YVO’S SHORTIES #154 – Love And Other Words & The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two contemporary reads I’ve been meaning to read for a while… And both Love And Other Words and The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry turned out to be excellent reads.


Title: Love And Other Words
Author: Christina Lauren

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 10th 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Finished reading: March 16th 2020
Pages: 433

“It never occurred to me that love could be anything other than all-consuming. Even as a child, I knew I never wanted anything less.”


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I think most of you will probably know by now that contemporary romance and me don’t really tend to get along, but there are a select few authors that can make me enjoy the genre. I guess I can now add the Christina Lauren duo to that list too! My first experience with their work back in January, The Unhoneymooners, was a success and I had the exact same result with Love And Other Words. Despite the sexy scenes definitely not being for me, I fell in love with the characters and their story… The writing style made it really easy to keep turning those pages, and I like how the story switches back and forward between then and now, slowly letting you get to know the current and past Macey and Elliot. The question of what happened between them to cause such a rupture all those years ago added a level of intrigue to the story, and while the final reveal was a bit of an anticlimax for me mostly, I think the development of the plot and characters in general was well handled. I loved both characters as well as the bookish elements in the story… Sexy scenes and love triangle aside, I think this might be a new favorite Christina Lauren, and that is 100% thanks to both the characters and the writing in general. Fans of the genre will without doubt adore this book!


Title: The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: April 1st 2014
Publisher:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Finished reading: March 23rd 2020
Pages: 320

“We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone.”


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I’ve had The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry on my radar for a long time now, and I even bought a physical copy last year in the hope I would actually pick it up sooner. I guess that didn’t happen, and I’m definitely kicking myself now because I have found myself a new favorite nowI love bookish books and this story is without doubt filled to the brim with most wonderful bookish references. And that is not the only bookish thing about this book: most of the story takes place in a bookstore and we have a bookstore owner and publisher sales rep in the spotlight as two of the important characters. Talk about heaven if you love bookish books! The writing is wonderful and I really liked the plot and plot development as well. The main focus is on bookstore owner A.J. Fikry of course, and it is his quirky and grumpy personality as well as his personal development that really make this story special for me. The characters in general are so easy to like and my heart ached for them as the story continued… Sad moments are combined with more happy ones, and The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry will most definitely play with your emotions. It’s a story that will stay with me for quite some time, and I already know I will want to reread it in the future!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #149 – Things In Jars & The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two titles I have been really excited about and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick them up… I won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars last year and I have been eyeing it ever since; I’m still kicking myself for not reading it sooner as I absolutely loved it. And I had high hopes for The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry as Harold sounded like my kind of character, and he is definitely the reason this story worked so well for me.


Title: Things In Jars
Author: Jess Kidd

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: Canongate Books
Finished reading: February 8th 2020
Pages: 416

“Here is time held in suspension.

Yesterday pickled.

Eternity in a jar.”


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I actually won a gorgeous hardback copy of Things In Jars in a giveaway last year, but somehow it took me way longer than expected to actually read it… I’m kicking myself now, because it was an absolutely brilliant read. I admit that I was sold as soon as I read the blurb, with that Victorian London vibe as well as the supernatural feel and the detective angle. And the execution definitely lived up to expectations and more! The wonderful prose only enhances that Victorian London feel of the plot, I loved the hint of the surreal and the Irish folklore and this is definitely magical realism and Gothic mystery at its best. The characters are definitely part of this story works so well, and both Bridie and the other important character form a fascinating cast and take the story to the next level. Their descriptions and development really made them come alive for me and they are without doubt quirky and colorful! The supernatural aspect of the plot with the Irish folklore elements is simply spot on, and gave the story a vibe that is probably best described as a mix between Gothic and magical realism with a hint of (Victorian) urban fantasy. Quite an impressive cocktail, but one that works splendidly! The suspense and plot twists are also well handled, and I liked how the whole detective angle was incorporated into the plot. The different elements in Things In Jars are well balanced in general and together form an absolutely intriguing story that will stay with me for a long time.The unique and diverse cast of characters, the folklore, the plot, the writing, the suspense… There is just so much to love!


Title: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry
(Harold Fry #1)
Author: Rachel Joyce

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 15th 2012
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Finished reading: February 13th 2020
Pages: 297

“But maybe it’s what the world needs. A little less sense, and a little more faith.”


