Coronavirus Diary: January 1, 2023

January 1, 2023

My favorite reads of 2022! Just in case you missed it –

Book News

There are always tons of best books of the year lists, so I thought I’d share a few. These are some of the books that appear on list after list:

Trust by Hernan Diaz

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (debut novel)

The New York Times Best Romance Novels of 2022: The genre has had an exceptional year — one of its best of all time.

The 10 Best Books of 2022 (New York Times)

Readers share their favorite audiobooks of the year (Washington Post)

The 10 best books of 2022 (Washington Post)

The best books of 2022 (The Guardian)

Best Books of 2022 (Library Journal) LJ offers their lists by genres – here are a few:

Best 20 Books of 2022 (Publisher’s Weekly)

Best Fiction Books of the Year (Kirkus)

The Best Books of 2022 (The New Yorker)

PEOPLE Picks the Top 10 Books of 2022

The best books of 2022 (Entertainment Weekly)

Vox’s 16 best books of 2022

The Best Books of 2022 (Vulture)

Amazon’s book editors announce 2022’s best books of the year

Best Books of the Year (Barnes & Noble)

Best Books for Adults 2022 (The New York Public Library)

Best Books of 2022 (Goodreads)

Other Book News

The Murky Path To Becoming a New York Times Best Seller (Esquire)

Rolling Stone

How Will BookTok Change Publishing in 2023?

Creators on TikTok are fighting for a more diverse book world — and running into some deep-seated problems in the industry

(Eliana Rodgers for The Washington Post)

We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking.

‘They’re more like friends than objects,’ one passionate bookseller says. What are we to do with our flooded shelves?

Food News

Most years we make pizza for New Year’s Eve, so I was tickled when my son asked for a recipe for pizza sauce; I was happy to see him continuing our tradition! If you’d like to try making your own pizza, my favorite is Robert’s Pizza Dough recipe, courtesy of the NY Times, for Neapolitan-style pizza. King Arthur Baking has you covered for a Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza; Detroit-Style Pizza; Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza; Grandma Pizza; or one of my favorites, The Fastest Homemade Pizza Ever – great for busy weeknights! KA also has a free newsletter you can sign up for called Pizza School, that I highly recommend.

This is my standard pizza sauce recipe, good with any kind of pizza, even English Muffin pizza, and it’s my beautiful grandson Jonah-approved!

28 oz can whole Roma tomatoes, preferably packed in puree*

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

pinch oregano

few basil leaves, rolled up and sliced thinly or torn

salt & pepper

Heat olive oil on medium in a saucepan. Toss in garlic for about 30 seconds – you should smell it but it shouldn’t brown. Add the entire can of tomatoes with the puree or juice into the garlic, then add the oregano and basil. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sometimes I throw in a pinch of dried red chili pepper if you want a bit of heat. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, just to meld flavors. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce, but if you don’t have one, you can dump the sauce into a food processor or blender. Pizza sauce is usually fairly smooth rather than chunky, but you do you – enjoy!

*My favorite canned tomatoes are Nina, which Costco sells in a three pack. Other brands I like are Cento, Tutorosso, and Redpack. And if you want to spring for it, San Marzano tomatoes are beautiful but pricy, so make sure it says D.O.P. on the can or you are paying extra for no reason.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy new year filled with love, joy, success, and good books!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

*Thanks to The New York Times and The Washington Post for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to these articles, a lovely perk for subscribers.

Best Books of 2022

December 30, 2022

It’s that time of year again; these are the books that I liked best this year. This is my very subjective, very personal list. I loved a lot of books this year; I mostly read romances and romcoms, and those books tend to keep me happy. But to be honest, I forget a lot of them as soon as I’ve moved on to the next. So the ones that stay with me are the ones that end up on my annual list. I’ve read over 300 books this year so had plenty to choose from. And I’m limiting myself to a top ten list this year!

I hope you find this list useful and interesting. It’s in no particular order:

OUR MISSING HEARTS by Celeste Ng: It’s been too long since we’ve had a book from Ng, after her previous bestsellers Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You, which I loved. This book is even better, and I truly didn’t think that was possible. It also deals with families and racism but leaves Ohio and goes way beyond those topics to include politics, censorship, book banning, radical librarians (yay!) and so much more.

