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.

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ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER by Hazel Prior

August 28, 2019

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ELLIE AND THE HARP MAKER by Hazel Prior. Berkley (August 6, 2019). ISBN  978-1984803788. 336p.

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THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE by Susan Wiggs

August 15, 2019

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From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author brings us her most ambitious and provocative work yet—a searing and timely novel that explores the most volatile issue of our time—domestic violence.

At the break of dawn, Caroline Shelby rolls into Oysterville, Washington, a tiny hamlet at the edge of the raging Pacific.

She’s come home.

Home to a place she thought she’d left forever, home of her heart and memories, but not her future. Ten years ago, Caroline launched a career in the glamorous fashion world of Manhattan. But her success in New York imploded on a wave of scandal and tragedy, forcing her to flee to the only safe place she knows.

And in the backseat of Caroline’s car are two children who were orphaned in a single chilling moment—five-year-old Addie and six-year-old Flick. She’s now their legal guardian—a role she’s not sure she’s ready for.

But the Oysterville she left behind has changed. Her siblings have their own complicated lives and her aging parents are hoping to pass on their thriving seafood restaurant to the next generation. And there’s Will Jensen, a decorated Navy SEAL who’s also returned home after being wounded overseas. Will and Caroline were forever friends as children, with the promise of something more . . . until he fell in love with Sierra, Caroline’s best friend and the most beautiful girl in town. With her modeling jobs drying up, Sierra, too, is on the cusp of reinventing herself.

Caroline returns to her favorite place: the sewing shop owned by Mrs. Lindy Bloom, the woman who inspired her and taught her to sew. There she discovers that even in an idyllic beach town, there are women living with the deepest of secrets. Thus begins the Oysterville Sewing Circle—where women can join forces to support each other through the troubles they keep hidden.

Yet just as Caroline regains her creativity and fighting spirit, and the children begin to heal from their loss, an unexpected challenge tests her courage and her heart. This time, though, Caroline is not going to run away. She’s going to stand and fight for everything—and everyone—she loves.


REVIEW

Susan Wiggs is one of my favorite writers. She excels at telling wonderful stories with characters you can’t help but care about, but there is usually something deeper as well. This is a book of the #MeToo movement, set in the fashion industry, which for some reason, has been exempt from this. At least I haven’t seen any earth shattering stories, but as in any industry where mostly men are in power, one can’t help but wonder…

The story moves back and forth between present day and Caroline’s childhood and coming of age. We meet Caroline and Will as young teens, then Sierra a couple of years later. Theirs is a complicated relationship, as are most friendships of three people, especially when one of them is a good looking guy. Caroline and Will have an instant connection which never really fades away. But instead of pursuing that, he falls for the beautiful Sierra, while Caroline watches from the sidelines. When they all wind up in the small town of Oysterville, the friendship rekindles with some unexpected changes.

I think from the start we can’t help but hope Caroline and Will end up together, but he is married to Sierra and they seem happy – at least at first. But as life goes on, it brings change. When a couple doesn’t grow together, they tend to grow apart and that is never good for a marriage.

Caroline inherits these children from a friend who dies of an overdose. She knew the woman had been in some sort of abusive relationship, but never knew or even suspected drug use. Caroline is a woman who has struggled for years to break into the fashion industry, then has her dreams snatched away in a public spectacle. At a loss, she takes on these children and runs home to Oysterville. The guilt Caroline feels for not pushing their mother, not helping her more, leads her to start a support group for abused women. Somehow she is shocked to find out how many women, even in such a small town, are affected.

This was a very good read, filled with the empathy and power that words can bring to such a dark subject. Book groups will find lots to discuss here.

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE by Susan Wiggs. William Morrow (August 13, 2019). ISBN 978-0062425584. 384p.

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LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins

August 5, 2019

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BLOG TOUR

I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for Kristan Higgins’ latest; it is simply unputdownable! Plus read on to find out how you can win a copy of her last book, Good Luck with That!

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?


REVIEW

Higgins brings her characters to life on the page and creates a memorable family saga in her latest. Like all good family tales, there is drama galore and enough angst and laughs to keep the pages turning.

