Hi! I am an avid reader who annoys her husband because I always have my head buried in a book. I was an English major, and have finally decided to do something with the knowledge and skills my parents love and money have given me.
Mostly I'm just a chick who reads. A Lot.
When Molly and her sisters find out their mom has skipped bail and used their home as collateral they need to find her before she leaves town and they lose their house. Fellow bounty hunter John Carmondy always seems to show up when Molly is about to arrest a skip. This time when he finds out Molly is on a dangerous quest he signs on as her partner so he’s there to watch her back. Molly’s always had to take care of her sisters and having someone take care of her quickly turns her feelings from annoyance to sizzling heat. Soon their feelings for each other put everything real on the line.
Molly and John had such amazingly, snarky dialog, it was so much fun to read! The way John just kept showing up displayed his obvious interest but Molly was absolutely clueless. I do remember thinking, come on Molly get a clue! But when they pair up to find their skip it allows her to see him in a better light and she realizes she can rely on him. That finally opens the doors to another type of relationship. John on the other hand was all in from the very beginning. Boy, he had a LOT of patience! LOL
Katie Ruggle writes very entertaining romantic suspense novels and In her Sights seems to be the start of a great series. This novel had a quick pace and it was very easy to get emotionally involved and I finished the novel in no time. As with her other series there’s an underlining plot thread that will run through all of the novels in the series so as this is the first novel, start here and enjoy the rest as they come! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
If you would like a chance to win a free copy of this novel please click the link below!
“Overall I thought this was a decent start to the series. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for Molly’s sisters and what will happen to their mother. Readers who enjoy the trope of rivals to lovers will enjoy this one. I would also recommend it to readers who enjoy a small amount of suspense mixed into their romances.” Harlequin Junkie
“The romance was served on the side as Ruggle set up the overall series but also introduced us to key characters. She did this all while providing hunts for bond skippers, deadly encounters, attempted burglary, blackmail and more.” Caffeinated Reviewer
Happy Monday everyone! I ran across this post on Book Date and liked the idea of sharing what I’m currently reading, and hopefully hearing about what you’ve picked up off your shelf. So here goes!
This novel was touted as being the next Hating Game which I think did it a disservice. The Hating Game was innovative and new. With that in mind I couldn’t help but compare the two and I’ll admit I was disappointed. Even though it uses my favorite trope, enemies to lovers, there was just so much that I didn’t care for. I’ll save those comments for my review.
With the word library in the title my hopes are high. I’ve heard great things and I’m expecting a little heartache and hope out of this novel.
Now that you know what’s on my radar and in my hands this week, please feel free to share what you are reading this fine Monday!
NOTE: The Giveaway link has been fixed! Please sign up!
I love to read. I know, I know, not a big shock since I also write reviews for a ton of the books that I read. Even more than my love for reading, I love it when I find an author who’s writing totally connects, and I can lose myself in the stories they’ve written. A couple of years ago a new romantic suspense author leaped onto my radar in a big way, her name is Katie Ruggle. I’m sure most of you have heard of her Search and Rescue and Rocky Mountain K9 Unit series as they both received a lot of buzz. When I was give the opportunity to interview her, I jumped at the chance. I had all of these questions! I hope you enjoy reading my interview with Katie Ruggle below. Her personality shines through. No wonder I love her books so much.
TRC: Hi Katie, thank you so much for agreeing to answer a few questions about your novels.
Katie: Thank you! I love your reviews and am so happy to get to chat with you.
TRC: If you don’t mind, I’d like to start at the beginning, with your Search and Rescue series. What struck me the most about that series was that most of your characters were flawed in some way. My favorite was Fan the Flames. Ian was gorgeous and deserving of being the cover model but Rory was sooo interesting! I’ve never read a book with her background, how did you create her character? What inspired you?
Katie: Thank you! Rory’s one of my favorites, too. I love her competence and prickly awkwardness. She’s the character I think of when I stock up on hundreds of rolls of toilet paper (after all, who wants to run out of toilet paper in the middle of the zombie apocalypse?), or when the anxious corner of my brain word-vomits animal facts in a cringe-worthy torrent of nerdiness after meeting someone new. I think it’s really important to write about flawed characters finding their happily-ever-afters, since these stories show that our wonderfully flawed selves are just as worthy of love as those who are a little closer to perfect.
It’s so hard to describe how I come up with characters, since they just seem to pop out of my brain fully formed. Although some of the inspiration for Rory came from my rather…interesting neighbors when I lived off-grid in the mountains, mostly she was just who she was. Of course she’s a socially awkward semi-hermit who owns a gun shop above her prepper-style bunker home. That’s just Rory.
TRC: I love how each of your series has an underlining mysterious plot that continues to build to a conclusion in the final novel. Yet each novel has its own mystery that runs parallel to that underlying plot. In Search and Rescue it was the body found under the ice, the K9 Unit Series was why all of the girls were hiding their identity, and Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters the mystery surrounds the girls mother. Would you share your method of how you remember all of these details? (If you have a picture board, post it note board, etc. a screen shot/picture would be awesome!)
Katie: My technique for recording details is pretty sad: A battered little notebook with scribbles everywhere. I’ve tried to switch to using a notes app on my phone, or even a Word doc on my laptop, but I haven’t been able to wean myself off of that dog-eared notebook. Since a goldfish has a better memory than me, I write down everything. Plot notes are interspersed with grocery lists and to-do items and vet appointment times and… Well, you get the picture. I’m very, very grateful that I have good editors. They’ve saved me from humiliation and continuity tragedies so many times. Editors are angels in human form.
TRC: I’ll admit that I LOVED your novella Rocky Mountain Cowboy Christmas. Steve’s kids were so fun and unusual! Zoe the inventor, Micah the hermit artist, Will the joyful oldest son, and Maya the youngest but oh so sweet! Will these kids ever have their own stories in a possible young adult series? I’m sure I’m not the only reader that hopes to see more of them!
