November 14, 2015
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Kelly Madigan is a cookbook ghostwriter; she helps professional chefs turn their recipes into something a home cook could use. She lives with her boyfriend of six years, who is neat, dependable, a cardiologist in training and ultimately boring. Then she loses her mom suddenly, and finds her mother left her a letter with her dying wishes, the ultimate guilt trip.

Her mom tells her that she needs to take risks, leave the Midwest and travel a bit, and not rush into marriage with Dr. Boring. So when Kelly is offered the opportunity to ghostwrite a major Hollywood star’s cookbook, she jumps at the chance, even though it means moving to London for the better part of a year.

Her boyfriend is devastated and furious. He kicks her out and she gets to spend a few weeks with her father before moving to London and perhaps making the biggest mistake of her life.

Natasha Spencer is imperious, demanding and a definite nut case. Her assistant, Poppy, isn’t much better and they combine to make Kelly’s life a living hell. But the money is too good to pass up, even if she doesn’t get paid for months, and the only bright spot is Natasha’s husband, a rising star in Parliament who seems like a genuinely nice guy. They are a power couple to be sure, except that they sleep in separate beds and seem to live separate lives.

This was an interesting look at how a cookbook ghostwriter works, and how all that Hollywood glitz and glamour comes at a price. It reminded me a bit of The Devil Wears Prada (the movie version, not Lauren Weisberger’s awful book) but veers off in the romance department. All in all, I liked it and if you’re a fan of foodie fiction like I am, then this is the book for you.

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

TOO MANY COOKS by Dana Bate. Kensington (October 27, 2015). ISBN 978-1617732621. 352p.



FOOD WHORE by Jessica Tom

October 29, 2015
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A Novel of Dining and Deceit

I do love me some foodie fiction so I was very excited to hear about this debut novel. Jessica Tom is a food blogger from Brooklyn, NY who blogs about dining in New York and also posts her own recipes. I poked around her site and found out the original title was “Bad Taste” which I have to say I much prefer. Food Whore will be a turnoff for some people and I wasn’t particularly enamored of it. But the publisher was, so there you go.

The book centers around Yale graduate Tia Monroe who has been accepted into a graduate food studies program at NYU. She moves to NYC as does her boyfriend, a botanist, who lands the job of his dreams. Tia has applied for an internship with her idol, Helen Lansky (think Ruth Reichl) and brings a gift of cookies for her. She is waylaid by Michael Saltz, the uber powerful NY Times restaurant critic, who tosses the cookies and keeps her from Helen.

Saltz is enamored of her palate and facility with language and offers her a deal she can’t refuse. His palate has gone awry; he has lost all sense of taste. He offers her an unlimited budget and access to a personal shopper at Bergdorfs, lunches and dinners at the best and hottest restaurants in NY in exchange for her writing his reviews (that he revises at will) and she is sucked in. He dangles the internship with Helen as she struggles to resolve the internship she’s been assigned at one of New York’s finest restaurants – in the coat room.

This tangled web eventually closes in on Tia, but not before she ruins several relationships along the way. The publisher is promoting this as “The Devil Wears Prada meets Kitchen Confidential,” which certainly got me to read it, but it is more about the evils of ambition then what really goes on…where? In a restaurant? At the New York Times? At the graduate school of New York University? Really none of those, so that was a bit disappointing. Nonetheless this was a good story, it drew me in even though I really didn’t like any of the characters. I know I was supposed to forgive Tia, even understand why she did what she did, but maybe I’m not the most forgiving person because I couldn’t.

10/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FOOD WHORE by Jessica Tom. William Morrow Paperbacks (October 27, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062387004. 352p.





August 27, 2015
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One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail, the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan romcom written by Nora & Delia Ephron that is set around NYC bookstores. Much as You’ve Got Mail was a love letter to New York City, Coconut Cake is a love letter to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Reichert did an amazing job – I want to go!  The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is the foodie equivalent of Mail, and that completely worked for me.

Lou is a talented chef who is sweating away trying to make a success of her small French restaurant, Luella’s, named after her beloved grandmother. She has a core group of regulars, and is just making ends meet. Her personal life is a little bit better; her fiancé is successful but not entirely supportive of her endeavors. And then everything falls apart.

Lou walks in on her fiancé with another woman and she dumps him. She’s off to work, heartbroken, humiliated and angry, not the best way to cook. She alienates most of her staff, and the food suffers terribly.

Of course this is the night that the new food critic in town visits the restaurant. Al is quite acerbic in his reviews and is building a nice following. One meal at Luella’s is all that he needs to eviscerate the restaurant, sounding the death knoll for the struggling restaurant.