Family matriarch Genevieve London has not had the easiest life, so even though she is definitely the antagonist of the story and makes some really horrible choices, we can’t help but feel a little bit badly for her. Emma is our heroine, and I really loved her relationship with her daughter Riley. As close as they are, and as distant as Emma and Genevieve are, it really speaks to the kind of mother she is that she allows Riley and Genevieve to bond. I also loved how independent Emma is, and her willingness to stand up to her grandmother and speak her truth.

There is a bit of romance here between Emma and Miller, a neighbor of Genevieve’s who is a widower with a very difficult three-year-old daughter, Tess. I hate to say Tess provides some of the comic relief, but she definitely does at times. She also made me want to hug both my kids and tell them how fabulous they are.

The family relationships here are all fraught, but it makes for compelling reading. This was a one night read for me as I really couldn’t put it down. I must say I really love Higgins’ writing, she hits the perfect pitch for each character and the story in general. Great beach reading or for any kind of escape you may need. Don’t miss it – I loved this book!

8/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins. Berkley (August 6, 2019). ISBN 978-0451489425. 448p.

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To win a copy of Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins, please send an email to contest@gmail.com with “GOOD LUCK” as the subject.

You must include your U.S. street address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 31, 2019. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. Your book will be sent by PenguinRandomHouse.

One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.


Read an excerpt of Life and Other Inconveniences :

When I called Genevieve back and told her we were coming—including Pop, who would be staying elsewhere—there’d been a long pause. “Thank you,” she finally said.

“On one condition, Genevieve,” I said. “You do not mention money or inheritance to Riley. Not a whisper, not a hint. I don’t want you dangling your bank accounts in front of my daughter and snatching them away if she uses the wrong fork.”

“By which I assume you’re referring to the fact that I didn’t fund your teenage folly.”

“Teenage folly? You mean your great-granddaughter? Yes. This summer isn’t about the money. It’s us giving you a chance to make amends, and you making me Hope’s guardian.”

“How very gracious you are, my dear,” she said, and I heard a slurp. Five o’clock somewhere.

But she agreed, and here we were.

My clients, the ones I saw in person, were fine with me leaving for two months. I’d TheraTalk with most of them; two were about done anyway, and said they’d call me if they needed me. I’d had to give up my office space, though; luckily, a classmate from my PhD program had sublet it. Once I got back, I’d have to find another space, but I’d deal with that later.

Pop had found himself a little apartment over an antiques shop on Water Street. I was unspeakably grateful that he’d be nearby. He’d always hated Genevieve, who had viewed my mother as insufficient wife material for her wretched son.

Then again, she had a point. My mother had taken her own life. Maybe Genevieve had sensed something, even back then. She was many things, but she wasn’t stupid.

We crossed the Connecticut River, then the Thames. “There’s the Coast Guard Academy, Pop,” I said, pointing. He was an Air Force man himself, but he nodded. We went through Mystic, and I remembered going to the aquarium with Jason on a date. Or a field trip, maybe, but we’d held hands. Kissed in the dim light of the myriad fish tanks, and it had felt like the most romantic thing in the world.

He knew we were coming, of course. He was excited, he’d said on the phone. Talked about being separated, wasn’t sure where things were headed there. The boys couldn’t wait to meet Riley in person, though they knew her from Skype and phone calls.

My heart leaped into overdrive when, just before we hit Rhode Island, Charles exited the highway and entered the land of stone walls and gracious houses, tall oaks and two-hundred-year-old farms. The woods and fields gave way to narrower streets, and we went over the bridge that led to the borough.

Welcome to Stoningham, the sign said.

I found that I was holding my grandfather’s thumb, same as I had when I was little, back before my mother died, when seeing my grandparents was the happiest thing ever. He gave my hand a squeeze.

“Oh, my gosh, this town is so cute!” Riley said.

