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    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.

     

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    The King Of Warsaw: Blog tour & Review

     

    Book Details

    Author: Szczepan Twardoch

    Publisher: Amazon Crossing

    Publish date: April 21st, 2020

    Pages:379

    Translator: Sean Gasper Bye

    Genre: Historical Thriller

    Rating: ✂️✂️✂️✂️✂️/5

    A city ignited by hate. A man in thrall to power. The ferociously original award-winning bestseller by Poland’s literary phenomenon—his first to be translated into English.

    𝐒𝐲𝐧𝗼𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬

    It’s 1937. Poland is about to catch fire.

    In the boxing ring, Jakub Szapiro commands respect, revered as a hero by the Jewish community. Outside, he instills fear as he muscles through Warsaw as enforcer for a powerful crime lord. Murder and intimidation have their rewards. He revels in luxury, spends lavishly, and indulges in all the pleasures that barbarity offers. For a man battling to be king of the underworld, life is good. Especially when it’s a frightening time to be alive.

    Hitler is rising. Fascism is escalating. As a specter of violence hangs over Poland like a black cloud, its marginalized and vilified Jewish population hopes for a promise of sanctuary in Palestine. Jakub isn’t blind to the changing tide. What’s unimaginable to him is abandoning the city he feels destined to rule. With the raging instincts that guide him in the ring and on the streets, Jakub feels untouchable. He must maintain the order he knows—even as a new world order threatens to consume him.

    Review

    This book is incredible. It brilliantly tells a story with a historical, war-torn backdrop. It’s unique, gritty, and a beautifully written book that gives most readers a fresh insight into a time period not widely read about here in the U.S. And the characters – they are so well developed that it is not hard to begin to think as they would think.

    One important note: this book is violent – if torture, killing, and other acts of violence bother you, it’s important to know that they are contained within this book. However, none of it is gratuitous.The violence moves the plot along and adds to the realistic portrayal of the time. Countries divided by war are often left with deep and violent divisions.

    The writing is nothing short of masterful. It’s easy to see why the author is an award-winning author in Poland. The translation is perfect – nothing felt stiff or awkward – and I hope that more of his work is translated into English.

    Thank you to the publisher, Over The River PR and NetGalley for the gifted eBook in exchange for my unbiased review.

     

     

  • Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Hope And Other Dangerous Pursuits: blog tour & review

    Author: Laila Lalami

    Publish date: October, 2005

    Publisher: Algonquin Books

    Pages: 188

    Genre: Adult Fiction

    Synopsis:

    𝑯𝒐𝒑𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑶𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝑫𝒂𝒏𝒈𝒆𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒔 𝑷𝒖𝒓𝒔𝒖𝒊𝒕𝒔, the debut of Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist Laila Lalami, evokes the grit and enduring grace that is modern Morocco. The book begins as four Moroccans illegally cross the Strait of Gibraltar in an inflatable boat headed for Spain. What has driven them to risk their lives? And will the rewards prove to be worth the danger?

    There’s Murad, a gentle, unemployed man who’s been reduced to hustling tourists around Tangier; Halima, who’s fleeing her drunken husband and the slums of Casablanca; Aziz, who must leave behind his devoted wife in hope of securing work in Spain; and Faten, a student and religious fanatic whose faith is at odds with an influential man determined to destroy her future.

    Sensitively written with beauty and boldness, this is a gripping book about what propels people to risk their lives in search of a better future.

    Review:

    This powerful book may be small but packs a powerful and timely punch. Originally published in 2005, it’s just as relevant – if not more – today.

    Following four individuals illegally fleeing to Spain from Morocco, while a relatively short physical journey, the emotional journey was incredible.

    The structure of the plot and book are what made the book for me. The reader begins their journey in a boat crossing the Mediterranean with unfamiliar characters. Lalami then delves into the backstory of each of the four characters. Without spoiling the story, each person has a compelling reason for fleeing and the real journey begins.

    The writing is gritty, realistic, and perfectly captures the nuances of the Moroccan culture, the Muslim religion, and the timeless and universal struggle of people seeking a better life in another land.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the book and learned a tremendous amount about a time and a place I wasn’t familiar with. This was my first book by this Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist author but it definitely will not be my last.

    Thanks to Algonquin Books for this beautiful gifted copy in exchange for promotion and my honest review.

