HOLLY AND IVY by Fern Michaels

September 27, 2017

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Let the Christmas novels begin! Regular readers know I love me a good Christmas story and this was a great way to start.

Ivy Macintosh lost her husband and her three-year-old twins in a plane crash. To make matters worse, her father owns the airline and the government has said it was pilot error – and her father is dating the pilot’s mother. Ivy has locked herself away in her house for eight years since the crash, drinking too much and avoiding the world.

Then one night there is a knock on her door. A little girl named Holly Greenwood is standing there, crying. She is lost, and she asks to use Ivy’s phone. Ivy’s heart goes out to her, and when Holly’s father picks her up, he is rather gruff and takes her home.

Holly has a gift; she is a singer with a most unusual and beautiful voice. But her father hates music, won’t allow it in the house and definitely doesn’t want to hear her singing. Holly doesn’t know why because since her mother died eight years earlier, it’s just been her and her father Daniel. He is super strict and she is at the age where she is starting to hate him for it.

Ivy and Daniel feel a strong attraction to each other, a first for both of them in many years. As Ivy is drawn into their world, she stops drinking and finds a new purpose in life – getting Daniel to allow Holly to share her gift with the world, and finding her own happiness along the way.

Even though I could see where this story was going from almost the beginning, it didn’t detract from seeing the resolution through. This was everything a good Christmas story should be, at least for me; a sweet love story, personal redemption, a Christmas miracle along the way and the requisite happy ending.

9/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HOLLY AND IVY by Fern Michaels. Kensington (September 26, 2017). ISBN 978-1496703170.  320p.


THE MISTLETOE SECRET by Richard Paul Evans

December 11, 2016
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I’ve never read this hugely popular author but I saw the Hallmark movie based on Mistletoe Promise  and really liked it, so I decided to read this new book.

Richard Paul Evans writes contemporary romance that is on the sweet side, a sort of male Debbie Macomber, if you will. A little humor, no sex, and happily ever after is the formula and it works.

Alex Bartlett (like the pear) is a salesman in Daytona Beach, Florida who was doing a lot of traveling for his job. His wife met someone and took off, breaking his heart, and Alex is lonely. He has friends, but it’s not enough.

Those friends convince him to try Internet dating but when the site matches him up with his ex, he decides to Google loneliness. He finds a blog written by a woman with the initials LBH, and he really connects with everything she’s written. Determined to meet her, he follows some of the clues she’s left in her blog posts and figures out she is in a small town in Utah.

Alex flies to Utah and stays at a bed and breakfast and the owner is only too happy to help – it is a small town, after all. Eventually he falls for a waitress, Aria, at the local diner but still seeks the mysterious “LBH.” Aria has also been hurt by love, but there is a strong attraction between them – until Alex blows her off when he thinks he’s found his mystery woman.

It’s not too hard to figure out the story but it is enjoyable nonetheless. A quick, sweet holiday story that may end up on Hallmark next Christmas.

12/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE MISTLETOE SECRET by Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (November 15, 2016).  ISBN 978-1501119811. 320p.



November 13, 2016
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A Twilight, Texas Novel

Although there are several Twilight, Texas novels, this is really the sequel to last year’s I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. That story was a takeoff on the film, The Holiday, where Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet trade homes over the Christmas holiday. In the book, Kate and Gabi trade homes, and Gabi falls in love with Kate’s brother.

This book starts off with Kate’s adventure in Los Angeles while staying at Gabi’s home. She goes to a club where she runs into her first high school crush, Ryder Southerland. He is security at the club and tackles her, mistaking her for a stalker. They end up spending the night together having mind blowing sex, but Kate slips out in the morning and heads home.

The story then picks up a year later. Gabi and Joe’s wedding is taking place on Christmas Eve and Kate is the maid of honor. Ryder is the best man and it is his first time back in Twilight in over a decade. He comes home a few weeks early after he finds out the stepmother who hated him has died. His father is in the hospital and Kate is hired to clear out the house before he comes home. There were major hoarding issues going on there.

Kate and Ryder meet up and the sparks fly, but Kate is afraid of a relationship because of Ryder’s commitment issues. Ryder has feelings for Kate, but is afraid to take the next step. Meanwhile the housecleaning goes on, as do the pre-wedding parties and Ryder and Kate are constantly thrown together.

