The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Idea of You through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

To an outside observer, Lucy Carpenter has it all. She’s been promoted through the ranks at work and other women aspire to be like her in their professional careers. She’s finally found a wonderful man, and they’re happily married. But what no one else can see is the baby-shaped hole in Lucy’s heart. It’s what she wants more than anything in the world—to be a mother. And it’s the one thing that constantly eludes her. Her stepdaughter’s presence puts a strain on Lucy and Jonah’s marriage, in addition to being a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. And suddenly, Lucy’s on the verge of losing everything.

The Idea of You is a powerful, emotional book that had me turning pages late into the night. Lucy’s story drew me in immediately, and its hold never lessened. The format was interesting and different, keeping the reader somewhat guessing for a while but with enough information to feel Lucy’s despair and pain right along with her. Parts of the story were difficult to read, but only because the author made me feel like I was in the story with Lucy. I hurt for her, I cried with her, and I laughed and loved with her. Watching her knit so many baby items was heart-wrenching, and seeing her finally bond with her stepdaughter was inspirational.

This is the second book I’ve ready by Ms. Prowse, and it definitely won’t be the last. She has a way of presenting everyday human issues and taking you on a poignant journey through the lives of her characters. Having only been in Lucy’s shoes to a very slight degree, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to her situation or the book, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Sometimes I wanted to hit Jonah over the head and tell him to take a good look at his wife, and other times I was sure Lucy was going through life with blinders on thinking of nobody but herself. Regardless of who was right or wrong in any particular situation, the story was about the journey, the ups and downs life takes us on in finding our path to happiness. And sometimes, that path doesn’t end up where you thought it would.

I look forward to reading more by this author and highly recommend this book.

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It’s In His Smile (A Red River Valley Novel) by Shelly Alexander

It’s In His Smile (A Red River Valley Novel) by Shelly Alexander

It’s In His Smile Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of It’s In His Smile by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Miranda Cruz has something to prove to herself and Red River. She’s determined to become a respected business owner and overcome the bad reputation her mother saddled her with. Witnessing her mother’s mistakes, Miranda is determined to do it all on her own and not depend on any man.

Talmadge Oaks has a life outside Red River, a life that’s beginning to fall apart and desperately needs his attention. When he realizes the only solution to his problem is to stay in town and help Miranda with the renovations of her inn, Talmadge gets more than he bargained for. The undeniable chemistry between the couple sizzles, but secrets and independence just might push them apart.

It’s In His Smile is book three in the Red River Valley series and is completely standalone. It is a contemporary romance and women’s fiction novel, with Miranda asserting her independence and desire to stand on her own without a man to support her. The story is well written with a strong plot and strong characters.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Miranda and Talmadge, but above that was the fact both main characters had issues outside of the relationship. This gave the story more depth, keeping me interested in their lives beyond whether they would end up together or not.

The only drawback from this was how it went a little overboard in Miranda asserting her independence. I realize the characterization was true throughout the story, however after a time it felt like a bit too much. The ending was just okay for me, but I did appreciate the story overall.

I would read more stories from this series as well as more from this author.

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Paper Castles by Terri Lee

Paper Castles by Terri Lee

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4.5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Paper Castles by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

In 1963, Georgia Socialite Savannah Palmerton has what looks like the perfect life: a successful husband, two children, and a beautiful house. But looks can be deceiving. Secrets hide behind that perfect façade, secrets that are just waiting to be let into the light. With Savannah’s marriage and family crumbling around her, she must search through the rubble for the woman beneath the garden parties and pretty dresses. She can’t even begin to love anyone else until she learns to love herself.

Paper Castles is an expertly woven tale of lies, betrayal, and murder. I became immediately invested in the life of the main character, and I was hooked to the story right up until the end. The story is set in the midst of John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the civil rights movement, and the historical details added a layer of uniqueness. The author kept true to the time period in the characters’ actions, clothing, and outside occurrences. It was a different world 50 years ago, and women didn’t just divorce their husbands without becoming the talk of the town. Mental illness was a dirty little secret. Ms. Lee convinced me I was living in the 60s with the way her characters reacted.

The plot of the story was much more than just one genre. It was about family, finding yourself, finding romance when you thought life was over, and most of all it had suspense. The murder investigation was well executed, keeping me guessing until the end without unnecessary surprises.

The single reason for rating this book less than 5 stars is that it could use another pass by a proofreader. The errors were noticeable enough to catch my attention but thankfully not enough to draw me out of the story. With such a fantastic story and the wonderful talent with words Ms. Lee has, I hate to see it dragged down by incorrect punctuation.

I truly enjoyed this book and Ms. Lee’s writing and look forward to reading more of her work.

