THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett

November 21, 2019

THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett. Harper; 1st edition (September 24, 2019). ISBN 978-0062963673. 352p.

Kindle

Audible


AN UNORTHODOX MATCH by Naomi Ragen

October 30, 2019

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

AN UNORTHODOX MATCH by Naomi Ragen. St. Martin’s Press (September 24, 2019). ISBN 978-1250161222. 336p.

Kindle

Audible


SUMMER OF ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

October 18, 2019

Click to purchase

From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times Bestseller
 

Four siblings experience the drama, intrigue, and upheaval of a summer when everything changedin New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand’s first historical novel

Welcome to the most tumultuous summer of the twentieth century. It’s 1969, and for the Levin family, the times they are a-changing. Every year the children have looked forward to spending the summer at their grandmother’s historic home in downtown Nantucket. But like so much else in America, nothing is the same: Blair, the oldest sister, is marooned in Boston, pregnant with twins and unable to travel. Middle sister Kirby, caught up in the thrilling vortex of civil rights protests and determined to be independent, takes a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. Only-son Tiger is an infantry soldier, recently deployed to Vietnam. Thirteen-year-old Jessie suddenly feels like an only child, marooned in the house with her out-of-touch grandmother and her worried mother, each of them hiding a troubling secret. As the summer heats up, Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, man flies to the moon, and Jessie and her family experience their own dramatic upheavals along with the rest of the country.

In her first historical novel, rich with the details of an era that shaped both a nation and an island thirty miles out to sea, Elin Hilderbrand once again earns her title as queen of the summer novel.


I was ten years old during the summer of 1969, just a few years younger than the youngest sibling in this story. I remember a lot about what was happening then.

I was a big reader, including newspapers; we got the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Newsday, and I read them all cover to cover. I never had enough reading materials. My parents were not readers and back then books were a special occasion gift. My mom would take me to the library once a week, wait outside in her car, so I always felt rushed, not to mention that the library limited the number of books I was allowed to borrow. I don’t recall exactly, but it was something like 3-5 books at a time. I could read that many children’s books in a day. When I ran out of children’s books, the librarian let me borrow adult books. I read everything I could get my hands on.

I knew about Vietnam and it scared me. I don’t really remember Chappaquidick, but I definitely remember the man walking on the moon. All that comes up during the Summer of ’69, wrapped up in a family that lived through it all.

While the publisher notes that this is Hilderbrand’s first historical novel, the rest is pure Hilderbrand. She is known for fabulous beach reads, and this certainly fits the bill. The family, Nantucket, the romance, the squabbling, it’s all here. I was immediately caught up in the story and these characters, and she does a really good job making them all come to life.

There are deeper issues woven throughout the story; racism, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, suicide, and more all come to light, making this a very satisfying read. Lots for book groups to discuss for sure. I really enjoyed this book, though it was more nostalgic than historical for me.

10/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SUMMER OF ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand. Random House (June 18, 2019).  ISBN 978-0525510871. 384p.

Kindle

Audible


HOW TO HACK A HEARTBREAK by Kristin Rockaway

September 11, 2019

Click to purchase

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.

Kindle

Audible


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.

Kindle

Audible


THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE by Susan Wiggs

August 15, 2019

Click to purchase

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.

Kindle

Audible

 


LIFE AND OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins

August 5, 2019

Click to purchase

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.

Click to purchase

Kindle

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.

Kindle

Audible


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.

Kindle

Audible


MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner

July 4, 2019

Click to purchase

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.

Kindle

Audible