THE LIBRARY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

November 14, 2017

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November 2017 LibraryReads Pick

The top ten books published each month that librarians across the country love. I get a lot of wonderful recommendations from these lists, and I can honestly say I think there was only one book in the past several years that I didn’t love, so check it out.

The titular “edge of the world” is a peninsula in Ireland that is undergoing some big change, a reflection of the change that Hannah Casey is going through. Hannah has returned home from a posh London life after an acrimonious divorce to share the hot pink cottage of her childhood with her mother. Hannah is the town librarian, not a job she loves by any stretch of the imagination. She always wanted to work in an art museum, but that was not meant to be. She is, I’m sorry to say, the stereotypical librarian, shushing people, taking control of the books as if it pains her to lend them, and consequently does not have the best reputation in this small town.

Hannah is determined to move out of her mother’s house, but during the divorce, she was so angry at her husband that she refused any sort of financial settlement, and now her ex isn’t interested in helping her out. She borrows some money from the credit union and sets out to restore the tiny cottage her great aunt had bequeathed to her. A local builder, a real craftsman, takes on the project but he is a bit eccentric.

Big changes afoot on this tiny peninsula as the local politicians decide to put all their resources into a big marina and hotel that will entice the cruise ship trade. But that means the rest of the island is out of luck, and slowly Hannah becomes “Joan of Arc”, at the center of the rebellion.

This is a lovely, charming book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I admit, most books about books and libraries usually get my immediate attention, but this one goes beyond that, with unforgettable characters and setting, making this an altogether excellent read.

11/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LIBRARY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Felicity Hayes-McCoy.  Harper Perennial (November 14, 2017). ISBN 978-0062663726. 368p.

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THE BEST MAN by Kristan Higgins

November 12, 2017

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The Blue Heron Series, Book 1

I may be late to this party but I’m going to be catching up fast! Thanks to my “work daughter,” Caitlin, I read this wonderful book and now have several more to keep me busy. I’m thinking this series will be how I spend my Christmas vacation, if I can wait that long.

Set in a small town surrounded by vineyards in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York, this is a sweet, funny romance with warm, quirky characters. Faith Holland is the youngest of four, and her family is one of the founding families of the town. They have two homes on a vineyard, the old house (built in the 1700’s) where her grandparents live, and the new house (built in the 1800’s) where she grew up. The story moves back and forth from when she was jilted at the altar to her happily ever after.

Faith and Jeremy were inseparable from the day they met and despite a brief break in high school, their college years apart, and even his stint in medical school, no one in their small town was surprised that they were getting married except Jeremy’s best friend and best man, Levi. Levi has always known that Jeremy is gay, but Jeremy hasn’t come out and is determined to live the same type of life as his parents. But at the wedding, he brings Jeremy and Faith to the church basement where they finally break up. Faith flees to San Francisco, where they were supposed to honeymoon, and ends up staying there for several years. And then it’s time to come home.

Faith and Levi have never really gotten along, despite both of their relationships with Jeremy. Now Levi is the Chief of police, and giving Faith a speeding ticket on her first day back isn’t improving their relationship. They both have a lot of baggage and despite that, end up in a very physical relationship – her first with a straight man.

There is no explicit sex but you still manage to feel the heat between them, a nice feat of writing. I found myself laughing out loud more than once while reading this book, and I can’t wait for the next one!

11/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BEST MAN by Kristan Higgins. HQN Books (February 26, 2013). ISBN 978-0373777921. 432p.

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THE DUCHESS by Danielle Steel

October 27, 2017

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I read my first Danielle Steel book in over thirty years a couple of weeks ago, and it was probably the worst book I’ve read in a very long time. But seeing how popular she is, I was determined to try another one and maybe figure out why.

Granted, most of the people I know who read her regularly do so more out of habit than anything else. They often complain, and for the most part, I hear, “all the books are the same.” The most positive reviews I hear are that they are a few hours of escapist entertainment, which I’m fine with. And her readers know exactly what they are getting and are content, if not happy about that. So I asked for some recommendations and The Duchess seemed to be universally liked, if not loved. It is my understanding that this is Steel’s first historical in a while, and since I love historicals, I was hopeful.

