• ARC's,  Recommendations

    The Stepsisters: excerpt tour

    Welcome to my stop on the excerpt tour for The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery. Her books are the perfect beach reads and last summer her book, The Friendship List, was one of my favorite poolside books.

    Today I’m super excited to be sharing an excerpt of The Stepsisters. I’m reading the book right now and it’s got me in the mood for summer already!

    Summary

    #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery pens a love story of a different sort…a heartfelt tale of friendship between two women who used to be sisters.

    Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

    Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

    Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

    Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

    Excerpt

    Adam returned carrying a plate stacked high with the crispy snacks. He smiled as he set it between them.

    “Why are you working in retail?”

    “Because I don’t have the training to be a jet pilot,” she said, reaching for a taquito. She thought about mentioning her tutoring, but that wasn’t impressive, either.

    “Seriously, why? You’re rich. You don’t need to work.”

    She licked her fingers as she stared at him. “I’m not rich. Where did you get that idea? I have a small settlement from my ex-husband and that’s it. I’m paying my mom rent and I enjoy eating, which means I need to be a working girl.” She frowned. “Not in a hooker sense.”

    “I just assumed you’d married money,” he said, then raised a hand. “Not in the hooker sense. Just in the beautiful women tend to gravitate toward wealthy men sense.”

    “It didn’t work out that way. My first husband was a race car driver, but then he crashed and if you can’t drive, you can’t earn money. My last husband made me think he was rich, but he was lying.”

    And hadn’t that been a bitter discovery, she thought, telling herself she’d moved on from the disappointment. She reached for another taquito.

    “You have a sweet ride for a working girl,” he said, grabbing a taquito and dipping it in the guacamole.

    She smiled at the mention of her BMW 3 Series. “She is pretty, isn’t she? She cost me a Hermes Birkin crocodile handbag, but she was worth it.”

    Adam frowned. “I don’t understand,” he admitted.

    “I sold a handbag and bought my new-to-me car with the proceeds.”

    “No handbag is worth a car.”

    “You say this as a women’s accessory expert?”

    His confusion morphed into complete bafflement. “But it’s just a purse. My mom has a purse. How can there be one worth thirty or forty thousand dollars?”

    “It’s a Birkin bag. A crocodile Birkin bag.”

    “But…”

    She patted his hand. “You’re going to have to trust me on this. When I leave, you can look them up online and later you can apologize.”

    He still looked shell-shocked, which was kind of sweet. She liked that the world of high fashion and ridiculous prices was foreign to him. No doubt he would assume that one of her husbands had given her the bag, which was fine with her. She saw no need to tell him how she’d earned it. She might enjoy his company, but she didn’t know him well enough to trust him with a secret like that.

    “You live a life I can’t imagine,” he admitted.

    “I did, but not anymore. Now I’m just a regular person.”

    “How does that feel?”

    No way she was going to get into that pit of failure. She gave him a bright smile. “I’m ready to be back in the States. I’m not excited about starting over, but this time I’m determined to make better decisions. And that’s enough about me. Tell me about yourself, Adam. You live here alone?”

    He smiled. “I wouldn’t have invited you over for drinks if I was involved with someone.” He picked up his drink. “Let me clarify that by saying I’m offering information, not assuming this is anything more

    than friendly. I’m smart enough to know my place in the universe and mine is not with the likes of you.”

    She waited for the jab that was sure to follow, but he didn’t seem to have anything else to say on the topic.

    Details

    Author: Susan Mallery

    Publisher: Mira

    Release Date: 5/25/21

    Pages: 416

    Genre: Contemporary Romance/Friendship Fiction

    Purchase Links

    MIRA | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and MIRA for the gifted copy of this book!

     

     

     

  • Audiobooks,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table: review & feature

    Author: Louie Giglio

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Date Available: May 11, 2021

    Genre: Christian Growth

    Pages: 224

    Summary

    Louie Giglio helps you find encouragement, hope, and strength in the midst of any valley as you reject the enemy voices of fear, rage, lust, insecurity, anxiety, despair, temptation, or defeat.

    Scripture is clear: the Enemy is a liar who will stop at nothing to tempt you into poor decisions and self-defeating mindsets, making you feel afraid, angry, anxious, or defeated. It is all too easy for Satan to weasel his way into a seat at the table intended for only you and your King. But you can fight back.

    Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table outlines the ways to overcome those lies so you can find peace and security in any challenging circumstance or situation. With the same bold, exciting approach to Scripture as employed in Goliath Must Fall and his other previous works, pastor Louie Giglio examines Psalm 23 in fresh ways, highlighting verse 5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

    You can find freedom from insecurity, temptation, and defeat—if you allow Jesus, the Shepherd, to lead the battle for your mind and heart. This spiritual warfare book for those who are leery of spiritual warfare books will resonate with Louie’s core Passion tribe as well as with Christians of all ages who want to live a triumphant life in God.

    Review

    I am an extremely anxious person. I also battle depression and want to be upfront that this book is not a substitute for professional mental healthcare.

    With that being said, this book is very valuable for fighting those invasive thoughts of shame, loneliness, comparison with others, etc – basically not allowing those harmful & negative thoughts to live rent free in your head.

    I chose to receive the audiobook and it was a welcome respite from the stress & strife that have seemed to have consumed our world. And an added bonus, the audiobook was narrated by the author – something I really enjoy when done well.

    Having Louie Giglio in my ears for several hours was an immersive experience and the biggest thing I took away from this book was freedom from fear. That is something I have never believed to have existed – especially for me.

    But after listening to this book I felt more hopeful, a bit more bold, and encouraged.

    I enjoyed the use of the framework of Psalm 23 and while this is a Christian book, it’s applicable and practical for anyone who struggles whith the daily stressors of life.

    This book was both timely and practical and I highly recommend the audiobook. It’s an experience to hear an author read their own words and Giglio does it well.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Thomas Nelson for the gifted copy of this audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

    Purchase Links

    Thomas Nelson | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Connect with Louie

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Bookish,  Recommendations

    NetGalley 101

    I am a book snob. Like a physical book in my hand with pages I can turn snob. I got used to ARCs (advance reader copy) showing up on my front porch almost everyday. Books to read and review before they were released? Life was pretty good.

    Then COVID hit.

    I started getting emails notifying me that the ARC that was supposed to be headed my way was in NYC, the heart of the publishing industry, and wasn’t going to make it to me in time for the blog tour or publishing date. Certainly understandable and a problem that reached beyond the publishing house – I didn’t want to needlessly expose a postal worker or UPS delivery person to one extra home or package when I had another way to get a book.

    Enter NetGalley.

    I’ve had an account for a few years but never was very active. But when you want to read new books, review, and promote them, a reader will do just about anything. So I purchased an iPad mini (my preferred eReader) to use the Kindle app on, dusted off my NetGalley password, and got to downloading books and requesting more.

    Want to access ARCs from NetGalley? Here’s how:

    1. Set up an account. Be as clear and detailed when filling out your profile as possible. Include your number of Instagram followers, blog readers/metrics, how long you have been reading and reviewing books, the genres you love, what kind of work you’re available for (promotions, reviews, giveaways, blog tours, etc.). Also link Twitter and LinkedIn (if you have them) to your account.
    2. Blogs. They are important to publishers. Your blog reviews show up in Google searches while Instagram reviews do not. They are not a must but they are a great platform for detailed reviews. Plus, with Instagram changing something every week and questions about who owns the content I’m all for blogs if you’re serious about reading and reviewing books.
    3. Link your Kindle account to NetGalley. Every Kindle account has an email address and that’s how NetGalley sends the eBooks to you.
    4. Find your favorite publishers and request some books. When you are approved for a title you will get an email with a “widget” to click on to download the book. You will also get declined. It’s not personal. But the longer you review on NetGalley, the higher your review rate, and the better your stats are outside of NetGalley, the better your chances are of getting approved. A great place to start is with Read Now titles. Anyone can request and review them.
    5. Review, review, review. Look at each publisher’s requirements for the timing of reviews prior to the publishing date. Be on time and be sure to share the links to your reviews that you post outside of NetGalley I.E. your blog and Instagram. And lastly, share your reviews on Barnes & Noble and Amazon using the NetGalley site. Simply posting your review on NetGalley isn’t enough.

