Dewey’s 24 hr readathon wrap up

Whew, I am finally here to wrap up Saturday’s 24 hr readathon. For some reason I am always busier then I think I will be. I think with the pandemic I got used to my kids not having that much to do and that is no longer the case but I haven’t made the mental shift yet. Saturday the readathon started at 5am for me and so it ended at 5am Sunday. I was so tired when I went to bed on Friday that I somehow managed to not save my alarm for 5 but I still woke up at 5:40 so I started from there. I tried to make it as long as I could but I finally tapped out at 1:30 am which means I did most of the 24 hr readathon. I also posted most hours so I will link all those posts at the end if you want to follow along with what I did that day.

My two oldest boys also participated in the readathon which was very exciting for me because I love how much they enjoy reading. My youngest is only 4 so he wasn’t quite able to join in but he did play ABC mouse while he did some snacking with us. And of course he gets read to anytime he asks pretty much so I hope when he is older he will want to read with us!

Total books read

Hunter: 2 read/finished (had already started previously). 1 partially read.

Connor: 3 audiobooks listened to (all from the Who Was series) and started a reread of Scythe

Me: 5 read. 1 finished that I previously started. 1 DNF

Wrap Up

DNF

I read 87 pages of this but I decided to put it down because it had multiple instances of detailing someone dying of cancer and that is a topic that is extremely hard for me to read. I can usually push past it but it kept being brought up and it brought my mood and reading pace down. Whenever I decide to DNF a book I always look up spoiler reviews so I can get some resolution on the story and boy after reading some reviews was I glad I put this down. It seems like I put it down while the plot was still somewhat together and after that it turns into a whole other story. I thought this was going to be a ghost story but apparently it is more of a romance which I wouldn’t have guessed at all. I knew there was a love interest but I thought he would be helping her investigate the creepy happenings of their boardinghouse but I was wrong. If you like romance with some paranormal elements then perhaps this is a book you would enjoy.

Books read

4 stars

This is a really cute romance between two long lost loves. The pacing of the main story was very quick. It had that insta love feeling since they fall back into their relationship so quickly after meeting again. The ending was also not great and a total rip off of a popular romance movie. However, the edition that I read had a few short additional stories that tell different parts of their relationship and it helped make everything seem more real. I really appreciated the sex talk in one story because it is not very often when a book is so open about safe sex options for women relationships. I also enjoyed the story that had some actual conflict between the wives and seeing them work through it was rewarding. When I first read this I gave it five stars but since thinking about it more I have lowered it down to four stars. The last story in the book also teased what the second volume will be about and I will definitely be picking that up.

4 stars

I will have a full review up for this season since it was gifted to me by the publisher. A really fun domestic thriller that is centered around Halloween.

4 stars

I read this because my son, Connor, has been wanting me to for awhile so I went into it without knowing anything. And I was not expecting a horror. This is basically the middle grade version of Junji Ito. Both the story and the art are creepy and there were a few instances where I was grossed out. The only downside to this book is that it doesn’t have a satisfying ending.

4 stars

This is another one that Connor wanted me to read but I obviously knew what this was about going into it. Although I was pleasantly surprised by how much I learned reading this.. There were a lot of interesting details about what was happening around the time of the Donner party that I never heard of before. These Nathan Hale books are great and my history loving son is obsessed with them. I also appreciated that there were trigger warnings for the kids reading this before it got into the graphic parts of the story.

5 stars

The perfect addition to the Stranger Things story that we all know and love from the tv show. This graphic novel showcases how important Dungeon and Dragons is to the friend group before the events of the first season and in between every other season. Stranger Things is my favorite show of all time so this was just a heartwarming read.

5 stars

One of the best written books I have ever read. Camilla Bruce is a genius and I have made it my mission to read everything she has ever written. (I recently got a collection of fairy tale retellings just so I can read her story.) A lot of people are not going to like this book and that’s ok. But if you love weird creepy books with unreliable narrators then this is one that I think you will enjoy. The topic of sexual abuse is a heavy theme of this story so please be aware of that if you are thinking of reading this. I will eventually have a full (probably spoiler filled) review up for this book.

Dewey Posts

Hour 2

Hour 3

Hour 4

Hour 5

Hour 6

Hour 8

Hour 11

Hour 13

Hour 14

Hour 18

Hour 21

And that’s all that I read. Thank you so much for everyone that followed along with me during that day! I enjoyed sharing my day with all of you but I’m glad that the readathon only happens a few times a year.

~Cassie

Blog Tour: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

Thank you to Inkyard Press for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also kindly provided all info and graphics.

YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY by Eric Smith

On sale: November 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1335405685

Inkyard Press

Teen & Young Adult; Romance

$18.99 / $23.99 CAN

336 Pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:
A sweetly charming love story that leaves the reader with a lasting sense of hope.” —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star

“The perfect novel to snuggle up with.” —Emily Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Review

I tried to read this book but I unfortunately DNF’d at 25%. The events of the synopsis don’t take place until much further in the book so it is more of a contemporary with a possible side of romance. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Except for what we are left with is a heavy dose of technology that I really struggled with. I had a hard time visualizing what was being described and there was more of an emphasis on that than character building. I also found the quarter of the book that I did read to be pretty repetitive. I do think this book will be wonderful for its actual intended audience. If you are someone who enjoys gaming and the art community then this might also be one that you might want to think about picking up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ERIC SMITH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston. WWW.ERICSMITHROCKS.COM

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.ericsmithrocks.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericsmithrocks

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/ericsmithrocks 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55920774-you-can-go-your-own-way 

Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Adam

“The playfield is truly the heart of every pinball machine. All of the player’s goals are right there, splayed out in front of them. And like life, it’s up to you to find a way to reach them, with the tools you’re presented. In this case, it’s a ball.”—THE ART AND ZEN OF PINBALL REPAIR BY JAMES WATTS

The sound of collective screaming and a massive crash shake my entire workshop, and I almost stab myself with a piping-hot soldering iron.