I liked it. Didn’t love it, had no trouble putting it down, but I finished it and it was fine. Not great, not terrible, very middle of the road and that’s okay. Not every book has to make me struggle with my best books of the year list. It was entertaining and that is good enough for me to feel like I’ve accomplished something here, mostly that I don’t feel like I have to read her again.

Angélique Latham is the daughter of the Duke of Westerfield. Her mother was his second wife, a noblewoman of French birth making Angelique closely related to both the Kings of England and France. She died in childbirth, and Angélique grew up very close with her father, was definitely his favorite child which did not endear her to her half-brothers. The Duke had two sons with his first wife, and they considered his second wife to be no more than a French whore, and had little use for Angélique. In fact, they hate her.

Shortly before the Duke’s death, he gives Angélique some money and her mother’s jewels. By law, he isn’t even allowed to give her that, he can only bequeath to his sons, in particular, the first son. The British law of entail demands the estate of royalty be passed on to the first son. As soon as the Duke dies, he throws Angélique out, offering her a position as nanny to some friends. Bewildered and thoroughly heartbroken about her father’s death, she acquiesces.

Angélique has never spent any time around children but quickly falls in love with her charges. But slightly more than a year later, she is attacked by one of the guests, who tells the family that she tried to seduce him. They throw her out without a reference, and she has nowhere to go. She hears about a woman who might be able to get her a job but without the reference, she cannot. She does suggest it might be easier in France since she is fluent in the language. Angélique goes to France but meets the same dead end.

While walking back to her hotel, she stumbles upon a young woman lying in a gutter. She has been badly beaten and Angélique takes her back to her hotel to help her. She quickly learns that the woman is a prostitute but she is sweet and grateful, even overwhelmed by Angélique’s help. It starts Angélique to thinking and she comes up with the idea of taking the money her father left her and opening a high class brothel. She will be the madam and not sleep with any of the men, and she succeeds beyond her wildest dreams. The house is the most popular in France, and while there are men who want her, even an American who asks her to be his mistress and eventually his wife, she never accepts any offers.

Two men get into an argument in the house and one shoots and kills the other. Angélique is told to flee the country and she sets sail to America. While on board the ship she meets the love of her life, and they eventually decide to marry.

But heartache is not to be escaped. There is family drama, tragedy and then a final reckoning. This is not a romance but it is women’s fiction, and a bit of a departure from most historicals that it emulates. I enjoyed it after suspending my disbelief several times and that’s the best thing I can say about it.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DUCHESS by Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press (June 27, 2017). ISBN 978-0345531087. 352p.

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EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

October 21, 2017

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This debut novel made quite a splash when it came out in 2014. I didn’t read it then, but I read her new book, Little Fires Everywhere. As soon as I finished it, I went looking for this book. It is deserving of all the hype that surrounded it, including:

New York Times Bestseller · A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice · Winner of the Alex Award· Winner of the APALA Award for Fiction · NEA Big Read Selection

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY:
 
NPR · San Francisco Chronicle · Entertainment Weekly · The Huffington Post  · Buzzfeed  · Amazon ·  Grantland · Booklist · St. Louis Post Dispatch · Shelf Awareness · Book Riot · School Library Journal ·  Bustle · Time Out New York · Mashable · Cleveland Plain Dealer

The reviews were uniformly excellent and I’ll just add to that sweet symphony.

From the publisher:

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

The writing is lyrical. The characters spring to life on the page and drive the story. Reading Everything I Never Told You is an emotional journey of the finest kind and an unforgettable read – and that is not something I say lightly. I may have liked it even more than Little Fires Everywhere, I’m not sure yet. Either way, don’t miss it.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng. Berkley (October 17, 2017). ISBN 978-0451488756. 368p.

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FAIRYTALE by Danielle Steel

October 10, 2017

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Let me start by saying that I think the last time I read a Danielle Steel book I was pregnant with my son and he is now 32 years old. I couldn’t tell you which book, but as I recall, it was an entertaining read but not much more than that.

My library patrons read her all the time and she has gone the way of many popular writers, spinning out several books a year. This one came up on a site I use to get digital review copies so I thought I’d give it a try.

