Monday, May 31, 2021

The Checklist by Addie Woolridge ~ Excerpt & Giveaway


Title: The Checklist
Author: Addie Woolridge
Release Date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Montlake


Killing it at work? Check. Gorgeous boyfriend? Check. Ambitions derailed by an insecure boss? Sigh—check.

Things were going a little too well for Dylan Delacroix. After upstaging her boss on a big account, she gets dispatched to the last place she wants to be: her hometown, Seattle. There, she must use her superstar corporate-consulting skills to curb the worst impulses of an impossibly eccentric tech CEO—if she doesn’t, she’s fired.

The fun doesn’t stop there: Dylan must also negotiate a ceasefire in the endless war between her bohemian parents and the straitlaced neighbors. Adding to the chaos is a wilting relationship with her boyfriend and a blossoming attraction to the neighbors’ smoking-hot son.

Suddenly Dylan has a million checklists, each a mile long. As personal and professional pressures mount, she finds it harder and harder to stay on track. Having always relied on her ability to manage the world around her, Dylan’s going to need a new plan. She may be down, but she’s definitely not out.





The Checklist Excerpt


“Dear God. Are they trying to signal someone in outer space?” Setting her book down, Dylan unpretzeled herself from the armchair she’d been installed in. Quietly she opened her bedroom door to survey the rest of the house’s response to the neighbor’s giant motion light.

“I told you so! Now, do what you must.” Bernice’s mocking voice floated up three stories. Dylan marveled at her hearing the bedroom door open over her dad’s experimental Ghanaian drum-circle music.

“I’m on it,” Dylan called back before slinking down the stairs and grabbing her heels from over by the door. “‘Do what you must.’ Who says that?” she mumbled as she reached for the handle, already regretting how quickly she’d caved. What had she said to her mother? Something about her age and independence? Obviously, that wasn’t true.

Cursing herself, she closed her parents’ door and began the slog to the Robinsons’ house. Although modestly painted and well landscaped, the house wasn’t entirely dissimilar to her parents’ home. However, it was scientifically impossible for the family living inside of the house to have less in common with her own. Linda and Patricia Robinson were both tech-industry big shots in their own right. Linda was a patent attorney and the recent recipient of the Latina Bar Association’s Trailblazer Award, a fact she never failed to mention. Patricia was an accomplished programmer and volunteer youth-cheerleading coach who’d even made the cover of American Cheerleader magazine when her all-Black squad had pulled a real-life Bring It On–style competition victory. Both had come through the tech boom when the industry had still employed few women, and they took absolutely no shit from anyone—including Dylan’s parents. Dylan believed her parents objected more to the Robinson women’s love of golf than their jobs. As far as Bernice was concerned, golf was like standing for hours in a glorified front lawn.

The Robinsons had two boys around Dylan’s age, and she had been jealous of the entire family growing up. They’d gone to church and played organized sports, their clothes had always matched, and their mothers had joined the PTA. Dylan’s dad had endured a short stint with the PTA, but the Delacroix didn’t do organized anything. If Dylan had left the house wearing something that matched, it was by accident.

Distracted by the past, Dylan had stopped paying attention to where she was walking until her foot sank into the divot near a storm drain, filling her heel with water. She cursed, her heart thwapping in her chest. Visions of her father toilet papering the neighbors’ house ran unchecked through her head. As did the memory of her mother nailing the police citation to the Robinsons’ door when it had arrived in the mail a week later. Dylan thought this was a tame response where Bernice was concerned, but it led to the Robinsons sending boxes of craft-store glitter to the house. The Robinsons had lost that round, and the joke was on them, because her mother loved glitter. It had appeared in several of her most lauded collages that year, which she’d named for Linda and Patricia Robinson when she’d taken out an ad in the Seattle Times to feature the work.

Ignoring the panic sweat forming on her palms, Dylan knocked on the door, then frowned, looking down at her soaked woolen pant leg. If she didn’t dry-clean those ASAP, they were going to reek.

“One minute.” She had barely registered a man’s voice when the door swung open. “Hello.”

“Uh. Hi.” Dylan’s voice cracked.

Mike was, if possible, better looking than the last time she had seen him. His thick hair had been cut short, highlighting his high cheekbones and the ambient glow of his golden-brown skin. Time had turned him into the sort of made-for-TV manly pretty that seemed unfair for one person to achieve. The vaguely chiseled features and broad-shouldered Latino archetype that beer commercials aspired to.

Aware that she needed to state her purpose, Dylan said the first thing she thought—“You still live here?”—and instantly regretted her decision.

“No, I’m visiting. Do you still live here?” Mike asked with an incredulous laugh. The Robinsons’ younger son filled up what felt like the entire doorframe, with one arm on the handle and the other resting comfortably on the jamb, as if being the J.Crew catalog guy were no big deal.

“I’m staying with my parents while I’m here for a work assignment. How are you?” Dylan smoothed a hand over the hem of her blouse and collected herself.

“Great. I live in Capitol Hill. I’m finishing my PhD at the U-Dub. I basically come here to bum dinner off my parents.” He smiled, and Dylan wished he still had braces. Braces had made him just above-average looking in high school. Now, hazel eyes and straight teeth made him uncomfortable to be around. Or maybe that was the vast amount of water in her shoe.

“I’m sorry. My dad’s drum circle carries all the way over here. I forgot how loud it is.” Dylan gestured around the front door with a nervous laugh.

“We’ve gotten used to it. Do you want to come in?” He stopped leaning on the frame and took a step back to let her in.

“Thank you. I . . .” Dylan nodded, then paused as her shoe squelched. Panic left the little corner of her brain and seeped all the way to its outer edges as she tried to find a graceful retreat. If she walked in, she would track muddy water into the Robinsons’ otherwise spotless home, further cementing her place in the Worst Neighbor Hall of Fame. “Actually, I really shouldn’t.”

Mike must have sensed her guilt, because his face relaxed into an easy smile. “No worries; I wouldn’t want to be seen entering the home of the enemy either.”

