AFTER by Anna Todd

September 19, 2019

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The After Series, Book 1

From the publisher:

Experience the internet’s most talked-about book, now a major motion picture, from Anna Todd, the writer Cosmopolitan called “the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation.” Now with new exclusive material!

There was the time before Tessa met Hardin, and then there’s everything AFTER Life will never be the same. #Hessa

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way.

But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, and tattoos, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude—to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin. And she does—until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her?

Unless…could this be love?

Age Range: Adult

Where to start? Okay, I’ll just say it. I hated this book. The writing is awful. The story is incredibly repetitive.  And boring. These characters are in college, and Tessa is a virgin. Not just a virgin, she’s barely been kissed by her boyfriend of many, many years. They were saving themselves for marriage. An appealing goal to some, to be sure. But in this story, it’s just a challenge. Literally. Like these short, choppy sentences? Then this may be your book.

Despite the length of this book, the main character, Tessa, is not very well developed. She is a one-dimensional caricature of a naive 18-year-old who has never had a drink or seen anyone with a tattoo. Oh, stereotypes run hard here. Tattoos and/or piercings and/or Kool-Aid colored hair equals bad. Clean cut equals good, just like in real life. Because you can always judge a person based on their haircut, and everyone knows only good people wear preppy clothes. Like Robert Chambers, for example.

Hardin, a year or so older, is the male protagonist. He is slightly more developed, although it takes an inordinate amount of time (and pages) to get his story out. We know he has wildly shifting mood swings, and Tessa constantly refers to his probably bipolarity or other mental illnesses (see sentence above about stereotypes.) The way he is portrayed, and talked about, in my humble opinion, does grave disservice to those who suffer from mental illness. On the bright side, Tessa is an English major and a huge Jane Austen fan. If this book makes young people read Austen, then it may all be worth it.

This is a couple whose time is spent veering between sexual fumbling and screaming matches. It was painful to read, over and over and over and over and over again. It doesn’t help that proper grammar was tossed out the window, and a good editor, or any kind of editor, was nowhere in sight. I understand that “new adults” like to read about characters like themselves. The “new adult” designation means these are older teens who have a lot of sex, versus “young adult” who are younger teens who also have a lot of sex.

I picked up this book because I was curious. It was made into a movie that has a really bad 17% Rotten Tomato score, while the audience rating is 72%. It has over a 1000 reviews on Amazon and tops out at four stars. A friend told me this was originally published on Wattpad, a self-publishing platform, and was fan fiction based on Harry Styles of One Direction. I’m a few generations removed from that, so it didn’t mean much to me, and I did a little digging. I found this article at The Atlantic (spoilers galore) that tells the whole story of this publishing phenom. The After series seems to be at the cusp of a major shift in publishing, and frankly, it does not bode well for the future.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER by Anna Todd. Gallery Books; Media Tie-In edition (March 12, 2019). ISBN 978-1982111007. 608p.



ELEVATOR PITCH by Linwood Barclay

September 18, 2019

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Events in this novel begin on a Monday when an elevator in a high rise office building breaks through its safety features and plunges down, killing all four passengers riding in it. Popular conjecture is that it is a fluke in as much as elevator accidents are fortunately very few and far between. But another accident occurs in a different building on Tuesday indicating quite clearly that these are not accidents. Then again a third accident takes place on Wednesday.

The public in New York City, the scene of the accidents panics and the city is thrown into chaos with doubt in everyone’s mind about the safety of riding elevators up and down going and coming from work.  A body is then discovered that has had its fingers cut off, and is tied to the elevator tragedy.

The novel then follows the work of two New York City detectives and an active journalist in looking at the facts discovered, the possibilities that exist, and key persons to solve the mystery.

Barclay, as is his custom and his talent, grabs hold of his readers and holds them until the very logical ending. Personal facts brought out about each of the individuals working the case make for a better read in the sense that each becomes more of a real person. The use of elevators as murder weapons and the reasons for doing so are clearly explained and help the novel become another typical interesting Linwood Barclay read.

9/19 Paul Lane

ELEVATOR PITCH by Linwood Barclay. William Morrow (September 17, 2019). ISBN 978-1250182296. 464p.


September 17, 2019

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE STRANGER INSIDE by Lisa Unger. Park Row; Original edition (September 17, 2019). ISBN 978-0778308720. 384p.