“Adam!” my mom yells from inside the arcade. If another pack of junior high kids from the nearby Hillman Academy “accidentally” flip over a machine trying to get it to tilt, I am going to lose it. I grip the iron, the cracked brown leather wrapped around the metal handle squeaking a little against my skin, and shake my head, trying to refocus. Maybe I can finish this before it’s time to pick up that custom piece—

And another crash rattles the walls. A few parts tumble off my shelves, tiny intricate pieces of metal and glass, bits of copper wire, all clinking against my table.

I attempt to catch a few of the electronic pieces, trying not to burn myself with the iron in my other hand, and then a hammer falls off the perforated wall of tools in front of me. It collides with a small cardboard box full of pinball playfield lightbulbs, and I wince at the small crack and pop sounds.

“Goddammit,” I grumble out. I toss the soldering iron aside and try to clean up the mess. At least those lightbulbs are like, ten bucks a dozen on arcade wholesale websites. But pinball machines have a lot of lights.

“Adam!” This time it’s Chris. “Dude, where are you?”

I’m about to bolt from the workshop when I remember Mom is out there. I reach for the latest read I promised her I’d finish—We Built This Gritty by Kevin Michaels, a book on launching small businesses by an entrepreneur here in Philly that one of her colleagues is teaching at the county college—and immediately yank my hand back. The soldering iron had gone right in between the pages when I tossed it, and the book is already smoking. I pull the iron out and set it aside and flap the book around wildly, little wisps pooling up from inside the bright orange book. I flip it open.

It’s burnt right down the middle. Great. Something tells me she won’t be able to trade this back in at the campus store.

I glance over at The Beast and give the forever-in-progress Philadelphia-themed home-brewed pinball machine a pat, the glass still off the surface, wires and various parts splayed out over the playfield. My well-worn copy of The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair by James Watts sits smack in the middle of everything. I’ve still got a way to go before I can try playing Dad’s unfinished machine again, but if anyone is gonna get me there, it’s Watts. If I could just get a free chunk of time in between the studying and the arcade and the—

An array of swears echoes from inside the arcade, snapping me back.

Right. Chris. Mom. Chaos. Potentially broken and nearly irreplaceable machines worth thousands of dollars.

I unplug the soldering iron and place it in its little stand, like a quill pen in an inkwell. I wedge the now-toasty book under my arm and take a few steps to pick up some speed, to get a little force, and I push my shoulder against the dark red wooden workshop door. I push, gritting my teeth. The splintering surface presses into my arm, stinging with the pressure, until finally, the wood squeals against the frame, shrunken in and wedged together due to the sharp Philadelphia winter.

The whole workshop is like that, really, casting a major contrast to the polished, well-kept-despite-its-years pinball arcade. The cracked workshop table that is way more rickety than it has any right to be, tools showing their age with hinges that refuse to move and metal pieces falling off shrinking wood and weak plastic handles, vintage pinball parts that maybe still work, a concrete floor with a surface that’s chipping away, revealing dirt and dust, lightbulbs I don’t even remotely trust. My sad excuse for a drafting table sits off to the end of the workshop, and I’ve never really used it, preferring to fuss with plans right on the messy workshop table, next to all of Dad’s scribbles.

We could clean it up, have this room match the rest of the arcade. But I love it. It reminds me of him.

The door swings open suddenly and hits the wall inside the arcade with a loud bang.

And it is absolute chaos here.

A bunch of little kids are rushing outside, and I see a couple of adults gathering coats and their small children, who are likely about to join the exodus. The afternoon light that’s pouring in from the wide-open front door and the large plate-glass windows lining the wall make me wince. The glare hurts only slightly less than the idea of customers hustling out of here on a Saturday, easily our best, and only, solid day during the wintertime off-season. Especially now, at the end of the year, with so few days left before we close for the New Year holiday.

People don’t come to pinball arcades in the winter. Well. Maybe they do, but not when your arcade is located near all the tourist stuff in Old City, all the college students are away on break, and you don’t serve any alcohol. No tourists, no college kids, no booze, no pinball. It’s a neighborhood for expensive restaurants and niche boutiques, old-timey candy shops and artisan pour-over coffee. Not an arcade with a poor excuse for a snack bar inside that mostly serves soda, chips, and reheated chicken tenders and fries.

If it wasn’t for the upcoming Old City Winter Festival, I’m not sure we’d be able to keep the lights on come January. And there’s a businessman out in West Philadelphia who would very much like to see that happen, and there’s no way I’m going to let him do that. I’ve eaten way too many burnt chicken tenders that were “well, these are still kinda good, Adam” according to my mom, but not good enough for the customers. I’ve paid my dues.

“Mom!” I shout, looking to the back of the arcade. “Chris, what is—”

But then I see it.

On the other side of the arcade, my mom has her hands on her hips and is glaring intently at a handful of college guys who are sheepishly milling about near one of the windows. And Chris is trying to lift up a machine that’s currently knocked over, the glass that would normally be covering the playfield shattered across the floor. Another machine is tilted, leaning against a support beam, and looks okay from here. But judging by the angle and the amount of force it would have taken to get it off the legs in the first place, I’m betting we’re going to have some dents on the light box (the back of the machine that juts up over the area where you actually play, and displays the score and art).

“What the hell?” I snap, kicking the workshop door closed and storming across the arcade. My thick black boots squeak loud against the worn, polished hardwood floor, all the imperfections of the ancient Philadelphia wooden boards permanently glossed in place. A few more guys, these ones my age, weave around me, fiddling on their phones and oblivious. Bits of glass crunch under my feet, and I glance down at a bumper, red and black and looking like one of those crushed lantern fly bugs that litter the city sidewalks.

