Readers' Favorite

Featured Post

Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

September 14, 2019

5 Books to Read This Fall

by Susan Roberts

The kids are back in school and the hot muggy days are a thing of the past so it must be FALL - my favorite time of the year.  I have reviews of an eclectic group of new books - from non-fiction to suspense with some women's fiction in the mix.  I enjoyed all of them and want to share them with you.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Things You Save in a Fire
August 2019; St. Martin's Press; 978-1250047328
audio, ebook, print (320 pages); women's fiction
"Yes the world is full of unspeakable cruelty.  But the answer wasn't to never feel hope, or bliss, or love but to savor every fleeting, precious second of those feelings when they come.  The answer wasn't to never love anyone.  It was to love like crazy whenever you could." (p 235)

This is a fantastic well-written novel about learning to love. It's the story of someone very strong who needs to learn to live life more fully by accepting the softer parts of life and learning to accept others.

Cassie is a firefighter in Texas. She's tough as nails and can keep up with the male firefighters in every way - from winning obstacle courses to playing pranks on other firefighters. She's tough and totally accepted as part of the fire team and she wants to stay that way. Her dad raised her after her mom left when she was a teenager and she feels that living her life without love is the best way to live. Until...her estranged mother calls and asks her to move to Boston for one year to help take care of her. Cassie reluctantly agrees and gets a job at a very traditional fire station in Boston, where there has never been a woman firefighter and she is not accepted until she is able to prove her worth to male firefighters. She is faced with blatant discrimination from everyone but a rookie who started at the fire department the same day she did. As she begins to have feelings for the rookie, she has to decide if she wants to continue her tough loveless life or open herself up to love and caring about other people.

This is a fantastic novel about love and life and family. I really enjoyed the character of Cassie and her attitude and determination are what I'll remember about her.

Buy Things You Save in a Fire at Amazon

A Fire Sparkling by Julianne MacLean 

A Fire Sparkling
August 2019; Lake Union Publishing
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); historical fiction
"I should have seen it coming-felt the tremors before the big quake.  If I had, maybe I would have been ready to act when the walls came crashing down.  But my behavior was more in line with a flight response.  I didn't pause to evaluate the situation or choose the best way forward.  I simply took off.   (loc 86)

"Love is a smoke rais'd with the fume of sighs;  being purg'd, a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes"  William Shakespeare -  Romeo and Juliet

This new novel is a blend of history and romance, between present-day and WWII. it's a book about family and love and forgiveness all put together with lots of research and likable characters. It's well written and one of my favorite books of the year.

After Gillian catches her boyfriend cheating on her, she runs home to be with her father and grandmother. Her father had just discovered pictures of his mother with a Nazi during WWII and he and Gillian want to find out the story behind the pictures. Her grandmother reluctantly shares the story of her life during the war. The more questions that are answered, the more new questions arise. Gillian decides to go to London to ask questions - but is she ready to hear the answers?

The history that her grandmother shares all takes place before and during WWII. Her grandmother lived in a poor area and had an abusive father. A rich man falls in love with her and is disinherited when he marries her. They are deeply in love and both (plus her sister) do what they can to survive the war.

The story - especially during the war is so well written that you feel like you are in London during the Blitz. The author did an excellent job of showing what life was like in London during this time. The characters were very likable and their fear was deeply felt. The dual timeline plot was well done and I enjoyed both the present-day story and the historical story. The author did a lot of research on what life was like in England and France during this time period and it made the story so much more realistic.

This is a story of love and forgiveness, family and friendship. It has romance, mystery, bravery, danger and most of all love. I read a lot of WWII historical fiction and this one ranks near the top of the list.

Buy A Fire Sparkling at Amazon

Carnegie Hill by Jonathan Vatner

Carnegie Hill
August 2019; Thomas Dunne Books; 978-1250174765
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); women's fiction
"Pepper had been dressing up a lot lately.  It was a shortcut to looking mature, even if she didn't feel that way.  Despite being on the verge of thirty-three, she still felt like a teenager on the inside.  Maybe it was because she'd lived at home until a few months ago. Or because she never had a job that felt like a career.  Or because she wasn't married yet, unlike most of her friends, including her younger sister Maisie.  Or because she didn't have sturdy opinions about politics and religion and everything else that people argued about.  Or because she still used her parents' credit card and resented them for giving her advice.  She didn't know how other people grew up."  (p3)

This book about people living in an upscale building in NYC is a debut for this author. It's full of interesting but quirky people, some of whom were very difficult to like. There is a bit of humor and a lot of angst as the main character tries to grow up at 33 years of age.

Three main things that make up the theme of this book:

  • Just because someone is rich, doesn't make them nice, kind, honest or happy.
  • It's never too late to grow up but to do so, you need to cut the ties that bind you to your parents.
  • You should follow your gut feelings about important things in life like getting married. If you don't think it's the right thing to do, cancel the wedding even though all of the plans are made.

