# First line Fridays # The Bromance Book Club

This wonderful meme is originally hosted by Hoarding Books. The idea is to share the first few lines of a book you are reading or have recently read and then present it.

The first lines are:

There was a reason Gavin Scott rarely drank. He was bad at it.

As in, face-planted on the carpet while reaching for the bottle bad. And too drunk to see in the dark so might as well stay down bad..

Which is why he didn’t get up when his best friend and teammate, Delfray Hicks, pounded on the door to his hotel room, a fourth-floor state of depression that reminded him every minute that he could at least screw up like a champion…

The book title is The Bromance Book Club, and the description sounded hilarious. Nashville’s top alpha men secretly reading romance books to get tips on how to save thier marriages? Bring it on! Hopefully, the book is going to make a light summer read and will be as entertaining as the synopsis suggests.

Book Blurb:

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

  • Have you read The Bromance Book Club or is it on your tbr?
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Throwback Thursday # Book Review #Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Throwback Thursday meme is hosted by Renee@It’s Book Talk and is a way to share some of the books that were published over a year ago.

Today I’m going to present The Dark Matter by Blake Crouch:

From Goodreads synopsis:

Jason Dessen is walking home through the chilly Chicago streets one night, looking forward to a quiet evening in front of the fireplace with his wife, Daniela, and their son, Charlie—when his reality shatters.

It starts with a man in a mask kidnapping him at gunpoint, for reasons Jason can’t begin to fathom—what would anyone want with an ordinary physics professor?—and grows even more terrifying from there, as Jason’s abductor injects him with some unknown drug and watches while he loses consciousness.

When Jason awakes, he’s in a lab, strapped to a gurney—and a man he’s never seen before is cheerily telling him “welcome back!”

Jason soon learns that in this world he’s woken up to, his house is not his house. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born.

And someone is hunting him.

My thoughts:

This was my first novel by Blake Crouch and I was hooked straightaway. I grew up on a wholesome diet of classic science-fiction, so the premise of a multiverse with infinite alternate realities created by our choices in life was not new to me. However, the execution is superb, with its compelling storyline, fast pace and just enough science to make you wonder: what if it was actually possible to create technology that would allow us live our lives thousands of times over, eradicating any kind of regret?

Jason Dessen, a professor of physics at a second-rate graduate school, sacrificed his career in order to have a happy family with his wife Daniela, who used to be a promising artist, and a teenage son Charlie. Both Jason and Daniela are aware that their choices stopped them from achieving something great in their respective fields, but they are content, wrapped in the bubble of their domestic bliss. Until one day Jason goes for one drink with an old friend who remained single and career-driven, and has just won a prestigious scientific award. On his way home, Jason gets abducted, drugged and sent away to a different world. The world where Daniela isn’t his wife, Charlie was never born, and Jason himself is a brilliant scientist who has discovered a ground-breaking way of exploring the worlds we create by forgoing one option in life for the sake of another one. What happens afterwards can be described as a sci-fi version of Odyssey as Jason is trying to find his way to his beloved Penelope/Daniela.

As the question of identity and how our choices shape our reality is the central one, it is no wonder that Jason’s character is the most developed. We get just a little glimpse into what Daniela thinks of Jason Number 2 (Spoiler: she does notice the small changes that somehow do not add up). Otherwise, what we see is Jason’s perspective and Jason’s determination to come home, which he defines not as a place, but as his family.

Blake Crouch’s writing is very visualhe doesn’t tell you things, he shows, or makes you feel them. You hear onions being chopped, you smell Daniela’s favourite dish being cooked and see a half-filled glass of wine. Jason’s terror at being held at a gunpoint is also palpable. Short, clipped sentences help the author create the fast pace and tension that will make you want to read the book in one sitting.

A marvellous blend of a mystery, thriller, coming home/ survival story, science-fiction, and romance, Dark Matter has definitely lived up to its hype. I’m glad I opened the door to the reality where this book has been written, published, and found thousands of readers.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Crown for the review copy provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Dark matter? If yes, what did you think of it?
  • Have you read other books by this author? Any recommendations?

# Book Review # The Whisper Man by Alex North

If you are lonely, sad, and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you…

Dark, creepy, eery… Today is the publication day for Alex North’s debut crime novel which has already received a lot of attention. My expectations were really high and the book did not disappoint. It kept me up for hours with its fascinating blend of reality and supernatural. At some point I just gave up trying to second-guess what was happening and just went along wherever the writer was taking me.

