It’s Wednesday night and I have some time to kill before heading to my son’s hockey game in Stillwater. There is a coffee shop there called The Daily Grind I’ve been meaning to check out. So naturally, that’s where I’m headed … except they are closed. Deep breath, don’t panic! I look at my map, find the nearest coffee shop, and start walking.
Stillwater is a great town positioned on the St. Croix River. Every night in the summer is hoppin’. You will find live music pouring out of various restaurants and bars, couples walking along the paved river paths, and kids of all ages (5-55) with ice cream smeared faces milling about. It’s picturesque in that perfect tourist town kind of way and just as many locals take advantage of it as those who travel to see it.
I walk three blocks to the next place – – it doesn’t exist. In its place is what looks to be some sort of bistro. Not quite what I had in mind, and from looking at the patrons, neither was I dressed for it. I’m beginning to think Siri is toying with me for all the times I took a wrong turn and made her reroute me. Uncool Siri…uncool. This time I just decide to wing it.
I walk back to Main Street and end up at Mara Mi. Oddly enough in all my visits to Stillwater, I’ve never gone in. The place is stunning and spacious. It’s brightly lit by floor to ceiling windows on two walls and canned light fixtures. Everywhere you look are pops of color from their pastries in the café (yes, a café!!!), to their merchandise on the floor. All the gorgeous art, stationary, and lettering are created by local artists in the upstairs studio.
First things first, must try the coffee! I didn’t do anything too off the wall this time. It was very hot out and I just wanted something cool and familiar. I ordered an iced hazelnut latte. The guy behind the counter was great and very friendly. He gave me the lowdown on the place while he prepared my drink. When his back was turned I drooled (hopefully, discretely) over the cupcake options. Not going to lie – – the coffee was good, but it is the cupcakes that will bring me back. I had the red velvet. It’s an obsession of mine, but it’s tough to find one that isn’t dry. I was very happy with my decision!
I happily took my coffee, cupcake, and Kindle to a small table nearby. They did have a comfortable looking couch area, but I’m a klutz and do not trust myself.
THIS BOOK! Where to start?! I paired this illuminated café with a much darker novel – – Fractured by Catherine McKenzie. First of all, if you like anything by Mary Kubica or Liane Moriarty, then READ this! It’s right in line with the ‘families being pulled into a psychological who-done-it thriller’ vibe. The thing I liked most about this was the breadcrumbs offered in small doses and well-spaced. I enjoy a read where I think I know, but I never really know! I hate when I figure out the ending too quickly. There were several times when I could not put it down.
The story is told with alternating chapters between two protagonists, and past/present settings. Julie is a wife and mom of 6-year-old twins, and the author of a bestselling novel called The Murder Game, which is based loosely on the death of a friend from law school. John is a husband with two teenagers, recently laid off from his IT position and working on building a new career from home. With both working from home, their lives become entwined. As always, this does not end well.
I was left wanting more of Daniel and Hanna, the spouses of Julie and John. They are solid characters and I loved anytime they came to the forefront. They made the protagonists stronger and more likable. On their own, Julie and John were hard to identify with and trust. Though I think this only made their characters more believable in their roles.
As I read the last few pages and answers were provided, I wasn’t wholly convinced. Almost like there were still secrets the characters were keeping to themselves. Some of the explanations seemed a little out of left field, but maybe as I process they will settle and make more sense. There were a few random things given no explanation, but those do not make or break this book.
All in all, I would recommend this book. Especially if you are a fan of this kind of story. It was a fun ride! I’ll definitely go back and read her first book! I was given an advanced copy of Fractured by Catherine McKenzie through NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for an honest review. The book is out officially this October!
If you find yourself in Stillwater grab this book, a cupcake from Mara Mi, and settle back into that gorgeous space. I promise you will not be disappointed by any of it!!
Mara Mi – ✰✰✰✰✰