Pepper is a 33-year-old woman who lived with her parents until she moved in with her fiancĂ©, who works in finance. She seems to be in love with Rick but it also makes her feel good to know that she's done something to displease her parents who continue to try to run her life (as she continues to use their credit cards). She has held a variety of small jobs but nothing that was a real career and she is presently out of work when she decides to join the building co-op board that is made up of residents much older than her who have approved her for the board only because she has a family name well known in NYC. She tries to make some changes to the board but her suggestions are ignored. As her relationship with her fiancĂ© begins to unravel, she tries to decide how to best handle things by looking at the marriages of various members of the board and she depends heavily on her therapist to help her make decisions. The only way I can describe Pepper is that she is a mess -- a major mess. The big question is whether she will be able to grow up and live her own life? Or will she continue to follow the guidance of her parents and her therapist?  Is there a happily ever after in her future?

It is very difficult to love a book when you dislike most of the characters. I found Pepper to be spoiled and out of touch with reality. Her finance Rick was only worried about himself - his needs for sex and more money. Her parents were rich snobs as were most of the people in the co-op. The only couple that I really liked was Sergei and Caleb, a porter and a doorman who were in a relationship. I would have enjoyed reading more about their story and less about the vapid rich people in the apartment.

Overall, I thought that this was an interesting look at how the rich live in NYC. I am looking forward to future books by this author - I think that he has a lot of promise as a writer.

Buy Carnegie Hill at Amazon

The Murder List by Hank Phillippi Ryan 

The Murder List
August 2019; Forge Books; 978-1250197214
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); thriller
"How long does it take to ruin everything?  One moment.  One wrong decision.  One mistake.  One unfortunate assumption or ill-chosen word or even a misunderstood gift.  The dominoes fall, never to be righted."  (loc 4187)

This is a wonderful suspense novel that will keep you guessing until the end. As I read it, I'd think that I had it all figured out, only to find a few pages later that I was totally wrong. I love books that keep me guessing until the end.

This book has three main characters:

  • Martha -- She is the assistant DA and a ruthless attorney who always wants to be right and a winner.
  • Jack -- He is a defense attorney - one of the best in Boston. He is on the murder list - a group of attorneys who can handle murder cases. He also is ruthless and wants to win - whether his client is guilty or innocent.
  • Rachel -- She is caught in the middle between Martha and Jack. She is married to Jack and in law school. Her goal is to work with Jack at his law firm. 

Jack and Martha are enemies and often on the same cases - on different sides, of course. When Martha hires Rachel as a 3-month intern, Jack is totally against it and thinks that Martha has an ulterior motive. Rachel wants to go ahead and learn how Martha does her job so that she can feed information to Jack to help him win cases. But is Rachel really in the middle or does she have her own ulterior motives? The answer to this question will have you turning pages way past your bedtime to decide what her ultimate plan really is. In this cat and mouse game--the battle for justice becomes a battle for survival. I loved the suspense!

Buy The Murder List at Amazon

Crescendo: The Story of a Musical Genius Who Forever Changed a Southern Town by Allen Cheney & Julie Cantrell 

July 2019; Thomas Nelson; 978-0785217404
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); biography
"It has been said that we are lucky if we can find one person who restores our hope when all is lost.  One who sees something of worth in us, even when we fail to see it in ourselves or one who helps push us to be better than we thought we could be.  For thousands of students who grew up in the quaint southern town of Thomasville, Georgia, that one person was a  music teacher by the name of Fred Allen, a man born poor and hungry in the shadows of cotton mills."  (loc 33)

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but when I saw this book, I had to read it.  And I am really glad that I did.  In this day and age with heroes being sports figures or actors, this is the story of a real hero.  A man who had a gift that he shared with his students and subsequently made them not only better students but more importantly better citizens for the world of their futures.

A story of mercy, miracles, and melody—and above all else: love.

Fred Allen was born during the Depression to a poor family near the dying out cotton mills. He had a gift that was exhibited very early in his life - he could play the piano.  He had no lessons and no training but by kindergarten, he was playing Chopin and other difficult pieces.  His family felt that this gift was a curse and locked the piano away from him.  He was neglected and hungry and unloved throughout his growing up years with very few people caring about him at all.   With the help of some well-placed mentors along the way, Fred ended up going to Juilliard school of music in NYC, working for one of the major record labels and appearing on Broadway.  Even when he was at the top of his life and doing everything he had ever dreamed of, married to a woman he loved with a small daughter he adored, he could never totally find happiness in his life.  After several major missteps, he started to lose the life he worked for and had to make some crucial decisions - was life in the spotlight worth losing his family?  Had he worked too hard to achieve recognition from the music industry to give it up for love and family?  Once that decision was made, he went to on bigger and better things -- not on the NY stage but as a teacher and a choir leader in a small town in Georgia where he worked with young people and believed in them- often more than they believed in themselves and acted as a mentor -just like the mentors who had helped him when he was younger.

This is the story of a life well-lived.  Of a man who had nothing but ended up with love and respect from so many people.  Fred Allen has helped the life of many children who may have been lost without him.  He is a real hero for this modern age.

This biography was lovingly written by his grandson Allen Cheney in collaboration with Julie Cantrell.  If you want a book that makes you feel uplifted, this is the book for you.

Buy Crescendo at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter

Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.


  1. I've been hearing great things about Things You Save in a Fire! Awesome list!