2021 May TBR

April was a crazy month for me (reading wise, at least), so of course I’m just going to ramp up my reading for May. Why wouldn’t I make things harder on myself?

All jokes aside, I do have a lot more books on my TBR for this month that usual. In this post alone there is a high number of books that I would like to get to, even if I doubt I can realistically get to all of them by the end of the month. There are certainly books that I’ll need to prioritize in order to get review out on time for Book Tours. I also have another post coming out – later today, in fact – that contains even more books that I plan on reading this month. Like I have for the last two years, I plan on participating in the Asian Readathon that takes place in the month of May. While my TBR for this Readathon isn’t nearly as lofty, I hope to read a nice, wide selection of books for the Readathon. Which means adding even more books to my plans for the month.

**For anyone who’s here for the first time, I’ve organized the books by Physical Books, eBooks, AudioBooks, Kindle Unlimited, and Library books. **

As always, I expect to deviate from the TBR a bit, but here are the books I look forward to choosing from this month:

Total books: 18

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Continue reading “2021 May TBR”

2021 April Wrap Up

I think we can all admit that my April TBR was a little bit lofty… It should come as no shock to anyone that I didn’t manage to read all 17 books that I’d added to the list for the month. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not happy with the amount that I got read this month. Quite the contrary, I’m proud of myself for managing to read as much as I did.

17 books is a lot to try and read while working full time and having other life commitments. I also deviated from my planned books a little bit here are there. So, 17 might not be the total books that I completed this month, but I’m certainly pleased with the books I did manage to finish.

I’m also thrilled with the quality of books that I read this month. In general I try to read stories that I think I’m going to enjoy – who purposely picks up a book hoping to hate it? – but even still, some of the books I read this month far exceeded my expectations of them. In fact, I might have read a couple of all time favourite books this month. And that’s pretty darn cool! (More on this later!)

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As always, here are some pictures of my pup, Yzma. (Shameless plug for her adorable PupStagram account @YzmaTheHound):

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Or, check out my BookStagram account (@PhantomOfTheLibrary1995):

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Without further ado, here’s my reading stats for April:


For reference: Physical books, eBooks, AudioBooks, and Library books.

Total titles completed: 14

Total pages read: 3,575 pages (avg. 275 pages) + 1 AudioBook of unspecified pages


Completed Books:

  1. A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong (Thorne Manor, Book 1)[5 stars] 336 pages
  2. Aofie’s Quest by Angela J. Ford (Goodreads)[3.5 stars] 586 pages
  3. Gifted by Andy Lewter (Valens, Book 1)[4 stars] 210 pages
  4. Condition Black by Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington (Goodreads)[5 stars] 332 pages
  5. Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan (Earthbound Angels, Book 1)[4 stars] 222 pages
  6. The Witches of Vegas by Mark Rosendorf (The Witches of Vegas, Book 1) (Goodreads)[4 stars] 272 pages
  7. Witching on a Star by Erin Bedford (Academy of Witches, Book 1)[2.5 stars] 187 pages
  8. Borrowed Treasure by Jessica Tastet (Website)[4 stars] 231 pages
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy, Book 1)[3 stars] 358 pages
  10. The Bird that Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli (Goodreads)[3.5 stars] ? pages
  11. Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart (Sledgehammer: A Rock and Roll Fable, Book 1) (Amazon)[3.5 stars] 407 pages
  12. Secrets of the Mermaid by Catherine Stine (The Keepers of Knowledge, Book 6)[4 stars] 288 pages
  13. Signs of Love: Winter by Anyta Sunday (Signs of Love, Exclusive eNovella)[4 stars] 71 pages
  14. Signs of Love: Spring by Anyta Sunday (Signs of Love, Book 0.6 )[3.5 stars] 75 pages

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Review Posts:

