HIGH SEASON by Judy Blundell

June 4, 2018

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From the publisher:

“A shimmering story of art, money, and celebrity, The High Season is wicked summer fun.”—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

The Hamptons hath no fury like a woman scorned.

No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet Long Island village, the house is her nest egg—the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls “the summer bummer”: the family’s annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. The widow of a blue-chip artist, Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a “gorgeous satellite” stepson. But soon Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie’s life—her house, her friends, even her husband (okay, ex-husband, but still). And after her job as the director of a local museum is threatened, Ruthie finally decides to fight back.

Meanwhile, away from the watchful eyes of her parents, Jem is tasting independence at her first summer job, but soon finds herself growing up too fast. One of Ruthie’s employees, a master of self-invention named Doe, infiltrates the inner circle of an eccentric billionaire and his wayward daughter. With a coterie of social climbers and Ruthie’s old flame thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same.

In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons—a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings.

There has been a lot of buzz about this book so I was interested, plus it’s set in the Hamptons where I have spent a bit of time. It is an interesting story, the characters are fairly well drawn, too, especially Ruthie, the main character, but I didn’t necessarily relate to any of them. Ruthie was the most sympathetic but she often acted out in ways I didn’t understand.

Judging a book by its cover is usually not a good idea and that is the case here. It looks like the typical summer beach read and while it is set in a summer resort area, it is much deeper than the usual beach reads. It was everything the publisher promised and a good, thought provoking read.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HIGH SEASON by Judy Blundell. Random House (May 22, 2018). ISBN 978-0525508717.  416p.

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DON’T CALL ME CUPCAKE by Tara Sheets

June 3, 2018

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The Holloway Girls, Book 1

This was one of those times when I absolutely judged a book by its cover and went for it. It was a serendipitous find in the library and the book reads as cute and delicious as the cover looks. And it’s a debut novel, and I always love finding a new author!

While not paranormal exactly, because I don’t do those, this book is a touch magical so if you think that is not your thing, maybe try this and see if you like it. It’s a quick read with a good story filled with interesting, quirky characters (my favorite kind.)

Emma Holloway lives in her ancestral, somewhat broken down and enchanted family home in a tiny town near Seattle. She owns a bakery called Fairy Cakes, where she makes special cupcakes – they fulfill wishes to those who need them. Not individual, I wish I would win the lotto kinds of wishes, but more general, happy good wishes. Love. Sweet dreams. Sweet success. And she accidentally sells three success cupcakes to a gorgeous newcomer who, it turns out, is building a bakery right down the road.

Emma’s business is very seasonal and she is barely holding on. Hunter Kane is a real estate mogul who is trying to buy up most of the seaside to build a high end restaurant and bakery. But he needs to get involved in the small town politics to get what he wants. And there he and Emma get to work together on the big summer kickoff.

The chemistry is lightning hot between Hunter and Emma but can they work out their differences in the name of true love? No worries, this is a romance after all.

This book is as light and sweet and fluffy as cotton candy, but a bit more emotionally satisfying. I spent a very enjoyable afternoon reading it and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DON’T CALL ME CUPCAKE by Tara Sheets. Zebra Shout (April 24, 2018). ISBN 978-1420146264.  304p.

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MATCHMAKING FOR BEGINNERS by Maddie Dawson

June 2, 2018
matchmaking for beginners

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If there’s anything worse than being left at the altar, Marnie MacGraw experiences it first hand after she talks her panicky groom into marrying her, but he still leaves her two weeks later. The only one who isn’t surprised is Blix, her fiancé’s eccentric aunt who feels a kinship with Marnie. They are both matchmakers with an other-worldly gift, but Blix is dying.

Marnie moves on, gets engaged to her former high school boyfriend in Georgia, then gets the shocking news that Blix has died, leaving Marnie her Brooklyn brownstone and causing family grief on both sides. Off to Brooklyn she goes, where she meets Blix’s friends and tenants, including the man Blix thinks she belongs with.