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The Ones That Got Away (A Collection of Lost Fish Tales) by Suanne Laqueur

The Ones That Got Away (A Collection of Lost Fish Tales) by Suanne Laqueur

The Ones That Got Away Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of The Ones That Got Away by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Ever wonder what the process of writing is like for an author? How a book flows from the beginning stage to the final product? What goes through an author’s mind as they write? The Ones That Got Away gives you a perfect look into the changes a book, individual characters, and even entire plots go through before reaching its readers’ hands.

This book is not a straightforward novel in itself. In fact, this is the only book in The Fish Tales series that can’t be read on its own. In this fourth installment, Ms. Laqueur takes us on a journey from the beginning stages of the first book, through the evolution of the characters and plot, and even provides scenes from other characters’ points of view. It’s an eye-opening and amazing bonus for readers like myself who can’t get enough of these characters or the words Ms. Laqueur writes.

Even though this book breaks all traditions with its style of providing varying plots and different points of view, there wasn’t a single moment while reading it where I didn’t want it to just go on forever. We meet Erik when he was a football player and Daisy before she became Daisy, and this is interspersed with Ms. Laqueur’s personal comments about how the characters turned into who they were in the final version. We go from two shooters in the theater with no real purpose to James with his gun and his anger, yet we delve even deeper into James’ psyche with scenes between Will and James that were only alluded to in the first two books. We even find out more about Will’s guilt over the whole situation and the role he played in setting off the chain of events that ruined so many lives.

Speaking of Will … In all my reading, I’ve never met a secondary character I wanted so much more of until Will, and Ms. Laqueur delivers Will (and Lucky) in spades here. It takes great talent for an author to make her readers fall so in love with a character, provide that character’s entire story in a secondary plot line, yet still have readers clambering for more.

As usual, this book also brings great emotion. Even in alternate scenes—the “could have beens”—I was still left close to tears or in tears on many occasions, and not always in a sad way. Ms. Laqueur’s words just garner that kind of reaction, even when they aren’t part of a linear plot.

Bottom line, if you’re a fan of The Fish Tales, you won’t want to miss this book. And if you’re not? What are you waiting for? Start with The Man I Love. You won’t be sorry.

All of my reviews of Ms. Laqueur’s books can be found by selecting her name from the Author Spotlight tab at the top of the page.

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Here to Stay (The Fish Tales Book 3) by Suanne Laqueur

Here to Stay (The Fish Tales Book 3) by Suanne Laqueur

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided an ARC of Here to Stay by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

After a twelve-year estrangement, Erik Fiskare and Daisy Bianco are reunited and working on their relationship. But what looks like a happily ever after isn’t always so happy and perfect. The reason for their estrangement still needs to be dealt with, and both Erik and Daisy have unresolved heartache that rears its head when least expected. Erik also has to repair his relationship with his best friend who he hasn’t spoken to in years.

At the same time, Erik begins a journey of self-discovery when family he didn’t know existed suddenly presents itself to him. After being abandoned by his father as a child, Erik doesn’t know if he has it in his heart to forgive the man he so resembles, but learning more about him through family members sets him on a path of understanding. As Erik learns who he really is, he’ll also discover what will truly make him happy in his relationship with Daisy. But they’ll face some struggles before they can grasp that brass ring.

Here to Stay is book three in The Fish Tales series, and I loved every word of it as much as I loved the first two books. Although you will understand the gist of the story without reading The Man I Love or Give Me Your Answer True, it is best to have read one of these companion novels first. You won’t be sorry if you do. Here to Stay picks up right where the first two novels leave off, with Erik and Daisy reconciling after twelve years of being apart.

And they lived happily ever after, right? Well, life doesn’t always work that way, and Ms. Laqueur has a way of weaving a realistic tale that grips your heart and squeezes it tight before releasing it and allowing you to breathe again. The story of Erik’s journey provides a lifelike look at friendships being repaired and how love can hurt because real people have real problems.

All of the characters from the first two books make a reappearance in this story, and characterizations are true to form. Everything I loved about Erik and Daisy, and Will and Lucky, is brought out in vivid detail. The friendship between Erik and Will, although needing some mending, is one of the truest friendships I’ve ever read. What’s love if you can’t share the joy with someone who gets you, and the heartache too? Both men recognize the uniqueness of their relationship and embrace it, allowing the other to take on some of their burden when the load becomes too heavy to carry. Although Will and Lucky are technically secondary characters, they are well-developed and in the forefront of the story, adding depth to each interaction.

The entire book is packed with emotion. Even while cheering on Erik and Daisy’s relationship, their arguments are a necessary evil. Twelve years of estrangement doesn’t just vanish from your heart, and old, buried issues surface when least expected. But the way the characters handle these issues is what counts, and Erik and Daisy are now older and wiser, having lived through countless struggles and made it out the other side. They’re more mature and better equipped to handle whatever pops up, and watching them from a reader’s perspective is gripping.