  1. Gifted by Andy Lewter
  2. Condition Black by Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones
  3. The Peasant’s Dream by Melanie Dickerson
  4. The Forever Crew by C.M. Stunich
  5. A Stitch in Time by Kelley Armstrong
  6. The Oracle of Philadelphia by Elizabeth Corrigan
  7. The Witches of Vegas by Mark Rosendorf
  8. Borrowed Treasure by Jessica Tastet
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  10. Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart
  11. The Bird that Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli
  12. Mistletoe Match by Lindzee Armstrong
  13. Witching on a Star by Erin Bedford

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Spotlight Posts:

  1. The Demon of Yodok by Adria Carmichael
  2. Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw
  3. The 48 Laws of Happiness by Dr. Rob Carpenter

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Continue reading “2021 April Wrap Up”

Witching on a Star by Erin Bedford

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Pages: 187

Series: Academy of Witches, Book 1

Genres: Reverse Harem; Paranormal; Magic; Witches; Paranormal Romance; Romance; Young Adult; Urban Fantasy

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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All her life, Max knew she was destined for more. On the eve of her high school graduation she finds out that she’s a witch, completely changing her future plans. Now Max isn’t headed to an Ivy League school like she’d always expected, but to the Witch’s Academy to learn what being a witch entails.

If Max hopes to survive her new destiny, she’ll have to deal with a mean girls clique, way too sexy for their own good bad boys, and a popularity contest she didn’t want to win. Turns out magic has more consequences than Max realized. Here’s hoping she’s more prepared than she thinks to handle it.

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“Your mother had quite the head on her shoulders as well. Never was one for political bullshit.” I gaped at the headmaster. Maybe I had assessed him a bit too soon. “Forgive me, my dear, but after doing this job for two decades, your failure to fall at my feet with promises of blessings from your family makes you a breath of fresh air.”

Chapter Six

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I picked up this story as my April Buzzword pick. The prompt this month was “Galaxy Terms”, so I figured a book with star in the title was as good a pick as any. I found Witching on a Star in my kindle account, so picked it up and hoped for the best.

I have to say, I found myself disappointed in this read. I really wanted to love it. It’s got so many things that I adore in a book – magic, mayhem, discovering you have powers you didn’t know you had, a reverse harem… It’s even my favourite genre to read – Urban Fantasy. Yet I just did not enjoy my time in this world.

I’ve been known to enjoy books with a Mary Sue main character, but I just couldn’t get behind Max. For someone who spent her entire life not knowing that she was a witch, everything seemed to be handed to her on a silver platter. She might start out in remedial level courses, but she’s not there long. She breaks countless magical rules in this story but never has to face consequences for her actions.

The “bad boys” that are promised in the synopsis aren’t even true bad boys. Sure, one of the boys she’s interested in can be considered to be a “bad boy”, but the rest really can’t be. The golden boy of the school, a potions major who happens to be physically large, and a boy that works in the main office of the Academy do not make for bad boys in my opinion. I have no problem with the boys all having their own personalities – on the contrary, I encourage it – but they don’t fit the advertisements that were sent my way.

Even the “conflict” in this story wasn’t really compelling. I spent the whole book waiting for something to happen and nothing did. Sure, “something” happened, but it wasn’t something powerful enough for me to consider it worthy of being the main conflict of a story.

As much as I was excited to pick this book up when I saw it, I don’t see myself continuing on in the series. Maybe it’s because I’ve read a lot of amazing books lately and maybe this kind of YA book just isn’t my cup of tea anymore (I doubt it as I still read a lot of YA magical stories, but I want to give this story the benefit of a doubt), but I didn’t enjoy my time in this world. I waited a couple of days after reading the book to actually type out this review, and if I hadn’t taken notes while reading it I honestly wouldn’t have remembered what happened in this story. A forgettable story (to me) isn’t worth continuing a series.

Mistletoe Match by Lindzee Armstrong

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Pages: 191

Series: No Match for Love, Book 6

Genres: Romance; Christmas; Contemporary: Contemporary Romance; Chick Lit

Publication date: October 24, 2016

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Michelle Collins is on a mission to end animal testing and no matter how irresistible a mystery man might be, he won’t stand in her way. It seems like Christmas magic when she kisses a mysterious stranger under the mistletoe – until she finds out he’s Austin O’Neal, the new marketing director of the company she’s sworn to destroy.