Katie: It’s like you’re psychic! It’s not for certain yet, so I can’t say much, but there is a high likelihood that Will might get his own story (shh…it’s our secret).
TRC: OK, let’s talk a little bit about your new series Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters. I really enjoyed In Her Sights. I liked the set-up of Molly and her sisters needing to run a bounty hunter business in order to make a living a pay the bills. Each of these sisters seems so different! Do you have a favorite sister, and why is she your favorite? If you don’t have a favorite, would you share one thing about each of the sisters that has helped you develop their character?
Katie: Thank you! I have five sisters of my own (and a brother), so this series is very close to my heart. I love the affectionate and aggravating chaos a big family creates.
As far as favorites go, I’m so fickle! As I develop each book, that sister becomes my current favorite. Right now, I’m in the process of writing the third Bounty Hunter book, which features Norah and her MMA instructor, Dashiell. In the previous books, Norah was overshadowed by her bolder sisters, but now she’s developing into quite the badass! It’s also fun because Dash is a decidedly grumpy guy, which is a hoot to write. I do adore a cranky hero!
TRC: Your next book in the Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunter series releases at the end of December. Can you give us a hint about Cara and Henry’s relationship that we don’t read in the synopsis (included below)?
Katie: Well, Cara and Henry get to live out one of my favorite romance tropes: The Oh no! We’re two people who desperately but secretly want each other, and we’re stuck in a cabin in the middle of nowhere and there’s (you guessed it) ONLY ONE BED! trope. I love it.
TRC: Final question! I love that your background in law enforcement, your ice rescue certification, and your love of Colorado is written into your novels. I can’t help but hope that your training in boxing, Krav Maga, or gymnastics could get written into a future novel! Would you be able to give us a hint of a future novel or hero(ine) that might have some kick ass surprises in store for us?
Katie: Shockingly enough, shy Norah is the one who gets to don the boxing gloves in the third Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters book. Some Krav Maga moves sneak in there, too—nothing like a palm-heel strike to take down a creepy treasure-hunting burglar. I also have a plan for a future black-belt girly-girl gymnast bodyguard who dreams of being a hair stylist, but that won’t be until the next series. She needs to wait until the bounty-hunting sisters all get their happy endings!
Thank you for letting me blab about my books!
TRC: Thank you so much for spending time answering these questions. I can’t wait for your next novel Risk It All to come out in December!
Synopsis: Risk It All by Katie Ruggle
RISK IT ALL (Rocky Mountain Bounty Hunters Book #2)
When bounty hunter falls for bounty,
they’ll risk it all to save the one they love.
Cara Pax never wanted to be a bounty hunter—she’s happy to leave chasing criminals to her more adventurous sisters. But if she wants her dream of escaping the family business to come true, she’s got one last job to finish.
Too bad she doesn’t think her latest bounty is actually guilty.
Henry Kavenski is a man with innocence to prove. But when his enemies target Cara in an attempt to force his hand, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe. Deep in the Rocky Mountains, surrounded by danger on all sides, Henry and Cara will have to learn to trust their unexpected partnership if they want to make it out together—and alive.
A graduate of the Police Academy, Katie Ruggle is a self-proclaimed forensics nerd. A fan of anything that makes her feel like a bad-ass, she has trained in Krav Maga, boxing, and gymnastics, has lived in an off-grid, solar- and wind-powered house in the Rocky Mountains, rides horses, trains her three dogs, and travels to warm places to scuba dive. She has received multiple Amazon Best Books of the Month and an Amazon Best Book of the Year.
Katie Ruggle’s publisher, Sourcebooks Casablanca, will be giving away three copies of Katie Ruggle’s novel In Her Sights. Click on the link above for your chance to win a copy! US and Canada residents ONLY!
When Sophie’s parents head off to her sister’s to help with a difficult birth, she’s supposed to go off to her Nonna’s to spend the holidays with her extended family. What she really wants is to spend the time alone with her boyfriend Griffin. When she overhears him speaking to a friend about their possible breakup she’s devastated and arrives at her Nonna’s hoping for a distraction from her heartbreak. What she doesn’t realize is that her family would take her mind off her ex by setting her up on 10 blind dates. This novel is a tribute to large families who are slightly crazy but have huge hearts….and I loved it!
Through the telling of these 10 dates, we learn the personalities of her family members. The dates themselves are funny, crazy, kooky and heartwarming, as is Sophie’s connection to the people who sent her on them. I laughed at their antics and relished the telling of each date.
Sophie, her cousin’s Charlie and Olivia, and the boy next door Wes were all best friends until two years ago. There are hurt feelings on both sides and through these 10 dates they reconnect and realize how much they all mean to each other. Their friendship is the kind a person always hopes to earn and I was totally jealous of their history and of their futures with each other.
If you are looking for a book where you can laugh and also be touched by the emotion in the characters you are reading- 10 Blind Dates is the book you need to pick up. I think it’s a departure from Ashley’s Elston’s normal genre as it is a true YA contemporary novel with a hint of romance, yet the emotions run deep. This is a novel I’ll read again when I need a laugh and pick me up! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
Bohdi Beckett is pretty laissez faire for being a pop star in one of the biggest boy bands in the world. One night after a show he receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his mother. One problem, his dad told him his mother was dead. Feeling betrayed good guy Bohdi goes off the deep end getting drunk publicly and flashing the Paps. His father rents him a home in the Southern California hills, hoping he’ll cool off. Little does he know the heat is about to get turned up. Literally! It’s fire season in Southern CA and Bohdi’s house is right in the path of a large fire. Breeze is pet sitting in those same hills when she’s told to evacuate. She can’t leave behind her charges, so she packs up, gets the dogs on leashes, the fish out of the tank, and the cat in the cat carrier and hauls off the property in her car. When a falling tree blindsides her she and her crew are rescued. By pop star Bohdi Beckett.