This was not an easy read because it’s all so abhorrent, disturbing, and way too close to where we seem to be heading in this country. And I suppose that was the point. This is a book that is crying out to be discussed, and don’t be surprised if your book group reaches new heights of passionate discourse. I loved this book as much as I hated what was happening in it. Our Missing Hearts is an unforgettable page-turner rooted in American politics, then spun out into a terrifyingly dark near-future in a stunningly beautiful novel. All I can say is put this on your “must-read” list. Read the full review.

LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus: This is a fantastic debut novel with an unforgettable protagonist, a chemist in the late 1950s-early 1960s when a woman’s place was in the home. When her circumstances change, she ends up hosting one of the earliest cooking TV shows. Elizabeth is a quirky, strong character and her story is both hilarious and heartbreaking, yet ultimately inspiring. Book groups will have much to discuss here. Read the full review.

TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW by Gabrielle Zevin: This is a hard book to quantify; it probably is best slotted into the literary fiction genre (and boy, do they hate when literary fiction is called a genre!) All I can tell you is this is a tour de force and a mesmerizing read set in the world of video games. I don’t want to give away anything, so if you like character-driven stories that are fast-paced and emotionally engaging, then this is your book. I loved it, and so did just about all the critics. Too much hype can sometimes backfire, but it is well-deserved here. Read the full review.

MAD HONEY by Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Finney Boylan: This is a book full of secrets that slowly unspool throughout the story. It isn’t until the halfway point that we get the biggest secret, one that I never saw coming. Several reviewers have mentioned this, but no spoilers here. Let’s just say all these characters reveal different aspects of their lives and therein lies the intrigue of this story. This is a very engaging story with interesting characters and quite a bit of suspense. Picoult is the queen of family dramas, and she retains her crown with this latest endeavor. I couldn’t put the book down and there is so much to discuss, and your book club will love it. Read the full review.

SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs: Bella Vista Chronicles, Book 4. I love Susan Wiggs’ books; they always have intriguing characters, interesting settings, and unputdownable stories, and this is no exception. This story deals with a small town in Texas, a rape, and the unwanted pregnancy that follows. It deals with abortion and adoption and prison and women’s rights. It deals with our justice system and how it favors the rich. It could not be more timely, and all these things are handled with truth and grace and real-life emotions. While this is the fourth book of a series, it easily stands alone, as do all the books in this series. That said, I have loved every one of them and highly recommend them all. Do yourself a favor and read them in whatever order you can get them. 

The Bella Vista Chronicles in Order:

  1. The Apple Orchard
  2. The Beekeeper’s Ball
  3. The Lost and Found Bookshop
  4. Sugar and Salt

Read the full review.

THE VIOLIN CONSPIRACY by Brendan Slocumb: While this book is marketed as a thriller, it is more a coming-of-age story, a story about racism in America, and in particular, in the classical musical field. The mystery of a missing violin is a plot device that helps moves the story along, but it goes beyond that. I was so invested in Ray and his career that I couldn’t put this book down. I loved being immersed in Ray’s world and was desperate for him to get his violin back and see his career rocket. According to the author’s note at the end, this is a bit of a bildungsroman as he is a Black man and a classical violinist.

This book was truly such a gift, and I am most grateful for it. Read the full review.

THE LIGHTNING ROD by Brad Meltzer: Escape Artist, A Zig & Nola Novel: Book 2. The good news is that you do not have to read the first book in the series to understand this one; it stands alone beautifully. That said, the first book in the series made my best books of 2018 list so go read it anyway!

All the characters are interesting, multi-dimensional, diverse, and fully realized. The situations they find themselves in are often not of their own doing, but their resolve, ingenuity, and tenacity gets them where they need to go. That said, the body count is high and this is not a book for the squeamish. There are almost a dizzying number of twists and turns and the pages fly by in this unputdownable thriller. Yes, I stayed up late to finish it! This is a worthy sequel, and the second book of what is shaping up to be one of my must-read series. Read the full review.

DESERT STAR by Michael Connelly: Renée Ballard, Book 5 and/or Harry Bosch, Book 24. There is no retiring Harry Bosch. The Vietnam War vet is now a volunteer on Renée Ballard’s new Open/Unsolved unit for the Los Angeles police department. No spoilers here but the ending definitely feels like an ending. I understand it, and I trust Connelly to do the right thing with his most beloved character. This is another gem from one of the finest crime writers in the world – and that is not hyperbole.

Read the full review.

GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE by Diana Gabaldon: It’s been a long wait – seven years – for the ninth book in the Outlander series and while it is not the best book, it is an excellent read. This series really needs to be read in order and each book is rather long. This newest book takes place in 1779 in North Carolina, with forays to Savannah and Charles Town (Charleston,) and even to Philadelphia. While George Washington doesn’t make an appearance, his and some other famous names are dropped. This is well-researched historical fiction with time travel at its heart, and one of the most engaging romances in fiction. This is the series I wish I could read again for the first time. Read the full review.

REMINDERS OF HIM by Colleen Hoover: This is a story of mother separated from her child. It is, at times, an epistolary novel, as part of Kenna’s story is told through the hundreds of letters she has written Scotty since his death. It is also a romance, and there are a couple of sex scenes. It explores the messy emotions we all struggle with; guilt, sorrow, love, and forgiveness. It examines how everything is not always as it seems, and how assumptions can have a devastating effect on someone’s life. Ultimately, it is a story of redemption and hope.

This may be Hoover’s best book yet. It is a compelling story and a recognizable, relatable one. I read it in one afternoon, and I loved it. Book groups, please take note – lots to discuss here!

Read the full review.

I have never limited myself to a specific number of favorites in any given year, so it feels a bit uncomfortable to end here. Perhaps a few honorable mentions are in order…

SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX by Lisa Unger: Read the full review.

THE HOTEL NANTUCKET by Elin Hilderbrand: Read the full review.

NORA GOES OFF SCRIPT by Annabel Monaghan: Read the full review.

IT STARTS WITH US by Colleen Hoover: The sequel to It Ends With Us. Read the full review.

A SHOE STORY by Jane L. Rosen: Read the full review.

Happy Holidays 2022!

December 24, 2022
Don’t know if you can tell but that Santa hat is courtesy of Maker’s Mark!

I am hard at work putting the finishing touches on my favorite books of the year list. I hope to have it posted in the next couple of days, hopefully before New Year’s!

My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson are due in this afternoon from New York. They had to cancel last year due to an upsurge in Covid cases, but this year they all had Covid a month or two ago, so that is no longer an issue (for now!)

Jonah is on his way to see Nana, Papa, & Auntie Auntie!

I’ll be posting next week my personal best books of the year list. Once again I thank you for your patience; I am visually impaired which has slowed down my reading and reviewing considerably.

I wish all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe.

Spotlight Review: HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean 

December 20, 2022

Hell’s Belles. Book 2

From the publisher:

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart. 

A Tempting Thief

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help unwilling brides avoid the altar, all while hiding her own scandalous past.

A Powerful Duke

Henry Carrington, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection and has no time for the scandals that arise every time Adelaide ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close. 

A Perfect Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, the duke has no choice but to follow her across Britain on a trip filled with bad weather, bad luck, and a surprising lack of beds. Adelaide soon realizes that this perfect duke kisses like a proper scoundrel, and is turning out to be a thief in his own right…one who won’t stop until he’s stolen her well-guarded heart.

MacLean turns the Victorian romance genre on its head with this feminist spin and I’m into it! Both of these books stand alone, and I can say this because I read the first book, Bombshell, just over a year ago and honestly didn’t remember many details, yet I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.

The Hell’s Belles are a group of women with a mission to save their peers from disasterous marriages and other of life’s challenges. This book centers around Adelaide, the “Matchbreaker.” She herself was saved from a marriage in which her father was basically selling her to a man she had no interest in marrying, a not uncommon practice in Victorian England. Matches were made, especially among the upper class (the ton) because of financial need, status, or tying together families to amass more power. Not so lovely reasons to get married!

Adelaide is not of the upper class. In fact, her father runs one of the most notorious gangs in London, and she was raised to be a thief and a pickpocket, or “nipper,” and she is one of the best. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way and was imprisoned the first time when she was only 8 years old. She has changed her name and is now under the protection of the Duchess, one of the Belles whose money and influence gives them great latitude to help other women. Unfortunately, this time it is Adelaide who needs the help.

A young woman witnessed her father, a member of the aristocracy, murder a fellow aristocrat. Now he wants her dead. Yes, you read that right. Women were so dispensable in jolly old England! Instead, she elopes with the younger brother of the Duke of Carrington.