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This was not a book for me. Stances were taken in this story that gave me hope, only to be dashed by unjust stereotypes and false narratives. I understand this is a work of fiction, but sometimes carrying on a false narrative hurts the plotline more than it helps it. The story had promise and fell short.

While that might seem like an extreme stance to take on the book, it’s one that I continue to stand by 7 months after having read this story. I was hoping that this story would surprise me and take a turn for the better, but it didn’t. The other books that I’ve read in this series – Miss Match and Strike a Match were much more my speed than this one was. I’m glad that this wasn’t the first book that I read by Lindzee Armstrong otherwise I might not have picked up another one of her works. As it is, I plan on reading more of Armstrong’s works, even continue on in this series, as I still believe that this story was an exception to my enjoyment of her works.

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Other Review on this series:

  1. Miss Match (Book 1)
  2. Strike a Match (Book 5)

The 48 Laws of Happiness by Dr. Rob Carpenter

The48Laws

During times like these finding ways to be happy seems like a no brainer! Check out The 48 Laws of Happiness by Dr. Rob Carpenter! Psst… There’s also a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card (International)

The 48 Laws of Happiness Front Cover

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The 48 Laws of Happiness: Secrets Revealed for Becoming the Happiest You

Expected Publication Date: April 27th, 2021

Genre: Non-Fiction/ Self-Improvement

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UNLOCK THE SECRETS TO HAPPINESS

  • Do you want to discover the untold secrets of happiness in a fun and uplifting read that could change your life?
  • Have you ever been told you should choose to be happy but then not taught how to be happy?

  • Is becoming the happiest possible version of yourself something you would like to achieve right now?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have looked in the right place! In The 48 Laws of Happiness, Dr. Rob Carpenter will teach you how to be happier in every area of your life. Using practical, “how-to” approaches, easily digestible mini-chapters, cutting edge research, and inspirational stories of people from around the world, Dr. Rob will show you the secrets to happiness and what you can do to overcome the common traps preventing you from being the happiest and most confident, version of yourself.

Available on Amazon

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About the Author

Dr. Rob Carpenter—known simply as Dr. Rob— miraculously survived a tragic accident and vowed to not only rebuild his life, but to help other people rebuild their lives too. He has become a transformational author, filmmaker, and CEO who now advises professional athletes, celebrities, business titans, and everyday people so they can become the best version of themselves.

Dr. Rob has been featured in the New York Times, Business Insider, and People Magazine, has been a former professor and filmmaker at the 2x Emmy Award Winning USC Media Institute for Social Change, and is host of The Dr. Rob show. He founded The School of Happiness and has countless resources available on his website DrRob.TV to help uplift humanity.

Dr. Rob is the first in his family to graduate from college.

Rob Carpenter

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International Giveaway: Click the link below for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Bird That Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pages: I’m going to be honest, I listened to this story on Audible so I’m not sure how many pages there are – not even for the eBook version of this story.

Goodreads: The Bird that Sang in Color

Genres: Literary Fiction

Publication date: January 17, 2021

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In her teens, Donna Greco subscribes to a conventional view of success in life – and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent, to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbours guilt for her supposed failure in relation to his happiness until she discovers a sketch-book he’d made of his life. In fact, it prompts her own journey to live authentically.

Focusing on serious issues such as alcoholism, death, and family conflict, Mattioli manages to balance the serious with wit and humour. The story spans decades, beginning in 1970 and ending in the present. Readers will be left wondering “What pictures will you have of yourself by the end of your life?”

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“I just really always thought I had to live a certain way to be happy. I can still hear my dad telling me to be sure to marry rich. You know, it’s funny the voices that get stuck in your head, even when you know they’re wrong. But yesterday it just all hit me. I have all the thing I thought I always wanted and I’m fucking miserable. All I need is myself to be happy. But I don’t have myself as long as I’m lying to myself.”

