IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU by Cathy Maxwell

January 3, 2018

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The Spinster Heiresses, Book 1

The Earl of Rochdale unexpectedly inherited the title, which came with a large estate in serious disrepair and some gambling debts. Short of cash, the Earl realizes the best way to settle his newly acquired debts and fix up the crumbling house and estate is to marry rich.

The three “Spinster Heiresses” are recommended to him, and to his surprise, he knows one of them. Years earlier, Leonie Charnock had found herself in dire straights, and Rochdale saved her and her reputation, to his own great harm. Now he feels like she owes him.

Those dire straights really soured Leonie on men and marriage, not to mention her own parents and the bad example they set with their tumultuous marriage. Nevertheless, she reluctantly agrees to marry the Earl, but keeps insisting that he promise that she won’t have to sleep with him. He ignores her and the wedding takes place.

This couple has major communication problems, but no fear, they reach their happily ever after. Maxwell tells a good story with some humor and sensual scenes. A very interesting subplot deals with alcoholism, and not in the usual way, as in men in their “cups.” I’ve noticed lately that serious issues are being addressed in some historical romances, which I find adds depth to these stories.

I am looking forward to the next book in this series, A Match Made in Bed, which doesn’t come out until April, 2018.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

IF EVER I SHOULD LOVE YOU by Cathy Maxwell. Avon; Reissue edition (December 26, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062655745. 368p.

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PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee

December 31, 2017

I wanted to get in one more really good book before the year ended and this was a wonderful selection. This was a National Book Award finalist and the paperback just came out a few weeks ago, so do yourself a favor and grab a copy.

The story follows a Korean family starting in 1910 through the 1980s. Sunja is the on ly child of a very poor couple in a small village in Korea. Her parents rent a small house and rent out space to local fisherman. The boardinghouse keeps them from starving, but when Sunja becomes pregnant, it could destroy the family. She won’t tell who the father is because when she tells him she’s pregnant, he tells her he’s married and has children, all living in Japan. Hansu is a wealthy Korean businessman and while he offers to keep Sunju as his mistress, she breaks it off with him.

The story follows their lives over four generations, from their move to Japan through wars, the division of Korea, and the immigrant experience of Koreans in Japan. It was a story I was completely unfamiliar with, and it is a heartbreaking one. Koreans, even third or fourth generation born in Japan, are not considered citizens of Japan. There is extreme prejudice against Koreans, and they actually carry Korean passports, even though many have never set foot in Korea.

This book was obviously a work of great passion, and I urge you to read the author’s note at the end. Apparently she worked on this for decades, and it was her move to Tokyo where she got to interview many Koreans about their experiences living in Japan. I found myself completely immersed in the world Lee created, and the book has stayed with me. It is an eye opening story that educated and entertained me and has found a place in heart. An excellent way to end this year of reading.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

PACHINKO by Min Jin Lee.  Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (November 14, 2017). ISBN 978-1455563920. 512p.

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COOKING WITH MY SISTERS by Adriana Trigiani

December 29, 2017

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Co-author Mary Yolanda Trigiani, with Lucia Anna, Antonia, Francesca, and Ida Trigiani

One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Italy to Big Stone Gap

I adore Adri, and loved the first version (2004) of this cookbook. This is an update and is filled with fabulous recipes – real Italian family recipes, and the hallmark Trigiani charm. Stories abound, making this part cookbook, part memoir, and a total joy to read.

I love that they include some of the basics of Italian cookery; pizza dough, basic tomato sauce, homemade pasta, meatballs, and Zabaglione. But there is so much more – Potato Pizza, Trigiani Lasagne with Vegetables and Cheese, Grandmom Trigiani’s Green Beans in Tomato Sauce, and a really delicious Crostini Yolanda – a bruschetta topped with peppers and anchovy.

The table of contents:

Forward: Welcome to Our Table
Introduction: How We Found the Recipes

The Big Life

The Pasta, or as We Called It, Maccheroni
The Sauce

The Big Dish

Family Dinners
Light Suppers
On the Side

The Big Finish

Dessert, or Dessertina

The Big Wow

Snacks and Treats
Things We Hated as Kids but Love to Serve Now

Afterword: What I Learned on the Journey Through Our Kitchen
Epilogue: Make Your Meal Time Magical

I included the forward, introduction, afterword and epilogue because these chapters sing and bring the family to life. There are tons of pictures of the family and the food, and I especially loved the old pictures. Try and find little Adri in the midst of all her sisters!

