WINTER IN PARADISE by Elin Hilderbrand

October 17, 2018

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Paradise, Book 1 with a meaningli

Hilderbrand leaves her beloved Nantucket and moves to another beach community, this time in the Virgin Islands on St. John. It is a seamless transition, and this is a terrific start to a new trilogy.

There is a slight relationship to the Winter Street series; Irene Steele, our heroine, is a second cousin to Winter Street’s Mitzi Quinn. But that is neither here nor there because we are quickly drawn into Irene’s life. She’s 57 and just been “promoted” at work to a pointless position with a meaningless title, no real responsibility or decision making ability, probably in hopes that she will retire so the next generation can take over. Her husband, Russ, is away yet again on business, leaving Irene to take care of her ailing mother-in-law who is ensconced in a lovely, caring assisted living facility. Her two sons, Baker and Cash, are grown, don’t get along especially well, and are off living their own lives.

Irene is a woman at loose ends, that is until she receives a phone call telling her that her husband has been killed in a helicopter crash in the Virgin Islands. His secretary, with the unfortunate name of Marilyn Monroe, doesn’t have much information and what she has is sketchy. Then she disappears.

Irene is shocked to discover that Russ’s boss has claimed his body and had him cremated. Not to be put off, she flies to the island with her sons, determined to find out what happened. Why was her husband even in the Virgin Islands? She’s been told he has “interests” there, whatever that means.

As Churchill once said, this is “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” and it makes for compelling reading. We quickly learn that Russ owns a home – a multi-million dollar home – on the beach in St. John’s, where he is known as the “invisible man.” Irene is even more distraught when she learns he had a mistress there. His secrets are unraveling and so is Irene’s life.

This was a one night read for me, I couldn’t put it down. I loved these characters and can’t wait to see what happens next – the book leaves many loose ends. I’m just sad I’m going to have to wait a year to find out more!

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WINTER IN PARADISE by Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown and Company (October 9, 2018). ISBN 978-0316435512.  320p.

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UNSHELTERED by Barbara Kingsolver

October 16, 2018

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From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, and The Poisonwood Bible and recipient of numerous literary awards—including the National Humanities Medal, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Orange Prize—returns with a timely novel that interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.

How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family’s one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own.

In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town’s powerful men.

Unsheltered is the compulsively readable story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it. With history as their tantalizing canvas, these characters paint a startlingly relevant portrait of life in precarious times when the foundations of the past have failed to prepare us for the future.


Anytime Kingsolver publishes a book, it is an event, especially a new novel, and this one was worth the wait. That said, it probably helps that my politics align with hers. If you are unfamiliar with Kingsolver, she gently weaves issues throughout her novels. She is adept at doing so without hitting the reader over the head with a sledgehammer; it’s more like a Nerf bat.

The book moves back and forth between centuries, and I loved the device she used of taking the last words of one chapter and making them the chapter name of the next. It was surprising easy to follow both storylines, which isn’t always the case. The characters lead both storylines and they all were well developed – I expect no less from this author and she does not disappoint.

Kingsolver looks at healthcare, the environment, climate change, racism and the politics of the day, the current administration included. Again, subtlety is the game here but her points are well made and well taken. This should be a terrific book for discussion, although they may be heated discussions – and there is nothing wrong with that. Highly recommended.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

UNSHELTERED by Barbara Kingsolver. Harper (October 16, 2018). ISBN 978-0062684561. 480p.

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A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult

October 2, 2018

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From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult – one of the most fearless writers of our time – tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation…and, hopefully, understanding.


So the good: it is no exaggeration to say that Picoult is fearless in taking on abortion. She does a very good job of exploring and explaining all sides of this controversial issue. It is well written, well researched, and the characters – and there are many – are well developed, even memorable.

What I didn’t love about it was the timeline. The story moves backwards in time, albeit for a good reason; the ending, which I loved, was a shocker. And it did force me to read very carefully and think about what I was reading and where I was in the story, so maybe that was the point?