“What happened?” I ask, tossing my burnt book onto the floor. I nudge the tilted machine upright and then bend down to help Chris, who is straining to move the machine on the floor. I manage to wedge my fingers under the side, carefully tapping the metal, trying to avoid any extra glass, and lift. Chris lets out a groan and I grit my teeth as we push the machine upright, and it nearly topples back over the other way, but Mom reaches out and stops it.

“They happened.” Mom nods back at the guys who are standing about awkwardly. “Any updates there?” She points at one of them, and that’s when I realize they’re all sort of keeping an eye on one vaguely familiar-looking dude in the middle, who is fussing with his phone.

“Just a second,” he grumbles out, and he flicks his head to the side, his emo black bangs moving out of his eyes. I can’t help but squint at him, trying to place his face. Half his head is shaved, and he has this sort of Fall Out Boy look that would be cool, if he and his pals hadn’t clearly destroyed a pinball machine in my family’s arcade. A splash of anxiety hits me in the chest as I realize I don’t know what game has been totaled, and I turn to look at the machine.

Flash Gordon.

I exhale, relieved that it’s not one of the more popular or rare games in the arcade. But still, it’s a machine from the ’80s. One of the first games in the industry to use the popular Squawk & Talk soundboard, a piece of technology that is wildly expensive to replace, since it isn’t made anymore. That’s the sort of pinball trivia both Chris and my mom tend to shush when I start rambling too much, telling me “that should be a tweet,” which translates to “shut up” in the nicest way possible. I’m almost positive that’s the reason they pushed me to get the arcade on social media—to have a place to share those musings.

The machine didn’t deserve this, even if that awful movie maybe did.

I run my hand along the side of the other machine that was just bumped into, leaning on one of the wooden beams that are scattered throughout the arcade, you know, holding the building up. It’s the Terminator 2: Judgment Day machine, and thankfully, it looks undamaged. A little dented along the light box, as I suspected, but the glass and everything else seems fine. It’s a popular one with the Millennial crowd, and I’m relieved.

“How much is it going to cost to fix?” the familiar guy with the hair asks. He must catch me staring at him, ’cause his eyes flit over to mine, irritated, and I look away, focusing back on the machine.

I pluck at some of the glass on the surface, nudging around some of the broken obstacles on the playfield, and feel a sharp sting in my hand. I quickly pull away and spot a thin line of red trailing along my palm.

“Adam?”

I glance up, and my mom, Chris, and Emo Hair are all staring at me expectantly.

“What?” I ask, focusing back down at the machine and then back at all of them.

“The cost,” my mom presses. “That machine. How much do you think it’ll cost to fix all of this?” She gestures at the floor and shakes her head, her mouth a thin line. All that brewing frustration that she’s trying to bury down. Kids mess with the machines often, and we’ve certainly had a few hiccups like this before, but I’ve never seen her looking this wildly angry. I didn’t even think she liked that machine.

“Oh.” I swallow and clear my throat. “I don’t know. It depends on how bad the damage is?” I scan the playfield and then the side of the machine, which has a sizable dent in the steel that I can probably hammer out. But the shattered glass, the pieces, and who knows what’s going on inside it. I think back to Watts’s The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair, my holy tome, written by my hero.

“If you think it’s broken, it is. And if you think it’s going to be cheap to replace, it’s not.”

I stare at the broken glass.

“You know what, how’s a thousand dollars?” the familiar guy holding the phone asks. He looks around at his dude friends, their faces awash in expressions that are essentially shrugs, each nodding at him. “Everyone Venmo me two hundred after this or I’ll kick your asses.”

Some of the guys laugh while the rest break out their phones.

“Why?” scoffs one of them. “You’re the one with the money.”

Emo Hair snorts out a laugh and shakes his head, and glances back up from his screen. The fact that all of them are so relaxed about that much money irks me. The arcade is barely scraping by these days, and it’s no wonder other businesses have been sniffing around the building this year, leaving painfully awkward notes and emails for Mom. I’ve seen a few of them, here and there. The worst ones come under the guise of pretending to be supportive. Do you need anything? We’re here for you. Just checking in. And then in the same breath, bringing up property values and plummeting interest in arcades.

And despite frequent requests to stop mailing us, a local real estate developer loves sending us physical mail about the benefits of selling real estate in Old City now, and they’re always addressed to Dad. Assholes.

“What’s your Venmo?” he asks, looking at my mom and then at me. My mom and I exchange a look. He huffs. “How about PayPal? Apple Pay?”

“I mean…we could take a check?” My mom shrugs, wincing. One of the bros groans like this has somehow physically wounded him, and before I can say anything, my mom snaps a finger at the guy. “Hey, you five are the ones who broke this machine. If I want you to go get that thousand dollars in a burlap sack full of coins at the bank down the road, you’ll get it.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” one of them mutters.

“Just Venmo it to me,” Chris says, pulling out his phone. “I’ll hit the bank when I run out to pick up sidewalk salt for the snow, and get it taken care of, Mrs. Stillwater.” He glances at my mom and shakes his head at me. I know that look. He’s about to force another freaking app on me, and I don’t think I’ll be able to talk about pinball on Venmo. It was bad enough when he tricked me into joining Pinterest, convincing me it was a pinball thing.

He steps over to the pack of guys, and they’re all looking at one another and their phones and his, and I really shouldn’t be surprised that he knows how to handle this. Him and his apps. I wish he’d just run the social media for the arcade, but he says it wouldn’t sound “genuine” or something. If typos make someone sound genuine, I am very genuine.

A year behind me at Central, a junior, Chris has this whole Adam Driver look about him. Same sharp cheekbones and bits of facial hair, only a little shorter and with thin square glasses, and as geeky as you can get without actually being in a Star Wars movie. My best friend since I was eight, and our only employee in the off-season, as everyone is either a college student heading home for the break or a fellow local high schooler who has no interest in working over the winter.