Chapter Twelve

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I found this to be a very cute slice of life story. It took me about an hour of listening to the story to really get into it, but once that first car ride was over I found myself sitting in my parked car, waiting for the chapter to be over before I turned the story off. I didn’t want it to end, even though I needed to get out of the car and go about my day.

Part of what I really liked about this story is how real the situations felt. Donna’s life wasn’t an easy one but she never gave up. She kept pushing herself forward towards finding her own happiness. She pushed back against societal ideals about “the perfect life” or being the perfect wife. Heck, Donna even learned to push her loved ones towards their own happiness instead of doing what they were told would make them happy. Of course, she also learned when it’s best to hold her tongue and let her loved ones figure things out on their own.

Life isn’t easy and I appreciate the fact that Mattioli didn’t sugarcoat it in this story. She dealt with harder topics and issues people face throughout their lifetimes. She showcased what it’s like to realize you’re unhappy but worth being happy. How getting out of a bad situation can make all the difference in the world in finding your inner happiness.

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Continue reading “The Bird That Sang in Color by Grace Mattioli”

Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart

JukeboxHero

“PRETTY IN PINK MEETS MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE”

Is that a great tagline or what? Welcome to the tour for Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart! Read on for book details and a chance to win an amazing giveaway — A signed copy of the book AND in keeping with the theme, a couple of John Hughes box sets (80’s movie classics)!

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Jukebox Hero

(SledgeHammer: A Rock and Roll Fable #1)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Expected Publication Date: April 30th, 2021

Genre: 80s Mashup/ Superhero Fantasy

Publisher: Burnt Bridge

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It’s Back to the ’80’s like never before!

Things aren’t all rainbows and cupcakes at the corner of Elm and E streets. Molly Slater just wants to forget everything she can’t remember and play heavy metal with her best friend in the garage. And maybe get a date for prom if he’s not a skeeze.

But someone in this ‘burb has been killing redheads, and Molly has the reddest hair of them all.

When a night of babysitting gone wrong gets her in the crosshairs of the local gang scene, Molly discovers fabulous secrets about herself.

The hunted becomes the hunter as she prowls the darkness that has crept into her sleepy town. But a far more sinister force, some thing from another world, has other plans in store for her…

Available on Amazon

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Excerpt

Sister Christian”

—Night Ranger, 1983

 

Three standing grandfather clocks gazed down at her that morning, ten years to the day since they found her wandering alone with no memory—not even a name.

There, at the corner of Elm and E Street, Molly Slater (the name they’d given her) gripped her Fender Stratocaster like it were a weapon forged for her hands. Her fingerless gloves whispered at the strings, ready to saw down some serious noise. Jordache jacket with the sleeves ripped off at the shoulder. Purple lipstick and double-earrings. Corvette red hair. Bette Davis Eyes.

The garage smelled like the early morning—no other sound but her Cons slapping the dewy concrete. She kicked away shorted out gizmos and various half-finished contraptions littering the cold slab floor. Hoyt, her foster dad, fancied himself the inventor. Any day now he’d invent their way into riches untold. Any day now.

Those grandfather clocks ticked at her as she plugged into the Peavey. More of Hoyt’s tinkering, thinking he could set his machines by them. Each triggered a different chain reaction every morning. One fed the dog. Another opened the garage to the day. A third…well it never worked anyway. She stared at them, as did they her in return. They held no judgment, only the looming doom of the impending hour.

As the garage doors groaned, opening to the dim autumn light outside, she cranked up and twist-tuned her axe. She gave it a gooseneck and sliced right in. Mötley. Halen. Bowie. Duran. Whitesnake. Saxon. Maiden! Fluidly, she moved from one riff to another. She was totally, epically zoned.

She lived in that fifteen minutes.

Those granddads thundered their terrible news.

The parentals shouted.

“Shut that racket off! You’re gonna be late, I swear to every god,” the mother said. As if there were gods. Molly just shook her head, put up the guitar and grabbed her bag. “And put on a hat on that red hair. I don’t want you getting murdered by that maniac!”

So dramatic. Like anything that interesting could ever happen.

She always knew it would be like this.