I grew up in So CA myself and am very familiar with their change of seasons. This author painted a very accurate picture of the hillsides burning around Bohdi and Breeze as they tried to escape. I thought the real setting was a great contrast to Bohdi’s stage persona and Breeze’s casual lifestyle making their experience seem even more dangerous and real. When Breeze offers up her place for Bodhi to stay it’s their chemistry that catches fire but when they lean on each other for support, the story really gets going and I’m all in.
There were a lot of emotional ups and downs in this book. The revelation that Bodhi’s mom wasn’t dead, the fire, pop star mania, Breeze’s crazy ex boyfriend situation? A LOT was going on! Somehow it all tied together for a really good book. I will admit that Callie Dalton and Zachary Webber are two of my favorite narrators and their characterizations seemed spot on. They imbued Breeze and Bodhi with life making it really hard to dislike these characters.
I’m a fan of J. Bengtsson’s dialog and Like the Wind had some really humorous moments mixed in with the serious. She gives her characters such depth that I was lost in the story, forgetting that I actually had to stop listening and get back to work. Like the Wind is a stand alone novel so there is nothing to stop you from picking up this book and starting your journey with Bodhi and Breeze.
Opinions from around the Blogosphere
“A pop star, a quirky pet sitter and a wildfire made for one the best listens I have all year when combined with Callie Dalton and Zachary Webber’s amazing narration.” The Red Hatter Book Blog
After years of moving from town to town, not making friends or planting roots, Ivy finally settles down in San Francisco’s Heartbreak Bay, purchasing and running the local taco truck. Despite her own code of honor, she’s always been shy of the law. When she meets cowboy and sheriff Kel O’Donnell she’s immediately attracted and wisely wary of this newcomer to her group of friends. Thrown into his company by a break in at her truck, Ivy and Kel fight their instinct to stay away from each other and instead start to rely on their unlikely friendship.
I liked Ivy’s back story of a troubled family that requires them to move always staying one step ahead of whoever may be trying to find them. Ivy keeps a wall up, even with her group of friends, so it’s not surprising she’d be especially wary of a man who asks too many questions and tries to delve to deeply into her past. Kel has his own demons with a mother who he felt abandoned he and his sister, which makes him less likely to trust than most. The two of them together seemed an unlikely pair, neither of them too willing to trust. Despite the tentative trust factor I liked them for each other and easily rooted them on.
Wrapped Up in You was about friendship and love overcoming all obstacles. The story wasn’t too deep and didn’t require my complete immersion into the plot to keep up, but it was enjoyable and totally lived up to my expectations of an easy to read romance. Something I’ve come to expect from a Jill Shalvis novel. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley and the publisher for my honest review and it was honest.
I’m excited to be included in this tour of Six Goodbyes We Never Said by Candace Granger. After reading the synopsis, I was intrigued, and I bet I won’t be the only one!
This is no love story; in fact, it’s not even really a “like” story. In Candace Ganger’s sophomore novel, SIX GOODBYES WE NEVER SAID (Wednesday Books; September 24, 2019), two teens meet after tragically losing their parents and learn about love, loss, and letting go. Deftly tackling issues of mental health and grief, Ganger’s #OwnVoices novel brings vibrant characters to life as they figure out how to say goodbye to the people they love the most.
Naima Rodriguez doesn’t want your patronizing sympathy as she grieves her father, her hero—a fallen Marine. She’ll hate you forever if you ask her to open up and remember him “as he was,” though that’s all her loving family wants her to do in order to manage her complex OCD and GAD. She’d rather everyone back the-eff off while she separates her Lucky Charms marshmallows into six, always six, Ziploc bags, while she avoids friends and people and living the life her father so desperately wanted for her.
Dew respectfully requests a little more time to process the sudden loss of his parents. It’s causing an avalanche of secret anxieties, so he counts on his trusty voice recorder to convey the things he can’t otherwise say aloud. He could really use a friend to navigate a life swimming with pain and loss and all the lovely moments in between. And then he meets Naima and everything’s changed—just not in the way he, or she, expects. Full of tender, funny, and downright heartbreaking moments, Ganger’s second novel will have you cheering and crying all on the same page.
Don’t miss out on this YA powerhouse standalone!
“Guess who’s getting ready to come home and take you to Ivy Springs? That’s right, Ima. It’s happening. It’s finally happening. Don’t tell Nell. I want to surprise her.”
Speaker Call Back Delete
Email Draft (Unsent)
I’m holding my breath
Until you’re standing in front of me Because we’ve danced this song
So many times before
And I no longer trust You’ll do what you
Just in case,
I’ll count the hexagons.
Nell is a dingy yoga mat; the sweaty barrier between total chill status and my shit reality (aka, my annoying stepmom and ru iner of all moments) (trust me on this).
“JJ and Kam aren’t going to believe how much you’ve grown since the funeral,” she says on our longass 794mile drive from Albany, Georgia, to Ivy Springs, Indiana. She taptaptapsher long, pointed fingernails against the steering wheel to the beat of what ever imaginary song she’s playing in her head. Probably some thing disco or hair band. The radio is silent, always silent, when we ride together, but the second she speaks with that highpitched nasally voice I loathe, I regret this necessity. I concentrate harder on the objects we pass so I can properly pinch my toes between them.
Tap my nose. Tap my nose. Tap my nose.
Tap my nose. Tap my nose.
Tap my nose.
Click my tongue. Click my tongue. Click my tongue.
Click my tongue. Click my tongue.
Click my tongue.
Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail. Flick my thumbnail.
Flick my thumbnail.