    A few tips:

    • Don’t go crazy requesting books. Publishers respond in their own time and the last thing you want is 50 books waiting for you to read and review.
    • If an actual person from the publisher sends you the widget, be sure to respond to them. Thank them and then when you review the book, also send them the links. This is a great way to establish relationships within publishing houses and this alone has opened up multiple opportunities for me for physical finished copies and giveaways.
    • Keep your profile up to date. That’s the first thing publishers look at when they get your request.
    • Only pursue this route if you’re serious about actually reading and reviewing books. This is not the site for getting book mail to post on Instagram. Requesting books and doing nothing with them is not a good way to develop a solid reputation with publishers.
    • Always include the disclosure! Something like, “Thanks to NetGalley and X publisher for a gifted copy of this eBook in exchange for my unbiased review.” This is an FTC regulation and a must.
    • Lastly, here is an example of a recent NetGalley blog review and the corresponding Instagram review.

    Please let me know if you have any questions! I have loved using NetGalley and plan to continue to use it even after COVID is over. It has made me reevaluate and realize that I don’t need a physical copy of every single new book.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The Summer Set: excerpt & review

     

    Author: Aimee Agresti

    Publisher: Graydon House

    Pages: 384

    Publish date: May 12, 2020

    Genre: Women’s fiction

    My rating: ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Excerpt:

    I MISSED YOU TOO

    Charlie studied herself in her bathroom mirror. In just a week her bruised eye had faded to the dull gray of rancid meat, now easily disguised by concealer. She flat-ironed her raven hair, securing it in a sleek, low ponytail, then rummaged the closet for her most professional-looking getup: that slim black suit, pale pink silk blouse with the bow at the neck and the stilettos she only wore when she felt compelled to impress. Her wardrobe from that perfume ad a decade earlier but timeless nonetheless, just like the moniker that had been etched in script on the curved bottle of the fragrance.

    Outside, Boston did its best impersonation of her supposed hometown, London. (Though she had lived away from there enough during childhood to have eluded the accent.) The dreary May rain made her think of her mom: the estimable Dame Sarah Rose Kingsbury. News of Charlie’s incident had warranted mentions in a few celebrity weeklies and, unfortunately, made the hop across the pond. Her mother had called, texted and finally, after no response, emailed: Charlie, Did you receive my voice mail and text? I trust you’re alright. Another of your stunts? Please respond. Love, Mum. Her mom’s correspondence always scanned like a telegram, full of stops and full stops—much like their relationship itself. Charlie, reveling in being briefly unreachable and not in the mood to answer questions, hadn’t yet bothered to replace her phone and had indeed missed the call but wrote back assuring her mom that she was fine, though the accident had not, in fact, been performance art.

    By the time Charlie reached the foreboding Suffolk County Courthouse, her lawyer/friend Sam—who had shepherded her through the theater purchase (while questioning her sanity)—was already there pacing, barking into her phone.

    “This should be easy,” Sam told her, hanging up, hugging her while scrolling her inbox. Sam wore suits and radiated responsibility, two things Charlie found comforting in a lawyer. “Be contrite and it should be open-and-shut for community service.”

    The sterile courtroom’s pin-drop silence made Charlie shiver. Next to her, Sam tucked her phone in her bag and rose to her feet, gesturing for Charlie to stand as the judge materialized at the bench. Charlie found it oddly reassuring that the judge was the kind of woman who wore pearls and a frilly collar outside her robe.

    “You were okay with my email, right?” Sam whispered, as they sat again.

    “What email?” she whispered back.

    “My email. An hour ago? You have got to get a new phone,” Sam scolded.

    “I know, I know—”

    “There was this arrangement, last minute, I hope you’ll be amenable to but—”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” Charlie pleaded.

    The judge had begun speaking, so Sam hushed her. Too late.

    “Ms. Savoy, this is the part where I get to talk.” The judge looked up from the paper she had been reading aloud. “Maybe it was different in your episodes of Law & Order?”

    “No, ma’am, I mean, Your Honor, sir, ma’am, no,” Charlie stumbled. She had been wrong about the judge. The woman continued on about the damage Charlie caused and the significant hours of service required like Charlie was the honoree at one of those Comedy Central roasts, albeit one that could end with her in a jail cell.

    Until finally, the judge cut to the chase: “…an assignment has presented itself,” she said slowly. “Which will make fine use of Ms. Savoy’s expertise…” Charlie caught Sam’s side-eye. “So Charlotte Savoy shall be required to complete sixty days with the Chamberlain Summer Theater in—”

    “NO!” Charlie expelled the word, an anaphylactic response. The judge scowled as though jail might still be an option. “Sorry, Your Honor, I just mean—can I object?” Sam shot her a lethal glare. “It’s just that, well—” Charlie tried again as a door at the back of the courtroom creaked open, footsteps echoing. She turned to discover the equivalent of a ghost.