Meanwhile, Lou and Al literally run into each other and she decides to show him around Milwaukee, a city he is sorry he landed in. By the time she’s through with him, he loves the city and Lou – but it takes a while before he realizes who she is and she finds out who he is. Fireworks ensue, but it is the journey that is so delicious.

This was a fast moving story with warm, likeable characters and a fun plot.

8/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™


THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE by Amy E. Reichert. Gallery Books (July 21, 2015).  ISBN 978-1501100710. 336p.




WHO DO YOU LOVE by Jennifer Weiner

August 11, 2015
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Two reviews…first up: Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

I have loved Jennifer Weiner since her first book, Good in Bed, and she has grown since then, graduating from smart chick-lit to smart women’s fiction, and this new one is a coming of age/contemporary romance at its best – and it’s still smart.

Rachel Blum is a sickly child, born with a heart condition that requires constant monitoring and many surgeries. During one hospitalization, she wanders into the ER, bored and looking for a story. She meets Andy Landis, a biracial young boy with a broken arm and a missing mother. She keeps him company, tells him a story and gives him a stuffed animal. Eventually his mother shows up and Rachel is sent back to her room.

Fast forward to college and Rachel is on a trip to Atlanta for a charitable organization. A good looking young man catches her eye, and yes, it is Andy. Thus begins a life-long love affair that survives different socio-economic classes, geographical separations, breakups, other relationships, a scandal, and so much more.

Weiner makes us wonder, is there such a thing as a one-and-only love? Can you meet your soulmate as a child and love them forever? Can a spoiled Jewish princess find happiness with an Olympic runner from the Philadelphia projects?

These characters are complex and real, and this is a beautiful coming of age story in addition to a sweeping romance. Best of all, the book is totally unputdownable – I couldn’t stop turning the pages and when I finished it, I couldn’t stop thinking about these characters, and that is the highest praise I can give. Don’t miss it.

From Becky LeJeune:

Eight-year-old Rachel Blum is recovering from her latest heart surgery when she meets Andy Landis. He’s brought into the emergency room with a broken arm, his mother nowhere to be found, so Rachel decides to keep him company.

As teens they cross paths again, this time on a volunteer trip to Atlanta. Andy remembers the girl who sat with him in the waiting room – Rachel Blum. Bloom like flower… For Rachel it’s love at first sight but for Andy, the trip marks the first time he really sees the differences that stand in their way.

For years, the two connect and part ways, date and break up, and fall in and out of love. Only time will tell, though, whether Rachel and Andy are truly meant for one another or if their fate lies elsewhere.

Weiner’s latest is a sweet but very realistic love story. Rachel and Andy grow and change as the years pass and face a lot of things most people never will – a life threatening heart condition, the pressure of being an Olympic athlete – but they also face a lot of things the average reader can relate to. They learn from one another, they make mistakes, and they piss each other off. Royally. It lends an air of believability and realism that I think most stories of this kind are missing. And it’s exactly this realism that ultimately pulls the reader in: Rachel and Andy could be your best friends, your sister, your brother, or even you… You’ll laugh with them, cry with them, and root for them all the way through the final pages.

WHO DO YOU LOVE by Jennifer Weiner. Atria Books (August 11, 2015).  ISBN 978-1451617818. 400p.





July 28, 2015
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Let me start by saying this is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It has everything; great characters, terrific setting, a creative premise and mouthwatering meals.

Cynthia and Lars have a baby, she freaks out, has an affair with a sommelier at the restaurant where she works and they run off together. Lars brings up Eva by himself, with the help of some friends.

Eva is an unusual child; really a savant, and her gift is her palate. She will try anything, and as a child grows her own chilies, selling them to neighborhood restaurants. She grows up to become a celebrity chef extraordinaire, opening a pop up restaurant that moves around the country from one spectacular location to another. Foodies pay thousands of dollars for one her meals, and wait years to get an invite.

Eva’s journey is documented chapter by chapter, each focusing on  a different dish and a different character, from lutefisk to cookie bars. Eventually all the strings are tied together, in a memorable meal.

This is a story about fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, and community. It’s always about the Midwest and the foodie culture that has pervaded America. There are a lot of laughs, poignant moments that brought me to tears, and everything in between. The prose is beautiful, almost poetic at times, but it is the characters that completely stole my heart.

It is a book that begs to be read slowly and savored, and book that craves to be discussed. Don’t miss it.

7/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal. Pamela Dorman Books (July 28, 2015).  ISBN 978-0525429142. 320p.