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DEAR FRIDAY~10/14/22

October 14, 2022

Dear Friday!

You are here again, and I am not mad about it. Monday holidays always throw me off and completely mess with my head. I basically had no clue what the date was or what day it was ALL WEEK. It all worked out because I began tackling my house. My goal for the next full year is to GET RID OF STUFF and to be more mindful of what we purchase and bring into our home moving forward. If it does not serve my family or me… it’s gone. I do not want to stare at odds and ends around the house. I do not want closets overflowing with all of our “things.” I do not want a basement bursting at the seams with crap we threw down there to avoid dealing with. I do not want my digital life to be so abundant that it needs to be stored in some imaginary cloud that I don’t know how to access. I want to feel lighter. I want my head to be clear. I want to be organized. I want an uncluttered life. This will take a lot of time, but I am determined! I also have three teenage boys, so please pray for me 😂😂. If you are looking for a great book on minimizing all the garbage in your life…check out LOVE PEOPLE USE THINGS.

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Ok…on with all the good stuff from the week!

Have a wonderful weekend!

xoxo,

Kelly

SHHH…CAN’T YOU SEE I’M READING

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I am in the middle of reading The Chain by Adrian McKinty for the #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS October book. It is a super fast read with short chapters to gobble up. So far, the pacing is quick, and the storyline is holding my interest. Fingers crossed, it continues in this direction. If you are on Instagram, CLICK HERE for more information on how to join our online discussion this month. I am also FINALLY reading Zibby Owens’ memoir, Bookends. I am a big fan of Zibby, her passion for great books and authors, and all her contributions to the literary world. I also enjoy writing for her publication…ZIBBY MAG (formerly MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO) and being a part of the ZIBBY MAG writing community. Read my funny piece about “getting it on” in the middle of the day…RIGHT HERE!

I CAN’T HEAR YOU…I’M WEARING HEADPHONES

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

I am currently reading/listening to the final book in the Beartown Trilogy. Backman is hands down…one of my favorite authors. I received an advanced copy of The Winners last spring, and guess what? I couldn’t read it. I stared at it every day but did not want to read it because reading it would be the end, and I could not face the end of this story. I am sure the publishers were thrilled with this 😂. Anyway, I am s-l-o-w-l-y alternating between listening and physically reading this book. I am savoring EVERY moment, EVERY character, and EVERY sentence 🥲.

On an entirely different note, I listened to a fantastic episode from Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love Podcast titled THE MOST EMPOWERING THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX & YOUR BODY WITH EMILY NAGOSKI. I highly recommend this episode, but listen with headphones on 😂. It’s empowering, educational, truthful, eye-opening, and just plain fun! I am now interested in checking out Emily Nagoski’s best-selling book, Come As You Are. I mean, why not make sure we are doing everything and anything to have the most incredible sex ever. I’ll keep you posted.

NETFLIX & CHILL

So last week, I shared that I listen to Caroline Kepnes’ book, YOU. I just finished binge-watching season one of the NETFLIX version, and it did not disappoint. It followed the book mostly, with a few changes here and there. I am a big fan of Penn Badgley (Hello Dan from Gossip Girl). I am not allowing myself to watch the next season until I read the second book, Hidden Bodies. However, from what I gathered, you could probably just cut to the chase and watch the series and call it good if you do not feel like reading the books. There are only so many hours in a day.

Another show I must recommend that I caught up on this summer is PHYSICAL on AppleTV. One of my besties recommended this, and I’ve been hooked. In my opinion, this show is underrated and needs more attention because it is the absolute bomb! The 80s vibe is out of this world, and the characters are entirely nuts, 100% unreliable, and will drive you CRAZY! Despite their awfulness, though, you will fall in love with them. The show tackles eating disorders, sexual abuse, and so much more with the 80s mindset and diet culture front and center. If you are sensitive to this subject matter, then take a pass. If not, have at it. It’s a hoot! There are two seasons, and the episodes are under 30 minutes. For this one, you will probably want to dust off your old exercise videos, High-Top Reeboks, and VCRs!

WHAT THE HELL AM I MAKING THESE PEOPLE FOR DINNER TONIGHT?

Today I am sharing a SLAM-DUNK RECIPE. It’s another dump-all-the-ingredients-in-the-crockpot situation and is a real crowd-pleaser. So this Instant Pot Short Rib Black Bean Chili can be made in an instant pot or a crockpot. I did the ladder, and it rocked! The short ribs give this chili a little “something-something” that separates it from your run-of-the-mill ground beef versions. At the end of the cook cycle, the short ribs shred effortlessly with the back of a fork. Chef’s Kiss! I highly recommend this for game day or busy week nights!

I WRITE THE SONGS THAT MAKE THE WHOLE WORLD SING

I am sorry to say that I am still not writing any songs. However, I am waiting to hear back on a few more pieces I submitted for publication while writing many other fun things. In the meantime, I loved this piece by Fridrik Backman in the New York Times. And if you need a bit more Backman in your life, check out what I had to say about one of his leading ladies RIGHT HERE!

