AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Broder

June 11, 2018

 

So now that you’re interested…

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THE PISCES by Melissa Broder

“Bold, virtuosic, addictive, erotic – there is nothing like The Pisces. I have no idea how Broder does it, but I loved every dark and sublime page of it.” —Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter 

Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy can find little relief from her anxiety — not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection.

Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship, and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like, take a very unexpected turn. A masterful blend of vivid realism and giddy fantasy, pairing hilarious frankness with pulse-racing eroticism, THE PISCES is a story about falling in obsessive love with a merman: a figure of Sirenic fantasy whose very existence pushes Lucy to question everything she thought she knew about love, lust, and meaning in the one life we have.

About the Author

Melissa Broder is the author of four poetry collections, including LAST SEXT (Tin House, 2016), and the essay collection SO SAD TODAY (Grand Central, 2016). Her first novel, THE PISCES, was published by Hogarth/Crown in May 2018.

Broder writes the So Sad Today column for VICE, the horoscopes for Lenny Letter, and the Beauty and Death column at Elle.com.

Poems appear in POETRY, The Iowa ReviewTin House, Guernica, FenceThe Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, et al. You can read the online ones HERE. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize for poetry.

Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York. She lives in Los Angeles.

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger

June 10, 2018
when life gives you lululemons

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I was not a fan of Lauren Weisberger. I was assigned to review The Devil Wears Prada for Library Journal when it first came out, and I really didn’t care for it. The story line was intriguing, but the execution was not good. This was the first sentence of my review:

“This chic read is sure to take the fashion world by storm, although the literary world may find it lacking.”

(If you dig deep enough, you can read the rest of the review on this site, just do a search.) In fact, it was that rare unicorn of a book that was completely eclipsed by the movie, which was worlds better. Since none of her later books were assigned to me, I didn’t read them. Until now.

It was with much trepidation that I started reading this new book. It’s gotten a lot of press, made it to a bunch of “summer must reads” lists so I went for it. And guess what – I liked it! Again the execution wasn’t perfect – the story is a bit convoluted at times – but it was a fun read.

There are three main characters here. Emily, from The Devil Wears Prada, where she toiled as Miranda Priestly’s number one assistant, has spun herself off from Runway magazine into the premier Hollywood fixer. Indeed we meet her as one of her clients has decided to wear a Nazi uniform for the fun of it and can’t understand why that is a problem.

Emily has a best friend, Miriam, who has left her high powered law office in NYC to be a stay-at-home mommy in Greenwich, Connecticut after her husband’s tech start up makes millions. Miriam is slowly adapting to the lifestyle, which is just skewered here, from wine soaked lunches to sex toy parties and completely ridiculous, over the top children’s birthday parties.

Then Emily starts losing customers to a younger, more tech savvy competitor and she hightails it to Greenwich to hang with her friend. But then another friend, Karolina Hartwell, gets into trouble.

Karolina is a supermodel married to a state senator with presidential ambitions. In the most far fetched plot point, she gets arrested for driving under the influence a few doors down from her house with a car full of kids. She becomes a pariah, and only Emily can help her regain her reputation and get some sort of custody of her stepson.

The fabulous Miranda Priestly makes an all too brief appearance, and if you blink you’ll miss Andrea Sachs as well. But all’s well that ends well, and everyone gets their happy ending here. If you want a read that is as light as a summer breeze, you’ve found your book.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger. Simon & Schuster (June 5, 2018).  ISBN 978-1476778440.  352p.

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THE FIRST TIME AT FIRELIGHT FALLS by Julie Anne Long

June 9, 2018

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Hellcat Canyon Novel, Book 4

Gabe, like most elementary school principals, is an ex-Navy Seal. Ha! I wish, I’d love kids to feel that safe in school. But in this fictional tale, he really is, and he really loves kids. He is also very lonely, and fills his days and nights with meetings, coaching, and volunteering all over town. He’s also really hot with a body that draws every female eye in town. It’s not surprising that every mom in the school finds a reason to stop by his office, but he only has eyes for Eden, a single mom with an amazing kid.

