Monday, September 17, 2018

Book Review: Nell and Lady by Ashley Farley

Nell and Lady

by Ashley Farley 

A heart-stirring novel of family and forgiveness from bestselling author Ashley Farley.

In her grand home in Charleston, Willa Bellemore raised two girls during the tumultuous 1970s. One was her daughter, Lady. The other was Lady’s best friend, Nell—adopted after the sudden, heartbreaking death of her mother, the Bellemores’ beloved maid. Willa showered Nell with love and support, all the while ignoring the disdainful whispers of her neighbors. After all, they were family. Nell and Lady were sisters at heart—sisters who vowed to never let anything come between them.

Then, on the night of Lady’s sixteenth birthday, something went terribly wrong, sparking painful secrets and bitter resentments that went unspoken for three decades.

Now Willa is dying, and Lady and Nell—each with a teenager of her own—are brought together after all these years. It’s Willa’s last wish. The time has come to confront what happened on that fateful night. But it may take a tragic twist of fate to reconcile the past and come to terms with the true meaning of family.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

Lady wasn’t dredging up anything. She lived in the past every single day. She was a character in a movie with a worn-out theme— waking up every morning to repeat the same traumatic day over and over again.

For your information, Betty, my help is my family, not that it’s any of your business. As for my social status, I have more friends in this town than you have weeds in your garden. And, honey, I’m here to tell you that you have a whole shit pot of weeds growing in your garden.

My Review:

The clever and thoughtful premise of this book was the pervasive domino effect of a kept secret thirty-one years after the undisclosed traumatic event lead. It started with a silent resentment that quickly festered into a loud and bitter antipathy and resulted in complete avoidance. The secret had effectively poisoned their family and shaped their choices and attitudes as adults. The storylines were believable, heart-squeezing, easy to follow and well paced while the writing was emotive and well detailed. While the story was engaging and well plotted, her characters are always where Ms. Farley’s true artistry shines. This ensemble was realistically drawn, deeply flawed, and so well-fleshed out I felt I knew them. Ashley Farley has a well-honed skill for creating common yet deeply fractured characters that greatly annoy me one minute and endear me the next.

Empress DJ

About the Author  

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you've read the last word, then she's done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Visit her website at for more information. Or sign up for her newsletter using this link:

Book Review: The Ancient Nine by Ian K. Smith

The Ancient Nine

by Ian K. Smith

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Spenser Collins

An unlikely Harvard prospect, smart and athletic, strapped for cash, determined to succeed. Calls his mother—who raised him on her own in Chicago—every week.

Dalton Winthrop

A white-shoe legacy at Harvard, he's just the most recent in a string of moneyed, privileged Winthrop men in Cambridge. He's got the ease—and the deep knowledge—that come from belonging.

These two find enough common ground to become friends, cementing their bond when Spenser is "punched" to join the Delphic Club, one of the most exclusive of Harvard's famous all-male final clubs. Founded in the nineteenth century, the Delphic has had titans of industry, Hollywood legends, heads of state, and power brokers among its members.

Dalton Winthrop knows firsthand that the Delphic doesn't offer memberships to just anyone. His great-uncle is one of their oldest living members, and Dalton grew up on stories of the club's rituals. But why is his uncle so cryptic about the Ancient Nine, a shadowy group of alums whose identities are unknown and whose power is absolute? They protect the Delphic's darkest and oldest secrets—including what happened to a student who sneaked into the club's stately brick mansion in 1927 and was never seen again.

Dalton steers Spenser into deeper and deeper recesses of the club, and beyond it, to try to make sense of what they think they may be seeing. But with each scrap of information they get from an octogenarian Crimson graduate, a crumbling newspaper in the library's archives, or one of Harvard's most famous and heavily guarded historical books, a fresh complication trips them up. The more the friends investigate, the more questions they unearth, tangling the story of the club, the disappearance, and the Ancient Nine, until they realize their own lives are in danger.

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

I rarely felt self-conscious about what I did or didn’t have, but it wasn’t lost on me that my competitors for a coveted membership were arriving in expensive foreign cars while I arrived in a pair of sturdy five-year-old Florsheims that had been resoled four times and polished so much, the white stitching had turned black.

The racial politics at Harvard were complicated. Black students were in a tough position. If we spent too much time with white students, other blacks figured we had sold out. If we spent too much time with other black students, our white classmates figured we were angry separatists. The dining hall was one big murky fishbowl of social complexities. Everyone looked to see who was sitting with whom and how much time they spent interacting on the “other” side. I was lucky because playing a sport gave me a pass that the non-athletes didn’t have. By dint of my team and training obligations, I automatically spent time with both blacks and whites, which gave me immunity.

He had heavy bags under his eyes, as if miniature pillows had been slipped under his skin. He was military stocky and wore a pair of jeans that looked tight enough to constipate him.

Her T-shirt had j-u-i-c-y spread across it in small crystals, and the fabric was under so much tension, I thought the I was going to pop off and hit me in the face.