If you are somehow immune to charm, then go straight to the recipes and you won’t be disappointed. My husband’s family is from Sicily, so these recipes are often different than what I’m used to. The Trigiani clan is from “the Lombardy region in the Alps of northern Italy, the Veneto region, and to the south, Puglia on the cusp of Bari.”

There are tips sprinkled throughout, given by different sisters and always worth reading. If you are new to real Italian cooking or want something out of the ordinary, you will find it here. Mangia!

Antipasto:

Serves 6 for dinner, 10 for appetizer

Romaine lettuce (usually only 1 head, have another just in case)
Two 16-ounce cans white albacore tuna in water
9 hardboiled eggs sliced in half
One 15-ounce jar red roasted peppers
Two 4-ounce cans anchovies rolled with capers
8-ounces pitted black olives
8-ounces pitted green olives
½ pound Genoa salami, sliced thin and rolled *
½ pound prosciutto, sliced very thin and rolled
One 12-ounce can artichoke hearts
One 7-ounce can mushrooms packed in olive oil
½ pound cheddar cheese sliced in strips – ½ x 2 inches**
½ pound Monterey jack cheese sliced in strips – ½ x 2 inches**
12-ounces pepperoncini peppers
Fresh Italian parsley for garnishing
Olive oil to drizzle

* Other meats we’ve used: cotto salami, capicola, soprassata

** You can go for more authentic Italian – we use the “American” varieties for color

The key to this recipe is to make the platter attractive and artistic. Line a 12-inch platter (we like a round shape) with the larger lettuce leaves, which will serve as the base of the antipasto as well as a way to measure a portion. (Ideally a person should be able to pull a whole lettuce leaf off the finished antipasto with a little of everything on top.) In the center of the platter place the tuna; it’s best to use a canned variety so that you can turn the can upside down and remove the tuna intact, retaining the shape of the can. Add the roasted red peppers and place them around the platter in a symmetrical pattern, like the rays of the sun. Continue in the same pattern with the remaining ingredients until the tray is covered and all the ingredients have been used. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

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12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COOKING WITH MY SISTERS by Adriana Trigiani. Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 7, 2017). ISBN 978-0062469915. 224p.


Best Books of 2017: Becky LeJeune

December 28, 2017

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BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough – A tale of manipulation and a twisted love triangle with an ending you won’t see coming, this book is a perfect example of just why I’ve been a fan of Pinborough’s work for so long!

THE RIVER AT NIGHT by Erica Ferencik – A girls’ rafting trip goes terribly wrong in this excellent debut thriller. It’s like The River Wild meets The Descent!

DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES by Seanan McGuire – this second installment in McGuire’s Wayward Children series is a dark and gloomy fairy tale. McGuire’s world building is amazing and the series as a whole is all whimsy with great atmosphere and heart!

WHEN THE ENGLISH FALL by David Williams – a post-apocalyptic tale from an unexpected point of view: an Amish farmer recounts events after solar flares knock out most of the country’s technology.

THE DIME by Kathleen Kent – first in a new series featuring a fabulous heroine! The Dime has it all – great pacing, fabulous plot, and characters you can really root for. Plus, it’s rumored to be under development for TV.

BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie – this Aussie import forces readers to consider how far they would go to protect the ones they love in a catastrophic event.

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon – Menon’s YA debut is a sweet story about a science-loving girl trying to balance her own desires with that of her family.

BONFIRE by Krysten Ritter – Ritter’s debut proves she’s a true powerhouse! The actress’s first thriller is a page turning, plot driven tale that begins with a lawyer’s attempt to take down a big corporation known for polluting and turns into something much darker.

THE CHANGELING by Victor Lavalle – this latest horror read from Lavalle is about a new father who experiences the greatest loss imaginable. That loss sends him on a journey that challenges everything he thought he knew.

ALL SYSTEMS RED by Martha Wells – a sentient security robot that hacks its own system so it can binge watch TV is the hero of Wells’s new series of novellas. I loved every bit of it and can’t wait for more!


THE ART OF RUNNING IN HEELS by Rachel Gibson

December 27, 2017

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Lexie Kowalsky had the bright idea to get herself on TV. She landed a part on “Gettin’ Hitched,” the fictional country cousin of “The Bachelor.” And being the competitive beauty that she is, she wins which means she gets hitched on live TV. Instead, she leaves her groom at the altar and jumps onto the first plane out of town, piloted by a friend.

When she lands in the plane, she is surprised to see that she is not the only passenger. In fact, the gorgeous man sitting there has paid for passage home to a small town, Sandspit, Canada, and Lexie is going along for the ride.