There is a strong attraction there but Eden has been so busy being a single mom that she hasn’t allowed herself to get involved with anyone. But Gabe is really hard to dismiss. He’s not pushy, he just keeps showing up and they talk – really talk – about anything and everything and slowly get to know one another. Eventually, they realize it is time to move the relationship to the next level.

Eden has a secret that she has been keeping since her daughter’s conception – no one, including her family, knows who the baby daddy is. Eden knows and she’s not ready to tell anyone, that is until he shows up in town, meets his daughter by accident and realizes rather quickly that she must be his – she’s the spitting image of his mother.  This throws a complication into the whole Gabe/Eden dynamic that neither of them saw coming.

This was a really fun read with great characters and a bit of steamy sex now and then. I  also really enjoyed the humor and all the obstacles in the way of the happily ever after.

I haven’t read the other books in the series but I know that Hot in Hellcat Canyon was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America 2017 Contemporary Romance award. (I just reserved it at my library.) And I wouldn’t be surprised if this new one landed on that list as well.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE FIRST TIME AT FIRELIGHT FALLS by Julie Anne Long. Avon (May 29, 2018). ISBN 978-0062672902.  384p.

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BEACH HOUSE REUNION by Mary Alice Monroe

June 8, 2018

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The Beach House Series

From the publisher:

Whisking you back to the shores of her bestselling Beach House series, Mary Alice Monroe weaves together a tale of the struggles and triumphs of the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina. Beautifully wrought and rich with keen insight, this is an illuminating tale of new beginnings, resilience, and one family’s enduring love.

Cara Rutledge returns to her Southern home on the idyllic Isle of Palms. Everything is comfortingly the same, yet each detail is rife with painful memories. Only through reconnecting with family, friends, and the rhythms of the lowcountry can Cara release the hold of the past and open herself to the possibility of a new love, career, and hope for the future.

Meanwhile, her niece Linnea, a recent college graduate who doesn’t know where her life will take her, leaves her historic home in Charleston, with all its entitlement and expectations, and heads to her aunt’s beach house. On the island, she is part of the freer, natural ocean lifestyle she loves, rejoining the turtle team, learning to surf, and falling in love. Remembering the lessons of her beloved grandmother, Lovie, the original “turtle lady,” Linnea rediscovers a meaningful purpose to her life and finds the courage she needs to break from tradition.

In this heartwarming novel, three generations of the Rutledge family gather together to find the strength, love, and commitment to break destructive family patterns and to forge new bonds that will endure long beyond one summer reunion.


I’ve only read the last book in this series, Beach House for Rent, and I really enjoyed that book. This one, not so much.

It is set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina on Isle of Palms and in the same house as the last book. But that story had a lot more story to it. Not much happens here until about halfway through this book.

The first half is a love letter to the area with lots of descriptions and an emphasis on the turtles. I live in a turtle nesting area so I’m already very familiar with this so maybe that’s why I found it a bit boring. Eventually, there is a bit of romance and family drama, but it just took too long to get there and the book really dragged for me.

I was tempted on several occasions to just put it down and forget it, but because I liked the last one so much I stuck with it. I’m not sorry I did but I would only recommend it to fans of either Mary Alice Monroe, turtles, or the Lowcountry. There are much more interesting beach books out there.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

BEACH HOUSE REUNION by Mary Alice Monroe. Gallery Books (May 22, 2018).  ISBN 978-1501193293.  400p.

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TOO WILDE TO WED by Eloisa James

June 7, 2018

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Wildes of Lindow Castle, Book 2

From the publisher:

No one is more surprised than Lord North when he returns from war to find his ex-fiancee in his ancestral home…working as a governess in a sexy, fiery new Wildes of Lindow Castle romance by New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James…

The handsome, rakish heir to a dukedom, Lord Roland Northbridge Wilde—known to his friends as North—left England two years ago, after being jilted by Miss Diana Belgrave. He returns from war to find that he’s notorious: polite society has ruled him “too wild to wed.”

