2017 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: my must-buy picks

Nordstrom’s biggest sale of the year is finally here! Cardholders get early access starting today, while the public sale starts on the 21st.
I had the chance to shop early so I could give you the scoop on what looks good, fits great and won’t destroy your wallet. But be warned,
things sell out quick especially during early access week, so make sure you grab what you love!

My Top Picks


Halogen v-back top $39.90  $59

I loved the fit on this top, I loved the pattern wasn’t too crazy and I thought the color was perfect for Fall and Fall transition.

Trouve ruffle cold shoulder top $52.90  $79

Perfect for a date night or even polished enough to wear to work. Fits TTS.

Pleione tiered bell sleeve sweatshirt $42.90  $65

This is probably my #1 must-buy top. It this amazing, soft t-shirt like material and it’s very flattering.
I bought it in two colors: black and gray. TTS.

Hinge ruched bell sleeve cardigan $58.90  $89

Obsessed with this cardigan. It looks so good and has that striking ruching and flare. I usually buy
XL in sweaters because I like them looser, but I bought my size, large.

Leith easy circle cardigan $47.90   $75

Loved this cozy, super-soft cardigan with a great slouchy look. I could basically live in this sweater!

Vince Camuto bell sleeve sweater $45.90 $69  plus size

BP lace trim cami $22.90  $35

Blanknyc moto life changer jacket $64.90   $98

Also, check out this knit moto jacket in plus size

Blanknyc suede moto jacket $125.90   $188

Gibson bell sleeve cozy pullover $39.90  $59

I have a version of this top and I LOVE IT. Super flattering, comfy and fits TTS.


Halogen long open front cardigan $49.90  $79

Barefoot Dreams coastal hooded cardigan $75.90 $114  plus size

This is the most ridiculously soft sweater ever. I want to live in it, always. If you love cardies and love lounging around, this is a must buy.

Good Americans good legs high waist skinny jeans $123.90  $185

You know I love my GA jeans and these are a Nordstrom exclusive. I loved the color and
love the raw-cut step hem that will show off booties and shoes better! I wear my size in these.


There are also some beautiful Kendra Scott items at crazy-low prices. Check it out here.


☆ VBB Weekly – 07.10.2017 ☆


Reading Now: Listening To: Reading Next:



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Read my review | Read the interview

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Foreplay With The Boss by Cynthia Page (Available Now) – 99¢

My boss is teaching me to be bolder in the boardroom…and the bedroom.

I’m not bold enough to take over my father’s company, but I’ve sworn to do whatever it takes to learn. Even if it means working for Jameson Stone, the billionaire CEO of Craze Advertising, who’s as hard and unmovable as his name implies. He tells me to demand what I want instead of backing down, something I’ve always struggled with—in the boardroom and the bedroom. There are things I want to try, things I’ve only read in my romance novels, but have been too afraid to ask for.

When my boldness lessons turn into foreplay lessons, it’s nearly impossible not to fall, and if I’m not careful, I’ll end up losing everything I’ve worked for to a man who’ll always choose business over me.

A hot and hilarious standalone romantic comedy about a woman who gets in way over her head with her sexy billionaire CEO boss. Guaranteed HEA!

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A Promise Broken by Anissa Garcia (Available Now) – Read an excerpt

After a relationship gone bad, Hilary Matthews feels unsure about where she belongs or what to do with her life. Enter Zach Collins, a love ‘em and leave ‘em, no-strings-attached type of guy. The perfect distraction for her wounded heart. Just one problem. Zach isn’t some random stranger. He’s her brother’s best friend, and more than that, he’s practically family.

Zach’s job as assistant to an A-list actor allows him the luxury of women, travel, and fun. But things change the moment Hilary makes her move, completely altering his world. Hilary is his fantasy come to life, his dream woman in the flesh, and…his best friend’s little sister. Crossing the line with her could not only ruin his friendship but also alienate him from the only family he’s ever known.
Embroiled in betrayal, lies, guilt, and heartache, Hilary and Zach must decide if what they share is worth the turmoil. With so much at stake, the repercussions of a promise broken might cause the battle of their lives. But it could be worth the fight.