He nods at the guys, looking at his phone.

“All right, I got it,” he says and then turns to us. The bros stand there for a beat.

“You can leave,” my mom snaps and points toward the door.

“Right, right,” the familiar guy says and gestures for the rest of his pack to follow. They amble out of the shop, their feet crunching the glass on the floor in a way that makes me feel like it’s on purpose. I take a step forward, but Chris reaches his arm out, his hand pressing against my chest.

I glance up at him, and he just shakes his head.

I huff and bend down to sift through the glass and pieces of machine, while my mom disappears into the back office. There are some bumpers on the ground, and a few small white flags, little targets meant to be knocked down for bonus plays, are scattered about like baby teeth. The glass, though, that really bothers me. A good sheet of playfield glass can go for a little over a hundred dollars, and while I know that’s not technically a lot of money in the grand scheme of things…we don’t have that much to spare these days.

Jorge over at NextFab, the makerspace that Chris practically lives in when he isn’t here, has been great at helping me replace some parts, as well as teaching me how to build some of my own, which is way more helpful than YouTube tutorials. But a whole sheet of glass? Bumpers with intricate circuitry and copper coils? That’s not something easily 3D printed, especially when he keeps doing it for free. And I don’t know how much of that I can manage in my workshop. Or afford, for that matter.

I look around the dirty playfield for the remaining flags but…dammit, they are nowhere to be found. At least the back glass, the lit-up artwork on the back of the machine, isn’t damaged. Flash is still there, looking dead ahead at me, alongside Dale and the…ugh, wildly racist Ming the Merciless.

Hmm.

Maybe the machine did deserve this.

Chris squats down next to me.

“Want me to grab the broom?” he asks, picking at a broken bumper.

I look back to my hand. The line in my palm is ugly but clean. I flex my hand a little, and the cut widens, and I see just how far up and down my hand it goes. I wonder if I’ll need stitches or if it’ll scar.

“Sure.” I clear my throat and both of us stand up. I glance toward the arcade’s exit, the place now empty, as Chris walks over to the snack bar. “Must be nice,” I say, “being able to drop that much money without thinking about it.”

“Yeah, well, not like his dad isn’t good for it.”

“His dad?” I ask, peering over. Chris is behind the bar, some paper towels already scattered out in front of him, a broom in one hand. Heat lamps keeping fries and onion rings warm tint his face a reddish orange for a moment before he ducks back out.

“Well, yeah?” He shrugs, walking over. He places the paper towels in my hands and nods at the cut. “Apply pressure.” He starts sweeping, moving bits of glass and broken parts into a small pile. “I swear, one more incident like this, and that is what’s gonna make me finally try to get a job at the makerspace. Or a coffee shop…” He looks up at me as I stare at him. “What? You know I can’t work in here forever, bro.”

“What do you mean what? I know that part.” I laugh. “Who is his dad? You’re just gonna leave the story hanging there?”

He nearly drops the broom but reaches out to grab the handle.

“Are you serious?” he scoffs. I shrug and he shakes his head. “Adam, that was Nick. That’s why I thought you were so mad, looking like you were about to charge after him and his goons.” I shrug again. “Jesus, Adam. Nick Mitchell.”

The stress on that last name.

Mitchell.

It sends a shock through my entire system, and I turn to look at the exit, as though he and his friends might still be there. I tighten my hand into a fist, and the pain from the cut sears through my palm, lighting me up through my forearm. And I swear, for a moment I can feel it in my head, bouncing around like a pinball against bumpers.

Nick Mitchell.

Whitney Mitchell’s brother.

And also the oldest son of the man trying to buy my father’s arcade from my mother, with plans to make it into another one of his eSports cafés. He’s been poking around all year, like a vulture circling over something that might just die any minute. But this place still has a little life in it. A little fight in it.

And dammit, so do I.

Did he even recognize me? Did he know this was our arcade? Back when me and Whitney were supposedly friends, before high school changed everything, I don’t think I ever saw him come around. But I saw him all the time at school and before her dad’s career took off, when we’d play at Whitney’s old house in South Philly. And when we were kids, everyone had their birthday parties here at the pinball arcade. With so many mutual friends and the like, he had to have been in here at some point. Until they forgot about us, like the entire building was just one giant toy that fell behind a dresser.

“All right, well, I can tell you know who he is now,” Chris says, walking back toward the snack bar. He grabs some more paper towels and thrusts them at me, nodding at my hand. I look down, and the paper wad is an awful dark red, soaked through from my rage. “Go take a seat. I’m gonna get the first-aid kit out of your workshop.”

“What about Flash Gordon?” I ask, glancing back at the messed-up machine.

“It’s a problematic racist relic. Who cares? Come on.” He laughs, reaching out and grabbing my shoulder. “Besides, if you want some replacement bits, I’m heading to the makerspace tomorrow—we can rummage for parts. Go grab a seat.” He nods at the snack bar and walks off. I turn around and pull my phone out, snapping photos of the broken pinball machine. The scratched-up metal exterior, the dented places around the playfield. I bend down and snap pictures of some of the crunched glass still on the floor, the broken parts scattered in a neat pile thanks to Chris. I even take a few photos of the dented Terminator 2: Judgment Day machine.

I stroll over to the arcade’s snack spot, Dad’s last great idea for the place, and sit down. The chairs aren’t exactly the pinnacle of comfort, and the hard wood digs into my back, but it’s what my family could afford when we first put this spot in here. It’s still passably cozy enough that local writers will drop in to play a few games, drink our bad coffee or nurse a soda, and spend the day staring at a blank screen while scrolling through Twitter instead of writing.