MY BODY’S A TEMPLE…BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

My body IS a temple, and I lifted weights this week to honor it four times. I will say that lifting weights makes me feel fantastic, and I enjoy doing it. Right now, I have a membership with BEACHBODY. There are tons of workout programs to choose from that are either single workouts or specific programs that last for a particular duration (i.e., 6 wks/5 days a week, etc.). I love the variety of programs, recipes, and nutritional plans they have and highly recommend this if you want to work out at home. They also have accountability coaches and private social media communities for inspiration and support if that’s your jam. This currently seems to work for me, so I am just going with it. I am severely lacking in the cardio arena, so that is my mission for next week. I must add that I do not work for BEACHBODY or am an affiliate for them. I’m just a happy customer sharing.

FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE

Friday I’m in love. Yes, I named this blurb after The Cure’s song. They are, after all, my favorite band ever! So what am I in love with this week? TEA! That’s right, good old fashion hot tea to sip on during the day because it is getting COLD here in Maine. One fun fact about me is that I am a collector of teas. I am a sucker for a new flavor, gorgeous packaging, and if it comes in a quaint tin can…I’m buying it! I own more tea than I can drink, and I love it! My latest find is CARMEL APPLE by The Republic of Tea. It is caffeine free and tastes like a cozy fall day in a mug. If I feel wild, I add a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk to elevate my tea-drinking experience. Can you say DELICIOUS? I sometimes find seasonal flavors like this one at TARGET or WHOLE FOODS. It is hit or miss. If your stores do not sell this flavor, you can always grab it RIGHT HERE!

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

All Things Bianca Marais

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“The strongest alliances you will ever have in your life will be with the women you choose as your family.”

August 23, 2022

Dear Book Family,

One of my favorite authors of all time has a new book out in the world today. Bianca Marais is back, and this time, she brilliantly meshes present-day themes of race, gender, women’s rights, and sexual identity with a spellbinding flair in her brand new magical tale, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor. It is time to hop on a souped-up Harley Davidsonstick and fly on over to Moonshyne Manor & Distillery to meet some of my new favorite characters who are not only fierce friends but WITCHES too.  Being described as The Golden Girls meets Practical Magical, Queenie, Ursula, Jezebel, Tabitha, Ivy, and Ruby are a force to be reckoned with.  Let’s not forget about Widget and Persephone too.  These characters are MY PEOPLE!

So here is what’s brewing in the cauldron.  The witches are trying to save Moonshyne Manor & Distillery from a reckoning ball that threatens to end its existence. As they devise a plan to save their home, we get an inside look into what their lives are really like living as modern-day witches.  Now here is the fun stuff.  There are potions, rituals, and cocktails to keep things mystical.  But more importantly, there is FIGHTING THE PATRIARCH.  The witches are some badass feminists, so If you are hoping for some form of high-stakes heist or perhaps a magical wand or two all in the hands of some powerful women, you will be a delighted reader. 

To say I am obsessed with this book and these colorful characters is an understatement.  Marais writes friendship and aging with grace and humor that had me cackling like a witch. I was utterly blown away by the exquisite details of enchantresses at their finest and sorcery galore. The action-packed scenes that fill the pages are wild and sparkly and will have you on the edge of your broomstick, while the deep-rooted friendships will tug on your tender heartstrings.

The Witches of Moonshyne Mannor is everything I dreamed it would be. I genuinely want to be a witch and hang with this crew! Please make this book happen!

Be sure to check out ALL THINGS BIANCA MARAIS down below.

Happy Reading, Everyone!

xoxo,

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to check out ALL THINGS BIANCA MARAIS down below.

Click on the book pic to purchase!

Having been born and raised in South Africa, Marais writes about her home country with clarity and ease.  She skillfully sets the scene for her historical drama by cleverly intertwining her two main characters in a fashion that highlights the diverse languages and rich cultures of South Africa.  Marais’ book highlights the racial issues and injustices during the Apartheid era. She also looks deeper at Robin’s significant loss and what grieving and coping skills look like for her living under these circumstances.  Marais paints a picture of a young girl fearful of losing the people around her and desperately seeking love and security during uncertain times. What I truly love about this book is how authentic these main characters are. There is no doubt that their point of view significantly contributes to the depth of this story. Where Robin’s interpretations and narratives have a flare of childish innocence, and at times even humor, Beauty’s account is overflowing with cutthroat determination and motherly love. Together they bring readers into a world where equality isn’t in fashion, but family love always holds true.  I feel confident that readers will devour this glorious novel with great passion and love………….just as I did.

Click on the book pic to purchase!

Marais’ story is set in South Africa post-Apartheid during the 1990s. With Nelson Mandela about to be elected and the AIDS epidemic rising, the backdrop of Marais’ novel is intense.  Her book follows three different characters in alternating chapters. Zodwa is a seventeen-year-old black girl living in poverty. Not only is she eight months pregnant and caring for her dying mother, but she also is carrying a very unsettling secret.  Ruth and Delilah are two estranged middle-aged sisters who reunite unexpectedly at their family’s old home. Delilah is a former nun whose past continues to haunt her. Ruth, in the process of a divorce, is trying to figure out her new life. While the sisters are sorting out the details of their family home and individual baggage, they are surprised one evening when a newborn black baby is left on their doorstep.  The story gradually unfolds with Marais delicately revealing how these three women’s lives are connected and eventually come together. She tackles many sensitive subjects, including corruption in the church, racism, AIDS, and homophobia, while shining light on the political atmosphere of South Africa at that time. Be prepared to have your heart strings pulled in all different directions while reading this book.  The characters will melt your heart and water your eyes. For a bonus, fans of Marais’ Hum If You Don’t Know The Words will be surprised at the cameo appearances in her story. I hope you enjoy this read.  It is truly a beautiful story.