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Liberated by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki (Available Now) 


Engulfed on all fronts, Lexi struggles to rebuild the broken relationships with her mom and Cole. With Wilson imprisoning Sutton, they are forced to form new alliances in order to rescue him and stop the spread of the virus.

Choices must be made. Relationships sacrificed.

Where every day is a fight for survival, can they finally conquer Wilson and set their friends free?

My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

Must read other two books in the series first.

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Train Wreck by T. Gephart (Available Now) 

“No passion, no emotion, no originality—a train wreck of epic portions.”

Those were the words to describe Eve Thorton’s exhibition. Not even a fine arts degree from Yale or her daddy’s bank account could save her from the scathing reviews. And failure was a word Eve would never be comfortable with. Not even close.

Plotting the demise of every critic who’d written her off was her first instinct. But that would come later. Instead, she would show them that she wasn’t a bored socialite with more money than talent.

She would prove everyone wrong, and she wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. But when her journey for redemption crashed headfirst into Josh Logan, the sexy, talented tattooist from Queens, getting her hands dirty took on a whole new meaning.

Josh was everything Eve wasn’t, translating on skin what she couldn’t onto her canvas. All she had to do was convince him to share his jaw-dropping brilliance, and help her—seeing him naked—a bonus. Then she could go back to her regular life, vindicated.

It should have been easy. Pity her plans had a habit of derailing.

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Because of Lila by Abbi Glines (Jul 11) 

Prim, proper, classic good girl, and her least favorite label – icy.
Lila Kate Carter has heard them all. The last one, being the newest. She is not icy. She just doesn’t care for Cruz Kerrington and his spoiled, selfish, careless ways. That doesn’t make her icy, that makes him a jerk!

Tired of being labeled and doing what is expected of her, Lila Kate leaves Rosemary Beach, Florida ready for an adventure. Wanting to recreate herself, find a new path, and become something more.

Eli Hardy is tired of women who always act the same, do the same thing and expect the same thing. He’s ready to swear off women until he can get the rest of his life together.

Two weeks into his no-women-rule he meets Lila. She’s so damn sweet and polite. Like she walked right out of an etiquette book. But he’d already been drunk before she walked in so there was a good chance she might not be as stunning and perfect as he thinks. He’s just too drunk to worry about that.

The next morning, he swears he can still smell her on his skin. He just can’t remember why or what happened after that third dance.

Their worlds are about to collide, and so are the secrets and lies.

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Final Girls by Riley Sager (Jul 11)

“The first great thriller of 2017 is here: Final Girls, by Riley Sager. If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll like this.”—Stephen King

Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

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The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham (Jul 11) – Read my review
Recommended Thriller

In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of the secrets some women hold close and a shocking act that cannot be undone, The Secrets She Keeps delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.

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The Red by Tiffany Reisz (Jul 11)

The Red is a standalone novel of erotic fantasy from Tiffany Reisz, international bestselling author of The Bourbon Thief and the Original Sinners series.

Mona Lisa St. James made a deathbed promise that she would do anything to save her mother’s art gallery. Unfortunately, not only is The Red painted red, but it’s in the red.Just as she realizes she has no choice but to sell it, a mysterious man comes in after closing time and makes her an offer: He will save The Red if she agrees to submit to him for the period of one year.

The man is handsome, English, and terribly tempting…but surely her mother didn’t mean for Mona to sell herself to a stranger. Then again, she did promise to do anything to save The Red…

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Loved by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast (Jul 11)

The bestselling series has returned! Join P. C. and Kristin Cast in celebrating the 10th anniversary of the House of Night series by going on a thrilling new adventure with your beloved Nerd Herd.

It’s Zoey’s 18th birthmas and the Nerd Herd has been scattered across the country busily adulting for almost a year when Stark calls them back to Tulsa to surprise Z. But all is not well in T-town. Strange, dark signs are appearing — could it be possible Neferet is stirring? Not willing to chance disaster striking again, Zoey calls on her newly reunited friends to circle with her and add a layer of protection over Neferet’s grotto jail. Easy-peasy, right?

Wrong. Nothing at the House of Night is ever as it seems.