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Continue reading “Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart”

*Cover Reveal!* Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw

Cover Reveal Banner

I am so excited to reveal the cover for Charlie Laidlaw’s upcoming novel, Everyday Magic! Read on for more info!

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Everyday Magic Front cover FINAL

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Everyday Magic

Expected Publication Date: May 26th, 2021

Genre: Literary fiction/ Contemporary Fiction/ Humour

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Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.

Coming Soon!

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download

About the Author

Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.

Charlie Laidlaw | Facebook | Twitter

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Cover Reveal Organized By:

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pages: 356

Series: The Grisha Trilogy, Book 1; Grishaverse, Book 1

Genres: Young Adult; Fantasy; Romance; Magic; Paranormal

Publication date: June 5, 2012

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Surrounded by enemies, the once great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness that just so happens to be crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. To make matters worse, Ravka’s fate now rests on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. When her regiment is attacked in the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life. A power that could very well be the key to saving their war ravaged country.

Wrenched away from everything she’s ever known, Alina is whisked to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha – the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing this lavish is as it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her to succeed, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and her own heart.

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“Alina isn’t… She couldn’t…” Mal shook his head. “We’re from the same… village.” I noticed that tiny pause, the orphan’s pause. “If she could do anything like that, I would know.”

Chapter Three, Page 48

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As the Shadow and Bone series is coming to Netflix today – April 23rd – I have to give these books a reread. While I planned on devouring this entire trilogy – and the Six of Crows duology – in time to dive into this series, I ended up prioritizing other reads this month instead. So far I’ve only read Shadow and Bone, and I hope that’s good enough to start watching the series when I get home from work this evening.

I personally adore reading the book/s before watching the show or movie adaptation so I want to make sure that I’ve refreshed my memory on this story before giving the show a watch. It’s been years since I read these books for the first time, so I only had a vague memory of the events in the book before diving back in.

That being said, I fully understand that these will be two separate things since the show will be dealing with both series at the same time. I look forward to seeing the ways in which the series differs from the books, to see how merging the two storylines togethers – and the entire Grishaverse – brings more life to the books. I hope that I’m able to keep an open mind when I watch the show as I can’t wait to see these books come to life.

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Continue reading “Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo”

Borrowed Treasure by Jessica Tastet

Congratulations to author, Jessica Tastet on the release of her latest novel, Borrowed Treasure! Read on for more info and a chance to win a digital copy of the book!

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Borrowed Treasure Cover

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Borrowed Treasure

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publication Date: April 13th, 2021

Genre: Women’s Fiction; Clean Romance

Publisher: Dandelion Wish Publishing

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Sissy Ames has been driven to succeed her entire life. On her own, she’s turned her Bittersweet Café into a success, and she’s rebuilt a friendship with her cousin Harper after years of going it alone, but her past bad judgement in trusting Hunter Wells during their relationship continues to cast shadows on the future she’s trying to build for herself.

Hunter Wells has been coasting through life, working at the family business and creating the life that his family expects for him. He’d once hoped for a different existence, but he’d been forced to move on and make do after Sissy Ames had ended their three-year relationship without an explanation.

Even in their small town, the two have managed to avoid each other, but then Hunter’s fiancée, Sissy’s nemesis, disappears after a suspicious confrontation, leaving them both looking like likely suspects. The only hope they have of clearing their names and figuring out what led to the disappearance is to find the one item that drove them apart two years ago: The Ames BORROWED TREASURE.

Add to Goodreads

Available on Amazon and other Online Retailers!

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Excerpt

Sissy

Sissy Ames ducked behind the ostentatious flower arrangement with its oversized lilies and Hyacinthian sprays shooting out at unnatural angles. The thickness hid the center of the room but exposed her to the tableclothed tables lining either side where the overdressed elite of Thibodaux and its surrounding areas sat. Tonight represented everything she typically avoided, mainly so that she could stay out of the proximity of the woman commanding the center floor. Why her arch nemesis must flit around the ballroom gloating about her latest accomplishment was beyond Sissy. That woman’s pretentious fake smile and sickly-sweet voice had followed Sissy wherever she went in the large ballroom until her hands had begun to shake and her jaw to ache from the clenching.

