THE STEPSISTERS by Susan Mallery

June 17, 2021

From the publisher:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery pens a love story of a different sort…a heartfelt tale of friendship between two women who used to be sisters.

Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage’s mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.

Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts—she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters’ rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage’s first love, and Sage fled California.

Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects—or wants—to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.

Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again…or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.

I love Susan Mallery books, and this is a really good one. I feel like she usually writes romances, and while this does have a bit of romance, it is really more about a family and women and friendship. It is the kind of story that sucks you in and I couldn’t put it down.

Daisy is the main character and like all these characters, they really come to life on the page. A little background – when her widowed father remarries, she gets a stepsister, Sage. Daisy is thrilled to have a new sister but quickly learns that Sage isn’t. But Sage is beautiful and quickly becomes popular, helping to ostracize Daisy and making her high school years miserable. Her father and stepmother have a baby, Cassidy. Again Daisy wants to be a big sister to the new baby, but her stepmother is not having it. Cassidy and Sage team up against Daisy, and make her life difficult. Eventually, Daisy’s father divorces her stepmother and the girls are permanently estranged.

They are all adults in this story, and Daisy has been married for a dozen years to Sage’s ex-high school boyfriend, and they have two kids. Daisy thinks everything is fine so she is shocked when her husband suddenly moves out with no explanation. Then she gets a phone call from her father; Cassidy has been in a mountain climbing accident, and needs a place to recover. Since Daisy inherited the big mansion from her parents, she definitely has the room and can’t say no to her father.

With Cassidy firmly ensconced in the family home, Sage becomes a regular visitor and the girls start talking. There is still a lot of resentment but with time, they form new bonds. But then just when you think the happy ending is coming, there’s a twist. Actually, a few twists, making this book completely unputdownable. It’s a heartwarming read sure to appeal to fans of Elin Hilderbrand or Jennifer Weiner.

6/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE STEPSISTERS by Susan Mallery. MIRA; Original edition (May 25, 2021). ISBN: 978-0778331803. 416 pages.







ANNE OF MANHATTAN by Brina Starler

June 13, 2021

From the publisher:

L. M. Montgomery’s classic tale, Anne of Green Gables, gets a romantic, charming, and hilarious modern adaptation, set in New York City.

After an idyllic girlhood in Avonlea, Long Island, Anne has packed up her trunk, said goodbye to her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, and moved to the isle of Manhattan for grad school. Together with her best friend, Diana Barry, she’s ready to take on the world and find her voice as a writer.

When her long-time archrival Gilbert Blythe shows up at Redmond College for their final year, Anne gets the shock of her life. Gil has been in California for the last five years—since he kissed her during a beach bonfire, and she ghosted him. Now the handsome brunette is flashing his dimples at her like he hasn’t a care in the world and she isn’t buying it.

Paired with the same professor for their thesis, the two former competitors come to a grudging peace that turns into something so much deeper…and sexier than either intended. But when Gil seemingly betrays her to get ahead, Anne realizes she was right all along—she should never have trusted Gilbert Blythe.

While Gil must prove to Anne that they’re meant to be together, she must come to terms with her old fears if she wants a happily-ever-after with the boy she’s always (secretly) loved.

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books, so I tend to like stories based on those characters. This was a pretty good update to the story.

Avonlea has been moved to the Hamptons from its rightful place on Prince Edward Island, Canada, which I was fine with. The thing I was most concerned with was the integrity of these characters, and Starler did them justice. I haven’t read the sequels to Anne of Green Gables since I was a child, so I don’t really remember them which probably stood me well now; the fewer details I remember means a better book for me. So I was happy. I liked seeing this 21st century Anne!

Anne and Gilbert are still at odds, but they are old enough now to realize their attraction to one another. But all that baggage has left Anne leery, no matter what her heart wants. They have obstacles to overcome to reach their happily every after, and there are many of them. The story is fast paced and for me, emotional, as I love these characters so much. I may have a few quibbles with minor details, but all in all, I really liked this book. If you haven’t read the Montgomery books, it won’t matter, this book certainly stands alone. But do yourself a favor and at least read the original.