    Nick Blunt—director, ex, first love, disappointment, invertebrate—heading her way.

    “Mr. Blunt, thank you for joining us,” the judge said, unimpressed.

    Charlie’s posture straightened, heartbeat ticking faster than seemed medically sound. She felt betrayed by her own being, muscles, nerves, ashamed of this reaction.

    “Sorry, Your Honor,” he said in that deep rasp.

    Charlie wished she hated that voice. And it seemed an abomination that he could still be attractive—physically at least.

    Rugged with an athletic build, he wore black jeans, a blazer and aviator sunglasses, which he pulled off as he walked (pure affectation since, to her knowledge, it was still raining outside), tucking them into the V of his slim sweater.

    He took his place beside Charlie, flashing that smile he deployed when he aimed to be his most charming.

    “Hi there,” he said, as though surprised to be meeting this way.

    “Shouldn’t you be wearing a cape?” Charlie rolled her eyes, focused on the judge reading again, and returned her body to its proper slouch, recalibrating her expression between boredom and disgust.

    “I missed you too, Charlie,” he whispered back.

    From the corner of her eye, Charlie spotted the sharp beak of that tattoo—the meadowlark—curving around from the back of his neck. It was still there, which gave her a pang of affection, a flare-up she forced herself to snuff out. She imagined how they might look to those few people sitting in the rows behind them. Nick and her with these identical birds inked onto the backs of their necks, midflight and gazing at each other anytime he stood on her right side, as he did now. Mirror images, bookends, the birds’ once-vibrant golden hue as faded as the memory of the hot, sticky night she and Nick had stolen away from campus to get them together.

    Over the years, she had considered having hers removed or morphed into some other design, but why should she? She liked it. At face value. Charlie sighed again, more loudly than intended, as her mind sped to how this summer would now be.

    “Ms. Savoy, is there a problem?” the judge asked, irked.

    “Your Honor, I just wondered—is there a littered park or something? Instead?”

    “We’re fine, Your Honor.” Sam patted Charlie’s arm in warning.

    “Ms. Savoy will report to service June 1.” The judge slammed the gavel, which, to Charlie, sounded like a nail being hammered into a coffin.

    “I had a client last week who’s cleaning restrooms at South Station this summer,” Sam said apologetically as they walked out.

    Charlie just charged ahead down the hall, an urgent need to escape, her mind struggling to process it all.

    “So, craziest thing happened,” Nick launched in, catching up to them at the elevator. “I was reading the news and saw about your little mishap—” He sounded truly concerned for a moment.

    “Don’t pretend like you don’t have a Google alert on me,” Charlie cut him off, stabbing the down button too many times.

    “You always were a terrible driver—”

    “That river came outta nowhere—”

    “But a stellar swimmer—”

    She nodded once. She couldn’t argue with that.

    He went on, “So I made a few calls and—”

    “Don’t be fooled by…that.” She waved her hand back toward the courtroom. “You need me more than I need you.”

    The elevator opened.

    “We’ll see about that.” He let them on first. Charlie hit the button again-again-again to close the doors, but he made it in. “How long has it been, anyway?”

    “You know how long it’s been,” she said as the doors closed so she was now looking at their reflection. It had been six years, three months, two weeks and two days since they last saw each other. At the long-awaited premiere for Midnight Daydream—which should’ve been a thrilling night since a series of snags had pushed the film’s release date back two years after filming. But instead of celebratory toasts, it had ended with a glass of the party’s signature cocktail—a messy blackberry-infused bourbon concoction the shade of the night sky—being thrown. In retrospect, she thought, there’d been so many signs the movie was cursed.

    “You’re just mad your self-imposed exile is over.” He smirked.

    “Always with the probing psychoanalysis.” She watched the floor numbers descend, doors finally opening.

    Sam scurried out ahead of them. “My work here is done. I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do.” She gave Charlie an air-kiss before striding off.

    “Wait, no, I just need to—” Charlie tried to stop her, but Sam had already hopped in a cab.

    “So, I have an office not too far, off Newbury Street, off-season headquarters for Chamberlain—” Nick started.

