HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS by Sarah Morgan

September 3, 2017

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From Manhattan with Love, Book 5

This is one of my favorite series and I have enjoyed every one of these books. They have all been set in Manhattan but this one moves out to the Hamptons, summer playground of many city dwellers. And if you’re a dog lover, this is a must read!

Fliss and Harriet are identical twins who own a dog walking business in the city. Their business has grown tremendously since Urban Genie, the concierge service owned by the women who starred in the first three books in the series, started recommending them to their clients. The twins had a difficult childhood with a verbally abusive father, and Harriet was a stutterer as a child and Fliss her protector. As adults, Fliss still feels protective over her 3-minute-younger sister.

Fliss was briefly married to Seth Carlyle ten years earlier, and that marriage ended only a few months in. We don’t find out why for quite a while and that journey is at times heart wrenching and funny. When Fliss sees Seth at the vet’s office, she freaks out and when her grandmother suffers a fall, she offers to go out to the Hamptons to take care of her, escaping her ex. Except when she gets out there, she immediately runs into Seth. She freaks out and lies, telling him that she is Harriet. Turns out he was just helping out a friend in the city for a few days, but his practice is really out on Long Island.

Gradually he convinces her to meet with him and talk, but Fliss is used to keeping everything inside, and it is almost impossible for her to overcome all her baggage and open up to him – or to her twin. She grows closer to her grandmother, learns more about the family dynamics that play into her psyche, and eventually finds her happily ever after.

I loved this book. If you haven’t read the others in the series, it is not necessary to read them first. But if you enjoy this one as much as I did, please go back and read them in order. To be honest, I am very tempted to go back and read them all again, and that is not something I say lightly. In order:

1. Sleepless in Manhattan
2. Sunset in Central Park
3. Miracle on 5th Avenue
4. New York, Actually

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS by Sarah Morgan. HQN Books (August 29, 2017). ISBN 978-0373803996. 416p.

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YOUNGER by Pamela Redmond Satran

September 2, 2017

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Pamela Redmond Satran was most well known for her baby name books, written with Linda Rosenkrantz and are “acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming.” Which I think is true, but Satran also wrote several chick-lit books back in the day and I loved them, but somehow I missed this one.

I only read this because of the TV show, which I found because I love the Gilmore Girls and watched the re-boot on Netflix. One of the episodes, “Summer,” featured a musical play starring Sutton Foster, who was fabulous. This led me to watching “Bunheads”, a cult favorite from the same creative team as the Gilmore Girls that only lasted one season. I loved that, so when I heard that Sutton Foster was currently starring in “Younger,” I binge watched the first three seasons of that on Hulu, and I’m now caught up in the fourth. During that binge, I noticed it was based on a book and after this very long (probably too long, sorry!) explanation, here I am.

So if you are familiar with the TV show, here’s what you need to know. There have been many name changes, starting with Liza, who is Alice in the book, Kelsey was Lindsey, Diana was Teri, and well, you get the idea. Charles is a woman in the book so no romance there. Josh is still Josh, only he’s a video game designer instead of a tattoo artist. And the book ends way sooner and without half as much drama or fun as the TV series. All that said, it was still fun to read the inspiration behind the series.

If you are not familiar, here’s the plot. Alice has been a stay at home mom whose daughter has now left college for the Peace Corps and her husband, a dentist, has left her for his much younger dental hygienist. Trying to find a job in publishing, where she worked for a few months before a difficult pregnancy, proves much harder than expected. Alice’s best friend Maggie lives in New York City and offers some advice and a place to stay while she’s looking for a job in publishing. Her advice is to do a makeover on Alice, buy her new clothes and prove to her that she can pass for a twenty-something instead of a middle aged housewife.  She does this by taking her to a bar on New Year’s Eve, where she meets and kisses Josh. He is much younger than her, but thinks she is only a few years older than he is, maybe 29? She’s really 44 but by leaving off the past decade or so from her resume, she lands a job with the same publisher she worked for before her pregnancy.

Living a lie causes all sorts of tension and working for a bitch isn’t any more fun for a pretend 29-year-old than it would be for a 44-year-old. Eventually, the truth comes out and Alice dumps Josh before he can dump her. But that wouldn’t make for a happily ever after so at the last possible second, they work it out.

I enjoyed the book and considering it was published twelve years ago, it holds up pretty well. But I have to admit I enjoy the TV show more. There are just so many more complications and plot twists over four seasons than is possible in a book of a few hundred pages.

