Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey #Review @kristywharvey @GalleryBooks

Slightly South of Simple cover

I love reading women’s fiction, particularly those set in the Southern portion of the United States. So when I see a book that is both women’s fiction and Southern fiction, I’m immediately drawn to it in hopes of a good read… and that’s what I got with Slightly South of Simple: a very good read.

Harvey’s story of three sisters who—for various reasons—move back into their mother’s home in Peachtree Bluff, Georgia, is simply fantastic. The sisters have vastly different lifestyles and reasons for coming home. Caroline is a pregnant Manhattan socialite whose perfect life has been destroyed by her husband’s (excruciatingly public) affair and, with her daughter in tow, returns to the quaint seaside town seeking solace and distance from the vicious gossip about her marriage. Sloane is an military wife whose husband has been deployed again; she returns home along with her two sons in order to spend time with her mother and sisters. Emerson, the youngest, is an actress who comes home to work on the movie she’s starring in that could be her big break. Their mother, Ansley, is delighted to have them home, but feels overwhelmed when an old love comes back into her life; even more so when her mother moves in, needing Ansley to care for her as she recovers from an injury.

The story is told through Caroline and Ansley’s perspectives, with a fair portion of Ansley’s story being told in her memories of the past that slowly reveal secrets she’s kept from her daughters, and her fears that those secrets will come out. Ansley’s secrets were of particular interest to me, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. Honestly, Ansley’s memories could have been an entire novel in itself, in my opinion—I wanted to know every detail of her fascinating past! Caroline’s story—and her memories—were equally fascinating to me, and despite her having some less-than-desirable personality traits, I felt especially moved by the uncertainties she faced in her life. The characters of Sloane and Emerson weren’t quite as fleshed out as I would have liked, but I’m sure that will change as the series progresses and is told (I suspect) through each of their perspectives. This is the beginning of a series, after all… so while I noted that, it’s not something that can be held out as a point of criticism.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and was sad to reach the end. I’m highly anticipating the release of book two, and I am eager to spend more time reading about these fascinating women!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey

Title: Slightly South of Simple

Series: Peachtree Bluff #1

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction

Published April 25th, 2017 by Gallery Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she’d spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley’s life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

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About the Author

Author Kristy Woodson Harvey
Author Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the author of Dear Carolina. She blogs at Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at kristywoodonsharvey.com. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a Master’s in English from East Carolina University. She is a regular contributor for The Salisbury Post, Domino magazine and Houzz. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three-year-old son.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner #Review @jamielbrenner @littlebrown

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A broken engagement. A forbidden affair. The loss of a prestigious job. The announcement that her parents are getting divorced. What else could possibly happen to shake up Marin Bishop’s already wrecked life?

The final bombshell comes with the arrival of twenty-two year old Rachel Moscowitz—Marin’s half-sister—and the painful discovery that Marin’s beloved father isn’t really her father, after all. Shattered and in denial, Marin nevertheless agrees to travel with Rachel to the Beach Rose Inn in Provincetown, to meet their grandmother, Amelia Cabral. Against her wishes, Marin’s mother, Blythe, accompanies them. The group of women spend the summer getting to know one another as decades-old secrets are finally spoken, and the pain of the past confronted at last.

The Forever Summer is an enjoyable story with some surprising twists thrown into the mix. The characters were well written, with vivid personalities. There were times I found myself annoyed with some of the things Rachel did or said, but in hindsight I think it was because she’s a young woman doing/feeling what young women do, and I wasn’t able to identify with it at this time in my life. (I think I may have just insulted myself there, and inferred I was getting old? Yikes!)

My favorite characters were definitely Amelia and Kelly. Their backstory—as well as Blythe’s—was the most interesting part of the story for me. Nadine, Amelia’s daughter, was extremely unlikable, but she had her reasons for behaving the way she did. There were a few twists in the latter part of the book (some good, others not so good) that really surprised me.

I’m giving this one a solid 3.5 stars. I couldn’t decide between three and four stars, so 3.5 felt right in the end.

If you’re looking for books to add to your summer reading list, I would suggest adding this one to your list.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown, and Company and Netgalley.

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Author: Jamie Brenner

Title: The Forever Summer

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: April 25th, 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐½

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About the Book

When a DNA test reveals long-buried secrets, three generations of women reunite on Cape Cod for the homecoming of a lifetime.

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it’s paid off: at twenty-eight she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and the hard-won admiration of her father. But one moment of weakness leaves Marin unemployed and alone, all in a single day. Then a woman claiming to be Marin’s half-sister shows up, and it’s all Marin can do not to break down completely. Seeking escape, Marin agrees to a road trip to meet the grandmother she never knew she had. As the summer unfolds at her grandmother’s quaint beachside B&B, it becomes clear that the truth of her half-sister is just the beginning of revelations that will change Marin’s life forever. THE FOREVER SUMMER is a delicious page-turner and a provocative exploration of what happens when our notions of love, truth, and family are put to the ultimate test.

Full of delicious descriptions of coastal New England and richly imagined characters, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotional, hot-topic page-turner and a summer must-read.

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About the Author

jamie_brenner
Author Jamie Brenner

Jamie Brenner is the author of The Forever Summer. Her previous novels include The Wedding Sisters and the historical The Gin Lovers (St. Martin’s Press), named by Fresh Fiction as one of the Top Thirteen Books to read in 2013, and Ruin Me, a coming-of-age story set in the art world. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

Author photo via Goodreads. Bio via publisher’s website.