Diana never meant to tarnish North’s reputation, or his heart, but in her rush to save a helpless child, there was no time to consider the consequences of working as a governess in Lindow Castle. Now everyone has drawn the worst conclusions about the child’s father, and Diana is left with bittersweet regret.

When North makes it clear that he still wants her for his own, scandal or no, Diana has to fight to keep from losing her heart to the man whom she still has no intention of marrying.

Yet North is returning a hardened warrior—and this is one battle he’s determined to win.

He wants Diana, and he’ll risk everything to call her his own.

I usually love Eloisa James’s books but I struggled with this one. I found the storyline a bit convoluted at times and lacking the usual charm and wit of most of her books. The heroine, Diana, was more annoying than interesting and there wasn’t a whole lot of romance in this romance. It was an okay read but frankly, I was disappointed.

As an aside that truly means nothing, I found the cover odd, it looks more like a contemporary romance than historical.

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TOO WILDE TO WED by Eloisa James. Avon (May 29, 2018). ISBN 978-0062848802. 304p.


DREAMS OF FALLING by Karen White

June 6, 2018

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I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Karen White’s latest!

PureWowSouthern Living, and PopSugar have all chosen Karen White’s DREAMS OF FALLING (Berkley Hardcover, June 5) as a best beach read of summer! It also made the list at LibraryReads.

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this contemporary women’s fiction novel, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.

On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

Connect with the author:  Karen White

Praise for Dreams of Falling

“Three lifelong best friends. One dark secret that will reverberate for generations to come. Told in multiple timelines of the present and the past, this is Southern fiction at its best. A novel about dreams, friendship, and family, Dreams of Falling will make you long for home.”—PopSugar

“Intricate storytelling across generations and time periods, using eloquent language, makes for deep characterization alongside a brisk-paced plot. Full of family secrets and southern charm, Dreams of Falling serves equal helpings of drama and comfort to fans of Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, and Barbara Claypole White.”—Booklist

6/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

DREAMS OF FALLING by Karen White. Berkley (June 5, 2018). ISBN 978-0451488411. 416p.

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THE OPTIKAL ILLUSION by Rachel Halliburton

June 5, 2018

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A novel set in England in the 18th century with world shattering events such as the French Revolution and the beginnings of the Napoleonic era playing out as background. The center of the story are happenings that occurred to the British Royal Academy and involve a scandal Halliburton researched that actually did occur.

The year was 1797 and Benjamin West, an American artist living in London, is approached by a father-daughter duo. They are attempting to interest him in buying a manuscript authored by the great painterc Titian. The piece was indicated to be an outline and description of Titian’s use of colors which allowed him to paint in the commanding style he did. Colors mixed for paintings in those days were generally proprietary to the individual artist with only a small quantity available for purchase from known suppliers.

West was also going through a down period in his paintings leading him to meet with Ann Jemima and her father to see if what they had could help him in breaking out of the doldrums. The Provis duo advised that their grandfather had left the manuscript to his family and they were able to do as they wished with it.

The novel represents a very sound idea and background for an attractive story. The research done in order to set up the late 18th century is well done. Unfortunately, Halliburton allows the characters to continually get involved in long drawn out conversations rather than action to move the story forward. It becomes too easy for the reader to lose interest in what is going on. The well researched material going into the novel gets lost when subjected to the conversations that merely allude to the actions occurring.

This is Halliburton’s first novel and it definitely shows an ability to get the research that would showcase any era. It would be easy for her to attract readers by simply keeping talk to a minimum and showing forward motion via action.

6/18 Paul Lane

THE OPTIKAL ILLUSION by Rachel Halliburton. The Overlook Press (June 5, 2018). ISBN 978-1468316292.  352p.

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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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