LOVE AND OTHER WORDS by Christina Lauren

April 11, 2018

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This is a lovely book that moves back and forth in time. Macy Sorensen was a young girl when her mother died of cancer.  She left behind letters and instructions for her husband, to help him raise their daughter, and Macy and her dad are very close.

One of the things her mother suggests is that they get a vacation home, and they find a small house not too far away in the wine country area where they can spend weekends and vacations. Macy is a big reader, a girl after my own heart, and one of the reasons they buy the house is because the closet off of her bedroom is large enough to create a library, and they do. But the day they move in, Macy finds a boy her own age, Elliot Petropoulos, reading in the closet. They quickly become friends, then best friends, and eventually more.

Macy in present day is a pediatric resident in a Berkeley hospital, working crazy hours. She lives with a man, an artist, and his daughter. They don’t see each other much but it is a comfortable relationship for both of them. In fact, they are engaged.

We know something catastrophic happens with Elliot, because they haven’t seen each other for eleven years. As the story unfurls, we learn more about each of them and their relationship until the back and forth catches up to present day.

I loved this book. I loved getting to know these characters and cared about what happened and why. A terrific, heartwarming read!

3/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS by Christina Lauren.  Gallery Books (April 10, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501128011. 432p.

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AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline

April 10, 2018

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In this new standalone thriller, there are two sides of a heartwrenching story alternating chapter by chapter, and in a truly unique way, one is moving forward and the other is moving backward. Scottoline has the mad writing skills to pull it off and do it really well.

Dr. Noah Alderman is on trial for murdering Anna, and his story starts as he is in court, awaiting the verdict. Then his chapters move backwards in time, the closing argument, the last witness, etc.

Maggie Ippolitti is Noah’s second wife, stepmother to Caleb, Noah’s ten year old boy with a speech disorder. They are a very happy family. But Maggie has a past – she also was married before and had a daughter, Anna. She suffered from postpartum psychosis, and basically turned herself in to get help before she harmed her daughter. While she was hospitalized, her husband divorced her, had her declared unfit, and got custody, after which he took Anna to France, where his family lived. Shortly after that, he sold his startup company for many millions of dollars and dumped his daughter in one boarding school after another and Maggie hasn’t seen Anna since she was 6 months old.

By now, Anna is a senior in high school and when her father is killed in a plane crash, she contacts her mother. Maggie is beyond thrilled, and when Anna says she is unhappy in school, Maggie immediately invites her to live at home with her. Very quickly things start going badly. Anna seems uncomfortable with Noah, and accuses him of trying to molest her. She takes him to court, and Maggie gets her to settle by forcing Noah to move out. And then Anna turns up dead on Noah’s front porch.

I was reading away, completely engrossed with this family and their saga when suddenly the story took a hard turn and starting moving at breakneck speed to a really shocking ending. I stayed up late to finish it, then stayed up even later thinking about it. I love when that happens – don’t miss it!

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

AFTER ANNA by Lisa Scottoline. St. Martin’s Press (April 10, 2018). ISBN: 978-1250099655. 400p.

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SUMMER ON WILLOW LAKE by Susan Wiggs

April 9, 2018

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The Lakeshore Chronicles, Book 1

From what I can tell, this book originally came out in 2006 and has been reissued many times over the years, the most recent was last year. I enjoy Susan Wiggs and hadn’t read any of this series, so decided to start at the beginning.

First off, I loved the setting. Willow Lake was the childhood camp where Olivia, then called Lolly, spent every summer. Her grandparents owned and ran the camp, and all the family was expected to attend and eventually work there. Lolly never really fit in, but made one really good friend – Connor. He was her friend, but also her first love and she never really got over him.

Eventually the camp closed, but her grandparents want to spend their fiftieth anniversary there and renew their vows. They ask Olivia to fix up the place. It’s been deserted for years and is very run down. They give her a healthy budget and off she goes. First up, find a contractor.