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The truth is that I have been wanting to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry for years now. There was just something about the blurb and main character Harold Fry that made me think it would be my kind of book, and I thought his character was giving off seriously A Man Called Ove vibes too… My instincts turned out to be right on both counts, and Harold Fry is without doubt the reason this story worked so well for me. While the pace might be a tad slow, this can be explained by the fact that despite the pilgrimage and constant moving on the main characer this book is mostly a character-driven story. Harold Fry takes the spotlight of course, but the diverse, unique and quirky collection of people he meets along the way really made the story come alive for me. Harold Fry decided to walk across the UK in order to save an old colleague, Queenie, who sent him a goodbye letter stating she has terminal cancer. Harold decided on the spur that a response letter wasn’t enough, and started walking all unprepared without proper shoes or equipment. It was fascinating to follow his journey, learn more about the people he meets along the way and seeing how his pilgrimage changes Harold as well… I did guess the truth about his son really early on, which was a shame, but I liked how the story ended overall. And I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to read more about Queenie’s story now! The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking journey and a character-driven story with a wide cast of quirky characters… Recommended if you enjoy slower fiction reads!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #148 – Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet & What We Saw

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two backlist titles I’ve been wanting to read for a while, and both turned out to be excellent reads. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet by Jamie Ford was both hardbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and while What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler is without doubt a darker read, the heavy elements including rape and victim shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed.


Title: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet
Author: Jamie Ford

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
First published: January 27th 2009
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Finished reading: February 3rd 2020
Pages: 396

“The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.”


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I confess I have been meaning to read Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet for years now, and last year I thought getting a physical copy would help making me finally read it. It still took me way longer than expected, but I finally did! I think it’s probably known by now that I have a weak spot for WWII historical fiction and this story is able to give us an original angle. Set in Seattle during the war, the focus is on the Chinese and Japanese community and the threats the Japanese community receives as a direct consequence of Japan’s role in WWII. Main characters Henry and Keiko are able to describe this inner conflict, the racism and the consequences for the Japanese community perfectly. Switching between 1942-1945 and 1986 and between young and old Henry, we slowly learn more about the events that started and blossomed the friendship between Henry and Keiko as well as the more serious events involving the Japanese community as a whole. On top of that we have a wonderful extra element in the form of jazz music and Sheldon, who was such a lovely character and he definitely added a little something extra to the story as well as both him and his music providing a red thread to weave the past and present together. Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet is a beautifully written, poignant and sometimes heartbreaking read, but not without a note of hope… And it is able to describe the race problematics and injustice for all those innocent Japanese families perfectly. I’m positive any historical fiction fan will have an excellent time reading this wonderful story about Henry and Keiko!


Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Finished reading: February 4th 2020
Pages: 336

“I wonder which is worse: the fear of the unknown? Or knowing for sure that something terrible is true?”


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I’ve been wanting to read What We Saw for a while now, and I’m definitely glad my TBR jar thought it was time to finally pick it up. I already knew this wasn’t going to be an easy read with the rape and victim blaming topic, and it is without doubt trigger warning worthy… That said, I thought the author did an excellent job portraying the whole situation as well as shining an all important light on the topic. Sadly the events as described What We Saw are all too real and sadly rape victims like Stacey become victims all over again when nobody believes their story and people simply say ‘she had it coming’ or ‘she asked for it with the way she dressed and by being wasted’ without knowing the facts… It was interesting to see the whole story from Kate’s POV as she wasn’t directly involved or too close to the victim. Instead, we see the whole situation as an ‘outsider’ wanting to uncover the truth and not accept what everybody wants or finds it easy to believe as the truth… And showing in the process how hard it can be to go against the popular kids and just how far victim blaming can go. What We Saw is definitely a darker read, but the heavy elements including rape and victime blaming/shaming are excellently and realistically portrayed. If you can stomach it, it makes for a very interesting read!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #147 – When We Left Cuba & Lock Every Door

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two 2019 titles I’ve been looking forward to… When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton turned out to be just as good as I hoped, but sadly Lock Every Door by Riley Sager took the wrong direction for me and the ending highly disappointed me.


Title: When We Left Cuba
Author: Chanel Cleeton

Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
First published: April 9th 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: January 29th 2020
Pages: 366

“The only way to stop being afraid of something is to confront it. To take away its power over you.”