I continue with my sequence the length of the drive. Nell hates it, but I hate when she wears fingerless gloves in the summer, so we’re even. Without my boringass stepbrother, Christian, to be my talk block—the dull cushion of conversation between Nell and me—(he left two days ago on a death star/plane to see his dad in NYC), the “spacious” SUV feels like I’ve been placed at a dinner table in a vast canyon and right across from me is literally the onlywoman I don’t want to meet for dinner. Like, why can’t I eat with the Queen of England or Oprah? I’m bound by my father’s love for Nell, or whatever, but now he’s gone, and I’m climbing the hell out of the canyon before she wants to talk about how big my naturally tousled hair is (a perfect mess), period cycles (semiregular, FYI), sexually transmitted diseases (don’t have a single one, thanks), or worse—my feelings (happily buried!). Ugh. GTFO.
The failing engine’s hum, where the metal scrapes and churns with a whir, competes with Nell’s increased tapping. I’ve missed too many objects, my toes rapidly pinching and releasing, to make up for what’s been lost. But it’s too late. My mind shifts automatically to a neon sign flashing warning! There’s always a consequence to messing up the sequence. Always.
Counting is to time what the final voicemail Dad left is to the sound of my heart cracking open; a message I can’t listen to. It’ll become entombed in history, in me. My finger lingers over my phone and quickly retreats, knowing there’s nothing he could’ve said to make this pain less. Nothing can make him less gone.
I look out the window to where my dreary eyed reflection stares blankly back at me; Nell glides over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, violently overcorrecting just before we would have been hit by a semi. The sound of his horn echoes through the high topped Tennessee mountains. Three thousand two hundred eighty seven people die in car accidents every day. I Googled it. After I Googled it, I looked at pictures. And after I looked at pictures I went through the sequence. Car accident. Fatalities. My legs smashed up to my chest. Nell crushed into the hood.
“Sorry,” she says; her voice rattles. “Make sure Ray’s okay back there.”
I turn to investigate the vase shaped metal urn surrounded by layers of sloppily folded sheets (Nell did that) and one perfectly situated hexagon quilt (that’s all me). The sun’s gleam hits U.S. Marine Corp just so, and I’m reminded again that he’s gone.
“It’s fine,” I say, refusing to call that pile of ashes “Dad,” or “he.” The urn arrived several days ago in a twenty four hour priority package. Nell saying, “No reason to waste time getting him home,” and I was like, “What’s that?” and she was all “Your dad, silly,” and I was like, “Huh?” and she asked me if I wanted a banana kale protein shake after she “got him situated.” A big hell no. I immediately dove into a Ziploc ration of Lucky Charms marshmallows to dull the pain of conversing with someone so exhausting.
After he was transported in ice from Afghanistan to Dover, after they sorted and processed his things, after he was cre mated, after the police and state troopers closed down the streets to honor him as we drove him through, after we had the memorial service, after we were handed the folded flag with a bullet shell casing tucked inside, after they spoke of his medals, and after Christian and I sat in disbelief beneath a weep ing willow tree for three hours, Nell finally decided the ashes should go to his hometown in Indiana, after all. I didn’t think she’d cave, but after one talk with my grandma, JJ, she did. If anyone could turn a donkey into a unicorn, it’s JJ (or so she says). And so, it was decided—Dad, I mean It, was going home a unicorn.
“Let’s stop for some grub,” Nell says, wideeyed. “Hungry?” “Grub,” rhymes with “nub,” which she is. “No.”
“Let’s at least stretch our legs. Still a few hours to go.” “Fine. But no travel yoga this time.”
She pulls off to a rest area a few miles ahead, exiting the car. I crack a window and wait while she hikes a leg to the top of the trunk, bending forward with an “oh, that’s tight.” After, she says, “Going to the potty. BRB.”
I flash a thumbsup and slink deep into the warmth of my seat, hiding from the stare of perverts and families. My foot kicks my bag on the floor mat, knocking my prescription bottle to its side. Dr. Rose, my therapist in Ft. Hood, said sometimes starting over is the only way to stop looking back. But what about when the past is all you have left of someone?
My gaze pushes forward to the vending machines. Dad and I stopped at this very place on our way to Indiana without basic Nell. He’d grab a cold can of Coke and toss me a bag of trail mix to sort into piles. If I close my eyes, it almost feels like he’s here—not a pile of ashes buckled tight into the backseat. We’d play a game of Would You Rather to see who could come up with the worst/most messed up scenarios (I usually won).
Would you rather wear Nell’s unwashed yoga pants every day for a month?Or call an urn full of ashes “Dad”? Sometimes, he’d presort the trail mix, leaving me the best parts (the candy coated chocolate). I am one of a kind Magic, Dad would say. But he was, too. A unicorn, I think. Definitely not a donkey. The more I think on it, maybe JJ could turn Nell into a unicorn, too, but no magic is that strong.
In today’s forecast, sunshine early morning will give way to late day thunder storms. I love the smell of rain. It’s the aroma of being alive.
August Moon and the Paper Hearts—the band my parents opened for—advise we speak kindly to strangers through song. I’d like to think that’s what my parents would’ve said, too. I can still see my mother’s chestnut eyes soft as she hums. From the tired bones in her feet after long shifts at the glassmaking factory (after the band split apart), to the graying curls that sprang into action when the beat hit her ears, she’s frozen in time; a whimsical ballerina, twirling inside a glass globe to a tune only she and I can hear.
“Let the music move your soul,” she’d tell me. “Let it carry you into the clouds, my darling.”
She’d grab my hand, hers papered by the rough gloves she was required to wear during her shifts, guiding me by the glittering moon dust, while Dad watched on from the old twill rocker, threads carved around his boxy frame. Our feet stepped along invisible squares against the floor, round and round, until the world vanished beneath us. We floated.
“You got that boy spoiled, Momma,” Dad would tell her. “Don’t you know it,” she’d reply, pulling me closer.