The Duke is a confirmed bachelor, and he is happy his brother found someone to love. He fully supports the marriage, but the girl’s father has hired some ruffians to find and kill them both. Adelaide to the rescue, only she has help in the Duke. While their relationship is somewhat adversarial – she steals something he greatly values and the race is on. As they cross England to try and reach the Duke’s brother before the happy couple is killed, Adelaide and the Duke fall in love. He has secrets that preclude him from marrying, and she has major self-esteem issues. But no worries – a happy ending is in store.

This was a fun read and I enjoyed these characters and the story. It was fast-paced and had some humor, along with some heat! If you enjoyed the first book in the series, I think this one was a bit better. If you haven’t read the first one, you can still read this one and it won’t feel like you’re walking into the middle of something. MacLean is a smart writer and does a really good job with series. This book is on many of the best books of the year lists so give it a try!

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEARTBREAKER by Sarah MacLean. Avon (August 23, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063243248. 352p.





JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle 

December 16, 2022

From the publisher:

The holidays were never her thing, until she accidentally conjures the Holiday Spirit…before her very eyes.

Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a collection of designer purses and an enviable dream home in Hawaii. That was before she lost all her money. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backward and accidentally conjures up Hall, the Holiday Spirit, in the form of a charming and handsome (if offbeat) man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.

But as some of Bettie’s wishes lose their charm, she finds herself thrown off-kilter by Hall’s sweet nature. Suddenly, grumpy Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways return as soon as the holidays are over?

One of PopSugar‘s Best Books of 2022
One of Country Living’s Best Christmas Romances 2022
One of PopSugar’s Best New Holiday Romances 2022
One of Buzzfeed’s Best Romance Novels 2022

If you can’t have a bit of magic at the holidays, when can you? Hall is some sort of spirit, the Holiday Spirit to be exact, come to earth in beautiful male human form to help Bettie get her holiday spirit back. She measures less than 2 on the holiday spirit scale, and he needs to get her back up towards 10 again. Unfortunately, I didn’t like Bettie so I didn’t really care if she had holiday spirit or not.

But don’t worry! Bettie learns to be a better person because of Hall, but I had to slog through almost half of the book before I started enjoying it. Honestly, the only reason I didn’t put it down was because Caitlin (a former reviewer here) recommended it. She also warned me it was slow going in the beginning, but because I read on a Kindle, and the Kindle provides stats as you go, it wasn’t until I had read 44% of the book that I started to like it. By the end, I understood why so many people are raving about it.

Bettie comes from a family of super successful people, starting with her grandmother, a retired movie star, and her namesake. Bettie is a social media influencer with millions of followers. She was also super successful until most of her money was blown by her crazy, out-of-control spending and the rest stolen by the people around her. She is pretty much flat broke, homeless, and feeling vindictive. She is squatting in a house where the owner had died several months earlier. She keeps waiting for someone to show up and kick her out, but her luck is holding.

When she accidentally spills something on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” record and plays it backwards, Hall appears, her Holiday Spirit guide, if you will. She can ask him for anything and if she adds the magic words, “make my wish come true” he has to do it. Within reason. Apparently, there is “legislation” regarding holiday spirits that involve all sorts of rules. Nonetheless, he helps her get revenge on some people, conjures her up her own home, and goes with her as her fiancé to her family home for Christmas. She is wearing Elizabeth Taylor’s engagement ring, since she wished for it.

As Bettie and Hall spend time together and she sees how is able to charm her entire family of self-centered miscreants, Bettie’s own behavior starts changing for the better. Actually, her whole family is changing because of Hall. Bettie is full of the holiday spirit by Christmas Eve, and sometime during the night Hall disappears. His work here is done – except there are so many more things he wants to try, human/Earth-type things, and he really misses Bettie, and she really misses him.

There is some magic involved in getting Bettie & Hall to their happy ending. I loved the second half of the book enough to recommend it. If you like some holiday magic in your romance, this is the book for you.

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

JUST LIKE MAGIC by Sarah Hogle. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (October 4, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593539859. 368p.





Spotlight Review: THE CHRISTMAS Wish by Lindsey Kelk 

December 13, 2022

From the publisher:

Can a little Christmas magic mend a broken heart?

Newly single lawyer Gwen Baker is hoping that a family Christmas―countryside, a mountain of food and festive films―will salve the sting of her career hanging by a thread and her heart being trampled on. Because everyone else has their life sorted: even Dev, her boy-next-door crush, is now a tall, dark and handsome stranger with a fiancée. She can’t help wishing her future was clearer.