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My first experience with Chanel Cleeton‘s books, Next Year In Havana, completely blew me away last year and it ended up being one of my absolute favorites of 2019. I made a promise to myself to make time for When We Left Cuba in January, and it is easy to say that I had superhigh expectations for this story about Beatriz. And while I admit I did love Elisa and Marisol’s story a tiny bit more, there is also no doubt that I had a brilliant time with When We Left Cuba as well. First of all a little warning: while this is no official sequel, you will be able to appreciate the little references and the Perez family background so much better if you read Next Year In Havana first. It will make you able to get a proper feel for the story from the very first page, as you already know things about Beatriz and her secrets that have been hinted at. And with this background, I found myself completely addicted from the very first chapter. I have always found Beatriz an intriguing character and she is without doubt perfect to describe and show us what happens to Cuba and the Cubans in the years after Fidel Castro took over. The focus in When We Left Cuba is on 1960-1962, which includes the Cuban Missile Crisis as well as the Kennedy Assassination… And I love how this story incorporates historical facts into Beatriz’ fictional story. There are a lot of different elements in play, including high society, forbidden love, politics, revenge, espionage, crime, Cuba and the Cold War. More heavy topics are contrasted with lighter elements such as forbidden love; I’m surprised myself when I say I wasn’t bothered at all by the whole forbidden love trope. I think this has a lot to do with my feelings about Beatriz, as I really like her character despite her recklessness and stubbornness. It was easy to connect to and feel for most characters in general, including of course Nick and Eduardo. The writing is simply wonderful and the plot well constructed; while there are a few chapters set in 2016, the focus is mostly on the past this time and follows Beatriz in a linear way. As you might have guessed, I absolutely loved my time with When We Left Cuba and I can recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre.


Title: Lock Every Door
Author: Riley Sager

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
First published: July 2nd 2019
Publisher: Dutton
Finished reading: February 1st 2020
Pages: 381

“This place isn’t kind to gentle souls. It chews them up and swallows them whole.


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Oh yes, hello unpopular opinion, we meet again! I know a lot of people love Riley Sager‘s books and I did enjoy The Last Time I Lied considerably when I read it last year, but mostly the hype around his work ends up bringing me down… Sadly, this was once again the case with Lock Every Door and I ended up being considerably underwhelmed by what I found. Don’t get me wrong, the story started out strong and I loved that ominous feeling, the hint at the supernatural and the dark secrets and history of the Bartholomew. The plot almost feels like a locked room mystery, something I always have a weak spot for and I really thought this was going to be my new favorite of his books. Unfortunately, the story lost me somewhere along the way… First of all, Jules was quite a frustrating character. Sure, she is in a hard place in life and basically desperate, but the offer to be an apartment sitter with such a generous pay just sounded too good to be true… Initial lack of suspicion I can understand, but after so many alarmbells ringing and having a friend to help out so she won’t end up on the street Jules still being stubborn and not wanting to see any danger? A bit too convenient for the plot and not credible to me. This is only minor compared to my reacting to the final reveals and the ending. Not only did I guess more than one mayor plot twists as well as villian VERY early on, the ending was completely unsatisfying and just too plain simple for me. It really let that ominous feeling of the beginning of the story as well as the Bartholomew itself completely down… Thankfully the writing was engaging enough to turn this into a fast read, but I really wished this story would have taken a different and more interesting direction here.


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BOOK REVIEW: How To Be Brave – by Louise Beech @Orendabooks

Title: How To Be Brave
Author: Louise Beech
Genre: Historical Fiction, Contemporary
First published: June 1st 2015
Publisher: Orenda Books
Finished reading: January 18th 2020
Pages: 300

“You have to know how to be sad to know how to be happy and if you know both of those things you’ll know how to be brave.”

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Oh boy, this book hit me hard! It’s been almost two weeks since I finished How To Be Brave, and I’m still struggling to get something somewhat coherent on paper… Such is the power of anything Louise Beech writes! My first two experiences with her work, Call Me Star Girl and The Lion Tamer Who Lost, already made me an ardent fan of her writing, and How To Be Brave has only reconfirmed my love. What an absolutely stunning read! Before I try to start my rambles about How To Be Brave, I just have to say that Louise Beech is one of the select few authors that can pull off a variety of different topics and genres and maintain that same high quality in each and every single story. For that same reason, Louise Beech now shares a spot right at the top of favorite auto-buy authors I would read no matter what without even checking the blurb or genre first!