Click on the book pic to purchase!

Talk about FRESH! This time, Marais is not writing about South Africa, the Apartheid, or the Soweto Uprising.  Instead, she wowed me with a short story offered as an Audible Original. The Prynne Viper is a futuristic tale (yes, you heard me correctly) that left me thinking long and hard about the fate of humanity if left in the hands of some crazy predictive software. I was transfixed by this terrifying world, and the idea that mankind could be predetermined by a courtroom jury haunted me for days.  Don’t let the length of this story fool you, though.  Marais’ magnificent storytelling, the entire cast of narrators, and an immensely satisfying ending all neatly fit into a unique two-hour listen. Marais’ ability to switch writing gears by seamlessly transitioning to a completely different genre was wicked impressive, and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.

Click on the pic to check out this podcast!

Did you know Marais co-hosts an incredible podcast with ​literary agents Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra from P.S. Literary Agency called The Shit No One Tells You About Writing? I listen to this weekly and look forward to all the writing topics explored. Character development, moving the plot forward, creating suspense, writing solid dialogue, and query letter critiques fill my ears with greatness. Marais’ guests are top-notch authors and professionals in the literary field, and I consider this podcast an excellent resource for new and experienced writers alike. I guarantee your writing will not only improve from listening to this but that you will learn a gazillion things along the way.

Click on the pic to read Bianc Marais’ letter to Mr. Hemingwy!

Did you know Bianca Marais was one of the first guest writers on Dear Mr. Hemingway? Be sure to read her letter above to the big guy. Not only does she share an incredible and diverse book, but she also has a few things to say to Hemingway that couldn’t be more on point. Can you say BADASS WOMAN??? Just like her witches!!!!

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support

*I received an advance copy of The Witches of Moonshyne Manor from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Listen Up

Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier (Berkley Publishing + Penguin Random House Audio)
In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (Henry Holt & Co + Macmillan Audio)

March 24, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Spring is officially in the air, and my reading life feels wonderfully on point.  I constantly switch up genres to keep up with my ever-changing mood, and it’s the #1 reason I hardly ever get bored with my books.  Today I am sharing two books that could not possibly be more different from one another, yet both were captivating in their unique way.  A memoir about healing from trauma while climbing Mount Everest and a work of spectacular fiction that involves dead bodies and over-the-top rich people is what I am talking about today, so listen up.

In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado was phenomenal.  I had the pleasure of listening to this book on audio read by the author.  Vasquez-Lavado leads a group of sexual assault survivors on a trek to Mount Everest basecamp as part of their healing process. Her journey was far from over after reaching base camp, though.  She then joined up with another climbing group and took a shot at summitting the highest mountain on Earth.  Vasquez-Lavado shares her story alternating between her traumatic past and her epic climb.  I was moved to tears by the intimate details of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child and the fallout from these horrific events.  On the flip side, my heart was pounding out of my chest as she climbed for weeks and weeks in unfathomable conditions. Charged with brutal honesty, rich in unique culture, and filled with hope, Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is a must-read/listen.

After immersing myself in Vasquez-Lavado’s profound journey, it was refreshing to switch it up with an over-the-top read about bored rich people who lie, scheme, and kill for entertainment.  Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier is dripping in cash AND blood and I loved every second of it. Lyla and Graham are incredibly wealthy and enjoy playing games with people.  I’m not talking monopoly or a spicy pickleball competition, mind you.  Nooooo, I am talking about recruiting innocent self-made successful people to live in the guest house that they can destroy financially and maybe even kill if the spirit moves them. How fun is that??? Brazier’s story is a fast-paced, mannerless tale that had me wildly entertained.  Her writing is striking and razor-sharp. Her cast of characters is a spectacular melody of stunning and loopy all in the same breath and I had no problem gobbling up this juicy delight. I listened to Good Rich People on audio, and I must shout out the fabulous narrators who brought this wicked fun story to life.  Karissa Vacker and Sophie Amoss crushed the narration 100%!!!!

Well, my friend…I hope you enjoy experiencing these two incredible books one way or the other. 

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. I enjoy listening to my audiobooks via Libro.fm.  My audio purchases support an independent bookstore of my choice, which is something to cheer about.  Please feel free to use my member link to get started.

Click on the book pic to purchase!
Click on the book pic to purchase!

A Trio of Books Just For You

The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola (Atria Books)

The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais (Audible Original)

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr (Harper Perennial)


March 7, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I have three books for you today and they are all so very different from one another. These three works of fiction each have their own unique vibe and I am thrilled to share them with you. I am offering up a man in search of his soul, a courtroom drama set way into the future, and a mystery around some Nazi stolen artwork. I can honestly say that I was swept away by all three of the books below. I was shocked, entertained, made to think, and above all…simply wowed by these three authors. I do believe there is something for everyone in today’s round-up. Happy reading and listening!

Until next time dear friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

Click on the book pic to purchase.

