Book Review: The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes—and a Giveaway!

The One That Got Away
Leigh Himes
Hachette Books, June 2017
ISBN 978-0-316-30570-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Meet Abbey Lahey . . .

Overworked mom. Underappreciated publicist. Frazzled wife of an out-of-work landscaper. A woman desperately in need of a vacation from life–and who is about to get one, thanks to an unexpected tumble down a Nordstrom escalator.

Meet Abbey van Holt . . .

The woman whose life Abbey suddenly finds herself inhabiting when she wakes up. Married to handsome congressional candidate Alex van Holt. Living in a lavish penthouse. Wearing ball gowns and being feted by the crème of Philadelphia society. Luxuriating in the kind of fourteen-karat lifestyle she’s only read about in the pages of Town & Country.

The woman Abbey might have been . . . if she had said yes to a date with Alex van Holt all those years ago.

In the tradition of the romantic comedy Sliding Doors and Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, Leigh Himes’s irresistible debut novel tells the funny and touching story of an ordinary woman offered an extraordinary opportunity to reboot her life, explore the road not taken, and ultimately, find her true self–whoever that may be.

I confess, the description of this book reminds me of a Hallmark movie (I’m addicted to those things) that came out a few Christmases ago. I don’t remember the name of it but the mom in the story finds herself in the life she might have had if she’d married the other guy. Come to think of it, Hallmark has used that theme more than once but the point is, I liked the movie and thought I’d like this book, too.

And I did, with reservations.

Abbey is a likeable woman, largely because of how she stumbles her way through this new reality/fantasy. She’s funny and inventive and determined to learn how to live the high life. This is definitely a “the grass is greener on the other side” scenario and, as you might expect, the new experience of being part of the social elite of Philadelphia and married to a politician kind of overwhelms Abbey, not to mention the shock of waking up in this fantasy. On the other hand, Abbey did irritate me with her too easy acceptance of the change and the shallowness that creeps out but I also empathized with her dissatisfaction and frustrations with her old life.

I sound conflicted, don’t I? I guess I am, actually, maybe because I too have that question, the what if syndrome. Not constantly, of course, but it’s there, lingering in the background even though I’m pretty well satisfied with the way my life has gone so far. And since I’m unlikely to ever wake up in a different life, it was fun to watch Abbey go through her rebirth, so to speak. There are a lot of books and movies that tackle this premise and The One That Got Away ranks right up there with the most entertaining.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

************

Purchase Links:

              

************

About the Author

Author Leigh Himes has spent fourteen years working in the public relations field. Born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, she now lives just outside of Philadelphia with her husband and their two children. This is her first book.

Website // Twitter // Goodreads

************

Follow the tour here.

************

“An enchanting novel about the choices we make in life and
love–by turns hilarious, poignant, and nostalgic. Himes’s novel
will make you revisit all the “what ifs” you’ve ever contemplated,
from fleeting encounters to almost-weddings . . . a lively debut
that will strike a chord in anyone with a romantic past.”
Nicholas Sparks, author of The Notebook and See Me

************

To enter the drawing for a print copy
of The One That Got Away, leave a
comment below. The winning name will

be drawn Saturday evening, July 1st.
Open to residents of the US and Canada.

************

Book Review: Sweet Tea Tuesdays by Ashley Farley

Sweet Tea Tuesdays
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books, May 2917
Ebook
Leisure Time Books, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-946229-37-3
Trade Paperback

From the author—

Three best friends met every Tuesday for twenty-six years. And then they stopped.

When new next-door neighbors Georgia, Midge, and Lula first assembled on Georgia’s porch in Charleston for sweet tea, they couldn’t have known their gathering was the beginning of a treasured tradition. For twenty-six years they have met on Tuesdays at four o’clock, watching the seasons change and their children grow up, supporting each other in good times and in bad. With their ambitions as different as their personalities, these best friends anticipate many more years of tea time. And then, one Tuesday, Georgia shares news that brings their long-standing social hour to an abrupt halt. And that’s only the beginning as unraveling secrets threaten to alter their friendship forever.

Picture yourself and a couple of neighbors enjoying a glass of sweet tea on the front porch once a week, spending a little time catching up on each other’s doings and the latest tales about the kids and the men in your lives. Some weeks, you’ll watch the sun set; others, you’ll just savor the warm afternoon and coastal breezes. There are tears sometimes, a lot of laughs, perhaps the occasional spat, and the tea just might become a glass of wine. Most importantly, this is tradition and the essence of friendship, the very reason front porches were created.