I tend to get bored with series and reading about the same characters, but there is not a boring moment to be found in any of the three books of The Fish Tales. There are not enough stars to show my appreciation for the words Ms. Laqueur writes. I love these characters, and I have a feeling I’d love anything else written by this author.

Here to Stay will be available on January 14, 2016. My reviews of The Man I Love and Give Me Your Answer True can be found by selecting Suanne Laqueur from the Author Spotlight tab. Each book is on sale for $0.99 through December 20, 2015.


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Forever Changed (The Forever Series Book 1) by Mona Ingram

Forever Changed (The Forever Series Book 1) by Mona Ingram

Forever Changed Cover

2 out of 5 Stars

When Ariana finds out she has breast cancer, she doesn’t know what to do with herself even though she’s been preparing herself for this for years since it took the lives of her mother and sister. The diagnosis forces her to take a hard look at her life, and she doesn’t like what she sees—a marriage that’s long since died and an unfulfilling job. When Ariana walks into Blaine Bennett’s tattoo shop, both their lives will be forever changed.

Forever Changed is a women’s fiction and contemporary romance novella that hooked me with its summary. Ariana’s breast cancer diagnosis and surgery gave her a new lease on life, and what better way to start it than with a new romance? I loved the plot and that this was a short, quick read. Blaine was a hot tattoo artist who knew his own loss, which was another plus for this story.

Unfortunately, it didn’t deliver as much as I’d hoped it would. While we were given enough background on both characters and some secondary characters as well, the insta-love between Ariana and Blaine was an insta-turn-off. Blaine saw Ariana twice before they met in person, and Ariana had never seen him before their first meeting. They spent maybe an hour together—it was actually difficult to tell—and then they were both in love. On top of that, Ariana left that meeting thinking Blaine was repulsed by her, yet she still loved him. I couldn’t buy into it and struggled throughout the rest of the story.

There were some other issues that didn’t really work for me as well, like bringing up the problems with Blaine and his father and immediately resolving them, Ariana’s best friend asking if she was in love after her first meeting, and Ariana’s eagerness to get remarried before her divorce was even final. On top of that, the amount of editing errors—missing commas before direct address, incorrect punctuation, letters missing from words—gave the book an unprofessional feel.

I truly had higher hopes for this book and was disappointed when they weren’t realized.

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Finding Purgatory by Kristina M. Sanchez

Finding Purgatory by Kristina M. Sanchez

Finding Purgatory Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Finding Purgatory by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Ani Novak’s beautiful life is shattered in the blink of an eye. Lacking direction after her family is shattered, she seeks out the little sister she walked away from when Ani was nineteen. Ani’s not sure if she wants to make amends or just reconnect with someone who doesn’t have a reason to pity her.

Tori Kane barely remembers her big sister or her parents, and having grown up in foster homes, she’s never known unconditional love. On the brink of turning eighteen, Tori thinks she has life all figured out, until her sister walks back into her life and Tori finds herself in a situation she can’t handle alone.

Neither sister knows how to deal with their new life or how to find happiness. But perhaps by leaning on each other they can find some middle ground. They might not be able to grasp the brass ring, but just maybe they can find purgatory.

Finding Purgatory is a contemporary story that incorporates women’s fiction with some new adult. Told in third person point of view, we are treated to the lives of both sisters—one who is just becoming an adult and one who has to put the pieces of her life back together. Ani has guilt over leaving her little sister once she finds out Tori didn’t get a happily ever after with an adoptive family, and she’s also feeling guilty over how she had to back out of the lives of her in-laws. Tori thinks she’s got life all figured out. She’ll soon be eighteen and be able to leave the foster system behind.

The story showed the true emotions of both women, at times so emotional it brought me to tears. It had a very true-to-life feel to it. Nothing was sugar-coated. Being pregnant is not always a blessing, and Tori’s pregnancy was an interesting contradiction to Ani having just lost her very young daughter. Neither sister knew quite how to handle the pregnancy, and we got to experience their raw emotions as they felt them. Both Tori and Ani showed tremendous growth throughout the story.

The secondary characters also had a very real feel to them. Raphe was extremely patient with Tori, yet at times his frustration showed through. West was quite a charmer but also offered pearls of wisdom to Ani just when she needed them most. I really enjoyed Shane and Ian’s story as well. There was a lot of activity packed into this book, but Ms. Sanchez did a great job of incorporating it all and making it feel natural.

Although this definitely falls into the category of “happily ever after,” it also offers a difficult life lesson. Life can be messy and far from perfect, but snatching your moments of happiness and holding on to them makes all the difference.