I sigh and glance up at the wooden shelving that looms over the café corner, a shabby-chic display that Chris’s parents helped build. Tons of Mason jars, full of coffee beans and loose-leaf tea, illuminated by strings of white Christmas twinkle lights, sit on nearly every shelf. Decor meant for hip college students and artsy creatives in West Philly, pulled from a Pinterest board someplace and made real. I think it looks pretty, but if Gordon Ramsay made an episode about our arcade’s little food corner, it would just be a twenty-eight-minute scream.

Chris walks around the side, a little first-aid kit in hand, and gestures for me to give him my hand. I hold it out and he glances back at the Flash Gordon machine.

“Real shame,” he says, wistfully looking at the shattered game.

“Yeah.” I nod. “I took a bunch of photos to post—”

Pssssssst!

There’s the sound of spraying, and I scream, yanking my hand away. I glare at him, and he’s sporting the widest grin I’ve ever seen, a bottle of spray-on rubbing alcohol in his hand.

“Argh!” I groan. “Why!”

“Kidding, fuck that game.” He laughs.

“You could have told me you were going to do that!” I shout. He tilts his head a little at me. “Fine, you’re right—I would have made a scene over it.”

“Everything okay?” Mom’s in the doorway to the office, peeking out.

“Yeah, Mrs. Stillwater,” Chris says.

My mom scowls at the two of us before breaking into a little smile, but that expression disappears as her line of sight moves toward the broken pinball machine. She closes the door, and I look back at the exit to the arcade again. I feel like with every setback this place has had this year, it gets us one step closer to my mom putting the pinball machines in storage for good and selling the place to Mr. Mitchell. And two damaged machines, one of which is basically destroyed, isn’t going to help.

“And I’m gonna need you to stop it,” Chris says, reaching out and grabbing my hand, slapping a large Band-Aid on my palm. I wince and suck air through my teeth, and he just gives me a look. He pulls out some of that gauze-wrap stuff and starts to bandage up the big Band-Aid, keeping it pressed to my palm. “That guy isn’t worth it, that machine isn’t worth it, and that family definitely isn’t worth getting all riled up over.”

“He had to have known this was my place,” I grumble. “Whitney probably sent him here. If not her, then definitely her father.”

“Oh, come on,” Chris scoffs. “I’m not her biggest fan either, and I know you two don’t get along, but she isn’t some nefarious supervillain. And her dad isn’t going to send henchmen here. When was the last time you and her even talked, outside of snarky social media posts? You like pinball, she likes playing Fortnite and Overwatch. Not exactly a blood feud.”

“I’m not even sure she’s into the video games at her dad’s places or whatever,” I grumble. At least, she wasn’t into video games when we were kids, always so irritated when we’d retreat inside to get in games of Halo. “Besides, you don’t understand.” I shake my head, trying to chase away the memories of that summer before high school and those first days wandering the halls at Central. Her and her new friends, leaning against their lockers, matching jean jackets and bright lip gloss. She was like an entirely new person, and the way she laughed with them when I walked over to say hi…

“Anyway.” I clear my throat. “I wouldn’t put it past her.”

“You need to spend more time worrying about the people who are there for you and less about those who aren’t,” he says, fastening the gauze together with two little metal clips. “Maybe go on a date with someone or something.”

“How do you even know how to do this?” I lift my hand up, flexing my fingers, ignoring the dating question. “There’s no time for that, between the arcade and school. If I kiss a girl by the end of my senior year, it’ll be a miracle.”

“Please, my dads are carpenters and you know how I spend my free time,” he says. “It’s best to be prepared in case someone loses a finger at home or in the shop or at the makerspace.”

I laugh and again find myself looking toward the door. I let out a long exhale through my nose.

“You think we’re going to get anyone else in here today?” Chris asks. “It’s just, you know, maybe I could duck out early to go work on stuff?” There’s this beat of silence that doesn’t need to be filled, and I sigh.

“I think we both know the answer there, right?” With the snowstorm we all know is coming, the brutally cold gusts of wind, and the fact that business slows to a crawl right before the Old City Winter Festival, there’s not much to even say.

I lean back in my chair a little, the sharp pain of the wood digging into my back weirdly comforting, distracting me from my hand and thoughts of Nick and Whitney and that whole terrible family.

“Do you need to talk?” Chris asks, and I glance back at him. “I mean, I can hang a bit longer if you need me.” He digs around in his pocket and pulls out a little candy bag and waves it at me, the plastic crinkling. Swedish Fish. Not the regular kind either; the tropical sort, with orange, pink, purple, and off-white fish in the mix. He shakes it until one drops out onto his hand, and he holds it up between his fingers. “I grabbed a bag at the CVS before I came over here, for my dads. Didn’t realize we’d have to use it, though.”

“Oh, God, no,” I whine. “If you’re gonna do that to me, just leave.”

Whenever Chris’s parents want to talk about “big feelings,” they break out these Swedish Fish candies. Have something important to say? Out comes the candy. It’s usually something critical that might make someone feel upset, but it’s the way you’re feeling, so it’s good to get it all out. Then pair it with something that makes you feel good while you’re hearing something that might make you feel bad.

It was a tradition Chris first told me about when we were really little, and one that’s been ongoing. I’m not quite sure why Swedish Fish are the candy of choice, but I’m guessing it’s because you can buy them in bulk at the South Philadelphia IKEA. He’s since introduced it to me and all our friends. Tell someone how you feel, let them eat the candy, and take in all those thoughts and emotions. Or, give someone the opportunity to say how they’re feeling, and take it all in. Simple enough. And while we don’t practice it at home, my mom often likes to say, “Do you need a fish?” when she thinks I have something I need to talk about.

I hate it so much.

“I hate this so much,” I grumble and pluck the fish from between his fingers.