The gorgeous hunk is the Seattle Chinooks (a fictional hockey team’s) newest star, Sean Knox. In an odd coincidence, Lexie’s father is the coach, but because she’s been busy with reality TV, she hasn’t even seen a game this season and doesn’t recognize Sean.

This is a match made in heaven, but first, they have to get through a lot of bumps along the way. It’s a super fun, sexy read and I’m happy to report this is the first book of a new series. I’m really looking forward to the next!

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ART OF RUNNING IN HEELS by Rachel Gibson.  Avon (December 26, 2017). ISBN: 978-0062247476. 384p.

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BEAUTIFUL LAWMAN by Sophie Jordan

December 26, 2017

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Devil’s Rock, Book 4

Once again I start a series with the most current book rather than the first book. But it didn’t seem to matter, I loved this book anyway.

Piper Walsh grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Her family has an awful reputation which she just can’t seem to outrun, not as long as she stays in Sweet Hill. But with her brother in prison nearby, she just can’t leave. So she tries her best to take care of her younger sister and pay the bills, but it’s getting tougher all the time.

Hale Walters was one of the golden boys in high school, and is now the Sheriff of the small town. When Piper’s sister gets arrested, she is mortified, especially when she has to deal with Hale. But he has a different perspective on the Walsh family, and is willing to give them a chance if he can get past the enormous chip on Piper’s shoulder.

This was a terrific romance with Jordan’s legendary smokin’ hot loe scenes. But more than just the sex, there is a lot of heart here, and plenty of emotion. I loved it and have just checked out the first three books in the series from my library – I have a vacation coming up next week, guess what I’ll be reading?!

12/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

BEAUTIFUL LAWMAN by Sophie Jordan. Avon (December 26, 2017). ISBN 978-0062666567. 368p.

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Paperback


OBAMA: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT by Pete Souza

December 23, 2017

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Pete Souza is the former chief official White House photographer and the former President himself wrote the forward to this big, beautiful coffee table book (10.4 x 1.2 x 12.5 inches, hardcover, with beautiful heavy pages.)

The photos move in chronological order, starting with Inauguration Day in the first term. But these just aren’t state photos, there are lots of intimate, family and personal photos that help create the Obama legacy in a most personal and profound way.

Souza is obviously a gifted photographer, he wouldn’t have gotten the gig nor held on to it for eight years otherwise. I have to say the photographs are spectacular, interesting and often visceral. Some will be familiar, like when the President bowed down to let the young African American boy touch his head, much like his own, and that devastating picture taken after Sandy Hook. But there are also some really fun photos, like the Obamas and friends watching a 3-D movie, with glasses on. There are photos of famous signings, parties, speeches and more, but I admit I most enjoyed the family photos and the less formal shots. Obama shooting hoops in the Department of Interior gymnasium; Bono playing guitar for the President and Alicia Keys in the private dining room; even the President and First Lady making an unannounced visit to Arlington National Cemetery and surprising a widow there.

There are interesting shots like Obama ducking under the ropes on the lawn to get back to the Oval Office. A shot of Obama sitting on the desk, meeting with three women on staff but all we see are their shoes. Obama racing the new Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough’s children down the Colonnade outside the White House. Obama throwing a football at Soldier Field, home of his beloved Chicago Bears, during a break at the NATO summit.

This is a book I wish I owned, but I borrowed a copy from my library. It is a beautiful homage to one of my favorite Presidents.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

OBAMA: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT by Pete Souza. Little, Brown and Company (November 7, 2017). ISBN 978-0316512589. 352p.


CHASING LIGHT by Amanda Lucidon

December 22, 2017

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Michelle Obama Through the Lens of a White House Photographer

From the publisher:

A collection of striking and intimate photographs of Michelle Obama—many never before seen—coupled with personal reflections and behind-the-scenes stories from Official White House Photographer Amanda Lucidon, presented in a deluxe format.

Michelle Obama is one of the most admired First Ladies in history, known for her grace, spirit, and beauty, as well as for the amazing work she did during her tenure to promote girls’ education, combat childhood obesity, and support military families. In Chasing Light, former White House photographer Amanda Lucidon, who spent four years covering the First Lady, shares a rare insider’s perspective, from documenting life at the White House to covering domestic and overseas travel. This collection of 150 candid photos—many previously unreleased—and Amanda’s narrative reflections reveal just what makes Mrs. Obama so special. From an affectionate moment with her daughters atop the strikingly empty Great Wall of China to exuberant moments with schoolchildren and quiet moments between the First Lady and President Obama, the photos are a vibrant, candid, and beautiful celebration of the First Lady, capturing the qualities and strengths that have made Mrs. Obama so beloved.