Then Gwen wakes up to discover it’s Christmas day all over again. Like Groundhog Day but with eggnog. And family arguments. On repeat.

As she figures out how to escape her own particular Christmas hell, Dev is the one bright spot. He might be all grown-up but underneath he’s just as kind and funny as she remembers.

Maybe, just maybe, her heart can be mended after all.

But how do you fall in love with someone who can’t remember you from one day to the next?

Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies; we watch it every February! So I was happy and a tiny bit scared to read this Christmas version. What if I hated it?? But I am happy to say that I worried for nothing. I loved this book!

This is a very British romcom, full of quirky characters, foods I had to look up (Hobnob is a cookie, I learned,) and a wonderful family that celebrates Christmas together every year, despite the fights and feuds. Gwen is the youngest daughter and as such, has always felt competitive with her older sister, Cerys. Cerys is beautiful, a lawyer like their father. and married to a misogynistic man. Gwen is also a lawyer, working for one of the top law firms in London, making her father very proud. Except she hates her job, and after a client put his hands on her, she clocked him and ended up basically suspended for two weeks. Her boyfriend of a few years just dumped her after admitting to having an affair with his receptionist, so Gwen is struggling, to say the least.

Christmas is always hectic at home, but one crazy thing after another happens, and when Gwen wakes up the next day, she is shocked to find out it is Christmas day. Again. And it keeps happening. Gwen is convinced that one of the family made a Christmas wish on the sixpence her mother baked into the Christmas pudding, but no one is admitting to getting it. She decides the only way to get out of this time loop is to make sure everyone’s wishes come true.

The only bright spot in all of this is that in trying to find out their wishes, Gwen also learns a lot about her family. Plus all the craziness is laugh-out-loud funny. It also gives Gwen time to reconnect with Dev, the boy next door that she had a massive crush on all through high school. They lost touch and hadn’t seen one another in about ten years. Rumor has it that he’s engaged, so Gwen is determined to keep her distance and not be the other woman, but it’s not going to be easy.

This book is such a fun read that I don’t want to give anything away. If you are looking for a Christmas romance that will have you laughing and smiling all the way through it, then this is the book for you. It certainly was for me – I loved it!

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE CHRISTMAS Wish by Lindsey Kelk. HarperFiction (November 15, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0008544645. 352p.






LAST CIRCLE OF LOVE by Lorna Landvik

December 9, 2022

From the publisher:

A funny, heartwarming story about a feisty group of women who shake, spice, and heat things up with a “recipe” book for romance, from the bestselling author of Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.

Newly installed at All Souls Lutheran, Mallory “Pastor Pete” Peterson soon realizes that her church isn’t merely going through turbulent waters, but is a sinking ship. With the help of five loyal members of the Naomi Circle, the young, bold minister brainstorms fundraising ideas. They all agree that the usual recipe book won’t add much to the parish coffers, but maybe one with all the ingredients on how to heat up relationships rather than casseroles will…

Pastor Pete has her doubts about the project, but it turns out the group of postmenopausal women has a lot to say on the subject of romance. While Charlene, the youngest member at fifty-two, struggles with the assignment, baker-extraordinaire Marlys, elegantly bohemian Bunny, I’m-always-right Velda, and ebullient Edie take up their contributions enthusiastically. After all, their book is really about cooking up love in all its forms.

But not everyone in the congregation is on board with this “scandalous” project. As the voices of opposition grow louder, Pastor Pete and these intrepid women will have to decide how hard they’re willing to fight for this book and the powerful stories within―stories of discovery, softened hearts, and changed lives.

A women’s group at a struggling church is at the heart of this new novel from Landvik (Chronicles of a Radical Hag, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.) Set in a small town with two competing churches, All Souls has a newish, young pastor but a declining population, while the newer, richer church across town is thriving. Pastor Pete has a young child, but luckily, her husband is a stay-at-home parent so she can spend more time caring for her flock. Determined to raise needed funds, the women ditch their usual bake sale and cookbook fundraiser for a try at a book they are tentatively calling, “The ABC’s of Erotica.” Each woman will contribute, along with anyone else they can wrangle into helping. The entries have more of a sweet romance tilt and a distinct lack of erotica, but the name alone gets people talking. Landvik usually excels at creating novels with quirky characters and small-town charm, but there are so many characters and subplots here that the charm gets short shrift. 