Harper, her cousin, approached from the buffet table near the rear of the room. “The lobster bisque’s edible.” Holding out a tiny plastic bowl towards Sissy, Harper shrugged bare shoulders in defeat. Although the food lacked appeal, Harper certainly stunned in the black skintight number Sissy had sent over for her to wear tonight. Sissy had been right to prod the usually casual attired woman into vintage satin as it hugged her hips and showed off the curvy body that Sissy unfortunately did not possess. Sissy had inherited her mother’s straight form among other genetics she wished she could trade in.

Accepting the ecru soup, Sissy’s eyes scanned the crowd, looking for Cecelia Domangue, the bane of her existence since they were fifteen years old and fighting over president of student council. Currently, the petite blonde in a fuchsia Valentino stood chatting with a town councilman and the sheriff, her fake laugh chiming her existence from twenty feet away.

Sissy ran a clear plastic spoon through the watery consistency of the bisque. In her head she mentally critiqued the recipe’s minimal usage of cream. “Anything has to be better than that beef dish.”

Narrowing her emerald eyes, Harper twisted her lips and flashed Sissy a familiar look. Sissy’s cheeks warmed. Her resentment must be showing.

Sissy had submitted a bid to cater the fundraiser tonight in an attempt at a business expansion, but her bid had been accepted under condition. As the serving contract had been awarded to Cecelia’s restaurant Twilight Fare, Sissy would have to submit her recipes to Cecelia for approval and preparation. As if Sissy would ever turn over her recipes to the woman who’d opened a restaurant blocks over in her continuing effort to encroach on every aspect of Sissy’s life. Even if Sissy’s own Bittersweet Café catered to a different crowd than Cecelia’s Twilight Fare, that woman had branched right into catering which Sissy had cautiously tested the waters only a month before Cecelia had gone full blown into advertising her own services.

Harper glanced away to scan the room, and Sissy returned to the soup, which she knew she could have done better. “How long do we have to stay?”

Discarding the bowl, Sissy picked up her champagne glass from the table instead. At least they’d bought the good stuff. “We need to be sure the right people see our faces, but besides from that, the committee already has our hundred bucks a head, so I don’t think they care if we are here an hour or close the place down.”

Tonight’s fundraiser for the Downtown Revitalization committee had the special purpose of raising money to spruce up the downtown area with seasonal decorations to help promote the Christmas festival. The event had filled the local university ballroom with the social society of the small-town area and all its neighboring towns to be sure. As part of the committee, Sissy had aided in promoting the event, even though Cecelia’s recent addition to the committee had managed to sway votes and shut her out of the menu selections.

Harper picked up her own glass from the table and sipped. “I see a few local lawyers from Emmett’s last mixer. I’ll go over and say hello. If I’m lucky, I may get home early enough to speak to Emmett before the different time zones mean he’s sleeping.”

Sissy had Cecelia in her crosshairs, and she waited for her to prance to another unsuspecting guest, so she could emerge from behind the flowers that Sissy had voted against. Currently, Cecelia stood near Rudy Klingman, councilman for her district, who dropped in every Wednesday for a number six special, and she’d promised to propose streetlamps to him on behalf of the committee. Distracted, she asked Harper. “Any indication when he’s going to return from New York?”

Harper shrugged. “He says the case should wrap up in a day or two. I believe he’s enjoying it way too much.”

Sissy waved Harper’s doubt away with her champagned hand. “Pish, Emmett will be home soon, and you two will be making me sick with your sweetness.”

Harper smiled, her olive complexion flushing. “Okay, no arguing with my date tonight, especially since you drove. Let’s make our rounds and be out of here in thirty minutes.”

Sissy nodded and raised her flute in the air as if to toast. “That’s a plan I can drink to.”

Harper clinked her glass against Sissy’s, and then they departed into the mingling crowd.