They end up back in bed again but Kate is treating him like an embarrassment. Eventually Gabi and Joe point out that everyone knows what’s going on and they come out of hiding. A pregnancy scare moves things forward but there is no easy path to the happy ending.

Another fun, sexy read in Twilight, Texas.

11/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

A WEDDING FOR CHRISTMAS by Lori Wilde. Avon (October 25, 2016).  ISBN 978-0062311450. 384p.

CHRISTMAS BELLS by Jennifer Chiaverini

November 7, 2015
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I figured if I keep reading Christmas novels, eventually I’ll find one I can rave about…and here it is!

This book is a twofer – two stories told in alternating chapters that are set over a hundred years apart. The obvious inspiration of the historical story neatly focuses the modern day one, and I loved them both.

“Christmas Bells” is a Henry Wordsworth Longfellow poem (see below) that was turned into a Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Chiaverini tells the story of how the poem came to be written, which is a mostly a biography of Longfellow, and she does a terrific job. Starting at the beginning of the Civil War, right before the first shots are fired, we learn how Longfellow lived, the tragedies that befell him and his family, and about his home and its historical significance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The alternating stories are about St. Margaret’s, a Catholic church in the nearby town of Watertown. Sophia is a music teacher whose job is threatened by budget issues. She also is the children’s choir director at the church. Her accompanist is in love with her, but it is an unrequited love due to various factors. Stories also are spun about two of the children in the choir, Charlotte and her younger brother, whose father is serving in Afghanistan.

One of the most memorable characters in the modern day story is Sister Winifred, a nun who has the rather unnerving habit of talking to herself. But she also has the uncanny ability to ferret out truths about her parishioners and the priest that seem other-worldly, or perhaps divine?

This is heartwarming, of course, but also fascinating and beautifully written. This will be the Christmas book I”ll be recommending this season.

11/15 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

CHRISTMAS BELLS by Jennifer Chiaverini. Dutton (October 27, 2015).  ISBN 978-0525955245. 336p.



I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
 Their old, familiar carols play,
 And wild and sweet
 The words repeat
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 And thought how, as the day had come,
 The belfries of all Christendom
 Had rolled along
 The unbroken song
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 Till ringing, singing on its way,
 The world revolved from night to day,
 A voice, a chime,
 A chant sublime
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 Then from each black, accursed mouth
 The cannon thundered in the South,
 And with the sound
 The carols drowned
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 It was as if an earthquake rent
 The hearth-stones of a continent,
 And made forlorn
 The households born
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 And in despair I bowed my head;
 “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
 “For hate is strong,
 And mocks the song
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
 Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
 “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
 The Wrong shall fail,
 The Right prevail,
 With peace on earth, good-will to men.”




November 10, 2014

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Illustrated by David Slonim

Let’s be honest here; as holidays go, Christmas has December covered. Sure, there’s New Years, and we may celebrate it on the eve of December 31st, but the legal holiday falls on the day, January 1.

Then there’s Kwanza and Chanukah. I don’t know a whole lot about Kwanza other than it is a fairly recent holiday. On the other hand, I grew up with Chanukah and still celebrate, so I’m much more familiar with that holiday. So I feel confident when I tell you that books on the holiday, children’s books in particular, are few and far between.

So when I heard about this Dreidel book, I was intrigued. Yes, my kids are beyond the age for picture books, but I’m not and I was delighted to get my hands on this one.

I don’t review many children’s books, but I make a few exceptions. Probably the last children’s book I reviewed was also a Chanukah book, Chanukah Lights, a beautiful pop up art book by Michael Rosen and incomparable Robert Sabuda. Frankly, the Dreidel book is not in that league, but nonetheless it is a fun read and sure to be enjoyed by any family celebrating Chanukah.

The book is based on the children’s classic, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and there are probably dozens of variations and illustrations of that book. But an old lady who swallows a dreidell, well, that is something special!

If you are looking for a Chanukah gift for your favorite child, please consider adding this lovely and fun book to your shopping list. Your recipient will be sure to thank you, in between peals of laughter.

By the way, this year we light the first candle on Tuesday, Dec. 16 at sunset.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

I KNOW AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A DREIDEL by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by David Slonim. Arthur A. Levine Books (August 26, 2014). ISBN 978-0439915304. 32p.