The only contractor in town is, you guessed it, Connor. The book alternates between then, the camp days, and now, the fixing up the camp days and it’s a joyous ride. Some of my best childhood memories are of going to camp, so I really enjoyed that aspect of it. Plus it’s a great romance. I am planning on working my way through the rest of the series.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SUMMER ON WILLOW LAKE by Susan Wiggs. MIRA; Reissue edition (October 11, 2016). ISBN 978-0778330073.  464p.


Faith Salie | What I’m Reading

April 8, 2018

I am a big fan of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” and Faith Salie is one of the smartest guests they have on. In fact, she recently set a record with her high score. So I was curious to see what she is reading, and hope you are too! Plus she has a book….

Approval Junkie: My Heartfelt (and Occasionally Inappropriate) Quest to Please Just

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About Everyone, and Ultimately Myself

From comedian and journalist Faith Salie, of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and CBS News Sunday Morning, a collection of daring, funny essays chronicling the author’s adventures during her lifelong quest for approval

Faith Salie has done it all in the name of validation. Whether she’s trying to impress her parents with a perfect GPA, undergoing an exorcism to save her toxic marriage, or baking a 3D excavator cake for her son’s birthday, Salie is the ultimate approval seeker—an “approval junkie,” if you will.

In this collection of daring, honest essays, Salie shares stories from her lifelong quest for gold stars, recounting her strategy for winning (very Southern) high school beauty pageant; her struggle to pick the perfect outfit to wear to her divorce; and her difficulty falling in love again, and then conceiving, in the years following her mother’s death.

With thoughtful irreverence, Salie reflects on why she tries so hard to please others, and herself, highlighting a phenomenon that many people—especially women—experience at home and in the workplace. Equal parts laugh-out loud funny and poignant, Approval Junkie is one woman’s journey to realizing that seeking approval from others is more than just getting them to like you—it’s challenging yourself to achieve, and survive, more than you ever thought you could.


REVIEW: POD TOURS AMERICA

April 7, 2018

I’ve been a fan of Pod Save America (and Crooked Media) since their first podcast with President Barack Obama when they did his last interview before he left office. The podcast is described as,

A political podcast for people not yet ready to give up or go insane…a no-bullshit conversation about politics hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor that breaks down the week’s news and helps people figure out what matters and how to help.

That’s directly from the Crooked Media website, and I couldn’t have summed it up any better. These guys are smart, thoughtful, committed and funny as hell and they have kept me from sticking my head in the oven and helped me navigate the days since Trump took office. When I knew that the shit I was hearing from the White House didn’t make sense, or I didn’t understand how things in the West Wing* usually work, they explained. So when they announced a Miami stop on “Pod Tours America,” a live show of the podcast, I wanted to go.

*My only frame of reference for the West Wing is the TV show “The West Wing,” and my other favorite podcast, “The West Wing Weekly,” hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway and Joshua Malina.

Not only were they doing “Pod Save America,” there was a second show in Miami, “Lovett or Leave It.” Jon Lovett is smart and hilarious and does his podcast live every Friday night, usually in Los Angeles, and I often start my Saturday when the podcast becomes available. PSA is the more serious show, although it certainly has funny moments, especially when Lovett is on. Lovett’s show is my comic relief for the week. My husband and I bought tickets for both.

The shows were held in the Olympia Theater, a historic theater in Miami on April 6, 2018. On a side note, my husband works with a man who remembers going to that theater as a child. It was a movie theater back then, and he said they would pay a nickel to get in and spend most of the day there, watching cartoons, news, movies, etc.

First up was “Pod Save America” with the entire cast plus “Friend of the Pod,” contributor Akilah Hughes. There was a photo opp for a leadership group from a local Miami High school and Marco Rubio made an appearance (just kidding! But a giant Marco head did show up on stage.) Two seniors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Diego Pfeiffer and Delaney Tarr, were the guests.

The show was fantastic. A deep dive was taken into the news of the day (Trump, Scott Pruitt, Trump) and there was a great discussion about how Governor Rick Scott (boos were loud) has changed his politics as he readies for a run for the senate against long time Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who actually cares about his constituents and what happens to us. Marco Rubio was also discussed/made fun of.