Avoiding Cecelia’s group, Sissy slunk over to Suzy Rhodes, greeting a few of the lawyers and two judges that frequented her business for lunch during the week. In her two-piece blue suit, Suzy stood removed from the invitees, her eyes watching everyone. Her stance hadn’t changed since high school although she’d updated her attire to pant suits and cut her hair into a short bob she tucked behind her ears. Back then, she’d taken photos for the yearbook and everyone had wanted her attention to get within the pages. Today, she wrote a monthly column in the local entertainment magazine, specifically a review of local eateries. Sissy had attempted getting the café featured for months now, even sending a personalized gift certificate two months ago. The woman had never responded to the invitation nor shown up as even a patron, but Cecelia’s Twilight Fare had been prominently featured, not only as a food review but as a front-page feature on up and coming restaurant owners.

Suzy Rhodes smiled, her cheeks dimpling as Sissy approached. “Why, Sissy Ames, I’m surprised to see you at a swanky function like this. Not your usual soiree, huh?”

Plastering a smile on her face, Sissy drew upon her southern manners she knew lay beyond her desire to give the woman a good tongue lashing. “Since my café is located in the center of downtown, I have a vested interest in its revitalization efforts.”

Laughing airily, Suzy’s eyes wandered the room as if bored with the conversation. “Right, that’s true, your little café is down there. I never remember it’s there.”

Sissy raised an eyebrow, holding her glass closer to her lips. “I know. I’ve invited you several times as part of that little column of yours, but you have yet to accept my invitation.”

A short, fierce laugh escaped as Suzy’s eyes met Sissy’s. She returned to her survey of the room just as quickly though. “My lord Sissy, I can’t accept every invitation I receive.”

“Hmm.” Sissy scanned the room, her eyes naturally falling upon Cecelia, who stood facing Chef Homme from Le Homme, the elegant downtown restaurant. The two’s expressions revealed deep, serious conversation—too serious for a social mixer. “Is that why your material has been repetitive?”

Suzy’s stance shifted. “Excuse me?”

Sissy smiled, tilting her head. “Oh, I thought you were just so busy that you recycled material from the same four restaurants. Everyone has been talking.”

Sissy continued smiling as Suzy’s eyes lit with anger. The dark haired, flat nosed woman bit her tongue though. They’d all been raised too southern to truly speak their minds at events such as these.

“Well, it was nice running into you,” Sissy said, bowing her head in exit. “But I see a city council member I need to have a word with about lamp posts.”

Sissy pivoted, feeling a surge of confidence from the conversation. Moments ago, she’d hid behind hideous flowers to avoid her high school tormentor, but they had grown up, even though some didn’t behave as if they had. Cecelia and even Suzy hid behind country club houses and designer labels still, making others feel as if they didn’t measure up in the circles they all moved in. She had to remind herself in their vicinity that she was proud of her downtown renovated apartment and scavenged consignment finds.

Spotting Cecelia ahead on her path though, she pivoted and turned the other way to avoid her. She told herself that with her new found attitude, she would probably lose her southern manners and regret it later.

Her attention lingered too long over Cecelia, and when she turned, she hit a wall of black cashmere and white softened woven cotton. Reaching her hand out, she pushed herself away, inhaling the masculine smell of sandalwood and musk. From his chest hugging shirt, her eyes followed the Italian silk woven tie in its beautiful pastel green and yellow swirl pattern. The feminine color selection had been a brave choice for a function such as this where the men showcased their masculinity and their pocketbooks. So, he either didn’t know better or his power came with his name.

She continued on up to his tie’s perfectly anchored knot and landed on the chiseled jawline and soft brown, waiting eyes of Hunter Wells.

Her nose flared as she inhaled deeply, an awareness of their nearness. She took a step back.

“Excuse me.” Sissy felt her cheeks burn as the back of her neck flushed.

A light flickered in his warm chocolate eyes.

“Of course.” Hunter nodded, and his lip twitched. “How have you been?”

Hearing her heart pound in her throat, Sissy straightened her spine, bracing herself for the old anger to return, but his nearness tempered any old residual anger.

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Continue reading “Borrowed Treasure by Jessica Tastet”