Book Reviews

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

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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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Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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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Book Reviews

#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: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

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.

Book Reviews

#Review: Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz @gracewuertz @randomhouse

Everything Belongs to Us cover

At the start of the year, I mentioned that one of my blogging goals was to read more diverse books. Set in South Korea in 1978, Everything Belongs to Us is the first diverse book I’ve read this year.

I went into this book knowing very little about South Korea’s history and culture, so I had no preconceived ideas about the location or how the characters might be portrayed in the story. I think this made the book more interesting to me, because I wasn’t just reading a story; I was learning about a place I knew practically nothing about.

The story centers mainly around Jisun, Namin, and Sunam, three Seoul National University students who come from vastly different backgrounds.

  • Jisun is the rebellious daughter of a wealthy and powerful man. Rejecting the wealth she was born into,  Jisun is a political activist who regularly takes part in protests. She’s often frustrated in her efforts, however, because of who she is.
  • Namin—Jisun’s childhood friend— is the smart, ambitious daughter of poor parents who make their meager earnings by operating a food cart. She dreams of becoming a doctor to help her disabled younger brother, and lift her family out of poverty… but her older sister Kyungmin  makes that goal difficult in more ways than one.
  • Sunam is the son of middle class parents. He desperately wants to become part of an elite group known as the Circle, via his connection to Juno—Jisun’s older brother. When he’s invited to attend a Circle gathering for prospective members, he meets Namin (who is also yearning for acceptance into the group) and Jisun… setting into motion a chain of events that will affect all of their lives.

Of the three, the story of Namin and her family was the most captivating for me. I’ve always been fond of characters who must overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in order to achieve their dreams, and Namin certainly had a tough row to hoe in that regard. Kyungmin resents that she must work long hours, and deal with unenviable household tasks while Namin is expected only to study. Kyungmin resentment of her life of toil reaches the boiling point, and she makes choices that have a devastating affect on Namin’s dreams.

There were times my attention would wander a bit as I was reading. Sunam’s story, in particular, evoked that reaction from me. He was easily the least interesting character of them all, in my opinion. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I’m glad I read it. Solid three star rating for this one.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Random House.

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Author: Yoojin Grace Wuertz

Title: Everything Belongs to Us

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Published: February 28th 2017 by Random House

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Purchase Links

Penguin Random House | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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About the Book

Two young women of vastly different means each struggle to find her own way during the darkest hours of South Korea s economic miracle in a striking debut novel for readers of Anthony Marra and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.

Seoul, 1978. At South Korea s top university, the nation s best and brightest compete to join the professional elite of an authoritarian regime. Success could lead to a life of rarefied privilege and wealth; failure means being left irrevocably behind.

For childhood friends Jisun and Namin, the stakes couldn t be more different. Jisun, the daughter of a powerful business mogul, grew up on a mountainside estate with lush gardens and a dedicated chauffeur. Namin s parents run a tented food cart from dawn to curfew; her sister works in a shoe factory. Now Jisun wants as little to do with her father s world as possible, abandoning her schoolwork in favor of the underground activist movement, while Namin studies tirelessly in the service of one goal: to launch herself and her family out of poverty.

But everything changes when Jisun and Namin meet an ambitious, charming student named Sunam, whose need to please his family has led him to a prestigious club: the Circle. Under the influence of his mentor, Juno, a manipulative social climber, Sunam becomes entangled with both women, as they all make choices that will change their lives forever.

In this sweeping yet intimate debut, Yoojin Grace Wuertz details four intertwining lives that are rife with turmoil and desire, private anxieties and public betrayals, dashed hopes and broken dreams while a nation moves toward prosperity at any cost.

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About the Author

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Author Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Photo credit: Nina Subin)

Yoojin Grace Wuertz was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from New York University. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son.

Author photo and bio viaof author’s website.

Book Reviews

#Review: The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher @kerryfswayne @bookouture

The Silent Wife cover

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Bookouture.

Shortly before publication day rolled around, this book—previously titled The Secrets of Second Wives— was given a makeover. While I didn’t dislike the original title and cover image, I have to agree that the changes were for the best. The new cover image is captivating; the new title succinct and just a bit mysterious.

I’ve come to expect characters who feel authentic and stay true to their roles in Fisher’s books, and she definitely delivered on that score. Whether it was the image they presented in front of others, or the true selves revealed only in their thoughts and/or private moments, there was never a moment of atypical behavior. (I’ve read many books where that was not the case, so it’s worth mentioning.)

While Maggie’s story is interesting, I have to admit Lara’s story was far more fascinating to me. The things Lara kept silent about—as well as the why and how behind her silence—were far more serious and worrisome than the things Maggie kept hidden, in my opinion. I felt far more concerned about her than I ever did about Maggie, even though I cared about her story, as well. The silence is shattered for both women in an explosive scene that shines the unflattering light of truth on those closest to them, shaking the entire family to the core and changing all their lives forever. One character in particular gets some much needed comeuppance and I loved every moment of it!