Twenty years ago a series of horrible crimes occured in a quiet and peaceful village of Featherbank (yes, the writer is right, the name does evoke a feeling of safety and coziness). A serial killer, later nicknamed The Whisper Man, abducted and murdered five little boys. All his victims heard a monster whispering under their windows, trying to lure them out into the darkness of the night. Although the perpetrator, Frank Carter, was caught by the local police, the body of the last victim Tony Smith was never found. The events made such a lasting impression on the residents, that a creepy nursery rhyme spread in the playgrounds:

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.

If you play outside alone, soon you won’t be going home.

When another six year old boy disappears on his way home, the case bears an uncanny resemblance to the old crimes, which can mean two things: either Frank had an accomplice, or there is a copy cat. At any rate, DI Amanda Beck needs all the help she can get to find Neil Spencer. And that includes involving DI Pete Willis, the man who put the original Whisper Man in prison and who keeps visiting him on a regular basis, hoping that the monster will stop playing his twisted mind games and will reveal the location of Tony Smith’s remains.

Meanwhile, Tom and Jake Kennedy are grieving the loss of their beloved wife and mother. Tom can’t help, but feel an incredible mix of emotions: loss, confusion, sorrow, resentment at being abandoned with the hardest task of them all- that of being a good father to his quiet, imaginative, vulnerable son.

There were so many happy memories to draw on, and I knew that I would as I continued, but while I loved and missed her more than I could say, I also couldn’t deny the ugly kernel of resentment I felt, the frustration at being left alone with Jake, the loneliness of that empty bed. The sense of being abandoned to deal with things it felt like I couldn’t cope with… Grief is a stew with a thousand ingredients, and not all of them are palatable.

Jake keeps having nightmares about finding his mother dead, and needs his father’s help to carry him upstairs and downstairs as he can’t face stepping on the spot where he saw his mother’s body lying. He also has trouble fitting in and making friends at school. In fact, the only friend Jack has made recently, a little girl in a blue checked dress is imaginary, which makes his dad both sad and apprehensive. Tom decides that they need to have a new start and a new home is chosen …in the village of Featherbank. Because nothing bad can ever happen in a village with such a beautiful welcoming name.

I don’t want to give the story away. The plot is clever and full of surprising twists and turns. I was already glued to the book, but they just added an extra level of tension and emotion. At the centre of this fascinating story are several father-son relationships. Fatherhood may come to you when you are not ready (you might never be) or too busy fighting your own demons. You might feel the old wounds from your own childhood are being re-opened with every failed attempt to communicate and connect. Yes, we tend to rely on the models of our own parents’ behaviour, but we are not our parents, and we can consciously choose a different path.

The characters are well-written and the author’s use of multiple POVs adds to our understanding of their motivations and their evolution. Jack is smart and sensitive, and is trying to find his own strategies for dealing with the loss of his mother. Once you understand what has been happening, you will also admire this little boy’s courage. Tom may be too harsh on himself for failing his son, but he is also the one to keep on trying every day. The two detectives are hard-working and determined not to let another child die on their watch. DI Amanda Beck is a strong woman and where would the world be without them? There are police cases like this, where the first 48 hours are crucial, where there is an immense pressure to find the missing child, and there are also psychological consequences of failing to do so. We also see humility, discipline and motivation that drives Pete Willis’s life. First, motivation that comes from having lost something precious and not wanting to go through a similar pain again, then, motivation to become a part of something wonderful in the future. Finally, the super-creepy villains are also fully developed. Take the morbid hobby of Norman Collins and his pride at being an expert at something that will send shivers down your spine. The motivation of the second Whisper Man is also chilling, while the final touch in the end scene is just shocking and will make you re-think the events in the book with this new insight.

The writing is vivid, intriguing, and gripping. With all the tension and eeriness, the emotion the writer is tapping in is the worst fear a parent can have: that a moment of inattention or failing to take seriously your child’s apprehensions may result in a tragedy, something you cannot go back and change. At the same time, it is also true:

The abduction of a child by a stranger is every parent’s worst nightmare. But statistically it is a highly unusual event. Children are actually most at risk of harm and abuse from a family member behind closed doors, and while the outside world may seem threatening, the truth is that most strangers are decent people, whereas the home can be the most dangerous place of all.