I hated this book so much I’m not sure why I finished it, other than I fell back on an old bad habit of reading to the end in hopes it would get better. It didn’t.

I’ll start with the beginning. I’ve gone to a lot of writing conferences over the years, as a reader and a fan, and I’ve often heard writers talk about showing, not telling in their work. This book is a prime example of why that is. The first chunk, maybe 25-30% of the book, was a litany of people and places and their history. The people are Christophe and Joy, who meet, fall in love, build a winery, have a daughter they name Camille, and have a pretty perfect life. This covers 20 years.

Camille has just graduated Stanford and is happy to be home, working in the vineyard with her mother. Joy runs the business side of things, Christophe, along with his vineyard manager Cesare, run the winery side of things. More perfection. Only problem with perfection is that it’s boring. Camille and her parents get along beautifully, although Camille has no social life, because after all, working in the business and spending time with her parents is all any 20something wants out of life.

Yawn.

Eventually, some drama creeps in and Joy dies, and shortly after that the extremely happily married but now devastated Christophe meets a predator, the Countess Maxine, a highly skilled gold-digger whom he marries, waiting just past the one year anniversary of his beloved wife’s death, out of respect of course. Camille realizes that Maxine is not the kind woman her mother was, but her father is blinded by naivete and – wait for it – lust.

More tragedy occurs, and the evil stepmother, along with her two evil sons, are now making Camille’s life miserable. Luckily, friend of the family Sam and his son Phillipe step in to help. Camille and Phillipe grew up together, but he is seven years older than her so they’ve always had this brother-sister relationship.

Then as if the perfect life wasn’t enough of a fairy tale, Steel borrows heavily and heavy-handedly from the Cinderella story. The evil stepmother goes to the ball, and Camille’s “fairy grandmother” makes sure she goes, too, stealing her a dress and even lending her sparkly shoes to wear. The ultimately happy ending comes out of nowhere and didn’t make any sense to me for reasons that would give away the weak story altogether.

If you, dear reader, decide to read this book, I would love to hear from you. I can’t wait to talk to my library patrons about it, I am dying to know if anyone likes it. The early reviews on Amazon are wonderful, for the most part, which just confused me.

I was thoroughly disgusted by the end, more with myself for sticking with it and wasting two and a half hours of my life that I’ll never get back, but also with the ridiculous ending. Did I mention that I hated this book?

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FAIRYTALE by Danielle Steel. Delacorte Press (October 10, 2017). ISBN 978-1101884065. 288p.

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WINTER SOLSTICE by Elin Hilderbrand

October 5, 2017

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Just when you thought the Winter Street trilogy was over, Hilderbrand writes another last episode, turning this into a Christmas series, I guess, instead of a trilogy. Either way, I was happy!

I don’t want to give too much away, so here is what the publisher offers:

Raise one last glass with the Quinn Family at the Winter Street Inn.

It’s been too long since the entire Quinn family has been able to celebrate the holidays under the same roof, but that’s about to change. With Bart back safe and sound from Afghanistan, the Quinns are preparing for a holiday more joyous than any they’ve experienced in years. And Bart’s safe return isn’t the family’s only good news: Kevin is enjoying married life with Isabelle; Patrick is getting back on his feet after paying his debt to society; Ava thinks she’s finally found the love of her life; and Kelly is thrilled to see his family reunited at last. But it just wouldn’t be a Quinn family gathering if things went smoothly. A celebration of everything we love–and some of the things we endure–about the holidays, WINTER SOLSTICE is Elin Hilderbrand at her festive best.

This is a wonderful holiday series, and if you have the time, I recommend you give yourself a gift this holiday season and read all of them, in order. But you can certainly give this one a go on its own, but it probably won’t have you bawling. Well, maybe it will.

Hilderbrand says that this is her most autobiographical family story. She is not referring to the plot lines or all the details, but to the family structure, the guilt working mom’s have to contend with, and of course, life on Nantucket.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WINTER SOLSTICE by Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown and Company (October 3, 2017). ISBN 978-0316435451. 304p.

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WITHOUT MERIT by Colleen Hoover

October 3, 2017

I am delighted to be part of the #WithoutMerit blog tour! Read on to find out how you can win a signed hardcover of WITHOUT MERIT!