  • ARC's,  Book Reviews,  Recommendations

    Fierce, Free, And Full Of Fire: review & give away

    When was the last time you read a genre-bending book? Meet my latest.

    Book Details:

    Author: Jen Hatmaker

    Publish Date: 4/21/2020

    Publisher: Thomas Nelson

    Pages: 256

    Genre: Christian Self Help

    Synopsis

    New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker, with cheeky candor and fearlessness, guides readers to a deep dive into how they are wired and provides them with the tools to walk in that identity with freedom and guts.

    Stuck in people-pleasing or fear, many women hide and pretend, then end up sidelined in their own lives. But what they want is to be brave, to claim every gift, dream, quirk, and emotion inside, to stop performing and start living.

    Beloved New York Times bestselling author Jen Hatmaker understands the struggle to find firm footing in a culture that operates from stereotypes and often unreachable expectations. In this new book, she offers women encouragement, challenge, and humor as she helps them identify everything that makes them tick and gain the confidence to live it all out. She leads them through five self-reflective categories—who I am, what I need, what I want, what I believe, and how I connect—and helps them:

    • identify the exact ways they pretend, and learn instead how to be genuine at all times, in all ways, in all contexts;
    • be empowered to say yes and no without guilt;
    • learn to voice both their spiritual questions and convictions; and
    • opt out of drama and into healthy adult relationships.

    With wry humor, earnest passion, and been-there insight, Jen calls women to the life-giving freedom of leaning into the identity, convictions, and community they’ve been given.

    Review

    Enneagrams, Anne Lamott, Tina Fey, RBG – these are a few of my favorites things. And they are all in this book.

    Each reader will find something different here. Some struggle with being too much, others not enough. Some have had the patriarchy so ingrained in them that breaking out of that mindset seems impossible. Others have stood up for what is right, despite what their social and religious circles have insisted on, and paid dearly.

    I’ve followed Jen Hatmaker for years and I have seen the vicious attacks by the religious mean girls. I remember when she lost her book deal – after the books were on the shelves – when her husband and her spoke in support of their LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

    So to have the opportunity to read and review her new book has been like coming home to a remodeled home – one that breaks the mold and encourages women to take up all the space they need.

    I read this book in less than twelve hours. Like I said, each reader will find something different for their life. For me, there were several things but the most resounding was the encouragement for spiritual curiosity.

    By nature readers are typically intellectually curious individuals. I also firmly believe that those who do not read or at least embrace the company of readers are missing out on a big part of the world. So why should that curiosity stop with secular texts that we read?

    For those of us who were raised around religion that answer is simple: because they said so. They being pastors, teachers, mentors, etc.

    This book systematically reconstructed my religious experience as a youth and as an adult and then swiftly tore it down with an answer for every piece of framework it removed. The freeing part? Hatmaker didn’t rebuild anything. That’s where the curiosity becomes important. And I didn’t necessarily need someone to tell me that it’s acceptable to question Scripture but it certainly did not hurt to hear the encouragement either.

    There are plenty of other points of encouragement as well which ultimately lead the reader to create 12 statements about themself. These are obviously different for everyone and I am looking forward to creating my own.

    This book is perfect for nearly anyone – from the person who has been hurt by religion, to the exhausted mom, to the person who is in a career transition, to the individual worn down by the hatred in our world, or simply someone who is so tired of modern-day religion that insists that there is one belief system and if you dare to ask questions then you simply do not fit.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours, Thomas Nelson, and Jen Hatmaker for my gifted copy of this book, both on eNetGalley and hard copy formats in exchange for my honest review.

    This book is available today from your local bookstore or you can enter to win one of two copies here!

    Giveaway ends Sunday, 4/26 at midnight. Sorry, US entrants only. Due to COVID, please be patient with shipping times. Giveaway not affiliated with Instagram.

    Purchase Links

    Amazon |Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble Thomas Nelson

    About Jen Hatmaker

    Jen Hatmaker is the author of the New York Times bestseller Of Mess and Moxie (plus twelve other books) and the host of the For the Love! with Jen Hatmaker podcast. She and her husband, Brandon, founded the Legacy Collective and also starred in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV. Jen is a mom to five, a sought-after speaker, and a delighted resident of Austin, Texas, where she and her family are helping keep Austin weird.

    Connect with Jen

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

     

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