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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Exceeding Expectations" by Lisa April Smith~ A Blockbuster Novel of Suspense!

This story of a young girl caught up in a race to find her father's secrets will give you pause...is everything you think you know about your parents really true?

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Cover Rating:
This is the perfect cover to tell the suspense story of a young girl searching for something in Paris.  The mist over the city gives the impression of mystery.  I love the vibrancy of the red beret and coat, and the clarity and realism captured in using an actual girl in the setting.  The title font is set well and beautifully scripted with the author being given equal footing.  A great new cover worthy of the book's story!  Rated: A

Quick Summary:
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, her own unique talent, crimes great and small and a diabolical villain.

The Author and the Dame Sit Down Together :

Today, as part of her Virtual Book Tour, I have the pleasure of hosting my friend and one of my favorite contemporary authors,  Lisa April Smith!  Welcome, you're finally here, Lisa! 

A:  I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you for inviting me, Deb.  I bet your followers don’t know that after you reviewed Dangerous Lies last year our real-life friendship began with email exchanges and Facebook messages, leading to our arranging to meet in person. Your tough but honest criticism of Exceeding Expectations’ prior cover convinced me that it needing changing. I’ve said it before: I truly wish you lived closer, dear friend.

LOL  It was so much fun meeting you and "he who must remain a mystery" in Naples last year.  I know changing your book cover wasn't easy for you.  What impressed me most was your willingness to listen and to think about the possibility of making a change.  You've really made quite an impact with your new cover, though, and that's wonderful!   The end result from my end has been our friendship.  :]

Q.   But, back to the blackboard...   Which character in "...Expectations" came easiest to you to write? Which one most reflects you?

A. I think Charlotte (Charlie) was the easiest to write and probably reflects me, which is amazing, because our backgrounds couldn’t be more different. I like that she is able, in a truly grim situation, to make jokes about her inadequate skills and impractical education. Growing up mother-less, with a slight limp and extremely tall, made Charlie a bit of an outsider. But she’s an unapologetic outsider, and that’s something I can relate to. I also admire her for taking responsibility without wasting energy by blaming fate or those around her. Whether she’s been dealt a series of low blows or flying high, Charlie is quick to remind herself who she is.  

Q. Sociologists tell us we develop an idea of ourselves when we're pre-teens as young girls. When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. You do come up with the tough questions. When I was ten, family discussions revolved around paying creditors and holding off bankruptcy. Little thought was given to what my sister and I might do when we were adults. It wasn’t until I was a high school freshman, when my advisor urged me to take courses leading to college, that I considered the possibility. But in my fantasy life at ten or eleven I was either a tightrope walker, a trapeze artist or both. I still adore going to the circus.

Seriously, Lisa, I think you are a sort of tightrope walker.  Your writing has that same sort of tension and suspended state.  You just love to keep us guessing.  You love the excitement of thrilling an audience! You like the audience waiting in anticipation of what you'll do next.  So, in a way, you are exactly the artist you thought you'd like to be.  You've only chosen another stage to act out your part!

Q. Where do you write?  Do you have a particular time of day you write best?  What about special things you like to have around you when you write?

A. Except when we’re traveling, five to six days a week, I’m at my desk about 7:00 am and quit between 1:00 and 2:00. I like a computer with a separate keyboard because that’s what I’m used to. But whether I’m at my desk or not, I’m never entirely off.  Eugene Ionesco could speak for me when he said, "A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing."

Q. Who is your favorite literary heroine?

Maybe because I read "Gone With the Wind" when I was a young impressionable girl, I would choose Scarlett O’Hara. Maybe because the image of stunning Vivian Leigh is indelibly etched in my brain. And maybe it’s because Margaret Mitchell created a truly unique character for the time: vain, headstrong, stubborn, calculating, loyal, independent and a memorable feminist.

We're soul mates, Lisa.  I read "Gone With the Wind" the Summer I turned 14, and I decided there could never be a more perfect role model for me for the same reasons you've given.  Scarlett always seemed to have the upper hand in a man's world.  I can still heard saying to myself, "I can't think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow."

Q. What's your favorite book?  Movie?

A. I’ll probably think of a book I should have named tomorrow, but today I choose Birds Without Wings, by Louis de Bernières.
For movies, I have to go with a few categories.
Favorite of the last few years: "Midnight in Paris."
Favorite oldie: "The Long Hot Summer." That sizzler starred Hollywood legends Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Orson Welles, Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury.
Favorite musical: "Gigi." If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a huge favor and rent it. 