If you love the TV show, you’ll probably enjoy the book. If you haven’t seen it, read the book then watch it. Either way you’ll have fun – I did.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

YOUNGER by Pamela Redmond Satran. Gallery Books; First Edition edition (July 5, 2005).  ISBN 978-1416505587.  284p.

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FITNESS JUNKIE by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza

August 25, 2017

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I first heard about this book from The Skimm, a daily news update I get every morning. It’s a fun way to get the news and these days I need all the fun I can get with my news. Every now and then they include a book recommendation and this one came up the other day and it sounded cute. It was.

As someone who has battled weight issues for most of my life, it was hard to take this book seriously but I was not meant to. It centers around Janey Sweet, the CEO of a high-end designer wedding gown company that doesn’t make a dress in a size larger than 4 (really.) Janey is partners with Beau, her best friend since childhood. Beau is the bitchy, gay stereotypical designer who is completely obsessed with diet and weight. He confronts Janey with a photo taken at a fashion show that shows her eating junk food. He demands she drop thirty pounds per their contract, and not return to work until she does.

Janey is devastated but turns to her girlfriends for help and moral support. Her best friend C.J. immediately takes her under her wing and they start visiting one crazy workout place after another. Janey’s cousin Ivy teaches a spin class at SoarBarre, one of the hottest places to be seen in town. Ivy has always been a kind person, but her clients at SoarBarre aren’t happy unless she is abusing them. She is in therapy for this dichotomy in her life.

But the pinnacle of workouts is something called simply, “The Workout,” started by Sara Strong in partnership with a Gwyneth Paltrow type clone. They have a falling out but the Workout lives on anyway.  It changes its secret location every month, and clients have to be invited to partake. Janey meets a woman who claims to be a shaman and she befriends Janey and invites her.

Janey misses her work, misses Beau but doesn’t miss her ex-husband at all and starts dating, a younger man who she thinks works at the juice bar and takes her dumpster diving at Whole Foods for dinner, and a wealthy, older man she meets through the shaman. The workouts get crazier and culminate in an invitation-only “retreat,” an 8 day, women only, $15,000 party in St. Lucia. Janey ends up in the hospital and learns the lesson that you are only as beautiful as you feel and it doesn’t matter what your weight is. She also figures out that her relationship with Beau isn’t what she always thought it was.

This is a book that could only be set in New York City.  The mindset of New York women who truly believe what my mother always told me, you can never be too rich or too thin, is beautifully satirized here. Some nice shots are taken at Goop and the whole idea of lifestyle ridiculousness that these women swear by. There is not much depth to the story, the only character we really get to know is Janey, but I think that was kind of the point; a shallow read about shallow people and the insanity of our fitness-crazed culture. It was a fun read, and even though I’m from New York and know women like this, it only added to my enjoyment.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FITNESS JUNKIE by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza. Doubleday (July 11, 2017).  ISBN 978-0385541800. 304p.

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SECRETS IN SUMMER by Nancy Thayer

May 16, 2017

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Growing up on Long Island, New York, and now living in South Florida, I am familiar with the idea of seasonal residents and how the population can double, triple or more during “season.” In Boca Raton, many of our winter residents summer in the Hamptons in New York, and this book, set on Nantucket, was very reminiscent of the Hamptons and that experience.

Darcy Cotterill is a year round resident, but the homes surrounding her own are summer rentals. Darcy is divorced and basically without family, and doesn’t generally bother with the summer residents. She is a children’s librarian and her storytimes feel the strong influx of summer residents, and she does enjoy that.

But this summer brings a family renting the house behind hers that is a shocker. It is her ex-husband Boyz, his wife Autumn, (the woman he left Darcy for,) and her teenage daughter Willow. When Darcy overhears Willow with a boy who is trying to talk her into trying heroin and sex, she rushes over and scares him off, befriending the young teen in the process.

Darcy’s other neighbors include Susan, her husband Otto who may or may not be having an affair with Autumn, and their three rambunctious sons, and on the other side, Clive, a very good looking man who is taking care of his grandmother, Mimi, for the summer. Somehow Darcy becomes involved with all of them.

Meanwhile, Darcy has been seeing Nash Forrester, a carpenter in town, but things are not progressing the way she’d like. She’s tempted by Clive, but as the summer progresses, so does her relationship with Nash. At least until he sees her kissing Clive.

This is a story of multigenerational friendships with a bit of romance, and the beach setting is charming of its own accord. I have to say there was something about the way this book was written that fell flat for me. I liked the characters but most of them, especially the main character Darcy, didn’t seem fully formed to me and the action felt forced a lot of the time. On the other hand, Thayer really nailed the setting and the atmosphere, I could practically smell the salt in the air. All that said, this was my first “beach read” of the summer, and for the most part, I enjoyed it.