About Lisa Unger

Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of seventeen novels, including THE STRANGER INSIDE. With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Lisa Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. In 2019, she received two Edgar Award nominations, an honor held by only a few writers including Ruth Rendell and Agatha Christie. The Edgar-nominated UNDER MY SKIN is also a finalist for the prestigious Hammett Prize, and the Macavity Award for Best Novel. And the original short story THE SLEEP TIGHT MOTEL is a #1 bestselling single.

Unger’s critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today showGood Morning AmericaEntertainment WeeklyAmazonIndieBound and many others. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesWall Street JournalNPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family. Visit

Lisa & The BookBitch back in 2013!


AKIN by Emma Donoghue

September 16, 2019

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Noah Selvaggio is a widowed and now retired Chemistry professor living alone in New York City. We find him preparing to take a trip back to Nice, a city in the south of France, and the place of his birth. He is planning to take along a series of puzzling photographs that were taken by his mother living there during the Nazi occupation.

He is suddenly disturbed by a call from social service advising him that he is a great uncle to a child he has never seen. And he is the only available relative since the boy’s father has died and his mother is currently incarcerated. Noah reluctantly agrees to take the eleven year old boy with him to France while the agency finds another relative to take the lad in.

The story is about the trip and the relationship of Noah and the boy during the week that they spend together in France. Yes, it is a heartwarming portrait involving several factors. Noah investigates the photos taken by his mother and develops a picture of her past and her role in the French resistance movement. He also begins to look at Michael, the young boy as something other than an inconvenience.

Donoghue is a wordsmith, presenting her wonderful story in a manner that quickly draws in the reader by the creation of people that act and feel as many would if taking part in the happenings described. It’s a five star book, one that will cause a good feeling for the people that read it.

9/19 Paul Lane

AKIN by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown and Company (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-0316491990. 352p.



PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell

September 15, 2019

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Josiah and Deja are seasonal best friends.  Every fall they spend two months together working at DeKnock’s World Famous Pumpkin Patch, and then don’t see each other again until they return to work the following September.  But this Halloween is different, it is their senior year of high school, and it is their last ever shift at the pumpkin patch.  Josiah is hoping to secure the title of Most Valuable Pumpkin Patch Person for the fifth time, but Deja has a different plan.  Her plan involves playing hooky from their final shift at the Succotash Hut and seizing the moment by setting off on an adventure across the patch.

Let me start by saying graphic novels are not my preferred genre, I respect the talent that goes into creating them, but they usually don’t connect with me.  When I saw that Rainbow Rowell had written a graphic novel, however, I knew I had to read it.  Luckily Pumpkinheads did not disappoint.  Josiah and Deja’s characters were well developed despite the short length of the story and limited text (Hicks’ expressive facial illustrations also deserve credit here).  Within a short time-frame Rowell fills the reader in on the foundation of their friendship making the reader invested in the result of their mad dash across the pumpkin patch.  Rowell’s dialogue is engaging and humorous, with Deja’s bubbly personality and penchant for seizing the moment complimenting Josiah’s shyness and sense of duty to his beloved pumpkin patch.

As for the illustrations, Faith Erin Hicks brings DeKnock’s Pumpkin Patch and the feeling of a cozy fall evening to life.  Her illustrations are detailed, make use of a crisp fall color palate, and include plenty of humorous touches. The inclusion of a map of the patch on the inside cover of the book was a nice addition. You will want to visit the Pie Palace, S’Mores Pit, and Corn Maize while trying a Pumpkin Bomb and kettle corn.

Overall, a charming story of friendship set against a delightful fall background.

9/19 Caitlin Brisson

PUMPKINHEADS by Rainbow Rowell. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second (August 27, 2019). ISBN 9781250312853. 224p.



CALL HER MINE by Melissa Foster

September 14, 2019

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Harmony Pointe, Book 1

From the publisher:

Two besties and a baby make for an instafamily and a surprising romance in a delightful series by Melissa Foster, the New York Times bestselling author of the Sugar Lake novels.

Ben Dalton has always been honest, except where his heart is concerned. He’s been in love with his best friend—saucy, smart-mouthed Aurelia Stark—forever. But Ben’s a planner, and timing has never been on his side. When he finally decides to make his move, Aurelia beats him to the punch with a move of her own—to a different town.