With rabid red vampyres closing in, Zoey and the Nerd Herd must come together again and battle evil. But a year is a long time. Have these old friends grown too far apart?

When the world fractures and allies become enemies, will darkness devour friendships or will light save those she’s loved?

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The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (Jul 11)

A funny, bracing, poignant YA romance and coming-of-age for fans of Huntley Fitzpatrick, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and The Beginning of Everything.

lake effect | n.

1 – The effect of any lake, especially the Great Lakes, in modifying the weather in nearby areas

2 – The effect of elderly ladies, mysterious girls, and countless funerals, in upending your life, one summer at the beach

It’s the summer after senior year, and Briggs Henry is out the door. He’s leaving behind his ex-girlfriend and his parents’ money troubles for Lake Michigan and its miles of sandy beaches, working a summer job as a personal assistant, and living in a gorgeous Victorian on the shore. It’s the kind of house Briggs plans to buy his parents one day when he’s a multi-millionaire. But then he gets there. And his eighty-four-year-old boss tells him to put on a suit for her funeral.

So begins a summer of social gaffes, stomach cramps, fraught beach volleyball games, moonlit epiphanies, and a drawer full of funeral programs. Add to this Abigail, the mystifying girl next door on whom Briggs’s charms just won’t work, and “the lake effect” is taking on a whole new meaning.

Smart, funny, and honest, The Lake Effect is about realizing that playing along is playing it safe, and that you can only become who you truly are if you’re willing to take the risk.

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Domina by author (Jul 11)

In this riveting sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Maestra, femme fatale Judith Rashleigh once again leads readers into the mesmerizing and dangerous underworld of Europe’s glamorous elite.
Since opening her own art gallery in Venice, Judith Rashleigh—now Elisabeth Teerlinc—can finally stop running. She’s got the paycheck, lifestyle, and wardrobe she always dreamed of, not to mention the interest of a Russian billionaire. But when a chance encounter in Ibiza leads to a corpse that is, for once, not her own doing, she finds her life is back on the line—and she’s more alone than ever. It seems Judith’s become involved with more than just one stolen painting, and there is someone else willing to kill for what’s theirs.

From St. Moritz to Serbia, Judith again finds herself maneuvering the strange landscapes of wealth, but this time there’s far more than her reputation at stake. How far will Rage take Judith? Far enough to escape death?

The second installment in an unforgettable trilogy, Domina is the next sexy, ruthless, and decadent thriller from mastermind L. S. Hilton, and an adventure that will push Judith further than even she imagined she could go.

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Wicked Grind by J. Kenner (Jul 11)

Sometimes, it feels so damn good to be bad …

Photographer Wyatt Royce’s career is on the verge of exploding. All he needs is one perfect model to be the centerpiece of his sexy, controversial show. Find her, and Wyatt is sure to have a winner.

Then Kelsey Draper walks in. Stunning. Vibrant. And far too fragile for a project like this. Wyatt should know—after all, he remembers only too well how their relationship ended all those years ago.

Desperate for cash and frustrated with her good girl persona, Kelsey sets her sights on Wyatt’s show. But only the show. Because she knows too well that Wyatt Royce is a danger to her heart.

But when Wyatt agrees to give her the job only if he has complete control—on camera and in his bed—Kelsey can’t help but wonder if she’s in too deep. Because how can a good girl like her ever be enough for a man like Wyatt?

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Because You Love To Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy (Jul 11)

Leave it to the heroes to save the world–villains just want to rule the world.

In this unique YA anthology, thirteen acclaimed, bestselling authors team up with thirteen influential BookTubers to reimagine fairy tales from the oft-misunderstood villains’ points of view.

These fractured, unconventional spins on classics like “Medusa,” Sherlock Holmes, and “Jack and the Beanstalk” provide a behind-the-curtain look at villains’ acts of vengeance, defiance, and rage–and the pain, heartbreak, and sorrow that spurned them on. No fairy tale will ever seem quite the same again!

Featuring writing from . . .