Lula, Midge and Georgia are such normal women and so nice (for the most part) but not too much so. I would welcome them all into my life if I could do so and, after reading about the years on that porch, I feel as though I know them as well as my own best friends, alas both now departed. These are seasoned women who have seen and experienced much in their lifetimes and therefore they are compellingly interesting. When life deals Lula what she sees as a bad hand, the effect is nearly catastrophic and heartache is inevitable while continuing to care about her becomes really difficult. Many of us have been faced with problems similar to that which nearly brings the three friends to an apparent impasse; would we react the same or differently?

With each book Ashley Farley writes, she just gets better and better and she has become one of my favorite contemporary Southern fiction authors. Sweet Tea Tuesdays is a summer afternoon’s paean to friendships and family and the ordinary lives of women and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Georgia, Lula and Midge.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

************

Purchase Links:

Ebook:

Amazon

Print:

Barnes & Noble // Indiebound // Amazon

************

About the Author

Ashley Farley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshipped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two young adult children. While she’s lived in Richmond, Virginia for the past 21 years, part of her heart remains in the salty marshes of the South Carolina Lowcountry where she grew up. Through the eyes of her characters, she’s able to experience the moss-draped trees, delectable cuisine, and kind-hearted folks with lazy drawls that make the area so unique.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

************

Follow the tour:

Monday, June 5th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach

Tuesday, June 6th: Kritters Ramblings

Wednesday, June 7th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 8th: Reading is My Super Power

Friday, June 9th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, June 12th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, June 13th: Tina Says…

Thursday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, June 16th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 19th: Based on a True Story

Tuesday, June 20th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, June 21st: Buried Under Books

Thursday, June 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

************

Book Review: Heavy Weather by Normandie Fischer

************
Title: Heavy Weather
Series: A Carolina Coast Novel #2

Author: Normandie Fischer
Narrator: Laura Jennings
Publication Date: January 30, 2017

************

Purchase Links:

Audible // iTunes // Amazon

************

Heavy Weather
A Carolina Coast Novel #2
Normandie Fischer
Normandie Fischer, January 2017
Narrated by Laura Jennings
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

Death, life, family, domestic abuse–Heavy Weather explores all these themes in a memorable and compelling narrative. When Annie Mac’s life explodes like a storm at sea, she is helpless to fight back. Left for dead, her two children targeted by her abuser, her life appears to be over. The people who help her show her how to weather a storm that she cannot control.

It takes a town to save a child. That town is Beaufort, North Carolina.

Annie Mac’s estranged husband vows that nothing will stop him from getting his baby girl. Not Annie Mac and certainly not that boy of hers.

Only four blocks away, Hannah Morgan lives in comfort with her husband and dog, making pottery and waiting for her best friend to come home. When she discovers the two children cowering in the bushes and their mama left for dead, it doesn’t take her long to set her coterie of do-gooders to some extra-strength do-gooding. Add in Clay, a lonely police lieutenant yanked out of his comfort zone and into the heart of this small family, and who knows what will happen?

A couple of things struck me about this novel as I was reading it or, rather, listening to it. One is that, while it was longer than my usual preference, I didn’t mind this time because I got to know the characters so well. The second point is how much more emotional this story seemed than other domestic abuse novels I’ve read. Certainly, the latter has to do with the quality of the author’s storytelling but it’s also because the narrator has a way of telling the story that truly involves the listener.

Those two things combined led me to form a real attachment to a number of the characters for different reasons. Hannah has a kind of sad happiness about her, meaning her essential joy with her husband and her life have an underlying reason that this is not complete.  Annie Mac, primary victim of the domestic abuse, is to be felt for but only because of her injuries and her fear for her children. She’s a strong woman, determined not to let Roy get the best of her or to live in fear. Her son, Ty, is the manliest little boy you’ll ever want to see but for such a wretched reason and Rita is a woman of incredible strength. Clay resents the intrusion of Annie Mac and her kids into his comfortable but solitary life but soon finds his world changing for the better and other people are just as memorable and as appealing, all in their own ways.

It’s a little difficult to call this a mystery but it’s certainly crime fiction and there are mystery elements. There’s something of a burgeoning love story and it’s in some ways the story of a small town. At its heart, though, Heavy Weather is a tale of abuse and the effect it can have on so many, even those who aren’t directly involved.