First up is The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVED this book.  Bola’s writing knocked my socks off, that is for sure.  His main character Michael truly lost his way and my soul literally ached for him.  His journey is beyond profound and left me with a feeling of sadness that was hard to shed.  I was mesmerized by his introspection and oftentimes found myself drifting off into my own world of ruminating and reflecting on life, love, and loneliness.  The connections with the people he met along the way truly highlighted his internal needs and fears and I was in absolute awe of how Bola could take on the heavy themes of suicidal thoughts, race, culture, and family using a poetic tone.  The Selfless Act of Breathing is a raw and powerful read and I highly recommend it.

Synopsis:

“Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all: He’s beloved by his students, popular with his coworkers, and the pride and joy of a mother who emigrated from the Congo to the UK in search of a better life. But behind closed doors, he’s been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can’t address the injustices he sees raging before him—from his relentless efforts to change the lives of his students for the better to his attempts to transcend the violence and brutality that marginalizes young Black men around the world.

Then one day he suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his father’s violent death, the weight of refugeehood, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical “land of the free,” where he imagines everything will be better, easier—a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain.

On this transformative journey, Michael travels everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures, with the intention of living the life of his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Next up is Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr. Run, don’t walk to grab yourself a copy of this literary gem.  The dazzling art world, high-stakes journalism, and the history of Nazi stolen artwork during the Second World War are well framed in this remarkable literary mystery. Barr’s story is teeming with intricate details and a chic background that pairs well with her multi-layered and quite juicy characters that undeniably lit up the pages of this book.  The combination of unparalleled research weaved into modern-day fiction was THE creme de la creme for me.  Every luscious page I read made me more ravenous for the next because I simply had to know what happened next. I refused to cease my reading adventure until I reached the wicked satisfying ending the Barr so meticulously delivered.  At the end of the day, there is nothing better than being immersed in a world where the past meant everything and secrets kept everyone in the game.  Woman on Fire was an absolute pleasure to read. 

Lisa Barr’s stunning creation is the true work of art here and SHE is… The Ultimate Woman on Fire!

Synopsis:

“After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual—and very secret—assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait of a beautiful, mysterious woman for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.

Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent also searches for the painting. Heir to her art collector family’s millions, Margaux is a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants. The only thing standing in her way is Jules. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once in Margaux’s clutches. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Last but never ever least is The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais. Marais, author of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh is back with something 100% fresh.  This time around she is not writing about South Africa, the Apartheid, or the Soweto Uprising.  Instead, she wowed me with a short story offered as an Audible Original. The Prynne Viper is a futuristic tale (yes, you heard me correctly) that left me thinking long and hard about the fate of humanity if left in the hands of some crazy predictive software. I was transfixed by this terrifying world and the idea that mankind could be predetermined by a courtroom jury haunted me for days.  Don’t let the length of this story fool you though.  Marais’ magnificent storytelling, the full cast of narrators, and an extremely pleasing ending all neatly fit into a unique two-hour listen. Marais’ ability to switch writing gears by seamlessly transitioning to a completely different genre was wicked impressive and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.

Synopsis:

“In a futuristic world where predictive software can map out the lives of every living person and their descendants, Naomi Prynne is on trial. The charge: endangerment by way of a pregnancy.

Thirteen jurors will determine whether Naomi is allowed to carry the pregnancy to term, but the jurors are also all plaintiffs, the software having predicted how Naomi Prynne’s child will affect each of them in life-changing ways. Among them: a history professor who has given up on her own dreams for the sake of the greater good; a student participating in his first-ever trial who’s about to discover an earth-shattering truth; and a former mathematician, who knows all too well the dark machinations of the state, but is prohibited from speaking out against them. The future of the Prynne Viper – an acronym for “viable person” – is in their hands.

But this Prynne Viper is unlike Naomi’s other pregnancies. This time, Naomi Prynne is carrying a secret, one with the power to alter the future into something incalculable, and therefore, unpredictable.”

Family Ties

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur Books & MacMillan Audio)



January 9, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

All I have to say is that 2022 is HOT with fabulous books.  In two days, A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham will be hitting bookstores everywhere and I CAN’T WAIT for everyone to get their hands on this GEM!  Willingham’s debut “thrilling” novel unfolds one suspenseful page at a time leaving her readers gasping for more.  Let me share with you why this story is a “must-read”.  Here we go.

When Chloe Davis was twelve years old, her father was arrested for murdering six teenage girls in their small Louisiana town.  Her one and only father who she loved and adored was a SERIAL KILLER.  Fast forward 20 years and Chloe is working as a psychologist, planning her wedding, and trying desperately to move on from the evil that haunts her.  As the twentieth anniversary of her father’s summer killing spree grows closer, local teenage girls once again go missing.  As Chloe becomes immersed in these new cases, she revisits her childhood summer when her family’s life was forever changed, while trying to figure out who is killing all of these girls. 

Is this a coincidence or is there a copycat killer lurking around her?  

Let me share with you one more time that this is a DEBUT NOVEL and it is PHENOMENAL!  If this is how Stacy Willingham rolls, I am here for ALL of her tales!  On a side note, I listened to this book on audio, and narrator Karissa Vacker was spectacular.  Her voice was serene to listen to even during the darkest moments. 