Authors: Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon

BookTubers: Benjamin Alderson (Benjaminoftomes), Sasha Alsberg (abookutopia), Whitney Atkinson (WhittyNovels), Tina Burke (ChristinaReadsYA blog and TheLushables), Catriona Feeney (LittleBookOwl), Jesse George (JessetheReader), Zoë Herdt (readbyzoe), Samantha Lane (Thoughts on Tomes), Sophia Lee (thebookbasement), Raeleen Lemay (padfootandprongs07), Regan Perusse (PeruseProject), Christine Riccio (polandbananasBOOKS), and Steph Sinclair & Kat Kennedy (Cuddlebuggery blog and channel).

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Dark Saturday by Nicci French (Jul 11)

Enter the world of NICCI FRENCH with Dark Saturday, an electrifying, sophisticated psychological thriller about past crimes and present dangers, featuring an unforgettable protagonist…

A decade ago, 18-year-old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the shocking murder of her family. It was an open-and-shut case, and Hannah has been incarcerated in a secure psychiatric hospital ever since.

When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to meet Hannah and give her assessment, she reluctantly agrees. But what she finds horrifies her. Hannah has become a tragic figure, old before her time. And Frieda is haunted by the idea that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family — that she might, in fact, be innocent.

As Hannah’s case takes hold of her, Frieda begins to realize that she’s up against someone who will go to any lengths to keep the truth from surfacing — even kill again.

Utterly compelling and enthralling, Dark Saturday speeds readers down a twisting trail of secrets, suspense, and murder.

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Last Breath by Karin Slaughter (Jul 11)

Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home—and after that shocking night, Charlie’s world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honor-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?

Razor-sharp and lightning-fast, this electrifying story from the #1 international bestselling author will leave you breathless. And be sure to read Karin Slaughter’s extraordinary new novel The Good Daughter—available August 22, 2017.

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Shameless by Lisa Renee Jones (Jul 11)

The second and final book in the sexy and tantalizing White Lies Duet from New York Times Bestselling Author Lisa Renee Jones.

Nick “Tiger” Rogers, sought out Faith Winter with revenge as his agenda. He made her his obsession. He seduced her. He made her want him. He made her trust him. And then he trusted her. He wanted her. He loved her.
But now, the lies will be exposed, the truth revealed.
Hearts will be broken. Lives shattered.
Nick. Faith.
The truth. The passion.
The SHAMELESS obsession.

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Two Is A Lie by Pam Godwin (Jul 11)

Two lies.
Two men who don’t share.

I never stopped loving Cole. Not when he left me. Not when he disappeared for three years. Not when he crashed back into my life in a violent explosion of testosterone and fury.
His sudden reappearance questions everything I thought I knew, including how I came to love another man.

Trace is an intoxicating breeze of seduction over ice. My rock. My second chance at forever.
And he’s committed to annihilating the competition.

The battle that ensues wrenches me back and forth between them.
Fighting and f*cking.
Resisting and submitting.

Together, they entangle me in a web of lies, rivalry, and desire that weaves as deeply as their devotion to me.

I love two men, and if I can only have one, I choose none.

The Tangled Lies series must be read in order. One is a Promise. Two is a Lie. Three is a War.

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Jilted by Sawyer Bennett (Jul 11)

Eden Goodnight went to Los Angeles to make it big, not to be publicly humiliated by her cheating fiancé at a red-carpet premiere. But when Eden returns to her hometown to put the scandal behind her, she can barely find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Turns out the locals are worse than the paparazzi, and they all think she’s turned into a spoiled brat. But in a strange twist of fate, the one person who seems to understand what Eden’s going through is Cooper Mayfield . . . the boy she left behind.

Small-town charm is no match for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. At least that’s what Coop’s been telling himself all these years. As Eden’s old flame—and the landscaper for her family’s historic home—Coop feels some responsibility for getting her out of her funk. But as soon as he sees that million-dollar smile, he’s a goner. Soon they’re making out like teenagers again. But when a life-changing role falls into Eden’s lap, Coop just hopes she doesn’t give up on a love that’s meant to be.

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Beautiful Tempest by Johanna Lindsey (Jul 11)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Johanna Lindsey now reveals the tempestuous story of Jacqueline Malory whose furious desire for revenge leads to a confrontation with the handsome pirate who abducted her—and sparks a much steamier kind of desire.