“Oh no. It’s not that.” Dylan rushed to explain herself before she was firmly entrenched in Camp Dreadful Delacroix. “It’s just, my shoe is full of storm drain water, and your house is always spotless, and I don’t want to track it in.” She pointed erratically at her heel, which seemed more absurd now that she was drawing attention to it. What kind of Seattleite wore expensive shoes in this weather? “I promise I’m still significantly less strange than the rest of my family. Shoe thing aside.” She let her hands drop helplessly to her thighs.

To her horror, Mike started laughing, his face cracking into a lopsided grin. “Why don’t you dump your shoe out and come in? My parents are picking up dinner, so we don’t have to tell them about the averted carpet disaster.”

“That is probably the most reasonable option,” she admitted, adopting a woman-as-flamingo pose as she tried to take off one heel while still wearing the other.

Wobbling precariously close to a fall, Dylan threw her hand out to catch the front of the house, but instead she caught the lean muscle of Mike’s bicep as he grabbed her forearm to keep her from toppling over. Appreciating the feel of muscle under the cotton dress shirt he wore, Dylan grabbed her heel and pulled. He likes the gym, she thought, smiling. Those don’t just happen overnight…



About the author
 
Born and raised outside Seattle, Washington, Addie Woolridge is a classically trained opera singer with a degree in music from the University of Southern California, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration from Indiana University. Woolridge’s well-developed characters are a result of her love for diverse people, cultures, and experiences.

Woolridge currently lives in Northern California. When she isn’t writing or singing, Woolridge can be found baking; training for her sixth race in the Seven Continents Marathon Challenge; or taking advantage of the region’s signature beverage, wine.





Guest Post: Checklists, Broken Hearts, & James Brown with Author Addie Woolridge

Hi, I’m Addie Woolridge, author of The Checklist. A bit about me—I am a classically trained opera singer with a deep devotion to glitter, coffee, Beyoncé, and The Rock. In my free time, I am also a marathon runner who is desperate to finish up the seven continents marathon challenge so that I can retire and go on vacations where running is not a requirement (just two races left, Sydney and Antarctica). I was born and raised outside of Seattle, WA, and although I now call Northern California my home, a piece of my heart will always be soggy in Seattle. That’s why I set my debut novel, The Checklist there!

The Checklist is a multicultural, contemporary rom-com that centers around Dylan Delacroix, a type-A, corporate consultant with a plan for her life. That plan includes making partner at her firm and purchasing a condo in Texas with her boyfriend. It does not include dealing with her bohemian family and their longstanding feud with their straight-laced neighbors. However, that plan is derailed when she accidentally upstages her temperamental boss. Banished by her boss, she is forced to return to Seattle on a career-killing assignment to try and revive a struggling tech company. Once she is home, she is immediately sent to negotiate a peace with the neighbors. Between her client, her fizzling relationship, and her family, it is hard enough for Dylan to stay on track, but when she finds herself falling for the neighbors’ son, Mike, sticking to the plan becomes near impossible. As pressure mounts, Dylan has to decide if she wants to keep checking things off of her list, or if she needs a new plan entirely.

I love Dylan so much, even when she is messy and uptight! While coming up with her, I was inspired by the idea of a fish out of water. I think a lot of people are expected to grow up to be like Dylan—responsible, competent, and predictable. I wanted to play with the idea that what many of us are told is “normal” behavior could be absolutely bizarre to someone else.

To write Dylan, I borrowed a few things from my life (take that terrible exes!). Like Dylan, I do make lists anytime I feel like things are getting a little chaotic, although I love colored markers and glitter, and Dylan would never sully a list with glitter. Both of us are Janet Jackson devotees—seriously, do not get me started on how much credit I think she deserves for normalizing female sexuality or we could be here all day. Also, both of us have perfected the OMG-this-is-bad smile. At this stage, my coworkers can spot “the smile” a mile away and know to ask what is wrong (or, maybe they know to hide from me?).

Unlike Dylan, I’m not named for a 60s folk singer (I actually have a family name and I love it). Nor do I have an awesome corporate wardrobe (I’m a skirts and dresses with pockets kind of girl). Similarly, none of our family dogs were as well behaved as Milo, who is not well behaved so that is saying something. Our family once had a German Shepherd who chewed up three couches when we weren’t home. Feathers were everywhere. That dog was so naughty and we loved her like she was made of gold.

The biggest thing that we have in common is that both of us have loving, albeit quirky families. My family is not composed of visual artists (with the exception of my Aunt Bob), but we are creative. Like Dylan’s family, my parents gave us a lot of freedom. We had one real rule, you had to be kind. Other than that, the rules were kind of a hodgepodge of different parenting philosophies. One of my favorite childhood “rules” came from the James Brown song, Hot Pants. My parents would frequently quote the lyric, “Never let anyone tell you how to wear your pants.” To them, it meant that no one in the family could tell you how to dress. It also meant that I wore overalls and Doc Martens at least three days a week throughout high school. Thanks, mom and dad.

To wrap it up, I hope that readers see a little bit of themselves and the people they love in this book. I also hope that readers get a break from the real world and fall in love with the Delacroix family, Mike, and Dylan—lists and all.


This giveaway is hosted by the publisher.




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Sunday, May 30, 2021

Stacking Our Shelves ~ 5/30/21


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  Make sure to checkout her post with links to all the other participates.

Click covers for Goodreads links


For Review...



Thanks goes to...

Berkley 


That's what we added to our shelves this week! What do you think? What did you add to your stacks? Leave us a comment and link us up!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Gambit by C.L. Denault ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

Gambit
C.L. Denault
(The Prodigy Chronicles, #1)
Publication date: April 3rd 2021
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult

The Core wants her DNA. She wants her freedom. Let the game begin.

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

I stood at the hearth to warm myself. The heat felt good against the room’s deep chill, and the dancing flames intrigued me. My family couldn’t afford wood as a fuel source. Trees were a precious resource in the Outlying Lands. Burning them required a permit and cost a fortune. Given the heaping pile of logs stacked beside the fireplace, neither of those obstacles had been a problem for Reece.