The subject matter alone makes this a worthwhile read, but I didn’t like it as much as her last book, Small Great Things. Then again, I think that was her best book so maybe I should just cut her some slack. After all, Picoult has consistently written excellent books, year after year, and this one certainly is as well, plus it is sure to loved by book groups.

All that said, people who support the “right to life” may not be happy. Just FYI.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult. Ballantine Books (October 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0345544988. 384p.

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THE LATE BLOOMERS’ CLUB by Louise Miller

September 7, 2018

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From the publisher:

A delightful novel about two headstrong sisters, a small town’s efforts to do right by the community, and the power of a lost dog to summon true love

Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, is perfectly happy serving up apple cider donuts, coffee, and eggs-any-way-you-like-em to her regulars, and she takes great pleasure in knowing exactly what’s “the usual.” But her life is soon shaken when she discovers she and her free-spirited, younger sister Kit stand to inherit the home and land of the town’s beloved cake lady, Peggy Johnson.

Kit, an aspiring–and broke–filmmaker thinks her problems are solved when she and Nora find out Peggy was in the process of selling the land to a big-box developer before her death. The people of Guthrie are divided–some want the opportunities the development will bring, while others are staunchly against any change–and they aren’t afraid to leave their opinions with their tips.

Time is running out, and the sisters need to make a decision soon. But Nora isn’t quite ready to let go of the land, complete with a charming farmhouse, an ancient apple orchard and the clues to a secret life that no one knew Peggy had. Troubled by the conflicting needs of the town, and confused by her growing feelings towards Elliot, the big-box developer’s rep, Nora throws herself into solving the one problem that everyone in town can agree on–finding Peggy’s missing dog, Freckles.

When a disaster strikes the diner, the community of Guthrie bands together to help her, and Nora discovers that doing the right thing doesn’t always mean giving up your dreams.


There are a couple of editors that I read regularly, and Pamela Dorman is one of them. Some of her authors are Jojo Moyes, Shari Lepena, Gail Honeyman, Nicci French, J. Ryan Stradal, all of whom I enjoy. Louise Miller is another. I loved her first book, The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, and this is another charmer. Plus there is a recipe in the back of the book that I am definitely going to make (Burnt Sugar Cake with Maple Icing!) despite the havoc that cake causes in the story.

I loved these characters, from the taciturn Nora to her free spirit sister Kit, Kit’s boyfriend, the zen-master Max, and all the townsfolk of this quirky, alluring town. If only small town life were so! We see this world through somewhat rose colored glasses, and that is not a bad thing. Miller really knows how to bring her characters and her setting to life, and I loved spending time with them all.

It is easy to see why People Magazine picked it for their “best new books” feature. If you are looking for an entrancing, entertaining and easy read, this is your book – it was certainly mine.

9/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LATE BLOOMERS’ CLUB by Louise Miller. Pamela Dorman Books (July 17, 2018).  ISBN 978-1101981238. 336p.

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THE BUCKET LIST by Georgia Clark

September 6, 2018

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From the publisher:

From the author of the critically acclaimed “lively and engrossing parable for women of all generations” (Harper’s BazaarThe Regulars­ comes a deeply funny and thoughtful tale of a young woman who, after discovering she has the breast cancer gene, embarks on an unforgettable bucket list adventure.

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BCRA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.

Featuring the pitch-perfect “compulsively delicious” (Redbook) prose of The RegularsThe Bucket List is perfect for fans of Amy Poeppel and Sophie Kinsella.


This is one of those books that I picked up because of the imprint – it’s published by Emily Bestler, Atria Books and I generally like her books. Forgive me if you’ve heard my spiel before but when you are looking for a new book, a new author really, a good way to find one is to look at the imprint.

Emily Bestler founded her eponymous imprint, Emily Bestler Books, in 2011 with one guiding principle: to find the very best commercial fiction and nonfiction across a wide range of categories and put these books into the hands of as many readers as possible. In her words, “We are passionate about our mission of finding a book for everyone. You’ll find that our list is as varied as our readers.

It’s a varied list of authors for sure, like John Connolly, Brad Thor, Amy Poeppel, and of course, Georgia Clark, all authors I like. So here I am.