There were two things about Professor Charles Davenport that you’d never forget. He probably had the biggest ears of any man that’s walked the face of the earth, long doughy flaps that fell beneath his jawline with a forest of hair growing out of them. Then there were those glasses, big and black and rectangular, made all the more prominent by his hairless dome.

She had an uncanny ability to quickly put things into perspective and make molehills out of mountains.

Many people never even bothered leaving the tailgates, and most of those who did only entered the stadium at halftime, when their champagne had run dry or their canisters of caviar were empty. This crowd even cheered differently. They didn’t yell and clap like most football fans. Rather they spoke complete, grammatically correct sentences, saying things like, “What a magnificent play!” and “Thrash them, Harvard!” Sometimes it was difficult to tell if they were watching a football game or croquet match.

When the Harvard side of the stadium rose in unison, it was not to clap, but to jingle car keys in a massive show of approval. I watched in awe as thousands of Jaguar, Mercedes, and Rolls-Royce keys dangled in the air…

Money has an insidious way of making decent human beings behave in a most indecent way.

My Review: 

I wasn’t prepared for the complexity of this intriguing read and held on through a complicated and intricately woven tale with multiple yet equally compelling storylines. I pictured a handsome future President of recent history as the main character and it was a near perfect fit. There were compounded secrets within secrets and an endless and tantalizing quagmire to unravel. The writing was insightfully observant and sumptuously detailed. I reveled in Dr. Smith’s vividly colorful and amusing descriptions and looked forward to the introductions of each new character and locale. His premise pricked my curiosity and his well-crafted storylines kept it well fed while consistently pulling me in deeper and deeper into the group’s knotty and clandestine vortex. Like an iceberg, little was as it appeared to the eye. The characters were oddly unique and quirky, even the sinister ones held my interest and left me thirsting for more. The ending was highly satisfying with Spenser’s achieved results being better than expected and left a contented smile on my face. 

Empress DJ

Author Bio:

Ian K. Smith is the author of nine New York Times bestselling nonfiction books, several of them, including Shred and Super Shred, #1 bestsellers, as well as one previous work of fiction, The Blackbird Papers. He is a graduate of Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine.

Social Links:
Facebook: @Dr.IanKSmith
Twitter: @DrIanSmith
Instagram: @doctoriansmith

Book Review: Strength by Amy Daws

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Title: Strength
Author: Amy Daws
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2018
Cover Designer: Amy Daws

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He thought getting a second chance at life was difficult, but resisting the spark he feels with her will test all of his strength. 
Vi Harris comes with baggage most men can’t handle. A famous ex-footballer for a father and four professional footballing brothers. Brothers she helped raise after their mother died. 

Dating isn’t easy when the infamous Harris Brothers not only play defense on the pitch but block most love interests from getting too close to their sister. 

Hayden Clarke isn’t the guy you take home to meet your parents. He’s brooding, troubled, and just survived the darkest days of his life. Which is why a distraction like Vi could cost him everything.

When Vi’s bright, cheeky smile and oversized dog crash into him without warning, he can’t help but get wrapped up in her. Despite his better judgment, he enlists Vi to help him with a special assignment that’s anything but romantic. 

Through it all, she doesn’t see his flaws. She doesn’t see him as broken. She sees him as the man he’s been fighting his whole life to be. 

But what happens when her strength becomes his weakness? 

*This is the re-titled, re-covered, re-edited, and all new bonus content version of the original book, That One Moment.*


Strength CR HTML

ItsLive-second chance

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My Rating:

Favorite Quotes:

‘It was my birthday yesterday and I still have to have my cake. There’s a bakery around the corner that closes in five minutes, and if you don’t shut up and leave, I’m not going to get my birthday cake and I bloody well love cake.’ I think I stamp my foot, but I’m too busy thinking about cake to notice.

I clench my jaw and wish the same wish that I wish I knew how to stop wishing.

I’m not crafty… at all. Pinterest looks like prison to me.

I feel something in my body when I’m around you that I have never felt in all my life, Vi. I want to dive in with your and figure it out. I want us to be something.

Your forever is mine, Vi. Your forever belongs to me… whether you’re ready to accept it or not.

I’ve loved you for so many moments, and I don’t want to waste any more time not telling you.

My Review:

I love/hate Amy Daws. She is brilliant! Amy Daws writes enthralling, relevant, and steamy love stories with endearing and lively, yet deeply flawed characters. However, she makes me cry…. and I do NOT like to cry. I am no glutton for punishment so it may seem ill-advised that I continue to allow her to wreck me… gut me… turn me inside out and upside down. I continue to chase her work like a rabid fangirl simply because I adore her addicting, oh so alluring, sparkling, and highly emotive storytelling. She has mad skills as it is a rare occurrence for this cold-hearted cougar to stop reading and blubber into her wine goblet - and I will even confess it was not just once… but three times! Sigh. The only criticism I can offer up for her latest work is there were very limited Frank sightings. Please, Ms. Daws, we need more Frank and Beans!