Dawson (The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness) makes Brooklyn feel like a lovely small town, but it’s the sweetness of the characters and the sprinkling of magical realism throughout that makes this a charming read. For fans of What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty or The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. ©Library Journal, 2018.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MATCHMAKING FOR BEGINNERS by Maddie Dawson. Lake Union Publishing (June 1, 2018). ISBN 978-1503900684.  370p.

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ALL NIGHT WITH THE COWBOY by Soraya Lane

May 30, 2018

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A River Ranch Novel, Book 2

Tanner Ford is a hot cowboy with a penchant for a very dangerous sport; bull riding. He has been on top of the sport for years, and is thrilled when he draws the toughest bull for his ride. From reading several cowboy romances, I have learned that you get more points for the toughest bulls, you can’t win on an easy ride, and it’s a matter of luck and the draw.

Tanner is in his glory until he gets thrown, trampled and gored. He survives but has a lot of rehab ahead of him because he is determined to get back on the bull. Yes, he’s already one of the biggest money winners in the sport, not to mention he comes from a very wealthy ranching family, but it’s what he loves. So when his sister tells him she’s arranged for the best physical therapist for him, he’s really happy. And then she tells him that the woman was going on vacation to Fiji but she’s agreed to work with him as long as he goes there. Not only does he go there, he upgrades her hotel and they fly there on the family’s private jet.

There’s only one fly in the ointment and that is the physical therapist herself – it’s Lauren Lewis, Tanner’s high school girlfriend and love of his life. She unexpectedly broke up with him right before leaving for college and he’s never gotten over it. But he knows he needs the help so off they go.

The cowboy has to shed his jeans and boots and try to keep his hands off Lauren – their chemistry is as hot as it was in high school and he’s not the only one who thinks so. Finally, they decide to give in to it and have a Fiji fling, ending things when they return home. But what kind of romance would that be?

The descriptions of Fiji made me want to get on the next plane, until they had some Florida hurricane type weather. I’ll just stay here for that, thank you very much. I liked these characters and their past brought a lot of tension to the story in a very good way. This was a fun, sexy read and I really enjoyed it.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ALL NIGHT WITH THE COWBOY by Soraya Lane. St. Martin’s Paperbacks (May 29, 2018). ISBN: 978-1250131034. 304p.

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THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware

May 29, 2018

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Harriet (Hal) is a young girl that has reached the end of her tether. Her mother was killed in an auto accident. There is very little money to support herself except for one thing. Hal’s mother had a small business on a pier dedicated to fun and games for the public. She told fortunes, in particular reading of Tarot cards, for people believing in those things.

When her mother was killed Hal had no recourse other than to take over the business and dedicate herself to the Tarot cards. She owes money all over the place and has even gotten herself into the clutches of a loan shark who has threatened her with violence if she doesn’t pay a now very inflated sum of money.

A mysterious letter inexplicably is sent to her with the notice that she has received a substantial inheritance. Looking at the data on the letter Hal feels that she has no choice but to use her people skills acquired via the Tarot readings to try and collect the inheritance which she knows is not hers. She soon finds herself at the funeral of the woman who has apparently made the bequest to her and immediately feels that there is something very wrong with everything – the inheritance, the other people present who think that she is part of their family. But her decision is made – Continue!

Ware provides the reader with a mesmorizing feeling of continued suspense throughout the novel; a feeling that keeps one glued to the pages. The characters are done very well, and Hal herself becomes a person that one roots for and entertains the hope that in spite of committing what would be a major crime she will come out ahead and utilize what is happening to her as a method of bringing herself out of the situation she is in moving forward in her life. Certainly Ruth Ware is a force in the world of literature with her books being sought out by an expanding group of followers.

5/18 Paul Lane

THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware. Gallery/Scout Press (May 29, 2018). ISBN  978-1501156212.  384p.

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COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps

May 28, 2018

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Cold As Thunder is a more sedate version of George Orwell’s classic novel “1984” but carries the same message. If the people don’t look after their own welfare it will fall on a less than benevolent government to administer the nation as they see fit rather than a system that protects the rights of all. In the case of this novel, power has been consolidated with the “Eagle” party, a political party that has eliminated all other parties and established a docile populace.