He approached me with another strange device. “Turn and face me.”

I did as he asked, noting the way firelight flickered over his dark hair and reflected off his eyes. The effect was startling. Who was this man, that he gave the order for a bluster’s death one moment and shimmered like a cat the next?

The device he held began to glow. A warm ray of light extended above me and washed over my entire body. When it finished, an image in my shape hovered above his palm. A red dot blinked on the lower right half.

Exactly where my dagger was hidden.

“Well, look at that,” he said. “My little butterfly has a stinger.”

I took a step back, knowing what he was going to ask of me. But I wouldn’t give it up, not the gift Mum had given me long ago, the one valuable thing I owned.

“Hand it over, Morrigan.”

“Don’t call me that. My name is Willow.”

He shrugged. “If you prefer. Now do as I say.”

I hesitated, and his icy-blue eyes narrowed.

“We can handle this one of two ways. Either you give up your weapon willingly, or I take it from you. And I assure you, I won’t be gentle about it.”

“But this is my only protection,” I said slowly.

“You won’t need it. I’m all the security you require.”

I didn’t want his security. I had my own, and his silky arrogance was starting to get on my nerves, calling forth an unreasonable yet potent desire to challenge him. “My mum gave it to me. It’s mine, and you’re not taking it.”

He cocked an eyebrow. “Oh, yes, I am. I won’t risk your attacking me when my back is turned.”

“It’s not for attacking, it’s for defending,” I argued irritably. “Which is exactly what I’ll do if you come any closer.”

“You are no match for me,” he said, with a husky laugh. An infuriating smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Do yourself a favor, and cease this childish game before you get hurt.”

Something desperate slid through my belly, hot and unrecognizable. It shook me with its intensity, and I had no strength against its will. Retreating another step, I felt for the weapon through my skirt. Vibrations tingled across my palms, and the skill’s power rushed through my veins. When I pictured the flat, silver surface of the blade, it trembled inside the scabbard as if ready to leap into my hand.

Let him try for it. He would regret laughing at me.

“Keep your distance,” I warned him, “or we’ll see who gets hurt.”

Author Bio:

C.L. Denault is a speculative fiction writer who loves dreaming up tales of adventure and intrigue. A former systems analyst, she gave up her nerdy code-writing skills to care for her family (including a son with special needs) and currently lives among the vast stretches of cornfields in Illinois.

Writing and working out are her biggest passions, along with coffee and sci-fi. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and kids, she can usually be found at a library or tucked away in the shadowy corner of a hip coffeehouse. She’s also been glimpsed sneaking into her garage, late at night, to work on her time machine.

She enjoys connecting with people—especially those from other planets, nearby dimensions, and the future. To find her, just visit her website or social media pages. Or use a Stargate. Whichever is easiest.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram


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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Play For Me by Tam Derudder Jackson ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

Play For Me
Tam DeRudder Jackson
(Balefire Series, #1)
Publication date: May 27th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Jack
When I made my deal with the devil, I thought I was on my way to my rock ’n’ roll dream. Too bad I didn’t read the fine print. Having it all meant giving up the only girl I knew I’d ever love. Five years later, I’m drumming in the hottest rock band in the country, but I live like a monk.

Fate hands me an opportunity to reconnect with my perfect girl, giving me one glorious night with Clio Barnes. Our chemistry is off the charts. Too bad fate plays by her own rules. When Clio hears my bandmate’s idea of a joke, she believes I’ve used her, dissolved our love into a one-night stand, and she blows out of my life. When our tour ends, I’m determined to find her again, no matter how well she hides from me.

Clio
All my life, I’ve been invisible. For a brief moment five years ago, Jack Whitehorse saw me. And he made me feel like the center of his universe. But that was an illusion. Music was Jack’s only love. A chance encounter after a Balefire concert allows us to reconnect, but once again, I’m playing second fiddle to his rock ’n’ roll muse.

When the pregnancy test comes back positive, I decide to keep our baby secret. I can’t force Jack to play for me—I wouldn’t want to. Then he shows up unexpectedly one day, knocking on my door and demanding to be let in. He leaves me no choice but to tell him about the baby. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one with a secret. But the one he’s been keeping might end us for good.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Jack

Clio stood to the side of the dance floor, sipping a flute of champagne and looking so stunning she nearly broke my heart—again.

I wanted to study her, take all of her in for a few minutes before I broke the spell and actually talked to her. What do you say to the only person who ever really mattered after you dumped her with no explanation whatsoever? After the way she dropped on her ass when I caught her attention at the concert, I had to wonder how she was going to react to talking to me.

Then again, maybe she went down because of the booze she’d been drinking. I barely took my eyes off her from the moment I spotted her in the front row at the show, so I saw how she finished her flask then finished off her friend’s. Now she had a half-full glass of champagne in her hand, and I couldn’t tell if she was swaying to the music or trying to remain upright.

Jesus, tipsy or not, her beauty stunned me. That dress she had on wore me out. All that delicate lace hinted at her pretty curves and showed off her legs, which her sexy sandals emphasized. I couldn’t guess the length of her hair since she was wearing it up, but I was glad she apparently hadn’t cut it. The style exposed the neck I’d loved touching and kissing, making her shiver and snuggle closer to me for more. As the memories washed over me, I smiled before I heard Dakota talking from somewhere behind me.

“Oh, yeah, I’d like to tap that,” he said, and I wondered which girl would be the starter for his evening. Then he boiled my blood. “That redhead in the blue lace dress is one seriously sexy woman.”

“I think she’s spoken for, dude. You’re going to have to look somewhere else,” Tron said as he materialized next to me.

“Just ’cause there’s a goalie doesn’t mean you can’t score,” Dakota said with a laugh.