Q. Step back in time...where do you live, what's the era, what do you do and what's your name?

A. If you’re allowing me to put myself in an ideal situation, I would be Chloe, an independently wealthy American expatriate in Paris, scooping up Impressionist paintings, and hanging out in Gertrude Stein’s salon, with Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald, in the Roaring Twenties. In the US women had just won the right to vote. The jazz, art, manners were all turning their back on rules and conventions. Daring short dresses. Radio. Silent movies. Horseless carriages. An exciting time.

Q. If you could spend an hour or two with any author, dead or alive, who would that be and why did you choose him/her? 

A. Tough decision. I think if I had to choose one it would be Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). He was a brilliant author, entertaining speaker and daring social commentator. Portraying black characters as brave, loyal, admirable human beings with souls, he took a stand against slavery and social injustice. Black or white, his characters were memorable, flawed and real. Clemens’ life was dotted with failures, loss and personal tragedy, but he was known for his wit and engaging disposition. How I would love to sit down with him one lazy afternoon for an unhurried chat.

Q. If Exceeding Expectations was made into a movie, have you given any thought as to casting?

A. I can see George Clooney as Jack Morgan at fifty. He has the talent to play serious and comedic roles, and the looks and sex appeal to play Jack. The problem is, what actor could make viewers believe that he’s George Clooney at twenty-five? Maybe false eyelashes would help. I see a young Gwyneth Paltrow playing Charlie. Sadly, I don’t know how to turn back time. As for Raul, since you suggested Andy Garcia in your review I have a hard time visualizing anyone else. But I’d love to hear recommendations from your members.

Q. I understand that Exceeding Expectations has a sequel. What is the title and when will it be available?

A.Thank you for inquiring. That’s a question I love hearing. Readers have been asking when it will be available, practically since Exceeding Expectations launched. It’s titled Paradise Misplaced and fans can expect it about six months from now. Check my website http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com for updates.

Thank you for stopping by my blog, Lisa, and for indulging me in these snoopy questions.  I'm sure we'll be talking again soon in this forum when "Paradise Misplaced" is released!

For an excerpt/Chapter One of Exceeding Expectations follow this link:  http://www.LisaAprilSmith.com

Keep up with her also on:  http://www.Twitter.com/LisaAprilSmith

A Repeat of my Previous Review follows:
Charlie, a girl in her early 20's, is just another over-indulged, wealthy daughter of Palm Beach who's major concerns are horses, parties and gossip. Then, her father commits suicide, her sister has a mental breakdown and her posh step-mother leaves them penniless. The beautiful life comes to a dead halt, and Charlie, who never even learned to wash dishes, has to get a job.

When Charlie sets out to discover why her beloved, pampering father would abandon them, knowingly leaving her sister and her without a means of support, she discovers more than she ever could image about him, herself and her abilities to "exceed expectations." She also discovers that PB society may not always get it right about love and class, when she meets and gets help from the brilliant young lawyer, Andy Garcia clone, Raul. Armed with Raul's encouragement, her own pride and tenacity, Charlie uses her only skill; modelling, to help finance herself and her sister while she travels from Palm Beach to NYC, across the US and to Paris in search of some answers.

I appreciate Lisa Smith as a seasoned author with astute writing skills after having read and reviewed her "Dangerous Lies" last year. She has a brilliance for conveying characters, and the intellectual capacity to place them in historical settings that sparkle with glamorous detail.

In fact, it's the authentic details of the time-periods that make it fun to read Lisa's book as it skips from Charlie's current days of the late 1950's and early '60's to the past Palm Beach and Manhattan, with hints of Sister Parish's posh interior designs, famous museums and artists, the fashions of different eras, vintage cars and high society parties. Her historical and fictitious characters work in sync as they are perfectly set in these time frames, and midst the transitory madness of WWs I and II Paris.

Lisa Smith's writing isn't over-blown with emotion and sappy romance; rather, it is sophisticated and subtle. It's witty, fun and sassy. There's love of family; and, there are affairs of the heart, pain and anxieties that accompany romantic relationships in difficult times, intrigue and madness. I loved this kettle of mystery and suspense that dominates her characters.

I'm a fan of Ms Smith's. I love a good story with interesting characters, a mystery and a romance that's not over-the-top but that rests securely in reality. I like foreign intrigue and the sophistication of art and society. Most of all, I so appreciate an intelligent author of worldly experience! If you do, too, you'll love "Exceeding Expectations." This book has a sequel which I'm dying to read!

5 soaring stars


This spot on Ms Smith's Tour was brought to you by way of
Pump Up Your Book
where you can find more information about

Giveaways and Special Appearances

along the Tour click on:

Thank you for stopping, and I suggest buying a copy of "Exceeding Expectations" for your mother, daughter or friend this Mother's Day. They'll love it!  :]



Thank you for hosting Lisa today, Deb!!!

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