Willingham’s book captivated me because it satiated all my serial killer needs minus all the graphic gore.  I loved getting a glimpse into what the collapse of Chloe’s family life was like when her father was sent to prison for murder. That may sound bizarre to some, but how a family rebounds (if that is even a possibility) from such horrors is beyond extraordinary to me and A Flicker in the Dark portrayed the aftermath of this fictional family in an exceptional way.  The story bounced back and forth between the present-day and Chloe’s memories which made the suspense all the more intriguing.  Willingham subtly peppered the pages with mini clues that threw me off track more than one time.  I caught myself MANY times with my jaw dropped to the floor muttering, “Wait, what?”.  All in all, Willingham’s story is the ultimate tale to be untwisted. With an outstanding cast of characters, a stellar storyline, and a monstrous ending that satisfies, A Flicker in the Dark is the ultimate read!

Happy Reading or Happy Listening!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. A Flicker in the Dark is coming to the HBO MAX….CHECK THIS OUT!

Click on the book pic to purchase!
Click on the audiobook above to check out this title on Libro.FM using my referral code lfm136779.

***I received an advance listener copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

A Handful of Books…Just For You

A Handful of Books

February 19, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I love my long letters to you recounting my journey with a new crew of characters in their real or fictional worlds. Sometimes though, I am frothing over with so much literary goodness that I simply must gush about more than one book to you.   Because I am forever a mood reader, I require a variety of reading options at my fingertips at all times.  Whether it’s a literary drama, a light an airy romance, or a thriller gone wild, my state of mind always dictates to me my next read.  Here are a handful of book recommendations to kickstart your weekend.   

Happy Reading my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Your bouquet of books awaits you down below.  Arrange these books into your literary lifestyle any way you like. Click on the book pics to purchase or read the full synopsis.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (Avon Books)

I adored this romance. I did a combination of reading and listening to Daria’s story and both options were quick and delicious. The storyline was definitely a little predictable, but still tons of fun, worth the read and a wonderful pick me up. I loved the characters and the plot was wicked entertaining. Who doesn’t love the world of acting? There was a slow build to the “steamy” scenes making the last 1/3 of the book HOT! I enjoyed the Puerto Rican culture, and the Spanish speaking parts and accents on audio…were fabulous! This was a feel good, put a smile on your face kind of read.

Verity by Colleen Hoover (Independently Published)

Buckle up friends this is an absolute WILD RIDE. This has been the most hyped book I have read in quite sometime, and guess what…….It lived up to every juicy and disturbing detail. If you adore psychological thrillers that are mentally unsettling then this book will WOW you. Not only is the writing quick and captivating, Hoover pretty much nailed a five star ending in my opinion! Absolutely brilliant!

Good Eggs by Rebecca Hardiman (Atria Books)

A multi-generational Irish family, laugh out loud dialogue and dysfunctional characters you just can’t help but love fill the pages of Hardiman’s debut novel. From an aging grandmother, to an unfulfilled father, to a teen lost in her own way, Good Eggs takes on the trials and tribulations of family life…one character at a time. Hardiman’s heart felt story is peppered with humor that could be construed as inappropriate, but to me was hilarious and on point. I personally enjoy this approach to writing, especially when talking about sensitive topics such as aging, teenage life and infidelity. Good Eggs moved along at a steady pace offering me an equal distribution of comedic relief and tender moments. The ending was a bit over the top, but never the less brought a big smile to my face. I think this story would be incredible as a TV series. Move over Schitt’s CreekGood Eggs is coming to town. This book comes out on March 2, 2021. Pre-order or reserve it from your local library now!!!

The Prophets by Robert Jones, JR. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

The love between two Black and enslaved men in the deep south is enough to grab most readers’ attention. Pair that with a beautiful and heart wrenching story filled with prose that will literally hypnotize you, and you’ve got yourself an extraordinary read. The Prophets is by no means a fast read. Jones’ writing is lyrical and oftentimes reads like a poem. It is one that you consume at a pace that allows time to sit with your heightened senses and experience Samual and Isaiah’s journey, one page at a time.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Berkley)

Radio co-hosts who pretended to have dated in order to share their “fake” past on their award winning show is the premise of The Ex Talk. Another feel good romance for the win with this bright and shiny new release. Enemies to lovers will always be one of my favorite tropes, and Shay and Dominic had me yearning for a “romantic” connection right from the start. This was a slow burn romance with great energy that evens gets a little naughty in the bedroom during the second half of the book. So much fun and perfect to read if you need a little boost to your day.

The Yogi of Wall Street

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Breathe In, Cash Out by Madeleine Henry (Atria Books)

January 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Let’s talk about a crazy coincidence?  I am writing to you in the middle of a global pandemic and you actually know what I am talking about.  Covid-19 for me and Spanish flu for you. Wow…who would have thought.  Remember the busyness of everyday life?  School, work, deadlines, hanging with friends and family (geez…even War for you).  The everyday grind has drastically changed, but I got to relive the feeling of being overcommitted and overworked in Madeleine Henry’s book, Breathe In, Cash Out. As I go through my days (Groundhog Day Style), it was refreshing to get a glimpse into the world of ruthless banking on Wall Street (boy I miss NYC), while also getting my zen on with some much needed yoga. Henry delivered a soul searching story that not only enlightened me with wisdom and laughter, but seriously charmed the pants off of me.  Let’s take a look, shall we.