6/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ANNE OF MANHATTAN by Brina Starler. William Morrow Paperbacks (June 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063020740. 336 pages.







GOLDEN GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand

June 4, 2021

From the publisher:

In this satisfying page-turner from “the queen of beach reads” (New York Magazine), a Nantucket novelist has one final summer to protect her secrets while her loved ones on earth learn to live without their golden girl.

On a perfect June day, Vivian Howe, author of thirteen beach novels and mother of three nearly grown children, is killed in a hit-and-run car accident while jogging near her home on Nantucket. She ascends to the Beyond where she’s assigned to a Person named Martha, who allows Vivi to watch what happens below for one last summer. Vivi also is granted three “nudges” to change the outcome of events on earth, and with her daughter Willa on her third miscarriage, Carson partying until all hours, and Leo currently “off again” with his high-maintenance girlfriend, she’ll have to think carefully where to use them.

From the Beyond, Vivi watches “The Chief” Ed Kapenash investigate her death, but her greatest worry is her final book, which contains a secret from her own youth that could be disastrous for her reputation. But when hidden truths come to light, Vivi’s family will have to sort out their past and present mistakes—with or without a nudge of help from above—while Vivi finally lets them grow without her.

With all of Elin’s trademark beach scenes, mouth-watering meals, and picture-perfect homes, plus a heartfelt message—the people we lose never really leave us—Golden Girl is a beach book unlike any other.

Hilderbrand continues to stretch her literary chops with her latest summer read, and it’s a good one. The kind of book you can’t put down. There is a bit of suspense – the hit-and-run at the center of the story is a mystery to be solved, but even I figured that out without really trying. Doesn’t matter though, it’s a good story with a beautiful Nantucket setting, characters who come to life on the page, and a bit of magical realism. Or a touch of fantasy/paranormal, whatever floats your boat, in that our main character, the golden girl herself, Vivian Howe, is the victim of the hit-and-run and is watching from heaven’s waiting room. A nice touch, especially for a mother who worries about her kids. And it feels a bit autobiographical, too – the main character is a novelist who sets all her books on Nantucket. Makes it feel more personal.

From heaven’s waiting room, Vivi meets her “person”, Martha, a Hermes scarf always around her neck and she helps Vivi navigate her afterlife. There Vivi can watch over her kids for the summer, and she is gifted with three “nudges” that she can use to help point her kids in the right direction. It makes for an interesting subplot.

There is a lot of family drama and laughs, and the story really moves quickly making it impossible to put down. If you like family drama with a touch of romance and an edge, this ticks off all those boxes. Another excellent read from the Nantucket Queen of beach reads, and this may be her best book yet, and that is really saying something. Don’t miss it!

6/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GOLDEN GIRL by Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown and Company (June 1, 2021). ISBN: 978-0316420082. 384 pages.







THE CAVE DWELLERS by Christina McDowell

May 25, 2021

5/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CAVE DWELLERS by Christina McDowell. Gallery/Scout Press (May 25, 2021). ISBN 978-1982132781. 352 pages.



THE KITCHEN FRONT by Jennifer Ryan

April 30, 2021

From the publisher:

From the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir comes an unforgettable novel of a BBC-sponsored wartime cooking competition and the four women who enter for a chance to better their lives.

Two years into World War II, Britain is feeling her losses: The Nazis have won battles, the Blitz has destroyed cities, and U-boats have cut off the supply of food. In an effort to help housewives with food rationing, a BBC radio program called The Kitchen Front is holding a cooking contest—and the grand prize is a job as the program’s first-ever female co-host. For four very different women, winning the competition would present a crucial chance to change their lives.

For a young widow, it’s a chance to pay off her husband’s debts and keep a roof over her children’s heads. For a kitchen maid, it’s a chance to leave servitude and find freedom. For a lady of the manor, it’s a chance to escape her wealthy husband’s increasingly hostile behavior. And for a trained chef, it’s a chance to challenge the men at the top of her profession.