That was when the universe built itself around the three of us; vibrant wildflowers, dipped in my mother’s favorite verb: “love.” I wish I could remember the smell of her better. I wish I could remember what Dad would say. When I lose my breath in the thick of human oceans and panic, I wish harder.
My second set of parents, Stella and Thomas, are kind to me. Stella’s eyes remind me of my mother’s—two infinity pools, giving the illusion of boundless compassion—while Thomas’s laugh is an eerily mirrored version of my father’s. Sometimes, when Thomas finds himself amused, I catch myself thinking Dad is here. I can almost see him holding his bass guitar, doubled over from a joke he’d heard.
My sister, Faith, hasn’t settled into this family yet, even after a year of fostering. She cries, punches her bed pillow—sometimes Stella; sometimes Thomas. Her wailing is incessant, scratchy, and raw. Sometimes I sit outside her door and silently cry with her. When you’re taken from your birth parents, it doesn’t matter how wonderful your new, adoptive, or temporary, foster parents are. They can be every warm hug you’ve needed, but if you’re holding tight to the feeling of being home, you may find com fort in the cold, dark night instead. I did at first. After all the months with us, Faith is realizing the Brickmans are her home now, but she’s still fighting to stay warm on her own, hoping her parents would somehow return.
“You can never know someone’s pain or happiness until you’ve stepped inside their shoes,” my mother would say.
“What if their shoes don’t fit?” I’d ask. “If our lives are too different?”
“Find a connection; something similar enough that all the differences bounce off the table completely, like Ping Pong balls. If we look past things that divide us, humanity will find a way to shine through.”
No one should step inside my shoes unless they’re prepared to understand the kind of grief that’s whole body and constant. It’s quiet but deep. The same way Earth orbits the sun every hour of every day of every year, I miss my parents, and Faith misses hers.
Stella and Thomas try. They’ve searched our shoe collection. They’ve tried them on. And, just as Cinderella found her magic fit, they’ve managed to find a pair that fits in some way. Of the hundreds of thousands of kids in foster care, they placed an inquiry about me, they went through the classes and orientation for me, they did the home study for me—they adopted me. Same for Faith, however different our circumstances.
It makes no matter that Stella and Thomas couldn’t conceive naturally. The foster and adoption process stole chunks of time they’ll never retrieve, for a “special needs” boy—due to my age, “minority group,” and “emotional trauma”—long past diapers and bottles and baby powder–scented snuggles. It was financially and emotionally draining for all of us involved, with no guarantee I would welcome them or they could love me the way my parents did. I didn’t embrace them at first. I quite liked my previous foster family but they felt me only temporary. The Brick mans embraced me without hesitation, with a permanent kind of promise. It’s the same kindness my parents would endorse. They gave me a home, a family, and a place I belong. And so, to every stranger along my path, I will be kind, too. Even—especially—the ones who’d prefer I didn’t.
“Those are the souls who need compassion most,” Mom would say. “The ones broken by the world, angry and afraid of trust ing. You must remind them that they are not alone. Nothing can be lost in trying. Remember that always, my darling.”
As I hear Faith shouting into her comforter again, I wonder how many have failed to try on her shoes through the near dozen foster homes she’s been in.
I hear you,Faith. I am you.
I think all this before my preplanned path to Baked & Caffeinated—the coffee and bakeshop at which I’ve been em ployed a mere six days—with August Moon streaming through
my earbuds. Today is my first scheduled shift, and if you could feel my heart beat, you’d assume it was about to burst (it very well may). Though Ivy Springs maintains a compact three mile radius, it’s my first time walking alone. For most, it’s a relaxing walk. But, as my father would often tell me, I am not most people. The mere thought of the journey had me curled in a ball on my twin mattress for at least an hour. Beneath the covers, I gave my best, most inspiring pep talk about how, despite those voices tell ing me I can’t do it, I can and I will and I’ll be glorious.
Mom would always lift the blankets off the bed and sit next to me. “This, too, shall pass, my darling.”
“And if it doesn’t?” I’d say with quivering lips.
“It will. You are my corpse flower,” Mom told me. “The largest, rarest flower in the whole world. Blooming takes many arduous seasons, but it is worth the wait.”
The longer she’s gone, the more I understand the layers she peeled off of me. With each one, my shine radiated a little more. Mom and Dad never saw my fears in black and white; people aren’t made so simply. We’re straddling a blur of gray.
The downtown café is fairly new to this small blip of town. Serving variations of roasted coffee beans, espresso concoctions, and freshly baked confectionaries you can smell for miles, Baked & Caffeinated is one of the few places people my age come. With school out for summer, the position of highly regarded cashier is a way to blend in slightly more than I stand out. When the manager, Liam “Big Foot” Thompson—college student and “organic medicinal specialist” (whatever that means)—barely glanced at the application I spent two long hours filling in, I’m not sure what prompted him to hire me on the spot, but there it was: an opportunity to slide into a new pair of shoes.
“Hard work reveals who people really are,” Dad would tell me. “When the going gets tough, some hide and others rise.”
I will rise, Dad.
One glance at the clock and I see no matter how I rush, the seconds tick by faster than I can keep up. I’m dressed in freshly ironed slacks, an ebony polo buttoned two thirds of the way up (I was told this is appropriate), snazzy checkered suspenders, and the taupe fedora—feather and all—I can not live without.
“I’m off,” I tell Stella.
She sits at the kitchen table, a list of recipe ingredients in hand, peering over the bridge of her reading glasses. She pulls a ceramic coffee mug to her lips and sips her coffee with a slurp. It dribbles to the paper. “Ah, damn it!”
I step back, my hands gripping my suspenders as if they’re bungee cords.