Colleen Hoover is a terrific writer and is fast becoming one of my favorites. Right off the bat, I have to point out that I am not at all sure if this book is really more Young Adult, New Adult or just fiction, as the publisher has it. The protagonist is a 17-year-old girl, Merit Voss, and the book revolves around her, her dysfunctional family and mental illness. That said, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that I couldn’t put it down and it was an excellent, emotional read – what I’ve come to expect from this author.

 

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Merit has been having a rough time lately. She has a huge crush on her identical twin sister Honor’s boyfriend Sagan and can’t really see how or why those two are together. Her relationship with her sister and her older brother Utah has deteriorated to the point where she feels like a third wheel. At one point she passively-aggressively decides to stop speaking to anyone in her family and wait to see how long it takes for anyone to notice – and they don’t.

The Voss family live in a house that is also a bit nutty – it was a church that their father bought in anger at the pastor and his barking dog. They used to live in the house behind the church, so now they own both. Merit’s father is remarried to an oncology nurse, Victoria, who he met while she was caring for his first wife, also named Victoria. Wife number one has recovered from her cancer but has a severe case of agoraphobia and lives in the basement of the church. She has her own apartment there and her kids bring her food and occasional company.

Every character is a bit off, but all have redeeming qualities and most are endearing in one way or another. This is one nutty family but it is Merit who is the narrator here so everything is taken from the point of view of a teenager who takes teenage-angst to a new level.

The story moves on its characters, and the reader can’t help but be sucked into this family and their problems. Once I started reading I couldn’t stop, and I was very sorry to turn the last page. As an aside, I was especially appreciative of the link to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America website.

These characters are going to stay with me for a long time. If you love quirky family stories that delve into real problems, you won’t want to miss this book. I loved it.

10/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WITHOUT MERIT by Colleen Hoover. Atria Books (October 3, 2017).  ISBN 978-1501170621.  384p.

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 Win 1 of 5 signed hardcover copies of WITHOUT MERIT!

Contest is open until October 30th

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, This Girl, Point of Retreat, Hopeless, Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella, Maybe Someday, Ugly Love, Maybe Not, Confess, November 9, and It Ends with Us. She has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance twice – for Confess in 2015 and It Ends with Us in 2016. Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Colleen and her family founded The Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service offering signed novels donated by authors. All profits are given to various charities each month to help those in need. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys.

FIND COLLEEN ONLINE:

Website: www.ColleenHoover.com

Facebook: www.Facebook.com/ColleenHoover

Twitter: @ColleenHoover

Instagram: @ColleenHoover


LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng

September 29, 2017

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Sometimes when a book gets a lot of buzz, I hold off on reading it because inevitably I’m disappointed. So I never read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, her debut novel. This is her sophomore effort, and it is a wonderful read; so wonderful, I just downloaded her debut onto my iPad.

The title literally refers to small fires set on all the beds in the Richardson household. The book opens with the fire, and the house burning to the ground, but the family are all safe. I think the title also refers to all the little fires that families and friends have to put out every day, the misunderstandings both big and small. And maybe the baby that was abandoned at the fire station. It is an excellent and thought provoking title.

The Richardson family lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, which claims to be the first planned community in the United States and is a suburb of Cleveland. Elena Richardson grew up there and convinced her fiancé there would be no better place to raise a family. He’s a lawyer and she is a planner of lives; the house, her career, and four children in quick succession. The first three were a dream, Trip, the oldest boy, a teenage heartthrob, both good looking and charming; Lexie, the oldest girl, a bright student and a popular, pretty girl; Moody, the other son, more of a loner than his big brother, and finally Izzie, the baby and the most difficult. Izzie was a difficult pregnancy, a premie with complications who came with warnings of a lifetime of possible health issues, none of which came to bear. Nonetheless, Elena and Izzie’s relationship is rough. Izzie is headstrong and outspoken and happily breaks rules right and left, something Elena abhors and causes her grief on a regular basis.