And it was. The sky was Maxfield Parrish blue, the lights of the Colonials that lined the streets glowing in what seemed to be a welcome. People were out, walking their dogs. At the library green, some kids tossed a football. As we came onto Water Street, Riley exclaimed over the little shops and restaurants. “There’s a café, Mom! Hooray! Oh, and an ice cream place! Even better!”
I smiled, but my stomach cramped again. It felt like I had never left.

The town hadn’t changed much. Still adorable with its colorful buildings and crooked streets. I caught glimpses of Long Island Sound as we drove, smelled garlic and seafood. Would Genevieve have dinner for us? Would she hug me? I swore if she made Riley feel one iota of shame, we’d be out of Connecticut forever.

Charles turned onto Bleak Point Road, where the most expensive houses in town sat like grand old ladies, weathered and gracious. All had names, which Riley read aloud as we passed.

“Thrush Hill. Summerly. Wisteria Cottage. Cliff View. Pop, we have to name our house when we get back!”

“Name it what? Crabgrass?” Pop asked.

“That’s kind of perfect, actually,” I murmured, having gone to war many times with weeds in our small yard.

“Oh, Sheerwater! We’re here!”

The iron gates (yes, gates) opened, and we turned onto the crushed shell drive. Sheerwater had ten acres of land, the very tip of Bleak Point, and it looked like a park, with beautifully gnarled dogwood trees on either side of the driveway, their intertwined branches making a tunnel of white blossoms. Spring was late this year.

We rounded the gentle curve, and my hands were sweating now.

“Holy guacamole,” my daughter breathed. “It’s even prettier than the pictures!” In the rearview mirror, I saw Charles smile. Beside me, Pop stiffened. He’d never been here, of course.

There it was—my grandmother’s twenty-room cottage, pristine and gracious and lit up like the fires of hell.


About the Author

 


SURFSIDE SISTERS by Nancy Thayer

July 25, 2019

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SURFSIDE SISTERS by Nancy Thayer. Ballantine Books (July 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1524798727. 320p.

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QUEEN BEE by Dorothea Benton Frank

July 19, 2019

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

QUEEN BEE by Dorothea Benton Frank. William Morrow (May 28, 2019). ISBN 978-0062861214. 432p.

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MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner

July 4, 2019

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From the publisher:

An instant New York Times bestseller 

“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.” —People
“Simply unputdownable.” —Good Housekeeping
“The perfect book club pick.” —SheReads

Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment WeeklyCosmopolitanWoman’s DayPopSugarHelloGiggles, and Refinery29

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. 

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?


This is unlike any of Weiner’s previous books; it’s more a family saga and a coming of age story for the two main characters, and I loved it. These two women go through everything life throws at them, and how they deal with it, and with each other, is compelling reading. The way they grow and change and everything that happens is a slice of life portrayal through the past fifty years or so. I’m old enough to remember a lot of what was going on at the time and it was not always wonderful.

There are some difficult moments, but they are necessary and worthwhile. This country went through a lot of turmoil in the the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and Weiner’s characters do as well. She covers a lot of the turmoil, and some of it bleeds through to today. But it’s the characters and how they are brought to life and grow and change that make this book so exceptional. They do not necessarily follow the path most easily taken, and it is that honesty that is so refreshing. This is a truly American story, and definitely women’s fiction with some history and even a touch of romance thrown in. Book groups will find lots to discuss – I found myself talking about it with my daughter, even though she hadn’t (and won’t) read it, but she was very interested in the story and I was happy she was willing to listen. Highly recommended.

7/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner. Atria Books (June 11, 2019).  ISBN  978-1501133480. 480p.

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THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr

June 23, 2019

6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr. Harper Paperbacks (June 4, 2019). ISBN  978-0062895394. 352p.

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THE SUMMER OF SUNSHINE & MARGOT by Susan Mallery

June 19, 2019

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From the publisher:

The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!


This book falls somewhere between women’s fiction and romance, but whatever you want to call it, it is an engrossing read. The characters are skillfully brought to life and I liked the two storylines, one following each of the sisters. They briefly overlapped now and again as the sisters are not estranged, just living their own lives as most of us do.