These four women are giving the competition their all—even if that sometimes means bending the rules. But with so much at stake, will the contest that aims to bring the community together only serve to break it apart?

This book is a heartwarming story about four women living in a small village a couple of years into World War II. The main character is Audrey Landon, a young woman widowed by the was and left with three small boys. After inheriting her family home, at least she has a roof over their head, crumbling though it is.

Audrey’s estranged sister, Lady Gwendoline Strickland, likes lording it over everyone in town. Always resentful of Audrey and how their mother favored her down to leaving her the house, Gwendoline deigns to loan Audrey some money so she can fix things up a bit. Gwendoline seems to have everything, a wealthy, powerful husband, a large estate, and some power herself – she is in charge of billeting displaced people into homes in the neighborhood. Including her sister’s home, where she sends a pregnant woman, Zelda Dupont.

Zelda is a chef who had an affair with her boss, but he had no interest in continuing it. He was a con man and a player, but she has to deal with the realities of her life. She tries hiding her pregnancy for as long as she can as she knows she will lose her job as head chef of the mess at the local factory, also owned by Strickland.

Nell is the young kitchen maid at the Strickland home, working under Mrs. Quince, the cook. Nell is gifted in the kitchen and Mrs. Quince becomes a mother figure to her. Orphaned at a young age, Nell grew up in an orphanage until she was sent to work at the estate.

These four women all end up competing in a cooking contest put on by the BBC (the forerunner of the Great British Bakeoff!) There was a real radio program called The Kitchen Front, and in this story the program sponsors a contest to get a professional cook to help out. The goal of the show is to help the housewives who are all struggling with rations, severe food shortages, and black market food. The radio show provides recipes and tips, like using all the vegetable scraps to make soup, and promoting canned foods like SPAM and sardines.

Audrey is more housewife than pro, but she’s been supporting her family by baking pies and things and selling them to local businesses. She also has a kitchen farm outside her door and has laying chickens, so is much better off than many others.

The competition between the women doesn’t seem very fierce, other than Lady Gwendoline’s husband is pushing her to win by any means possible. There is something going on in that marriage and it isn’t good.

Eventually, the women form friendships and as the war goes on, they find struggling together is much better than struggling alone. These characters were all likeable, even Lady Gwendoline eventually shows a more human side. The food history (and recipes) are fascinating, even if I wouldn’t make any of them. This was a different look at WWII from the perspective of England’s housewives, and a very interesting, compelling read. If you like historical fiction and food fiction, then this is your book; it certainly was mine.

4/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE KITCHEN FRONT by Jennifer Ryan. Ballantine Books (February 23, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593158807. 416 pages.







JUST MY LUCK by Adele Parks

April 28, 2021

From the publisher:

Over 4 million Adele Parks books sold worldwide including LIES, LIES, LIES and I INVITED HER IN!  

“Utterly engrossing and brilliant”
 Lucy Foley New York Times bestselling author of The Guest List

It was supposed to be the lottery win they’d always dreamed of…

For fifteen years, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their friends. Over drinks, dinner parties and summer barbecues, the three couples have discussed the important stuff—kids, marriages, careers—and they’ve laughed off their disappointment when they failed to win anything.

But then the unthinkable happens. There’s a rift in the group. Someone is caught in a lie. And soon after, six numbers come up that change everything forever.

Lexi and Jake have a ticket worth millions. And their friends are determined to claim a share.

#1 Sunday Times bestselling author Adele Parks returns with a riveting look at the dark side of wealth in this gripping tale of friendship, money, betrayal and good luck gone bad…

Lexi and Jake and their family live in a lower middle section. They work hard to maintain their lifestyle with Lexi happy with her life and the husband she has chosen. They are friendly with two other couples whose children attend the same school that Lexi and Jake’s children go to.  For 15 years the three couples have gotten together on most Saturday nights eaten together and enjoyed a pleasant evening out.