Chasing Light is a beautiful book that really honors Michelle Obama and her legacy. This has been a very difficult year for me politically, and this book was a balm for my soul.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CHASING LIGHT by Amanda Lucidon. Ten Speed Press (October 17, 2017). ISBN 978-0399581182. 224p.


SO OVER YOU by Kate Meador

December 20, 2017

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The Chicago Rebels Series, Book 2

Ice ice baby! The Chicago Rebels are a fictional NHL hockey team whose owner has died. He’s left the team to his three estranged daughters, all from different baby mamas, with the caveat that if the team doesn’t make it to the playoffs, it will be sold off.

Hockey is one of the mysognistic sports for sure, so women owners are a rarity. In this case, Isobel Chase  is the middle sister and the one her father favored. He raised her to play professional women’s hockey, but in her first game she got seriously injured and had to leave the game. She is trying to work her way up to coaching the Rebels, and her first assignment is to work with their new left wing. Vadim Petrov, nicknamed the Czar of Pleasure, not that Isobel would call him that. He was her first lover when they were both teenagers, and she didn’t tell him she was a virgin so it was not a wonderful deflowering.

No one knows about their history until one of the players overhears her conversation about it with her younger sister. He blabs, and the gossip is thick. Meanwhile, the Czar of Pleasure has been in love with Isobel since they were together the first time, not that she knows it and he barely admits it to himself. Nonetheless, they find their way back to each other with a lot of hot sex and some real bumps in the relationship along the way.

Another Meador romance so hot the ice can’t cool it off!

12/17  Stacy Alesi AKA the BookBitch™

SO OVER YOU by Kate Meador. Pocket Books (December 19, 2017). ISBN 978-1501180897. 400p.

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COWBOY UP by Harper Sloan

December 19, 2017

I am so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Cowboy Up, the third book in Harper Sloan’s Coming Home Series! I love this series, and I am delighted to be able to offer a chance to win all three books!

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Win all three books!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve linked to my reviews of the first two, read on for my review of this latest and for all the details on how you can win!

It definitely feels like this is the end of the series and while I’m sad about that, I’m looking forward to whatever Sloan comes up with next.

Cowboy Up tackles the eldest of the Davis brothers, Clayton. He’s the one who inherits the ranch and spends all of his time running it. He hasn’t had a relationship in years, between his work schedule and the last woman, Jess, who really messed with his head.

Clay finally gets a few hours to himself and he heads to the local bar, where a petite little dynamo sits on the next stool. She can’t really see his face between the dark lighting and the smoke in the room, but she sees a big, strong cowboy with an iron jaw.

Caroline Michaels owns a small bookstore in the next town. Her two best friends, twins Lucy and Luke, own the bar and have encouraged her to break out of her shell a bit. Caroline’s been damaged by a horrible home life with her mother and a subsequent years-long abusive relationship. Luke & Lucy helped her escape and she hasn’t had a date in years. But this cowboy looks promising.

The heat between them is unmistakable and a one night stand ensues. They part ways and don’t see each other again for months, until a baby shower throws them together. The sparks fly and they embark on a trial relationship – neither of them wants to commit but they become inseparable pretty quick. There’s not a lot of drama in their relationship until the very end, then wowza!

What I loved most about this book was the epilogue, which is in two parts. The second part, “Fifteen Years Later” neatly tied up the trilogy. Yup, Sloan gives us a peek into the relationships in all three books over those fifteen years. I haven’t seen that before but I’ve always wanted to, and it was very satisfying.

I highly recommend this series to fans of the very specific contemporary cowboy romance subgenre. If you haven’t tried one of these, this is a terrific series to try.

12/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

COWBOY UP by Harper Sloan. Pocket Books (December 19, 2017). ISBN 978-1501155277. 384p.

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To win copies of the first three books in the Coming Home Series– Lost Rider, Kiss My Boots & Cowboy Up by Harper Sloan, please send an email to contest@gmail.com with “COMING HOME” as the subject.

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

All entries must be received by December 31, 2017. 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 books will be sent by SIMON & SCHUSTER|POCKET BOOKS.

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.

About the author:

Harper Sloan is the New York Times and >USA Today bestselling author of the Corps Security and Hope Town series. She started writing as a way to unwind when the house went to sleep at night. Harper lives in Georgia with her family. Visit her at AuthorHarperSloan.com or Facebook.com/HarperSloanBooks.