Allegra Cobb… a self taught yogi and one time American Yoga National Competition Champion, is also a straight A Princeton grad who works as an analyst at a cut throat, top tiered bank on good old Wall Street. Now that was a mouthful. Biding time until her year end bonus comes in (should be a juicy one), Allegra is seriously contemplating leaving her financially secure job to follow her dreams  of becoming a yoga teacher.  While she struggles with disappointing her father and battles her innermost demons, she meets up with the ultimate yoga guru (and her yoga idol), Skylar, for some realignment in her life.  Skylar has a very successful yoga career and is a superstar on instagram.  Allegra desperately begins following her advice on how to integrate more mindfulness and yoga into her life in order to discover her true and authentic self.  The more she works with Skylar though, the more she begins to realize that working over a 100 hours a week in a grueling banking job, which basically strips you of your soul, may not be all that different from Skylar’s world of shiny leggings, seven chakras and photo perfect poses for instagram.  And of course, just to add a splash of sparkle to her conscience examining days, a bit of romance is lingering in the background.  Time is ticking on her mental well being and Allegra needs to figure out which path she should travel next.  

Breathe in, Cash Out was a breath of fresh air. It was the perfect distraction to my stay at home days filled with work, Zooms and teenage boys surrounding my every move.  I love books (fiction or nonfiction) where someone is pondering a major life change.  Even though Allegra’s story is a work of fiction, it still dazzled me and all my dreams.  But self exploration aside, Henry’s book is down right hysterical. As I revisited my own days of working a gazillion hours a week and took a hard look at the current state of my downward facing dog (not that pretty these days), I found myself doubled over with laughter.  And of course, one of my favorite parts of Henry’s story was the wee bit of romance that kept my heart fluttering.  It did not overpower the story one bit, but was equivalent to a sprinkle of cinnamon on top of a fabulous cappuccino……the perfect touch!.  

Allegra is a character you want to root for because guess what…there is a bit of her in all of us.  During these strange days of more time with our thoughts than ever, it is impossible not to engage in a tad of introspection. Whether switching jobs or shifting our mindsets, change is not always a bad thing and Henry’s main girl is a gentle reminder of that.  But of course every leading lady needs a gaggle of characters around her to add some more shine to her story.   Mark (Allegra’s boss who she accidentally sleeps with 😮), and Tripp, Chole and Puja who sit in close proximity to her everyday, were an absolute delightful addition to Henry’s story.  And of course the lovely Skylar…the spice to this wicked fun tale.  I always say that a touch of spice is always quite nice…am I right???

I hope you enjoy this easy breezy and quite frankly, humorous read.  It sure added a twinkle and some much needed stretching to my day!

Until next time my friend!

Namaste!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Madeleine Henry has a new book coming out on February 9, 2021 called The Love Proof!  I am reading it now and will be telling you all about it very soon. In the meantime, give it a quick pre-order ❤️❤️❤️.

P.P.S. I alternated between reading Breathe In, Cash Out and listening to it on audio. Both were equally wonderful.

Click on the book pic below to purchase!

Breathe in, Cash Out

Girls…Run The World

Untamed and Fierce, Free, Fire Beauty Shot

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press) &
Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire:  The Guide To Being Glorious You by Jen Hatmaker (Thomas Nelson)

August 24, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am coming at you today Mr. H. with a whole lot of girl power. I hope all your “masculinity” can handle it 😂. I am talking about the fabulous Glennon Doyle and Jen Hatmaker!  These two motivational ladies are the “QUEENS” of self love and all things good in the world.  They know how to navigate the murky waters of religion and sexual identity. With empathy, they champion those who struggle. They are “momming” hard with all the rest of us, sharing their triumphs and challenges with their kids every step of the way.  They believe in the power of relationships and the people around us. But most importantly, they want to live their most authentic lives.  Both women have the gift of connecting with their audience.  When I read their words or listen to them speak, it feels like I am in a room with one of my closest girlfriends. They are inspirational, compassionate, and downright hysterical. Let me move forward now and tell you about their latest books!

I have been following Glennon Doyle forever.  I have read her previous books, Carry on, Warrior:  The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, and Love Warrior:  A Memoir.  I have listened to many of her interviews and podcast appearances and basically feel like she could be my next-door neighbor.  In her latest book, Untamed, Glennon once again invites her readers into her life sharing intimate details of her family and her mission for equality and all things good in the world. She shares with us her divorce from her husband (and father to their three children) and her love story with her wife Abby (ummm…greatest woman soccer player ever….just saying).  She talks about the importance of knowing who you are and how the relationship you have with yourself is your foundation, your home base in the world.

What I love about Glennon is that she embraces the awkward questions revolving around sexual identity, politics, sobriety, parenting and more.  She understands that so many of us are trying to figure out the hard stuff.  Let’s face it, life can be messy at times.  It’s having the guts to ask edgy questions that bring clarity to oftentimes difficult issues that moves us closer to the truth.  Glennon welcomes these conversations and nourishes them with her heart and soul. She shows her readers how to take on the gritty issues…She firmly believes that “We Can Do Hard Things”. She is so right…We totally can do hard things.  I can do hard things and so can you.  I felt so well balanced after reading Untamed.  Such a much needed pick me up during these strange pandemic times.  I hope you enjoy Glennon’s book as much as I did.

