Tag: Contemporary

The Sea Keeper’s Daughters

Author:  Lisa Wingate
Published: September 1, 2015
400 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating:  3 stars

Book Description:

Wingate’s third Carolina book follows the highly reviewed, The Prayer Box and The Story Keeper as well as related three novellas.

From modern-day Roanoke Island to the sweeping backdrop of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Roosevelt’s WPA folklore writers, past and present intertwine to create an unexpected destiny. . .

Restaurant owner Whitney Monroe is desperate to save her business from a hostile takeover. The inheritance of a decaying Gilded Age hotel on North Carolina’s Outer Banks may provide just the ray of hope she needs. But things at The Excelsior are more complicated than they seem. Whitney’s estranged stepfather is entrenched on the third floor, and the downstairs tenants are determined to save the historic building. Searching through years of stored family heirlooms may be Whitney’s only hope of quick cash, but will the discovery of an old necklace and a depression-era love story change everything

Kim’s Review:

A pattern seems to be emerging with Wingate’s works: I find them unsatisfying. It seems that when I read her books, I get really involved in the story, I like the characters, I want to find out what happens, the description draws me in, I’m fascinated . . . And then I’m left hanging. It’s not that all the questions aren’t answered, they are, they just aren’t answered satisfactorily. For example, Child is sent to an orphanage, Child disappears from orphanage, brothers and sisters of Child grow up, other lost children from the family reappear, at the end of the book, it’s implied that Child is dead, end of book. That’s it?? Cmon you gotta give me more than that!!!! And this book was exactly the same. The bones of the historical mystery come to light at the end of the book, but no details and no real resolution. End of book.

The story was really interesting and I wanted to learn as much as possible and I couldn’t wait to see what happened . . . And then nothing did. I think I may have to DNF any more of her books because I just can’t live with this emptiness inside!

Everything really was good, until the end. She captures the beauty and mystery of Appalachia, and after reading this book, I wanted to go out to Manteo to spend a weekend. I even mostly liked the characters. It was just unsatisfying.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Author: Katherine Center
To Be Published: August 13, 2019
320 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: July 8-12, 2019
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.

Jessica’s Review:

I introduced myself to Katherine Center last year with How to Walk Away (HTWA) (my review is here) and loved it , so I eagerly anticipated her next novel which was Things You Save in a Fire (to be called Things for the rest of this review) and was not disappointed in the least.  And Things is about a female firefighter: Go girl empowerment!

Center wrote the novel through examples of real life situations her volunteer fire fighter husband told her about the job and living in the fire house.  I’ve spent a little time in firehouses and even put the turnout gear on and based on what I experienced, the novel is spot on! 

Our protagonist Cassie made a brief appearance in HTWA which was referenced in Things. You won’t miss anything if you have not read HTWA, but it adds to Cassie’s story if you have already read it. I personally loved how the books were connected.  I really liked Cassie and identified with her in several ways.  Firefighting really is a ‘boys club’ and Cassie totally kicks male butt!  You can’t help but cheer for her.  She is also a conflicted character and feels like a real person.  Center does a great job capturing real life struggles and putting them on the page.  There are moments that will have you laughing and then moments that touch you in a personal way.

This novel has a bit of everything: romance, mystery, action, and yes, we do get a fire! With the fire situation the reader gets the experience of working that fire and going inside with the fire fighters. 

I alluded to it earlier, and want to talk about my experience in a fire house: Back in 2004 I took part in a Citizen’s Fire Academy where I learned about my local fire department, did some training, and spent time at two fire stations with the men on shift.  I got to go on the calls they received, and yes, one was a fire call!  It ended up being a kitchen fire that was out by the time we arrived on the scene.  It was a great experience and if the opportunity arises, everyone should do this! You really get a new appreciation and respect for what they do. 

Bravo Katherine Center for an enjoyable novel that accurately portrays life in a fire house base on what I experienced myself.  When you read this novel, you will get to see what life as a fire fighter is like in a 24 hour shift: from the silliness to seriousness. 

Things You Save in a Fire is very highly recommended.  Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for granting me an e-arc that I received via NetGalley. 

Pre-order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Some pictures from when I went through the Citizen’s Fire Academy:



Hope and Other Punchlines

Author: Julie Buxbaum
Published: May 7, 2019
304 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future.

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?

Kim’s Review:

I read the description while browsing the books in Target and I was just fascinated. When I was teaching in Hawaii, I would make sure to do a special lesson every year on 9/11. I realized that my students were the very last of the kids who were born right before September 11, yet they weren’t old enough to remember what happened that day. I’m pretty sure that most of our followers at Jessica’s Reading Room are old enough to remember what happened and we all remember exactly where we were when we found out about the attacks:

I was in Mrs. Hand’s 8th grade English class. Then we all trekked across campus for chapel where we had a school wide prayer meeting. Later that night, my mom admitted that she thought it was a prank when she heard it on the radio but when she realized it was serious, she wanted to come pick us up right away from school. Everybody meeting in a huge building like the Founders Memorial Amphitorium didn’t sound like such a hot idea that day. We all have stories and memories that stick in our brains down to the smallest details.

This book is about a baby who was photographed being saved from one of the towers; the photo made her famous and she doesn’t remember a thing. She then has to learn to navigate her life around this photo, dealing with people who draw hope from it, even when she was too young to have any idea of what was happening. I very much liked the perspective of the younger kids who lived through it, but don’t remember. This is such a great book to have in high school classrooms and would be a great teaching tool. While it doesn’t focus on the details of the attack, it does give an in-depth look at the aftermath.

Believe it or not, this was not an ugly cry book for me. I did get misty and my heart definitely warmed. I liked this book a lot and I would absolutely recommend it!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK