January 14, 2020


From the publisher:

From the beloved author of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend comes a wonderful new novel about a struggling man, written entirely in lists.

Daniel Mayrock’s life is at a crossroads. He knows the following to be true:

1. He loves his wife Jill… more than anything.
2. He only regrets quitting his job and opening a bookshop a little (maybe more than a little)
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. The bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent. Dan doesn’t know how to fix it.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances:

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. He doesn’t want to live in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker; his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to do anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.

I am a fan of the epistolary novel and this is a very good one. The entire novel is written in lists, which makes for a very fast and fun read. Told entirely from Dan’s point of view, (these are his lists, after all,) and we learn about his work, his family, his life. At times very funny, at times serious, just like life.

Anyone who has ever owned or worked in a bookstore, or even a library for that matter, will appreciate the bookstore lists for sure. Like these:

Number of books sold today that I love

Number of books sold today that I despise

Number of books sold today that I despise that include vampires

And this little tidbit, the dark secret of the bookselling industry, #6 on a list entitled, “Things no one warned me about when I bought the bookstore:”

Most stolen book is The Bible

Dan is a very insecure man. Marrying a widow is not always easy, and Dan thinks he cannot live up to the husband that came before him but he struggles along anyway. He quit his job as a teacher to pursue the bookstore business, while Jill still teaches. As the old adage (which apparently no one told him about) goes, if you want to make a little money in a bookstore, start out with a lot of money. Dan’s business is tanking fast, and he is lying to Jill about it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but his letters to billionaires go unanswered, for the most part, leading him down a different path. Let’s just say hijinks ensue, and how fun it is that I get to say that.

There are some serious issues brewing as well, and Dan handles those as best as he can. Those lists alternate between being laugh out loud funny and completely heart wrenching. I was completely immersed in Dan’s world, and didn’t pick up my head until I turned the last page.  If you haven’t read an epistolary novel, or you are not sure, take a look at this one, it’s very good. And I cannot help but recommend my favorite epistolary novel, Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger.

If anyone listens to this book, I’d love to know what you think. I wish I could hear just a snippet, I’m curious how a book like this works in audio form. Audible, why don’t you have samples to listen to before you buy a book?

Finally, there is a brief mention of why Dan makes his lists. It appears fairly early in the book on a list that follows “Why I’m always writing shit down” with another list, “Real reasons for lists:”

Compromise at first with therapist because journaling sucks

Finished with therapist but lists became a habit

Thinking on the page

Makes sense of things

Putting things in lists puts them out of my head and lets me sleep.

Which reminded me of my recent dive into Bullet Journaling (see review of Love Lettering.) I love when my books move me in a circle.

1/2020 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TWENTY-ONE TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE by Matthew Dicks. St. Martin’s Press (November 19, 2019). ISBN 978-1250103482. 352p.




February 15, 2019

Click to purchase

From the publisher:

A comedy-drama for the digital age: an epistolary debut novel about the ties that bind and break our hearts, for fans of Maria Semple and Rainbow Rowell.

Iris Massey is gone.
But she’s left something behind.

For four years, Iris Massey worked side by side with PR maven Smith Simonyi, helping clients perfect their brands. But Iris has died, taken by terminal illness at only thirty-three. Adrift without his friend and colleague, Smith is surprised to discover that in her last six months, Iris created a blog filled with sharp and often funny musings on the end of a life not quite fulfilled. She also made one final request: for Smith to get her posts published as a book. With the help of his charmingly eager, if overbearingly forthright, new intern Carl, Smith tackles the task of fulfilling Iris’s last wish.

Before he can do so, though, he must get the approval of Iris’ big sister Jade, an haute cuisine chef who’s been knocked sideways by her loss. Each carrying their own baggage, Smith and Jade end up on a collision course with their own unresolved pasts and with each other.

Told in a series of e-mails, blog posts, online therapy submissions, text messages, legal correspondence, home-rental bookings, and other snippets of our virtual lives, When You Read This is a deft, captivating romantic comedy—funny, tragic, surprising, and bittersweet—that candidly reveals how we find new beginnings after loss.


I was hooked as soon as I saw “for fans of Maria Semple (love!) and Rainbow Rowell (LOVE!) So I had high expectations that were just barely met. I liked this book a lot but I didn’t love it.

I do love epistolary novels. My all time favorite is Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. If you haven’t read it, click through, buy this book and thank me later.

Back to this one. I enjoyed the email aspect of the book, but it took a while for me to warm up to the characters. But eventually I did, and even the secondary characters were good. I admit it took me a little while before I realized that Smith was a man. Guess I should have continued reading the synopsis, I stopped after the Rainbow Rowell comment. Carl, Smith’s assistant, lent comic relief and many funny yet cringe worthy moments to a book that is essentially about life, death, and how we deal with it all. Heavy topics that needed that relief.

Kudos to the illustrator and to Amazon; Iris’s blog has many drawings and I loved that I could tap on them on my Kindle and blow them up to see the fine details. They added another layer to the blog and the book.

Taking a difficult topic and turning into a romance is no easy feat, and Adkins achieved her goal. I would have liked a bit more ending in the book, it barely made it to where it needed to be. Maybe an epilogue? All in all, like most epistolary novels, this is a very fast read and I think it is one that will stay with me for a while.

02/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

WHEN YOU READ THIS by Mary Adkins. Harper (February 5, 2019).  ISBN 978-0062834676.  384p.




CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman

August 6, 2017

Click to purchase

Anyone who’s ever been a class room mother or even a PTA volunteer will easily identify with the hell these women go through. But here Gelman brandishes humor like a weapon, (ok, more like a Nerf gun,) gently making fun of all the archetype parents we’ve come to know and love this century – the lesbian moms, the helicopter parents, the mom with the highly allergic child, and so forth. If you are looking for an escape, a light read that is pure fun, you have come to the right book.

I was never the class mom, but I often volunteered, chaperoned field trips, was secretary of the PTSA when my son was in middle school, was team mom for Little League and softball and basketball, etc. Plus my kids are almost eight years apart in age, so I got to do it all over again with my daughter. So let’s just say I really related here.

Jen Dixon is not your typical kindergarten mom; for one thing, she already has two kids in college. When her best friend, also the president of the PTA, recruits her to be class mom, she rebels, then acquiesces, leading to a lot of really snarky,  funny emails sent to the class.

There are moms who do not appreciate the snark and a coup is attempted. Another of the class parents is Don, Jen’s high school crush, a single dad who she starts a flirty text relationship with. You know that is going to blow up in her face but it’s so much fun getting there. Jen and all her family drama justs makes us root for her all the harder.

Laurie Gelman is married to Michael Gelman, and if that name sounds familiar it’s because he’s the long time producer of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” “Live with Kelly and Michael,” and actually goes back to the Regis & Kathy Lee days of the show (I actually heard about this book when she was on Live recently.) Gelman really captured this lovely suburban community well in her debut, plus I always love a good epistolary novel – the emails and texts bring it home. Nepotism aside, this was an afternoon read for me, and it truly did make me laugh out loud.

8/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman. Henry Holt and Co. (August 1, 2017).  ISBN 978-1250124692.  304p.