A Slip of the Lit – Dear Stephanie (an endorsement)

I eagerly grabbed the packet from my sofa – it had arrived, at LAST! I ran my nails under the cardboard, tearing away the edge which then bent back to reveal my first view – that beautiful, black spine, with crisp, perfect lettering.

I slid the book out, savouring its weight in my hand, running my fingertips across the glossy cover with its classy photograph of a martini (with a twist) and seven white pills, lined up, ready for…who knows? I opened the book and flicked through the pages, relishing the waft of air and new-ink-scent which came my way. I lifted the book to my nose and inhaled it, burying my head between the pages, the text too close to distinguish, but beautiful, wonderful; storyful.

I moved a couple of cushions into a nest on the sofa, slipped off my shoes and snuggled in, cosied under a light blanket, and opened the first page of Dear Stephanie…

Dear Stephanie

I wish!

A notification dinged, alerting me to a new email. Mandi Castle – “It’s heeeeeere!!!”

My stomach clenched with excitement and I clicked straight in, reading the lovely message from my author friend as I downloaded the Kindle version of her soon-to-be-released book, Dear Stephanie. As soon as I heard she was asking for ARC readers, I jumped at the chance, and in spite of my passion for Actual, In Fact, Books, I was willing to undergo storytelling at the hands of an e-reader, because I’ve read and been wowed by her writing in the past, and I wanted to read this – her first novel.

Mentally sighing and rolling my eyes, I loaded the Kindle programme and selected the book (enjoying that the cover looked lovely next to Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’), unable to deny a little, shivering thrill as I saw the title and clicked through to the Prologue.

And so it was with a couple of unceremonious clicks of the mouse that Paige Preston came into my life and completely took it over. I won’t spoil the story for you, because I want you to meet her for yourself, but WOW, is she something else!

At first blush, she’s an absolute whorebag – utterly confident in going precisely as far as she needs to, to get what she wants. Her audacity left me speechless and her arrogance…wow! Okay, I couldn’t deny that she was allowed to be arrogant – the woman is stunning (totally augmented, totally up-front about it, and totally who cares anyway when she gets to look *that* good?)

I read, my eyebrows disappearing into my hairline at her antics and her audacity, whilst feeling almost envious of her devil-may-care attitude and her determination. It was only gradually, once I’d sunk into her story and seen the cracks which began to show beneath the perfectly-coiffed surface, that I started to care about her.

Then I realised that beneath the slick, glamourous, smart-enough-to-shoot-put-downs-you-need-a-dictionary-for exterior, was a fragile, vulnerable, precocious, intensely lonely woman. As she played with her privileged position, frittering away money because she could, and indulging in a party lifestyle which only partially erased the agony of being held over the blistering destruction of her own mind, I discovered that her story was immensely relatable, in spite of the vastly different circumstances in which it played out.

Because in the end, Dear Stephanie is a tale of a woman’s battle against mental illness and her own efforts to self-sabotage her entire existence. In spite of her privileges and mind-games, Paige’s story is one of connection and relationship and self. It’s a tale of maybe true love and definitely true love, and loss, and hope, and wonder, and deep, indescribable pain.

It made me laugh.

It made me cry.

It made me angry.

Just as easily (and as beautifully executed) as one of Paige’s conquests, Mandi’s story seduced me, pulled me beneath its sheets and went to work, skilfully delivering delicious plot-lines, delectable characters and shivering, delightful twists, which left me biting my lip and craving the next chapter.

I tore myself away to run, and frankly have never had a quicker run (pondering the story so far) or a speedier shower afterwards (desperate to get back to it).

Then a huge turn in the storyline made me late for dinner, and I could feel its presence in the corner of my brain as I tried to concentrate on Real Life for a few hours. It grinned at me, crookedly, devastatingly (reminding me that Paige’s love interest, Blake, was also waiting for me when I returned to those words which spun IMAX scenes in my imagination), and completely distracted me from the game of Scrabble I was trying to play.

As soon as I got back home I jumped back under the covers with the book, stripping away the evening and gleefully taking hold where I’d left off, ready for another romp…but this time, there was an urgency which hadn’t been present before, and as everything geared up towards the ending, I could feel my all focussing in on the big finish…

…which happened in such a way that I nearly screamed out loud.

Feverishly, my still-trembling fingers skittering across the keyboard, I typed off two noisy, demanding messages to Mandi, begging her to continue – imploring her not to leave me this way but to please, please, please come back and finish what she’d started…but like all good authors (and lovers, if Paige is anything to go by), she knows how to keep a person wanting more.

Favourite Author Mandi Castle



CongratuMANYlations to GIVEAWAY WINNERS Gretchen and BrickHouseChick – Mandi will be in touch to get your books to you after the release date on May 11th (and she’ll sign them for you too, as a treat)

54 thoughts on “A Slip of the Lit – Dear Stephanie (an endorsement)

  1. Pingback: Support A Writer! - Live By Surprise

  2. Your reviews are stories in themselves, Ms L!

    Sounds like a wonderful book, but I was expecting it to be so based on your interview with the author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • She’s one of my favourites and her book…MMMMMMMmmmmmmamazing!