“Listen,” he says, reaching out and closing my good hand around the candy. “You’re upset. You’re thinking about Whitney and the Mitchells. Nick and the boys. Both of those sound like terrible West Philadelphia indie rock bands. And you’re thinking about maybe going on Twitter and saying something snippy on social media. That what those pictures are for? Yeah?”

“N-no.” I barely stammer the word out. “It’s for…insurance.”

He gives me a look.

“You’re the worst.” I glower at him.

“Nothing good ever comes out of these little fights you have with Whitney online.” He presses, pointing at me. “All you do is get all the stores in the neighborhood riled up, dunking on one another. As if you get points for dunking on people online.”

“You’re the one who taught me how to use social media.”

“Don’t give me the whole ‘I learned it from watching you’ thing. Resist the urge to go online. It’s a waste of your energy,” he says, nodding at me. “Save your online presence for posting your pinball puns and facts. Now, eat your candy.”

“No.” I glare at him.

“Fine, fine.” He smiles, shaking his head, and pulls out his phone. “I’m gonna head off to NextFab. You behave.”

“Ugh, can’t you just work on your weird woodworking coffee things in the workshop?” I groan and gesture toward the red door on the other side of the arcade. “Then you could just be here all the time.”

He laughs and then sighs. “What are you going to do here without me?” he asks.

“Hmph,” I huff. “Probably have a meltdown on the regular.”

He reaches over and taps the screen of my phone, and my eyes flit up to him. “Don’t do it, and you’ll be fine,” he says and then bends over to grab his backpack. It’s this beaten-up leather thing that looks straight out of an old movie. I half expect to see it filled with vintage books tied together in beige string, but I know it’s just full of woodworking tools, and depending on the day, some glassblowing stuff. It’s not lost on me that my best friend spends all his time creating beautiful new things out of nothing, while I stress over repairing machines older than I am every single day.

He walks out of the snack bar and toward the door but stops and turns around.

“And hey, if you need to talk—” he throws something, and I reach out to catch whatever it is that is flapping its way toward me; the plastic bag of Swedish Fish makes a loud crinkling sound as I grab it out of the air “—text me. But I’m gonna want pictures of you eating your candy. It’s important that you trust the process.”

He’s out the front door, and I’m alone in the arcade with his candy and my phone.Excerpted from You Can Go Your Own Wayby Eric Smith, © 2021 by Eric Smith, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Your-Own-Way/dp/1335405682 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/you-can-go-your-own-way-eric-smith/1138256191 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9781335405685?AID=10747236&PID=7651142&cjevent=c39c9d3b5dee11eb83ba01ab0a240614 

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405685 

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/you-can-go-your-own-way/9781335405685 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/you-can-go-your-own-way/id1540270939 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Eric_Smith_You_Can_Go_Your_Own_Way?id=9soIEAAAQBAJ 

~Cassie

October weekly kindle haul #3

Happy Sunday! I’m still recovering from the craziness that was yesterday but I’m here to share all the Kindle books that I got last week. I have now bought 10 books this month so I’m on pace to actually stick to my 13 book limit.

They say there’s no such thing as perfect.

But I’ve built my life to perfection—the perfect boyfriend, the perfect apartment, the perfect career planning celebrity weddings. My job—my only job—is to make sure every event is absolutely and completely perfect.

What’s not perfect? Kash Bennet. 

And I wish I didn’t find that so appealing. 

I could have told you every perfectly imperfect thing about the gardener at Longbourne. Like his hair, lush and black and far too long. Or his nose, the flat bridge of a Greek god, bent a little like it’s been broken. Or his size. Beastly. Roped and corded with muscles, gleaming with sweat and peppered with dirt. 

There’s no escaping him, not if I’m going to use his family’s flower shop for my events.

But nothing is what it seems. And in the span of a heartbeat, my perfect life is turned inside out. 

They say the best way to get over somebody is to get under somebody new. When Kash offers his services to the cause, it sounds like the perfect plan.

What’s not part of the plan? Falling in love with the gardener.

But they were right—there’s no such thing as perfect. 
And I’m the fool who finds out the hard way.

Layla Grant is the picture of domestic bliss. But behind closed doors, she’s suffering.

She has a life many women would kill for, complete with two healthy young children and a doting husband who puts her every want and need above his own. Her happy family is the envy of friends and neighbors alike.

Looks can be quite deceiving. Layla’s husband is in big, life-altering trouble and will soon be headed to federal prison. No one knows. Layla is desperate to keep it that way.

Can she withstand the pressure? Will her marriage survive? And how will she hold true to her own sense of right and wrong? 

Her Broken Trust is the eighth book in the Rosemary Run Series featuring the women of a California town who face the darkness hiding beneath their community’s picturesque facade.

When the inhabitants of a peaceful world are conquered by the bloodthirsty yumens, their existence is irrevocably altered. Forced into servitude, the Athsheans find themselves at the mercy of their brutal masters. 

Desperation causes the Athsheans, led by Selver, to retaliate against their captors, abandoning their strictures against violence. But in defending their lives, they have endangered the very foundations of their society. For every blow against the invaders is a blow to the humanity of the Athsheans. And once the killing starts, there is no turning back.

This is the 1972 novella that first appeared in the “Again, Dangerous Visions” anthology. (An expanded novel version also exists.)

The new book by Nebula and Hugo Award-winner, Nnedi Okorafor.

“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”

The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa­­–a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?

This is my Amazon First Reads choice

Her Name Is Knight revolves around Nena Knight, codename Echo, a highly trained assassin for The Tribe – a clandestine international organization dedicated to the protection and advancement of the peoples and countries of Africa around the world. Her Name Is Knight is a propulsive character story and action thriller driven by retribution, passion, strength — and coming to terms with your own true self, regardless of what anyone calls you.