I flexed my fists as I considered clocking him when Tron put a restraining hand on my arm. Clenching my jaw, I didn’t turn my head to look at him, but I uncoiled slightly. Of the three other guys in the band, I was closest to Tron. He was steady and levelheaded, and he didn’t mind at all that I didn’t drink much and never spent private time with the army of groupies who followed Balefire like it was their job.

“She belongs to the monk, Dakota. That’s one goalie you don’t want to mess with.”

“The monk has a girl? How did I not know this?” Dakota turned a wide-eyed stare on me.

“With any luck, I’ll have that girl, so back off,” I growled.

“You haven’t made a move yet? That makes her fair game.” Dakota took a step in Clio’s direction.

“I invited her to this party, so no, she’s not fair game. If you don’t want me to mess up your pretty face, back the fuck off,” I gritted out, staring him down.

Dakota raised his hands in surrender. “Whoa, man. No need to get your shorts in a knot over a woman. The room is full of ’em.” His eyes wandered the room and all the ladies on offer. “Why, there’s another sweet little number walking over to talk to Red. The brunette off-limits too?”

“Knock yourself out. I’ll even introduce you,” I said. Maybe with the buffer of other people, I could survive this initial reconnection with Clio.

Then again, maybe it was a much bigger deal to me than it would be to her. For all I knew, Harrison Barnes had fed her a truckload of shit about me, and now she couldn’t give a flying fuck if I talked to her or not.

“You’ve been stirred up about seeing her again since you found her friend and set up this opportunity, dude. Probably better do something about it now that you have the chance,” Tron said quietly into my ear.

I nodded and turned to Dakota. “Let’s go talk to some nice girls for a change.”

“Seriously? What fun will that be?”

The stricken look on Dakota’s face cracked me up, and I felt lighter than I had all night. “God, you’re such a fuck boy. If Clio’s friend is too nice for you, I’m sure you can find the girl who belongs with the red bra you kept from the show.”

“You saw that, did you?” A grin broke over his face.

“Bet her phone number is written in great big digits over the inside of the cups.”

“Nah, they’re all lace.”

I raised a brow and waited for the punch line.

“It’s written along the straps. Since all the VIPs in the front row got invited to this little soiree of ours, I know she’s here somewhere. But first, the angel in the naughty black leather dress.”

I burst out laughing at the melodramatic villain way he rubbed his hands together, and we were all right again.

Glancing back to where Clio and her friend stood, I sucked in a breath, squared my shoulders, and willed my feet to move. Walking beside me, Tron snorted out a laugh. “Jesus, dude, she’s a beautiful woman, not a firing squad. Relax already.”


Author Bio:

Tam DeRudder Jackson is the author of the paranormal romance Talisman Series and the contemporary romance Balefire Series. Her favorite "room" in her house is her back patio where she dreams up stories of romance and risk. When she's not writing her latest paranormal or contemporary romance, you can usually find her driving around with the top down in her convertible or carving turns on the slopes of the local ski hill. The mom of two grown sons, Tam likes to travel, attend rock concerts, watch football and soccer, and visit old car shows with her husband. She lives in the mountains of northwest Wyoming where she spends most of her free time trying to read all the books. Her TBR piles are threatening to take over her office, and she's fine with that.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram


GIVEAWAY!

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This is not a Stuck In Books giveaway.  Stuck In Books is not responsible for selecting the winner or delivering the prize.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The Hidden Princess by Mira Crest ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

The Hidden Princess
Mira Crest
(Princess League, #1)
Publication date: April 16th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Penny is an ugly princess born to a family known for its beautiful offspring. To protect the royal bloodline’s reputation, the king proclaims her dead since birth and locks her away in the castle cellar.

But unbeknown to most, including herself, Penny has a gift: she can see the darkness within one’s mind through touch.

Everett is a dragon prince whose land is plagued by a deadly sickness in the form of black mist, capable of turning any fairy being it touches into stone. He comes to Penny’s kingdom seeking the one princess foretold to end the darkness.

The choice is clear, it’s either Penny’s cynical eldest sister, Tatiana, or her kind elder sister, Sarah, because Penny does not exist, not officially. But a twist of fate and Penny’s gift bring her to Everett’s attention, and she takes on a secret identity to aid him to trace the origin of the black mist.

What follows is a journey into a dark magical world within the minds of the corrupt, ruled by demons that plague on the dark aspects of the human psyche.

With the clock fast ticking, the prince must discover who the chosen one is in order to defeat the black mist before it turns him to stone and spreads to the rest of the world. But there are those who will do anything to keep Penny’s identity hidden.

Goodreads / Amazon

FREE for a limited time only!

EXCERPT:

The shopkeeper grabbed the doll from among the top shelves. “Here you go.” He handed it to her. Just then, her fingers met his, and she heard the shopkeeper’s voice. “Where did this hideous and filthy-looking girl come from? Good thing I noticed her fast, lest she would get my dolls tainted with her hands. Let’s hope she leaves soon.”

She gazed at the shopkeeper, whose mouth remained closed. Those words stung. Even though the shopkeeper never said them, Penny knew they held more truth than those he said. These were his thoughts, and she was reading them when she accidentally touched him.

Then she felt dizzy, and a gloom fell over the store as if something had suddenly blocked out the sunlight from the windows. But it wasn’t the windows. It was the shopkeeper. His form emitted an ominous light and right above his head, she saw black mist rising, forming the shape of a face with eerie glowing eyes. It stared straight at Penny. “Penny…Penny….” Penny heard an insidious voice calling her.

Stop! Stop! She willed her mind to look away.

“Penny…Penny!” A force pulled her back and she almost crumpled to the floor if Thomas had not held her firmly. “Are you alright?” he asked.

“There’s someone–!” Penny pointed toward the shopkeeper, who was frowning at her. The eerie face and black mist were gone.

“What is it?” Thomas asked.

It took her a while before she spoke again. “I don’t know. It was there a while ago.” As she looked down, she saw the doll lying on the floor. She picked it up and slowly stroked any dust off it as if it were a real girl.

“How much is it?” he asked the beleaguered keeper.