Let’s try and discuss How To Be Brave now. There are so many elements I loved in this story, and I’m honestly having a hard time figuring out where to start. I was tempted to leave it at “just read the damn book” and call it a day, which would pretty much be a summary of my thoughts in the first place, but it doesn’t do this stunning and heartbreaking read justice at all… So let’s start at the beginning, and let’s talk about the plot. How To Be Brave is roughly split in two with a dual timeline. On one hand, we have the contemporary family drama storyline where Natalie and her nine-year-old daughter Rose struggle to come to terms with a diabetes 1 diagnosis that changed both their lives forever. To contrast this, we have a historical fiction survivor story set in 1943, where we read about the survivors of a shipwreck during WWII. Both fascinating stories on their own, and combined they truly turn this story into something else. With a technique that had that timeslip vibe, both storylines are combined through the diary of Natalie’s grandfather Colin who was one of the men that survived the shipwreck. Past and present are blurred as not only Colin seems to guide both Natalie and Rose through the changes diabetes 1 introduces into their lives, but Rose also seems to appear in the past… This technique is definitely one of the elements that makes How To Be Brave both unique and a worthy new all time favorite to add to my list.

Let’s talk about the contemporary storyline first. The focus is on Natalie and her nine-year-old daughter Rose, who has just been diagnosed with diabetes 1. I loved how this story was able to teach us more about what it is like to adapt your life after such a diagnosis, and show us how heartbreaking, difficult and seemingly hopeless the struggle can be when it involves a child. How To Be Brave helps shine a light on diabetes 1 and I applaude the author for incorporating a theme so close to home into one of her books. Especially as there is still so much misinformation and ignorance about diabetes 1… The struggle of both Natalie and Rose is portrayed realistically and beautifully, and will most likely break your heart before you reach that final page.

The historical part of this story is set in 1943, with Natalie’s grandfather Colin as the narrator. After a shipwreck, Colin and part of the crew manage to survive and find themselves on a lifeboat waiting to be rescued. We learn about what happens in the days after through Colin’s diary, the same diary Natalie uses to distract Rose during her injections as they start reading the pages. I loved that the lifeboat story of Colin is actually based on what happened to the author’s own grandfather in 1943 and it definitely makes this story feel so much more authentic because of it. Part memoir, part biography, part fiction and without doubt a very powerful combination that takes the story to the next level!

The writing is once again sublime, and the same can be said for the character development of the main characters. Both Natalie, Rose and Colin are thoroughly and realistically developed, making my heart feel for them as I was fully absorbed in their lives. Realistic stories and characters have their ups and downs, and this was masterfully achieved in How To Be Brave. Oh yes, this story is an emotional, raw and heartbreaking story with an ultimate message of hope and learning how to be brave. It’s yet another story that completely blew me away and left me lost for words after that final page… How To Be Brave is simply a fascinating mix of historical fiction and a contemporary family drama, combined through a diary and that timeslip vibe. I’m also already 100% positive it will appear on my list of 2020 favorite books!


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YVO’S SHORTIES #145 – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened & Regretting You

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I’ve been looking forward to… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson for years now, as I loved her humor in Furiously Happy, but sadly this first memoir didn’t have that same spark for me. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover was without doubt a great read though, although not my absolute favorite of hers.


Title: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir, Humor
First published: April 12th 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: January 15th 2020
Pages: 328

“Everyone else there had a sophisticated palate. I had one that needed therapy, and possibly an intervention.”


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I had so much fun when I read Furiously Happy back in 2016, and I’m still not sure why it took me this long to pick up Jenny Lawson‘s first memoir… I’ve been meaning to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened for years now, and although I’m glad I finally did, a part of me was a bit disappointed by what I found. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad read, but somehow that spark of Furiously Happy wasn’t really there for me. The snarky, blunt and sometimes sarcastic humor is still there, and I can’t deny laughing out loud more than once. But other parts felt like the author was simply trying to hard to be funny and quirky. And when the supposedly funny bits are starting to feel forced it really takes away from the reading experience. Some chapters worked better for me than others, and I didn’t always like how she talked about sometimes heavy topics… It’s one thing to not take yourself seriously and make fun of yourself, but certain comments/chapters could be insulting to some. The photos are a nice touch though! All in all, while it wasn’t a bad read, it by no means lived up to my reading experience with Furiously Happy. Might it just be that it is because raccoon Rory doesn’t appear in this first memoir? Or was it the different focus in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Who knows, but I’m going to stick with Rory for sure.


Title: Regretting You
Author: Colleen Hoover

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: December 10th 2019
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Finished reading: January 20th 2020
Pages: 365

“I feel like the contents of my life have shattered, and fragments of me have spilled out all over someone’s dusty hardwood floor.”