      And thank you – I try to be a *little* more creative with these than your common or garden book review, just because I hope to engage more people, or at least, to engage the people I DO engage, at a deeper level, yaknow? Otherwise it can just read “fluff fluff fluff fluff yadda yadda blah”


    • *grins*

      Two things you’ll soon learn about me, if you hang around long enough.

      1) I love to connect

      2) I vacillate between crippling anxiety and outrageous arrogance – there’s rarely a middle ground.


      • “And thank you – I try to be a *little* more creative with these than your common or garden book review”

        Your effort is worthwhile. I’m a big fan of the engaged observer style of non-fiction writing. I enjoy reading people’s stories and their stories about the stories they read and on and on. I’ve recently started listening to a lot of podcasts – 99% Invisible, Love & Radio, Nocturne, those sorts of things – and the reporters, interviewers, etc, often cross over the line from detached observer to engaging and even becoming part of the story they are telling.

        It’s not that there isn’t a place for editorial distance. I think a lot of good comes out of that. It’s just not the only mode for telling a story. Some stories need to be told differently.

        “1) I love to connect”

        Me, too! What’s the point of a blog if you don’t engage? And the same with twitter. I very rarely enjoy feeds that don’t have a lot of mentions, replies, hashtags, etc… Because it shows me that this person just wants to broadcast their ideas. Ain’t nothing wrong with that, but I want to engage with people.

        (Which isn’t to say I don’t sometimes subscribe to these “one-way” tweeters. Just they aren’t my preference.)

        “2) I vacillate between crippling anxiety and outrageous arrogance – there’s rarely a middle ground.”

        I know that feeling!

        Liked by 1 person

        • I tend to not follow back accounts which don’t have some evidence of conversation in them. I don’t mind hashtags but not to excess. I don’t mind link-sharing, but same deal there.

          You’d be surprised how many people seem to blog just to be heard by their adoring masses and never really interact.



          • I don’t follow blogs for too long if the authors don’t reply to comments.

            But I think it’s also that some people go into blogging and are just unprepared for the realities of the blogosphere. Sometimes people from a rather sheltered backgroung will blog about something and then get freaked out by the sort of people who find them. Others of them wake up to this new world they didn’t know existed.

            But still, I can get one-way entertainment on my TV. I’d rather engage. But it sounds like we’re both on the same page on that one!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Every Paige Counts | Considerings

  4. Well I’ve been trying to make it over here all week! Mandi’s book is just flat-out damn good. Paige is a warts and all type of character, which makes her very real and very enduring. There’s nothing sugar-coated anywhere in the book and the twist and turns mimic life. Sometimes stuff just happens and we have to roll with it whether we like it or not and that stuff changes our very core. Plus, as an editor it’s always way more exciting to polish prose when it comes from someone like Mandi who already has such a strong hold on the language. Geesh, I think I sound like a total fan 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • HA you do, you DO *glee* I think it’s lovely, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing how much you’ve shouted out about this book, and how much you enjoyed editing it. I should imagine that makes the job easier.

      It’s a FABULOUS book, and yes, Paige is definitely warts’n’all, but layered, and as you get to know her centre, you realise how very much there is to like about her. She’s an incredibly strongly written character, and Mandi has me awed (though not even a tiny bit surprised) by her talent.

      Liked by 1 person

    • *SQUEEEEEEE* Isn’t Oo7 LOVELY?!?! 😀 So glad you love it so much. I know I do. And this…SO different but equally compelling and incredible, though a very different ‘feel’ of book…you’re gonna LOVE it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am back in action thanks to incredibly kind and giving people like you two! xoxo

    This review is absolutely BADASS! It really grabs us and lures us right in to Stephanie’s world. I can’t tell you how MUCHO EXCITED I am to have won a signed copy from the beautiful and way talented Mandi!! SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! NO PUEDE SER! Me? A weeener? I am SO happy for your Mandi and anxious to read the book. Let the FIESTA continue! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful review, BW. What I love most about Mandi’s book (which I’m still rereading and I’m just so in awe) is how unique it is. You think you know what’s going on….but you really have no idea, because Mandi wasn’t afraid to drop the floor out from under your feet. She wasn’t afraid to do the unconventional and the unexpected. And while that was at some points jarring, it was also pleasantly surprising, you know what I mean? I like to be surprised in the literary world. You know what it reminds me of? The unconventional writing of Gillian Flynn in her novel Gone Girl. I thirst for brave writers who aren’t stuck in the formulaic or genre constraints. I want stories that break molds.

    Dear Stephanie breaks molds.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You should put THAT review EVERYWHERE. Wow 🙂

      And yeah – SO many twists and turns in this…some lovely, some decidedly not, and as for the lack of convention in an ending which leaves you howling in frustration? GENIUS 😀


  7. OH MY GOD I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THIS! I’M SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED!!!! I have been busting my ass to get my writing done and real life stuff done so I can sit down and soak in every juicy word. And it’s KILLING me to have it sit there in my email and not have devoured it yet! And Saturday is busy from sun up til sun down so if I don’t read it before then it will be SUNDAY before I can get to it! And I just don’t know if I can wait that long!!! These are real problems I have.

    *and you give THE best reviews*

    Liked by 1 person

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