Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Blog Tour: Exceeding Expectations & Paradise Misplaced by Lisa April Smith

I'm hosting one of my favorite independent authors again today, she was recently featured in Palm Beach Woman with a five full pages featuring an excerpt from Exceeding Expectations and information about her along with pictures.  She's a very proud author right now and with good reason.  Today I'm republishing my reviews of Exceeding Expectations and the sequel Paradise Misplaced.  Enjoy and find out why I absolutely loved these two books and this author (she's a delight to work with!)

Exceeding Expectations by Lisa April Smith
Publish Date: December 1, 2011
eBook, 300 pages
Fiction, Historical, Romance, Suspense, General Fiction

My Review:
Exceeding Expectations is a book that will do just that.  The blurb sounds great but once you delve into the book you realize it is so much more packed into one book.  It's fascinating, has interesting and diverse characters and a plot line that will draw you in from the first page.

As you know from most of my reviews characters are first and foremost to me, and Exceeding Expectations has some wonderful characters.  While the story starts off with Jack Morgan and he appears through the book, the real main character is Charlie, Jack's youngest daughter.  I did not think I would like her at first.  When you first meet her she seems spoiled and pretty useless. However, her growth in this story is amazing and makes the story astounding.  Raul also offers great interest in the story.  I liked him, he is nice and a great romantic interest.  He seems to know just how to treat Charlie to get her to grow and change.  He's not wishy-washy, and he acts like a real man without talking down to her or treating her bad.  I really found him to be a very attractive man and perfect for Charlie in the book.

As for the plot, I love how Ms. Smith goes back and forth between the past and present in the story.  The present is relative in the story since the present is in the 1950s.  I love the setting and how the history factors into the story and the motivations of the characters.  The  plot moves along with the character growth, the suspense of Charlie trying to figure out what happened to motivate her father to commit suicide and the things she learns along the way.  The romance also pushes the story along.   It all adds up to make a book that really draws you in.

I felt as though I was right there with the characters in this book.  I was fully invested in Charlie's life and trying to find out what had happened to Jack.  The book has it all, suspense, romance, characters that truly care about others and characters that are truly evil.  Ms. Smith has crafted an amazing book and I can't wait until the sequel to this one.  Though I would like to note that this one ties up nicely with a few loose ends, but nothing that will leave you fussing at the author for leaving you hanging.  Just some things left open that will make for an interesting next book.  If you enjoy character growth novels set in the past with some suspense, then Exceeding Expectations is for you. But make sure you set aside some time, because you won't want to put this one down.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

About the Book:
It’s 1961 and Palm Beach socialite, irresistible rascal and devoted father Jack Morgan encounters genuine danger while staging his suicide to shield his beloved daughters from disgrace. Next, meet his daughter Charlotte (Charlie), an over-indulged 23 year-old struggling to cope with the traumatizing loss of her beloved father, her sister’s resulting mental breakdown and the discovery that she’s suddenly penniless. Fortunately Raul, an admiring young attorney, appears to offer assistance. As terrified as she is about daily survival, Charlie soon realizes that she has to learn what drove her father to kill himself. With Raul’s much needed ego-bolstering, the drive of necessity and unforeseen determination, Charlie finds a practical use for her annoyingly lean 5’ 11” frame. In time, this career finances her hard-wrought independence, her sister’s costly treatment and an emotional eye-opening journey to Paris.

Jumping back in time to romantic pre-WWII Paris readers meet young Alan Fitzpatrick – aka Jack Morgan – lack-luster artist, expert lover, irresistible rascal, and the bewitching girl who will become the mother of his children. Not even Charlie’s relentless detective work will uncover all Jack’s secrets, but in a fireworks of surprise endings, she discovers all that she needs to know and more: disturbing truths about her father, hew own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.

Paradise Misplaced

the sequel to Exceeding Expectations
by Lisa April Smith

Release: Sept. 15, 2012

All the unexpected twists and suspense, danger and crime, romance and sizzle, that kept readers of Exceeding Expectations turning the pages long into the night, are back in Paradise Misplaced, along with Charlie, Jack and Naomi – three unforgettable characters.   

In Manhattan, being recently dumped by her soulmate becomes the least of Charlotte (Charlie) Morgan’s problems after she is shoved off a subway platform in front of an oncoming train. Her modeling career seems over and she may not walk again. Throughout her lengthy hospital stay the police have no success finding her assailant or determining a motive. A handsome detective recovering from similar injuries is assigned to be her physical therapy partner. Fearing that her unknown attacker will try again he urges her to draw up list of possible suspects – anyone she might have angered or rejected. Eliminating those who don’t fit a compiled description leaves just one possible suspect, an untouchable power broker with a famous art collection.    

