January 21, 2015

"Broken people make the best heroes."

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

Release Date: January 27, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins | William Morrow
Pages: 384 pages
Source & Format: Publisher; ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
An account executive in a Mad Men world, Anna Wyatt is at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she’s done a lot of emotional housecleaning, including a self-imposed dating sabbatical. But now that she’s turned forty, she’s struggling to figure out what her life needs. Brainstorming to win over an important new client, she discovers a self-help book—Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero—that offers her unexpected insights and leads her to a most unlikely place: a romance writers’ conference. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year Pageant winner for her campaign—and meet the author who has inspired her to take control of her life—she’ll win the account.

For Anna, taking control means taking chances, including getting to know Sasha, her pretty young colleague on the project, and indulging in a steamy elevator ride with Lincoln Mallory, a dashing financial consultant she meets in the hotel. When the conference ends, Anna and Lincoln must decide if their intense connection is strong enough to survive outside the romantic fantasy they’ve created. Yet Lincoln is only one of Anna’s dilemmas. Now that her campaign is off the ground, others in the office want to steal her success, and her alcoholic brother, Ferdie, is spiraling out of control.

To have the life she wants-to be happy without guilt, to be accepted for herself, to love and to be loved, to just be—she has to put herself first, accept her imperfections, embrace her passions, and finally be the heroine of her own story.

Thoughts on Girl Before a Mirror
I have to thank Target for introducing me to Liza Palmer. Of all the money I've spent in that store, Nowhere but Home will forever be the best thing I've ever bought there. I may complain about all the times I go in to buy one thing and leave with five, but that is what led me to this incredible author.

When I finished Nowhere but Home, it took me almost two months to write my review. My draft just sat there staring at me... How could I even put into words all the reasons I'd loved the book? Well, Girl Before a Mirror made me do it again. I read this book the second it showed up at my door - all the way back in September. When I finished, I wrote these words on Goodreads: "WOW. Liza has ruined me for all other books for the foreseeable future. I needed this, was moved by it and am so obsessed with it." Four months later and that was still all I had written about it. So, I decided to re-read it a few days ago.

What can you say about a book that's even better the second time you read it? A book that makes you FEEL pretty much every emotion? A book that crawls inside your heart and takes up residence? Yeah, I don't know either. That's why I'm asking a bunch of questions and putting off actually telling you why I loved Girl Before a Mirror. Because if you name a reason to love a book, chances are it's a reason I love this one.

Account executive Anna Wyatt is recently divorced, just turned 40 and has a plan in place to score a potentially career-changing client. They like her initial ideas, so now she's headed to RomanceCon to meet Helen Brubaker, author of bestselling self-help book Be the Heroine, Find Your Hero. If she can sign the Romance Cover Model of the Year winner for her campaign and get Helen onboard, there's a good chance she'll win the account. But she doesn't plan on Sasha, her pretty young colleague assigned to the project, or Lincoln Mallory, the gorgeous financial consultant she meets in the hotel. Plus, her brother Ferdie is spinning out of control and her bosses at work are trying to take credit for her ideas. For someone who thrives on control, what will happen if Anna finally lets down her guard and takes a risk?

If you took the name Liza Palmer off the cover of this book, I'm not sure I would pick it up. Well, I do judge a book by its cover... so okay, I'd totally grab this off the shelf and flip it over to read the back. But once I did, I think it might be something I'd typically set right back down. I can sometimes dismiss "divorced forty-year-old woman finds herself" stories pretty quickly. However, since it was Liza Palmer, I wasn't worried. She can take something that seems cliché and make it speak to you on every level.