Another segment was about news that was under the radar. Tommy Vietor’s passionate response to this question was a rant about Donald Trump and his recent attack on the caravan of immigrants moving towards the U.S. This was started by his getting erroneous information from the “entertainment show” Fox & Friends. Tommy said, “This is why I hate him (Donald Trump)…when he pounds on the people who have it the worst, he reveals his true character.” I love Tommy –  he was President Obama’s National Security Spokesman and has his own terrific podcast on foreign affairs called “Pod Save the World.”

When the MSD students came on stage, they were given a well deserved standing ovation, and Tommy Vietor and Dan Pfeiffer did a fine job interviewing them. It was truly inspiring.

As regular listeners of the pod know, the live shows tend to borrow a bit from “Lovett or Leave It,” specifically some of the games. This show did that, playing “Okay Stop” where they roll a film clip and the panelists shout out “okay stop” and comment on what they just heard. This one was a clip from Fox News featuring Tucker Carlson talking about the YouTube shooting and how the left wing media didn’t focus on the gun because it was just a handgun and didn’t fit their narrative. He neglected to point out that it was most likely because it was a handgun that the only death was that of the shooter by suicide. They also played a game with a member of the audience, Emily, a student at Florida Southern College. Once she said, “Go, Mocs” Jon Lovett lost his shit and thought she was cheering for shoes, and that started a whole discussion about water moccasins, what they are, school mascots, etc. and was pretty funny.

The show ended with a short Q&A from the audience, which doesn’t generally air on the podcast. They allowed the first three people who could get to the microphone to ask questions. Someone asked how to replicate fantastic schools like MSD. Unfortunately, there was no good answer to that. One, dare I say it, older lady, ran down there. She introduced herself an another kind of “senior”  and a Broward County teacher, and asked about FBI agent Robert Levinson, who went missing in Iran in 2007. His son was one of her students. Despite the fact that it was over ten years ago, Tommy Vietor took that question, had all the available facts at his fingertips, and spoke eloquently and compassionately about what happened, the little that they knew, and how he wished they could have handled it better. I was impressed by his candor and depth of knowledge about something that happened so long ago.

I am a baby boomer and all these guys are millenials, as is most of their audience. I could probably count on both hands the number of boomers in the audience. I couldn’t help but feel like I may not quite be the past yet, but these guys are definitely the present and along with the students from MSD, they are the future. Knowing there are such smart people invested in what is going on in this country today and are revving up for tomorrow leaves me feeling hopeful. Hope and change, I still believe.

“Lovett or Leave It” was the late show. To be honest, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been to the earlier show, there was too much repetition. That said, I adore Jon Lovett, despite his disparaging baby boomer comments over the past year and his one time negative comment about libraries. I have forgiven, but obviously not forgotten. Bottom line is he makes me laugh out loud and I think he’s brilliant. His show is always irreverent, and this was no exception.

The format of the show is different from PSA. Lovett is the host and he always has three guest panelists on. Lately, he has taken to announcing really unlikely, often bizarre people as guests, like Scott Pruitt, before introducing the actual guests and that is always good for some boos and some laughs before the panelists appear. The guests for this show were Natasha Del Toro, who made a documentary called “Wasteland,” an in depth look at Scott Pruitt, Alicia Menendez, a contributing editor at Bustle and Akilah Hughes made a return appearance after doing the first show. It was a good panel but I was hoping that maybe Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum would have made an appearance.

Lovett is much more laid back and casual than PSA. The format of the show always starts with “What a Week,” a recap of all the insanity of the news of the week. It is almost always overwhelming to go through seven days in Trump’s America.