This is a great read by a great author, and I definitely recommend it!

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Author: Kerry Fisher

Title: The Silent Wife

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: February 24th, 2017 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Would you risk everything for the man you loved? Even if you knew he’d done something terrible?

Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.

Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico and lives with him and her troubled stepdaughter. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. The one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep silent to protect those she loves?

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price.

A heart-wrenching, emotionally gripping read for fans of Amanda Prowse, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain. 

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About the Author

Author Kerry Fisher
Author Kerry Fisher

Born in Peterborough, Kerry Fisher studied French and Italian, and taught English in Corsica and Spain before climbing to holiday rep and grape picker in Tuscany. She eventually returned to England to ‘get a proper job’, and spent two years in features at Essentials magazine. She now lives in Surrey with her husband, two teenagers and a very naughty lab/schnauzer called Poppy.

Kerry’s first novel, The School Gate Survival Guide, was published by Avon, HarperCollins in 2014. Her second book, The Island Escape, came out in May 2015. It won first prize at the York Festival of Writing for the opening line: ‘I was wearing the wrong bra for sitting in a police cell’.

Author photo and bio courtesy of Bookouture.

Book Reviews

#Review: The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth @SallyHepworth @StMartinsPress

The Mother's Promise cover

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press.

As a young mother, one of my greatest fears was something happening—an illness, or an accident—that would take me from my children, leaving them to grow up without me. The thought alone was enough to leave me in tears, but I had the comfort of knowing if such a terrible thing were to happen, my ‘babies’ would be loved and well cared for by their dad and a large, extended family. Even if something happened to me, I knew my boys would be fine. But what would a mother do if she had no one?

That is the question haunting Alice when she is diagnosed with cancer. Who will care for her daughter? Zoe’s father isn’t involved in their lives, and the only family Alice has left is an alcoholic brother who isn’t fit to raise a child.When social worker Sonja insists Zoe be put in foster care during Alice’s hospital stay, she is frantic with worry and turns to her nurse for help. Kate agrees to take Zoe in for a few days, despite a rocky marriage and a recent heartache of her own. Zoe has severe social anxiety, but finds herself slowly opening up to Kate and wanting to spend time with her as she comes to terms with the impending loss of her mother. Sonja and Kate are Alice’s biggest allies. Working together, they prepare Zoe for a future without Alice, and find their own lives changed for the better, as well.

Zoe’s struggle with social anxiety hit close to home for me. Hepworth captured the irrationality of anxiety perfectly, without making Zoe seem pathetic. The struggle she has in doing the simplest of things, the way her fears hold her back, and the sheer terror of stepping outside her comfort zone are all true to life without being over the top. I enjoyed all the main characters, but I was particularly invested in Zoe. Watching her come out of her shell and  mature in ways she once thought impossible was a particular bright spot in this beautifully written story.

The Mother’s Promise tugs at your heartstrings from start to finish, and it’s a book I definitely recommend. Just remember to have a box of tissues handy… you’ll need them.

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Author: Sally Hepworth

Title: The Mother’s Promise: A Novel

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: February 21st, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

With every book, Sally Hepworth becomes more and more known for her searing emotional portraits of families—and the things that test their bonds. With The Mother’s Promise, she delivers her most powerful novel yet: the story of a single mother who is dying, the troubled teenaged daughter who is battling her own demons, and the two women who come into their lives at the most critical moment.

All their lives Alice and her daughter Zoe have been a family of two, living quietly in northern California. Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector. With no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe’s father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works—until it doesn’t. Until Alice gets sick and is given a grim prognosis.

Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers, but who are her only hope: Kate, her oncology nurse, and Sonja, a social worker. As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their sharpest fears and secrets—secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family. Imbued with heart and humor in even the darkest moments, The Mother’s Promise is an unforgettable novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

About the Author

Author Sally Hepworth
Author Sally Hepworth

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives. The Secrets of Midwives has been labelled “enchanting” by The Herald Sun, “smart and engaging” by Publisher’s Weekly, and New York Times bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Emily Giffin have praised Sally’s debut novel as “women’s fiction at its finest” and “totally absorbing”. The Secrets of Midwives was also the highest selling debut Australian fiction of the year in 2015.

Sally is also the author of The Things We Keep, published in January 2016. The Things We Keep was a Library Journal Pick in the U.S. for January 2016, and an Indie Next Pick in the U.S. for February 2016. NYT bestselling author of The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion praised The Things We Keep calling it ‘A compelling read that touches on important themes, not least the different forms that love may take.”

Both novels were published worldwide in English and have been translated into several languages.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.