    “Luckily you’re usually phoning it in, so I haven’t had the privilege of running into you around town.” She walked ahead in the cool, pelting rain.

    He stayed where he was. “I’d invite you out for a drink—”

    “It’s, like, 10 a.m. That’s too early. Even for you—” She glanced back.

    “Summer is gorgeous in the Berkshires, as you may recall,” he shouted, sunglasses back on, absurdly, and that smile again. “Welcome back to Chamberlain, Charlie.

    Excerpted from The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti, Copyright © 2020 by Aimee Agresti. 

    Published by Graydon House Books

    Review:

    I am a huge fan of books having anything to do with the theatre. And I was sold on the premise of an A-lister returning to her roots to do community service at a small, struggling theatre. This book had a campy feel full of auditions, rehearsals, on-stage and off-stage drama, and finally performances. As a theatre parent myself, I could fully appreciate all aspects of this plot as they consume most of my life.

    I read this book in an afternoon by the pool. It was entertaining and the characters were, well… exactly how I expected them to be based on my own real life experiences. I enjoyed the inclusion of the Shakespeare element and the writing was done well. But what really stood out to me was the backstage drama. It was depicted so accurately and trust me, all these characters all exist in real life.

    In the book they were well-developed and interesting. This book held my attention and it was a very satisfying read. There is a romance as well and while I’m not the biggest romance fan, these things happen in the theatre all the time and it rounded out the story nicely.

    If you enjoyed Trust Exercise, City of Girls, or Limelight you will most likely enjoy this book.

    Buy Links: 

    Harlequin 

    Barnes & Noble

    Amazon

    Books-A-Million

    Powell’s

     

     

     

    About the author

    Aimee Agresti is the author of Campaign Widows and The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee table book Inside Hollywood. Aimee’s work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, and she has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. Aimee graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

    Social Links:

    Author Website

    Twitter: @AimeeAgresti

    Instagram: @aimeeagresti

    Facebook: @AimeeAgrestiAuthor

    Thanks to Graydon House, NetGalley, and the author for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Dali Summer: review & blog tour

    About Dali Summer

    • Paperback: 344 pages
    • Publisher: Tule Publishing Group, LLC (May 5, 2020)

    Her wild and vivid visions inspire an icon…

    Synopsis

    Nothing is more important to prim, colorblind Dolors Posa than family and living down the shame of her illegitimate birth, but when the sudden onset of fantastical visions threaten her sterling reputation, she must search for answers before the inhabitants of the tiny village of Cadaqués brand her as demente– crazy like her mother. In a quest to stop her hallucinations, she befriends a beautiful, intoxicating fortune teller and her handsome anarchist brother, as well as becoming a reluctant muse for thirteen-year-old Salvador Dali. In a summer that changes everything, Dolors must choose between her family’s reputation and a life filled with adventure, friendship, rapturous color and the possibility of love.

    Set against the political upheaval of 1917 Spain, Dali Summer captures the fierce spirit of Catalonia, the generosity and stubbornness of its people and the blossoming promise of a woman who thought life was bland and empty and had long ago had passed her by.

    Review

    What a fascinating premise – a colorblind girl and the world she sees portrayed through her eyes. Then the contrast of the vivid color from new friends, including Salvador Dali, and even love. I am a huge fan of books that incorporate art into their storylines so I was hooked from the beginning.

    The characters were just as easily imagined as the colors in this book. They were well developed and easy to identify with. The writing was excellent and I plan to read more by this author.

    My one issue: there were a lot of moving parts to this story. It almost felt as if it needed to decide between being a historical fiction novel and a character-driven story. It certainly was not a deal breaker for me but I was torn between the characters and wanting to learn more about the history of the time period.

    If you enjoyed Where The Crawdads Sing or Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, you will most likely enjoy this book as well

    ✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    Purchase Links

    Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

    About T. J. Brown

    Well behaved women rarely make history. Teri Brown lived that quote way before she ever even heard it. The two things she is most proud of, (besides her children), is that she jumped out of an airplane once and she beat the original Legend of Zelda video game. She is a novel writer, head banger, pet keeper, math hater, cocktail drinker, booty shaker, book reader, city slicker, food fixer, French kisser, rule breaker, wine sipper and word scribbler. She loves her husband, kitties and chocolate.

    Find out more about Teri at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

    Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for the gifted copy in exchange for my unbiased review.

     

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