The few minor editing mistakes did not detract from my enjoyment of this book. I would definitely read more by this author.

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Guessing at Normal by Gail Ward Olmsted

Guessing at Normal by Gail Ward Olmsted

 Guessing at Normal Cover

3 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Guessing at Normal by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Jill Griffin lives a quiet life, struggling to pay her bills while working at a motel. When sexy rocker James Sheridan stays at the motel, he steals her heart before moving on to the next city on his tour. A little while later, James asks her to join him on the road. She’s happy to live in his shadow as he tours with his band, until his band breaks up and they are left struggling to survive once again. James turns Jill’s poems into hit songs and it skyrockets him into fame, but they’ll have to survive his drinking, touring, and wandering ways. Jill eventually finds her own fame as a songwriter, but she still struggles to hold on to the love of her life.

Guessing at Normal is a different kind of romance, spanning about two decades as it follows the main characters from meeting, falling in love, destitution, fame, and ultimately struggling to stay together in the wake of all that fame. It’s told through snippets of Jill’s life mixed with some of her journal entries and letters to friends and family. Although I enjoyed the format, at times it had drawbacks.

Because many of the scenes were told in snippets instead of full scenes, I didn’t have much of a chance to connect to the love between Jill and James. The focus seemed to be more on the bad times or things they had to overcome rather than the building of their relationship. There were many times throughout the story where I couldn’t understand why Jill didn’t just pack up and leave James, and that was mostly because I didn’t get why she loved him so much.

I also had difficulty with the amount of times Jill had to lie to her friends and family to cover for James. Sure, if you love someone you want to protect them, but that was another strike against their relationship. If James loved her as much as he said he did, he never would have done most of the things he did. I’m not a fan of stories that contain cheating, so I found it hard to get over James’ indiscretions. Perhaps if it had only happened once and then he proved how much he loved Jill in order to win her back, I might have been able to see her taking him back the first time. But it didn’t seem like he did anything to prove his love, yet she just took him back—twice.

There were some editing issues in this book that also made it more difficult for me to enjoy. Tense changes, incorrect punctuation, and unnatural dialogue should have been cleaned up by a good editor.

Overall, I just didn’t really see the point of the plot. I typically love rock star romances, but since it felt like the romance was missing, I was left wondering what the point of the story was. It was decently written and showed what it’s really like to be a struggling musician and then to have fame thrust upon you, so I’m sure some people will enjoy it for those reasons. I just couldn’t connect with the characters enough.

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Iron Butterfly by Lisa Wainland

Iron Butterfly by Lisa Wainland

Iron Butterfly Cover

3 out of 5 Stars

Twenty-nine-year-old Cassie is pretty happy with her life. She loves her fiancé, has a job she likes, and she likes the way she looks. But life can change in an instant, as it does when Cassie collapses at work and finds out she has a brain tumor. Her fiancé Jake will stand by her side while she undergoes an operation and recovery, but Jake has demons of his own he must deal with to find his way back to happiness.

Cassie’s sister Sandy left home at age eighteen and hasn’t returned for the last seventeen years. Now that Sandy’s sister is fighting for her life, Sandy takes a good look at her own life to realize what’s important. When Sandy returns to her sister’s side, she needs to make amends with her family, and she also needs to pick up the pieces of her marriage before it falls apart for good.

Iron Butterfly is the kind of story that will make you step back and take a look at your own life to figure out what’s really important. It deals with the fragility of life and how none of us are promised tomorrow. The story has a beautiful message, and it’s worth a read. It follows three different people whose lives are intertwined and connected by the same event and shows how they each deal with it and the repercussions.

That said, there were several things I didn’t like about this story. To start with, the first chapter felt like it was a bit all over the place and didn’t really draw me in. I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to care about all the information we were given about Cassie until later on. Perhaps if it had started with telling us how everything could change in an instant and then giving the background information, it would have drawn me in quicker.

The story started out being told by Cassie in first person point of view. It stayed that way up until she was in the hospital, and then suddenly it shifted into third person point of view and we heard from Jake, and later Sandy. The switching from first person to third person was awkward, and I didn’t understand why the author didn’t stick with one. The whole story could have been told in third person to accommodate hearing from other characters, or it could have all been in first person with the chapter breaks switching between the characters. The various points of view and short chapters made the story feel choppy and disconnected even though all three points of view were intertwined.

Additionally, there were quite a few tense changes and other grammatical errors. A little more editing would have helped greatly. I also would have liked to see Jake’s issues fully resolved. He spoke about telling Cassie the full truth about his mother’s death, but we never saw that happen.

Overall, I enjoyed the theme and message of this story but felt it could have been done better.

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