THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr

June 23, 2019

6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE UNBREAKABLES by Lisa Barr. Harper Paperbacks (June 4, 2019). ISBN  978-0062895394. 352p.

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THE FRIENDS WE KEEP by Jane Green

June 4, 2019

6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE FRIENDS WE KEEP by Jane Green. Berkley (June 4, 2019). ISBN  978-0399583346. 384p.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson

May 24, 2019

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK by Kim Michele Richardson. Sarah Crichton Books (April 16, 2019). ISBN  978-0374156022. 368p.

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MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim

May 8, 2019

5/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim. Sarah Crichton Books (April 16, 2019). ISBN  978-0374156022. 368p.

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DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid

March 30, 2019

3/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Ballantine Books (March 5, 2019). ISBN  978-1524798628. 368p.

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THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander

February 3, 2019

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From the publisher:

For fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist

A tour-de-force about two women and the piano that inexorably ties their lives together through time and across continents, for better and for worse.

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Blüthner piano, built at the turn of the century in Germany, on which she discovers everything that she herself can do with music and what music, in turn, does for her. Yet after marrying, she emigrates with her young family from Russia to America, at her husband’s frantic insistence, and her piano is lost in the shuffle.

In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy loses another boyfriend and again has to find a new apartment, which is complicated by the gift her father had given her for her twelfth birthday, shortly before he and her mother died in a fire that burned their house down: a Blüthner upright she has never learned to play. Orphaned, she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who in his car-repair shop trained her to become a first-rate mechanic, much to the surprise of her subsequent customers. But this work, her true mainstay in a scattered life, is put on hold when her hand gets broken while the piano’s being moved–and in sudden frustration she chooses to sell it. And what becomes crucial is who the most interested party turns out to be. . .


I had read a review of this book that intrigued me, so I started reading it. A few hours later, I read the last page. Cander is a terrific storyteller, she drew me in and kept me turning the pages. There were plenty of surprises throughout the story; although some readers may figure them out, I did not.

The book opens with the construction of a Blüthner piano, a fascinating tale about a brand of piano I had not heard of, that is supposedly in the same class as a Steinway. I quickly realized that the piano would be a character in this book. Cander makes it possible to grow attached to an inanimate object, for her characters and the reader.

The story then moves back and forth in time, following the piano through two storylines. The way the book is laid out they are easy to follow. The main characters are mostly well developed, the secondary characters not as much, but had they been, the book may have gotten too unwieldy. Rather like moving a piano, a task that is difficult and quite the metaphor in this book. I loved the way the stories unfurl and wind around one another, carefully building towards an intertwined resolution.

This is an excellent read sure to be beloved by book groups as there is much to discuss here, from the immigration of Russian Jews to the relationships that are so well depicted. Highly recommended.

2/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander. Knopf (January 22, 2019).  ISBN 978-0525654674.  336p.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens

December 14, 2018

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From the publisher:

#1 New York Times Bestseller
A Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

 


The publisher’s description doesn’t begin to do this book justice. It came out last summer and I missed it completely. I started hearing about it from my library patrons and was surprised to discover a very long waiting list for the book. I finally got it and read it in one night. It was unputdownable.

Kya is a most unusual character and we meet her when she is about five years old. Her coming of age is an astonishing story and beautifully told. The writing is simply superlative, the descriptions just bring this unusual setting, a marsh in rural North Carolina, to life.

The story is written in two timelines which are easily followed, and eventually meet. There is a mystery at the heart of this story and the ending was a shocker.

I haven’t taken Reese Witherspoon’s recommendations very seriously but I will now. Where the Crawdads Sing is perfect for book discussion and anyone who enjoys a good story, engaging characters and beautiful writing. I loved it.

11/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens. G.P. Putnam’s Sons; First Edition, First Printing edition (August 14, 2018). ISBN 978-0735219090. 384p.

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UNSHELTERED by Barbara Kingsolver

October 16, 2018

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From the publisher:

The New York Times bestselling author of Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, and The Poisonwood Bible and recipient of numerous literary awards—including the National Humanities Medal, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Orange Prize—returns with a timely novel that interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.

How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family’s one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own.

In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town’s powerful men.

Unsheltered is the compulsively readable story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it. With history as their tantalizing canvas, these characters paint a startlingly relevant portrait of life in precarious times when the foundations of the past have failed to prepare us for the future.


Anytime Kingsolver publishes a book, it is an event, especially a new novel, and this one was worth the wait. That said, it probably helps that my politics align with hers. If you are unfamiliar with Kingsolver, she gently weaves issues throughout her novels. She is adept at doing so without hitting the reader over the head with a sledgehammer; it’s more like a Nerf bat.

The book moves back and forth between centuries, and I loved the device she used of taking the last words of one chapter and making them the chapter name of the next. It was surprising easy to follow both storylines, which isn’t always the case. The characters lead both storylines and they all were well developed – I expect no less from this author and she does not disappoint.

Kingsolver looks at healthcare, the environment, climate change, racism and the politics of the day, the current administration included. Again, subtlety is the game here but her points are well made and well taken. This should be a terrific book for discussion, although they may be heated discussions – and there is nothing wrong with that. Highly recommended.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

UNSHELTERED by Barbara Kingsolver. Harper (October 16, 2018). ISBN 978-0062684561. 480p.

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A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult

October 2, 2018

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From the publisher:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things returns with a powerful and provocative new novel about ordinary lives that intersect during a heart-stopping crisis.

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

Jodi Picoult – one of the most fearless writers of our time – tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation…and, hopefully, understanding.


So the good: it is no exaggeration to say that Picoult is fearless in taking on abortion. She does a very good job of exploring and explaining all sides of this controversial issue. It is well written, well researched, and the characters – and there are many – are well developed, even memorable.

What I didn’t love about it was the timeline. The story moves backwards in time, albeit for a good reason; the ending, which I loved, was a shocker. And it did force me to read very carefully and think about what I was reading and where I was in the story, so maybe that was the point?

The subject matter alone makes this a worthwhile read, but I didn’t like it as much as her last book, Small Great Things. Then again, I think that was her best book so maybe I should just cut her some slack. After all, Picoult has consistently written excellent books, year after year, and this one certainly is as well, plus it is sure to loved by book groups.

All that said, people who support the “right to life” may not be happy. Just FYI.

10/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A SPARK OF LIGHT by Jodi Picoult. Ballantine Books (October 2, 2018). ISBN 978-0345544988. 384p.

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THE LOST FOR WORDS BOOKSHOP by Stephanie Butland

July 26, 2018

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Loveday Cardew is the character at the heart of this sweet, yet melancholy story. Loveday has always found solace in books and lucky for her, she works as a bookseller, her dream job; in fact, she has the first lines of some of her favorite books tattooed on her body. She’s worked for Archie, a charming curmudgeon, for ten years, since she was 15 years old and got herself out of the foster care system. She has had a traumatic life with some serious family issues that she slowly reveals, that mystery keeps the pages turning. Plus she is so endearing that we can’t help but root for her.

Loveday has never had a real relationship with a man, and then there are two men pursuing her, and she’s not sure how to handle it. To say she is close-mouthed hardly touches the surface, she literally reveals nothing about herself until she is forced into it.

I loved these characters and while this was a sadder story than I was expecting, I couldn’t put it down. To watch this young woman grow is both unexpected and beautiful, and a joy to read.

7/18 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE LOST FOR WORDS BOOKSHOP by Stephanie Butland. St. Martin’s Press (June 19, 2018). ISBN 13: 978-1250124531.  368p.

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