The rest of the show is divided into different games. There are regulars, like “Okay Stop” which made an appearance on this show as well, featuring another Fox News film clip featuring Fox & Friends presidential fave, Steve Doocy (has anyone ever been more aptly named?) Doocy raved about white privilege, bringing on an African American man to discuss so they could have a completely racist discussion but it was okay because the guest was black? One of the panelists (Akilah?) pointed out that it was really a waste because the entire Fox & Friends audience probably turned it off once the “token” made his appearance. Most of the film clips for this game are from Fox News. It’s just easy pickings.

Other games included a new one called “Would More Paper Towels Help?” about Trump’s complete mishandling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and a special for Miami edition about climate change called “Welcome to Waterworld,” where the tide rises to flood Miami if the panel gets the wrong answers. The show always ends with “The Rant Wheel,” and where it lands, rants begin. Topics are on the wheel included the film, “Blockers,” Rick Scott, Marco Rubio, Border Invasion, Driverless Car Deaths and more. The panel actually ranted about most of the topics but usually only 4 or so make it to the podcast – I’m curious to see which ones do. Judging by the Lovett rants on the movie and driverless cars, I’d bet on those two for sure.

If I may be permitted my own minor rant for Jon Lovett – in case your mother didn’t tell you (yes, his parents were in the audience,) sit up! Stop slouching and sit in your chair like a grown up. You’re on stage in front of hundreds of people, have a little respect. Rant over.

It was a really fun night and I’m so glad we got to go to both shows. It all sort of ran together for me a bit, so I apologize for any erroneous attributions or anything I got wrong. I borrowed some of these photos from the Crooked Media website and Twitter.

After seeing the live show, I’m even more excited for the upcoming HBO Pod Save America specials. There are more live shows coming up, check out the Tour page for more info and how to buy tickets.


THE TROUBLE WITH TRUE LOVE by Laura Lee Guhrke

April 7, 2018

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Dear Lady Truelove, Book 2

Clara Deverill must be the best sister in the world, for as her sister leaves town, Clara is left with the unenviable task of running the family newspaper and answering the lovelorn letters column. She is woefully inexperienced with both, but she is excellent at eavesdropping. When she overhears Rex Galbraith, a local rake, explaining to his friend how to keep from making a commitment and still keep his woman, she takes notes and uses that advice in her column.

Rex is not too happy to see his words in print, and when his friend’s lady reads the column, it all blows up. Rex ends up in a rather odd arrangement with Clara, and they both learn quite a bit about how the heart works. The hate-at-first-sight slowly turns to love, and it is fun to watch.

Another excellent addition to the genre – witty, intelligent and pure escapism.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE TROUBLE WITH TRUE LOVE by Laura Lee Guhrke. Avon; Reissue edition (January 30, 2018). ISBN 978-0062469878.  384p.

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THE COLOR OF LOVE by Sharon Sala

April 6, 2018

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A Blessings, Georgia Novel, Book 5

Blessings is a small, Southern town that runs primarily on gossip. Ruby Dye is receiving gifts from a secret admirer, and that is a hot topic. She’s not sure who they are from, only who she wishes they were from, “Peanut” Butterman, the town lawyer (with parents with a sense of humor) and Ruby’s friend.

Then Ruby gets kidnapped, and the whole town comes together to try and find her, including Peanut. This is a sweet romance, veering just barely on the right side of corny without going quite that far.

If you like your romances with a dash of suspense and a lot of sugar, this is the book for you. Sometimes that is all you need.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE COLOR OF LOVE by Sharon Sala.  Sourcebooks Casablanca (February 6, 2018). ISBN  978-1492646051. 320p.

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I HAVE LOST MY WAY by Gayle Forman

April 5, 2018

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Gayle Forman is one of those authors that I will read anything she writes, and I can’t say that about too many authors, especially those who write books for young adults. She’s just a great storyteller, and if you haven’t read her, or read a young adult bool before, try this one. It’s short, only 272 pages, and it moves. The writing is beautiful, the characters interesting and believable, and the story spans out over the course of one day. It explores themes of friendship and empathy, love and kindness and family.