Laura Jennings is a particularly good narrator with clarity in her voice and an appealing tone. She does the women’s and children’s parts very well and some of the men although I had a bit of difficulty distinguishing a couple of them. I also want to note that she handles the southern and racial accents especially nicely without being the least bit overboard and, as a Southerner, I appreciated that.

All in all, Ms. Fischer’s engaging story coupled with Ms. Jennings’ narration make for a listening experience I’m glad I had the chance to enjoy and I’ll be looking for more from both.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author

Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving a BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Her books, which have garnered numerous awards, include her Carolina Coast stories: Becalmed, Heavy Weather, Twilight Christmas, and Sailing out of Darkness. From Fire into Fire and Two from Isaac’s Housea Romantic Times Top Pick—form the beginning of her Isaac’s House series. A lifelong sailor, Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, sailing home to North Carolina in 2011 to take care of her mother. They have four children, two grandchildren, and an aussiedoodle named Rhion.

WebsiteTwitterFacebookPinterestAmazon

************

About the Narrator

Having graduated with a Masters Degree in Fine Arts in Creative Writing, Laura Jennings has an intrinsic
 appreciation of the mechanisms and techniques that comprise the art of the tale. She’s able to
 analyze the underlying moods and currents of a book and bring these into her interpretation of 
the author’s work. She believes her place as narrator is to be the facilitator for all the nuances of 
the spoken word and the written word between the author and the listener. Her naturally clear 
and fresh voice as narrator contributes that extra dimension of enjoyment.

Laura works full time as a professional narrator and voice-over artist. She has narrated titles for Tantor Media, Audible Studios, Dreamscape Media, Insatiable Press and Cherry Hill Publishing.

She enjoys a quiet lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest with her loving husband and aged beagle, Dottie. Her days are filled with narrating, yoga, hiking and, of course, always reading.

WebsiteTwitterFacebook

************

Play an excerpt here.

************

Follow the tour:

Jun. 7th: CGB Blog Tours

Jun. 8th: A Book and A Latte

Jun. 9th: Read Day and Night

Jun. 10th: Lilly’s Book World

Jun. 11th: Buried Under Books

Jun. 12th: Ronelle Antoinette

Jun. 13th: Lomeraniel

Jun. 14th: Wall-to-Wall Books

Jun. 15th: Blogger Nicole

Jun. 16th: The Book Addict’s Reviews

Jun. 17th: Simply Kelina

Jun. 18th: Avid Book Collector

Jun. 19th: Christian Chick’s Thoughts

Jun. 20th: Spunky-n-Sassy

************

Book Review: One S’More Summer by Beth Merlin

************

Title: One S’more Summer
Series: The Campfire Series #1

Author: Beth Merlin
Publisher: Ink Monster LLC
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

************

Purchase Links:

Electronic

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Amazon

Paperback
Coming June 27th

Barnes & Noble // Indiebound // Amazon

************

One S’more Summer
The Campfire Series #1
Beth Merlin
Ink Monster LLC, May 2017
ISBN 9781943858200
Ebook

From the publisher—

For twenty long years, Gigi Goldstein has been pining away for her best friend’s guy. She knows it’s wrong and it has to stop, but she hasn’t been able to let go ever since they all met on the bus to summer camp back when they were 7 years old. The same week that her best friends finally announce their wedding date, Gigi loses her high-profile design job. With all of her dreams unravelling, she runs to the last place she remembers being happy.

Taking the Head Counselor position at Camp Chinooka, Gigi hopes to reclaim the joy she felt as a camper, but the job isn’t all campfire songs and toasting marshmallows. Gigi’s girls are determined to make her look bad in front of the boys’ Head Counselor—the sexy but infuriating Perry—and every scrap of the campground is laced with memories.

When Gigi finally realizes she can’t escape the present by returning to her past, she’s forced to reexamine her life and find the true meaning of love. But will she be able to mend fences and forgive herself before she loses her one real shot at happiness?

I admit it, my head was turned by a book cover. When I saw this, I couldn’t help flashing back to all the years my family went tent camping, not to mention my Girl Scout years and all the summers I went to one camp or another. I didn’t need any other incentive to read this.

(I also have a strange compulsion to watch movies set at camps.  Hmm….)

Gigi’s first day as head counselor really brought back memories of the camp I went to as a thirteen-year-old except for one thing: Gigi makes it sound like getting rid of head counselors was every campers dream, every year. I never experienced anything like that; rather, all the hostilities and machinations were directed at other campers. Oh, well, this is chick-lit at it’s core so I just ignored the things that didn’t really matter to the central story.