For the first time, James Malory and his Anderson in-laws agree on something: It’s payback time for the culprit who kidnapped James and Georgina’s beloved daughter Jack from her American debutante party and whisked her away to the Caribbean, no matter that she escaped unscathed. James figured out who masterminded the dastardly plot and is leading a fleet of ships to the West Indies to deliver some Malory-style retribution.

More interested in revenge than in finding a husband during her first London Season, Jack is furious that her father left her behind. Then an intriguing stranger leads her and her older brother Jeremy to her mysterious abductor. But instead of capturing him, the Malory siblings wind up as his “ guests” on a ship sailing away from England. As Jack re-engages in a battle of wills with her all too attentive captor, she realizes he is no ordinary pirate, perhaps no pirate at all, but a nobleman determined to settle a score that dates back to the days when her father was known as Captain Hawk—and what endangers her most is the increasingly passionate attraction they feel for each other.

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Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You by Bella Andre (Jul 12)

Sullivan fans met Christie Hayden at Summer Lake in “Now That I’ve Found You”, “Since I Fell For You” and “The Best Is Yet To Come”. Now get ready for Christie’s beautiful love story in CAN’T TAKE MY EYES OFF OF YOU.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Christie Hayden escaped to Summer Lake to heal from heartbreak, but found so much more than that: a job she loves as an innkeeper, a close-knit community of friends, and a chance at the perfect romantic future she’s always longed for. But nothing is as it seems, especially when it comes to Liam Kane, the gorgeous millionaire who sweeps into her life from out of the blue…and instantly turns it—and her heart—upside down.

The first time Liam Kane lays eyes on Christie, he’s a total goner. He knows he should keep his distance, because he’s not capable of giving her the happily-ever-after she’s looking for. But when it comes to her smiles, her laughter, her kindness—and her sweetly sinful kisses—for the first time in his life, he can’t hang on to his self-control. Not when the love she offers him is everything he never thought he could have, but now craves with every fiber of his being.

But Liam has been keeping a secret for twenty years, one that nearly destroyed him—one that has the potential to tear his whole family apart too. When Christie can’t stop herself from trying to help out of pure love, will Liam be able to let himself heal? Or will they both end up broken, leaving her to pick up the pieces all over again?

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Summer’s Lease by author (Jul 13)

He’s a Hollywood heart-throb

She’s hit rock bottom.

Can their scorching fling survive reality?

Cesca Shakespeare has hit an all time low. After her prize-winning play ended in disaster, writer’s block turned up, moved in and got a Netflix subscription. Six…


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The Darkest Sunrise by Aly Martinez (Jul 13) – 99¢

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Whoever coined that phrase is a bald-faced liar. Words are often the sharpest weapon of all, triggering some of the most powerful emotions a human can experience.
“You’re pregnant.”
“It’s a boy.”
“Your son needs a heart transplant.”
Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.
Syllables and letters may not be tangible, but they can still destroy your entire life faster than a bullet from a gun.
Two words—that was all it took to extinguish the sun from my sky.
“He’s gone.”
For ten years, the darkness consumed me.
In the end, it was four deep, gravelly words that gave me hope of another sunrise.
“Hi. I’m Porter Reese.”

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Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen (Jul 14)

A basketball game changed both their lives.

When they were only teenagers, Axel and Caxton were caught making out in the woods at church camp. And afterward, Cax had disappeared from all the youth group activities.

Six years later, Axel is astonished to spot his first love’s face in the crowd of a college basketball game he’s watching on TV—at a school which has just offered him a job. It’s a thousand miles away, in a tiny rural town. But suddenly, he can’t wait to get there.

Cax can’t believe his eyes when Axel appears in the same Massachusetts town where he now lives. And he’s still just as drawn to Axel as ever. But he can’t let himself go there again, because loving Axel will mean giving up everything else he holds dear.
Both men have so much to lose. But as far as their love is concerned, it’s Hello Forever.

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♥ indicates books I’ve already read and loved.)