FREE

*2018 Audie Award Finalist in Romance*

Casey

I’ve met the perfect guy. Handsome, talented, and sarcastic as hell, Jake McKallister is everything I’ve ever dreamed of in a man. 

There’s just one problem: Jake is everyone’s dream man. 

But he sees me—an everyday college girl—and introduces me to a whole new world of music and tour buses and adoring fans. The more I fall for him, the more I realize that Jake might not be all he pretends to be. 

I’ve finally found a man worth fighting for…but will he let me win?

Jake

Casey thinks she knows. She doesn’t know. No one knows—but me. 
And I’m not talking. Ever.
_______________________________

“A once in a life time love.” – Dominic C
“This went way beyond a rock star romance, and it’s one of those special love stories I’ll remember for a long time. It had layers of fun and sexiness along with true depths of emotion.” – Shadowswept

FREE

A condemned apartment building means I’m stuck sleeping in my car. My carefully planned future—gone.

It’s just bad business to admit to being homeless when you’re the top selling real estate agent in the county. So when a fellow evictee, Nola, comes up with a solution to my homeless situation, I take her up on her offer.

An empty house with a gorgeous roommate? Sign me up.

I didn’t know that staying at her friend’s house would lead to us pretending to be married.

I didn’t know I would get elected to be president of an HOA I have no business being a part of.

And I’m beginning to suspect my beautiful, devious, fake wife isn’t telling me everything.

What happens when we get another roommate, and our deception moves to the next level?

Nola is the whirlwind I didn’t want in my life—but she just might be exactly what I need.

FREE

Vengeance is best served piping hot.
Prodigal Son. Black Sheep. Playboy Prince. 
I’ve been called lots of things. Merciful is not one of them.
It doesn’t matter what you call me, as long as I get what I want…
What I crave.

And it’s not the crown.

She is the Princess I didn’t see coming. The one I didn’t plan for. 
Until her, women came easy.
Until her, I wasn’t sure I had a heart. Now that I know, I’ll give up anything to have her…
Well…almost anything.

Cursed: A Wish is a Terrible Thing An Anthology of Dark Fairy Tales…an anthology of unique twists on the fairy tale conceit of the curse, from the traditional to the modern, giving us brand new mythologies as well as new approaches to well-loved fables. Twenty curses, old and new. 

ALL THE BETTER TO READ YOU WITH. It’s a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents… 

Here you’ll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world…expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic. Some might shock you, some might make you laugh, but they will all impress you with their originality. TWENTY TIMELESS FOLKTALES, NEW AND OLD.

When Dani’s dream job working for an elite fashion designer in New York explodes in her face, she’s left broke, broken, and practically homeless. She only has one option: leave the city and go home to Charleston to throw herself on her twin brother’s mercy. The only problem? Alex lives in Charleston too. 

Stepson to Dani’s former boss, Alex had good reasons for ghosting Dani, especially since she was still loyal to head designer Sasha Wellington—the woman trying to take his stepfather’s company down. But when Dani reappears in his life, his feelings quickly reignite, complicating everything. 

Despite their reservations, Alex and Dani find plenty of ways to spend time together. (A wedding dress heist? Why not?) As they unravel the real reasons why Alex left New York—and Dani—will they be able to rediscover the happily ever after they always hoped for?

BOY Novak turns twenty and decides to try for a brand-new life. Flax Hill, Massachusetts, isn’t exactly a welcoming town, but it does have the virtue of being the last stop on the bus route she took from New York. Flax Hill is also the hometown of Arturo Whitman—craftsman, widower, and father of Snow. SNOW is mild-mannered, radiant and deeply cherished—exactly the sort of little girl Boy never was, and Boy is utterly beguiled by her. If Snow displays a certain inscrutability at times, that’s simply a characteristic she shares with her father, harmless until Boy gives birth to Snow’s sister, Bird. When BIRD is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow and Bird are broken apart. Sparkling with wit and vibrancy, Boy, Snow, Bird is a deeply moving novel about three women and the strange connection between them. It confirms Helen Oyeyemi’s place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of her generation.

FREE

What would you do if a serial killer was tracking you through time?

Ivy Wells never wanted to die. When she does, she thinks it is all over. It isn’t.

When the 30 year old mother of two wakes up as a 12 year old, she has to navigate her life all over again. And she remembers everything. Including the serial killer who is terrorizing her small town.

Can she stop him in time to save her friends? Can she somehow get back to her old life, with her children?

When Scarlet Cooper takes a new job as a nanny, she assumes she’s going to work for the rich couple who hired her. But instead of pulling up to their million-dollar estate, she finds herself on the front porch of a humble farmhouse, looking into the eyes of dark and brooding single dad, Weston Dawson.

It’s bad enough that Weston doesn’t have a fortune to charm out of him, but he’s also a cop. After marrying his high school sweetheart only to have her up and leave weeks after their baby was born, Weston has sworn off women for life. All that matters now is taking care of his son, Jackson.

If anyone can break down the tough exterior of the former soldier, it’s Scarlet. But just when she’s close to getting exactly what she wants, she’s faced with a whole new challenge, which just might be the biggest con she’s ever pulled: pretending she doesn’t love him.

Side Hustle is a standalone single dad romance and is the third book in the Dawson Family series.

FREE

An overnight billionaire …When Carson Frost inherits a confectionary that rakes in billions but is too cash-strapped to last another sixty days, he agrees to take a loan from his late father’s rival. There are two catches: Carson has to sign over a permanent stake in the company, and marry the man’s daughter. Concocts a fake bride …Two weeks before the wedding, he gets cold feet and claims he’s in love with someone else. The investor says he’ll still hand over the cash if Carson takes a stroll down the aisle-with the woman who owns his heart. Since he isn’t even dating anyone, Carson panics. Where is he going to find a bride willing to jilt him at the altar on such short notice? And whips up a little love.Ella Hope is an actress happy for any paying gig, but jilting a hottie in public isn’t what she had in mind. Still, she needs rent, and he’s in a bind. How hard can it be? While playing at matrimony, suddenly their intimacy isn’t so fake. Ella can’t help but fantasize that Carson is her groom and they will live happily ever after. But once his company is safe, will he want her anymore?