Verdict: Church-goers will recognize these characters and feel at home here. Should delight Fannie Flagg or Debbie Macomber fans.

©Library Journal, 2022

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LAST CIRCLE OF LOVE by Lorna Landvik. Lake Union Publishing (December 6, 2022). ISBN: 978-1662506260. 288p.





December 9, 2022

Silver Springs, Book 7

From the publisher:

Spend the holidays in Silver Springs, where the greatest gift of all is the love you never expected.

Up-and-coming TV anchor Emery Bliss can’t imagine anything more humiliating than the sex tape her ex revenge-posted online. That is, until it causes her to lose her job on top of her self-esteem. Seeking solace—and anonymity—in Silver Springs, Emery isn’t looking to get involved with another man any time soon. But when she’s thrown back into contact with Dallas Turner, she sees something that his many detractors have missed.

Being home for the holidays and his adoptive mother’s wedding isn’t where mountain climber Dallas feels most comfortable. Thanks to his troubled childhood, he’d rather be on a rock face alone than trying to connect with people. Emery, however, makes him want to overcome his past…somehow.

Both Emery and Dallas had been planning on a quiet, solitary Christmas, but the sparks between them are lighting a fire strong enough to last—possibly forever.

With this book, I think I am all caught up on this series, which is good, but also makes me sad. Hopefully, there will be more – I’m not ready to leave Silver Springs behind.

Emery’s co-anchor and boyfriend doesn’t react very well when she dumps him for being a controlling jerk. He has a secret sex tape with her that he releases online – revenge porn, especially difficult for someone in the public eye. Emery is devastated that he could do something like that to her, but he denies it. Instead, he blames his housemate. But he would have no reason to tape them (he’s gay) or leak the tape, but there’s really nothing to be done.

Then things go from bad to worse when she is fired from the TV station where she thought she would be launching her career. The boyfriend gets fired, too, but then rehired a short time later. Emery is livid and eventually hires a lawyer to sue the station for wrongful termination. Meanwhile, she goes home to Silver Springs for some solitude while she considers her next move.

Dallas is a world-renowned mountain climber, taking risks that most people don’t. He has been climbing for years, but finally has a sponsor, so the money is pouring in now. He goes home for Christmas, to the New Horizons school that his mom runs. He was one of the troubled boys she adopted, and he feels honored to help her out by teaching the boys to climb.

When Dallas and Emery meet up, the chemistry is palpable, but she doesn’t know what her future will bring, and he is bound to be alone, climbing his mountains. They have a lot to conquer to find their happy ending, but in Novak’s hands, a happy ending is guaranteed. Another terrific holiday romance from one of my favorite authors!

Silver Springs series in order:

  1. Finding Our Forever
  2. No One But You
  3. Until You Loved Me
  4. Right Where We Belong
  5. Unforgettable You
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. Home for the Holidays (novella)
  9. When I Found You
  10. Keep Me Warm at Christmas

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A CALIFORNIA CHRISTMAS by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (October 13, 2020). ISBN:‎ 978-0778310129. 368p.







December 9, 2022

Silver Springs, Book 10

From the publisher:

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good.

I love Brenda Novak and I love this series, and somehow I missed this book! If I haven’t read it, it’s new to me and I’m always happy to find a new book to love! In a way, I feel lucky that I missed this when it came out, because this season I get to read THREE Brenda Novak Christmas romances! I started with Christmas in Silver Springs, now this one, and up next, A California Christmas. Life is good!

Seth and Tia are two scarred individuals; both have emotional scars, but Tia’s stems from a horrific car accident that has left her with bad scarring on half her face. That would make anyone unhappy, but Tia is an actress who recently had her first big break, a starring role in a movie that is generating lots of Oscar buzz. But with her looks gone, she knows her career is over, almost before it started. She is being hounded by the paparazzi, all gunning for a picture of her damaged face, so when the producer of her film offers up his home in Silver Springs if she would agree to water the plants and take care of his bird, she jumps at the chance to hide. And off she goes.

Seth grew up with some serious issues, and that landed him at New Horizons, a school for troubled boys where the owner eventually adopts him. He becomes one of eight boys that she has adopted, all troubled, and she gives them the love and guidance that was lacking in their lives. Turns out Seth has a real talent for art, and his career takes off when he is a young man. He married the love of his life, but a few years later, she dies, leaving him bereft. It’s been a few years, but he is still married in his heart, certain he will never meet anyone else, and nor does he want to.