The Whisper Man is like a good old scary story told in the darkness – it is easy to analyse its elements in the daylight, safe in the knowledge that monsters don’t exist, but the memory of your own accelerated heartbeat and clammy hands is there, and, deep down, you know- you were scared…

Thank you to Edelweiss and Celadon Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Book synopsis from Goodreads:

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

  • Have you read The Whisper Man or is it on your tbr? if you have, what did you think of it? Did it live up to your expectations?

#Sunday Morning for Kids # A warm Friendship # Bruno has a hundred friends

# Sunday Morning for Kids is a variation on the meme started by Rae Longest at Powerful Women Readers.

Both books I read and would like to present today are on the topic of friendship. In my opinion, they are most suitable for older children due to the issues they deal with.

A warm friendship

Ellen DeLange is becoming one of my favourite authors. I already blogged about her books ‘The boy and the egg’ and ‘When I look up’, both of which dealt with the power of imagination, love and acceptance.

In ‘A warm friendship’ we meet cute and curious Squirrel that finds a lonely Snowman who’s shaking and shivering in the cold. She comes up with a plan to help him. Not only does she bring him a woolen scarf, but she also encourages other animals to stop by and bring a scarf or a blanket to wrap around and warm the poor thing up. They become great friends, until the warm spring sun melts the snowman, and the squirrel is sad to see that all that is left is a colourful pile of scarves. Wise Owl reminds Squirrel that she can see Snowman in every flower and leaf, as well as other animals’ hearts who also loved her little friend.

Sometimes we make friends for a brief time and then move on, and we have to learn to be kind to each other, even if we are in a temporary situation. There are many different ways of explaining this story, which is essentially about caring for each other while we are together and sometimes having to let it go, without forgetting your friend. You can also talk about the seasons and nature, or if your child older and is mature enough, you can also touch upon loss, grieving, and cherishing our memories of the loved ones who are not with us any more.

The illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar are adorable, and are probably the feature of the book I liked the best.

Bruno has one hundred friends

Bruno is on his way to spend time with his friends when he finds a curious object- a phone. Bruno quickly understands that the phone lets him do lots of new things and have experiences he has never had, but above all, it allows him to have many more friends. In fact, when his old friends, Renzo and Rico, ask him what this object is for, he doesn’t hesitate: ‘It’s for making lots of friends all over the world’. Unfortunately, what happens next is a bit sad, because Bruno gets so absorbed in what is going on online, that he forgets to pay any attention to Renzo and Rico, who are trying very hard to involve him in ‘real life’ activities. Until one day the phone breaks and Bruno loses his virtual friends only to discover that Renzo and Rico are still there for him and will always be.

I am in two minds about this one. On one hand, it is important to make children think about the importance of real-life friendships and ‘non-digital life’. Balance is essential, playing, running, climbing trees, cycling, discovering the world with your senses, chatting to real people you can look into eyes or give a hug is invaluable. On the other hand, there are benefits to using technology, not least of which is various online communities for people with similar interests, saying nothing of keeping in touch with real friends who happen to be far away. Again, it is up to the parent/ caregiver to talk with a child and discuss the implications and consequences of abandoning your older friends, when you could share your new discoveries and let your friends know how these enrich your life.

The artwork is beautiful and sweet, with warm colours, and endearing pictures of the three bear friends.

Thank you to NetGalley and Clavis for these ARCs provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

#First Line Fridays # The Last Ocean by Nicci Gerrard

This is the first time I am using this meme which is originally hosted by Hoarding Books. The idea is to share the first few lines of a book you are reading or have recently read and then present it.

The first lines:

The year before my father died, he came with us to Sweden for the summer. He had been living with his dementia for over ten years by then, and – mildly, sweetly, uncomplainingly – he was gradually disappearing, memories falling away, words going, recognition fading, in the great unravelling.

The book is The Last Ocean: a journey through memory and forgetting by Nicci Gerrard.

Synopsis from the publisher:

From the award-winning journalist and author, a lyrical, raw and humane investigation of dementia that explores both the journeys of the people who live with the condition and those of their loved ones

After a diagnosis of dementia, Nicci Gerrard’s father, John, continued to live life on his own terms, alongside the disease. But when an isolating hospital stay precipitated a dramatic turn for the worse, Gerrard, an award-winning journalist and author, recognized that it was not just the disease, but misguided protocol and harmful practices that cause such pain at the end of life. Gerrard was inspired to seek a better course for all who suffer because of the disease.