Sunshine is determined to turn her life around. She loves working as a nanny, but regrets the kids she left behind to follow after random men who invariably ended up hurting her. This time she is not going anywhere; she loves the young boy she is caring for and she is taking her first college class as well. The problem arises when she realizes she is very attracted to her recently widowed boss.

Margot loves helping people and this job is proving to be the most challenging one of her career. Bianca is living with her son and Margot is completely besotted – with the house. It is an old monastery that has been renovated and turned into a home, leaving much of the original intact. Bianca’s son is an historian who wants nothing more than to be left alone with his ancient documents, so he is surprised to find himself so strongly attracted to Margot. And she is equally surprised to find herself attracted to him.

Once I started this book, I was drawn completely into the lives of these sisters. If you like family stories with some romance, then you will enjoy this. I sure did.

6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SUMMER OF SUNSHINE & MARGOT by Susan Mallory. HQN Books; Original edition (June 11, 2019).  ISBN  978-1335659972. 368p.

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THE SUMMER GUESTS by Mary Alice Monroe

June 13, 2019

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BLOG TOUR!

From the publisher:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Beach House series comes a heartwarming and evocative novel about the bonds and new beginnings that are born from natural disasters and how, even during the worst of circumstances—or perhaps because of them—we discover what is most important in life.Late August is a beautiful time on the Southern coast—the peach trees are ripe, the ocean is warm, and the sweet tea is icy. A perfect time to enjoy the rocking chairs on the porch. But beneath the calm surface bubbles a threat: it’s also peak hurricane season.

When a hurricane threatens the coasts of Florida and South Carolina, an eclectic group of evacuees flees for the farm of their friends Grace and Charles Phillips in North Carolina: the Phillips’s daughter Moira and her rescue dogs, famed equestrian Javier Angel de la Cruz, makeup artist Hannah McLain, horse breeder Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise, and island resident Cara Rutledge. They bring with them only the few treasured possessions they can fit in their vehicles. Strangers to all but the Phillips, they must ride out the storm together.

During the course of one of the most challenging weeks of their lives, relationships are put to the test as the evacuees are forced to confront the unresolved issues they have with themselves and with each other. But as the storm passes, they realize that what really matters isn’t what they brought with them to the mountains. Rather, it’s what they’ll take with them once they leave.

With Mary Alice Monroe’s “usual resplendent storytelling” (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author), The Summer Guests is a poignant and compelling story of self-discovery, love, and redemption.


This was not my favorite Monroe book. Probably because I have lived through so many hurricanes, and I’ve never been in the financial position to weather the storm like the characters in this book. It also surprised me that I wasn’t more interested in the all the information about horses. I grew up riding (not competing! just for fun) and I live a short (car) ride down the road from Wellington. If you are not familiar, Wellington is the home of extremely wealthy horse people during season. Winter, when it’s warm here. People like Bill & Melinda Gates. They not only bought a house there, (their daughter competes), they bought the whole block. Or are in the process of buying all the homes on the street. I didn’t follow the story closely enough to know if they ever managed to do it. Anyway, you get the idea. The only thing I have in common with these people is that I love animals. Even though there is a lot more to the story, I just wasn’t all that interested in reading about how the 1% deal with hurricanes. f you are, then this is your book!

 

About MARY ALICE MONROE:
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including the Beach House series: The Beach House, Beach House Memories, Swimming Lessons, Beach House for Rent, and Beach House Reunion. She is a 2018 Inductee into the South Carolina Academy of Authors’ Hall of Fame, and her books have received numerous awards, including the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing, the 2014 South Carolina Award for Literary Excellence, the 2015 SW Florida Author of Distinction Award, the RT Lifetime Achievement Award, the International Book Award for Green Fiction, and the 2017 Southern Book Prize for Fiction. Her bestselling novel The Beach House is also a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. An active conservationist, she lives in the lowcountry of South Carolina. Visit her at MaryAliceMonroe.com and at Facebook.com/MaryAliceMonroe.


6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SUMMER GUESTS by Mary Alice Monroe. Gallery Books (June 11, 2019). ISBN: 978-1501193620. 368p.

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