5/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

SECRETS IN SUMMER by Nancy Thayer. Ballantine Books (May 16, 2017). ISBN: 978-1101967072. 336p.

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MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE by Sophie Kinsella

April 27, 2017

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Kate Brenner is from Somerset, England, a small farming town. But she’s always dreamed of moving to London and finally does, landing an entry level position in a marketing company. Rents are super high, so she has a tiny bedroom in a shared apartment. But she is determined to make it and her Instagram feed is a reflection of the life she wants, rather than the life she lives.

Demeter runs the department and is a scatterbrained leader, whose staff feels bullied at unappreciated. When she asks Kate to get rid of Alex, a guy waiting to see her, Kate falls for him – until she finds out he is having an affair with Demeter. And then Kate gets fired.

She moves home to the farm, where her stepmother has a bit of money and wants to start a glamping business. Kate helps, creates a website and brochure and the business takes off. And then Demeter shows up. Kate gets her revenge but also finds out she really likes Demeter, and her Instagram life is not as perfect as it looks, either.

This was a bit slow at the beginning for me but once I got into it I raced through the rest. The characters were quirky, and the storyline had enough angst and even some suspense to make it interesting. If you like Jane Green, Emily Giffin or Helen Fielding, or you ‘re just looking for a fun read, look no further.

4/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE by Sophie Kinsella. The Dial Press (February 7, 2017). ISBN: 978-0812998269. 448p.

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THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri

May 3, 2016
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Chick lit is back, and in a good way.

Tina Fontana has a great job, at least to those looking in on the outside. She is the executive assistant to Robert Barlow, the head of a multinational media conglomerate. My thought immediately went to Rupert Murdoch, but who knows.

While Tina seems to be in a rather powerful position, and in theory she is, having the ear of the big boss, the truth of the matter is that she doesn’t make much more than a bank teller or a teacher. She loves her job but wishes for more.

After a confusing mix up, Tina ends up having to put several thousand dollars of her boss’s travel expenses on her few credit cards, maxing them out. The charges get reversed, but Tina had already put in the expense seeking reimbursement. When the check arrives, she is torn; she knows she should return it, but it just so happens to be the same amount as the balance of her student loans. In a frazzled moment, she deposits the check and pays off her debt.

Of course she gets caught, but instead of getting fired, she is blackmailed into paying off someone else’s student loans. Then, as it always does with blackmail, it just gets worse. Eventually, things comes to a head, with unexpected and unbelievable results.

It’s always fun to root for the underdog, and Perri did a good job turning a criminal act into a cause célèbre. This is a fast, fun read, sure to appeal to any woman who feels stuck in a job that doesn’t utilize her education, skills and ambition.

 

5/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 3, 2016). ISBN 978-0399172540. 288p.

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ANYTHING FOR YOU by Kristan Higgins

February 6, 2016
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The Blue Heron Series

Jess Dunn is a young woman with a past – and everyone in this small town knows all about her alcoholic parents, her mother’s death, her father’s disappearance, her younger brother with fetal alcohol sydrome and her nickname, “Jessica Does.” Jess was the high school slut, but she had good reasons for sleeping around; all the boys she slept with helped protect her brother.

As an adult, she’s managed to turn her life around. She has a good job in marketing at a small, prestigious winery and works a second job as a waitress at the town’s swankiest restaurant. When the restaurant owner wants to send her for a wine class to help her upsell her customers wine, she reluctantly agrees. But when she gets to class, the teacher is none other than Connor O’Rourke.

Jess met Connor as a child, and when her dog attacked and almost killed him, the dog had to be put down. Connor felt terrible, and they basically fell in love with each other at age 12, but never pursued it or even acknowledged it. But the time had come, and after Connor spends the night with her, he accidentally blurts out the dreaded nickname – Jessica Does.

Their relationship is off to a rocky start, and over a ten year period they are on again, off again more times than anyone even knows. But eventually things come to a head and decisions have to be made.

I loved these characters and although their relationship was ridiculously overrun with obstacles, most of their own making, I couldn’t help but root for this couple. I also loved the small town setting, the vineyard beautifully brought to life, and the inside look at a passionate chef’s first restaurant.

This was my first Kristan Higgins book, which I picked up after seeing several stellar reviews, and I have to agree. I loved it. This is the fifth book in the series, so happily, I have some catching up to do.

2/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

ANYTHING FOR YOU by Kristan Higgins. HQN Books (December 29, 2015). ISBN 978-0373789085. 416p.

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