Aurelia loves her new life in the charming town of Harmony Pointe. She has a great apartment and her very own bookstore, and best of all, the sinfully hot, commitment-phobic friend she’s crushed on for years is no longer just around the corner. Maybe she’ll finally be able to leave her unrequited love behind and move on.

But when a baby is left on Ben’s front porch—a baby that is presumably his—Aurelia is there for him. Neither one knows the first thing about babies, but how hard can it be? Ben and Aurelia are catapulted into a world of love, laughter, and tracking down the baby mama, and it might even add up to a very happily ever after… just not one either of them expects.

Aurelia owns a bookstore, so of course I had to read this. I am a complete sucker for any book that features a bookstore or library. Those are my happy places.

This is the first book of a new series from Foster. This is light and fluffy and entertaining, even with the specter of the unwanted baby left on the doorstep. It’s also a very short book, sort of between novella and novel, so not a whole lot of character or plot development. It’s a simple story and it works. There are some sad moments to be sure, but the happiness washes it all away and left me with a smile on my face. If you are looking for a fun, sexy fast read, this is your book. It was a good romance for sure.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CALL HER MINE by Melissa Foster. Montlake Romance (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-1542007382. 265p.




September 13, 2019

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Summer Resort Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

As the summer ends, friendship begins…

When single mom Joy Lee abandoned her old life to take a job at a lakeside resort, she found something that her family’s wealth and influence could never buy: peace of mind. Not easy to come by for the once-burned divorcée who keeps everyone at a distance. But when her new friend, Maris, dares her to take a chance with the drive-in’s charismatic new owner, everything changes for Joy and her young son.

A difficult childhood has left Maris Kennedy with definite priorities. Her job running Summer’s End, the camp store and café, comes first. Always. Nothing could ever make her risk that hard-won security—especially not her free-spirited colleague. But the more she encourages Joy to open herself up to new experiences, the more Maris begins to wonder what she, too, might be missing.

Learning how to trust will bring Joy and Maris together. And soon they form a friendship that leaves them as close as sisters—and open to love where they least expect it…in Summer’s End.

This is the sequel to Cooper’s Charm, which I read last year and loved. I remembered these characters and the setting and was very happy to be back with them.

Foster has given us another two-fer, two romances in one, and she does a really good job with it. I think this story worked so well because the women involved, Joy and Maris, become the best of friends. Even though they’ve been working together for years, they never really had much of a relationship. Maris is single minded in her pursuit of making her business a success. And Joy is just as single minded in making her son a priority.

Single motherhood is never easy, but Joy’s husband took off as soon as he learned she was pregnant. Her family disowned her, disapproving of the wastrel she married. Maris has buried both her parents, and has no family other than the people who work at the campground where her store is. As the women slowly knock down their barriers, a real friendship, a sisterhood in fact, is formed.

This is a wonderful story of the power of women’s friendships, and of love. It is heartwarming and at times, sexy, and occasionally even humorous. There is a lot to like here if you like contemporary romance as much as I do. Foster has become a favorite.

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SISTERS OF SUMMER’S END by Lori Foster. Berkley (September 3, 2019). ISBN 978-1984805386. 336p.



29 SECONDS by T. M. Logan

September 12, 2019

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Sarah is a young instructor at Queen Ann’s University located near London. We meet her at the point of several crossroads in her life.

First, her beloved husband has just taken a break from the marriage and gone away to have a fling with another woman. Second, her appointment as a tenured instructor at the university is coming up for review. Without this status her place at the university becomes very tenuous as well as her ability to get another position if the current job is declared redundant causing her to lose that position.

The head of her department, and the one man holding the key to her promotion, is Alan Hawthorne. Professor Hawthorne is renowned at the university, hosts a television show, and has managed to marry a wealthy woman that insures his job via her gifts to the school. Unfortunately, Alan has a history of behaving inappropriately to women working at the university and insuring their sexual favors by holding their jobs over their heads. He has decided that Sarah is to become his next conquest and starts to demand that she satisfy his demands. Between her errant husband and Hawthorne, Sarah has arrived at the end of her rope and does not know where to turn.

Fate suddenly lends a hand. Sarah finds herself in a position to fend off kidnappers from taking a young girl prisoner by her prompt action against them. The girl’s father insists upon expressing his gratitude to Sarah, and due to the coincidental fact that he is a crime boss, is able to make her an offer that is strange, criminal, but arriving at a very appropriate time in her life. She is told that all she has to do is give him a name and that person will be made to disappear. Sarah now has a husband that has taken a vacation to be with another woman, and a supervisor that has make it clear that her continuance at her work depends upon how well Sarah fulfills his demands.