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Movie trailer reveal: Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre

I’m giddy with excitement on sharing the trailer of the Hollywood Dirt film, based on the novel written by the talented Alessandra Torre. I loved this book and cannot wait to see it on my screen this September!

Hollywood Dirt will be streaming on PassionFlix this Fall, to see this and so many more upcoming movies based on our favorite novels, SIGN UP HERE.

When Hollywood comes to a small Georgia town, the cautious locals don’t know what to expect. Feathers ruffle, secrets bloom, and sparks fly in this funny and sexy romance.

Read the book now 

About Hollywood Dirt

Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town.

Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year.

We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him.

From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me.

Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.

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Pirates: Fact vs. Fiction by Nicole Castroman

The highly anticipated Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales hits theaters this weekend! Our beloved Captain Jack Sparrow goes on another swashbuckling adventure after being down on his luck.

Pirates are fascinating to so many of us, but there’s so much more to their history than we realize. Nicole Castroman, author of YA adventure romance Blackhearts and its recently released follow up, Blacksouls (the re-imagined tale of notorious pirate Blackbeard), gives us the scoop on what’s real and not real when it comes to pirates!

Pirates: Fact vs. Fiction

Childhood stories and blockbuster movies about pirates portray a desire for adventure, danger, and thrills, because those tales touch something deep inside of us. They speak to our souls, longing for the open water and freedom. Pirates were considered anarchists who lived life by their own rules and supposedly spoke in colorful language and dressed in colorful attire. No other profession in history has been idealized and romanticized as much.

There’s something about standing on the rolling deck of a ship with no land in sight, the sun shimmering on the white-tipped waves and the briny air filling your lungs. Sailing is like a conversation where communication is physical. Popular culture would have us believe that the life of a pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy was all about living fast and dying young.

But the truth is, what we imagine pirates to look and sound like matches only one decade of history: 1716 to 1726. Prior to that, pirates were often accepted members of their communities. Many of them married and settled down. Most individuals who turned to piracy hoped to capture one large prize and use their plunder to join the upper echelons of society, because life at sea was unpredictable and dangerous. There could be long periods of inactivity and boredom on pirate ships before a sail was spotted or a storm appeared on the horizon.

In most cases piracy was only an act or a phase, not a way of life. Seamen lived in cramped and filthy quarters. Rats gnawed through anything, including a ship’s hull. Food spoiled or became infested and water turned foul. And sailors fell victim to any number of diseases. Not exactly prime conditions to work under, which is why the majority of pirates were probably in their ’20s, with some exceptions.

Blackbeard was one of those exceptions, a legend in his own time. His reign of terror lasted only two years, but he was close to forty when he died in battle near Ocracoke, NC on November 22, 1718. He was aggressive as well as decisive. Nobody knows what Edward Teach did as a young man or what led him to become one of the most notorious and dreaded pirates to sail the seas. Yet despite his fearsome reputation, there is no record of him ever killing anyone before the last battle that eventually took his life. He was truly a strong and charismatic individual.

Living under such dangerous conditions, one might question why anyone would turn to piracy. The oceans were and always will remain untamed. The seas can take a violent swipe at anyone who chooses to cross them. Before the days of GPS and diesel engines, why would someone risk his life repeatedly if there was no chance he could spend his plunder. For many, piracy offered them a choice between starvation, beggaring, or thievery and possible riches beyond their wildest dreams. It was a crime of opportunity. Some chose this activity because they found themselves in areas where law enforcement was at a minimum or practically nonexistent, and the possibilities of success outweighed the threat of execution if caught and a short life-expectancy rate.

Many pirates were honest sailors who abandoned their jobs because the conditions on merchant or navy ships were so awful. A good portion of the British Navy consisted of men forcibly recruited by hired thugs who combed the harbors, looking for anyone with a full set of limbs. “Pressed men” were paid less than volunteers, if they were paid at all. They were shackled to the ships while in port so they didn’t try to escape and were flogged for any minor offense. Some pirates were forced to join pirate ships, especially if they had highly sought after skills, such as surgeons. Only a small minority of men became a pirate because they actually enjoyed being a criminal.