The Last Ocean is Gerrard’s investigation into what dementia does to both the person who lives with the condition and to their caregivers. Dementia is now one of the leading causes of death in the West, and this necessary book will offer both comfort and a map to those walking through it. While she begins with her father’s long slip into forgetting, Gerrard expands to examine dementia writ large. Gerrard gives raw but literary shape both to the unimaginable loss of one’s own faculties, as well as to the pain of their loved ones. Her lens is unflinching, but Gerrard honors her subjects and finds the beauty and the humanity in their seemingly diminished states.

In so doing, she examines the philosophy of what it means to have a self, as well as how we can offer dignity and peace to those who suffer with this terrible disease. Not only will it aid those walking with dementia patients, The Last Ocean will prompt all of us to think on the nature of a life well lived.

He was very happy on that holiday. he was a man who had a deep love for the natural world and felt at home in it; he knew the names of English birds and insects, wildflowers and trees.

When I was a child, I remember him taking me to listen to the dawn chorus in the woods near our house. Standing under the canopy of trees in the bright wash of sound, he would tell me which song was the mistle thrush and which the blackbird.

At least, I think I remember this, but perhaps I make it up as a story to tell myself when I am sad.

The Last Ocean is poignant and tender, and like many amazing non-fiction books may go unnoticed, although it is extremely pertinent in our aging world.

  • Have you read this book or is it on your tbr? Do you read a lot of non-fiction?
  • Are you familiar with Nicci Gerrard’s work?
  • What is the best book (fiction or non-fiction) dealing with the topic of aging you have read recently?

#Friday I’m in love #Romance Book review # Handle with Care by Helen Hunting

The next book set in Helena Hunting hilarious and sexy world of Shacking Up!

Between his parents’ messed up marriage and his narcissistic younger brother, Lincoln Moorehead has spent the majority of his life avoiding his family. After the death of his father, Lincoln finds himself in the middle of the drama. To top it all off, he’s been named CEO of Moorehead Media, much to his brother’s chagrin. But Lincoln’s bad attitude softens when he meets the no-nonsense, gorgeous woman who has been given the task of transforming him from the gruff, wilderness guy to a suave businessman.

Wren Sterling has been working double time to keep the indiscretions at Moorehead Media at bay, so when she’s presented with a new contract, with new responsibilities and additional incentives, she agrees. Working with the recluse oldest son of a ridiculously entitled family is worth the hassle if it means she’s that much closer to pursuing her own dreams. What Wren doesn’t expect is to find herself attracted to him, or for it to be mutual. And she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Lincoln. But when a shocking new Moorehead scandal comes to light, she’s forced to choose between her own family and the broody, cynical CEO.

(From Goodreads synopsis)

My thoughts:

A lot of my friends have Helena Hunting listed as an auto-buy author of contemporary romance, and I really wanted to read one of her novels, even though this is book number 5 in the Shacking Up series.

Characters

Let me start with the characters. Wren Starling is a genius of PR. She has been hired by Moorehead Media to handle and smoothe out the inevitable repercussions of scandals associated with Armstrong Moorehead, selfish, spoilt, sex-addicted younger son of Fredrick, the CEO of the company. When Fredrick passes away, his older son Lincoln comes back to New York city for his father’s funeral and is promptly enlisted to help with the company for a few months. Lincoln has been working on building sustainable community projects in China and Guatemala, and isn’t particularly interested in living in the city beyond the six months his grandmother asked him to. Now Wren’s contract is amended to include ‘handling’ both of the brothers, that is she still has to baby-sit Armstrong, as well as helping Lincoln transition to his new city life of a rich businessman. What is she hoping to get out of this job? a letter of recommendation and help to find a good position in one of the charities Moorehead family runs, and reconciliation with her own mother, a close friend of Mrs Moorehead. Wren is professional, organised, independent, sassy, decisive and loyal to her family and her best friend Dani.

Lincoln Moorehead first resembles a bit of a bear, but then thanks to Wren’s appointments (which he moans about but stoically endures), he cleans up to reveal a sweet and gorgeous young man. I loved his relationship with G-mom, his grandmother, although his constant fighting with Armstrong was quite childish on both sides. Most importantly, you can tell his heart is in the right place and he has a good moral compass.