The Eagle party has established a system of laws that basically squash any and all thought in opposition to it’s own ideology. Thinking independently has been driven out of the normality of most of the people and non conformity is a non starter Apps has placed a level of importance on certain factors present and made worse by the Eagle Party’s attitude. The most important is the issue of climate change that is not being addressed. Consequently areas of Florida and the Northeast are covered by flood waters and not inhabitable. Weather forecasting has been sold to private companies who don’t have the means to actually do any forecasts. This makes storms of any sort a menace for all, but especially for farmers subject to all weather conditions.

An opposition group has evolved in attempting to set up learning systems for the people now accustomed to being led by their noses. These are groups of “oldsters” that are disguised as volunteer groups supporting the Eagle mantra. The novel follows the growth and development of one such group located in Wisconsin and how it manages to influence events in the rest of the country.

The novel makes for an entertaining read with the only drawback an insistence on good always triumphing over opposition with little variance which would appear in any human endeavor having varying opinions present. Character development and any attempt at looking at individual motivations goes by the wayside. The concepts, however are interesting and make reading the book a worthwhile experience.

5/18 Paul Lane

COLD AS THUNDER by Jerry Apps. University of Wisconsin Press (May 29, 2018).  ISBN 978-0299315900. 232p.


LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs

May 27, 2018

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The Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 6

Yes, it’s back to the tiny hamlet of Avalon for me, nestled in the beautiful Catskill Mountains. This time it’s a slightly magical Christmas story, which I can always get behind. There are actually a couple of Christmas books in this series. and this is the first one.

This time out our heroine also happens to be the town librarian, so it speaks to me, even if she is a bit cliché. She may look and sound like a stereotypical librarian when the book opens, but by the end she is someone I could be friends with. At least she is professional, and bookish, and those are qualities I see in myself and many of my co-workers.

Maureen is very excited because this is the first year she will get to direct the annual Christmas pageant. Unfortunately, she is stuck with an assistant not of her own choosing. Eddie Haven was a child star who ran into a bit of trouble and his community service requires him to help with the pageant.

You could not find two  people more different. Maureen, and every other woman in town, find Eddie gorgeous. He’s also very laid back and easygoing. Maureen, on the other hand, thinks she’s plain and dumpy and dresses to make sure she looks that way. She’s also freaking out because the library has a budget shortfall and will be shutting down. Nevertheless, Eddie is intrigued with her and yes, they fall in love and find their happily ever after but only after a lot of angst and drama along the way.

That’s the romance portion of the story. There is also a magical subplot about a young man who shows up out of nowhere and has a voice like an angel…and leaves no footprints…and you get the point. I love that slightly mysterious, mystical, magical Christmas stuff so this worked for me.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read. I would have liked to say this was my favorite (librarian character and Christmas and all) but it wasn’t. It is a very enjoyable read, however, especially if you love Christmas magic.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs. MIRA; Reprint edition (September 28, 2010). ISBN 978-0778327820. 384p.


FIRESIDE by Susan Wiggs

May 26, 2018

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The Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 5

Another beautiful saga in what has become one of my favorite series. It is always remarkable to me that an author can create a series – and this one is 11 books long – and keep each story as fresh and fun and fantastic as the others. Sure, some may be better than others, but all are wonderful. I am a very happy reader.

This story is actually very timely, dealing with immigration issues that are in the news every day now but probably not as much when it was written. Prescience!

There are certain tropes in romance novels that appear again and again. The father with a child he never knew about is a fairly popular one because for the most part, we know it happens, and it works, as it does here.

Bo Crutcher is the star pitcher for the Avalon baseball team and he has a real shot at the majors, but he needs some help. Part of the process of going pro is learning how to deal with the media, so a media camp type thing is scheduled. But then AJ, the son he never knew he had, shows up and Bo has to take care of him. His mother was Mexican-American and got caught up in an ICE sting. She is detained and cannot get out. Bo tries to help but it is a long, expensive process and AJ needs a home.