The Richardsons live in a big house in the affluent end of town, and own a small two-family rental nearby. Elena only rents to those who she feels is deserving of this place, and when single mom Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl move in, Elena feels like she has given them a helping hand. Mia is an artist whose medium is photography, and the two of them have lived like nomads throughout Pearl’s life. But here in Shaker Heights, Mia promises that they will stay so Pearl makes friends, first with Moody and Lexie, and then she falls for Trip.

Elena hires Mia for a few hours a day to clean the house and prepare dinner, and pays her enough to cover her rent. As Pearl becomes more and more comfortable in the Richardson household, Izzie becomes intrigued with Mia and begs to be allowed to be her assistant. Mia acquiesces, and they form a strong bond.

These two families find themselves on opposite sides when Elena’s closest friend ends up in an adoption war. After fourteen years of trying for a baby, they finally get a beautiful Chinese infant who was abandoned at a fire station. The adoption process is long, and shortly before it will be finalized, Mia learns about the baby and realizes that she knows the birth mother who deeply regretted leaving the baby. She tells her, all hell breaks loose and the town and the media all get involved  There can be no happy ending here.

Ng has created a world of believable characters, none of whom is perfect. This is a  compelling story that is driven by these characters and was unputdownable. I really loved the writing and highlighted several passages. Some samples:

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control.

On racism:

Maybe at birth everyone should be given to a family of another race to be raised. Maybe that would solve racism once and for all.

And probably my favorite, on learning how to deal with your teenage children as they pull away from you:

It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core and all.

I can’t wait to share this book with my book discussion group. Don’t miss it.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng. Penguin Press; 1st Edition edition (September 12, 2017). ISBN 978-0735224292. 352p.

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HOLLY AND IVY by Fern Michaels

September 27, 2017

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Let the Christmas novels begin! Regular readers know I love me a good Christmas story and this was a great way to start.

Ivy Macintosh lost her husband and her three-year-old twins in a plane crash. To make matters worse, her father owns the airline and the government has said it was pilot error – and her father is dating the pilot’s mother. Ivy has locked herself away in her house for eight years since the crash, drinking too much and avoiding the world.

Then one night there is a knock on her door. A little girl named Holly Greenwood is standing there, crying. She is lost, and she asks to use Ivy’s phone. Ivy’s heart goes out to her, and when Holly’s father picks her up, he is rather gruff and takes her home.

Holly has a gift; she is a singer with a most unusual and beautiful voice. But her father hates music, won’t allow it in the house and definitely doesn’t want to hear her singing. Holly doesn’t know why because since her mother died eight years earlier, it’s just been her and her father Daniel. He is super strict and she is at the age where she is starting to hate him for it.

Ivy and Daniel feel a strong attraction to each other, a first for both of them in many years. As Ivy is drawn into their world, she stops drinking and finds a new purpose in life – getting Daniel to allow Holly to share her gift with the world, and finding her own happiness along the way.

Even though I could see where this story was going from almost the beginning, it didn’t detract from seeing the resolution through. This was everything a good Christmas story should be, at least for me; a sweet love story, personal redemption, a Christmas miracle along the way and the requisite happy ending.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HOLLY AND IVY by Fern Michaels. Kensington (September 26, 2017). ISBN 978-1496703170.  320p.

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THE BEAUTY OF US by Kristen Proby

September 9, 2017

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Fusion, Book 4

I read the last book, Blush for Me, in this series and really enjoyed it, and this one is just as much fun and just as sexy!

Riley Gibson is one of the partners in Seduction, the restaurant/wine bar that is so popular for romantic dinners. She’s gotten them a TV deal but has to convince the chef, Mia, to go along with it and she reluctantly agrees. But when the producer, Trevor, shows up, the chemistry between him and Riley is off the charts. Trevor wants to keep it professional but that is going to be really difficult.

Trevor and Riley all too quickly fall into bed, and then in love. But he lives in Los Angeles, and she’s in Seattle, and how can they make a long distance relationship work? They try but Riley is miserable and pretty soon it all falls apart. Until Trevor realizes he can’t live without her.

This is a fun, fast, super sexy contemporary romance and a most enjoyable read.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BEAUTY OF US by Kristen Proby. William Morrow Paperbacks (August 22, 2017). ISBN 978-0062674876.  304p.

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