my usually brittle brain memorize more than just the opening lines to A Tale of Two Cities, or Aidan’s monologue: “Am I not merciful?” from Illuminae. I would make myself learn at least a chapter or two of Little Fires Everywhere and also something, anything, by Chinua Achebe, either of the Brontë sisters, or Neil Gaiman.

Would we all – the bookstagrammers, book bloggers, reviewers, and addicts – then be exiled like the old men beyond the city limits? Would we gather together around our campfires and relay from memory the stories smuggled safely away from the flames? That seems like the Dark Ages, but then again, it makes the Dark Ages seem not quite so dark at all.

And some day, after it sets in us a long time, it’ll come out our hands and our mouths. And a lot of it will be wrong, but just enough of it will be right.

Ray Bradbury’s story of one man’s awakening can be (and has been) interpreted in many different ways. To me, it is a bright neon warning sign to Stop! Pay Attention! Take it All In! Refuse the Dumbing Down of Society! That’s what Guy’s catalyst character, Clarisse, was – a warning – urging him to taste the rain and rub dandelions under his chin. To experience this life, to remember. But the key there was that she made him wonder if he was happy. He had to think about that. And from that one thought alone came all the rest.

About the Author



Ray Bradbury is one of those rare individuals whose writing has changed the way people think. His more than five hundred published works — short stories, novels, plays, screenplays, television scripts, and verse — exemplify the American imagination at its most creative.

Once read, his words are never forgotten. His best-known and most beloved books, THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, FAHRENHEIT 451 and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, are masterworks that readers carry with them over a lifetime. His timeless, constant appeal to audiences young and old has proven him to be one of the truly classic authors of the 20th Century — and the 21st.

(Bio from R.B.’s website)



Warm Transfer

by Laura Holtz

(4.33 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Published May 29, 2018, by Gatekeeper Press

Genre: Fiction / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle Edition

Warm Transfer: A NovelThe problems in their marriage stemmed from something subtler, a toxicity that she couldn’t name. It was insidious and devastating, but it was also elusive and Tamsen struggled to put a label on it.

A few of my pet peeves: slow drivers, repeating myself, the improper use of “your” vs. “you’re”, and waiting on hold on the phone. Arrggghhhh! My blood pressure went up just by typing that! “On hold” means that time is wasting. “On hold” means that what you want isn’t happening yet. And “on hold” means that someone else is in charge of your time and is making decisions for you.

Tamsen Peel is on hold. She ended her career in order to marry and raise her children. She delayed any further commitments to work once her son was diagnosed with Doose Syndrome. And she buried her personal aspirations under duties to her family, her social clubs, and her controlling husband’s high-class clients. That is until Victor’s abusive tendencies toward her became more than she could bear.

Warm Transfer is one woman’s journey back to herself through queues of indecision, guilt, self-reproach, and something just a little darker niggling at her memories. Themes present are finding internal courage, combatting emotional and verbal abuse, and realizing self-worth in order to make positive life changes.

Tamsen has tried to take control of her situation more than once and only ended up getting disconnected – from her support systems, her financial backup, and her young children. She decides that what she needs is a warm transfer – someone to stay on the line with her until her transfer is made successfully. But ultimately it will be up to her to make the right connections.

Laura Holtz has written a story that could be played out in any social circle – not just in the high society of Chicago. It’s an encouragement to single mothers, divorcees, and women from all walks of life who are wondering, “What happens next?” The book is a fairly predictable slow-burn that had an overall theme to which I could relate and appreciate, and it was worth the read.

Ten percent of proceeds from this book will go to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Many thanks to NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press, and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

About the Author

Laura Holtz




Laura graduated from Northwestern University back when applications were submitted in hard copy and Allison Hall was still a single-sex dorm. She spent her junior year studying in London where she developed an appreciation for Charles Dickens and clotted cream. She took a mid-career break from her job in sales promotion to accept a graduate teaching fellowship and earn a master’s degree in Special Education. When the head of the creative department at her former agency went on maternity leave, however, Laura could not refuse the offer to step into her dream job. She remained in the corporate world until she had children.

(Bio courtesy of Amazon)