Although a large part of the novel is dedicated to these two characters, others are also very important. Armstrong will make you wonder about how exactly his parents managed to bring up such different sons. He doesn’t seem to have any redeemable qualitites at all. Gwendolyn Moorhead, Lincoln and Armstrong’s mother, isn’t an endearing person, either. Actually, it is she and her life story that provides the drama element in this book. Let’s say, I really needed to step aside and try to think about the events from her point of view to make sure I’m not getting a skewed picture.

I also loved Dani, Wren’s loyal bestie, who is a private investigator, a voice of reason and a shoulder to cry on. Hope there will be a book dedicated to Dani, as I would really like to get to know this character a bit better.

The plot

What I expected was something like the old trope of a poor and hard-working secretary who wins the heart of her workaholic boss. Hmmm… I don’t think this will come as a spoiler, if I say that Wren does win Lincoln’s heart. However, she is not poor, and not particularly sweet or obliging. She knows how to stand up for herself (years of self-defence classes do pay off), and is both sensible and independent, which, of course, appeals even more to Lincoln. Since these two are basically on the same page, there wouldn’t be much conflict, necessary to keep the reader’s attention, but thanks to Lincoln’s mother, even level-headed Wren gets her share of tears and frustrations. If you are reading it and wondering where all the action is, wait until the second half of the book.

The Writing

The book is fast-paced and very easy to read. It is a contemporary romance, and the contemporary life is fully reflected in the story. I didn’t particularly care for the coffee spill/whirlwind moment as well as the telephone call in the epilogue, but perhaps I am too traditional and will be in minority. There’s definitely enough good chemistry, understanding and sexual tension between the protagonists to satisfy a romantic comedy fan.

Overall

The fans of the series will be delighted, as the story of Lincoln and Wren is a fun-filled sexy summer read with a happy ever after ending. And if seeing a chin dimple makes you swoon, this is definitely your kind of book.


Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s paperbacks for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Handle with Care or is it on your tbr?
  • Have you read other books by Helen Hunting? What did you like/ dislike about them?

# Book review #Middle Grade/YA #Fledgling by Molly Harper # Sorcery and Society 2

The second book in The Sorcery and Society series makes us revisit the wonderful magic world of Sarah Smith (a.k.a Cassandra Reed) and her friends, brought to us by ever so entertaining Molly Harper.


If you haven’t read the first book of the series, it is probably better to go back and start from the beginning (Changeling). Having said this, I think the author does a great job of easing the reader into this fascinating world, reminiscent of the Regency Era (if you’re a fan of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, you’ll find yourself quite at home). We learn how the magic people, called the Guardians, took over the running of human society to prevent the non-magic Snipes from using the power of newly emerging technology to invent weapons capable of destroying life on Earth. Unfortunately, the Guardians or the Upper Class have all but enslaved the lower classes and turned them into their servants. Sarah, born into a Snipe family, is not only gifted with magic, but is also a Translator, a rare person who can understand the spells revealed by the Mother Book, full of encoded ancient spells. Sarah’s family decide to hide her unusual nature and give her magic suppressors which cause Sarah grow smaller and weaker than other children. Sarah accidentally outs herself in front of the Lady of the House- powerful Mrs Winter, who decides to help the little Changeling by passing her for a distant relative of hers and sending her to Miss Castwell’s, a magic school for young ladies from Guardian families. Sarah makes fantastic friends, bravely faces adversity and destroys a formidable enemy. She even manages to procure attentions of a smart and gorgeous boy, Gavin McCray.

The second book takes us straight into one of the classes at Miss Castwell’s Institute for the Magical Instruction of Young Ladie, where Sarah/Cassandra shows a great presence of mind in fighting an evil kind of unicorn. I bet you didn’t know that there existed a malevolent carnivorous version of these magic animals- hollowhorns, which was, I’m afraid to say, summoned by the girls’ appaling lack of grace in ritual dancing and regrettable use of wrong tempo…

Molly Harper’s wit and amazing skill of creating a spellbinding story was what attracted me to the book in the first place and I was not disappointed. Great worldbuilding, sense of humour that permeates every scene and well-developed characters– everything I like in a fantasy book. I enjoyed reading about Ivy and Alicia, Sarah’s loyal friends and their witty banter as well as other more secondary characters: Owen Winter, Gavin, Wallace, the girls from Sarah’s remedial study group. And I did love the Art of Healing class, despite Nurse Waxwing’s unorthodox teaching manner.