The situation is not as easy as it would appear, and the novel creates the wonderful need to continue to devour the pages until completely read. The reader will change his or her mind several times as Sarah’s thoughts go back and forth over what to do, and of course, who to do it to. A very engrossing novel and certainly one that assures that we will continue to seek out future books by Logan.

9/19 Paul Lane

29 SECONDS by T. M. Logan. St. Martin’s Press (September 10, 2019). ISBN 978-1250182296. 368p.


HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway

September 11, 2019

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Please welcome a new reviewer to the site! Caitlin was my “work daughter” when I was at the Palm Beach County Public Library. She’s still there and working hard in Youth System Services. I miss her every day!

Mel Strickland is an overqualified help desk employee at a start up incubator who spends her days putting up with a sexist boss and male co-workers who are constantly downloading viruses onto their laptops.  After a series of bad dates, and being on the receiving end of one too many pictures of male genitalia through a dating app, Mel decides to put her coding skills to good use and creates her own app. JerkAlert allows women to document the harassers and ghosters they encounter in the world of online dating. Mel is unprepared, however, when JerkAlert goes viral overnight, bringing with it unexpected consequences for her career and personal relationships.

It is refreshing to read a book where the heroine is employed in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field. “How to Hack a Heartbreak” tackles sexism and how women must work twice as hard as men to gain respect in the tech field. I’ve seen this book classified as romance, and while Mel does have a love interest, (Alex is a programmer at the start up where Mel works,) I would consider it more along the lines of women’s fiction.  Mel’s relationship with Alex is underdeveloped and I found it difficult to get invested in their romance.  More important are Mel’s relationships with her group of girlfriends who offer never ending support and empowerment while she works at starting her own business. While the ending felt a bit rushed, “How to Hack a Heartbreak” is a fun read that takes an uplifting and feminist look at making it in the tech world, all with a side of romance.

9/19 Caitlin Brisson

HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway. Graydon House (July 30, 2019). ISBN 9781525834257. 352p.



THE AUSSIE NEXT DOOR by Stephanie London

September 10, 2019

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From the publisher:

“A sweet, sexy read, featuring a couple that feels both true-to-life and aspirational.” Kirkus Review, Starred Review

American Angie Donovan has never wanted much. When you grow up getting bounced from foster home to foster home, you learn not to become attached to anything, anyone, or any place. But it only took her two days to fall in love with Australia. With her visa clock ticking, surely she can fall in love with an Australian―and get hitched―in two months. Especially if he’s as hot and funny as her next-door neighbor…

Jace Walters has never wanted much―except a bathroom he didn’t have to share. The last cookie all to himself. And solitude. But when you grow up in a family of seven, you can kiss those things goodbye. He’s finally living alone and working on his syndicated comic strip in privacy. Sure, his American neighbor is distractingly sexy and annoyingly nosy, but she’ll be gone in a few months…

Except now she’s determined to find her perfect match by checking out every eligible male in the town, and her choices are even more distracting. So why does it suddenly feel like he―and his obnoxious tight-knit family, and even these two wayward dogs―could be exactly what she needs?

An American girl moves to Australia to escape her notoriety and falls in love with the place. Angie is sweet and kind but has a lot of baggage. Growing up in the foster care system, she became the poster child for its horrors and just wanted to live her life in peace. She can’t find any in the US so moves halfway around the world to do so.

Jace is her landlord. While he doesn’t tell her for most of the book, it was fairly obvious that he is high functioning autistic, the hottest trend in diverse romance. If anything can “normalize” autism, reading about characters like Jace certainly will. He is not scary, he just has some personality quirks, and really, who doesn’t? Angie likes his quirks, they make her feel comfortable and their relationship works. Of course, it takes some time to get to that point!

There are some very funny scenes and some really sweet ones as well. Both of these characters have their challenges, but the way they complement each other makes the struggle to get to their happily ever after worth all the effort. Very well done and sure to appeal to fans of the Helen Hoang books, The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient. Loved it!

9/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE AUSSIE NEXT DOOR by Stephanie London. Entangled: Amara (August 27, 2019). ISBN 978-1640636682. 350p.