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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
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- California (3)
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- Georgia (1)
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- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
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- England (10)
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My Progress:

27 / 51 states. 53% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

22 / 50 books. 44% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

39 / 52 books. 75% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

26 / 40 books. 65% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

25 / 100 books. 25% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

63 / 104 books. 61% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

68 / 165 books. 41% done!
Thursday, December 19, 2019

With This One, It Was Love at First Page

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Even though Cassie Hanwell is surrounded by men all day, she's never been on a date, let alone been kissed.  The 26-year-old EMT/firefighter/paramedic just doesn't "do" love.  Even if she wanted to, she doesn't dare act the least bit girly—endless teasing from her male colleagues would absolutely, horrifyingly, ensue.  She can't allow that.  As a woman in a man's world, Cassie has to be thought of as one of the guys.  That means no makeup, no high heels, no crying, no throwing around words like "tampon," and absolutely no flirting with her colleagues.  Ever.  

When a public confrontation with an important city leader gets Cassie tossed from the Texas firefighting job she's had for four years, she's devastated.  What is she going to do now?  Then she learns that her estranged mother is ill.  When she asks Cassie to come to Massachusetts to help her, Cassie decides to go.  Especially since Cassie's former employer has put in a good word for her at a fire station near her mother's house.  Unfortunately, Cassie's new work crew is nothing like her old one.  She's used to the teasing and off-color jokes—she can tease and joke with the best of them—but her new colleagues' ribbing carries a cruel and defeating edge, obviously aimed at grinding her down until she quits.  Cassie's not about to give in.  She will prove herself, no matter what it takes.  

Then a major complication walks through the firehouse door.  Owen Callaghan is an easygoing, good-natured rookie who turns not just Cassie's head, but also her traitorous heart.  She's a goner pretty much from the get-go.  Dating a fellow firefighter is professional suicide.  Cassie will not risk everything she's worked so hard to gain just to lose her heart to a handsome face.  And an irresistible smile.  And a warm, charming personality.  And some mad culinary skills.  And ...  Yeah, she's in trouble.  

It only took a few pages of Katherine Center's Things You Save in a Fire for me to know it was going to be one of my favorite reads of the year.  From start to finish, it's a funny, upbeat, heartfelt novel that is simply a joy to read.  It's so engaging that not only did I inhale it in (almost) one sitting, but I also immediately missed everything about it as soon as I closed the book.  As humorous as the story is, it's also poignant, affecting, and sweet as Cassie learns some important lessons about family, forgiveness, friendship, and, of course, love.  Things You Save in a Fire has gotten all kinds of positive buzz—trust me when I say there's a reason for that.  It's a delightful read that I absolutely loved.

(Readalikes:  Center's style reminds me of Joshilyn Jackson's, whose books I also adore.)   


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), innuendo, sexual content, and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Things You Save in a Fire from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Popular YA Dystopian Novel Nothing We Haven't Seen Before, But Still Compelling

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"We shouldn't be here.  This place isn't ours anymore" (59).

Eighteen months ago, a mysterious and vicious plague struck the island off the coast of Maine that houses the Raxter School for Girls.  The pestilence descended without mercy, killing some teachers and students outright and changing others into something almost ... inhuman.  Now quarantined, surviving only on supplies delivered in infrequent shipments from the U.S. Navy, the remaining girls have gone feral.  Polite society is a distant memory—now they'll fight to the death over an apple core.

The island's wildlife has changed just as much as its human occupants have, making the grounds unpredictable and dangerous.  Safety lies in numbers.  Protection, at least from outside forces, can only be found inside Raxter's fortified walls.  So, when Byatt Winsor disappears, her friends are frantic to find her.  Hetty Chapin won't stop until she brings her BFF home, even if it means venturing outside the fence, braving whatever horrors are hiding in the jungle.  As tough as Hetty has become, even she will be shaken by what she finds in the bush.  Her discoveries will change everything she thinks she knows about Raxter, the Tox, and the unthinkably desperate situation that has somehow become her normal, everyday life.  

While dystopian novels aren't quite as popular as they once were, I still dig them.  Something about average Joe's and Jane's struggling to survive in a changed world, wrestling with their humanity as they make impossible choices, just appeals to me.  These storylines always leave me asking myself, "What would I do in their situation?  How far would I go to protect myself and my loved ones?"  This kind of honest self-reflection can be eye-opening to say the least.  Beyond that, I'm always up for an exciting page-turner, so, you know, win-win.  

Even though Wilder Girls, a debut novel by Rory Power, doesn't offer anything dystopian lovers haven't seen before, it does provide a compelling plot that will have readers asking themselves the kinds of questions described above.  The story gets a little confusing and while some questions are answered along the way, there are a lot of loose endings left flapping in the wind.  A cliffhanger at the end suggests a sequel will be forthcoming, although I haven't seen confirmation of that anywhere.  While some reviewers felt Wilder Girls moved too slowly, I found it thoroughly engrossing.  I burned through the pages fast and furiously to see what would happen next in this grim dystopian world.  Since so many questions were left unanswered, I can't say I was totally satisfied with Wilder Girls.  Still, it kept me entertained and I will absolutely read the sequel that Power better be penning!  

(Readalikes:  I haven't actually read the William Golding classic, but Wilder Girls has been called a "feminist Lord of the Flies.")


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (a dozen or so F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Series Opener Another Fun Read from Kylie Logan

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When her six-year stint as a personal chef to a Hollywood It girl ends in flames, Laurel Inwood is at loose ends.  Rescue comes in the form of her aging "aunt," a restaurant owner who needs help while recovering from knee surgery.  Eager to manage the elegant venue she's heard much about but never seen, Laurel moves to Hubbard, Ohio, only to find that Aunt Sophie has greatly exaggerated her restaurant's virtues.  Instead of a sparkling, sophisticated eatery, Terminal at the Tracks is an old railroad station turned dingy greasy spoon.  And it's in desperate need of help.

To revive the Terminal's image, Laurel decides to add a little spice to the menu by introducing innovative ethnic dishes.  Just when things are starting to look up for the diner, however, a customer is found slumped in one of its booths, a receipt spike sticking out of his back.  Jack Lancer, aka "The Lance of Justice," was not a well-liked man, but who hated him enough to kill him?  With the help of the handsome manager of the Irish store next door to the Terminal, Laurel aims to find out.  Even if it means her own back becomes a killer's next target.

I've enjoyed a couple of Kylie Logan's books and Irish Stewed, the first installment in her Ethnic Eats cozy mystery series, sounded like a fun one to try.  Like most books in this genre, this one offers a quick, entertaining story that makes for light, easy reading.  I'm not fond of Laurel, who's rather cold and cocky.  Don't get me wrong—I don't mind a strong, unsentimental heroine, but I would have liked to see both some vulnerability and some character growth from Laurel.  Perhaps that will come in later books.  In general, though, I liked Irish Stewed.  I'll for sure keep reading this series as I'm eager to see where it goes.

(Readalikes: reminds me of culinary mysteries by Ellie Alexander and Lena Gregory)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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