Gigi is frustrated with her life and that made her a little frustrating to me because she is a bit of a whiner but I totally understood her. When you get right down to it, Gigi is running away and hopes to find solace in the place that was the beginning of her friendships with two very important people. Jordana and Jamie are memorable characters (in a good way) but the developing relationship between Gigi and Perry is what it’s all about and Perry is a delight. It was fun to see these two work their way through their pasts so they can maybe find the future.

I love the way Beth Merlin never quite tells it all so I kept wondering when I would find out more. That’s a great way to hold my attention and adds a touch of chick-lit style suspense. You could almost call this a mystery. Nah, not really, but…. I also appreciated that romance is certainly present but it isn’t the be-all end-all. Instead, Gigi coming to terms with herself and her life is what’s really important. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a lot.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2017.

About the Author

Beth Merlin has a BA from The George Washington University where she minored in Creative Writing and a JD from New York Law School. She’s a native New Yorker who loves anything Broadway, rom-coms, her daughter Hadley, and a good maxi dress. She was introduced to her husband through a friend she met at sleepaway camp and considers the eight summers she spent there to be some of the most formative of her life. One S’more Summer is Beth’s debut novel.

Author links:

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Book Review: Tangle of Strings by Ashley Farley

tangle-of-strings-tour-banner

************
Title: Tangle of Strings
Series: Sweeney Sisters #4
Author: Ashley Farley
Publication Date: December 2016/January 2017
Genres: Southern Fiction, Women’s Fiction

************

Goodreads

Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble Buy Button     Kobo Buy Button     iTunes iBooks Button     Amazon Buy Button

************

Other books in the series:

her-sisters-shoes-2     lowcountry-stranger-2     boots-and-bedlam

************

tangle-of-stringsTangle of Strings
Sweeney Sisters #4
Ashley Farley
Leisure Time Books
Print December 2016, Ebook January 2017
ISBN 978-0998274119
Trade Paperback

From the author—

A nearly tragic accident leads to a discovery that rocks the Sweeney family’s world.

Some families never resolve conflicts. Not so with the Sweeneys. Their sense of family, their love for one another, and their willingness to forgive have always triumphed and brought them back together. Until now. The latest crisis threatens to tear the family apart and crumble the foundation that has always proved itself rock solid.

At the heart of the matter are sixteen-year-old Annie Bethune and her boyfriend, Cooper. At stake are their dreams for the future. As to these dreams, no one in the family holds back when asserting an opinion.

Annie soon begins to feel like a puppet on strings with all those she loves telling her what to do. When those strings become tangled and a family feud develops, Annie, unable to bear the pressure, runs away. Straight into the arms of danger.

That’s an interesting title, isn’t it? I can see two ways of interpreting it—the tangle of strings represents the tangled web resulting from lies and poor choices or perhaps it’s an allusion to the various threads of life, both everyday and unusual, that so often create chaos at some level. I’ll leave it to you to decide once you’ve had a chance to read Tangle of Strings.

Ms. Farley continues the story of Annie who came to be a part of the extended Sweeney family with all her emotional baggage but who found a haven with this loving group of people. At the center of this family are three sisters—Jackie, Faith and Sam—who are typical siblings with their squabbles, their worries and, ultimately, their love for each other and everyone else in their circle. Annie could not have found a safer or more welcoming home.

Escaping her past is not so easy, especially when her mother, Heidi, comes to town. Heidi, who abandoned Annie as a child to pursue her dream of stardom, is one of those narcissists who see nothing beyond their own perspective. She has no understanding of how badly she hurt her daughter and behaves as though Annie should welcome her back with open arms, something this teen is not willing to do, and fleeing from her mother leads to a very bad car crash.

Emotions run high as one issue mingles with more, leading to what can be considered a real crisis. A troubled young romance, Annie’s accident and resulting injuries, Heidi’s unwanted intrusion into Annie’s life, a pair of criminals and, above all, Annie’s and Cooper’s unplanned pregnancy put so much pressure on this young girl and her surrogate family that it’s almost certain relationships and feelings will change. As in so many family situations, everyone has his or her own opinion about what needs to be done and too many forget that pushing their own agendas doesn’t really help. In fact, they come close to being that stereotypical family that can be really overbearing while the intentions are well-meaning. When all is said and done, though, the story boils down to an exploration of the relationships between parents and their children, biological or not, and the importance of truly listening to one another.