“Four silver pieces.” Thomas handed the silver to the shopkeeper. A look of relief appeared on his face as he took the money. The horror of the black mist weighed heavy on Penny’s mind as she made her way out. She recalled the mean thoughts of the shopkeeper. For a moment, she had believed the outside world was different and she finally found a place she belonged. Penny blinked hard as her eyes began to water.

Suddenly, the streets seemed less joyful than before, and the sounds of the people and activities seemed drowned out by the memory of the black mist.

That voice. It called her name.

She knew for certain it was no hallucination. It was the first time such a vision had occurred. She never saw it when she touched others before, although there weren’t really that many, to begin with. There were only a few who could tolerate standing within inches of her.

She must have drifted off in her thoughts because the next thing she knew, she had fallen behind Thomas and someone bumped into her from the side.

“Watch where you are going, you–!” A rough-looking man said. “Hey, little girl, are you lost?”

“No.”

“Don’t be afraid, I just want to help. Let me take you home.” He grabbed her by the arm.

“Stop it, let me go!” Penny tried to pry his fingers free.

“This must be my lucky day. I wonder how much this girl would fetch.” She heard the man’s voice, yet his mouth remained closed.

She stared at the man, who stood there, frozen in time. Not just him. The entire town had come to a standstill. A ball was floating in the air, as the boy who threw it waited an eternity for it to fall back down.

Then, the surroundings turned black, and the black mist appeared around the man’s frame. The eyes of the black misty face shone a pale white.

“Penny…Penny…” spoke the insidious voice.

“NO!” Penny screamed and forced her eyes shut. At once, the darkness lifted, and the sounds of reality replaced the heavy silence. “Get away from me!” she screamed with her real voice audible.

“Hey!” A familiar voice said, and the rough-looking man turned around, his face meeting head-on with a big fist. The man fell to the ground before Penny. “Touch her again, and you will never touch anything for the rest of your life!”

The man crawled to his feet and bolted. “Penny, didn’t I tell you not to—Penny? Penny!” Penny ran off before Thomas could finish his sentence.

Penny kept running. All she wanted then was to get as far away as possible from this place, from the prejudice, the black mist.

She didn’t know how long she ran before Thomas finally caught up with her. “Penny, it’s alright now.” He wrapped his hands around her head, and she tucked her head in his tummy. “What happened, Penny? Please tell me.”

Penny told Thomas about all that had happened. The black mist, the eerie face. Although Thomas understood little of it, he listened, for he knew there was always much truth in what she said. The world wasn’t as great as Penny thought out to be. It broke his heart she had to learn this fact on her first outing.

The outing had come to an end, and they returned to the castle. The one happy thing the outing brought her was the doll she bought. She gave her a name. Cinder. And she became Penny’s companion ever since.

She thought of the boy named Canyon, and how he was the only person without disdain for her, though, she wondered if it would be the same way if she touched him and read his mind.

But most of all, she wondered about the black mist. What was it? And that eerie face. Who, or rather, what was it? What disturbed her most was the fact that it called her name like it was reaching into her mind.

Author Bio:

Since young, Mira loves fantasy romance with strong female protagonists and perilous adventures to magical realms and parallel universes to visit dragons, witches, shifters, and fairy tale creatures, bringing heroes and heroines together and aiding their epic fantasy battles against dark enemies so they can have the happily-ever-afters they deserve.
When she grew up, she takes a liking to young adult stories, which explains her passion writing in the young adult fantasy romance genre. Her books are clean romance with character development as the prime focus. Even now, she still journeys to fantasy realms whenever she's not writing.

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Out of Time by Monica McCarty ~ A Stuck In Books Giveaway

 


A hunt for dangerous secrets leads to explosive chemistry in this exhilarating romantic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Off the Grid.

A team of Navy SEALs goes on a mission and disappears without a trace--they are the Lost Platoon.


With his men scattered to all corners of the globe after a disastrous secret op in Russia, Lieutenant Commander Scott Taylor is trying to find out who was responsible for leaking the information that killed half his platoon. Were it not for Natalie Andersson, the woman he had been secretly dating in the Pentagon who had warned him of the danger, he knows they would all be dead. Scott is devastated when he hears that the woman he loved and hoped to marry has been killed for helping him--until he learns that Natalie was the spy who betrayed them. But when his search to clear his name brings him face-to-face with a very-much-alive Natalie, Scott realizes that justice and vengeance might not be as clear-cut as he thought.

Natalie Andersson, or, as she was born, Natalya Petrova, has put the memories of her early childhood in Russia behind her. She never dreamed that she would be at the center of an elaborate "sleeper" espionage program. Even when she learns the truth, she refuses to spy for the country of her birth, until the Russians threaten the lives of the only family she has ever known. But Natalie is the worst spy in the history of spying, falling for her target. When her attempt at misdirection leads to irreversible consequences, she is forced to run for her life, with her lover hot on her tail.



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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Ethan's Empire by R.V. Garner ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

Ethan’s Empire: Laying Down the Rules
R.V. Garner
Publication date: February 15th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Welcome to Ethan’s world, where the suspense is heart-gripping, and the romance will leave you desperate for more.

At an age when most girls have the world at their feet, Olivia Crosley is just trying to survive, bouncing from one borrowed bed to another to find a place to lay her head at night. With all the odds against her and strength beyond her years, she has managed to carve out a section of life she can call her own.

Then she meets Ethan Grant. The first time she laid eyes on him, he was a complete mystery, an unlikely hero in a perfectly tailored suit. His stoic demeanor told her to keep her guard up, but there is a reason he saved her, and she needs to find out why. From the moment he pulled her into his car, she became a prize to be hunted. She soon learns that his enemies are fully engaged in the game.

Olivia finds herself immersed in guards, guns, and more money than she could ever imagine. Each moment brings its own sense of danger as she struggles to determine whether her heart or life is on the line.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

That was one piece of information I would have preferred not to know. His lips on hers, his hands touching her body. The images replayed in my mind until I thought I would go insane. Pacing with a glass of bourbon in hand, I tried to calm myself while I waited for her to arrive. I thought she would have the courtesy to come and speak with me, but she avoided me like the plague and it did nothing but piss me off more.