Let’s move on to the lovely Jen Hatmaker.  So Jen is another powerhouse woman that I have also been following for many, many years.  I am a fan of her Podcast, For The Love and an even bigger fan of her personal journey as a woman of faith and a motivational speaker.  Here is the thing about Jen.  She does the work.  She doesn’t just talk, talk, talk.  She examines, explores and researches the tough topics.  She is not afraid to try new things and she embraces failure.  Her latest book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire has everything you need to know about owning your space and not having to justify to ANYONE who you are.  Jen encourages women to stop hiding, pretending or posing as someone else.  It is all just too exhausting.  Our one and only life is ours and we need to live it well and live it truthfully.  When we do that, guess what happens…we flourish.  One thing that is awesome about her book is that it is not preachy. Jen makes it very clear that even though our journey’s  may look similar, each of our endgames are different.

Jen is the best girlfriend to her readers.  She shares the importance of our friendships and “vibrant relationships” in our lives.  She shares her personal exploration with religion and God and all the hiccups along the way.  She shows her readers how to examine their own faith (if they want to…again, no pressure) and figure out what is right for them.  Jen speaks about her friendships and faith with absolute honesty. That is what makes her shine.

Jen is no stranger to the everyday challenges of being a woman. Weight issues, self-esteem, wrinkles, loneliness and raising kids…Jen dives right into these issues with experience and of course, a whole lot of humor. Her book inspires me to be the best version of myself.  While I continue to nourish my relationships with my friends and family, I will most importantly be taking care of my one true self.  That feels pretty incredible to me.  Enjoy this treasure during these unprecedented times.  

Well my friends, Glennon Doyle and Jen Hatmaker are two women that not only speak their truth, but are vibrant with fantastic wisdom that so many of us women can truly appreciate. There is something for everyone in their books. Whether all or even just parts of their writing resonate with you, I hope you embrace their positivity and love yourself.  

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan!

Kelly

P.S.  I did a combination of reading both books and listening to them on audio.  I am not going to lie,  both authors narrate their respective books so it is almost like listening to a super long fabulous podcast.  I loved both books on audio.  Jen adds extra commentary and clips from relevant podcasts, which enhance your listening experience of her book.  If you are an audio lover, be sure to check out Libro.fm.  I am a huge fan.  Your purchases go directly to the local bookstore of your choice.  How cool is that?

Click on the Book Pics below to purchase.

You Thrill Me Right Round Baby

In Case of Emergency and His and Hers Beauty Shot

In Case Of Emergency by E.G. Scott (Dutton)

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (Flatiron Books)

 

August 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today I am writing to you about two books that literally thrilled me to death. Suspense and crime fiction have really added some zest to my summer days.  I’m not going to lie though, you weren’t exactly Mr. Thriller back in the day.  As you are aware from previous letters, I will always rely on your simple, yet zealous writing.  But once again, I am leaving the thrills and chills to a few others.  Let me introduce you to E.G. Scott and Alice Feeney.  Even though these authors are relatively new to me as a reader, they have won me over with their recent books.  I believe you would have enjoyed these two authors’ company (ok…technically there are three. See my postscript for the explanation).  I can imagine you and E.G. Scott discussing writing techniques and the ever changing publishing industry, while you and Alice Feeney swap stories of your shared experiences as journalists. I am sure your conversations would be accompanied by some sort of fabulous drink.  Perhaps a stiff, no nonsense alcoholic bevy or even a frothy cappuccino would do the trick.  Anyway, I digress.  Here is the scoop on today’s post. Feeney and Scott know how to write stories that bring on the goosebumps.  I am talking heart pounding, quick shivers of mind bending crazy that run through your veins kind of writing.  Let’s check out their latest creations. 

First up, we have E.G. Scott’s, In Case of Emergency.  When thirty something Charlotte’s career as a neurosurgeon abruptly ends, she takes on the world of acupuncture and holistic healing.  Here is Charlotte in a nutshell.  She is a member of an online support group for trauma survivors, she struggles to keep her new business afloat, and she believes her mysterious and secretive boyfriend, Peter, has gone missing.  To add a shake of salt to her already open wounds, she is called in to help identify a dead (presumably murdered) woman in town.  The crazy thing is, Charlotte has no idea who this woman is or why this “Jane-Doe” had Charlotte down as her “in case of emergency” contact.  Here is where all of the questions come in.  Why on earth is Charlotte being questioned by the police, who IS this mysterious dead woman, and where the hell is Peter?  Throw in Charlotte’s ex-junkie best friend/co-worker, an officer and a gentleman, and a whole lot of acupuncture needles going every which way, and this book is crazy good!  Scott’s fast paced story will have you effortlessly dipping in and out of chapters until the very end.  Enjoy this summer treat!  

Next up is His & Hers by Alice Fenney.  This book is ridiculously incredible on audio.  I repeat, this book is ridiculously incredible on audio. So, I guess the saying goes…there are two sides to every story, right?  Well… in Alice Feeney’s latest thriller, there may be yet another side.  The story starts with Anna Andrews, a temporary TV Presenter on BBC (filling in for Cat Jones on a never ending maternity leave).  When her dreamy presenter job is jeopardized, she is asked to cover a murder in Blackdown, Surrey.  It turns out that the woman murdered was a childhood friend of hers.  Anna’s ex-husband, Jack Harper, is a detective at the scene of the murder and may be a suspect in this horrid crime.  Shortly after this woman’s body is discovered, a string of murders occur nearby, thickening the plot of this already juicy mystery.  His & Hers is told from alternating POVs… Anna and Jack’s. Feeney’s story moves quickly and is gushing with unimaginable twists and turns.  She meticulously exposes her characters’ pasts and closely guarded secrets every step of the way.  I mentioned two sides of every story, but sometimes…there is a possible third 😯!  Feeney offers up the POV of the “killer” for an extra layer of creepy.  Be prepared to be sucked into this very dark read from page one.  Fans of true crime stories who just adore the craftiness of a well mannered serial killer will drool over this book!  Enjoy your pounding pulse everyone! 