FREE

From USA Today Best Selling Author Ali Parker

As soon as I saw her, I knew I had to have her. 

I thought this Vegas fundraiser was going to be boring—another obligation to keep the family business alive. 

Wrong. 

I don’t remember a damn thing about the night we spent together, other than how good she felt against me, like she was made for me. 

We woke up the next morning with more than we bargained for—wedding rings. 

Too bad I don’t believe in true love. 

I’d feel bad about it, but she’s got a strong opinion of me too. 

I’m a perpetual bachelor from her perspective. 

Fucking great. 

Crazily enough, this could work out for both of us. 

I need someone to keep my traditional Greek family from nagging me about settling down, and she could use some cash for reasons she doesn’t want to share. 

I know a good deal when I see one. 

And if she wants to end up in my bed all over again, all the better.

This is book 1 of a trilogy. You will have to purchase book 2 and 3 to finish the story.

FREE

Strong. Sexy. Skilled. 
Seth Sloan is returning to Harper’s Crossing a decorated war hero. As the leader of a Special Forces Marine Elite Unit Seth is trained to handle any situation…except one. An injury sustained in combat forced him to accept a medical discharge. Now he’s heading back to his hometown to reconnect with his family and a world he doesn’t recognize. Out of all the familiar faces there to greet him, the one that he never expected to see again may just be the one that holds all the answers. 

Beauty. Brains. Bella. 
Amber Webb has everything she needs…she thinks. She owns Bella, a successful clothing boutique, has a close-knit group of loving friends and a full social calendar. She is perfectly content. Until her idyllic life gets turned upside down by random acts of vandalism and flipped right side up by the return of a mysterious man from her past. 

Sometimes a one night stand is just the beginning… 

*Intended for Adults 18+*

~Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 21

I cannot believe I have lasted this long but I am quickly fading. I have around 70 pages of this book left and I would like to finish it before going to bed. This will be my last update during the readathon though. I am planning on doing a wrap up post Sunday or Monday so I will give you my full thoughts on this book then. I will say that it is a strange and brutal story. The author keeps building so many layers onto the story and I am anxious to find out how it ends.

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 18

Ok I think I am back on track with the correct hour count. I don’t know how long I am going to go but I think I at least have a few more hours in me. Honestly, I usually only have one or two cups of coffee a day and today I had four so I’m pretty wired.

I also haven’t mentioned yet that my kids are participating in the readathon with me which has been so fun. We have gotten a lot of reading done as a family. When I do my wrap up tomorrow I will try to remember to include how many books we all read total.

I’m still really enjoying You Let Me In. I think I understand what the author is doing which makes it an interesting story. I still have to finish it, of course, but I think she is going to leave it up to the reader to decide if we believe the narrator or not. I have no idea where this story is going and I am eager to see what is going to be revealed next.

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 14

I finished The Donner Party and I have moved onto You Let Me In. I gave The Donner Party four stars. It is a really informative story that delves into a lot of history about the Donner party and surrounding events.

You Let Me In is so far the creepy little story I was hoping The Haunting of Brynn Wilder would be. I’m only 22 pages in and I’m really hoping this one doesn’t let me down!

I’m also still confused on what hour I’m on. The Goodreads group does do sprints at designated times so I’m hoping to confirm the actual hour soon.

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 13

I’m honestly feeling a little delirious and I’m not exactly sure what hour I’m on anymore! The last few hours I DNF’d a book, playing a video game with one of my sons and took a nap. I’m jumping back into it with this quick middle grade graphic novel and then I will be starting You Let Me In.

I decided to DNF The Haunting of Brynn Wilder at 87 pages because the constant talk about her mom dying of cancer was just too much for me. I was enjoying the book other than that but then I looked up some spoiler reviews and it seems like I stopped reading while it was still good. What I gathered from the reviews is that there is a bait and switch where it seems like a ghost story but it is really a romance and all the creepy elements are apparently dropped one by one.

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 11

Book mail! I just received these in the mail so I thought I would show them off.

I’m currently on chapter 9 of The Haunting of Brynn Wilder. It’s been slow going because it has some pretty descriptive scenes of cancer and hospice care with cancer and it reminded me too much of what we went through with Grandma. I thought about DNF’ing but I am still really loving the story so I’m trying to push through. I do think next hour I might switch to a graphic novel to keep my momentum going.

In other news the snacks have come out so there is plenty of fuel for reading!

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 8

I didn’t update hour 7 since I was doing my workout and getting dressed. I did manage to start The Haunting of Brynn Wilder and while I’m only on page 14, I’m loving it. The author, Wendy Webb, has done a fantastic job with the setting and atmosphere. There have already been a few instances of creepy things being hinted at and I am here for it. It will probably take me a few hours to read this book but I have my fingers crossed that I continue to love it.

Now that it is noon I will be making myself some pancakes and a fresh cup of coffee to keep myself going.

-Cassie

Dewey’s 24hr readathon: hour 6

I’m onto my second cup of coffee and The Mothers Next Door. I’m now 91% done so I feel confident I will finish this hour.

I did end up giving Bingo Love 5 stars because I loved the added stories so much. They added so much to the original story. I did a quick scroll through the Goodread reviews and I feel like I might be in the minority when it comes to the stories. I thought the main story was wrapped up but the last story revealed what the second edition is going to be about and I can’t wait!

I am kind of burned out on graphic novels right now so I think I will move onto reading some books. I think the first one I want to tackle is The Haunting of Brynn Wilder.

-Cassie