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Book Review and Five Questions

Featuring What Happiness Looks Like by Karen Lenfestey

Joely’s fortune cookie read, “Your past will determine your future.”             Her sister Kate is desperate to assure her future includes a child.

Review by Holly Michael: Kate and Joely became my bffs when I read Karen Lenfestey’s, “A Sister’s Promise.” Karen more than delivers a great read with her second book, “What Happiness Looks Like,” (It’s a solid stand-alone book, if you haven’t read Karen’s first book.)

Picking up “What Happiness Looks Like” was like opening the door to a favorite girlfriend (two in this case). Kate and Joely are back and it’s time to grab a cup of coffee, sit with them, and find out what’s happening in their lives.

While reading “What Happiness Looks Like,” laundry doesn’t get put in the washer and dirty dishes remain in the sink. Karen’s well-defined, very likable characters face real life issues that strike at the heart of every woman. Her well-crafted fast-paced novel urges you to see the sisters through their through struggles and difficult choices, and cheer them on to the last page.

What does happiness look like for Joely? The life she’s living isn’t what she planned for herself. She’s made mistakes, wrong choices, and struggles with Lupus. But, that’s what makes her real. Who can’t relate? Her affair with Jake, her old fiancé (a married man) resulted in Joely conceiving Anna. Now, she’s a single mom, living with her sister. When Anna’s father comes back into their lives, Joely must protect her daughter’s heart in a way she’s not been able to protect her own. Can she trust Jake after he abandoned them and left them broke? Will her past determine her future? She likes another man, who better fits her definition of what happiness looks like.

What does happiness look like for Kate? She’s a career driven counselor, at age forty, battling infertility. Her firm stance on getting pregnant is driving a wedge between Kate and her husband, Mitch. She covets secrets and wonders if she should reveal them to her husband. Like Joely, Kate’s dreams of a happy life, aren’t coming together as she imagined either.

As the sisters resolve to figure out the difference between fairy tales and what they really need in their lives in this heartwarming tale, you’ll keep filling your coffee cup and turning pages until the characters finally discover what their happiness really looks like. The ending does not disappoint.

Holly (Q. 1): Most of your readers will have read your first book, “A Sister’s Promise.” Is “What Happiness Looks Like” a sequel?”

Karen: A Sister’s Promise” is Kate’s story of trying to decide if she’s willing to become a mother despite genetic and personal roadblocks. “What Happiness Looks Like” follows up with Kate and her sister, Joely, a few years later. This time, Joely is the main character facing a personal dilemma when she realizes her life hasn’t turned out at all the way she’d envisioned. It’s a sequel, but readers don’t need to have read “A Sister’s Promise” in order to enjoy “What Happiness Looks Like.”

Holly (Q. 2): Writers often write what they know. How do the characters in both books relate to your life experiences?

Karen: Like Kate, I worked as a high school counselor and that’s why the students Kate encounters seem so real. They’re composites of students I once knew and cared about. Joely is more who I’d like to be–artistic, out-going and upbeat.

Holly (Q. 3): You decided to self-publish and have had fantastic results. Can you share your self-publishing success story?

Karen: I worked on “A Sister’s Promise” for about three years–writing, querying agents and attending writer’s conferences. Fortunately, I received the Midwest Writer’s Fellowship which paired me with a published author as a mentor. Even after a major rewrite of my novel, agents would tell me it was a good story idea with strong writing, but not for them. I published it as an e-book on Amazon and sold over 25,000 copies. I owe a big thanks to my friends who mentioned my book on their Facebook pages and blogs!

Holly (Q. 4): Any advice for an aspiring author?

Karen: This is a wonderful time to be a writer. If you study what makes a good plot and create characters that people care about, you can share your work with the world. I think it’s important to join a critique group to get honest feedback, too. Thanks to technology, you have access to on-line critique groups no matter where you live. I’m fond of the www.internetwritingworkshop.org which is full of talented writers.

Holly (Q. 5): Will we get to devour another book featuring Kate and Joely?

Karen: So many readers have told me they want to know what happens to the sisters. In my next novel, the main character is a friend of Joely’s and is a newlywed whose husband suffers a head injury, which drastically alters his personality. The wife struggles between acceptance, hoping he’ll go back to the way he was, and walking away from the relationship. Please visit my website at www.karensnovels.weebly.com to read the opening chapters of both novels and my semi-humorous “Thoughts on Motherhood” blog. I love to hear from fellow readers and writers. Thanks, Holly, for interviewing me on your blog!

Holly: You’re Welcome! Thanks for the read!