Tia and Seth recognize the trauma they each have faced and eventually form a tentative, somewhat friendly relationship. And then it becomes more. But can they both overcome their tragedies and find a future together? At Christmastime, anything is possible!

I loved these characters and it is always a joy to be back in Silver Springs. These books stand alone pretty well, but I think maybe start with the first one to get the backstory, then move on to any of the others. I have been jumping around and still have another one to go, but I have loved all of these books. If you like romances with some substance, then this series is perfect for you. It was for me.

Silver Springs series in order:

  1. Finding Our Forever
  2. No One But You
  3. Until You Loved Me
  4. Right Where We Belong
  5. Unforgettable You
  6. Christmas in Silver Springs
  7. A California Christmas
  8. Home for the Holidays (novella)
  9. When I Found You
  10. Keep Me Warm at Christmas

11/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

KEEP ME WARM AT CHRISTMAS by Brenda Novak. MIRA; Original edition (September 28, 2021). ISBN:‎ 978-0778311256. 416p.






SHIP WRECKED by Olivia Dade 

December 9, 2022

From the publisher:

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand—and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again…

Maria’s one-night-stand—the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note—just reappeared. Apparently, Peter’s her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they’re about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him…but he now wants nothing to do with her.

Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won’t sabotage his career for a woman who’s already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends—possibly even best friends—but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.

For years, they don’t touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don’t have a future together, since Peter’s going back to Hollywood, while Maria’s returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he’s determined to change her mind, and he’s spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.

His shipwrecked Swede doesn’t stand a chance.

“a smart, stellar contemporary… A banger of a finish, and an absolute joy.”  — New York Times Book Review

“a sexy, funny, heartwarming enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance… The story pulls readers in with well-developed, likable characters, and an unputdownable plot.” — Library Journal (starred review)

“Dade returns with another superbly entertaining, boldly sensual love story that unabashedly champions body positivity and delivers a cast of unforgettable characters, including a heroine who knows her own self-worth and isn’t afraid to fight for what she wants in life. Combine this with wit-infused writing and some love scenes hot enough to keep any Viking couple warm during those cold winter nights, and the result is another impactful romantic triumph from Dade.” — Booklist

Can a career-driven man make room in his heart and home for a woman who may be stronger than he is? Why yes, yes he can, only the timing has to be just right. Peter and Maria meet one night in a sauna and the attraction is undeniable. They end up in bed together, but when Peter wakes up the next morning, Maria is gone. She didn’t leave a note, he doesn’t even know her last name or why she even left. He really wanted to see more of her, but that ship has sailed. Until he goes to audition for a leading role in a hit Game of Thrones type series.

Peter lands the part and his co-star and love interest is none other than Maria. Both of these characters describe themselves as tall and fat, so they are surprised the network is going with them. Maria is smart enough to know that she needs safeguards in her contract to prevent the studio from forcing her to lose weight, and when that does come up moving into the second season, she stands her ground. Peter, on the other hand, is willing to do whatever the studio wants to keep his job. Luckily for him, Maria prevails.

Since they are working so closely together on a deserted island off of Ireland, with a small crew, for a six-year gig, they form a friendship. Peter is so career-focused that he knows he has to keep his hands off Maria, as much as he wants her because it could ruin the TV show. But on the last night of filming, he makes his move. Being best friends throughout the six years of the series was great, but once the sex becomes part of their relationship, you know these two are going to be happy forever. Except…

Maria moves into Peter’s home in an exclusive part of Los Angeles. But when he is offered the lead on a CSI-type show, he accepts, even though it will mean he will be away from Maria for months on end for the three years of his contract. She is smart and strong enough to know that she will not be happy under those circumstances, so she leaves him and goes back home to Sweden to spend time with her very close-knit family.

That should be the end of things, but of course, it isn’t – this is a romance, after all! And it’s a really good one with well-developed characters who learn and grow and eventually find their happy ending, but not before there is a lot of angst, laughs, and some steamy sex. Dade delivers another terrific romance that is in a class by itself; the lovers-to-enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance. Don’t miss it!

12/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SHIP WRECKED by Olivia Dade. Avon (November 15, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0063215870. 416p.