“Sorry,” she says, standing. She squares her shoulders with mine and drives her stare through me. “I hope you have the best time.” She pulls me near—an attempt at a hug that’s strangled by her awkward, coffee saturated positioning. “If you feel over whelmed, take a deep breath, excuse yourself to the bathroom if necessary, and you can always, always call me. K?”
I hesitate, fear squirming between us.
She tips my chin up so my eyes fall straight into hers. Her eyes swallow me up in a bubble of safety, little lines spiderwebbing out from the corner creases that cling to my distress, fishing fear out of me, casting it somewhere else entirely. It’s a trick Mom used to do, too.
“You’re going to do great,” she reassures. “Promise.”
I nod, finally, and she releases me from her grip to deal with the coffee puddle. I watch her for a whole minute before she urges me out the door. I’m supposed to work on my time management. I lose time when my brain is knotted with worry. But how do you untangle something you can’t even see?
Along my walk down the potholed sidewalk, my eyes care fully plot each step to not catch on a divot. The last time, I nearly broke my arm, the exact spot ridiculing me as I pounce over it with the light footed pirouette of a cat. I’m so proud of this move, distracted by my obvious victory against that mean concrete hole, I run straight into someone.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I stammer.
“Dude,” a boy says with a heavy grunt. “Watch it.”
I’m hesitant to make eye contact, but I do—Stella and Thomas have encouraged it—alarm bells blaring. The boy’s eyes are narrow, brows furrowed. I replay last night’s news headline in my mind—teen shoots former classmate at graduation party—and fold as far down as my small frame will allow.
He rips his earbuds out, his face softening only slightly. I try to walk by, he blocks me. I move to the other side. He stands in my way here, too.
“Excuse me,” I say.
“You should watch where you’re going. It’s a small town with shitty sidewalks.”
“Yes,” I stutter. “I will, thank you for the advice.”
He presses his earbuds back into place and allows me to pass with the wave of his hand.
“Have a wonderful day,” I tell him. My voice shakes, my feet moving faster than before.
Mom would say, “Chin up, eyes forward, not back,” so I re peat this to myself, pretending she’s here to ricochet these interactions into outer space. I’m still learning how to be my own hero. My deepest darkest fear is, maybe I never will.
I stand outside the bakeshop and stare up at the illustrated coffee mug on the sign. My reluctance holds me in the center of this busier than normal sidewalk. I remind myself I’m okay. The crowds won’t harm me. I can breathe through it and the day will go on. It can and it will, because it has to. As the sweat accumulates beneath my hat, I think of Mom telling me “now or never,” and open the door. The bell attached to the door rings as I breeze through.
“You’re so late,” Mr. Thompson says after I wind through the line of customers bunched near the counter. “I thought we said ten.”
A quick glance at the time—ten seventeen—and my chin sinks into my chest. “Apologies. We did agree on that time.” Dad used to say, “The only good excuse is none at all,” so I swallow the ones rising into my throat and try to ignore the gnawing feeling in my gut that makes me want to lock myself inside the bath room to escape all the noise and people and smells and sounds. My sensory dashboard is on overload. I imagine a little robot in a white coat frantically working to calm each circuit board before it fries. Poor fellow. His work is thankless and sometimes a complete and utter failure. I do my best to help by inhaling another deep breath, exhaling through my mouth as Mr. Thompson guides me to the space behind the counter where I’m to stand. I fumble in the small space, as another employee, a girl in a long flowy dress covered by an apron, welcomes me with a wide grin.
“Hey, newb,” she says. “I’m Violet.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Dew.” I keep a generous distance to not make her uncomfortable, but she moves in close enough to notice how well I’ve brushed my teeth (well enough, I hope).
“You have a really great aura. It’s bluecentric with electric swirls of pink. Very neon, man.”
I respect her need for close proximity and we stand almost nose to nose. “Interesting. What does that mean?”
Her eyes widen as if she’s swallowing every centimeter of mine. “You’re highly sensitive, intuitive, and have strong morals. Like, you’re honest to a fault and can’t seem to deviate from it, even if it’d serve you better to keep your mouth shut. I know, because I’m a total Purple. I can read your palms if you want.”
I slip them into my pockets. “Perhaps later, after I’ve grown accustomed to the process and routines here.”
She smiles and allows me the space to breathe again as Mr. Thompson waves me to a short stack of papers I’m to fill out. “When you’re finished with these, I’ll have Violet show you how to brew espresso shots for lattes.”
I nod. “Sir—”
He stops me with a snicker. “Please—my dad is sir because he’s a dinosaur. I’m Big Foot.”
My eyes confusedly scan the perimeter of this man who is neither big nor seems to have larger than average feet. Perhaps that’s the irony. I decide I like it. “Mr. Foot,” I begin; he stops me again to remind me it’s BigFoot, “I don’t have a driver’s license yet, only a permit. My birthday is in a few weeks, though I’m not interested in driving a motor vehicle at this time. I also have some allergies that may restrict my duties outside of handling the register. I forgot to mention it when I applied.”
He lays a hand on my shoulder. “I read the notes on the application. I have a little bro with some pretty gnarly allergies. We specialize in nut free, dairy free shit. It’s my duty to represent the underrepresented, you know?”
I nod, relieved.
“If you’re not comfortable with any part, I’ll make sure the others know to step in. Wear gloves. Wash your hands. Take your meds,” he pauses, looks me over, “you got meds, right?”
I nod again.
“I got you, bro. Let me know if you have a flare up from anything, ’cause I’ve got EpiPens and all that jazz.”
My posture relaxes a bit.
“It’ll be all right. Come get me after V trains you on the espresso shots.”
I nod again, folding my hands in front of me.
Local boy freezes in the middle of summer—tonight at 10.
“So, listen,” Violet says, drawing me closer. “My best friend, Birdie, went through major crappage this past year, and I’ve learned how to be a better friend because of it. Apparently she didn’t feel like she could trust me with her most important secrets, so I totally reevaluated my life choices and decided, with a cleanse, to start anew.”