Liza's writing is - as alway - incredible. She writes with so much depth, passion and intention. Every moment feels purposeful. Each character is multidimensional. Honestly, practically every word seems quotable. As Anna ponders the campaign she's working on, she notes that this one feels different. And I have to wonder if Liza felt that way while writing Girl Before a Mirror. There's something about this book that feels personal - not just to Liza, but to every woman who picks it up and reads her words.
"I want to be happy and not feel guilty about it. I want to be curious without being called indulgent. I want to be accepted regardless of what I look like, what I do for a living, my marital status, whether I have kids, or whether you think I was nice enough, hospitable enough, or humble enough to measure up your impossible standards. I want purpose. I want contentment. I want to be loved and give love unreservedly in return. I want to be seen. I want to matter. I want freedom."
I love pretty much every element of this book, and I don't feel I can do them justice. The romance isn't the focus of the book, but it's so memorable. From their chemistry to their conversations, I was rooting for Anna and Lincoln. Family relationships are a significant part of Anna's story, too. While I could talk about her parents, it's her interactions with her brother Ferdie that wrecked me. I rarely cry when reading, but this book got to me.

And then there's Sasha - one of my new favorite secondary characters. I loved her so much! I ached for her and cheered for her. I loved the wonder she had for life and the way she was able to retain that aspect of herself, even when recognizing that she needed to make other changes. In a book about Anna learning to be the heroine of her own story, I loved the way that every secondary character clearly had their own story. They all felt real and relatable in their own ways, and it's probably one of the biggest reasons I love anything Liza writes. I'm a character reader, and she knows and understands people. They're complicated, messy, and full of contradictions - and Liza expertly captures that truth.

I also can't forget to mention the themes explored in these pages. You'll find:

Surrendering control, taking risks, and finding freedom.
Celebrating your strengths, recognizing your weaknesses, and embracing it all.
Loving someone else, being vulnerable, and working through the mess.
Letting go of perfection, recognizing your worth and learning to just be.

Girl Before a Mirror reminds me why I love reading. I almost never write in books, but I had to take out my highlighter with this one. This book moved me and entertained me. Liza Palmer writes stories that resonate with me and creates characters that feel real. I know these women - whether it's at work, down the street, in my family or the person I see when I look in the mirror. I cannot recommend A Girl Before a Mirror highly enough. Make room on your shelves and in your heart for this unforgettable book.

So Quotable
"Over the past year, I've chipped away at the mythology of my beliefs to discover that love is not reasonable or measured. It undoes you. It's in the imperfections in each other, in ourselves, where we find our humanity. It's in our dents and scars where the deepest connections are made. Real love resides in the parts of me I think no one wants to see."
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

9 comments:

  1. This sounds fantastic! I'm pretty sure I have you and your enthusiastic review of Nowhere But Home to thank for me reading that one. Like you say here about Girl Before a Mirror, Nowhere But Home is one of those books I wouldn't have necessarily picked up on my own. It's part of the reason I love the book blogging community.
    Girl Before a Mirror also doesn't sound like a "me" book necessarily, but I'm intrigued to see where Palmer goes with this story for myself.
    Such a lovely review, Hannah!

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  2. Ooh, I also loved Nowhere But Home and noticed Palmer's name right away in your review! This sounds like another winner, and I love how much you loved it! Sometimes books just arrive at the exact right moment for us. You've convinced me!

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  3. I'm so excited to follow you and see a lot of more adult reads. Lately I've been wanting to get back into those kinds of books instead of just being YA. Thanks for always sharing some interesting titles for my TBR! :)

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  4. I am really excited to get to this one... I discovered Liza Palmer last year and really liked her writing. This one is getting such AWESOME early reviews, I really can't wait to get my hands on it.

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  5. I added this to my TBR awhile back, and I must read Nowhere but Home! A book that makes you feel ever emotion is one I'm definitely interested in. Thanks for this fantastic review! -Katie @ Bookish Illuminations

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  6. As a recently single 40+ year old, this looks right up my alley! Definitely picking this one up soon!

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  7. Oh this is the second time I've seen this book, it sounds absolutely gorgeous and Anna sounds like a fabulous character.

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  8. I saw this the other day and wondered about it. Your review has me (AGAIN) adding to my TBR list.

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  9. The instant I finished reading your review for Girl Before a Mirror, I went to go and pre-order it. I need this novel. NEED. It sounds like this story and these characters are everything I want from a book! I love that your enthusiasm is so obvious and so well-expressed and so damn convincing. Cannot wait to read this!

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