Book Review | The Fish Tales Series

It is not often that I devote a whole post to a book review. Normally, my recommendations are part of one of my fruit salad posts with a little bit of fashion, little bit of what we've been up to and maybe a basset hound photo thrown in for good measure. But when you find a book that blows your wig off so you immediately read its companion novel, which completely knocks you on your ass, yes, that moves straight to the top of blog topics for the week.

The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur

I waffled for a day on whether I would purchase this book, primarily because I don't usually read books with male protagonists written by females authors. They ring false to me. So I checked out the Kindle sample. About halfway through I knew that there was no way I was not going to read this book.

Summary: Winner of a gold medal in the 2015 Readers' Favorite Book Awards, Suanne Laqueur's astonishing debut novel follows a young man's emotional journey to salvage relationships destroyed in the wake of a school shooting.

As a college freshman, Erik Fiskare is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. Their love story thrives within a tight-knit circle of friends, all bound by creativity and artistry. A newcomer arrives--a brilliant but erratic dancer with an unquenchable thirst for connection. And when this disturbed friend brings a gun into the theater, the story is forever changed, the circle is broken and a shocking act of betrayal causes Erik to leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.

As he moves into adulthood, Erik comes to grips with his role in the shooting, and slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood and gunfire. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving? 

Spanning 15 years, The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma—physical and mental—and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through Erik’s experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love. 

I was up half the night Thursday with a toothache and was still pretty under the weather Friday. Friday morning, I stayed in bed and read this book. After a little bit of pharmaceutical assistance from my dentist, I managed to make it upstairs to our rec room, where I parked myself on our sectional and read this book. I later moved to my reading chair -- and continued to read this book. While Big Kid watched his new favorite movie, Happy Gilmore (which was tailor-made for eleven-year-old boys), I sat behind him and read this book. While my husband snored beside me in the bed that night, I read this book. I finally set down my computer at 3 a.m. and realized that I had just finished the best book I have read all year.

Which is why I surprised myself Saturday morning when I was hesitant to purchase its companion novel --

Summary: Suanne Laqueur's award-winning debut novel The Man I Love thrilled readers with its memorable characters and depth of emotion. Erik Fiskare's journey of love, recovery and forgiveness captivated hearts but also left questions unanswered. Now Daisy Bianco has a chance to tell her story. 

It's been three years since a single lapse of judgment cost Daisy the love of her life. Erik was a conduit to her soul but now he's chosen a path of total disconnection, refusing to speak to her or acknowledge her betrayal. Alone and shattered, Daisy attempts to take responsibility for her actions while building her career as a professional dancer in New York City. But Erik's unforgiving estrangement proves too much for her strength. Plagued by flashbacks to the Lancaster shootings, she falls into a dangerous spiral of self-harm, cutting into her own skin as a means to atone. Only the timely appearance of an old friend, John "Opie" Quillis, saves her from self-destruction and gives her a chance to love again. 

Laqueur skillfully weaves flashbacks to the college years with Daisy's present life. Supported by John's patient affection, she works to separate her evolution as an adult from the unresolved guilt and grief of her youth. As her professional accomplishments lift her out of depression, Daisy learns to hold onto her accountability without letting it become her identity. Years pass and she builds a beautiful life filled with dance and friends. Lovers come and eventually go, leaving her on her own with the old thought: Come back to me. 

In this parallel narrative, Laqueur peels open the beloved characters fromThe Man I Love to reveal new and complex layers of vulnerability. The scars from the shooting are deep and pervasive within this circle of friends. Like Daisy, they are trying to evolve without being fully resolved. But when questions from the past go unheeded, you alone must find and give your answers true.

Give Me Your Answer True is not a sequel, it is a companion novel from the POV of  main character's girlfriend in TMIL. I am not a fan of companion novels. I have always thought that they were either a retread of the same story or a money grab. I did not want anything to tarnish my perception of TMIL and that is why I was hesitant to hit the Buy button. But I did not want the story to end. I wanted to know more and I wanted to know:


Going into this, you think that the question above pertains to the school shooting but it does not. It is no secret that I like my romances with a side of angst. The school shooting was definitely the event that set the story in motion but what I wanted to know -- and what prompted me to read the second book is that I had to know why Daisy did what she did. And the reason is heartbreaking. GMYAT is one of those rare finds where the second book is just as good as the first.

My review at Goodreads:

I can't even.

I never like second books which tell the same story from a different POV. Never. I always feel like it is just a rehash or money grab. This book though, it is the same story but it colors in the landscape of the first book. The first book was drawn with such bold lines but I would say that it focused on a specific image -- Erik. This book provides the scenery around him and gives this story a broader, bigger feel. I found myself going back to the first book and reading specific passages with more understanding. I don't often say this but I felt like the characters were real people.

I feel like I need to take a break from reading and just absorb the story because I cannot see how my next book with measure up to this series. Cannot wait for book #3 in January!

Warning: Laqueur does not shy away from tackling heavy subjects. Sexuality is fluid, violence is graphic, emotions are strong and themes are adult. It is raw but honest. The only thing keeping me from sinking into a book depression now that I have finished reading is the upcoming third installment, Here to Stay, is to be released Jan. 14. It is already on my bookshelf.

Go read these books. Go right now. 

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