“Good for you.” I stop to wonder why she’s telling me, a perfect stranger, this.
“Point is, I know we just met, but as this new, improved me, I’m good at reading people. And it looks like you could use a little encouragement.”
She pulls a notebook from the cubby beneath the register, the words on the front flap, Book of Silver Linings, catching the gleam of the fluorescent lights. I watch her fingers flip and fumble to a specific page. “Confidence grows when we step out of our com fort zone and do something different.” Her mouth hangs open, half smiling, as if she’s waiting for my reaction.
“That helps. Thank you.”
“No problem. I think you’ll be okay, Dew—what’s your last name?”
“Brickman now, was Diaz.”
“I think you’ll be okay Dew Was Diaz Brickman.” With a wink, she packs the notebook away. “So you’re gonna be a sophomore or . . . ?”
“Only here for the summer, then off to precollege; a year of exploratory learning.”
“Where are you headed?”
“Caramel School of Massage and Healing Arts, about forty minutes from here so I can go home when I want. Do you know what you’re doing after high school?”
The question strikes me as abrupt. I’ve thought about the future, but not in the context of who I’ll be in it. “Undecided.” “I was, too. Don’t stress too much. It’s only the rest of your life.” She laughs, but it’s glaringly obvious it’s not a joke.
I turn to the stack of papers, still unsure of which boxes to check, which address to write, what emergency contacts to state. My initial reaction is my old Indianapolis address, Plum Street, and my parents’ cell numbers, which I’ve memorized. I have to stop myself and carefully think what is true today—a Pearl Street address in Ivy Springs, and numbers that belong to Stella and Thomas. It’s a habit I wish I didn’t have to break.
As I neatly write my answers, I look up to see a man reminiscent of my father, dressed in desert camouflaged pants and a tan fitted T shirt. He orders a large coffee, black, no sugar. I have a penchant for details. They’re the difference between knowing someone in 2D or 4D. Violet pumps the fresh java from a carafe while the man slides inside a booth near the entrance. The large window lets the sun seep in, coating him in a sunshine glaze; almost angelic. Perhaps it’s my dad inside my bones, mov ing my feet—he never passed a service member without thanking them for their service—but I find myself standing at the foot of this man’s table.
“Thank you for your service,” I say dutifully.
“Thank you,” he says with a warm smile. “I appreciate that.”
“Well, I appreciate you appreciating me, so I suppose we’re at an impasse of gratitude.” I grin, my hands tucked behind my back to fidget with reckless abandon.
He chuckles as his phone rings. “I’m sorry, but I have to take this.”
“Have a great rest of your day,” I say. “And thank you again.”
“No, thank you—” He stops himself with a palm over the phone speaker. “We could go on forever.”
Violet brings a steaming cup to the table. “This cup signifies my gratitude. Plus, you have a really great aura.”
“Thank you,” he tells her before his attention returns to his call.
The crowd has thinned out and I slink back behind the counter without incident. Violet joins me moments later. I study the way the man holds himself, strong and steady. I wonder who he’s leaving, or coming home to. I wonder where he’s been and where he calls home. I don’t mean to eavesdrop. But his dutiful brawn, his voice, his presence, they almost resound in our small space.
“Sir,” he says, shuffling in his seat. “I hadn’t intended to—yes, sir. I understand.”
A sudden, hard silence falls like a gavel, cutting his booth into before andafter: the pleasantries before the call, and his tightened jaw after. He holds the phone steady in the air, parallel to his ear, before clutching it inside his fist. All the color fades from his face. I want to look away, I should look away. But one moment he’s a floating warrior, levitating through fields of all he protects; the next he’s human, weighted by a sharp blow of some one’s brandished words, and I can’t.
“I know that look,” Violet whispers. “Heartbreak.”
She says it like she knows the term well. I refrain from spill ing how deeply I understand its etymology, my focus still attached to this man—a mere stranger I feel strangely connected to—if only because my story has had a few chapters that didn’t end so well.
He dials a new number. His face contorts into different expressions, shaking the tightness loose to find some kind of smile. “Smiling tricks the mind and body into thinking you aren’t
in pain,” Stella taught me. As he forces his lips to upturn, mine do the same.
He clears his throat. “I just wanted to say . . . I . . . I love you. I wish I could stop time, you know? Of course you know. It’s always about the time, isn’t it, baby? We need to talk later. . . . Let me know when you and JJ are back from the farmer’s mar ket. I love you. . . . So much . . . Talk soon.”
Violet sighs. “Man. I feel for him. And whoever that message is for.”
I quietly decide I’ll do my best to unearth his buried treasures in the event there is an answer among them—one I’ve been searching for since everything in my own life changed.
“We all have things buried so deep, it would take a dedicated search team to pull them to the surface,” my counselor told me once. She said it after my parents died, when I first learned of the Brickmans’ interest in fostering me. It was a time when I only felt the pieces of me that went missing. This man is missing some thing, too.
As the clock moves forward, I feel that pull of time passing. Like oars dropped in the ocean, I scramble to grab ahold. But, losing time doesn’t change what’s happened.
In tonight’s top headlines, new Ivy Springs resident and soon-to-be high school sophomore Andrew Brickman finds something he hadn’t intended during his first shift at Baked & Caffeinated: the crushing realization his parents aren’t coming back.
About the Author: Candace Ganger is the author of Six Goodbyes We Never Said and The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash as well as a contributing writer for HelloGiggles and obsessive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. She lives in Ohio with her family.
When Claire finds out at her husbands funeral that he left behind not only a wife, but also a girlfriend and a mistress she decides to rid herself of everything her husband owned and hires a contractor to re-do her Upper East Side brownstone. Scott Turner is surly, tells it like it is, and fills out his flannel shirt like no other. Claire is intrigued. Maybe her brownstone isn’t the only change she needs to make!