Over the years they have evolved the practice of buying a lottery ticket together after each get together using the same sequence of numbers each time they purchase a ticket. Then the other two couples announce that they feel the spending the money on a ticket is throwing out the cash and they are drawing out of the custom of buying a ticket.     

Of course when Lexi buys a ticket by herself the next week using the normal numerical sequence it hits and is good for a prize of more than seventeen million pounds, a sum that insures financial independence for the recipient for the rest of their lives. Jake and Lexi try to keep the winning secret but it leaks out and human nature being what it is the other two couples demand that they receive shares in the payout and insinuate that they had rightful places due to having gone in together on the lottery tickets and even lying that they had chipped into the winning ticket as was normal.     

Parks describes a situation in which receiving a large amount of money distorts the viewpoints and reactions of people. Friendship goes away and greed takes over in its presence. No one in the family is exempt from the fallout of a receipt of a large amount of cash and the interactions of both adults and children are well delineated. A pleasant reading experience is enjoyed by the reader with a surprise but logical ending to complete the book.

4/2021 Paul Lane

JUST MY LUCK by Adele Parks. MIRA; Original edition (April 6, 2021). ISBN: 978-05255394140. 352 pages.







DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

April 27, 2021

From the publisher:

One of PopSugar’s “42 Books Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2021”!

What happens when you mix 1 (accidental) murder with 2 thousand wedding guests, and then toss in a possible curse on 3 generations of an immigrant Chinese-Indonesian family? 

You get 4 meddling Asian aunties coming to the rescue! 

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for the family wedding business—”Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

This is a top ten favorite on the April Library Reads list, and as far as I’m concerned, it should have been number one! Part mystery, part romance, part family drama, but mostly laugh-out-loud funny, this book hits it out of the park. And I’m super excited that Netflix is on board.

Meddy is the good girl in her family. There is a family curse where all the men leave, leaving her mom and her sisters to make up her family. Even her boy cousins have all moved away, but as much as Meddy wanted a different life, she just could not bring herself to leave her mom and her aunties, so she breaks up with the love of her life as he has been offered his dream job across the country. It just about kills Meddy, but she goes on with her life, settling into the family wedding planning business and trying not to think about the one who got away.

Her mom decides Meddy needs to meet someone so like all overly involved, well meaning moms, she sets up a fake profile for Meddy on a dating app, and pretends to be Meddy. There are red flags aplenty, but her mom, who is not a native English speaker never mind a keen reader of emojis, doesn’t realize what she’s done when she sets Meddy up on a blind date with a man she met online. It turns out he is as bad a guy as one could meet online, and Meddy accidentally kills him in self defense. I’m not spoiling anything here, this happens at the beginning of the book.

Meddy panics, dumps him in the trunk of her car, and takes him home to her mother, who calls in the aunties. These are the kind of relatives everyone should have, the kind who help you get rid of a body. But what ensues is just chaos, and it is hilarious. In between the insanity though, Meddy runs into the love of her life. Turns out he’s moved back and is now running the hotel where the family is running their biggest wedding yet.

Lots of over the top situations and slapstick humor, and it really works here. This book had me laughing out oud several times, and I I enjoyed every page. Honestly, it reminded me of the first few Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich) books only with a happy ending, and that is high praise! I also really liked learning about Chinese/Indonesian culture. This one is sure to make my best books of the year list – don’t miss it.

4/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto. Berkley (April 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593333037. 320 pages.








April 6, 2021

4/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE NINE LIVES OF ROSE NAPOLITANO by Donna Freitas. Pamela Dorman Books (April 6, 2021). ISBN 978-1984880598. 384 pages.



ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West

March 16, 2021

3/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ARE WE THERE YET? by Kathleen West. Berkley (March 16, 2021). ISBN Berkley (March 16, 2021). 352 pages.



March 4, 2021

THE VINEYARD AT PAINTED MOON by Susan Mallery. HQN; Original edition (February 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-1335912794. 400 pages.