It is difficult to be original in this genre. Yes, the book is going to remind you of Harry Potter, Charmed and even His Dark Materials. Yes, it is aimed at female audience. Still, the mix is delightful and I will be looking forward to reading the next part to find out if Sarah and her friends manage to overhaul the unjust system their society is based on and defeat their powerful and resourceful enemy.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

#Book Review # Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Some books leave you feeling better about the world and people in it. Either because their main message is that of love, hope, and forgiveness, or because they have amazing characters: strong, calm, caring. They put your feet a bit more firmly on the ground, because you recognize they are rooted in reality, and uplift you, help you raise your head and notice that, despite everpresent tragedy and suffering, our world is full of beautiful souls, ready to lend a helping hand.
This is one of these books…

26 year old Cassie Hanwell is a person you would like to have next to you in an emergency. She doesn’t get scared (and if she does, she continues doing her job), she never panics– in fact, the opposite happens, when everybody else is freaking out, she gets calmer and more alert. Above all, Cassie lives to help and save oher people. All of this makes her one hell of a firefighter. One of the best and she knows it.

That’s why I didn’t wind up an ER doc. You don’t want me just after the emergency. You want me during the emergency. I am at my very best when things are at their very worst.

When Cassie commits a potential career suicide by standing up for herself in front of a hundred person crowd during an award giving ceremony, she is given a choice: apologize to the despicable politician she had this very public ‘interpersonal conflict’ with and get a deserved promotion to a leutenant or have her contract with Austin Fire Department terminated. Only she can’t do either of these things. Her job is ‘her whole identity’. Cassie finds a third option – move to Rockport, near Boston to help her half-blind estranged mother with groceries and house chores, find a temporary position in a firehouse near her mother’s house and, slowly, work her way up again. Her captain puts in a good word for her leaving until the very end ‘the bad news’ of Cassie being a woman. The new boss is desperate for anybody to fill the position, although he has a deep mistrust female-firefighters and won’t make it easy for Cassie to start it all over at the new place. Cassie’s brave and wise captain, knowing that Cassie has always been welcome and eased in all her firefighting jobs so far and doesn’t know what discrimination and hostility is, gives a few pieces of advice:

No makeup, perfume or lady-scented deodorant, no jewelry. Cut your hair off-or keep it back. Make them less aware you’re a girl whenever possible. If you make eye contact, make it straight on, like a predator. Don’t ask questions. Go above and beyond at every chance. Don’t ever act afraid. Don’t ever hesitate. Don’t ever admit it when you don’t understand- figure it out like a man. If you go up against anybody, make sure to win. No fear! If your hands start shaking, sit on them. Never admit to being hurt. Pain is for the weak.

They will ignore you. They will exclude you. They will resent you. Working hard won’t matter. Just by your very presence there, you are attacking them, trying to steal something that’s rightfully theirs, trying to infiltrate and dismantle their brotherhood.

Do’nt have feelings. Don’t talk about them, don’t explore them, and for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t cry…Do not sleep with firefighters. Because there’s no faster way for you to go down in flames than to screw one of the guys.

My best advice to you ? Find one person you can count on. Just one.

Cassie is going to follow every single point on this long list, but for one. Unexpectedly for her, she is going to find that after years and years of loneliness and thinking that love was for the weak, she did need human connection, however much gutwrenching courage it took.


She gradually re-establishes and re-defines her relationship with Diana, her mother, and finds out that not everything she believed about her mother abandoning Cassie and her Dad was true.

By the time we reached each other, the resentment I’d been feeling had mixed with so many other feelings and impulses- sorrow, regret, loneliness, protectiveness, admiration, affection- that it became something else completely.
Complicated.

Diana teaches her something extremely valuable, something that will help Cassie not only survive, but actually live- forgiveness. I have to give Cassie credit. It isn’t easy, and a lot of people would just close their mind to these words, and never face the hard task of trying to forgive your own gullible, naive 16 year old self. Cassie does try the three steps, described by her mother: acknowledge to yourself that someone hurt you and accept that. Accept that the person who hurt you is flawed, and try to understand them better. Look at what happened afterwards and find the positive things that came about, not just the hurt. Yes, you can laugh at Cassie’s reply that the upside of her abandonment (and the other tragedy that happened on the same day) was getting freakishly good at basketball.