I held my glass a little too tightly as I stared at the door to her room. My anger raged as I thought about them together. Not able to stand it any longer, I walked toward her, the sound of my footsteps filling the apartment. There was no hesitation, and when I reached her room, I barged right in, ready to confront her.

As soon as she came into view, she disarmed me. Seeing her standing there, barely dressed, stopped me in my tracks. I tried to avert my eyes, but it was an impossible feat. My gaze remained fixated on her and there was no controlling it. When she shouted at me, I didn’t even flinch.

There was a battle raging inside of me. My mind was screaming at me to stay away from her, but my heart was having none of it.

Author Bio:

R.V. Garner is an emerging author in the romance genre. She grew up on the border of Georgia and Florida, surrounded by sunshine and salt air. A hopeless romantic to her core, she gets lost creating worlds and letting them flow out of her in the form of a story. Dancing in the rain, the long-awaited kiss, a hand on the small of the back, she's a sucker for them all. Epic love stories in any form are her kryptonite. Books, movies, and music all hold power over her, and she hopes to share a little bit of that magic with you. You can visit her at www.rvgarner.com. Be sure to sign up for updates, and be one of the first to know when new books are coming out.

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A Good Day To Marry A Duke by Betina Krahn ~ A Stuck In Books Giveaway

 


From award-winning New York Times bestselling author Betina Krahn comes a beguiling new romance brimming with her signature wit, timeless sensuality, and thrilling romance—as desire proves to be a great equalizer...

Daisy Bumgarten isn't thrilled to be trying to catch a duke's attention while dressed like a flower pot caught in a swarm of butterflies. But, after all, when in Rome (or in this case London society)... Since her decidedly disastrous debut among New York's privileged set, the sassy Nevada spitfire's last chance to "marry well" lies across the pond, here in England. If she must restrain her free spirit, not to mention her rib cage, so be it. She knows she owes it to her three younger sisters to succeed.

Now, under a countess's tutelage, Daisy appears the perfect duchess-in-training...Until notorious ladies' man Lord Ashton Graham, a distraction of the most dangerous kind, glimpses her mischievous smile and feisty nature—and attempts to unmask her motives. Daisy has encountered snakes on the range, but one dressed to the nines in an English drawing room is positively unnerving—and maddeningly seductive. When a veiled plot emerges to show up Daisy as unworthy of the aristocracy, will Ashton be her worst detractor? Or the nobleman she needs most of all?



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Monday, May 24, 2021

The Weight of the Sky by Caroline Schley ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

The Weight of the Sky
Caroline Schley
Publication date: May 20th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

For every important decision in her life, fifteen-year-old Chris Miller relies on silence rather than courage. In her rough Bridgeport neighborhood, Chris bites her tongue when her best friend gets sent to juvenile detention for a crime she didn’t commit. As a scholarship kid at St. Catherine’s Prep, Chris acquiesces to ‘drinkstagram’ at tony sleepover parties. At home with her overbearing mother, she swallows her questions about her father’s identity. Chris understands that quiet insecurity isn’t the most valiant approach to life, but it gets her through the day unscathed. Until she’s sexually assaulted.

In the aftermath, Chris’s tenuous happiness crumbles alongside her grades, yet she can’t find the courage to report the assault. At a crossroads, Chris is forced to volunteer at an afterschool program for low-income families to maintain her scholarship. Catapulted back to the very neighborhood she struggled to escape, Chris finds her family thrust into the crosshairs of a gang war. When one of the students from her afterschool program is put at risk, Chris discovers just how much damage her silence can cause. Ultimately, she must decide if she will remain quiet as others call the shots and remain a victim or if she can forge the strength to stand up, speak the truth and call herself a survivor.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Chris’s fingers trembled over the email icon on the cracked screen of her Samsung phone.

“It’s from St. Catherine’s. Oh my God, Lesley, I’m going to pee my pants.”

“Spelling Bee, there’s no way they didn’t accept you. Get that tremble outta your pale-ass chin.” Lesley pulled her full lips and dark eyebrows into an assured pout. “You’re the smartest freshman in the history of Bridgeport High School. All that shit about string theory you were spouting off in the hallway last week? I didn’t even know you were speaking English. I thought Mr. Idelson was going to nut himself.”

“Eww.” Chris wrinkled her nose at the thought of her ancient Biology teacher doing anything that resembled nutting himself.

“Eww.” Lesley jutted her chin in agreement. “The point is, you’re a genius. Just open it.”

Chris pushed her brown hair behind her ears and attempted to duplicate Lesley’s self-confident posture. It was true. She was smart. At public school. St. Catherine’s Prep existed in a different universe. It was, without question, the best high school in the area, possibly in the whole state of Connecticut. The campus gleamed like a bastion of perfection, nestled securely into the part of Fairfield County dominated by large, estate-style houses and private waterfront property. The girls wore charcoal grey uniform skirts and the boys wore monogrammed blue blazers. The tuition was $35,000 a year. The thought that they might accept her there on a full scholarship for tenth grade seemed as ludicrous as Hagrid the groundskeeper sweeping into her mother’s postage stamp apartment to let her know she’d been accepted to Hogwarts.

Chris took a breath and clicked on the screen with shaking fingers. She blinked as the words swam into coherent sentences in front of her.

Dear Ms. Miller,

The admissions committee at St. Catherine’s School…outstanding application…meaningful performance…blah, blah, blah… Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you of your acceptance to St. Catherine’s School for the 2020-2021 school year.

“I got in.” Chris almost choked on the words.

“Told you.” Lesley deadpanned for a beat before she let out an excited scream. The noise ricocheted over the cracked cement courtyard of the K Street Housing Project. “Maybe now your mom will get off your case about hanging out with me.”

Chris grimaced. “Maybe.” Maybe not.