I found it fascinating that the three women Claire’s husband conned all became fast friends. Their unique friendship is a fun aspect to this series and that history makes it easy for the reader to root for each of them to find their love match. Claire is very practical and kind of reminded me of myself, so of course I loved her! LOL. I also like surly alpha men so loved Scott immediately. I liked how they talked straight with each other and that their attraction was a slow burn. He might’ve thought she was attractive right from the get go, but it wasn’t until she started to “see” him that way that their thoughts became actions.
I liked Lauren Layne’s style of writing a lot. This was my first novel of hers and I’m definitely going to read the first in this series. I fell in love with all three of these women, but even more I liked the heat level on the romance. They became friends first and the love scenes were more of a fade to black. It was a nice change of pace and reminded me how much I love sweet romances! I’m going to be checking out Layne’s other novels and maybe refreshing my browser to “sweet” instead of “Stanky” on heat level. 🙂 ❤️❤️❤️❤️
I received a free copy of this ARC through NetGalley for my honest review and it was honest!
Now, I know my taste in books may not match your own, but hopefully I’m going to remind you of a couple of releases you may have forgotten was approaching. Or maybe one of these books will just sound good and you’ll add it to your TBR. In either case, these are 5 books that I’m looking forward to reading… some day. LOL
#5 MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK RELEASE
Release Date: October 8th
Genre: YA Contemporary
I love it when something happens in your life to make you take a look at how you are living it and make you want to change things. And she works in a bookstore. How could I resist this one?
From the moment she first learned to read, literary genius Darcy Wells has spent most of her time living in the worlds of her books. There, she can avoid the crushing reality of her mother’s hoarding and pretend her life is simply ordinary. But when a new property manager becomes more active in the upkeep of their apartment complex, the only home Darcy has ever known outside of her books suddenly hangs in the balance.
While Darcy is struggling to survive beneath the weight of her mother’s compulsive shopping, Asher Fleet, a former teen pilot with an unexpectedly shattered future, walks into the bookstore where she works…and straight into her heart. For the first time in her life, Darcy can’t seem to find the right words. Fairy tales are one thing, but real love makes her want to hide inside her carefully constructed ink-and-paper bomb shelter.
Still, after spending her whole life keeping people out, something about Asher makes Darcy want to open up. But securing her own happily-ever-after will mean she’ll need to stop hiding and start living her own truth—even if it’s messy.
I can’t resist my favorite enemies to lovers trope! This one looks totally cute. Oh, and did I ever mention my first job out of school was working for a Tool Company? LOL.
Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men. From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self.
One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps…
When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated. Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real.
Yes, well, after reading Unhoneymooner’s I’m a Christina Lauren fan. This tale of love and redemption sounds like a must read!
Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.
During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.
Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.
Well, I can tell you one thing. I’m not listening to the audiobook while driving. I couldn’t see from all of the tears I shed for Salt to the Sea! This one looks to be just as fabulous, and possibly as heartbreaking. Can’t wait!
Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into the country under the welcoming guise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of a Texas oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys once again shines light into one of history’s darkest corners in this epic, heart-wrenching novel about identity, unforgettable love, repercussions of war, and the hidden violence of silence–inspired by the true post-war struggles of Spain.Includes vintage media interstitials, oral history commentary, photos, and more.
It looks dark. It looks mysterious. Dark and mysterious. Mysterious and dark. Oh, and magical. That’s all I’ve got, but I’m still going to read it.
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.
I’ve sat on this review for a couple of days because 1) I couldn’t decide how I’d be able to write one and 2) I couldn’t figure out how to describe my thoughts and feelings. Let’s start with the back of the book synopsis.
In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut. In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place. Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.
The above synopsis is accurate but totally different than I would have described this novel. Yes, January Scaller is a curiosity. She’s of mixed race and is the ward of a wealthy white businessman. In his social world, she is a curiosity, but she is also biased against, treated pretty abominably by Mr. Locke, and has an absentee father who occasionally visits but has his own agenda that isn’t explained until the end of the book. January lives in a very black and white world. If not for the friendship of the grocer’s son, she’d be unbearably alone and her life would be pretty bleak.
One day she goes delving into a chest in Mr. Locke’s office and finds a book about these Ten Thousand Doors. When she reads this book she can escape from her dismal life through the story of another young girl. That story is about love at first sight and her journey to find a mysterious young man who had stepped through a door from another world. Doors that may or may not be real. This tale is certainly brighter than January’s own story, and for me more interesting. It’s not until the two stories intertwine that I really became invested in The Ten Thousand Doors of January and the character in her own world.
This novel mixed several genre’s creating a kind of hybrid, atmospheric historical fantasy. I would even say it bordered gothic and was very dark. The elegant prose with which it was written, while beautiful, created an emotional barrier that made it really hard for me to immerse myself in the story and care strongly for January. I did have feeling’s for Her and some of the other characters, but I didn’t feel involved or invested in what happened to them. Am I the only person who’s read this novel that feels this way? It feels like it! Other reviews have waxed lyrical about the writing, and it was certainly all that, but for me, there was a piece missing that kept it from being a great novel. Can I pinpoint what that may be? No. Not to say that I hated all of it, I didn’t! I loved how there were doors into other worlds and the possibility of journeys into those worlds. Unfortunately with a couple of exceptions that I can’t go into without spoiling the outcome, those weren’t avenues that were explored much in this novel.
I did like the alternate storyline. It was a wonderful journey of exploration and self discovery. January’s storyline was a bit more subversive, her story was about wanting something strong enough to change her circumstances and go after it. She did do that, I just wish I had cared more for that self exploration than I did. ❤️❤️❤️❣️
I received a free copy of this ARC for my honest review and it was honest.