Freya is supposed to be the next big thing, a young singing sensation. She and her sister started out creating their own YouTube videos, but were discovered by a “star maker” who quickly ditched the sister and took over Freya’s life. For two years he’s been building up her reputation and now she is poised to become “it.” Except for one tiny detail; she’s apparently lost her voice while recording her first album. Not simply a case of laryngitis, but something more primal and psychological is at play here.

To avoid being fired, Freya takes off for a walk through Central Park where she accidentally stumbles off the edge of a bridge, landing on a young man below. His name is Nathaniel, and he is recently arrived in the city with some scary plans of his own. Nathaniel has been knocked unconscious, and Freya grabs hold of another young man, Harun, who was walking by at that moment.

Harun recognizes her at once; his boyfriend was a huge fan. Or ex-boyfriend, as the case may be. Harun is hurting. James was his first boyfriend, and he fears that his parents, immigrants, would not understand or approve of his homosexuality, so he is keeping it secret and the secret is killing him.

These three teenagers have all lost their way in life, and at their age that is a scary thing indeed. They end up spending the day together and doing a lot of growing up. I don’t want to give away anything else, just know that I fell in love with these people and read their story in one afternoon. I loved it.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

I HAVE LOST MY WAY by Gayle Forman. Viking Books for Young Readers (March 27, 2018). ISBN 978-0425290774.  272p.

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THE ORACLE YEAR by Charles Soule

April 4, 2018

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Suppose you woke up one morning and find 108 predictions of future events had come to roost in your head. Than suppose you tested a few out and found that they come true. Now how can you capitalize on this once in a billion occurrence which apparently came only to you.

Soule’s novel is about this nice problem presenting itself to a bassist named Will Dando, who is a resident of Manhattan in New York City. Will quickly comes to the decision that he must protect his anonymity, calling himself the Oracle, and establishing a heavily guarded website with the help of a good friend who is conveniently computer literate.

Very quickly he establishes an enviable reputation with huge companies and wealthy persons who offer him tons of money to present them with predictions. He also gains a like number of enemies that want nothing better than to stop him. These include the President of the United States, a well known televangelist, a power hungry African warlord and the cutest little old grandma who turns out to be a paid killer. He also meets a very beautiful reporter scoring an interview with him and also becoming his love.

The scene of the action taking place is the entire world. There is enough clever tongue-in-cheek comments to allow the reader to completely enjoy a good book and also pick up on the criticisms leveled at customs and mores of modern society.

Soule is a well known comic book franchise writer and strangely enough has waited until now to come out with his first novel. There have just got to be more from an author with this wit and charm in his writing.

4/18 Paul Lane

THE ORACLE YEAR by Charles Soule. Harper Perennial (April 3, 2018).  ISBN 978-0062686633. 416p.


A NANTUCKET WEDDING by Nancy Thayer

April 3, 2018

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Need a beach vacation? Escape to Nantucket with this latest charmer from Nancy Thayer.

Alison had one of those rare, really good marriages so when her husband died, she never thought she’d marry again. And then she met David, who was pretty much in the same boat. But at their age, they knew pretty quickly that what they had was special and decide to get married on Nantucket, where he has a beautiful home on the beach.

Alison invites her daughters up to Nantucket for the weekend to meet her fiancé. Felicity is married with two children and her husband is working his tail off to get his green food startup running and successful. Jane is a lawyer married to another lawyer and both are completely focused on their careers. The two sisters have never been close, but a weekend alone makes them realize their similarities are stronger than their differences.

David also has children, his son is a big flirt and surprisingly to the prettier Felicity, he goes after Jane. There’s also Poppy, mother of two and being groomed to take over her father’s mega-successful business. Poppy is not too thrilled with the idea of her father remarrying but for the most part, the kids all get along. But as it gets closer to the wedding date, all sorts of obstacles arise.

This is a lovely family saga and a wonderful way to kick off my beach reading…especially considering what kind of winter it’s been! A most enjoyable read.

4/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A NANTUCKET WEDDING by Nancy Thayer.  Ballantine Books (April 3, 2018). ISBN  978-1101967102. 320p.

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