Lesley shimmied into a victory dance. “We need to celebrate!” Chris could predict the next words to come out of her mouth as clearly as if Lesley were reading off a script. “Do you have ten dollars?”

This is why my mother doesn’t like you, Chris thought, smiling.

Author Bio:

Caroline Schley is a YA author and high school science teacher. Originally from New York City, she currently lives in Madrid and will happily travel long distances for white sand beaches, high-quality chocolate and alpine hiking trails. You can find out about her current writing projects and stay in touch at carolineschley.com.

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Perfect For You by Candis Terry ~ A Stuck In Books Giveaway

 


Declan Kincade has spent so much time chasing success he’s almost forgotten how to just live. Lately though, his all-business routine has been thrown into disarray. Brooke Hastings is the best employee Dec’s ever had: polished, capable, and intelligent. After four years, he’s just realized that she’s also smoking hot. But their working relationship is too valuable to stake on a fling, no matter how mind-bendingly pleasurable it promises to be.

What’s worse than never meeting the right man? Finding him, and then working side-by-side every day while he remains absolutely blind to your existence. That is, until one temptation-packed road-trip changes everything. Teaching her gorgeous, driven boss how to cut loose and have fun is the toughest challenge Brooke’s ever faced. But it’s one that could give both of them exactly what they need, if Dec will take a chance on a perfect—and perfectly unexpected—love.



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Sunday, May 23, 2021

Stacking Our Shelves ~ 5/23/21


Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  Make sure to checkout her post with links to all the other participates.

Click covers for Goodreads links



For Review...

 



Thanks goes to...

Atheneum Books for Young Readers




That's what we added to our shelves this week! What do you think? What did you add to your stacks? Leave us a comment and link us up!


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling #6) by Nalini Singh ~ Review

Source: Purchased.

Though DarkRiver sentinel Mercy is feeling the pressure to mate, she savagely resists when Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant from the SnowDancer pack, tries to possess her. The problem is not simply that he pushes her buttons; the problem is that he's a wolf, she's a cat, and they're both used to being on top.

But when a brilliant changeling researcher is kidnapped from DarkRiver territory, Mercy and Riley must work together to track the young man - before his shadowy captors decide he's no longer useful. Along the way, the two dominants may find that submitting to one another uncovers not just a deadly conspiracy, but a passion so raw that it'll leave them both branded by fire...



After a long break from the Psy-Changeling series, I finally picked up the next installment. And I know I've enjoyed the previous books, but it was so lovely to ease back into this world again. Braded by Fire is another solid and awesome installment in this series.

I've got to start this review by talking about how much I love this world. How well written it is. How easy it is to fall into, even while being incredibly complex. Nalini Singh is talented and brilliant. And this goes for the world and the overall plot within it, but also the characters. We get to see the couples from the previous books. I love checking in with them. And at the same time, there's an entire cast around the main characters of THIS book, ripening for their own stories and I'm excited.

As for the main couple in Branded by Fire, I of course was a fan. Something special about Mercy and Riley was how early they got together. Don't get me wrong, there is complications and conflict and it's still a lovely story of them becoming a couple that will last, but I enjoyed that their romance was built of a push and pull that involved them TOGETHER instead of apart. 

While the romance was marvelous, I also have to mention the familial relationships in this one--Riley and his siblings, Mercy and hers. I adore it. And their bonds to their packs! Have I mentioned that I love them?

The entire story was well done: the world-building, the plot, the romance, the side characters, literally everything. That said, this one just wasn't a favorite for me. Not sure if it was my mood or my forever love for Brenna and Judd or what, but this one fell juuuuust short of a 5-star read for me.

Overall, Branded by Fire is another strong installment in the Psy-Changeling series. It has everything I was looking for: a lovely romance, an interesting plot, and world-building that was comprehensive but not overbearing. If you've been holding out on this series, y'all, you really must pick it up!


4.5 stars - This series continues to be brilliant!

Friday, May 21, 2021

How Not to Fake Marry a Billionaire by Ashlee Mallory ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

How Not to Fake Marry a Billionaire
Ashlee Mallory
(How Not to Marry a Billionaire, #2)
Publication date: May 17th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

People say I’m smart.

Probably because I have a PhD in astrophysics and am on the cusp of publishing a theory that just might change our perception of the known universe.

The verdict, however, is still out for me.

After all, I fell for a colleague who broke my heart and then stole the grant money from the Camella Franklin Foundation that had been funding my research. Did I mention he’s also engaged to Camella Franklin?

Then the gorgeous and charming billionaire Colin Fitzgerald came to me with a proposal that might just change my life.

A marriage in name only in return for the grant money needed to fund my research.

Marrying a hot billionaire wouldn’t be so bad, right?

Except that from the moment I laid eyes on the guy, it felt like the stars had aligned and I had actually met my destiny. He, on the other hand, had been totally in love with my best friend.

But, as people say, I’m smart. I wouldn’t do anything so foolish as to fall in love with my fake husband.

Like I said…the verdict is still out.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

“Excuse me, but I’m looking for Holly Mazinski,” said someone with a distinctively British accent.

I whirled around and stared at the guy standing in the door, looking all tall and dignified and sexy—yes, definitely sexy. I blinked my eyes as if to clear them from this possible apparition. Could Colin Fitzgerald actually be standing in the doorway of my office here in Tucson? Jane’s Colin, who she’d dated as part of her operation to marry a billionaire that ended with his proposal—that’s right, for marriage—and her ultimate rejection? Twice?

As I pondered this, Colin’s gaze swept the room. When he saw me, his mouth curved into a smile that made my stomach feel like a dozen circus monkeys were flipping somersaults inside.

Yeah, so I kind of liked him. A lot.

“Holly. There you are.”

I sat frozen in my seat as he walked into the room. Our prior two meetings in Hawaii—once when he came to pick Jane up for a date and the other when I had a sort of weird double date with him, Jane, and Jane’s bartender—had both left me tongue-tied in his presence.

“Colin. Hi,” I croaked out.

It was safe to say that today was not going to be any different.