That is a wrap my friend!  

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly 

P.S.  Did you know that E.G. Scott is the pseudonym for two writers…Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands. These two authors have been friends for over 20 years.  How fun is that?  Also, rumor has it that His & Hers was picked up for TV…WOW! I know I will be watching. 

Click on the book pics below to purchase!

 

Audio Books Worth Your Hours

Audiobooks Worth Your Hours collage

Part 2

Tales From An Audio Book Junkie

June 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I have written to you about my love of audiobooks before. In my days, they were actually referred to as “books on tape”. I still catch myself saying that from time to time…especially when my kids look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Anyway, do you know how many times I have fallen asleep listening to your book, The Old Man and the Sea? Well, it feels like a thousand. As much as I adore that particular book of yours, it is my darling husband that plays it over and over again as he drifts off to sleep. Every now and then he throws on the audio version of your book, A Moveable Feast. I have no problem listening to that book over and over again. Falling asleep to your words from this story ensures my dreams will be filled with Parisian streets, salty oysters, and crisp white wine. Anyway, I digress. Today I am sharing some books that I found to be quite entertaining on audio. A little bit of romance, friendship, mystery, memoir, and time travel is coming your way today. Grab your headphones and hit play! Let the listening begin!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you are looking for a way to listen to your books while supporting ANY participating local bookstore, check out Libro.FM. Feel free you use my REFERRAL LINK to get your first month free. Any member can share their referral code. Click on the book pics below to take you directly to their info page.

Abby Jimenez’s book, The Friend Zone, came out last year, and I JUST recently listened to it. I am actually pumped that I was was fashionably late to this fabulous book party. This book was the perfect feel good, pick me up during this uncertain time. Not only did I get to spend the night in bed reading this warm and fuzzy tale, I acquired a new book boyfriend who goes by the name of Josh. Married or not, you can never have too many book boyfriends 😂😂😂. Also, if you end up liking this book, the sequel just came out. It’s called The Happily Ever Playlist.

9 hours 32 minutes

Hachette Audio

Forever Publishing

Synopsis:

“Kristen Peterson doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen — especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.”

⁣WOW! I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know who Mikel Jollett was or for that matter, who his band, The Airborne Toxic Event was. Well, after listening to his brand new memoir, Hollywood Park I have a pretty good sense of who this writer and musician is! Mikel Jollett narrates his profound journey from his early childhood In the 70’s to present day with an honesty that spares no details! From his early days living in a cult with his family to his unsettled adolescence and young adulthood, Jollett’s journey was rocky to say the very least. He effortlessly brings his readers into his world of family love, loyalty and survival by exploring the intimate most details from his relationship with his parents and older brother. His writing is stunning and his story is absolutely unforgettable. His emotional memoir will no doubt stir your soul and fill your heart with love. ⁣Bonus……Jollett narrates his audio book.

11 hours 44 minutes

Macmillan Audio

Celadon Books

Synopsis:

“So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.

In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.”

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is absolutely wonderful on audio. Who wouldn’t want to attend a wedding with friends and family on a small Irish island? The privacy from the outside world, the weekend escape from everyday life, one big hurrah with friends and family to tide you over until someone else’s big day. Sounds like the perfect weekend. The narrators’ Irish accents and the icy cold ocean air will make you feel like you are actually on this Emerald Island. There is a creepy vibe while the bride and groom and all their guests get ready for the ceremony. Family drama and dark secrets from their pasts give this wedding day a very unsettling vibe. Throw in some blood and a dead body and you have one heck of celebration. Foley’s slow burn mystery is an atmospheric treat.

9 hours 53 minutes

Harper Audio

William Morrow

Synopsis:

“The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?”

When I think about time travel, my mind instantly goes to The Magic Treehouse or Outlander. In Margarita Montimore’s new book, Oona Lockhart travels to a different time in her life every New Year’s Eve for one year. Can you even imagine revisiting yourself in the past or for that matter, meeting yourself in the future? If given the chance, would you alter your past knowing that in turn, it could change the future? Montimore offers her readers this, and so much more in her unique tale. Oona Out of Order definitely made me think. Between the pages of this compelling read are funny and light hearted moments coupled with self reflection and a giant splash of pop culture (80s and 90s anyone?). Do not think too deeply about the ins and outs of time travel. Simply enjoy Oona’s wild ride!

11 hours 30 minutes

Macmillan Audio

Flatiron Books

Synopsis:

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order...

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever-changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.”

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon is an all-star treat. Here is my favorite quote….“If sexy and adorable had a baby together, the result would be Daniel Collins.” SOLD! Farrah’s book is filled with sass, class, and a whole lot of smarts… did I mention Daniel Collins??? Women lifting each other up, staying true to yourself, and a tall, dark and handsome man lingering in the background….sign yourself up for this one. Such a perfect summertime listen.

9 hours 41 minutes

Forever

Hachette Audio

Synopsis:

Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men and no dating.

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy Daniel Collins at work.What are the chances?But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?

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