Empress DJ


Amy Daws is an Amazon Top 25 bestselling author of sexy, contemporary romance novels. She enjoys writing love stories that take place in America, as well as across the pond in England; especially about those footy-playing Harris Brothers of hers. When Amy is not writing in a tire shop waiting room, she’s watching Gilmore Girls, or singing karaoke in the living room with her daughter while Daddy smiles awkwardly from a distance.


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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Book Review: The Holiday Cruise by Victoria Cooke

The Holiday Cruise

by Victoria Cooke

Amazon US / UK / B&N

As if it weren’t enough to be cheated on by her husband of ten years, Yorkshire lass Hannah Davis is losing her beauty salon business too. Luckily, her big sister is there to pick up the pieces, but Hannah is desperate to find some independence.

Impulsively, Hannah applies for a spa job…on a cruise ship! Christmas in the Caribbean, springtime in the Mediterranean, what’s not to like? But, despite being in her thirties, Hannah has never done anything on her own before, and she’s terrified.

As the ship sets sail, Hannah has never been further from home…or closer to discovering who she is and who she wants to be. 

My Rating: 

Favorite Quotes:

Her tight dress showcased an impressively pert chest that looked too large for her small frame. She looked like she came from a Mattel factory. What a weak, shallow fucking bastard he was. He could have at least been original… I could practically feel the frump grow around my body – each dimple of cellulite popped, my thighs started to bloat and swell, and the heavy sagginess of my breasts wore my chest down.

We’d both been cast aside like Primark hoodies at a marathon.

She was all blonde hair, and legs and boobs, so unless she’s left Daniel, I can’t see him giving that up. You know, I think in the end that’s what angered me the most. The fact that I – his loyal, caring wife with more than one brain cell and a business – wasn’t enough, that he was so shallow he thought Barbie was worth destroying everything we had for. We can all get a boob job and bleach our hair, you know!

I’m completely lost. That’s why I ended up here in the bar. It’s a default setting for blokes – we sit in a bar and await our rescue like damsels in distress.

‘I could ask Margaret, one of my new dinner table companions. She’s just arrived with her husband, Arthur, but she was giving me the eye all evening.’ He smirked. ‘Oh, was she now? So this Margaret, is she serious competition?’ ‘In all honesty, it depends on the lighting. She’s ninety-three but can pull off a black sequinned top like no other woman I’ve met.’

I can’t keep away. He’s like a neodymium magnet.

You’re going to be the most miserable traveller ever… How can you sit in such a beautiful city with a face like that? Your travel pictures are going to frighten small children.

My Review:

This lively and engaging tale was written from the first person POV of Hannah, an initially pathetic and tear-sodden woman who was so devastated by her husband’s betrayal and abandonment that she nearly allowed herself to fall to ruin. When her husband suddenly left her for his new Barbie doll simulation, Hannah crumbled and desperately begged him to stay then “spent a good six weeks wallowing in chocolate and alcohol.” Well, if you were going to wallow, that would be the way to do it, although I would also need to add in my two favorite handymen/therapists who can make virtually anything better - Ben and Jerry. Her business failed in her irresponsible absence and she was in danger of losing her home if she didn’t get pull her head out of her nether region when happenchance leads her to seek employment with an international cruise line. Brilliant. I wish I had thought of that in my misspent party-girl days!

I greatly appreciated the painstaking investigation and the extreme hardship the author must have gone through while researching this book. The ocean passages, cruise ship encounters, European touring, foreign dining and exploratory travel experiences had to have been most grueling – smirk. I truly did enjoy reading the pleasantly appealing and lushly detailed travel and cruising experiences as I felt as if I was there encountering them with her. The writing was well-paced and wryly amusing while also observantly insightful, emotive, and at times heart-squeezing. The plethora of diverse characters was interesting and endearing although there were many times I wanted to give Hannah a good hard pinch. I smirked my way through Hannah’s initial and exciting foray into loosening up and making new friends with her much younger cruise ship co-workers with a night of J├Ąger-bomb fueled lubricant which resulted in vague memories of partying like a twenty-year-old, drinking shots off a man’s stomach, an attempt at pole dancing, and the cheek burning walk of shame from a fellow crewmate’s cabin the morning after.

The cruise ship experience was ultimately an excellent diversion and confidence building training ground as the humdrum Hannah transformed from a caterpillar to a butterfly while she succeeded in previously unimagined experiences and formed new friendships, scuba dived, enjoyed exploring foreign cities leisurely and independently, hiked, learned self-defense, gained a healthy body through healthier eating and exercise, and fell into a sweet and supportive and excitingly forbidden ship-board romance with a mouth-wateringly handsome passenger. Oh, the thrill of forbidden kisses. And score, I have a new addition to my Brit Vocab list with the interesting entry of “Phwoar,” which apparently should be enthusiastically pronounced as fwaw, and according to Mr. Google is British slang for expressing sexual attraction, which sounds so much better to me than the alternative Brit saying of “you pulled.” Am I right? 
~ snort!

Empress DJ

Author Bio –

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and traveling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, 'The Secret to Falling in Love,' in 2016

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