But the truth is what happened that Cassie became herself: calm, professional, attuned to other people, good at seeing what is true and what is fake, being able to stand up for herself and others, good at learning from whatever life threw at her. Also, knowing when to risk everything because the person you are risking it for is worth it. Like the Rookie, Owen Callaghan, her amazingly good-looking, smiley, kind-hearted, forbidden crush, her road to learning what true courage is.

Telling you more would be giving the story away, and I don’t want to rob you of this heartwarming experience. You probably know by now that I’m in love with the author’s ability to create strong, complex, believable  characters. I’m also in love with her writing style and sense of humour. Anybody who can give their lead character a childhood ambition of becoming the Tooth Fairy deserves a special mention. That and making a seasoned firefighter join a Crotchet Club…

There’s also wonderful storytelling– there are twists and turns that will tug at your heartstrings, as well as other calmer scenes that show the stuff everyday life is made of. My favourite ones show the firefighters both at work and rest, including practical jokes well-meaning colleagues played on Cassie and the Rookie. I loved the way Cassie acknoweledged the differences between her progressive, well-equipped firehouse in Austin and the new situation, and quietly set out to find a way to improve it, including getting super-expensive cyanide antidote kits. If it was a fantasy book, I’d give it five stars for the worldbuilding. As it isn’t, I’ll just acknowledge how fascinating it was to get a glimpse into what living this kind of life would be.


I loved every minute of this book and was sorry to turn the last page. A wonderful, humorous story of love and forgiveness with a strong and endearing main lead, ‘Things you save in a fire’ is a book you won’t forget.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

‘Things you save in a fire’ by Katherine Center is out on the 13th of August 2019.

  • Have you read Things that You Save in a Fire or is it on your tbr? If you have read it, what did you think of the ending? Did you like Diana?
  • Have you read any other books by Katherine Center? This is my first one, and I would appreciate your recommendations


He, she, baby bottle and Baby B # Book review #Call her mine by Melissa Foster

Synopsis:

Two besties and a baby make for an instafamily and a surprising romance in a delightful series by Melissa Foster, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sugar Lake novels.

Ben Dalton has always been honest, except where his heart is concerned. He’s been in love with his best friend—saucy, smart-mouthed Aurelia Stark—forever. But Ben’s a planner, and timing has never been on his side. When he finally decides to make his move, Aurelia beats him to the punch with a move of her own—to a different town.

Aurelia loves her new life in the charming town of Harmony Pointe. She has a great apartment and her very own bookstore, and best of all, the sinfully hot, commitment-phobic friend she’s crushed on for years is no longer just around the corner. Maybe she’ll finally be able to leave her unrequited love behind and move on.

But when a baby is left on Ben’s front porch—a baby that is presumably his—Aurelia is there for him. Neither one knows the first thing about babies, but how hard can it be? Ben and Aurelia are catapulted into a world of love, laughter, and tracking down the baby mama, and it might even add up to a very happily ever after… just not one either of them expects.

My thoughts:

A twist on the trope of a handsome but slightly wild single man with a homely best friend ready to come to his rescue when a baby girl is left on his doorstep. It is always a baby girl, although baby boys are equally cute and loud when in need of feeding or a diaper change. Mostly the book follows the trope, although a few things are different…

First of all, I wouldn’t call Ben Dalton a playboy. Yes, he is a successful (read: rich and slightly overbearing) businessman, but it all came from a ridiculous amount of hard work and sound planning. I loved the way Ben’s father commented on his personality: “Oh, Ben. You’ve spent your entire life strategizing. You did it as a kid in every endeavour, from baseball to freaking Halloween. I remember you mapping out the streets, figuring out the quickest routes to cover the most houses and make sure you didn’t miss the ones that gave out the best candy.” An unplanned pregnancy just wasn’t something anybody could have predicted or expected from him.

Ben has been in love with his best friend Aurelia for years, fearing he has been friendzoned, secretly taking dancing lessons to impress her, hoping that when the right moment arrives, he’ll make his move. An old adage says: you are what you do with your free time. Aurelia spends all her free time with Ben, listening to him, wathcing movies, cooking for him, going to parties with him, spending nights on his sofa and the list goes on. Are you surprised their friends and relatives treat them as an old married couple? Eventually, it dawns on her that she needs to turn the new leaf and put some distance between herself and her unattainable bestie. Aurelia decides to buy a book store and move to a town nearby, and Ben is finally ready to profess his undying love, when Baby B makes her appearance in a basket in front of Ben’s luxurious bachelor pad.