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I’ve been excited to read this one as, while I seem to have a love/hate relationship with her books, I did enjoy her most recent books without exception. Regretting You uses a dual POV, switching between Morgan and her daughter Clara, to tell us their story in the aftermath of a terrible accident. Morgan found herself pregnant with Clara at seventeen and doesn’t want her now sixteen year old daughter make the same mistakes… This is soon put in perspective as their lives seemed to crash after the accident. Secrets come to light, grief makes them different persons and both struggle to see and understand the truth behind the situation. I have to say that the whole cheating angle REALLY bothered me, and especially how both Morgan and Johah were treated. Absolutely despicable! My aversion is a personal reaction though and while it made me enjoy the story considerably less, I do think it was described well. I was truly disappointed by certain behavior of certain characters though… And I can’t say I was that much of a fan of either Morgan or Clara. That said, I absolutely adored Miller and I quite liked Jonah too despite a few disappointments. It was interesting to see the different relationships evolve over time and see the plot develop and reveal its secrets and twists… And surprise: I didn’t even mind the sexy scenes! In short: while Regretting You isn’t my absolute favorite CoHo book and there were a few things that bothered me (including the whole cheating angle and certain behavior of certain characters), I can’t deny it was still an excellent read and I had a great time reading it overall.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #143 – Like This For Ever & Things You Save In A Fire

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but both books I really enjoyed. The third Lacey Flint book Like This For Ever was slightly different than the previous books as Lacey is not that present, but it is without doubt one that ends with a bang. And I loved my time with Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center! She’s definitely on my short list of authors that can make me actually enjoy romance.


Title: Like This For Ever
(Lacey Flint #3)
Author: Sharon Bolton

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: April 11th 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press
Finished reading: January 7th 2020
Pages: 400

“The mask that was Lacey Flint, the mask that her true self hid behind, the mask that could never be allowed to slip again. “


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It took me longer than expected, but I finally came around reading my latest TBR jar pick… It has been interesting to meet up with Lacey Flint again and to see how past events affected her. The story is told through multiple POVs, including Lacey, Dana and Barney. Lacey isn’t as active in this book as she is not currently on duty after everything that happened previously, but somehow she ends up being involved anyway… And Barney’s POV is particularly interesting as we not often have a kid as one of the leading characters. Dana represents the detective team that includes well known Mark Joesbury, currently working on the case where young boys go missing only to turn up dead days later with their throats slashed. Who is behind these killings and why are the murders so atypical? I fully thought I had the whole plot figured out, and I was even starting to feel disappointed, only for the plot twist granades to be thrown at me from an angle I definitely didn’t see coming… Those final developments left me mostly flabbergasted and with a fully reinstated positive opinion about this book. I love it when a story manages to mislead me! This is also one of those books you will finish in record time, and I literally finished it in less than a day. Lacey comes over as more than a bit unhinged in this sequel, but it has definitely made me curious about what will happen with her in the final book. I’m hoping to read it soon! Trigger warnings are in place for self harm and suicide among other things.


Title: Things You Save In A Fire
Author: Katherine Center

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
First published: August 13th 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Finished reading: January 8th 2020
Pages: 320

“That’s how life is. Things happen. Lives get broken. Some people never can put themselves back together.”


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I really enjoyed How To Walk Away last year and I have been meaning to read this one ever since…I’m definitely kicking myself for not doing so sooner, because I loved Things You Save In A Fire even more. I know I’m not really one of the biggest romance fans around, but I do love a change of genre every once in a while and there are a select few romance authors that can make me actually enjoy the genre. I have now confirmed Katherine Center is one of them. Heartwarming, poignant, honest, brutal and sometimes even shocking: Things You Save In A Fire will take you on a rollercoaster ride filled with emotions. Heavy topics including rape, cancer, death, gender discrimination and addiction are balanced with lighter moments and just the right dose of banter and romance. You will find yourself rooting for both Cassie and Owen (aka Rookie) before you know it, and I loved that this story gave us more insight of what is really going on inside a fire station. Firefighters are the heart and soul of this story and I really appreciated how the author not only described the inner workings of everything involving firefighters but also made it fundamental to the plot. The deeper meaning of the need for forgiveness ran throughout the whole story and will apply on multiple levels… It was fascinating to see the different characters evolve and grow over time, and I can see why this book has received so much love. I’m definitely part of this group now! Fans of the genre should consider Things You Save In A Fire a powerful and heartwarming as well as heartbreaking must-read.


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