The Bucket List takes a very serious subject, a 25 year old woman testing positive for the BRCA1 gene, meaning she is very likely to get breast cancer, and provides a sweet, funny, sexual romp. Lacey’s mother died from the disease when she was 31 years old so really she shouldn’t be shocked that she also is a good candidate for cancer. Yet she is. Her sister, who pretty much raised her, is furious that she took the test but her closest friends support her. It comes down to a decision: a preventative full mastectomy à la Angelina Jolie, or wait it out and hope for the best.

Meanwhile, Lacey comes up with a bucket list to complete before she makes her final decision. Most of the items on the list are of a sexual nature, so this is a pretty erotic book. If you don’t like explicit sex, skip it. On the other hand, I really liked how this young woman chose to live her life knowing that it may be shortened. It took guts for sure.

While tackling a serious subject, Clark injects quite a bit of humor here, making this a fun, sexy read. I enjoyed it.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BUCKET LIST by Georgia Clark. Atria/Emily Bestler Books (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501173028. 352p.

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SOLD ON A MONDAY by Kristina McMorris

September 3, 2018

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From the publisher:

From New York Times bestselling author Kristina McMorris comes another unforgettable novel inspired by a stunning piece of history. 

2 CHILDREN FOR SALE

The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices.

For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined.

At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.

Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home.


I read about this book and thought it might make for a good book discussion, except that while based on an actual photograph (right) that was taken in 1948, the author changed the time frame to more than a decade earlier, at the height of the depression. I understand that she was inspired by the photo to write fiction, and her notes in the back of the book make it very clear how and why she changed it, but to me it lessened the impact of the story.

I would have appreciated more character development. The main characters were fully realized, but I didn’t really understand many of the secondary characters and their motivations and I would have liked to. The back stories on most of the characters were merely eluded to or glossed over and could have used some fleshing out.

The time period was interesting for sure, especially because it seems like most of the books set in the late 40’s deal with the aftermath of the war, and this really didn’t.  I liked the newsroom setting and the interactions of the reporters, and especially the hierarchy of the organizations. The culture of the time was also very well done and enlightening. Despite a few misgivings, it was a compelling and interesting read.

9/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SOLD ON A MONDAY by Kristina McMorris. Sourcebooks Landmark (August 28, 2018). ISBN 978-1492663997. 352p.

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GOOD LUCK WITH THAT by Kristan Higgins

August 7, 2018

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I love Kristan Higgins, but I didn’t love this book. It is a bit of a departure for her, tackling a pretty serious subject, the plight and discrimination that fat women face in this country.  I admire her for tackling such a tough subject, but I missed her usual humor for sure. Or maybe I didn’t like it that much because it hits a bit close to home for me.

Emerson is one of those women who is so obese that she can barely get out of bed. She has a cousin who is her caretaker, and a boyfriend who brings her food. When she dies, she leaves a letter for her two best friends, Georgia and Marley.

They all met in fat camp as teenagers and remained friends over the years. Georgia and Marley share a house in New York and haven’t seen Emerson in years, so they are shocked at how large she had become and at her death. She leaves them a list that they all made together when they were in fat camp, and asks her friends to complete the list. This is a “when we are thin” list – tuck in a shirt, get a piggy back ride, eat dessert in public, and so forth.

The women tackle the list and learn a lot about themselves in the process. We are never told Georgia and Marley’s actual weight, just the body issues each of them faces. There is romance, too, but that wasn’t enough to save this book for me. I’m really curious as to what other people think of it.

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GOOD LUCK WITH THAT by Kristan Higgins.  Berkley (August 7, 2018).  ISBN 978-0451489395. 480p.

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GRACE VALLEY TRILOGY by Robyn Carr

August 5, 2018

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This is the second series I’ve read by this author and she has become a favorite. These books – Deep in the Valley, Just Over the Mountain, and Down By the River combine to create a world that I loved spending time in.