The trope wants you to keep guessing if the baby is his or not his. The story isn’t usually about the baby, but about how the playboy in question becomes an adorably cute and clueless Dad which totally makes the girl swoon. Here you have two adorably clueless insta-parents, trying to cope with unexpected lifestyle changes as well as taking their relationship to the next level. Ben’s tirade on why there are never any changing tables in men’s bathrooms is hilarious and shows perfectly well how seriously he’s taken to the task of becoming the best father possible. What about Relsy.?…well. she, kind of, disappears from everybody’s focus, exhausted by midnight feedings and working on opening her new business. Luckily, Ben’s parents and sisters are only willing to give the brand-new parents a hand, while Ben is busy searching for the irresponsible mother.

This light-hearted, fun summer read is essentially family-focused (despite a few very hot and steamy romantic scenes). I might have enjoyed it more if it were slightly shorter. The ending was a bit melodramatic, but, ultimately, you do want a happy ever after for Baby Bea and this one brought everything to conclusion.

This was my first book by this author and now that I have met the Daltons brood (as well as my favourite character in this book- Flossie, Aurelia’s grandmother), I would like to read the previous books about Ben’s sisters as well as any future ones in the Harmony Pointe series. Am I right in guessing that one of them will be about a sexy single doctor? Only Melissa Foster and time can answer, but I’ll be looking forward to whatever she writes.

Thank you to NetGalley and Montlake romance for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • How do you feel about the Friends-to-lovers and Baby-on-the-doorstep tropes? What are you favourite tropes?
  • What kind of books do you enjoy reading in summer? Are they different from your usual reads?

#Book Review # Keeping Lucy by T.Greenwood

Dover, Massachusetts, 1969. Ginny Richardson’s heart was torn open when her baby girl, Lucy, born with Down Syndrome, was taken from her. Under pressure from his powerful family, her husband, Ab, sent Lucy away to Willowridge, a special school for the “feeble-minded.” Ab tried to convince Ginny it was for the best. That they should grieve for their daughter as though she were dead. That they should try to move on.

But two years later, when Ginny’s best friend, Marsha, shows her a series of articles exposing Willowridge as a hell-on-earth–its squalid hallways filled with neglected children–she knows she can’t leave her daughter there. With Ginny’s six-year-old son in tow, Ginny and Marsha drive to the school to see Lucy for themselves. What they find sets their course on a heart-racing journey across state lines—turning Ginny into a fugitive.

For the first time, Ginny must test her own strength and face the world head-on as she fights Ab and his domineering father for the right to keep Lucy. Racing from Massachusetts to the beaches of Atlantic City, through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to a roadside mermaid show in Florida, Keeping Lucy is a searing portrait of just how far a mother’s love can take her.

(Book synopsis)

My thoughts:

A captivating and thought-provoking read. It is difficult to imagine that the time when women were powerless to this extent is not that far away (in some places or in some aspects it is still here with us).


Ginny Richardson is told that her newborn daughter Lucy has Down Syndrome and a heart condition that will not permit her to live long. Ginny’s husband Ab, forced by his overbearing wealthy lawyer father, agrees to place Lucy in an institution for ‘feeble-minded’. Ab tries to persuade Ginny that this will be in Lucy’s and everybody else’s interests and they just have to grieve and then continue with their life.


Ginny’s heart daily goes to her daughter but for two long years she doesn’t see her (something I find both heart-wrenching and incredibly passive), until her friend Marsha tells her about a newspaper article exposing deplorable conditions children in Willowbridge live in. Ginny decides to check the situation and is shocked to see that it was true. She signs Lucy out (effectively kidnapping her daughter) and embarks on a road trip together with Peyton, her six-year-old son, and Marsha, her larger than life, reckless, swearing, big-hearted, loyal friend. Ginny has to grow a backbone in order to protect her children.


The story is beautifully-written (although perhaps a bit melodramatic, how can it be anything else with this plot that is bound to tug at your heartstrings?) and is essentially about love, guilt, family, and friendship. Ginny has to go through an enormous character evolution in short time to become stronger and capable to fight for what is right.

Thank you to Edelweiss and St.Martin’s Press for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

  • Have you read Keeping Lucy or is it on your tbr? What did you think of the portrayal of little Lucy?
  • Have you read any other books by T.Greenwood? which ones would you recommend?
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