There were female pirates as well. At a time when women couldn’t even get a job or an education, one of history’s most influential raiders began her career in a Chinese brothel. Cheng I Sao, was a Cantonese former prostitute who married a powerful corsair named Cheng I in 1801. Together, they raised one of China’s most formidable pirate armies. After her husband’s death, she continued to lead up to 80,000 men, preying on the fishing vessels, supply junks and the coastal villages of Southern China. The government was so desperate for her to quit, they offered her immunity if she would give up her pirating ways. She retired, a wealthy woman and lived out the rest of her days in peace.

Anne Bonny was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy Irish lawyer. Her father had her dress as a boy and pose as his law clerk for part of her youth. She later moved to America, where she married a sailor and journeyed to the pirate-infested island of New Providence in the Bahamas. There, she fell in love with “Calico” Jack Rackam, a flamboyant buccaneer who sailed the Caribbean. Abandoning her husband, she joined Rackam’s crew. Bonny had a fierce and courageous temper and almost beat a man to death when he tried to force himself on her.

She later forged a friendship with fellow female pirate Mary Read, who had spent most of her youth disguised as her deceased half-brother. Mary adopted the name Mark Read and took on a succession of traditionally male jobs, first as a soldier and later as a merchant sailor. Read turned pirate in the late-1710s, when buccaneers attacked the ship she was working. She eventually joined Rackam’s crew. When Calico Jack’s ship was captured by a band of pirate-hunters. Bonny and Read dodged the noose after they were both found to be pregnant. Rackham and several other pirates weren’t so lucky and were hanged.

The more familiar pirates were with an area, the better their chances were at finding prey. If too much time passed in between raids, their supplies could become dangerously low. A merchant ship filled with gold wasn’t always the most valuable plunder. Often times, pirates simply needed to replenish their stores in order to move on. Unlike most ships, pirates couldn’t simply pull into a port and restock their provisions, and so they stole whatever they could when they stopped another vessel.

When pirates did encounter a merchant ship they wanted to pillage, they didn’t immediately attack. First, they had to determine if the ship rode high or low in the water. (Empty cargo vs. a full load) They also had to ascertain a ship’s firepower. This could take several hours to several days. Once they decided to attack, the pirates fired a warning shot to scare their target into submission. More often than not, merchant crews weren’t paid enough to put up much of a fight, and they were often given the opportunity to join the pirates.

If a pirate ship was lucky enough to capture another vessel, it was time to head to port. Author Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel “Treasure Island” popularized the concept of buried treasure, another common pirate myth. Contrary to popular belief, pirates did not use a hole in the ground as their savings account. They were more likely to squander their spoils on women, rum and gambling as soon as they returned to land.

Pirates were notorious for their lawlessness and brutality. Yet they incorporated principles of democracy and adhered to the ideals of liberty, equality and brotherhood. The crews elected their captains, and signed articles of agreement to ensure that everyone earned a share of any prize taken. Such freedom was unavailable to men who remained on the right side of the law. If anyone was wounded during a battle or in the line of duty, pirates received the equivalent of workers’ comp. The worse the injury, the more money they could expect.

Contrary to another popular belief, pirates didn’t use eye patches to mask an empty eye socket. Instead, they wore eye patches so that one eye would remain constantly adjusted to the dark, which made it easier to fight below deck when boarding ships. The modern U.S. military uses similar tactics for nighttime engagements.

There are also reports of people forced to walk the plank. In truth, it was an extremely rare form of punishment. ‘Keelhauling’ was much more common. The rule-breaker would be tied to a rope and hauled under the keel of the ship and back up until he either drowned or was cut to shreds by barnacles. Marooning was also popular, but unlike Jonny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean, most people died when left alone on a deserted island. Without food or water, they were promised a slow, cruel death without hope or reprieve.

Historically, pirates have always been a fascinating subject. With tales of adventure, danger and daring, it’s easy for us to romanticize a life seemingly without rules. Even Mark Twain entertained thoughts of piracy, as he wrote in Life on the Mississippi, “Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.” With the upcoming release of the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Dead Men Tell No Tales, I don’t anticipate this fascination dying off anytime soon.

Check your local theaters to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, and click below to order Nicole Castroman’s addictive and fascinating novels!

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