Kimberly van Dorn was a big shot publicist in California who had a very public breakup and firing. She flees to the tiny town of Avalon, where Bo first spots her at the airport. He thinks she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen and tries to talk to her, but she is way too gun shy to talk to any man. But they keep running into each other, after all Avalon is a very small town. And when he realizes he can’t go to the media school, Kimberly steps in to help.

Eventually they both realize their feelings for each other but Bo still has to deal with the immigration stuff, too. They reach their happily ever after but there are a lot of bumps along the way. Kimberly was not my favorite character but I still loved this book.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FIRESIDE by Susan Wiggs. MIRA; Reprint edition (June 26, 2012)). ISBN 978-0778314899.  416p.

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YOU ME EVERYTHING by Catherine Isaac

May 25, 2018

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From the publisher:

Set in the French countryside on an idyllic summer vacation, a delicious, tender novel about finding joy and love even in the most unexpected places. 

Jess and her ten-year-old son William set off to spend the summer at Château de Roussignol, deep in the rich, sunlit hills of the Dordogne. There, Jess’s ex-boyfriend—and William’s father—Adam, runs a beautiful hotel in a restored castle. Lush gardens, a gorgeous pool, delectable French food, and a seemingly never-ending wine list—what’s not to like?  Jess is bowled over by what Adam has accomplished, but she’s in France for a much more urgent reason: to make Adam fall in love with his own son.

But Adam has other ideas, and another girlfriend—and he doesn’t seem inclined to change the habits of a lifetime just because Jess and William have appeared on the scene.   Jess isn’t surprised, but William—who has quickly come to idolize his father—wants nothing more than to spend time with him. But Jess can’t allow Adam to let their son down—because she is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody—especially William—must discover.

By turns heartwrenching and hopeful, You Me Everything is a novel about one woman’s fierce determination to grab hold of the family she has and never let go, and a romantic story as heady as a crisp Sancerre on a summer day.


 

Jess has raised William alone with a bi-annual visit from his father. They are not close, to say the least. But luckily, her parents have helped quite a bit, at least until her mother got sick. Her mother has Huntington’s Disease, which is pretty much your worst nightmare.

Jess takes William to spend the summer at the hotel his father owns and invites some friends to go along, too. What should be an lovely summer has plenty of ups and downs to keep things from being too perfect.

This book reminded me a bit of Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. It definitely gets maudlin near the end, but it takes an inordinate amount of time to get there. So little happens that the book felt overly long, which was surprising from Pamela Dorman. She is one of those editors that I look for and will generally read anything she puts out. This one was a tiny bit disappointing. I liked the romance, the French setting, the food, and the characters. Dorman books tend towards literary fiction, which is more character driven than plot driven, despite whatever genre they might fall into. I just wished there was more story to this story.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

YOU ME EVERYTHING by Catherine Isaac. Pamela Dorman Books (May 1, 2018). ISBN 978-0735224537.  368p.

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THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS by Sarah MacLean

May 24, 2018

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Scandal & Scoundrel, Book III

Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, is a very ambitious man. He has worked his way up through the government as one of their best spies, and his dream job is in sight but just out of reach. To get the job, he needs a wife.

Spies do not make the best husbands. They are secretive and travel extensively, but that is not Bebingstoke’s problem. He is, in fact, already married, but shortly after he wed, his wife left him and moved to France. They have been out of touch for many years. But he needs her to get this promotion, so off to France he goes.

Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, has grown quite to used to being on her own. When her husband shows up, they strike a deal to have her return to England. They were once very much in love, but neither was mature enough or strong enough to make the marriage work. This is their second chance, not that either one of them will admit it.

This was a very enjoyable read with a lot of wit and some heat. I don’t think I read the earlier books in the series and it didn’t seem to matter. Well done.

5/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS by Sarah MacLean. Avon; Reissue edition (June 27, 2017). ISBN 978-0062379436.  400p.

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