Tangle of Strings is another fine episode in Ms. Farley’s engaging series but I do suggest the series be read in order because each book builds on the one before and it’s the best way to fully understand the Sweeneys and other people in their lives. I’m sorry to say this appears to be the end of the Sweeney family saga but Ms. Farley has at least left us with the possibility of future installments and I’ll be very happy if that happens.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.

About the Author

Ashley Farley 2Ashley Farley is the author of the bestselling series, the Sweeney Sisters Series. Ashley writes books about women for women. Her characters are mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives facing real-life issues. Her goal is to keep you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning. If her story stays with you long after you’ve read the last word, then she’s done her job.

After her brother died in 1999 of an accidental overdose, she turned to writing as a way of releasing her pent-up emotions. She wrote SAVING BEN in honor of Neal, the boy she worshiped, the man she could not save.

Ashley is a wife and mother of two college-aged children. She grew up in the salty marshes of South Carolina, but now lives in Richmond, Virginia, a city she loves for its history and traditions.

Ashley loves to hear from her readers. Feel free to visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashleywfarley or twitter.com/ashleywfarley.

Catch up with Ashley

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram

************

Follow the tour:

January 21st: Launch

January 22: Reading Is My SuperPower & Katie’s Clean Book Collection

January 23: Christy’s Cozy CornersMel’s Shelves, & Zerina Blossom’s Books

January 24: Mythical Books & Falling Leaves

January 25: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium & Nicole’s Book Musings

January 26: Buried Under Books

January 27: Grand Finale

************

Prism Book Tours Button

Book Review: Dollar Daze by Karin Gillespie

Dollar DazeDollar Daze
The Bottom Dollar Series #3
Karin Gillespie
Henery Press, May 2015
ISBN 978-1-941962-56-5
Ebook
Also available in trade paperback

Note: this is a re-release of the book first published in hardcover in 2006.

From the publisher—

Cupid is running rampant in Cayboo Creek, South Carolina, and all the Bottom Dollar Girls have been struck dizzy with his arrows…

When high school heartthrob Brewster Clark returns to town, both Birdie and Mavis are angling for his affections, threatening their long-term friendship.

Ever-so-proper Gracie Tobias meets Rusty the dreamy doctor of her dreams but soon discovers he’s actually a blue-collar duct doctor. Will their wildly different social positions drive a wedge between them? Meanwhile Elizabeth is trying to put the sizzle back to her marriage. Not even octogenarian Attalee is immune to love’s siren call. She gets engaged to beau Dooley and plans a wild bachelorette party and steamy honeymoon.

Traveling love’s rocky road keeps the Bottom Dollar Girls asking, “Is it ever too late for moons and Junes?” Through much laughter and a few tears the girls discover that the answer is a resounding no.

I usually avoid romance fiction like the plague, mostly the bodice-ripper type or the kind that has woman/girl pining weepily after the hot patootie that happened to smile at her one day. Worse yet is the love triangle or the dreaded “insta-love”. However, I’m not entirely immune to the appeal of romance especially the lighthearted, humorous, dare-I-say-it-chick-lit sort found in books like Dollar Daze by Karin Gillespie.

This is the third book in the Bottom Dollar series (trilogy?) which is just good old Southern fiction focused on a group of women who become friends through their connections to the Bottom Dollar Emporium, an old-fashioned general store in Cayboo Creek, South Carolina, just over the border from Augusta, Georgia. This is the precursor to today’s dollar stores albeit with a whole lot more charm, the kind of store you see in small towns all across America (and can’t resist dropping in).

This somewhat motley crew of women, ranging from young Elizabeth Hollingsworth struggling with being a stay-at-home mom to 80-something-year-old Attalee Gaines who is still feeling every oat she ever had are really appealing to me, maybe because their lives are so very normal. In this episode, love is in the air or, rather, the pursuit of love and Attalee, with her upcoming nuptials to 78-year-old stud Dooley Prichard, has inspired widows Mavis Loomis and Birdie Murdock to test the dating waters again. Unbeknownst to them, their friend, Mrs. Tobias. may have found her own stimulation in bad boy Rusty Williams who goes against every fiber of her upbringing.

I couldn’t help but sympathize with Elizabeth’s seeming inability to find happiness at home after having an energizing marketing job and I followed her path with interest but it was the romantic adventures of the other ladies that kept me engaged. There’s heartache and jealousy and a great deal of smiling to be had in this story and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with these ladies in the charming town of Cayboo Creek. I intend to go back and read the first two books and I’m just sorry that there doesn’t seem to be any chance of more. On the other hand, since Henery Press has re-issued the first three, maybe…?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2015.