Grace Valley is a small town filled with warm, likable characters, and the books center around the town doctor, June Hudson. June’s grandparents basically founded the town and her dad was the town doctor before he retired, leaving June to take over. Her Aunt Myrna, an eccentric but very successful novelist, built the clinic where June works.

Myrna raised her baby brother and didn’t marry until late in life. Her husband, a traveling salesman, disappeared and the townsfolk speculate that Myrna, whose novels usually center around a wife killing her cheating husband in myriad and gruesome ways, is writing what she knows. And she encourages those rumors.

A lecherous preacher, a gas station owner who’d rather fish than work, a cafe owner who gives away free meals on a regular basis, June’s best friend, the sheriff, and her godmother are the other major players in the story along with many more. Carr brings them to life, lovable quirks and all. Then there are the others, the poor, the abused, and the criminal that round out this tiny town. The way these characters interact and take care of each other is inspiring. Makes me want to live in a small town, although I suspect towns like Grace Valley are strictly fiction.

One night, two men come into June’s clinic, ordering her to remove a bullet from one of the men. The other man is holding a gun on her, but as she starts her work, he faints, sending the gun skittering across the room. June suspects that the faint was faked, and it turns out she was right. She’s also very attracted to the gunman, leaving her to think he is not at all what he seems and she is right about that as well. That’s where the story begins and it meanders beautifully through all three books and completely sucked me in. I read all three books in a weekend.

This is women’s fiction with a touch of romance and a lovely read. If you are looking for an escape, I highly recommend this trilogy. I loved it and I’m truly going to miss these characters.

8/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

The Grace Valley Trilogy by Robyn Carr. MIRA (August 1, 2017). ASIN: B071YCRFTV. 662 p.


THE SHORTEST WAY HOME by Miriam Parker

July 31, 2018

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Hannah and Ethan are finishing up grad school and then will be moving back to New York. Ethan will be working with two college friends to develop an app, and Hannah has earned the dream job of the business school with Goldman Sachs. They take a weekend before graduation to explore wine country. Ethan is the planner and has their itinerary down to the minute but their hotel room isn’t ready so they check out a nearby winery that isn’t on his list.

Hannah is pretty sure Ethan is going to propose and is somewhat ambivalent about it. He comes from a wealthy Manhattan family, she is from Iowa where she was pretty much raised by her mom, a nurse, after her truck driver father was killed in an accident. They are from different worlds.

Ethan is annoyed about deviating from his plans so he begrudgingly goes along to the winery. He stays outside while Hannah goes into the tasting room and she just falls in love with the place. When she is offered a summer job in marketing the winery, she says yes, abandoning her career and Ethan. He is bereft but returns to New York alone, while Hannah has an affair with the winery owners’ son. She loves her new job and the family she works for and she has a lot of big ideas that will make the winery a success.

I really enjoyed this story, the characters and especially the setting. A warm and wonderful read.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE SHORTEST WAY HOME by Miriam Parker. Dutton (July 31, 2018).  ISBN 978-1524741860.  320p.

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THE LOST FOR WORDS BOOKSHOP by Stephanie Butland

July 26, 2018

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Loveday Cardew is the character at the heart of this sweet, yet melancholy story. Loveday has always found solace in books and lucky for her, she works as a bookseller, her dream job; in fact, she has the first lines of some of her favorite books tattooed on her body. She’s worked for Archie, a charming curmudgeon, for ten years, since she was 15 years old and got herself out of the foster care system. She has had a traumatic life with some serious family issues that she slowly reveals, that mystery keeps the pages turning. Plus she is so endearing that we can’t help but root for her.

Loveday has never had a real relationship with a man, and then there are two men pursuing her, and she’s not sure how to handle it. To say she is close-mouthed hardly touches the surface, she literally reveals nothing about herself until she is forced into it.

I loved these characters and while this was a sadder story than I was expecting, I couldn’t put it down. To watch this young woman grow is both unexpected and beautiful, and a joy to read.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LOST FOR WORDS BOOKSHOP by Stephanie Butland. St. Martin’s Press (June 19, 2018). ISBN 13: 978-1250124531.  368p.

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