In Buenos Aires, Jack, the loveable lothario/conman, in his quest for his next wealthy wife, is romancing wealthy women he meets at a fashionable hotel where he isn’t a registered guest. To finance these activities he ever-so-gently exploits tourists and the local land barons. But whether he succeeds, falls short or fails miserably, readers can rely on sexy Jack to be entertaining.       

In Israel, understandably bitter Naomi, working on an archeological dig, seeks temporary relief from her demons in hot casual affairs. Unwilling to be yet another in a series of her lovers, a rough-hewn widowed farmer relentlessly pursues her.

Will Charlie, Jack and Naomi meet? Will a story that begins on three continents end in triumph or disaster? No predicable ending here. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
My Review:              

Lisa has done it again.  I loved the first book, Exceeding Expectations and if it's possible I think I loved Paradise Misplaced even more.  Exceeding Expectations comes first, but Paradise Misplaced can be read on it's own. I do recommend reading both books though because they are excellent books and I know I enjoyed learning as much as I could about both Charlie and Jack in the first book and getting all the back story, though Ms. Smith does a good job explaining some of it in Paradise Misplaced.

I have to say that this book had me enthralled.  I found it hard to put down and often found myself reading for hours at a time.  I have had a hard time doing that lately with school starting back so that says a lot for Paradise Misplaced.  But I would get very sucked into the lives of Charlie, Jack and Naomi and how things were getting weaved together and the what-ifs that were forming that I could hardly put the book down even to sleep.

The characters are once again amazing.  I really enjoyed learning more about Naomi and Jack in this book.  Jack is a charmer and one step ahead at all times.  Naomi is bitter, and a bit like Jack, not charming but knows how to use situations to her advantage.  Seeing them in their settings was fascinating and adding to it the fact that Ms. Smith uses exotic settings of Israel and Argentina for them made it more fascinating.  Then of course there is Charlie.  I love Charlie and I cheered for Charlie in this book. The resilience she finds in Exceeding Expectations stays with her in this book and though she has some down moments I love how she always tries to find a way to shine.  And though this book really did feature her prominently I really felt this was more of Jack and Naomi's story with enough Charlie to weave everything together.  And I liked that.  I think it was a perfect balance.  I loved all three stories and loved how Ms. Smith switched between the stories.  

The plot moved along wonderfully.  The stories of the characters switched between the chapters, but it never felt forced and I never felt confused about which character the chapter was about.  Each character truly had their own voice and their own plot that pushed the book along.  Ms. Smith masterfully keeps their plots separate yet weaves them together in a way that is completely believable.  Again nothing in this book felt forced to me.  Everything was smooth, just like Jack. ;)

Overall this was an amazing book to read.  Perfect for these first cool fall afternoons.  Great for lazing around on your porch swing with a cup of tea and enjoying a great book.  This is that great book.  Ms. Smith weaves a marvelous story of a family separated and living their lives.  There are unexpected twists and turns, great character moments and some very interesting secondary characters.  Paradise Misplaced is a book that should not be missed. 

My Rating: 5.0/5.0                                                                                            
About the Author (from Goodreads.com): 
Author Lisa April Smith lives with her husband, He-who-wishes-to-remain-anonymous, in Eternal Playland, Florida, a delightful spot just off I-95. Ms. Smith describes Eternal Playland as: "a little piece of level heaven with occasional dampness, where the bugs are plentiful but respectful, and even the smallest strip mall contains at least one pizza place and a nail salon."

Before discovering a passion for writing, Ms. Smith sold plumbing and heating and antiques, taught ballroom dancing, tutored, modeled, designed software and managed projects for IBM and returned to college multiple times to study anthropology, sociology and computer science, in which she holds degrees, as well as psychology, archeology, literature, history and art. Combine those widely diverse interests with a love of travel and a gift for writing page-turners and it’s easy to understand one reviewer’s unbridled praise for Exceeding Expectations, “She (Ms. Smith) has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail . . . that make it fun to read . . . ” But it takes much more than lush settings, an eye for detail and a love of history to write a page-turner. Read what another reviewer said about Exceeding Expectations: “Lisa April Smith . . . has woven an intriguingly rich tapestry of delightful well-developed characters into a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, crimes of the petty and the horrible sort, suspenseful twists, and romantic tension complete with love scenes that sizzle and pop. . . Clearly, this author has, and wishes to share with her readers, what the French call joie de vivre  – not simply the joy of life – but an all-encompassing appreciation for every facet of life.”

For more about Lisa, her books, and upcoming projects visit her website: http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com.
Lisa April Smith can be contacted at WriteLisa(at)LisaAprilSmith(dot)com  

***I received this book from the author for an honest review.  I was not compensated in any other way except receiving the book for free.  ***