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#Review: The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse @MrsAmandaProwse

The Idea of You cover

Lucy Carpenter and her husband, Jonah, are happily married and planning to have a baby. When she becomes pregnant, Lucy spends her evenings knitting baby clothes. She has a pregnancy book she reads to discover how her baby is developing week by week, and imagines how happy their lives will be once their baby is born.  Her heart is broken when she has an miscarriage, but they are determined to try again. Sorrow strikes a second time when she has another miscarriage. As Lucy struggles to deal with the pain of her losses, she must also adjust to the arrival of her teenaged step-daughter, Camille. Lucy hopes to build a relationship with her, but instead finds herself feeling like an outsider in her home. Envious of the relationship Jonah has with his daughter and fearful that she will never be able to have the baby she desperately longs for, Lucy begins to resent Camille’s presence. The rocky relationship she has with Camille causes a rift to form between Lucy and Jonah, and Lucy is less than thrilled when Camille announces she’s staying. A shocking turn of events brings about a situation that will either bring them together, finally, as a family… or tear them apart.

The Idea of You is a beautifully written novel you won’t soon be able to forget. Intensely emotional and painfully realistic, this is a book guaranteed to wring every ounce of empathy from you, and then some. Lucy’s dream of motherhood are especially poignant when she writes of what she imagines it would be like to have a child… dreaming of the possibilities, of the things she would do with her child at different ages. You’ll definitely want to have a box (or two) of tissues handy when you read this book, because I don’t think it’s possible to read this one all the way through with dry eyes!

Simply put, this is a book worth reading.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Lake Union Publishers.

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Author: Amanda Prowse

Title: The Idea of You

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: March 21st, 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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About the Book

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

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About the Author

Author Amanda Prowse
Author Amanda Prowse

Amanda Prowse was a management consultant for ten years before realising that she was born to write. Amanda lives in the West Country with her husband and their two teenage sons.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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#Review: And Then There Was Me by Sadeqa Johnson @Sadeqasays

And Then There Was Me cover

And Then There Was Me is a beautifully written novel about friendship, marriage,  secrets, and betrayal.  The protagonist of the story is Beatrice (Bea) Colon. Married with two children, Bea is pregnant for the third time as a surrogate for her husband’s cousin. And she’s pretty sure her husband, Lonnie, is cheating on her again. Needing support, Bea relies on lifelong friend, Awilda, who has troubles in her own marriage due to her husband’s illness. No one knows Bea is hiding a secret of her own—she’s bulimic, and she fights a daily battle not to binge and purge. A terrible betrayal shatters her world, and Bea must find a way to piece her life back together again… and decide who will be in it.

I’ve had this ARC for a while, and I regret not reading it sooner. It’s such a good book! Before I got halfway through the first chapter, I was firmly stuck in Bea’s corner. My heart went out to her as I read about her insecurities, doubts about her husband’s fidelity, and the discomfort she feels living in the upper class, non-diverse neighborhood that Lonnie insisted upon.

As much as I was wrapped up in Bea’s present-day life, I found the flashbacks to her childhood even more interesting. It showed me why her friendship with Awilda was so important to her, as well as giving insight into how food became such an important (and distorted) part of her life. It also gave insight into why Bea forgave (or tolerated?) her husband’s cheating so many times throughout their marriage.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending. Not because it was bad, but because I didn’t want it to end! I thought there was a bit more left, and when I realized I’d reached the end, I whined out a pathetic noooooo and kept stabbing my finger at my Kindle, as if that would cause another chapter to magically appear. Sigh. If only…

Overall, this was a great story with vividly written characters you either loved or hated… and maybe felt a bit conflicted about, as well. I thought the scenes regarding Bea’s struggle with bulimia were thoughtfully written; the anguish Bea felt each time she couldn’t find the need to binge and purge was palpable, and painful to read. Kudos to Ms. Johnson having handled such a delicate subject with sensitivity and empathy.

This is the first book I’ve read of Johnson’s, but I doubt it will be the last. I highly recommend this to readers who enjoy reading women’s fiction. This is a story you don’t want to miss!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Thomas Dunne Books.

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Author: Sadeqa Johnson

Title: And Then There Was Me

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: April 11th, 2017 by Thomas Dunne Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Macmillan | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Bea and Awilda have been best friends from the moment Awilda threw her fourteen year-old self across Bea’s twin-sized bed as if they had known each other forever. Bubbly, adventurous Awilda taught sheltered, shy Bea how to dress, wear her hair and what to do with boys. She even introduced Bea to her husband, Lonnie, in college, who pledged to take good care of her for the rest of their lives. But philanderer Lonnie breaks that promise over and over again, leaving Bea to wrestle with her self-esteem and long time secret addiction.

Recently Lonnie has plopped the family in a New Jersey upper class suburb, which lacks the diversity that Bea craves but has the school district and zip code envy that Lonnie wants. The demands of carrying a third child and fitting into this new environment while pretending that her husband is not cheating on her again, is more than she can handle. And just when she thinks things can’t get any worst, the ultimate deception snaps the little thread that was holding her life together and all comes tumbling down.

And Then There Was Me is the story of secrets, lies and friendship, heartache and betrayal. It’s the journey of a woman stripped down to her lowest point and needing to find the will to press on.

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About the Author

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Author Sadeqa Johnson

Sadeqa Johnson, a former public relations manager, spent several years working with well-known authors such as JK Rowling, Bebe Moore Campbell, Amy Tan and Bishop TD Jakes before becoming an author herself. Her debut novel, Love in a Carry-on Bag, is the recipient of the 2013 Phillis Wheatley Award for Best Fiction and the 2012 USA Best Book Award for fiction. She is a motivational speaker, inspirational blogger, wife and mother of three incredible children.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.

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