He stood in front of me, close enough that I could see the warmth in those lovely light blue eyes made lighter by the sky-blue sweater he wore. He’d had a haircut since I last saw him, shorter on the sides but a bit messy on top and swept over in a casual but sexy style. His jawline had a hint of stubble that hadn’t erased the slight indent in his chin or the perfection of those lips that any Italian artist worth his salt would beg to chisel onto a sculpture of a god.

I looked away to get my bearings, settling on the breadth of his shoulders—which might have been a mistake.

“Are you going to introduce us to your guest, Holly?” Katrina asked, poking me in the side.

Right. Introductions. “Colin, this is Katrina.”

“How do you do?” Colin said in his delectable accent and nodded in greeting.

“And that’s Remy and Julia,” I continued while each of them waved in greeting. I stopped when I reached George and Camella. George had a funny look on his face as he stepped forward and held his hand out to Colin. “George McConnell. And this is my fiancée, Camella Franklin.”

Colin turned to me and I saw a wave of understanding cross his face as he met my gaze. He’d been there in Hawaii after I heard the news of their engagement and knew how devastated I’d been.

With barely more than a nod to George, Colin trained his attention on me. “I’m terribly sorry to bother you while you’re at work, but I thought that our discussion might better be handled in person.” He checked his very expensive-looking watch. “It’s almost lunchtime. Would you care to grab something to eat?”

I blinked a few more times before Katrina jabbed me again. “Lunch? Yes, I could probably get away for a few minutes.”

“Excellent.”

I was still confused about why he would have come all the way here to seek me out. I knew that he’d arrived at Jane’s office in Legal Aid last week and renewed his marriage proposal and been shot down. I had assumed that he would have returned to England by now or wherever he usually did whatever work a billionaire did. Unlike Jane, I didn’t know much about this particular handsome billionaire and hadn’t seen any reason to, other than…

A new possibility hit me. Could he be here to discuss the email? I’d sent it last week and hadn’t heard a word since.

Well, I could sit here for another five minutes ruminating on the reason or just get my butt out of the chair and follow him.

Author Bio:

Ashlee Mallory is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and thrillers. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and two kids. She aspires to one day include running, hiking and traveling to exotic destinations in her list of things she enjoys, but currently settles for enjoying a good book and a glass of wine from the comfort of her couch.

Keep up with all upcoming releases by following me here, or joining my Newsletter at http://bit.ly/1lPwwE3 for updates and giveaways!

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The Spring Renews by Marie McGrath ~ Excerpt & Giveaway

The Spring Renews
Marie McGrath
(Honey Cove, #3)
Publication date: May 18th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Never fall in love. It only breaks your heart.

Sophie Graham didn’t believe in love … not anymore. Ever since her father died, Sophie watched the pain her mother went through. Love was messy and not worth taking the risk.

When her mother starts dating again and things get serious, Sophie’s beliefs get called into question. Not to mention, she has to work at the movie theater with a boy she had almost kissed from a stupid dare. Pushed together by the manager, she has to spend more time with Drew than she had wanted to ever again.

Will she open her heart to love and the possibilities? Or will she bar her heart from everyone?

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

I groaned. I didn’t want to get stuck with this man at the festival. I already had plans to go with Riley, Randy, and Shelby. I didn’t want a parental escort.

“Sounds great.” Rowan eyed me, keeping his posture open and his eyes as if they were smiling.

Our guidance counselor had given us a lesson about body language for our school interviews next year, and, if I remembered correctly, open posture was supposed to be welcoming. Well, his welcoming stance could shove it. I didn’t want him to welcome me into whatever this was.

“How long have you two been dating?” I asked.

Mama’s jaw slackened. “Sophie!”

Rowan waved her off. “It’s okay, Faye. I don’t mind.” He faced me. “Today is six months.”

Six months? Six months!”

“Sophie, calm down.”

My chair wobbled with the force from my body as I scooted backward. “You’ve been dating for half a year, and you just now say something. This is ridiculous.” I threw my napkin on the table and ran to my room. I grabbed my house key and phone and bolted out the front door.

I faintly heard my name, but I refused to turn around and look. The sky was blue, with large puffy clouds—the complete opposite ambience to my mood. I wanted thunderheads and lightning streaking the sky. I wanted earthquakes and tornadoes ripping apart homes. Because then, just maybe, the rage that boiled beneath my skin wouldn’t surface.

At the end of the neighborhood was a medium-sized playground. I strolled to the swings and plopped onto the middle one. I pushed hard off the ground and tucked my legs underneath. I closed my eyes and let the breeze collide with my face with each swing. The coolness and the movement lessened my rage—but only slightly.

I pulled up my messages and clicked on Riley’s name. My mama is DATING someone. In fact, has been for six months!

The swing slowed. I tapped my feet on the tire chips as I waited for a response. Come on, Riley. Answer me!

The chirp startled me before I swiped to unlock my phone.

What? Are you serious?

YES! She told me this morning. Oh, and the best part is Caleb already knew. No idea for how long, but he knew. What was she thinking, Riley? I’ve never been so angry in my whole life.

I’m sorry. How did you find out?

The guy sat at our kitchen table this morning. He was already there when I walked around the corner. Can you believe that?

Wow. Not the best introduction.

He might be a nice guy, but we don’t need anyone else in our family. We’re doing just fine.

What are you going to do?

I don’t know.

I started swinging again—back and forth, back and forth. I tried to release my anger. I tried to release it all, but my arms and legs tingled with the intensity of my clenching.

I have an idea, but I’ll need your help to make it work.

Whatever you need. I’m always here.

Can you come by?

Sure. Be there in thirty.

You’re the best!

I shoved my phone in my back pocket and strolled to the house. I would have just enough time to get changed, hopefully avoid Mama, and bolt from the house.

Author Bio:

Marie McGrath lives in a small rural town in Maryland. She hopes to inspire others with her stories. Her favorite genres to read are YA Romance and Contemporary Fiction. She loves the color turquoise, tigers, and listening to music.

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